Go out of yourself so completely, become so involved in everything you see and do, that you forget yourself -- Donagh O'Shea
by Rev. Imad Twal
Amman, Dec. 5, 2013 - The depth of the crisis in Syria and the amount of suffering it is causing are well known.
Predictions are difficult but even an immediate resolution would require time and money for a return to normal. More likely is continued strife and a continuing refugee exodus. On any basis Jordan will have a massive humanitarian problem for a considerable while. Current estimates put Syrian refugees in Jordan at between half and three quarters of a million or even more, approximately one Syrian for every eight to nine Jordanians.
Jordan has a major water shortage problem. Estimates before the Syrian influx put it as having one of the highest water shortages in the world. It lacks the mineral wealth found in much of the region and consequently has been particularly exposed to the downturn in the world economy.
This gives it extreme economic, and potentially social, fragility. It is also subject to the tensions arising from rising religious fundamentalism, youth unemployment and rising prices which have led to the problems of the "Arab Spring" in neighbouring Syria and Egypt. The present stability in Jordan cannot be taken for granted and if undermined would almost certainly add to the prospect of a conflagration in the area and another massive humanitarian disaster...not least for Syrian refugees in Jordan. On this basis help for Syrian refugees in Jordan also helps Jordan which must be in the interests of world peace.
Christians are at particular risk. They are targeted by extremist Islamic groups and also by criminal groups. Emigration can become the only option for Syrian Christians without effective government protection, even in government controlled areas, or the protection of any of the armed groups. Because of its links to the Catholic Church and favourable reports from Christian refugees who have been sheltered there the Centre is particularly likely to have to meet sudden demands in future from Christian refugees and also from Muslims.
What can the Centre offer? And how can it cope?
The Centre is multi-purpose. It provides specialist day treatment for the disabled of all ages and all degrees of severity. It also has a conference centre with guest accommodation both for conference visitors and for youth groups. The philosophy of the Centre is based on Christian love, valuing every human as an individual with physical and spiritual needs. It is supported by both Christians and Muslims and is used by both. It provides a bridge based on mutual understanding, respect and cooperation between the two communities.
At present it is providing some Syrians with accommodation and also has a day programme for over 20 disabled Syrian refugee children from Amman (in a cooperation with CARITAS Jordan). Since the beginning of 2013 over 50 Syrian families have been given shelter for periods of up to 40 days. Most of them have now left Jordan for host countries. Going forward Our Lady of Peace Centre can offer both specialist help to the Syrian disabled and also shelter for up to 165 people.
The major problem facing the Centre is a lack of resources. Physiotherapy and other treatment is expensive and accommodation costs rise in the winter months with below freezing temperatures over an extended period. In addition the costs of catering for large numbers are high.
The Centre does not receive official funding and relies on donations. This means that extra Syrian refugees will put a considerable strain on the Centre. Overall the Centre estimates the cost of accommodation during winter months at JD 30 per head per day while physiotherapy costs 20 JD per session and more specialist treatment, e.g. prosthesis assessment and fitting, can be significantly more.
Rev. Fr. Imad Twal