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Syria

 

ACN News: Christians in northeastern Syria in Danger

04.11.2019 in Journey with ACN, Middle East, Syria

Christians of Northeastern Syria

 We need help.

by Marta Petrosillo, October 28 2019, ACN Italy
adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted November 1, 2019

“At least 300 Christians have been forced to leave the towns of Ras al-Ain, Derbasiyah, Tall Tamr and one area of al-Malikiyah, and we are afraid that if the fighting continues, there could be a still greater exodus which might even include the town of Qamishli, where there are 2,300 Christian families living at present.” This was the desperate picture given to ACN by Msgr Nidal Thomas, the episcopal representative of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Hassaké.

The situation he describes is a critical one. “We don’t know what is actually happening. Every hour we hear reports from the Kurds, the Turks, the Americans and the Russians, of victims and people fleeing. But we don’t know the real truth. The only thing we know for certain is that the bombings and above all the massacres committed by Turks against our community are forcing more and more Christians to flee.”

For the moment, few Christian families have sought refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, but Monsignor Thomas believes that it will be difficult for the Christian refugees to choose this semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. “Life there is too expensive for the impoverished Syrian Christians. Quite apart from the fact that the Iraqi people have not done anything to prevent the dramatic situation that has unfortunately unfolded in Syria. There were thousands of Christian families in our country. No one attempted to defend us.

Christians are in danger: “We need help.”

Today the Christians in northeast Syria also fear a return of jihadism, despite the killing of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. “Unfortunately, this is an eventuality we have to take into account,” says Monsignor Thomas, according to whom many ISIS fighters have now joined the Free Syrian Army, which has entered the region of Ras al-Ain.

And so this priest is appealing through ACN to the international community, asking for support for his own community. “We need help,” he says. “We Christians are the ones who have suffered most as a result of this interminable conflict. We are the weakest link, because we want to live in peace and reject war. Two thirds of the Christians have left the country and the remaining third risks being unable to survive. And meanwhile, the Western countries are fighting among themselves to divide up Syria, which has been brought to its knees also by the international sanctions.”

ACN Canada is continuing to support Christians in Iraq and in Syria.  In the aforementioned country, the campaign, A Drop of Milk, for the children of Homs, is still active.  You can give by visiting our web page at acn-canada.org and click the donate icon at the top right of the page. For more information, please call 1-800-585-6333.

ACN Press – The launch of ACN Canada’s A Drop of Milk Campaign

19.07.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Children, Middle East, Syria

A Drop of Milk

ACN CANADA ADOPTS PROJECT IN HOMS, SYRIA

Objective: 378,000 dollars from now to September 30th for children 0 to 10 in the city of Homs.

 

Montreal, July 18, 2019 — “Regardless of the almost complete halt to violence in Syria, everything is still left to do,” exclaims Marie-Claude Lalonde, national director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN). Along with her team, she is launching a campaign in support of a project called A Drop of Milk which aims to provide milk for six months to children ages 0 to 10 in a neighbourhood of Homs, Syria. To do so, ACN needs to collect 378,000 dollars.

 

Homs: A Campaign to Restore Hope

“We are very pleased to sponsor this project created first in Aleppo, in 2015, by Quebec physician of Syrian origin, Dr. Nabil Antaki,” explains Mrs. Lalonde. “Very quickly, Dr. Antaki observed how significant the needs were and why in 2017, he turned to ACN for help to ensure the continuation of what had become an indispensable program.”

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

Just like the former economic bastion of Syria that was once Aleppo, the city of Homs was also devastated by the bloodied conflict that began in March 2011 leaving behind 300 to 550 thousand dead, according to organizations. At the peak of the conflict, ten million people were displaced and made refugees within, or outside, the country.

 

Music and Poetry for a Drop of Goodness

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” said the celebrated philosopher, Plato. In Chantal Roussety’s case, however, we can say that necessity was the mother of her generosity! In fact, the musician who plays the piano and the organ among othershas in her little apartment in the East End of Montreal, for the last three years, held concerts where just over a dozen or so people participate and give a donation specifically for the Drop of Milk project. “The continual appearance of images of war for so many years and in particular, children, led me to feeling physically ill because I felt powerless to help them,” explains Mrs. Roussety earnestly.

 

“Einstein’s words: The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything, went straight to my heart. When an acquaintance told me about the Drop of Milk project supported by Aid to the Church in Need, I decided to add my own drop, if I may say, to help assuage an ocean of misery.”

 

Marie-Claude Lalonde is very happy about this initiative. “This year, the concerts have raised over $3,000—bringing the total to over $7,000 over three years. A wonderful success which is owed to the incredible generosity shown by Chantal, who has become a dear friend and benefactor for the children and for ACN,” she explains. “These concerts are now very important to us, and of course, to the children of Syria.”

In fact, for the fourth edition, Mrs. Roussety hopes to widen the circle of those who choose to finance the Drop of Milk project, while taking in an enjoyable artistic evening filled with emotion. “We are already looking for a hall, because my place is becoming a little bit too small! And I feel like sharing my love and music and the arts while also supporting a project that provides concrete help to the children of war.”

 

In the meantime, the public can give to the Drop of Milk project for the children of Homs.

Donations are welcome through the secure webpage

By phone : 1-800-585-6333, Donor Services at extension 222 or 225

By mail to :
Aid to the Church in Need Canada
A DROP OF MILK
PO Box 670, Station H
Montréal QC    H3G 2M6

 

On behalf of the children in Homs: Thank You!


To request an interview please contact Amanda Griffin, Information Department, ACN-Canada – 514-932-0552, ext. 221 – or toll free at 1-800-585-6333, Cell: 514-967-8340
com@acn-canada.org                      Website: www.acn-canada.org

ACN Feature Story – Syria: Miriam, the voice of Aleppo

08.04.2019 in Middle East, Syria

Syria- ACN Feature Story

Miriam, the voice of Aleppo

 

Montreal, Monday April 8, 2019 – In Aleppo the number of Christians declined fivefold during the war. Now the economic crisis and the lack of professional employment opportunities are a source of anguish, especially for the young who are facing a 78% unemployment rate!  Pierre Macqueron from ACN France met with Miriam, a transformative voice.

The performers are a choir of 60 or so children and young people, supported by five musicians. It is Saturday March 17, in the late afternoon. The Orthodox Youth Movement is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its creation. In the packed hall, the audience applauds appreciatively. A simple concept, but something that has become rare in recent years in this city of Aleppo, which was once the economic capital of the country, before the war.

The anguish of the young

Among the young singers is Miriam Toubal, aged 23, a student in biotechnology, conducts the children’s choir. Over the last year, for one hour a week, she has rehearsed with them in singing these songs. The rehearsals are at least less stressful than during the war, though even that didn’t prevent the choristers from attempting to gather and sing.

It’s not long before Miriam confides in us her anxiety as to her future. Finding a good job so as to be able to continue living decently is a major challenge in a city devastated by six years of war, and since then by the economic sanctions. In Syria the level of youth unemployment is an estimated 78%. And so many of these young people are deeply concerned for their own future and that of those they love.

 All activity paralyzed

Since the end of the fighting, the situation has not got better in this once prosperous city. Quite the contrary, in fact. So many of the citizens of this town will tell you about the difficulties of daily life. The economic recovery, so long-awaited, is still not happening, and the average job does not pay well enough to provide the basic daily needs, so rapidly have prices risen. The souk, whose 13 km of stores and boutiques were once the pride of the city and were classed as a world Heritage site by UNESCO, still lies in ruins and has not yet been restored. In front of what was once his own stall, Elias Farah, on returning there for the first time, cannot hide his emotions, noting anxiously that the whole place seems to be in imminent danger of collapse.

The former economic capital of the country is suffering terribly from the economic embargo. “It’s the poor and the ordinary people who are suffering above all from the situation,” says Syrian Catholic Archbishop Antoine Chahda of Aleppo. The war is continuing and the lack of future prospects is only adding to the unhappiness of the families and the despair of so many Christians. In the suburbs of Aleppo, the industrial zone is a desolate sight: the bombed out factories have been looted, and there is no sign of any activity whatsoever.

 Structured aid

In order to meet their daily needs, whether in Aleppo or in Homs, the Christian communities have organized themselves and are counting on the generosity of the universal Church. Once prosperous, they have become beggars, says Greek Orthodox Bishop George Abu Zakham of Homs, noting at the same time that the foreign aid is decreasing.

The support supplied by ACN, in the form of medical and food aid, help with rent and education, remains indispensable for many families. Lay committees have been set up, in order to be able to share out this aid fairly among the various different Christian communities. Their task is to identify the most urgent needs and closely monitor the use of the aid supplied. It is an effective system and one that enables the different Christian Churches to work together. It is a vital form of aid, and one that is rekindling a new spark of life in the stale air and smoldering ashes of a city in ruins. For a brief moment, Miriam was the voice of that city.

From March 2011 up to the end of 2018, ACN provided 44.2 million in aid for Syria, through the support of 738 different projects – 80% of these projects were in the form of emergency aid.

Syria – ACN’s support of reconstruction gives hopes for Christians

25.02.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By John Pontifex, CONSTRUCTION, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Syria

Syria

An action plan to enable thousands of Christians to return to their homes in the Syrian city of Homs was agreed in a house-repair program involving Church leaders and a leading Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

by John Pontifex, ACN-International

At the meeting in Homs, the leaders of five Church communities signed the Homs Reconstruction Committee agreement, in which Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need will repair 300 homes as part of the first stage of the plan.

In the second phase, a further 980 homes are due to be rebuilt – 80 from the Melkite Greek Catholic community, 600 Greek Orthodox and 300 belonging to Syriac Orthodox families. ACN will support part of the project.

Highlighting the significance of the agreement, ACN Middle East projects coordinator Father Andrzej Halemba said: “The agreement is one of the most critical steps forward in the recovery of the Christian community in Homs. The commitment to rebuild so many homes offers the light of hope for people desperate to return to the city that is one of the most important for Christians in the whole of Syria.”

Fr Andrzej Halemba and Archbishop Nicolas Sawaf, archbishop of Lattaquié, with ‘Jesus is my Rock’ stone tablets

They cannot come back without the program

Happy to be able to come back home.

 

Greek Orthodox Bishop Georges Abou Zakhem of Homs said: “The people need to come back to their houses but they can’t do so without the help of ACN.”

Melkite priest Father Bolos Manhal said: “I am very happy that people have this wonderful opportunity to return to their homes. They have suffered so much and for many coming home will be a dream come true.

“They have had to spend so much money renting a place to live so to have their homes rebuilt will take a huge pressure on family budgets. There are more job opportunities in the city than in the countryside so they will now be able to take advantage of them.”

ACN will be contributing to a maximum of US$3,500 towards each house being repaired.

With more than 12,500 homes destroyed in Homs and 37,500 badly damaged, many Christians have been living in displacement in the nearby Valley of the Christians for up to seven years.

At the height of the conflict in 2014, less than 100 Christians were remaining in Homs Old City and targeted attacks by Islamist extremists forced nearly 250,000 to leave.

Last year ACN piloted a program to repair 100 homes belonging to Melkite and Syriac Orthodox families, of which 85 are already reoccupied and the rest due to return at the start of the new academic year in the autumn.

The 2018 Homs renovation plan was part of a program which has already led to the repairs of nearly 500 homes across Syria, of which many are in Aleppo.

 


Since the crisis in Syria began in 2011, ACN has completed 750 projects involving 150 partners. (2019-02-25)

ACN Feature Story: Good Samaritans of the Valley of the Christians in Syria

08.06.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN NEWS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Josué Villalón, Emergency Aid, Middle East, Syria, Valley of the Christians

Syria

Good Samaritans of the Valley of the Christians in Syria

Mzeina Hospital is situated in the small town of the same name, one of several that make up the Valley of the Christians (Wadi Al-Nasara in Arabic), a rural region of Syria, close to the frontier with Lebanon and roughly halfway between the city of Homs and the Mediterranean coast. “The hospital has been open for four years now and for the past two years the number of admitions, operations and basic treatments has been growing steadily” the hospital director, Dr Sam Abboud, assures us.

Sacred Heart next to a poster of Mzeina Hospital, in the Valley of Christians, Syria

The war which continues to tear this country apart seems a long way from this region, yet the doctors and their co-workers at the hospital assure us that the situation is still as bad as or worse than before. “People come to us asking for help and tell us that in other hospitals they couldn’t get treatment because they did not have enough money. We don’t simply tell them to go away; we try to help them in every way we can,” says Toni Tannous, the head of the physiotherapy team.

 

Part of the staff of Mzeina Hospital. Tannous, in the middle, is the Head of Staff.

The doctors themselves and the other employees at the hospital have themselves had personal experience of the consequences of the war. “I myself had to flee from Homs because of the war,” Toni continues, “and now I am working here. All of us feel a sense of responsibility in one way or another to help in whatever way we can.” This hospital, which treats thousands of people every month and has almost 500 inpatients, works in collaboration with the Saint Peter’s Aid Centre run by the Melkite Catholic Church in the nearby town of Marmarita.

 

“From the health centre run by the Melkite Church in Marmarita we attend to over a hundred urgent medical cases a month, in addition to other cases where we pay for medicines. We take the families to the hospital and have a working agreement with the Mzeina Hospital to treat them there,” explains Elías Jahloum, a volunteer and coordinator of the Saint Peter’s Aid Centre. “In the Valley of the Christians there are no public hospitals; the closest ones are in Homs or Tartus, an hour or more away by car on account of the Army security controls. That is why the healthcare service offered by the Church in this region is greatly appreciated by those displaced by the war, who have few financial means.”

 

Valley of the Christans from Marmarita

At the very core of suffering, praying for benefactors all over the world

Elías accompanied a delegation from the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), who visited some of the inpatients in the Mzeina Hospital. Their care is paid for by the Saint Peter’s aid centre with the financial support of ACN. “Thank you for coming to see us, Elias, and thanks also to your benefactors,” said Najwa Arabi, a middle-aged mother of a family who had just undergone surgery on her stomach. “We know that there are people in many countries around the world who are helping us. Every day we pray for them and give thanks to God,” she added.

 

Najwa Arabi in Mzeina Hospital with her family

On the next ward is Maryam Hourani, the mother of Janadios, a little boy barely more than a year old who is recovering from bronchiolitis. “He was very ill and could hardly breathe when we brought him to the hospital,” she explains.

“We contacted Elias and he assured us that the Saint Peter’s Centre would pay his costs. I can only say thank you.” Equally grateful is a young woman by the name of Shasha Khoury, who is recovering from surgery for a breast tumour. “I’m five months pregnant,” she says. “It is a boy and he’s going to be called Fayez, which means ‘winner,” she smiles.

 

Dr Abboud, who is an ear nose and throat specialist, explains that some of the operations they perform are free and that they have a special program for children and young people with hearing problems. “Many of these cases are caused by bombs and other explosions during the war,” he explains, adding that the biggest difficulties they face are the lack of infrastructure, obtaining new medical equipment with which they can operate better, and the constant power cuts. “Although in this last year we have managed to obtain medicines which until recently it was impossible to find in Syria,” he concedes.

 

Entrance of the Mzeina Hospital. From right to left: Dr. Sam Abboud, hospital’s director; Majd Jhaloum, from Saint Peter Center; Toni Tannous, Head of staff; Josef Moussarad, accountant of the Hospital and Elias Jahloum, head of the San Peter Center

As we leave the hospital, Elías and Toni say goodbye with a big hug. Both men are very heavy built and look almost like brothers. “Whenever a difficult case crops up in the hospital, with a patient who has very little money, we always try to help by giving a discount and extending the payment period. When such cases occur, we call the Saint Peter’s centre, knowing that Elias there or Father Walid, the parish priest of Saint Peter’s Church, will always respond to our requests,” Toni tells us. The presence of the Church and its work on behalf of the displaced by the war and the local poor is quite literally saving many lives.

 

The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need sends around $75,000 each month to the Saint Peter’s Aid Centre in Marmarita, a large part of which is to cover the cost of essential medicines and the medical care of over 4,000 individuals. “We continue to need your aid. You are the hope of all these people, and a wonderful example for our society,” says Dr Abboud, as he bids us farewell.

 


 

Syria – young volunteers coordinate aid for 2000 displaced families

02.05.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Josué Villalón, Feature Story, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Middle East, Syria, Urgent need

Syria

Young volunteers coordinate aid for 2000 diplaced families

Several of the volunteers are themselves displaced persons, but do not hesitate to help others: “What motivates us is Jesus”

ACN (Josué Villalón, Marmarita). Eleven young people make up the team of volunteers of the parish centre of St. Peter, the Greek Catholic Church in Marmarita, which is located in the heart of the Valley of Christians, a region in Syria close to the Lebanese border. Many of the people in this region were displaced by the war and came here from all over Syria: Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, etc. This team of volunteer workers coordinates the distribution of the aid that is donated to about 2,000 families each month by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). They are the messengers, but also the message.

“What motivates us is Jesus. It moves us deeply to be able to help people in need. For me personally, it is also the reason to remain in Syria,” comments Elías Jahloum, coordinator of the parish centre, whom everyone calls “Ili.” His mobile never stops ringing the entire time he is speaking with a delegation from ACN. “The families trust me implicitly; many of them see me as part of the family. I take them to the hospital when they are sick and later visit them at home.”

The financial aid that the pastoral charity, ACN, provides through the local Church is primarily intended for two purposes: the first involves rent payments. “The displaced families have long since used up all of their savings to pay for a place to stay. The few who were able to find work can hardly survive on what they earn,” comments Majd Jallhoum, Ili’s sister and secretary of the parish centre. “The second big project focuses on paying for health care and medicine. There isn’t even one public hospital in the entire Valley of Christians. Treatment is very expensive, as are medicines.”

ACN donates 422,800 dollars for these two projects every six months. “We are supporting 340 families with rent subsidies. Each family unit receives a monthly subsidy of about 25,000 Syrian pounds (75,50 dollars). You have to realize that the median income in Syria is currently just under 96,60 dollars.” The average rent in the Valley of Christians is 226,50 dollars a month. The rents increase in the summer months because the region is considered a “tourist” area due to its cooler climate.

Syria March 2018: From right to left, Raja Mallouhi and Issam Ahwesh, volunteers in Marmarita, Valley of the Christians.

None of the young volunteers is paid for the work they do. However, several of them are themselves displaced persons and receive aid to meet their own needs. “I, for example, receive financial aid to travel to the university and back. The university is in Homs, which is about an hour away by car. Thanks to the help I receive from ACN, I did not have to give up my studies because of the war,” explains Issam Ahwesh, who is 22 years old and is studying computer engineering. He will finish his degree this year. “My mother would be very happy if she could see how I am helping here and that I will finally be able to complete my degree. Unfortunately, she died several years before the war started.”

 

An ecumenical team

The eleven young volunteers at the parish centre of Marmarita are members of various Churches that celebrate different rites. “Some of us are Greek Catholic, others Syriac Catholic and still others, Orthodox. We do not discriminate; all of us help wherever we can and assist Father Walid.” Walid Iskandafy is a Greek Catholic priest and currently the parish priest of the church of Saint Peter.

After finishing their work, the volunteers stay to play football. Raja Mallouhi, who is studying economics in Homs, talks about how he used to play on a football team in his city. “My favourite club here is Al-Karama, the best football club in the country before the war. Outside of Syria, I am a fan of Atlético Madrid.”

They laugh when Father Iskandafy compares the eleven of them with the team of Real Madrid. “They are the players and I am their coach, Zinedine Zidane.” They are a very good team. The priest is proud of how they always discuss any new request for help or problems with one of the families with each other and try to find a solution together.

 

Inspired by the Pope

Lama Jomia has just completed his degree in tourism and currently spends his time visiting displaced families. “Several years ago, Pope Francis told us young people to have the courage to swim against the tide and be faithful to Jesus. These words encouraged us to continue our work, even though war and hate prevail in our country.”

For the volunteers, faith is the most important reason to stay in Marmarita and help those who are most in need. Another young volunteer of the group, Rafic Assi, says at the end, “I would like to tell young people in Europe and all over the world that material things are not what is most important, that they should do something with their lives and be grateful that they are able to live in peace. We also did not imagine that our lives would turn out like this, but we have not completely given up hope!”

Syria March 2018: Majd, left, with a family in need in Marmarita, Valley of the Christians.                                         


 

Syria – “We want and we need peace. Please pray for us!”

20.04.2018 in ACN Canada, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Middle East, Syria, Syria

Syria 

“We want and we need peace. Please pray for us!”

an appeal from Syria by Archbishop Jean-Abdo Arbach.

 

The Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Homs, Mons. Jean-Arbach, has issued a message tinged with weariness and sadness at the current situation in Syria, after seven years of war and the most recent events. “People cannot take any more,” he says. “They simply want to live an ordinary life, to sleep peacefully in their beds and wake and go to work, and not to the sound of falling bombs. It is enough, it is too much.”

 

Speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he asked the charity to pray
for them. “We need prayers, prayers and more prayers. It is the only thing that can bring us unity in this country,” he repeated, recalling that Pope Francis has also called for us to pray for the situation in Syria which – as he himself explained – is not simply about this country, but has now crossed international frontiers, so that the whole world needs peace. “What was the point of this war?” he asked. Everything has been destroyed, there are millions of refugees… If only the politicians of the world would work for peace and not for war,” he repeated despairingly.

This picture was taken in Syria, January 2016, in Yabroud Our Lady of Peace church with destroyed abnd damaged icons and frescoes. Since then, they were replaced. 

 

Yet despite this terrible situation, the Syrian people have not lost courage or the belief that their country can rise again from the ashes. ACN is helping with a number of different projects in the region of Homs, including study grants for 4,000 students, basic foodstuffs, medicines and the rebuilding of people’s homes and of Church properties. 80% of churches and catechetical centres have already been repaired, Mons. Jean-Arbach pointed out.

 

Patriarchs denounce “a brutal aggression”

 

For their part, the patriarchs of the three main churches in Syria – Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X, of Antioch and all the East, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and all the East, and Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem have issued a statement, sent to ACN, in which they “condemn and denounce the brutal aggression … by the USA, France and the UK“ in response to a supposed chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government on the city of Duma. They denounce this terrible situation which they describe as “a clear violation of the international laws and the UN Charter,” and describe it as “unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence.”

 

They insist that this is “a brutal aggression that destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution and leads to escalation and more complications,” and say that it “encourages the terrorist organizations and gives them momentum to continue in their terrorism.” In their statement, the patriarchs call on “all Churches in the countries that participated in the aggression to fulfill their Christian duties according to the teachings of the Gospel, and condemn this aggression and to call on their governments to commit to the protection of international peace.”

 

Aid to the Church in Need continues its support in Syria. 
Thank you to help our partners. To give, click on the button just below. 

Destroyed city in Syria. In March, it was 7 years.