4th February 2016 - Fr Paul Karam, Caritas Lebanon, is in London for the Syria donor conference. For him, the priority is to stop the conflict. So far, "personal interests" have prevailed with "the civilian population" paying the price. The Middle East is "a raging volcano" that can be stymied by following the path of peace outlined by Pope Francis.
"The most important thing, the starting point is to stop this war. We must silence weapons today, not tomorrow. The urgency increases each passing day. As long as there is war, we can never solve problems. Sadly, the conflict is bound to intensify,” said Fr Paul Karam, director of Caritas Lebanon.
For the past four years, the Catholic charity has led the way in helping Syrian and other refugees, streaming out of war-torn parts of the Middle East. The clergyman is currently in London for the Syria donor conference.
“As long as personal interests prevail and the flow of arms continues, the civilian population, the poor, and all those who work every day to earn a living to survive and educate their children will pay the price,” he told AsiaNews.
World leaders gathered in London this morning in an attempt to raise US$ 9 billion to meet the needs of the millions of Syrian refugees who fled the civil war.
Funds are also earmarked for resettlement in the Middle East, Europe and North America. However, only 43 per cent of the US$ 2.9 billion pledged to the UN's 2015 appeal were actually provided.
Observers hope that this donor conference, the fourth of its kind, meets the United Nations' demand for US$ 7.73 billion to help in Syria, plus US$ 1.23 billion aid for countries in the region affected by the crisis.
Some 70 international leaders will attend the summit, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. A coalition of more than 90 humanitarian and human rights groups involved in aid and rescue operations are also in London.
Caritas Lebanon has never skirted its responsibility, providing not only food but also psychological support. It has also encouraged exchanges between Christians and Muslims, particularly among young people.
"It is important to intervene in the health care field, as well as ensure that children are educated to give them a future,” Fr Karam said. However, “the most important thing to do is to stop the war. The international community has a responsibility to find a solution”. It must also do something to “stop arms trafficking”.
For the director of Caritas Lebanon, things “cannot go on like this . . . There is always money for weapons, to destroy; nothing to end the violence and help people. We have to stop this tragedy."
The solution lies with Pope Francis who laid down a roadmap for peace in his appeals. Hence, the failure of the ongoing Geneva talks is a source of "great sadness" because the parties "must seek peace and look for the good of the people, not their self-interest."
"The Middle East is a raging volcano,” the clergyman added. “We hope that the international community wakes up, shows greater international solidarity and provides more aid to migrants."
The war in Syria, which broke out in March 2011 as popular unrest against President Bashar al-Assad, morphed into open warfare involving Islamic extremist and jihadist group that has caused so far more than 260,000 deaths.
Over this period, one of the worst humanitarian crisis in history has unfolded, with 4.6 million Syrians forced abroad, primarily in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
Hundreds of thousands more have tried to reach Europe, sometimes losing their life paying the ultimate price for daring to cross the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean.
In recent days, those EU member states that had initially welcomed refugees, especially Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Germany, are now backtracking. (DS) (Asianews)