HOLY LAND: Fresh aid gives hope for Christians on the breadline

Jerusalem’s Old City.
Jerusalem’s Old City.

A Catholic charity has announced a second package of emergency aid for Christians who lost their livelihoods because of the war in Gaza.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will be supporting the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem with £430,000 (€500,000) between January and April 2024, bringing the combined total amount of assistance provided since the start of the fighting last October to nearly £600,000 (€700,000).

Of the total amount, (£260,000) €300,000 is supporting about 1,000 Christians remaining in Gaza.

The rest of the aid will help Christian families in the West Bank and East Jerusalem who have also been impacted by the ongoing conflict.

The majority of the Holy Land’s Christian community work in the tourism sector and have lost all sources of income since almost all pilgrimages to the region have been cancelled.

The newly announced aid package includes life-saving medicine, food coupons, help with tuition fees and housing costs.

ACN will also be supporting training programmes to equip young Christians with new skills – boosting their employment opportunities – and offer guidance on starting their own businesses.

Marco Mencaglia, ACN’s Director of Projects, said: “From the beginning of this war, we have told our partners on the ground in the Holy Land that we will not abandon them, neither in terms of material help, or in terms of spiritual aid, and we intend to fulfil that promise.”

He added that, despite the fighting taking place in Gaza, “the effects of the war are being felt all over the region, and Christians, who are a minority but still a significant community – around 45,000 in the West Bank and 10,000 in East Jerusalem – are being affected in a very direct way”.

Mr Mencaglia said that the Christian community in the Holy Land is facing severe economic hardship “for at least the third time” within two decades.

He highlighted that Christians have suffered greatly as a result of intermittent fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and “more recently during the COVID pandemic, and now because of the war in Gaza.

“What is more, there is no indication that the war is coming to an end, and that tourists will begin to return to the Holy Land.”

He explained the rationale behind ACN’s support for training initiatives for young people: “Rather than give them money, we are helping to provide them with skills and a means to earn a living.

“This is much better in the long run, as it is what helps keep communities anchored in their homes and dissuades them from emigrating.”

ACN’s UK office is only able to contribute to the support in the West Bank and East Jerusalem because UK counter-terrorism sanctions prohibit the transfer of funds into Gaza.

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem told ACN: “Let me take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to Aid to the Church in Need for your ongoing collaboration with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and your support for our local communities in the Holy Land.”