Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Good News Amid World Troubles

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Dear Friend,

And so a New Year begins: a time to make resolutions and face the future with a clean slate, ready to write a better narrative. Maybe this is the year you will get that promotion or lose those 10 pounds or spend more time with your children. I encourage you to nurture such hope. From it can spring the flower of positive change.

At the same time, we realize that the New Year begins amid many problems around the world.

You are aware of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and how Catholic Relief Services—with your help—is responding to thousands of people affected by this deadly virus. Children who are now orphans need our support, and the virus has dealt a major blow to economies still recovering from years of war. These effects will be felt for a long time to come.

Beyond West Africa, we can point to crises in other countries, including Syria, Iraq and Central African Republic. Violence rooted in politics has taken on religious dimensions, forcing millions of people from their homes.

Then there’s South Sudan, the world’s newest nation. Fighting there is entering its second year and making it difficult to get support to those who need it the most.

Such tough challenges can make you wonder if New Year’s Day really marks the beginning of something new or just a recurrence of old problems.

But you are making a difference, and progress against malaria is one example of that. The World Malaria Report 2014 shows that the incidence of this disease dropped by 30% from 2000 to 2013. Mortality rates have declined by 47% worldwide and by 54% in Africa. Among children under age 5, the mortality rate declined by 53% worldwide and by 58% in Africa.


Web Chat: Providing Assistance for Refugees and Vulnerable Populations in Iraq and Syria

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

On September 30, 2014, Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops hosted an online Catholics Confront Global Poverty discussion: Crisis in Iraq and Syria: Providing Assistance for Refugees and Vulnerable Populations. Below is a transcript of that conversation.

Live Blog Crisis in Iraq and Syria: Providing Assistance for Refugees and Vulnerable Populations


Gaining a Global Perspective for Life

Friday, November 11th, 2011
Middle East

Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services Middle East Region Director, speaks at Cabrini College about CRS’ work in the Middle East. Photo courtesy of Cabrini College

By Alyssa Mentzer

Three and a half years ago I left home to go college. I can honestly say I knew very little about what was going on in the world. As far as I was concerned, my world revolved around the town I came from and the campus I lived on.

It’s not that I didn’t care about the rest of the world. I really had no idea what was going on around me. The depths of my knowledge remained within the borders of the United States.

Fast forward.

Last week I sat down with Mark Schnellbaecher, Catholic Relief Services Middle East Region Director, who lives in Beruit. Just back from trips to Iraq and Egypt, Mark was on the campus of Cabrini College to talk to students about the situation in Egypt after the recent revolution and the potential consequences of pulling American troops out of Iraq.

While chatting with Mark, my mind was full of thoughts about the struggle of the Egyptians after the Arab Spring and the upcoming struggle Iraqi refugees will face.

A Second Chance in Egypt

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

By Emily Ardell

Refugees in Egypt

Through projects, CRS and our partner, St. Andrews Refugee Services, reach beneficiaries throughout the city through targeted outreach in neighborhoods such as this one with high concentrations of refugees. Photo by Emily Ardell / CRS

The air conditioners dripped onto the dusty concrete as I made my way through the short maze of hallways underneath the tall apartment building to the elevator. Arriving on the 13th floor, I stepped out and was greeted with a big smile from Mais, and a giant bear hug. “Thanks for coming,” she said. “We are so happy you’re here.” It was clear by the look in her large, expressive eyes that she meant it.

I stepped into their small apartment and was greeted by Mais’ family: her husband Belal, their 20- year-old daughter Hanan and their 17-year-old son Eunice. Mais and her family are among the estimated 30,000 refugees now living in Egypt after escaping continuing violence in Iraq. As a result of the assistance her family and thousands of other Iraqi refugees in Cairo have received from CRS and its partner organizations, Mais agreed to meet with me, an American, to share the story of how they became refugees.

I sat down and on the sofa and Mais and her family sat around me on wooden chairs. “So tell me your story,” I said to Mais, somewhat unsure of how to start this conversation. There was a long pause while she looked up at the ceiling and I realized just how absurd my request must have seemed. But to my relief, Mais was not the least bit shy. Once she began telling her story, there was no holding her back.

This extraordinary woman started at the beginning, explaining that she and her husband had worked as professionals in Iraq in the fields of transportation and engineering. Their life there, although complicated at times, was one they loved dearly – one that was rich with family and community.

Lebanon Migrant Center Aids Iraqi Refugees

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Photojournalist David Snyder, on assignment for CRS, sent this report from Lebanon.

Iraqi Refugees

A view of the Zeatrieh neighborhood of Beirut, which has become a magnet for Iraqi refugees fleeing to Lebanon. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

I spent the day today in Beirut, meeting with Iraqi refugees receiving assistance through the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center. It’s not my first time here, nor is it my first time with the staff of the center. I was in Lebanon in 2006, when fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants displaced tens of thousands here. Caught up in the conflict, thousands of migrant workers, many of them Sri Lankan, flocked to the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center for help. For days I watched as the staff worked to process paperwork for panicked and frightened workers, seeking to flee the country.

Today the tide is moving in reverse. With support from Catholic Relief Services, Caritas is helping Iraqi refugees, headed through Lebanon, bound for anywhere but back to Iraq. I met families today in the neighborhood of Zeatrieh – a cramped network of side streets that houses hundreds of Iraqi families. Most have little, some have nothing, and almost all have overstayed the visas that helped them escape Iraq.

CRS On Chicago Public Radio: Iraqi Refugees In Egypt

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

CRS program manager Vivian Manneh discusses CRS’s work with Iraqi refugees in Egypt in this Chicago Public Radio podcast.

Hope and Help For Iraqi Refugees

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Two Iraqi refugee boys outside a social services center in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo by David Snyder/CRS

Representatives from Catholic Relief Services are participating today in a forum at the National Press Club in Washington that is highlighting the plight of the 2 milliion Iraqis who have been displaced by the war. CRS is co-sponsor of the event, Villanova Law Schools Ryan Forum on Law and Public Policy.

Many Iraqi refugees have fled to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, where they live as “illegal immigrants” and are unable to get jobs, schooling for their children or even basic medical care for their families. As they try to start new lives, they are forbidden to work in many cases, and shut out from services that citizens receive. These refugees wait out the days — hoping against hope that they’ll get visas to third countries.

Catholic Relief Services is working through our partners in the Middle East, like Caritas Lebanon, to provide food, medical care and help with rent to thousands of refugees. Mark Schnellbacher, our CRS Regional Director for the Middle East, and Najla Chadra of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, participated in today’s panel.

CRS is also working to bring this issue to greater visibility here in the United States, particularly among American Catholics. Our CRS Advocacy staff has kept our grassroots legislative network informed on this issue and urged them to support appropriate legislation addressing the crisis. Earlier this year, CRS sponsored a delegation of eight women religious to Syria and Lebanon, where they saw first-hand the conditions in which these Iraqi refugees live and the challenges they face. They returned to the U.S. and mobilized to raise awareness of Iraqi refugees’ suffering, speaking in their congregations, universities and the media, as well as briefing members of Congress. And after speaking here today, Najla is scheduled to speak about the situation for Iraqis in Lebanon to several more groups in the Northeast.

CRS and Caritas Internationalis Mourn Iraqi Archbishop Rahho

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

CRS joins with Caritas Internationalis in mourning the death of Archbishop Rahho of Mosul in northern Iraq. Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped last week and was found dead today. The following is a statement from Caritas Internationalis:

Caritas says the tragic death of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul in northern Iraq highlights the urgency of ending the violence in the country and the region.

The archbishop was kidnapped on February 29 in Mosul after a deadly shootout in which three of his companions were killed. He was found dead on Thursday 13 March.

Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organisation of 162 national Catholic charities that includes Caritas Iraq, said peacebuilding efforts need to be supported both within local communities, nationally and internationally to bring a halt to the conflict.

Caritas Iraq runs peacebuilding training courses in many places in the country, trying to break through distrust and suspicion among communities.

Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight said, “Archbishop Rahho was a man who sought peace and dialogue in a country at war. All sides of the conflict in Iraq have a duty not to target civilians. Archbishop Rahho supported peacebuilding efforts including those carried out by Caritas, which makes his death even more tragic and senseless. Caritas again calls for an end of all violence in Iraq and in the region, and for the safe release of all people taken hostage. Peace through dialogue is the only way forward.”

Caritas Iraq has been active since 1992 providing humanitarian relief, especially to new mothers and babies, and peacebuilding work since 2003.

Since 2003, CRS has been one of several Caritas Internationalis supporters of Caritas Iraq’s work with the internally displaced population and with those who have been marginalized within an increasingly desperate and violent situation.

Setting the Captives Free: CRS Partner Helps Release Jailed Iraqi Refugees

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

They’ve been threatened with kidnapping, received anonymous envelopes containing a warning bullet and seen family members mutilated in their home country of Iraq. So they fled.

Now Iraqi refugees in neighboring Middle Eastern countries — an estimated two million people —are struggling to find pay rent, find jobs and get medical care.


Drawn by an Iraqi refugee girl in Lebanon, this picture shows the girl (in purple) below her father and older brother, who are outside a green “jail” in the top right corner. The jail represents the retention center in Beirut where illegal immigrants are housed. The Arabic words read: “Please Jesus, get my father and brother out of prison. Thanks for keeping them safe and sound for me. Amen.” Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

In Lebanon, Iraqis have faced another threat: arrest and imprisonment. Considered illegal immigrants, tens of thousands of undocumented Iraqi refugees were not allowed to work in Lebanon and were imprisoned if they overstayed their short visas. Hundreds of Iraqis have been detained in the holding cells of a retention center in Beirut — without light, fresh air or hope. Others are housed in a regular prison, sharing space with criminals.

But thanks to the efforts of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, these Iraqis will soon be reunited with their loved ones and will be able to look for work in their new country. With support from Catholic Relief Services, other Catholic donors and the United Nations’ refugee agency, the migrant center has negotiated an amnesty with Lebanese authorities. By paying visa fees to regularize their status and working toward a job-sponsorship program, Caritas should be able to free approximately 300 Iraqis and keep others from being detained.

“This is a major and unprecedented step forward, contributing to alleviating the plight of Iraqi refugees living in dreadful conditions in Lebanon,” says Najla Chahda, director of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center.

The news is a wish come true for young girls like Rana, an Iraqi staying in a Caritas refugee shelter near Beirut. Like many undocumented Iraqi men over 18, her father and older brother were sent to the retention center while she, her mother and her younger siblings were sent to the migrant shelter. In a drawing, Rana imagines the retention center as a green jail with the door open, and shows her father and brother standing outside it.

“Years before the issue of Iraqi refugees became front-page news, social workers at the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center were working with compassion and skill to help these families get on their feet once they reached Lebanon,” says Melinda Burrell, Country Representative for CRS Lebanon. “Catholic Relief Services is proud to support the Migrant Center’s commitment to helping those who are bearing the brunt of the chaos in Iraq.”

The amnesty will also mean that thousands of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon can come out of hiding. Fearing arrest, many of them have rarely left their bare, cramped apartments. Without jobs or a connection to the Lebanese people around them, and traumatized by what they lived through in their home country, Iraqi refugee families have fallen into poverty and despair.

Caritas will continue to cooperate with the Lebanese government to eliminate obstacles that keep Iraqis poor, like fees and difficulties in applying for residency permits. Since the permits require an employer to act as a sponsor, Caritas also plans to link prospective employers with Iraqis. Continuing its ongoing social work, Caritas will follow up with freed detainees, making sure they have the papers they need to avoid being arrested again.

In the coming months, families can look forward to joyful reunions. Prisoners should start being released on a rolling basis starting in late February 2008. Just as in Rana’s drawing, the door is open now.

Speaking Out for Iraqi Refugees

Monday, February 11th, 2008

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.”