By Clodagh Gallagher
AFTER 10 YEARS OF WAR, THE SUFFERING OF THE SYRIAN PEOPLE IS ALL-PERVASIVE. AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED SERVES THE MOST FORGOTTEN OF SYRIAN CHRISTIANS, HELPING WITH RENT, EMERGENCY RELIEF AND FUEL FOR THE WINTER. THIS CHRISTMAS, WE HAVE PARTNERED WITH SISTER ANNIE RMJ AND LOCAL SYRIAN TAILORS TO BRING CHRISTMAS COATS TO 25,000 SYRIAN CHILDREN.
The terrible suffering endured by the people of Syria has moved all those at Aid To The Church In Need who have worked with them. We are committed to helping Syrian Christians who are most overlooked by international aid. Right now, in 2020, after ten years of bloody war and persecution, Syrian Christians are “living through the world period in our history” says Sister Annie Demerjian, of the Congregation of Religious of Jesus and Mary. For the past seven years, Sister Annie has been coordinating ACN’s aid campaigns in the cities of Aleppo and Damascus. She says she does nott “know of any other society in the Middle East whose members are living in such appalling conditions at the present time”.
Takla al Safadi, 26, and Sister Annie Demerjian RJM, at one of the factories where Christians are making coats for Syrian children this Christmas. (Credit: Aid To The Church In Need.)
Faced with not only the all-pervasive poverty brought on by ten years of war, but also with the Covid-19 pandemic, a severe lack of employment, escalations in international conflicts and isolation from the world (through sanctions and embargoes), the Syrian people are in a desperate situation. As Sister Annie explains, “most Syrian families feel afflicted by the psychological and material pressure”. Without medicine, electricity or running water, one can understand that Christmas presents would be last on the list of concerns of any parent living in such conditions. The generosity of our benefactors helps Aid To The Church In Need to bring hope in the midst of such despair. This year, we will be donating 25,000 coats to Syrian children. Sister Annie explains, “We want to give them anoraks in this cold winter that is approaching, not only to keep our children warm but at the same time to give a boost to the local economy by helping our small local factories through the production of these garments”. Already, 25,000 warm winter coats have been painstakingly crafted by local dressmaking and tailoring workshops in Aleppo, employed by Aid To The Church In Need, in partnership with Sister Annie. These coats will go to children in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Kameshli, Hassakeh, Swidaa and Horan, to keep them warm in the bitter winter and to help parents to put a smile on their children’s faces, this Christmas. With widescale unemployment and shortages in every basic necessity, a warm coat for their children is one huge weight off the minds of Syrian parents. One such parents is Laura, who can barely earn enough to feed her son Mjad, aged 4, and daughter Sandra, aged 2. Her husband was a pharmacist in Aleppo and died of a brain tumour two years ago. In addition to the worry of the pandemic, the harsh winter brings snow and freezing temperatures, along with a shortage in heating fuel.
Laura with her daughter Sandra (2), who still weighs no more than 6 ½ kg. and her son Mjad (4), who is autistic. Their father died two years ago of a brain tumour. (Credit: Aid to the Church in Need)
In addition to helping struggling parents like Laura, this project also helps the talented tailors with a rare few months of employment. Husband and father Imad works in Aleppo printing the patterns for the anoraks. He explains that this employment gives his family economic security for a few months. Another man, Rami, operates the machine that cuts the patterns. He says he is how grateful he is “ very grateful for this work. The order arrived at a very critical time when we were desperate for work. You know how bad the present economic situation is in the country. So it is a great joy for us to be able to support ourselves over the next few months, thanks to this project of ACN. May God reward you!” These are just a couple of the thirty workshops in Aleppo where the generosity of our benefactors is helping 180 Syrians – both Christian and Muslim – to support their families through the harsh winter months. Thank you for your generosity, and please keep Syria and the work of Sister Annie and her team in your prayer. With your financial and spiritual support, we can help them make a difference in the lives of so many of God’s beloved children. Sister Annie would like our benefactors to know that in return for your generosity, “the families, with a warm smile, they are praying for ACN and its benefactors every day. On behalf of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary and on behalf of the whole support team, we would like to thank you for all your care and continuing support”.