Faced with the dramatic situation in Lebanon and Syria, the international foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has launched a Christmas campaign for emergency assistance to support Christian communities in these two countries.
The “Sharing hope with the Christians of Syria and Lebanon” campaign presents real life stories of the daily struggles of families and religious just to survive.
“Our project partners sometimes feel despondent and tired, they think the world has forgotten them, but they retain a glimmer of hope, because they know we are with them, and that our benefactors are answering the call. They know we will do everything we can to help them to stay in their homelands, with decent conditions”, says Regina Lynch, the foundation’s Director of Projects.
ACN’s emergency assistance campaign includes projects in the fields of medical support for individuals and for hospitals, aid for the sick and elderly, food and essential goods for needy families, financial aid for youth and children in schools that run the danger of closing, support for the formation of seminarians, funding of pastoral activities for university students, help for scout groups, subsistence aid and funding of spiritual retreats for religious sisters and mass stipends for priests.
“Both Lebanon and Syria, two Biblical countries, are being emptied of their Christian populations, due to the wars and economic crises that have ruined them, plunging families into hunger and misery. Many people are also desperate with the lack of prospects and the difficulty in securing an education for their children. Without our help, the Christian population would see emigration as the only possible solution,” Lynch explains.
Besides emergency aid projects, ACN has several programs in place aimed at bringing a little bit of joy to the youth and the most vulnerable this Christmas season. In Lebanon a total of 14,000 children will receive a Christmas gift, as well as warm clothes, thanks to the different projects operating in the country. In Syria the largest project includes the provision of winter clothes for close to 30,000 children. In Aleppo a total of 1,500 children, sick and elderly will be able to participate in Christmas celebrations, with Christmas carols, plays, and a meal, thanks to the assistance of ACN.
“It is also Christmas in Syria and in Lebanon, where children have no experience of a Christmas as it used to be, with no worries, and as far as the adults are concerned, it has been a long time since they were able to sit around a Christmas tree and enjoy food and gifts with their families. Let’s make Christmas a time of solidarity with our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters and this year especially with our brothers and sisters from Syria and Lebanon!” pleads Lynch.
After experiencing several conflicts, Lebanon was going through a relatively prosperous time, and had opened its doors to millions of refugees, mostly from Syria, when it suffered the biggest economic collapse in its history. The Beirut Port explosion, in 2020, was the final blow, sinking the country into despair.
Pope Francis, meanwhile, has qualified the situation in Syria as a “scandal”. The country is still in a catastrophic situation due to the war that began in 2011 and continues in the north of the country. Meanwhile, for most of the world the war and ensuing destruction have been all but forgotten.
“At least 90 per cent of the population in Syria lives below the poverty line, and in Lebanon it is more than 70 percent. The situation is very serious, but it runs the risk of becoming hidden from the world’s view, now that attention is turned more towards the war in Ukraine. The reports we are getting from priests and nuns are heart-wrenching. We cannot turn a deaf ear,” says ACN’s Director of Projects.
“The survival of Christian populations in Syria and in Lebanon – both of which are mentioned in the Old and the New Testaments, home to Popes, doctors of the Church, and saints – is in danger. We have to do whatever we can,” Lynch says.