In 2019, ACN raised $119M, funding 5,230 projects in 139 countries

IN 2019, AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED (ACN), which has 23 national offices and more than 330,000 individual donors around the world, raised $119M for the benefit of suffering and persecuted Christians worldwide.

Carmelites in Venezuela

Some 80.4 percent of the funds was spent on three areas ACN considers to be the pillars of its mission: Giving direct financial support via aid projects; providing information about the plight of Christians around the world; and encouraging Christians in the West to pray for their suffering brothers and sisters.

In 2019, ACN sponsored 5,230 projects, responding to a broad range of needs in 139 different countries, above all in Africa and the Middle East. The total spent on projects in the field—supporting 1,162 dioceses—was $85M.

Africa received the bulk of funding, accounting for almost a third of all spending, which made possible the support of 1,766 projects. In three countries where Islamist terror targets Christians—Nigeria, Cameroon and Burkina Faso— ACN funded 264 projecs for a total of $3.3M. The conflict-ridden Democratic Republic of the Congo saw most of the ACN projects in Africa, 268, for a total of $3.7M.

Some 22 percent of project aid went for the support of the Christian minorities in the Middle East. In Syria, ACN funded 132 projects for a total of almost $8.5M. Projects there mainly focused on basic emergency and survival aid, as conflict and economic hardship continue to plague Syria. The other major beneficiary was Iraq, where ACN in the last few years rebuilt and repaired more than 6,000 Christian homes on the Nineveh Plains, allowing an exiled Christian community that had fled an ISIS invasion to return home. Last year, ACN began to focus on the repair of places of worship and monasteries. Most notable was the rebuilding of the Al-Tahira cathedral in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian church in Iraq.

Another country affected by warfare and grave economic ills—yet at the same time spiritually rich—is Ukraine. In 2019l, it was the priority country for ACN in Eastern Europe, with a total of almost 300 projects and close to $4.5M allocated in funding.

Priestly ordination in Uganda

In Latin America, Venezuela has become the country in receipt of most aid, after Brazil. ACN funded 108 projects providing vital support for the Church in Venezuela and its people. For many people the Church is the sole support in a country suffering from a political and economic crisis, social upheaval and the almost total lack of health care. In Asia, ACN’s priorities included aid for Pakistan ($1.1M) and India ($5.8M), where respectively Islamic fanaticism and extreme Hindu nationalism pose grave threats to the Christian minorities in those countries.

ACN also provided aid in the form of Mass stipends, with 1,378,635 Masses celebrated around the world for the intentions of ACN donors. This program represents more than 15 percent of all spending. It enabled ACN to support 40,096 priests—roughly one in every ten around the world. Most of the stipends were used not simply for the living expenses of the priests themselves, but also for the benefit of the people by making pastoral and social work possible.

ACN continued its support for the formation of seminarians and members of religious congregations, aid the the organization regards as crucial for the future of the Church. Thanks to this program, more than 13,000 women religious were able to continue their service to the poorest and most vulnerable people under their care. ACN supported the studies of more than 16,200 seminarians around the world—one in every seven worldwide. Together, these programs accounted for some 16 percent of the aid allocated last year.

Last year, ACN funded the purchase of 266 cars, 119 motorbikes, 266 bicycles, four buses, three trucks and 12 small vessels to facilitate the pastoral mission of the Church by land and sea in many remote and difficult regions, for example in Brazil, Burundi, India and Madagascar.

In 2019, ACN has spoken up for persecuted Christians before international organizations such as the United Nations and it has testified before the European Union. ACN also published many articles in six or more languages. ACN’s video production arm produced a number of face-to-face interviews and documentaries chronicling the plight of suffering Christians for international distribution.

There are some 200 million Christians around the world who are unable to practice their faith freely, and there are more than 80 countries in the world where the fundamental right to religious liberty is not guaranteed. Christians are persecuted, oppressed, or discriminated against in more than 40 countries.

A priest in Ukraine

ACN also invited victims of persecution and leaders of local Churches suffering hardships to speak at international meetings, events and conferences. They were given a platform so that they could give personal testimony about situations that are often unknown to, or ignored by, the West.

In the realm of prayer, one initiative worth mentioning among many others is the Rosary Campaign, “A Million Children Praying the Rosary” for unity and peace in the world. On Oct. 18, 2019, with the support of Pope Francis and by getting the word out through social media, hundreds of schools, parishes, religious communities and countless families in more than 80 countries around the world joined together in this campaign of prayer—united in the conviction that in addition to concrete practical aid, prayer and faith are ultimately most vital to the healing of the world.

Despite the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, ACN looks to keep up the level of support for the suffering Church in 2020. Although this is a great challenge, the needs in many countries have greatly increased. Since April 2020, ACN has already allocated $5.5M for the support of priests and women religious, and those they serve, in some of the poorest countries. Additional emergency aid programs helping Christians suffering from the fall-out of the pandemic— notably in Syria and Pakistan—are underway.

—Maria Lozano