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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

 

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

ACN Feature Story: Religious Sister and sexual assault survivor rebounds to ‘bring her people hope’

15.01.2020 in ACN Canada, ACN International, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom, Sisters

India

Religious Sister and sexual assault survivor rebounds to ‘bring her people hope’

by Anto Akkara, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada

Posted to the web January 15, 2020

 

In August 2008, the Odisha state’s Kandhamal district witnessed the worst eruption of Christian persecution in modern Indian history. It was sparked by the murder of a local Hindu leader. Hindu radicals labeled the killing “an international Christian conspiracy,” blaming the Pope, Europe, and the United States. They called for revenge on Christians, which led to the deaths of 100 people and the destruction of 300 churches and 6,000 homes. Seven Christians, falsely accused of the murder of the *Swami, spent 9 years in jail. In early December, the remaining five Christians were finally released on bail.

 

Courage alongside trauma

Kandhamal district in Odisha where in 2008 riots by radical Hindus took place against Christians.

During the wave of violence that swept through the Kandhamal district, Sister Meena Barwa was raped and paraded half-naked through the streets. After years of trauma and legal proceedings—which are still ongoing—Sister Barwa decided to enroll in law school and work on behalf of the marginalized. She recently spoke with Aid to the Church in Need:

“The trauma was nearly unbearable, and I moved several times for my own safety, sometimes to places where I could not speak the language. I even wore disguises. For years, I was separated from my family. And the nights were especially bad. I dreamt of the assault often. The knowledge that Kandhamal’s Christians were suffering only added to my pain.

“From time to time, I returned to Odisha for court proceedings. The first trial traumatized me all over again. I couldn’t sleep for days afterwards; I was humiliated, offended, and mentally tortured. I developed a serious aversion to India’s legal system.

“But this did not keep me down. I decided to act on behalf of the people who suffered with me, to pursue justice for them. In 2009, I anonymously enrolled in a college outside of Odisha; I was just one of the girls living in a convent hostel. In 2015, I began a three-year law program, while continuing to attend to my duties as a nun.

 

 

Strength born of suffering and God’s blessings

“Many things have changed in the last decade. Today I lead a normal life, and I have become much stronger. The people I’ve met have helped me forget my pain; I consider them blessings from God. They were angels sent to guide me, so that I did not wallow in misery. Instead, I rose from my trauma and found a way to bring my people hope. I’ve become more humble, more patient, and more human.

“I pray the Lord’s prayer every day. The prayer is only meaningful when I forgive. How can I pray Our Lord’s Prayer if I do not forgive? By forgiving my attackers I have become free of my trauma, fear, shame, humiliation and anger. I feel I am living normal life and am happy because I forgave them. Otherwise, I would have gone mad. I have no ill feeling towards my attackers. I only wish that they become good people.

 

Tribal Catholics in Kandhamal district in Odisha where in 2008 riots by radical Hindus took place against Christians. These villagers have been expelled from their lands, losing all their goods, and have been resettled, often after living for months in the forest or in refugee camps, in another part of the district.

“He has empowered me to serve others”

“I am grateful for my life, my strength, and my sense of purpose, all of which were given to me by God. He is my strength, even as my trial drags on. And He has empowered me to serve others.

“The people of Kandhamal have suffered so much, but they are putting all their trust in the Lord. Suffering in itself is a grace. I see it as a challenge to grow out of it. The Christian community’s attitude towards what happened in Kandhamal in 2008 is not negative. They are hopeful and have a deeper faith. The tragedy has made them stronger. He words of St. Paul come to mind: ‘Who can separate us from the Love of Christ?’ The people of Kandhamal are living this.

* Meaning of ‘Swami’ – a teacher – in Sanskrit language: “One who knows.”

 


Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) published a book called ‘God’s Initiative’ co-authored by Marie-Claude Lalonde and Robert Lalonde, made-up of interviews conducted in 2015 of religious Sisters around the world.  Among them can be found Sister Meena’s story.

Please contact ACN Canada if you would like a copy: suggested donation is $20.  Please call (514) 659-4041 x227 or write to info@acn-canada.org.  All proceeds go to supporting pastoral projects supported by ACN in 140 countries around the world.

ACN News – “2019 was a year of martyrs”

10.01.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Thomas Heine-Geldern, Urgent need, Violence against Christians, World

ACN International

Initial assessment of the last year: “2019 was a year of martyrs”

by Maria Lozano & Jürgen Liminski, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Published on the web, January 10, 2019

Thomas Heine-Geldern, president of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), gives an initial assessment of the last year for Christians around the world: “2019 was a year of martyrs, one of the bloodiest for Christians in history culminating in the attacks on three churches in Sri Lanka that cost more than 250 people their lives. We are also very concerned about the situation in China and India.”

On a positive note, “politicians and opinion leaders in Western Europe are talking about religious freedom much more frequently now.” As a particularly encouraging example, Heine-Geldern mentioned the video message recorded by the British heir apparent, Prince Charles, for Aid to the Church in Need at Christmas. In this video, Prince Charles refers to the growing suffering and persecution of Christians all over the world and calls for solidarity.

In this context, Heine-Geldern again called upon multinational and international organizations – such as the European Union and the United Nations – to enable and protect religious freedom as a fundamental human right on all levels and in all countries. “More and more is being said about it, but still too little is being done. It is difficult to believe that in a country like France, attacks against Christian institutions far exceeded 230 in number past year. Also shocking were the events in Chile, where 40 churches have been desecrated and damaged since mid-October.”

 

 

Funeral of Fr Simeon Yampa and 5 faithful after the terrorist attack in the parish church of Dablo on 12 May 2019 (Good Shepherd Sunday)

Distress over Christmas executions

Looking towards Africa, the president of ACN expressed his deep concern for the situation of Christians in Nigeria, where Islamic terrorists of Boko Haram have been keeping the North and the area along the border to Cameroon in a state of fear. “On Christmas Eve, Kwarangulum, a village in the state of Borno that is inhabited by Christians, was attacked by jihadists. Seven people were shot dead, a young woman was kidnapped and the houses and the church were burned down. Only a day later, a faction of ISIS (Daesh) released a video that they claimed showed the execution of ten Christians and a Muslim in north-eastern Nigeria. We are deeply distressed by this. We are celebrating while others are in mourning and live in fear.”

According to Heine-Geldern, 2019 was also a disastrous year for Christians in Burkina Faso. He went on to describe how, little by little, Christians are being pushed out in some parts of the country. Schools and chapels have had to be closed. “Our sources have reported at least seven attacks on Catholic and Protestant communities that have led to the deaths of 34 Christians – among them two priests and two pastors. Our project partners talk about attempts to destabilize the country, foment religious conflict and stir up violence.”

 

A prayer vigil in Baghdeda, Iraq – 2019

“Many attacks on this community of Christians”

The situation of the Christians in the Middle East is always in his thoughts and prayers. In this context, Heine-Geldern quoted the words of the Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Matti Warda, which drew attention to the dangers and situation of the Christians in Iraq: the invasion of the terrorist Islamic State was only “one of many attacks on this community of Christians.” The bishop had further said that the invasion had been preceded by a number of other attacks in the history “and with every attack, the number of Christians in Iraq – and Syria – is reduced dramatically.” According to the bishop, the escalating crisis in Lebanon exacerbates the situation of the Christians in the country and at the same time has as a side effect the creation of many obstacles for providing aid to Syria.

Nevertheless, Heine-Geldern looks back at the year with gratitude. “The beauty of our work is that, in addition to the cross and the suffering, we can also experience at first hand the deep devotion and love of a large number of people. Take Syria as an example. A country that de facto is still at war and is suffering from the repercussions of war. Over the past few years, we have visited the country several times and it is awe-inspiring how everyone – dedicated lay people, religious sisters, priests and bishops, supported by the generosity of our benefactors – is doing everything possible and impossible to alleviate the spiritual and material hardships of the people.”

ACN Project of the Week—Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo, Bosnia

29.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eastern Europe, Pastoral aid, Pastoral care, Pastoral work, Religious formation

Project of the Week—Bosnia

Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo

By ACN International, Adapted by ACN Canada
Published online – November 29, 2019

Catholics are a minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina—now at a bare 14% of the population, and falling. This decline began during the Bosnian War (1992 to 1995) when half the Catholic population was expelled or forced to emigrate from the country. And with every new year, many continue their exodus as the future looks dim, owing to the discrimination they face when seeking employment, in attending schools and in regular social life. Catholic bishops have been complaining for years that Catholic Croat families who would otherwise be willing to return are not receiving the support they are entitled to. At the same time, a growing Islamization of the society is very noticeable, with the building of numerous new mosques.

 

The Catholic Church continues to work hard for a better future, through its reconciliation work, its schools and its charitable work, all of which are open to people of all ethnic groups. At the same time, the Church strives to offer steady employment opportunities that will provide families with some prospect for the future. One beautiful example of reconciliation work is the John Paul II Youth Centre in Sarajevo, offering a range of initiatives for promoting interfaith and interdenominational dialogue.

Spiritual Retreats, Pilgrimages and Interfaith Dialogue

Each year thousands of young people benefit from a broad range of programs offered by the centre. Their enthusiasm remains as they return with great energy to their own parishes to work with a renewed faith for a better future. The centre also offers employment, with 10 full-time positions and 10 part-time positions, providing these men and women with a steady income and a future for their families. An additional 300 volunteers help out as needed. Training in leadership is available along with courses in spiritual exercises for confirmation candidates, volunteers, altar servers and other types of youth groups. An ecumenical program is in place for young people of different faiths to learn about shared responsibility and how to create a better future in the society in which they live. Those attending come not only from the archdiocese of Sarajevo (Vrhbosna) itself, but from all over the country.

Other big events are have been organized, such as a large youth pilgrimage in May to the Shrine of Our Lady in Kondzilo,  which was attended again this year by well over 3,000 young people. A music festival, with modern Christian music, and a young people’s Way of the Cross procession giving hundreds of youth from individual parishes the opportunity to gather together in shared faith.

 

ACN recognizes the valuable work done by this youth centre named for the great Pope, Saint John Paul II. The Saint who held such great affection for young people, established the very first World Youth Days during his pontificate. This year we are helping once again, with a promised contribution of $37,500.

 

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

Success Story: Support given for Year of the Family

24.10.2019 in ACN International, Belarus

Belarus

Success Story: Support given for Year of the Family

 

Belarus is a country which knows numerous problems. The country, which gained its independence in 1991, is considered by many international observers to be a dictatorship. Most see little hope or future prospect for themselves and many young people often try escaping their despair and frustration by turning to drugs. The suicide rate is alarmingly high.

In an effort to support families and give them new hope The Catholic Bishops’ Conference and its Marriage and Family Commission, declared 2019 to be a “Year of the Family.” In this optic, a range of different activities have been organized and will be continuing throughout this year. Training sessions and counselling for married couples and families will be offered as well as ongoing training and retreat days for those working in the Catholic marriage and family counselling services. While prayer campaigns and a congress of family associations in the capital, Minsk are also on the horizon.

 

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to contribute $10,500 towards the cost of these valuable initiatives.

 

On behalf of all the families and individuals who have, and continue to benefit from them, we offer you our heartfelt thanks!

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 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?

 

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