Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) was recognized with the Path to Peace Foundation’s Path to Peace Award for its continued support for suffering and persecuted Christians throughout the world.
Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN, accepted the award at the Path to Peace Gala Dinner at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan May 22.
“For ACN and for myself, it’s such a honor and recognition for what we are doing, especially what ACN has been doing for the last 70 years,” Heine-Geldern told CNY.
“It’s nice that we are recognized by a foundation which includes the Holy See as well as the United Nations. That is very good for our work to be respected and seen by an important international foundation.”
Heine-Geldern, 67, said he was hoping to raise awareness, understanding and approval of ACN’s mission in his acceptance speech. ACN raised more than $120 million from donors in 2018 to fund more than 5,000 projects in 145 countries.
Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria have benefited from CAN’s works. From the start of the Syria’s civil war in 2011 to the end of 2018, ACN has given more than $33 million to Christians in Syria for medical and food aid, rent and educational support, pastoral projects and scholarships for more than 10,000 students. In Iraq, ACN supported Christians with more than $40 million in aid since 2014.
“We concentrate and focus on our mission to help, to support, to provide with financial means those parts of the Roman Catholic Church which are suffering or which are persecuted, and which don’t have the voice to make themselves understood in the world or don’t have the financial means to accomplish its mission,” Heine-Geldern said.
Heine-Geldern highlighted in his acceptance speech the continued attacks on Christians this year in the Philippines, Central African Republic, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. ACN sent a delegation to Sri Lanka to support Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, following the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday that killed hundreds.
Heine-Geldern told CNY it’s important for nations around the world and international organization “to ensure human rights are accepted and it is possible to live with human rights. One of the most prominent human rights is religious freedom. It is very, very much a link to the dignity of the human being.”
ACN was founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization to assist refugees and displaced people in post-World War II Germany. In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI advanced ACN to a papal foundation.
ACN has 23 national offices, including one in Brooklyn, and honors more than 5,000 project requests each year.
“We are able to not only inform about the sufferance of the persecuted Church, but we can also help them thanks to our donors,” said Heine-Geldern, who was named executive president in 2018.
“We are an organization which has the skills to build the bridge between our donors and our persecuted and suffering brothers and sisters. It’s a relatively unique experience. We have very dedicated people with a lot of experience who know our project partners and are really prepared to support and help them. I’m especially proud of ACN that we can work efficiently but we never ever lose our personal spiritual links to our mission.”