Rome – Al Carmel
Pope Francis today received the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, the UN agency said in a press statement.
The Commissioner-General, according to the statement, described the unprecedented challenges facing Palestine Refugees, especially amid a lack of prospect to reach a solution to their plight. He provided the Pope with an overview on the pressing needs of Palestine refugees across the UNRWA areas of operation and firsthand testimonies following his recent visits to Syria and Lebanon following the devastating earthquake.
Commissioner-General Lazzarini highlighted the critical work of UNRWA in support of the human development of Palestine refugees, including in education through more than 700 schools serving over half a million Palestine refugee girls and boys. Education – the largest programme that the Agency runs – is shaped by the principles of peace and tolerance. The Commissioner-General asked the Pontiff to help ensure the plight of the 5.9 million Palestine refugees is not forgotten and their right to live in peace and dignity is upheld.
“I am incredibly honoured to bring to Pope Francis the story of Palestine refugees and the critical work and impact of UNRWA services on their daily lives,” said the Commissioner-General. “As we approach the 75th anniversary of UNRWA, support for the human rights of Palestine refugees and the work of UNRWA is more vital than ever to help them achieve a dignified life. The serious financial crisis that the Agency continues to face risks undoing the human development gains of Palestine refugees,” he added.
During the meeting, Lazzarini gave the Pope a letter from Leen, a 15-year-old girl and an UNRWA student parliamentarian. She lives in Dheisheh refugee camp, near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. “Like other children in the camp, I want to complete my education, so I can build a good future for myself and help my family and the people in the camp improve their lives. As a Palestine refugee, I want to live in peace like the rest of the world’s children. We want our rights, we want to live in freedom, peace and security, and we want to go to school in peace and without fear.”