Father Elian Nasrallah speaks as Syrian refugee children play in the school courtyard in al-Qaa, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (The Daily Star/Justin Salhani)
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Al-Qaa priest champions humanity toward refugeesNearing the end of a long day, the priest sits back on a sofa in his living room as a late evening town committee meeting gets underway. As the head priest in Al-Qaa, a Greek Catholic town 10 km from the Lebanese border with Syria, Elian Nasrallah has assumed the role not just of spiritual leader but also logistics handler. Al-Qaa's proximity to the border has led to an influx of 8,422 refugees to the town, according to figures released by UNHCR at the end of March. His self-declared list of responsibilities – which includes running the town's medical center and acting as principal of a school for Syrian refugees, religious instructor and fundraiser – has become so long that he is increasingly accused of monopolizing the town's resources, lacking transparency and taking town decisions on his own. Known to locals as "Abouna" (our father), Nasrallah has a short, slightly rotund frame and a head of white hair overshadowing remaining patches of gray. He never has to stray far from his home while in Al-Qaa; next door lies the church and directly behind is the two-floor building housing the medical center and refugee school.
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