Panel on Syrian Crisis

Panel discussion on the Syrian crisis

There was a full house for a panel discussion on “The humanitarian response to the Syrian Crisis: Reflections from the region,” at Loretto College in Toronto on 1 December. See Catholic Register article and CJI’s video highlights below for more detail.

The event was hosted by Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) as part of their Discussion Series, and it was co-sponsored by the Mary Ward Centre and Jesuit Refugee Service Canada. CJI director Jenny Cafiso moderated the discussion. Following the panelists’ presentations, there were numerous questions from the more than 120 people in attendance.

Fouad Nakhla SJ answers a question

Fouad Nakhla SJ talks about JRS work in Syria

CJI’s Discussion Series provide an opportunity to hear personal, informative and often moving stories from people who have experience and expertise in the field and who are passionate about social justice. The three panelists at this event all had first-hand experience working with Syrian refugees in the Middle East.

Fouad Nakhla, a Jesuit deacon from Syria, spoke about the challenges of working with internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Syria, the difficulties of everyday life, and how the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Syria works with families in very difficult circumstances and how it is increasingly focusing on the education of children.

Miriam Lopez-Villegas, CJI’s International Programs Coordinator, highlighted the challenges of humanitarian work in the Middle East, particularly in Jordan and Lebanon. While these countries have made impressive efforts on behalf of Syrian refugees, increasingly there are problems of severe funding shortages, legal restraints, an over-burdened infrastructure, and some discrimination against refugees. International humanitarian organizations require much more support in order to provide necessary assistance.

Panel discussion audience

Panel discussion audience

Loae Almously, a Syrian refugee recently arrived in Canada who also worked with JRS spoke of his difficult decision to leave his homeland for Canada, and how working with JRS in Jordan helped him understand the challenges of humanitarian work.

One of the key takeaways from this evening was that even though Canada’s current commitment to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees is a very good thing, the vast majority of displaced Syrians remain in the Middle East and they are in need of much more international humanitarian assistance than they are currently getting—despite the remarkable efforts of groups like JRS.

CJI continues to support humanitarian efforts among refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. To donate, please go here.


Some video highlights of the panel discussion: