Charity rushes through aid payments after urgent appeal from bishop
John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada
Montreal, February 4th, 2014 – Wounded, destitute and sick people in one of the cities worst affected by the conflict in Syria are to receive emergency aid from the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need amid worsening reports of crisis as winter bites deep across the region.
The aid packages totalling 284,500 $, being sent out by ACN this week will provide medical help for the wounded, repairs to the war-damaged homes of Christians and basic aid – heating, food and rent money for people on the breadline. This latest emergency help means that, since the Syrian crisis broke nearly three years ago, ACN urgent aid for the region has now topped 4,42 million dollars one of the largest aid packages of its kind since the charity began in 1947.
Jesus and Mary are being entrusted
Amid continuing dire reports from Syria, ACN pushed through this latest aid after a desperate S.O.S. appeal from Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, who described “the bombing of many Christian homes” and the urgent need to help “many wounded people” in his city, in the north of the country.
Working under Bishop Audo’s authority, Aleppo-based Sisters of Jesus and Mary are being entrusted with 134,765 $ to help up to 500 families in urgent need of gas and electricity for heating and cooking as well as rent money, medical assistance, food and clothing. A further 74,860 $ will fund repairs to war-damaged homes, shops and other businesses of Christians in Aleppo who are determined to stay in the country. Bomb-blasted windows and doors are being given top priority for repairs. At Bishop Audo’s request, another 74,860 $ is going to help wounded people receiving treatment at St Louis Hospital, Aleppo.
In her letter of last week requesting ACN help, Sister Annie Demerjian from the Sisters of Jesus and Mary described the urgent need to increase help for suffering families both in Aleppo and in another northern Syrian city, Hassake, also receiving aid from the charity.
At a time of increasing reports of a widespread breakdown of schools and employment in Aleppo with bombing of factories and key services, Sr Annie said: “We feel the massive need to carry on providing assistance to our Christian families threatened with the loss of morale. “The assistance will enable us to erase the families’ pain.” This aid for Aleppo comes on top of earlier ACN aid sent through the Jesus and Mary Sisters a year ago.
A key aim : to help Christians to stay in the region
Since then, the help needed has drastically increased and the number of people receiving emergency assistance from the Sisters has more than doubled. Appealing to ACN for help, Sr Annie wrote: “Unfortunately, life has become very expensive due to the lack of materials, particularly energy. To obtain gas and diesel fuel, especially in the harsh winter, is like a dream.”
Echoing the words of Bishop Audo, she said that a key aim is to help Christians to stay in the region. She said: “Despite the dramatically difficult situation, people still do not want to leave their homes. “So that they are not forced to emigrate, we are trying to help them survive until hopefully this present crisis is overcome.”
Commenting on the latest ACN aid packages, Aid to the Church in Need UK National Director Neville Kyrke-Smith noted the lack of progress in the Geneva II peace talks set up to bring the warring sides in Syria to the negotiating table. He said: “There seems to be a terrible impasse in the Syrian conflict. Yet, all our efforts, prayers and aid must continue. Now, thanks to solidarity and compassion of the friends and benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need we are providing vital help for those injured in the conflict and trying to rebuild some hope in Aleppo.”
Thanking ACN for its help, Sr Annie wrote: “Many people in Aleppo and Hassake, particularly women, children and elderly are expecting us – as workers of Christ – to give a helping hand. “Without your help, we cannot alleviate their suffering in this misery that we actually undergo in Syria.”