Keeping faith and hope alive

Charity announces more emergency help for Syria and Lebanon.

Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need is supporting a pastoral centre in the city of Homs headed by Fr Ziad Hilal SJ which is providing medical assistance for those with physical disabilities and education for youngsters with learning difficulties – as well as humanitarian aid. Fr Hilal started the centre’s work in 2012 at the request of Fr Frans van der Lugt, who was shot dead last month while looking after Christian families trapped in the Old City of Homs. According to Fr Hilal, 6,000 families from Homs and the surrounding area are cared for at the centre – regardless of their religious or ethnic background. The Jesuit priest is supported in his work by about 100 volunteers. The help for the work in Homs comes as part of a new emergency aid package of nearly £230,000 (€280,000) announced today (7th May 2014) by ACN for those caught up in the conflict in Syria. As well as helping the centre in Homs, the charity’s aid will assist displaced Christian families in Aleppo and Wadi al-Nasara (the Valley of Christians), close to the Lebanese border.

The Catholic charity also announced a further £106,700 (€130,000) in emergency relief for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Supporting people in Homs is a top priority for ACN and speaking to the charity before Fr Van der Lugt’s death Fr Hilal said the situation there was difficult: “Time and again there are fights between the Free Syrian Army and government troops. Recently a bomb fell very close by. Fortunately nothing happened to our secretary, but her home was destroyed.” He added: “Of the 120,000 Christians who used to live here, 6,000 had left the city and fled to other areas in Syria or abroad.” Fr Hilal’s superior had given him permission to leave the city, but he had rejected the idea. He told ACN: “If we go, who will then serve the people?”

ACN Middle East projects coordinator Fr Andrzej Halemba said he fears that the situation in Syria will continue to deteriorate leading to more aid being needed for rising numbers of displaced families. He said: “The suffering of the people in Syria, and especially of the Christians, will become even greater.” More than 9 million Syrians have fled their homes, of which 2 million have fled abroad and 7 million are still in the country.

Since the start of the war in March 2011 ACN has given nearly £2.9 million (€3.5 million) for displaced families in Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries – with £520,000 (€634,000) in emergency relief being given since January 2014, including money from gifts made in wills.

A gift made in a will can, at times, literally mean the difference between life and death in humanitarian crises or natural disasters where children, families and adults have been left destitute and without hope. A legacy can truly be a gift that brings life, hope and the prospect of re-building fractured lives.

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