By Reinhard Backes, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
ACN, Königstein/Montreal, Monday, February 16, 2015 – The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has pledged millions in emergency aid in response to the catastrophic situation that has befallen millions of people in Syria after four years of war. More than 3.27 million dollars have been spent to fund a number of projects and to support those in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities who have been hard hit by the war, explained Father Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East section of Aid to the Church in Need.
Since the outbreak of violence in Syria in March of 2011, the situation of the country’s Christians in particular has deteriorated dramatically: hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands have been driven away. Families have lost members, and yes, their entire means of existence. Children and adolescents have been barred from attending school for months, sometimes years at a time. In addition to meeting the most immediate needs, the emergency aid seeks to offer Christians in Syria as well as the entire Middle East new prospects for the future.
12.2 million affected
Father Andrzej Halemba said, “We are especially worried about the Christians in Aleppo and Damascus, but also the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Fear is ever present. It is intense, almost palpable, especially since the new so-called Islamic State was proclaimed. Bishop Audo of Aleppo told me, “Aleppo’s Christians are afraid that what happened in Mosul will also happen to them. This is a new, and unfortunately justified, fear of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The Islamic State openly shows its murderous intentions against anyone who does not bend to its brand of extremism. They are proud of their cruelty against ‘unbelievers’ and blatantly fall back on the sword.”
According to Father Halemba, another reason the situation of the Syrian people has become so desperate is because the interest of the international community has noticeably waned and this despite the fact that the European Union has calculated that 12.2 million people are affected by the war in Syria. This brings the number of internally displaced persons to 7.8 million and the number of Syrians living in barely accessible parts of the country or war zones to 4.8 million.
It is estimated that 5.6 million children are directly affected by the war; the number of those who are no longer able to attend school lies at 3 million.
The aid money donated by Aid to the Church in Need has benefited thousands of families living in war-torn regions. The money is being used to provide basic foodstuffs, medicine, and emergency medical care, along with rent for housing as well as heating and electricity. The funds have also been allocated for the pastoral and charitable endeavours of Christians in Syria who are working in various communities to help their fellow Syrians obtain housing and care. For example, for Sisters in Al-Hasakah (Hassaké) in the north-eastern part of Syria by the Turkish border who are providing emergency medical care and distributing relief goods. Or for priests in Aleppo and Damascus who are helping supply the victims of the war with material and pastoral care.
Over the next few days on ACN’s blog – aidchurch.wordpress.com – you will have be able to read stories which, along with describing the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also give you access to poignant testimonials from religious workers on site, as well as other people living this unspeakable tragedy.