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22 January 2014

Crucial Syria peace talks - call to prayer

Crucial Syria peace talks - call to prayer

Aadila lives with her husband and five children. Credit: Hannah Maule-ffinch, Tearfund

The Geneva II peace talks, due to begin in Switzerland today, are the biggest diplomatic effort aimed at reaching a political solution and ending conflict in Syria. More than 120,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced in the three-year war.

The major conference will see global leaders gather to seek a way forward and to discuss the Syrian government and the future of President Bashar al-Assad. Pre-summit reports accused Syria of mass torture and executions.

Alliance member Tearfund has warned that Syrian refugees outside of formal refugee camps are in danger of being overlooked. A new Tearfund report, Overcrowded and Overlooked, talks of the refugee situation in countries surrounding Syria as one of a number of dramatic effects of the Syrian conflict, widely described as the biggest crisis of its kind since the Rwanda genocide twenty years ago.

"Up to three-quarters of the 2.3 million refugees who have fled Syria are living in sheds, overcrowded flats or makeshift tents, not in large formal camps. These families, often with young children or elderly relatives, are often sick because their living conditions are poor and they find it difficult to get medical help," claims the report.

"Life is incredibly difficult for the Syrian refugees we are serving in Lebanon and Jordan," says Justine Nola, Tearfund's Syria crisis manager.

"In Lebanon, for example, there aren't any formal organised camps so one of our biggest tasks is to find the people who are struggling.  People from our local partner organisations go from door to door looking for those who might need help, and they often come across groups of a few families living together in very crowded, make-shift conditions, sometimes without running water or electricity. 

Many Syrian people have told of having to flee Syria because of bombs, shellings, homes being destroyed and women being raped in the streets. 

"We have even found families with small children living in a shed built for chickens because they had nowhere else to go," added Justine.

Aadila (35, picture attached) lives with her husband and five children (four daughters aged from six to 16 and one son aged 12) in one room of a rented 'apartment' in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Her sister-in-law, Haajar (28), lives with her husband and two children in the other room they rent. They share a small bathroom with another family. Their kitchen is a curtained-off area at the back of their room and they eat in the main room. Their clothes hang on a row of pegs on the wall. They come from al-Qusayr, which in their words has now been 'annihilated'. None of the children go to school.

"Please pray with us that this week's peace talks bring an end to the devastating conflict, bombings, fear and violence that have plagued the lives of so many millions of Syrian people," concluded Justine Nola.

For more prayer information go to www.tearfund.org/syria

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