They asked us not to forget them - Aid to the Church in Need on Iraq

This interview was conducted by Hussein Al-alak with Dr. Caroline Hull, the North West manager of Aid to the Church in Need UK. Having been to Iraq, Caroline speaks about the work of ACN, their efforts in Iraq and how the people of Iraq have asked "us not to forget them". 

What is your name and what role do you have in the charity Aid to the Church in Need? 

My name is Caroline Hull and I am the North West Manager for Aid to the Church in Need UK (ACN UK). With my colleague, Bridget Huddleston, I work to support ACN’s 30,000 existing benefactors in NW England and North Wales as well as to raise awareness about our work with new audiences in parishes, schools and the wider public. 

We run events, offer resources to parishes and schools and interact with interested individuals and groups through face-to-face meetings, correspondence and our social media platforms. This year Bridget and I are embarking on a special series of sponsored walks for Iraq’s Christians as they return to their homes on the Nineveh Plain. 

We are looking for sponsors, but also for individuals, parishes and schools to consider organising their own sponsored walks, runs and bike rides to help Christians in Iraq. (Details about how you can get involved appear at the end of this interview

Who are Aid to the Church in Need and what is their background? 

ACN is an international Catholic charity that works in over 140 countries around the world to support Christians suffering from poverty, extreme isolation or persecution. The charity was founded in 1947 and now has offices in 25 countries. 

Can you please tell us about the work that ACN does inside of Iraq? 

ACN has provided nearly 50% of all aid for the thousands of displaced Christians in Erbil. We work directly with the region’s Churches to supply funding for emergency relief aid (food parcels, fuel, accommodation and other necessities). 

We also support projects to help with medical needs as well as trauma and mental health counselling. ACN currently works extremely closely with the major Christian Churches in Iraq as they support those families who have returned to the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain. 

We are helping thousands of families to rebuild their homes, their churches and their lives in the places where their families have lived for generations. While most of our work is involved with Iraqi Christians, ACN’s partner Churches have also helped other religious minorities, including many Yazidi families, by providing emergency food and shelter to those unable to help themselves. 

How has ACN supported the victims of ISIS since 2014? 

ACN has supported displaced Christians with numerous emergency aid programmes providing necessities, building temporary housing, constructing, staffing and equipping schools and much more. 

Our benefactors here in the UK (and around the world) are very generous and have been deeply moved by the plight of Iraq’s Christians since 2014. In 2017 alone, ACN paid out over £3 million in emergency aid to the Middle East, with much of the total going towards our work with Iraqis and Syrians affected by extremist groups including ISIS. 

The clergy and religious sisters who have suffered greatly and worked so hard to help others are in need of support as well; ACN also provides stipends for Masses, grants to rebuild churches, presbyteries and parish halls, and various projects that make life a little easier for Iraq’s religious. 

With ISIS now defeated in Iraq, can you please tell us about ACN's role in the reconstruction of Iraq? 

Right now we find ourselves inside a small window of opportunity to support those Iraqi Christians who wish to return home. ACN—through the kindness of our benefactors—is making funds available through the local Churches so that they can rebuild their lives. 

Iraqi Christians—and other religious minorities—have received very little help from the world’s political leaders and their governments; ACN and a handful of other charities have largely borne the brunt of the financial burden. 

There are signs that the situation is improving and more donors are coming forward, but ACN remains committed to supporting Iraq’s Christian communities as they work toward a brighter future. 

ACN’s work in Iraq is not limited to the Kurdish region and the Nineveh Plain; our charity continues to fund a raft of projects to support the Church in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. We help with programmes for disabled and vulnerable people, schools, seminaries, building projects and transport for clergy and religious. 

How can people get involved with ACN to support your efforts in Iraq? 

There are lots of ways to get involved and to offer support for our work. People can contact one of our three offices in the UK, join our mailing or e-newsletter lists, read about our work and donate through our website

Another great way to support us in 2018, is by sponsoring the staff of ACN’s NW Office as we walk to the five NW Catholic cathedrals to raise awareness and funds for Christians in Iraq. We’ll walk from Lancaster Cathedral to Salford Cathedral in May; Salford to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral in June; Liverpool to Wrexham Cathedral in July and Wrexham to Shrewsbury Cathedral in September.  

We are asking people to sponsor us for any amount they can afford—large or small!—through our Just Giving page: We’ll be posting regular updates and photos as we progress through the NW, so people should keep checking in even after they’ve donated! 

If you are in the NW and you or a your parish or school would like to organise your own sponsored event for Iraqi Christians, please get in touch with ACN NW by e-mail or by phone 01524 388739. We’d love to hear from you and we’ll even try and come along if we can! 

The most important thing we ask for is prayer. Any prayers offered will make all the difference to our brothers and sisters in Iraq. In fact, when I visited Iraq in 2016, prayers are what everyone I met requested. They asked us not to forget them. After being lucky enough to travel to Iraq with ACN, I know that I shall always keep Iraq’s Christians in my prayers. 

With all your work helping the people of Iraq, what future would you like to see for the Iraqi people? 

I simply want them to live peacefully and happily. I pray that they are able to return home and pick up the pieces of their disrupted lives, and that they can move towards a bright future for themselves and especially for their children. Christians have lived and worshipped in Iraq for nearly 2000 years; their faith is ancient and very strong. I pray that their churches and communities will thrive again well into the future.



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