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Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo in bombed Maronite Cathedral, Old City, Aleppo, Syria
/ 20 April 2017

Lent Appeal 2016 – raising £164,000 for persecuted Christians

When we launched the 2016 Lent Appeal, no one knew that it would become one of the most successful Diocesan Lent Appeals.

In a step away from some of the more regular causes supported, the call to action from Bishop Richard was for parishes to support Christians in the Middle East who were (and still are) being persecuted because of their faith. There was a separate Diocesan Synod motion presented as an opportunity to do something collectively for our brothers and sisters in need so the Appeal came with the backing of the Synod as well as the Bishop of London.

The two charities chosen for the Appeal were Aid to the Church in Need and Open Doors UK. Both charities work in Iraq and Syria, two of the worst areas of persecution in the world for Christians. The target for this important cause was £35,000.

We are so blessed in this country to freely put our faith in God without the fear of persecution. The plight of fellow Christians living in Iraq and Syria with this ever-present threat touched the hearts and minds of many, both within our Diocese and further afield, so that the generosity of the support given far exceeded expectation. By the time last year’s Lent Appeal was officially closed on 31 December 2016 an exceptional £164,000 had been received from parishes, schools and individuals which has been divided between the two beneficiary charities.

Both Aid to the Church in Need and Open Doors UK have been astounded by the level of support and size of the gift they have received via the Diocesan Lent Appeal. Both have asked us to share their deep gratitude with all who supported this appeal.

Aid to the Church in Need

Huge thanks to the Anglican Diocese of London who chose Aid to the Church in Need as one of their 2016 Lenten charities. Parishes responded with compassion and generosity, raising over £80,000 for emergency aid in Syria and Iraq. This coming together of Christian communions in charity is very much in the spirit of Christian unity and we are honoured to be chosen, heartened by their confidence in us and gladdened, knowing the difference that their gift has made.

Thanks to generous benefactors including the Diocese of London parishes, in 2016 Aid to the Church in Need UK supported 57 projects in the Middle East with an unprecedented £2,304,350 of aid.

In Syria, this included six month’s supply of milk for 650 babies in Latakia; fuel, oil, gas, electricity, water and rent for 1,3000 displaced families in Aleppo and Hassake and 500 families in Damascus; rebuilding homes for 35 Armenian Catholics and help for Syrian refugees in  Damascus and Lebanon and for their host families. In Zahle and the Bekaa Valley, Lebabon, ACN is funding the St John the Merciful Table, which is a feeding programme for Syrian refugees.

In Iraq, ACN continues to be a key provider of humanitarian and spiritual aid. In 2016 we provided 12 months of food aid for 12,000 families in Erbil, northern Iraq and this January, in response to urgent requests for blankets and heating to help displaced families combat the harsh winter conditions, ACN has made an additional aid payment of £400,000.

Neville Kyrke-Smith, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) National Director said:

“We could only do this due to the extraordinary compassion and generosity of our benefactors – Catholic and Anglican – in easing the suffering of Christians worldwide. Our dual role in providing emergency relief to the persecuted and suffering, and ACN’s practical role in providing pastoral care for the Church globally, is echoed in Galatians [6:10]: ‘Let all our actions be for the good of everybody, and especially of those who belong to the household of the faith’.”

Mr Kyrke-Smith added:

“The situation in Iraq and Syria is changing and although there are now glimmers of hope, it will be many months before Christians in Iraq can even think of reclaiming their homes in villages and towns recently liberated from Daesh (ISIS). Homes have been looted and torched and there remains the danger of chemical pollution and unexploded devices. Until they can return and rebuild their lives these families remain entirely dependent on us – their brothers and sisters in faith.”

ACN’s Head of Press and Information has just returned from Aleppo, Syria and confirms that it is a ‘living Armageddon’. The suffering and need continue to be immense.

Aid to the Church in Need will remain alongside the Christian communities in Syria and Iraq – in the short-term, to help all who turn to the Church for emergency assistance and in the long-term, to help Christians who want to keep the light of Christ alight in the Middle East to rebuild their lives and their broken communities.

Open Doors

Thank you to the Diocese of London parishes for your response to Open Doors emergency appeal for Christians in Syria and Iraq in 2016. It has been a lifeline to the church in this region and to thousands of families, enabling them to stay in their beloved homelands and gain strength to face the future.

Open Doors is conducting a global, seven-year campaign to mobilise Christians around the world to bring hope to the Middle East. The needs of Christians in Syria and Iraq are changing rapidly – but the longing to return home unites both. This will entail rebuilding not just houses but hope. Not just towns but trust.

That’s where Christians can truly play their part. Pastor Edward, head of the Alliance Church in Damascus, says:

“We strongly believe that we are ambassadors of heaven. That means that we are a kind of outpost for the kingdom of Christ and the values of Christ. So instead of revenge: forgiveness. Instead of hatred: love. Instead of killing: giving life.”

Speaking up for our brothers and sisters now is critical in giving encouragement to all who want to return and rebuild, as well as providing the right political climate for them to do so. That’s why the Open Doors global petition is so important.

Iraqi church leader Thabet says;

“We will need international support and protection. That is the only way our future as Christians in this country can be guaranteed. I just signed this petition myself. Please join me.”

If you haven’t already, please do so now at www.opendoorsuk.org. Thank you for continuing to believe in a future for your brothers and sisters – and for playing your part in giving them hope at this significant time.

 

Aid to the Church in Need and Open Doors UK would be delighted to hear from you if you require any further information about their work so please do get in touch with them direct.

In the meantime, it’s still not too late to support this year’s Lent Appeal on behalf of ALMA, and our Diocesan Partners in Angola and Mozambique as they start ‘Sowing Seeds for Tomorrow’.  Your money will support the education of the future leaders and church leaders in these two nations facing huge challenges of poverty, drought and unrest.


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