Syrian refugees, all Muslims, graduate from Caritas-run schools in Jordan

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dale Gavlak

By Dale Gavlak

Jordan (CNS) — Exuberant Syrian refugee children sang, danced and played with
colorful clowns as they celebrated graduation at their Caritas-sponsored school
in this sleepy suburb of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

170 Muslim children, ages 5-17, proudly strode up on the outdoor platform of
the Latin Patriarchate School of Naour, festooned for the occasion with red, yellow and orange
balloons. They wore big smiles as they collected their certificates allowing
them to move from primary to secondary school, while others completed high

graduation march, “Pomp and Circumstance,” played in the background
as Father Rifat Bader called out the students’ names and congratulated each
one: Abdel Fattah Hisham al-Auda, Omar Karim Mohamed, Leen Nizar Laham ….

graduation came at a time when many Syrian children are deprived of receiving
an education. UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, estimates that more than 2.1
million children inside Syria and 700,000 in neighboring countries are out of school.

wish for the joy on these children’s faces to be like a prayer bringing peace
and tranquility to our beloved Syria,” Father Bader told Catholic News
Service at the ceremony July 11.

are proud to be in Jordan, a country which welcomes refugees. All in all, we
have 290 Syrian children — both boys and girls — in 20 schools supported by
Caritas Jordan. All are Muslims. This is our pride, to welcome the people
without discrimination,” said Father Bader, who directs the Catholic
Center for Studies and Media and whose home parish is the church in Naour with
the school.

people always need support and healing from wars and from those who have
perpetrated these conflicts in Syria and Iraq,” the Catholic priest told

is very good,” beamed a mother named Um Karam, seeing her son graduate
from his senior class. “I am happy that our children are able to realize
their rights for education. Otherwise, they have no chance in life,” she
told CNS.

am thankful to Caritas. I have never seen such wonderful program like theirs,”
said the woman, dressed in a dark, long robe and a colorful scarf covering her
head. Um Karam, using the Arabic familial name, “Karam’s mother,”
said she and her family fled death and destruction in Syria three years ago.

Caritas teachers encourage the students to learn well. It’s important for them
to be able to attend school daily to learn and study seriously. This protects
our children and offers a brighter hope for the future,” Um Karam said.

war in Syria has displaced nearly 4.8 million people, half of them children. Most
fled for safety to neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, while others risked
their lives on rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean.

number of Syrians have been living as refugees since the war began more than
five years ago. Many young lives have been shaped by fear, violence and

Caritas and other international aid groups argue that education brings children
and their families hope. Security and healing from trauma come by providing
them a routine. Education also opens the opportunity to plan for the future,
they say. Keeping children in school also protects them from exploitation and
other dangers such as human trafficking, child labor, early marriage or falling
prey to extremists.

Bader said it cost $140,000 to run the Caritas program at Naour for the past
year, and that figure is multiplied twentyfold for the other school programs run
by Caritas Jordan for Syrian refugees.

said Caritas must raise funds for the program to continue in the coming term
and has appealed for help.

salaries must be paid and meals provided for the students. Caritas provides
food aid, good medical services and good education. Their intellectual growth
is no less important than other basic aid they receive,” Father Bader
said. “It’s important to educate these children now to respect each other
and look to the future in hope.”

Syrian children showcased their many talents during the ceremony. Tiny girls in
yellow, pink and green tutus twirled on the platform to everyone’s amusement,
while slightly older boys and girls dressed in black and red embroidered
costumes performed Syrian folk dances.

students captured the mood and cry of many Syrians, singing in Arabic: “Give
us peace.”

has given us love, care and support,” Joseph, one of the older students,
told parents and faculty, speaking in English. “The teachers taught us
many things. They gave us happy memories and many friends.”

pray to the merciful God in this Year of Mercy to give us peace, justice and
joy,” Father Bader said, adding that “human cooperation must also
accompany such prayers.”

hope that these prayers and children’s cries will reach those responsible to
find political solutions,” the priest said.

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