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The other Syria: working for peace
June 11, 2014

The other Syria: working for peace
The Jesuit Refugee Service field kitchen in Aleppo cooks nearly 4.8 tons of food everyday, which is then served to people of all different faiths and ethnicities throughout the city. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

(Rome) June 11, 2014 — Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria has been awarded the Pax Christi International Peace Award for 2014. The award is given to JRS for "the outstanding dedication in providing humanitarian relief to Syrians since 2011."

On behalf of JRS Syria, Mourad Abou Seif S.J. and Ziad Hilal S.J. — both Jesuits and project directors — accepted the award in Sarajevo, Bosnia on June 8. 

Fr Mourad has been the project director in Aleppo since 2010, prior to the conflict. He has overseen the expansion of the project from relatively small-scale educational and psychosocial support for Iraqi refugees, to large-scale emergency relief, educational, psychosocial and healthcare support for displaced people living in Aleppo.

He speaks about what the award means for Syrians, most especially civil society, who form the backbone of JRS work across the country. 

"This [JRS Aleppo] was like a magnetic place to attract people to come and help, being with someone I wasn't used to working with before is a new spirit for us... It's important that people outside Syria look at the situation with new eyes. From outside we look at the problem in Syria like something that cannot be resolved. When we see that there is a possibility of living together and working together, Muslims and Christians, this is something that can be a revolution if you want, it's renewing our values."

More than 600 people from 17 to 70 years old, from a variety of ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds, comprise the JRS teams in Syria. A core component of JRS work in Syria, and the region, is to promote inter-religious cooperation and dialogue in order to resist the logic of violence and sectarianism. In 2013, JRS provided assistance to 300,000 Syrians affected by the war.

"Religions are not something that should split society, but should unify us when we work together for peace, for love, for everybody. This is what the importance of the Pax Christi award is, it is telling people that yes, there is this possibility and we are building something new."

The award ceremony took place during the peace concert in the context of the Sarajevo Peace Event 2014, which commemorates the centenary of the beginning of World War I.

Established in 1988, the Pax Christi International Peace Award is funded by the Cardinal Bernardus Alfrink Peace Fund, and it honors contemporary individuals and organizations who take a stand for peace, justice, and non-violence in different parts of the world. 

Jesuit Refugee Service in the Middle East

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Mr Christian Fuchs