International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has announced the funding of a series of extra emergency aid packages for Christians in Syria and Iraq escaping persecution and grappling with the onset of winter. The organization is rolling out 19 relief programs in Syria and a further 11 in Iraq—providing food, medicine, shelter and pastoral support.
The projects include extra support for families who fled ISIS in northern Iraq:
- For Christians who took refuge in Erbil, Kurdish northern Iraq, ACN is helping to provide a nursery school for 125 toddlers
- For 175 families in the Father Werenfried Village in Erbil, ACN is funding showers, wash basins and toilets
- For Christians at a displacement camp in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, ACN is providing electricity, food and water
- Also at the Baghdad displacement camp, ACN is constructing a chapel
- For 182 Christian displaced families in the Archdiocese of Kirkuk and Sulaimanya, ACN is providing financial aid to help cover the cost of living
For Syria, ACN’s emergency and project help include:
- A car for the Sisters who run a hospital in Damascus
- Six-months funding for schools in the Valley of Christians and Marmarita, including teachers’ salaries and scholarships for first and second grade students as well as college students
- Heaters and fuel for families displaced from Alqariatin to safe areas in Homs, Fairozah and Zaidal
- Food and other basic needs for 4,500 families in Homs.
The charity has been asked not to give details of amounts of aid given in case recipients are targeted.
Since 2011, ACN has given more than $13 million for projects in Iraq and more than $10 million for help in Syria.
ACN’s Middle East projects coordinator Father Andrzej Halemba said: “The help ACN is providing for Christians in countries such as Iraq is urgently needed. The governmental institutions are not doing what is necessary to help these communities who are struggling so much at this time.”
“We need to remember how much Christians have contributed to society over generations and indeed centuries and now in their time of need they have been abandoned.”
Reports suggest that altogether 12.2 million people are in desperate need of aid in war-torn Syria and an estimated 7.6 million are thought to be internally displaced by the conflict.
Since the civil war in Syria began in 2011, the Christian population has declined by almost two-thirds and fewer than 250,000 Christians remain in Syria today. Approx. 250,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from a million in 2003.
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.