“The Church must give the people bread with one hand and the Bible with the other”
ACN has carried out 140 emergency aid and pastoral projects – £5 million (€8 million) – in Syria since the conflict began four years ago. One such project enables 140 students to continue to attend university.Another project provides rent subsidies, emergency food aid and other necessities for nearly 300 suffering displaced families.
These are some examples, though the photos speak for themselves:
- A recently arrived family was living in terrible conditions in the basement of a house in Aleppo which is in a very bad state. The house is full of damp. No lighting of course. ACN paid for electricity and other necessities.
- Another displaced family was living in great poverty – the Father only earned 2000 SYP in a week which is equivalent to 8 Euro, and five members of the family had to live on that! When an ACN aid worker visited them, their fridge was empty, the house was dark and he had to sit on the balcony to see them. ACN installed lighting and provided other help.
- After the rebels cut off the water supply in Aleppo city the ACN aid team tried to help the people. They hired a truck and bought a large tank to fill with water and a generator to fill the people´s home tanks.
A Syrian-Catholic Christian* explained that the individual fates of the refugee families are a matter very close to her heart. “We are aiding a family that lost a child in an explosion in Damascus. Their second child is now sick with cancer and needs urgent medical support.” She was also moved by the fate of a young mother who also lost her husband in an explosion in Damascus. “She is now struggling to survive with two small children. But she nevertheless finds the strength to help other refugees as part of our team of volunteers. This is a true example of Christian love of neighbour.”
Father Halemba, ACN Head for the Middle East, emphasised that, for ACN, alongside humanitarian aid the support of pastoral projects is also important. “In the city of Qusayr, for example, we have supported the renovation of a Church that was destroyed by the Jihadists. It can now be used again for religious services. This gives the people hope that life can go on. The Church must give the people bread with one hand and the Bible with the other. People need material as much as spiritual aid.”
Father Halemba is particularly concerned about the coming winter. “Fuel and gas are in short supply in Syria and very expensive. But the people need these for heating. Last year some 50 people died from the cold. We will therefore need to pay particular attention to aid for the winter.”
* (Following the kidnapping of Father Mourad and other aid workers by ISIS, we can no longer identify the names of aid workers, ACN staff and local volunteers working in war zones, so as not to endanger them.)