By John Pontifex
DISPLACED Christian families in Syria who have lost loved ones in acts of persecution and other violence are to receive a special offering this Christmas – thanks to the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need.
The Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians has agreed an aid package of nearly £33,000 which will be divided between 215 families who this Christmas are grieving close relatives killed in the conflict now raging for almost three years.
As the bitter cold winter in Syria deepens, the help is urgently needed for shelter, food and medicine for the families, many of which fled their homes after their towns and villages came under fire.
The families, many of whose homes and livelihoods came under attack, are receiving help from Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch.
The Damascus-based patriarch, who believes the families’ deceased relatives are worthy of the title ‘martyrs’, stressed the need to provide help as many are homeless and dependant on family and friends to provide temporary shelter.
Speaking to ACN, the Patriarch said: “Many of those we are helping are very afraid. They are exhausted, having had to leave everything behind to find safety.
“We are very thankful to ACN for these gifts of help for our people who are suffering so much at this time.”
The patriarch said some displaced families were living with relatives but others had nowhere to go and were dependent on rent money for temporary accommodation.
A number of the families are suffering trauma after attacks in which they were either caught in the crossfire or specifically targeted as Christians who refused to abandon their faith in the face of demands from armed extremists.
With reports that up to nine million Syrians are either internally displaced or living as refugees abroad, Aid to the Church in Need has this year prioritised help for people in desperate need of help.
Regina Lynch, ACN projects director, said: “This project is very dear to our hearts. The suffering of Christians and others has if anything got worse.
“In this time of winter, we know the difficulties and we cannot abandon them.”
Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of ACN UK, said: “This special gift is offered with the compassion and prayers of ACN benefactors – a gift of love in solidarity for besieged and mourning families. May they know through this that they are not alone.”
ACN’s UK office alone – one of 17 around the world – has paid out six tranches of aid for crisis-stricken people in Syria over the past six weeks.
These include urgent assistance in support of the work of priests, Sisters and lay people ministering to people in crisis in Aleppo and Damascus.
Further aid – totalling £12,500 – went in support of Iraqi Christians who have fled to Turkey.
• £1,202.25 was collected for ACN’s work in Syria at a carol service including benediction on Wednesday (11th December) held at St Mary Moorfield’s Church, Moorgate, London. Presiding was St Mary Moorfield’s parish priest Canon Peter Newby and the music was led by the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School directed by Charles Cole with Simon Lloyd playing the organ.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Blessed John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and more than 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information, contact ACN UK Head of Press & Information John Pontifex on 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN UK Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.