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Humanitarian Crisis in Syria
Moves U.S. Bishops to Take Stand,
Urge Action

Climate change cited as a contributing factor

In the past five years, an estimated 12 million Syrians have left their homes, and four million have fled their country as a result of the civil war and the rise of ISIS within the borders.

Half of the displaced are children.

While the majority of these refugees have fled to neighboring countries, some have sought asylum in Europe. Pope Francis and the Catholic bishops have called on the U.S. and international governments to support the asylum seekers.

Recommendations from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) include the following:

  • End the conflict in Syria and Iraq.

  • Build an inclusive and lasting peace to allow Syrian refugees– also including those who are ethnic and religious minorities– to return home and rebuild their countries.

  • Provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring refugee countries.

  • Provide development aid to refugee host countries near Syria so they are able to properly welcome and care for the refugees.

  • Provide 100,000 annual resettlement slots for the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the Syria conflict.

  • Designate an additional 100,000 refugees to be resettled in the
    U.S. from other countries.

For those who remain — a violent situation,
especially for children.

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, more than 240,000 people have been killed, including 12,000 children. One million more have been wounded or permanently disabled. Syrian children, the nation’s hope for a better future, have lost loved ones, suffered injuries, missed years of schooling and witnessed violence and brutality. Warring parties forcibly recruit children to serve as fighters, human shields and in support roles, according to the U.S. State Department.

Economy and infrastructure shattered;
aid not getting through.

Within Syria, healthcare, education systems and other infrastructure have been destroyed. An estimated 4.8 million people are in areas of Syria that are difficult for aid workers to access because of the fighting, according to Mercy Corps. Still, more than 700,000 Syrian refugees and other migrants risked their lives this year to travel to safety in Europe.

Climate change was causal factor to Syrian situation.

A strong link between global warming and human conflict brought a new focus on the trouble in Syria earlier this year when a study published by the National Academy of Sciences linked a three-year drought between 2006 and 2009 to the violent uprising that began there in 2011.

Researchers reported that the cause of the drought stemmed from a trend toward warmer, drier conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean, which caused an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. A decrease in the wind that would have normally brought moist air from the Mediterranean to Syria, combined with rising temperatures, resulted in a drying climate and a cycle of more evaporation.

Colin P. Kelley, lead author of the study, reports that Syria and the part of the local region known as the Fertile Crescent are vulnerable to the severe drought because of the increased warming of the region.

According to a published report in the New York Times, some social scientists and policy makers suggested that the drought had a "catalytic effect" on the Syrian unrest. Other factors, including poor management of agricultural and water-usage policies of the Syrian government caused crop failures that led to the migration of up to 1.5 million people from rural to urban areas. The resulting social stresses led to the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March, 2011.

Francesco Femia, founder and director of the Center for Climate and Security, a Washington-based research group, has argued that the Syrian drought had a climate-change component. He says that the study from the National Academy of Sciences "builds on previous work looking at the impact of drought on agricultural and pastoral livelihoods." He added: "There's no question that the drought had a role to play in the mass displacement of people."

The United States military has described climate change as a "threat multiplier" capable of forcing greater instability to parts of the world.

What You Can Do To Help The People Who Are Suffering

Follow the recommendations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in their five-point list of recommendations.

"How You Can Help"

What You Can Do To Help Our Environment That Is Suffering

Visit and bookmark the Catholic Climate Covenant. There you will find the latest information for Catholics on this critical issue and regular opportunities to take guided action.

Catholic Climate Covenant






Childen in Refugee Camp

Syrian Crisis
by the Facts

12 million Syrians have fled their homes because of conflict; half are children.

4 million Syrians are refugees; most are in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school.

• More than 700,000 Syrian refugees and other migrants risked their lives this year to travel to Europe.

Immediate Needs in Refugee Settlements: Because of the coming winter, food, warm clothing, blankets, heaters and fuel.

• How You Can Help

SOURCES: Mercy Corps, World Vision, New York Times, USCCB Migration Policy Office, U.S. Government State Department, Catholic Climate Covenant.

Map of Syria



"Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions.

On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children?

We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.

To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. "

Pope Francis
Address to U.S. Congress
(as prepared for delivery)

September 24, 2015