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Egypt – “My mother was killed by a terrorist while she was helping him”

03.05.2018 in ACN Feature, egypt, Engy Magdy, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Middle East

Picture: Bullet hole in portrait of late Pope Kyrillos VI, in corridor of St. Mina Church in Cairo

Egypt

“My mother was killed by a terrorist while she was helping him”

Testimony of the daughter of one of the victims of the attacks in Cairo last December.

 

Gunmen attacked worshippers leaving a Coptic Orthodox church on the southern outskirts of Cairo on Dec. 29, 2017. ISIS subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place some 10 minutes after the conclusion of Mass at St. Mina Church and killed nine people. One of the victims was a young mother, Nermeen Sadiq. Her 13-year-old daughter Nesma Wael was at her side when she was shot. Nesma gave the following account of the ordeal to the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“After Mass ended, I left the church with my cousin and my mother. My mom wore a cross around her neck, and all three of us were not wearing veils. In poorer neighbourhoods, Muslim women often wear veils so they are distinguished from Christian women.

“As we turned into a side street, we saw someone on a motorcycle heading toward the church. The next thing we knew, the man crashed his bike after hitting a pothole. My mother ran up to him to help, reassuring him, as she said: “In the name of Jesus Christ, are you okay?” He got up quickly and in the blink of an eye he opened fire on us with an automatic weapon he pulled out from under his vest.

Egypt, Cairo 2018: Nesma (13) and her sister Karen (8). They lost her mother during an attack in December 2017. “This is my message to all the persecuted people around the world: ‘Do not be afraid! Our lives are in God’s hands and we have to adhere to our faith.’”

 

“As soon as my cousin and I saw the weapon, we hid behind Mom, who shouted at us to run away; the terrorist first shot her in the arm, while she was trying to protect us; as we ran away, she fell down and could not escape with us. The distance between us and the terrorist when he first took out his machine gun was no more
than a few feet. My cousin and I ran into a small supermarket, where the sales girl hid us behind the refrigerator; from our hiding spot, we watched the attacker looking for us. When he couldn’t find us, he turned to Mom again and fired more shots at her.

“All this happened in a few minutes. After the gunman left, we ran to my mother. Many people had gathered, but they all refused to touch my mom, to turn her over, even though she was still alive. I kept screaming for someone to help me, but no one did. I reached my uncle, who came right away.

“An ambulance pulled up, but the emergency workers refused to move Mama into the ambulance until they got permission from the security officials who were out in the streets, hunting for the terrorist, as well as another shooter who had attacked people in front of the church.

“A gun battle erupted, and people fled. My cousin, my uncle and I stayed with my mother. She looked at me, saying: “Do not be afraid, I’m with you. Obey your father and take care of your sister.”

“My mother remained lying in the street for about an hour. After the shooting stopped, I went back to the church to fetch my younger sister Karen, who is eight, and had remained in church because the service for children had not finished yet—I saw three people I knew lying in pools of blood in front of the church; I knew they had been killed.

Candles in a coptic orthodox Church in Cairo

“By the time mom was taken into the ambulance she had died.

“Today, I do not walk the streets alone anymore. My father always goes with me anywhere. Despite the pain inside my heart—I miss my mother desperately—I am happy because she is a martyr and I don’t feel afraid of the terrorists anymore. I was with her at the time of the attack and did not even get injured: it was God’s will to specifically choose her to go to heaven.

“I do not want to leave my country, but I certainly want to find a better chance to live and study, especially since our financial situation isn’t good. My dad, who is 35, works as a driver, but he has no regular work; my mother provided the main source of income for our family; she was a nurse at the Cairo Kidney Center. I hope to become a doctor of nephrology; that was my mom’s dream for me.

 

“This is my message to all the persecuted people around the world: ‘Do not be afraid! Our lives are in God’s hands and we have to adhere to our faith.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Syria – young volunteers coordinate aid for 2000 displaced families

02.05.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Josué Villalón, Feature Story, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Middle East, Syria, Urgent need

Syria

Young volunteers coordinate aid for 2000 diplaced families

Several of the volunteers are themselves displaced persons, but do not hesitate to help others: “What motivates us is Jesus”

ACN (Josué Villalón, Marmarita). Eleven young people make up the team of volunteers of the parish centre of St. Peter, the Greek Catholic Church in Marmarita, which is located in the heart of the Valley of Christians, a region in Syria close to the Lebanese border. Many of the people in this region were displaced by the war and came here from all over Syria: Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, etc. This team of volunteer workers coordinates the distribution of the aid that is donated to about 2,000 families each month by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). They are the messengers, but also the message.

“What motivates us is Jesus. It moves us deeply to be able to help people in need. For me personally, it is also the reason to remain in Syria,” comments Elías Jahloum, coordinator of the parish centre, whom everyone calls “Ili.” His mobile never stops ringing the entire time he is speaking with a delegation from ACN. “The families trust me implicitly; many of them see me as part of the family. I take them to the hospital when they are sick and later visit them at home.”

The financial aid that the pastoral charity, ACN, provides through the local Church is primarily intended for two purposes: the first involves rent payments. “The displaced families have long since used up all of their savings to pay for a place to stay. The few who were able to find work can hardly survive on what they earn,” comments Majd Jallhoum, Ili’s sister and secretary of the parish centre. “The second big project focuses on paying for health care and medicine. There isn’t even one public hospital in the entire Valley of Christians. Treatment is very expensive, as are medicines.”

ACN donates 422,800 dollars for these two projects every six months. “We are supporting 340 families with rent subsidies. Each family unit receives a monthly subsidy of about 25,000 Syrian pounds (75,50 dollars). You have to realize that the median income in Syria is currently just under 96,60 dollars.” The average rent in the Valley of Christians is 226,50 dollars a month. The rents increase in the summer months because the region is considered a “tourist” area due to its cooler climate.

Syria March 2018: From right to left, Raja Mallouhi and Issam Ahwesh, volunteers in Marmarita, Valley of the Christians.

None of the young volunteers is paid for the work they do. However, several of them are themselves displaced persons and receive aid to meet their own needs. “I, for example, receive financial aid to travel to the university and back. The university is in Homs, which is about an hour away by car. Thanks to the help I receive from ACN, I did not have to give up my studies because of the war,” explains Issam Ahwesh, who is 22 years old and is studying computer engineering. He will finish his degree this year. “My mother would be very happy if she could see how I am helping here and that I will finally be able to complete my degree. Unfortunately, she died several years before the war started.”

 

An ecumenical team

The eleven young volunteers at the parish centre of Marmarita are members of various Churches that celebrate different rites. “Some of us are Greek Catholic, others Syriac Catholic and still others, Orthodox. We do not discriminate; all of us help wherever we can and assist Father Walid.” Walid Iskandafy is a Greek Catholic priest and currently the parish priest of the church of Saint Peter.

After finishing their work, the volunteers stay to play football. Raja Mallouhi, who is studying economics in Homs, talks about how he used to play on a football team in his city. “My favourite club here is Al-Karama, the best football club in the country before the war. Outside of Syria, I am a fan of Atlético Madrid.”

They laugh when Father Iskandafy compares the eleven of them with the team of Real Madrid. “They are the players and I am their coach, Zinedine Zidane.” They are a very good team. The priest is proud of how they always discuss any new request for help or problems with one of the families with each other and try to find a solution together.

 

Inspired by the Pope

Lama Jomia has just completed his degree in tourism and currently spends his time visiting displaced families. “Several years ago, Pope Francis told us young people to have the courage to swim against the tide and be faithful to Jesus. These words encouraged us to continue our work, even though war and hate prevail in our country.”

For the volunteers, faith is the most important reason to stay in Marmarita and help those who are most in need. Another young volunteer of the group, Rafic Assi, says at the end, “I would like to tell young people in Europe and all over the world that material things are not what is most important, that they should do something with their lives and be grateful that they are able to live in peace. We also did not imagine that our lives would turn out like this, but we have not completely given up hope!”

Syria March 2018: Majd, left, with a family in need in Marmarita, Valley of the Christians.                                         


 

Iraq: There are forces interested in destabilizing the situation and expelling the Christians

29.03.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Interview, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, by Ragheb Elias Karash, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Middle East, Orthodox Church, Persecution of Christians

IRAQ:

There are forces interested in destabilizing the situation and expelling the Christians

 

SYRIAC-ORTHODOX Archbishop Mar Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf heads the Archeparchy of Mosul, Kirkuk and the Syriac Orthodox Church. In this interview, conducted by Ragheb Elias Karash for the foundation Aid to the Church in Need (USA), he addresses the plight of Christians in northern Iraq.

 

What is the current situation of the Christian community on the Nineveh Plains and in Mosul? How many Christians have returned to the region in the wake of the ouster of ISIS?

To start with, the number of families that have returned to Mosul does not exceed 60! And these families have done so because their children had to go back to school and university; some heads of households are state employees and were forced go back in order to keep their jobs. That does not mean that these families are living in a safe and stable situation. There are no guarantees for their security and their future there.

We need help from national and international authorities so that the criminal activities that targeted Christians before 2014 and the invasion of ISIS will not resume. Case in point: five shops owned by our Church in Mosul were seized by a customs officer for his personal benefit. He refuses to return them to us, saying we are infidels! Several discussions with central and regional government authorities have not helped us. This confirms the continued presence of religious extremism and social backwardness.

Syrian orthodox Bishop Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf (Syro-Orthodox Metropolitain from Musu, Kerkuk and Kurdistan). 

What about the Nineveh Plains?

Things are a bit better on the Nineveh Plain compared to the situation in Mosul. Some 5,200 families have returned to Qaraqosh; 1,169 to Bartella; 350 to Karamles; 456 to Baishika and Bahzani; an estimated 973 families have returned to Teleskuf. All of these figures are estimates, because the situation in the area remains confusing and is evolving.

 

What are the biggest challenges Christians in the region face?

There is a significant influx of Shiite Muslims to the region, which is having a big impact. This has to do with the role Shiite troops and militias played in the liberation of our towns and their return to control by the Iraqi government. This battle against ISIS, however, was a patriotic duty—it doesn’t mean these fighters can take over our territory now. Christians are afraid and lack confidence about the future, in part because of this evident greed.

Syriac Catholic chalice from Qaraqosh/Bakhdeda destroyed by a bullet. Symbol of what some extremists would like, the genocide of Christians in Iraq. 

 

The Shiite Shabak people are turning on us, saying we are their enemy! They are putting pressure on us to leave our region and towns. That would be a humanitarian disaster. In Bartella, the Shabak Shiites are completing a residential project of 25 acres; who will live there? It clearly means that there is a plan to bring in people from outside the region. Isn’t that a threat to the security of the region and to the Christian communities? We are very pessimistic about this project and we call on all concerned parties to intervene, because it threatens to change the demographics of the region.

 

Last week, an office of the Islamic Dawa Party opened in Bartella. What is the significance of this?

We do not know what the real motives are, but every Christian citizen is wondering why an Islamic party is setting up shop in an exclusively Christian Syriac region. I think the answer is clear; it is meant to cause unrest and destabilize the security situation to oust the remaining Christians and seize their land. That is what happened years ago in Iraq’s southern provinces and in the cities of Tikrit, Baghdad and Hillah. This is a very dangerous development. The headquarters were opened in Bartala, with an opening ceremony held in Qaraqosh, confirming their intention to open another branch for them there!

 

If there wasn’t a plan to threaten the Christian presence on the Nineveh Plains, why did the party have to open its doors in our area, while there are some 15 Muslim Shabak villages right next to us. Why wasn’t the Dawa Party office opened there? This will only attract other Islamic parties to come to our territory, threatening our destruction.

 

What do you fear will happen?

If Islamic parties keep up the pressure to bring about a population shift in the Christian regions and towns, and there is a lack of legal recourse and protection of the rights of Christians, many of our people will want to leave the country; Iraq will lose all of its Christians, and with it, our commitment to brotherhood and peaceful coexistence—the ancient and authentic legacy of our faith.

 

What must be done?

We call for international and national legal protection for our people and our towns—that is one of the most fundamental human rights. We also demand that the Iraqi state provide concrete guarantees and pledges to limit these abuses and violations of the human rights of Christians. In addition, we appeal to the Baghdad government to establish a security presence in non-Christian areas of the Nineveh Plains, so that Christian communities need not carry the burden of our protection. Only when these conditions and demands are met can Christians live with dignity, peace and security.

August 2017: Orthodox Mor Afrem Church in Mosul (Mossul) – damaged by ISIS.

 

What is your message to the West?

The first message is addressed to Christians. Tell the world that Christians are a model of peaceful coexistence, love and peace. Join hands with our Christian people in Iraq. Please listen to us and urge your governments to provide support for us to keep our hope alive and give us the confidence that we will be able to live safely in this country.

To Western governments, I say: help us for the sake of humanity, not for material gain. Do all that is in your power to help us and to encourage us to remain in our country.

 

 

 

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN is currently working to encourage the return of the Christians to their former homes in Iraq. With its appeal for a “return to the roots,” ACN is closely involved in an extensive program to rebuild the homes and churches of the uprooted Christians from the Nineveh plains region, not far from the city of Mosul. And indeed with some success – for already around a third of the Christian exiles have now returned to their homes on the Nineveh plains.

August 2017, Qaraqosh: returning to their villages was not only tainted with joy for Christians seeing the damaged made by hate. 

 


 

 

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.

 


 

 

Kazakhstan : ACN’s Success Story of the week !

15.03.2018 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Project of the Week, Uncategorized

ACN’s Success Story in Kazakhstan

Furnishing run by religious sister’s home for abandoned and orphaned children

 

In the town of Kapshagay 60 or more children have found a new home in a centre run by Catholic nuns. For in practice they have no families of their own. All of them have experienced trauma and suffering at a very early age. For some their mother has died or has gone off with another man and abandoned them, the father is an alcoholic or works on a construction site, far from home, and no longer cares about his children. For others the parents themselves are living on the streets as alcoholics or drug addicts, or else they are in prison.

 

In 2001, in order to help children like these, an Italian priest set up a sort of Catholic Centre in Kapshagay. He built a church on the outskirts of this city of 57,000 souls and managed to purchase a couple of houses. This is where the sisters have come to live, taking in children facing all kinds of difficult circumstances. And gradually a Catholic community has built up around the centre. The number of people from the city now attending Mass is growing steadily.

Working with children who suffered of familial violence and other abuses: a vocation that also needs, with the heart, equipment. 

 

Here at the centre the children are able to experience a sense of loving care and security, often for the first time in their lives, within the framework of an ordered life, like in a real family. They play, learn and pray together, and from time to time are taken on nice outings. The centre is close to a lake, and so these little ones are able to experience the beauty of nature practically outside of their own front door. This is a precious experience for children who have experienced only poverty and disorder in their lives.

 

Many of these sisters’ former charges have now themselves grown up and founded their own families. They continue to remain close to the Centre and the Catholic community here and themselves do what they can to help.

 

Now the sisters have been able to open another house, and three more sisters have come to join the community in Kapshagay and help care for the children there. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to give them $22,650 to buy furniture and electrical goods for the new house. Now the sisters have written to us, saying: “We are most grateful for your help. We are making every effort to do everything possible for these children and young people. May the Lord bless you and grant you his peace and joy!”

 

If you want to give for similar projects, please do so by clicking on the button Donate. THANK YOU! 

Kazakhstan: Equipment for the house of St. Clara for the establishment of the sisters of the Holy Family from Nazareth in Kapshagay, for their pastoral and social work with children.


 

“If it weren‘t for the Church, we‘d be dead by now.”

02.02.2018 in ACN International, Africa, Bishops, by Tobias Lehner, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Nigeria, Syria

A Syrian and a Nigerian archbishop talk about the situation of Christians in their countries

If it weren‘t for the Church, we‘d be dead by now.

 

At a press conference held in Cologne, Germany last weekend by the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), two archbishops from Nigeria and Syria spoke about the difficult and dramatic situation facing Christians in their respective countries. Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of the diocese of Kaduna, in northern Nigeria and Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo, in Syria, warned about the continuing perils and threats of violence, the many uprooted people and refugees, and even the danger of the extinction of Christianity in their respective regions.

 

In the case of Syria, even though the so-called “Islamic State” appears almost finished, there are many other like-minded groups still active, Archbishop Tobji warned. While emphasizing that in Syria, and in Aleppo, life was indeed slowly beginning to return to normal and people were beginning to recover new hope, the consequences of the war were still being very strongly felt, he said.

 

“It is the entire Syrian people who have lost,” the Archbishop observed. “Everywhere, there is poverty, unemployment, unimaginable devastation of people’s homes and of the social and moral fabric of society, together with a sense of hopelessness and mistrust with regard to the future.” In this situation, the support of the Church is particularly important, he insisted, adding his particular thanks for the commitment and generosity of ACN. “Many people in Syria openly acknowledge that if it weren’t for the Church, we’d be dead by now,” he confessed.

Syria :  Sr. Marie-Claire Zacar and Sr. Pascale, in Alep. ACN helped them to renovate the nursery. (Sisters of Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours).

Archbishop Tobji also criticized the role of the international community. “It is absolutely clear to everyone,” he insisted, “that the reasons for such a disastrous war as we have endured for seven years now have nothing to do with the demand for democracy or freedom. They have much more to do with a dirty game of world economics.” He maintained that the principal factors were, above all, the arms trade, natural resources such as oil and gas, the importance of the geographical and economic position of the country and opposing world political attitudes. For the world powers, Syria was like a cake to be divided up, with each party wanting the biggest slice, he said.

 

The dire consequences of emigration

 

It is above all the younger and better-educated people who have left Syria on account of the war and the lack of future prospects, the Archbishop pointed out, adding that the consequences of this emigration are very dire. The number of Christians in Syria had now fallen to one third, he said, and while the internal refugees were now slowly returning

home, those who have moved abroad were staying put.

 

Similarly, in northern Nigeria, thousands of people have now fled the violence, intimidation and oppression. The Christians here are exposed not only to the attacks by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, but also to a systematic discrimination by the regional state, according to Archbishop Matthew Mano-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna.

 

Nigeria is the only country in the world in which the population is more or less evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, with Christians the majority in the south and Muslims the majority in the north, Archbishop Matthew explained, adding that his own diocesan city of Kaduna is a particularly important centre of Islam in Nigeria.

Nigeria, March 2017
Stations of the cross at St. Murumba Parish

 

Nigeria – where Christian religious education is banned in some places

 

In some of the federal states of northern Nigeria, moreover, Islamic sharia law has now been introduced, and in some of the northern Nigerian provinces, Christian religious education is no longer allowed in the schools, whereas Islamic religious education is supported and Islamic teachers of religion officially employed by the state are paid out of public funds. Even mosques are being funded with public monies, whereas Christians are being refused plots of land on which to build churches, the Archbishop complained.

 

Archbishop Ndagoso is therefore calling for the Christian minority in the north to be given “fair treatment, based on justice and an honest approach towards one another, regardless of religious confession, tribal identity, political affiliation and social status. The Christians of Nigeria are calling for their fundamental human rights and freedoms to be honoured and respected throughout the country,” he added.

 

Archbishop Ndagoso also praised the support and solidarity offered by the international Catholic pastoral charity ACN, which “has always been there for our people in times of need.” Owing to the insecurity of the situation, even some of the bishops had not dared to venture into the north of Nigeria, he said. ACN was a “voice,” he added, that was giving audible expression on the international stage to the fears, anxieties and needs of the persecuted Christian minority in Nigeria.

 

This is why it is urgently necessary to show our solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, said Berthold Pelster, ACN’s human rights expert, summarizing the situation at the press conference which was organized by the German branch of ACN. “In the past 30 or 40 years or so, we have seen the advance of intolerant religious ideologies, above all in parts of the Islamic world,” he said. “Following the upheavals in the Arab world since 2011, we have seen the growth of extreme forms, and meanwhile radical Islamist ideas have also been spreading increasingly on the African continent,” he added.

 

It is therefore crucial, he believes, to draw the attention of world public opinion again and again to the abuses against the basic right to religious freedom. For the persecuted and oppressed Christians, it is a source of a special strength in their faith to know they have not been abandoned in their need by the universal Church.

 

For many years now, ACN has been documenting the persecution of Christians worldwide and monitoring the situation of religious freedom in 196 countries around the world. The charity and pontifical foundation publishes its findings in a global report every other year, the only NGO to regularly do so (religious-freedom-report.org). The next global report on religious freedom will be published in the autumn of this year. In 2017, a Report dedicated to the situation of the persecuted Christians was released. Persecuted and Forgotten highlights the challenges endure by Christians in 13 countries.


 

DRC – Attacks on the Catholic Church

19.01.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Africa, By Murcadha O'Flaherty and John Pontifex, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Julie Bourdeau

DRC :

security forces accused of killings in more than 130 Church attacks

 

Army and police in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stand accused of killing at least four people and injuring several others in attacks on more than 130 churches around the country. In the latest incident on Friday (January 12th), two people were injured when security forces reportedly fired tear gas at Kinshasa Cathedral after a mass for lay people killed by the military and the police.

 

Father Apollinaire Cikongo, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Kananga Province, which covers eight dioceses in central DRC, said: “There was a mass at Kinshasa Cathedral remembering at least four people killed on December 31st.”

In his statement given to the Catholic charity “Aid to the Church in Need,” he continued: “After this mass, the army and police again fired tear gas and two people were injured.”

Church leaders have blamed DRC’s security forces for attacks over the New Year which took place at 134 churches and chapels in the capital, and a number of provinces in the country.

This lady was shot in the head with a live bullet. They thought at the time that she was dead but she had survived. Soldiers and police are accused of firing live ammunition as the faithful were coming out of Mass at St Dominic’s Church, Limete. 

Soldiers and police are accused of firing live ammunition as the faithful were coming out from mass at St. Dominic’s Church, Limete.

Accusing the DRC’s police and army of an unprovoked attack in the grounds of the church, St. Dominic’s parochial vicar, Father Jean Nkongolo, said that when he asked them to stop shooting the parishioners, he was shot in the face by a rubber bullet and injured.

As well as rubber bullets, security forces fired ‘stun’ projectiles and tear gas at the religious procession in the grounds of the church, reportedly almost killing a woman.

Four other parishioners were injured by rubber bullets during the attack.

Father Nkongolo’s account was relayed through Father Cikongo, who said: “Every Sunday after mass, the parishioners go to the Grotto of Our Lady within the church grounds to pray the Salve Regina prayer and get a blessing. Father Nkongolo said that it was at this moment that the parishioners were attacked and shot with tear gas and rubber bullets by the security forces.”

 

Describing how Fr Nkongolo received his facial injury, Father Cikongo said: “Father Nkongolo went over to the police to tell them to stop because the people were innocent and had done nothing wrong. Father Nkongolo told me that it was at this moment that a policeman shot at him directly towards his eyes with a rubber bullet, but thanks be to God, Fr Nkongolo reacted quickly and moved his head away from the attack. Otherwise he would have been hit in the eyes, but he was shot on the side of his face

Father Cikongo said that after the attack, Father Nkongolo noticed the woman shot in the head, picked her up off the ground and carried her into the church.

Father Cikongo said: “This one lady was shot in the head with a live bullet. Fr Nkongolo said: ‘we thought at the time that she was dead, but she had survived.’”

 

The woman was taken to hospital, where the latest reports describe her condition as stable.

Father Cikongo said that after the mass, the parish had decided against taking part in a peaceful march organized by lay faithful after the DRC’s President Joseph Kabila reneged on a deal to stand down and not serve a third term.

But now, after the attack at Kinshasa Cathedral, Father Cikongo said the lay faithful – the Lay Coordination Committee – has called for a peaceful demonstration on Sunday (January 21st).

Blood stained Tiles on the church compound – St Dominic’s Church.

Pray for the People of DRC and pray for the Catholic Church and Her pacific work.