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On Syrian Refugees: ‘We Help People Because We Are Catholic’

September 3, 2013 by

CRS’ Sean Callahan greets Syrian refugees living in an informal camp housing Syrian refugees in Lebanon's Bekaa valley. Photo by Sam Tarling for CRS

CRS’ Sean Callahan greets Syrian refugee children living in an informal camp housing Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley. Photo by Sam Tarling for CRS

Sean Callahan, CRS’ Chief Operating Officer, spoke with the Catholic World Report about the work of the Catholic Church with Syrian refugees. Excerpts rom the Catholic World Report:

In a region that has seen increasing threats to ancient Christian communities, the Catholic Church is helping many of the two million refugees of Syria’s civil war. Besides physical aid, Church workers offer the Syrians the simple truth that they haven’t been forgotten—that they are loved and will be cared for.

Sean Callahan, the Chief Operating Officer for Catholic Relief Services (CRS)—the humanitarian arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—manages the organization’s overseas operations. For the past two years this has included caring for the displaced Syrians. He has met many of the once mostly middle-class people now living without a home or a sense of what is to become of them. Callahan describes the refugees as “vulnerable.” This drives CRS workers and local Christian communities to live the Beatitudes in a region besieged by the very opposite….

Callahan is eager to commend the host nations for doing what they can in the midst of their own economic and social ills. But the needs of caring for two million homeless people are immense and show no sign of abating. This makes the assistance brought by the Catholic Church all the more necessary.

“We don’t help people because they are Catholic—many that we help aren’t,” said Callahan. “We help people because we are Catholic.”…

“One pregnant woman was so overjoyed with the medical attention she received from Caritas workers that she said she’d only have her baby at a Caritas facility,” Callahan said. “She appreciated not just the technical skills of workers but also their joy at helping.”

It is this joy that is the most needed commodity among the refugees.

“No matter what services we’re providing—whether medical, or counseling, or opportunities to debrief—our goal is to give people a sense of well-being. A notion that other people care for them. That they’re not forgotten. As best we can, we want to give them some normalcy.”

Read the full article on the Catholic World Report.

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