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By Mario Bard

 

On Sunday, February 10th, pray for Venezuela!

08.02.2019 in ACN Feature, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Maria Lozano, By Mario Bard, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Venezuela

Venezuela

Call to pray for the country on Sunday, February 10

 

United in their concern to “avoid still greater suffering and pain for the people” and in their hope for a change in the course of the political and democratic situation that Venezuela is currently going through, the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference has launched a joint communiqué, together with the Conference of Male and Female Religious and the National Council of the Laity in Venezuela, published on Monday, February 4th in Caracas.

Photo : María Alejandra Mora (SoyMAM)

The statement expresses the “determination and hope,” with which the signatories urge the search, “for a political transformation via a process of transparent and peaceful transition that will lead to free and legitimate elections, and the resumption of a democratic course, the restoration of the rule of law, the rebuilding of the social fabric, the revival of economic production, the restoration of the morale of the country and the coming together of all the Venezuelan people.”

They speak of the difficult situation that is currently being written in the annals of Venezuelan history and one that both the Venezuelan people and clergy and also the international community are witnessing with great hope, and yet at the same time with great concern.

In their communiqué, the presidents of the three bodies, which most fully represent the Catholic Church of the country, denounce “the growing, politically motivated repression, the violation of human rights and the selective and arbitrary detentions,” of individuals and they stress that this path of democratic change to be allowed to unfold peacefully and with the National Constitution in hand.

They express their appreciation of the work of the activists who are defending and promoting human rights at a time of crisis and despite the risks, and they urge them to continue in their concern for “the victims who are suffering injustices.” They state: “We call for personal and legal respect and safety for those who are exercising this worthy service in Venezuela.” In this way, they remind people that the Catholic Church is committed to helping those most in need, “acting in accordance with the principles of independence, impartiality and humanity” and at the same time they request, “the necessary permission to have access to humanitarian aid as a means of mitigating the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable of the people. Caritas Venezuela and the various other social support institutions of the Church which have a wider outreach throughout the national territory commit themselves to continuing the service we have been providing, with equity, inclusivity, transparency and effectiveness.”

The communiqué ends with a call for prayer on Sunday, February 10th in “every church, every home and every community, calling on the Lord to grant us peace, reconciliation, liberty and health of body and spirit.”

An unprecedented situation

The current political situation in Venezuela is the result of the presidential elections held in May 2018 which, according to the official government version, were won by the current President Nicolas Maduro, but which were widely qualified as “illegitimate” by the majority of countries in the international community. It includes other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Santa Lucia, as well as Canada, Spain and the United States. They base their decision on accounts of numerous irregularities in the way in which elections were held.

Hence, given the illegitimate nature of the elections, President Maduro would thereby cease to be the legitimate president as at the conclusion of his previous mandate, on 10 January, and therefore no longer be recognized as President of the Republic.

Instead, and in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution, the acting president of Venezuela would be the president of the National Assembly of the country, who in this case is Juan Gerardo Guaidó. And so, on 11 January 2019, Guaidó announced that he would be invoking article 233 of the Constitution and calling new national elections, and on 23 January he was sworn in as acting president of Venezuela.

 

PLEASE, on Sunday, February 10th, please pray for the People of Venezuela! 


 

ACN Project of the Week – Kazakhstan – Books for the Seminarists

07.02.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By ACN Project Services, By Mario Bard, FORMATION, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

Kazakhstan

Books for the seminary in Karaganda

 

Kazakhstan is a vast country, covering an area of well over 1 million square miles (2.7 million km²), or the equivalent of more than a quarter of the size of the entire United States! Yet it has a population of just 18 million. A former Soviet republic, it has been an independent state since 1991.

 

The population of the country is 70% Muslim and around 25% are Christians, most of whom belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Catholics make up only a tiny minority of some 300,000 souls. At present there are barely 100 Catholic priests for the entire country, serving in the four dioceses of Kazakhstan. Most of these are the descendants of former Polish, German, Baltic or Ukrainian people, deported here under Stalin and others.

 

Kazakhstan is today an exceptional and happy example of friendly coexistence between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians and there are many positive encounters and joint initiatives between them. Therefore, it was, just recently, for the feast of the Orthodox Christmas, which falls on 7 January. Bishop Jose Luis Mumbiela Sierra of the diocese of the Most Holy Trinity in Almaty, who is also chairman of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Kazakhstan, met together with Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Alexander to congratulate him and express his best Christmas wishes on behalf of all the Catholic bishops, priests and faithful in the country. Gifts were exchanged and the two men spoke together about some of the important issues facing both Churches at the present time.

 

The challenges facing Christians today are also keenly felt by 12 young men currently preparing for ordination to the priesthood in the seminary in Karaganda – the only Catholic seminary in the country. The seminary has asked for our help in providing theological books for the seminary, so that these future priests can enjoy a solid and rounded formation. We have promised $2,250.

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

Pakistan – Interview – “The blasphemy law destroys lives”

01.02.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Interview, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Aide à l’Église en détresse., Asia, By Mario Bard, By Tobias Lehner, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, liberté religieuse, Mario Bard, Pakistan, Religious freedom, Voyager avec l’AED

Pakistan

“The blasphemy law destroys lives”

Dominican Father James Channan has been working to establish a dialogue between Christians and Muslims for years – in a country in which acts of violence against the infinitesimally small minority of Christians are a regular occurrence and any perceived criticism of Islam is subject to draconian punishments under the blasphemy law; Asia Bibi was not an isolated case. Father Channan is head of the Peace Center located in the city of Lahore in Pakistan.

During a visit to the headquarters of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Channan talked about the impact of the blasphemy laws, propitious developments in the Islamic world, and the future prospects of Asia Bibi in an interview with Tobias Lehner.

***

Tobias Lehner: The fate of Asia Bibi has given the world a face to associate with the perilous situation of many Christians in Pakistan. After years on death row, she was acquitted of blasphemy charges in late October 2018 and released from prison. What can you tell us about the current situation?

Father James Channan: The situation of the Christians in Pakistan is alarming. They live in fear and uncertainty. This situation has not changed since the 1970s, when legislation in Pakistan began to be based on Islamic Sharia law. Radical Muslims are misusing the controversial blasphemy law in particular to settle personal scores. Anytime, Christians are accused of supposed blasphemy, all Christians in the region are indicted with them. This often leads to acts of violence against Christians.

And this is exactly what happened in the case of Asia Bibi. She was on death row for nine years on charges of blasphemy. Even now, after her acquittal, she is anything but safe. Radical Islamists are trying to find her so that they can kill her. That is why she is currently under state protection. We hope that the Supreme Court will soon confirm her acquittal and refuse to grant permission to appeal. Then, hopefully, she will be able to leave the country and live in freedom.

Asia Bibi is not an isolated case. What can you tell us about the fate of Christians who are also facing charges of blasphemy?

According to a report of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, there are 224 other cases of Christians since 1984 facing charges of blasphemy, and currently 25. One of these is the case of the married couple Shafqat Masih and Shagufta Bibi. I visited them on death row. They have been accused of sending blasphemous text messages, which the couple denies. Their prospects are very bleak. Even should they be acquitted, they and their children will no longer be able to live in Pakistan. Fanatic Muslims will try to kill them. The blasphemy law destroys the lives of those who have been accused, even if they avoid being executed.

Following the acquittal of Asia Bibi we saw pictures of an angry mob that continued to call for her execution. In view of this, is there even a chance of religious freedom for Christians living in Pakistan?

It seemed as though at any moment, a group of militant Muslims would bring the entire country to a standstill. However, militant Islam does not hold the majority in Pakistan. The country has a fraction of about 10 to 15 per cent of radical Islamists who are provoking people to violence. The majority of Muslims do not follow these agitators. They are advocates for religious freedom, also for Christians. Both Christians and Muslims were greatly relieved when Pakistani security forces recently arrested more than 1000 Islamists. Cracking down on extremism was the right thing for the government to do. And I hope that this will continue.

Aid to the Church in Need has been working with you for many years. From a European standpoint, there is little one can do to change the situation. Does the aid actually make a difference for the Christians in Pakistan?

The support provided by ACN plays a crucial role in ensuring that the church in Pakistan can continue to proclaim the faith and promote a dialogue. The assistance has allowed us to build many bridges between Christians and Muslims. We want to demonstrate that the different religions have nothing to fear from one another. A large number of Muslim clerics, including the Grand Imam of the second largest mosque in Pakistan, are a fixed part of our programme at the Peace Center in Lahore and close friends. I am convinced that the foundation for a good and peaceful future can only be built by establishing a dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Amanda Griiffin and Mario Bard from ACN-Canada met Father James Channan last September.


 

Central African Republic – Massacre of Alindao – Emergency Help

01.02.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Africa, By Mario Bard, By Tobias Lehner, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

Central African Republic

Death toll from november massacre in Alindao is 80

ACN is funding two aid projects for the local Catholic community as they return to a scene of utter devastation

The number of people who have died as a result of the terrorist attacks, on November 15 last year – in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, diocese of Alindao and on the refugee camp right next to it –, continues to grow. Now, it is estimated that over 80, according to information given to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). What is the reason behind this sudden upsurge in violence against Christians in the south of the Central African Republic? In the report below, the local Church analyzes the situation and explains the consequences of these terrible events.

“The people, who almost all fled into the forest, are now returning, hoping to be able to find a few grains of rice that they can eat and foraging among the ashes for any beans that have been only partially burnt”, says Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa of Alindao, describing the dramatic scenes in his town. The number of those who have died since the attack has now increased to over 80, including two priests and two Protestant pastors, according to hospital sources.

Even if they live under constant threat of attacks and they are sometimes afraid, the Monks are there to help, and vocations are on the rise!

A local Church source reports that the refugee camp, which once sheltered over 26,000 people and was supervised by the priests of the diocese, has now been totally destroyed. “The old people and the handicapped were simply burned alive, if they were not already shot dead or beheaded”, Bishop Yapaupa added. “In their panic, many parents were forced to leave one or other of their children behind in order to save the others. The attackers simply fired indiscriminately on the people.” Quite apart from the loss of human life, “the fire tore through the reception centre and several of the Church buildings. The cathedral lost its roof. The terrorists stole cars, motorcycles, solar panels, food from the storeroom, money and fuel…”

 

A Country Torn Apart

At the present time, there are over 14 different armed groups scattered across the Central African Republic. The president of the country, Faustin Touadéra, does not have the resources to control the activities of these groups, the remnants of the civil war initiated in 2013. That was dissolved into clashes between the Seleka rebels – an almost entirely Muslim coalition – and the so-called “anti-balaka”, initially a self-defence militia (a contraction of the phrase “anti-balas AK-47”, or “anti-bullet AK-47”) which ultimately degenerated into gangs of animist or nominally ‘Christian’ youths.

The authors of this particular terrorist attack were a Muslim militia, an offshoot of the Seleka, ironically named “Unity and Peace in Central Africa” (UPC). So why have the tensions suddenly increased just here in Alindao?

 

Alindao, “a cow to be milked”

According to the UPC, this was a legitimate act of defence because the Anti-balaka in Alindao had killed two Muslims on 14 and 15 November. However, our source informed us that it was rather the desire to compensate for a lack of means on the part of the UPC, which saw Alindao as “a flourishing commercial centre, and a cow to be milked”. After being expelled from Bambari in October, the UPC was forced to abandon its local commercial support base and the gold and diamond mines it controlled. “The weekly collections extorted from local traders in order to feed their troops,” had led to big protests, and so they had had to go in search of another source of income, “Alindao and its war booty.”

 

The Church as a Target

“Organized and structured as she is, the Catholic Church plays a fundamental role in responding to the local humanitarian crisis”, this African bishop explains. The Church maintains relations with the humanitarian agencies, with the president and the UN mission MINUSCA. At the same time, however, she is an “object of covetousness” and an institution that the men of war would like to bring down. Was this the reason for the inaction of the Mauritanian UN forces during the terrorist attack on Alindao, who, “in this way smoothed the path for the attackers by not fulfilling their mission of protecting the refugee population”? Our source also provided a further piece of information, explaining that “two days before the tragedy, the leader of the UPC was received by the Mauritanian contingent.” The diocese sees this meeting as having been possibly one of “consensual planning”, or outright collusion. The leaders of the three main faith communities in the Central African Republic – Cardinal Nzapalainga, Pastor Guerekoyame Gbangou and Iman Omar Kobine Layama – have called for an investigation by the international community.

 

“We have lost everything, except our faith.”

“We have lost everything, except our faith”, Bishop Yapaupa concludes. “We can still look into the eyes of our enemy and offer him our sincere pardon, without giving way to a spirit of vengeance or fear.”

 

ACN is proposing an emergency aid for the diocese of 60 000 dollars, to help rebuild the community, and also Mass stipends to help the local clergy in this situation of total desolation. You can give on our secure web page.  


 

Release of Asia Bibi : “A Triumph of Human Rights”

30.01.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN NEWS, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, Asia, By Mario Bard, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Pakistan, Press Release, Religious freedom, Religious Freedom Report

 Press Release – Release of Asia Bibi

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is relieved by the definitive release of Asia Bibi.

Montréal, Tuesday, January 30, 2019 – “This is a great day for the respect of human rights, for religious freedom and for justice. The Pakistani government didn’t allow the extremists who took to the streets with violence to influence them,” declared Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN).

The international Catholic charitable organization, which regularly provides information on the issue of religious freedom in the world, and particularly on the issue of Christians persecuted because of their faith, is celebrating today. Philipp Ozores, Secretary General of ACN-International added, “Today’s decision is a triumph of human rights over religious intolerance, a victory of the law over the hatred of fanatics – and above all, personal happiness and great joy for Asia Bibi and her family”.

“Now, I would like the family to spend beautiful moments together and to savour the newfound freedom,” indicated Ms. Lalonde. She reminds us that, throughout the nine years of detention, many ACN benefactors prayed for her release. “Many prayed for her and this shows that faith really can move mountains,” she added, very moved by the events. “What’s most important is that Ms. Bibi is free, and that she can at last be reunited with her loved ones.”

At least 224 others accused since 1984

If Asia Bibi is free at last, there are 25 Pakistani Christians accused of blasphemy who are still in prison, some of whom are awaiting execution. Philipp Ozores, Secretary General of ACN-International added, “ACN will continue to pray and work for them with other organizations and project partners in Pakistan. We can only hope that the court’s decision will at least cause the government to rethink its position and that the blasphemy laws will be relaxed or better respected.”

Marie-Claude Lalonde is sad to say that, “in Pakistan, the blasphemy law can be invoked to accuse one’s neighbour in order to resolve an unrelated dispute. We hope that the signal given with the decision of the Pakistani Supreme Court is a step in the right direction.”

Pakistan is part of the sad list of 38 countries identified in ACN’s 2018 Abridged Report on Religious Freedom as a country where violations of religious rights are significant. The situation has even worsened for religious minorities in 2018, with the country’s President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops describing “an alarming increase in violence, intolerance and extremism.” *

Summary of the story

Asia Bibi is a Catholic woman who is now 51 years old. In the fall of 2009, she was in the fields with other women, harvesting the crops. During a break, she drank from the same well as the other women, but these women considered that Asia had just contaminated it since she is not Muslim.  Asia replied, the situation escalated and her colleagues accused her of blasphemy. After a hearing, she was found guilty of blasphemy according to the laws in effect in Pakistan. In 2010, she was sentenced to death by hanging. Thanks to the persistence of the country’s Christian community, her lawyers and international organizations denouncing this situation, Asia Bibi was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on October 31, 2018. A fundamentalist group wanted to appeal this decision, which forced Asia Bibi to remain in the country, in hiding, for her protection. Finally, on January 29, 2019, the Supreme Court definitively rejected the request to appeal and Asia Bibi is finally free.  

In Pakistan, only 2% of the population is Christian, with a population of more than 192 million inhabitants, which is in majority Muslim.

*Page 38, Abridged Report on Religious Freedom in the World, available at the address https://files.acn-canada.org/2018/11/ACN-Religious-Freedom-Report-2018_CanENGL_WEB-1.pdf

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.

 

 

ACN Press Release: #RedWednesday A first in Canada

19.11.2018 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, Religious freedom, Violence against Christians, World

 

Press Release

#RedWednesday
A first in Canada

Montreal, Friday November 16 – Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Rimouski, Hearst, and Quebec and more: Wednesday November 21st, close to 50 activities planned, each one connected to Red Wednesday (#RedWednesday) will take place in dioceses across Canada.  Initiated a few years ago by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), this event helps to sensitize and inform people about the situation of 200 million Christians who regularly live situations of persecution and discrimination because of their faith, and in a particularly acute way in at least 30 countries.

 

This is the fifth Mass for persecuted Christians to be held in Montreal where the event saw it’s beginning in Canada.  Msgr Christian Lépine will preside over the liturgy which will begin at 7:30pm and will be preceded by a 5 à 7 gathering around the subject of religious freedom – created for youth 18-35 years old, to be held in the basement of the Cathedral.

 

In Toronto, Cardinal Archbishop Thomas Collins will preside over the interfaith prayer vigil beginning at 6:30pm.  In Alberta’s metropolis, Calgary and greater area throughout the diocese many events have been planned including a Rosary Prayer followed by a Mass at Saint Mary’s University.  In Versant la Noel, at Robert Lebel’s, composer of the theme song for World Youth Days in Toronto in 2002 (doors open at 6:15).

 

“This is a first experience for us which is starting on a very positive note!” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director at the ACN Canada.  “We are very happy that so many people are willing to take part in the event and willing to share with us in this deep concern with regard to the situation of persecuted Christians and victims of discrimination in the world.  It is also a way to demonstrate one’s solidarity with those who are suffering.”

 

Some elements that will be present in various buildings across the country – the doorways to the Cathedrals in Montreal and Toronto for example, as well as the interior of the Saint Michael’s Toronto cathedral, will be lit with red lights, the colour of the blood of the martyrs.  The ecumenical pavilion at Versant-la-Noel will be robed in red as well.

 

Many nations deprived of a fundamental right

In his letter inviting the faithful of his diocese to participate in the event, the Archbishop of Calgary, Msgr William T. McGrattan, underlined, “while it is true that Canadian Christians are facing increasing challenges in the practice of our faith, we must also continue to express gratitude for the many liberties which our country provides. Sadly, many nations across the globe continue to deprive their citizens of even the most basic religious freedoms.

Currently, over 30 events have been organized in his diocese, generally masses and moments of prayer prepared as acts of solidarity with persecuted Christians suffering from severe forms of discrimination.

 

ACN’s 2018 report on Religious Freedom launch date: November 22

“This Red Wednesday is also in accord with the publication of our Religious Freedom in the World Report 2016-2018 which will be launched the following day, Thursday November 22, at the Vatican,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde for whom this event represents a shift in the understanding Catholics here have of religious persecution lived by Christians.  “I think that people are beginning to grasp the scope of the problem and realize that article 18 of the Universal Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms that should ensure the right to religious freedom in all signatory countries, is far from being respected.”

This will be the fourteenth edition of the ACN report on Religious Freedom in the World. It examines the situation in over 190 different countries and documents not only the current legal situation but also the abuses against the right to religious freedom over the time period 2016–2018. The report also details developments and changes in the situation in a number of the most critically threatened countries documented in the previous report of 2014-2016.

Nigeria: Fulani Herdsmen – mostly Muslim – threaten farmers – mostly Christians. Economic or religious conflict? Answer November 22nd
(Photo: © Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Directorate of Social Communications)

 

The report will only be available online in Canada, in French and in English at the following website : www.religion-freedom-report.org. An executive summary will be available on ACN Canada’s website: www.aed-canada.org.

For more information:

http://bit.ly/RWednesday-Canada
1-800-585-6333 or,
info@acn-canada.org


Source: Mario Bard, Information, Aid to the Church in Need Canada
Amanda Griffin, English Information, ext. 221 or toll free at 1-800-585-6333
com@acn-canada.org
Website: acn-canada.org Cell. Phone: 514-967-8340

*ACN’s articles are given freely for partial or full publication on condition that ©Aid to the Church in Need is mentioned as the source.  If you would like to use an original photo, or for an interview with the National Director, Marie-Claude Lalonde, please contact us at the coordinates above.Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, is a Pontifical Charity which has as Mission to provide assistance to Catholics wherever the Church suffers from poverty or persecution. The international charity operates offices in 23 countries including Canada, who together support projects in over 145 countries.

 

 

 

ACN Press – A courageous witness for interfaith dialogue

22.06.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN PRESS, By Mario Bard, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Interreligious Dialogue, Journey with ACN, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians, Services de Traduction Julie Bourbeau

Canada
A courageous witness of dialogue

Montréal, Friday, June 22nd From June 8th to 14th, Aid to the Church in Need Canada had the good luck and pleasure to welcome a direct witness to the persecution against Christians, who, for close to twenty years, has been a passionate advocate of interreligious and interethnic dialogue, Msgr. Ignatius Kaigama.

Msgr Kaigama after Mass in Toronto

 

“This man is endowed with incredible strength,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, ACN National Director. “Despite all of the reasons he has to be angry, he preaches peace with his words and his life choice. He chose the nonviolent option, which was not obvious given his personal story.”

 

Msgr Kaigama gives a Homily at Saint Patrick’s Basilica in Montreal

In fact, during meetings held in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Gatineau and Montréal, Mgr. Kaigama revealed that his tribe was affected by a previous jihad in 1804. Later on, in 1892, several members of his tribe were assassinated or enslaved, historic events not well known in the West. ” It was Fulani shepherds – Muslims – who attacked the stronghold where my tribe had sought refuge,” recounted Mgr. Kaigama. “I would have every reason to be angry.” In addition to his family story, the archbishop found himself at the heart of an episode of rare violence, right after the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

 

Marie-Claude Lalonde, Msgr Kaigama and Mgr Lépine, Archbishop of Montreal

Creating dialogue

When he was named Archbishop of the Diocese of Jos in April 2000, Mgr. Kaigama thought that he would be able to catch his breath. “I thought I would be able to rest,” he told us. The fact is, since February 3, 1995, he had spent a lot of energy in creating a new diocese, Jalingo. But in September 2001, this town of the Middle Belt caught fire, even though it has the reputation of being in a moderate environment, in a Nigeria that is split in two: the Muslim North and the Christian South.

Following the September 11 tragedy, the town of Jos caught fire. In 10 days, more than 1,000 people were killed. “My people were killed, my church burnt, my house destroyed, the vehicles we were using to go to remote and difficult places were all burnt. I always tell people that no one should be angrier than I! When my church was attacked, 14 people were killed; I saw their bodies at my feet. I should be the angriest person,” he repeats. But I said to myself: ‘When you are angry, you are hurting yourself most of all. Let’s find a way to talk.’ And that’s how I got into the dialogue, calling on reasonable Muslims and leaders [from all walks of life] to sit together and find solutions for every situation: what can we do to avoid crises? How can we get our people to embark on constructive dialogue when there is a problem so they don’t get into hostile confrontation?”

 

Archbishop Prendergast of Ottawa with Archbishop Kaigama of Jos

Being a credible witness

Msgr Kaigama continues to be misunderstood by several of his compatriots and co-religionists. After all, not many Christians would dare to sleep at an Imam’s or pray at a mosque with Muslims or even attend a wedding. Some find it too weak, others, naive and a waste of time in a fight they consider already lost.

 

“In Africa [for the last few years], the seeds of discord and distrust have been sown, especially in Nigeria … where the Sharia was implemented in nine States,” he stated. “However, as a Christian, my duty is to do what Jesus asked me to do: He is the Light, the Truth and the Life. If I cannot follow his path, I have no reason to be what I am. I always tell my people: ‘Let’s get back to the origins [of our faith]. Following violence, the young people come to us, especially the religious leaders. They say: ‘Buy weapons for us!’ So I say: ‘If I have to fight with weapons, what does the Word ‘I give you my peace, I leave you my peace’ mean. I tell them that it’s not my mission. Even if it’s difficult – [especially] when someone has lost their father, their mother, their whole family – we try to pacify them and call on the government to do something about it.”

 

Msgr Kaigama with Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto

Msgr. Kaigama continues his work in favour of dialogue in Nigeria. He is one of the founders and promoters of the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace Centre, located in Jos. In October 2017, he organized an interreligious prayer for peace with other religious leaders.

“We are keeping Msgr. Kaigama in our hearts and pray that his work bears fruit!” says Ms. Lalonde. “I invite our benefactors to pray for him and his mission, trusting that God can bring peace to even the most hardened of hearts. For Mgr. Kaigama, the words of the Gospel ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you’ make sense.”

 

Archbishop Kaigama with the ACN Team in Montreal, including volunteers!

ACN News: Nigerian Archbishop to visit Canada

29.05.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN PRESS, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Mario Bard, Faith, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Interreligious Dialogue, Nigeria, Nigeria, Translated by Amanda Griffin

ACN CANADA

A visit from Msgr. Ignatius Kaigama to Canada
A word of hope amidst violence and persecution

Montreal, Tuesday May 29, 2018 – Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) will welcome Msgr. Ignatius Kaigama this coming June 8 through to June 14 to Canada.   The archbishop of Jos in Nigeria, capital of the Plateau State and city situated at the very heart of the area regularly suffering the effects of violence that is being described now, less as a struggle over territory and more as the desire to Islamicize regions that are mainly Christian.

What we are observing in certain regions of Nigeria is alarming,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada, situated in Montreal.

“I am anxious to hear Msgr. Kaigama, a long time partner of ours, speak to us about the complex and difficult situation lived by the people in this region, the Christians in particular.”  This region – called the ‘Middle Belt’ because it is situated directly in the middle of the country – divides Nigeria in half: the southern half holding a Christian majority, and to the north, a Muslim majority.

“Some recent reports lead us to believe that there may be an attempt at Islamization of the majority Christian regions situated in this belt.  The coups, the massacres, the displacements and the theft of land leave thousands of people, many of who are Christians, without any resources.”

The city of Jos where Msgr. Kaigama has had a seat since 2000 was the theater of similar affronts in 2004.  Since, this man who currently presides over the country’s Catholic Bishops Conference has become an ardent defender of dialogue between Christians and Muslims.  If religious fundamentalism is one of the main reasons for violence, the Archbishop has no trouble speaking out regularly against a lack of means to fight efficiently against a mounting extremism. There is no educational system worthy of claiming an effective defense of minorities. Moreover, the welfare situation is endemic at over 14%.

Msgr. Kaigama in the Sanctuary of “Lourdes Grotto” Santiago, Chile 2016. Praying for peace in Nigeria

A first visit to Canada

Msgr. Kaigama has expressed that he is “very happy about this first visit to Canada.” And despite some very serious problems in his country, the archbishop also has a great desire to convey “a note of hope” to all the people who will be coming out to hear him speak.  “A Christian must always live in hope, while continuing all the while to live and struggle so that the world becomes a just and human place.”

This recipient of the Golden Dove in 2012 for his work in promoting peace and interreligious harmony will be visiting Vancouver on June 8 where he will have a public engagement at 7:30 at Karol Wojtyla Hall.  June 9, he will be in Toronto where he will preside at Mass held at 5:00pm at Saint Michael’s Cathedral.

The following day, June 12, he will be visiting Saint Clare’s parish at 11:00am, will preside over the Mass, and will be available to meet with people directly afterwards.  On June 11 and 12, he will be in the country’s capital and will celebrate Mass at Ottawa’s Notre-Dame Cathedral.  Once again, the following day, the public is invited to meet him at the Diocesan Centre in Gatineau.

Finally, on June 13 and 14, he will end his visit in Montreal where he will celebrate Mass at at Saint Patrick’s Basilica on June 13 at 5:15pm. The following day, he is inviting the public to come and meet him at the Atwater Library for a conference beginning at 7:30pm.

For more information and for the addresses of the meeting places and parishes, please visit ACN’s website acn-canada.org/kaigama/

Or call:  1-800-585-6333.

*Given by the Italian organization named Istituto di richerche internazionali Archivio disarm.


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo: The people are well and truly on the Via Dolorosa!

29.03.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Mario Bard, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), DRC Congo, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The people are well and truly on the Via Dolorosa!

Since the mid-1990s, entire areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and particularly the eastern parts of the country, have been caught up in a never-ending nightmare: the people are well and truly on the Via Dolorosa! Just like Jesus on the Cross, the deeply devout people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have every reason to call out to God in desperation: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

“Yes, in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one can really speak of a Via Dolorosa,” a contact person from the diocese of Butembo-Beni, who remains anonymous out of safety concerns, said to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “A climate of terror reigns in the diocese, which is maintained by the armed groups that have moved into the region since 1995.” The source emphasized that the situation is even worse in a number of parishes that are located in the region that journalists call the “triangle of death”. This concerns four parishes, “namely Eringeti, Mbau, Oicha and Buisegha in the commune of Beni. The parishes Kipese, Kagheri, Bingi and Luofu are located in the territory of Lubero. A number of residents of these parishes have spent more than twenty years constantly fleeing from one place to the next!”

Dioceses are doing what they can to help displaced and refugee people. Here in Butembo-Beni, distribution of food.

 

 

The cause of this never-ending nightmare is the presence of rebel groups that have been slaughtering the population since 1995. “These massacres are taking place in the northern parts of the diocese of Butembo-Beni, or, to be more precise, in the commune of Beni, as well as the environs of the city of Beni,” the source told ACN. “These massacres have now spread to the neighbouring province of Ituri, which is located in the northern part of our province of North Kivu.”

 

Among other groups, a Muslim guerrilla organization that originated in Uganda and goes by the name of ADF-Nalu (Allied Democratic Forces) is responsible for the massacres. The rebels have been in the diocese since 1995. The contact person further reported that “analyses have shown that the manner in which the killings are being carried out is similar to that used during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.” This has convinced a number of observers that a “Rwandan mastermind” could be behind the massacres that have been terrorizing the people in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than 25 years.

 

“These villains use machetes and axes to mercilessly kill young and old people, women and children,” the informant said.

 

He also mentioned “a project for Balkanization” that is being promoted by unknown forces with the goal of literally creating a “Tutsiland” that would reach “over our entire province of North Kivu, across South Kivu and across the province of Ituri. These would then join Rwanda. That is the reason why the peaceful population is being massacred: to obliterate all traces of the indigenous peoples who are cultivating the land. This is what has turned these populations into a flood of refugees. We don’t know at which level the complicity [of the different state agencies] is happening – on a regional, national or even international level,” the informant continued.

 

He also explained that the exploitation of natural resources and the control over these riches, as well as “greed”, also play a role in these massacres and have led thousands upon thousands of people to flee. According to estimates provided by Doctors without Borders, since December 2017, 50,000 people have crossed Lake Albert, a large lake in Ituri province, to escape the massacres, the raping of the women, children and old people and the destruction of their villages. They are finding shelter in Uganda on the other side of the lake.

 

How is it possible to proclaim the Gospel here?

 

Mothers with their children, expecting better days.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Church continues to be one of the strongest moral and social powers. “Our church in Butembo-Beni is working on sensitizing the people so that the refugees are taken in by families,” the contact person explained. “The diocese has called for donations of money and goods (food, clothing, equipment) several times. However, the never-ending war has so impoverished the people that almost nothing is collected anymore in response to these calls for donations.”

 

The Church remains strong in spite of the atmosphere of terror and persecution under which it is suffering. The source explained that the passage in the Gospels “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) helps the people to keep going. He also made reference to a well-known biblical figure: Job. “We have taken as an example the tenacity and the witness in suffering as well as the perseverance and patience of Job.”

 

During Holy Week, ACN specifically calls for prayers for the inhabitants of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as for the Church that works for the Congolese people and is being persecuted for this reason. Since 2015, the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting 823 projects with over 16 million dollars.