October 9 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

8-FOOD-FOR-SYRIA

Answering God’s call

— MICHAEL J ROBINSON, communications executive in Scotland for Aid to the Church in Need, explains how the Catholic charity is helping and supporting the Syrian refugees who are facing the onset of winter

According to latest reports, the violence in Syria has claimed more than 200,000 lives since the conflict began in spring 2011. With entire towns and villages empty and in ruins, at least six million people have been displaced within the country. In January 2014 the UN secretary general stated that some 9.3 million people—nearly half the country’s pre-war population—were in urgent need of aid, making it the worst disaster in the UN’s history.

Increasingly alarmed by the deepening crisis engulfing the region, Aid to the Church in Need has provided emergency aid—food, heating, shelter and medicine—for some of the worst-affected regions in Syria as well as for those seeking sanctuary in neighbouring countries including Jordan and Turkey. ACN has carried out 140 emergency and pastoral projects—£5 million—in Syria since the conflict began four years ago.

Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo: “We Christians are determined to stay on in Syria and continue to give our witness.”

This was the assurance given by Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo during a conference organised by the Italian national office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in collaboration with the country’s foreign press service. The archbishop confirmed the mass departure of Syrians.

“All those who were able to leave have already left, while the others are still trying to leave the country,” Bishop Audo said. “Above all our young men, who fear being called up for military service and don’t want to take part in a senseless war that has brought nothing but destruction.”

The mass exodus has not spared the Christian community in Aleppo, a place where once the Christian minority was most visibly present. Before the war there were 150,000 Christians in the city. Today it is estimated that only 50,000 remain.

Similarly, across Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011 it is estimated that 700,000 Christians have fled Syria.

Middle East analysts have warned of Syria experiencing a repeat of the crisis in Iraq where Christian numbers have haemorrhaged from 1.5 million to less than 200,000 over the past 15 years.

Fr Andrzej Halemba

Fr Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East projects section of Aid to the Church in Need, highlighted the ongoing need for the Catholic charity’s emergency and pastoral work in Syria, saying that it had helped people to survive.

Fr Halemba said ACN’s project partners in the region are working for the good of the whole people ‘in an ever more efficient and coordinated way.’

“When I was in the Christian town of Marmarita in Syria near the Lebanese border, the gratitude for the aid that our benefactors have made possible was overwhelming,” Fr Halemba said: An old woman pleaded with me, with tears in her eyes, to go on helping the Christians in Syria so that they could stay.”

The cost of living in the town has risen and the displaced people living there do not have any work. The situation in Aleppo is far worse with 80 per cent of the population now unemployed. Moreover, for over two months now, the city has been without water and electricity.

Fr Halemba is particularly concerned about the effect the coming winter will have on displaced families in Syria. He said that gas and fuel were in very short supply and were very expensive.

Fr Halemba added: “Last year some 50 people died from the cold, we will therefore need to pay particular attention to [appropriate] aid for the winter.”

Aid to the Church in Need

In a recent interview, Baron Johannes Heereman, international president of ACN, said: “The founding charism of ACN was one of ministering, with humanitarian aid initially, but then also spiritually, to the many refugees in Europe after the Second World War. We intend to remain faithful to this charism.”

With the ongoing conflict in Syria and the resulting migration of large numbers of people experiencing great pain and vulnerability, you may be asking what can I do?

In times of crisis, ACN respond swiftly and decisively to offer practical support but also in providing a great encouragement, delivering hope to Christian communities in need. In recent years we, at ACN, have also helped victims of natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan, amongst others.

Scotland

As Christian people, we are called by Christ to respond to those in need with love and compassion. Here are some suggestions of how you, your family or parish can support the Syrian refugees:

— Pray for the persecuted Church

— Follow @ACN_Scotland on social media

— Sign up for our E-newsletters

— Fundraise for Syria

—Invite ACN in to run workshops and retreats in your school or parish

— Write to you MSP and MP about the issues faced by persecuted Christians

 

“There would be no ACN without the love and support of our benefactors,” Lorraine McMahon, head of operations in Scotland for ACN said: We are grateful to all the benefactors of the charity and to those who raise awareness about what it means to bear the cost of being a Christian, witnessing to Christ today.”

 

— To find out more about Aid to the Church in Need, Follow them on Twitter: @ACN_Scotland or give them a call: 01698 337 472

 

 

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