More than 330 projects across 76 countries were paid out in 2021 by the UK office of a leading Catholic charity – one of the best years on record and achieved in spite of the COVID pandemic.
Projects supported by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) included urgent medical support for Syrian Christian refugee families in Lebanon, subsistence aid for priests, Sisters and catechists ministering in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, and a Church-backed campaign providing emergency COVID-19 help for the poor in Delhi’s slums.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director ACN (UK), said: “Given the immense challenges our brothers and sisters faced in so many countries last year, I am once again humbled by our benefactors’ love in response to their suffering.
“That we were able to help with a near-record amount of aid in 2021 is a testimony to our benefactors’ compassion for the Church in need.”
According to Mr Kyrke-Smith, the more than £9,000,000 in project support provided by the UK office of ACN – its third highest annual amount of aid – helped Christians face a number of tough challenges around the world.
He said: “The struggles that the Church is facing as it continues to help the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic are nothing short of heroic – and we were delighted that part of our aid went to support priests, Sisters and lay people who were helping those affected by the coronavirus crisis, including £25,000 for emergency aid in Pakistan’s Islamabad-Rawalpindi Diocese.”
Other COVID-19 help featured a project in Delhi’s slums which included daily food distribution, free hygiene kits, and the maintenance of two homes for the destitute – as well as medical help for both the poor and priests and Sisters.
Medical care for Church personnel is essential for a subcontinent where hundreds of thousands have fallen ill – and more than 400 priests and Sisters have died of coronavirus.
Mr Kyrke-Smith stressed that ACN (UK) had not forgotten long-term priorities, and was still helping Christians in the Middle East suffering from regional conflicts and targeted attacks from extremist groups.
Syrian refugees who fled to Zahle, east Lebanon, received ongoing support including food packages, hygiene kits, rent assistance, fuel, and medical needs.
The UN does not provide these Christian families with any assistance – all international aid is channelled via the Muslim-majority unofficial camps where Christians are afraid to live.
More than £85,000 went to provide help for 166 Church workers in Sudan – including priests, Sisters and lay Catechists – in seven parishes and a prayer centre in the Nuba Mountains.
Indiscriminate bombing and attacks on civilians occurred in the Nuba Mountains region during the civil war.
Other support provided by the UK office during 2021 included support for seminarians – particularly in Africa, Eastern Europe and the subcontinent, reconstruction of churches across the globe, such as St Joseph’s, Kragujevac, Serbia, and rent support for struggling families including in the Syrian capital Damascus, as well as Mass stipends to support poor priests.