Growing fears for the safety of Syrians

By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Iraq, June 2010Father Emanuel Youkhana in his officePhoto: CAACN, Montreal – Wednesday, February 25, 2015 – Fears are growing for the safety of more than 100 people taken captive yesterday (Tuesday, February 24) as the extremist group Islamic State (IS) seized Christian villages in Hassake governorate, north-east Syria.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who works in support of persecuted Christians in the region, received a telephone update on the situation from a contact in Hassake city around midnight last night and relayed the latest information in a message sent to Catholic agencies, including Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), early this morning.

He wrote: “The 24 families from Tel Gouran, 34 families from Tel Jazira, and 14 fighters (12 male and 2 females) from Tel Hormizd are captured and taken to the Arab Sunni village of Um Al-Masamier.” Up to now, the number of people making up the abducted families, has not been confirmed.

“They are alive so far, but the men are separated from women and children.”

An urgent need of action

Commenting on how some local Sunni Arabs had assisted IS, he said: “Um Al-Masamier is another Syrian example of what we witnessed in Iraq on how the Arab Sunni joining and supporting IS to attack their long years Christian and Yezedian neighbours.”

Archimandrite Youkhana went on to describe the latest situation in the various villages: “The 50+ families in Tel Shamiran are still surrounded. It is unclear if IS will attack the village? Can PYD [Democratic Union Kurdish Party] fighters change the situation before the village been taken by IS?”

He reported that in Tel Tamar a car bomb exploded, but no casualties were reported. Three mortar shells were fired into Tel Nasri from the other side of Khabour River. Again no casualties were reported.

PYD fighters have retaken Toma Yelda hill, which is of strategic importance. Archimandrite Youkhana wrote: “By now, only around 200 families are still in Khabour region, more than 100 [are] in Tel Tamar and others [are] in different villages not controlled by IS. Around 1,000 families from Khabour are displaced in Hassake and Qamishli.“

“His Grace Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel [of the Assyrian Church of the East] who resides in Hassake and hasn’t left it despite all difficulties, is doing his best to host and support the displaced. However, due to the lack of resources and the long years of the disaster, there is an urgent need of action to support the displaced families through the Church.“

Archimandrite Youkhana added: “Our thoughts are with the suffering people. We pray for an end to this long history of persecution in our countries.”

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






Press Release – Aid to the Church in Need announces 12 urgent aid packages for Iraq

©Aid to the Church in Need

Iraq – A Mission of Mercy

By John Pontifex, for ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Thousands of displaced Iraqi Christians are to receive food, shelter, schooling and gifts for children in a concerted emergency relief program pushed through by a Catholic charity before the onset of winter. The $5.77 million plan announced by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) – one of the largest in the charity’s 67-year history – also includes pastoral support for priests and Sisters displaced by the crisis that has swept the country.

The projects, a number of them agreed, come amid fresh reports from Iraq that the crisis facing up to 120,000 displaced Christians is on the verge of worsening drastically. Huge pressure to move thousands of families out of tents before winter’s arrival looms as the weather is expected to deteriorate sharply over the coming weeks. Other families have just days to leave public buildings such as schools, which have been converted into displacement centres where people have been sleeping up to 20 in a single room.

Christian communities are entirely dependent on outside help, and have been supported by the Church since they arrived in Kurdish northern Iraq. Many of them have found refuge in Ankawa, close to the regional capital of Erbil, and further north in the region of Dohuk, close to the Turkish border.

It is now nearly four months since they left their homes with little more than the clothes they were wearing when Islamic State fighters advanced on Mosul city and the towns and villages in neighbouring Nineveh plains.

©Aid to the Church in Need

©Aid to the Church in Need

Aid: The breakdown

Along with growing concerns for the future of these refugees as winter approaches, ACN’s emergency projects’ package includes:

  • Eight schools – four in Ankawa, Erbil, and the rest in Dohuk – pre-fabricated PVC structures providing for 15,000 children ($2.9 million)


  • Food for displaced people totally reliant on outside help $908,808)


  • Rented accommodation in Ankawa and Dohuk for displaced people $577,000)


  • 150 PVC porta-cabins in Ankawa for use as accommodation $678,000)


  • Christmas gifts for 15,000 children including warm clothes (coats and socks), pencils, colouring books and devotional items and ACN Child’s Bibles ($425,570)


  • Mass Offerings for over 100 priests – both Chaldean and Syrian Catholic –from Iraq, most of them displaced by violence and other unrest $127,200)


  • Help for 28 seminarians at St Peter’s Seminary, Ankawa $56,260)

Additional grants include: $27,410 emergency aid for Sacred Heart Sisters displaced from Mosul; $112,520 support for Babel College of Philosophy and Theology in Ankawa and; $54,820 help for Christian education (catechism) in 20 parishes across Baghdad.

All together, this aid builds significantly on the $290,000 ACN contributed in emergency aid to Christians fleeing Mosul and the Nineveh Plains in the immediate aftermath of the IS attacks.

©Aid to the Church in Need

©Aid to the Church in Need

Information: The assessment

The projects were drawn up during an ACN fact-finding and project assessment trip organized at short notice and completed one week ago. The charity’s head of Middle East projects Father Andrzej Halemba said: “This ancient community, which dates back to Biblical times, is on the verge of disappearing forever. They have suffered so much and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help them and give them what they need to get through the winter.”

Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said: “I would like to thank Aid to the Church in Need for acting so quickly to help the people especially as we get close to winter.” Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul, who was among the 500,000 who fled the city in June when it was seized by Islamic State (IS), is chair of the Emergency Committee of Bishops formed to coordinate relief efforts. He said: “I am personally so grateful to ACN – you are giving us new hope.”

©Aid to the Church in Need

©Aid to the Church in Need

Prayers: For the persecuted and the persecutors

The archbishop called on ACN and all people of goodwill to pray for Iraq. “Please pray for the safety of our people, that none are killed by terrorists; we should also pray for those who have persecuted us and we should also pray for an end to evil which is now so great in the world.” Aid to the Church in Need – which has offices around the world – is launching an international campaign to raise awareness and raise money for suffering Christians in Iraq.

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.