The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) launched a Christmas campaign of prayer, aid, and solidarity for the people of Syria, entitled “Candles for Peace in Syria”. The campaign formally began on December 2, 2018, on the first Sunday of Advent, with the symbolic lighting of a candle by the Holy Father at the end of the Angelus prayer.
In the last few days, the initiative has involved over 50,000 children, of different religions, from several of the Syrian cities most severely damaged by the war, including Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Marmarita, Hassaké, Tartus and Latakia. The children have prayed and painted pictures symbolizing peace on the sides of their candles: crosses, doves, and messages of hope conveying to the world their longing for peace. For it is these little Syrian children who have so often been the first victims of the conflict, which is still ongoing.
ACN International is calling on people of goodwill all over the world to respond to this cry of peace from the children of Syria, among other things by lighting a candle, as the Holy Father will do today, in order to spread this message of peace from the children of Syria and send a message of hope during the season of Advent.
The candle which the Holy Father lit was decorated by a local craftsman from the Bab Touma quarter of the Old City of Damascus and also bears the photos of some 40 children, most of them from Aleppo, together with the logo of the campaign – a dove with outstretched wings in the shape of a child’s hand and the message “Peace for the Children – Syria 2018” – plus the regular logo of ACN International.
This is not the first time that ACN has spoken out for the children of Syria. Back in 2016, the charity made an appeal to the European Parliament, conveying to it pictures drawn by the children, expressing their longing for peace.
In response to the critical humanitarian situation in Syria and in order to prevent the disappearance of the Christian presence in the country, ACN is accompanying its “Candles for Peace in Syria” initiative with an international fundraising campaign, organized through its 23 national fundraising offices. The campaign envisages a package of emergency aid, reconstruction aid, and pastoral support for a total of 15 million Euros. This comes on top of the 29,350,000 Euros already donated by the charity since the beginning of the conflict in 2011.
The ambitious program involves the distribution of food parcels and other basic essentials, including medicines, and milk powder for babies, support with rent and heating costs for the refugees, rebuilding of the homes of the Christian refugee families and their churches and religious houses, along with support for the priests and religious who are ministering to them, spiritual and psychological support for the traumatized, help with school and education fees for school children and young students and, last but not least and simple Christmas parcels for over 15,000 of the poorest and most destitute children.