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Syria “Christians are living in fear but don’t want to leave their homeland,” states the archbishop of Homs

19.03.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Syria

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

 

© ACN

© ACN

ACN, Montreal – March 19, 2014 – In spite of an uncertain future, Christians in Syria want to stay. This was the message conveyed by the Melkite Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Homs, Hama and Yabrud, Jean Abdo Arbach, when he visited the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN). In the Archbishop Abdo Arbach’s exact words: “We Christians are living in fear, the future is uncertain, but we want to stay in our homeland.”

Despite reports to the contrary, the 61-year-old native Syrian said, 20,000 Christians of various denominations currently live in Homs close to the northern Border of Lebanon, and about 200,000 in the Homs region. Many of the faithful, including Melkite, Greek-Catholic, Syrian-Catholic, Maronite, Greek-Orthodox and Orthodox, have now returned to the city of Homs, according to the Melkite Greek-Catholic Archbishop.

Remaining Christians are made to knuckle-under to rules

“The situation in and around Homs is calm. Government troops have almost complete control over the region and the rebels control four to five districts. The main fighting is taking place in the cities of Yabrud and Hama,” according Archbishop Abdo Arbach, who intends to stick it out in Homs. He claims that the news coming from the north of Syria, which is controlled by the rebels, is alarming. According to this, Christians are made to knuckle under to rules. Archbishop Abdo Arbach says: “Firstly Islamic law is to be applied, secondly all Christian symbols which are publicly visible are to be destroyed and thirdly Christians who wish to remain will in future have to pay a special tax.”

In the presence of the ACN Executive President, Baron Johannes Heereman, the archbishop expressed his gratitude for the organisation’s support: “Aid to the Church in Need’ in particular has done much to ensure that we can regularly support many families, the parishes and priests. For the faithful it is important that their priests and their Bishop bear the suffering and persevere like everyone else.”

 

Press Release – Lebanon

14.03.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Lebanon, Syria

The Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria wishes to better serve the poor

Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada, In Lebanon

Translated and adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 Rabwe (Lebanon), Friday March 12, 2014 – On Thursday, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) participated in a press conference given by the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria, following their meeting held in Rabwe, in Lebanon.  This assembly, whose president is Patriarch Gregorious III Laham, gathers twice a year to discuss different aspects in order to improve its way of operating to better serve the poor.

During this meeting, there was question of ensuring the betterment of the organization in terms of presenting different projects representing the greatest needs, and to maintain better relationships between various groups within the dioceses in order to better distribute collected funds.

And, the Patriarch Gregorios III traced a sad track record of the Syrian conflict by recalling the 2 million displaced within Syria alone – almost 9 million in total – 450 000 of which are Christians – the overall or in part destruction of 91 churches, not counting that of several thousand businesses, homes and fields; and why he called out for prayers from the entire world to accelerate the Declaration of Geneva.

He took the opportunity to thank Pope Francis – who would be celebrating the first anniversary of his pontificate on the day following this meeting – thanking him for his support, as well as all the bishops, sisters and priests who are very active in helping all the faithful and all those affected.

He concluded his words of thanks by speaking to all the Catholic organizations, and especially the ACN delegation made up of representatives from various countries:  Germany, Chili, Switzerland, Spain, the United Kingdom and Canada, who were travelling through Lebanon and “who have a thirst to listen to us and to make known to their own people our sadness and our difficulties.  This proves the great solidarity of Christians around the whole world, which is a great spiritual force and which demonstrates the universality of the Church.”

Journey with ACN – Pakistan

14.03.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Pakistan

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:    Pakistan

 


 Pakistan

Youth catechesis in the Archdiocese of Lahore

 By ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Well over half of Pakistan’s population, approximately 190 million, are aged 25 and under, while around 34% are under the age of 15. This very young demographic is reflected as much in the country’s Christian population.

Despite their numbers, Christian young people face many challenges and difficulties in this country with a 96% Muslim majority. They have very few opportunities of advancing socially, and are often discriminated against in state schools.

A study by the US State Department’s Commission on International Religious Freedom has recently found that only 60% of teachers in Pakistani state schools even believe that the members of the religious minorities are actually also Pakistani citizens. And even of those who do view them as citizens, many do not regard them as having equal rights with Pakistani Muslims: resulting in Christian pupils in Pakistani schools who are generally treated as second-class citizens, and ultimately also feel as such.

PAKISTAN 1Moreover, the only religion taught in all classes from kindergarten to graduation – is Islam, a lament of many Church leaders. The curriculum is presented as though the country is intended only for Muslims, and even in nonreligious subjects Islam still plays a predominent part. For example, children are given essays to write with titles such as: “Write a letter to your friend, inviting him to convert to Islam.” Even in the teaching of mathematics and chemistry Islam still manages to intrude. History lessons do not metion the achievements of non-Muslims and furthermore, very often, the school textbooks themselves speak in a denigrating manner about non-Muslims. The Church has already appealed to the government to revise such school textbooks. And while there have been some small improvements, there is still a great deal to be done.

Christian pupils are still often being put under pressure to convert to Islam. Making it all the more important for Christian young people to learn to know and treasure their faith, and deepen it.

For this reason, since 1988, the Archdiocese of Lahore has been running special ongoing faith education programs for adolescents on the brink of adulthood who have already outgrown Sunday School. The focus of these programs is very much on the Holy Scriptures and the Sacraments, but the pupils are also told about great Christian people who have played an important role in the history of their country – since these are aspects that are passed over in silence in the official state school curriculum.

PAKISTAN 2

The program has borne many good fruits, and indeed many former students have since become priests or religious, or committed and active lay members of the Church.

“Young people are our hope and our future”, writes the Franciscan Capuchin, Father Shahzad Khokher, who is responsible for the youth apostolate in the Lahore Archdiocese. ACN is helping again this year with a contribution of $15,000.

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Egypt – “I must accept that my daughter has been kidnapped“

04.03.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, egypt, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians

OLIVER MAKSANBy Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Kidnappings, forced conversions, female circumcisions, and social discrimination: Christian women in Egypt face many problems – but the Catholic Church is working on their behalf.

It is a phenomenon that is scarcely known in the West: the kidnapping and rape of Christian women and girls and their forced conversion to Islam. “Before 2011 it affected perhaps six or seven girls in the whole of Egypt. But now the numbers have grown into the thousands,” said Fayez, a Coptic lawyer and human rights activist told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

ACN-20140225-05596

Very young girls are a particular target for radical Muslims, such as 14-year-old Nadia Makram. She was kidnapped in 2011 during a church service. Since then, her family have had no contact with her. Although the family know who did it, the police do not help them. “They even warned us not to pursue the matter any further. I must accept that my daughter has been kidnapped,” says Nadia’s mother, filled with pain. Particularly serious consequences result from the forced conversion to Islam that is demanded of the women who are kidnapped. Lawyer Fayez reports the case of the girl Jacqueline Ibrahim who was kidnapped and forced by Salafists to declare her conversion to Islam before the Al-Azhar University. “An example of the total disregard of her religion and convictions,” says Fayez.

The Catholic Church is now attempting to offer safe haven to the girls and women who are affected. In Minya, the Coptic Catholic diocese maintains a house of refuge for girls who had been kidnapped, where they are safe from their tormenters and can stay for six months or longer. Some girls have also fled into the house to escape kidnapping. Father Boulos Nasif, who runs the house, explained to ACN:  “Here the girls are looked after and can speak about everything that has happened to them. We try to equip them to find their place in society again.” But many Egyptian Christian women face problems not only from radical Islam, but also within their own community.

The Saballins

© ACN

© ACN

A visit to Cairo’s “garbage district” shows this. The smell here is terrible. Trucks and donkey carts constantly deliver the trash generated by Africa’s largest city. Goats, dogs and chickens search for anything edible among the fly-infested rubbish heaps. Amid the piles of rotting domestic waste, plastic bottles, tyres and other trash, people sit and sort out the garbage. Pictures of the Madonna, crucifixes and images of Coptic saints show that Christians are living here. For generations, Coptic Christians have disposed of some of the garbage from the perhaps twenty million inhabitants of the megalopolis of Cairo. They are called Saballin, garbage people. They can make a relatively good living from the work – at least better than in the villages of Upper Egypt from which most of them come.

© ACN

© ACN

Rania and Marina, 17 and 14 years old, are growing up here in the almost exclusively Christian garbage district of Mukattam. Their fathers also work in the garbage business. The two Coptic Orthodox girls are friends. “We are constantly being harassed in a sexual way. Almost all men and boys do that here. In most cases I ignore it and go on my way. But on one occasion a boy of about 18 in a neighbouring Muslim district took matters too far. So I smacked him. The people took my side and rebuked the boy. I was pleased about that.” But courage like Rania’s is not always rewarded. Marina knows this from personal experience. “A Christian neighbour, about fifty years old, spoke to me in a very indecent way. I defended myself and answered him back. But then he went to my father and complained about my poor upbringing. My father took his side and beat me: a girl must not behave so disrespectfully. His lack of understanding hurt me more than the beating did.”

Sexual abuse which is silenced

Susi Magdy, a social worker, knows of many such cases. Susi, a Coptic Orthodox Christian, works for the Catholic Comboni Mission, and she herself lives in Mukattam. “The people here come from the rural districts of Upper Egypt and think in a very traditional way. The difference between Muslims and Christians is not very great there. It is very important not to bring shame on the family.” Therefore, in the great majority of cases sexual abuse is silenced. “Many girls are molested or even raped by their brothers, cousins or uncles. But it is a taboo subject within the extended family. Nobody goes to the police, or even to the pastor. In any case no one would believe them. It would be said that the woman had provoked it.” As well as sexual abuse, physical violence also plays a major role. “My father beats my mother. It happens again and again,” says the 14-year-old Marina. But the social worker Susi is optimistic about this: “Here in this district, domestic violence is on the decline. It is mainly a problem in the older generation. In the past it was socially acceptable for the husband to beat his wife. But the campaigns that we and other organizations have run in the last few years are now starting to bear fruit here.”

© ACN

© ACN

Educational campaigns against the circumcision of girls have also been successful in the district. This form of mutilation is very widespread among both Muslims and Christians. “In the countryside it is also the rule among Christians. But here in this district, the campaigns in recent years have put an end to this brutal practice,” says Susi.

Studies reserved for the higher classes

It is also social, not religious, reasons that make it unacceptable to large parts of the rural Christian population for girls and women to study and make a career, according to Susi. “Sadly there is very little progress here. It is virtually impossible for a Christian girl from a village to start a course of studies.”

Just a few kilometres away, in downtown Cairo, it is a different world. Here, in the German Catholic girls’ school near Tahrir Square, the higher classes send their children to lessons. Every day, buses from their well-kept districts bring the girls to the school, which is run by the Sisters of Mercy of St. Borromeo. Nada is 17 and a Coptic Orthodox Christian. Next year she will sit her university entrance exam. And then she wants to study literature or psychology – she doesn’t exactly know which yet. But she definitely wants to go abroad for a time. “For us women, many things have changed for the better since the revolution in 2011. People’s way of thinking has changed. Under Mubarak, women’s rights campaigners had no chance to express themselves openly. This has now changed.” Her fellow pupils agree. “The women have lost their fear of fighting for their rights,” says the Catholic Helena, also 17 years old. She wants to study art.

Nada, like the social worker Susi, is convinced that the position of women in Egypt largely depends on social status and less on religion. There is a wide gulf between town and country, she says. “I do not feel any restrictions, either from my parents or among my circle of friends, on account of being a woman and a Christian. They are all educated and open-minded. It is the same for us here at school. The majority of girls are Muslims. But there are no problems. We are like sisters.” But her 16-year-old Protestant fellow pupil Nadine, who wants to go abroad later to study business, recounts the bad experiences of her mother. “My mother is a teacher. At the school where she teaches, she has to fight very hard because she is a Christian. Again and again she is asked why she is not wearing a headscarf.”

© ACN

© ACN

Christian women’s lack of a headscarf results in girls being constantly approached in the street in an indecent way. “Because we Christians do not wear a headscarf, many boys and men think we are easy prey. We are used to that. Nobody takes it seriously,” says the 15-year-old Sheri. “It also largely depends on the district you are in.” But her friend Helena, 16, sees it as a growing problem. “In my opinion, sexual harassment has increased overall. I believe that it is associated with the internet and television, where sex is a constant topic. It rubs off on people.”

But the social norms of a conservative country even impose restrictions on educated women and girls. “My brother can cycle through the district without any problems. I would not be able to do that. In some parts of Cairo, a woman on a bicycle would be pelted with stones,” Nada says. “I hope the day will come where I can ride wherever I want, just like him.”

For many years, Aid to the Church in Need has supported projects by the Catholic Church in Egypt devoted to promoting the dignity of women. 

ACN mourns the passing of a great friend and benefactor

04.03.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Child's Bible

“Aid to the Church in Need” mourns the death of German author and theologian Eleonore Beck, the author of our Child’s Bible “God speaks to His Children”.

Eleonore Beck passed away on February 22nd, after great drawn-out suffering. She was born on February 26th, 1926, and died only a few days before she would have celebrated her 88th birthday. She was a friend and benefactor to our charity for many years.

The Child’s Bible project first began in 1979. The edition with the text written by Eleonore Beck was first published in 1989, with 51. 2 million copies in print to date, in 176 languages.  She was also the author of the Little Catholic Catechism I Believe”, which ACN began publishing in 1998.  Today, there are close to 7.8 million copies in 31 languages distributed around the world. Through her great generosity, she left us full copyright to both publications.

May she rest in peace.

Copy of Child's Bible

Journey with ACN – Ukraine

28.02.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, SEMINARIANS, Ukraine

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:    Ukraine

 

Help for the formation of Ukrainian Catholic seminarians

In 1946 Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was forcibly dissolved by the communists. Believers were violently persecuted, and for over 40 years the Ukrainian Catholic Church – which is in communion with Rome – was only able to exist underground. In 1990 the Ukrainian Catholic Church was at last able to emerge from its catacombs.

 

 © ACN

© ACN

In 1993 the seminary in Ternopil was able to officially resume its activities. Thanks to financial support, from ACN among others, it became possible to build a seminary, named in memory of the great Cardinal Confessor, Josyf Slipyj, who endured 18 years imprisonment under the communists and finally died in 1984, in exile. He was a friend of Father Werenfried, who did everything possible to help and support the Ukrainian Catholic Church throughout its time of persecution.

 

Today the Ternopil Seminary boasts the formation of 143 seminarians. It not only serves the local diocese, but also seminarians from other dioceses that do not have their own seminary. The young men receive an excellent academic formation, but the rector is well aware that study alone does not necessarily produce good priests. Consequently the seminarians are encouraged to become familiar with everyday pastoral work, through a series of practical training sessions and tasks, which help them to have direct experience with the life and problems of ordinary people.

 

They work particularly with children and young people, helping them to draw nearer to Jesus both in play and in prayer. As a result, they not only gain practical experience in the parish apostolate and in dealing with other people, but through their commitment provide a vital service, for in many regions where the Church is still only in its early beginnings, the few priests who are available are so overstretched that they simply do not have the time for such intensive ministry among all the groups of the faithful. Thus, these seminarians are already serving the faithful today where one day, after completing their training, they will fill an even more urgent need as priests.

 

ACN is helping the seminary in its work with a contribution of $760 per seminarian, per year.

 

Press Release – Ukraine

25.02.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN UK, Ukraine, Uncategorized

Your ‘solidarity is very dear to us’

Archbishop’s message of hope and faith at time of huge change

by John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by ACN Canada

Montreal, February 25, 2014. An urgent appeal for prayer has come from one of Ukraine’s most senior Catholic bishops as momentous political change sweeps the country.

Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, President of Ukraine’s Latin-rite Catholic Bishops’ Conference, highlighted the “great solidarity” of people worldwide – shown in prayer and practical aid.

The archbishop’s comments, given in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), came as Ukraine underwent dramatic change, climaxing with President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country and MPs issuing a warrant for his arrest.

The Archbishop of Lviv said: “We are experiencing a great solidarity with the faithful, not only from the neighbouring countries, but also from the whole world.

“So many are supporting us with their prayers. They are remembering us and offering humanitarian aid.

“These gestures of solidarity are very important and dear to us.”

Archbishop Mokrzycki’s appeal for prayer came as Ukraine’s health ministry claimed that 88 people – most of them protestors – had died in last week’s clashes. Others gave a total of more than 100 dead.

Church sources told ACN that 2,000 people had been wounded, with Kiev’s St Alexander Cathedral being used as an operating theatre.

The archbishop said the turmoil of the past weeks had changed Ukrainians’ political and social outlook. “People have developed a deeper sense of responsibility for the country as citizens and a deeper conscience of civic duty,” he said.

The archbishop also said the turmoil had bound the people together. “On Maidan Square, there was an atmosphere of solidarity, regardless of denomination, rite, and ethnicity. All were one. All were united.”

Ukraine 2Many months needed to heal the wounds

Archbishop Mokrzycki gave his comments on Friday ( February 21 ) just hours before President Yanukovych suddenly left the country after MPs voted to remove him. By then, Parliament had voted to reinstate the 2004 constitution which in effect meant returning to MPs powers taken by the President since the 2010 elections.

Parliament, on Sunday( February 23) named Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov as interim president, with the whereabouts of his predecessor still unclear, according to latest reports. And, MPs agreed for Presidential elections to take place on  May 24.

Speaking before President Yanukovych left office, Archbishop Mokrzycki’s secretary, Father Andrzej Legowych, told ACN: “Ukraine will need many months and even years to settle down and start a new life. The country is still divided and we will need many months – and longer – to heal the wounds.”

Ukraine has for many years been a priority country for Aid to the Church in Need, which has given the Church there key support. The charity’s ongoing aid has helped enable the recovery of the Church – notably the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – which for 70 years was heavily persecuted under the Soviet communist regime.

Support for nearly 1,000 seminarians and help for catechists remain essential to the charity’s work in Ukraine.

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Journey with ACN – Brazil

21.02.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Brazil, Journey with ACN, Uncategorized

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:  BRAZIL

A missionary says thank you

ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

 

©ACN

©ACN

Father Peter Shekleton found his vocation in 1991 as he sat in London’s Westminster Cathedral listening to the preaching of Father Werenfried van Straaten, ACN’s founder. Now he is working as a missionary in the Amazon region of Brazil.

Since January 2012, Father Peter has worked in the parish of Barcelos which extends over a vast mostly uninhabited area. Most of its 25,000 inhabitants live in the town of Barcelos itself, but there are also 45 settlements of varying sizes on the Rio Negro and its 10 tributaries, most of them difficult to reach and some requiring 3 to 4 days by boat.

The majority of people living in these settlements are nominally Catholic, but the sects are very active in this area, trying to woo away the faithful. Therefore, it has become important for a priest to make regular visits, including the most distant settlements. For this reason, our generous benefactors have already helped Father Shekleton with $60,000  for the purchase of a river boat. He has written to tell us about his work:

“I began my work with an old boat belonging to the parish, which was very basic and very much in need of repairs. I was advised not to waste money on repairs but rather to buy a new boat. But why? The parishes are very poor and could by no means afford the cost of the new boat.” So Father Peter had to go on using the old and damaged boat to travel to the remote riverside villages. At least, after a time, he was able to purchase an outboard motor.

“There are many rapids, dangerous currents, hidden rocks and constantly shifting sand banks, and also many dangerous eddies. And one is also exposed to heavy storms and scorching sun – to say nothing of the fact that the water is full of crocodiles, piranha and snakes. At night time you have to hang up your hammock and sleep in it, which leaves you a prey to mosquitoes, bringing malaria and other infectious diseases. Last year I caught malaria.”

“I often come back happy from these journeys into the wilderness, because I have done what I believe to have been my duty. But at the same time I am also saddened by the godlessness of many people. Since the satellite dishes have advanced even into the remotest corners of the jungle, many people are starting to be influenced by the anti-values, such as hedonism, individualism, consumerism and relativism that are typical of our age. They are being robbed of their religiosity and dignity and encouraged to yearn for a life that has nothing to do with their reality. This results in many people no longer turning to God, and many of the chapels are now abandoned, or at least in a poor state. There is a great deal of alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity. Nevertheless, I am firmly convinced that this is my mission and that the Church must continue to be present: “Preach the word; in season and out of season…” (2 Tim 4:2). For now, this Church is just me and my boat, given by ACN.”

Journey with ACN – Benin

14.02.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:  Benin

The family in Africa – In every corner of the continent

By ACN International

In 12 short years, the African Family Life Federation (AFLF), which was founded on the initiative of Blessed John Paul II, has helped over 1 million people to better understand and live the teaching of the Church on marriage and the family. ACN has supported the AFLF, right from the beginning. We spoke to Christine du Coudray, who heads our Africa section and has also been involved since AFLF was founded.

seite 5 International 13-00932 Sr Alphonsa, Christine Ducoudray, Père Mika, Norbertine

Why does ACN support this Association?

It is vitally important for the Church and for the people. During the plenary session of the first Africa Synod in 1994 the Holy Father warned of the dangers that were emerging from international meetings and from such ideologies as feminism and gender theories, which were threatening to destroy the natural family consisting of father, mother and children. They were prophetic words. As a consequence a number of smaller associations for the defence of life and the family were able to join together and – together with the John Paul II Institute for the Family in Cotonou, Benin – establish the first such association for French-speaking Africa. They had no funding; only ACN stood by them. For years the federation has fought a David and Goliath battle against the anti-family, anti-life and pro-abortion policies of the UN and other massive international organizations.

Has David grown since then?

Yes. Thanks to the support of our benefactors, the federation is now present in 22 countries of French-speaking and English-speaking Africa, and embraces a total of 34 organizations. In the last year alone 141 diocesan and expert groups have trained tens of thousands of (mainly young) couples in family values and also instructed an additional 21,000 married couples in natural family planning. But these are only figures. The real success lies in the fact that, thanks to the federation, millions of people have come to discover and live the happiness that resides in a respectful attitude to life and sexuality. Above all – and despite the massive pressures from a throwaway consumer society that despises human values – tens of thousands of young couples have learned that fidelity and mutual respect and true love can be lived and truly bring happiness. This is also true for young people generally – and it is the best protection against AIDS.

Who is supporting the AFLF?

05 Seite Mgr Henryk HoserSo far, only ACN. In the years since its foundation we have contributed  $6.9 million for a vast number of different projects. But given the number of people helped, that works out at less than $7 to make someone happy and live and love in a manner pleasing to God. We are very much hoping that other organizations will soon get involved. For there is an immense need for teaching materials, pamphlets, handbooks, short films – and also for the teams of experts who have to travel. The demand is immense, the growth of the federation has been remarkable, and the Church in Africa is faithful, but poor.

How do you see the future?

I am pinning great faith in the Synod for the Family, in autumn 2014 in Rome. It will put a strong emphasis on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. This should give a boost to the federation. The current president of the Africa-wide Bishops’ Symposium (SECAM) Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, from Angola and the president of the pontifical council Cor Unum, Cardinal Robert Sarah both see the Family Life Federation as pivotal for the future of Africa. For thanks to its trans-diocesan infrastructure, it can convey such human virtues as solidarity, fidelity, respect and fraternal charity to every corner of the continent. It is a lynch pin of love. And I am of course hoping that our benefactors will continue to be as generous as before, so that this work of love can still thrive and flourish.     •

Pakistan – Paul Bhatti will be in Pakistan for the anniversary of the death of his brother

13.02.2014 in ACN Canada, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Pakistan, Shahbaz Bhatti

Marta Petrosillo, ACN Italy

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

ACN-20140211-05053

©AED/ACN Paul Bhatti

“I have not run away at all. I love my country and I will be in Pakistan for the third anniversary of the death of my brother.” The words are those of Paul Bhatti, in an interview last monday morning with the Italian national office of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). He denies the newspaper allegations that claim he is in Italy because of the recent threats against his life.

As Special Adviser for the Religious Minorities to the Pakistani prime minister and president of the All Pakistan Minorities’ Alliance, he is currently in Italy in fulfilment of certain undertakings agreed previously and will be returning to Pakistan next week. However, since last Saturday some Pakistani tabloids have been claiming that he has sought refuge in Pakistan for fear of possible attacks on his life. “It is true that I have received threats”, he explained to ACN. “But this is nothing new. These attempts at intimidation will not prevent me from continuing my work.”

Ever since he decided to continue the work of his brother Shahbaz, the Minorities’ Minister assassinated on 2 March 2011, Paul Bhatti has received more than a few such “warnings”, but he has never thought of abandoning the Christians of Pakistan. “To run away now would mean an end to the mission of Shahbaz – a cause to which he dedicated his entire life and for which he was killed. Moreover, it would mean leaving my country, which I love dearly.” Following the “martyrdom” of his brother, Paul decided to leave Italy, where he had been living for some years, in order to carry on the legacy of the murdered Minorities’ Minister.

Paul Bhatti is not afraid for his own life, but if anything he is more concerned for that of his family members. For the threats were directed against his family too. Following the assassination of Shahbaz, one of his sisters and their mother Marta were forced to take refuge in Canada, where his brother Peter had already been living for some time. But another of his brothers, Sikandar, is still living in Khushpur, the village where they were born, in the district of Faisalabad.

What does concern Bhatti however, are the threats received by some of the eyewitnesses to the murder of his brother Shahbaz and by the legal team representing his family, who have instituted legal proceedings. “I have appealed to the Pakistani government to protect these witnesses and our lawyer”, he explained to ACN. “The authorities have promised me that they will supply the necessary protection, so that nothing can compromise the legal proceedings over the murder of my brother.”

In a few days time Paul will be returning to Pakistan, where he will be participating in a number of different events in memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, organised to mark the third anniversary of his death, and where he will also continue his own work in defence of the religious minorities. It is a task that last year brought about the acquittal of Rimsha Masih, the 14-year-old mentally retarded girl accused of blasphemy. Paul attributed this victory to the invaluable work of his brother. “I am continuing his mission, which he created, and helping it to grow. And if we achieve results, then the success is his alone.”