fbpx

ACN International

 

ACN NEWS: Pope Francis Calls on Catholics to Pray for Syrian Families

16.08.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians, Syria

POPE FRANCIS AND ACN – AN ACN EVENT SUPPORTING SYRIANS

Pope Francis calls on Catholics to pray for Syrian families

By Amanda Griffin and Maria Lozano, ACN International
Published on the web, Friday August 16, 2019

Rome/Montreal, Thursday August 15, 2019 – This Thursday, August 15th, Pope Francis welcomed a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and blessed 6,000 Rosaries which will be offered to the families of the war victims in Syria.

Committed to helping the suffering Christians in Syria ACN has, since 2011, supported approximately 850 projects with a budget of 52.5 million dollars. But it is clear that money is simply not enough. Spiritual support is necessary to heal the wounds and scars left by a long war.

“The Rosaries, made on the initiative of ACN, shall be a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria, especially those who have lost a loved one. We continue to pray the Rosary for peace in the Middle East and in the whole world.” The words of Pope Francis came during the Angelus prayers at the Vatican audience with the pontiff attended by ACN President, Thomas Heine-Geldern, as Pope Francis’ personal commitment to praying for peace in solidarity with the Syrian people.

 

Consoling my people – September 15th

Considering the profound need for Christians, and indeed for the whole of Syrian society, for solidarity, consolation as well for forgiveness, reconciliation and purification of memory at both the personal and communal levels –the benediction of the Rosaries will be followed-up with a special celebration of prayers for peace in Syria, on Sunday, September 15, led by the Holy Father (In Rome).  The local Christian leaders with the support of the international pontifical charity are organizing a celebration in Syria on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.  Prayers for the families of victims of war (killed and kidnapped alike). Pope Francis will bless the icon of “Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians” written by a Greek-Orthodox priest in Homs.

On the same date many celebrations will unfold in all Syrian parishes where pastoral gifts will be given to families in mourning, with a special Vespers and a Procession titled: Console my people (cf. Is 40:1). With the Console my people celebration, ACN hopes to provide a much needed spiritual consolation and moral support to Syrian families and communities recovering from profound losses of members who were killed or kidnapped, to console families who mourn the loss of their dearest ones and commemorate the victims of war.

 

ACN Drop of Milk campaign for the children of Homs

Aid to the Church in Need Canada has launched a campaign to help the children in the city of Homs, Syria. The goal is to give milk daily to children of 0 to 10 years old, for a period of six months.  The objective is to raise 378,000 dollars.

Information: DropofMilk2019 or 1-800-585-6333.

 

 

ACN FEATURE STORY— INTER-RELIGIOUS CONFERENCES IN NIGER

30.07.2019 in ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Matthias Böhnke & Thomas Oswald, Niger, Persecution of Christians, SUBSISTENCE

Niger

Inter-religious conferences to unleash the “good”

“Less than one per cent of the about 15 million inhabitants of the diocese of Maradi are Christian,” reported Bishop Ambroise Ouédraogo in an interview with ACN International. The 70-year-old cleric is the first, and so far the only bishop of the diocese of Maradi, one of two dioceses in Niger, a landlocked country in western Africa.

 

by Matthias Böhnke & Thomas Oswald, for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on line, July 30, 2019

 

For the most part, the about 5,000 to 6,000 Catholics in his diocese coexisted for years safely with the majority Muslim population, said the bishop. “That changed in 2015, when caricatures critical of Islam published by the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo unleashed a wave of violence.” Within a few hours, at least ten Christians were killed and over 70 churches and other Christian institutions were destroyed in the numerous riots that broke out across the country. About 80 percent of the Christian churches in the country were targeted—particularly those in the regions of Niamey and Zinder.

“Christians deeply feared the radical Islamic fundamentalists. And still do as time and again, at irregular intervals, incidents are directed against Christians,” reported Bishop Ouédraogo. Just two weeks ago in his diocese, the Protestant church in Maradi was set on fire by radical groups who were protesting the incarceration of an imam. He had been arrested after speaking out in his sermons against a draft law for stricter regulation of funding sources for the construction and operation of private places of worship. In spite of the demonstrations, the law was passed by parliament on Monday, June 17.

 

 

Evil unleashed elsewhere, spreading as if with an accelerant

Sister Marie Catherine Kingbo lives eight kilometres from Maradi, the scene of the most recent attack with her congregation the Fraternité des Servantes du Christ (Fraternity of the Servants of Christ). In an interview with ACN she said, “We expected attacks, but we did not think that they would be triggered by a draft law.” The situation in Niger has changed beyond recognition since she came to the country 15 years ago. At that time, hardly any tensions existed between the religions, she explained. “Now I hear even Muslims say that there are too many mosques and Quran schools, and not enough wells and hospitals,” Sister Catherine continued. Her congregation and the pupils that she teaches are under constant police protection for fear of Islamist attacks. “The evil that was unleashed in Libya, Syria and other countries in northern Africa and the Middle East is spreading like an accelerant here as well,” she deplored.

 

“We will not go. They may have guns, but we have Jesus!”

But Sister Catherine is convinced: it is not only evil that is spreading, but also good! Her religious order organizes many campaigns for the benefit of society. The Sisters help women in need, but also organize an encounter between Christians and Muslims each year. In 2006, the first of these inter-religious conferences took place with 28 people. By 2018, the number had grown to 350. Relations with local imams and neighbours are good, Sister Catherine said. Which is why she will not even consider cutting back her efforts out of fear of extremist attacks. “We will not go. They may have guns, but we have Jesus!”

“Many Muslims find the current situation absolutely disgraceful and show solidarity for the Christians”

Bishop Ouédraogo feels the same way. He has never called the cooperation and dialogue with Muslims into question. “Many Muslims find the current situation absolutely disgraceful and show solidarity for the Christians,” the bishop insisted. “95 to 98 percent of the pupils at our institutions are Muslim, and Caritas also carries out projects in regions which are almost exclusively Muslim. We do not discriminate. And this will remain so.”

 

The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been supporting the Church in Niger for many years and has approved funding in such areas as the formation of faith and to help priests in the country secure a means of subsistence.

 

 

 

ACN Project of the week: Ukraine – Novices in training

24.07.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Pastoral care, Sisters, Ukraine

ACN Project of the week in Ukraine

Support for the training of 13 novices

 The Ukraine congregation of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, has been blessed with many vocations. Currently there are no fewer than 13 young novices undergoing formation in the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk with the desire of consecrating their lives, forever, to the service of God and their human being. Most of them are young, no more than around 20 years old.

The Sisters of the congregation accompany young people, organize retreat days and provide catechetical training.  They also care for orphans, as well as for the sick and the elderly in Ukraine who often live in great need.

Religious who receive and nourish the faith

Among other things, the young novices help during the summer holiday season to organize camps for children and young people, giving them an opportunity to take a break and enjoy themselves, and at the same time to deepen their understanding and faith in God.

For these young Sisters it is also a good exercise in the work of catechesis. Last year some of them travelled with a group of 50 or so young people to attend a youth meeting in Italy. Although the bus journey was long and tiring, they were all enthusiastic and inspired. Sister Maria Christiana, the novice mistress, recalls: “I have never seen young people so filled with enthusiasm at the truth and the experience of community.”

The Sisters also organize walking pilgrimages to the shrine of Krylos in the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk itself. During the pilgrimage, a walk of around 25 km, they pray and sing, and the are also available for personal counselling sessions, at which the young people can unburden themselves freely and put all their many questions about the Christian faith or their own personal problems. Last year some 400 young people took part.

ACN regularly supports the congregation for the formation of these young religious, and this year we are proposing to do so again, with a contribution of $11,700.


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

ACN Success Story – Central African Republic (CAR)

17.07.2019 in ACN, ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Africa, Central African Republic

ACN Success Story

Central African Republic (CAR)

Ongoing training in the diocese of Bouar

Published to the web Wednesday July 17,2019

Thanks to the support of our benefactors who have given $4,500, close to 40 diocesan priests and religious from the diocese of Bouar were able to participate in an ongoing formation session last March.

 

Given the country is suffering such violence and extreme problems in the Central African Republic, it is especially important to lend support and strength to priests. They are often the only ones who can really reach their people and help them not to lose hope.

The program included important pastoral issues such as marriage preparation, preparation for the sacraments, adult baptisms and the role of catechists in small and remote rural villages. At the same time, the priests were able to reflect on their own vocation and the importance of the priesthood, while additionally receiving training in a range of practical matters. Some topics such as bookkeeping, general administration and record keeping, all subjects essential and obligatory in every parish and institution, but for which many priests are often inadequately prepared.

 

The priests of the diocese have all benefited greatly from these days of sharing and ongoing formation and wish to express their gratitude to all our generous benefactors who made this meeting possible.

A facilitator found assassinated

Sadly, immediately after these beautiful and encouraging days, a terribly tragic incident occurred. A 47-year-old Capuchin, Father Toussaint Zoumalde, who had so recently given a talk on the priesthood and vocation, was murdered on his way home from the meeting.

 

This priest, who had originally come from the diocese of Bouar, but was currently serving as Provincial Superior of his order in Chad, had been planning to spend the night in Ngaoundere, Cameroon. He was stabbed to death by unknown assailants on his way home.

 “This priest who was so rich in the fine qualities of the Gospel and the beauty of the priestly order.”

Father Toussaint was a highly educated priest who had studied in Rome and been involved in the work of priestly formation. Friends and colleagues have described him as a fine and multi-talented individual with a profound soul and great love for the Church and the priesthood in particular.

A songwriter and poet, he had a wonderful way with young people, to whom he brought the Gospel message. He was previously responsible for the Catholic radio station in Bouar. In addition to his many other activities in Chad, he was the head of a cultural museum of the Mboum ethnic group. In their obituary for him the Capuchin Fathers wrote: “In killing him on the night of 19 March, the cowardly hand of his murderer knew nothing of the beauty and elegance of Brother Toussaint, this priest who was so rich in the fine qualities of the Gospel and the beauty of the priestly order.”

It was that just a few days after meeting with his fellow priests in Bouar, where Father Toussaint had given his confreres an inspiring and profound reflection on the priesthood, that his mortal remains were carried to their burial by his brother priests. Great mourning could be felt among all the people and the entire Church in the diocese. The words he had spoken at this meeting of the priests have thus become his lasting legacy.

In Central African Republic, the last words of an assassinated Capuchin priest, became a special legacy for forty or so priests whom you helped receive continuing education.

 

ACN Press – ACN supports UK report on persecution of Christians

16.07.2019 in ACN, ACN International, ACN PRESS, ACN United Kingdom, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Persecution of Christians

Persecution of Christians

Aid to the Church in Need Supports the Publication of a Government Report in the United Kingdom

Published on the web July 16, 2019

Montreal-London-Konigstein, Monday, July 15, 2019An independent report commissioned by the British Foreign Secretary has been published showing the scale of persecution of Christians around the world and the response of the United Kingdom Government to their plight.

 

The report is the first of its kind to be requested by a national government minister and produced with the cooperation of government civil service and other officials. The review was overseen by the Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Reverend Philip Mounstephen. The UK Office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) provided support for its publication.

 

In his introduction to the report, Bishop Mounstephen points out that Christian persecution is not an isolated incident, but rather a “global phenomenon.” In the report, he also remarks that the focus on Christianity is “not about special pleading for Christians, but making up a significant deficit.” Reflecting on the findings of the report, he states that Christians are the religious group who suffer the most persecution. The Church of England Bishop expressed regret that Western nations “have been blind to this issue” and expressed the hope that the report would be a wake-up call “not to be spectators but to be actors,” emphasizing the persecution of Christians is a question of universal human rights and should be seen as such.

 

The report of 176 pages analyzes world trends, detailing the situation in countries such as Iraq, Nigeria, China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Syria and concludes with a list of 22 recommendations directed at the FCO (Minister of Foreign Affairs). It calls for more government action in response to the violence against Christians, which it describes as having at times reached “near genocidal levels.” Among other things it calls on the British government to ensure that “freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) remains at the heart of the priorities of UK foreign policy,” and urges the country to become a “global leader in championing FoRB.”

 

Common Funeral Service for Easter Sunday Victims at St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo (Sri Lanka).

 

The report was drawn up by a commission composed of FCO staff, members of NGOs experienced in the field of religious freedom and other independent members. Among the bodies included was the Catholic pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), which for over 70 years now has been supporting persecuted Christians around the world. ACN was closely involved in the information-gathering for the first part of the report with essential investigative work on the scale of persecution in Africa, the Near-East and in South Asia.

“I hope the action of the British Government will inspire other governments in the world to dare to broach the question—the larger question—of religious freedoms.” – Marie-Claude Lalonde, national director ACN Canada

 

UK’s social media image.

ACN’s DNA: Keep Talking About Importance of Religious Freedom

“As an international organization we are happy to be able to give voice to the voiceless,” said Marie-Claude Lalonde, national director of ACN Canada. “From the beginning, our founder Father Werenfried warned western countries in the ’50s of the terrible tragedy endured by Christians ruled by authoritarian regimes, such as communism. Still today, our work with our partners in 139 countries allows us to ascertain the extent of the discrimination and persecution exercised against Christians. I hope the action of the British Government will inspire other governments in the world to dare to broach the question—the larger question—of religious freedoms.”

 

Neville Kyrke-Smith, director of the UK national office of ACN, underlined report’s importance, saying: “We are delighted to have been involved in this report. It is an incentive for our work that these problems should finally be recognized at the political level.” At the same time, he stressed the importance of protecting Christian minorities in countries where they face persecution and oppression. “There is a vital need to support this Christian presence, given that the Christians are frequently bridge builders and agents of peace in many of these countries.”

 


 

ACN Press: “Brutal” Closures of Church Administered Health Centres in Eritrea

11.07.2019 in ACN International

 

Eritrea

“Brutal” Closures of Church Administered Health Centres

by Tobias Lehner, for ACN International
Adapted by Mario Bard Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the website July 11, 2019

Beginning in mid-June, the Eritrean military forcibly and “brutally” occupied and closed 21 hospitals and medical facilities run by the Catholic Church in Eritrea. This was reported last week to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), by Father Mussie Zerai, himself of Eritrean origin and currently coordinating the pastoral work for the country in Rome. “The patients were more or less thrown out of their beds. The military smashed wa and doors and pressured the staff […] the director of a hospital in northern Eritrea, a Franciscan Sister, was even arrested when she resisted the closure.”

 

“There is no justification for the actions of the regime. It punishes those who are taking care of the poorest of the poor,” Father Zerai said, also pointing out that the more than 200,000 people who receive treatment year after year at health care facilities run by the Church will suffer as a result of these new measures, for which the government has not announced any kind of replacement. It is believed the government wishes to have sole control of the social sector in favour of the “separation of powers” —It is thus basing its actions on a law passed in 1995 which has never been applied in such a brutal manner to date. “Most of the patients weren’t Catholics, but Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and members of other religions. The facilities are often located in remote [and poor] areas,” the priest explained. In 2018, eight dispensaries were forced to close.

 

The reasons for these massive seizures remain unclear. According to the suggestions of outside observers, in the eyes of President Isaias Aferwerki’s government, the Church has become too self-confident in its efforts to further the peace process with Ethiopia. The situation is clear for Father Zerai: “The government is obsessed with having control over everything and everyone. It sees the Catholic Church as a threat because we are part of an international network and [we dare to] ask questions.”

All Religions Suffer in This State Marked by Atheism

Eritrea has at most 120,000 to 160,000 Catholics. Half of its population is Christian belonging to Orthodox Churches and Lutheran Evangelicals. In addition to Roman Catholicism and Sunni Islam, the Orthodox and Lutheran churches are the only other religious denominations tolerated by the state. A situation reminiscent of the one observed in certain communist regimes, where official religious denominations cohabited parallel with those refusing interference from the state in their affairs. Or those who are held in contempt by the regime, though not prohibited, and thus become clandestine.

 

Moreover, unlike many other countries in North Africa, Islam is not the state religion in Eritrea. The country has a “strong atheistic leaning. If it were up to the government, religion would not exist. Essentially, it follows the same school of thought as China,” explained Father Zerai. In every case, all believers are suffering in similar situations.

 

No Constitution and No Fundamental Rights

“Young Eritreans are leaving the country in growing numbers because there is no rule of law,” Father Zerai explained. Moreover, the country has no constitution implemented to speak of, and this, despite the country declaring its independence in 1993. “This is why the people can just be picked up from their homes without reason. Military service has become legalized slavery. The possibility of a future is taken away from the young people,” Father Zerai said. Of course, at the present time, “the countries are trying to get Eritrea more involved on an international level in order to make it more open and democratic,” he explains. But despite its election in October 2018 to the Human Rights Council by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the human rights situation is still critical and the country remains isolated.

 

 

Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights in Eritrea, Mrs. Daniela Kravetz, considers the seizures of the last weeks demonstrate “that despite the improved regional climate for peace and security, the human rights situation [in Eritrea] remains unchanged.”

 

According to Father Zerai, similar to the overall human rights situation, the freedom of religion is severely restricted and at the mercy of capriciousness: “A few are permitted to freely practise their religion, but not all. Sometimes the cooperation works better [with authorities], sometimes worse.”—a situation which also applies to the freedom of religion.

 

In spite of the current escalation in violence, the priest is certain about one thing, “The Catholic Church will continue its pastoral work, but also its social work. After all, it says in the Bible: faith without works is dead. Taking away the ability of the Church to carry out charitable works is like amputating one of its arms.”

 

Since 2016 alone, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has financially supported 44 projects in Eritrea with a total of about $1.350 million dollars. This includes aid to build chapels and church facilities, funding for stipends and vehicles to secure the mobility of priests and subsistence aid for religious Sisters.

 

ACN Interview – Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis, Tunisia

05.07.2019 in ACN Interview, ACN Intl, By Maria Lozano, Tunisia

ACN INTERVIEW – Tunisia

Our mission here is to bear witness

The ancient city of Carthage, in the era of the Phoenicians – where modern Tunis stands today – was the city that saw the greatest number of martyrs of the Church after Rome. Now, in the 21st century, it has become a “very fragile” Church, according to Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis. He was speaking in an interview with Maria Lozano, during a visit to the  headquarters of the international Catholic pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International).

* It should be noted that this interview was done prior to the suicide bombings of June 27 which claimed one life and injured eight in central Tunis.

 

by Maria Lozano , for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the website July 7, 2019

 

ACN: What is the situation in Tunisia today, eight years after the so-called “Arab Spring”?

P: The “Arab Spring” raised high hopes of greater freedom and prosperity, but it lacked a leader who could tell the people how to achieve this. That is why many people have become disillusioned. People today want jobs and security to give them a sense of greater peace and serenity, since for many people the future seems uncertain. As far as the situation of the Church is concerned, the truth is that we cannot complain. We can do what we want within the Church and go wherever we wish without asking permission. We are free, and that is a good thing.

 

ACN: What you mean when you say that you are free? What aspects are you referring to, given that the field of action for the Church is very limited?

We are governed by a modus vivendi, the accord signed in 1964 between the Holy See and Tunisia during the presidency of Habib Bourguiba. Prior to that the French army had been expelled from Tunisia. The Church was viewed as the “long arm” of France, the colonial power. It was for this reason that almost all the property of the Church was confiscated in Tunisia. We had 125 churches, and today we have just four. That left the Church in a fragile state, but at the same time it did do one thing for us: our faith became stronger. Being unable to count on the support of men and having nothing, we are compelled to turn to God and to call on him for everything we need and ask him to give the strength to work in the situation in which we currently find ourselves, in Tunisia. Our modus vivendi does have certain negative aspects as far as the Church is concerned, but at the same time it has forced her to concentrate on the essential, on the spiritual.

 

We had 125 churches, and today we have just four.

ACN: Given that 99% of the population is Muslim, the Church is in a very delicate situation. What does the Church do in your country?

P: We are simply missionaries. The missionary is someone who witnesses to the presence of Christ where He is not known. In Tunisia Christ is not known. All the Christians are foreigners – either students coming for the most part from sub-Saharan Africa or else entrepreneurs who have come to work in Tunisia. We have to support them and welcome them to the best of our ability, something that is not easy, because there are no church bells to hear. All the Church activities have to take place inside the churches; there is nothing to see from the outside. It is not easy to make contact with them, but once we do manage to do so they play an active part in the Church in Tunisia. As a result we number between 15,000 and 20,000 Christians. It is not easy to obtain statistics because, for example, the students leave once they have finished their studies and other students arrive. According to our own calculations we lose around one quarter of our faithful each year, but at the same time another quarter arrives. This means in effect that every four years the Catholic community we serve is a completely new one. As a result it is not easy to establish long-term projects within the Church, or with the Church, because those who begin such a project almost never complete it, while those who are newly arrived do not know what it’s all about. Hence there is no stability, and this is another additional difficulty for our Church.

I am the only bishop in Tunisia, because, little by little, Tunisia abandoned the Christian faith and today the population is entirely Muslim.

 

ACN: But Tunisia has Christian roots! Should that not be something seen and felt?

P: In Tunisia they were saying Mass in Latin even before they were doing so in Rome. Christianity arrived in Tunisia in the earliest centuries of the Church. We need only think of Saint Cyprian, Saint Augustine or all the martyrs we have had in Tunisia. After Rome, the city that gave the highest number of martyrs to the Church was Carthage, in other words Tunis. The country had some 120 bishops, and the bishop of Carthage was regarded as the Primate of Africa, with authority over all the bishops of Africa. Of course we no longer have 120 bishops today. I am the only bishop in Tunisia, because, little by little, Tunisia abandoned the Christian faith and today the population is entirely Muslim.

 

ACN: We cannot see the future of course, but some people think that in a hundred or two hundred years Europe itself may have lost the Faith and be living in a situation like that in North Africa. What do you think we can do to avoid such a situation happening?

P: It is true that Europe is in danger. However, not because the Muslims have invaded, but because we no longer attach sufficient importance to the faith that we do have. If we look at the Muslims and the way they live, on the other hand, on the day of prayer everybody goes to the mosque. In our countries the churches are empty. The Muslims have children, but the Christians have fewer and fewer. Little by little, we are committing suicide for lack of believers, for lack of children. You only have to look at our churches in Europe; the majority of those praying there are aged 60 or over. Where are the young people?

 

ACN: Another factor is the shortage of priests. In Europe the average age of priests is also increasing. What is the situation like in your country?

P: I am quite possibly the only bishop in the world who is complaining that his priests are too young. Currently, among my priests there are two or three who are aged around 90. But of all the rest the oldest priest is 45 years old. We don’t have enough older priests who have a historical knowledge of Tunisia, of its society, of the Church and everything else. That is something we lack. The same is true of their work in supporting the religious sisters, and other priests… There is a need for a priest to have a degree of religious and pastoral experience.

There are no Tunisian priests.

 

ACN: Is it true that in Tunisia all the religious sisters and all the priests are missionaries who have come here from outside?

P: Yes. There are no Tunisian priests. The religious sisters and the priests belong to various different congregations, and most of them come here for a missionary stay of 5 to 10 years and then return to their home countries. We lack a permanent presence of our priests.

 

ACN: Caritas plays an important role here, and not only for the Christians…

P: Caritas is not simply a “movement” within the Church, something that is a part of the Church. For us Caritas is the Church. This represents a great responsibility. With its help, everything we do can actually reach the families, reach society, where no priest or religious can go. Hence Caritas is seen as the “missionary” of the Church. It witnesses to Christ, to a Christ who loves, who helps people, through all the individuals working with Caritas. When someone comes to us, we never ask him about his religion but only about his troubles. Whether the person is a Christian or not is something of no importance to Caritas. We do have Christians; those who come to us are above all Africans, but there are also many Tunisians. We work in areas of Tunis that are 100% Muslim, and we are there to help the women to learn a trade, such as making sweets and pastries for example, so that they can lead an independent life. Once they have been trained in this way they can earn a living and live a more dignified life.

 

ACN: What would you like to say to the Aid to the Church in Need benefactors? What can we do for Tunisia, to help you in your work as a bishop?

P: We have a Church that is fragile, because its activities are very limited, fragile, too, on account of our lack of means of subsistence, since everything we once had has been taken from us. And equally because for everything we need, we have to ask help from abroad. ACN is extremely important for us in enabling us to continue our work and our apostolate, above all among this people, who need our witness. Simply being there is to bear witness for Christ, through our own lives and not simply by words. It means showing by our conduct who Christ is, a Christ who loves, a Christ who forgives. The Tunisians will never have a Bible in their homes, but we are the Gospel that they can read, through the way we behave. And all the aid we get from ACN enables us to bear witness, by our lives, to who Christ is. In the end it is He who gives the grace that touches hearts, not us. I want to thank ACN for all the aid you are giving us. Because this is helping us to stay on our feet, helping us to continue our mission.

 

 

ACN Feature: Sowing hope for more Christian families in Iraq

03.07.2019 in ACN International, by Xavier Bisits & Iban de la Sota, Iraq, Religious freedom

Iraq

Sowing hope for more Christian families in Iraq

by by Xavier Bisits & Iban de la Sota , for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the website July 3, 2019

As part of its reconstruction efforts in the Nineveh Plains, Iraq, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has begun work to restore the homes of 41 Christian families in the town of Bartella. Approximately 220 additional people will benefit from this project, the latest in ACN’s program, which has already helped renovate more than 2,000 houses in the region.

 

Prior to Daesh’s (Islamic State) invasion in 2014, Bartella was a town of 3,500 Christian families (i.e., ca. 17,500 people, including around 12,300 Syriac Orthodox and 5,200 Syriac Catholics). When residents returned after the liberation of their town in 2016, they found their churches desecrated, with the black flag of Daesh draped over the walls. Their homes: burned, looted, and damaged in an attempt to prevent Christians from ever returning home. Other houses were destroyed by airstrikes during the liberation.

 

A ceremony marking the beginning of the work was held on June 5, 2019, beginning with Gospel readings and prayers chanted in Syriac, a neo-Aramaic dialect.  Fr Benham Lallo, representing the parish priest, Fr Benham Benoka, who could not make it to the event, led the proceedings and interpreted for Fr Andrzej Halemba, ACN’s Middle East section head. The latter, in a message to the families, compared their mission to that of families in the Old Testament, who had to rebuild Jerusalem after its destruction. He also asked them to pray for ACN’s benefactors. The olive trees were then blessed and distributed to each family, symbolizing the hope that peace will return to the region, after many years of war – that these trees, planted in the gardens of these families, might bear fruit.

 

Following the invasion of Mosul and the Nineveh Plains in the summer of 2014, ACN provided food, shelter, medicine and schooling for displaced Christians and others arriving in Erbil and elsewhere. After the expulsion of Daesh when the communities began returning home, the charity began rebuilding homes, convents, churches and other structures.  ACN donors gave 63,933,318 million in aid to Iraq, from 2014 to May 2019.

ACN News – Christians still in a state of shock in Sri Lanka

27.06.2019 in ACN Feature, ACN International, ACN NEWS, by Matthias Böhnke, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Christians still in a state of shock

by Matthias Böhnke, for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Published on the web June 27, 2019

“The attacks have reminded many people of the time when a state of emergency was declared during the civil war. The general public and especially all of the Christians in Sri Lanka are still in a state of shock.” This was the summary given by Veronique Vogel, head of projects in Asia for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), upon returning from a visit to the country (Sri Lanka), exactly four weeks after the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday that killed or injured hundreds of people all over the country to take stock of the situation and to sympathize with some of the partners who were directly touched by the violence.

 

She spoke of palpable tensions throughout the country, recurring unrest and fear. “The security measures throughout Sri Lanka were very strict during our visit; security forces and the military were everywhere. But fear persists, particularly among the Christian population. Everyone is well aware of the fact that more assassins were involved on Easter Sunday than were identified and arrested. Therefore, everyone knows that somewhere out there extremely dangerous people are running around who could attack again at any time.”

 

The archbishop of the diocese of Colombo, Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith, is now appealing to the public to remain calm and to refrain from carrying out acts of revenge. “During our trip, I repeatedly got the sense that the Christians were thankful for the words of their archbishop and were taking them to heart,” Veronique Vogel reported. Over a period of just a few days, the small delegation from ACN visited mainly the regions around the capital city of Colombo and the neighbouring city of Negombo, where most of the attacks on churches and hotels had taken place. “This trip was arranged so that we could see for ourselves the state of the Catholic parishes and to assure them of our solidarity. After all, the terrorist attacks were specifically targeted at Christians,” Vogel continued. “It is important for us to provide the benefactors of ACN with first-hand information about the situation on site to ensure that we don’t forget to pray for Sri Lanka and we can give the country our support.”

 

In spite of everything, Christians have a great faith

Veronique Vogel reported that although the churches in the country have been accessible again to the faithful since 21 May, exactly one month after the series of attacks were carried out, many Christians are severely traumatized. “Many told me that they are afraid to enter a church at the moment or feel fear when they hear the bells ring. Saddening testimony of just how stressful the memories of Easter Sunday must be for them.”

 

However, she also discovered that many who had themselves become victims or had lost family members felt that their experiences had strengthened them in their faith. “Since the situation in the country had been comparatively quiet over the last few years, many people are having trouble understanding why they in Sri Lanka had to endure such suffering. But their will to live and faith remain very strong. The Christians and the people in Sri Lanka do not want civil war, but are actively working to maintain lasting peace,” the head of projects in Asia for ACN emphasized.

 

Mrs. Vogel was especially impressed by their visit to a Franciscan convent in Negombo. She explained that the convent is located directly across from the Catholic Church of St. Sebastian. During the attacks, at least 100 people were killed at this location alone. She spoke of how the Franciscans showed them videos of horrible scenes from the day of the attacks and how they had immediately rushed to the scene after the explosions to care for the wounded and help recover the dead. “In spite of these traumatic experiences, they are models of lived charity and have not let terrorism and violence detract them from their faith and their willingness to help others.”

 

The island nation of Sri Lanka is situated in the Indian Ocean and has about 22 million inhabitants: 70 percent are Buddhist, 12.5 percent Hindu, 9.5 percent Muslim and 8 percent Christian. Many people were killed or severely wounded during a series of attacks on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, that mainly targeted three Christian churches and three hotels in the capital city of Colombo, the neighbouring city of Negombo and the east coast city of Batticaloa. The latest figures estimate nationwide casualties of at least 253 dead and about 500 wounded. The authorities have attributed the attacks to radical Islamist group and jihadists.

 

Over the last 15 years, the pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has invested more than 12 million dollars in projects for Sri Lanka. Among other projects, these funds were used for the building of Christian facilities, for Mass Offerings for priests, for theological education and to ensure the local availability of Christian literature. Following the latest terrorist attacks, ACN is even more strongly committed to strengthening long-term pastoral aid in the country to help heal wounds and bring back hope and confidence to the parishes.

 

ACN Project of the Week: Construction of a village chapel in Benin

26.06.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS

ACN Project of the Week in Benin

Construction of a village chapel

 

The parish of the Most Holy Trinity is based in Guilmaro in northwest Benin. Like so many other rural parishes in Africa, it covers a vast area with numerous outlying villages. Many of the faithful have to travel long journeys in order to be able to participate in Holy Mass. 

 

The village of Damouti is the largest outstation in the parish. At present it has a simple mud chapel – more of a hut really – where the Catholic faithful gather to pray. The priests come here regularly to celebrate Holy Mass, and the people also take an active part in the May devotions, the Holy Rosary and the catechetical sessions in the chapel.

 

An opening to the Good News of Christ

 

The chapel is way too small now to welcome everybody.

The small mud chapel is far too small to accommodate all the faithful. Over half the congregation have to stand outside during Holy Mass exposed to the burning sun in the dry season and the torrential downpours in the rainy season. Needless to say, it is far from easy to follow the liturgy from outside. Meanwhile, the number of Catholic faithful continues to grow and every year there are numerous baptisms. For while 60% of the people within the parish still follow traditional African religions, many of them are very open to the Good News of Christ.

 

The local people would love to have a larger chapel, but there is no way they can finance it with their own resources. So their parish priest, Father Noel Kolida, has turned to ACN, confident of our support. We would like to be able to help him with a contribution of $22,500. Would you like to help?

 

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