Responding to the Syria crisis


Katherine Crosby, International Affairs Intern with Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office.

By Katherine Crosby

As civil war in Syria continues, the accompanying humanitarian crisis continues to grow. More than half of Syria’s population has either left the country to seek safety or remains displaced within Syrian borders.

Those who attempt the journey abroad face transportation controlled by a $26 billion smuggling industry, spending large sums of money on a dangerous journey toward many unknowns. Upon their arrival, those seeking asylum often are met by a complete lack of services to assist them in the resettlement process and encounter systems that make it difficult to connect with relatives or create sustainable livelihoods.

But the majority of Syrian refugees are in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. The refugee crisis has strained the economies and politics in these places, challenging their capacity to effectively welcome refugees.

These challenging circumstances highlight the need for a complex response. They place before us a constantly evolving question: how will we respond? “We” as faith communities. “We” as political communities. “We” as individuals. “We” who, in search of whole people, whole societies, and a whole Earth seek justice and righteousness for the poor and oppressed, and to engage our neighbors with openness and compassion.

Mennonite Central Committee provides assistance to Syrians who want to stay close to home, including resources such as housing, food, education, and trauma support. Many who stay in Syria or neighboring countries are among the most vulnerable, lacking the resources (i.e. money to pay transportation fees) and capacity to relocate.

Amidst continued violence and war, some Syrians will continue to seek refuge in countries across the globe. The U.S. and other countries should provide greater assistance in the resettlement process and welcome people into our communities with radical hospitality.

Some members of Congress have reacted negatively to this, citing concerns about security and warning of terrorism during hearings over the last several weeks. Congress may need to heed Pope Francis’ remarks encouraging them to embrace the paradox of giving and perhaps a bit of holy risk when he addressed them earlier this fall: “…if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life.”

Some in Congress have recognized the great need for the U.S. to assist refugees. In early October, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a bill to provide emergency funding both to those in the Middle East and to resettlement efforts in the U.S.

Another essential component of responding to the Syria crisis is to advocate for a nonviolent political solution to the war. We must not forget that the root cause of the humanitarian crisis is the violence that forces Syrians from their homes.

Ask your members of Congress to support increased funding for Syrian refugees and to support diplomatic efforts to end the political conflict in Syria.