Aid to the Church in Need rises to increased challenge
Aid to the Church in Need has committed itself to facing the increased challenge of supporting poor and persecuted Christians amid heightened violence and a global pandemic.
Christians in poorer countries and those persecuted for their faith or engaged in rebuilding efforts need more support than ever according to the Catholic charity’s annual report.
Bernard Toutounji, national director of Aid to the Church in Need Australia, said that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly threatened its work.
“We rely on the prayers and offerings from the Catholics in nations where the faith is free and secure to support the Catholic people who suffer and are persecuted for their faith,” Mr Toutounji said. “The uncertainty of this virus though has made many of us pause the regular things we do and the causes we support which has had ramifications on our work.
“The requests made to Aid to the Church in Need have continued though because the suffering Church is – in many places – now suffering even more.”
The international report said that despite the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation “looks to keep up the level of support to the suffering Church in 2020″.
“Although this is a great challenge, the needs in many partner countries have been greatly aggravated,” it read.
“Although this is a great challenge, the needs in many partner countries have been greatly aggravated.”
“Since the start of April 2020 ACN has already allocated $8 million to the support of priests and religious, and those they serve, in some of the poorest countries.”
In 2019 donors worldwide raised $171 million to support the Church in poorer countries, with 80 per cent (approximately $144 million) spent on the three areas regarded by the charity as the main pillars of its mission: direct financial support via aid projects, providing information about the situation of Christians in various countries, and encouraging Christians to pray for their suffering brethren.
Altogether, the charity sponsored 5,230 projects, providing assistance for a range of different needs in 139 different countries, above all in Africa and the Middle East.
Most of ACN’s projects were located in Africa, which was allocated almost a third of the project funds with 1766 different projects to support Nigeria, Cameroon and Burkina Faso “where Islamic fundamentalism and jihadist terrorism are wreaking havoc among the people” notes the report.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, owing to its vast size and the grave conflicts it is suffering was the single country in Africa in which the greatest number of projects were realised in 2019, and the third worldwide. There ACN funded 268 projects to a total of $5.3 million.
Almost a quarter of donated funds went to support Christians in the Middle East, particularly Syria and Iraq, while emergency aid was provided to suffering Christians, mostly in Syria and Pakistan.
In Iraq, $9 million was given for the rebuilding of the Al-Tahira Cathedral in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian church in Iraq which was destroyed by members of ISIS in 2014.
“There are 200 million Christians around the world who are unable to practise their faith freely, and there are over 80 countries in the world where the fundamental right to religious liberty is not guaranteed,” read the report.
Mr Toutounji said the main focus currently is on supporting religious men and women and poor priests.
“If we can help these two groups, we know we are able to ensure that the light of Christ can continue to reach the people bringing hope and grace,” he said.
“Many priests survive on the Mass stipends that we collect and send to them on your behalf and in return that offer the Holy Mass for the intentions of the donor. There is no more beautiful sign of the communion of saints at work in the way we support one another in our faith.
“Praise God, we have seen many benefactors continue their strong support of this work. However the requests we get from the suffering Church always outweigh the resources we have to help them.
“I invite any Catholic to consider supporting the work and mission of this unique and international foundation.”