Marka School for Refugee Children

Background

Following the invasion by Daesh (IS) of Mosul and the plains of Nineveh in June 2014, thousands of Iraqi Christian families fled to Jordan to apply for asylum with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

The estimate of the number of Christian refugees in Jordan has reached twelve thousand and is increasing and given that refugees are not allowed to work, even those of some financial means now find that their resources have dwindled. The situation is critical.

In response to this human tragedy, Fr. Khalil Jaar, Parish Priest of Marka Latin Church in Amman & Director of “Messengers of Peace (MOP)”, opened wide the doors of his church and its grounds to receive, house and provide for these Christian refugees. Fr Khalil and MOP have been involved with assisting Iraqi Christian families since their arrival in Amman in 2014, providing food, accommodation and an education for their children. The following BBC report https://vimeo.com/201261840 gives a summary of the situation together with commentary by Fr Khalil and others.

School Education

A few months after arriving in Amman in February 2015, Fr Khalil put in place an informal school program for 350 children between the ages of 6 – 16 years, said programme referred to as “Marka School for Iraqi children”. This was in response to the fact that refugee children are not allowed to enroll at Jordanian state schools and therefore must either join Christian private schools or go without. Given that refugees have neither the financial means to support their children at such private schools nor are there enough such schools in Jordan anyway, the programme quickly became of critical importance.

In response to worldwide appeals, funding was made available by the Pontifical Mission in September 2015 for the enrollment of Iraqi children refugees at Jordanian private Christian schools for the school year 2015/2016. However, these schools do not have the capacity to take many such children and therefore more than 500 children were left without schooling. The need for the Marka School became even more critical and some 200 children were immediately enrolled at the school.

More recently for the academic year 2016/17 and in addition to the 200 children already enrolled, a further 120 Iraqi children remain on the Waiting List pending the availability of funding.

MOP provides free transportation, books, stationery, clothing, healthcare and snacks for the children. Children receive lessons in English and Arabic, Mathematics & Science (all in English) and Religious Education. Lessons and guidance is also provided in the fields of psychosocial and life skills activities.

The twenty qualified teachers providing this education are, themselves, Iraqi refugees and are paid a basic wage to provide them and their families with some financial assistance.

Financial aid towards housing, food and welfare

In addition, MOP provides the following to the families of the school children:

US$50 in the form of a JD30 food voucher plus JD5 for non-food is paid out to each family on a monthly-basis. The food voucher allows the beneficiaries to visit Cooperative Supermarkets in the area to purchase various necessities. A hot meal is also provided for these families at weekends and public holidays.

For those in special needs including widows and families suffering chronic diseases …etc. the sum of US$100 is paid per month.

Accommodation

Some 350 Iraqi Christian families are housed in the Marka host community. Most refugees live in rented flats at Marka and surrounding areas and some stay within the Marka Latin church grounds itself. Even those refugees who were financially reasonably comfortable two years ago are now suffering hardship. More and more is being sought from Marka church programmes while the level of aid donated to MOP continues to drop.

Conclusion

All costs of education, food & non-food items and accommodation of refugees are met from donations made to MOP and yet these donations continue to shrink. The fact that refugees are not allowed to work poses real difficulties, both physical and psychological. Without the financial support of various NGOs and charities such as Iraqi Christians in Need (ICIN) and other in-kind donations, the situation would turn into a real human tragedy.

Any support to MOP is gratefully received and, in return, our prayers and the prayers of all those in need will be said for you and your loved ones. May God bless you all.

“In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

Matthew 25:40