By Murcadha O Flaherty
YOUNGSTERS in Iraq whose lives were turned upside down by Daesh (ISIS) will each receive a Christmas present – thanks to a leading Catholic charity.
Aid to the Church in Need will be distributing up to 15,000 parcels, not only to displaced children in Erbil, the capital of Kurdish northern Iraq, but also to those who have been able to return to their homes on the Nineveh Plains following the defeat of the Islamist extremists.
The Christmas gifts – funded by an ACN grant of more than £260,000 – are being organised by Sister Ni’am Gamoura of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate and a team of parish volunteers from Erbil.
She said: “[Presents include] an anorak – something very necessary, because winter in this part of Iraq can be very cold and the temperatures often fall below zero – plus chocolates and, in order not to overlook the profoundly religious meaning of this feast, a Bible or another spiritual book in every parcel, depending on the age of the child concerned.”
Sister Gamoura told ACN that the youngsters had written letters to Santa Claus, and their top three requests were, to have a stable home where they could live in peace, to continue attending school, and to have somewhere to play.
Over 6,330 families have returned to homes in Nineveh’s Christian-majority towns and villages – but there are still thousands of families in Erbil waiting to go back.
ACN is working with local Church leaders to rebuild houses in the region.
Describing the coming Christmas, Sr Gamoura said: “It will be a joyful and a painful celebration at the same time.
“Joyful because of their return to their birthplaces and houses.
“And painful because of the state of the villages – destroyed, burned and looted houses – stolen, burned and destroyed churches – neglected streets, almost non-existent services, friends who [have] left the country.”
Sr Gamoura thanked the charity’s benefactors for their generosity, helping to provide children with: “Material gifts which carry with them the Good News of the presence of God among us and are stamped with the love of God the Father.”
ACN is also supporting a Christmas parcel project for children in Aleppo, northern Syria, with a grant of more than £65,000, as well as providing more than £17,000 to help Syrian refugee families in Armenia.
Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.
Undertaking thousands of projects every year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelisation projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow and another office based in Lancaster that covers the North-West.
Please always acknowledge Aid to the Church in Need as the source when using our material.
For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press & Information, 020 8661 5161 or Senior Press Officer Dr John Newton on 020 8661 5167