Benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) responded to the covid-19 pandemic by donating more in 2020 than the previous year, as the Foundation rushed out emergency projects amid growing persecution.

ACN thanks supporters, who helped priests, Sisters and lay workers tackling the coronavirus crisis, as the charity released its annual report on Friday 18th June highlighting a global increase in support last year.

Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN (International), said: “Not only did the pandemic turn our own work upside down, but it also dramatically worsened the plight of Christians in many regions of the world, who found themselves literally, almost overnight, without work, pay or food.”

Dr Heine-Geldern added: “In this emergency, however, ACN’s benefactors remained true to the charity. This great generosity leaves us feeling profoundly grateful.

“It was quite unforeseen, especially since the crisis has inflicted profound economic insecurity and difficulties on us all.”

Aid to the Church in Need said there had been changing regional priorities in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

Aid for Africa increased to 32.6 percent (from 29.6 in 2019), caused not only by the coronavirus crisis but also by the growing threat of Islamist extremism.

Dr Heine-Geldern said: “We are greatly concerned, particularly for the countries of the Sahel region, where there has been an explosion of terrorism.

“The pandemic has made the situation of the uprooted refugees yet more difficult, and in many cases the Church is the only institution still remaining to support the people”.

Asia was another priority region, receiving 18 percent of the charity’s aid in 2020.

According to reports, there were 327 incidents of discrimination or persecution against Christians in India last year, despite several lengthy coronavirus lockdowns.

A total of 4,758 projects worldwide were supported by ACN last year.