Christian aid agencies launch fresh response to Syria refugee crisis

Responding to the Syrian refugee crisis, a group of religion-based leading aid agencies – including the Catholic group CAFOD and the Christian charity World Vision – have launched a two-year project to ease tensions among neighbouring communities, with funding from the European Union.

The 'Youth Resolve' project will see new grassroots programmes launched in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, CAFOD explained. The programmes aim to empower young people across the region and reduce the risk of radicalisation with job skills training, education, and new community clubs and committees to bring young people from different backgrounds together.

Azraq refugee camp, the second largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan with more than 21,000 refugees.Reuters

The projects, which will be run by CAFOD and Caritas Lebanon, Generations for Peace, Islamic Relief, Questscope and World Vision, are supported by the EU's Regional Trust Fund known as the 'Madad' fund.

In Lebanon, the groups will focus on education, life skills, child protection, and social stability including youth clubs and committees as well as peace-building activities.

CAFOD's youth resolve project manager, Hombeline Dulière, said: 'Despite facing the horrors of war, and against a backdrop of challenges, young Syrian refugees in Lebanon refuse to be downhearted. This project will harness their resilience and energy, and support them to flourish in their host communities alongside their peers – Lebanese young people.

'CAFOD has a strong and long history of working on peace building with young people and diverse communities. Working with our local partner, Caritas Lebanon – who have knowledge and expertise of youth social work – together we will be supporting young Lebanese and Syrian people to build a positive and strong future.'

Alexis Adam de Matharel, who runs the Youth Resolve consortium, said: 'Young people often flee violence in Syria, only to find new types of social conflict and troubles in their new country.

'An influx of so many millions of refugees has caused huge strain not only on infrastructure, but it has also fractured many parts of society with tensions boiling over.

'A huge amount is being done to tackle the immediate physical needs of refugees – but the social and emotional needs are often overlooked.

Lebanese and Syrian Christian Maronites pray for peace in Syria. The majority of Lebanon's two million refugees are Syrian.Reuters

'The aid agencies involved in this new project have years of grassroots experience in tackling these issues, and we're setting out to make a tangible difference to young people's lives by addressing root causes rather than symptoms.'

And the European Commission's Michael Kӧhler added: 'With this programme we bring together both refugees and youth from host communities in new community clubs and committees in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. They will receive job skills training and education. Thus, a new generation of girls and boys will learn how to constructively engage with each other and obtain important tools to become masters of their own future.'

Young people aged between nine and 25 will get involved in the projects across the three countries, with the aim of reaching more than 100,000 people.

The EU's Madad fund will provide 12.8 million Euros or 95 per cent of the total project costs for two years, with the remaining 5 per cent contributed by CAFOD, Islamic Relief Worldwide and World Vision.