Photo: Syrian refugees warm themselves around a fire in Ankara, Turkey last winter. (File CNS photo/Umit Bektas, Reuters)
WASHINGTON—In comments made in conjunction with World Refugee Day, observed June 20, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, called upon U.S. officials to do more to respond to the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East stemming from conflict in Syria and Iraq.
“This is a crisis that continues to grow and has no end in sight,” said Bishop Elizondo. “We can no longer turn our heads away from the human suffering of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.”
The refugee crisis stemming from conflict in Syria and Iraq has reached historic proportions, with close to 15 million persons forced from their homes, many at risk of death. 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced and as many as 4 million reside in neighboring countries or have fled to Europe or other parts of the world, while over 3 million Iraqis are internally displaced.
Bishop Elizondo specifically cited the plight of religious minorities fleeing ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, particularly Christians. “It is clear that religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, are being targeted and need our moral and material support,” Bishop Elizondo said. “The goal of ISIS is to eliminate these minorities from the region, a goal which should be strongly opposed and defeated.”
Bishop Elizondo cited steps the United States could take to assist the suffering, including an increase in resettlement opportunities for the most vulnerable refugees and additional assistance to displaced populations. To date, the United States has resettled less than 1,000 Syrian refugees.
“These refugees are themselves victims of terror and deserve protection. Our nation must take leadership in protecting them so that the rest of the world follows suit,” Bishop Elizondo concluded.