Repairs to schools, churches, monasteries, a kindergarten and a youth centre are to go ahead after a leading Catholic charity agreed significant additional aid for families made homeless by February’s deadly earthquakes in Syria.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) announced today (2nd October) that it is providing a second tranche of more than US$460,000 (£384,300) to help vital Church-run facilities – as well as providing ongoing aid to those who lost their homes.
Xavier Bisits, ACN’s head of Syria and Lebanon projects, thanked the charity’s supporters for making it possible to help Christian communities whose lives were devastated by the quake – after suffering 12 years of civil war.
He said: “ACN is grateful to its benefactors for supporting this new earthquake response package.
“This package covers repairs to nine churches and monasteries, two schools, one kindergarten, a community centre and a youth centre.
“It also covers the purchase of a new vehicle for a missionary priest whose van was crushed by rubble during the quake.”
More 60 percent of the aid will go to Aleppo and include the restoration of two schools – including one run by the Mekhtarist Fathers where those made homeless in February were provided with food and shelter – and a centre supporting poor families.
Syria’s Churches have been working ecumenically to support the people following the natural disaster.
And in Latakia, ACN help will be given to the restore the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St George, the Melkite Greek Catholic Monastery of Our Lady of Joy and the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of St Mary.
Mr Bisits, who has made regular visits to the quake-hit regions to oversee relief efforts, added: “This aid will help the Church to get back on its feet, to keep serving the most vulnerable, and to continue its most basic pastoral work, in a country that is still in crisis mode.”
ACN was one of the first organisations to provide emergency relief after the earthquakes, working through local Church partners.
The charity’s original support focused on providing emergency aid including rent and shelter for families made homeless by the natural disaster as well as psychological assistance.
Franciscan priest Father Fadi Azar from Latakia, whose community provided help for those affected by the earth tremors, thanked ACN for its ongoing assistance.
He said: “ACN’s support was fundamental to the implementation of the emergency response in Latakia, where 440 families were helped through various activities, including the distribution of food kits and hygiene items, as well as the rehabilitation of four houses.”
The earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria in early February claimed the lives of more than 59,000 people.
Most of the fatalities occurred in Turkey but almost 8,500 people died in Syria.