Students’ Donation Campaign for Syrian schools hits 10-years High in history of the Reformed Educational Fund in the Carpathian Basin. Students and teachers of Hungarian reformed schools raised more than 60 000 USD for the renovation of Syrian evangelical schools.
Students and teachers of Hungarian reformed elementary and secondary schools in the Carpathian Basin have raised more than 60 000 USD for the support of Syrian evangelical schools during the latest solidarity campaign initiated last November by the Presidium of the General Convent of the Hungarian Reformed Church. The donation represents the highest amount in the 10 years history of the Hungarian Reformed Educational Fund which was established in 2009 with the objective of strengthening the solidarity within the Hungarian reformed community by supporting Reformed educational projects throughout the region, including churches in Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia and Croatia.
The recent donation campaign was meant as a sign of the “extended” solidarity, beyond the boundaries of Hungarian community, this time with the Armenian evangelical community in Syria. The financial aid is primary designed for the renovation of our Syrian sister church's elementary school in Damascus and wants to improve the conditions of the Christian schools, operated by the Syrian evangelical community, in general.
During the RCH’s church leaders’ visit to Syria last March, the delegation also visited the school in the historical part of Damascus. The school building that functions in an old rebuilt courthouse welcomes more than 100 children from the age of kindergarten up to the 6th grade. Just like their other educational institutions, this school was severely affected by the war. It has been hit more than once, which resulted in damage to the roof structure. The sanitary units have also seen better days, and visit to the computer room amounts to time travel: the equipment reminds us of the turn of the millennium. Upgrading these is also among their development plans, and they also hope to modernise the furniture and heating of the classrooms.
The students and teachers at the Damascus school of our Armenian partner church awaited Christmas under a roof in need of repairs, in dilapidated classrooms with inadequate heating. This matters because education is of key significance when it comes to the peaceful coexistence of various groups and religions in the Middle East. „Please never forget that what you are doing is one of the most important tasks,” told Bishop István Bogárdi Szabó, Predisent of RCH encouragingly, having seen the environment the teachers have to work in. „Not only do you open children’s eyes to the world, but by teaching them to read and write, you also open their lives to the Kingdom of God.”, reads in our on-site report about the beneficiary, School for Christmas
Students and teachers of one hundred and ten Reformed educational institutions in Hungary and in the neighbouring countries has understood this and offered their prayers and pocket money, while several communities, individuals and entrepreneurs from the region have joined forces with them. The Presidency of the General Convent has recognized this effort and has doubled the donation from the budget of the Hungarian Reformed Church. The solidarity fund for educational institutions exceeded 120 000 USD, a 10-year high, out of which 100 000 USD has been offered to the Armenian Evangelical Community in Syria.
Soon after the celebratory declaration of the Unity of the Hungarian Reformed Church in 2009, the Reformed Educational Fund (REF) was established with the aim of supporting the members of the Hungarian Reformed Communities beyond Hungary’s border by funding the operation and development of their educational institutions. The need for this support was great as around one quarter of the 500-year-old Hungary Reformed education network has been functioning outside of Hungary due to the Treaty closing the WWI. The REF is meant to be an instrument for strengthening the solidarity and the sense of togetherness within the Hungarian Reformed Community. Over a decade our educators and students have raised almost 500 000 USD.
“We invite the Hungarian Reformed educational institutions in the Carpathian Basin to launch a fundraising campaign. We are not only asking for financial support from students and teachers, but also for their assistance to organise a fundraising event. Fundraising is not a common practice in Hungary… I think fundraising is more than just collecting money. The students become more sensitive”, stressed in an earlier interview Tibor Ábrám, Lay President of the Cistibiscan Reformed Church District and coordinator of the Fund. “The General Convent itself does not have substantial financial resources; nevertheless we have resolved to support Syrian schools, because a significant process during the post-war period is for schools to return to a normal state, and proper school education may contribute to the aim of Syrian Christians remaining in their homeland”, he explained.
Every Little Truly Helps. The Hungarian Reformed Church Aid has already had two fundraising campaigns for supporting the Sunday Schools operating in Syrian congregations, the Reformed Church in Hungary has contributed to the renovation of an Armenian Evangelical church building in Aleppo, while the General Convent provides support for the scholarship programme of local church-run schools.
The call of the Presidium of the General Convent was heard. „…Let us direct our attention and our compassionate love towards the educational ministry of the Armenian Evangelical Community in Syria that is facing so many hardships. […] By this we wish to feel the embrace of our togetherness and the enriching experience of helping each other”.
The current campaign is just another step on the common journey and another sign of the mutual trust and solidarity which was symbolically sealed on the 27th March 2019 as Presiding Bishop István Szabó and leaders of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon as well as of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East has singed a Memorandum of Commitment expressing their dedication to the partnership with each other.
"Together we commit ourselves to support each other in this ministry and to develop our cooperation among the different areas of our Church life. Our commitment to Christian values, to human dignity for all, to just peace and reconciliation, to human rights of minorities, and to equal citizenship in our societies of all communities, irrespective of their religious and ethnic background, is unquestionable. Our cooperation shall include, but not be limited to, sharing resources and expertise in the fields of humanitarian assistance, diaconal service, community development, Christian education, and pastors’ training, as well as encouraging congregational partnerships, solidarity visits of church officials, and exchange programs for pastors, experts, and young volunteers," reads in the Memorandum of Commitment.