In a letter from Bishop Zoltán Balog, President of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in Hungary, one of PCI’s partner churches, he wrote, ‘There are no words sufficient to express our gratitude on behalf of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid (HRCA) and the Reformed churches in Hungary and Ukraine, as well as the thousands of refugees to whom you have offered hope in a time of hopelessness.’
Since the war began Irish Presbyterians responded to the humanitarian emergency by giving £1.3 million (€1.5million) to the relief effort through a Moderator’s Special Appeal, which was launched two weeks after the Russian invasion. The amount raised from congregations from across Ireland has been distributed equally between PCI’s relief and development partners, Christian Aid and Tearfund, and the RCH through its relief and development wing, Hungarian Reformed Church Aid. In October Presbyterian Moderator, Dr John Kirkpatrick visited Hungary and Transcarpathia in western Ukraine to see the ongoing humanitarian relief effort.
Since the war began the RCH and its charity organisation RCHA have been offering support to Ukrainian refugees in Hungary and delivering humanitarian aid directly to Ukraine helping the Reformed Church in Transcarpathia to provide for Internally Displaced People and others left behind. With Supply vans crossing the border daily, Bishop Zoltán said in his letter that over 500 tons of aid had been delivered directly to those fleeing the war. At PCI’s General Assembly in June, Members heard from the President of the HRCA and the support that they had been able to provide.
In his letter, Bishop Zoltán wrote, ‘I have personally been deeply impressed and grateful for the tremendous wave of solidarity from our partner churches and church-related organizations. Your hearts went out to Ukraine, for the victims of the conflict, for the millions forced to leave their homes. Your prayers and support encouraged and enabled us to fulfil our Christian duty to welcome and host thousands of refugees in Hungary and internally displaced persons in western Ukraine…”
He concluded by saying, ‘We are grateful for those who have chosen to stand with us, for your prayers and your donations…In this season of Advent, I wish you and your community God’s rich blessings as we celebrate the birth of our only hope, Jesus Christ whose words remind us of the Gospel-based motivation of our steadfast commitment even amidst war and destruction, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.”’
Speaking in response to the letter, Dr Kirkpatrick said, “Once again, I would like to thank our Church family across Ireland for how they responded to this humanitarian crisis, which was in fact the largest response in living memory ever to be received for a special appeal.
“Having seen first-hand the work that the HRCA is doing in Hungary and Ukraine when my wife Joan and I visited both countries in October, you get a sense of the need and how PCI and other churches have been a real blessing in this awful situation. Can I encourage our congregations to continue to pray for all those affected by the ongoing conflict, for an immediate ceasefire and lasting peace, justice and stability for Ukraine, and pray that those who have lost loved ones would be comforted. Pray also for the Christian Churches in Ukraine, for their endurance, protection and faithful witness in face of this time of trial,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.
Photos: (1) Bishop Zoltán Balog, President of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in Hungary (credit Hurta Hajnalka) (2) Dr Kirkpatrick on one of the ‘exodus’ roads in Transcarpathia, western Ukraine in October this year, which brought some 500,000 Internally Displaced People from eastern, central and southern Ukraine to the province.
Hungarian Reformed Church Aid provided PCI and its other partner churches with an interim report on its humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine, which you can read here.