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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 News – Asia Bibi is Free!

31.10.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN United Kingdom, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By John Newton and John Pontifex

 

Pakistan

Asia Bibi’s family thanks God for her acquittal

Asia daughter says “I can’t wait to hug my mother”

Asia Bibi’s husband and daughter have today described news of her acquittal as the “most wonderful moment” of their lives – and thanked God for answering their prayers.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court this morning (Wednesday, 31st October) overturned the death sentence hanging over the Catholic labourer from Punjab who in 2010 became the first woman in the country condemned to death for blasphemy.

Asia Bibi’s daughter, Eisham Ashiq, 18, “I am so happy. I want to thank God.”

Speaking within a few minutes of the announcement today, Asia Bibi’s daughter, Eisham Ashiq, 18, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “I am so happy. I want to thank God.

And, speaking through an interpreter, she told the charity for persecuted Christians: “This is the most wonderful moment. I can’t wait to hug my mother and then celebrate with my family. I am grateful to God for listening to our prayers.”

Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, said: “We are very happy. This is wonderful news.

“We thank God very much that he’s heard our prayers – and the prayers of so many people who have longed for Asia Bibi’s release over all these years of suffering and anguish.”

Close family friend Joseph Nadeem said that on hearing the news the family immediately “danced for joy”. He added: “There were many tears – tears of indescribable joy.”

National Director for the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need reacted with ” It is a very emotional day for me.  I am really very, very happy about her liberation.  It is a great day for justice and it gives us hope.” Now that she is free, her greatest concern is her exit from the country.  “She cannot stay in the country.  I hope that everything has been well planned for her security, and also that of the judges,” in acquitting Asia Bibi in the face of fierce opposition from Islamist protesters.

And Father Emmanuel Yousaf, National Director of Pakistan’s Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, which supports people accused of blasphemy with support from organizations including ACN, said: “I am glad that justice has finally been served.

“In the current developing situation and protests by extremist groups, May Our Lord bless and protect Asia and her family and keep all our Christian brothers and sisters safe here in Pakistan.”

The Supreme Court’s decision today overturns the 2010 sentence Asia Bibi received for insulting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, a crime punishable by death according to Article 295C of Pakistan’s Penal code – part of the so-called Blasphemy Laws. The charge was brought against her following an altercation with Muslim co-workers who said that, as a Christian, she had contaminated a common water cup by drinking from it.

Throughout, Asia Bibi has protested her innocence and on 8th October the case had its final hearing at Pakistan’s Supreme Court in the capital, Islamabad.

“Thank you to all our benefactors who are have prayed for her over the years, this day remains one of the happy days for me!” concluded Mrs. Lalonde

 

For any information, please contact Amanda Griffin , 514-932-0552 ext. 221, or Mario Bard at ext. 224

National Director of ACN Canada, Marie-Claude Lalonde is available for interviews, please contact her at ext. 223.

 

ACN News – Pakistan: Acquittal could be close for Asia Bibi, says family

09.10.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN NEWS, ACN PRESS, ACN United Kingdom, By John Newton, By John Pontifex and John Newton, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Pakistan, Persecution of Christians

Pakistan

Asia Bibi: acquittal could be close, says family

 

The family of a Christian woman fighting a death sentence in Pakistan believe the country’s Supreme Court may be on the verge of announcing her acquittal.

 

The court yesterday (Monday, 8th October) referred judgement in the final hearing in the case of Asia Bibi, whose conviction for blasphemy is on appeal.

Speaking on behalf of Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih and daughter, Eisham Ashiq, Father Emmanuel Yousaf said the Supreme Court’s decision could be announced within a few days.

Father Yousaf, who is with Eisham and Ashiq Masih in the UK for events organized by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said: “Although the judges didn’t give a judgement, this has happened in many cases of this kind in the past – and they still ended positively.”We will have to wait a few days but we are confident that things will go well.”

Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five, in 2010 became the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy. During yesterday’s final hearing of the case in the Supreme Court, there was a protest outside, calling for the death sentence to be upheld but proceedings ended with a verdict still pending.

Fr. Yousaf said: “There is no decision – we are hanging in the air – but God willing it will soon be over an

d [Asia Bibi] will be back home with the family.”

Throughout proceedings, Asia Bibi has insisted that she did not insult the Muslim Prophet Mohammad, which carries the death sentence under Section 295 C of Pakistan’s Penal Code.

Renewing calls for prayers for Asia Bibi’s release, Fr Yousaf said: “We have prayed 10 years now for our sister, Asia, and I am confident that our prayers will be heard, and the judgement will go in favour of Asia, her family and the entire Pakistani Christian community.”

He added: “[The judgement] may come tomorrow. It may come after two or three days but I am sure it will be favourable.”

“Everyone who believes that the Blasphemy Law has been misused time and time again should pray for Asia Bibi’s release, regardless of their faith.”

 

Syria – ACN News – When the sky turned black with bombs

23.02.2018 in ACN International, ACN PRESS, ACN United Kingdom, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Middle East, Syria

SYRIA

When the sky turned black with bombs

A Sister in Damascus has told how she, fellow nuns and students narrowly escaped death yesterday (Tuesday, 20th February 20th) when the sky “turned black” on one of the deadliest days of the conflict in the Syrian capital. Describing the situation at her convent in the Bab ToumaTuma district of Damascus’sthe Old City of Damascus, Sister Annie said: “I saw people taking their children and running – a rocket landed on the roof of the Patriarchate close to us. Somehow it

did not explode. If it had done so, we could have been killed.”

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need today, Sister Annie Demerjian of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary, a leading project partner for ACN, said that the windows of the hostel where she works were shaking because of the bombs, and that in response the students evacuated to the relative safety of the corridors. Sister Annie’s comments come after a sudden upsurge of violence in Damascus, including the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, with reports of more than 250 people killed in the last three days.

Sister Annie said:“: “Yesterday was like hell. It was raining bombs. There were so many shells and so many people injured. Describing the situation, Sister Annie said many schools had now closed even though it is not officially holiday time. She said: “We have to carry on. Life is stronger than death. We don’t know how long this violence will continue, but it can’t last forever. The Lord has been good to us. So far, none of us Sisters have been hurt but so many others have suffered. Please pray for us. The only way forward for us is prayer.”

Some news from Caritas

In its report, Caritas lamented the fact that the media are “unfortunately neglecting a part of the Syrian story”,,” pointing out that “most of the news reports were focusing on the Russian and Syrian airstrikes on Eastern Ghouta and the humanitarian situation there, the casualties and needs, but we hardly found anyone talking about the situation inside Damascus, which has been under attack from mortar shells since the beginning of 2018.”

Attacks in a Christian quarter of Damascus.

“Certain Damascus neighborhoodsneighbourhoods have witnessed repeated mortar attacks and shelling since January 22nd, especially the Bab ToumaTuma, Abbassyin, Kassaa, Koussour and Jaramana neighborhoods”.neighbourhoods.” The eastern suburbs of Damascus are where the main Christian area is located, along with the majority of the Caritas offices and the convents and monasteries of the city. “Since February 5 and up tilluntil now, more than 200 mortar shells have hit Damascus’ eastern neighborhoods, causingneighbourhoods, resulting in more than 28 killed and 90 injured”,,” the Caritas report reveals.

 

Sister Annie Demerjian of the Sisters of Jesus of Mary Azizyeh in Syria.“Please pray for us. The only way forward for us is prayer.”

Father Andrzej Halemba, ACN’s head of section for the projects in Syria, has also called for prayers, “for the Syrian Christians, who are living through some extremely difficult moments at this time”..” He also called “for a cessation of hostilities and all bombing in Eastern Ghouta and the city of Damascus, where hundreds of civilians, many of them Christians, are living in terror night and day on account of the incessant attacks.”

Please join with us in prayer for the victims of this latest attack and all those suffering persecution and violence.

 

Aid to the Church in Need is committed to continue to support Christians living through Syria’s civil war. In 2017, ACN fulfilled more than 140 projects there – most of them emergency help including food, shelter and medicine – but also pastoral help, support for Sisters, Mass stipends, repairs to churches and convents. With your help, we can provide support to suffering Christians in Syria who continue to live through the horror of violence in their daily lives. Please be assured that whatever you give, your gift, will make thea difference to Christians in need.

Syria, Damascus : Security Situation in Damascus. Christian charity says Syrians face desperation after bloodiest day in three years. International charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) call for consistent prayer and emergency aid for families in Syria after the residents of Damascus faced the deadliest day in three years. On Feb 11th 2018, seven Mortar Shells hit Janayen Al-Wared neighborhood, which is few meters away from the National office of Caritas Syria, causing huge material damage and many injuries between civilians. After seven years of war, Syrian government has the upper hand against the armed groups, who still have two major areas under their control; Idlib in Northern Syria and Eastern Ghouta in Damascus suburb.

 

ACN Press Release – Iraqi Christians’ future threatened by referendum crisis

06.10.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bishops, By John Newton, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org

 

Iraq

 Iraqi Christians face new threat

Church leaders in northern Iraq have issued a stark warning that the crisis triggered by last week’s Kurdistan independence referendum could endanger the region’s Christian presence.

Vigil prayer for the Middle East at Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark´s Basilica) in Rome, 27.09.2017 
(From left to the right): 
Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul, 
Mons Timothaeus Mosa Alshamany (Syriac Orthodox Archishop from Iraq) 
Syrian orthodox bishop Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf (Syro-Orthodox Metropolitain from Musu, Kerkuk and Kurdistan)

Following the referendum, which could see the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) area seceding from northern Iraq, five senior Catholic and Orthodox bishops issued a statement appealing to the international community to protect Christians and help them stay in their ancestral lands, especially the Nineveh Plains. In the statement, a copy received by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, they wrote: “We cannot hide our concern that the situation for the Christians has become very difficult and leads to uncertainty.”

“It is a clear fact that this situation has created in Christians a state of fear and concern about the possibility that the struggle may develop into a crisis that will have far-reaching repercussions for all,” they added.

The message was written by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Nicodemus Sharif of Mosul, Archbishop Apris Jounsen, Chaldean Bishop Rabban Al-Qas of Amadiyah and Zaku, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Timotheos Mousa of the Archdiocese of Mor Mattai Monastery.

Their message stressed the precarious situation of Nineveh’s Christians – many of whom are still in the capital of the Kurdish northern Iraq, Erbil, after Daesh (ISIS) drove them out of their homes in 2014. With many Christian settlements located in disputed territories, the bishops cautioned, “Care should be made not to involve the last remaining Christian land in political bargaining, as our vulnerable community cannot withstand further schism and division in addition to the ongoing political and sectarian fights.”

The statement stressed that in the community’s vulnerable situation, further upheavals could see new waves of emigration – threatening its very survival.

Photo: Iraq, September 2017  Qaraqosh the procession of the Christians in Qaraqosh who symbolically coming back their town (from the outskirts of the city at the roundabout with a huge Cross to the Church of Immaculate Conception Church (Syriac Catholic)

 

The Plain of Nineveh should remain a unified territory

Notably, the bishops called for the Nineveh Plains not to be split between Iraq and an independent Kurdistan. “The future Plain of Nineveh should be maintained as a unified territory – it is critical to not divide it into parts.” The bishops expressed fears that the restoration of the towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains may be brought to a standstill as the area now faces an uncertain political future.

“While both the federal government and the KRG are engaged in struggles over the disputed area, including the historical areas of our people, the areas liberated from the control of the criminal ISIS gangs are in an appalling condition in terms of reconstruction, public services, and security.

“There are no serious attempts at reconstructing the area at all by the governments. This makes it difficult for the IDPs to return, thereby prolonging their plight.”

 

Committed to the resettlement program

In the meantime, Archbishop Warda, fellow bishops and aid coordinators including Stephen Rasche in interviews, have underlined their commitment to enabling the resettlement program to continue in spite of the post-referendum setbacks.

Photo: Archbishop Warda at Myeondong Cathedral, cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul, where Special Mass and Lecture for the Church in Iraq was held.

Expressing concerns that Christian areas risked losing their historic identity, the bishops in their statement called for dialogue between the Iraqi Federal Government and the KRG.

“Amidst the crisis that the country experiences today following the referendum of Kurdistan Region, we call upon all parties involved to opt for dialogue and moderation and to stop the escalation of the conflict through the media.”

The bishops hoped that both sides could work on the disputed issues “to reach a suitable solution apart from spreading the feelings of hatred that fuel conflicts.”

 

Grateful to Kurdistan

Fearing that Christians could be caught in an armed struggle between factions vying for power, the bishops added: “We demand that the use of arms be restricted to the official government security forces, which we encourage our young men to join.”The bishops also paid tribute to the Kurdish people who had assisted the Christian community after they were driven out of their homes.

“Undoubtedly, we Christians can never forget how our brothers in Kurdistan Region, as a people and government, received us and supported our displaced persons, not only Christians but also other components of the Iraqi people.”

 

 

Headline Photo : Iraq, September 2017  Qaraqosh the procession of the Christians in Qaraqosh who symbolically coming back their town (from the outskirts of the city at the roundabout with a huge Cross to the Church of Immaculate Conception Church (Syriac Catholic)
Text by John Newton, ACN UK
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

 

Press release : ACN is developing 20 more emergency aid programs for Syria

15.01.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN United Kingdom, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Emergency Aid, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, John Pontifex, Journey with ACN, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org, Syria

Syria

Starved into submission

January 15, 2016 –  Food has become “the most deadly weapon of war” in Syria, according to a leading Catholic charity’s Middle East projects coordinator, who says both government and rebel forces are blocking humanitarian aid to force entire communities on the brink of starvation to submit to their rule. 

Father Andrzej Halemba, from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), says that many groups are preventing food aid from getting through in an attempt to weaken the resistance of opposition groups. Father Halemba, who is in constant communication with Church leaders in Syria and who visited the country three times last year, said the crisis was putting extra pressure on ACN and other organizations to increase emergency help to areas open to aid. It also confirmed what the media around the world reported this week via the troubling images of starving children – numerous groups had mounted blockades and were letting no one through, no convoys transporting food, in order to weaken the resistance of the opposition.  Civilians are paying the price.

Fr Andrezj Halemba: .“We wish to fulfil 100 percent of the requests we receive however it is not always possible to achieve everything we hope to do. Every item of help is appreciated so much. People have told us of their joy on receiving our help. They were crying with joy, saying now we can survive the winter.”

Fr Andrezj Halemba: .“We wish to fulfil 100 percent of the requests we receive however it is not always possible to achieve everything we hope to do. Every item of help is appreciated so much. People have told us of their joy on receiving our help. They were crying with joy, saying now we can survive the winter.”

Such regions have become a magnet for people fleeing aid-blockaded areas. “Forces on both sides – Government and rebels alike – are preventing humanitarian aid from getting through in an attempt to subdue the people,” said ACN‘s Head of the Middle East section, adding that rebels had taken humanitarian aid and sold it to the highest bidder to generate funds. Referring to Madaya, the town north-east of Damascus where people have reportedly starved to death, he said: “There are quite a few places like Madaya where people are in desperate need but where help is not getting through.”

Amid reports that up to 4 million people in Syria are living in areas cut off from aid, Father Halemba cited statistics showing that, since the violence began nearly five years ago, 280,000 people had been killed in conflict but that 350,000 had died from lack of medicine and other essential supplies. ACN was building up emergency aid programs in centres such as the capital of Damascus, which is receiving thousands of people fleeing Madaya.

Since March 2011 when the conflict first began, ACN has provided  $15,051 million dollars  in aid for Christians and others in the country. Of that figure, nearly 60 percent – $8.99 million  – was provided last year alone.

Renew prayers and increase programs for Syria

Last month, the charity put into action 19 relief programs for Syria. Father Halemba stated that the charity is developing 20 more emergency aid programs for Syria to be rolled out over the coming months.  ACN is working with bishops in Damascus, Tartus, Aleppo and Homs as well as Jesuits and religious communities providing food, medicine, anoraks and shoes in regions such as Aleppo, north-east Syria, as well as Homs, further south and surrounding Marmarita and the Valley of the Christians. He stressed how the crisis was compounded by a loss of power supplies in key areas, saying that Aleppo had been without electricity since mid-November, a problem made worse by below zero night-time temperatures.

Saying that last year, 15,000 items of aid were given to families across the country, Father Halemba added: “Many of the families have received numerous packages of aid from us. This year, we are seeking to increase our aid to meet the growing needs of the people.“We wish to fulfil 100 percent of the requests we receive however it is not always possible to achieve everything we hope to do. Every item of help is appreciated so much. People have told us of their joy on receiving our help. They were crying with joy, saying now we can survive the winter.”

Already 5 years of conflict in Syria.

Already 5 years of conflict in Syria.

Father Halemba spoke to us of the urgent need to provide aid to villages near the north-eastern city of Hassake newly liberated from Islamist forces. At present, many Assyrian Christians exiled from the villages are unable to return because of the lack of basic supplies.

The priest also urged everyone to renew prayers for Syria, especially for the 79 Christians kidnapped in the Assyrian villages near Hassake and held by Daesh at its stronghold of Raqqa in the north of the country. Reports say the Islamists have requested ransoms of up to  $46,545 per person.

Fr Halemba went on to highlight the suffering of Christians unable to pay extortionate Islamic jizya tax demanded in areas controlled by ISIS (Daesh) and other militant groups. He said that Christians were forced to pay jizya of up to 87,000 Syrian pounds per year ( $525 CAN  – according to the official exchange rate) but that people could not afford it in a country where since 2010 1 kilo of sugar has risen from 5 Syrian pounds ($2.90) to 5,000 Syrian pounds ($30.22 CAN).

Responding to the build-up of international military action in Syria, Father Halemba said: “A Pandora’s Box has been opened up and nobody is willing to close the lid. Instead of talking about waging war, what is needed is for people to sit down and talk about ways to bring peace. That is what the people really need right now.”

 

 

 

 

By John Pontifex, ACN UK, press@acn-intl.org

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada, ag@acn-aed-ca.org 

Syria: A war “unjust, barbaric and destructive”

25.09.2015 in ACN Canada, ACN United Kingdom, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Syria, Syrie

Syria:

A war “unjust, barbaric and destructive”

 The Melkite Greek Catholic Bishop of Aleppo in Syria wrote these words last September 16. Msgr. Jean-Clément Jeanbart was then celebrating the 20th anniversary of his ordination as the bishop of this “artistic and intellectual” city, whose citizens are today in great misery. ACN-20140721-11551_ca0f0

“Today, at the very moment that I am writing these lines, bombs are raining down on the residential neighborhoods of the city.”

 

According to him, the people of the city “now find themselves in a miserable state, after four years of this unjust, barbaric and destructive war. They are without work, without resources, without security, without water, without electricity, deprived of all hoped-for pity and help from Western Christians expected in vain.”

 

In this letter, he also reminds us that the diocese already existed in 325, and that its bishop was at the famous Council of Nicaea. “In both the ancient and recent history of the Middle East this active and prosperous community was a center of Christian radiance in the region.”

 

“ Lighten the load” of the population

Aleppo, 09.06.2014 The population is fetching water at the well of the Cathedral. The Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo Jean-Clement Jeanbart states: “The electricity is bad. Water is also very bad. We have some wells. We have dug three wells at three different churches. At the Cathedral we have reopened a well that dates back some 100 years and we are distributing water to the population. We have to do what we can to help”. Used as Illustration for the Internet Project SYRIA / ALEP-ARM 14/00005 (PrID: 1403720)

Aleppo, June 2014
The population is fetching water at the well of the Cathedral.

Already in 2014, the situation was extremely difficult. The Church had re-opened a hundred year old well in the cathedral’s courtyard.

“ These last three years I had to forget that I was 70 years-old and to run to wherever I could in over to lighten the load that is weighing down my beloved people,” he stated.

 

He denounced the “latest scourge” that hit Syrian Christians, “the exodus of Christians, which is a form of deportation, condemning our faithful to a humiliating exile and our 200 year-old Church to a deadly drying up.”

 

He finishes the letter, writing: “On this anniversary of my episcopate, I fervently wish that you join me in asking the Lord to protect the faithful He is given into my care, so that this Church that is two millennia old, of which I am in charge, can continue its prophetic presence in this beloved country. They are waging war on us, but we want to make peace. They seek to destroy; we seek to build. They are trying to exile us; we are fighting to stay put. In brief, all that we await is peace and we want to Build to Stay.”

Read the complete letter by following
this link: Letter from Aleppo

 

 

Nigeria: 5,000 killed, 100,000 displaced, and 350 churches in ruins

12.05.2015 in ACN International, ACN United Kingdom, John Pontifex, Nigeria

Nigeria

5,000 killed, 100,000 displaced, and 350 churches in ruins

More than 5,000 Catholics in north-east Nigeria have been killed and at least 100,000 have been displaced, according to a fresh report which highlights the scale of atrocities against Christians in the heartland of Islamist terror group, Boko Haram. The ‘Situation Report on the activities of Boko Haram in the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri’ states that more than 350 churches in the diocese have been badly attacked, “a good number of them destroyed more than once.”

0511Nigeria_Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme in the remains of a Catholic church in Bahuli

With more than three-quarters of the diocese under Boko Haram control, the report records that 22 of the diocese’s 40 parish centres and chaplaincies have been deserted and occupied by the terrorists. The report, a copy of which diocesan authorities sent to Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, records a total of 7,000 widows and 10,000 orphans.

“Our faith has been purified through persecution” 

Commenting on the report, Father Gideon Obasogie, the Diocese of Maiduguri’s director of social communications, said: “People are very scared and those who are able to return home find there is nothing left.” He stressed the extent of the suffering in the diocese which covers the whole of Borno, Yobe and part of Adamawa state, adding: “A life lived with much fear is terrible.” But, commenting on the people’s faith in the face of adversity, Father Obasogie added: “The good Lord has always been on our side. He has seen us through thick and thin. “Our faith has been purified through persecution.”

With reports on Friday May 8th of an Islamist attack on a business college in Yobe state, schools in Maiduguri diocese are at particular risk and the diocesan report records that 32 of the 40 primary schools have been deserted. Displacement of people has been very widespread in the Diocese of Maiduguri and the reports states that 26 of the region’s 46 priests were currently displaced as well as 200 catechists and 30 Sisters. Four of the diocese’s five convents were closed.

Aid to the Church in Need is providing emergency aid for people from Maiduguri seeking sanctuary outside the diocese. ACN has given approximately $62,000, providing food, shelter and medicine for displaced people and also Mass stipends for Maiduguri priests taking refuge in nearby Yola diocese. The charity is also providing security for Catholic schools under threat from Islamists. St Peter’s Church School near Kaduna received $18,800 from ACN, providing security lights and a sound-proof generator.

 

 

 

 

 

Nepal –  ‘A very frightening scene’

29.04.2015 in ACN United Kingdom, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, John Pontifex, Nepal

 

Nepal

 ‘A very frightening scene’

Kathmandu/Königstein, Wednesday April 29, 2015 – NEPAL’s Catholic bishop has given a graphic account of the country’s catastrophic earthquake, describing how he was lucky to survive.

In a message yesterday (Monday, 27th April), Bishop Paul Simick said he “saw houses falling like a pack of cards,” and that people “were running in all directions to save their lives. “It was a very, very frightening scene.”

In his message to ACN, the bishop added: “I myself had to literally run to save my life.” The bishop, who is based in the capital, Kathmandu, continued: “Repetitive aftershocks – just now there was one [and] I had to run away from my office – have made people frightened so they have left their houses and pitched tarpaulin tents on the streets and open fields.”

Stating that latest estimates had put the number of deaths at 4,000, the bishop added that local radio reports had predicted a rise in the death toll as more bodies are recovered.  He added: “I saw animals killed by falling cow sheds and stone walls. I saw the dry landslides after the shake all over the hills where I was.”

 Bishop, who narrowly escaped death, appeals for prayers

The bishop described the devastating impact of the earthquake on Nepal’s small Catholic community numbering just 10,000 faithful.  “Here in ACN-20150428-23610Kathmandu city, many Catholic families have cracks in their houses or major damage.” Bishop Simick stressed the problems of trying to assess the situation on the ground, describing the crippling impact of communications breakdown – impassable roads, no domestic flights and entire communities still cut off.  The bishop added: “I would also like to request your prayer support for the victims’ families who have lost loved ones, those who are still missing loved ones and those who are seriously injured.”

Reporting on the suffering of Catholic communities, he described how some faithful had lost their lives in a mission station which takes three days by foot to reach.  “Yesterday [Monday], one helicopter went to see the place and victims but because of bad weather it could not land and saw nothing. “Many of our churches, schools, convents and other institutions have developed precarious cracks.”