Runners to pound Paris streets for Middle Eastern Christians

Runners pass La Place de la Bastille in last year's FitBit Semi de Paris. Credit: ASO/B.Bade
Runners pass La Place de la Bastille in last years's FitBit Semi de Paris. Credit: ASO/B.Bade

A London Jesuit will be heading to France next month to take part in the Fitbit Semi de Paris, a half-marathon, on behalf of suffering Christians in the Middle East. Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, who is the Superior of the Mount Street Jesuit Community as well as the Ecclesiastical Assistant for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), will be running with Sebastian Cichocki, Mount Street’s maintenance manager, ACN’s UK Director and their Head of Press and Information, as part of an international group of participants.

Fr Dominic, Sebastian, Neville Kyrke-Smith and John Pontifex will be joining runners from the ACN French office and other groups around the world - up to 1,000 - who will be taking part in solidarity with Christian families who have suffered because of their faith. The FitBit Semi de Paris takes places on 5 March.

The organisers of the half-marathon describe the event as “an unmissable race”, saying that there is no way that runners can cheat in it: “You’re going to have to push yourself to the limit!” It starts on the Esplanade du Château de Vincennes before runners head towards the streets of the 12th arrondissement and on to the Place de la Nation, Place de la Bastille and Châtelet. The finishing line is at Parc Floral where those who complete the 21.1km course will receive their finisher’s medal. More than 40,000 people register every year to pound the streets of Paris, including 4,000 who are not French, among them elite runners from Kenya and Ethiopia who will be trying to break their records.

Driven out of their homesSebastian Cichocki with other cyclists for JRS at Brighton

Sebastian Cichocki is no stranger to physical exertion. He took part in the JRS London to Brighton Cycle Ride last August (pictured right) and, in 2014, undertook a five-week pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. But Fr Dominic says that raising awareness about the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and supporting them through fund-raising is as important as the challenge of the FitBit Semi de Paris itself. “Funds raised go directly to Aid to the Church in Need projects in Iraq and Syria where the Catholic Church on the ground is providing those driven out of their homes by Daesh with shelter, food, medicine, education,” he explains.  “Having recently been in the region, I am certain that the needs are just as great as ever and sure that funds will help begin to rebuild a society which has been torn apart through the horror of religious fanaticism."

ACN is a charity which helps Christians who are suffering and who are threatened by persecution, oppression and poverty. Founded in 1947, the charity is now at work in over 140 countries, offering the hope of Christ to the world. In his role as Ecclesiastical Adviser to ACN, Fr Dominic joined aid workers, Church representatives and politicians on a visit to camps for displaced families in Erbil, northern Iraq, last September. He has also undertaken a pilgrimage with parishioners of Farm Street Church on several occasions along the Camino Ignaciano in Spain, to raise funds for Aid to the Church in Need projects in northern Iraq, and the Jesuit Refugee Service UK.

You can support the ACN runners in the FitBit Semi de Paris on 5 March 2017, including Fr Dominic Robinson SJ and Sebastian Cichocki, by visiting their JustGiving fund-raising page.