One can hardly say that this is an ideal time to promote a charity which focuses on Eastern Europe. Surely our priori- ties should be Syria, Libya, Iraq, Gaza, to name just a few places rent apart by appalling conflict in 2014? And should- n’t Russia be applying some of its billions to relief in its own back yard? If only . . . Lorna and I retain the most vivid memories of visiting a home for disabled children in Bulgaria eight years ago. Un- able to walk, they were deprived of even the most basic equipment to aid their mobility. Throughout the communist world, the standard ‘treatment’ for disabled children was to lock them away out of sight. Today there have been im- provements in most places, but they are only marginal.
I’m proud not only to be a patron of ChildAid, but I was co-founder of it. When leading a research programme on re- ligion in the Soviet Union forty years ago, I was conscious that support in the West for the Persecuted Church was negligible, so a group of us established ‘Aid to Russian Christians’. Over the years the charity continued, but adapted its focus to relate to changing circumstances.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, access to some of the new countries, such as Ukraine, Moldova, and Bel- arus became open and the horrors were publicized. There were TV programmes about disabled children’s institutions at the time in Romania and, with accession to the EU, conditions have considerably improved—but less so in the for- mer republics of the USSR.
Currently, ChildAid, with its HQ in Bromley, Kent, is mounting an appeal focusing on Ukraine and I’m delighted that our parish will contribute to this. We hear daily, even after the ceasefire agreement, controversially signed by Presi- dent Putin, of continuing conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. We read the statistic of 4,000 people having being killed. I haven’t seen a single article or TV report on a children’s centre in the town of Slavyansk (now back under Ukrainian control) which used to house 25–30 children with various types of need, and which served over 100 children as day visitors. In the recent bombing and artillery fire from both sides, it was totally destroyed, luckily with no loss of life (though many children have been killed in other places). This must be rebuilt—and urgently.
ChildAid is a small charity which sends its funds to trusted local Christian partners, thus reducing overheads. It is se- lective in what it supports, always applying the criterion: will its contribution make a difference? Obviously, I could have highlighted other current initiatives, but I thought that St Mary’s might like to make a substantial contribution to rebuilding this children’s centre. If you would like more detailed information, please refer to their website: (www.childaidrr.org.uk).
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