The Middle East is the cradle of Christianity. But many Christians see fewer and fewer life prospects for themselves and their families in the region. The consequences of war, jihadist terror, economic decline and not least the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic are weighing heavily on the population and also on the local Church. Following the improving situation for Christians in Iraq, the focus of our Middle East aid in 2020 was on Lebanon and Syria. In total, funds amounting to 9.3 millioneuros flowed from ACN to our project partners in the region, of which around 3.9 million euros alone went to Lebanon.
The situation in the Middle East continues to be marked by uncertainty. The aim of our aid projects in the region is predominantly to give hope to Christians and to support them in staying in their homeland or returning to their villages. This applies especially to war-torn Syria. While reconstruction is beginning in some regions of the country after ten years of war, there is still no peace in the north. In many places, the danger of jihadism has not yet been averted.
The situation is very difficult, but there are also hopeful signs
The situation in Lebanon is now similarly catastrophic. The country, which has always been a refuge and a foothold in the Middle East, especially for Christians, is on its knees. While the political and economic crisis already had Lebanon firmly in its grip in 2019, in 2020, in addition to the pandemic, there was also a serious explosion in the port of the capital Beirut, which severely damaged numerous churches and church facilities as well. Here, a Herculean task lies ahead for the Church, but ACN will not abandon it in this mission.
Development in Iraq, on the other hand, is more positive: in the Nineveh Plains, about half of the Christian families have returned to their villages. In addition, the Iraqi government declared Christmas a public holiday in 2020. Above all, however, the Pope’s announcement that he would visit Iraq in early March 2021 was a true ray of hope for the people living there and for Christians in the Middle East in general.