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Speaking Out for Iraqi Refugees

After a CRS-sponsored trip to Lebanon and Syria, eight women religious from the U.S. have mobilized to raise awareness of Iraqi refugees’ suffering.

The Catholic sisters, drawn from various religious orders, made home visits to Iraqis desperate for medical care, rent, jobs, and school for their children. They visited with Catholic Relief Services partners like Caritas Lebanon, learning more about day-to-day realities for the refugees. Returning in late January, the sisters have spoken to their congregations, universities and the media about what America can do to help Iraqis who fled the violence in their home country.

Last Wednesday, two of the nuns briefed approximately 75 congressional staffers on the needs of Iraqi refugees during a session in the Capitol Building. Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service, and Anne Curtis, a Sister of Mercy, shared stories of the Iraqi families they met, many of whom are not allowed by their host countries to work. Attendees included staffers from the offices of Senators Obama, McCain and Durbin.

The sisters urged Congress to increase funding for United Nations and other programs that help Iraqi refugees, as well as to accept more Iraqis as immigrants to the U.S. “Iraqis have run out of their savings and are getting desperate,” Sister Simone said in emailed bulletins during the January trip. “Some have decided to return to Iraq and have been killed. Others are trying to work in the underground economy” in their host countries, she continued.

The sisters will keep pressing for action. “We feel very good about the briefing,” said Sister Simone when Wednesday’s meeting concluded. “Iraqi needs are so great, and there are things our government can do to alleviate their suffering. Somebody is listening.”

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