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Syrian refugees, all Muslims, graduate from Caritas-run schools in Jordan

13 Jul 2016 – By Dale Gavlak

NAOUR, Jordan (CNS) — Exuberant Syrian refugee children sang, danced and played with colorful clowns as they celebrated graduation at their Caritas-sponsored school in this sleepy suburb of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Some 170 Muslim children, ages 5-17, proudly strode up on the outdoor platform of the Latin Patriarchate School of Naour, festooned for the occasion with red, yellow and orange balloons. They wore big smiles as they collected their certificates allowing them to move from primary to secondary school, while others completed high school.

The graduation march, “Pomp and Circumstance,” played in the background as Father Rifat Bader called out the students’ names and congratulated each one: Abdel Fattah Hisham al-Auda, Omar Karim Mohamed, Leen Nizar Laham ....

The graduation came at a time when many Syrian children are deprived of receiving an education. UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, estimates that more than 2.1 million children inside Syria and 700,000 in neighboring countries are out of school.

“We wish for the joy on these children’s faces to be like a prayer bringing peace and tranquility to our beloved Syria,” Father Bader told Catholic News Service at the ceremony July 11.

“We are proud to be in Jordan, a country which welcomes refugees. All in all, we have 290 Syrian children — both boys and girls — in 20 schools supported by Caritas Jordan. All are Muslims. This is our pride, to welcome the people without discrimination,” said Father Bader, who directs the Catholic Center for Studies and Media and whose home parish is the church in Naour with the school.

“Suffering people always need support and healing from wars and from those who have perpetrated these conflicts in Syria and Iraq,” the Catholic priest told CNS.

“This is very good,” beamed a mother named Um Karam, seeing her son graduate from his senior class. “I am happy that our children are able to realize their rights for education. Otherwise, they have no chance in life,” she told CNS.

“I am thankful to Caritas. I have never seen such wonderful program like theirs,” said the woman, dressed in a dark, long robe and a colorful scarf covering her head. Um Karam, using the Arabic familial name, “Karam’s mother,” said she and her family fled death and destruction in Syria three years ago.

“The Caritas teachers encourage the students to learn well. It’s important for them to be able to attend school daily to learn and study seriously. This protects our children and offers a brighter hope for the future,” Um Karam said.

The war in Syria has displaced nearly 4.8 million people, half of them children. Most fled for safety to neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, while others risked their lives on rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean.

A number of Syrians have been living as refugees since the war began more than five years ago. Many young lives have been shaped by fear, violence and displacement.

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