By Sarah Mac Donald - 15 March, 2015
During their Spring General Meeting, the Irish Bishops’ Conference discussed the continuing humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq.
In their concluding statement, they invited the faithful to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation to offer prayer intentions for those who are being persecuted because of the faith they profess.
They said the suffering of the people in Syria is compounded on two fronts: the conflict and the advancement of the Caliphate.
Since 15 March 2011, 210,000 people have been killed in the war in Syria, one million injured, and more than 4 million people have fled the country, with another 7.6 million internally displaced within its borders.
In the last two weeks, 220 people have been abducted by so-called Islamic State militants, most of them from Assyrian Christian villages in the north east of Syria.
The bishops recalled their meetings with Bishop Antoine Audo SJ of Aleppo during his visit to Ireland before Christmas who informed them of the brutality suffered by his people in Syria including being violently forced from their homes and kidnapping.
In their statement, the bishops said that the most striking concern of Bishop Audo was the perceived indifference of western countries to the persecution of his people.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, has written a letter to bishops worldwide regarding the “Collecta pro Terra Sancta”, the collection for the communities of faithful and places in the Holy Land, which traditionally takes place on Good Friday.
The bishops have asked the faithful to respond generously to this collection which seeks to alleviate the plight facing Christians in the Holy Land.
The territories that will benefit from the collection, in different ways and to differing extents, are: Jerusalem, Palestine and Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
Figures show that children are paying the highest price for the four years of conflict in Syria.
At least 10,664 children have lost their lives while a further 2 million have lost their homes.
The youngest have never known anything other than a refugee camp or a war site and very few go to school anymore.
Ireland has resettled or is due to resettle some 230 refugees. There have only been 89 asylum applications compared with some 6,000 applications in the UK.