VILLANOVA, Pa. – An armed Civil War has raged on in Syria for more than two-and-a-half years, leaving an estimated 4.25 million Syrians displaced within their country and forcing another two million to flee as refugees to neighboring countries. During the week of November 4, Villanova University’s Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Student Ambassadors will hold a “Week of Solidarity with Syria’s Refugees” to raise consciousness across campus about the crisis, enlist support from the University community, encourage Villanovans to take action by donating emergency relief funds and advocate for increased humanitarian assistance. The capstone event of the week, a student-organized Interfaith Vigil for Syria’s Refugees, will be held at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, November 7 at the St. Thomas of Villanova Church.
“According to recent CRS reports, it is estimated that about four million children are at risk,” said Barbara Wall, PhD, vice president for Mission and Ministry. “Winter is fast approaching and the Syrian infrastructure has deteriorated significantly. We need to do our part in standing with the Syrian refugees in solidarity through prayer and humanitarian assistance.”
She added, “Catholic social teaching calls us to act in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable people of Syria.”
Throughout the course of the week, Villanova’s CRS Student Ambassadors will bring the Villanova University community into greater solidarity with Syria’s refugees. Each day, the CRS Student Ambassadors will be stationed outside of The Connelly Center at the campus’ iconic Awakening “Oreo” sculpture in a refugee-like tent to educate fellow students about the crisis in Syria. They will encourage their fellow students to write prayers and messages that will be sent to the refugee communities, donate to CRS’ Syria emergency fund, and join the Villanova community in prayer and reflection at the Vigil.
“The suffering happening in and around Syria is overwhelming,” said Villanova student Sarah Garwood, ‘15 VSB, CRS Ambassadors co-president. “This week is a way for us to draw attention and respond to this tragedy on a University-wide scale. After becoming aware of the humanitarian crisis through conversations with fellow ambassadors, individual research, and CRS’ Global Solidarity Network, there was no option but to act, and to act in a powerful way.”
Garwood continued, “As an Augustinian community founded on the values of unitas, veritas, and caritas, we must stand with the Syrians and show that we care, educate ourselves about the truth of the crisis, and give of our time, talent, and treasure to our brothers and sisters in Syria. We pray that all people will get involved by learning, praying, and donating.”
Villanovans can donate to the emergency relief fund simply by texting ‘CRISIS’ to 25383 to donate $10, or by visiting the CRS website to donate other denominations. Funds raised will go towards humanitarian assistance for Syria’s refugees.
Participants in the Nov. 7 Vigil will pray for an end to the civil war and the suffering of the Syrian people. The Vigil will include prayer led by Rev. Kail C. Ellis, O.S.A., PhD, Vice President, Academic Affairs, a video depicting the humanitarian crisis and the efforts by neighboring countries to address it, and the reading of a letter written to the Villanova community from Rev. Simon Faddoul, president of the Caritas Lebanon organization working to meet the needs of nearly 800,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Participants will also be encouraged to participate in the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishop’s advocacy campaign for peace in Syria, increased humanitarian assistance, and impartial humanitarian access within Syria.
A moving candlelight procession from the Church to the new fountain in front of Alumni Hall will close the Vigil.
“Our thoughts, prayers and actions are with the people of Syria, who are enduring the world’s worst humanitarian tragedy in 20 years,” said Fr. Ellis. “We mourn the over 100,000 dead and pray for an end to this war.”
“We commit ourselves to helping the five million internal refugees who are trapped by military blockades, and the displaced who are living in schools, mosques, parks and crowded homes of relatives,” Fr. Ellis continued. “We seek to assist the two million who have fled to refugee camps and the neighboring countries that, with limited resources, are hosting them. And finally, we join in the effort to mitigate their sufferings by contributing generously and by urging both sides in the conflict to allow aid workers to deliver essential supplies.”
Joan Rosenhauer, CRS Executive Vice President for US Operations added, “CRS is proud to partner with Villanova University to give voice to the innocent victims of the Syrian conflict who suffer every day from violence, poverty and displacement.
This tragedy has claimed over 120,000 lives, which is four times the entire population of Radnor Township, Pa., home to Villanova University.”
“By standing together in solidarity – through our prayers, public advocacy and financial support – we can be a source of light to those refugees who suffer in the shadows of this terrible conflict,” she added. “We hope that Villanova's efforts could be replicated across the country so that together we can ignite the change needed to bring peace to the people Syria.”
About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.