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By Marta Petrosillo

 

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

11.02.2020 in ACN International, By Marta Petrosillo

Nigeria

The government not doing enough to protect Christians

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

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

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

 


 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

ACN Press Release: Aid to the Church in Need 2018 Annual Report

20.06.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo

ACN INTERNATIONAL—ANNUAL REPORT 2018

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

OVER 166.5 MILLION RAISED FOR THE CHURCH IN NEED WORLDWIDE
Over 166.5 million dollars for the suffering, oppressed and persecuted Church throughout the world.
This was the total raised in donations for 2018 by ACN International via its 23 national offices around the world and its international headquarters in Germany.

By Marta Petrosillo for ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada

Published on the web June 20, 2019

The resources raised, thanks to the generous donations of its more than 330,000 benefactors around the world, have enabled the charity to fund no fewer than 5,019 pastoral projects in some 139 different countries.

“We are deeply moved by the generosity of our benefactors all over the world,” commented Thomas Heine-Geldern, the executive president of ACN International, at the formal presentation of the charity’s Annual Report. “Once again their sacrifices and their faith have moved mountains!”

“Every year, I rejoice at the generosity of our benefactors who keep supporting the projects entrusted to us. At the same time, we must meet the challenge of introducing the situation of the poor and persecuted Church to younger generations,” underscored Marie-Claude Lalonde.  ACN Canada’s national director also explained, “And so we are exploring new ways to reach people and speak to them about the Church around the world and its needs—and of its great vivacity.”

Last year, the Canadian office received close to 2.6 million dollars to support a multitude of projects, many of which were in Nigeria. The visit of Msgr Ignatius Kaigama, an agent of peace and dialogue in his country, was a significant moment in our year. One of the many fruits of the event today is the ACN photo exhibit on persecution to be held in the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Another important event, Red Wednesday, will see its second edition next November 20, will unfold in many dioceses across Canada including Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.

Support on Every Continent

A child in Ethiopia holds an image of the Gospel, distributed by ACN.

These figures illustrate the fundamental reality of ACN’s support for the Church throughout the world, given above all in a spirit of closeness to the oppressed and persecuted Church. And, with a capacity to react promptly and in practical terms to the attacks to which Christian communities are ever-increasingly subject to around the world.

In the event of such tragic attacks as the recent bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday; or the frequent attacks in countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria, ACN has always been able to react promptly and appropriately to help the wounded communities get back on their feet again and reaffirm their presence, even and especially in those countries where Christians are a small and oppressed minority. It does so by helping to rebuild their damaged churches, supporting the families of the victims and helping the priests and religious to continue in their pastoral mission. And thereby, ultimately, demonstrating that faith has the power to overcome hatred.

Supporting Sisters who work in situations of conflict: this one in Syria.

The Prominent Issues

As in recent years, a major proportion of these donations went to support projects in Africa (27%) and in the Middle East (25%). Over the last few years, the Middle East region has witnessed a substantial increase in aid from ACN. Since the beginning of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011, in fact, the Pontifical Charity, ACN, has given a total of 148.5 million dollars, of which over 27 million were in 2018 alone. The charity’s emergency support for the thousands of uprooted Christian refugees in this region above all accounted for over 12% of the total aid granted last year. What should be underlined as particularly significant, is the huge project of rebuilding the homes of Christian refugees in Syria and Iraq, made possible by the support of ACN International. In fact, no fewer than 1,479 Christian homes were rebuilt in these areas of the Middle East, thanks to the charity’s involvement.

The country which saw the largest single amount in aid from ACN in 2018 was also in this part of the world—namely Syria, where the support given by the charity totalled a full 12.9 million dollars:  4.35 million more, than in 2017. And in second place in terms of the aid given was Iraq, also in the Middle East, where last year ACN funded projects to a total value of some 9.75 million. These two countries were followed by India (7.8m), Ukraine (4.8m) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4.2m).

In terms of the types of project supported, as in recent years, the first place was that of construction or reconstruction, with over 34.8 million (31.9% of the total) attributed for 2,470 buildings, including private homes, chapels, churches, convents, seminaries and pastoral centres.

A deacon enters a church in Aleppo, Syria. It is heavily damaged by bombs and mortars. Hope is on the horizon, thanks to our benefactors! 

One Holy Mass every 22 seconds!

In second place were Mass Offerings (16.4%). During 2018 this particular form of support—absolutely crucial in the poorest parts of the world where priests have virtually no other form of support—brought help to no fewer than 40,569 priests, or roughly one in every 10 worldwide. In this way, last year, no fewer than 1,421,001 Holy Masses were celebrated for the intentions of the benefactors, or approximately one Holy Mass every 22 seconds.

Tied in third place in terms of the types of aid given were emergency aid projects and those providing support for the formation of priests and religious (12.4%). During 2018 ACN supported the formation of 11,817 seminarians, or approximately one in every 10 worldwide, in addition to the ongoing studies of 4,370 priests. In addition to this, the Mass Offerings given were able to support the life and work of 1,383 priests teaching in the major seminaries.

Also of great importance for ACN was the education of the lay faithful, which took fifth place in terms of the percentage (11.2%) of the total aid given. In this way the charity was able to support the formation of some 14,169 catechists and lay leaders last year.

In sixth place was the aid given for the means of pastoral transport (6.8%), with a total of 907 vehicles funded—370 cars, 189 motorcycles, 342 bicycles, two trucks, two coaches and two boats. This was followed by support for the Catholic media and the publication of Bibles and other religious literature (4.6%). Including sacred texts and its own publications, ACN was able to fund the publication and dissemination of some 1,103,484 volumes.

An image of despair – here in the State of Bihar, India. Discrimination and religious persecution are the lot in many countries, even in democratic countries!

ACN News : Nigeria  ‘Carnage’ in Kaduna State

01.04.2019 in ACN, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Marta Petrosillo, Nigeria

Nigeria

 ‘Carnage’ in Kaduna State

Since February, 130 people have been killed in Kaduna state, leaving an additional 10,000 homeless as a result of the Fulani herdsmen attacks.

Montreal, March 27, 2019 – “The violence of Boko Haram has now been added to by that of the Fulani herdsmen. While so-called Islamic State has been losing ground in Iraq and Syria, Nigeria is today the country recording the highest levels of Islamist terrorist activity in the world. Our country is, so to speak, the future “hope” of the Islamist fundamentalists.” This was the view expressed by Father Joseph Bature Fidelis, from the diocese of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria, at a meeting organized by ACN with members of the European diplomatic corps at the Holy See.

The reports reaching the international Catholic pastoral charity ACN International from this African country in recent days are dramatic indeed. Since the beginning of February, in the state of Kaduna alone, more than 130 people – mainly from the Adara tribe – have reportedly been murdered by Islamist herdsmen of the Fulani tribe. A veritable wave of violence has left over 10,000 people homeless and caused the destruction of some 150 homes. “These latest attacks have reduced many village communities to rubble and raised the level of the humanitarian crisis here to one of extreme gravity,” writes Father Williams Kaura Abba, of the diocese of Kaduna.

“The latest wave of killings began on Sunday, 10 February 2019, when the Fulani herdsmen murdered 10 Christians, including a pregnant woman, in the village of Ungwar Barde in the district of Maro near Kajuru.”

 

 

Particularly brutal attacks

The priest went on to tell ACN about the critical situation in the hospital in Kajuru and in particular about the five-year-old child who had been gravely wounded. “First they tried to kill him with pistols, and then with a machete, but fortunately God protected him.” Not content with that, the Fulani herdsman beat him violently on the back with sticks. Now he is paralysed. “This poor little child has also lost one of his sisters during the attack, while his mother is still fighting for her life in another hospital.”

The sheer brutality of the Fulani tribesmen is staggering. “Not even the animals kill people like that”, adds Father Kaura Abba, at the same time pointing out the inadequate response on the part of the local authorities. “Neither the governor of Kaduna nor any other representatives of the federal government has so far deigned to visit the victims or seek to console their loved ones. It is the Christian communities alone who are taking care of the medication and treatment of the wounded.”

On  March 19 in the capital Abuja there was a peaceful protest march against the killings. On that occasion Father Kaura Abba issued an appeal to the international community, one that he repeats again today to ACN: “We ask you to put pressure on the Nigerian government to come to the aid of our people. We cannot remain silent in the face of this human slaughter. If we are to salvage what is left of our humanity, then the government bodies concerned must do their duty without fear.”

 

 


by Marta Petrosillo ACN International

Adapted for Canada by Amanda Griffin

 

 

 

 

Iraq – Rebuilding with The Pope’s Lamborghini profits! – ACN-News

26.02.2019 in ACN International, ACN NEWS, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Marta Petrosillo, By Marta Petrosillo, Communiqué, Construction, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Reconstruction

Aid to the Church in Need in Iraq

Rebuilding with The Pope’s Lamborghini profits!

Montreal, February 26thThanks to a donation of 300 000 dollars from the Holy Father, following the auctioning of the Lamborghini that was given to him last year, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will be able to fund two new projects on behalf of the Iraqi Christian families and other minorities who have returned to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

Marta Petrosillo for ACN-International and Mario Bard, ACN-Canada

On 15 November 2017 the Holy Father decided to give ACN part of the proceeds from the auctioning of the Lamborghini Hurricane that had been donated to him by the famous Italian carmaker. Now ACN will give concrete form to the Pope’s gesture by funding the reconstruction of two buildings of the Syriac Catholic Church, destroyed by the war. They are the nursery school (kindergarten) of Our Lady and the multipurpose centre of the parish of the same name.

Both buildings are in the village of Bashiqa, just 30 km from Mosul. The village was badly damaged during the war, but the Christian community has returned, and in large numbers. In facts by now, 405 of the 580 homes that were destroyed here have already been rebuilt and around 50% of the Christians, or 1,585 people, have already returned.

The Parish Hall was totally destroyed.

The two projects funded with money from the Lamborghini will also benefit the other minorities in the town, since the multipurpose centre, which has capacity for over 1,000 people, will be used for weddings and the religious feasts of all the different communities. It will be the largest such centre in the area and will be available for use to over 30,000 people of all different faiths and ethnic groups.

The Return of Iraqi Christians: An Unexpected Success!

signature

Just a little over two years since the liberation of the villages of the Nineveh Plains, the number of Christians who have been able to return to their homes has exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. By January 11th this year at least 9108 families had returned to their villages, almost 46% of the 19,832 families dwelling there in 2014 prior to the arrival of the so-called Islamic State (IS). This is thanks above all to the immense work of reconstruction – to which ACN have greatly contributed – that has made it possible so far to rebuild or repair some 41% of the 14,035 homes
destroyed or damaged by IS.

This intervention, in which the pontifical foundation ACN has played a major role in collaboration with the local Churches, has also found a generous benefactor in the person of the Holy Father. Already back in 2016 Pope Francis gave 150,000 dollars in support of the “Saint Joseph Charity Clinic” in Erbil, which provides free medical assistance.

This most recent gift by the Holy Father will be a further help to local Christians, enabling them to live their own faith and offer a future in Iraq to their children. At the same time it is a powerful message and an invitation to peaceful coexistence between the different religions in a region where fundamentalism has sadly damaged interreligious relations.

***

Since 2014 and up to the present day ACN has given over 60 million dollars for the support of Iraqi Christians.
Thanks to you, Christians in Iraq can return home.
Thank you!

Iraq: New hope for Christians in Iraq!


Pakistan – The “Asia Bibi” the world knows nothing about – ACN-News

16.02.2019 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Asia, Asia Bibi, Blasphemy Law, By Maria Lozano, By Marta Petrosillo, Journey with ACN, Mario Bard, Pakistan

Pakistan: “My husband is innocent!” –

The “Asia Bibi” the world knows nothing about

 

In Pakistan, 224 Christians have been victims of the blasphemy law since the law’s passage in 1986, Cecil Shane Chaudhry, Executive Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of Pakistan, told a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) during a visit to the Asian country.

The Colony Joseph. In March 2013, almost 300 houses and 2 churches were destroyed after the Christian Sawan Masih was accused of blasphemy.

 

By Marta Petrosillo and Maria Lozano

 

Although the legal case against Asia Bibi finally came to a positive resolution on January 29th, 23 Christians were killed for blasphemy accusations between 1990 and 2017 and the Commission has documented a further 25 cases of Christians under trial, according to a study presented to ACN.

 

Specifically, there are two paragraphs of Section 295 of the Pakistani Penal Code (paragraphs B and C) that can be understood as the “anti-blasphemy law”. Section 295B stipulates a life sentence for anyone who desecrates the Quran, while insulting the Prophet Muhammed carries the death sentence under Section 295C.

 

“The anti-blasphemy law is a powerful tool that fundamentalists can wield to the detriment of minorities and is often misused as a means of personal revenge,” Chaudhry said. “And when charges are brought against Christians, the entire community suffers the consequences.”

 

This is exactly what happened in March 2013 in Joseph Colony, a Christian district in Lahore, after the young Christian Sawan Masih was accused of having insulted Muhammad. “On 9 March, after Friday prayers, a mob of 3000 Muslims burnt down the entire district, destroying almost 300 houses and two churches,” Father Emmanuel Yousaf, NCJP President, explained to the delegation from ACN during a visit to the residential area. In the meantime, the district been rebuilt, thanks to funding from the government and returned to the Christians.

 

Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of Pakistan.

While the 83 instigators of the arson attack have all been released, Sawan Masih was sentenced to death in 2014 and is still waiting for the appeal proceedings to be held. “The hearings are constantly being postponed,” attorney Tahir Bashir explained. “The last hearing was scheduled for 28 January, but the judge did not appear. A new court date has now been set for 27 February.”

National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) was formed in 1985 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan. It provides services in the field of human rights advocacy. Since 1990 the Commission has defended cases of blasphemy against Muslims, Christians and Hindus, and has campaigned for abolition of the blasphemy laws. The team of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP).

Just as in the case of Asia Bibi, there are a lot of irregularities in Sawan’s case. The charges against him were brought by one of his Muslim friends, Shahid Imran, following an argument between the two men. Only two days later, two witnesses appeared who in reality had not even been present at the time Muhammed was allegedly insulted. “The charges against Sawan are being exploited,” Father Yousaf told ACN. “The true motivation behind this is an attempt to drive Christians out of this city district. It has become very popular because it lies very close to the steel factories.”

 

In the meantime, Sawan’s wife Sobia is raising their three children all by herself. “I don’t know why they have accused my husband,” she said to ACN. “I just know that the man who brought charges against him was a friend of his with whom he had quarrelled. Sawan is innocent!”

 


 

ACN News: Rome – Pope Francis Lights a Candle for Syria

03.12.2018 in ACN International, ACN Italy, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Pope, Pope Francis, Prayer, Syria

An ACN Initiative

50,000 Candles for Peace in Syria

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is launching this Christmas a campaign of prayer, aid and solidarity for the people of Syria entitled Candles for Peace in Syria. The campaign formally begins on the first Sunday of Advent, 2nd December, with the symbolic lighting of a candle by the Holy Father following the recitation of the Angelus prayer.

In the last few days the initiative has involved over 50,000 children, of different religions, from several of the Syrian cities most severely affected by the war, including Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Marmarita, Hassaké, Tartus and Latakia. The children have prayed and decorated candles with symbols of peace– crosses, doves and messages of hope – to convey to the world their longing for peace. For all too often the primary victims of this still ongoing conflict, have been these little Syrian children.

ACN International is calling on people of goodwill all over the world to respond to this cry of peace from the children of Syria, among other things by lighting a candle, as the Holy Father did on Sunday, in order to amplify the resonance of this clarion call for peace from the children of Syria and send out a strong message of hope during the season of Advent.

 

The candle which the Holy Father lit was decorated by a local craftsman from the Bab Touma quarter of the Old City of Damascus and also bears the photos of some 40 children, most of them from Aleppo, together with the logo of the campaign – a dove with outstretched wings in the shape of a child’s hand and the message “Peace for the Children of Syria 2018” – plus the regular logo of ACN International.

This is not the first time that ACN has spoken out for the children of Syria. Back in 2016 the charity made an appeal to the European Parliament, conveying to it pictures drawn by the children, expressing their longing for peace.

Canada: A Prayerful Response and Little Acts of Solidarity

“In Canada, the benefactors who receive the Mirror will be able to direct their donation as a Christmas Gift for Syria,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN.  “ We invite them to pray especially that the families of Syria may fully taste the joy of a peaceful Christmas.  We hope that the Christmases to come will be experienced in peace.”  Aid to the Church in Need has already sent 22.5 million dollars for the reconstruction in Syria which adds to the already 44 million already given since the conflict began in 2011.

ACN NEWS: ASIA BIBI CONCERNED FOR THE SAFETY OF HER DAUGHTERS

30.11.2018 in ACN International, ACN Italy, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Pakistan, Religious freedom

Pakistan

ASIA BIBI IS CONCERNED FOR THE SAFETY OF HER DAUGHTERS

“WE ARE AFRAID!” SAYS JOSEPH NADEEM, THE MAN WHO IS SHELTERING HER FAMILY TELLS ACN: “IN THE LAST FEW DAYS THE ISLAMISTS HAVE SHOT AT THE GATEWAY OUTSIDE OUR HOUSE. WE HOPE TO BE ABLE TO FIND A PLACE OF SECURITY SOON, PERHAPS EVEN IN ROME FOR CHRISTMAS.”

United Kingdom, 09.10.2018
Eisham Ashiq (19 year old daughter of Asia Bibi)

“We are afraid. In the last few days they have shot at the gate outside the house where we were living. We face constant threats, and more than once I have been followed.” Such is the frightening situation being endured by the daughters of Asia Bibi, as reported to ACN by Joseph Nadeem, the man who has been sheltering her family ever since this Christian woman was sentenced to death for blasphemy. Given that Asia and her husband are practically illiterate, it is Nadeem who has been helping them with legal support and accompanying her husband Asihiq and younger daughter Eisham in their travels abroad, giving testimony of their experiences.

Today Joseph Nadeem and his family are themselves in danger and living in hiding together with the daughters of Asia Bibi. “Just as soon as Asia was acquitted, we were forced to flee,” he recalls. “Asia and her husband are currently in a place of safety, protected by the government, but we could not remain with them,” he explains. Ever since then Joseph Nadeem and his family, together with the two daughters of Asia, have had to keep on the move, changing homes four times so far. “The Islamists keep hunting us down, and every time we find we are in danger, we have to move on immediately. We cannot go out openly to buy food. I only ever go out by night and with my face covered,” Joseph Nadeem tells ACN.

Daily talks on the phone

Asia is aware of their difficult situation. “I met her as soon as she was acquitted, and every day we speak on the telephone together. She is very concerned for the safety of her daughters.” The two girls, Esha and Eisham, have not even have the chance to embrace their mother since her acquittal, but finally, even if only by telephone, they have been able to spend a few minutes talking to her daily. “I will never forget their first telephone call,” Joseph recalls. “Esha and Eisham wept for hours for sheer joy and relief. Asia cannot wait to see them again, and I am still hoping we can all leave the country very soon, together with Asia and her husband.”

Pakistan: A man sits in a Christian quarter of Multan, the town where Asia Bibi was held prisoner.

Nevertheless, their nightmare is still far from over. Asia Bibi has shown extraordinary strength and courage. “She is a remarkable woman! She has retained an unshakable faith and infinite trust in the Lord. It may sound strange, but it is she who has supported us in these difficult moments. She urges us not to get discouraged and tells us that in comparison with what she has been through so far, this is only a brief moment that will pass.”

Nadeem and the two girls are well aware of the flood of information and interest that her mother’s case has aroused around the world, and they have been able to talk to Asia herself about it. “The international attention and solidarity are a source of comfort for us. Eisham was profoundly moved when she saw her video message projected on the buildings of Venice, illuminated in red light. All of us, Asia included, are grateful to all those who have raised their voices in protest about our situation.”

“We are hoping to be able to leave Pakistan soon and live in a safe place. ACN was the first organization to offer us hospitality. And we are hoping that our two families will be able to spend this Christmas in Rome, together with you all.”

 

ACN News – Missionary kidnapped in Niger last September 17, still missing

28.09.2018 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo

 

Niger, diocese of Maradi in 2016
Emergency help for the refugees and displaced people because of Boko Haram in the region of Diffa by the Caritas Development Maradi/Niger: The plastic sheeting is covering the huts of the displaced and refugees 

Niger

Missionary kidnapped last September 17, still missing.

His confrere, Father Armanino told ACN: “If they reach Mali, the fear is that the abduction could be as long as that of Sister Gloria.”

“It was a swift and coordinated attack. The abductors were familiar with the movements of Father Pierluigi and had chosen him as their victim.” This was the account given by Father Mauro Armanino of the Society of the African Missions (SMA) in Niger to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about his confrere, Italian Father Pierluigi Maccalli who was abducted last Monday, from the mission where he worked, some 125 km from the capital of Niger, Niamey.

It was a well-planned attack that took place in a matter of minutes, according to his Indian confrere, Father John, who lives and works in the same mission together with Father Maccalli. “Monday evening, Father John arrived here at our regional headquarters in Niamey, visibly traumatized,” Father Armanino told ACN. “He himself lives in another small room, just a few metres away from that of Father Pierluigi, and he told us how the abductors had simply knocked on the door, seized the priest and then left again firing shots into the air. From the way they went about it, it was clear that their target was the European priest, since otherwise they would not have left his Indian confrere behind,” he added. As a matter of fact, Father Pierluigi had only just returned from a rest period in Italy. “I myself went to meet him at the airport last Saturday. The kidnappers must have known this, which is why they acted when they did. Certainly it does not help that the government, although well aware of the presence of these armed gangs in the area, has done nothing about it.”

“The fact that they have now attacked a Catholic priest for the first time, shows that there are no longer any limits to their violence,” he suggested

According to Father Armanino, one possible motive for the abduction, apart from the likelihood of a ransom demand – which has not yet become known – and the attempt to gain international media attention, is the desire to frighten the Christian community in one of the very small areas of Niger in which Christianity is the majority faith. “The fact that they have now attacked a Catholic priest for the first time, shows that there are no longer any limits to their violence,” he suggested.

 

Three of the four cars, all burnt with petrol and fire by the terrorists.
cars of the sisters of the Assumption near Niamey

Corroboration of the thesis of an anti-Christian attack has come with the fact that another small group of criminals shortly afterwards attacked the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. Fortunately, the sisters were able to elude them, some by escaping and others by hiding inside the house. “In fact it was they who were able to provide us with important information about the attackers, who were speaking in the language of the Peul ethnic group while they were ransacking the convent,” Father Armanino explained. Peul is the French name used to describe the Fulani tribesmen in Niger. Consequently, it is likely that Father Pierluigi is in the hands of the same Islamist herdsmen who have murdered thousands of people in nearby Nigeria, where they have launched numerous attacks against Christian villages and even murdered two priests in April this year.

St Joseph Parish after the violence. Emergency help for the diocese of Niamey following the violence of 16 and 17 January 2015

Padre Armanino went on to explain that for the moment it is believed that the kidnappers have not yet succeeded in moving their hostage to Burkina Faso, given that the nearby frontier is very strictly patrolled. Hence it is thought that Father Pierluigi is still in Niger, but the fear is that his abductors may be able to reach Mali, where they have more support. “The group that abducted Pierluigi was a small group. But if they were to succeed in getting to Mali, the situation would be much worse for our confrere,” Father Armanino explained. For there are many other members of the Fulani community there, who would give support to his abductors. “It was in Mali of course that the Colombian religious Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti was abducted in February 2017, and she is still being held prisoner today. And so we are fearful that the abduction of Padre Pierluigi could likewise drag on for a long time.”

 

 

 

ACN News – Crisis in Nicaragua

20.07.2018 in ACN NEWS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Mass Offerings, Nicaragua, Persecution of Christians

CRISIS IN NICARAGUA

“Masaya is under a hail of bullets” – A Cardinal asks for “pressure on the government” urging it to show respect for the Church and the people of Nicaragua.

Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, diocese of Managua in Nicaragua

“Please put pressure on the government, urging it to show respect for the bishops, the priests and the population.” This was the appeal issued via ACN by Cardinal Leopoldo José José Brenes Solorzano, the Archbishop of Managua, Nicaragua.

The Cardinal also spoke about the difficult situation in Masaya, a town some 30 km south of the capital Managua, which has become a symbol of the opposition to the government of President Daniel Ortega and which since 6 a.m. local time Tuesday, has been besieged “by over 1000 soldiers and police. So far, no deaths have been recorded, but undoubtedly, there will be numerous injured victims. The town has been submerged under a wave of bullets,” the Cardinal stated.

A few hours previous, Cardinal Brenes called on the people of Masaya and the other areas under siege to remain in their homes in order to prevent further casualties. “It is an extremely difficult moment for the whole country,” he told ACN.

 

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The clashes between loyalist and opposition forces have now been dragging on for months, while the Church herself has also been under attack. On July 9, the Cardinal was assaulted by paramilitary personnel in the Basilica of San Sebastian in Diriamba, along with his auxiliary Bishop José Silvio Baez and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanisław Sommertag.

The repression by the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega is now openly directed against the Church.

On 16 July, Bishop Abelardo Mata miraculously escaped an armed attack attributed to paramilitary forces. The repression by the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega is now openly directed against the Church. “Hearing the appeal by Pope Francis to be a “field hospital,” many of our parishes have given shelter to those seeking safety and help to the injured,” the Cardinal explained. “Undoubtedly this has not pleased the government. Just as it has not been pleased by our efforts in trying to dismantle these paramilitary groups.”

At this extremely delicate moment, Cardinal Brenes addressed an appeal to the West, and to Catholics in particular, calling for the Ortega government to be reminded to show respect towards the Church and the Nicaraguan people. “At the same time, I invite everybody to join in a chain of prayer and offer concrete support to our priests by offering Mass intentions. For in fact many of our priests have to celebrate in private, and consequently they do not receive any Mass offerings and so have no means of financial support.”

“We are very close to the Church and to the Nicaraguan people, to whom we extend our solidarity and our prayers,” said Regina Lynch, ACN’s Head of Projects at its international headquarters in Germany. “In the next few months we will be visiting this country of Central America in order to strengthen our bonds of communion in prayer and our pastoral support.”

ACN News: Attacks by Fulani Herdsmen – The Bishops of Nigeria’s Middle Belt appeal to ACN

05.07.2018 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, ACN Italy, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Marta Petrosillo, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom

Nigeria, May 22, 2018
Christians demonstrating peacefully against the bloodshed in Nigeria – after the murder of two Priests and their parishioners during the celebration of the Holy Mass, in Mbalom, Benue State on 24.04.2018

Nigeria

 “DO NOT WAIT FOR A GENOCIDE TO HAPPEN TO INTERVENE!

Do not let this become another Rwanda

 “Please don’t make the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda. It happened beneath our noses, but no one stopped it. And we know well how that ended.” These are the words of Bishop William Amove Avenya of the diocese of Gboko, in the majority Christian Benue State. He was speaking to ACN. He is only the latest of the bishops of Nigeria’s Middle Belt to have raised his voice to denounce what is an increasingly worrying phenomenon – the attacks by Islamist Fulani Herdsmen on Christians in the region. In the last few days there have been new attacks in the area of Jos, the capital of Plateau State, killing over 100 people.

 

Peaceful protest, May 22, 2018

The Fulani Herdsmen have herded their flocks in parts of Nigeria’s Middle Belt for centuries and there have always been occasional clashes with local peasant farmers, the majority of whom are Christians today, and whose crops were frequently trampled and even destroyed by their flocks. But whereas in the past these conflicts were generally either tribal in nature or economically driven, today they appear to have become increasingly religion-based in character. According to official data, there have been 492 victims since the beginning of the year in Benue State alone. “They are criminals and terrorists, but they do not do the same things in the majority Muslim areas,” Bishop Avenya adds. “We are convinced

that what is happening is an ethnic cleansing of Christians.”

Bishop Peter Iornzuul Adoboh of Katsina Ala diocese (Benue State) and Bishop Matthew Ishaya Audu of Lafia diocese (Nassarawa State) believe that there is a “clear agenda of Islamizing the Nigerian Middle Belt,” a plan that is making use of the Fulani Herdsmen.

Italy, 11.05.2018
Bishop William Amove Avenya from Gboko Diocese in Nigeria during his visit at the Italian National Office of ACN in Rome

“Their aim is to strike at the Christians,”explains Bishop Audu, “and the government is doing nothing to stop them, because president Buhari himself is also a member of the Fulani tribe.” Adding to the suspicions of complicity on the part of the government is not merely the inactivity of the federal police but also the fact that these Fulani Herdsmen are being armed with ever more sophisticated weaponry.

 

492 people killed in the span of two months

“At one time they were armed only with sticks,” Bishop Avenya explains. “But now they are armed with AK-47 rifles – expensive weapons that they could not possibly afford. So who is supplying them? And besides, in these areas there are checkpoints every 2 km. Is it possible that armed men followed by their flocks of cattle could have somehow become invisible?”

Nigeria, May 22, 2018
Christians demonstrating peaceful against the bloodshed in Nigeria –

On May 22, all the dioceses of Nigeria took part in a protest march, calling on the government to protect the Christians. “Our faithful are being murdered or forced to live as refugees as a result of the violence,” the bishops tell us. “And the West continues to view the matter of the Fulani as merely an internal problem. Don’t do as you did in Rwanda; don’t wait for the genocide to happen before intervening!”