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ACN Information – Syria: love, prayers and solidarity in these difficult times

31.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Syria

ACN Information – Syria

From Syria with love, prayers and solidarity

ACN project partner’s heart-felt coronavirus message

By John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web March 31, 2020

 

Sister Annie Demerjian, an intrepid nun, who coordinates emergency relief in Syria, has responded to the coronavirus pandemic by sending a message of prayer and solidarity to friends and benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need.

 

In an audio message sent Friday, March 27, Sister Annie, a project partner of Aid to the Church in Need, tells the charity’s supporters: “do not panic” and “follow the instructions about healthcare.”

 

The Religious of Jesus and Mary Sister goes on to thank ACN benefactors for their near decade-long help providing food baskets and sanitary items, clothing and medicine for the most vulnerable in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, pledging to pray for benefactors in this time of emergency.

 

“We need to help one another”

 

“It is very painful what the world is passing through at this time,” says Sister Annie. “In this situation of the coronavirus, do not panic about the news. Follow the instructions about healthcare. Describing how she and her Sisters are praying the Rosary every day “for the world,” she said: “Our faith is not like pressing a magic button and expecting everything to be OK. The pain and suffering is there but we must also not forget the Resurrection is there every day.”

Drawing on her experiences in Aleppo, northern Syria: “We need to help those who are most in need. We need to help each other, lift each other’s spirits and things will pass.”

Sister Annie, who warns of the impact of the virus on a Syria still reeling from years of conflict, said: “In Aleppo, our groups of volunteers are continuing, visiting homes where it is safe to do so and taking great care. We are helping the old people, especially because so many of them have no other support, and in Damascus our Sisters are helping some old people, buying what they need so they will not have to go out. People have nothing to rely on. How will they survive?”

She goes on to report progress with a supermarket voucher program for 260 families, especially for elderly people dependant on them, and a rent-payment program for the most vulnerable.

Sister Annie adds: “To all our ACN benefactors, we say very sincerely: ‘Thank you for your enormous generosity. You have helped us for so many years and continue to do so.’

“May God continue to bless you and keep you and your families safe and well.”

 

All around the world, the members of the Catholic Church are actively comforting people most touched by this pandemic provoked by Covid-19.  In many countries Sisters are nurses, they manage the dispensaries, the homes for the elderly and other health related institutions.  Helping them through this crisis means supporting the presence of the Church for the weakest members of society. Aid to the Church in Need around the world will continue to support the Church in every way possible.

 

Thank you for continuing your support, in any way you find possible.

ACN Feature Story – The worsening conditions in Syria after nine years of war

25.03.2020 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Sisters, SUBSISTENCE, Syria

Syria

Nine Years of war

Religious Sister living in Syria talks about the country’s tragic conditions

March 15th marked the ninth anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria. “The situation is terrible,” said Sister Maria Lúcia Ferreira, a sister from the Mar Yakub Monastery in Qara, in the Christian region of Qalamoun, in a statement to the Portuguese headquarters of ACN international.

 

Text by Paulo Aido, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted online March 25, 2020

According to the Portuguese-born religious, Sister Myri, “after the crisis in Lebanon and the new sanctions imposed on the country, the economic situation has become really terrible. People complain that they can barely buy [anything] to eat.”

Weather conditions have worsened an already difficult situation. “The winter was mild until January, when several snow storms struck us here in Qalamoun, one of the coldest places in Syria,” said the Sister, who belongs to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Unity of Antioch. Qalamoun is located in a mountainous area and is a traditionally Christian region, located in western Syria, near the border with Lebanon.

 

Burning clothing for heat

Sister Myri also explained that they had very little electricity in recent days. “Here in Qalamoun, we still get two hours with electricity and four hours without it, but I think the area is better off than others because we heard that in the city of Homs, they sometimes go two days without electrical power. It depends on the part of the country.”

As a direct result of electricity and gas shortages, of the economic crisis and of the worsening weather conditions, the poorest families are going through very hard times. The Portuguese nun gave as an example the tragic story of one family: “A local woman, whom we know well because she has a disabled daughter, told us that she had neither electricity nor gas. It is very hard to get gas in the country, or any kind of fuel oil to heat the furnace. So, she told us: “To keep Maria, my girl, warm, we have been burning clothes that we no longer use.”

Electricity shortages have also forced the Sisters to change some daily routines in the monastery. “Now we cook with firewood. We have to find firewood so that we can cook and eat something hot.”

“It’s horrible, people can no longer buy anything to eat. Some people survive on bread and water,” Sister Myri said. For this reason, she is asking for a show of solidarity and prayers for the Syrian people. “I would like to ask people to join us to pray for these people who are in such a situation.”

Like the town of Qara, where the sisters live, all of Syria continues to suffer from an extremely weak economy caused by nine years of war that have already left more than 380,000 dead and turned millions into refugees and internally displaced persons. The situation is exacerbated by the violence that continues in the northeast of the country, in Idlib province, where government forces are trying to capture the last stronghold still in the hands of jihadist groups. Syrian children are direct victims of this climate of war.

According to UNICEF, more than 300,000 children have been displaced from their homes and neighbourhoods since December alone. Approximately 1.2 million children are in a situation deemed extremely vulnerable.

ACN is implementing various humanitarian aid projects for the neediest populations in Syria, including children. An example is the “fuel for heating” campaign with which ACN is supporting four major projects in Aleppo and Damascus. This is enabling more than 1,700 families in need, including the elderly and the sick, to cook food and warm their homes for at least a few hours.

ACN Feature Story – Celebrating the restoration of a church in Syria

11.10.2019 in Peace, Persecution of Christians, Reconstruction, Syria

Syria

Celebrating the inauguration of the newly restored church of Haret Saraya, destroyed by jihadists in 2012

by Marta Garcia, for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

Marmarita/Königstein. —Evening is falling in the Valley of the Christians. From its high vantage point the Crusader fortress, the Crac des Chevaliers, built in the 11th-12th century, looks down impassively on the arriving visitors. Today is a day of festival in the church of Haret Saraya in the village of Al-Husn. The band of trumpeters and drummers plays on unceasingly.

The church, which is dedicated to Our Blessed Lady, looks resplendent with its freshly painted white walls and brightly coloured iconostasis. “They’ve rebuilt it just as it was before,” says local Archbishop Nikolas Sawaf, the Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Latakia.

In 2012 this church was ransacked and burned by the jihadists, who dominated the valley from their position overlooking the village in the historic Crusader fortress the Crac des Chevaliers, built by the Knights Hospitaller. They tore down the cross, profaned the holy icons and smashed and disfigured the statues. Nor did they spare the parish premises or the presbytery, even ripping the electric wiring from the walls of the house.

But seven years later—exactly on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross—the day becomes a feast for the faithful and the little church is packed with people during the re-dedication ceremony. Both Catholic and Orthodox priests from the region are present for the occasion. It is a scene of great joy. Outside in the courtyard, in front of a rejoicing crowd, the Orthodox choir of Our Lady of Al Wadi sings hymns of hope, peace and forgiveness, at the same time remembering those who disappeared, were killed or exiled by the war and calling on the Christians to stand fast and remain on their lands.

“Now that the church has been renewed, it is time for us to renew the living stones, our own hearts,” urges Father Andrzej Halemba to the faithful during the celebration. The head of the project section for the countries of the Middle East of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) says: “Our hearts have been broken by the violence, divided and unsettled by the events in our lives. Now is the time to renew them with the love of Christ. Let us pray for peace in Syria.”

ACN helped not only for the renovation of the church of Haret Saraya, but also for the repairs to the parish buildings and the presbytery. And at the same time it was possible to add on additional guest rooms and small business outlets in the village, so close to the historic tourist attraction of the Crac des Chevaliers, which will soon be welcoming visiting tourists once again. In this way it has been possible to some extent to help guarantee a longer term future for the Christian legacy here, where it has such ancient roots.

“ACN is like Simon of Cyrene for us, supporting us and helping us to carry our cross,” said Archbishop Sawaf, at the end of this day of celebration.

 

The projects for the rebuilding of the Christian structures in the village of Al-Husn were supported by ACN with grants totalling over $255,000. They are part of a broader program by the charity, for the reconstruction of the Christian infrastructure affected by the war in the various dioceses of Syria.

ACN Press: A Papal Blessing of an Icon for Syria

16.09.2019 in ACN, Pope Francis, Prayer, Press Release, Syria

A Papal Blessing of an Icon for Syria
Marie-Claude Lalonde among ACN delegates to Vatican

By Mario Bard, ACN Canada
Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Monday, September 16, 2019 — The national director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN), Marie-Claude Lalonde, attended this past Sunday, September 15, the blessing of an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Consoler of the Syrian People by Pope Francis. 

The ceremony took place at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican. The icon will be carried through 34 dioceses in Syria—as a sort of pilgrimage—offered for the veneration of the faithful along its path intended to finish in Damascus, in May 2020.

“It is a great joy for me to have participated in this event which took place just before the Sunday Angelus,” said a joyful Marie-Claude Lalonde on the other end of the line. “This blessing is a pure joy as we are at the very heart of ACN’s mission: providing pastoral support to Christians who are in need.” And she adds: “This initiative touches on every one of the calls for peace that Pope Francis has launched to put a stop to the abominable conflict that has caused so much suffering for Syrian civilians. With this gesture he has reaffirmed with strength his support of the Syria population broken by war.”

 

Pilgrimage of the icon: For the healing of hearts

This icon of Our Lady of Sorrows was written last August by Father Spiridon Kabbash of Homs and will be presented for the veneration of the faithful in 34 dioceses of Syria, likely until May 31, 2020.

I greeted the Pope in the name of all Canadian benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need Canada,” says Mrs. Lalonde

“The blessing of an icon can seem inconsequential to secularized societies like our own,” explains Mrs. Lalonde. “But in Syria, religious traditions are still present in public and social society and these gestures—such as to write an icon, bless it and offer it for veneration by the faithful for a period of nine months is a veritable balm, immense and almost essential for all Christians who are wounded by this filthy war, they who have survived through over eight years of fratricidal conflict.”

“Finally, I greeted the Pope in the name of all Canadian benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need Canada,” says Mrs. Lalonde in closing.

The Pope’s message to the families who will accompany the icon is: “You are not alone; we are with you.”

Meanwhile in Syria, the 6,000 rosaries blessed by Pope Francis one month ago were distributed throughout Syrian parishes as part of a larger prayer campaign for and with the Syrian people called Console my People, an initiative promoted by Aid to the Church in Need and the Syrian Churches.

Sunday, September 15, 2019 : Pope Francis,  blessing the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Consoler of the Syrian People. Next to the Icon, Father Spiridon Kabbash of Homs, the writer of the icon. (© ACN/AED)

A Drop of Milk in Homs, Syria

Aid to the Church in Need Canada continues to promote its fundraising campaign to raise over $378,000, for the provision of daily milk, for over 6,000 children aged 0 to 10 in the city of Homs for a period of six months.

There are three easy and secure ways to give for these children:

  • Give through our secure site: http://bit.ly/DropofMilk2019
  • By telephone: 1(800) 585-6333, Ext 222
  • By mail Aid to the Church in Need Canada
    PO. Box 670, Station H
    Montréal (Québec) H3G 2M6

 

ACN NEWS: Pope Francis Calls on Catholics to Pray for Syrian Families

16.08.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians, Syria

POPE FRANCIS AND ACN – AN ACN EVENT SUPPORTING SYRIANS

Pope Francis calls on Catholics to pray for Syrian families

By Amanda Griffin and Maria Lozano, ACN International
Published on the web, Friday August 16, 2019

Rome/Montreal, Thursday August 15, 2019 – This Thursday, August 15th, Pope Francis welcomed a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and blessed 6,000 Rosaries which will be offered to the families of the war victims in Syria.

Committed to helping the suffering Christians in Syria ACN has, since 2011, supported approximately 850 projects with a budget of 52.5 million dollars. But it is clear that money is simply not enough. Spiritual support is necessary to heal the wounds and scars left by a long war.

“The Rosaries, made on the initiative of ACN, shall be a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria, especially those who have lost a loved one. We continue to pray the Rosary for peace in the Middle East and in the whole world.” The words of Pope Francis came during the Angelus prayers at the Vatican audience with the pontiff attended by ACN President, Thomas Heine-Geldern, as Pope Francis’ personal commitment to praying for peace in solidarity with the Syrian people.

 

Consoling my people – September 15th

Considering the profound need for Christians, and indeed for the whole of Syrian society, for solidarity, consolation as well for forgiveness, reconciliation and purification of memory at both the personal and communal levels –the benediction of the Rosaries will be followed-up with a special celebration of prayers for peace in Syria, on Sunday, September 15, led by the Holy Father (In Rome).  The local Christian leaders with the support of the international pontifical charity are organizing a celebration in Syria on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.  Prayers for the families of victims of war (killed and kidnapped alike). Pope Francis will bless the icon of “Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians” written by a Greek-Orthodox priest in Homs.

On the same date many celebrations will unfold in all Syrian parishes where pastoral gifts will be given to families in mourning, with a special Vespers and a Procession titled: Console my people (cf. Is 40:1). With the Console my people celebration, ACN hopes to provide a much needed spiritual consolation and moral support to Syrian families and communities recovering from profound losses of members who were killed or kidnapped, to console families who mourn the loss of their dearest ones and commemorate the victims of war.

 

ACN Drop of Milk campaign for the children of Homs

Aid to the Church in Need Canada has launched a campaign to help the children in the city of Homs, Syria. The goal is to give milk daily to children of 0 to 10 years old, for a period of six months.  The objective is to raise 378,000 dollars.

Information: DropofMilk2019 or 1-800-585-6333.

 

 

ACN News: Eighth Anniversary of Civil War outbreak in Syria

25.03.2019 in ACN International, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Syria

Eighth Anniversary of Civil War outbreak in Syria


Aid to the Church in Need has supported 308 urgent projects since 2011

 

Friday, March 15 marked the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Syria. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) has continued to support the ongoing emergency situation in the country, especially the plight of the 127,185 Christian families registered in Syria.

The war in Syria has unleashed the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the Second World War, with some 12 million refugees and internally displaced as a result of the 8-year conflict.

Moreover, Christians in Syria now represent only 3% of the population, whereas before the war they were 10%. In addition to all the consequences of the hostilities and the economic embargo, they have also suffered religious persecution at the hands of the jihadist groups involved in the conflict. In fact, during these eight years of war, 1,707 Christians were murdered and 677 abducted; 1,309 Christian churches and other Church properties were destroyed and 7,802 Christian houses and homes damaged or destroyed.

 

44.2 Million Dollars in Aid

Since the March 2011 onset of the conflict, and up to the end in 2018, ACN allocated 44.2 million dollars to 738 projects to fulfil its mission of supporting the Church in need throughout the country. The projects were implemented by 9 different Christian Churches, thanks to the cooperation of 130 project partners on the ground.

Of the 738 projects funded, some 80% (35.2 million dollars) were given in the form of emergency aid, among them some 308 for the basic necessities of Christian families who have not left the country. To now, 10% of the aid has been for the reconstruction of people’s homes and Church properties. An additional 6% went to supporting priests in the country, in the form of Mass Offerings and pastoral aid.

 

Emergency Aid, Reconstruction and Pastoral Aid

In Canada, a project aimed to supporting the A Drop of Milk program for children has been active for two years. An initiative showcasing small classical music concerts given by local pianist and ACN supporter, Chantal Roussety, has brought $3,364 to the cause.  “The amount may seem very modest if we compare it to the grand total,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN. “But, for two years now, this personal project developed by Mrs. Roussety, is a reflection of the great sense of solidarity that the Syrians, particularly the children, are in need of. We are so very grateful for it.” In all, donations from Canadians rose to at $17,179.

Destined for children under the age of 10, A Drop of Milk represented 15% of the overall budget of all emergency aid given.  Finally, over three million dollars were attributed to paying the rents of displaced Christian families, and over 1.4 million dollars have served for the reconstruction of family homes.

The 13 main emergency aid projects funded during these eight years of war include the following: direct emergency aid for the most basic necessities; food parcels, financial support for students, medical aid, support with rent, heating, electricity, gas and water; milk and nappies for babies and small children, essential medicines, Christmas gifts for the children, warm clothing, educational materials and vocational counselling.

An Appeal from Pope Francis

Throughout these eight years of war, Pope Francis has continually denounced the injustice of the war in Syria and has continued to draw attention to the suffering of the Christians. “Let us pray and let us help the Christians to remain in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses to mercy, pardon and reconciliation,” he has stated. “May, the prayers of the Church, help them to experience the closeness of the faithful God and touch every human conscience to seek a sincere compromise for the sake of peace. And may God our Lord pardon those who are waging war, those who manufacture arms to destroy one another, and may he convert their hearts. Let us pray for peace in our beloved Syria,” he concluded.

ACN News: Rome – Pope Francis Lights a Candle for Syria

03.12.2018 in ACN International, ACN Italy, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Pope, Pope Francis, Prayer, Syria

An ACN Initiative

50,000 Candles for Peace in Syria

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is launching this Christmas a campaign of prayer, aid and solidarity for the people of Syria entitled Candles for Peace in Syria. The campaign formally begins on the first Sunday of Advent, 2nd December, with the symbolic lighting of a candle by the Holy Father following the recitation of the Angelus prayer.

In the last few days the initiative has involved over 50,000 children, of different religions, from several of the Syrian cities most severely affected by the war, including Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Marmarita, Hassaké, Tartus and Latakia. The children have prayed and decorated candles with symbols of peace– crosses, doves and messages of hope – to convey to the world their longing for peace. For all too often the primary victims of this still ongoing conflict, have been these little Syrian children.

ACN International is calling on people of goodwill all over the world to respond to this cry of peace from the children of Syria, among other things by lighting a candle, as the Holy Father did on Sunday, in order to amplify the resonance of this clarion call for peace from the children of Syria and send out a strong message of hope during the season of Advent.

 

The candle which the Holy Father lit was decorated by a local craftsman from the Bab Touma quarter of the Old City of Damascus and also bears the photos of some 40 children, most of them from Aleppo, together with the logo of the campaign – a dove with outstretched wings in the shape of a child’s hand and the message “Peace for the Children of Syria 2018” – plus the regular logo of ACN International.

This is not the first time that ACN has spoken out for the children of Syria. Back in 2016 the charity made an appeal to the European Parliament, conveying to it pictures drawn by the children, expressing their longing for peace.

Canada: A Prayerful Response and Little Acts of Solidarity

“In Canada, the benefactors who receive the Mirror will be able to direct their donation as a Christmas Gift for Syria,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN.  “ We invite them to pray especially that the families of Syria may fully taste the joy of a peaceful Christmas.  We hope that the Christmases to come will be experienced in peace.”  Aid to the Church in Need has already sent 22.5 million dollars for the reconstruction in Syria which adds to the already 44 million already given since the conflict began in 2011.

ACN Feature Story: Syria, “Helping to heal the spiritual wounds of the war”

19.11.2018 in International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Jesuits, Sacred Heart Sisters, Sisters, Syria, Texte: Josue Villalón

Syria 2016 September – Sr. Samia Jerij of the Sacred Heart Sisters in the courtyard of the Jesuits in the Old Hom

Syria

 “Helping to heal the spiritual wounds of the war”

Aid to the Church in Need is supporting the pastoral work of the Sacred Heart Sisters in the Syrian city of Homs.

The church of Altip, in the Bab Al-Sebaa district, just south of the Old Quarter of Homs, is a social and pastoral training centre. “Years ago it was a Catholic school, but then the government banned all non-state schools. Since then we have used it as a catechetical centre, giving religious instruction to young people and adults, and we also hold social events and sports days here,” explains Sister Samia Syiej, the religious Sister in charge of coordinating catechetical instruction for a group of children preparing for confirmation.

 

Sister Samia points out the exact spot where the bombs fell, close to the centre of Altip. “Local families have helped us to repair two sections of the roof which were destroyed by the bombing. But in addition to everything else, what we now have to do is to help repair not only the external damage, but the damage within people’s hearts. I am a religious, and my first responsibility is to bear witness spiritually and help people. This is what moves me. We lived through the war and witnessed it close up. Catechesis is important in helping to heal the wounds.”

 

Working alongside Sister Samia are a number of young university students who divide themselves between the various different catechetical groups and actively help in this pastoral apostolate. A delegation from our international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) happened to visit while they were endeavouring to explain to the young boys and girls about the life of Jesus during his Passion and Crucifixion, a central point of the Christian faith. One of these catechists is Haya Elias. “Sister Samia taught us how to become closer to God, and now we are passing this on those who come after us.” She is studying philology at university and has always been a member of the group helping the sisters.Sister Samia is a member of the Sacred Heart Sisters, a congregation founded in Syria and inspired by Ignatian spirituality. “We have 12 houses throughout Syria. I am also involved in pastoral work with disabled children. Our congregation is very active and we pursue a range of initiatives, both pastoral and social,” she continues.

 

Sr. Samia Jerij of Sacred Heart Sisters with children – Children receiving Christmas gifts in Aleppo 2017

 

“I am very conscious that I owe my life to God and to the prayers of people like Sister Samia,” says a young man who is currently unemployed. He was in the army, compulsorily recruited to fight in the war. During an ambush he was captured by a rebel group and held prisoner for months. Everybody assumed he was dead, but miraculously he succeeded in escaping. “I thank God, and I thank the Sisters for never having given up praying for me. I am so grateful to them today and so now I am helping them as a catechist.”

The Church in Syria is very much alive, despite more than seven years of war. The priests, and the religious brothers and sisters in the country have become a fresh source of hope for the people. “We have never stopped offering our help, our prayers and our accompaniment… Everything is being done through the collaboration of the priests, religious and laity. We all work together to organize these activities and, thanks be to God, we have some very active

Sr. Samia distributing more gifts.

young people,” Sister Samia continues.

 

In addition to coordinating the religious instruction, Sister Samia also works in a home for mentally handicapped children. “We have always carried out projects with the help of ACN, even during the bloodiest moments of the war. Children and adults alike often need a word of hope, and want to grow stronger in their faith. The children come to the church, and they can also be very demanding. During the summer, for example, we held a number of youth camps, which gave fresh hope to many people. This is what motivates us.”

 

Over the course of 2018, and thanks to the generous help of our many benefactors throughout the world, ACN has been able to support more than 35 pastoral courses and programs for young people and children in various different parts of Syria, for a total cost of $255,000.

ACN Feature Story – The courage of young people in Syria inspires

02.11.2018 in ACN International, By Josué Villalón, Syria

Syria

The courage of young Syrians inspires

On the streets of Homs

“When we hear Pope Francis we realize that there is still hope of peace in Syria.”

The universality of the Church is evident in Rome: the Synod of Bishops will continue October 28 where participants from five continents grapple with various topics related to young people, their needs and their problems. Against this backdrop, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has spoken to a number of young Christians in Syria. They explain what it means to them to be Christian and what they expect from the Church in their country, where they are a threatened minority that has been suffering from war for over seven years.

 

Syria, Marmarita January 2016 – Medication prescriptions and renting houses.

 Majd Jallhoum recently completed her dental studies. She works helping to distribute emergency aid at the Greek Catholic church in Marmarita, in an area known as the “Valley of Christians”. She asks the Church to be close to young people. “It does not have to be a perfect Church because none of us is perfect. But it should be close to us and know our wishes and what we long for.” Majd knew nothing of the meeting between the bishops and the Pope in Rome. But she believes this is a good opportunity to focus on the difficult situations in which many young people live in various countries. “Here in Syria we young Christians desire to be very close to God. We are going through difficult times. We have experienced the death of friends and relatives. Many others have left the country. But we have also experienced times of joy. There is no doubt that the hand of God is behind these.”

Majd Jallhoum, secretary of the Saint Peter Relief Centre, photographed with a displaced family in the Valley of the Christians.

Majd knows from personal experience the situation of many families living as displaced persons in the “Valley of Christians”. She often visits them to learn what they need, to accompany people to hospital or to distribute medications provided by ACN together with the local Church. “I stay here on account of my faith, even though I often lose hope. However, I have understood that my task is to remain here and help these people. My parents and some brothers and sisters have emigrated to the United States. But I have decided to stay here. My inspiration was and still is Jesus.”

Majd Jallhoum (first from the right), secretary of the Saint Peter Relief Center, with the group of volunteers of the Saint Peter Relief Center.

Hanna Mallouhi is also one of the displaced young persons in Marmarita who devote their time and energy to supporting the major relief work of the parish of St. Peter in the Valley of Christians. He fled from Homs five years ago to escape the bombing raids. Hanna is studying medicine. “Despite the war I didn’t want to abandon my studies. I chose to do my internship in a hospital in Damascus. When the war is over I’d like to stay here and help people so that they can have a better life in Syria.”

With regard to the Synod of Bishops he said: “For me it’s important that we young people are accompanied by priests and responsible individuals who lead a simple life and that they show us through their actions that we are important to them. I need the company of people who are close to God so that I also feel close to Him.”

There are also Christians still living in Homs, the third largest city of Syria after Damascus and Aleppo. They are found mainly in the old city of Homs, in the oldest quarter located at the foot of the ancient citadel. About 300 students gathered there in the recently reconstructed Melkite cathedral “Our Lady of Peace” to celebrate the Eucharist.

“I expect it [the Church ] to understand us, to encourage us”

Pascal Napki was among them. He is studying economics and regularly follows the Holy Father’s messages from Rome: “I don’t know Pope Francis personally. But from his words and deeds I see that he is a humble person. Every time we hear him we think that there is hope of peace in Syria. I am particularly moved when he calls for prayers for our country.” Next to Pascal is Halil, a pharmacy student who quietly reflects for a few seconds about the question: “What do I expect of the Church?” and then answers emphatically: “I expect it to understand us, to encourage us and to give us the opportunity to have faith in ourselves as well. I know that this isn’t easy. But it means taking the same road together, trusting one another and giving one another support.”

From right to left, Hanna Mallouhi and his brother Raja Mallouhi, inside St. Peter Releaf Centre in Marmarita, Valley of the Christians, Syria. University students supported by ACN in Marmarita, Syria, in order to transport to Homs for continuing their studies.

 

After the meeting, a group of young Christians goes for a walk in the quarter’s narrow streets. Tannous explains that because of the suffering in Syria some people have turned away from God. “But the bombs, the ever present distress and the violence have destroyed neither the zest for life nor the future plans of the young people. That’s why we as the Church must first encourage the young people to get close to God.” During the walk they enter a nearby church to pray together there. It is a church of St. Mary belonging to the Syriac Orthodox community. “Here we all live together as Catholics and Orthodox as a matter of course. This is part of our culture.”

Marmarita Volunteer distributors of ACN aid

As he enters the church Wisam says: “We pray for the Pope and for the Church in the whole world. Here faith is something fundamental. It makes up a large part of our identity. Over the past few years we have also overcome many difficulties in our families, in our studies and at work precisely because we have not lost our faith and our hope.”

 

The testimony of these young people from the Christian community in Syria, a minority which has suffered a lot in the course of the armed conflict, can be an inspiration for others. According to the Syrian Church 1.5 million Christians were living in the country before the war. At present, there are only about 500,000 Christians. The uncertainty, the violence and the threats from jihadi groups such as the so-called “Islamic State” have led to an unprecedented wave of emigration. ACN supports numerous projects for children and young people in various cities in Syria.

 

 

 

 

ACN News: Over 4.5 million dollars approved for 40 projects is Syria

23.07.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Syria

Aid to the Church in Need

Over 4.5 million dollars approved for 40 projects is Syria

 

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has approved a new package of aid measures involving over 40 pastoral and emergency aid projects for Syrian Christians of the various different rites and denominations. The charity hopes thereby in some way to ease the grave situation in which the people of the country continue to suffer, above all now due to the various economic sanctions such as the petroleum embargo. As Maronite Bishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo pointed out on June 27 this year in an address to the European Parliament in Brussels, these sanctions “are killing the Syrian people in the same way that the weapons are.”

 

Maronite Archbishop of Aleppo, Msgr Joseph Tobji, in his bombed-out cathedral, situated at the very heart of the old city.

“Why do the children and sick people have to die for lack of medicines? Why do the unemployed, who have lost their jobs, have to die of hunger because of the embargo?” the bishop asked the assembled European deputies.

 “The aid has to help people rebuild and get back to living a decent life.”

 

Responding to this and other similar desperate appeals for support from the local Catholic and Orthodox communities in Syria, ACN will be allocating over 3 million dollars for the basic support and medical welfare of needy and displaced families in various different parts of the country, and especially in Aleppo and Homs.

 

Another of the grave problems affecting the country is immigration, which, according to Bishop Tobji, is “a dangerous wound, which continues to bleed.” Moreover, an obvious part of this wave of involuntary emigration was the Christian Syrians, of course, already a minority before but now were going to be “wiped out if the situation created by the war does not end soon,” he added. Already “only a third” were left of those who were there before. In the face of this great diaspora, the Maronite Bishop wondered who would be left to rebuild the country, given that Syria was now a country “with no productivity, no labour force, a society without life.” The Christians, he said had always been a “cultural bridge” between East and West and had played a primordial role as an element of peace within Syrian society. “If the Christians disappear, there will be many problems, both for their own country and for Europe, which is not so many miles away,” he predicted.

Helping the children rediscover their capacity for play!

For this reason, among others, another of the main objectives of ACN is the help for children and young people – the future of the country and the reason why so many Christian families are emigrating. That is why a quarter of all the new projects approved by ACN aim to help the young. On one hand, ACN has launched a number of different educational aid programs and scholarships, given that many families have lost their work in their homes and have no means of funding their children’s basic education or university studies. It is this lack of financial means that has forced many to seek a future outside the country.

One of the projects supported by ACN – ‘Let me live my childhood! Children born into a world of bombs are able to get a little break thanks to donations to ACN and the word done by the local Church.

 

Now, in the coming months some 1,215 school pupils and 437 university students in Homs and 105 university students in Damascus will benefit from this program. In addition, ACN has undertaken to support the schooling of the children of some 300 especially needy families in Damascus and also of many sick and orphaned children.

 

“A number of projects are aimed at helping children and young people traumatized by seven years of conflict and war.”

At the same time, a number of projects are aimed at helping children and young people traumatized by seven years of conflict and war. Prominent among these is the initiative “Let me Live My Childhood” in the city of Aleppo. Father Antoine Tahan, parish priest of the Armenian Catholic Church of the Holy Cross, who is in charge of this initiative, explains: “Thank to the support of ACN the child will come out, having been stripped of ‘adult clothes’ and take back some of the gifts of childhood, which are irreplaceable.” In addition to this ACN will be supporting a number of summer courses for young people, organised both by the Maronite Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church in Aleppo, the city that has probably suffered most during the war.

 

Faithful to its pastoral character ACN approved almost a million dollars for the repair or restoration of a number of churches and monasteries, including the Maronite cathedral and the Syro-Catholic cathedral, both of which are in Aleppo, as well the training of seminarians and the support of priests. For as Bishop Tobji emphasizes, “the Church is the first port of call for the people” and yet the Church would be unable to provide is help without the support of “benefactors, organizations and ecclesiastical foundations like ACN.” Our aid “has to be able to help people rebuild, find work and resume a life in dignity”. Hence, his desperate appeal to the West: “Do the right thing; help us to find peace.”

 

An aid mission supported by Aid to the Church in Need – thank you for continuing to support this little girl’s future!