This Lent our parish is, again, supporting Aid to the Church in Need. A fine charity working in over 140 different countries to ensure that the work of the Gospel may flourish. Where there is crisis the charity brings emergency relief. Where there is stability the charity helps the church achieve its goals in areas of poverty.
On Sunday a representative of ACN visited our parish and gave a moving address. He told us how impossible taxes are imposed on Christians under Sharia Law in countries under the control of Isis. The thugs then visit your home and you have three choices. Pay the tax. Convert to Islam or suffer the consequences which are sever. Most take the fourth option and flee the area.
Meanwhile Isis tear church buildings apart and attempt to decimate the Christian presence from the area. This is culturally terrible for Syria’s Christian community is ancient- this being the land in which St. Paul famously had his conversion. For two thousand years the Christian community has lived peacefully in Syria. Today it faces total extinction with millions displaced and thousands put to death.
One unlucky couple received the visit before they could get away. The man of the house was struck on the back of his head with a rifle butt which temporarily blinded him. In his panic and fear he lashed out and struck the IS boss. He was then taken away to a prison camp and strung up on a cross for over a month and beaten severely on a regular basis. He begged to God for help and it arrived in the most surprising manner. A bomb blast caused sufficient chaos for him to escape.
He managed to locate his wife and the two of them were taken in by Sister Annie, Aid to the Church in Need’s main contact in the area. Thanks to the generosity of donors in the West – the couple were given shelter, food and clothing. Their teenage children are still missing. What unimaginable torment they and others have suffered. Many Christians paying for their faith with their lives.
The work of ACN isn’t only about crisis help though. Elsewhere, in Africa, the charity gives motorbikes to hard working parish priests who have vast parishes to cover. This ensures that worship can take place even in the most remote settlements. Whilst in the Ukraine the ACN has sponsored every single priest now working in that country through Seminary! Elsewhere the charity builds houses of worships, schools and chapels. It really does have a wide ranging CV when it comes to helping others!
Please give generously to the ACN this Lent and pray for them. In church a donation box will be situated in front of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel throughout the penitential season. If you are not local to Pembury you can still support the charity by following this link.