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Pope Francis ignores Turkey's efforts on refugee issue

The Pope is a bishop as well as head of Vatican City. His statements are important especially for religious people. It is crucial to see the Pope has interests on the Middle-East, however, it is unfortunate that he did not mention Turkey which puts more effort for refugees than any other countries.

Turkey has been helping victims of Syria’s civil war for the last 10 years. Turkey has carried out holistic aid projects ranging from education to health, from food to shelter. Thousands of houses have been completed so far and delivered to people in need and that the construction of thousands more is ongoing. Voluntary doctors give weekly health checks and medical support to residents of the refugee camps.

Turkey also restored the places of worship damaged by terrorists. Nearly 500 mosques in the region were restored and opened for worship. Turkey has never held back assistance to needy people and still continues humanitarian aid activities in many areas in Syria.

Moreover, Turkish charities have been helping victims of Syria’s civil war. For instance, Durmus Aydin, secretary-general of Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), said that they have carried out thousands of projects in areas such as food, housing, education and health since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. Noting that children suffer the most from wars, Aydin said that they support 18,000 children. They have delivered 5,000 truckloads of aid to those in need in Syria, he added.

Syria has been embroiled in a civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN officials.

It should be noted that Turkey hosts almost 4 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. The Leaders of the other countries all around the world also know Turkey’s efforts on refugee issue. Not only for Syrian refugees, but Turkey has been specifically sensitive on refugees’ human right issues.

Even French President Emmanuel Macron said that “Turkey is a crucial ally on the migration issue. Turkey could open its borders straightaway, if the EU says 'we will no longer work with you'." It can be observed from Macron’s statement that the EU, also the European Leaders, are afraid of a refugee flow from Turkey to the European Continent.

That brings an important question to be asked: Why did Pope Francis of Vatican City not underline Turkey’s sensitivity and performance while he was giving a speech about Syrian refugees?

Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of the Catholics, gave messages about the Middle East. The Pope, who conducted the Easter ritual with limited participation within the framework of coronavirus measures in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, gave his traditional holiday message "Urbi et Orbi" (to Rome and the world) after the ceremony.

In his speech, the Pope said: “Let the guns cease in Syria, Yemen and Libya" and he called all parties in Libya to ensure the peaceful life of the people tired of the war and to work for the rebuilding of the country.

Noting that Lebanon is going through a difficult and uncertain period, the spiritual leader said, "I thank the countries that generously welcomed those seeking shelter. Especially Lebanon and Jordan, which host many immigrants fleeing the conflict in Syria."

However, Pope Francis did not mention Turkey’s efforts on the refugee issue. As mentioned, according to statistics by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the world's most refugee hosting country is Turkey with almost 4 million Syrians.

The Pope stated that they were "begging" for peace and security in Jerusalem and expressed the hope of returning to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians for a stable solution where the two states live side by side in peace and prosperity.

The Pope Francis's statements are important especially for religious people. It is crucial to see the Pope has interests on the Middle-East, however, it is unfortunate that he did not mention Turkey which puts more effort for refugees than any other countries.