2 • The birth of the « Action Chrétienne en Orient »

The birth of the Action Chrétienne en Orient

Paul Berron returned to Alsace, as a French citizen. His missionary calling for the East remained vivid and he pursued his work for the German mission organization Hilfsbund which sent him in 1922 on a mission to assess the Syrian situation, thanks to his French passport.

Whit Monday 1922 in Damascus
: Paul Berron with armenians and syrians christians during his exploratory trip

The needs of the Armenian refugees from Aleppo were tremendous but Syria was controlled by France and work within the scope of the German mission was impossible.

A new organization was needed and this is why, on 6th December 1922 “Action Chrétienne en Orient” was founded.

Meal distribution in one of Aleppo’s camps

From the start, it was a singular mission. Its by-laws are French but its first funding stems from the German Hilfsbund. The head of the organization, its founding members and donors were mostly from Alsace but its first missionaries Hedwig Bull and Alice Humbert-Droz were, respectively, Estonian and Swiss. Numerous partners were Armenian.

Alice-Humbert-Droz, missionnary nurse of ACO

The ACO had three main goals: material aid to the Armenians, spiritual work among Eastern Christians and mission among Muslims.

Spirituality would always be at the heart of Paul Berron’s and other missionaries‘ commitment. They lived a life based on prayer and testimony in an environment preoccupied by tangible and humanitarian questions affecting the lives of Armenians in the camps of Aleppo.

Condensed milk distribution in one of Aleppo’s camps

Indeed the priority was to alleviate their deplorable living conditions

Poverty, insalubrity, lack of hygiene, undernourishment, disease and support widows and orphans with no hope of finding work and educating their children.

Healthcare given to children suffering from undernutrition
Hedwige Bull Mission Alep 23
Weaving workshop

During the interwar period numerous concrete projects were set up in Aleppo thanks to the work of missionaries whilst the ACO was directed from Strasbourg by Paul Berron who developed support to the mission.

In the early 1930s, a center was built in Aleppo to help expand the mission and the headquarters of the ACO was established in Strasbourg Meinau: they are still active today.

The ACO buildings in Aleppo (Sichar and Elim) – known today under the name Church of Christ

Go to part three
A Mission with unique partnerships

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