CARITAS Internationalis president Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has warned that the world is facing the greatest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.
Opening a High Level Caritas meeting from September 15 in Rome for the crises in the Middle East, he made an impassioned call for peace.
“Further violence is never the answer,” he said.
“It will just lead to more ‘senseless slaughter’ in the words of Pope Benedict XV, describing the 1914-1918 Great War.”
He also said it is “not sufficient, humanitarian aid cannot solve the problems. We must engage with advocacy for peace.”
Peace in the Middle East must be based on “justice for all peoples,” he said.
“It must not be imposed from outside, but achieved from within. We need inclusive regional talks.”
Cardinal Maradiaga said every minute, four children inside Syria were forced to flee their homes.
“Extremists in Iraq and eastern Syria are carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the large areas under their control,” he said.
“In Gaza, about half a million children were unable to return to school because their classrooms were either destroyed or they house refugees. And large tracks of the best lands are being confiscated by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
He said there were 13 million Syrians in desperate need, three million as refugees outside their country.
“Caritas Syria, Caritas Lebanon, Caritas Jordan and Caritas Turkey have been supported by the confederation to provide food, shelter, protection, schooling, health and counseling to over 900,000 Syrians since the conflict began,” he said.
“In Gaza, an estimated 10,000 homes were destroyed this summer, along with 70 percent of factories and the main power plant. Caritas Jerusalem staff worked throughout the bombardment, providing food and health care to those in need.
“Over 1.3 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes since the start of the year.
“They are often living out in the open, under trees or bridges. Caritas Iraq staff themselves were forced to flee, but they still have continued to provide aid to those in need.
“As needs grow and resources shrink, we must coordinate better to ensure we help as many people as we are able. We must reach out to our Church members and partners to build alliances of good will.
“We must also challenge the shortfalls in funding. Less than half of $7.7 billion worth of humanitarian appeals by the international community for the Syria crisis alone have been met.
“We must urge governments, in particular those who are fueling the wars or letting them develop, to stop their actions and to do more to ensure they support aid programs.
“Peace in the Middle East must be based on justice for all peoples. It must not be imposed from outside, but achieved from within. We need inclusive regional talks.
“Peacemaking calls for courage, much more so than warfare,” said Pope Francis to his guests – the Israeli and Palestinian Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas – as he welcomed them to his home in June for an Invocation for Peace in the Holy Land.
“As Pope Francis is inviting us to, let us reflect on how we can engage in an ongoing worldwide prayer for peace.
“Join me in praying for courage and ideas for the best response, now and in the future, that our meeting will be fruitful and that we will one day witness a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”