- (Photo: Reuters/Muhammad Hamed)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) declared that Syria is the "great tragedy" of the 21st century and revealed in a new report that over 2 million people have fled the civil-war stricken country, with the numbers rising.
"The war is now well into its third year and Syria is hemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs," the UN refugee agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
"This trend is nothing less than alarming, representing a jump of almost 1.8 million people in 12 months," it added.
Over 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels, with international pleas for a peaceful resolution going unanswered. The crisis hit a critical point in August with reports that chemical weapons have been used on civilians, killing over 1,429 people, including more than 400 children.
The U.S. has blamed Assad's regime for the chemical attacks, and President Barack Obama is seeking Congressional approval that would allow him to lead a military strike on Syria to bring down the government – though notable allies, like the U.K., have refused to back another military operation in the Middle East.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said at a news conference on Tuesday that "Syria has become the great tragedy of this century - a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history."
"The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighboring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees," Guterres added.
The UN report noted that as many as 97 percent of Syria's 2 million refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate region, but that is placing a great burden on their infrastructures, economies and societies. It added that as many as 5,000 Syrians are fleeing to neighboring countries every day and need immediate help from the international community.
According to official statistics, as of August, the Syrian refugees number 110,000 in Egypt, 168,000 in Iraq, 515,000 in Jordan, 716,000 in Lebanon and 460,000 in Turkey. Close to 52 percent of those are children 17 and below while another 4.25 million are displaced inside Syria.
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie added that the world is "tragically disunited" on how to end the Syria conflict, but argued that "there should be no disagreement over the need to alleviate human suffering, and no doubt of the world's responsibility to do more."
The Christian Post spoke in August with World Compassion Terry Law Ministries, a Christian organization directly involved with helping Syrian refugees in Northern Iraq, which called on believers to reach out and help with the crisis.
Eric English, executive director of Strategic Planning for World Compassion, said that he worked in Iraq with refugees as well as high-ranking Kurdish government officials and leaders. He revealed that local pastors and volunteers are helping with World Compassion's relief efforts, but more needs to be done to address the urgent situation for the multitudes of people who are suffering.
"At large, the Christian population has not responded. And so we took that as a real call to action and took it to heart on how we can work with these Syrian refugees," English told CP.
"The tragedy of the Syrian war has created a vast opportunity for the Gospel to be ministered in the Middle East. On a social level, we have a responsibility to respond to the crisis as Christians, and to help people who are in need."