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Brazil Support for 12 elderly and infirm religious sisters

17.01.2019 in Brazil, By Mario Bard

Brazil
Support for 12 elderly and infirm religious sisters

Despite her 88 years, Sister Halina does not just sit around twiddling her thumbs. She has surely earned the right to do so, after a long life of daily service on behalf of the poor. And yet she continues to this day, tirelessly visiting the sick and sewing quilts and pillowcases for newborn babies. And her equally elderly fellow sisters also still want to make themselves useful – listening to and counselling those who come to them for advice, helping children with their homework and comforting the sick and needy. Some of them even continue to instruct and give talks.

The sisters are delighted to see that there are many young women who also wish to join their congregation. At the same time, however, seven of their elderly sisters are already in need of constant care, while another five are very advanced in age. Since the congregation has very limited sources of income, we help every year for the most elderly and infirm, with a contribution to the cost of their care and support. This year we are giving 6900 dollars.

 

 

Christmas, it’s you

14.01.2019 in Africa, By Robert Lalonde

Robert Lalonde, regular contributor to the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need, is currently travelling in Africa. Before heading to Burkina Faso and then to the Ivory Coast, he spent Christmas and New Year’s in Senegal. This is the first of a series of three texts about the people who make up the local Catholic Churches in these West African countries. Note that all quotes about the Christmas holiday are from Pope Francis, taken and translated from the book L’esprit de Noël, éditions Michel Lafon, 2016.

Christmas, it’s you

On the night of December 22, 2018, Jean-Baptiste, a friend I met at the Institut de formation humaine intégrale de Montréal – a regular partner of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) – welcomed me at the Dakar airport, in the capital of Senegal.

Over the next few days, this Brother from the Discalced Carmelite congregation passed down so much knowledge on his adopted country to me that one would think he is actually Senegalese. But, above all, he revealed to me the love he feels for his people whose hospitality is only matched by their kindness. I feel this profound love when he celebrates the morning mass on Christmas Eve.

That morning, in the Carmelite chapel of Kaolack, I hear the song of the stone curlews through the barred wrought iron windows. It’s as if these Senegalese birds are approaching to accompany Brother Marie-Pierre caressing his kora. This instrument, a cross between a harp and a guitar, invites God to penetrate our soul.

“Christmas is you, when you decide to be born again each day and let God into your soul.”

Then comes the moment to sing Il est né le divin enfant. My singing is out of tune, but my heart, filled with joy, joins the voices of the monks to worship God. We are one, we are together in His name.

The crucifix on the wall behind the altar reigns over the kingdom of the monks. The crèche is kneeling in front of the altar. Despite the absence of Jesus in this nativity scene, we doubt neither his presence nor his coming. Jean-Baptiste’s homily, recited softly, is proof. After having been invited to go in the peace of Christ, we exit, ready to face life’s torments.

“The Christmas tree is you, when you vigorously resist strong winds and the obstacles of life.”

Right away, I accompany Jean-Baptiste in his mission, that of preparing a choir of some twenty Serer* young adults for the evening mass. Once the keyboard, violin and guitar are in the trunk of the car, we cross the scrubland to head to the parish of Ndiaffate, where we will join the choristers.

Once there, and despite the disorientation, I feel at home. I am surrounded by the humanity and solidarity of the people. The harmony of the voices impresses me, the amount of energy overpowers me. The rhythm is so lively that I seem to see the garlands dance on the ceiling and the lights on the tree following the beat by shining above a motley crèche. Lighthearted, I watch the master craftsman, wearing his most beautiful smile. Jean-Baptiste loves music. For him, it is an occasion to glorify God. “Singing is praying twice”, as St. Augustin says.

 

“Christmas decorations are you, when your virtues are colours that adorn your life.”

On the way back, no motor vehicle. At times we see carts pulled by donkeys or horses, at other times we see herds of cows or goats, guided by Fulani people going in the same direction as us. It’s as if they will all be setting up camp in the Carmelite crèche. All of a sudden, I feel as though I am back in the time of Jesus. Momentarily feeling like an apostle delights me.

Jean-Baptiste frequently stops on the side of the road to greet passersby. He says “Salamalakoum”, they answer “Malakoumsalam”. Muslims, Christians, it doesn’t matter. In Senegal, everyone exists side by side, without hostility. A Muslim man even invited Jean-Baptiste for the next day. Jean-Baptiste declines, not without an explanation, and proposes to postpone the invitation. This simplicity and warmth fill my heart with hope.

“The bell that rings Christmas, it’s you, when you invite to gather and attempt to reunite.”

At supper, silence is in order. I am integrating the day’s experiences and feel the peace reigning and the joy flourishing in me. The four Brothers surrounding me look radiant. One of them, Marie-Pierre, who will be presiding over the evening mass, seems to be preparing his homily. I have no doubt when I see him embodying it in such a dynamic and inspiring way when the moment comes to deliver it to the 200 faithful in attendance.

“You are also a Christmas light, when you illuminate with your life the path of others with kindness, patience, joy and generosity.”

Once the church is full, Jean-Baptiste gives the choristers the signal as the celebrant enters, accompanied by two other Brothers. From the first notes, my heart is touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit. All these liturgical songs contain a comforting je-ne-sais-quoi. As if the invisible momentarily captured all the weight of the world. It was this way throughout the Eucharist. I leave in the peace of Christ, ready to welcome him again tomorrow in the crèche.

“The Christmas angels are you, when you sing to the world a message of peace, justice and love.”

*West African people. In number, they make up the third largest ethnic group of Senegal, after the Wolof and Fulani people.

 

A roof for a new church

10.01.2019 in Africa, Mali, Project of the Week

Mali

A roof for a new church

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa with an overwhelmingly Muslim population. However, until recent years Christians, Muslims and followers of traditional African religions continued to live peaceably together, as they had for centuries. However, this situation came to a bloody end in 2012 when war broke out in the northern part of the country, much of which lies within the Sahara Desert region. Tuareg rebels had formed an alliance with radical Islamists and sought to establish an independent Islamic state in this part of the country. Initially the jihadists gained control over the northern half and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee as a result.

But then in 2013, when the Islamists attempted to conquer the south of the country as well and turn the civil state into an Islamist theocracy, France and the UN intervened militarily in the conflict and rapidly defeated the Islamist rebels.

However, in practice Mali has been a divided country since 2013. A fact that has also impacted the lives of Catholics in the country, who today make up around 200,000 faithful in the midst of a total population of some 18 million.

Whereas in the north of the country, it is all but impossible for the Church to function normally, and the great majority of her structures there have been destroyed, the situation is somewhat better in the south of the country – although even here there are occasional violent assaults. Nevertheless, the Catholic community is even growing here, although almost all her new members are former animists, rather than Muslims.

In the south of the country, in the diocese of San, lies the very lively parish of Yasso, which is dedicated to Saint Therese of Lisieux. It has some 5 000 active faithful and includes around 40 villages. And the number of Catholics is growing steadily. So far they have only a small and somewhat temporary chapel, which is far too small for the community and at risk of collapsing when the rainy season comes. But now, they have been able to start work on a large and permanent church, big enough to accommodate 2 000 people. The walls are already standing, but they do not have the money for the roof. So they have turned to ACN for help, and we have promised them 72 000 dollars so that they can finally complete their church.

ACN Info – Nigeria Attacks by Fulani herdsmen; “a timebomb”

19.12.2018 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Thomas Oswald & Maria Lozano

Nigeria

Attacks by Fulani herdsmen; “a timebomb”

 

NIGERIA / GBOKO – Bishop William AVENYA

Christians in northern Nigeria, in addition to suffering attacks by the terrorist Boko Haram group, are also facing a terrible situation as a result of the bloody attacks by Fulani herdsmen against Christian villages in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt.

 

“This is a time bomb that threatens to ignite the whole region,” says Bishop William Amove Avenya of the diocese of Gboko. He was speaking to representatives of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). He described how in his diocese, located in Nigeria’s majority Christian Benue State, “Fulani tribesman, armed to the teeth, are murdering pregnant women and children and destroying our smallholdings”. Ever since 2010 the Christian villages have been the target of violent attacks by the nomadic, Muslim Fulani herdsman from the Sahel region, who have been armed with a wealth of modern weaponry. The result has been thousands killed and numerous communities forced to flee. “The Fulani have claimed far more victims during 2018 than Boko Haram, but no one is doing anything about it,” the bishop explained.

Fulani Herdsmen in Nigeria  Credit: © Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Directorate of Social Communications

“This is a time bomb”

According to Bishop Avenya, the Nigerian authorities are simply not taking the necessary measures to address the violence. He denounced the silence of the government and of the media. During his visit to Europe to attend the official launch of ACN’s Report on Religious Freedom in the World, the bishop met with EU politicians from Brussels who likewise “seemed poorly informed about the situation in our country and about the threat posed by the Fulani, who have been supplied with modern weapons of a kind not used by simple herdsmen. We need to ask who is behind this.”

 

Presentation of the Religious Freedom Report at the European Parliament in Brussels on 04.12.2018
(from left to right):
Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla (Head of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace),
Mark von Riedemann ( ACN Director of Public Affairs and Religious Freedom)
His Excellency Mgr. Alain Lebeaupin (Apostolic Nuncio to the EU),
His Excellency Mgr William Avenya (Bishop of Gboko, Nigeria),
Sister Fida Chaaya (Damascus in Syria)

“We have not lost hope, but we do need help.”

Nigeria, Kaduna : Destruction by fulani attacks 2017

Already a month ago, Bishop Avenya had issued a desperate appeal to the international community, urging it “not to wait for a genocide to happen before intervening.” Additionally, on numerous occasions, the Nigerian bishops’ conference has called on the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to provide effective guarantees for the safety of his people or, if he is unable to do so, to resign. Their petition has been ignored and the violence continues. Meanwhile, Muhammadu Buhari plans to stand once again for president in the new elections to be held in February next year.

“Meanwhile, the Church continues to try and heal the wounds,” Bishop Avenya added. “We have not lost hope, but we do need help.”

ACN Canada is supporting the Church in Nigeria.  Please be generous with our project partners!  Learn more here: NigeriaACN

 

ACN Interview – Sister Yvonne Gera in Algeria

18.12.2018 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Algeria, By Grace Attu

ALGERIA / CONSTANTINE  Management of buildings in the parish of Skikda.

Algeria

“They died at their post”

Between 1994 and 1996, Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 others were killed during the Algerian civil war. The cause for their beatification opened in 2007 and at the beginning of this year, Pope Francis signed the decree confirming that they died in “odium fidei” (hatred of the faith) thus recognizing them as martyrs.

On December 8th the ceremony of beatification took place in the Cathedral of the Diocese of Oran, where Msgr Pierre Claverie was Bishop. 

Sr Yvonne Gera, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary who worked in Algeria for 22 years and knew each of the 19 martyrs personally, speaks to Grace Attu from the ACN National Office in Malta about the martyrs and her experience in Algeria at the time.

 

ACN: The official document of the Congregation for the causes of Saints describes the 19 Martyrs as “Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 companions,” who are they, really?

Sr. Yvonne Gera, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary

Sr. YVONNE GERA: Yes. They are Bishop Pierre Claverie, seven Trappist monks from Tibhirine, one Marist brother, four White Fathers, and six Nuns from various congregations that had a presence in Algeria. They all worked with the people; helping the poor, the sick, the children.  The Marist brother Henry worked in a Library of the diocese that attended to more than a thousand youth  especially poor children, some of the sisters were Nurses. The 7 Trappists had a clinic, one of them was a doctor and all the people came. They didn’t ask if they were Muslim or Christians before helping them. Bishop Pierre Claverie always spoke the truth to the government and the people.

 

ACN: Can you give us a background of the situation that led to their death?

YVONNE GERA: First of all I would like to say that the war in Algeria was not a religious war but a civil war. The Islamists took advantage of the situation. On October 3, 1993, all foreigners were warned that if they didn’t leave the country by the end of the year, they would be targeted.

On the eve of Christmas, the terrorists visited the Monastery. They wanted money but the Prior told them, “we live on our crops.” All of a sudden the bell rang for Christmas Eve Mass and he told them, “Today is born the King of Peace” and they told him, “Ayisa” in Arabic meaning that they will come back.

The quit notice was not only to religious but also to foreign Christian families. So, between 1992 and 1993, the Church lost almost all foreign Catholic families. Even as we were targeted, we all stayed. We used to say that the captain is not going to leave the ship while it is sinking. So we all remained.

 

ACN: They are being beatified together.  What do they have in common?

YVONNE GERA: At that time, almost all religious had to write to their superior general if they were willing to stay. Those who were afraid left. But one thing these 19 had in common was that they decided to stay despite the threats. They continued working and taking care of the people. And they died at their duty posts.

Fr Paul-Elie Cheknoun serving the parishes of om Alger and Constantine

 

ACN: You were also working in Algeria during this period. What was your experience?

YVONNE GERA : I worked 22 years in Algeria and out of it was 14 years of war. Why I am here and was not killed during that time, I don’t know. I was also a target. In the morning I tell the Lord, “keep your Hand on me, help me to do my duty.”

One morning, I received a call from French Ambassador. He asked to speak with Msgr Henri Teissier. The ambassador told him, “Go to the French hospital.” We went to the French hospital, and there were 7 coffins. At first, they didn’t want to open it but Msgr Teissier told them, “If you don’t open it, I can’t say if they are the terrorists or the brothers.” Then he opened and in each coffin, there was only the head of each monk (the 7 Trappists). As I was waiting, Msgr Teissier told me, “Do you want to see them?”, I replied, “Yes, for the last time,” It was horrible to see.

The Church suffered a lot. But it was a Church of presence. We never preached. We didn’t go and preach here and there but everyone was welcomed and they came. I was in charge of all the clinics of the Church and all clinics had a centre for malnourished children and a centre for mother and child-care. Everything was free.

We never had difficulties with the people. During Ramadan we used to be invited every evening to different families to have the meal with them. In the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, it is written “pray for us and for the Muslims.” And the young women (including Muslims) who could not have a baby used to come to pray to our Lady, bringing a doll, and when she had the baby, she came to present it to Our Lady.

Participation of 30 young faithful of the church of Algeria in the WYD in Krakow, Poland, July 2016.

 

ACN: Even today, many priests and religious who work in crisis ridden countries suffer threats to their lives. Some have been abducted. What word do you have for them?

YVONNE GERA: We are missionaries. Whatever happens, we are missionaries. We know that that is our vocation and I say one thing, “you will receive more than you give”. It is sometimes difficult, yes but the Lord has called us. If the people suffer, we suffer with them. It is our vocation and the Lord is always there to help us. Even in suffering or in martyrdom. These 19 martyrs knew that they were targeted but they remained. Don’t be afraid, the Lord is there to help you.

On the occasion of the beatification of the 19 Martyrs in Oran, Algeria on December 8, 2018, Aid to the Church in Need (Malta) will issue a booklet about the Martyrs, who they were, the kind of life they lived and some testimonies about them.

 

To learn more about the situation of the religious freedom in Algeria please see: www.religious-freedom-report.org

ACN Info – Nicaragua, Cardinal Brenes: “The tears of the people are the tears of God”

14.12.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN Intl

Nicaragua

November 2018
Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, diocese of Managua in Nicaragua

Cardinal Brenes: “The tears of the people are the tears of God”

“Dialogue is the only solution”

A few days before the national feast day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes, Archbishop of Managua, called on people to “pray for Nicaragua; for peace and unity among the people and in the families,” in a video message sent to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). The Cardinal goes on to insist, “The tears of the people are the tears of God, and so they are also the tears of Mary, who is our Mother. She would weep seeing our situation.”

Speaking to the media about the significance of this great feast day for the Nicaraguan people, Cardinal Brenes gave thanks to God for the fact that conflicts in the country “are diminishing” and expressed the hope that little by little, “we will be able to regain peace.” And he invited people to “continue working during this Advent of hope” and at the same time to reflect on the broad pastoral message for Advent published by the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference, which has not been well received in every sector of society.

In their Advent message – issued at a critical moment for the country, still in the throes of a social and political crisis caused by the killings and repression which first prompted the protests against President Daniel Ortega – the Nicaraguan Bishops remind people that they must act as though they are “co-workers of God” in the face of “injustice and oppression.” They must not allow themselves “to be seduced by quick-fix solutions.” Instead, “the new Nicaragua needs non-violent leaders who, with the help of God, will achieve goals of freedom and justice.” The bishops call for dialogue, for words and gestures of solidarity, love and forgiveness in order to confront the violence. They remind people that in the face of the conflicts and the crisis the country is going through, “no one can remain detached with arms folded,” at the sight of “the suffering of our adversaries, who have not ceased to be our brothers.” The bishops insist that everyone must break with their own “personal egoisms” in order to become more and more like “the Lord.”

 

A family in the village of Inotaga, Inotega diocese

Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes insists on dialogue, which he describes as “the spirit of the Church, be it in the family, vis-a-vis our neighbours or in politics.” The same sentiment is contained in the Advent message of the bishops, in which they emphasize that “a good politician is one who has in mind the interests of all parties and seizes the opportunity to engage in dialogue with an open spirit.” At the same time, they also recognize the difficulty in solving every issue through dialogue between the state and society, and add that they themselves are “willing to accompany any proposals that best live up to human dignity and the common good.”

“With dialogue there is hope for the future; without it every effort will end in failure. This is the only peaceful way out of this social and political crisis,” they conclude.

 

The crisis in Nicaragua

Trip to Nicaragua, November 2018
Bishop Jorge Solórzano Pérez (Bishop of Granada, Nicaragua) – World Day of the Poor

Nicaragua is currently going through a political and social crisis which has its root cause in the growing authoritarianism and lack of respect for the rule of law that started emerging in the last decade, following the electoral victory of President Daniel Ortega in 2006. An attempted reform of the social security system by the government in April 2018 prompted mass protests, which were violently repressed by groups close to the government. The result was hundreds killed, hundreds of young people still lingering in the prisons of Nicaragua and thousands of young people who simply left the country. Nicaragua is now a divided and desperate country. The Church in Nicaragua, which has taken a critical stance in response to the political authoritarianism it has witnessed, has likewise been subjected to a campaign of vilification on the part of the government and has received a constant string of threats from groups close to President Ortega.

Several bishops have been attacked, among them auxiliary Bishop Silvio Báez of Managua, Bishop Juan Mata of Estelí and Bishop Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa. Not to mention the violent incident in the Basilica of San Sebastian in the city of Diriamba, when Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag were both assaulted.

 

ACN International has just concluded a visit to Nicaragua to investigate the situation at first hand and assess what practical help can be given to the local Church to help reinforce its pastoral outreach in these difficult and delicate moments for the country.

 

 

 

 

 

ACN Project of the Week – Supporting Carmelite Sisters in Bolivia

13.12.2018 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bolivia, Sisters, South America

Project of the Week – Bolivia

Support of five religious Sisters in Cochabamba

 

Bolivia has long been the poorest country on the South American continent. And even though the economic situation has seen slight improvement recently, there has been little sign of benefit for large sections of the population. The same can be said for the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia’s fourth-largest city. For although it has grown to become an industrial centre, many of its inhabitants continue to live in deep poverty. And, the ongoing flight from rural areas has led to more and more people flocking to the city.

Subsistence aid for Carmelitas del Sagrado Corazón in Quillacollo, 2017.
Photo: Sister Griselda with the children of the school Nuestra Señora de Urkupiña.

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart have been working in a western suburb of Cochabamba at two Quillacollo parishes, since 2005. Unlike the Discalced Carmelites, their better-known sister congregation, which is an enclosed, contemplative congregation founded by Saint Teresa of Avila, the Carmelites of the Sacred Heart are an active religious community. The five Carmelites in Cochabamba have opened up an educational centre for children, young people and women, where they offer, among other things, literacy courses and basic skills courses for women with which they can earn a living to support themselves and their families.

 

The Sisters also prepare the children for their First Holy Communion, accompany the children, young people and adults on their path of faith, organize retreat days and – in an area where there are very few priests and the parishes very large – they play a vital role in spreading the Catholic faith. They also support and counsel women who are victims of domestic violence.

 

The Sisters have turned to ACN for support for their life and ministry, since by themselves they cannot make ends meet. They also have to find money for transportation, medical provisions, food and so forth, as well as for their own general basic living essentials.

We have promised these Carmelite Sisters $4,000 dollars to help them in their work.

 

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

 

 

 

ACN Project of the Week – Cameroon

06.12.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Cameroon

ACN Project of the Week: Cameroon

Help for the training of seminarians threatened by Boko Haram terrorists

Nigeria is not the only country suffering from the terror of Boko Haram. Its neighbour, Cameroon also suffers from the violence of Islamist terror groups in the northern part of the country.

 

It is true that the organized armed attacks by Boko Haram have now decreased in the face of a united military offensive by several African countries. On the other hand, suicide bombings have continued, as have murders and abductions in the affected areas—leaving many people to live in fear.

 

The Catholic diocese of Maroua-Mokolo, found in the far north region of Cameroon, faces many difficult challenges. Not only located in a significantly poor part of the country, but the diocese also has to take in large numbers of Nigerian and Cameroonian refugees. A positive side to this difficult remains, however, for the people’s faith is unbroken. And despite the fear of attack, people continue to flock to the churches. The number of vocations is also growing. Right now, 32 seminarians are training for the priesthood in the diocesan seminary, plus another 18 youths at the minor seminary; four more are in their so-called propaedeutic year (a form of educational foundation year in preparation for entering the seminary proper).  This number is astonishingly high given that there are only around 84,000 Catholics in the diocese.

 

 

These vocations naturally delight Bishop Bruno Ateba Edo, but he desperately needs financial help so as to give these young men a solid and thorough formation. He has asked ACN for help and we are planning to give him $40,500 dollars.

Are you inspired by this project? To give to this project, or another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN News: Rome – Pope Francis Lights a Candle for Syria

03.12.2018 in ACN International, ACN Italy, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Pope, Pope Francis, Prayer, Syria

An ACN Initiative

50,000 Candles for Peace in Syria

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is launching this Christmas a campaign of prayer, aid and solidarity for the people of Syria entitled Candles for Peace in Syria. The campaign formally begins on the first Sunday of Advent, 2nd December, with the symbolic lighting of a candle by the Holy Father following the recitation of the Angelus prayer.

In the last few days the initiative has involved over 50,000 children, of different religions, from several of the Syrian cities most severely affected by the war, including Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Marmarita, Hassaké, Tartus and Latakia. The children have prayed and decorated candles with symbols of peace– crosses, doves and messages of hope – to convey to the world their longing for peace. For all too often the primary victims of this still ongoing conflict, have been these little Syrian children.

ACN International is calling on people of goodwill all over the world to respond to this cry of peace from the children of Syria, among other things by lighting a candle, as the Holy Father did on Sunday, in order to amplify the resonance of this clarion call for peace from the children of Syria and send out a strong message of hope during the season of Advent.

 

The candle which the Holy Father lit was decorated by a local craftsman from the Bab Touma quarter of the Old City of Damascus and also bears the photos of some 40 children, most of them from Aleppo, together with the logo of the campaign – a dove with outstretched wings in the shape of a child’s hand and the message “Peace for the Children of Syria 2018” – plus the regular logo of ACN International.

This is not the first time that ACN has spoken out for the children of Syria. Back in 2016 the charity made an appeal to the European Parliament, conveying to it pictures drawn by the children, expressing their longing for peace.

Canada: A Prayerful Response and Little Acts of Solidarity

“In Canada, the benefactors who receive the Mirror will be able to direct their donation as a Christmas Gift for Syria,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN.  “ We invite them to pray especially that the families of Syria may fully taste the joy of a peaceful Christmas.  We hope that the Christmases to come will be experienced in peace.”  Aid to the Church in Need has already sent 22.5 million dollars for the reconstruction in Syria which adds to the already 44 million already given since the conflict began in 2011.

ACN NEWS: ASIA BIBI CONCERNED FOR THE SAFETY OF HER DAUGHTERS

30.11.2018 in ACN International, ACN Italy, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Pakistan, Religious freedom

Pakistan

ASIA BIBI IS CONCERNED FOR THE SAFETY OF HER DAUGHTERS

“WE ARE AFRAID!” SAYS JOSEPH NADEEM, THE MAN WHO IS SHELTERING HER FAMILY TELLS ACN: “IN THE LAST FEW DAYS THE ISLAMISTS HAVE SHOT AT THE GATEWAY OUTSIDE OUR HOUSE. WE HOPE TO BE ABLE TO FIND A PLACE OF SECURITY SOON, PERHAPS EVEN IN ROME FOR CHRISTMAS.”

United Kingdom, 09.10.2018
Eisham Ashiq (19 year old daughter of Asia Bibi)

“We are afraid. In the last few days they have shot at the gate outside the house where we were living. We face constant threats, and more than once I have been followed.” Such is the frightening situation being endured by the daughters of Asia Bibi, as reported to ACN by Joseph Nadeem, the man who has been sheltering her family ever since this Christian woman was sentenced to death for blasphemy. Given that Asia and her husband are practically illiterate, it is Nadeem who has been helping them with legal support and accompanying her husband Asihiq and younger daughter Eisham in their travels abroad, giving testimony of their experiences.

Today Joseph Nadeem and his family are themselves in danger and living in hiding together with the daughters of Asia Bibi. “Just as soon as Asia was acquitted, we were forced to flee,” he recalls. “Asia and her husband are currently in a place of safety, protected by the government, but we could not remain with them,” he explains. Ever since then Joseph Nadeem and his family, together with the two daughters of Asia, have had to keep on the move, changing homes four times so far. “The Islamists keep hunting us down, and every time we find we are in danger, we have to move on immediately. We cannot go out openly to buy food. I only ever go out by night and with my face covered,” Joseph Nadeem tells ACN.

Daily talks on the phone

Asia is aware of their difficult situation. “I met her as soon as she was acquitted, and every day we speak on the telephone together. She is very concerned for the safety of her daughters.” The two girls, Esha and Eisham, have not even have the chance to embrace their mother since her acquittal, but finally, even if only by telephone, they have been able to spend a few minutes talking to her daily. “I will never forget their first telephone call,” Joseph recalls. “Esha and Eisham wept for hours for sheer joy and relief. Asia cannot wait to see them again, and I am still hoping we can all leave the country very soon, together with Asia and her husband.”

Pakistan: A man sits in a Christian quarter of Multan, the town where Asia Bibi was held prisoner.

Nevertheless, their nightmare is still far from over. Asia Bibi has shown extraordinary strength and courage. “She is a remarkable woman! She has retained an unshakable faith and infinite trust in the Lord. It may sound strange, but it is she who has supported us in these difficult moments. She urges us not to get discouraged and tells us that in comparison with what she has been through so far, this is only a brief moment that will pass.”

Nadeem and the two girls are well aware of the flood of information and interest that her mother’s case has aroused around the world, and they have been able to talk to Asia herself about it. “The international attention and solidarity are a source of comfort for us. Eisham was profoundly moved when she saw her video message projected on the buildings of Venice, illuminated in red light. All of us, Asia included, are grateful to all those who have raised their voices in protest about our situation.”

“We are hoping to be able to leave Pakistan soon and live in a safe place. ACN was the first organization to offer us hospitality. And we are hoping that our two families will be able to spend this Christmas in Rome, together with you all.”