ACN announces vital new help for Iraqi refugees – one year after they fled

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By Clare Creegan
ONE year on from the mass exodus of more than 120,000 Christians from Qaraqosh following an invasion by Daesh (ISIS), an international Catholic charity has announced new projects providing emergency aid and much needed pastoral support for displaced people in Iraq.
The new help from Aid to the Church in Need was announced today (Thursday 6th August), exactly one year after Christians living in Qaraosh the largest Christian city in Iraq were forced to flee as Kurdish troops withdrew and the terrorist organisation Daesh advanced.
Since then, the majority have been living as destitute refugees, displaced within Iraq with a few having fled to neighbouring countries and are in desperate need of aid.
ACN has announced a series of projects for Christian refugees in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and includes help towards the upkeep of priests of the Syriac Catholic Archdiocese of Mosul.
The Syriac-Catholic priests who escaped to Erbil following the occupation of Mosul and Nineveh by Daesh lost everything: churches, their homes, even their personal belongings.
Through the projects, ACN has been able to help provide for the upkeep of priests for one year.
The charity also announced support for displaced Christians in neighbouring Syria, helping Melkite and Syriac-Catholic families in the Armenian quarters of Homs.
Speaking of the latest projects, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need UK Neville Kyrke-Smith said: “This new tranche of vital projects is to help build lives anew, to sustain hope and ensure the presence of Christians as a vital and historical part of the make-up and fabric of the Middle East.
“Many Muslims have told me – ‘There is no Middle East without the Christians.’ Thanks to the friends and benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need for their prayers and compassion for those who suffer and look to us in hope.”
Since 2011 projects supported by the charity have received more than €8 million (£ 5.5 million) in grants.
ACN funds go towards supporting construction and running costs of Church institutions, food for destitute families, printing Bibles and other books, housing supplies, labour wages and medical treatments.
It is estimated that around 8.2 million people are in need of assistance in Iraq, with 3.1 million people internally displaced and since August 2014, nearly one third of grants have been used to provide reliable housing for homeless displaced people.
Speaking to ACN, Chaldean priest Father Douglas Bazi, who returned to Iraq and arrived to scenes of chaos in Erbil on 7th August 2014, described the need of the people stranded there.
“Tens of thousands of people who arrived here with nothing; at first, this completely overwhelmed me. The people were totally lost. Their faces reflected the anger, confusion and desolation. To me, they were like bodies with dead souls.”
Working with ACN, the Baghdad-born priest was able to organise the emergency aid.
Running the Mar Elia Centre in Erbil, Fr Bazi is responsible to a number of activities set up to educate and entertain even the youngest of refugees. This year, he will observe the 6th August with a service.
“The 6th of August is a day of sorrow, but also the day that God saved us. We are, after all, still alive. We will celebrate a mass. We cannot forget what happened. However, we will ask God to forgive the perpetrators and to change their thinking.”
ACN is working the Church in Iraq to help fellow Christians support those internally displaced following last year’s attacks.