Religious Sisters gave out Christmas food packages to poverty-stricken people in northern Iraq – with a little bit of help from a leading Catholic charity.
The community of Chaldean Sisters set out in their van packed full of cheese, tinned meat, powdered milk, cooking oil, salt, sugar, soap and other urgent items as part of their outreach in and around Zakho, close to the Syrian/Turkish border.
This Christmas mercy mission is possible thanks to $36,800 from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which supports persecuted and other suffering Christians.
The aid package, which was sent out last week, came amid continuing reports of immense hardship and poverty in the Kurdish north of Iraq, where people are struggling despite government assistance.
In the third aid package of its kind since the initiative began last Christmas, ACN projects staff have seen for themselves the impact of the aid.
Back from a recent trip to the region, ACN Iraq projects coordinator Marie-Ange Siebrecht said, “It was clear from the people we met that the Sisters are very much appreciated for their work.”
She continued, saying, “What they are doing will give many people a real boost this Christmas and remind them that they are not alone – that their brothers and Sisters in faith elsewhere are thinking about them and trying to help.”
Thousands are expected to benefit from the food parcels, with priority given to the elderly, the disabled and others with special needs.
The aid comes as part of ACN’s ongoing commitment to a Christian community in a region where an exodus has led to the Church in Iraq plummeting from about one million in 2003 to less than 350,000 today.
In the spring, ACN gave $29,400 to Iraqi Christians in Syria desperate for help and living in very basic accommodation, mostly in and around the capital Damascus.
Again and again, Syria’s Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, who is coordinating the ACN relief work in the region, has stressed the importance of providing whatever help is possible.
ACN has also supported Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan and Turkey.
In an interview with ACN, Monsignor Francois Yakan, Patriarchal Vicar for the Assyrians and Chaldeans of Turkey, said, “We are offering the hope of Christ – and, thanks to ACN – the love of Christ in practical help.” Msgr. Yakan also heads an organization supporting Iraqi Christian refugees.
Msgr. Yakan said, “ACN’s help – through faith and solidarity – means so much to us. Prayer unites us with you every day.”