Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) Hiba, 5, clings fearfully to her mother’s dress round the clock, and wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. Ever since Sami, 4, and his brother Rana, 2, fled Homs with their mother, loud sounds elicit screams and send them diving for cover under tables and beds. The violence that has engulfed Syria is taking a heavy toll on its children. They make up more than half of the 260,000 Syrian refugees pouring into neighboring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, according to United Nations estimates. Many arrive with nothing, not even the most basic belongings. International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is attending to the immediate needs of these young refugees and their families with the distribution of emergency relief items such as health kits, infant supplies and bedding.
IOCC Jordan is working with local churches and relief partners to provide basic necessities like diapers, baby blankets and infant clothing to Syrian mothers seeking shelter at Za'atri refugee camp, where 60 percent of the 28,000 refugees are small children and infants.
Samer Laham, Director of the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (DERD) for the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, has issued a late summer report detailing the Patriarchate's assistance to those who have impacted by the internal strife in Syria. The United Nations recently estimated that an estimated 2.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 1.2 million people are internally displaced.
Mr. Laham writes, "DERD has been coordinating activities with Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), local and regional municipalities, as well as local NGOs, to determine the areas and public buildings that are housing the most vulnerable displaced Syrians who are in need of immediate assistance. Working with local city governments and NGOs helps to ensure that beneficiaries receive aid with minimal overlapping in efforts. DERD also coordinates food distribution activities with World Food Programme and SARC, to identify the locations of people in most in need of food and to avoid duplication."
Since its inception in 1999, DERD has partnered with organizations from all over the world, which has strengthened its effectiveness and ability to meet the needs of the communities it serves. Download the full report.
The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) recently uploaded a variety of videos to YouTube featuring the ongoing growth and progress of Orthodox churches in Africa.
Viewers can catch glimpses of African Orthodox Christians worshipping in liturgy, singing welcome greetings to visiting missionaries and clergy, dancing in community celebrations, and working on construction teams for church buildings.
Fifteen OCMC mission teams from May through December of this year will serve in Africa as well as other far flung locations such as Albania and Mongolia.
Samer Laham, Director of the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (DERD) for the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, issued a July report outlining the extent of the Syrian humanitarian crisis due to regional unrest. An estimated 1.5 million people, according to the United Nations, have been directly impacted by the upheaval and DERD has responded with rent assistance, remedial classes, distribution of clothing and hygeine kits, and other humanitarian measures.
Explains Director Lahem, "We serve without any discrimination and this service is based on loving our neighbor as ourselves." Since its inception in 1999, DERD has partnered with organizations from all over the world, which has strengthened its effectiveness and ability to meet the needs of the communities it serves.
The Order of St. Ignatius Chair Mary Winstanley-O'Connor is a lifelong member of the Antiochian Archdiocese. A Boston attorney, Mary joined the Order in the early 1990's after visiting Antiochian Village, where she was deeply moved by listening to the campers pray and sing. She assumed the role of the Governing Council Chair in 2011, following in the footsteps of Daniel Abraham. Recently Antiochian.org asked Mary to reflect on her first year of leadership.
1. Mary, can you tell us how you became involved in the Order of St. Ignatius?
I have been a life-long member of St. Mary Orthodox Church of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I am an attorney with offices in Boston and have lived in the greater Boston area throughout my life. Like many in our Archdiocese, I was a member of Teen SOYO, a member of the Fellowship of St. John the Divine, Parish Council President and a Sunday School teacher.
August 2, 2012
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Syrians who received more than a million refugees fleeing from conflict in Iraq now face the same fate as more than one and a half million Syrians seek refuge from the spreading violence in their own country. International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has redoubled its efforts to provide food and essential items – blankets, stoves and hygiene supplies – to the rapidly growing number of displaced and vulnerable Syrian families. IOCC aid is reaching areas in and around Homs, the epicenter of the uprising that began 16 months ago, and other regions of the country.
"There is a palpable sense of urgency and people are worried about the growing violence throughout the country," said Mark Ohanian, IOCC director of programs, who just returned from Damascus where he met with staff and relief partners. IOCC is working closely with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all The East and Syrian relief partner, Al Nada Association, in an effort to reach as many people as it can and to determine what the most immediate needs are for the growing number of displaced and vulnerable families.
"The situation remains unstable and we know that there are at least a million and a half people within the country who are in need of essential food and other assistance including those who have been displaced and others who have been trapped in their homes. Despite the humanitarian efforts underway, hundreds of thousands of people require immediate food assistance in order to survive."
A countless number of Christians and Muslims are victims of the violence; the hospitals are full with injuries and the pain is endless. Syrians, in spite of their religious backgrounds, have the right to live in their country with pride and dignity. During the past fifteen months, we have lost many people and a large number of Syrians were forced to evacuate from their homes. Christians had to flee their towns, cities and everything they own, and our beloved priests had to leave their churches.
We call all Syrians, in the name of God, to accept each other and live as one nation in our beloved Syria, the cradle of prophets and religions. We urge the United Nations and all Arab organizations to understand and respect our beloved country and to work together in order to achieve peace and stability in Syria.
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
By Fr. Michael Gillis, Holy Nativity Orthodox Church, Langley BC
One of the spiritual gifts within the Church is the gift of giving. Certainly every Christian is called to give. A strong case can be made that 10% is the starting point: it is the biblically designated sign that all we have belongs to God. However, some, like Ss. Joacim and Anna, have the spiritual gift of giving. For Ss. Joacim and Anna, one third of their income was enough for them: One third they gave to the Temple, one third they gave to the poor and one third they lived on.
In the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, the philanthropic arm of the church is the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
The amount of good work done by the Order is hard to summarize briefly. More than a third of the Archdiocese budget comes from the Order. However, certain programs are funded completely by the Order. The Order completely funds the Archdiocese church camp scholarship program, the clergy travel support program (I, myself received a $780. grant to help cover required travel this summer), and the clergy retirement fund. The Order is also a big supporter of St. Innocent Orphange and a long list of other worthy charitable works.
The International Orthodox Christian Charities reports, "Ten years ago, four dedicated IOCC supporters made history riding their bikes cross country to raise awareness and funds for IOCC's worldwide humanitarian work. The lead rider, Jim Angelus, is repeating this feat in honor of IOCC's 20th anniversary. Jim, along with two other cyclists, Konstantin Kanelis and Brett Mckey, will cycle 3,000 miles in 37 days from Washington State to New Jersey. Dan Mckey and Ora Shelter will serve as Support and Gear (SAG) crew.
The ultimate goal of the 2012 Race to Respond is to inspire and attract local, regional and national support to IOCC's humanitarian work. As such, lead rider Jim Angelus is posting daily updates from the road as he rides across America to raise support for Orthodox philanthropy. An entry on Day Five notes that the Antiochian parish of Holy Myrrhbearers in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, hosted the riders and crew. Jim blogs, "Father Gregory concluded the liturgy with a prayer service for our journey east. The parishioners greeted us warmly afterwards with a homemade brunch where we ate and shared experiences."
Houston, TX (IOCC) — The sound of power saws and nail guns mingle with easy laughter and conversation as IOCC Orthodox Action Team volunteers work side by side, building homes and friendships at volunteer home-builds in Houston and Minneapolis. They have traveled from Maryland, Virginia, Georgia and New York to help construct homes for families left homeless by hurricanes in Houston and tornadoes in Minneapolis. Four home building teams have already completed their one-week commitment, with four more summer builds and critical home repairs slated for Minneapolis, Houston, and in Minot, North Dakota, which lost an estimated 1,600 homes to flooding last summer.
The 2012 team builds began in March with a pairing of Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) college students and veterans of previous IOCC builds. The next three builds, including the first ever home built by IOCC volunteers in Minneapolis, also brought together a mix of Orthodox youth with older volunteers.