Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — The leader of one of the largest humanitarian efforts in Syria has been named 2013 Humanitarian of the Year by InterAction, an alliance of more than 180 U.S.-based international relief organizations. Samer Laham is a driving force inside Syria, providing vital humanitarian assistance to those in need without regard to religious, ethnic, or political affiliations. Under Laham's leadership of the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA) based in Damascus, Syria, GOPA has worked tirelessly to provide more than $31 million in emergency aid to displaced Syrians as well as ongoing assistance to Iraqi refugees, including educational support, vocational training, small business development, and crisis counseling.
With the outbreak of violence in Syria that has inflicted hardship on millions of its citizens, Laham has courageously led his staff of 120 to provide food, medical supplies, crisis counseling, and other services essential to survival for people in need across the country. In the face of bombardments, fighting and constant fear, Mr. Laham and his staff have persevered to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 300,000 vulnerable Syrian children, families and elderly.
It was a holy and historic day in Beirut. More than 1,000 hierarchs, clergy and lay people packed the incense-filled nave of Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral on February 17, 2013, including both the President and Prime Minister of Lebanon, as well as government officials from the U.S., Russia, and other countries around the world.
Joining them were International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) Board Chairman, Michael “Mickey” Homsey, and IOCC Executive Director, Constantine Triantafilou, who had both traveled from the United States to attend at the invitation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. All were there to witness the same milestone, the first Divine Liturgy served by His Beatitude, John X, the newly elected Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East.
His predecessor, Patriarch Ignatius of Blessed Memory, spent more than three decades serving as the spiritual father of the Orthodox faithful in Syria. Patriarch Ignatius’ leadership provided a wellspring of inspiration and comfort to Orthodox Christians throughout the Middle East, especially during troubled times. Without His Beatitude’s grateful assistance, IOCC's humanitarian efforts in the region would not have been fully realized.
Both Homsey and Triantafilou had met with Patriarch Ignatius during a visit to Syria last year shortly before his repose, during which they were humbled to receive His Beatitude’s blessing for IOCC’s ongoing humanitarian work in Syria, and his praise for the organization serving as a beacon of hope for so many struggling families.
Every year on Palm Sunday, a special Patriarchal tray offering is conducted in Antiochian parishes. The Palm Sunday special tray collection is for the benefit of the Patriarchate of Antioch, and is used at the discretion of the Patriarch to benefit people, churches, and programs of the Patriarchate of Antioch in the Middle East.
Now, more than ever, this material support is crucial, as our brothers and sisters in Syria are suffering such great hardship because of the violence that has gripped the country.
A significant portion of the funding that is required by the Archdiocese comes from the assessments and Special Trays which are paid by each parish to the Archdiocese on an annual basis.
For more information go here.
From July 19 to August 1, 2013, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) is sending a team comprised of Orthodox families from North America to offer parent workshops, children’s programs, family activities and ministry outreach to Albanian church leaders and their families. Three to four families are still needed to serve on this team that will strengthen and encourage Orthodox Christians in a country that is predominantly non-Christian.
Another immediate need is for support staff to participate on the short-term mission team scheduled to offer healthcare in Uganda from May 29 to June 12, 2013. Two to three nurses, pharmacists, medical students, or those interested in providing much needed health services as a witness to their Orthodox faith are desperately needed for this team.
Those able to share and teach the faith are also needed for teams serving in Kenya and Tanzania in July and August. These are profound opportunities to share Orthodox Christianity with our African brothers and sisters who may be new to the faith.
Ten short years ago in Wichita, Kansas, a group of Orthodox Christians wanted to reach out to struggling moms who had chosen to let their babies live. In addition to praying for them, we wanted to provide tools to help moms take their lives in a positive direction. The Treehouse was born.
Today, we have celebrated 15,755 birthdays and helped change over a quarter million diapers! Our goal is to practice our Orthodox faith daily in everything we do at The Treehouse, teaching moms that they are not alone in their struggles. We want them to know that, when their world seems like a very dark place, they have somewhere to turn for hope. We provide them and their babies with positive Christian role models and basic necessities, such as diapers, formula and an inexpensive thrift store. We offer, too, educational classes to nurture our moms so that their babies can flourish.
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip addresses the faithful at the start of Great Lent:
Beloved in the Lord,
Greetings and blessings to you as we enter this most holy season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
During this time of the Great Fast, we once again turn our attention to the Food for Hungry People Program of the Fellowship of St. John the Divine. For almost 40 years this campaign has had a tremendous impact throughout the world to help alleviate hunger and the numberless tragedies caused by poverty. With several tragic events that continue plaguing our world including, but not limited to, the recent war in Syria, the natural disasters that wreak havoc on our own continent like Hurricane Sandy and others, we depend on your support to help the victims of these man-made and natural tragedies.
(Adapted from The Word, March 2013)
Last fall, the Antiochian parish of St. Mary in Chambersburg, PA, began its fourth year of service to the surrounding community through the St. Seraphim Orthodox Center (SS OC). Affiliated with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS), the ministry serves lunch to some 35 to 45 guests on Thursdays and Saturdays, complimenting the lunch schedule of the local Salvation Army.
During his August 2012 visit to St. Mary Orthodox Church, His Grace Bishop Thomas repeatedly stressed the importance of the parish’s work at the Center in the downtown area, and urged parishioners to continue and extend this ministry to the wider community.
Brian Gerich, Senior Vice President of Public Storage and a well-known Orthodox philanthropist, has been named the new chairman of the Board of Directors for FOCUS North America, or Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve. Gerich succeeds Charles Ajalat, who completed a four-year chairmanship in January, 2013.
"FOCUS is a dynamic ministry and an expression of Christ's love, offering jobs, housing, feeding programs, and other human services to the homeless and working poor of America," said Gerich, "FOCUS also plays a vital role in bringing Orthodox Christians into direct relationship with the poor, positively impacting their own lives while helping those in need."
Under Ajalat's leadership as founder and first board chairman, FOCUS grew into a vibrant and strong organization with eight flagship FOCUS Centers across the country and a dedicated volunteer corps of more than 6,000 people. In 2013, FOCUS has forecasted an annual budget of $10 million, with service outreach programs planned for 29 cities.
Gerich said he is humbled to succeed Ajalat. "I have worked with Charles for over 25 years. Charles is an amazing man whom God has blessed with many gifts and talents. His commitment to serving the poor is amazing."
"In just four short years FOCUS has touched the lives of so many, and we're growing daily," said Executive Director Nicholas Chakos, "It's an exciting time in FOCUS' history."
FOCUS North America is a national movement of Orthodox Christians, united in faith and joined by a desire to provide action-oriented and sustainable solutions to poverty in communities across America.
Samira, 32, was eight months pregnant when she was forced to flee her home in Syria with her six small children. After a grueling 12-hour journey, Samira and her children arrived at a settlement in western Lebanon's Bekaa Valley with nothing other than her identity papers. They now live in a crudely constructed tent of wood and billboard vinyl, with a small diesel heater that does little to keep out the cold and damp. "I am not comfortable here," Samira says. "The situation is very bad for my children. I am worried about their health." Samira's youngest child, Ahmed, just a few weeks old, is underweight.
Expectant and new mothers are among the most vulnerable refugees fleeing Syria, faced with great risk to their own health and uncertainty about their newborn's survival under such precarious conditions. International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a member of the ACT Alliance, is working to help protect the well-being of displaced Syrian mothers and infants by providing prenatal care for expectant mothers living in the harshest conditions, providing access to hospital deliveries in Bekaa, and following up with post-natal care. More than 150 expectant mothers have received healthcare support from IOCC, and 100 refugee women have delivered their babies with assistance from IOCC and local relief partners.
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) has been commissioned by the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America to help Orthodox Christians to make disciples of all nations. Among the Turkana of Northern Kenya, OCMC's ministries have helped welcome hundreds of people into the Body of Christ. A new video, "A Journey of Faith," tells the story of how missionaries have supported and encouraged the growth of the Orthodox Church in the previously unreached Turkana people group. A recent mission team that served in Kenya is depicted in the video; members of Antiochian parishes from various regions of the United States participated in the team, which visited the Turkana in the summer of 2012 to offer practical and spiritual help.
For more information please visit OCMC's website or call the Mission Center at 1-877-GO-FORTH.