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Catholic Official: Funding Running Out for Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Iraqi refugee children stand outside the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady’s Assumption in Amman, Jordan, in late October. A Catholic official warned that funding will soon run out for the refugees, who fled Islamic State militants. (photo: CNS/Barb Fraze) 

Hala and the other Iraqi Catholics know church authorities would prefer for Christians to remain in Iraq, their historic homeland.

“But even our churches have been turned into mosques,” she said. “They’ve been destroyed, especially our beloved St. Ephraim Church in Mosul was turned into a mosque shortly after the Islamist takeover of the city.”

Hala said that after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, she and other Christians were obliged to don the Islamic headscarf to avoid problems with fundamentalist Muslims, but things have worsened and become far more dangerous since the Islamic State onslaught.

“It’s plain to see that those Christians who remain in Iraq will be caught in the struggle between Sunni Muslims and Shiites,” said Abu Zeid, 75, a former teacher who fled Mosul with his family and now shelters with others at the church. He used his familial nickname.

Father Noor said the more Christians flee Iraq, the smaller the community will become and the less weight it will carry vis-a-vis other groups.

But for now, his major concern is how to keep those Christians in Jordan fed and sheltered.

Church aid agencies in the U.S. and Germany “are aiding Caritas Jordan, and there is some help from the papal fund,” he said. “But there has been no other assistance from the international community. Caritas is facing great difficulty in providing for the refugees.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II opened doors to the refugees last August, and the international Catholic charity, Caritas, has mainly provided housing and other support. The tiny desert kingdom is already straining under the weight of aiding 1.6 million Syrian refugees, in addition to 200,000 Iraqis who fled the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency said EU countries have pledged to take 130,000 Syrian refugees this year. Two-thirds of Syrian refugees housed in Jordan are living below the national poverty line, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

But UNHCR said there is no favoritism when it comes to resettling refugees.

“We don’t preference caseloads. Resettlement is based on vulnerability. UNHCR does not technically do resettlement. Rather, countries come forward and say we have room for X, Y and Z,” said Aoife McDonnell, a UNHCR spokeswoman in Amman.

McDonnell told CNS that it is difficult to resettle every single refugee elsewhere in the world because Western countries offer limited spots.

“We don’t have the capacity to resettle everyone. We don’t have enough donor countries to come forward,” McDonnell said. “We are working on the advocacy side so that people who really do need to be resettled can be. And we hope that more countries will come forward to support that.”

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Tags: Iraqi Christians Jordan Iraqi Refugees Iraqi