Syrians are among the thousands of refugees seeking safety in Europe. — Fekete D├íniel/HIA-Hungary/ACT Alliance

 "This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation. It is a population that deserves the support of the world but is instead living in dire conditions and sinking deeper into abject poverty.” 

-UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres,  July 9, 2015 

Quick summary of events[1]:

  • March 2011 – protests and violence occur after teen-aged pro-democracy demonstrators are arrested and tortured. This incident triggers mass demonstrations throughout Syria.
  • 2012 – Fighting escalates between government forces and rebel brigades. The conflict reaches Syria’s capital in Damascus.
  • 2013 – 90,000 are dead as a result of the fighting. That number doubles to 191,000 by 2014. By March 2015, deaths due to the conflict rise to 220,000.
  • The United Nations has documented war crimes perpetrated by actors on all sides of the conflict. Poisonous gas attacks occur in 2013.
  • The Islamic State (IS) has capitalized on the crisis and captured large sections of Syria, using horrific tactics to quell resistance.

 Impact on Syrians

  • About 250,000 Syrians have died,
  • 7 million are displaced internally,
  • Syria’s development status has regressed by 4 decades as a result of the crisis,
  • More than 4 million are now refugees outside of Syria:
    • Turkey  - 2 million;
    • Lebanon - 1 million;
    • Jordan - 600,000; 
    • Eqypt - 100,000.
  • Germany expects to take in as many as 1 million asylum seekers this year.

 Humanitarian Aid

  • In 2015 the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) requested almost $7.5 billion for activities inside Syria and in neighboring countries.
  • Only 35 percent of the needed funds have been pledged by donor countries.  UNHCR recently cut 250,000 Syrians from direct aid due to lack of funds.
  • U.S. has donated $4.2 billion total to Syria and the region since 2011.


  • Resettlement countries have offered 88,000 places for refugees since 2013.  Yet just under 2,000 refugees actually departed for resettlement countries in 2014.

The U.S. has resettled less than 2,000 since the conflict began – largely due to the extensive security checks that can take up to 1,000 days.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Response

PDA is providing assistance in cooperation with our mission and ecumenical partners overseas and also with refugees in the United States

In partnership with the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL)

  • In Syria - helping Syrian Christians rebuild their homes in Homs – the project is already underway   (100,000)
  • In Lebanon – helping remodel and operate a school for Syrian children with Syrian teachers  ($70,000).

PDA Coordinator Laurie Kraus co-facilitated a week long workshop in Lebanon this summer on trauma, theology, and compassion fatigue at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut for pastors from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Armenia.

In partnership with ACT Alliance

  • In Europe – providing transitional assistance and humanitarian aid to refugees (Syrians and others)
  • In Syria and neighboring counties - ongoing humanitarian aid  to Syrians in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon refugee camps; and to Syrians internally displaced  within Syria. 

In the United States, PDA works primarily with Church World Service (CWS) to connect and equip congregations in assisting newly arriving refugees.  CWS is one of the nine national organizations approved by the U.S. State Department to aid in resettlement and integration of refugees.  Local churches and volunteers are essential to creating a place of welcome and opportunities for refugees to rebuild their lives and become part of our communities.

PDA staff is coordinating with the Office of Public Witness on advocacy opportunities, with LIRS, CWS and other partners regarding resettlement, transit and advocacy issues and is advising congregations and mission networks in the PCUSA about appropriate responses and engagements and how to get involved.  

[1] Adapted from BBC “Story of the Conflict.”

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