Christians have suffered greatly from the effects of the civil war in Syria. It is estimated that only one-third of the 1.5 million Christians who lived in Syria before the war remain. In Aleppo, the numbers are even more dramatic. According to the local churches, there were about 180,000 Christians there before the war. Of these, no more than 30,000 remain. For us, one of the most important tasks is to encourage Christians to seek a viable future in their homeland.
On the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the war, we presented a report documenting the aid provided. The conclusion: Between March 2011 and March 2021, we provided 41.8 million euros for Syria. We spent more than 33 million euros on aid projects for subsistence, medical care and hygiene, food, clothing and education. A total of 418 initiatives benefited the residents of the cities most affected by the war. We worked with the local churches of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, Marmarita and Tartus, where most Christians live.
« Help is still needed so that the Christian Church in Syria is not bled dry. »
Despite the many aid projects, the population in Syria continues to suffer hardship ten years after the war began. The continuing economic sanctions, for example, affect ordinary people in particular. They often have to queue for hours for food or heating oil – frequently without success. Many cannot heat their homes and there are restrictions on energy supply; power cuts of twelve hours per day are not uncommon. Due to the foreign currency restrictions, people are also no longer able to take out loans. “The sanctions have no other consequence than to plunge people further into suffering and misery,” complain our project partners. Added to this are the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have further increased hardships. Many Christians live on less than one dollar a day.
« The bishops are particularly concerned about young people in Syria. »
Christians in Syria belong to different denominations. In addition to various Catholic rites, there are also several Orthodox churches. Most of our projects benefit Christians of all denominations, including the Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox Archdioceses, as well as the Armenian Apostolic Church in Aleppo. Our project aid is as varied as the needs of the people in this war-torn country. In 2021, our help included food programmes for the elderly, fuel for the heating of a dormitory for female students and medication assistance. We also provided subsidies for the daily living costs of families and many other initiatives, including scholarships for students.
With our help, 30,000 needy children in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, and other cities received a set of clothing (one pair of jeans and one shirt or blouse). Garment factories in Aleppo made the clothes. Thanks to the initiative of Sister Annie Demerjian, a long-time project partner. These large orders have given many people the opportunity to earn a living for several months amid high unemployment and poor economic conditions.
« Syria is like a person who needs to recover after a serious operation. »
Sister Annie Demerjian
Many elderly Syrians have been left alone because the young see no future in their homeland. Many of them have already left the country or are planning to emigrate. But without young families, the country has no future. Among our many aid projects, one special project therefore aims at supporting young married couples.
The newlywed received one-time financial support to rent and furnish a home. Many young couples would not marry and put off starting a family for years because they could not afford to furnish a flat. In 2021, we supported a total of 152 young married couples.
ACN sponsors the Christian Hope Centre in Damascus
The Christian Hope Centre is a micro-credit initiative created by the Catholic Church and young Syrians. It offers financial aid to families to start their businesses or resume professional projects interrupted during the war. The centre in Damascus is under the spiritual direction of the Latin Bishop of Syria, Mgr. Georges Abou Khazen. We are pleased to be among the first supporters of the new centre.