Friends and staff of a leading Catholic charity’s UK office are running the Fitbit Semi de Paris this March, joining European and Latin American colleagues, raising funds for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
ACN’s UK runners of the half-marathon on the 5 March will include Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, National Ecclesiastical Assistant and assistant priest at Farm Street Parish – as well as Sebastian Cichocki, Maintenance Manager at Farm Street.
Neville Kyrke-Smith who returned from Lebanon on the 19 February said: “I have seen our ongoing commitment in Lebanon with ACN projects for refugees from Syria and Iraq in place now and for the future – the rebuilding of hope, the rebuilding of faith and the rebuilding of lives.”
He added: “It is great to take part in the run alongside other ACN colleagues from Mexico, Spain, France as well as the UK.”
The National Director of ACN Mexico, Julieta Appendini will be travelling more than 5,700 miles (9,200 km) to take part in the race.
Mr Kyrke-Smith said: “I am aiming for a personal best – but this should not be too difficult as I have never run that distance before.
“Prayers needed and sponsorship much appreciated!
“So far, £845 in sponsorship for the race has been raised to help the Suffering Church in the Middle East.”
Aid to the Church in Need staff will be running to raise money for the charity’s emergency aid projects in northern Syria and Iraq including food, shelter and other essentials for those suffering.
With average winter temperatures in Syria falling to four degrees Celsius, vital help with heating for 700 Christian families in Aleppo was among 98 new projects announced by the charity this month.
John Pontifex, who visited Aleppo, Syria in January, said: “The Christian community has fallen from perhaps 250,000 to barely 30,000. This decline is far sharper than that of Aleppo’s overall population, which has fallen from about 2.5 million to some 1.5 million.”
Mr Pontifex said: “When I do the run, I will think of the many people I met a few weeks ago in Aleppo. In that devastated city, there is an urgent need to continue ACN’s work, providing emergency aid and spiritual support.”
The charity is also providing ongoing aid for those forced out of their homes on the Nineveh Plains by Daesh (ISIS) in 2014.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq highlighted the need to continue supporting internally displaced Christian families being looked after by the Church in Ankawa and other parts of the Kurdish capital Erbil.
He said: “[T]here is an urgent need for us to continue to exist here in Ankawa… and we will need continued donor funds to achieve this.”
The group from ACN will be running alongside the river Seine and past landmarks of east Paris such as the Quai d’Austerlitz, Bastille, Hôtel de Ville and Bercy Arena before crossing the finish line at Route De La Pyramide, next to Chateau de Vincennes.