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ACN International

 

ACN Project of the Week : Ukraine

31.03.2020 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Ukraine

ACN Project of the Week in Ukraine

Help needed to complete a parish centre in Voyutychi

By ACN International Projects Department
Published online in Canada March 31, 2020

The Church in Ukraine still suffers to this day from the consequences of Soviet communist persecution. Many of the Church properties that were confiscated by the communist regime have still not been returned to this day; others have been returned, but in pitiful condition. Repairs and restoration of badly damaged are possible, but only a little at a time. And in many cases total replacements of church buildings are required.

Following political changes, the Latin-rite Catholic parish of Saint Katharine of Alexandria was reopened in Voyutychi, West Ukraine, within the Lviv administrative district. It has been a long journey to completely restore this church and =the presbytery, was in such poor condition that it could only be demolished. To this day, the priests have to live in cramped and unsuitable conditions above the sacristy of the church – there is nowhere else for them to live – nor is there any suitable place for the many and varied activities of this lively parish community serving148 families. Until now all activities – the children’s and youth groups, the altar servers’ group, the elderly people‘s club, the Legion of Mary, the parish choir and many others, have had to cope with inadequate conditions, which is of course hampering their work over the long term.

 

It was therefore decided to build a new parish centre that could provide living accommodations for two priests and furnish the necessary space for the various different groups to conduct all their activities.

 

Construction has already begun! The parish priest, Father Victor Palczynski, has asked for our help. We are making a contribution of $15,000 for the building to be readied for use.

 

Thank you for donating!

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

Help needed to complete a parish centre in Voyutychi, Ukraine

 

ACN Feature – Covid19: What will become of Africa?

27.03.2020 in ACN Feature, ACN International, Africa

Central African Republic

“Don’t abandon Africa” – Father Gaetán Kabasha’s dramatic appeal on the Covid-19 epidemic

Letter Father Gaetán Kabasha to the world and Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

 Original Portuguese, ACN Portugal
to English, Felipe Bezerra, ACN Canada and adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web March 27,2020

“Do not abandon Africa, remain very attentive and when the complicated situation arrives in these countries, be willing to reach out to help,” asks Father Gaetán Kabasha of all people in the face of the dramatic evolution that Covid 19 may take on this continent of more than a billion souls.

The priest sent a video message to the ACN office in Lisbon, Portugal,  appealing for everyone’s solidarity with the victims of this pandemic. – A native of Rwanda and ordained a priest in the Central African Republic and currently living in Madrid where, as a chaplain at the San Carlos Hospital, Father Gaetán is dealing daily with patients infected with Covid19  “It is very complicated, there are a lot of patients and a lot of stress.”

“If the pandemic cannot be controlled in countries with many economic and health means, I don’t know how it can be controlled if it reaches Africa.”

This experience also allows him to draw a comparison with what may happen in the short term in Africa. He doesn’t hide his concern. “As an African, I am also very concerned about our countries, because if the pandemic cannot be controlled in countries with many economic and health means, I don’t know how it can be controlled if it reaches Africa.”

With the figures being updated almost every hour, it is difficult to understand the scale of this pandemic in Africa, with more than a thousand confirmed cases in about forty countries. But this data can be illusory, Father Gaetán underlines in his message sent to ACN.

“It is true that there are very few cases and that we can still control them, but as we saw here in Europe, everything starts with a case and little by little it grows, multiplying until it gets out of control,” says the chaplain of the Madrid hospital. “It is important for African countries to take action before the situation is too difficult, because really this virus that is transmitted in an incredible way can cause a catastrophe in African countries. I think of the suburbs of big capitals or cities in Africa … ”

 

 

A continent in danger

Father Gaetán, who was in Portugal last November invited by ACN in Portugal, knows like few what suffering, persecution and life means in refugee camps.

The knowledge of this reality leads him to look now at the African continent to conclude that the fight against the coronavirus can be extremely difficult. And he explains why: “Because it is said that people have to isolate themselves and [in Africa] there are people who have nowhere to isolate themselves. There are thousands of people who live on the street, who live day to day and who get something to eat because they go out on the street. If the authorities decide to isolate themselves, these thousands of people will not know where to isolate themselves and, if they find somewhere, they will not be able to survive.”

In the face of this frightening reality, there is hope that scientists will be able to find the solution to the pandemic before it hits the African continent. “We are praying a lot that this situation that I am seeing in Spain, that is happening in Italy and that can happen in other European countries, does not reach Africa before the remedy is discovered,”says Father Gaetán Kabasha.

All around the world, the members of the Catholic Church are actively comforting people most touched by this pandemic.  In many countries Sisters are nurses, they manage the dispensaries, the homes for the elderly and other health related institutions.  Helping them through this crisis means supporting the presence of the Church for the weakest members of society. Aid to the Church in Need around the world will continue to support the Church in every way possible.

Thank you for continuing your support, in any way you find possible.

ACN News – The only hope for Huma Younus: Supreme Court of Pakistan

26.03.2020 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Pakistan

Pakistan

Supreme court – the only hope for Huma Younus

Text by Marta Petrosillo, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Briget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted to website March 26, 2020

For the umpteenth time, no progress has been made in the case of Huma Younus, the 14-year-old Catholic girl abducted on 10 October last year in Karachi, Pakistan, then raped, forcibly ‘converted‘ to Islam and forced to marry her own abductor.

 

As reported to ACN by the lawyer representing the parents of Huma, Tabassum Yousaf, March 19, there was a new hearing at the High Court of Sindh, the province within which Karachi lies. Once again on this occasion, the girl was not brought to court as requested by the judges.

 

On the other hand, there were some results from the long-awaited medical visit to attest the actual age of Huma. Despite the fact that, right from the outset, the parents have produced both the birth certificate and the baptismal certificate of their daughter – which clearly state the date of her birth as May 22, 2005 – her Muslim abductor, Abdul Jabbar, has continued to insist that the girl is an adult and of legal age for marriage – 18 years of age. After repeated failures, attributed by the police to the impossibility of making contact with the girl in order to conduct the medical examination, the result was announced today finally: according to the examination of her bones, the doctors stated that Huma was 17 years old.

 

A finding that does not correspond to her true age, but which nonetheless confirms that the girl is under age and thereby proves the illegality both of her conversion and of her claimed marriage. Yet despite this, no arrest warrant was issued for Abdul Jabbar, nor was he ordered to return Huma to her parental home. The judges confined themselves to announcing a new hearing on April 16 this year, by which time Huma will have already spent six months in the hands of her tormentor, the victim of daily abuse.

 

The case will go to the supreme court, as did the case of Asia Bibi

 

“This confirms what we have always believed,” her mother, Nagheeno Younus tells ACN. “The judges are taking their time, waiting for her to reach the age of 18, so that they can then close the case. By declaring that my little girl is 17, it will be enough for them to wait a few months and then abandon her to her fate.”

 

Moreover, there are serious doubts as to the integrity of the local police, who were charged with supervising the outcome of the medical examination. On a number of occasions members of the police have acted in the interests of her abductor Abdul Jabbar, who has even forced Huma to level a charge against her own parents in which she allegedly asserts that she is afraid her own family members might kill her.

 

The Italian section of the pontifical charity ACN, is accompanying the family and supports them during the legal process. “Sadly, though, it has gone the way we feared,“ says the director of ACN Italy, Alessandro Monteduro. “The first two levels of the judiciary have not given justice to Huma. But we are not giving up, and, together with her lawyer Yousaf, we are going to take the case to the Supreme Court. This was the court which finally set Asia Bibi free, though her release seems not to bring about any change for the better for the religious minorities in Pakistan.”

 

*  We do not know if the audience was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

Covid-19 pandemic – Letter from the international president of ACN

23.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Thomas Heine-Geldern

Königstein, Germany,

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International Headquarters 

Le 18 mars 2020

 

Dear Friends,

On Ash Wednesday this year, as we were all preparing to begin the Lenten season, none of us could have imagined that this time of penance would become such a challenging one for us. In a very short space of time we have found that our earthly security and freedom have been shattered by a pandemic.

Never before has any of us experienced such an exceptional situation. Civic measures that until a few weeks ago would have seemed unthinkable to us, we are now accepting as justified and reasonable. But how well is our faith and our sense of security in God going to withstand such unexpectedly shattering developments?

It is only natural that our first and foremost concern should be for those known to us who have fallen victim to this virus; that we should be thinking of the elderly whom we are no longer permitted to visit, or the grandchildren whom the older ones among us can no longer take into our arms. And for many people, including many of you no doubt, there are now the financial worries as well.

Many of our suffering and persecuted brothers and sisters still have to manage without any of these technological aids.

Moreover, we are now finding that we can no longer take for granted the fact that we can attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion. This is already the plight of many of our brothers and sisters in the mission lands, or those living under dictatorships. They have to struggle to be able to participate in Holy Mass and the Sacraments. And perhaps we too now have a much clearer understanding of what it means to live as the domestic 

church with our children and pray together with them. That is what they already have to do in places where there are no churches. And we at least have the technology that enables us to follow the religious services via live streaming or other electronic means. In this way it is made easier for us to remain in contact not only with God but also with our friends and with the global community of the Catholic faithful. Many of our suffering and persecuted brothers and sisters still have to manage without any of these technological aids.

“…we can always lift up our hearts in prayer for one another…”

During this Lenten season we will have to follow Jesus Christ into the desert in a much more immediate way. In our fears and concerns we are experiencing more clearly what it means at times to feel abandoned even by God. But we can always lift up our hearts in prayer for one another. And we can find strength in the certainty that the bridge of love and faith between our benefactors, the staff and co-workers of ACN and our project partners all over the world remains as strong as ever and that our shared prayer will help us to overcome this global crisis. So it is that in the last few days especially we have received countless messages from our friends in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Haiti and the Philippines assuring us of their prayers for all the benefactors of ACN.

“…we can find strength in the certainty that the bridge of love and faith between our benefactors, the staff and co-workers of ACN and our project partners all over the world remains as strong as ever…”

Our everyday life has changed dramatically. But let us take comfort in the old truism that reminds us that every crisis is also an opportunity. In this case it is an opportunity to use the extra time we suddenly have on our hands to grow inwardly, to come closer to God and at the same time to bring to him in our prayers all our near and dear ones – spouses, children, siblings and parents. And likewise of course all our brothers and sisters in the faith, both those around us and those in the wider world.

“Every crisis is also an opportunity”

We can do this in our prayer, whether private or shared, and we can do so by offering up all our trials and anxieties in the coming weeks for all those whom for the present we cannot directly help or those whose plight, whether through sickness or loneliness, is still harder than our own. Let us also think of those families whose life is made particularly hard by their cramped living conditions. And please let us not forget our brothers and sisters in those countries where Christians continue even now to be persecuted and discriminated against – they often have far more serious worries than this virus. Let us for example continue to support with our Mass Offerings all those priests in our partner countries who will celebrate Holy Mass for our intentions.

“Today I would like to urge you to help us further develop the three pillars of ACN‘s work, namely prayer, information and action”

Again and again over the past years it has been my privilege to thank you for your generosity and your help for our suffering brothers and sisters. Today I would like to urge you to help us further develop the three pillars of ACN‘s work, namely prayer, information and action, in creative fidelity to our founding mission, so that we can turn this crisis into an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ.

It may be that the penitential season will last rather longer than the time envisaged in the calendar, but Easter will come nonetheless. Let us together use this time of trial in such a way that we may then experience still more profoundly the Mystery of the Resurrection.

 

This is my wish for each one of us.

I remain, united in prayer with you all,

Thomas Heine-Geldern

President, ACN International

Project of the Week: Support for the youth apostolate in Pakistan

27.02.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Family Apostolate, Pakistan, Pastoral aid, Youth Apostolate

Project of the Week:  Pakistan

A spiritual breath for a youth apostolate in Faisalabad

Published on line February 27, 2020

Roughly half of the 207 million people who make up the population of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are under the age of  25, and one third of these are actually aged 14 or younger. Young Christians, living in a society that is 97% Muslim, face many more and much greater challenges than their Muslim counterparts. In fact, for many Christians it is almost impossible to advance professionally within society. And, the religious minorities such as the Christians find themselves in, the lowest strata of society, Most having to work as street sweepers, labourers, or domestic employees.

 

A Christian name can be enough to block one’s access to higher studies. Non-Muslims are in effect seen as second-class citizens, not full Pakistani citizens. They are even unfavourably portrayed in official school textbooks, and the many services performed by Christians on behalf of the country are passed over in silence. Islam is promoted in almost every area of the curriculum, most notably in the selection of essay topics. Christian pupils are often insulted and excluded, or else pressured to convert to Islam. For Christian girls it is even worse, since they are doubly discriminated against, because  of their gender. And young Christian girls face a very real danger of being abducted and forcibly married to their abductors – also meaning: being forcibly converted to Islam.

2020: Year of Youth!

 

In response to this situation, the Catholic Church in Pakistan is working very hard to encourage Christian youth to take pride in their faith and give confident and capable answers whenever they are confronted with prejudice and ignorance. Many Catholic children also attend one of the many Church-run Sunday schools, but the older teenagers also need guidance and support in living their faith. So it was that in November 2019 the Catholic Church in Pakistan announced a “Year of Youth” for this 2020 year, which will contain a range of different initiatives.

The Youth Commission of the diocese of Faisalabad is seeking support for its youth apostolate program. Its aim:  to strengthen young Catholic women and men in their faith and help them to stand firm – and find their rightful place in society. ACN is supporting this initiative with a contribution of $10,725.

 

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

ACN Interview in Mozambique Cabo Delgado Province with Bishop of Pemba

20.02.2020 in By Paolo Aldo, Journey with ACN, Violence against Christians

 Mozambique

Cabo Delgado Province – continuing attacks “a tragedy” says Bishop of Pemba

By Paulo Aido & Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web February 20, 2020

The continuing attacks in northern Mozambique have already claimed over 500 lives and left thousands displaced, according to Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of the diocese of Pemba.

The wave of violence that has affected this northernmost province of Mozambique since October 2017 shows no signs of coming to an end. Bishop Lisboa confirmed that there were “six attacks” in the province of Cabo Delgado in the two days of 29 and 30 January this year, causing a general exodus of the population and leaving behind a broad swathe of destruction in the villages of the administrative centres of Bilibiza and Mahate, both of which belong to the district of Quissanga, approximately 75 miles (120 km) from the city of Pemba. The bishop described the attacks as “a tragedy.” One of them “targeted the agricultural school in Bilibiza; a teacher training school, which has over 500 students,” he added.

“I heard that the school was burned down, then they smashed up other shops and businesses nearby,” the bishop explained. “It is a very sad fact that the defense and security forces are unable to contain these attacks without international support. It has already been [going on for] two years and three months… If the government of Mozambique had done something to improve the conditions, then perhaps this problem would have been resolved – but instead many people are dying,” Bishop Lisboa told ACN.

In his interview with ACN, given during a visit to Portugal, Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa explained that although there are no official statistics of the number of people who have lost their lives, he is certain that the number of people killed must now be at least 500 since the violent attacks began near the end of 2017 on villages, administrative centres and army personnel. The killers have left decapitated bodies behind as a sign of the terror they are causing among for the population.

“There will be hunger…”

The present situation is causing direct repercussions on the daily lives of the people. “The villages are being left empty, and people are not planting their crops – which means that there will be hunger, and we will have thousands of internal refugees”, the bishop explained. According to the UN figures, there are approximately 60,000 internally displaced people as a result of the attacks on the villages in this region of northern Mozambique. However, Bishop Lisboa thinks the figures should also include other displaced people among the victims, for example those made homeless by Cyclone Kenneth. “I think the total number could be nearer to 100,000 internally displaced people,” he suggested.

A regional threat from Islamic fundamentalism

The region of Cabo Delgado, in northeast Mozambique, has suffered numerous attacks by armed groups. Bishop Fernando Luiz Lisboa recalls that at the beginning of the attacks in October 2017 local Muslim leaders had clearly distanced themselves from the attacks and condemned them. “When the attacks began, and it was being said that it was the work of a radical Islamist group, the Muslims distanced themselves from it and said, ‘They don’t belong to us, they are bandits.’ But we are concerned and saddened, because it does indeed seem that they are the work of a radical Islamist group.”

The intensification of the attacks might signal a threat to regional security, and there are signs that the authorities in neighbouring Tanzania are also on the alert. For in fact Tanzania is regarded by experts in the field of terrorism as something of a safe haven and place of recruitment for extremist militants, who can move easily across the border between the two countries.

If so, this would be “of grave concern” says the bishop of Pemba, since “if there is an international or transnational network involved it means that they are much stronger and it will be much more difficult to put a stop to them.”

 

“I am not afraid”

Nobody knows the real size of the terrorist groups operating in the North of Mozambique. The Christian community feels threatened, and the bishop himself knows that he might well be the target of one of these attacks. “I am aware that this could happen, but quite honestly, I am not afraid. I’m simply trying to fulfill my own role, which is to support the missionaries who are already there, in the direct line of fire, in the districts where the attacks are taking place. They are being extremely brave. I praise God and I thank them for the courage they are showing, because at all events they are the oasis that the people need, someone to whom they can turn to, cry out to, complain and tell their problems and seek some kind of help… None of them has abandoned their posts; they are still there, and so I have no right to be afraid. It is precisely so that I can support and help them to continue their mission that I am trying to do mine to the best of my ability.”

 

ACN International is helping

Speaking to ACN shortly before returning to Mozambique, Bishop Fernando Lisboa also expressed his gratitude to ACN International for the projects the charity is supporting in his diocese. “ACN has helped a great deal,” he said. “We have various different projects, such as vehicles for the missionaries, and for the formation and support of our seminarians. This help is important, because without the support of international organizations like ACN it would be very difficult for poor dioceses like our own, and like the majority of African dioceses and many Asian and Latin American ones, to fulfill our work.”

Project of the Week – Support for pastoral outreach in Ethiopia

19.02.2020 in ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

Ethiopia

Support for ongoing pastoral outreach to the Borana people

By ACN Projects Department and ACN Canada
Published on the web February 19, 2020

 

Holy Cross Parish is based in the village of Dhadim, in a remote and underdeveloped region of southern Ethiopia. Its people are members of the Borana tribe who were until very recently, nomadic. Today more and more of them are becoming settled, although some continue their traditional pattern of migration with their herds of cattle.

 

At present around 5,000 of the 9,000 people in the area are Catholics, however a growing number of people are also seeking baptism. The parish itself is alive with catechetical classes and Bible study circles and in addition, the vocations apostolate is now starting to bear fruits. Two girls have expressed a desire to become religious Sisters, and five of the boys are showing an interest in the priesthood.

 

The youth are very active with around 250 young people regularly involved in the parish. Thanks to assistance supplied by ACN somewhere between 65 and 100 young people are able to take part each year in a three-day pastoral program in another diocese.

 

Father Kenneth Iwunna, the parish priest and a missionary from Nigeria, reports: “Most of them have never been anywhere except their own village. So for them it is an important new experience to meet together with young people from other ethnic backgrounds and share their life experiences with them. They don’t speak the same language, but we make sure there is someone there to interpret. The young people are able to grow in their faith and enjoy an important new experience of being Church. And it is not only they themselves who benefit from these days, but the whole community, for when the young people come back home, they talk about their experiences in church. And the older people are also very interested to hear about it.”

 

 

Overall, the involvement of the Church has tangibly changed the lives of these people. In the past there were intermittent feuds between members of the various local tribes, but the reconciliation work done by the Church has made a major contribution to the calming of the situation. At the same time, the situation of women has greatly improved in the society. Traditionally, the women of the Borana had no voice and were not permitted to do anything outside the home. But things have changed now, thanks to the work of the Church, and today more and more girls are attending school. And now women can even work as catechists.

 

As we did last year, ACN is proposing to support the pastoral work in the parish with $7,500. These funds will be used for the training of catechists, for the youth meetings and wedding ceremonies for couples wishing to marry in the Church following their Baptisms. The money will be also used to fund retreat days and other pastoral activities in the parish.

 

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

ACN Interview: Nigeria The government not doing enough to protect Christians

11.02.2020 in ACN International, By Marta Petrosillo

Nigeria

The government not doing enough to protect Christians

 By Marta Petrosillo, ACN International
Adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web February 11, 2020

Nigeria is a unique country. Its population is divided nearly equally between Christians and Muslims, comprising about one fifth of the African population. So a crisis that is not seriously dealt with in Nigeria could potentially impact the rest of Africa.

Msgr. Augustine Obiora Akubeze, Catholic Archbishop of Benin City and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, explains in an interview with the pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the serious political problems arising from the current situation: insecurity in the country due to both the atrocities of the terrorist group Boko Haram and other radical groups such as the Fulani herdsmen.

 


 

ACN: How would you describe the current situation of Christians in Nigeria?

Msgr. Augustine Obiora Akubeze: I really do not know if I will be able to paint the true picture of Nigeria to you and the world in just one interview. I must admit that I am going to try to do so, knowing that I risk doing a great disservice because of time constraint and the complexities with regards to the nature of Nigeria.

 

The current situation in Nigeria reflects an unnecessary, unwarranted and self-inflicted tension. A politically polarized nation. Unfortunately, some of our political leaders have made and keep making decisions, statements, and appointments that make some Nigerians from some parts of the country question again and again the reason for the unity of the country. We live in a Nigeria where we have a Constitution that recognizes the Federal Character principle, which means that in the administration of Federal Institutions there must be representation from every sector of the country. This was designed to make every Nigerian feel welcomed and to know that Nigeria belongs to everyone.

 

In the face of the daunting challenge of a great insecurity, never previously witnessed in Nigeria except during the civil war, the present Federal Government has decided to take a completely suspicious approach to appointments of people to sensitive positions. Virtually all the officials who advise the President are from the same Hausa-Fulani ethnic group. 95 percent of them are Muslims, in a country where there are about 50 percent Christians. The authority to provide leadership in the security sector is led by one religious sect, one ethnic group, in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation!

 

We at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria have repeatedly spoken out against this attitude of the Federal Government. We have met the President and expressed our complete disapproval at this position and action of the Government.

 

But there has been insecurity for a number of years.  Boko Haram has been threatening Nigeria for a decade. Can we say they are hurt but not defeated?

Boko Haram attacks on Nigerians have continued for many years. This terrorist group that has sworn allegiance to ISIS is operative in North-East of Nigeria. But they have staged attacks even in Abuja, the federal capital. Their religious extremist ideology is to make the whole of Nigeria an Islamic Republic. They resent and reject everything that is Western, except that they use Western-made guns and ammunition to attack innocent Nigerians. They have attacked both Muslims and Christians in the past. But presently, they are focusing on the killing and kidnapping of mainly Christians. For the majority of Nigerians, the government response has largely been unsatisfactory. As we speak, Leah Sharibu, who was taken captive by the Boko Haram and refused to renounce her Christian faith, is still being held. Only a few weeks ago, a local government chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was beheaded by Boko Haram. Rev. Lawan Andima was 58 years old, married, and the father of nine children when he was killed simply because he was a Christian.

Do you think the government isn’t doing enough to protect Christians?

The President of Nigeria recently stated that he was shocked at the unabated killing of Nigerians, who are mostly Christians. Many Nigerians wonder whether the president lives in a parallel universe. How can he be surprised at this time? After some of us have attended mass burials of Christians killed by Boko Haram?  The government is certainly not doing enough to protect both Christians and Muslims. A few days ago, the National Assembly unanimously moved that the president change the officials because they are not providing sufficient security for the lives of Nigerians. This legislative arm of the government has a majority of the ruling party as members. This speaks to the fact that Nigerians are dissatisfied with the level of incompetency shown by the Government of Nigeria with regards to protecting lives and properties. We at the CBCN already stated in our communique that a Government that is incapable of fulfilling the constitutional obligation to secure lives and properties of Nigeria will gradually lose legitimacy.

 

In addition to Boko Haram, we are witnessing more and more attacks against Christians by other radical groups such as the Fulani herdsmen. How does that affect the situation of Christians in Nigeria?In the past, the serious security challenges were confined to a particular area, namely, the North-East of Nigeria. But presently there is insecurity everywhere. People are kidnapped for ransom basically in every part of Nigeria. There are many instances of herdsmen and farmer clashes. The herdsmen are predominantly Fulani Muslims from the North, the same area as the president. The audacity with which they move to every part of Nigeria looking for grass to feed their cattle is unprecedented. There are too many cases of these herdsmen invading farmlands in every part of the country and they are armed with guns and other weapons. These herdsmen, already designated by the international community as a terrorist group, act with impunity. The lack of significant prosecution of these men further fuels the belief that they have the backing of the Federal Government. I must admit that I do not have conclusive evidence to state that this group do have the backing of the Government. But to do nothing or what appears to be a lack of true will-power or motivation to stop these crimes increasing makes it difficult to convince more Nigerians that there is no connection between one-sided appointments of officials and the lack of prosecution of perpetuators of these crimes against humanity and the seemingly selective killing of Christians. Justice and peace are always together. Anyone who wants genuine peace must work for justice. For peace and security to reign in Nigeria, there must be political justice, religious justice, ethnic justice, economic justice, judicial justice, and justice for everyone.

 

Recently we were shocked by the kidnapping of seminarians and the murder of one of them, Michael Nnadi, in Kaduna. We know that the other three were released. Can you tell us something about their health? 

We heard the news with sadness in our hearts. The kidnapping of the seminarians unfortunately comes amidst the kidnapping of priests and religious by the same group of people who are terrorising Nigerians. Too many priests and religious have been kidnaped in the recent past. The seminarians who were released, I understand are presently receiving treatment. As to their specific health conditions I am not able to speak about that. But suffice to say, from the stories we have heard from those held in captivity, there is no doubt that the young men would have been greatly distressed and traumatized. We are pained and sad at the killing of Michael Nnadi. And to know that he was an orphan is more painful. May his soul and the souls of all who have died in the hands of these criminals rest in peace.

 

How is it possible to ensure the security of places of worship or other places like seminaries and monasteries? 

Every institution is trying to provide security in these places of worship. Based on local intelligent reports the religious leaders are responding to the needs of their people. There are some churches that request the services of the Nigerian police for Sunday worship and have to pay for the security provided for them. There are others who contract private security outfits. In some cases, the faithful themselves volunteer to provide security. It depends on the particular area. There is presently no homogeneous description of security plans for places of worship and seminaries. Most of the privately contracted security agencies are not well armed to be able to deal with the level of threat posed by herdsmen and Boko Haram.

 

 

Is there anything we can do to help you in this area?

I would like to thank you for the interest your institution has constantly shown in the plight of suffering people. To be specific, the plight of the poor in Nigeria. Your assistance has been of great help to many Nigerians, especially our brothers and sisters in the Northern dioceses.

 

One area that I think the Western nations and the media can be of great help is to cover the stories of these atrocities in Nigeria. The number of killings is just mind boggling. Maybe with significant Western coverage, the government of Nigeria may be put under pressure to act. In the same light, the Government of EU nations and America will probably see the moral obligation to seek ways to protect the lives of Christians and other Nigerians who are constantly being attacked by Boko Haram and the herdsmen.

ACN Interview – The Christian minority is under new pressure in Turkey

10.02.2020 in by Tobias Lehner, Turkey
Abbot Aho Bilecen from monastery Mor Yakub d’Karno, Tur Abdin/Turkey

Turkey

“Christians are losing everything they own”

by Tobias Lehner, ACN International
Adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web February 10, 2020

 

The Christian minority is once again being put under pressure in Turkey. During the first half of January, the Syriac Orthodox Abbot Aho Bilecen and two parishioners were arrested in Tur Abdin, a mountain range in southeastern Turkey. They were released from police custody a few days later, but other Christians were arrested. Tur Abdin is considered a former Christian stronghold. Volker Niggewöhner of the international pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) talked with the priest Dr Slavomir Dadas, chair of the “Initiative Christlicher Orient” (Initiative for the Christian Orient) in Linz, Austria, about how the current situation developed.

 


Dr. Slawomir Dadas, priest and chairman of “Initiative Christlicher Orient” (“Initiative for Christian Orient”), Austria

ACN: You have excellent contacts in Tur Abdin. How are the three Christians doing who were arrested and then released?

Slavomir Dadas: They are doing as well as can be expected – in spite of the uncertainty, which of course still prevails. The people arrested were the Abbot of the Syriac Orthodox monastery Mor Yakub d’Karno and two mayors. The Abbot was in police custody for four days, one of the mayors was released after two days, the other after one day.

 

Why were the three men taken into custody?
It has been reported that a Kurdish PKK fighter defected to the Turkish army. He allegedly informed them that the Abbot and the two others had handed out food to a number of PKK fighters a few years ago. This is automatically interpreted as providing support for terrorism and led to their arrest. However, no one actually saw the official transcript of the statements made by the former fighter.

 

This shows a deep unease on the part of the security authorities…
The people living in Tur Abdin told me that, unfortunately, this happens regularly every few years. The Christians do not feel welcome in their own homeland and have to endure frequent harassment. Placing the Abbot in police custody for four days is really an extreme measure. We have also been informed that a Christian couple has now been arrested, apparently because of a disagreement over property rights.

 

Tur Abdin is located near the borders with Syria and Iraq. To what degree is, and was, the region affected by the armed conflicts going on in these countries?
Many refugees came to Tur Abdin during the war in Iraq. However, the refugee camps there are mostly empty now. The refugees have moved on or were simply relocated.

 

Close to disappeared in 50 years

You mentioned that Christians were being harassed. In general, has their situation in Turkey changed at all over the last few years?

The biggest problem, particularly in Tur Abdin, is that the people can no longer envisage a future for themselves in the region. It is said that almost 50,000 Christians were living there about 50 years ago. When I recently visited the area, they were talking about only 2,500 Christians.

 

Turkey is a large country. Does a Christian lead a better life in Istanbul than in Tur Abdin?
Yes. I believe that Christians in Istanbul enjoy more freedom. In Tur Abdin, they seem to be regarded as a problem because the area itself is considered a Christian region. This is not acceptable in a Muslim country. However, I have also seen it happen that, when tourists visit the monastic centres in Tur Abdin, this also awakens the interest of the Muslims. They admire the culture and the history of the monasteries and convents. At least in terms of culture, this has set a few things in motion on the part of the Muslims. But nothing has happened from a socio-political perspective.

 

A large exodus from Tur Abdin already took place in the 1980s. At the time, this was because of the fighting between the Kurdish PKK and the Turkish government. Are you concerned that this will happen again should there be further military escalation?
The people living in Tur Abdin say that they are less concerned about the military situation than what is happening economically. The government has basically always left this area to its own devices. The only help it receives comes in the form of donations from organizations or from emigrants; the people living there would not be able to survive without this aid. We visited many villages during my trip to the region. The villages were once inhabited by 200 to 300 families, most of them Christians. Today, two or three families live there, mostly people who once lived in Germany or other western European countries who have now moved back to spend their retirement there. They are something like guardians of the cultural heritage and the faith there.

 

In your opinion, do you believe that the return to Islam in a country that has known secularism such as established by  Atatürk in November 1922,  will progress further in Turkey? And was this caused by the alienation between the EU and Turkey?


I believe that this alienation was not always intentional. However, there are a number of Muslims who have been greatly strengthened by this development. For example, several Christian villages have been occupied by Muslims and they have appropriated the houses of Christians living abroad. It is very difficult to get them back. This reflects the current situation in Tur Abdin: the people feel as though they are being “dispossessed” because there is no legal basis for this. They are losing everything they own without an actual legal basis. They are losing everything they have worked for over the course of history.

ACN NEWS – the murder of Nigerian seminarian Michael Nnadi

05.02.2020 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, ACN International, By Maria Lozano, Nigeria

 

Nigeria

ACN expresses great sadness at the murder of Nigerian seminarian Michael Nnadi

Published on the web February 5, 2020

 

Michaeil Nnadi, 18 years old

Great sadness and dismay was expressed by the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) at the murder of the 18-year-old Nigerian seminarian, Michael Nnadi on Sunday.

 

Last January 8, Michael Nnadi was He was abducted by unidentified assailants, along with three other seminarians from the Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna,northern Nigeria. Whereas his three fellow students were all eventually able to regain their freedom, sadly, Michael Nnadi was found dead on Saturday.

 

“With a very heavy heart, I wish to inform you that our dear son, Michael was murdered by the bandits on a date we cannot confirm. He and the wife of a doctor were arbitrarily separated from the group and killed. The Rector identified the corpse this afternoon,” Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, said in a statement released on Feb. 1. According to local media, the other murdered person was the wife of a doctor living in Kaduna. She had apparently also been abducted, along with her two children, by armed men on 24 January this year.

 

“I am appalled at the unleashing of such terrible evil,” commented Dr Thomas Heine Geldern, the executive president of ACN. “The news of the brutal murder of this innocent young man saddens me deeply,” he continued.

 

According to Dr Heine Geldern, the local Catholic communities are demonstrating an admirable degree of faith and trust in God, as evidenced by the final words of Bishop Kukah‘s message: “The Lord knows best. Let us remain strong and pray for the repose of his soul.” For the ACN president the task of ACN must be to support and sustain the Nigerian Church on its Way of the Cross, by means of prayer and practical help.

 

“But at the same time, the world needs to wake up. The Nigerian government is facing an enormous challenge. The insecurity is as bad as in times of civil war. Nigeria is a multifaith and multi-ethnic nation, and security must be provided for all,” Dr Heine Geldern insisted.

 

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto

“His only crime was his desire to serve God”

 

One of the teaching staff at the seminary in Kaduna, who asked not to be named, told ACN: Michael was a young and gifted seminarian. He was an orphan who had been brought up by his grandmother. Just a few weeks ago, after a year of spiritual preparation, he had been clothed in the soutane. It seems that his only crime was his desire to serve God. The security forces and the government have failed him.”

 

Two of the three seminarians abducted together with Michael were released on  January 31. Two weeks ago, another of the seminarians was found, badly wounded, lying by the side of the highway.

 

Kidnappings of this kind are a regular occurrence in the state of Kaduna. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an independent American organization, no less than 114 people were abducted in Kaduna state in January this year alone – the highest number for  any part of Nigeria.