AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED (ACN) is embarking on a program of reconstruction and restoration in Syria, including inAleppo, one of the cities that suffered some of the heaviest fighting in the country’s civil war. Among the seven projects for the physical reconstruction of the city there are three involving Catholic cathedrals, namely the Armenian Catholic, Maronite and Syriac Catholic cathedrals. They represent the riches of the Eastern rites in Aleppo, while at the same time symbolizing the Christian roots of the city.
“The churches are like lighthouses in the ocean; they are a source of security and hope, [their repair and rebuilding] are but the first steps towards encouraging the return of the uprooted Christians here—a process ACN knows well, having been so involved in the reconstruction of the towns and villages destroyed by ISIS in Iraq,” said Father Andrzej Halemba, who heads the Middle East desk for ACN. Last year, ACN also sponsored the reconstruction of the Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Homs.
In addition to supporting two parish community centers and a biblical study center, ACN has promised help to complete the renovation work on a center for autistic children, which has been run by Franciscan missionary sisters for the past 21 years. The building is very damp due to the breakdown of the heating system during the war, and poses a real danger to the health of the 15 children cared for there on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, there are ongoing aid programs for the hundreds of displaced families that ACN has been supporting from the very beginning of the conflict in 2011, in Aleppo and in other cities, such as Homs and Latakia. “Although we would like these families to be able to return to their homes and be able to begin a new life, there is still a good deal to be done in order to make this possible. And meanwhile we cannot cut off our aid, since the local Churches cannot take on this burden. According to the UN, some 13.1 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance today. Those who are suffering most are the poorest,” Father Halemba explained.
ACN will be spending two-thirds of the $2M newly allocated on renewed emergency aid packages. These will include paying the rent for 340 families in Homs; providing medical assistance for around 700 people in Aleppo; and a monthly allowance for food and healthcare over the next six months for 1,725 of the poorest families in Latakia. Including these new projects, the number of projects ACN is carrying out in Syria in 2018 stands at 121, at a cost of $8M.
Father Halemba insists: “The suffering is not over yet! We face massive challenges simply in easing the terrible wounds inflicted over the past eight years, and at the same time we cannot forget that the future of these people lies in our hands and that we have a responsibility towards them.”