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ACN Canada

 

ACN Feature Story: Religious Sister and sexual assault survivor rebounds to ‘bring her people hope’

15.01.2020 in ACN Canada, ACN International, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom, Sisters

India

Religious Sister and sexual assault survivor rebounds to ‘bring her people hope’

by Anto Akkara, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada

Posted to the web January 15, 2020

 

In August 2008, the Odisha state’s Kandhamal district witnessed the worst eruption of Christian persecution in modern Indian history. It was sparked by the murder of a local Hindu leader. Hindu radicals labeled the killing “an international Christian conspiracy,” blaming the Pope, Europe, and the United States. They called for revenge on Christians, which led to the deaths of 100 people and the destruction of 300 churches and 6,000 homes. Seven Christians, falsely accused of the murder of the *Swami, spent 9 years in jail. In early December, the remaining five Christians were finally released on bail.

 

Courage alongside trauma

Kandhamal district in Odisha where in 2008 riots by radical Hindus took place against Christians.

During the wave of violence that swept through the Kandhamal district, Sister Meena Barwa was raped and paraded half-naked through the streets. After years of trauma and legal proceedings—which are still ongoing—Sister Barwa decided to enroll in law school and work on behalf of the marginalized. She recently spoke with Aid to the Church in Need:

“The trauma was nearly unbearable, and I moved several times for my own safety, sometimes to places where I could not speak the language. I even wore disguises. For years, I was separated from my family. And the nights were especially bad. I dreamt of the assault often. The knowledge that Kandhamal’s Christians were suffering only added to my pain.

“From time to time, I returned to Odisha for court proceedings. The first trial traumatized me all over again. I couldn’t sleep for days afterwards; I was humiliated, offended, and mentally tortured. I developed a serious aversion to India’s legal system.

“But this did not keep me down. I decided to act on behalf of the people who suffered with me, to pursue justice for them. In 2009, I anonymously enrolled in a college outside of Odisha; I was just one of the girls living in a convent hostel. In 2015, I began a three-year law program, while continuing to attend to my duties as a nun.

 

 

Strength born of suffering and God’s blessings

“Many things have changed in the last decade. Today I lead a normal life, and I have become much stronger. The people I’ve met have helped me forget my pain; I consider them blessings from God. They were angels sent to guide me, so that I did not wallow in misery. Instead, I rose from my trauma and found a way to bring my people hope. I’ve become more humble, more patient, and more human.

“I pray the Lord’s prayer every day. The prayer is only meaningful when I forgive. How can I pray Our Lord’s Prayer if I do not forgive? By forgiving my attackers I have become free of my trauma, fear, shame, humiliation and anger. I feel I am living normal life and am happy because I forgave them. Otherwise, I would have gone mad. I have no ill feeling towards my attackers. I only wish that they become good people.

 

Tribal Catholics in Kandhamal district in Odisha where in 2008 riots by radical Hindus took place against Christians. These villagers have been expelled from their lands, losing all their goods, and have been resettled, often after living for months in the forest or in refugee camps, in another part of the district.

“He has empowered me to serve others”

“I am grateful for my life, my strength, and my sense of purpose, all of which were given to me by God. He is my strength, even as my trial drags on. And He has empowered me to serve others.

“The people of Kandhamal have suffered so much, but they are putting all their trust in the Lord. Suffering in itself is a grace. I see it as a challenge to grow out of it. The Christian community’s attitude towards what happened in Kandhamal in 2008 is not negative. They are hopeful and have a deeper faith. The tragedy has made them stronger. He words of St. Paul come to mind: ‘Who can separate us from the Love of Christ?’ The people of Kandhamal are living this.

* Meaning of ‘Swami’ – a teacher – in Sanskrit language: “One who knows.”

 


Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) published a book called ‘God’s Initiative’ co-authored by Marie-Claude Lalonde and Robert Lalonde, made-up of interviews conducted in 2015 of religious Sisters around the world.  Among them can be found Sister Meena’s story.

Please contact ACN Canada if you would like a copy: suggested donation is $20.  Please call (514) 659-4041 x227 or write to info@acn-canada.org.  All proceeds go to supporting pastoral projects supported by ACN in 140 countries around the world.

ACN News – “2019 was a year of martyrs”

10.01.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Thomas Heine-Geldern, Urgent need, Violence against Christians, World

ACN International

Initial assessment of the last year: “2019 was a year of martyrs”

by Maria Lozano & Jürgen Liminski, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Published on the web, January 10, 2019

Thomas Heine-Geldern, president of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), gives an initial assessment of the last year for Christians around the world: “2019 was a year of martyrs, one of the bloodiest for Christians in history culminating in the attacks on three churches in Sri Lanka that cost more than 250 people their lives. We are also very concerned about the situation in China and India.”

On a positive note, “politicians and opinion leaders in Western Europe are talking about religious freedom much more frequently now.” As a particularly encouraging example, Heine-Geldern mentioned the video message recorded by the British heir apparent, Prince Charles, for Aid to the Church in Need at Christmas. In this video, Prince Charles refers to the growing suffering and persecution of Christians all over the world and calls for solidarity.

In this context, Heine-Geldern again called upon multinational and international organizations – such as the European Union and the United Nations – to enable and protect religious freedom as a fundamental human right on all levels and in all countries. “More and more is being said about it, but still too little is being done. It is difficult to believe that in a country like France, attacks against Christian institutions far exceeded 230 in number past year. Also shocking were the events in Chile, where 40 churches have been desecrated and damaged since mid-October.”

 

 

Funeral of Fr Simeon Yampa and 5 faithful after the terrorist attack in the parish church of Dablo on 12 May 2019 (Good Shepherd Sunday)

Distress over Christmas executions

Looking towards Africa, the president of ACN expressed his deep concern for the situation of Christians in Nigeria, where Islamic terrorists of Boko Haram have been keeping the North and the area along the border to Cameroon in a state of fear. “On Christmas Eve, Kwarangulum, a village in the state of Borno that is inhabited by Christians, was attacked by jihadists. Seven people were shot dead, a young woman was kidnapped and the houses and the church were burned down. Only a day later, a faction of ISIS (Daesh) released a video that they claimed showed the execution of ten Christians and a Muslim in north-eastern Nigeria. We are deeply distressed by this. We are celebrating while others are in mourning and live in fear.”

According to Heine-Geldern, 2019 was also a disastrous year for Christians in Burkina Faso. He went on to describe how, little by little, Christians are being pushed out in some parts of the country. Schools and chapels have had to be closed. “Our sources have reported at least seven attacks on Catholic and Protestant communities that have led to the deaths of 34 Christians – among them two priests and two pastors. Our project partners talk about attempts to destabilize the country, foment religious conflict and stir up violence.”

 

A prayer vigil in Baghdeda, Iraq – 2019

“Many attacks on this community of Christians”

The situation of the Christians in the Middle East is always in his thoughts and prayers. In this context, Heine-Geldern quoted the words of the Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Matti Warda, which drew attention to the dangers and situation of the Christians in Iraq: the invasion of the terrorist Islamic State was only “one of many attacks on this community of Christians.” The bishop had further said that the invasion had been preceded by a number of other attacks in the history “and with every attack, the number of Christians in Iraq – and Syria – is reduced dramatically.” According to the bishop, the escalating crisis in Lebanon exacerbates the situation of the Christians in the country and at the same time has as a side effect the creation of many obstacles for providing aid to Syria.

Nevertheless, Heine-Geldern looks back at the year with gratitude. “The beauty of our work is that, in addition to the cross and the suffering, we can also experience at first hand the deep devotion and love of a large number of people. Take Syria as an example. A country that de facto is still at war and is suffering from the repercussions of war. Over the past few years, we have visited the country several times and it is awe-inspiring how everyone – dedicated lay people, religious sisters, priests and bishops, supported by the generosity of our benefactors – is doing everything possible and impossible to alleviate the spiritual and material hardships of the people.”

ACN Project of the Week Democratic Republic of the Congo

09.01.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

ACN Project of the Week

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Two-year’s of support for training for 10 catechists

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as in almost every African country, catechists play a vital role in passing on the faith. Church life in the diocese of Lolo, in the north of the country, would practically grind to a halt were it not for the catechists living and working alongside the faithful in the villages and encouraging them to gather together for prayer and study of their faith.

Many of these parishes cover vast areas including numerous, often very difficult of access, villages. The handful of priests available have to cover long distances on foot, sometimes wading through waist-high streams, in order to reach the people in the villages. Hence it is impossible to them to visit as often as they would need to if they want to teach and guide the faithful. But the lay catechists are always on hand which says everything about how important they are!

Training over a two-year period

In the diocese of Lolo there is a catechetical centre where the lay catechists can receive solid training for this precious service they offer to diocesan life, and also regularly update and refresh their knowledge. The basic training for these catechists lasts two years. Since they generally already have a family, they can go with them. So the diocese also provides basic accommodation for the whole family.

While the fathers are studying, their children also attend school, the diocese covering the cost and providing teaching materials and school uniforms as well. And at the same time the mothers also follow a range of courses, for example in needlework, domestic science, reading and writing and also basic courses in Bible studies and morality.

The aim is to provide the future catechists with both a theoretical and a practical training in pastoral studies and proclaiming the Catholic faith. For Bishop Jean Bertin Nadonye Ndongo the training of his catechists is a project dear to his heart and he is quite sure that their improved formation has given a “new impetus“ to the diocese and been a “source of inspiration“ to them all. But the need for well-trained catechists is still acute, he says, and this is why he has asked our help for the training of 10 more catechists and their families. We have promised him $19,500.

ACN Special Update: A Statement from the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil

09.01.2020 in ACN Canada, by Amanda Bridget Griffin

Iraq

Iraqi Archbishops call for restraint, wisdom and peace following attacks

by Amanda Bridget Griffin
Published to the web January 9, 2020

A ballistic missile attack by Iran in the early morning hours (local time) Wednesday, January 8, on two US military bases in retaliation for a targeted US drone strike on December 31, 2019, has left the country of Iraq and Iraqi Christians at the centre of a theater of violence between the powerful countries of the United States and Iran.  With deep concern for the Iraqi faithful, the latter prompted Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, to send out a statement received by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) today, addressing the international community. In his statement, Archbishop Warda echoes the recent words of Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako in a Homily given in Baghdad on the heels of a deadly drone strike which heightened tensions in the region to a fever pitch. The two Church leaders have called on all parties to exercise restraint and wisdom—and for the international community to intervene to “defuse tensions.”

 

As reported by the Catholic News Service on January 3rd, the cardinal said: “It is unfortunate that our country turns into an arena for settling scores, rather than being a sovereign homeland, capable of protecting its land, wealth and citizens.” Cardinal Sako continued, “In the face of this sensitive and dangerous situation, we call on all the parties concerned to exercise restraint, show wisdom and act rationally, and (to) sit at the table of dialogue and understanding to spare the country the unimaginable consequences.”

 

Here is Archbishop Warda’s statement in its entirety.

 


 

Statement from the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq

 

The current tensions between the two powers must not escalate. Iraq has been suffering from proxy wars for decades; they have torn our country apart.

 

We are a courageous people of hope. Since the defeat of ISIS in May 2017 by the coalition forces, our archdiocese has been working with other church leaders, Christian agencies, humanitarian agencies, governments and NGOs to help rebuild our fractured communities in Mosul and Nineveh Plain. It has been a very challenging road to raise funds and international support to help us to physically regain what we lost starting in August 2014.

 

The current tensions are threatening the serious fragility of the communities, which are tired of war and the tragic consequences of it. They have continually suffered far too much and can no longer face an unknown future. They need the certainty, reassurance, hope and the belief that Iraq can be a peaceful country to live in rather than being victims and endless collateral damage.

 

As Church leaders we will always follow the path of God in seeking peace, reconciliation, mutual dialogue and not conflict. His Beatitude Cardinal Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, rightly expresses the fears and anxieties of the people and their hope to be spared from the damage and tragedy of war. We are united in his call to prudently seek civilised dialogue and to pray for peace.

 

We seek the urgent action of the international community to use their influence to diffuse the tensions. Our prayer is for peace and that dialogue resulting in a just and peaceful outcome will be the path followed. 

 

Archbishop Bashar WARDA CSsR

Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil

 


Aid to the Church in Need has supported Christians in Iraq for many years and especially since the onslaught of ISIS (Daesh) in 2014 which drove Christians from their ancestral lands, many of whom took refuge in Erbil and in the Werenfried Village erected for them by the Church and supported by the charity.  ACN has also committed to helping Iraqi Christians return home through the participation of a “Marshall Plan” to rebuild communities and churches on the Nineveh Plains.  It is estimates say there are only approximately 250,000 Christians remaining in Iraq. 

ACN Interview: Christians in the Middle East

19.12.2019 in ACN Feature, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Fionn Shiner, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
Photo: Iraq 30 November 2019
Candlelight vigil around the cross in Baghdeda

Christians in the Middle East

Fresh risk of genocide to Middle East Christians

by Fionn Shiner, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web December 19, 2019

 

Middle East Christians are at direct risk of a second genocide which threatens them with wipe-out from the lands of the Bible – according to an expert in the region who has coordinated emergency relief there for nearly a decade. 

 

Father Andrzej Halemba, head of Middle East projects at Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said that Christians could face total eradication from countries such as Iraq and Syria where they have existed since the time of Christ’s first apostles.

 

“I cannot imagine the Middle East without Christians,” said Father Halemba. “But the threat is real. Daesh (ISIS) wanted to eradicate Christians. The genocidal mentality is alive with Al-Nusra and other groups. If Christians can stay together and help each other they can stay in the Middle East. If they don’t, it may be like Turkey after the terrible genocide in 1915.”

Father Halemba said Christianity’s eradication would be tragic from a religious plurality point of view and because of Christians’ role as bridge builders in conflict zones.

“Christians are the soul of the country and they play a very important role in Middle Eastern societies. They are the peacemakers,” said the director. “Christians work for peace and peaceful co-existence and collaboration for the good of the country.”

 

ACN helps all Christians 

In 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, now there are less than 250,000 – with some reports putting the number as low as 120,000. Similarly, in Syria in 2011, there were 1.5 million Christians and there are now 500,000.

Fr. Halemba said all Christians must work together to ensure their survival in the region.

“Families which pray together stay together. We all need to work for the good of all. ACN helps all Christians – not only the Catholics. Christians should stay together and this is the desire of Jesus Christ. He wanted unity among His supporters,” stated the priest.

In Iraq and Syria, ACN has supported hundreds of different projects, helping Christians who wanted to stay in their homelands with food baskets, water in Aleppo, milk for children, education grants, reconstruction of houses and churches, and much more.

This year the charity has approved 147 projects in Syria. In 2018 ACN supported 40 projects in Iraq.“ACN is always trying to help Christians and others in need with both hands. In one hand we have bread to feed the people, and in the other hand we have the Bible,” Father Halemba recalled. “We provide material help and spiritual help in the form of the Word of God.”

Iraq, December 18, 2016 Mr Emab Kiryakos (Syriac Orthodox) visiting the Mart Shmony Church in Bartella (Syriac Orthodox Church) Mart Shmony Church It’s unknown when this church was first built, but it is old for sure. It was perhaps built after the destruction of Mar Aho Dama Church. It was renovated in 1807. Then brought down completely and rebuilt in 1869. The construction included the transfer of a piece that dates back to 1343 from the Assyrian village of Ba-skhraya. It was reinvigorated again in 1971.

ACN PRESS – Red Wednesday in Canada

13.12.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada

Red Wednesday in Canada
A large draw in attendance

Montreal, December 12, 2019—Over one hundred events took place in Canada, mainly in the Montreal, Toronto and Calgary archdioceses, on Wednesday, November 20, to highlight the international Red Wednesday movement. The archdiocese of Calgary saw large numbers of Catholic school children involved in, participating in, and even organizing local activities geared to raising awareness, to prayer and many also wore the colour red.

One example, in Medicine Hat, Alberta about two hours south east of Calgary, three young students of Saint John Paul II school simulated a news report for their school news service.

JPII News—a student creation once a week. “It’s wonderful to see a growing dynamism around this event,” declared Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) National Director, Marie-Claude Lalonde. “I am very touched to see that in this second edition of Red Wednesday in Canada, and a sixth year in Montreal, about a dozen schools took part where students and educators took time out to talk about the phenomenon of Christian persecution and questions related to religious freedom,” explained Mrs. Lalonde.

School kids at Christ the Redeemer, Calgary (Photo – Courtesy Christ the Redeemer’s School)

 

A second-class right 

At the very beginning of the Mass celebrated at Mary Queen of the World Basilica in Montreal,

Marie-Claude Lalonde lamented the fact that religious freedom is often considered to be, “a second-class right, or less important than others.” As she does often during conferences organized by diverse groups, parishes, or speaking at a Sunday Mass, she recalled that freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are intimately connected. “When we read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” she continues, “in a single article, there are mentioned the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. If one does not have the freedom of thought and of conscience, how can you have religious freedom? These rights are interrelated and thus equal in their importance.”

In his homily, the archbishop of Montreal, Msgr Christian Lépine—also a member of ACN’s international council—invited the hundred or so people present to unite in prayer to reflect on the thought of Pope Francis on human fraternity so as not to become the persecutor or discriminator. “When we prayer for the victims of persecution, this should speak to us. So that never should we ourselves, exercise discrimination.”

Montréal: The face of Mary Queen of the World Basilica. (Photo : ACN/AED)

 

Toronto: “Lest we forget.”

In Toronto, the archbishop, Cardinal Thomas Collins, recalled that only recently in our country and in others we recalled the first World War and the second, the Korean war and and the Armenian genocide among others. The moto used on November 11 for Remembrance Day: “Lest we forget,” from Rudyard Kipling’s poem. “We think to day of the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, and offering their lives in witness to our Lord, Jesus.” Adding: “We are conscious also of other people who are persecuted for their faith, we think of the Muslims in China, persecuted for their faith and others of different religions. Our prayers are with them as well on this day.”

The ecumenical vigil brought together Christians from various religious confessions, as well as from different Protestant denominations.

Just like the Cathedrals in Montreal and Calgary, Toronto was also illumined in red. There were also dozens of other churches that marked the occasion in the same way.

 

The Christmas Campaign

Elsewhere, Aid to the Church in Need is currently fundraising with the ‘Gifts of Faith.

Campaign for Christmas. This great worldwide fundraising effort has as an objective to support Catholics by giving them the means to support the practice of their Faith. Whether it is to support the purchase of a boat to transport missionary teams in the Amazon regions, or to support the evangelization of young people by providing Bibles to children.

Give the lasting Gift of Faith, to suffering Christians!

 

ACN Project of the Week: Subsistence Support for Religious Sisters in Benin

05.12.2019 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Benin, Religious formation

Benin

Subsistence Support for Religious Sisters

Sister Helène and Sister Epiphanie, both from Togo, belong to the Congregation of the Missionary Catechetical Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart. Since July 2018, they have been living and working in Parakou, a large and quickly developing town, situated in northern Benin. Many different cultural and ethnic groups make up the population of Parakou, with a Muslim majority.

 

Since Parakou is at the centre of an important intersection and is easily accessible, the congregation established its formation house here in 1997, a place where the congregation’s young Sisters receive their training. Currently there are five young religious in the program. All are from poor African families, most are from faraway and cannot hope to be supported by their families – nor the local parishes which cannot afford to support their work despite the vital contribution they make. For example, instructing young people and adults in the Faith, or visiting the sick and elderly and bringing them Holy Communion.

ACN decided to step in and help. We are proposing subsistence support of $3,000 for the coming year for Sister Helène and Sister Epiphanie to sustain them in their work of providing a sound formation for the younger sisters.

 

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

ACN News: Supported Projects in Iraq

03.12.2019 in ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Iraq

ACN Supported Projects in Iraq

A next new phase of rebuilding

 By Xavier Bisits, ACN International
revised by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Published on-line December 3, 2019

 

It was just in March of this year that ISIS lost the final vestiges of its “caliphate” in Syria, and not long ago that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the world’s most notorious terrorist, died in a shootout with American soldiers.

 Meanwhile, life in a Christian region to the north of Mosul, the Nineveh Plains, is slowly resuming with the help of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), two years after Mosul was liberated from its Islamist overlords.

On October 30, Philipp Ozores, Secretary-General of ACN, visited the Nineveh Plains to announce the beginning of a major new phase of support to the Nineveh Plains, involving the rehabilitation of church-owned properties, to restore a feeling of security to returned residents.

Over 35 million dollars since 2014

Approximately 45% of the population has returned; shops have reopened, many houses have been repaired, and church life has resumed: catechism, radio, schools, and women’s groups.

A significant part of this return to normalcy has been supported by ACN benefactors, who have allowed the pontifical charity to engage in a wide-ranging program of emergency aid and home rehabilitation. Since 2014, it has spent 35 million dollars in emergency aid to support Christian IDPs (Internally Displaced People in Iraq, primarily through food and rent support.

 

In the Nineveh Plains, ACN has funded the rehabilitation of 2,086 homes, or 37% of all homes that have been repaired. This program, to the value of 9.6 million dollars, supported homes in Baghdeda, Bartella, Tesqopa, Karamless, Bashiqa, and Bahzani.

 

Still, emigration remains a grave threat to the future of the region, where some people are losing hope that Christianity can flourish in Iraq, and look to countries like Australia and Germany for a better future. The rate of departures is such that urgent action is needed to restore security, and create positive reasons for the indigenous Christian people of Iraq to stay in their homeland.

 

In this context, ACN is shifting towards a new phase of projects designed to make people feel safe in the towns to which they have returned. These projects are all about rebuilding critical church infrastructure in several of the Christian towns and villages that dot the area.

 

Mr Ozores attended a meeting of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC), chaired by ACN Middle East Section Head Fr Andrzej Halemba, to announce several of these projects. The NRC meeting was attended by representatives of the Syriac Catholic Church (Fr George Jahola), Syriac Orthodox Church (Fr Jacob Yasso), and Chaldean Catholic Church (Fr Thabet Habib). Mr Ozores told participants of the solidarity of the global Catholic Church: “We are with you, and we will remain with you in Iraq.”

 

Restoring Iraq’s largest church

Chief among these projects is Great Al-Tahira Church, the largest church in Iraq, sitting in Baghdeda, Iraq’s largest Christian city, which is 95% Syriac Catholic. ACN will be supporting the $765,000 restoration of the interior which remains charred and unsightly after ISIS militants piled the pews and furniture of the church in a heap, set it alight, and fled the town.

 

Every day, parishioners gather in the remains of the church, although many are saddened to worship in a visibly desecrated church, once the pride of the town. Many people are still recovering from the trauma of displacement, murdered relatives, and their knowledge that their home was colonized for two years by Islamist fanatics and their Yezidi slaves. ACN hopes that this project will restore hope to Iraq’s remaining Christians – a battered and fragile mere 10% of the 1.5 million Christians who lived in the country prior to its descent into civil war, and the religiously motivated murder of at least 1,000 Christians.

 

Although the Christians of the Nineveh Plains have proved their resilience, in this critical period of reconstruction, they hope not to be forgotten.

 

After the interior is restored, more work will need to be done to restore the damaged exterior and belltower of the building. The Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Petros Mouche, told ACN: “For us, this church is a symbol. This church was built in 1932, and it was the villagers of Baghdeda who constructed it.  For this reason, we want this symbol to remain as a Christian symbol to encourage the people, especially the locals of Baghdeda, to stay here.”

“This is our country, and this is a witness that we can give for Christ … I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who help, as these organizations can’t help us without the support of their benefactors.”

 

ACN also approved $1.3 million to reconstruct the Najem Al-Mashrik Hall and Theatre in Bashiqa, a Yezidi-Christian town, with a large Syriac Orthodox population. The Hall will allow the church to resume large wedding ceremonies, and encourage young people to build their future in their home, rather than looking to foreign countries.

Fr Daniel Behnam, the local priest, said: “We are happy to accept the reconstruction of Najem Al-Mashrik Hall. This project will help ensure the survival of Christian families, and provide them with important services. In particular, it will help young people, providing a space for pastoral, cultural, and youth activities.”

 

ACN also recently approved 13 other projects amounting to more than one million dollars for Syrian-Catholic, Chaldean and Syrian-Orthodox Christians, all to rebuild church properties damaged by ISIS militants.

 

ACN, Aid to the Church in Need, is a pontifical charity, relying mainly on small donors to provide support and hope to the poor and persecuted Church.

 

ACN Feature Story – The kidnappings of under-age Christian girls in Pakistan

25.11.2019 in ACN Canada, Asia, Pakistan, Persecution of Christians, Violence against Women and Girls

 

Pakistan

Two kidnappings of under-age Christian girls

 

by Tabassum Yousef, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada

 

Samra Munir was 13 when she was kidnapped.

This is the story of Samra Munir (13 years) and Neha Pervaiz (14 years). Both Catholic girls were kidnapped from their homes by Muslims. Samra was forced to marry and convert to Islam; her family has not seen her since her abduction. Nehah got away from her captor, though she suffered sexual assault. These are but two examples of kidnapping of under-age Christian girls in Pakistan and the practice of forced marriage and conversion to Islam. The number of such incidents is sharply on the rise.

Samra loves her family and understands that she must help them; she enjoys cooking and assisting with household chores. She has only completed three years of primary school; the family lives on daily wages and her parents cannot afford school fees.

On September 16, 2019, Samra was abducted.  She was home alone. Her parents were at work and her siblings were at the market. It was then that she was kidnapped; she was forcibly thrown into a car and taken away. Samra’s brother Shahzad saw the car drive away. He ran after it but could not keep up. Samra’s parents repeatedly reported the kidnapping, but local police insisted that she was not taken. Police said she ran away from home. Her parents were even told not to create a scene.

 

Forced into marriage: the authorities do nothing

Some time passed before the family received any news.  They learned that Samra had married and converted to Islam. Her marriage certificate listed her age as 19. The police ordered her parents not to come again and also threatened that their other daughter, Arooj, would suffer a similar fate.

Still, the family persisted. They took out a 40,000 rupee loan (about $260) so they’d have money to give to officers each time they went to the police station, in the hope that the money would prompt the police to act; they sold their sewing machine and phones, too. Every dollar they made went toward the search for Samra, but nothing has come of their efforts so far. Arooj said: “My life is not easy. We miss Samra; we don’t eat or sleep properly. I don’t go to school because we can’t afford the fees. Still, I know that God hasn’t forsaken us. Jesus is with me. I carry a Rosary with me at all times, and I pray that Mother Mary continues to protect us.

This area isn’t safe for us. My Muslim friends treat me well, but their mothers don’t like me. They think that I’m impure; I can only use certain plates and glasses. I love my country, but I want to live where we are all respected. I humbly ask that world leaders work on behalf of our safety and peace. People forget to be kind.”

 

Neha Pervaiz was held for seven days 

Neha Pervaiz (14), Catholic girl, was kidnapped from her home by Muslims. She got away from her captor and she suffered sexual assault.

And now, here is the story of Neha Pervaiz.  Contrary to Samra, she was able to tell her own story because she was able to escape the claws of her abductors.  Here is what she said to the Aid to the Church in Need:

“ In many ways, I am a normal girl. I love to draw, sketch, and race; I love to play with my best friend Madiha and my three younger siblings. But I am also Christian, and I have suffered greatly for it.

“My aunt, whose children I’ve cared for and bathed, allowed my rape and abduction. While in her home, my brother and I were locked in separate rooms and beaten. A man named Imran raped me and forced me to recite the Koran; I initially refused, but they beat my brother harder because of it. I relented to keep him safe.

“God protected me and I escaped. I proudly carry the cross wherever I go.”

 

“Then, for seven days, I was held captive in Imran’s home, until one of his daughters spared me. One of my aunt’s children took me in and managed to keep me hidden. She lent me a burka and 500 rupees (about $3.50) so I could safely return to my family. But my parents did not believe me when I told them what had happened.

“I now live under the protection of the Church. But I am not safe. I cannot go anywhere alone, for I might be attacked again, and I cannot worship freely. I have no security or legal protection. Still, I do not want to leave my country. This is my home. I want to study law so I can protect other girls from similar crimes. I also hope that world leaders support legislation that ensures the safety of women and prevents forced conversion and marriage. “God protected me and I escaped. I proudly carry the cross wherever I go.”

 

Aid to the Church in Need publishes a report every second year called Persecuted and Forgotten?  Which reveals the situation of religious persecution around the world of which Christians are often victims of.  The PDF version may be accessed through the following link: https://acn-canada.org/persecuted-and-forgotten/

 

 

Ghana, a Success Story: A church for the people of Nkontrodo

25.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Ghana

Ghana

A Success Story: A church for the people of Nkontrodo

 

The town of Nkontrodo is one of eight smaller communities belonging to the parish of Saint Francis in Elmina. The town, located in the south of Ghana, has around 200 actively practicing Catholics who regularly attend Holy Mass and play an active part in Church life.

 

For many years the people of Nkontrodo have been waiting for a church of their very own. Only recently did Holy Mass and other forms of worship and liturgical services move from being celebrated in the dining hall of a local school. Not only was it a less than fitting setting for the celebration of the Eucharist, but the parish also had to negotiate with the school for its use for every event. Inevitably, there were constant clashes and conflicts in scheduling. Moreover, the town already had eight different sectarian groups and Pentecostalist groups, all of whom already had their own, solidly built places of worship, making it a real danger that members of the Catholic faithful might leave to join these groups out of sheer frustration with the situation.

 

To “pray” day and night

Father Martino Corazzin, their parish priest, had constantly exhorted the faithful to “pray day and night, with faith and trust, and the Lord will hear your prayers and touch the hearts of those who are able to help us!” They were not left disappointed.

 

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors we were able to contribute $75,000 to bring the dream of the Catholic faithful at last, into reality. In August 2019, the new church was finally consecrated. We helped with an initial contribution of $45,000, but the construction work ran into problems because of difficult soil conditions and other unexpected complications, hiking the cost higher than originally planned for. Thanks again to our generous benefactors, we made another contribution, this time of $30,000.

 

Father Martino has written to thank us: “We are all extremely happy and grateful to you for your generous support and for the confidence you have placed in us, and above all for the fact that you have made our dream come true. We ask God to bless you and the many benefactors who have helped us. The faithful of the parish of Saint Anne in Nkontrodo have also asked me to thank you on their behalf and they have promised to remember you in their prayers, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. They also asked me to tell you that more and more people are now coming to our church. And it is true, we are already seeing new faces.”

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