Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
The Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) has launched "Blessings Beyond Bars," a Lenten youth project that teaches children and young adults about prison ministry. An organized lesson plan and do-it-yourself craft activity helps students turn shoeboxes into mock prison cells. The lesson plan and step-by-step craft instructions are available at OCPM's Website.
Youth can also collect donations in the shoeboxes to help OCPM fill prisons with Bibles, prayer books, icons, and Orthodox books. This project can be done with your parish, Sunday School, youth group, family or friends during Lent.
Beloved in the Lord:
Greetings and blessings to you as we enter this most holy season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
It is with the greatest joy that I write to you today to inaugurate the 2014 Food for Hungry People campaign. This year marks the 40th anniversary of this charitable drive. When reﬂecting on the past 40 years, I call to mind the countless charitable organizations and individuals that we have helped because of this fund. Through the efforts of our dedicated and long-standing chairlady, Miss Robin Nicholas, and by your generosity on the parish level, this drive has grown into a strong witness of our Holy Orthodox faith on this continent and throughout the world.
This year holds special signiﬁcance as we continue to raise funds through various means to help those affected by the war in Syria. Through your contributions to FFHP over the years, we have helped many of the orphanages and other charitable organizations within Syria and throughout our Patriarchate and the entire the Middle East, in addition to our domestic charitable contributions. As we continue to witness the horrors of the war in Syria, please make a special effort this year to use FFHP to raise funds and awareness to the tragedy there so we can help those in need even more.
We urge you, during this season of prayer, self-discipline and fasting, to be very generous in your contribution to this campaign. As we practice the virtues which cleanse our souls, let us not forget or refrain from what St. John Chrysostom calls the “greatest of the virtues," giving to the poor. As important as prayer and fasting are, they are of no avail to us if we fail to give to those in need.
February 12, 2014 (Baltimore, MD) Syrian civilians evacuated from the embattled city of Homs under a UN-negotiated cease-fire are being aided by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) as they flee to safety. IOCC and its church partner in Syria, The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), are in Homs assisting in the evacuation that began this weekend and are providing emergency relief to the Syrian people fleeing the city.
Among the evacuees were ten youths who were immediately taken to the nearest medical facility for needed vaccines and medical attention. IOCC/GOPA also assisted in providing the young evacuees with food, clothing, shoes, hygiene kits, and blankets.
Nearly 400 residents from the Homs neighborhoods of Alaqrabas, Jouret Shiah, Khalidiya, Karabis, and Bustan Al Diwan fled the city today on foot flanked by UN humanitarian vehicles for protection. Those who were not too weak from months of malnutrition walked for more than two hours before reaching safety.
A new video from the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) produced by award winning filmmaker Kevin Bryce, sheds light on American children who are hungry. Children in needy communities in America sometimes go a day or more without eating because their families can't afford groceries, and FOCUS is working to address that situation.
Katrina Bitar is the North America Program Director for YES, or Youth Equipped to Serve. A ministry of FOCUS North America, YES provides opportunities for junior high and high school students to participate in formative weekends of service in urban environments across the U.S. and Canada. A lifetime member of the Antiochian Archdiocese, Katrina began working with youth during her college years and eventually was tapped to head the YES program after graduating from St. Vladimir's Seminary in 2009. A look at her busy calendar for the first half of 2014 reveals that she will be involved with outreach efforts in Philadelphia, Montreal, Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids, Houston, Austin, and St. Louis. Antiochian.org asked her to introduce the work of YES and explain the impact it is having on the Church's youth.
What is your background, and how did you first get involved with YES?
I was born in Burbank, California, but spent most of my life in Little Falls, NJ. I discovered my youth ministry gifts while serving at the Antiochian Village as a counselor during my college years. In 2001, I took a job as a youth director for a parish in Phoenix, AZ that began my full-time youth ministry work. It was through my work as a parish youth director that I was introduced to the YES Program.
A January 24, 2014 story on the Religion & Ethics Newsweekly program, "Jordan's Syrian Refugees," was produced by the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS). The report featured the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) humanitarian response to Syrian refugees living in Jordan. A PBS team visited Syrian refugees living in a refugee camp and in the city of Amman and offered a firsthand look at the struggles and the heartaches of the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled their country's civil war.
IOCC Country Representative for Jordan Dimitrije Djukic, spoke with PBS reporter Kim Lawton about IOCC's role, and about the difficulties faced by the refugees, arriving at a rate of some 300 a day. "According to the UN High Commission for Refugees," noted Lawton, "almost 600,000 Syrians have officially registered as refugees in this nation of 6.6 million. But aid workers say at least the same number have not registered, largely out of fear of retaliation from Syria. The UN and international aid agencies have been working to meet the dire needs. Faith-based groups are actively mobilizing as well, and many religious leaders say they provide a unique contribution in the midst of the crisis." The United Nations, pointed out Lawton, has described the situation as “the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of modern times.”
Syria! The name itself inspires awe and wonder. Archaeologists have proven that Syria was the cradle of civilization, and where agriculture and trade routes appeared for the first time. Its capital – Damascus – is widely considered to be the world's oldest city. Antioch was also part of early Syria and was invaded by the Roman armies in 64 B.C., making it the third-largest city in the Roman empire. Syria continued to grow and become a major center of trade and industry in the ancient world.
After the ministry, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ, it was in Syria where a young man named Saul (who later took the name Paul) was converted on his way to Damascus. It was in Antioch where St. Paul set off on many of his journeys to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Antioch, "the disciples were first called Christians" (Acts 11:26).
Joumana will never forget the day she, her husband, and two children abandoned their home in the war-torn Syrian city of Homs. "The situation was getting worse and worse each day, but we didn't want to leave our neighborhood," Joumana recalled. The need to flee came suddenly when they witnessed her mother-in-law killed right before them. After a hasty burial, they left for Damascus with few possessions.
The horrifying memories of war and personal loss continue to haunt Joumana and her family more than a year after they were uprooted from their home and once peaceful life. They, like millions of other Syrians displaced by the conflict, have suffered enormous material and emotional losses that have taken a heavy toll on their mental health. International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and its church partner, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), are providing services to help affected families overcome their traumatic experiences and begin rebuilding their lives.
As temperatures across the Midwest and Northeast hit record lows this week, vulnerable populations—the homeless, elderly and working poor—are at particular risk of the dangers posed by the winter storm. Inadequate shelter or a broken furnace can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. The arctic weather is being blamed for 20 deaths thus far, and emergency rooms have been flooded with cases of hypothermia and frostbite.
In response to the severe weather, Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS) Centers in St. Louis, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are on high alert, ramping up services and assistance. FOCUS Centers have had their doors open to help those in need with hot meals, coats and blankets.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) released a statement on January 8, 2014 mourning the passing of IOCC Honorary Board Member Dr. George Farha. Founding member and former Chairman of the IOCC Charles Ajalat said, "Dr. Farha played a critical role during IOCC's formative years with his wisdom, vision and commitment. IOCC owes a great debt to him."
From serving on the IOCC board of directors to supporting countless humanitarian works which assisted people in need of shelter, food or safety, Dr. Farha's tireless efforts to always "put people first" served as a spiritual cornerstone for the organization.
"Dr. George Farha was a man of singular vision and great stature in the Orthodox community and beyond," said Michael S. "Mickey" Homsey, Chairman of IOCC's Board of Directors. "This pious, humble and loving man's lifelong mantra of 'people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care' left an indelible effect on all who were blessed to know him.