December 23rd, 2008
ACN News, – IRAQ
By John Pontifex
AID to the Church in Need food parcels packed with Christmas goodies have gone out to more than 750 families in Iraq who fled persecution at risk to their lives.
The Christmas hampers were despatched to villages in northern Iraq where thousands of Christians have taken refuge in temporary accommodation after campaigns of violence and intimidation in the cities of Baghdad and Mosul.
Distributing the aid over the past few weeks have been the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (Chaldean Sisters) based in the Kurdish town of Zakho, who went from house to house with the provisions.
(Sister Merna with Christmas hamper.The Daughters of Mary Immaculate went from house to house distributing provisions)
Project coordinator Fr Bashar Warda said: “The Sisters have told me just how grateful the people have been to receive the hampers. Many of them are really struggling having left everything behind them to come to the north of the country.”
The provisions – which include rice, sugar, cooking oil, tomato paste, canned meat, milk powder and cheese – have been dispersed to communities around Zakho and Mosul.
Fr Warda, who is rector of St Peter’s Seminary, now in Ankawa, a suburb of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, added: “The people are fed up of having to queue for basic food stuffs and they are also very happy with the quality of what they’re being given by the Sisters.”
Further aid has gone to poverty-stricken families in Baghdad.
(Christians in the poorest villages have received food hampers for Christmas)
Meanwhile, ACN support has also centred on Mosul following the return of most of the 15,000 people who fled in autumn following a wave of violence and intimidation.
Fr Warda said that security was now much improved, giving hope to the Mosul Christians who were desperate to return to their homes and restart their businesses.
He underlined that those still left in Mosul were the city’s poorest inhabitants who desperately need support.
The villages around Zakho where Christians have received the Christmas hampers include Naskadla, Levo and Shansh, which is one of the poorest because it is so remote.
Further aid will be going to a few isolated Christian families in Basra, south-west Iraq, but because of administrative difficulties, they will only receive the help after Christmas.
Fr Warda said Christmas would be quiet across the region, especially in Mosul where once again for the fourth year running Midnight Mass was cancelled.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 145 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 45 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.