PRESS RELEASE – Syria: Aid to the Church in Need pledges 3.27 million in emergency aid 

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation TO BRING AID TO SYRIA please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN, Königstein/Montreal, Monday, February 16, 2015 – The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has pledged millions in emergency aid in response to the catastrophic situation that has befallen millions of people in Syria after four years of war. More than 3.27 million dollars have been spent to fund a number of projects and to support those in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities who have been hard hit by the war, explained Father Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East section of Aid to the Church in Need.

Since the outbreak of violence in Syria in March of 2011, the situation of the country’s Christians in particular has deteriorated dramatically: hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands have been driven away. Families have lost members, and yes, their entire means of existence. Children and adolescents have been barred from attending school for months, sometimes years at a time. In addition to meeting the most immediate needs, the emergency aid seeks to offer Christians in Syria as well as the entire Middle East new prospects for the future. 

 

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00138 Emergency help for 1200 families from

12.2 million affected

Father Andrzej Halemba said, “We are especially worried about the Christians in Aleppo and Damascus, but also the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Fear is ever present. It is intense, almost palpable, especially since the new so-called Islamic State was proclaimed. Bishop Audo of Aleppo told me, “Aleppo’s Christians are afraid that what happened in Mosul will also happen to them. This is a new, and unfortunately justified, fear of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The Islamic State openly shows its murderous intentions against anyone who does not bend to its brand of extremism. They are proud of their cruelty against ‘unbelievers’ and blatantly fall back on the sword.”

According to Father Halemba, another reason the situation of the Syrian people has become so desperate is because the interest of the international community has noticeably waned and this despite the fact that the European Union has calculated that 12.2 million people are affected by the war in Syria. This brings the number of internally displaced persons to 7.8 million and the number of Syrians living in barely accessible parts of the country or war zones to 4.8 million.

It is estimated that 5.6 million children are directly affected by the war; the number of those who are no longer able to attend school lies at 3 million.

The aid money donated by Aid to the Church in Need has benefited thousands of families living in war-torn regions. The money is being used to provide basic foodstuffs, medicine, and emergency medical care, along with rent for housing as well as heating and electricity. The funds have also been allocated for the pastoral and charitable endeavours of Christians in Syria who are working in various communities to help their fellow Syrians obtain housing and care. For example, for Sisters in Al-Hasakah (Hassaké) in the north-eastern part of Syria by the Turkish border who are providing emergency medical care and distributing relief goods. Or for priests in Aleppo and Damascus who are helping supply the victims of the war with material and pastoral care.


 

Over the next few days on ACN’s blog – aidchurch.wordpress.com – you will have be able to read stories which, along with describing the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also give you access to poignant testimonials from religious workers on site, as well as other people living this unspeakable tragedy.

 

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ACN Press Release – Syria

Homs 

“Young people were targeted”

Following a bloody terrorist outrage in Homs, Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal appeals for prayers for Syria 

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin

MontreHoms January 21al/Homs – Friday January 23,  2015 – Following a bloody terrorist outrage in Homs on Wednesday, Syrian Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal lamented the fact that the victims were overwhelmingly young people. “Most of them were students at the university, young people who had not left the city. So what sort of message does this attack send out now?  I believe they were deliberately targeted,” said Father Ziad on Thursday. He was speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“The killing was indiscriminate”

It was on Wednesday around midday when a car bomb was set off in a busy street in the centre of the town. According to Father Ziad, 15 people were killed in the attack, while another 50 or more were injured, some of them gravely. The killing was indiscriminate, and there were Christians among both the dead and the wounded. “The attack was staged very close to our church and our aid centre. We do not know who was behind it, but it is a tragedy. The pictures of the attack are horrifying. We are visiting the families of the victims and trying to comfort them. But what can anyone say in such a situation? We ourselves are all deeply saddened and devastated.”

Bishop of HOmsFather Ziad appealed for prayers for his war-torn country – “I call on all people, and especially on the benefactors of ACN, to pray for Syria and in particular for the victims of this terrible attack and their families.”

Father Ziad expressed that he was particularly dismayed at the lack of reaction on the part of the world media, “Where is the reaction in the rest of the world? After the attacks in Paris all eyes were on France. But here? As far as I am aware, there has not been any reaction by anybody. Not a word. Only silence. Syria and the daily sufferings of its people are forgotten.”

200,000 people believed to have lost their lives

Homs is the third largest city in Syria. This strategically important town was fought over for years by government and opposition forces.  Last year, it once again fell under the control of the Syrian government, but it continues to be rocked again and again by terror attacks.

Most recently in October 2014, when more than 50 people died in a double bomb blast owing to the fighting over the past year, a large number of the city’s inhabitants have been forced to flee their homes, among them more than 80,000 Christians.

According to some estimates, over 200,000 people are believed to have lost their lives since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. ACN is supporting Father Ziad in his humanitarian work on behalf of the suffering people of Homs and its surrounding area. Thanks to the aid centres run by Father Ziad food, clothing and items of basic hygiene have been distributed to thousands of victims, regardless of their religion or political outlook.

PRESS RELEASE: Syria – Aleppo is facing the danger of a slow death

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

How the international Catholic  charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is supporting the humanitarian and pastoral work of the Church in Syria

ACN-20131218-03848

©AED/ACN

 Montreal/Königstein, September 2, 2014. The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is providing another $516,000  in emergency aid for the people of Syria. The money will once more be used to support pastoral and humanitarian projects in the country, which has been suffering for over three years now from the bloody civil war there. The main priority will be to get the help to the needy population in various parts of the country.

Among the projects supported is an aid center in Aleppo, formerly a city of over two million and torn apart by warfare since July 2012. “Aleppo is facing the risk of dying a slow death,” Sister Annie Demerjian, of the community of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, tells ACN. The charity has already helped her twice in the past.

ACN-20140901-13247

©AED/ACN

The present tranche of aid is intended to help supply the basic necessities of life which she and her team are providing for the people of Aleppo under their care. Once the most populous city in Syria, this northern metropolis is thought to have shrunk to around just half a million people and is suffering badly from the ongoing fighting and the collapse of its infrastructure. The water and electricity supply is inadequate, and most people have forgotten what it is like to eat meat or fresh fruit, as Sister Annie tells us in her moving appeal. Most of the houses in her area have been destroyed, and those people who survived have been forced to flee. “Where are they going to find refuge? How are they going to repair their houses?” she asks. Rats, snakes and other vermin are making matters still worse. “If we want the Christians to remain in the Middle East, then we must help them with what they need in order to survive,” she concludes.

Supporting charitable work

Similarly, in the once fiercely contested city of Homs in Western Syria and in a number of smaller towns and villages around it, ACN is supporting the charitable and humanitarian work of the Church. Around half the population of this city of 1.6 million souls have been forced to abandon their homes and seek refuge in other parts of the city. Around a quarter have left Homs altogether.

SYRIE-3

Added to these are the refugees from the surrounding areas. Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal wants to provide some 3,000 families with basic necessities such as foodstuffs and articles of hygiene. Some 15,000 to 18,000 people in need will be provided with washing powder, soap and towels, and also with necessities for the coming winter, such as blankets and warm clothing. Those in need include both refugees from outside and inhabitants of the city. “In Homs the number of people who are dependent on support for such things as foodstuffs and articles of hygiene is growing, since many people are unemployed now and have no source of income,” Father Ziad tells ACN. On top of this, inflation is rampant.

In order to prevent tensions arising between the refugees from outside and the original population of the city, the aid goods are being distributed to both groups. Basically, as Father Ziad explains, the Church is providing support to all those in need, regardless of religion, gender or political affiliation. A large proportion of the Christian population of Homs have sought refuge in the so-called “Valley of the Christians,” in the region around Marmarita. Thanks to the funds provided by ACN, Father Ziad is also able to provide somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 people there with articles of hygiene and winter clothing.

Supporting pastoral work

In addition to such urgent humanitarian projects, ACN is also supporting the pastoral work of the Catholic Church in Syria. It is thanks to support from ACN that the Byzantine Catholic parish of Saint Cyril in Damascus can continue providing catechetical instruction to children and young people there. In addition to the provision of catechisms and the payment of staff and running costs, some of the money is also spent on providing Christmas presents for the children. “The catechetical centre in our parish is more than simply a religious centre. It is also almost the only consolation for some 500 children,” says the parish priest, Father Joseph Lajin.

SYRIE-4Every Friday the children gather at the centre, partly for instruction in the Catholic faith, but also in order to find a little bit of rest and recreation, he explains. At the heart of it is the education for peace, in the spirit of the Gospel, he says. “It is not easy, when a generation has heard about and seen nothing else but the atrocities of ISIS, to educate them in a spirit of peace and forgiveness, of acceptance of the other and love of one’s enemy.”

According to UN statistics, over 150,000 people have been killed so far during the conflict in Syria. More than 10 million people within the country are dependent on humanitarian aid. Over 6 million are regarded as internal refugees, while more than 2 million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Since the war began, in March 2011, ACN has provided a total of approximately 5 million dollars in aid for the people of Syria and for the Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries. In 2014 alone the charity supplied a total of 1,8 ,million dollars in emergency aid for the war victims and refugees of Syria.

PRESS RELEASE : Syria – “The suffering of the people will become even greater”

Aid to the Church in Need grants a further 622 000 dollars in emergency relief to war victims and refugees

Syrie-2

AED International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Montreal, Wednesday May 7th, 2014 – The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has granted a further 425 000 dollarsemergency relief for war victims in Syria. This will help in particular refugees and distressed Christian families in Homs, Aleppo and the “Valley of Christians”.  In addition it has been resolved to donate a further 197 000 dollars for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The Head of the Middle East Section at ACN, Father Andrzej Halemba, fears that the situation in Syria will continue to deteriorate and that the war atrocities will increase. “The suffering of the people in Syria, and especially of the Christians, will become even greater,” he said, adding that a lot more aid would be necessary.

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About 140,000 people have lost their lives in the war. There are now more than 9 million Syrians on the run, of which 2 million are fleeing abroad and 7 million are still in the country. Several million dwellings have been destroyed in the war, as have thousands of businesses and companies, and also fields which provided many people with the means of subsistence.

Since the start of the war in March 2011 ACN has granted aid of around 5,3 millions dollarsin Syria and for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. Since January 2014 a total of 961 000 dollars in emergency relief has been granted for war victims and refugees from Syria.

 

Targeted killing in Homs: project partner of “Aid to the Church in Need” shot dead in Syria

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

ACN, Montreal, April 9, 2014 – Father Frans van der Lugt is dead. The Dutch Jesuit and project partner of “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) was shot Monday morning (April 7) in Homs by an unknown person, as reported by his fellow Jesuit, Father Ziad Hilal. “Father Frans was evidently killed by targeted shots to the head. We received the news by phone from one of the faithful who was with him in the old city,” Father Ziad said in a telephone interview with “Aid to the Church in Need”. Father Frans van der Lugt (75) had worked in Syria since 1967 and he was holding out with 20 other Christians in the almost totally destroyed old city, which had been under siege from the Syrian arms for two years. He looked after the remaining residents and also wanted to protect the Jesuit church, his fellow priest went on to explain. According to Father Ziad it is at present not possible to get into the old city to recover Father Frans’ body.

Father Frans van der Lugt  Courtesy of José de Pablo, SJ, of the European Provincial Offices Secretariat

Father Frans van der Lugt
Courtesy of José de Pablo, SJ, of the European Provincial Offices Secretariat

As recently as the end of March Father Ziad had been in Brussels with staff from “Aid to the Church in Need” to tell EU representatives about the situation around Homs. He spoke via Skype with Father Frans, among other things about his imminent birthday, which they had hoped to celebrate together. On this occasion Father Ziad said about his fellow priest: “For me, he embodies Christ in the world, who is willing to die for his friends and who always gives us hope. He always asks me how I am and doesn’t talk much about his own well-being.”

In view of the depressing news about Father Frans’ death, Father Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East section at “Aid to the Church in Need”, called for people to pray for an end to the fighting and for peace in the region, for the late Father Frans and for the besieged Christians.

“Aid to the Church in Need” has supported the people affected by the civil war in Syria for a number of years. To date more than 2.5 million euros has been spent on aid programmes co-ordinated by Father Ziad in Syria. Other projects are being prepared. The total number of Syrians who have fled the civil war is currently estimated at 9 million: 6.5 million are on the run in their country and a further 2.5 million have left Syria.