Syria: More Than One Million Children Sign Appeal for Peace

Children in Aleppo, Syria; ACN photo

Children in Aleppo, Syria; ACN photo

NEW YORK (Oct. 6, 2016)—This week, children at more than 2000 schools across Syria are drawing their images of peace and writing messages to the political decision-makers of the European Union and the United Nations under the motto “Peace for Children.” More than one million children are also signing a petition. This appeal for peace is a joint campaign sponsored by Catholic and Orthodox Christians in Syria, while all religious communities have been invited to take part.

Children of all Christian denominations in Damascus, Homs, Yabroud, Aleppo, Marmarita and Tartus are marking today as the Action Day for Peace. They are expressing their desire for peace through songs, dances, theatrical performances, prayers and other activities. Several children in Aleppo will also talk about their personal experiences. Sister Annie Demerjian, one of the local organizers of the event, said: “When a child talks about losing his father, for example, we will follow it up by praying for all children in Syria who have lost parents or siblings.” The main ceremony will be held in Damascus Oct. 7 and will be attended by groups of 50-75 children from each of the major urban centers of Syria.

In addition, Syrian schoolchildren—also including many Muslims—are writing messages to the global community on balloons. These include such messages as “We want peace!”, “Give us our childhood!”, “We don’t want any more war!” and “We want to go to school!”

Thousands of children in Syria have been killed during the war. According to the Oxford Research Group, more than 11,500 children died in the first two years of the conflict alone. Half of the 11.4 million Syrians who have fled inside or outside of the country are underage minors. More than 2.1 million Syrian children are unable to attend school because of the war. Many children are severely traumatized. Children are frequent victims, not only of direct acts of war, but of abductions, torture and sexual exploitation.

The children’s campaign for peace is an initiative of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Since the Syrian conflict began in March of 2011, ACN has been active in supporting the victims of the war and providing financial support, in particular for families who have lost their homes, have been forced to flee the country or have been displaced within the country. For more information on the prayer campaign, please visit: www.praywithsyrianchildren.org.

Aid is primarily granted to projects that secure the immediate survival of the people, and especially of children and babies. A sizable amount of the financial aid is used to procure accommodations for what are in general large families with many children, to supply essential foods and medicines as well as baby formula and diapers, warm winter clothing and heating oil and electricity.

The aid is also earmarked to ensure that children can attend school. The aid is provided directly to the families in need, irrespective of their religious affiliation, through a network Catholic bishops and local church structures. Since 2011, some $15M in grants has gone to the various projects in Syria.

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at [email protected] or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org