Support a Church-Run Meal Service in Lebanon

For many people in Lebanon, a hot meal is not something to be taken for granted. In the town of Zaleh, the poverty is particularly acute. The town is not far from the Syrian border, and as a result many refugees have ended up here, having left all their possessions behind in Syria. Even among the local Lebanese population, there are many needy people, especially among the elderly and the children whom nobody seems to be caring for.

This was the reason why the Melkite Greek Catholic Church decided to set up the St. John the Merciful Table in 2015. They wanted help people by, among other things, providing a regular hot meal, or “food table.” It is named after the seventh century Saint John the Merciful, who was renowned for his exceptional love for the poor. Wherever he saw need, he worked with all his energies and all his resources to alleviate it. When he finally became Patriarch of Alexandria, he was feeding some 7,900 poor people on a daily basis. He died around the year 619 and is revered as a saint both by Catholics and by Orthodox Christians.

Today, the outreach ministry provides over a thousand people with a hot meal each day, an increase of 400 people compared to the previous year. Many Syrian refugees are also involved, helping in the kitchens, so that they can also have the opportunity to earn a living. There is a dietary assistant from a Catholic hospital in the town who helps to ensure that the food is nutritionally well-balanced and healthy. For the elderly and sick, who cannot get out of their homes, the food is brought to them by volunteers.

It is not merely about food for the body, but also about communicating the love of God and human warmth and affection to those in need. Many are quite alone. The St. John the Merciful table has become a place for them to gather, not only to eat, but also to talk with other people, to share their warmth and a smile, and to lend a sympathetic ear to listen to their concerns. Prayers are said before every meal and a hymn is sung, underlining the fact that this is above all about the care of souls. It is important for everyone to experience this spiritual dimension.

“We all of us feel the love of Jesus, our Savior, in this way. It is a sign of His love for us all, one that helps to heal every wound,” says one of the women helpers.

Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting this project ever since it began.

Will you join us in supporting this work to meet the physical and spiritual needs of Syrian refugees and others in Lebanon?

Emergency Aid for Homeless People in Central African Republic

Many Catholic priests and religious have risked their lives trying to protect the defenseless civilian population of the Central African Republic, a country which, sadly, has never truly known peace. In the 57 years since it gained independence, this country – one of the poorest in the world – has suffered one military coup after another. It is hard to keep track of all the different armed groups in the country today. Their names may differ but the crimes they commit are the same everywhere – looting, burning, rape, abduction, murder. Aid for People Victimized by Rebel Attacks in the Central African Republic

Since 2013, the country has effectively been in a state of civil war. Although the situation in the capital Bangui is largely stable, the remainder of the country is still in the hands of various rebel groups, who have since split still further. The government – which even in ‘normal’ times was unable to provide the people across vast swathes of the country with even a minimum of schooling, health care, security, law and order – is now almost totally absent. The civil authorities and the police were often the first to save their own skins in the face of the advancing rebel forces. Only the Church remains.

Many priests were themselves threatened with guns, abducted and even murdered. But to this day they continue to open the doors of their churches and mission stations to give shelter, regardless of religion or ethnicity, to civilians whose villages and towns have been attacked and who have lost everything but the clothes on their backs. The Catholic Church has always been and continues to be a constant voice for peace and reconciliation.

In May and June 2017, the Diocese of Alindao in the south of the country was the scene of heavy fighting between warring armed groups. In the town of Alindao itself around 150 people were killed during this time. Most of the people in the affected areas have fled their homes. These people, who even before the conflict were already desperately poor and living from hand to mouth, have now lost everything. They still cannot return to their homes, since the threat from the rebels remains serious and the killings and acts of violence continue.

The people can only put their trust in God, and they look to the Church for everything, since they can expect practically no help from any other source. “The Church has to provide for everything, since the State has failed,” says Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa sadly.

People know that they can count only on God and on the Church. One man commented, “We are hoping the fighting will end soon, so that we can finally return home. Everywhere else people are being helped, but here no one seems interested in our difficult situation. God is our only protection; that is why we go to Mass every day to ask God to hear us and help us in our situation. Fortunately, the Catholic Church is also there for us. The bishop is on the front line of the efforts to resolve this crisis.”

For now, the bishop needs help to care for these refugees, among whom there are many children. He is counting on the generosity of our benefactors to fill his empty hands, so that he can provide the barest necessities for the 3,000 refugees under his care. We are not going to disappoint him, and we are confident of your support, and so we have already given emergency aid.

As a Gift of Faith, this Christmas please help us continue to provide emergency aid to refugees in Central African Republic.

Give a Family a Food Basket

Syrian Christians who fled the bombed out city of Homs are slowly returning to rebuild their homes and lives. As they look for work and the means to repair their damaged homes, ACN is providing food baskets with one month’s supply of basic provisions such as rice, oil and canned goods.

Please help provide an essential food basket for one or more families this Christmas and give them the courage to rebuild their lives.