Dawani reflects on the situation for refugees in the Middle East

Photo: Matthew Davies/Episcopal News Service

Photo: Matthew Davies/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem] Reflection by the Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Rev. Suheil Dawani, on the situation for refugees in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East.


The Samaritan “bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’” (Luke 10:34-35

The story of the good Samaritan is one that is a guide to Christians across the globe as to how we can be neighbours for those who need us, whoever she or he may be; and it is, I believe, relevant all the more so in our approach to how we as individuals and communities welcome and care for refugees.  It is with this in mind that I write, aware of the extraordinary work that ordinary men and women in our Diocese are doing in caring for refugees from Syria and Iraq.  The refugee crisis is serious – very serious – and demands that we respond with compassion and care to people who have faced untold horrors, and who have had to leave their martyrs behind.

As refugees seek sanctuary, we as Christians are challenged to open our doors and share what we have with strangers.  Archbishop Mouneer in his article Our calling: Welcome refugees, support development, make peace, (posted on the ACNS, Anglican Communion News Service, 28th September 2015) cites Jesus commandment that we must share what we have.  If we cannot for whatever reason share our house, then we must share our gifts and our resources.

Hospitality is one of the hallmarks of this diocese: for centuries we have shown hospitality to pilgrims, to people who went on their way “sometimes not knowing whither they would come”, but seeking an expression of the Kingdom of God, as Abraham did. On other occasions and throughout history the Churches of the region extended hospitality to the thousands of people forced to leave their homes for an unknown destination. During the past one hundred years there were Circassian refugees from Russia, Armenians from Turkey, Jews from Europe, refugees from Palestine, Iraq, Soudan, and many other places. Now our challenge is to show hospitality to yet another traveler, refugees and migrants from Syria.

At the moment Jordan welcomes some 1.25 million Syrians, 300,000 Iraqis, 400,000 Egyptians, 100,000 Libyans and 50,000 Yemenis. In Irbid (Northern Jordan) there are 250,000 refugees; and in the refugee camp of Zaatari’s on the Syrian border there are some 120,000 people who live in tents and caravans.  Places that were once desert are now large towns, which require infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, electricity and water, shops and roads, and much more.

One way the Church has managed to respond is through “The Network”, which, under the supervision of The Rev’d Canon ‘Brother Andrew’ De Carpentier of the Anglican “Holy Land Institute for Deaf and Deafblind Children” in Salt, has brought together different local organizations providing essential medical and paramedical care to thousands of refugees with disabilities in need.  The “Network” is a partnership between: The Dhia Society (a Jordanian charity for visually impaired children), The Raja society (a school for the education and training of those with cognitive issues), The Avicenna (Ibn Sina) society (a Jordanian organization for helping those with mobility issues); and the Palestine Hospital (A Church-affiliated specialist hospital for Trauma and Neurology).

Another way the Church responded is through the work of St Paul’s church in Ashrafiyeh – Amman.  The Reverend George Kopti describes how refugees have become part of the church family, with activities provided for the children and for women, as well as a new mid-week Bible study for the Christians who have fled.  As winter approaches, the congregation are gathering gas stoves to hand, and distributing food coupons.

The Rev’d Canon Samir Esaid, vicar of The Virgin Mary Episcopal Church in Irbid explained how his church is reaching out to refugees in the community with a special focus on providing education and support to parents of children who are blind or visually impaired. It helps parents cope with their children who attend the Arab Episcopal School for visually impaired and sighted children. Not only did they take in refugees as students, but in one instant also had a refugee working as a volunteer teacher in the school.  He explained that for many the border between Syria and Jordan was quite arbitrary as related families were living on both sides, with many Jordanians now looking after their Syrian relatives.

It is hard for those who have not experienced the need to flee their homeland to envisage what life is like.  Where is the next meal?  Where will I sleep tonight?  What about my children’s education?  What shall I do for my child who is ill?  Where shall I go with my child who is blind or deaf, who is traumatized and disturbed? Who can help me with a child that has mobility problems, suffers of epilepsy or cerebral palsy? These are real questions for real people looking for sanctuary, safety and friendship.

What is heartening is that these experiences give us all faith in humanity and encourage us to go the extra mile and help those in need as Christ asks us to.    If all of us, whoever and wherever we are, can reach out to those who are suffering, whether they are strangers seeking sanctuary or are well known to us, I believe our lives will be transformed and become more like the person Christ calls us to be: Good Samaritans, brothers to all whom we encounter, sharing our gifts, and ultimately grafting our lives more into Jesus when his love, compassion and generosity work in and through us.

AMEN

Comments

  1. The Rev. Lucretia Jevne says:

    Very moving. I am sorry he doesn’t include how we can send donations to help the Network.

  2. The Rev'd Canon Samir J. Habiby says:

    The Diocese of Jeusalem in its Refugee work in Jordan, and indeed the entire Province of The Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East with its Four constituent dioceses are heavily impacted with Refugees. Archbishop Suheil presents the larger Church with both a challenge and an with that an opportunity expressive of our Lord’d Dominical impertaive in St. Matthew’s Gospel …. “In as much as you have done this to the least of my brothers and sisters you have done ths to m. …”. This was the guiding light that caused the Church during and in the aftermath of WWII to establish its arm of caingcompassion, in effect the human face of the Community of Faith, the Presiding Bishops Fund for World Relief, and since the year 2,000 separated into two agencies, one directly a part of the national staff known as Episcopal Migration Ministries, and the other with its own Board known as Episcopal Relief and Development. Both in celebrating their 75th Anniversaries have stod fast in reaching out to thos in need. However when both were part of the PBF\WR with the Presiding Bishop as the Chair, and four members of the 12 member Board as members of the Executive Council, in major domestic and global emergencies, the Presiding Bishop with the Executive Council would immediately issue a Special Appeal, as in the East Africa Famin as well as in the Lebanon Civil Warto wich the Church responded generously in concert with its Ecumenical and Interfaith Partners as well as Agencies that had similar charters as Save the Children in endeavoring to meet the many relief as well as devlopment needs of those facing loss of home and livlihood, especially of women and children due to civil war and natural disasters. The response of the Emergency appeal by the Presiding Bishop to the Lebanon Appeal brought in some three million “extra mile” Dollars in the 1980’s worth of the Dollar and the same for the East Africa Famine among such other contributions throughout the Church. All this in addition to the resettlement of thousands of refugees adopted by local congregations from among Refugees admitted into the United States.

    In the years since then much has been accomplished in serving human need by EMM and ERD and continues today. However with the continuing civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya, the Yemen and Somalia, the global family as Archbishop Suheil has indicated that, the Congregations in his diocese and elsewhere are facing an all conxuming challenege not experienced since WWII with so many millions of Refugees and Asylum Seekers fleeing their homelands daily In the many thousands seeking refuge and safety in neighboring countries as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey,, and many perising at Sea in unworthy crafts seeking to reach the safety of Europe.

    The.Challenege is clearly before us as Church, and in the promis of our Blessed Lord in St. John’s Gospel …. “I have come that you have life and have it abundantly”.

  3. The Rev'd Canon Samir J. Habiby says:

    The Diocese of Jeusalem in its Refugee work in Jordan, and indeed the entire Province of The Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East with its Four constituent dioceses are heavily impacted with Refugees. Archbishop Suheil presents the larger Church with both a challenge and an with that an opportunity expressive of our Lord’d Dominical impertaive in St. Matthew’s Gospel …. “In as much as you have done this to the least of my brothers and sisters you have done ths to Me. …”.

    This was the guiding light that caused the Church during and in the aftermath of WWII to establish its arm of caingcompassion, in effect the human face of the Community of Faith, the Presiding Bishops Fund for World Relief, and since the year 2,000 separated into two agencies, one directly a part of the national staff known as Episcopal Migration Ministries, and the other with its own Board known as Episcopal Relief and Development. Both in celebrating their 75th Anniversaries have stood fast in reaching out to those in need. However when both were part of the PBF\WR with the Presiding Bishop as the Chair, and four members of the Fund’s Board as members of the Executive Council, in major domestic and global emergencies, the Presiding Bishop with the Executive Council would immediately issue a Special Appeal, as in the East Africa Famine as well as in the Lebanon Civil War, to which the Church responded generously to in concert with its Ecumenical and Interfaith Partners as CWS, LWR, and in consortias with global Agencies that had similar charters as Save the Children, endeavoring to meet the many urgent relief as well as longer communal devlopment needs of those facing loss of home and livlihood, especially of women and children due to civil war and natural disasters. The response of the Emergency appeal by the Presiding Bishop for the Fund in the Lebanon Appeal brought in over a period of a few months some three million “extra mile” Dollars (in the 1980’s worth of the Dollar) ~ and the same for the East Africa Famine, among such other lextra milel generous contributions throughout the Church. All this in addition to the resettlement of thousands of refugees adopted by local congregations from among the Refugees admitted into the United States.

    In the years since then much has been accomplished in serving human need by EMM and ERD and continues today. However with the continuing civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya, the Yemen and Somalia, the global family, as Archbishop Suheil has indicated, especially the Congregations in his diocese and elsewhere, while overwhelemd with numbers of refugees in their mmidst are nevertheless reaching to assuage the suffering and deprivation of the many tens of thousands of refugees, and ard facing an all consuming challenege not experienced by the global family since the displacements in WWII, These many millions of Refugees and Asylum Seekers fleeing their homelands daily are seeking refuge and safety in neighboring countries as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and many families in their despair of overcrowded camps with minimal services are perishing at Sea in unworthy crafts seeking to reach the safety of Europe.

    The.Challenge is clearly before us as a Church in the promise made by our Blessed Lord in St. John’s Gospel …. “I have come that you have life and have it abundantly”.

    The question before us is how to face the complex realities of the Millions of Refugees that urgently need the assistance of all our Faith Communities. Both EMM, ERD, as well UTO and Church related private caring agencies as the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ surely welcome the generous Offerings of each of us today in our time, talent as well as treasurein seeking to alleviate such massive human suffering and displacement.

    Thank you Archbishop Suheil for your challenge and exemplry refugee related ministies in hospitality, social services, health care and education in the Diocese of Jerusalem with that of the three other dioceses in the Province in the Call to Serve the Refugees made by Archbishop Anis.

    Respectfully,

    The.Rev’d Canon Samir J. Habiby
    A Past Executive Director of the Presiding Bishopks Fund for World Relief

  4. The Rev'd Canon Samir J. Habiby says:

    The Diocese of Jeusalem in its Refugee work in Jordan, and indeed the entire Province of The Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East with its Four constituent dioceses are heavily impacted with Refugees. Archbishop Suheil presents the larger Church with both a challenge and an with that an opportunity expressive of our Lord’d Dominical impertaive in St. Matthew’s Gospel …. “In as much as you have done this to the least of my brothers and sisters you have done ths to Me. …”.

    This was the guiding light that caused the Church during and in the aftermath of WWII to establish its arm of caingcompassion, in effect the human face of the Community of Faith, the Presiding Bishops Fund for World Relief, and since the year 2,000 separated into two agencies, one directly a part of the national staff known as Episcopal Migration Ministries, and the other with its own Board known as Episcopal Relief and Development. Both in celebrating their 75th Anniversaries have stood fast in reaching out to those in need. However when both were part of the PBF\WR with the Presiding Bishop as the Chair, and four members of the Fund’s Board as members of the Executive Council, in major domestic and global emergencies, the Presiding Bishop with the Executive Council would immediately issue a Special Appeal, as in the East Africa Famine as well as in the Lebanon Civil War, to which the Church responded generously to in concert with its Ecumenical and Interfaith Partners as CWS, LWR, and in consortias with global Agencies that had similar charters as Save the Children, endeavoring to meet the many urgent relief as well as longer communal devlopment needs of those facing loss of home and livlihood, especially of women and children due to civil war and natural disasters. The response of the Emergency appeal by the Presiding Bishop for the Fund in the Lebanon Appeal brought in over a period of a few months some three million “extra mile” Dollars (in the 1980’s worth of the Dollar) ~ and the same for the East Africa Famine, among such other lextra milel generous contributions throughout the Church. All this in addition to the resettlement of thousands of refugees adopted by local congregations from among the Refugees admitted into the United States.

    In the years since then much has been accomplished in serving human need by EMM and ERD and continues today. However with the continuing civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya, the Yemen and Somalia, the global family, as Archbishop Suheil has indicated, especially the Congregations in his diocese and elsewhere, while overwhelemd with numbers of refugees in their mmidst are nevertheless reaching to assuage the suffering and deprivation of the many tens of thousands of refugees, and ard facing an all consuming challenege not experienced by the global family since the displacements in WWII, These many millions of Refugees and Asylum Seekers fleeing their homelands daily are seeking refuge and safety in neighboring countries as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and many families in their despair of overcrowded camps with minimal services are perishing at Sea in unworthy crafts seeking to reach the safety of Europe.

    The.Challenge is clearly before us as a Church in the promise made by our Blessed Lord in St. John’s Gospel …. “I have come that you have life and have it abundantly”.

    The question before us is how to face the complex realities of the Millions of Refugees that urgently need the assistance of all our Faith Communities. Both EMM, ERD, as well UTO and Church related private caring agencies as the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ surely welcome the generous Offerings of each of us today in our time, talent as well as treasurein seeking to alleviate such massive human suffering and displacement.

    Thank you Archbishop Suheil for your challenge and exemplry refugee related ministies in hospitality, social services, health care and education in the Diocese of Jerusalem with that of the three other dioceses in the Province in the Call to Serve the Refugees made by Archbishop Anis.

    Respectfully,

    The.Rev’d Canon Samir J. Habiby
    A Past Executive Director of the Presiding Bishopks Fund for World Relief

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