Sadly, we report that Jordan has opened another massive camp because of the continuing flood of Syrian refugees.
The new Azraq refugee camp can house 130,000 people, and formally opened on April 30. It's 62 miles east of Jordan's capital, Amman. This enormous complex will operate in addition to existing Syrian refugee camps like Zaatari. Within months, the Azraq camp is expected to have more people than Zaatari, which is currently the second largest refugee camp on Earth. . . and the fourth largest city in Jordan.
Jordan's foreign minister offered a grim observation: "Today, we open yet another camp ... This is not a celebration, the celebration is when we close the camps and when Syrians go back to their homes in peace and security."
Azraq cost $63.5 million to launch, and it will take far more to operate that facility. Plus, billions of dollars are needed to provide Jordan's other Syrian refugees with food, water, shelter, medical care and other help. That's why all of us pledged to raise awareness and/or money for the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan.
There are now roughly 600,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, with several hundred thousand more Syrians in Jordan who have not been officially documented. Another sprawling refugee camp in Jordan shows that more people are fleeing the carnage in Syria.
You can read more about the Azraq camp opening at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/30/us-syria-crisis-jordan-idUSBREA3T0XE20140430
Meanwhile, the Multi-Faith Alliance has been busy on other fronts. We want you to know that. . .
*** Historic B'nai Jeshurun has joined the Multi-Faith Alliance, continuing a tradition of activism that goes back nearly two centuries. When B'nai Jeshurun was founded in 1825, it was only the 9th Jewish congregation in the United States. Throughout the years, B'nai Jeshurun has been at the forefront of human rights, and has hosted legendary figures like Chaim Weizmann, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Learn more about B'nai Jeshurun at: http://www.bj.org/
*** We're also immensely proud that the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is now on the Multi-Faith Alliance roster. IRAP's innovative legal team has won substantial victories for Syrian refugees in Jordan and elsewhere.
"Iraqi" is in IRAP's name because their original mission was using the law to help displaced people from Iraq. IRAP's activities have expanded greatly since then, and the group has successfully gone to court to resettle Syrian refugees and get those refugees more protection in their host countries.
Founded by Yale law students, IRAP has grown into a global volunteer network of 1,000 students and lawyers at 25 law schools, as well as attorneys and other professionals at 50 major law firms. IRAP law school chapters are student-initiated. Law students work in pairs, under the supervision of pro bono attorneys from private firms. They prepare visa applications, submit appeals, and equip their clients to navigate the resettlement process.
You can learn more about the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project at http://refugeerights.org/
*** On May 2nd, the International Rescue Committee and the Multi-Faith Alliance co-hosted a riveting panel on the Syrian crisis. The main speaker that morning was the founder of a daring Israeli humanitarian effort. Her organization focuses on providing relief inside Syria, Jordan, and other countries that are hostile or chilly towards Israel. And because of where they operate, this unusual team must conceal their Israeli nationality while in the field.
Given the sensitivity of their work, we are withholding the names of the Israeli panelist and her group.
This forum was at the IRC's headquarters in New York. Josh Tanenbaum of the Multi-Faith Alliance and IRC Executive VP George Biddle organized the event.
The room was hushed as the Israeli speaker described covertly helping displaced Syrians in areas where Jews aren't welcomed. Fake ID papers. Cover stories. Camouflaging money and supplies coming from Israel. It's the definition of "thankless" because these Israelis aren't publicly acknowledged for their often dangerous labors on behalf of Syrian war victims. The speaker explained her motivation by citing conflicts in Sudan and other nations,where the world responded slowly. She doesn't want the same to happen with Syria's refugees.
The IRC evolved from one of Albert Einstein's best ideas. For more than 70 years, it has been a champion for displaced people around the globe. The IRC has received grants from the Jewish Coalition, which is a cornerstone of the Multi-Faith Alliance.
Read about the IRC's global activities at rescue.org
*** The Road to Damascus is deadly for Christians these days. This was laid out on April 2 to the Board of the Tanenbaum Center, convener of the Multi-Faith Alliance. Bishop Elias Toumeh from Syria told the Tanenbaum board about the persecution of Syrian Christians. Bishop Toumeh is representative of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. The patriarch heads Syria's largest Christian denomination.
Bishop Toumeh said the goal of his trip to the U.S. was to raise awareness about Christian suffering in Syria. He spoke about his home region, the Valley of Christians, which is a prime destination for internally displaced Christians in Syria. That area hosts more than 10,000 Christian families who have fled violence elsewhere in the country. Thus far, the fighting in Syria has demolished more than 40 churches, some with great historical significance. Despite the violence, Bishop Toumeh says many Syrian Christians are reluctant to flee their country because they consider it the birthplace of their faith.
*** On April 6th, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) had a powerful commentary in the Baltimore Sun, focusing on women and children Syrian refugees. Women and children are roughly 75% of the people who have fled Syria, and that's closer to 80% among Syrian refugees in Jordan. The CRS essay was written by Caroline Brennan, senior communications officer for the CRS Global Humanitarian Response Team. Caroline's piece in the Baltimore Sun was based on her recent visit with Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
As Caroline notes in her commentary, "CRS has been working with partners throughout the region to provide 240,000 war-affected Syrians with critical medical assistance, food, hygiene and living supplies, counseling and children's education."
You can read the entire CRS Baltimore Sun essay here: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2014-04-06/news/bs-ed-syria-anniversary-20140405_1_syrian-families-young-mother-assistance
*** On March 28th, Multi-Faith Alliance member HIAS had a stirring Op-Ed in the New York Daily News, calling for America to take in more Syrian refugees. The piece was written by Melanie Nezer, the HIAS Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. HIAS has received funding from the Jewish Coalition for work with Syrian refugees in Jordan.
In the Daily News, Melaine notes that the HIAS team in Jordan "recently met refugees who were arrested, detained and tortured by the Syrian government. Some fled after their homes were raided or before their homes were blown up. Some have family members who returned home from Jordan and were picked up at checkpoints and remain in detention today. . . Many have medical issues that cannot be addressed in Jordan."
The link to the full HIAS Op-Ed is:
Also, in "Update On Jordan", written by HIAS Program Manager Magnolia Turbidy, the Jewish Coalition receives strong praise:
"HIAS' partnership with Jewish Coalition for Syrian Refugees in Jordan in collaboration with UNHCR is making a huge difference in the lives of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Jordan. Something else to look into could be advocating for Pro Bono doctors to provide medical care or operations for Syrian refugees, in addition to raising more money to HIAS to continue working with Syrian refugees in the MENA region."
*** The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC) co-sponsored an encouraging study on Muslim/Jewish relations in the Detroit area, which has the nation's largest Arab population. According to an AJC statement: "Those who have already experienced an activity with the other group are likely to do it again." This report was based on a survey of 600 Jews and Muslims, conducted by the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The findings were released at a conference in late March. Both the survey and conference were funded by the Ravitz Foundation.
You can read AJC's summary of the survey at:
*** The U.S. Fund For UNICEF-- which is both an Alliance member and a grant recipient-- is urging people to sign an electronic petition to show solidarity with Syria's children. With several partners, UNICEF is co-sponsoring a 5-point pledge that can be submitted online. They're not asking for donations in this case. UNICEF is joining other major NGOs in this push because "more than 5 million Syrian children are at risk. More than 1 million have been forced to seek refuge outside Syria. Nearly 3 million are no longer in school."
Below are the first two points of the pledge. They call for:
1) An end to the violence against the children of Syria. All those involved in the fighting must fully respect humanitarian law, end the recruitment of children, and commit to a peaceful resolution to this conflict.
2) An end to blocking of humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian organizations must be allowed to safely reach all those who are suffering.
To read the full pledge and submit it, please go to: https://secure.unicefusa.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=247
*** We're extremely pleased that the Multi-Faith Alliance Web site is up and running. That's multifaithalliance.org. The site will be an ongoing resource for learning about Multi-Faith Alliance activities and the latest news on the Syrian crisis. For instance, the site has enrollment form that can be used to recruit other organizations for the Alliance.
Also, spread the word that donations can be made through multifaithalliance.org. Our site's donation form shows that no contribution is too small. Also, checks can be paid to The Multi-Faith Alliance for Syrian Refugees @ JDC and mailed to:
Multi-Faith Alliance For Syrian Refugees in Jordan @ JDC
P.O. Box 4124
New York, New York 10163
All donations received by the Multi-Faith Alliance - that's 100% - will be allocated to reliable, carefully vetted organizations that are working on the ground in Jordan.
For our next newsletter, please send updates to:
MULTI-FAITH ALLIANCE ROSTER
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Catholic Relief Services
Church World Services
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Episcopal Relief and Development
Foa and Son
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
Interfaith Center of NY
Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project
Islamic Center of New York
Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Federations of North America
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding
Union for Reform Judaism
Union Theological Seminary
United Synagogue Conservative Judaism
U.S. Fund for UNICEF
World Jewish Congress
World Jewish Relief