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ACN International

 

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.

 


 

ACN Feature Story – Pakistan

01.06.2018 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Asia, By Tabassum Yousaf, Pakistan, Persecution of Christians

Pakistan

 A young Catholic girl asks why the West has abandoned its fellow Christians

 

Dolly Sarwar Bhatti is an 11-year-old Catholic girl. She is a fifth-grader in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, which is also her place of birth. In this interview given to the Pontifical Charity, Aid to the Church in Need, Dolly speaks of the everyday concerns of a young Christian girl from a poor family, living in a country where Christians are targeted by Islamic radicals, either with violence or through the country’s infamous blasphemy law.  Here is what she had to say.

 

“Last year I was very unhappy because my father fell ill; he suffered hepatitis, and because of that he lost his job. Therefore, we have no money to pay our school fees; our teacher has taken our school bags into her custody. This is the saddest moment I ever experienced, because I love to go school and study, but along with my younger sister and brother, I just can’t right now.

 

“Even though we passed our exams, we have to stay home. The teacher has told us we can’t even get our exam results and we might even miss the start of new classes next year; we also have no money to buy books. My maternal grandmother used to help us with food and also with our school fees, but she passed away. I pray to God that her soul may rest in peace. 

 

“However God always help us and gives us strength. Even in this time of darkness, I can see the light by going to the church and reading the Bible. I regularly read the Bible and I go to church every afternoon. Those are moments of joy and happiness, because I know that God does good things for us; and He helps us through His people. My mom and dad are always involved in this happiness. We pray regularly as a family. It is always my family that is my strength; I always feel that  God  is with me and He has never ever forsaken me or my family—even though we are passing through hard times. I always keep my Bible with me and read passages, which always gives me strength and happiness.

 

“The area where we are living is not safe at all, because the majority of the inhabitants of this area are Pathan people, and many of them are involved in both terrorism and drug trafficking. This country is not safe because of all the terrorism and bombings.

 

Danger is ever-present for Christians

“These days, Christians are not safe in Pakistan, particularly girls, who are often victims of rape and murder. For that reason, we never leave the house without our parents and we do not get to play outside at all.

Cathedral of Lahore: Young Catholic women at prayer during Sunday Mass.

“I don’t personally know anyone someone who has been accused of blasphemy but I was very touched by the news of that Christian couple who were burned alive by the mob; and I just heard a story about a Christian boy named Sajid who was tortured by Muslims. This is very bad news; more such news comes from our school friends and relatives. I am often afraid; I fear that someone might accuses my father, mother, or myself, because it is an easy way to target someone in this country.

“We can freely worship in our church in the area and we haven’t experienced any violence, but at the gate of our church there are always two youngsters checking that no one who enters the church creates violence.

Security check before Sunday Mass in front of the Cathderal of Lahore.

“Often, in the area where I live with my family, and also at school, I experience discrimination, even though it is a missionary school. Muslim boys and girls always treat Christian girls as ‘cheap,’ which means they don’t not want to drink water from the same tap from which Christian girls drink and they don’t want to sit anywhere near me or other Christian girls.

 

“At the previous school I attended, one run by the government, I felt very uncomfortable because of some of the textbooks; they referred to non-Muslims in ways that upset me. For example, there is the word kafir, which means non-believer, referring to someone, Muslims don’t want to sit close to or eat with. But, still I love my county because my family and my uncles and aunts live in here. I wish we could all move to another country, where we can be more respected and enjoy free education, where my family and I would be safe.

PAKISTAN / HYDERABAD ACN Project to co-finance  the construction of St. Luke’s Church, Grace Town/Hur Camp, St Francis Xavier Cathedral Parish, Hyderabad.

“I want to become a stewardess. I still have faith that my life will be a successful life, because I’m a good student and I’m a child of God. Yes, as a Christian I have hope that the world will become more peaceful and I so wish that for my country as well.

“Other countries and our own leaders show little interest in helping solve our problems. No one is helping solve the problem of poverty and lack of education. If they would help us in the field of education, there would no double standard. The level of education in government schools is very poor, compared to private schools whose fees are so high that only the wealthy can afford to go there. Even the fees for missionary schools are high.

 

“There are Christians in the West? I thought that only Muslims were living in the West; but if that is so, why do those Christians not come here to relieve our problems? If Christian children don’t get a good education they won’t be able to apply for respectable jobs and they will be obliged to do very humble jobs, like sweeping streets and cleaning gutters.

 

My favorite prayers in scary times are “Our Father in Heaven” and “Hail Mary.” These prayers always give me strength. If I would get a chance to talk to world leaders, I would only ask them create peace in the world. No one in the world should be killed by bombs or blasphemy accusations!”


Other ACN stories talking about the situation in Pakistan:

https://acn-canada.org/category/pakistan/

https://acn-canada.org/tag/pakistan/

 

 

 

ACN Project of the Week – Angola

30.05.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Intl, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, CONSECRATED LIFE, Dominican Sisters

Angola

Subsistence aid for Dominican Sisters

 

Thirty-four Dominican Sisters in Benguela pray the canonical hours 7 hours a day. Their prayers rise up for the Church and for all of humanity. These contemplative nuns live secluded from the world and in poverty, but say, “We are aware of the greatness of our calling. In our enclosure, we offer up our lives to God to magnify His Kingdom and save souls.”

 

To make a modest living, the Sisters bake communion wafers and sew liturgical vestments. They tried their hand at a small pastry shop, but it was not a success. The raw materials were so expensive, the revenue did not even cover their costs and left them operating at a loss.  Misfortune has recently come knocking again – the vegetables they grow in their garden, the maize, tomatoes and onions, were all afflicted by disease. The Sisters were in a crisis. They did not know how they would be able to go on and prayed to God for help.

 

At times, God works through other people. Our benefactors donated $13,500 to help them and of course, they were overjoyed and filled with gratitude when they received it. They wrote to us, saying, “It was a great surprise and we are filled with joy at the amount that you have sent us! We are very, very grateful for the generosity of our benefactors. This is a sign of Divine Providence, which always watches over us. We hope that all of our benefactors are blessed with God’s bountiful grace and His mercy and assure you that all of our prayers, our affection and gratitude are yours.”

 

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ACN News: Bishop of Makurdi speaks about the massacres of Christians in Nigeria

25.05.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Nigeria, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians

Nigeria

 

“There is a plan to Islamize the Christian areas.”

The Bishop of Makurdi speaks about the massacres of Christians in Nigeria: “There is a plan to Islamize the Christian areas.”

There is a clear agenda, a plan to Islamize all the areas that are currently predominantly Christian in the so-called Middle Belt of Nigeria.” This was the statement made by Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of the diocese of Makurdi in Nigeria, who was speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). It is in his diocese that the parish of Saint Ignatius is situated, in Ukpor-Mbalom in Benue State which was the scene of the most recent attack last April 24.

“Two of my priests were murdered, Father Joseph Gor and Father Felix Tyolaha, together with at least 17 of the faithful. They were celebrating Holy Mass at 6 in the morning.” Among the victims were a lay catechist and the president of the parish council, “both of them mothers of families,” and also the head teacher of the only secondary school in the town. During the interview, Bishop Anagbe noted the total number of victims has not yet been ascertained since tragically, some family members of the Catholic faithful had disappeared.

This was no isolated incident. Since early this year, over 100 people have been killed in similar attacks. “Eleven parishes in the diocese have been attacked,” the bishop told ACN, “and there have been numerous other attacks throughout Benue State, where 99% of the population are Christians.” In January, the local government organized a mass burial for 72 victims for their families.

 

Islamizing the entire region: So who is funding them?

These attacks were carried out by nomadic cattle herders of the Fulani tribe with extremist views. “We are not speaking of Boko Haram this time, although some of the cattle herders have connections with that terrorist group in the past and both groups are united in the same intention to Islamize the entire region.” the bishop added.

In the face of so much violence one of the most worrying aspects for the bishop is a complete lack of action on the part of the government, especially the federal government. “When the attacks take place, there are never any police or soldiers present. Quite apart from the fact that the Fulani tribesman for the most part live in the forest and cannot afford the luxury of such sophisticated weapons. So who is funding them?”

Nigeria, March 2017
Impressions out of the car on the way from Kaduna to Jos

The violence has resulted in a large number of internal refugees, over 100,000 of them, now living in four separate refugee camps in the diocese of Makurdi. “The Church is helping the people, whereas the government is  not helping us at all in this case,” the bishop explained.

The area where the most recent attack took place is now completely abandoned and deserted. The parish of Mbalom was established only in 2015. “There was nothing at the time, no schools and no hospitals. We built these, above all thanks to the dedication of Father Joseph and Father Felix. They were priests who were truly active and devoted to their community,” the bishop observed.

In the face of so much pain and suffering, the Nigerian Christians are not losing hope – but they do need the support of the international community. The Catholic Church in Nigeria has organized a march for 22 May to protest against the continuing massacres of Christians by the Fulani cattle herders. “Please pray for us and make yourself spokesmen for the suffering our community is going through. We need people to raise their voices in our defense. Nigeria is part of the United Nations, and we cannot simply be abandoned and forgotten by the world.”

 

 


 

 

ACN Project of the Week – Bangladesh

23.05.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bangladesh, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Project of the Week

Bangladesh

A chapel built for a village

The population of Bangladesh is close to 90% Muslim.  The Catholics only constitute a tiny minority of 0.2%.  The faithful belong mainly to ethnic minorities, making them thus a sort of double-minority.  Last year, Pope Francis’ visit brought them a little extra encouragement.

Close to 80,000 Catholics live in the Mymesingh diocese, located in the northern part of the country.  The Catholic faith only arrived in the region a mere 125 years ago.  Most people who were baptized were practitioners of traditional religions.  These people worked to deeply ingrain the Good News of Christ into their lives and practice their faith very deeply and with great intensity. The Church has become their adopted home.

The village of Digolbagh has 200 Catholic families and is situated about 3.2 kilometers from the Bhalukapara missionary station.  Despite the somewhat short distance from people who live in the city, the village is quite isolated.  It has been Catholic since 1924, but has not yet erected a chapel.  Father  Peter Rema  has invested a great deal of effort into his parish’s spiritual well-being. So he has asked us to help him build a chapel so that Catholics can finally gather to pray.

Already, the faithful are making great sacrifices to make this project a reality, but they are too poor to collect the funds necessary for the construction.  That is why we would like to help them with an amount of 15,000 dollars.

To make a donation which will go to support a similar project – please click the ‘donate’ button.