To provide spiritual, financial and physical support to Syrians amid the ongoing economic crisis in Syria, the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has sent close to $50 million in aid to conduct various projects since the start of the civil war in the Middle East country.
In partnership with numerous churches in Syria, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has provided ongoing support, including food, rent, medical aid and psychological support to thousands of Christian families in the country, which has endured nearly a decade of war and terrorism.
A representative from Aid to the Church in Need confirms that the charity has provided rent for hundreds of families in Aleppo for a year. The charity also runs a summer holiday program for disabled children who have suffered injuries from the war or were born disabled.
Since September 2020, the organization has also provided over 1,000 families with affordable bread. In recent years, the charity pledged over £1 million ($1.3 million) for projects in Syria. Since 2011, the start of the Syrian civil war, the charity has sent close to $50 million to provide pastoral and humanitarian aid to Syria’s Christian population.
“There are so many Syrians who went from supporting themselves to waiting in lines for help, and this has created a real sense of loss of dignity because many have become completely reliant on aid from our charity to survive,” said Edward Clancy, the director of outreach for Aid to the Church in Need, told CP. “We have to make sure that Christians in Syria are supported. We don’t want the churches in Syria to become just a bunch of museums or empty buildings that are only open to people who are visitors simply because the Syrian residents stop finding hope in their churches.”
Conflict erupted in Syria in 2011. Since then, the United Nations reports that over 5 million Syrians have fled the country, while 6 million are internally displaced. The international agency estimates that about 13 million people are in need of assistance. In addition to the civil conflict, Syrians have also been terrorized by Islamic extremists groups, such as the Islamic State.
Clancy told CP that since 2011, Aid to the Church in Need has provided about $35 million toward humanitarian aid (food, healthcare and housing), just under $7 million to support education and nearly $5.5 million for the reconstruction of homes, churches, schools and community centers. More than $1 million in general pastoral and community support.
Clancy, who has worked for ACN Charity for over 20 years and has been a director of the charity for 13 years, said he has been passionate about helping others in need for over a decade.
“As Christians, we are called to live and express faith to others, and evangelization happens in the way you serve others,” Clancy said. “Jesus came to serve and not to be served. Jesus died serving, and I think it’s our duty to do as Jesus did by living to serve. There are so many people in Syria that are in desperate need right now, and they don’t want to flee their country because that is the home they know. … There is a dire need.”
Many residents in Syria are without electricity, Clancy said. And without the ability to power a refrigerator, milk and food will spoil. Aid to the Church in Need has helped provide non-perishable items like flour, rice, dry beans, oil, sugar and powdered milk for many families in need.
The charity has built a soup kitchen and a social market in Syria while also building two COVID-19 testing centers, as well as providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizers to many families, according to Clancy.
“Many children in Syria do not have access to nutritional items that they need, such as milk, so we have worked to provide non-perishable items and powdered milk to as many families as we can so that their children can get the nutrition they need to be healthy and grow,” he said. “There’s no simple answer for these Syrian people because there are many diplomatic, civil, religious and economic issues coming together in one place. ... Christians had a life, and now it has gotten much worse.”
Clancy has not visited Syria in person in several years. However, his organization continues to be run by one staff member working on the ground in Syria alongside many priests and nuns from various Syrian church communities to help run the charity's efforts.
“The testimonies that I’ve seen on video from many of the Syrian people has told me and many others working to support the charity that we are helping in big ways,” Clancy said. “I think the biggest fear that many of these Syrians have is to be forgotten. Our biggest goal is to give hope, light and faith to people in difficult situations because faith moves us beyond darkness.”
Clancy encourages people everywhere “to pray for peace and hope in Syria.”
“My prayer is that God would give the leadership in Syria wisdom to lead and that they will have a lasting impact on the Christian community in Syria,” he said. “I hope that the communities that were most harshly affected will have healing and recovery and for the community to go back to the ability to grow.”