Syria's “lost generations” of illiterate children a source of future conflict?

2014-04-03 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Caritas Lebanon’s former President Msgr. Simon Faddoul says he’s concerned that generations of young Syrians growing up without an education in a climate of conflict are learning to “excel at the language of war…and hatred.” He warns, “we may face another warring generation in the short and long term.”

And, it’s not just one generation; there are many of concern:

“I would say generation’s’, because the fact is that (we’re talking about children) between the age of one month and 17 years old – it’s two or three or four generations.”

In Lebanon, only 120,000 Syrian children have been accommodated in local schools, Faddoul says, but more than 300,000 others are left to their own devices. Lebanon currently hosts about 1.5 million Syrian refugees, more than a quarter of the total Lebanese population.

Faddoul expresses frustration about the kind of life they are living. “I am sorry they are living in settlements and very small tents – their playground is the mud around it. That’s it.”

Many teenagers, Faddoul says, “have joined the fights here and there” and “are easy targets for the fundamentalists” who “nurture hatred in them and…distance them even from their families.” Many, he adds, have lost their fathers or entire families.

“The problem is, the war hasn’t stopped so that you can really focus and say, ok, let’s reduce the attention (on) assistance, giving out bread or whatever, so that we can focus on this aspect. The problem is, the influx of refugees continues as the war is continuing and is still ravaging the whole country and the neighboring countries as well, especially Lebanon.”

Listen to Tracey McClure’s interview with Msgr. Simon Faddoul whom Pope Francis recently nominated to head the new Apostolic Eparchate erected for the Maronite faithful in Western and Central Africa:

Faddoul insists, “the only way I see to get out of this situation is for organizations, nations, to develop informal education programs, put them in place to develop reconciliation and peace building programs to build bridges among these people and others, especially to have peace building programs for the children and the younger generations – the young adults so that they can hear a different language.”

He admits this will not be easy while the conflict rages in Syria. “It is very difficult but you can at least start with them in Lebanon or in Jordan or in Syria or wherever. Single out a community and start. You have to start somewhere. Change has to start but it has to start somewhere.”