Fr Ziad speaks of the struggles and resilience of those affected by the Syrian conflict at the 2013 World Refugee Day event held by Jesuit Refugee Service International in Rome, Italy (Molly Mullen/JRS).
The award, conferred by the Stephanus Foundation, was presented to the Jesuit priest, Hilal Ziad SJ, in a ceremony held at St George University of Theology in Frankfurt on Saturday last. The German foundation, associated with the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), is distinguished by its commitment to the oppressed and persecuted in the world. The Jesuit community in Homs were the fifth beneficiaries of the award.
Speaking to the audience at the ceremony, Fr Ziad thanked the Stephanus Fondation for their generous support, both in terms of raising awareness of the situation in Syria and the 5,000-euro prize money for the work of the Jesuit Refugee Service. He also stressed the importance of JRS work in Homs with both Christians and Muslims, describing it proof that a "peaceful voice is louder than the noise of arms" and "life is stronger than death"…
According to Fr Ziad, the war has had a terrible toll on Syrians to the point that living with "chaos and destruction" has become normal. Only the children still dream, the adults "are lost in their nightmares".
Plea from the Pope. The Homs-based Jesuit spoke of the prayer vigil and the call by the Holy Father for a unified Syria, stressing his reference to the responsibility of people to others.
"It is not because there is the judgment of God or of history that we should stop the violence and hatred, but because my existence has no meaning without the existence of my neighbour, regardless of his nationality, religious belief or ethnicity", Fr Ziad said.
"Our mission with the Jesuit Refugee Service shows that we are united with all the other humanitarian organisations, and that we respond to the requests of the Church, to those of the Holy Father and of our Father General [of the Jesuit Order] who called on us to go to the frontiers to serve oppressed or abandoned people".
After the presentation, Fr Ziad celebrated mass with Dr Christian Troll – Jesuit priest and Emeritus Professor at St George University of Theology in Frankfurt – and participated in a debate on the situation of Christians in the Middle East.