Mark Schnellbaecher, a long-time Catholic Relief Services staffer with substantial Middle East experience, spoke about Syrian refugees while visiting the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Schnellbaecher is the former CRS regional director for Europe and the Middle East, and is now a Fellow at Villanova University. Catholic San Francisco reports:
Syrian crisis ‘way past point of no return’
by George Raine
Some 340,000 Syrians have fled their country amid civil war and many are refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, but another two million are believed to be displaced inside their own country and out of the reach of humanitarian hands, their needs no doubt great, according to a Catholic Relief Services official in the region.
Access to Syria is virtually impossible as the government is not issuing visas, nor is it possible to wire money into the country of 22 million people that President Bashar al-Assad has sealed off. The needs of the displaced Syrians inside their country can’t be responded to, lamented Mark Schnellbaecher, the regional director for Catholic Relief Services in the Middle East based in Beirut.
Consequently, efforts are aimed at the refugees outside Syria, many in Lebanon and in tent cities in Jordan and Turkey. Their numbers are expected to reach three-quarters of a million, mostly women and children, by year’s end, said Schnellbaecher, with no end in sight for the escalating war.
“This started in my view as just another Arab uprising, the next one on the list,” said Schnellbaecher, while visiting the Archdiocese of San Francisco on Oct. 18. “Demonstrations for greater political openness, end of one-party state, etc., and it stayed like that for a long time. It moved from nonviolent protest to scattered violent actions and the government came down extremely hard. Now it is way past the point of no return.”