Catholic medical student sees Syria’s crisis up close

Photo: Tom Tracy

A rare glimpse at the Middle East crisis, from Florida Catholic:

When he came to study medicine in Jordan’s capital through a scholarship program for Holy Land Christians, Tareq Nasrawi had expected to see heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and other basic public health concerns.

But the 21-year-old Roman Catholic and native of Jerusalem, who studies at the Jordan University of Science and Technology and now works in seven or eight hospitals in Jordan, is also seeing the human suffering and medical crisis from a civil war raging unabated in neighboring Syria since 2011.

The influx of Syrian refugees pouring into Jordan and seeking health care may have peaked a few months ago when Nasrawi said he observed a crescendo of war-related cases turning up at the King Abdullah University Hospital north of Amman, along with Jordan’s peripheral hospitals.

“All the hospitals were filled with Syrian refugees,” Nasrawi said. “We had a conference at King Abdullah Hospital where they talked about Syrian cases, saying that in the history of the hospital — since about 1999 — that they have not encountered such severe cases as they have encountered with the Syrian war.”

And, later in the story, my boss weighs in:

While the majority of Syrian refugees are Muslim, the Christian-Syrian refugees are fearful of reprisals against Christians and their perceived support of the Syrian dictatorship. They therefore have been reluctant to register for international aid, according to Michael La Civita, spokesman for the New York-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

CNEWA has been helping local churches in Jordan furnish emergency food, sanitary supplies, infant formula, medicines and medical care as well as support to school age children.

“CNEWA is concerned always for the poorest of the poor and those who are in most need. Consequently, many of those we assist are Christians,” La Civita said, adding that Jordan is a poor nation but what it lacks in natural resources, it makes up in human resources.

Palestinian, Iraqi, Bangladeshi, Circassian and now Syrian refugees have indeed enriched the Kingdom, but for a nation of only six million, this latest wave of arrivals also has exacted a toll.

“Rents have skyrocketed and the cost of living has soared,” La Civita said. “As Christians we are compelled by our faith to reach out, to heal, to minister, to accompany our brothers and sisters and to witness the love that is Christ. Acts of charity are ways to bring about peace.”

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