WASHINGTON--Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in testimony January 7, called on the Senate to seek an end to the violence in Syria and increase humanitarian aid and resettlement of Syrian refugees.
"The Syrian refugee crisis deserves the full attention and mobilization of the international community," Bishop Elizondo said. He pointed not only to the ongoing large-scale destruction, human suffering, and death inside the country, but also warned that a continued conflict threatens destabilization of the whole region because of the pressure it places on neighboring countries who have already absorbed some 2.3 million Syrian refugees.
Bishop Elizondo focused on the plight of 1.1 million Syrian refugee children. About 70 percent of them under the age of 12 have fled to neighboring countries, especially Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. Most of them do not attend school. The girls face the risk of sexual violence or forced marriage. Boys face the risk of being recruited for the armed conflict back in Syria. Nearly 3,760 Syrian children have been found to be alone in the world, having parents who have died or parents from whom the children are separated, he reported.
Bishop Elizondo noted a special concern for minority groups in Syria, including Syrian Christians. "These are among the most ancient and venerable Christian communities in the world that have a history of peaceful coexistence with their Muslim neighbors," he said. "They long to remain in Syria."
Bishop Elizondo urged the Senate to adopt the recommendations to pursue an end to the violence and to care for the displaced victims of the crisis, noting that the Catholic bishops and affiliated agencies stand ready to help.
Citing Pope Francis, Bishop Elizondo said "where there is suffering, Christ is present. We cannot turn our back on situations of great suffering. The weapons must be silenced."
Migration and Refugee Services of USCCB (MRS) is the largest U.S. refugee resettlement agency, resettling one third of the three million refugees in the U.S. since 1975, and is a national leader in caring for unaccompanied refugee and migrant children. MRS works with over 100 Catholic Charities agencies across the country to welcome and serve refugees and unaccompanied alien children.
The full text of Bishop Elizondo's written testimony is available online.