Orthodox Initiative Winter newsletter
In the past two years, the Syrian crisis has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians to seek refuge in Jordan. By current UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees) records, the number of registered refugees is over 500,000. This does not include unregistered refugees or people who crossed into Jordan without official documents, a population estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.
The refugees are dispersed throughout the kingdom and the burden of this added population is felt by every community in Jordan. Despite efforts, there is no end in sight to the civil war and the tally of victims grows daily.
The Orthodox Initiative
The Orthodox Initiative [a partner of Global Ministries] addresses the effects of the crisis for Syrians and Jordanians alike, and works to relieve that stress through humanitarian aid distributions. As a local organization working amidst a highly international aid community, we are uniquely positioned to act as a liaison between Jordan, Syria, and the world.
The Orthodox Initiative currently focuses much of its attention and resources on its Syrian Refugee Program, though not to the exclusion of its other programs. The Orthodox Initiative was founded in 2011 by His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem, all Palestine, and Jordan. Our mission is to alleviate the hardship of the most vulnerable, to advocate for the vitality of all of God’s children, and to strengthen the role of youth in their communities. In the past year, we have worked toward this mission through youth empowerment programs, aid distributions, and advocacy for the Christian Presence in the Middle East.
Winter Appeal 2013
In the summer of 2013, the Orthodox Initiative appealed to new and previous donors to lend assistance to the most vulnerable residents in Jordan. Our hope was to prepare 1,000 families for winter with the following items: cooking stoves, food parcels, and winter jackets. We pledged to purchase items from the local community, in an effort to both save environmental resources involved in transportation and boost local businesses. This decision was made not to exclude in-kind gifts (which we also welcome given that their transportation is also funded), but to support local distributors.
We were fortunate that as summer 2013 came to a close we still had some funds remaining from the previous Appeal. These funds were allocated to children in Maru and Irbid for educational supplies. In Irbid we delivered 512 school kits and backpacks and 900 water bottles. In Maru, we took 275 school kits and backpacks to children, delivered food parcels to 100 families and followed up several weeks later to distribute gifts for Eid al-Adha to 500 Muslim children to celebrate the Greater Eid.
After these two distributions, we began gathering donations and talking with local churches to discover the needs for winter 2013.
Due to a smaller response than hoped for, we prioritized food parcels for families and warm outfits for children. Our Refugee Relief Coordinator Azmi Adwan worked with a local clothing store and food supplier to secure the best prices on these items.
Each distribution was meaningful in its own way; in addition to distributing parcels, we were able to talk with members in each community and hear their stories. We were able to fulfill our pledge to distribute items all over the Kingdom through the connections with local churches. In order of occurrence, the distributions were as follows:
St Ephraim’s Syriac Church – Ashrafiyeh – 100 food parcels, 50 winter jackets
Roman Catholic Church – Zarqa – 50 food parcels, 50 winter jackets
Orthodox Church – Zarqa – 50 food parcels, 115 winter jackets
Chaldean Catholic Church – Amman – 100 winter jackets
Orthodox Church – Irbid – 100 food parcels, 300 winter jackets, 300 toys
Orthodox Metropolis – Sweifieh – 40 food parcels
St Ephraim’s Orthodox Church – Sweifieh – 100 winter jackets
Melkite Roman Catholic Church – Jabal Weibdeh – 15 winter jackets
Furthermore, the Orthodox Initiative considers individual cases when requests for items and cash assistance arrive through local churches and their offices. This winter, individual families receiving jackets and food parcels totaled approximately 80. We see these individual distributions as an opportunity to empower priests to do the work that their community needs desperately. Our office, through the assistance of donors, is grateful to provide emergency items to vulnerable families, in turn strengthening the presence of local churches.
In addition to these distributions, the Orthodox Initiative provided Christmas dinner for 175 Syrians and the community at St Ephraim’s Church. The celebration was inspired by our initial distribution in which the refugees welcomed us into their living quarters. The hospitality with which the Jordanian congregation of St Ephraim’s had converted its facilities into living quarters for Syrian refugees was a humbling reminder that we can all do more. The actions of this church, which has compromised its own comfort to offer shelter to another group, nourish our work. A profile of this community can be found on our website. We also invite you to explore all parts of our website.
When we reflect on the work we have been able to achieve with limited funds, we are amazed. It is clear to us that God has multiplied the blessings we received, and we hope that our humble offerings to the Jordanians and Syrians continue to bless the recipients.
The Orthodox Initiative is eager to discern the next step in our work in Jordan. In order to respond to the needs of these communities in the most respectful and helpful ways, we are in the process of brainstorming with local church and community leaders. We are hoping to move in the direction of working on more permanent and sustainable projects.
We thank our donors for their continued support and hope that the stories we share touch your lives as they do ours.
We wish you a blessed New Year and look forward to answering any questions you may have about the work.
The United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) continue to offer support for the work of many partners in the region to provide humanitarian response to the needs of Syrian refugees. Please consider supporting the work of Global Ministries’ partners’ relief efforts in and around Syria. You can do that through One Great Hour of Sharing (UCC), the Week of Compassion (Disciples), or through Global Ministries directly.