Rome, 11 September 2013 – Carol, a Syrian refugee, delivered this speech to Pope Francis at Chiesa del Gesu, on 10 September 2013 during the Holy Father’s visit to Centro Astalli (the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy).
My name is Carol. I’ve been a Syrian refugee in Italy for one year. I’m a victim of an atrocious conflict that today counts more than two million refugees.
I’m a teacher, for many years young people and children have been my reasons for living. I always thought that education would be a pathway to peace.
But today every pathway towards peace and liberty in my country seems to have been erased forever.
Our children have either been conscripted or killed in a senseless war. They are killing them all. It will take at least 50 years before new Syrian generations emerge. We are a country without a future.
Today in Syria, our children are prevented from going to school, because to send a child into a classroom to learn means accepting the risk they may not come home alive.
We have escaped from our homes, from our families, from our past because there is no alternative.
The only hope is to reach Europe alive, welcoming and open as we dreamed. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find peace here either.
Our human rights and dignity too often becomes trampled by indifference and superficiality with which we’re treated.
Today I entrust my people to your heart and into your hands. My Syrian brothers and I present here can offer you only deep wounds and a heavy heritage of pain. We are also witnesses to the suffering of our Christian brothers in Syria. We come from cities like Homs and Kamisly, we’ve seen our churches destroyed. The war has even denied us the possibility to pray.
Here in Italy, or in other European countries, many of us have escaped the horror but we still do not feel safe.
Holy Father, we turn our prayer to you. The Syrians in Europe feel a great responsibility to not be a burden, we want to feel as an active part of a new society. We want to offer our help, our wealth of skills and knowledge, our culture in the construction of a more just and welcoming society for those who flee war and persecution.
We adults can still endure more pain, if this serves as a guarantee to a future of peace for our children. We ask that they be guaranteed an opportunity to go to school, and to grow up a peaceful environment.
The Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria and Centro Astalli here are important sources of strength for us refugees, but we need more. We need the international community to stand against the suffering of the Syrian people caused by a war that is neither wanted nor understood.