SYRIA/LEBANON: Sisters brighten dark times with Christmas gifts for children

Children receiving Christmas gifts in Syria.
Children receiving Christmas gifts in Syria.

A Catholic charity is helping religious Sisters distribute Christmas gifts to 35,000 children in Syria and 10,000 in Lebanon whose parents cannot afford to purchase presents for them.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is working with the Sisters of St Joseph of Lyons and the Congregation of Jesus and Mary to provide warm winter clothing for the children of families struggling to make ends meet at a time of severe economic hardship.

Sister Raymonda Saada of the Sisters of St Joseph of Lyons in Lebanon told ACN: “We want to stand with needy families, particularly children.

“With simple means, we can give joy and hope, witness to the incarnation of Emmanuel, the presence of God among us, and fashion a new world.”

Many families in Syria and Lebanon find it difficult to put food on the table, and any gift they receive brings them joy, according to Sister Saada.

ACN has been supporting this project in Syria since 2015 and in Lebanon since 2021 to help relieve the suffering caused by war and a collapsing economy.

Sister Saada recalled last year’s experiences: “We sensed that this project was a call from God.”

She added that there was no shortage of volunteers wanting to help.

She said: “It was like a beehive around here: helpers were swarming everywhere.

“Even mothers who didn’t have much time came, to give at least an hour wrapping presents.

“They were determined to contribute to giving children joy at Christmas.”

Sister Annie Dermerjian.

Sister Annie Demerjian of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary in Syria said: “Many families here can only dream of new clothes.

“To buy a pair of trousers, a shirt and shoes these days in Syria you need two months of minimum wage.”

Those receiving gifts this Christmas include the children of two widows, Farha and Nidaa, from the Lebanese village of Qaa on the Syrian border, whose husbands – the families’ sole breadwinners – were killed in a Daesh (ISIS) suicide attack in 2016.

Farha, a mother of three, and Nidaa, a mother of four, receive only about £80 a month each from the government – a fraction of what they would need to cover their basic living costs, let alone psychological help for their traumatised children.

Sister Saada said: “In my prayers I never forget ACN’s benefactors.

“Without you we would not be able to achieve anything.”

She concluded: “Thank you for believing in this project.

“You and all your donations are what made this dream a reality.

“We are absolutely sure that Jesus Christ is blessing you, wherever you are; and with every present, with every smile of a child, you are receiving a special grace.

“We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”


With thanks to Sina Hartert