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Food assistance brings hope in Syria

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Meeting basic needs part of peacebuilding process, says Syrian church leader

As the war in Syria rages on, Canadian Foodgrains Bank members are continuing to pray for peace, but also responding to the food needs of people affected by the conflict.

“When people are starving, you can’t talk to them about building peace,” says Father Nawras Sammour of Jesuit Refugee services in Damascus, Syria. “You can’t start dialoguing or giving hope until you’ve met basic needs.”

Through Foodgrains Bank member Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Foodgrains Bank is providing monthly food packages and vouchers that are distributed by Jesuit Refugee Services to people caught in the fighting.

Nawras, who visited Canada in December to meet with officials in the department of foreign affairs, trade & development, as well as federal politicians, is concerned that it looks like there is no end in sight to the violence in Syria.

“We’re not able to see the future at all,” he says. “How can you give people hope, and try to plan, without the possibility of a future?”

Despite the challenges, there are plenty of small things he sees each day that encourage him to carry on.

He recalls a moment during the Ramadan celebration back in 2012, when sandwiches and drinks were being handed out to war-affected Syrians in the evening. The need was overwhelming, with well over 800 people waiting for food.

A 75-year-old Christian woman brought handfuls of her own tomatoes and cucumbers to share.

“It was nothing compared to the number of people that were there,” he says. “But she was moved by what she saw, and wanted to help according to her capacity.”

“Out of words” to explain the violence

“We have run out of words to fully explain the brutality violence and callous disregard for human life which is a hallmark of this crisis,” says Valerie Amos, United Nations chief of humanitarian affairs in a recent CNN report.

“This conflict is not only shattering Syria’s present, it is also destroying its future.”

In the nearly three years since the conflict began, an estimated 200,000 people have died. Over three million people are registered as refugees in neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, and seven million people are displaced within Syria.

Canadian Foodgrains Bank members World Renew, Mennonite Central Committee, ADRA Canada, Canadian Baptist Ministries and Canadian Lutheran World Relief are also responding to the Syrian crisis. The Canadian Foodgrains Bank response to the Syrian crisis is undertaken with the support of the Government of Canada.

–Amanda Thorsteinsson, CFGB communications officer

See also Mennonite World Conference’s appeal for a shower of prayer, solidarity and blessing

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