Local pastor at St. Rafka Maronite helps refugees from Iraq and Syria

DENVER - The Mali siege comes one week after terror attacks on Paris; attacks that have raised not only awareness but a heated debate over the future of 12 million Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their homeland. And it's not just Syria.

All over the world, displaced-people, affected by conflict and persecution are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused or exploited.

But a paster at a local church has been helping refugees right here in Colorado.

Father Andre Mahanna is no stranger to the plight of refugees. Mahanna was born in Lebanon and grew up during the war.

"Sometimes to run for safety we had to live in caves," said Mahanna, pastor at St. Rafka Maronite Eastern Catholic Church.

Now, decades later, Mahanna is a man on a mission, helping persecuted refugees from Iraq (now displaced and living in Lebanon) and Syria.
 
“The Catholic church and churches in general love to help. They never compromise. A refugee is a refugee,” he said.

As the director of the St. Rafka Mission of Hope and Mercy, Mahanna and the church has helped provide food, medicine, clothing and hygiene supplies to hundreds of refugees since the Spring of 2015.

He thinks the church can do even more by helping the government.

“They have to utilize the local offices of the churches, in Syria and in Lebanon, including the Catholic school systems or evangelical school systems because we know how to identify the ‘true refugees’ who are suffering from the possible people who are infiltrators,” he said. 

"True refugees" like a 19-year old high school student from Iraq. Denver7 did not show her face on camera, because she fears for her safety and that of her family back home.

She said relocating to the U.S. has been a blessing but not without its own challenges.

"First, being away from my parents. Two, feeling very guilty, those people are suffering while I’m living in peace. Third, the way people are looking at me,” she said.

Still she says it is the responsibility for everybody who runs away for safety from their lands of war to tell the story of the people inside there.

Father Mahanna wants to increase assistance to at least 1000 more refugees. This requires almost 200-thousand dollars for six months of support.

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