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ACN International

 

ACN News: Over 4.5 million dollars approved for 40 projects is Syria

23.07.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Syria

Aid to the Church in Need

Over 4.5 million dollars approved for 40 projects is Syria

 

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has approved a new package of aid measures involving over 40 pastoral and emergency aid projects for Syrian Christians of the various different rites and denominations. The charity hopes thereby in some way to ease the grave situation in which the people of the country continue to suffer, above all now due to the various economic sanctions such as the petroleum embargo. As Maronite Bishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo pointed out on June 27 this year in an address to the European Parliament in Brussels, these sanctions “are killing the Syrian people in the same way that the weapons are.”

 

Maronite Archbishop of Aleppo, Msgr Joseph Tobji, in his bombed-out cathedral, situated at the very heart of the old city.

“Why do the children and sick people have to die for lack of medicines? Why do the unemployed, who have lost their jobs, have to die of hunger because of the embargo?” the bishop asked the assembled European deputies.

 “The aid has to help people rebuild and get back to living a decent life.”

 

Responding to this and other similar desperate appeals for support from the local Catholic and Orthodox communities in Syria, ACN will be allocating over 3 million dollars for the basic support and medical welfare of needy and displaced families in various different parts of the country, and especially in Aleppo and Homs.

 

Another of the grave problems affecting the country is immigration, which, according to Bishop Tobji, is “a dangerous wound, which continues to bleed.” Moreover, an obvious part of this wave of involuntary emigration was the Christian Syrians, of course, already a minority before but now were going to be “wiped out if the situation created by the war does not end soon,” he added. Already “only a third” were left of those who were there before. In the face of this great diaspora, the Maronite Bishop wondered who would be left to rebuild the country, given that Syria was now a country “with no productivity, no labour force, a society without life.” The Christians, he said had always been a “cultural bridge” between East and West and had played a primordial role as an element of peace within Syrian society. “If the Christians disappear, there will be many problems, both for their own country and for Europe, which is not so many miles away,” he predicted.

Helping the children rediscover their capacity for play!

For this reason, among others, another of the main objectives of ACN is the help for children and young people – the future of the country and the reason why so many Christian families are emigrating. That is why a quarter of all the new projects approved by ACN aim to help the young. On one hand, ACN has launched a number of different educational aid programs and scholarships, given that many families have lost their work in their homes and have no means of funding their children’s basic education or university studies. It is this lack of financial means that has forced many to seek a future outside the country.

One of the projects supported by ACN – ‘Let me live my childhood! Children born into a world of bombs are able to get a little break thanks to donations to ACN and the word done by the local Church.

 

Now, in the coming months some 1,215 school pupils and 437 university students in Homs and 105 university students in Damascus will benefit from this program. In addition, ACN has undertaken to support the schooling of the children of some 300 especially needy families in Damascus and also of many sick and orphaned children.

 

“A number of projects are aimed at helping children and young people traumatized by seven years of conflict and war.”

At the same time, a number of projects are aimed at helping children and young people traumatized by seven years of conflict and war. Prominent among these is the initiative “Let me Live My Childhood” in the city of Aleppo. Father Antoine Tahan, parish priest of the Armenian Catholic Church of the Holy Cross, who is in charge of this initiative, explains: “Thank to the support of ACN the child will come out, having been stripped of ‘adult clothes’ and take back some of the gifts of childhood, which are irreplaceable.” In addition to this ACN will be supporting a number of summer courses for young people, organised both by the Maronite Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church in Aleppo, the city that has probably suffered most during the war.

 

Faithful to its pastoral character ACN approved almost a million dollars for the repair or restoration of a number of churches and monasteries, including the Maronite cathedral and the Syro-Catholic cathedral, both of which are in Aleppo, as well the training of seminarians and the support of priests. For as Bishop Tobji emphasizes, “the Church is the first port of call for the people” and yet the Church would be unable to provide is help without the support of “benefactors, organizations and ecclesiastical foundations like ACN.” Our aid “has to be able to help people rebuild, find work and resume a life in dignity”. Hence, his desperate appeal to the West: “Do the right thing; help us to find peace.”

 

An aid mission supported by Aid to the Church in Need – thank you for continuing to support this little girl’s future!

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 Project of the Week : Success Story in the Philippines

19.07.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Philippines, Project of the Week, Sisters

A Success Story in the Philippines

A vehicle for pastoral work among the indigenous peoples of the diocese of San Jose

 

For the past seven years, Sister Anita has been working among the indigenous peoples of the diocese of San Jose, supporting them with wise counsel and ministering to their needs. She looks after the children in the primary schools, making sure they have enough to eat, helping them with their studies and teaching them the Catholic faith. She helps and advises the women and organizes all kinds of different activities for the young people. “It is a joy and a blessing for me,” she says, speaking of her work.

 

She has to travel to visit the people in the villages where they live, and the distances in this mountainous region are considerable, making this journey a real problem. The only transport available which comes just twice a week called a “Jeepney” (a public minibus) travels through the various villages and back into the city, but it is impossibly overcrowded at all times.

 

People cram in, with their sacks of rice and cement and bulky cardboard boxes, and some passengers even have to sit on the roof. The journeys seem to take forever because at every stop there are things to be off-loaded and then un-loaded onto the minibus, as some passengers get off and new ones get on. If you miss one Jeepney, you have to wait three days for the next one.

 

This was making Sister Anita’s work extremely difficult to undertake, and so she turned to ACN for help.

 

Thanks to the generosity of our kind benefactors, we have been able to provide her with $37,750 for the purchase of a sturdy vehicle that can cope with the untarred roads and the rough and often muddy tracks.

 

Sister Anita is overjoyed and writes, “Your help is a blessing and a great support for our apostolate among the native peoples. Many thanks! We are so happy! And now we are all the more eager and determined to go out to the faithful and serve the Church.”

 

 

You would like to give to a similar project? Simply click on donate and select ‘Project of the Week’.

 

Feature story of the week: United in prayer for the Middle East

06.07.2018 in ACN International, ACN NEWS, ACN Spain, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Raquel Martin & Maria Lozano, Iraq, Jordan, Prayer

Iraq and Jordan

Day of Prayer for the Middle East

Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, Archbishop Alberto Ortega: “It is not possible to imagine the Middle East without the Christians.”

 

On Wednesday, July 4, the papal Nuncio in Iraq and Jordan, Archbishop Alberto Ortega, visited the Spanish national office of the international Catholic pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), in Madrid.

 

International Conference “Return to the roots: Christians in the Nineveh Plains” hosted by Aid to this Church in Need – At press conference: Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martín (Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq and Jordan) – Photo by Christian Gennari

During his visit to his own native city, Archbishop Ortega underlined the importance of the Day of Reflection and Prayer that Pope Francis will be celebrating tomorrow, Saturday, July 7, in Bari, Italy, along with all the Patriarchs and Heads of the Eastern Churches in the Middle East. The meeting will also address the complicated situation being lived by the Christians in the region.

 

This gesture is intended to bring the faithful to “look to the East,” he explained. “The place where the Christian faith was born; where we should be living in peace; and yet there are conflicts. It is a place where Christians are called to fulfill a most important task.”

 

As Nuncio in Iraq and Jordan, the calling of this meeting is “a very beautiful gesture, for the value of prayer that it contains, which is the most important thing,” according to the Nuncio. “Catholics, Orthodox, Christians of other faiths… All will be praying together, and indirectly calling the attention of the international community to the need to support peace and development in these countries, as well as to support the Christian presence as a positive element for all sides.”

 

Photographer: Jaco Klamer

“It is not possible to imagine the Middle East without the Christians,” Archbishop Ortega added. “It would not be the Middle East; it would be something else, and so it is very important to maintain this gesture, whereby communities of different faiths can live together, mutually respect one another and build up the country together.”

 

In the Middle East, he explained, Christians have always had the mission to be “instruments of peace and reconciliation, of unity and development. It is a mission that requires us to be silent witnesses, since over there we cannot openly preach the presence of the Lord.”

 

And yet, “this very simple and very discreet mission can transform the situation and touch people’s hearts,” he observed. “And it is revealed in the various activities of the Church—her schools, dispensaries, hospitals; all the charitable activity of the Church.”

 

Italy, Rome 28.09.2017 – His Beatitude Louis Raphaël I Sako(Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church from Iraq)

A new cardinal, also welcomed by Muslims

Archbishop Ortega had just returned from Rome after taking part in the Consistory for the Creation of new Cardinals, among whom was the Chaldean Patriarch, Archbishop Louis Sako.

 

In his estimation, this gesture by Pope Francis is a gesture of “support for the Christians of Iraq, of all the Middle East, of the entire region.” The news of which was received with great gratitude and joy.

 

“The news was very well received, not only by the Christians, but also by many Muslims. There have been a huge number of expressions of appreciation and support sent to the Patriarch by the Muslims, starting with the President of Iraq, the Iraqi Prime Minister and the Minister of external affairs, and also including ordinary people who have seen this appointment as a gesture of closeness by the Pope for the country and also for the Christians.”

 

The new Cardinal Louis Sako will now have “a stronger and more sustained voice, with still greater moral authority” for the support and defence of the Christians in this country, the papal Nuncio affirmed.

 

Almost half the Christian refugees have now returned

Speaking of Iraq, the Nuncio confirmed that the situation in the country is now “somewhat better” and that little by little the Christians are returning to their former homes on the Niniveh plains, “thanks to the support of organizations such as ACN and others and of some national governments,” he added.

 

“Almost half the Christians have now returned to their homes, and this is good news,” he said. “In Qaraqosh, the town with the largest Christian population, over 5,000 families have returned, and little by little, in some of the Christian villages, life is beginning to resume its normal pattern.”

 

Nonetheless, he added that “much remains to be done” and expressed his hope “that the aid may continue to come in, because people can return only if they have homes and can find work—and consequently it is essential to continue the international aid, and the support of the Church, for these people have lost everything for the sake of their faith.”

 

Iraq, June 2018
Mother and daughter of the Syriac Catholic Bassim Family in front of their house in Qaraqosh. It has been reconstructed with the help of ACN – Photo by Oliver Maksan

The simple truth, he said was that the Christians of Iraq simply wish “to be fully recognized as citizens, with the same rights and duties as the rest of the population, and to be appreciated for the work that they do on behalf of all. Very often it is the Muslims themselves, their own neighbours, who tell them they want them to stay and not to go away, because things are better with them there.”

 

A spectacular lesson in forgiveness

In the view of the papal Nuncio, the Christians of Iraq have given two important lessons to the entire universal Church: “the value of the faith, and their union with the Lord, for the sake of whom they have lost everything without a second thought and given up their homes and their work…”

 

And then there is a “spectacular lesson in forgiveness. To hear these Christians forgiving and praying for those who persecuted them is a testimony to the action of the Lord. Humanly speaking, it is extremely difficult to forgive someone who has driven you out of your home, who has caused you to lose everything or murdered one of your loved ones.”

 

From 2011 to June 2018, ACN gave almost 60.6 Million for pastoral projects and emergency aid in Iraq. In 2017 alone, ACN gave 14 Million dollars. The pontifical charity is the most actively involved aid organization on the Nineveh Plains.


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!”

ACN Press Release: Aid to the Church in Need collects 181 million

04.07.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Jürgen Liminski

World

Aid to the Church in Need collects 181 million

International Annual Report

Palm Sunday celebrations – hope returns to Iraq. Photographer: Iban de la Sota.

Over the past year, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need was again able to maintain a high level of donations which has been documented in the organization’s 2017 Annual Report released following attestation by the auditing firm KPMG.

 

The report shows that the total sum of donations, legacies and other income was almost 181 million dollars (or $181,123,824 to be exact). The largest part of the donated funds (82.5%) was used to finance mission related expenses. The main share—84.0% or 123.52 million—served to fund 5,357 projects in 149 countries. Of the mission-related expenses, 16% served to raise awareness for the cause of the suffering church, media work and advocacy work with political institutions.

 

Another 7.0% of the funds was used for administrative services while 10.5% was used for fundraising, advertisements and communications reaching the 400,000 (approximately) benefactors supporting the organization. The pontifical charity now has national offices in 23 countries.

 

Christmas in a village Bahzani in Iraq, the first since 2014 when ISIS invaded.

Specific items included in the annual report: 1,212 construction projects, co-funded by donations which included chapels, churches, cathedrals and seminaries, many of them in regions devastated by natural disasters. A third of the funding in this area went to church-building projects. Every tenth priest in the world (a total of 40,383) received help in the form of Mass Offerings, particularly in Africa (15,440) and in Asia (10,748).

 

Aid was also approved for a larger number than ever before of 13,643 seminarians, a part of which was again granted in the form of Mass Offerings. This is equivalent to one every seminarian in nine around the world, most living in Africa. Subsistence aid was granted to 12,801 religious Sisters (mostly members of contemplative orders) as was funding for their training. Donations were also made for cars, motorcycles and bicycles as well as three boats, four trucks and three buses. Approximately 2,000 aid requests did not receive approval, as they did not meet the strict criteria for funding.

 

Protecting Christians in Situations of Suffering and Persecution

Last year, a large portion of the aid once again went to the Middle East. Second only to Africa, this region is the focus of many relief measures. Since 2011, the year of the “Arab Spring”, around 113 million dollars have been directed towards conflict areas in the Near and Middle East, more than 25 million in the past year alone.

Considerable damaged caused by the Islamic State in Baghdeda (Qaraqosh). (Photo: Jaco Klamer)

Measures taken with this funding ranged from emergency aid and pastoral expenses (e.g. the printing of Bibles) to church building projects. Thanks to this aid, thousands of Christians were able to return to their homes. One major project was—and still is—the rebuilding of Christian settlements on the Nineveh Plains in Iraq after their devastation by the “Islamic State”. With almost 13.58 million dollars, Iraq is at the very top of the list of countries that received aid from Aid to the Church in Need in 2017. India ranked second on the list of recipient countries with 6.86 million, followed in third place by Syria (8.4 million), in fourth by Ukraine (6.86 million), in fifth by Brazil (5.6 million) and in sixth by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4.99 million).

 

 retour à la maison, grâce aux dons des bienfaiteurs de l'AED en 2017 ! Procession du Dimanche des rameaux 2018

A smile speaks volumes: happy to be back home thanks to donations from ACN benefactors in 2017. Here we see their Palm Sunday procession.

“In 2017, the regional focus of our aid projects was the Middle East as well as Africa. In all of our project work, the dialogue with the local church is particularly important. After all, the local bishops and religious know best where the need is greatest and which relief measures need to be taken. We believe that our job is primarily to support the church in those places where it does not have the material resources to carry out its pastoral activities or where Christians are suffering from suppression, persecution and violence,” Thomas Heine-Geldern, the executive president of the pontifical charity, explained.

Watch Rome Reports coverage of the launch of the report.

https://www.romereports.com/en/2018/07/04/aid-to-the-church-in-need-were-trying-to-rebuild-hearts-hardened-by-hate/

 


Source: Mario Bard, Information, Aid to the Church in Need Canada
Amanda Griffin, English Information, ext. 221
or toll free at 1-800-585-6333 ag@acn-canada.org
acn-canada.org
*ACN’s articles are given freely for partial or full publication on condition that
©Aid to the Church in Need is mentioned as the source. If you would like to use an original photo, or for an interview with the National Director, Marie-Claude Lalonde, please contact us at the coordinates above.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, is a Pontifical Charity which has as Mission to provide assistance to Catholics wherever the Church suffers from poverty or persecution. The international charity operates offices in 23 countries including Canada, who together support projects in over 145 countries.

Feature Story of the Week – Mozambique

22.06.2018 in By Monica Zorita & Maria Lozano, Mozambique

Mozambique

Bishop Lisboa of Pemba calls for calm after the latest terrorist attacks

There is grave concern in the Church in Mozambique, following the recent violent attacks perpetrated by members of a new jihadist group who, since the month of October last year and through to June this year, have killed dozens of people and are sowing terror among the population, burning houses and attacking not only Christian churches but also Islamic mosques in the province of Cabo Delgado.

Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa of Pemba issues an appeal, calling for “calm and serenity” among the people of this region in the north of Mozambique, which also happens to be one of the poorest in the country.

Little is known about this terrorist group which bears the same name as the Somali terror group Al Shabab, although there are apparently no links between them. At present the rumours spreading among the population are only making the situation worse. “This ‘enemy’ has no face and no official spokesman”, Bishop Lisboa told to the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need. “We don’t know our enemy; we don’t know who we are fighting against, we don’t even know the motive behind its attacks. People speak of religious radicalism, of a conflict over natural resources, of illegal arms trafficking, political disputes, ethnic rivalries… But the truth is that so far nobody can confirm with any certainty who we are dealing with”, he continued, adding that “there were no common factors among the victims of the attacks, who were from different villages and of different religions. It doesn’t appear to be a persecution of Christians specifically.”

He described the situation of extreme violence as “absolutely new to us all.” It has taken the government, the ordinary people and the security forces by surprise. In the province of Cabo Delgado many people have been detained and interrogated. “Some of them have been released again, but many others have not. Neither the prisons nor the prison staff in Mozambique are prepared for this situation, and so meanwhile there has been a chain reaction of problems linked to human rights violations,” lamented the bishop. In order to prevent new attacks, “they have stationed armoured vehicles in several districts, and there are many soldiers and armed police stopping and searching individuals and vehicles, especially throughout the Northern region of the province.”

Another aggravating factor in the situation is the extreme poverty and high level of youth unemployment in Mozambique, which makes young people an easy prey for the terrorists. “It is said that the young people who agree to take part in this group are promised large sums of money,” Bishop Lisboa told ACN. “We can see that this terrorist group wants to express its fury or its discontent; it is its way of crying out and demanding attention. The young people involved in it are not strangers to us, not foreigners or ‘terrorists’ as we are accustomed to call them. They also include young people from our own families, our own villages, our own parties, our own religious faiths…”

As head of the Church in his diocese of Pemba, Bishop Lisboa is visiting the communities and parishes affected by the violence, offering words of comfort and spiritual support to the people and the missionaries. “We are working to calm people’s spirits and ask them to remain tranquil. We have asked people not to transmit violent images and also not to spread any more rumours about what has happened, because this only creates more panic and only succeeds in fostering an atmosphere of insecurity. We are praying fervently and we ask for your prayers so that these attacks may stop and that the authorities may detain and convict those behind them. We must not allow ourselves to feel trapped or paralysed, though at the same time we still have to exercise caution.”

The main challenges facing the Church in Mozambique

When asked what are the major challenges facing the Church in Mozambique at the present time, the bishop explained, “In Mozambique in general and in Cabo Delgado in particular, we have what is both the great treasure and at the same time the great problem of our rich natural resources. This could be an opportunity to put an end to or at least lessen the differences within the country, but instead it has been the source of constant conflicts.”

Looking back, the bishop recalled that “in recent years, following the discovery of many of these natural resources, we have been the target of a veritable invasion of people from all sorts of different places, companies and projects. Our natural resources could create employment, stability and hope for our society if they are well managed, shared and supervised. But the inequalities that have always existed can only be overcome if there is a serious and responsible sharing out of the benefits.”

There are many other challenges facing the Church – poverty, maternal and infant malnutrition, premature marriages, teenage pregnancies, lack of adequate healthcare among the people, lack of educational opportunities, the problem of hidden debt run up by the previous government, which has contributed to the increase in poverty, the absence of national reconciliation after the two wars they have been through – to name just a few.

In a communiqué sent from his diocese Bishop Lisboa encourages all the people to intensify their prayers and “not allow ourselves to be blinded by religious, ethnic or political prejudices, but instead to form ourselves into a great movement of kind sentiments, good actions, good relations, good advice, good initiatives… So that peace, which is always the fruit of justice, may return and reign again among us.”


 

 

ACN Feature Story – Helplessness at the Venezuelan border

14.06.2018 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Johan Pacheco, Feature Story, Venezuela

Aid to the Church in Need recently visited the town of San Antonio de Tachira, in Colombia, in order to offer support and show solidarity with the dioceses on the frontier between Venezuela and Colombia in the present difficult situation and to study the possibility of providing support in the future for the planned migrant hostel, the Casa del Migrante.

 


 Venezuela

A picture of helplessness on the Venezuelan border

Since the recent controversial presidential elections in Venezuela (in which President Maduro was re-elected in a manner deemed fraudulent by his opponents), the flood of migrants seeking better prospects in other nations has continued to grow, creating an emergency in which thousands of Venezuelans are in need of help as they attempt to cross the frontier between Venezuela and Colombia.

 

On the Simón Bolívar International Bridge, which links the two cities of San Antonio del Táchira (Venezuela) and San José de Cúcuta (Colombia), the security checks are strict for everyone attempting to leave Venezuela, a country that is undergoing a grave political, economic and social crisis. Many people do not succeed in crossing over the border, and as a result, they are forced to wander the streets of this border-town in search of humanitarian aid.

 

A significant increase in Venezuelan migrants

That is what happened to Fernando and Marisela and their two children aged three and seven, Luis and Camila.  The family travelled from Caracas hoping to cross the border and aiming to travel as far as Ecuador, but because of difficulties with the children’s papers, they were unable to leave the country.

“Life is difficult in the capital; it’s better to emigrate,” says Fernando. But now, with dwindling funds, they have to spend the nights in the town square, along with other would-be migrants, and do casual work while trying to find a solution to their problems and continue their journey.

A report published by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on 14 May this year indicates that the number of Venezuelan migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean grew from 89,000 in 2015 to 900,000 in 2017 – a growth rate of over 900%. That is without counting the Venezuelan citizens who cross the border illegally into Colombia or Brazil.

Hundreds of people cross this bridge every day on foot – as it has been closed to vehicular traffic since August 2015. Some people use this crossing in order to travel on to other countries of South America, while others head for the city of Cúcuta, hoping to buy food or medicines and then return. A few people decide to stay on at the frontier, seeking casual work of one kind or another.

Like young Andrés Vargas, for example. Aged 18, he travelled from Barquisimeto, hoping to get to Chile, but his money ran out, so he decided to stay at the border. “Here I manage to earn a little money taking other travelers to the ticket sales office, and that’s enough for me to eat and from time to time pay for accommodation,” he explains.

Some people, after a long journey, find themselves unable to cross over because they have arrived at the wrong time, since the crossing is completely closed from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. That is what happened to the Fonseca family – father, mother and their three young daughters – after travelling for 12 hours by bus from Valencia. When they arrived at San Antonio, the crossing was closed, so they had to spend the night in the street in the open air. “It was an adventure. That unpleasant night was like nothing we had experienced in the last few years,” Carlos Fonseca explains.

 

The Church in Venezuela – guided by the Holy Spirit

For Bishop Mario Moronta of the diocese of San Cristóbal in Venezuela, the situation on the frontier here is “a picture of the helplessness of so many Venezuelans who cannot obtain even the most basic necessities for daily life – food, medicines and other similar things.”

Faced with such a situation, the bishop assures us, “The Church, moved and guided by the Holy Spirit, is trying to address the situation with her charitable work, doing whatever lies within her power, humanly speaking, to help the migrants.”

Father Reinaldo Contreras, the rector of the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, which is just a few metres from the border, explains that the Church is responding to this situation through her social outreach – but “with great difficulty, given the shortages and the high prices of food and the lack of any infrastructure for providing adequate care for the migrants,” he adds.

Nevertheless, the parishes on this major border-crossing run regular daily feeding programs so as to provide the most vulnerable migrants with at least one square meal. Father Reinaldo also explained how they are investigating the possibility of doing up some kind of a centre as a migrant hostel, so that they can offer a more comprehensive form of aid.

Many of the migrants who succeed in crossing the frontier into Colombia also receive help from the “Casa de Paso Divina Misericordia”, the Divine Mercy overnight shelter belonging to the diocese of Cúcuta, which provides them with medical services, pastoral support and gives out over a thousand meals daily.

Bishop Victor Manuel Ochoa of Cúcuta, who has recently been in contact with the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), described the situation as “a drama of suffering” and asked for our prayers. “The Church is present here on the border. We wanted to be a helping hand to accompany our Venezuelan brothers and sisters in their suffering. I recall how Father Werenfried, the founder of ACN, provided food for the refugees in 1947.

We want to follow in his footsteps. I ask you all to pray for Venezuela and for Colombia, that we may be able to find a way of peace and reconciliation.”


 

ACN Project of the Week – Transportation project in Algeria

14.06.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Algeria, Journey with ACN, TRANSPORTATION

Algeria

A vehicle for pastoral work in the birthplace of Saint Augustine

 

In the birthplace of Saint Augustine, there are only around 5,000 Catholics living today.

Algeria, located in the northwest Africa, is the largest country in Africa, with an area of almost 930,000 square miles (2.38 million km²) – approximately one quarter the size of the United States!  Almost all citizens – 97% of its 36.5 million inhabitants – are Muslim, and the few Christians who live in the country are scattered around the territory. As a minority, they tread very carefully for they run the risk of being accused of proselytizing among the people in the Muslim majority.

Father Paul-Elie Cheknoun is a young priest, newly ordained in 2016. He grew up in his native Algeria, though he trained for the priesthood in France. After his ordination, his French bishop sent him home to Algeria in response to a request from the Archbishop of Algiers, who needed a priest to serve the Catholic faithful.

Father Paul has to cover very long distances in order to reach the faithful. He has made an urgent appeal to ACN for help in purchasing a suitable vehicle. He writes: “By helping me you will be helping the Christians of Algeria, to whom I have dedicated my life.”

We have promised him $32,400 to help the good father reach the faithful in his parish.

Feeling inspired by this ACN success story?  Would you like to GIVE for a similar project helping with transportation or priests in Africa?

 

Please click to donate!


 

ACN Feature Story: Good Samaritans of the Valley of the Christians in Syria

08.06.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN NEWS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Josué Villalón, Emergency Aid, Middle East, Syria, Valley of the Christians

Syria

Good Samaritans of the Valley of the Christians in Syria

Mzeina Hospital is situated in the small town of the same name, one of several that make up the Valley of the Christians (Wadi Al-Nasara in Arabic), a rural region of Syria, close to the frontier with Lebanon and roughly halfway between the city of Homs and the Mediterranean coast. “The hospital has been open for four years now and for the past two years the number of admitions, operations and basic treatments has been growing steadily” the hospital director, Dr Sam Abboud, assures us.

Sacred Heart next to a poster of Mzeina Hospital, in the Valley of Christians, Syria

The war which continues to tear this country apart seems a long way from this region, yet the doctors and their co-workers at the hospital assure us that the situation is still as bad as or worse than before. “People come to us asking for help and tell us that in other hospitals they couldn’t get treatment because they did not have enough money. We don’t simply tell them to go away; we try to help them in every way we can,” says Toni Tannous, the head of the physiotherapy team.

 

Part of the staff of Mzeina Hospital. Tannous, in the middle, is the Head of Staff.

The doctors themselves and the other employees at the hospital have themselves had personal experience of the consequences of the war. “I myself had to flee from Homs because of the war,” Toni continues, “and now I am working here. All of us feel a sense of responsibility in one way or another to help in whatever way we can.” This hospital, which treats thousands of people every month and has almost 500 inpatients, works in collaboration with the Saint Peter’s Aid Centre run by the Melkite Catholic Church in the nearby town of Marmarita.

 

“From the health centre run by the Melkite Church in Marmarita we attend to over a hundred urgent medical cases a month, in addition to other cases where we pay for medicines. We take the families to the hospital and have a working agreement with the Mzeina Hospital to treat them there,” explains Elías Jahloum, a volunteer and coordinator of the Saint Peter’s Aid Centre. “In the Valley of the Christians there are no public hospitals; the closest ones are in Homs or Tartus, an hour or more away by car on account of the Army security controls. That is why the healthcare service offered by the Church in this region is greatly appreciated by those displaced by the war, who have few financial means.”

 

Valley of the Christans from Marmarita

At the very core of suffering, praying for benefactors all over the world

Elías accompanied a delegation from the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), who visited some of the inpatients in the Mzeina Hospital. Their care is paid for by the Saint Peter’s aid centre with the financial support of ACN. “Thank you for coming to see us, Elias, and thanks also to your benefactors,” said Najwa Arabi, a middle-aged mother of a family who had just undergone surgery on her stomach. “We know that there are people in many countries around the world who are helping us. Every day we pray for them and give thanks to God,” she added.

 

Najwa Arabi in Mzeina Hospital with her family

On the next ward is Maryam Hourani, the mother of Janadios, a little boy barely more than a year old who is recovering from bronchiolitis. “He was very ill and could hardly breathe when we brought him to the hospital,” she explains.

“We contacted Elias and he assured us that the Saint Peter’s Centre would pay his costs. I can only say thank you.” Equally grateful is a young woman by the name of Shasha Khoury, who is recovering from surgery for a breast tumour. “I’m five months pregnant,” she says. “It is a boy and he’s going to be called Fayez, which means ‘winner,” she smiles.

 

Dr Abboud, who is an ear nose and throat specialist, explains that some of the operations they perform are free and that they have a special program for children and young people with hearing problems. “Many of these cases are caused by bombs and other explosions during the war,” he explains, adding that the biggest difficulties they face are the lack of infrastructure, obtaining new medical equipment with which they can operate better, and the constant power cuts. “Although in this last year we have managed to obtain medicines which until recently it was impossible to find in Syria,” he concedes.

 

Entrance of the Mzeina Hospital. From right to left: Dr. Sam Abboud, hospital’s director; Majd Jhaloum, from Saint Peter Center; Toni Tannous, Head of staff; Josef Moussarad, accountant of the Hospital and Elias Jahloum, head of the San Peter Center

As we leave the hospital, Elías and Toni say goodbye with a big hug. Both men are very heavy built and look almost like brothers. “Whenever a difficult case crops up in the hospital, with a patient who has very little money, we always try to help by giving a discount and extending the payment period. When such cases occur, we call the Saint Peter’s centre, knowing that Elias there or Father Walid, the parish priest of Saint Peter’s Church, will always respond to our requests,” Toni tells us. The presence of the Church and its work on behalf of the displaced by the war and the local poor is quite literally saving many lives.

 

The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need sends around $75,000 each month to the Saint Peter’s Aid Centre in Marmarita, a large part of which is to cover the cost of essential medicines and the medical care of over 4,000 individuals. “We continue to need your aid. You are the hope of all these people, and a wonderful example for our society,” says Dr Abboud, as he bids us farewell.