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UK News

Religious freedom charity increases support to persecution victims as Covid hits hard

by Donna Birrell

The Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, is thanking supporters after they increased their giving enabling it to step up its response to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Benefactors donated £14 million more last year than in 2019 as the charity rushed out emergency Covid-19 projects amid growing persecution around the world.

Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN (International), said:

"Not only did the pandemic turn our own work upside down, but it also dramatically worsened the plight of Christians in many regions of the world, who found themselves literally, almost overnight, without work, pay or food."

Dr Heine-Geldern added: "In this emergency, however, ACN's benefactors remained true to the charity. This great generosity leaves us feeling profoundly grateful.

"It was quite unforeseen, especially since the crisis has inflicted profound economic insecurity and difficulties on us all."
According to the charity's international annual accounts, ACN's 23 offices around the world raised more than £104 million in 2020.

Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need's UK office - which raised £11.3 million in 2020 - also thanked benefactors for their outstanding generosity, but stressed that there was still a challenge to support the persecuted Church :

"We are so grateful to our benefactors, who came to the aid of their suffering brothers and sisters when the global coronavirus pandemic was casting its shadow over everything in 2020.

"Many priests, particularly in Africa and Latin America, relied our benefactors' Mass stipends - for some pastors this was their only source of income during lockdown."

Aid for Africa increased to 32.6 percent (from 29.6 in 2019), caused not only by the coronavirus crisis but also by the growing threat of Islamist extremism. 

Dr Heine-Geldern said: "We are greatly concerned, particularly for the countries of the Sahel region, where there has been an explosion of terrorism. 

"The pandemic has made the situation of the uprooted refugees yet more difficult, and in many cases the Church is the only institution still remaining to support the people". 

Asia was another priority region, receiving 18% of the charity's aid in 2020.

According to one analysis, there were 327 incidents of discrimination or persecution against Christians in India last year, despite several lengthy coronavirus lockdowns.

A total of 4,758 projects worldwide were supported by ACN last year. The UK office of the charity supported 394 projects in 82 countries.

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