Archbishop's plea as ACN runners prepare for Paris

ACN staff and supporters from across the world will be taking part in the Fitbit Semi de Paris on Sunday
ACN staff and supporters from across the world will be taking part in the Fitbit Semi de Paris on Sunday

Participants in the Fitbit Semi de Paris (a half-marathon) are in their final days of training and preparation ahead of the race on Sunday – including a Jesuit priest and his lay colleague from Farm Street Church. Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, National Ecclesiastical Assistant to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Sebastian Cichocki, the parish’s Maintenance Manager, will be joining Neville Kyrke-Smith, ACN’s National Director, and John Pontifex, their Head of Press and Information, to help raise funds for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

They will be joined in Paris by friends and colleagues from Europe and Latin America, including the National Director of ACN Mexico, Julieta Appendini, who will be travelling more than 5,700 miles (9,200 km) to take part in the race.

Aid to the Church in Need staff will be running to raise money for the charity's emergency aid projects in northern Syria and Iraq including food, shelter and other essentials for those suffering. With average winter temperatures in Syria falling to four degrees Celsius, vital help with heating for 700 Christian families in Aleppo was among 98 new projects announced by the charity earlier this month.

Rebuilding hope, faith and livesACN runners Neville Kyrke-Smith & John Pontifex

"I have seen our ongoing commitment in Lebanon with ACN projects for refugees from Syria and Iraq in place now and for the future,” said Neville Kyrke-Smith who returned from Lebanon on 19 February. He described the projects as “the rebuilding of hope, the rebuilding of faith and the rebuilding of lives."

Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil in Iraq highlighted the need to continue supporting internally displaced Christian families being looked after by the Church in Ankawa and other parts of the Kurdish capital Erbil. "There is an urgent need for us to continue to exist here in Ankawa... and we will need continued donor funds to achieve this," he said.

Aid to the Church in Need – which is supported by Farm Street parish alongside the Jesuit Refugee Service’s work among Syrian refugees – is also providing ongoing aid for those forced out of their homes on the Nineveh Plains by Daesh (ISIS) in 2014.

The group from ACN will be running along the river Seine and past landmarks of east Paris including the Quai d'Austerlitz, Bastille, Hôtel de Ville and Bercy Arena before crossing the finish line at Route De La Pyramide, next to Chateau de Vincennes. You can support ACN's race to help Christians in the Middle East, by visiting their website.