A graphic account of the deepening human suffering and violence in Syria has come from a priest ministering to people in one of the areas worst affected by the conflict.
In a report describing the devastated city of Homs, the priest details his desperate struggle to provide basic food, shelter and medicine to more than 30,000 people fleeing violence amid ongoing bomb blasts and other violence.
The priest, who cannot be named for security reasons, explains how the people are being helped at a center funded by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), to whom he sent his report.
He goes on to give an account of the “many explosions” of the past week in his quarter of Homs, one of which took place very near to his church.
The car bomb left 11 people dead, including five of his parishioners.
An earlier explosion caused the death of a 10-year-old boy from the Catholic community center next to his church. Three other children were injured.
In his report, the priest pays tribute to a Jesuit priest and 74 other Christians living in a “siege [–like] manner” in Homs’ ancient Old City, where many historic churches, mosques and other buildings lie in ruins after fierce fighting.
Facing a shortage of food and medicine, the Jesuit and his flock rely on aid parcels being sent to them.
Describing life for the Jesuit and his people, the priest writes that people continue to cling to hope in spite of the difficulties.
He said: “We have a great hope. Churches still ring bells for prayers and all people come and share Mass.”
Quoting Pope Francis, he writes: “Nobody can steal our hope and joyfulness.”
The priest reported an upsurge in demand at his center, saying people had been hit hard by massive increases in rent charges, food prices and other essentials.
The report comes shortly after ACN agreed an aid package of $40,000 for the center on top of $66,700 given last year.
Thanking ACN for its ongoing support, the priest writes: “Great thanks for your support and help.”
He adds: “In our center, we began our work with 1,000 families and the numbers grew and grew.”
“Almost all the people need help… People need food, rent money and medicine, so it requires a lot of money and work.”
With increased demand on the center, the priest reported that two Christian villages near Homs which previously had a combined population of nearly 1,000 people now lie abandoned after everybody fled.
Referring to a third Christian village abandoned a year ago, he stated that people recently returned to find their homes either destroyed or requisitioned with no hope of getting them back.
“The situation is disastrous,” he said.
ACN is prioritizing emergency help for Syria, with reports stating that 4 million are displaced within the country and 1.5 million have fled abroad to Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere.
The charity is appealing for funds and for prayers both for those in need of urgent help and those giving it.
Directly under the Holy Father, 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 Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 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, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.