Junge Participates in WCC Consultation on Syria
(LWI) – The global church family has an urgent ecumenical and humanitarian responsibility towards civilians who continue to suffer the greatest impact of the ongoing conflict in Syria, says Rev. Martin Junge, General Secretary of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), reflecting on two major meetings in Geneva.
Junge shared his thoughts at the end of a World Council of Churches (WCC) organized ecumenical consultation for church leaders from Syria and around the world, held 15-17 January, at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva. The general secretary participated in the meeting upon WCC’s invitation.
Ahead of the “Geneva 2” United Nations-backed international conference for Syria scheduled for 22 January, church representatives at the Ecumenical Consultation on Syria called for substantial action to be taken at the talks to end the armed conflict that started in March 2011.
In a message to be delivered to the Geneva 2 talks by the UN-Arab League joint representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, the group emphasized the need for “immediate cessation of all armed confrontation and hostility,” and assurance of appropriate humanitarian assistance to “all vulnerable communities in Syria and refugees in neighboring countries.” The consultation called for the development of “a comprehensive and inclusive process toward establishing a just peace and rebuilding Syria,” a WCC press release stated.
Reiterating LWF’s support for ecumenical efforts to bring lasting peace in Syria, Junge said a political solution towards peace in the country must include adherence to international law and humanitarian principles. “The protection of civilians is not optional, but mandatory and I urge parties involved in the Geneva 2 discussions to take this obligation as their point of departure,” he added.
Scaling-Up Humanitarian Response
The general secretary expressed deep concern over the increasing number of civilians displaced in the Syrian crisis, adding “the cessation of all hostilities is imperative” as the different parties sit down to negotiate for peace.
Junge stressed the need to scale up support for humanitarian response to the crisis. “The number of displaced people is staggering: from 500,000 Syrian refugees in January 2013 to the 2.3 million currently in the region, and another 6.5 million displaced inside the country. This suffering has to come to an end, it cannot continue,” he added.
He expressed LWF’s commitment to do more in collaboration with its partners to assist refugees and support efforts to bring peace in the country and the region as a whole.
In Mafraq region, northern Jordan, the LWF Department for World Service emergency program is supporting 4,000 families in camps and host communities with winterization kits that include gas and cylinders for cooking and heating, winter clothing, blankets and carpets.
Other intervention includes a food voucher distribution program aimed at benefiting 1,700 Syrian refugee families and Jordanians with monthly food coupons of USD 85 dollars per family over a six-month period.
A school expansion program in Mafraq continues, with a goal to build 30 new classrooms by the end of 2014 in crowded local schools that host Syrian students, especially girls. LWF’s support to refugee women and Jordanian hosts includes an income-generation program providing employment also for the Syrian women. In addition, more than 800 women from both communities have benefitted from an LWF vocational training program aimed at increasing self-sustainability.
At the Za’atri camp, home to more than 124,000 refugees from Syria, the LWF coordinated “Peace Oasis” program targets around 1,500 youth aged between 14 and 24 years in activities aimed at spreading a culture of peace and building resilience through psychosocial support. Art and play therapy, sports, and group counseling are some of the tools used in this program.
By mid-January Jordan was hosting more than 582,000 Syrian refugees.
Source: The Lutheran World Fedration