17th January marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Father Werenfried van Straaten, Aid to the Church in Need’s founder, who died in 2003.
This “beggar for Christ” dedicated 55 years of his life to helping Christians wherever they suffer persecution, oppression or pastoral need. His work initially arose from the urgent necessity to provide for the vast number of refugees left homeless and in desperate need after World War II.
Stirring the people of Belgium and Holland to put aside their differences with their former enemies and to take action to help the German people, he wrote an inspiring letter titled No Room at the Inn.
“There will never be room for Christ as long as people think too much of themselves… We may be glad that we have all that we want, but do we remember that Mary and Joseph in their thousands are wandering outside throughout the world, and that they are carrying Christ, who is crying in all the refugees and outcasts, in all whom he called the least of his children and beneath whose misery he has concealed the glory of his form?
“It is Christmas a thousand times a year and a thousand times Jesus is asking to be received. But a thousand times a year, the story repeats itself of the predatory crowd in Bethlehem, of the heedless inn-keepers and the well-fed citizens in their self-sufficiency. And a thousand times, doors and hearts are closed against the bitterness of distress that is really Christ’s distress…
“There is a tragic text in Holy Scripture saying: ‘He came in unto his own and his own received him not!’ No room for him at the inn because ‘his own’ have no love… Millions of refugees… have escaped from the terror of Christ’s enemies but they are in danger of falling under the lovelessness of Christians. If we do not make room for them at our inn, they will not only lose their courage but also their faith in God.”
In the 65 years since these words were written, benefactors like you from all over the world have responded with love, generosity and solidarity to Fr Werenfried’s challenge. You have placed yourself at the heart of our worldwide family in Christ by reaching out to the persecuted, the oppressed and the poorest of the poor.
As snow blankets the roads and roofs outside our office, we have received news that next week we will be promising further assistance to refugees caught up the conflict in Syria, who have been forced to flee for their lives and are facing a harsh desert winter without a place to call home.
We will release further details of the help we are giving next week – why not follow us on Facebookand Twitter to keep up to date? In recent months you have helped us provide more than £230,000 for medical aid for those injured in the fighting, emergency food, medicine and baby milk, and shelter for those who have nowhere else to go.
As Christians in Syria – and elsewhere in the Middle East – face a struggle for their future in the region, please will you consider sustaining Father Werenfried’s legacy of love by helping us to help them? You can make your kind gift via our website.
With my prayers and sincere thanks for your compassion.
PS Please visit www.acnuk.org/baconpriest to find out more about Fr Werenfried’s life and work.