Syria, Cradle of Christianity
Syria is a country of religious diversity whose people have faced unprecedented upheaval and destruction for decades. It is now facing a crisis after the 6 February earthquake that also devastated Turkey.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has launched an emergency campaign to shelter survivors and provide bedding, food, medicines, nursing formula, diapers and clothing to more than 2,000 families for three months in the Aleppo and Hama areas of northern Syria.
Even before the earthquake, Syria was facing multiple humanitarian emergencies, brought on by the 10-year civil war in the country. According to the World Food Program, an estimated 12.4 million people in Syria — close to 60 percent of the population — are food insecure. The value of the Syrian pound is unstable, it fell dramatically in 2021, causing a sharp inflation. An estimated 50 percent of the population experienced a loss of income from the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic. Half of the state-owned hospitals and medical centers have sustained damage from the war. The country is facing a major health care crisis that has continued since COVID-19.
As a direct result of the civil war that began in 2011 — and the rise of the Islamic State from 2014 to 2017 — hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed and 14 million were displaced, either as IDPs or as refugees, according to a report released by the United Nations Human Rights Council in February 2022. The pre-war population was 90 percent Muslim — a majority of whom were Sunni — and 10 percent was Christian but those figures no longer apply, as Christians and other minority communities sought safety elsewhere. Aleppo, for example, once home to more than 500,000 Christians, is now inhabited by about 25,000 Christians from all rites.
CNEWA works closely with more than a dozen church and church-related institutions in Syria to support its diverse populations. Together with its broad coalition of partners, CNEWA funds critical programs that serve to identify and protect the most vulnerable residents from all cultural and religious backgrounds.
CNEWA is providing assistance to the victims of the earthquake and will continue to provide emergency assistance to families living in extreme poverty through programs operated by church and church-related institutions. We are distributing food packages and vouchers to 850 families whom our partners carefully screen.
CNEWA prioritizes support to catechetical programs providing spiritual formation and accompaniment to parishioners.
Our programs will provide health insurance for 110 parish priests and enable parish priests to travel within their parish communities.
In addition, we are working to repair damages to churches, pastoral centers, multipurpose halls and rectories. These renovations are critical to sustain the church’s mission and pastoral activities.
We are collaborating with congregations, archbishoprics, parishes and catechetical organizations in Aleppo, Damascus, Horan, Homs, Hassake, Tartous, Lattaquie and Nebek. Our partners are committed to spreading the Word of God, accompanying parishioners and strengthening their Christian faith during this time of despair, poverty and hopelessness.
CNEWA will continue to support its local partners that operate catechetical centers to accompany parishioners, children, youth, adults and elderly by providing religious and catechetical formation through extensive programs and activities. Our catechetical formation programs will serve approximately 9,000 children, youth and adults.
Child Care Initiatives
CNEWA continues to provide support to thousands of Syrian children through our church and church-related partners.
Our programs will provide around 2,300 young children with milk, diapers and clothing. In addition, CNEWA will assist approximately 7,000 school children. We will prioritize students who are at risk of dropping out due to financial constraints, and support them by providing basic necessities to enable them to grow and thrive throughout the hard winter and hot summer days.
Health Care Programs
This year CNEWA will continue to provide health care to thousands of disadvantaged people who cannot afford the cost of medical services.
We work through local partners on the ground, who carefully screen prospective beneficiaries and help them to obtain medical care. This program supports approximately 2,000 persons annually, including children, youth, adults and the elderly.
CNEWA aims to work through church and church-related institutions to create employment and income-generating opportunities for people who have lost income and farmers whose fields have been destroyed by the war. We also plan to support individuals to establish or scale small businesses.