By Murcadha O Flaherty
FRIENDS and staff of a leading Catholic charity’s UK office are running the Fitbit Semi de Paris this March, joining European and Latin American colleagues, raising funds for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
ACN’s UK runners of the half-marathon on the 5th March will include Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, National Ecclesiastical Assistant and assistant priest at Farm Street Parish – as well as Sebastian Cichocki, Maintenance Manager at Farm Street.
Neville Kyrke-Smith who returned from Lebanon on the 19th February said: “I have seen our ongoing commitment in Lebanon with ACN projects for refugees from Syria and Iraq in place now and for the future – the rebuilding of hope, the rebuilding of faith and the rebuilding of lives.”
He added: “It is great to take part in the run alongside other ACN colleagues from Mexico, Spain, France as well as the UK.”
The National Director of ACN Mexico, Julieta Appendini will be travelling more than 5,700 miles (9,200 km) to take part in the race.
Mr Kyrke-Smith said: “I am aiming for a personal best – but this should not be too difficult as I have never run that distance before. Prayers needed and sponsorship much appreciated!
“So far, £845 in sponsorship for the race has been raised to help the Suffering Church in the Middle East.”
Aid to the Church in Need staff will be running to raise money for the charity’s emergency aid projects in northern Syria and Iraq including food, shelter and other essentials for those suffering.
With average winter temperatures in Syria falling to four degrees Celsius, vital help with heating for 700 Christian families in Aleppo was among 98 new projects announced by the charity this month.
John Pontifex, who visited Aleppo, Syria in January, said: “The Christian community has fallen from perhaps 250,000 to barely 30,000. This decline is far sharper than that of Aleppo’s overall population, which has fallen from about 2.5 million to some 1.5 million.”
Mr Pontifex said: “When I do the run, I will think of the many people I met a few weeks ago in Aleppo. In that devastated city, there is an urgent need to continue ACN’s work, providing emergency aid and spiritual support.”
The charity is also providing ongoing aid for those forced out of their homes on the Nineveh Plains by Daesh (ISIS) in 2014.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq highlighted the need to continue supporting internally displaced Christian families being looked after by the Church in Ankawa and other parts of the Kurdish capital Erbil.
He said: “[T]here is an urgent need for us to continue to exist here in Ankawa… and we will need continued donor funds to achieve this.”
The group from ACN will be running alongside the river Seine and past landmarks of east Paris such as the Quai d’Austerlitz, Bastille, Hôtel de Ville and Bercy Arena before crossing the finish line at Route De La Pyramide, next to Chateau de Vincennes.
• To support ACN’s race to help Christians in the Middle East, please visit: http://www.acnuk.org/events.php/454/paris
• Donations can also be received by telephone on 020 8642 8668 or by post to Aid to the Church in Need, 12-14 Benhill Avenue, Sutton, Surrey SM1 4DA.
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 Senior Press Officer Dr John Newton on 020 8661 5167 or ACN Press and Digital Media Officer Murcadha O Flaherty on 020 8661 51