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ACN Canada

 

ACN Project of the Week – Russia

03.08.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Armenia, Russia, Youth Apostolate

PROJECT OF THE WEEK

 

Russia

Church Camp for the Holidays!

Again this year, 50 young people from the Armenian Catholic community of Venyov went to Catholic summer camp. Kids aged from 9 to 17 were spent a week with friends in a lovely spot and had lots of fun while deepening their faith.

 
Armenian Catholics make up a small minority in their native country amidst a population that is overwhelmingly Orthodox. In Russia, it is all the more so, for they are only a tiny group compared to others in this vast country with only four parishes. Because of this fact, it would be easy for the children to lose their Catholic identity.
Catechetical summer camp for children of Armenian communities in Russia in 2014
In the Church-run summer camps, the children have an opportunity to share in their common language, in their faith and in their customs with other children.
During the eight days of the camp they attend a daily Mass. They learn more about the history of their Church and of their homeland, and become more deeply rooted in its life. The program also includes not only painting, dancing, singing and gymnastics, but also important lessons in their own Armenian language, history and traditions. The younger participants are also prepared for their First Holy Communion.
 
Prier: l'une des multiples activités qui composent le camp de catéchèse de la communauté catholique arménienne de Veniov.

Prayer, one of the many activities during the day at Catholic Camp for the Armenian Community in Veniov. 

These summer camps have been held before in previous years, and have always been a huge success. The parish priest, Father Sedrak Khitaryan, writes, “The Church plays an immeasurably important role in the upbringing of these children and in the formation of their value system. Their religion forms the inner world of these children.” He is delighted these young people are able to receive spiritual nourishment while attending these summer camps organized with the help of young volunteers from the parish. He is happy the children are receiving this while at the same time relaxing, having fun and enjoying an unforgettable experience.

 

But without the help of Aid to the Church in Need it would be impossible to fund and organize these events! So this year, thanks to your generous support, we are helping them again with a contribution of $5,800 CAD.

 

donatePlease click the donate button to give your support to a similar project!


ACN Project of the Week – Kenya

27.07.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Kenya

Kenya

Emergency aid for victims of  severe flooding 

The Turkana region of northwest Kenya has since time immemorial been home to nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples. Many of them have now become settled today, but the majority still find themselves forced by shortage of water  to move with their cattle to wherever water and grazing pastures can be found.

Merci de soutenir des paroissiens du diocèse de Lodwar.

The Turkana people number close on half a million, and like the better-known Maasai people, they also depend almost entirely on their livestock for their survival. In the past it was always cattle that formed the basis of their livelihood, but today the Turkana also keep camels, goats and sheep. Though just as before, the size of their flocks determines the social status of a family. To this day, cattle have a particularly high status in Turkana society and people even give them individual names. In the mythology of their tribe, cattle have a mediating role between the souls of the ancestors and the living.

 

Many of the Turkana people have by now become Christian. Around 25%  have been baptized, but there are many others also feeling a close bond with the Catholic Church. In fact, the Catholic missionaries only came to this region in the 1960s during a great famine, at which time the government relied heavily on the help of the Catholic Church. In the five decades since then a great deal has been achieved, and to this day the majority of the healthcare programs, the schools and the kindergartens, are provided by the Catholic diocese of Lodwar, which was established in 1978.

 

While this region normally suffers from drought, this year there was widespread and devastating flooding in April and May. A number of people died, their cattle drowned, and many of their huts were destroyed. As a result, many of these people have lost the basis of what was already a precarious existence and they now suffer from hunger and, in some cases, disease. The dwellings in the parishes of Kalokol and Nakwamekwi were almost completely swept away by the floods, because the flimsy structures built of mud and twigs could not withstand the force of the waters.

General view of Lodwar Used as Illustration for the Internet Project KENYA / LODWAR 16/00063 PrID: 1603309

 

Once again today, the people in this neglected region of Kenya find themselves counting above all on the help of the Church. And so the bishop of Lodwar has sent us an urgent appeal for emergency aid, so that he can help the worst affected parishes.

donateWe have given $15,950, with which he is able to help some 500 families, averaging around six persons each, to obtain essential food and medicines.

 

 


 

#LetsBeOne – A message from Poland to WYD

27.07.2016 in ACN Canada, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Poland, World, Youth Apostolate

#LetsBeOne – A message from Poland to WYD

Today we meet Michal from Poland, the host country.

Michal who is active in the l’Arche community founded by Jean Vanier, will be attending the WYD.

But he will be with his group of people, all living with disabilities.  He will be there first to serve, before experiencing for himself this great gathering.

Learn how much the young man is receiving from his work.
(Production: Catholic Radio and Television Network)

Project of the Week – for Sisters in Guatemala

20.07.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, CONSECRATED LIFE, CONSTRUCTION, Contemplative Sisters, Guatemala

Guatemala

A  house for the relious formation of Sisters 

The Congregation of the Sisters of Martha and Mary was founded in 1979 in the diocese of Jalapa. In this very poor region of Guatemala, there is also a great shortage of priests, and the congregation was established partly  to counter the proliferation of religious sects.

 

The Sisters combine a contemplative life of prayer with an active life of fraternal charity. They also support the work of a small number of priests; caring for disabled children, orphans, the lonely and the elderly as well as people who have fallen into drug addiction. They also teach in some of the poorest and most neglected areas in the region.

 

This young congregation rejoices to have been blessed with numerous vocations and have watched it expand steadily. Now they number 700 Sisters altogether working in Latin America, Africa and Europe – with more and more young women showing eagerness to join the congregation.

 

Les religieuses préparent la cuisine dans le lieu de formation.

The Sisters preparing food at their training centre.

In Jalapa, no fewer than 200 young novices are currently undergoing formation. But the congregation is poor and does not have the appropriate buildings or facilities for training so many young Sisters. So far they have been using rented premises which are truly unsuited for their purpose. For example, the young women have to sleep 24 to a single dormitory and there is a shortage of many basic necessities.

 

In order to cope with all these new vocations and to provide these young women with an appropriate formation and preparation for religious life, the congregation is now building a two-story house, with an attached chapel, dormitories and classrooms.

 

Aide à l'Église soutient la construction d'une Maison de formation pour les religieuses de Marthe et Marie. Aidez-nous à les soutenir! Merci.

donateThey have appealed to ACN for help to build one wing containing three of these classrooms, and we have promised a contribution of  $40,020 CAD.

 

 


 

 

ACN Press: Syria – More bombings in Aleppo

19.07.2016 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org

Syria

A “consternating” situation leaving Christians “exasperated”

Aid to the Church in Need recently received information coming from its partners in Syria from the village of Aleppo.  For many days, the inhabitants have suffered through many more bombings.   “Aleppo has known a veritable war for the third consecutive day,” writes Father Fadi. 

“The terrorists bomb the neighbourhoods of the city with hundreds of rockets and explosives.  All the people in the city are hiding and no one dares to go and see what has happened.”

According to what he wrote to the international catholic charity, “the Syrian army has made a great offensive lasting 5 hours.” He adds, “What language are we speaking?  In the name of what religion are we addressing you? We have lost our work, our security and our homes but not our humanity and or our Faith in God,” he indicates before adding:  “Please share.”

Syria, 11.July 2016 Old Syriak in Aleppo after the bomb attack on the weekend. Only that very small file quality available

Syria, 11.  July 2016  Aleppo after the bomb attack on the weekend.

Another project partner, Sister Annie, asks for prayers and tells how “enormous attacks” are directed against the Christians, who are “a targeted group.”  She considers the situation to be a “consternating” one.

 

Exasperated, they no longer know where to go to find refuge

Msgr Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, has written a new letter in which he reports on attacks last July 2. “Thanks to Divine Providence, none of the 25 souls gathered suffered a scratch!” he writes as two rockets are shot down only a few meters form a school yard – adjacent to Saint Dimitrios parish church – where parishioners were gathered after Saturday evening Mass.

He indicates that once again,” fire and destruction once again ravaged the poor parish which already had seen its buildings bombarded and destroyed four times since the beginning of this detestable war.”

“What a sad ending to the week. Once more, residents of the city had to suffer greatly the terror that has not stopped menacing them day and night.”

Alep, Syrie, 11 juillet 2016. Des enfants regardent les dommages causés par des bombardements.

Aleppo, Syria – July 11 2016. Children examine the devastation caused by the bombings.

In this letter available on Aid to the Church in Need Canada’s website in PDF, he recalls that “many [Christians] are leaving the country” and he estimates that “many of them are fleeing the country and there is talk that Aleppo will lose all its Christians. What unhappiness, as our 2000-year-old is confronted with such a fateful time in its history,” he writes and adding, “Yet, despite everything, we will not let ourselves be defeated.”

“May our friends who wish us well accompany us with their prayers, may they be at our sides to defend our cause, strengthen our resistance and help us stay put,” he requests.

For over five years, Aid to the Church in Need has supported projects in Syria – with among others, in partnership with Msgr Jeanbart.  In 20145 alone, over 8 million Canadian dollars were essential for emergency projects in Syria.  Whether it was for food aid, shelter or for help with education.  This precious support has continued through this year.

(Read Msgr Jean-Clément Jeanbart’s letter ( translation courtesy of Joop Coopman of ACN USA)

 

By Mario Bard, Aid to the Church in Need Canada

Adapted and translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin


 

Press Release – Activities Report 2015

13.07.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Activities Report, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, Press Release, World

Activities Report 2015 –
Aid to the Church in Need

A record year in a world in crisis

 It is a new record year for the international Catholic organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).  In fact, thanks to 22 national offices established around the world, a little over 175 million dollars were collected in order to support 6,209 projects – a majority pastoral – a total of 595 more than in 2014; an exceptional year which also saw a multiplication of the world’s crises.

“Of course, we are happy to observe the great generosity of ACN benefactors and their response to various requests with as much vigour,” declares Marie-Claude Lalonde, the Canadian office’s national director. “But in quite another sense, it is also difficult to observe that this increase comes – in part – from the urgency created by the never-ending conflicts like those in Syria and in Iraq.”

In Canada alone, the Syrian refugee crisis allowed the Canadian office to collect $460,000, a significant amount for the Canadian office who finished their year with donations totaling close to three million dollars – also a record number.  “Our role is to support local Catholic communities who themselves support people who are refugees or displaced, with urgent aid,” says Mrs. Lalonde

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00180 ID: 1506021 Emergency help for the displaced families from Alqariatin moved to live in Homs city, Fairouzah, Zaidal, Maskanah, Alfuhaila - October, November, December 2015 6 people from Alqaryatain (Mrs. Widad Aziz and her sons Wasim , Nasim and Azoz Khazal, Mr. George Algharib and Mr. William Alkhori) have been killed by ISIS at the beginning of December 2015. the rest of  Widad's family lives in Zaidal and the family consists of her husband who suffered from a disease in his throat that prevents him from talking so he talks through a special device, two deaf- mute daughters and two sons who work to spend on all the family. One of the sons risked his life to go to Alqaryatain to bring the bodies of the martyrs, he arrived there not knowing what to do: to cry on his dead family or bring the bodies quickly fearing the tyranny of ISIS. He found all the bodies except that of William, he put the martyrs in his car and headed to Homs city where they live, and there weeping sound was louder than bullets and all the people of Alqaryatain cried on this good family's loss. Alqaryatain that has gone through calamities several times for this is not the first time that Alqaryatain people are displaced. The funeral for 5 of the martyrs was held in Zaidal Church and during the ceremony the news came that two more young men were killed (Ibrahim  and Georges Algharib) brothers of George Algharib and the missing body was found, but unfortunately it was impossible to bring the bodies because they were in hot spot near ISIS territory. Photo: The people from Alqaryatain are mourning about their martyrs - funeral at Zaidal Church

SYRIA: The people from Alqaryatain are mourning their martyrs – funeral at Zaidal Church

“There are also other projects which have as a goal to help Christians of the Middle East remain and stop the exodus, a phenomenon which many Patriarchs have compared to a tsunami!  Thus, we are supporting Msgr Jean-Clément Jeanbart in Aleppo, Syria, with a project called Building to Stay. As the name suggests, it’s about rebuilding – in spite of the war! – homes for the Christian population, so they will once more have a roof over their heads.

 

cover page

Other hot spots: North Africa, China, India

In the Canadian Activities Report 2015 set for launch this coming Thursday (July 14), other hot spots are being watched closely.  Such as in Africa, it is not so much the poverty which has drawn attention to this region. But the uprising of a more fundamentalist Islam in countries who have known for hundreds of years, a more moderate very integrated into society and living with Animists and Christians, Islam.  At this stage, there is also much concern about Christian minorities in North Africa who are worried about the rise in terrorist groups particularly in Libya.

In China, Christians are again subject to new periods of more significant persecution – imprisonment, house arrest and a campaign of destruction of crosses and places of worship.  This hasn’t stopped the relatively high rate of conversions to Christianity.  “The power of attraction of Catholic parishes is undeniable, especially among the young and educated,” reads the text.

'Bethlehem' is a new village created by Holy Ghost Fathers in Mirpur Khas for Christian converts from Hinduism

Bethlehem’ is a new village created by Holy Ghost Fathers in Mirpur Khas for Christian converts from Hinduism

In the Indian sub-continent, the subject of religious freedom is deeply worrying.  The ruling political party, the BJP, holds to the hope of the creation a ‘pure nation’, uniquely guided by the values of Hinduism.  And if, in certain regions its influence is relative, in others it is marked by acts of violence, red tape and injustices. In 2015, two religious Sisters were raped in the state of Bengal.  “And these are not isolated incidents,” says Véronique Vogel, head of projects for India.

“Reading the Activities Report is essential to grasp the extent of this task,” concludes Marie-Claude Lalonde.  “And it is only an overview of the thousands of partnerships with those who allow for the local Churches to respond to the spiritual needs surrounding them, but also to the many material needs of the societies where they are evolving.”

The annual Activities Report 2015 can be downloaded on the Aid to the Church in Need Canada website:   Activities Report 2015

 

 

 

 

ACN Feature – Iraq: ”I wonder when the birds will come back.”

08.07.2016 in ACN Feature, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mark von Reidemann, Feature Story, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq

Telskuf, Iraq


ISIS left, there destruction remains

 

It is the silence that you notice first. Not just a lack of noise but an absence of sounds. Even the birds have left.

 

I am in Telskuf, Iraq, about 32 kilometers north of the Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold of Mosul and two kilometers from the front line. The town is abandoned; its inhabitants including approximately 12 thousand Christians fled the advance of ISIS militias during the night of August 6, 2014 finding refuge in the nearby city of Alqosh or in the Kurdish capital, Erbil.

 

At 43 degrees we press against the shadow of abandoned shells: houses with gaping mouths, pockmarked walls fronted by the husks of blackened cars betraying the brutality which took place a few weeks prior.

 

Le village de Telskuf en Irak, repris des mains de l'État islamique par les soldats Peshmergas.

The village of Telskuf  Irak, taken back from the hands of the Islamic State by Peshmerga soldiers.

On May 3, 2016 hundreds of ISIS fighters, multiple car bombs and suicide bombers broke through Kurdish lines before a counterattack supported by U.S. airstrikes turned ISIS back. Casualties included three Kurdish fighters and a 31 year old US Special Forces soldier. According to unconfirmed reports by Peshmerga soldiers, over 50 ISIS soldiers were killed. They were photographed and bulldozed into a roadside grave. The earth is still fresh.

 

Un des soldats qui accompagnaient la délégation d'AED lors de sa visite d'une église à Telskuf

A soldier accompanying the ACN delegation during a visit to a church in Telskuf

I walk in with a delegation from the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). We have come to visit, in a spirit of solidarity,  the Christian town of Alqosh. Roughly 16 kilometers from Telskuf, Alqosh is last major Christian city on the Plain of Nineveh in what once was a valley full of Christian villages since occupied and destroyed by ISIS. Here the Chaldean Catholic Bishop Mikha Pola Maqdassi has organized support for the over 500 displaced families in addition to the village’s existing 1200 families. All seek work where there is none. The Catholic Church is the main provider of social care and, above all, hope. As Bishop Maqdassi explains, the youth are discouraged, finding themselves in a world that is wasted.

 

 

Le père Halemba, responsable de projets pour le Moyen-Orient d'AED, tient la statue de Notre-Damer, décapitée par les rebelles d'ISIS.

Father Halemba holds a statue of Our Lady – decapitated by members of the Islamic State.

We make our way to Telskuf’s Catholic church. Again the silence is broken only by the glass underfoot. The Church has been looted and destroyed. The statue of the Virgin Mary has been desecrated, the head cut from her body; the symbol of beheading the signature of ISIS. The Peshmerga soldiers with reflective sunglasses and guns cradled take positions at vantage points: the dome, broken windows, the bell tower to assure our security. We kneel to pray in what was the choir loft. Led by Father Andrew Halemba, responsible for ACN’s Middle East projects, we pray the Lord’s Prayer for peace, our normally easy and cheerful group shocked and silenced. A Christian general, a generous man with graying temples waits respectfully and when finished implores that we join him for a meal. Although time doesn’t allow he tells us he fights ISIS so that those who live in the remaining Christian villages in the region may be protected. We walk back through overturned streets. I wonder when the birds will come back.

 

 

*The ACN delegation was present in Iraq from May 17 to  25, 2016

 

 

By Mark von Reidemann, Director of Communications for ACN International

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

ACN Project of the Week : Helping Carmelites Sisters in Croatia

07.07.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Construction, Contemplative Sisters, Crotia, Project of the Week, SUBSISTENCE

Croatia

A Success Story – and a new project! 

For over 25 years now, ACN has been supporting the Carmelites in the convent of Saint Joseph, in the Croatian town of Breznica Djakovacka.

Last year the Carmelite order celebrated the 500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Teresa of Avila who, together with Saint John of the Cross, reformed the Carmelite Order and brought it back to its origins. In 1970 she was the first woman in the history of the Church to be declared a Doctor of the Church. This great Spanish saint is known for her words about prayer: “In my view, prayer is nothing more than a conversation with a friend, with whom we often and gladly meet together in private, in order to speak with him, because he loves us.” Many Carmelite Sisters and Brothers around the world have continued maintaining this type of relationship with God right up to today.

 

ACN has supported the Carmelite Sisters of Saint Joseph for over 25 years.  Their convent is situated  in the Croatian town of Breznica Djakovacka where 27 Sisters abide in strict enclosure, devoting themselves totally to prayer for the needs of the entire world.

 

Les voeux d'une contemplative, nouvelle force de prière pour l'Église et le monde.

The vows of a contemplative, a new power of prayer for the Church in the world.

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to help these Sisters with $29,000 two years ago to repair a badly leaking roof hanging over their terrace. The dampness was penetrating into the fabric of the building and into the floor below, causing damage not only to the structure itself but also affecting the health of the Sisters who live there, a number of whom are now elderly and already in poor health.

 

At the time they wrote to us, saying “We know that the economic crisis is biting almost everywhere in the world and that there are many people knocking at your door, seeking help, but we are hoping ‚against all hope‘ (Rom 4:18), as Saint Paul says, that the Lord, who knows our plight, will supply us – through you – what we need for our life and our work. May the Lord richly bless your efforts to do good and help those in need!”

 

Their hopes were not disappointed, for, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to help and the repairs have now been carried out. The Sisters wish to express their heartfelt thanks for this aid.

 

But these Carmelite Sisters are also depending on us for basic support. For although Croatia was able to join the European Union in July 2013, there has been no benefit for the Sisters. Despite their very modest lifestyle, living costs continue to rise unabated.

 

Once again this year we are proving support for these Carmelite Sisters for their subsistence needs and ministry. For this, we have promised them a contribution of $11,745.

 

Thank you for your ongoing generosity!

donate


 

Our Project of the Week in Brazil

29.06.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aide à l’Église en détresse., Brazil, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Voyager avec l’AED

Brazil

New books for a seminary in Diamantina

It was not by chance that the city of Diamantina got its name – for in the 17th century this was the first place where diamonds were found outside of Asia. But, as happens everywhere in the world, those who got rich were only a few lucky ones. There are many men who are still trying to support their families by digging for diamonds here. They are not slaves as their forefathers were, but they earn very little from this backbreaking work. What profit there is goes into others pockets, and anyway, diamonds have become quite rare in the region now.

 

Au Séminaire du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus, à Diamantina au Brésil, les livres vont servir à nourrir l'instruction des jeunes séminaristes. Grâce à vous!

These men spend months in mountain camps trying to pull these precious stones from the rocks, often leaving their wives and in most cases their numerous children behind to struggle in poverty. Because of these difficult conditions, many of  families break apart, and many children are left neglected. But there are few other opportunities for work. Only a handful of people benefit from tourism, while others, who endeavour to live from making handcrafted items do not find many buyers. The land is rocky and ill-suited to agriculture and until now no industry worth mentioning has been established in the region.

 

Hope for the future

The city of Diamantina is also the seat of the diocese of the same name. The Archbishop knows that good priests are needed to help the people, to provide guidance for lives to be led with dignity, for as Our Lord tells us in the Gospels, “man does not live by bread alone.” The archdiocese is vast, covering an area of over 18,000 square miles (47,000 km²) – half the size of Portugal, in fact – yet there are only about 60 priests for a population of half a million people.

 

There is hope, however, for the future in the form of new vocations to the priesthood. In fact there are more than 40 young men currently training for the priesthood in the local diocesan seminary. However, this diocesan seminary is as poor as all the people in the region. The seminarians themselves cannot afford to pay for their own training. They do their best to make themselves useful in the seminary, by cleaning, serving one another at table and performing other menial household tasks. They do so gladly, and with joy, yet this is only a small contribution to the cost of running the seminary. At the moment, the greatest need for the seminary is to upgrade and update the stock of books in its library. For a well furnished library is one of the bases for the sound formation of future priests.

 

 

donateAid to the Church in Need and its benefactors are providing the seminary with $4,553  for the purchase of  the books necessary for their training.

Would you like to help support a similar project?

 

 


 

An interview with Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Nigeria

23.06.2016 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Nigeria

Nigeria

ACN Feature – Corruption is as great a danger as Boko Haram

An interview with Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Nigeria

Nigeria is Africa’s most densely populated country. About 20 million of a total of approximately 170 million Nigerians are Catholic. The greatest challenges currently facing the country are the terrorist organization Boko Haram and corruption. In an interview during a visit to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need, the president of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, explained how the church is dealing with these problems.

 

Aid to the Church in Need: Presidential elections took place in Nigeria last year. Would you describe for us what the political situation looked like before these important elections?

Archbishop Kaigama: Before the elections, the pessimists were even predicting the disintegration of Nigeria. However, the elections went off peacefully and for the first time in the history of the country an incumbent president lost and accepted his defeat. Many expected change from the new government, because not everything had been good up until that point. Corruption especially has made life a hardship for the Nigerians. We needed change and this change came in the person of President Muhammadu Buhari. He has now been in office for about a year and we want to give him a chance to implement his promises to fight corruption and terrorism.

 

Aid to the Church in Need: As president of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference you wrote the president a message in which you called for Nigeria to remain a “multi-religious country” in which everyone is free to practice their beliefs. Is religious freedom in danger in Nigeria?

Mgr. Ignatius Kaigama - Archbishop from Jos - Nigeria and President of Conference Episcopal from Nigeria in Fazenda Esperança - Guaratinguetá - Sao Paulo - Brazil

Archbishop Kaigama: Before the elections, there had repeatedly been the news that this presidential candidate was a religious zealot who wanted to advance the islamization of Nigeria. For this reason, the Catholic bishops invited him just before the elections were held and we asked him quite directly, “Are you a religious zealot?” He answered in the negative and told us that it would be misguided to believe that one religion would be able to dominate another in Nigeria. The people should be free to practice their religion without discrimination and without the hostility that we have experienced in the past.

IDPs and refugees come back to diocese Maidiguri Nigeria NIGERIA / MAIDUGURI 15/00025 Emergency help for the returnees in the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri after Boko Haram violence

Emergency help for the returnees in the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri after Boko Haram violence

 

Aid to the Church in Need: What about religious education and church construction in Nigeria? Is there inequality in this respect?

Archbishop KaigamaUnfortunately, on the state level – and especially in the primarily Muslim North – this is in fact what happens in practice. There are signs of discrimination. For example, Muslim students have their own mosques, while the Christians have to hold their services in classrooms. There is religious instruction for Muslims, but what about for Christians? They do not have the same options. Furthermore, the government does not make it easy for the Christians in the North to build new churches and the Christians do not even have the authorization to buy land privately. This discrimination does not help. If you refuse Christians access to a Christian education based on narrow-minded religious prejudices, then this is absolutely not helpful. It is even detrimental because this means that we create people without faith, without established morals, who can be dangerous for society. We want everyone to be strengthened in their faith and religious identity, to ensure that better citizens are raised for society.

 

Aid to the Church in Need: Your message to the president also concerned corruption and the terrorist organisation Boko Haram. Why do you consider these to be equally dangerous?

Archbishop Kaigama: Because they are so dangerous. They undermine the unity and the entire identity of the country. When you let Boko Haram be successful, you destabilize the country. Nigeria is then no longer Nigeria, the magnificent country that it should be. Corruption goes back much further than Boko Haram and it causes the same kind of damage. It eats its way deep into the system, prevents any kind of progress, destabilizes the work of the government and promotes suffering and hardship, which in turn give rise to violence and conflicts. We believe that President Buhari is tackling these fundamental problems.

 

Aid to the Church in Need: Do you think that the president is doing the right thing to defeat Boko Haram?

Archbishop Kaigama: Absolutely. We have long been praying for the embattled Nigeria. We also composed a prayer against corruption. We have prayed it for years and I believe that God has heard our prayers. Something is being done against corruption, Boko Haram is being combated. Our prayers have been answered.

 

Aid to the Church in Need:  When one talks about Boko Haram, one immediately thinks about the girls kidnapped from Chibok in April 2014. What is the current situation of the girls, a few of which have been able to escape?

Archbishop Kaigama:  That is a sad story that makes the heart of every Nigerian bleed because these about 200 innocent schoolgirls were kidnapped. They were taken away from their families. We are praying that it all turns out well. The government has also tried to free these girls. But little progress had been made until last week, when one of the girls was saved. She has a baby and both were returned to her family. Shortly thereafter, the president received her as well. You could see that the president was very happy that she was back. We are now even more optimistic than before that more girls will be able to return with God’s help.

 

NIGERIA / UMUAHIA 15/00062 Formation for 86 major seminarians of the congregation of Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy (SMMM), academic year 2015-2016

Formation for 86 major seminarians of the congregation of Sons of Mary Mother of Mercy (SMMM), academic year 2015-2016

 

Aid to the Church in Need:  The media has criticized that the liberated girls are not received with open arms, but treated with suspicion because they sometimes come home with the baby of a terrorist. Is this really a problem or has this been exaggerated by the media?

Archbishop Kaigama: Stigmatization is a problem, especially in the villages, where the people do not have such high levels of education. They think, “These girls have surely been indoctrinated, they were forcibly made into terrorists, and so we must stay away from them.” But when you start thinking about it, reason makes you realize that it was not the fault of the girls. They have experienced terrible things and they should be seen as the heroes they are.

 

Aid to the Church in Need:  If the Catholic Church has such a strong presence in Nigeria, then why do Catholics also take part in the corruption?

Archbishop Kaigama: I have no idea why they do so. As a priest, however, I fear corruption. Christians are just as involved in it as Muslims. It is a national problem and something must be done about it. Corruption has set this country back. Why are the people so egotistical, so selfish, but we still talk about Christianity or Islam? The values of our religions should change something for the good of all. President Buhari is trying to come to terms with our corrupt past. We as a church are trying to impart positive values to the families. It is such a large problem that it will take time to overcome it.

 

Aid to the Church in Need: To end on a positive note: In your archdiocese you have more than 300 students enrolled at Teacher Training College and about 60 candidates for the priesthood at the Theological Seminary.

 

Archbishop Kaigama: We thank God for the gift of vocations. It may be that I can only accept 12 or 14 of the 50 or 60 applications submitted to the Archdiocese of Jos. And this after a very rigorous selection process. We take this very seriously. We have been blessed with vocations, our churches are full and we thank God for this. This is why I am here at Aid to the Church in Need, to express my thanks for its great support in training our seminarians and catechists. The aid organisation was always there for us, even when times were very difficult. We are deeply grateful. We would also like to return the gesture that we were given by the missionaries from Europe. The missionary work here is done and we have and we feel that we have something to give. The West should not be afraid to ask us for help. We are ready to help with our priests.

 

This interview was conducted by Maria Lozano from Aid to the Church in Need International