This press release and letter were received from Orthodox priests

in Tirana, 22 July 1997.     Orthodox Church Assists 15,164 Families in Albania With Food Aid   On 19 July, 1997, Diaconia Agapes (DA), the social and development office of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, successfully completed an intensive Emergency Food Assistance Programme in partnership with the ACT (Action of Churches Together) Network of the World Council of Churches and International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) of North America.   At the urging of HIS BEATITUDE ARCHBISHOP ANASTASIOS OF TIRANA AND ALL ALBANIA, DA/IOCC delivered 12.5 kilo family food parcels (more than 225 metric tons) directly into the hands of 15,164 'vulnerable families' throughout ten regions of priority in Albania within two and a half months.  Working with dozens of local implementing partners at 52 distribution points in Vlore, Fier, Berat, Lushne, Shkoder, Lezhe, Lac, Tirana and Durres, the ten-person staff of DA delivered five tons of food parcels daily to poor families regardless of their race or religion.  In addition, medicines were deliverEd to the St. Luke Health Clinic of Tirana.     Due to the ongoing security risk throughout Albania, DA/IOCC worked very closely with the mulitnational military force which provided escort and full protection on more than 50  deliveries. The DA/IOCC staff travelled more than 10,000 miles (17,000 km) during these convoys.  Additional forces were made available to protect distribution teams in Vlore, Fier, Patos, Lac, Lezhe, and Shkodra, as well as in the remote villages of Shpati within the Elbasan mountain region.  Some of the soldiers risked their lives to protect the humanitarian aid workers.     'In Vlora, for example,' said PENNY PANATIOTA DELIGIANNIS, director of DA,' 130 Italian soldiers surrounded the local Orthodox Church as DA delivered 360 family food parcels (equivalent to five tons).  Word had gotten out that aid was being distributed to the poorest families. More than 1,000 local citizens showed up.  The restless crowd started to panic. Pushing, shoving, and then fighting within the crowd broke out. On top of this, snipers were shooting as the staff distributed the aid. The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania considers it a privilege to assist these vulnerable families who are affected by this ongoing civil crisis.  However, a real need exists to continue and expand such an Emergency Food Assistance Program in Albania.'     International agencies working in Albania recognise that the Orthodox Church's emergency food assistance programme has been one of the few agencies to achieve successful distribution of food parcels directly to families during this crisis. Simultaneously, all social and development programmes within the Orthodox Church continue to operate. (END) As evident in the press release above, chaos is still the norm. In a letter from another Orthodox family serving in Albania, the suffering is more apparent. 'Our family has read of war-time atrocities in history books, but now living in the midst of such evil events, our eyes are turned to the Lord who is our only salvation.     'With the lack of police control, gangs run unchecked throughout cities. A women is walking near her home in the daytime. A young man robs her. But not waiting for her to take off a ring, he hacks her finger off with a knife. Adding to the bloodshed, the people take justice into their own hands. The thief is caught, and then brought to be identified by the women. He is beaten, tied up, and burned alive! 'Enlightening the faithful, Archbishop Anastasios explains: "Self-interest, conflicts, anarchy, bloody clashes and upheavals are connected with the rebellion of the creature against the Creator. Human savagery will not come to an end by itself...." 'Continuing his sermon, the Archbishop explained: "Reconciliation is an urgent need, existential as well as social. But this reconciliation will not be realised by the imposition of the will of one group over another group. It needs the inspiration and the power that springs from the most profound strata of religious experience....Extending the work of Christ through time, the Church has the mission and responsibility to be an agent of reconciliation and peace-making within society,..."' (END)