UNRWA Commissioner-General meets with Pope Francis

PNN / Bethlehem

Pope Francis received UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, on Friday in the Vatican during which discussion were held on the plight of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, and the West Bank.

The Commissioner-General described the uncertain future faced by many Palestinians, in particular the youth, and the need for the world to confirm the importance of the rights of Palestine refugees.

Pope Francis expressed his respect and gratitude for the work of UNRWA and its continued commitment.

The Commissioner-General presented a message from a student of UNRWA, Majd, 14, who wrote and sent a video message to Pope Francis. The message conveyed the importance she attached to her education and the fear of seeing her school close as a result of UNRWA’s recent funding crisis.

The Pope expressed admiration for the courage of young refugee boys and girls.

‘I was deeply honored and humbled by the opportunity to highlight the dedication and dignity of Palestine Refugee students during my meeting with Pope Francis’, said the Commisisoner-General, adding: ‘The risks of any interruption of education services were discussed and the need to respect the humanity and aspirations of UNRWA students’.

The Commissioner-General also showed Pope Francis a poetry book belonging to an UNRWA student, Ru’a, which was discovered in a damaged school during the 2014 Gaza conflict. One of the poems describes hope as a friend that never abandons you, always comes back.

Pope Francis provided strong words of encouragement to UNRWA. He also expressed his genuine concern for the situation of Palestine refugees and his commitment to the search of a just and lasting peace based on the two state-solutions.

Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump controversially decided to withhold $65 million in funding for UNRWA in what was widely seen as a politically motivated move to punish the Palestinian Authority for rejecting the US peace initiative.

Last week, the United Nations Secretary General announced the deficit faced by the United Nations Refugee Works Agency as being to the sum of $446 million, the largest ever faced by the organisation.

Days before, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) unveiled a new initiative calling on international partners to contribute to a billed program costing $539 million, for the delivery of urgent aid of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

If raised, half of the funding would be delivered to UNRWA.