LONDON: Pope Francis received a moving letter from a young Palestinian refugee when Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, visited the pontiff at the Vatican on Thursday.
During their meeting, Lazzarini detailed the unprecedented challenges Palestine refugees continue to face, particularly in light of the lack of any prospect of a solution to their plight.
“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,” Lazzarini said.
“The serious financial crisis that the agency continues to face risks undoing the human development gains of Palestine refugees.”
Lazzarini shared with the pope firsthand testimonies gathered from refugees during recent visits to Syria and Lebanon in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes that hit parts in Syria and Turkiye in February.
He also presented Pope Francis with a letter written by a 15-year-old girl called Leen, a UNRWA student parliamentarian who lives in the Dheisheh refugee camp near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem.
She wrote: “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.”
Lazzarini also briefed the pope on the vital work carried out by UNRWA, including education projects in more than 700 schools serving more than half a million young refugees. The education program is the single largest program the agency operates and is, it says, shaped by the values of peace and tolerance.
Lazzarini asked the Pope for his help in ensuring that the plight of 5.9 million Palestinian refugees is not forgotten and their right to live in peace and dignity is protected.