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By Eva-Maria Kolmann

 

ACN’s Project of the Week – Support for the Catholic the families in Togo

07.03.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Family Apostolate, FORMATION, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Togo

The Fédération Africaine d’Action Familiale (FAAF, or African Family Life Federation) is an initiative for the support of healthy families and the protection of life. It involves doctors of various disciplines, theologians, priests, religious and lay pastoral workers. Its aim is to support families and help them to tackle their problems, offering Africa-friendly, family-friendly and pro-life solutions, as opposed to the alien Western-style solutions which many Africans have by now seen through as a “culture of death.” Instead, they seek to promote a “culture of life” of the kind so frequently referred to by the late Pope Saint John Paul II.

In Togo – West Africa –, the programs of the FAAF have been established since 2005. In the diocese of Aneho in the southeast of the country there are five people who have been involved up to now, for example in giving introductory talks and sessions in the parishes, so as to encourage more people to become aware of issues surrounding marriage and the family and train them to be able to accompany families and married couples.

 

The meetings address such questions as, “What is God‘s plan for marriage?” and “What does it mean to be a mother or a father?” Couples are encouraged to talk together and grow in mutual love and respect. Another important aspect is natural family planning, which observes and respects the natural fertility cycle of the woman. Husbands also learn in this way to respect their wives and respect their bodies. The goal is an education in love, which emphasizes the beauty and value of human sexuality and the human body and the importance of fidelity and responsibility and openness to life. It is the best way to counter such evils as abortion and the spread of AIDS. At the same time, the program aims to help and accompany families and married couples in conflict and crisis.

 

There is a great demand for these talks and for personal counselling, and they are hoping to be able to train up 10 more female counsellors. Printed information materials are also needed.
Aid to the Church in Need has promised 17,500 dollars in support of this laudable initiative.

 

Make your donation now to support family education training in Togo. Thank you very much for your generosity.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Brazil – ACN Project of the week – Catechetical Material for Marginalized People

27.02.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Brazil, Brazil, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, South America

Brazil

Catechetical materials for pastoral work

The “Bethlehem Mission” (Missao Belem) is a lay spiritual community of people who devote themselves above all to caring for the homeless, the addicts, the lonely and all those facing a crisis or some other difficult situation. The members of the community, who describe themselves as “missionaries,” share their lives full-time with these homeless victims, often even living on the streets with them. In doing so they are endeavouring to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to these people on the margins of society and make His teachings living and tangible for them.

The community is still very young, having been founded only in 2005 in Brazil, yet it already has 160 mission houses and another 7 intermediate centres in 70 different cities of Brazil, Haiti and Italy.

Right now some 2000 or so homeless people are being cared for by members of the community in Brazil, which includes 70 consecrated members and 200 full-time voluntary members. They all live together in the various communities, like one big family. People who have until now been living on the streets slowly become accustomed to living an orderly life in the community and are able to begin to discover the potential for themselves. The community also offers them the opportunity to have therapy where necessary. And they can also take advantage of the chance to gain practical and professional qualifications or become re-accustomed to the world of work. Wherever possible, the street children are encouraged to return to or at least make contact with their families. Where this is not possible, they are helped to find loving homes with foster parents or adoptive families, in collaboration with the relevant authorities.

So far around 50,000 people have been taken in and helped by these communities. Roughly half of them have since been able to return to normal life. Many have found their way to faith and sought baptism. It is a particularly moving sight to see grown men, some advanced in age and after years of homelessness and addiction, dressed in a white baptismal robe, standing there with a baptismal candle in their hand, or going forward like little children to receive their First Holy Communion. In such cases it is quite evident that baptism has been the start of a new life for them as children of God.

Also very popular and very successful are the evangelizing courses run by members of the community. More than 1400 people have so far taken part in these courses, which are aimed at training them for the mission of reaching out to people who still far from the Church, and especially to the marginalized in society, and proclaiming the Gospel to them. At the same time the participants are equipped with appropriate catechetical material, which they can distribute to those who are interested.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is happy to help this wonderful initiative, and we have promised 69 150 dollars to help provide the necessary teaching materials for the coming four years.

ACN-Projects of the week – India – Help for the formation of 15 novices Sisters

20.02.2019 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Asia, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, FORMATION, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Sisters

India

Help for the formation of 15 novices of the Holy Spirit Sisters

 

The Holy Spirit Sisters are a congregation founded in 1950 in Germany. They work above all in pastoral care and their role is to support the priests in their work. Right from the start it was the desire of their founder that these religious sisters should be given a thorough theological formation, so that they could fulfil this mission as well as possible.

 

The sisters give catechetical instruction, prepare children, young people and adults to receive the sacraments and organize prayer meetings. They also visit the sick, poor families and the needy, and help them in their difficulties.

 

One of the pastoral work is to visit families.

In the two regional provinces of the congregation in India, namely Atmadhara and Jeevadhara, there are a total of 207 religious sisters in a region that covers seven of India’s federal states. In the state of Odisha, which until 2011 was called Orissa and which became notorious in the year 2005 on account of the violent and unprovoked attacks against Christians there, the sisters run a hostel or boarding home for 40 schoolgirls whose homes are too far from the nearest school and who would therefore be unable to attend school otherwise. The girls belong to various faiths and ethnic communities, and the sisters seek to convey genuine Christian values to them while teaching them mutual respect, so that their boarding home is at the same time making a contribution to peaceful coexistence among the various religions and ethnic communities in the country.

 

 

 

***

At the present time the Holy Spirit Sisters have 15 young novices undergoing training. Aid to the Church in Need have promised the congregation $6,750 to help with the cost of their formation. Thank to help us to help them!

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

 

Project of the Week: Help for the consecrated people in Siberia

22.08.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Religious men, Russia, Sisters

 
Russia /Siberia

Support for the life and ministry of 63 religious sisters in the diocese of Saint Joseph

 

The diocese of Saint Joseph in Irkutsk, in eastern Siberia, is geographically speaking the largest diocese in the world. With an area of almost 10 million km² it is actually larger than the United States! Scattered thinly across this vast region are 50,000 Catholics, ministered to by around 40 Catholic priests. In addition, there are 63 religious sisters of various different congregations.

 

Their work in the parishes is absolutely indispensable, and they are also involved in all kinds of charitable and social work that is a veritable blessing, above all for so many children from broken homes and for the lonely, the elderly, the sick and the homeless, including many street children.

We would like to share with you two examples of their work with the people in their diocese. In the city of Irkutsk for example, in the parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, two sisters of the congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit work with children from difficult family backgrounds, including children living in poverty, from large families, or with parents who are alcoholics. They have opened a house they call The House of Hope. The children come here every day to do their schoolwork, to eat and to play.

The sisters organize a range of different activities.  They help them with their schooling and strive to create a real family atmosphere so the children can experience something they have never known in their own families. The same two sisters also regularly visit the children at the tuberculosis clinic organizing a range of activities as well as for the children in hospital, suffering from cancer.

In Abakan, the sisters have made space in their convent for homeless women with children and currently have two mothers and three children staying with them. They also visit the sick and elderly.

We are helping all 63 religious sisters from the various different congregations in their work in the diocese of Irkutsk with a small contribution for their financial support. Overall, our help rings up to a total of $47,565 – or $755 per sister for an entire year. Would you be willing to help us?

 

Are you in inspired by this projects supporting seminarians? If you would like to help create more projects such as this, simply click to donate.

ACN Project of the Week – A library for a Catholic centre in Egypt

16.08.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, egypt, Project of the Week

Egypt

Equipping the library in the Diakonia Development Center 

Sheraton-Heliopolis is the name of one of the newer suburbs of Cairo that did not even exist a few decades ago. Named after the original Sheraton hotel, close to the international airport, which was at first the only existing building there at the time, it is now a busy suburb of over 400,000 people.

 

The Catholic Church has established a pastoral centre here, named the Diakonia Development Center, to serve the various pastoral and social needs of the Catholic parish community. It is here that the children and young people of the Good Samaritan group also meet.

The plan is to establish a small library in the centre for the 150 or so children and young people who regularly come here, mainly to help them become more familiar with the Holy Scriptures. For it is especially important for them, as a religious minority, to have a sound knowledge of the Bible, since they are often asked questions and need to be able to respond in a coherent and clear way.

Sometimes the questions are put to them in a deliberately provocative or manipulative way, making it very important for these Christian children to deepen and extend their knowledge of the Scriptures from an early age, and especially to cultivate a good understanding of those passages in the Bible that are often used or abused by non-Christians to attack their faith.

 

Finally, it is very important for these young people and for their own personal development to be able to understand how God leads them and guides them by his Providence. In this way, they come to know Jesus Christ better and believe more deeply in his love. For as Saint Jerome wrote, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

 

ACN has promised $5,285 to furnish this library!

 

https://secure.acn-canada.org/donate/donation/#utm_source=MAIN_WEBSITE&utm_medium=DONATE_BUTTON&utm_campaign=REDIRECTS

Are you in inspired by this projects supporting seminarians? If you would like to help create more projects such as this, simply click to donate.

 

ACN Project of the Week – Support for Contemplative Carmelite Sisters

17.11.2017 in ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Journey with ACN, Sisters

Czech Republic

Support for contemplative Carmelite Sisters in Prague

The pilgrims in Fatima who arrived early on  September 13 at the Chapel of the Apparitions were greeted with a somewhat unusual sight – a statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague being carried in the arms of a religious sister in front of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

This image of the Christ Child, dressed as King in festive white robes, was later that day to enjoy a great triumph when, at the end of the Solemn Holy Mass on the square of the Fatima shrine, it was solemnly presented by Cardinal Dominik Duka, the Archbishop of Prague, to Bishop  António Augusto dos Santos Marto of Leiria-Fatima, in whose diocese the famous Fatima shrine is of course situated.

 

This pilgrimage to Fatima by Czech Catholics to mark the hundredth anniversary of the apparitions there was in fact the second national pilgrimage to Fatima organised by the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, and on this occasion 1,300 pilgrims, including the entire Czech bishops‘ conference, dozens of priests and religious and hundreds of ordinary Catholic faithful, had made their way to the renowned Marian shrine in Portugal, whose story is so closely linked to the recent history of the former Eastern Bloc. Cardinal Duka recalled the fact that the people of the Czech Republic had previously come on pilgrimage to Fatima in 1989 to give thanks for their regained freedom. This time they were here to give thanks “for a new generation that has never known the prison of National Socialism, the prison of communism or persecution for their faith.”

 

As an “expression of gratitude”, the Cardinal solemnly presented to the bishop the replica statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague, solemnly blessed at the shrine in Prague, as a special gift from the Catholics of the Czech Republic to the shrine in Fatima. “The Infant Jesus is the patron of all his friends,” said the Cardinal, recalling that Pope Benedict XVI had also visited the world-famous shrine of the Infant Jesus during his visit to Prague.

 

New Carmelites!

In fact the fate of the Jezulatko, as the little statue of the Infant Jesus is known to the Czech people, has been closely bound up with the message of Fatima during the past century. For it was in 1917 – exactly 100 years ago – that Our Blessed Lady predicted the October Revolution in Russia and the Second World War. The consequence was an unprecedented persecution of the Church. After the Second World War, what was then still Czechoslovakia also fell under the communist yoke and witnessed one of the worst persecutions in Eastern Europe. Thousands of priests and religious were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms and forced labour, churches and religious houses were closed down and desecrated, and the practice of the Faith severely restricted. For years, the image of the Infant Jesus of Prague was left abandoned and alone on its altar in a desolate and ransacked church.

 

“It is thanks to to the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that we are able to live in freedom today,” Cardinal Duka declared in front of thousands of pilgrims in Fatima. Afterwards, the Czech pilgrims were allowed to take home with them a pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima, and immediately on their return this statue was welcomed with a solemn Holy Mass in Prague‘s St Vitus Cathedral and then carried in solemn procession through the streets of Prague and also right past the convent of the Discalced Carmelite Sisters.

These Carmelite sisters, who live in strict enclosure, never leave their convent, yet their prayer spans the whole world. The fact that young Carmelite sisters are once again living in this convent is one of the most beautiful fruits of the Triumph of Mary‘s Immaculate Heart. For in 1950 the Carmelites were forcibly ejected from their convent and forced to work in factories. Only five very elderly Carmelite nuns survived long enough to witness the political changes in 1989; all of them have since died. Yet by the grace of God, and doubtless also through the courageous witness of their lives and of their faith, new vocations followed and a number of young women have joined the Carmelite community. The six nuns who today live in the Saint Joseph‘s convent devote themselves entirely to prayer, bringing before God among other things the cares and needs of those people who sometimes do not even know how to pray for themselves.

 

Among other things, the sisters produce religious and devotional items and artwork, which they sell in a small shop. Other than this, they have little opportunity of providing for their own income – which is why ACN is helping them again this year, with a contribution of $6 132  to support their life and prayer apostolate.

 

 

 

 


 

Egypt – Pray for the affected families!

11.04.2017 in By Eva-Maria Kolmann, egypt, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need
Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II led the funeral for the victims of a bomb that exploded on 11.12.2016 during Sunday Mass
in a chapel at Cairo’s main Coptic Cathedral.

Egypt 

“Pray for the affected families!”

Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut has called on the Christian faithful throughout the world to pray for the victims and families of the suicide bomb attacks on two Coptic Orthodox churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday yesterday (9 April), which claimed the lives of at least 44 people and have left a further 120 or more wounded.

He added that he himself has received numerous messages from all over the world, following the attacks, promising prayers and sympathy for him and for all the Christians of Egypt. “Prayer is the most important thing we can ask for at this time,” he told the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Essentially, it had not been altogether unexpected that there would be further attacks, he added. The attack in December 2016 on the church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Cairo, in which nearly 30 people were killed, had been widely seen as a harbinger of things to come. “Our sense of security was not very strong,” Bishop Kyrillos explained. Nonetheless everybody had still been “surprised” by the attacks on Palm Sunday, since it was never possible to predict when and where such attacks would occur.

The bishop emphasized that both on the part of the state and on the part of the Church there is the intention to strengthen collaboration in order to be able to better protect the Christian churches. “I was visited by a security official who asked me what we need now. He made the suggestion that we could train young people and adults, so that all resources could be pooled in order to increase security. Here in Assiut there are 550 Christian churches. Thank God, nothing has happened here so far, but we are too little prepared for such events,” Bishop William acknowledged.

Images from St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo/Egypt on Sunday, April 7, 2013: Funeral ceremony for the victims of violence.

Asked about the danger of an exodus of Christians like that in Iraq or in Syria, Bishop Kyrillos expressed the conviction that these attacks would not create any large-scale exodus of Christians as a consequence. “In Egypt the people feel a close bond with their country and all of them see themselves as Egyptians – whether they are Christians or Muslims. There is a stronger sense of solidarity among the population here than elsewhere,” he added. However, he believes that the intention of the terrorists is to destroy this solidarity.

Asked about the planned visit of Pope Francis to Egypt, scheduled for 28th and 29th of April, Bishop William described this as “more important now than ever.” He is convinced that the trip will not be called off, since the Pope has  “shown the courage, precisely in such situations, to come and strengthen the people.” He is confident that the Pope will send out a clear message of peace.

 

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International
Adapted by: Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada


 

 

Iraq, Nineveh Plains: 200 million for the reconstruction

30.03.2017 in ACN International, ACN PRESS, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Communication, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Middle East

(Photo) February 2017: Batnaya is a small town situated about 15 km from Mosul.
About 850 Christian families lived here in 2014.

Iraq, Nineveh Plains

More than 12,000 private homes on the Nineveh plains damaged by ISIS  

 

Königstein /Montreal, March 29, 2017 – The Islamic State (ISIS) damaged more than 12,000 private homes in twelve Christian villages on the Nineveh plains. These were the findings of a study initiated by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need. Among those damaged, 669 houses were completely destroyed. The charity estimates the costs for rebuilding will vastly exceed 200 million dollars.

February 2017: A Crucifix found in the rubble in the village of Qaraqosh.

 

 

As part of the study, 1,500 families who fled to Erbil from the affected regions were also asked whether they intended to return to the – now liberated – places they had come from. Of these, 1,308 of these responded with 41 percent of the respondents indicating that they wanted to return to their native villages, 46 per cent said that they were considering it.

 

This represents a considerable difference when compared with a survey also carried out by Aid to the Church in Need last November among 5,762 internally displaced persons. Only 3.28 per cent of the respondents wanted to return to their native villages at that time.  Then, the security situation in the liberated region was still fragile and combat operations were ongoing.

 

The study also showed that 57 per cent of respondents reported that their possessions had been plundered, 22 per cent responded that their houses had been destroyed. The rest could not provide any information on the current condition of their houses and belongings. Slightly over a quarter (25.46 per cent) reported that their papers had been stolen by the terrorists of the Islamic State.

 

Currently, there are still 14,000 registered families who fled from Mosul and the Nineveh plains living in Erbil. This is approximately equal to 90,000 people, down from originally 120,000 in 2014. Today, 12,000 families continue to depend on humanitarian aid from Aid to the Church in Need.

 

The study, carried out by Aid to the Church in Need with the help of local church employees, consisted of three parts and is ongoing: first, the damages done to private homes by ISIS was ascertained. The findings of the investigation on the damages to social institutions such as schools and clinics as well as to church buildings will follow.

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Aid to the Church in Need International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin


 

ACN Interview – Central African Republic

21.03.2017 in ACN Interview, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Central African Republic

Central African Republic

“It was almost like the visit from the Pope”

Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui, is currently travelling through in his country of the Central African Republic in the month of February.

While there, from 22 to 24 of February, he visited the parish of Bozoum and the town of Bocaranga, where only recently, there was serious violence. The Cardinal’s program also included talks with the rebels. Father Aurelio Gazzera, the parish priest of Bozoum, accompanied the Cardinal. Later, on 26 February, he spoke to Aid to the Church in Need about this visit.

 

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN Internaltional

 


ACN: What was your experience of the visit by Cardinal Nzapalainga to your parish in your diocese?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: The Cardinal‘s visit reminded me a little of the visit by the Pope to Bangui a year ago. The joy and the hopes of the people that it inspired were very great! The people gave the Cardinal an overwhelming welcome. Even along the 125 km stretch that we travelled with the Cardinal on his journey from Bozoum to Bocaranga, he had to stop in every village, since the people were already waiting for him along the roadside and wanted to hear a word from him and receive his blessing. It was profoundly moving to see how greatly the people genuinely wanted to listen to the Cardinal. And this listening, I truly believe and hope, was for many of them the beginning of a new journey, just as for many people the words of the Pope were when he visited our country in November 2015.

 

ACN: You also took part, together with the Cardinal, in two meetings with the rebels of the Antibalaka. What can you tell us about them?

Father Aurrelio Gazzera: The rebels were armed, some of them with ordinary home-made guns they had fashioned out of water pipes, and others with Kalashnikovs. During the war, the Antibalaka were the opponents of the Seleka rebels. Since then they have become a mixed group of men who initially took up arms to protect their families and their villages, but to which a number of youths have now attached themselves who seek to profit from the situation and live by robbery and extortion. To them the Cardinal addressed a calm but emphatic invitation to change their lives and not allow themselves to be fooled by material things and money, and above all not to allow themselves to be led astray by those who were urging them on to violence, only to later abandon them.

 

ACN: You yourself are very experienced in negotiating with armed groups, and in fact you have already on several occasions succeeded in persuading rebel groups to withdraw, thereby preventing a bloodbath and protecting the civilian population. You were also able to speak to the rebels on this occasion. What did you say to them?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: I invited them to reflect on the fact that those who sow violence will themselves harvest nothing else but death. And I said that the time had now come to start thinking of rebuilding. I also urged them to think about the fact that in reality they were merely serving the interests of unscrupulous people of whom they themselves would be the first victims! And often they do not think of the consequences of their actions, when they cause destruction, exploit other people and burn down houses.

 

ACN: Do you believe that these meetings with the rebels will have achieved anything?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: Generally speaking, it seemed to me that the men were listening quite attentively, and at least some of them appeared to feel the longing to seek new ways of peace and change their lives. It will take time, but when someone is willing to talk about things, it is always a big step forward and one that can lead to a change.

 

ACN: The city of Bocaranga was only recently the scene of violent attacks. The journey there cannot have been without danger…

Father Aurelio Gazzera: Yes, on February 2, nomads of the Fulbe tribe killed 21 people there and wounded several dozen others. They burnt down the marketplace and many of the shops, looted the offices of several aid agencies and generally spread fear and terror around them. The UN troops did nothing to stop them, though they had been informed of the situation.

So the Cardinal‘s visit was the first happy and joyful occasion following these terrible events. Nonetheless, going there was an act that called for great courage on the part of the Cardinal. The forces of order were completely absent, and on the way there I myself drove ahead of the Cardinal‘s vehicle so that I could get there first and identify and resolve any potential security problems. Thanks be to God, everything went well, even though the armed rebels of the Antibalaka were roaming around, and we also had to pass through a rebel roadblock, 5 km before the city. However, for their part this was more a demonstration of their own power than the intention to really do anything bad.

 

ACN: What was the most important message of the Cardinal?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: I would say that his most important messages were these: first, “Have trust in God; do not fear!” This was also in fact the message of that day‘s Gospel reading. And then, “Take a more farsighted view and do not limit yourselves to looking for satisfaction in material things but have a long-term vision! That will make it possible to have a new country, a new life for everyone!”

 

ACN: In a country suffering from armed conflicts, extreme poverty and the total failure of the state, the Church has an important role to play. Did the Cardinal also speak about the role of the Church, and in particular that of the priests and religious?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: There was a very intense and moving moment in Bocaranga when we had gathered together along with the Cardinal in the Sisters‘ chapel with around 20 religious from various different mission stations. Among them were very young novices, Sisters who had just taken their permanent vows, right through to elderly missionaries who had been working in the Central African Republic for 40 years and more. All of them remained at their posts, especially during these four years of war – despite the threats, the attacks and lootings, the attempts at intimidation. The Cardinal emphatically expressed the gratitude of the Church and of the people for this continuing perseverance, despite the war. And he told us about something that happened in a parish in Bangui at the height of the war. One man said to him, “I stayed put, because I could see the light burning in the Sisters‘ convent. And I knew that if they were staying, then I could stay as well!”

It is true that the Church is doing a great deal. She is building schools, hospitals, churches, chapels… Then there is the work she does in bearing witness and raising her voice. But, the most beautiful thing of all is simply being at the side of the people. Having the doors of our parishes and mission stations open to everyone who was, or is, in need. This too is evangelization. It means making the presence and the love of God the Father concretely visible!

 

ACN: This last year, with help from ACN, you have been able to renovate and enlarge your parish church in Bozoum, in which you welcomed the Cardinal. How important is this church to you and to the faithful?

Father Aurelio Gazzera: For us it was a great joy to be able to welcome the Cardinal in our “new” church. The fact that we were able to make this dream reality was thanks in large measure to the generosity of ACN‘s benefactors. But I also took pains to emphasize that every one of the faithful in our parish should himself contribute a little piece of his heart and his faith towards the building, and a great many of them helped bring sand, stone, gravel and food by way of a contribution. The building of a church is a very important moment for a Christian community, but not only for them. Even many people who weren‘t even Christians wanted to make a little contribution or at least show a gesture of sympathy, and this was something very special and very moving for us.
We wanted our church to look beautiful – very beautiful – for beauty speaks of dignity. And at this moment in the Central African Republic it is extremely necessary to rediscover the dignity of every individual human being. The beauty of the Church must reflect the beauty of God and with it our own beauty as Catholic faithful. It reflects our being Christian! We are very grateful to everyone who has helped us to make this miracle a reality!

 


  1. Anti-balaka: Animist and Christian rebels, means machete proof in Sango; favours the Christians who are more of a sedentary group.
  1. Seleka: A name meaning ‘coalition’ in Sango one of CAR’s two national languages (including French). A rebel group favouring mainly Muslims who are nomadic and herders.
However, the situation is far more complex and clouded than described here.

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin 


 

ACN Interview – Emergency Aid for Cameroon

03.11.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, AFRIQUE, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Cameroon, Emergency Aid

Cameroon

Terrorism and a forgotten Africa

Time and again, the northern part of Cameroon has become the scene of suicide attacks by Boko Haram terrorists.

 

The people in Maroua-Mokolo are afraid. Time and again, the dioceses located along the border to Nigeria have become the scene of attacks by Boko Haram. When Bishop Bruno Ateba Edo celebrates Holy Mass under a tree, the faithful often hold each other by the hand to form a human chain. The reason: to keep suicide bombers from mingling unnoticed among those in prayer.

 

Before Mass, volunteers check those attending services for weapons and explosives. It is forbidden to carry large handbags. “Many of the suicide attacks are carried out by very young people. Only one month ago, two young girls blew themselves up on the market of Mora. They were not even twenty years old,” the bishop told the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “The people live in constant fear of attacks. It has already become a psychosis.”

CAMEROON / MAROUA-MOKOLO 15/00094 Construction d'un hangar comme lieu de prière pour les 5.000 catholiques nigérians réfugiés dans le diocèse de Maroua-Mokolo

The danger is especially great at larger gatherings of people. However, the Catholic faithful are not letting this stop them from gathering to pray. “Prayer is our strength and our hope. We need prayer! We want to pray! Especially prayer in community is a sign of hope,” said Bishop Ateba.

When this past February two suicide bombers killed at least 20 people and injured dozens on the market in the village of Mémé, prayer even saved people. “At the time of the attack, many market women and other people from the village had just gone into the church to take part in the Stations of the Cross. They say, ‘We are still alive because we were in church. We would have died without the Stations of the Cross.’”

CAMEROON / MAROUA-MOKOLO 15/00094 Construction d'un hangar comme lieu de prière pour les 5.000 catholiques nigérians réfugiés dans le diocèse de Maroua-Mokolo

 

‘…only Africans…’

Bishop Ateba is disappointed that the dramatic situation in his diocese hardly ever receives attention from international media. “I would like to see greater attention being paid to that which is happening here in northern Cameroon. When something happens in Europe, the news immediately spreads around the entire world. It is like an earthquake. But if people die here in Cameroon or in other African countries, it is not a big issue. Some people probably think that the victims were ‘only Africans’. And yet, today it is also often said that the world is a village. The media should exert more pressure. They have power and strength. I would like to say to the media, ‘Take a close look, no matter where something bad has happened, and report on it!’”

 

In addition to the tensions caused by terrorist attacks, a humanitarian problem also looms. Almost 80,000 refugees from Nigeria are living in a huge refugee camp in the Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo. “Many of the people would like to return to their homelands, but they need safety and prospects! Many have already been there for four or five years and cannot go home,” Bishop Ateba explained. The Catholic refugees are receiving pastoral care from a Nigerian priest who speaks their language. Aid to the Church in Need gave 21,750 CAN to help build a chapel, which the bishop is very grateful for as he tells us: “Almost 5,000 Catholics are living in this camp. Two Holy Masses are being celebrated there every Sunday. Having a place of prayer sets an important sign. Thank you for helping us!”

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In addition to the Nigerian refugees, there are also over 50,000 Cameroonians from villages situated directly at the border who have fled because the situation there is particularly dangerous. Most of them have found shelter with friends, acquaintances or relatives. They are only being supported by the Catholic church. For this reason, Aid to the Church in Need provided 109,500 euros in emergency relief last year to meet the needs of those who have become homeless. The bishop himself is also poor. He lives in a small room without a bathroom. He does not even have an episcopal church. His riches are the people in his diocese.

 

However, what makes him very happy is that there is no dearth of vocations. Thirty young men from the Diocese of Maroua-Mokolo are currently preparing for the priesthood. This year, Bishop Ateba has already ordained two to the priesthood, and on All Saints’ Day he will ordain three young students to the transitional diaconate.

 

Despite it all: a ‘wonderful dialogue’

And Bishop Atebe had even more welcome news to report: he is very pleased about the “wonderful dialogue” that has opened up with Muslims, despite the problems with Boko Haram. Many Muslim children –the sons and daughters of religious leaders included – are attending Catholic schools. “The average Muslim is also against Boko Haram,” he said.

 

Each day after Holy Mass, the Catholic faithful pray that God will grant them peace. The situation has already improved a little, because Boko Haram is not carrying out as many armed military attacks in the region as before. The terrorist organization has been weakened by the joint military campaigns of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. “However, the hope of the people is primarily rooted in their belief in God,” the bishop repeatedly emphasised. “We trust in prayer. Prayer is our strength. We pray because we need peace. And, despite the attacks, we will not stop gathering and asking God for this peace together!”

 

Aid to the Church in Need spends approximately 2.9 million CAN on aid for Cameroon each year.

 

 

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin