Syria: daily life a struggle to survive
  Donor pledges must prioritise urgent humanitarian plight of displaced Syrians
  Jordan: an arduous and perilous journey to safety
  Jordan: caught between memories of the past and the reality of today
  Jordan: dreaming of an open Syria
  Jordan: eat dust here or die in Syria
  Jordan: online education, harnessing the skills of refugees
  Jordan: refugees helping refugees
  JRS Middle East Director visits US
  Lebanon: keeping a special spirit alive
  Lebanon: language barriers prevent Syrian children from attending school
  Lebanon: Syrian families flee to protect their children
  Prayer for Syria: blessed are the peacemakers
  Syria: amidst upheaval, the scope of services expands
  Syria: bread and fuel shortages in Aleppo add to daily woes
  Syria: bringing families together
  Syria: dialogue is the solution, not war
  Syria: displaced Syrians struggle to find shelter
  Syria: encouraging internally displaced persons to be involved in emergency assistance
  Syria: enduring spirit remains despite the rubble
  Syria: holding onto normality in Aleppo
  Syria: humanitarian situation in the region deteriorating rapidly
  Syria: in conflict, persecution affects Muslims and Christians alike
  Syria: Iraqi refugees on the sidelines of yet another conflict
  Syria: JRS expands emergency support in Aleppo
  Syria: local networks of solidarity and JRS helping displaced families
  Syria: refugee finds his life's purpose at Al Mukhales Centre
  Syria: resilience and hope
  Syria: thousands displaced after upsurge in violence in Sheikh Maqsoud
  Syria: turning pain into their most powerful weapon
  Syria: two years of conflict threaten children's education and well-being
  Syria: update on JRS emergency assistance
  Syria: urgent need for winter supplies
  Syria: violence in Damascus fuels hopelessness, fear
  Syria: volunteers are essential to the work of JRS
  Syria: work of Jesuit community recognised by German human rights foundation
  Syria: working under principles of neutrality, non-violence and inclusiveness
  USA: the Jesuit Refugee Service stands with Syria
  Voices of Europe unite to help Syrian refugees

Homes inhabited by Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley on the Lebanon-Syrian border where JRS teams make field visits and try to respond effectively to the needs of the refugees (Angelika Mendes/JRS).
Beirut, 6 March 2013 – As conflict in Syria deepens seems and becomes more entrenched, the thought it is increasing less likely a peace deal will be brokered in extremely worrying. New waves of refugees fleeing fighting cross borders as security in Syrian neighbourhoods deteriorates. To make matters worse, there is another enemy, as UN leaders have put it, the bitter winter.

A few weeks ago many parts of the Middle East, such as the mountains behind Beirut and the Syrian capital of Damascus, found themselves under heavy snow for the first time in years. Access to the many arriving refugees was hampered by these difficult conditions.

Camp conditions in sub-zero temperatures were miserable. Yet, while visiting one in Bekaa Valley, in eastern Lebanon I was surprised to find the refugees smiling; they had camp cookers, blankets and even a stove under the canvas. The snow was turning slushy outside when I entered a home in the camp, taking my shoes off before enjoying a warm cup of shai (tea) as I used sign language and much laughter to share precious moments of communion.

The Jesuits and companions have mobilised here in the Middle East and are bracing themselves for the new influx forecast by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). Given that approximately half of the Syrians affected by the conflict are children, the response of JRS Lebanon teams, still in its nascent phase, seeks to support children living in a village near the Lebanese-Syrian border.

In Lebanon, Syrian refugee children are frequently to unable to attend local schools where the language of instruction is not Arabic, but English or French. In response, JRS Lebanon is organising a remedial language and maths classes to prepare them for enrolment in September. But the greatest challenge is funding. Although 1.5 billion US dollars was recently pledged by world leaders to assist with the humanitarian crisis, there is no guarantee of when or where these monies will arrive.

As JRS volunteers do our best to respond effectively to the needs of refugees in Lebanon, teams in Syria continue to work around the clock as bombardments rain around their homes, and the JRS centres. Their commitment to helping their fellow citizens, under such difficult circumstances is nothing short of inspiring.

Gerry Clarke, JRS Middle East Africa and North Africa Acting Assistant Director

As part of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) recently established by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) to respond to international emergencies, Gerry Clarke SJ finds himself in Beirut, far from his hometown of Dublin.

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