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ACN News – The only hope for Huma Younus: Supreme Court of Pakistan

26.03.2020 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Pakistan

Pakistan

Supreme court – the only hope for Huma Younus

Text by Marta Petrosillo, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Briget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted to website March 26, 2020

For the umpteenth time, no progress has been made in the case of Huma Younus, the 14-year-old Catholic girl abducted on 10 October last year in Karachi, Pakistan, then raped, forcibly ‘converted‘ to Islam and forced to marry her own abductor.

 

As reported to ACN by the lawyer representing the parents of Huma, Tabassum Yousaf, March 19, there was a new hearing at the High Court of Sindh, the province within which Karachi lies. Once again on this occasion, the girl was not brought to court as requested by the judges.

 

On the other hand, there were some results from the long-awaited medical visit to attest the actual age of Huma. Despite the fact that, right from the outset, the parents have produced both the birth certificate and the baptismal certificate of their daughter – which clearly state the date of her birth as May 22, 2005 – her Muslim abductor, Abdul Jabbar, has continued to insist that the girl is an adult and of legal age for marriage – 18 years of age. After repeated failures, attributed by the police to the impossibility of making contact with the girl in order to conduct the medical examination, the result was announced today finally: according to the examination of her bones, the doctors stated that Huma was 17 years old.

 

A finding that does not correspond to her true age, but which nonetheless confirms that the girl is under age and thereby proves the illegality both of her conversion and of her claimed marriage. Yet despite this, no arrest warrant was issued for Abdul Jabbar, nor was he ordered to return Huma to her parental home. The judges confined themselves to announcing a new hearing on April 16 this year, by which time Huma will have already spent six months in the hands of her tormentor, the victim of daily abuse.

 

The case will go to the supreme court, as did the case of Asia Bibi

 

“This confirms what we have always believed,” her mother, Nagheeno Younus tells ACN. “The judges are taking their time, waiting for her to reach the age of 18, so that they can then close the case. By declaring that my little girl is 17, it will be enough for them to wait a few months and then abandon her to her fate.”

 

Moreover, there are serious doubts as to the integrity of the local police, who were charged with supervising the outcome of the medical examination. On a number of occasions members of the police have acted in the interests of her abductor Abdul Jabbar, who has even forced Huma to level a charge against her own parents in which she allegedly asserts that she is afraid her own family members might kill her.

 

The Italian section of the pontifical charity ACN, is accompanying the family and supports them during the legal process. “Sadly, though, it has gone the way we feared,“ says the director of ACN Italy, Alessandro Monteduro. “The first two levels of the judiciary have not given justice to Huma. But we are not giving up, and, together with her lawyer Yousaf, we are going to take the case to the Supreme Court. This was the court which finally set Asia Bibi free, though her release seems not to bring about any change for the better for the religious minorities in Pakistan.”

 

*  We do not know if the audience was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

ACN Feature Story – The worsening conditions in Syria after nine years of war

25.03.2020 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Sisters, SUBSISTENCE, Syria

Syria

Nine Years of war

Religious Sister living in Syria talks about the country’s tragic conditions

March 15th marked the ninth anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria. “The situation is terrible,” said Sister Maria Lúcia Ferreira, a sister from the Mar Yakub Monastery in Qara, in the Christian region of Qalamoun, in a statement to the Portuguese headquarters of ACN international.

 

Text by Paulo Aido, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted online March 25, 2020

According to the Portuguese-born religious, Sister Myri, “after the crisis in Lebanon and the new sanctions imposed on the country, the economic situation has become really terrible. People complain that they can barely buy [anything] to eat.”

Weather conditions have worsened an already difficult situation. “The winter was mild until January, when several snow storms struck us here in Qalamoun, one of the coldest places in Syria,” said the Sister, who belongs to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Unity of Antioch. Qalamoun is located in a mountainous area and is a traditionally Christian region, located in western Syria, near the border with Lebanon.

 

Burning clothing for heat

Sister Myri also explained that they had very little electricity in recent days. “Here in Qalamoun, we still get two hours with electricity and four hours without it, but I think the area is better off than others because we heard that in the city of Homs, they sometimes go two days without electrical power. It depends on the part of the country.”

As a direct result of electricity and gas shortages, of the economic crisis and of the worsening weather conditions, the poorest families are going through very hard times. The Portuguese nun gave as an example the tragic story of one family: “A local woman, whom we know well because she has a disabled daughter, told us that she had neither electricity nor gas. It is very hard to get gas in the country, or any kind of fuel oil to heat the furnace. So, she told us: “To keep Maria, my girl, warm, we have been burning clothes that we no longer use.”

Electricity shortages have also forced the Sisters to change some daily routines in the monastery. “Now we cook with firewood. We have to find firewood so that we can cook and eat something hot.”

“It’s horrible, people can no longer buy anything to eat. Some people survive on bread and water,” Sister Myri said. For this reason, she is asking for a show of solidarity and prayers for the Syrian people. “I would like to ask people to join us to pray for these people who are in such a situation.”

Like the town of Qara, where the sisters live, all of Syria continues to suffer from an extremely weak economy caused by nine years of war that have already left more than 380,000 dead and turned millions into refugees and internally displaced persons. The situation is exacerbated by the violence that continues in the northeast of the country, in Idlib province, where government forces are trying to capture the last stronghold still in the hands of jihadist groups. Syrian children are direct victims of this climate of war.

According to UNICEF, more than 300,000 children have been displaced from their homes and neighbourhoods since December alone. Approximately 1.2 million children are in a situation deemed extremely vulnerable.

ACN is implementing various humanitarian aid projects for the neediest populations in Syria, including children. An example is the “fuel for heating” campaign with which ACN is supporting four major projects in Aleppo and Damascus. This is enabling more than 1,700 families in need, including the elderly and the sick, to cook food and warm their homes for at least a few hours.

ACN Project of the Week – 500 Bibles in Peru

18.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS

ACN Project of the Week – Peru

500 Bibles for a prison apostolate

By ACN Projects Department, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

Published to the web March 18, 2020

 

As in many other parts of the world, in Latin America the prisons are hopelessly overcrowded and conditions are extremely hard.

For example, the prison in Callao, Peru, was designed for 1,500 prisoners but currently holds 5,600. For these prisoners the Catholic prison outreach is a real blessing. Twice a week, those who wish to participate come together for a joint Lectio Divina, while Holy Mass is celebrated every week for a congregation of up to 800 prisoners. And there are also Holy Masses for the major feasts of the Church year.

Bishop José Luis del Palacio Peréz-Medel has himself frequently visited the prison. When he travelled to Rome to meet Pope Francis in 2018, he brought with him a letter from the prisoners. The Pope answered the letter personally and encouraged them all, despite all past failures and weaknesses, to believe and trust in the help and Mercy of Christ.

 

The Holy Scriptures are indispensable

A vital and indispensable part of this outreach which helps those concerned to a better and deeper knowledge of God‘s love and mercy, is the reading of Holy Scripture.  But inmates and their families are too poor to afford a Bible. In 2017, thanks to the help of ACN, 500 Bibles were distributed among them. Now, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we are able to contribute $7,500 once again, so that another 500 copies of the sacred scriptures can be made available for the prison outreach program.

The Bibles are used for the sessions of Lectio Divina and for catechetical instruction of those preparing for baptism.

 

For all the inmates this has been a great joy and consolation and the bishop has written to us to say that his priests working in the prison ministry are also delighted.

Our heartfelt thanks to all who have helped!

 

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

ACN Interview – the changes brought to Cuba through the communist ideologie

18.03.2020 in ACN Interview, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Cuba

 CUBA

“The Communist ideology has fundamentally changed society”

Text by ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted on line March 18, 2020

In a country shaped by half a century under Communist rule, a country facing a lack of economic prospects and the disintegration of the traditional family, the Church in Cuba remains steadfast. Father Jean Pichon is a priest from the Community of Saint Martin who serves in Santa Clara, a diocese located at the heart of Cuba. He has answered the questions of the international Pontifical Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which supports the priest in a number of evangelization projects.

 

ACN: How do you see Cuban society today?

Cubans are caught between a rock and a hard place: on the one hand, living costs are on the rise, on the other, wages and salaries continue to fall. They are currently stagnating at 20 to 30 dollars a month. A large number of Cubans have moved to other countries, particularly Spain. This has contributed to the dissolution of families and the destruction of social ties within the country. Besides the economic issues, which are, of course, significant, I believe that Cuba’s primary problem is the collapse of the family. The father-figure has ceased to exist.

You say that the family, and particularly fatherhood, has been weakened in Cuba. What do you believe has caused this?

When I arrived on the island, an older priest told me that there were only biological fathers here, no real fathers. I believe that the Communist ideology has fundamentally changed society. For half a century, it was not the father who protected and nurtured in Cuba, but Fidel Castro! There is a very strong bond between mothers and their children, but the fathers are not around. I also think that the pressure exerted by the regime has led young people to see sexuality as one area in which they can be free. There are a lot of single mothers here and prostitution has become a gigantic problem. Weddings are a rare occurrence and most young people just go from one partner to the next.

 

What are your duties in a society that is at such odds with itself?

When I talk with young people, I cannot suggest that they abstain from sexual relationships until they marry. That would be too far removed from the reality in which they live. But I do try to get them to at least associate sexuality with love. However, in spite of everything, a few couples do marry. Another problem is that there are hardly any vocations to the priesthood; this is a well-known problem here in Cuba. When I drove to a remote village in 2009, an old lady told me that she had not seen a priest in over 50 years.

But don’t the Cubans continue to be very devout?

They are an endearing people and full of paradoxes! There are many followers of the Santeria among the Catholics. This religion is inspired by animism and likes to recruit its followers from among people who have been baptized in the Catholic faith. The influence of the materialistic Marxist ideology is also palpable. However, the Cubans who define themselves as atheists or agnostics are often the ones who deeply revere the Virgen de la Caridad (Virgin of Charity). This statue of Our Lady was found on a beach by slaves gathering salt and has become a point of reference for all Cubans of all religious persuasions. I can tell you an anecdote that clearly demonstrates this. One day, I knocked on the door of a Cuban who at first refused to open the door when he saw that I was a priest. This is very unusual for Cubans, because they set great store by hospitality in this country. However, when I told him that we were organizing a procession in honour of the Virgen de la Caridad, his eyes lit up. He answered that if it were for her, then he would also attend… The Virgin of Charity is often able to open the door to the hearts of the Cuban people for us.

ACN Feature Story – Senegal Memories and the vision of three bishops

12.03.2020 in ACN Feature, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, By Robert Lalonde, Senegal

ACN Feature Story – Senegal

Memories and the vision of three bishops

By Robert Lalonde for ACN Canada

Translated by Traductions Julie Bourbeau, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin

Published on the web March 12, 2020

 

During a visit to Senegal, Robert Lalonde, a regular contributor to Aid to the Church in Need, spoke with three bishops who succeeded each other in the Diocese of Kaolack from 1974 to 2020. Rich with 46 years of episcopacy in this diocese, Bishop Martin Boucar Tine, current pastor of the diocese, Bishop Benjamin Ndiaye, current Archbishop of Dakar and pastor of Kaolack from 2001 to 2015, and Bishop Théodore Adrien Sarr, retired cardinal and pastor of the same diocese from 1974 to 2001, shared their experiences with regard to this diocese, but also their vision of the Senegalese Church. 

 

Bishop Théodore Adrien Sarr

“When all is said and done, it’s God’s call.”  

Established in 1965, the Diocese of Kaolack is located in central-western Senegal. Its two million inhabitants include 17,000 Catholics and 200 catechumens. The number of faithful has been growing steadily since 1860, the year the first missionaries arrived.

In 1974, Bishop Sarr took over, continuing the missionary work already accomplished. His episcopate is dedicated to the deepening of the faith and the development of social works, for a diocesan Church “at the service of every man and of the whole man,” he said.  In 2001, his successor, Bishop Ndiaye, consolidated all that concerns the field of faith through, among other things, the strengthening of the pastoral care of proximity with the establishment of new religious communities and the organization of a Eucharistic and Marian Congress.

 

“I have become all things to all people” 1 Corinthians 9:22

These first years of work established a diocesan pastoral care in 18 parishes spread over four deaneries1 It should be noted that certain structures support the work of evangelization of the parishes, ensuring the humanitarian and spiritual objectives pursued by the Senegalese Church.

 

First of all, in terms of humanitarianism, the Direction des Œuvres is the hub of the lay apostolate. It periodically hosts several organizations, including the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, the Young Catholic Workers, the Young Catholic Students, the Rural Adult Catholic Movement and a few others.

It also coordinates the Kingdom of Childhood, born of a pastoral initiative by Bishop Ndiaye. This diocesan centre aims to offer children, many of whom come from the streets, a healthy environment in which they can blossom and develop, while respecting their abilities. Social ministry is also animated by the Association des Postes de Santé Catholiques, (Association of Catholic Healthcare positions) a centre for disabled children run by the Sisters of the Communauté de la Providence de Lisieux, the Association for the Promotion of Women and the Direction de l’Enseignement Catholique (Direction of Catholic Education). The Church has always paid particular attention to this association, convinced that education is the basis for the socialization of man.

 

Next comes the diocesan “spiritual pole” called “Keur Mariama”. This is made up of several structures which are constantly growing in size. Through these, we see four Church realities that give life to Keur Mariama, according to the charism of each one and within the framework of a collaboration dictated by the needs of the various pastoral missions. Thus we find the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart at the Shrine, the diocesan priests in training for the priesthood at St. Paul’s Propaedeutic Seminary, the Carmelite Brothers in spiritual formation and pastoral animation, to conclude with the Carmelite missionary Teresian nuns for the dispensary and the promotion of women.

 

The Shrine of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is a place of pilgrimage and renewal with Mary, each year welcoming the children’s pilgrimage for the Epiphany and the diocesan Marian pilgrimage in May. Last January, they hosted the first edition of the pilgrimage of catechists from Senegal: about 4,500 catechists responded to the call!

 

The commitment shown by the establishment of these structures, ensuring that their objectives are also humanitarian and the closeness of the laity to the various institutions of the Church, demonstrate the importance the clergy gives to projects affecting not only Catholics but civil society as well.

 

In this regard, the three bishops recall in unison that when the time comes to justify the  the engagement of the Church in projects affecting not only Catholics but also civil society, the three bishops recall in unison the words of Christ when He judges men by their love for the unfortunate: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I needed clothes and you clothed me; I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me! ”  Matthew 25:35-36

 

Bishop Benjamin Ndiaye

Isn’t my relationship with my neighbour where I should verify the incarnation and rootedness of charity? Smiling, Bishop Ndiaye said that he sometimes tells the Christians around him that “charity is the passport to heaven.” However, since faith without deeds is dead faith, it is often through the challenges to be met that the intensity of this faith can be measured. But what are these challenges?

 

Challenges to be met

“As demographic progression is rather significant and is reflected in the physiognomy of our community, the first challenge to be taken up,” says Bishop Ndiaye, “is that of building places of worship and even creating new parishes. Unfortunately, on our own, we are unable to meet this challenge.”

 

The second is that of young people who lack prospects for the future: “Even if some of them have received training, they don’t necessarily manage to find work,” explains the Archbishop of Dakar. “The Senegalese Christian is a man of duty, but he doesn’t fight in the arena to take his place. Sometimes I wonder if he is not preaching a false sense of humility. Jesus asks us to have ambition. Didn’t he give us talents to display? I question the strategy that should be employed to unblock this situation. There is certainly a catechesis to be transmitted on commitment in order to take better care of one’s life.”

The Archbishop expressed his gratitude to the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by recalling some of the projects for which the diocese has received support: the training of priests, a vehicle for a parish and, more recently, Mass intentions that allow for the priests who are in the bush to be taken care of.

 

Msgr Martin Boucar Tine

“But you know, in spite of all our expectations and with my experience in the diocese of Kaolack which was built with few means, there are people who have helped me throughout my episcopate. This has the advantage of showing that, in the end, it is God who decides to do it anyway, and in His own way.”

 

For his part, the current bishop, Bishop Tine, after first expressing his gratitude to the benefactors of ACN for the booklets on the Rosary obtained at the end of the year, then concluded in these terms: “Now 55 years old, the diocese has reached a certain maturity and with the help of the pillars that surround me, we will continue our mission as servants in the following of Christ.”

 

  1. A deanery is an administrative district that includes several parishes.

 

 

 

Project of the Week: Support for the youth apostolate in Pakistan

27.02.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Family Apostolate, Pakistan, Pastoral aid, Youth Apostolate

Project of the Week:  Pakistan

A spiritual breath for a youth apostolate in Faisalabad

Published on line February 27, 2020

Roughly half of the 207 million people who make up the population of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are under the age of  25, and one third of these are actually aged 14 or younger. Young Christians, living in a society that is 97% Muslim, face many more and much greater challenges than their Muslim counterparts. In fact, for many Christians it is almost impossible to advance professionally within society. And, the religious minorities such as the Christians find themselves in, the lowest strata of society, Most having to work as street sweepers, labourers, or domestic employees.

 

A Christian name can be enough to block one’s access to higher studies. Non-Muslims are in effect seen as second-class citizens, not full Pakistani citizens. They are even unfavourably portrayed in official school textbooks, and the many services performed by Christians on behalf of the country are passed over in silence. Islam is promoted in almost every area of the curriculum, most notably in the selection of essay topics. Christian pupils are often insulted and excluded, or else pressured to convert to Islam. For Christian girls it is even worse, since they are doubly discriminated against, because  of their gender. And young Christian girls face a very real danger of being abducted and forcibly married to their abductors – also meaning: being forcibly converted to Islam.

2020: Year of Youth!

 

In response to this situation, the Catholic Church in Pakistan is working very hard to encourage Christian youth to take pride in their faith and give confident and capable answers whenever they are confronted with prejudice and ignorance. Many Catholic children also attend one of the many Church-run Sunday schools, but the older teenagers also need guidance and support in living their faith. So it was that in November 2019 the Catholic Church in Pakistan announced a “Year of Youth” for this 2020 year, which will contain a range of different initiatives.

The Youth Commission of the diocese of Faisalabad is seeking support for its youth apostolate program. Its aim:  to strengthen young Catholic women and men in their faith and help them to stand firm – and find their rightful place in society. ACN is supporting this initiative with a contribution of $10,725.

 

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

ACN Feature Story : Venezuela, a message from Cardinal Baltazar Porras

18.02.2020 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Venezuela

 

Venezuela

Seeking a peaceful way out

By Raquel Martin, ACN Spain
Adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web February 18, 2020

 

Venezuelan Cardinal Baltazar Porras said during a press conference at the ACN pontifical charity’s headquarters in Spain that “real changes are always built from the bottom up” and cautioned about “not raising our hopes about so many populisms that are doing so much damage to our continent.”

The Archbishop of Merida and Apostolic Administrator of Caracas has supported the ACN campaign to support the Church in this country.

In Venezuela, 30% of children suffer from malnutrition, 60% of families search for food on the street every day, censorship has grown enormously “85% of the media are confronted with restrictions and the free press is very much threatened,” said the Cardinal. He added that the disappearance of young people is constant and “the repression is enormous.”

The Venezuelan Church: dedicated to the people

However, the Catholic Church in Venezuela “has not lost hope, creativity and constancy” remaining completely dedicated to helping the people in this social, political, economic and humanitarian crisis. “The Church works creatively in order to serve others,” he said. “In the most popular districts, the presence of the Church is impressive, involved in all these districts with a joy and a dedication that edifies me.”

The parishes in Venezuela’s dioceses have been transformed into social dining halls and medical dispensaries, the Cardinal explained. “The people unite to give solutions for common problems” and it is “the simple and humble people who give and give, as in the Gospel, the little that they have.” According to the Venezuelan Cardinal, the work of the priests, religious and laity who are helping others is incredible: “They do not only give food; they accompany, give their time and dedication. The greatest lack now is that of affection.”

 

Venezuela – Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras eating with the poor 

 

Regarding the future of his country, the Archbishop of Merida added that “we want a way out of this situation that is peaceful and democratic, without the language of war, we all need each other. We must do something beyond political beliefs and ideologies, creating deep consciences for the present and for the future.”

 

Loyal to its mission, Aid to the Church in Need, is supporting priests, men and women religious, lay people, catechists, and seminarians to respond to the crossroads the country finds itself at. In addition to helping in their support and training, the pontifical charity has opened humanitarian emergency projects, such as the support of parish canteens, building water wells or purchasing electric generators, among other common essential needs.

 

 

 

ACN News, Cameroon: Boko Haram – “ the beast of the Apocalypse”

27.01.2020 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Maria Lozano, Cameroon, Nigeria

Cameroon

Boko Haram – “ the beast of the Apocalypse”

The toll of daily attacks on Cameroon’s villages bordering on Nigeria

By Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted for ACN Canada by Mario Bard and Amanda Griffin

Published on the web January 27, 2020

 

Boko Haram is like the beast of the Apocalypse, or a many-headed Hydra; whenever you cut off one of its heads, it simply seems to grow another,” says Bishop Bruno Ateba of the diocese of Maroua-Mokolo in northern Cameroon, while speaking to representatives of the international Catholic pastoral pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International).

 

Nearing the end of 2015, the Nigerian government announced that the terrorist group called Boko Haram – born in Nigeria in 2002 and radicalized in 2009 – had finally been defeated.

However, according to information received by ACN, there is every indication that the group has simply shifted its sphere of operations to the more rural areas of Nigeria and even extended it into the border regions of Cameroon and Lake Chad. “In the villages of Borno State in Nigeria, and throughout the border regions of Cameroon, not a day passes without news of attacks and incursions by the terrorists. The abductions and executions of the country-people have become a veritable reign of terror and a source of deep psychosis among the population,” Bishop Bruno insists.

Since just after this past Christmas, a video has publicly circulated showing the beheading of 11 people in Nigeria. Responsibility for this atrocity has been claimed by the so-called Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), one of the two factions into which Boko Haram split in 2016.

At almost the same time, Bishop Barthélemy Yaouda Hourgo of Yaouga in Cameroon, native to a village close to the Nigeria border, wrote the following alarming message to ACN: “My birthplace, the village of Blablim, no longer exists! The terrorists have murdered a young man of my family and totally devastated the entire village, including the house I was born in. Everybody, with the exception of the sick and elderly, was forced to flee to Mora, 10 miles (17 km) away. It will be impossible now to gather in the cotton harvest. Right now the weather is very cold in this area. Please pray for all those who are having to sleep outside in the inclement weather at this time the year.”

 

Terrorism, or organized crime?

Destruction, pillaging, robbery and kidnappings are the hallmarks of this terrorist group’s activity. According to senior figures in the Nigerian army, the jihadist Islamic group has lost its power and broken up into organized criminal gangs. Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, the current Chief of Staff of the Nigerian army, indicated on September 19, 2019 that “the mode of operation of these elements is pure criminality for personal gain. It is common knowledge that the criminals no longer pretend to be championing any cause other than the quest for materialism as manifested in murder and terror of hapless people.”

At the same time, he urged the Nigerian people to refrain from “glorifying these criminals by calling them by any name other than “criminals” “rapists” “kidnappers” “armed robbers” and “murderers.”

According to the data from the Nigeria Security Tracker, although more than 36,000 people have died since 2012 as a result of these conflicts, including civilians, soldiers and terrorists, the number of victims in Nigeria has now fallen sharply, in comparison with the horrific numbers recorded in 2014 and 2015.

This positive result has been due in part to the defensive efforts of the multi-national military forces, which in addition to the Nigerian army include also those of Cameroon, Niger and Chad. According to the independent International Crisis Group, in Cameroon alone an army of over 7,000 soldiers was deployed during two important military operations, including units of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), an elite army corp.

 

A more violent beast re-emerges

Nevertheless, although in recent years these Armed Forces have effectively prevented the conventional attacks previously launched by Boko Haram, they have not succeeded in cutting off the movement at its roots; instead it appears that a new generation of militants is now posing a fresh threat. “The poverty and insecurity faced by people in the rural areas and the lack of prospects for young people makes them an easy target for manipulation by the jihadists,” Bishop Ateba confirms.

According to data supplied by Human Rights Watch, the conflict between Boko Haram and the international armed forces has led to the displacement of over 270,000 people within the country since 2014. The armed Islamist Boko Haram group apparently carried out over 100 attacks in Cameroon during 2019, killing more than a hundred civilians.

“Just at the moment when people thought that the beast of Boko Haram had been completely decapitated, the horror has resurfaced in northern Cameroon. Within my own diocese there have been 13 attacks in the last weeks. One church was burnt down on the feast of the Epiphany. We are still investigating who was behind the incident, but everything points to a terrorist attack,” Bishop Bruno explains.

ACN Feature Story from Nigeria –  A spiritual reflection on the recent terrorist attacks

23.01.2020 in ACN Feature, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Tobore Ovuorie, for ACN USA, Journey with ACN
Photo, Nigeria, diocese of Minna – March 2012
St. Theresa´s Catholic Church in Madalla – partly destroyed by Christmas day bombing in the church on 25.12.2011

Nigeria

“Darkness has thrived, but it has never won.”

  A spiritual reflection on the recent terrorist attacks

 

By Tobore Ovuorie, for ACN USA
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web January 23, 2020

 

The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) on Dec. 26, 2019 released a video of its fighters beheading 10 blindfolded Christian hostages. And on Christmas day, executing an eleventh person.

 

The victims’ names have not been released. However, an earlier ISWAP video revealed that they’d been taken from the African states of Borno and Yobe (Nigeria). The terror perpetrated by ISWAP and Boko Haram has deeply scared Nigerians, particularly the country’s Christians, who suffered a further shock at the news of the December 26 beheading of a bridal party in Gwoza, in the state of Borno.

 

Aid to the Church in Need spoke about the killings with Father Panachy Longinus Ogbede, the Catholic pastor of the Church of the Visitation in Lagos, Nigeria. Father Panachy said:

 

St. Theresa´s Catholic Church in Madalla – partly destroyed by Christmas day bombing (by Boko Haram) in the church on 25.12.2011

 

“We must never accept violence. It is not a part of our culture. Traditional Nigerians are known to have discussions; our forefathers taught us that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves everyone blind and toothless. There will always be better and more productive ways to express our grievances.

 

“But many people feel otherwise. They would benefit from a stronger relationship with God, which leads to more positive relationships with other human beings; it’s how the human being becomes sacred in our eyes. And we are quickly losing our sense of the sacred, as well as our sense of community. Egotism and relativism have crept in everywhere, and we have forgotten that there are still objective truths. It is not right to kill your brothers and sisters. It is not right to behave cruelly. I implore Boko Haram and ISWAP to reconsider their ways.

 

 

To stay and live in freedom

 

A little girl at Sunday Mass at St. Rita’s in Kaduna

“The truth is that Christians cannot leave their homelands. Where would we emigrate to? And for how long? We are aliens everywhere we go. Only in our parents’ homes are we safe. We must learn tolerance and fortitude; we must persist and live freely.

 

“The Scriptures predicted hard times for us, but hard times don’t last. Tough people do. Life is filled with ups and downs, which are often the results of human selfishness. And there will always be a Judas among the disciples. There will always be a child who strays. And when they do, they see that it rarely works out.

 

“It’s when things fluctuate that we find opportunities for growth. And in order to achieve that growth, we must accept instability, imperfection, and uncertainty. Life is a mystery and requires our ongoing formation. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we must walk through that tunnel before we reach it, or even see it.

 

“The early apostles faced persecution, too. But Christ has never abandoned His Church. Without Him, all of us would be gone. Darkness has thrived, but it has never won.”

 

 

 

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.