Articles on Orthodox Christian Charity


IOCC Expands Relief Efforts in Syria

Displaced Syrian youth fill their days volunteering for IOCC and relief partner GOPA (Photo: GOPA)Displaced Syrian youth fill their days volunteering for IOCC and relief partner GOPA (Photo: GOPA)Baltimore, MD (IOCC)  Recently, His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, issued an appeal for humanitarian assistance to all Syrians who have been victims of violence in their country. "Syrians, in spite of their religious backgrounds, have the right to live in their country with pride and dignity. It is important for us as Orthodox Christians to help whoever extends their hand to ask for assistance regardless of their background."

In that spirit, the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a member of the ACT Alliance, is working in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), to respond to the urgent needs of thousands of internally displaced Syrian families. Katia, age 20, is one such person. Her days as a kindergarten teacher in Sabil, Syria, are a distant memory, since eight months ago, she and her family fled their home to escape fighting in the neighborhood, and have been displaced ever since. Left with no job and nothing to do, Katia turned to a local church for guidance, and is now helping assist other Syrians who were driven from their homes by the conflict that has engulfed Syria.

Stewardship Interview: "Giving is Part of our Spiritual Life"

Ronald Nicola, Department of StewardshipRonald Nicola, Department of StewardshipThe Antiochian Archdiocese Department of Stewardship's Chair Ronald Nicola taught high school social studies and served as a vice-principal for many years. A California native, he grew up attending St. Nicholas Church in San Francisco. He and his family have been members of St. John the Evangelist Orthodox Church in Orinda, California since its founding in 1978.

Ron has been active in many ministries of the Archdiocese, from SOYO to parish council to a twenty-year period of service on the Board of Trustees. Through these experiences, he developed an interest in Christian stewardship and the Scriptural teachings that guide the faithful in their offerings of time, talents, and treasure. Recently, the Department of Stewardship added two substantial resources to the web: The Fifty-Two Week Parish Giving Campaign, and the Parish Council Guidebook. The department is also responsible for the upcoming Parish Council Symposium in November.

Antiochian.org spoke with Ron about the ministry of the Antiochian Archdiocese's Department of Stewardship.

1. What is the Department of Stewardship—when was it founded, and why?

Metropolitan Philip established the Department of Stewardship in 1975 and he appointed the late Ernest Saykaly of Montreal, Quebec, as its first chairperson.  

"Let us Run with Endurance:" Village 5K Trail Run is Oct. 6

"Oh your mark, get set, go!" Antiochian Village's annual 5K Trail Run will benefit the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, and many runners have registered to participate in the event, slated for Saturday, October 6, 2012. Special Olympics PA provides year-round training and competition in 23 Olympic-type sports, to more than 20,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. One hundred percent of the AV5K Trail Run registration fee goes to Special Olympics.

Antiochian Village is an ideal setting for this event. At this time of year, spectacular fall color will welcome runners and walkers of all ages on a moderately challenging wooded course. Prizes and refreshments will be awarded at the finish line.

The run comes just two weeks before Special Olympics Awareness Day, which is sponsored by SOYO and aimed at raising funds to underwrite the Village's summer Special Olympics program.

Registration will be open the day of the Run at 9 a.m. in the Village Conference Center.

IOCC Aid Reaches Syria's Youngest Refugees

These young Syrian sisters and their mother sought refuge at a camp located far from the intensifying violence in Syria. More than half of Syria's refugees are children, and in great need of basic care items. (Photo: UNHCR/F. Juez)These young Syrian sisters and their mother sought refuge at a camp located far from the intensifying violence in Syria. More than half of Syria's refugees are children, and in great need of basic care items. (Photo: UNHCR/F. Juez)September 24, 2012

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.

Humanitarian Update from Syria

Distribution of clothing vouchers in Damascus (photo: antiochdev.org)Distribution of clothing vouchers in Damascus (photo: antiochdev.org)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.

New OCMC Videos Highlight African Ministry

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.

View the OCMC YouTube page here.

Patriarchate's Development Department Releases Report

DERD distributes humanitarian kits in Syrian neighborhoodDERD distributes humanitarian kits in Syrian neighborhoodSamer 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.

Read the PDF of the full report or read the report on the Patriarchate of Antioch's DERD website.

"It Was My Duty:" Interview with The Order of St. Ignatius Chair, Mary Winstanley-O'Connor

Mary Winstanley-O'Connor, Chair of The Order of St. IgnatiusMary Winstanley-O'Connor, Chair of The Order of St. IgnatiusThe 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.

IOCC: Humanitarian Need Grows For Syrian Families

A Syrian woman carries her daughter as their family seeks refuge in a safer part of Syria.  REUTERS/Zohra BensemraA Syrian woman carries her daughter as their family seeks refuge in a safer part of Syria. REUTERS/Zohra BensemraAugust 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."

An Appeal from the Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church

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.

Ignatius IV
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East