June 20 – World Refugee Day
In 2014, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) spent more than 13.9 million helping refugees and displaced persons around the world.
Montreal, Thursday June 18, 2015 – When the militia attacked their village in Nigeria, they knew that there was no time to lose. They grabbed their children and ran for their lives. We’ll call them Family G. – as they fled, the father was killed; the mother and children made it to the safety of a refugee camp. However, although the camp offers a certain degree of security, there isn’t really anything else. Essentials like water, food, blankets, medicine and hygiene items are in scarce supply and these refugee families are simply overcome by a deep lassitude.
These people have been traumatized. For they have had to watch as family members died or were lost to them as they attempted to flee. They no longer have homes they can return to. Their uncertainty gnaws at them like hungry rats, asking themselves the same question every day: What now? Family G. represents countless refugee families around the world, all of whom have similar stories to tell.
51.2 million displaced people around the world
Approximately 51.2 million people around the world are currently in search of safe haven. These families come from Nigeria, Eritrea or South Sudan, from Syria, Iraq or Ukraine. They are fleeing war and terror, political or religious suppression. Their persecutors may bear different names, but sow destruction under the same mask of hatred and delusion.
The Islamic terror organization, Boko Haram, has been ravaging northern Nigeria and Cameroon for six years. Around 1.5 million Nigerians are searching for safe haven within the country; another 136,405 people have fled to neighbouring countries. ACN is helping displaced persons from the especially hard hit dioceses Bamburi and Maiduguri in Nigeria with $62,500 and from Maroua-Mokolo, Cameroon, with another $20,700. In Central Africa the rebel forces Seleka are creating havoc. Communities overflowing with displaced persons in this area have received $90,300 in aid.
In South Sudan and Eritrea, people are fleeing both the unrests that keep breaking out between individual rebel forces as well as political and religious suppression. According to UNHCR, more than 560,000 South Sudanese are searching for a safe haven. Many have found refuge in refugee camps in Ethiopia: since 2014, ACN has come to their aid with $91,630. Projects for Eritrean refugees have been funded with $134,700.
In the Middle East, war and the terror organization Islamic State (IS) have been responsible for the displacing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Christians and intensified the wave of emigration in these countries that has been increasing exponentially since the Arab Spring began in 2011. UNHCR estimates 6.6 million refugees have come from Iraq and just under 4 million registered Syrian refugees.
Many have fled to neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Since 2014, Aid to the Church in Need has donated 10 million dollars to providing pastoral and charitable care to Iraqi refugees and another 6 million dollars for Syrian refugees inside and outside of the country, mainly in emergency relief.
The Gaza Strip remains in a constant and sad state of unrest. In 2015, ACN donated $20,820 to ensure that displaced Christians receive access to medical care in this region.
During the past year, the aid organization donated approximately $55,530 to Ukraine to fund a soup kitchen and provide medical care for people fleeing the Crimean conflict. Another $83,300 was given in 2015 to ensure the refugees access to pastoral care.
A major concern for ACN
From its very beginning, the situation of refugees has been a major concern to Aid to the Church in Need and remains so to this day. Through its refugee aid projects, ACN is keeping Father Werenfried’s legacy alive, a man who recognized the distress of German refugees after World War II and called upon his Flemish compatriots to make donations.
In his very first, evocative letter asking for donations, he wrote: “Many of us have it warm; we are doing well. We have a flat, glass windows that protect us from the cold and, despite the scarcity of food and other things that prevails because of the post-war period, despite extortionate prices, there is very little that we actually lack. But do we even think about the fact that outside, thousands of Marys and Josephs are making their way through Europe? That Christ is weeping in the guise of the poor, the homeless and the refugees, of hungry and thirsty people, of those incarcerated or sick, and of all those whom He has called the lowliest of His children and in whose misery He has concealed His incarnate form?”
An aid organization arose from this mission. The pontifical aid organization Aid to the Church in Need developed out of Father Werenfried’s first fundraisers and now has benefactors in over 21 countries. In 2014, the organization supported around 5,000 local church projects around the world with donations totaling 155 million dollars. Just from January 2014 to today (June 2015), the aid organization has invested more than 13.9 million dollars – in projects for refugees.
 These and other figures, source: UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c4d6.html