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Turkey to set up refugee camp for Christians near Syrian border

By on Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A boy rides his bicycle past damaged buildings in Syria (Photo: CNS)

A boy rides his bicycle past damaged buildings in Syria (Photo: CNS)

Christians escaping the two-year civil war in Syria will soon have their own humanitarian aid camp, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey has said.

AFAD, as the agency is known, oversees the country’s humanitarian relief efforts. It said the separate camp for Christians is being built near Mor Abraham Syriac Monastery near the Turkish town of Midyat, about 30 miles from the Turkish-Syrian border.

The US bishops’ Catholic Relief Services reported in March that approximately 200 Syrian Christian refugees in that area were sheltering in local churches and were afraid to go to the other 17 relief camps on the border, where Turkey’s government is providing humanitarian assistance to an estimated 200,000 refugees, most of them Syrian Sunni Muslims.

A UN spokesman in Turkey said the decision to build the Christian camp is most probably the result of recent meetings between Turkish government and church officials.

“A month ago, some churches met with the Turkish foreign minister, and they requested that for Christians it would be better to open another camp,” Metin Corabatir, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey, said.

The patriarchal vicar of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Turkey, Father Francois Yakan, said he had not heard of the plan to build a relief camp where Syrian Christians would be separated from their Muslim compatriots, but he would not welcome it.

“These are people who have been living together for centuries. To be separating them now is not a good idea,” he said.

The UNHCR estimates that the conflict between pro-government forces and rebels in Syria has killed as many as 70,000 people and produced more than one million refugees, most of them children, and most now living Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

The UN agency has said it expects to help Turkish authorities assist close to 500,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey in 2013. It said more than 250,000 Syrians fleeing war at home have registered in Turkey, but Turkish officials have put the total number at nearly 400,000.

Neither Turkish officials nor the UN provides figures for the numbers of Syrian Christian refugees thought to be in Turkey, but Christians make up an estimated 10 percent of Syria’s 22 million people.

  • Carol Paur

    As we suffer our terrible loss in Boston, let us be filled with empathy for those in war torn countries.

  • la catholic state

    Thank God! It is initiatives like this that international Catholics should be organising too. Very practical self help and not just wringing our hands in despair at the lack of action from callous Western Governments.
    I also hope Lebanon can become a beacon of Christianity in the Middle East again.

  • Peter

    With the weakening of Hezbollah as Assad’s power wanes and the influx of Christians from across the border, Christianity may indeed enjoy a renaissance in Lebanon.

  • Eothen

    This piece of news would have read better if it had explained that the Christians of Syria generally stand alongside the country’s Alawis with Al-Assad and fear a bloodbath if there is a Sunni/Al Qaeda victory. Which Christians would be fleeing from Syria and why, I wonder. But yes, they would probably not get on very well in a camp with the hardline Syrian opposition Sunnis. Is this story a piece of disinformation which someone has swallowed whole?

  • la catholic state

    And the Lebanese Christian birth-rate needs to rise. (as it does throughout the world)

  • la catholic state

    You could be right Eothen…..we Christians have become very passive (expecting secular or Islamic organisations to look after us)…..and very gullible (believing every bit of secular and Islamic propoganda out)!
    I’m still holding out for Lebanon. We should be organising safe passages from Syria to Lebanon for Christians (a bit like Cruasaders of old).

  • Ceylan Donmez

    How funny that no one says anything good about Turkey! Im Turkish myself and the comment that I read was not that impressive! As you can read clearly my child it says, they were planning to build a seperate camp but Father Francois Yakan ( also a christian ) came with the Idea of not seperating them.

    First of all it would have been very appreciating if maybe one time in ur lifetime that you would see the positive things that Turkey does aswell!

  • Ceylan Donmez

    Maybe you should start appreciating things more in your life which would change ur life for the better and make you look less overbearing, insolent.

  • la catholic state

    I don’t think that’s relevant in the least. If you’ve got something against my views….then please….say it out.