By Lydia O’Kane
For almost nine years Syria has been in the grip of a conflict that has led to the intense suffering of its people, forcing many to flee their homes.
With an end to the fighting nowhere in sight, civilians face a cold harsh winter ahead.
Charities have warned that men, women and children face hunger, while skyrocketing fuel prices and shortages threaten hospitals and the supply of food.
According to the United Nations, the conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of 500,000 people. Millions of people have also been left homeless in the country.
In the midst of this humanitarian crisis, the UK based Catholic aid agency CAFOD is supporting local aid workers who are assessing the situation and responding to the emergency.
It has also been running an Advent Appeal for Syria.
Preparing for the winter ahead
Speaking to Vatican News, Sarah Burrows from CAFOD’s Syria Crisis Programme team said that one of the things that that the aid agency has been doing is to help people in Syria prepare for the cold. Many are living in makeshift shelters and tents and she explained that they are “providing accommodation support, blankets, that kind of thing, just to really support them particularly during the cold weather.”
Sarah highlighted that the Syria Appeal which has been running through Advent is “a great opportunity for reflection and… a great chance for us to be able to look outwards to those who are in need of our help both in our local communities and also around the world.”
Throughout his pontificate Pope Francis has spoken about the plight of the Syrian people and appealed for a resolution to the crisis. During a Sunday Angelus in October the Pope called Syria a “beloved and martyred” nation, and urged “all the actors involved and …the international community” to commit themselves “sincerely to the path of dialogue to seek effective solutions” to the conflict.
Asked about the importance of the Pope’s voice in relation to the Syria Crisis, Sarah said, “he’s made it really clear that we have a responsibility to look out for our neighbours around us. He’s spoken out on refugees on a number of occasions and he encourages us to welcome the stranger and really support people who have been forced to flee their homes”.