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IOCC: A Faith-Based Approach to Relief

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From the West Bank, to Syria, the Balkans and to Uganda, International Orthodox Christian Charities has worked to provide over $488 million in emergency disaster relief, development aid and supplies around the world since its establishment in 1992. Implicit in its mission, IOCC derives its inspiration from Matthew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was naked and you clothed me…”

IOCC is the humanitarian relief organization of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States  – 1 of 13 geographical Orthodox bishop assemblies around the world. It is also a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 140 churches and agencies that engage in development work, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.

Active in several regions around the world today, IOCC is on the front lines addressing the needs of refugees affected by violence in Syria and most recently, displaced Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

While Orthodox communities in the Middle East have dwindled in recent years, historically, communities have existed in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Gaza and Southern Turkey for centuries. As a result, IOCC is able to work closely with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch to address the needs of all affected by the violence and disasters in the region.

Since 2012, 1.5 million displaced people inside Syrian as well as the populations in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Armenia have all benefited from the support and relief work that IOCC provides.

IOCC, with one of the largest established humanitarian relief networks inside of Syria, is currently working with local relief partners to provide basic supplies such as bedding and hygiene kits to more than 2,800 refugee families. In addition, they have been able to gather and distribute school supplies to more than 3,000 children whose education was interrupted due to conflict.

Most recently, IOCC has begun to gather emergency aid for families affected by violence in the Gaza Strip. With over 240,000 seeking shelter, people have turned to schools, churches, mosques and other facilities to escape from the bombardment of rockets into communities.

Since it first began operations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1997, IOCC has been able to provide assistance to over 30,000 families. With a well-established network in the region they have been able to make sure that basic supplies are reaching the more than 700 displaced Palestinians who sought refuge at the St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church, as well as the more than 12,000 displaced people in northern Gaza communities of Gaza City, Beit Hanoun, Shuj’iyeh, Al Zeitoun and At Tuffah.

IOCC is just one of many faith-based organizations that provides vital aid, supplies and support to people affected by violent conflict and natural disasters around the world. Faith-based organizations play important roles because they often have deep ties to the people they serve and therefore have a unique insight into the needs of communities and countries in which they work. By addressing the needs of the most vulnerable, IOCC is contributing not only to the immediate needs of people affected by disaster and conflict, but also their longer term prospects of achieving peace and building sustainable livelihoods.

– Andrea Blinkhorn 

Sources: Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, IOCC 1, ReliefWeb, IOCC 2
Photo: IOCC