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ACN International

 

ACN Feature – Burkina Faso: Religious congregation forced to flee

11.04.2019 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Burkina Faso, By Emmanuelle Ollivry, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need

Burkina Faso

Sisters forced to flee their convent

  After their hasty departure from Kompienbiga, in the south-east of Burkina Faso, the sisters of the congregation, Sœurs des Campagnes took refuge with the brothers in the male branch of their same congregation, in Pama, back in January 2019 and just before the assassination of Father César Fernandez. Sister Thérèse, the Mother Superior, and Father Soubeiga, the parish priest of Pama, spoke to the international Catholic pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) about the increase in violence which has struck the country, despite the fact that it is generally considered more peaceful than its tumultuous neighbours, Mali and Niger.
 
By Emmanuelle Ollivry for ACN-International Revision for ACN Canada by: Amanda Bridget Griffin

“Either you give us the medicines, or we blow your head off!” was the order given to Father F. Soubeiga, the parish priest of Pama and missionary brother of the congregation Frères Missionnaires des Campagnes. He was describing the threats made back in January 2019 against Sister Victorine, a nurse at the health and social care centre in Kompienbiga and a member of the female branch of his own congregation. “She was working alone at the dispensary. At around four in the afternoon a group of some 8 to 10 individuals, armed and wearing balaclavas, burst in and demanded medical supplies for their wounded comrades. But Sister Victoria did not have access to the pharmacy. So instead they made violent threats against her and smashed up everything in order to help themselves.”

The incident was the last straw for the sisters in Kompienbiga. Coming on top of a succession of other violent incidents, it forced them to finally withdraw and take shelter with the brothers of their congregation, just 15 km away, since they no longer felt safe on their own.

“The tension is growing, and the people are gripped by fear”

“During the night of 14 September 2018, two terrorist attacks took place in the villages of Diabiga and Kompienbiga, respectively 60 km and 15 km from Pama, in the east of the region,” according to the governorate of the region. According to Father Soubeiga, “the violence began in Pama back in March 2017, and there were a string of bomb explosions aimed at the police – at least three or four of them since August 2018.” Sister Therese, who is Mother Superior of the female branch of the congregation, the Soeurs des Campagnes in Kompienbiga, adds, “The tension is growing, especially since August 2018, in Kompienbiga. The attackers regularly come into the villages, round up the population, and shout orders at them. Fear is gripping them.” A little further north, Father Caesar Fernandez was assassinated in February 2019 and on 17 March 2019 Father Joël Yougbaré was “probably abducted by armed individuals,” according to the local Church. And so the sisters have taken refuge with the brothers in Pama, where it is just a little calmer.

The community is scattered

“This is the first time we have had to leave everything in haste like this,” admits Sister Therese, who had been living in Kompienbiga since 2001. “Out of the seven sisters in the community, four have taken shelter in Pama, while three have left the country for Togo, where they are completing their formation. Nobody knows when they will be able to return. It is hard,” she continues. In fact, their priory was established in Kompienbiga 25 years ago. They had established an elementary school in which they were caring for around 40 young children aged between three and six, children who in many cases had been neglected or abandoned. And they had just opened a sewing and dress-making school, where they were planning to teach five young women.

“All we want to do is to go back as soon as possible so that we can continue the work that we began,” insists Sister Therese. “Please pray for us!”

“The Catholics are the most vulnerable”

For now, even in Pama, “where things are calmer,” there is an obligatory curfew. “We are living in a deteriorating climate,” Father Soubeiga confirms. “As Catholics, we are the most vulnerable, because we represent a centralised institution, and thus an easy target. To attack a priest is to inflict harm on an entire territory. The consequences would not be the same for the Protestants or the Muslims, in their more fragmented communities, led by numerous different pastors and local imams.”

 

 

Unable to celebrate the Easter Vigil

As a result, the police have imposed strict security regulations. “Some areas are forbidden to me”, says the parish priest of Pama, sadly. “In January, in the space of two weeks, I had to evacuate all the catechists from Diabiga, Kompenbiga and another village, around 50 miles (78 km) from Pama. As for the immediate future, it’s looking very unlikely that we will even be able to celebrate the Easter Vigil.”

In response to the question as to who is responsible for the criminal armed attacks of recent months, Father Soubeiga is quite candid: “It’s impossible to say. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Some people refer to them as mercenaries, but some of the terrorists are quite clearly from Burkina itself, because they speak the local languages perfectly.”

ACN News: The Pope confirms trip to Mozambique!

03.04.2019 in ACN International, Africa, By Maria Lozano, Mozambique

ACN News – Mozambique

Awaiting the Holy Father in September

On Wednesday March 27, the Holy See press office announced Pope Francis is to visit Mozambique from September 4 to 10, 2019. In addition to visiting the country, which was savagely struck by Cyclone Idai recently, the Holy Father will also visit the neighbouring countries of Madagascar and Mauritius.

The Church in Mozambique is awaiting the papal visit with great expectations. Bishop Adriano Langa of the Inhambane diocese in the south of Mozambique, explained to the international Catholic pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) that back in September 2018 the President of the Republic of Mozambique had paid a visit to the Vatican inviting Pope Francis to visit his country and thereby reaffirming the invitation that the bishops had already previously extended. The Pope had replied “yes,” if “I am in good health.”

This will be the second papal visit to Mozambique, following the historic visit by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1988. “We are all ready to organise the visit and also to prepare the faithful for it. It is something we greatly wish for. Who would not want the Pope to come to visit his country?” Bishop Langa asked.

For his part, Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna of Beira, the coastal city in central eastern Mozambique which suffered so terribly from the consequences of the national disaster of cyclone Idai, quickly transmitted on the news to his faithful in a communique that was also sent to ACN: “Today, March 27th, we received the happy news that Pope Francis will be visiting our country in the coming month of September. Although the visit was already planned before the passage of the cyclone, many people are now asking themselves if the Pope has decided to come to Beira in order to visit and console us. We are hoping that this will happen.”

The martyrs of Guiúa

Many Mozambicans dream that the papal agenda will include a trip to the catechetical centre in Guiúa. Although this seems rather unlikely given that it is in the diocese of Inhambane, a long way from the capital Maputo, the central focus of the visit by Pope Francis. This catechetical centre records the history of the martyrdom of over 20 Mozambican catechists here who were victims of one of the most violent incidents in the long civil war.

 

“The diocesan phase of the beatification process has just concluded, this year in March,” explains Bishop Langa, emphasizing that Guiúa is now a noted landmark in the Christian life in the country. “Guiúa has a shrine dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, as a memorial of this dramatic event involving the massacre of the catechists, so that it is now a place of pilgrimage,” he continues. Thousands of people come to this spot every year, demonstrating the enormous devotion of the Mozambican people to the Virgin Mary. “We ask Mary to carry her sons in her arms to the altar,” the bishop adds. It is expected that the Holy See will soon recognize the catechists of Guiúa as martyrs. “The expectations are very high,” Bishop Langa says.

 “Heartfelt thanks to ACN”

Despite the aftermath of the war, the violence and the natural disaster that has recently devastated the country, Mozambique and the Church here continue to demonstrate great vitality, and the diocese of Inhambane is a good example of this. “Vocations are blossoming at our seminary. For the first time since it opened, it has 30 future priests; we have never had so many before. Sadly, though, the house they are lodging in was previously a parish house and has very few rooms,” the bishop explains. The desire to improve the physical structure of the seminary in Inhambane is one of the reasons that have led him to visit the international headquarters of ACN. This is a concrete project, which could now become reality, thanks to the generosity of ACN’s benefactors, a generosity that Bishop Adriano has already experienced in the past with a number of other different aid projects. “I have come to say ‘many thanks’ to all the benefactors who breathe life into this foundation and who also give life to us. For in fact there are many projects we have carried out and many means of transport we have been able to make use of, such as the vehicles we are using in the diocese, which have come from here, from ACN. All of this has been possible thanks to ACN, which is thereby helping us to proclaim the Gospel. Your foundation has given us legs, it has given us arms, it has given us eyes and it has given us a mouth to proclaim the Gospel. For all of this, our heartfelt thanks!”

by Paulo Aido & Maria Lozano ACN International

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

 

 

 

 

ACN Interview: “The Catholic Church does exist in Morocco. And it is a Samaritan!”

29.03.2019 in ACN International, AFRIQUE

MOROCCO
ACN INTERVIEW “THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES EXIST IN MOROCCO. AND IT IS A SAMARITAN!”

Learn first-hand information about the country Pope Francis will be visiting in late March

María Lozano held an interview with Monsignor Cristóbal López Romero, the bishop of Rabat, for a television broadcast produced by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The Salesian of Don Bosco talked about what it means to live and work in this North African nation.

The universality of the Catholic Church becomes palpable in many places where Christianity is in the minority, including Morocco, a country with 37 million inhabitants, 99.9% of whom are Muslim and only 0.08% are Catholics.

A small, but great Church, carries out its pastoral work among the Catholic faithful of the country. It supports the most disadvantaged in the Moroccan population including the thousands of young people who cross the desert from sub-Saharan Africa looking for a future in their idealized Europe. Pope Francis is planning to travel to the region bordering Africa and Europe on March 30 and 31, in response to an invitation issued by King Mohammed VI and the bishops in the country, visit the cities of Rabat and Casablanca.

 “The Catholic Church does exist in Morocco,” the bishop proudly said at the beginning of the interview. “It is a vibrant and young church blessed with mercy and with a strong desire to bear witness.The North African country has two cathedrals, one in Tangier and a second in Rabat. The first was built during the time of the Spanish protectorate, the second during the time of the French protectorate. Bishop López Romero continued, “More young than old people come to our churches, more men than women, more black than white people.” The members of the Church in Morocco are mostly foreigners, faithful from more than 100 different countries. They generally work in companies that operate subsidiaries in Morocco. In addition, many of them come from countries south of the Sahara, such as the Congo, Senegal or the Ivory Coast. They move to Morocco to pursue their studies and find the “feeling of security” they are looking for with the Catholic Church. The Catholic religious who work in the country hail from more than 40 different countries. Bishop López explains, “Being Catholic means being universal, global.” This universality requires people to put aside that which makes them distinct and concentrate on what is shared. “We look for what is important, at the essential. The differences enrich us, we are open with one another and see the differences as an opportunity, not a problem.”

Church as a Samaritan

The Moroccan Church and the charities it works with take in and help who are weakest, irrespective of their background. Primarily, they are active within Moroccan society and for the immigrants coming from countries south of the Sahara, who are trying to reach Europe or remain in North Africa. “The Church takes in and cares for those in need, that is, it is a Samaritan Church,” the interviewee said. Through its Caritas organization, Morocco takes care of thousands of migrants who cross the Sahara and then, after having completed this difficult crossing, “remain stuck” in the country, without being able to continue on to Europe. “These people need care and a sympathetic ear. Most of them are sick when they arrive and many of the women are pregnant. The Church “takes them in. It protects, promotes and integrates them, just as Pope Francis has asked us to do.” The work of the Church in Morocco is so important that “even the Muslim authorities appreciate its efforts.”

When asked why young people are fleeing Africa, Bishop López explained that economic reasons are the key impetus for the majority of the young migrants. They are fleeing poverty and unemployment, but many of them are also fleeing war, hostilities, persecution or natural disasters. According to the bishop of Rabat, the migration problem in Africa will be impossible to solve as long as “30% of the food produced continues to be thrown out in Europe,” and people continue to live “in excess and grandeur” while at the same time expecting those “who live in wretched circumstances to passively accept their fate” and society remains unaware of its behaviour. “It is certainly not Christian and can even be called inhumane that Europe protects its borders so that it does not have to share what belongs to all and what Europe has appropriated,” the religious expressed his outrage. The bishop called to mind the words of Pope Francis: “Capitalism kills.” “Instead of providing aid, we should pay for the raw materials that we exploit. We should make sure that the multinational corporations pay the taxes that they owe.” He believes that Africa cannot be helped with “crumbs, but with justice and development plans. We are nothing without love, we are even less without justice.”

“The young Moroccan” – the bishop returned to the previous topic – “is imprisoned in his own country.” Morocco is suffering because of its geographical location, from the fact that there is no realistic way to leave the country. To the South lies the vast Saharan desert, to the West, the Atlantic, to the East, Algeria – and the border to this country is closed due to war – and to the North, Europe. “Many young people from Morocco point to Spain and ask, ‘Why are they able to come here, but I can’t go there?’”

Does religious freedom exist in Morocco?

An entirely different issue, which Pope Francis will surely be confronted with during his trip, is the status of religious freedom in the country. As the pontifical foundation ACN concluded in the Religious Freedom in the World Report 2018, according to its constitution, the Kingdom of Morocco is a sovereign Muslim state. Article 3 reads: “Islam is the religion of the state, which guarantees to all the free exercise of beliefs.” However, the constitution prohibits political parties, parliamentarians or constitutional amendments to infringe upon Islam. The European Parliament acknowledges that religious freedom is constitutionally enshrined in Morocco, but adds that “Christians and especially Muslims who converted to Christianity face numerous forms of discrimination and are not allowed to set foot in a church.” Under the Moroccan Penal Code, proselytism by non-Muslims, that is to “shake the faith” of the Muslim population, is illegal. The distribution of non-Islamic religious materials is also restricted by the government.

For more information about the situation in Morocco, please consult:
Religious freedom report – country Marocco

By Mónica Zorita and Maria Lozano, ACN International

Revised for Canada: Amanda Bridget Griffin, CAN Canada

March 29, 2019

 

ACN News: Eighth Anniversary of Civil War outbreak in Syria

25.03.2019 in ACN International, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Syria

Eighth Anniversary of Civil War outbreak in Syria


Aid to the Church in Need has supported 308 urgent projects since 2011

 

Friday, March 15 marked the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Syria. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) has continued to support the ongoing emergency situation in the country, especially the plight of the 127,185 Christian families registered in Syria.

The war in Syria has unleashed the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the Second World War, with some 12 million refugees and internally displaced as a result of the 8-year conflict.

Moreover, Christians in Syria now represent only 3% of the population, whereas before the war they were 10%. In addition to all the consequences of the hostilities and the economic embargo, they have also suffered religious persecution at the hands of the jihadist groups involved in the conflict. In fact, during these eight years of war, 1,707 Christians were murdered and 677 abducted; 1,309 Christian churches and other Church properties were destroyed and 7,802 Christian houses and homes damaged or destroyed.

 

44.2 Million Dollars in Aid

Since the March 2011 onset of the conflict, and up to the end in 2018, ACN allocated 44.2 million dollars to 738 projects to fulfil its mission of supporting the Church in need throughout the country. The projects were implemented by 9 different Christian Churches, thanks to the cooperation of 130 project partners on the ground.

Of the 738 projects funded, some 80% (35.2 million dollars) were given in the form of emergency aid, among them some 308 for the basic necessities of Christian families who have not left the country. To now, 10% of the aid has been for the reconstruction of people’s homes and Church properties. An additional 6% went to supporting priests in the country, in the form of Mass Offerings and pastoral aid.

 

Emergency Aid, Reconstruction and Pastoral Aid

In Canada, a project aimed to supporting the A Drop of Milk program for children has been active for two years. An initiative showcasing small classical music concerts given by local pianist and ACN supporter, Chantal Roussety, has brought $3,364 to the cause.  “The amount may seem very modest if we compare it to the grand total,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN. “But, for two years now, this personal project developed by Mrs. Roussety, is a reflection of the great sense of solidarity that the Syrians, particularly the children, are in need of. We are so very grateful for it.” In all, donations from Canadians rose to at $17,179.

Destined for children under the age of 10, A Drop of Milk represented 15% of the overall budget of all emergency aid given.  Finally, over three million dollars were attributed to paying the rents of displaced Christian families, and over 1.4 million dollars have served for the reconstruction of family homes.

The 13 main emergency aid projects funded during these eight years of war include the following: direct emergency aid for the most basic necessities; food parcels, financial support for students, medical aid, support with rent, heating, electricity, gas and water; milk and nappies for babies and small children, essential medicines, Christmas gifts for the children, warm clothing, educational materials and vocational counselling.

An Appeal from Pope Francis

Throughout these eight years of war, Pope Francis has continually denounced the injustice of the war in Syria and has continued to draw attention to the suffering of the Christians. “Let us pray and let us help the Christians to remain in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses to mercy, pardon and reconciliation,” he has stated. “May, the prayers of the Church, help them to experience the closeness of the faithful God and touch every human conscience to seek a sincere compromise for the sake of peace. And may God our Lord pardon those who are waging war, those who manufacture arms to destroy one another, and may he convert their hearts. Let us pray for peace in our beloved Syria,” he concluded.

Aid to the Church in Need sending emergency aid to Mozambique

22.03.2019 in ACN International

Mozambique

Aid to the Church in Need sending aid to Mozambique – “No one heard victims crying for help as they were carried away by floods’ says priest.”

 

A priest in Mozambique has given a graphic account of the devastating impact of the cyclone amid reports that up to 1,000 people have been killed. The port city of Beira, the economic heart of the country has, according to various report, sustained 90% damage, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has announced that it will work with the local Church and provide some emergency aid.

 

Speaking in an interview with ACN, Father Sandro Faedi, apostolic administrator of Tete, described how people cried for help as the flood waters came towards them.

 

Father Faedi told the charity: “Beira is no longer a city. It has been destroyed almost entirely.” He continued: “From the airplanes, the city presents itself as a large lake, from which emerge buildings without ceilings. “You don’t see streets, houses, fields. A lot of people have lost their lives. “Above the houses or above the trees, [many people were] asking for help, which nobody heard. “They were carried away by the fury of the rivers entering the city.”

 

Father Faedi told ACN that the region, which is now mostly under water, has “no telephone, communications and no drinking water,” as 200 km per hour winds, heavy rains and flooded rivers continue to destroy the country’s infrastructure.

With the death toll expecting to rise, he said: “For now, we only pray, ready to give our contribution when the time comes.”

On Wednesday, 20th March, Mozambique starts three days of mourning for the victims. Floods and winds flattened Beira, an ‘economic lung’ of Mozambique, before moving to Malawi and Zimbabwe, affecting more than 2.5 million people.

 

 

Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna of Beira told ACN: “The help from ACN will be useful because it will serve to revive the ecclesial presence by confronting immediate expenses such as the acquisition and distribution of plastic tarpaulins, material, etc. (buckets, glasses, plates, etc.) and the logistics for transport.​

 

“Once again we thank you for your generosity and we will keep you informed.”

 

Text by Citra Abbott, ACN International

Want to give emergency aid to Mozambique? Click above and select: Help for Mozambique.

Bishops speak out over electricity blackouts in Venezuela

18.03.2019 in ACN International, ACN International, By Johan Pacheco, By Johan Pacheco, South America, Venezuela

In this time of legal darkness, there has been added a literal darkness.”

The political and economic crisis that is ravaging Venezuela has become even worse in recent days as a result of the electricity blackout that has affected the whole country, 23 different states, since March 7 this year. According to information provided by Caritas to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the electricity crisis has affected almost every other area of the supply chain, including water, gasoline, transport, communications and the hospitals.

By Johan Pacheco, ACN-International
Canadian English Review: Mario Bard, ACN-Canada
On line in Canada: March 18, 2019

Bishops-speak-out-over-electricity-blackouts-in-Venezuela-flag

Sources tell us that the problem originated as a result of a breakdown in the central hydroelectric generating station which provides energy for 80% of the country”, the Caritas report explains. Nonetheless, the authorities of the government-controlled National Executive allege that the emergency was caused by “electronic warfare” as a result of a “terrorist cyber-attack” from abroad.

In different statements, gathered by ACN, most of the Venezuelan bishops have now spoken out in response to this grave crisis, which has left some communities without electricity for over 130 hours now, provoking chaos and consternation among the population, social tensions and looting, as well as shutting down schools and businesses.

Many people died

Archbishop Ulises Gutiérrez of Ciudad Bolívar stated that “the country has been left in the dark, with blackouts throughout the country for over five days now. They have affected the hospitals and clinics, the public services, communications, banking activities, paralyzing the country as never before in its history. A significant number of our fellow citizens have died through not getting the medical attention they needed, as a result of the lack of electric power.”

The Caritas report indicates that according to information from the organization Médicos Unidos, some 20 individuals have died throughout the country, as a result of the electricity outage in the hospitals.

Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristóbal stated that the authorities, “far from listening to the just complaints of the people, continue to harden the hearts of those who hold in their hands the solution to the difficulties, and above all to the central problem for which these same people are clamouring – namely a change of political direction and not the imposition of an unacceptable system that is not at the service of the men and women of Venezuela.”

Surviving with dirty water

For his part Bishop Ernesto Romero of the apostolic vicariate of Tucupita, declared that “the paralysis of the electricity supply throughout almost the whole of the country is nothing more than a demonstration of the indifference, laziness, lack of maintenance and incompetence of the national government.” The emergency has led people to resort to desperate and unsafe measures, such as collecting water from unclean sources, eating partly rotten food and undergo risky mobilization.

Bishop Polito Rodríguez of the diocese of San Carlos announced that “Venezuela is today confronting the worst humanitarian crisis in its history as a republic; human rights are being violated with impunity. In essence, freedom and equality have been disregarded by those who are governing.”

Bishop José Manuel Romero Barrios of El Tigre has also spoken out, saying that the life of the Venezuelan people “has been subjected to a growing structural violence which, while not actually physically attacking the humanity of its people, is nonetheless expressed in the failure of those responsible for the management of society to attend to the most basic needs of the population.”

Speaking in similar terms, Archbishop Jesús González de Zárate of Cumaná called on people to raise their voices “to denounce the lies, the injustice, the use of violence, the fanatical desire to divide and control us, the repression and persecution of legitimate protest and all those things within our society that are contrary to the plan of God.”

Bishop Ángel Caraballo, the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Cabimas, added that “in this time of legal darkness, of darkness in relation to social security, darkness in relation to food, darkness in regard to civic peace, there has been added a literal darkness, an additional element which simply adds to the humiliation suffered by the Venezuelan people, through the fault of the regime, which has forgotten about people in order to sustain a dominant political system that has brought only tragedy, death, unrest and misery wherever it has been implemented.”

Bishop Oswaldo Azuaje of the diocese of Trujillo deplored the current situation and called on his people to continue, “looking for the Lord in every brother who needs us. The days of the blackout were an opportunity to witness great examples of solidarity… in the sharing of food and drinking water, gasoline for the vehicles and many other examples of people sharing their sufferings and joys together.” 

The message of the bishops has brought words of relief and hope to the Venezuelan people in the midst of the dark turbulence they are currently living through. Caritas announced that it will continue to actively pursue its service of “Ollas Comunitarias” (“community cooking pots”, i.e. shared meals service) in the different dioceses, and also its programme of “medication banks”

ACN-Canada invites his benefactors to pray for the People of Venezuela who is suffering from so much repression.

Thank you for what you can do to help the Church in the spiritual work She does along the material one, to maintain in the heart of the population hope and faith in the adversity.

ACN Feature Story – Bitter memories of time of terror for the priests in Zanzibar

08.03.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada, ACN Feature, ACN International, ACN Interview, Africa, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Priests, TANZANIA, Tanzania, Violence against Christians, Zanzibar

Father Damas Mfoi: “There is no recovering from what’s happened, and since the assailants might still be active, we aren’t completely safe. But through all these problems, we continue our interfaith work.”

Father Damas Mfoi is a Catholic priest in the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim with a small Christian population. Since 2010, Father Mfoi has been a parish priest on the main island of Unguja. In 2012, the otherwise peaceful island community witnessed a series of violent attacks on religious leaders. A Muslim cleric was burned with acid in the fall of that year; a Catholic priest suffered gunshot wounds on Christmas Day 2012, and another was shot to death the following February. At the time, leaflets were distributed to incite violence, some of which bore the stamp of the radical Islamist group Uamsho. However, responsibility for the attacks has yet to be claimed or officially assigned. Father Mfoi tells Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) of the time of terror.

Interview by Anne Kidmose

 

“It was Christmas 2012, and we had planned to go for supper until we heard that Father Ambrose had been shot. Church leaders were in a state of shock, and we could no longer have our shared meal. We were frightened. We rushed to the hospital, but cautiously, as it was announced via leaflets that Church leaders would be killed, and that churches would be destroyed.

 

When we arrived, Father Ambrose was still bleeding, and he couldn’t talk. The following day, he was flown to Dar es Salaam for further treatment. After that, it was our faith that kept us here. People on the mainland called us home, but as Christians committed to the Gospel, we knew from the very beginning that ours was a mission of suffering, and that our lives might be threatened. There was no running away.

 

More leaflets were distributed, saying that Muslims should not allow the sale of alcohol, or the presence of churches. They were published anonymously, but today we know who they are. We didn’t know what would happen, though some said that they were just idle threats. But less than three months later, Father Evaristus Mushi was struck, and tragedy befell us.

 

It was a Sunday morning at 7:15 A.M.; I was saying Mass in a small church. A non-Catholic neighbour came running in; he shouted, “Father Damas, I have something to tell you!” He told me that Father Mushi was dead, the victim of a shooting. Some man shot him that morning, when he was parked in front of his church. I drove to the other churches to say Mass; now that Father Mushi was dead, I had to carry out the mission of Christ alone.

 

News of Father Mushi’s death rippled throughout the community, but that wasn’t the end of it. After we buried him and paid our last respects, a group of women came to our gates, crying. I told them, ‘Don’t cry now. Father Mushi is in heaven.’ One replied, ‘Father, she is not crying over Father Mushi. She is crying because of you.’ The assailants targeted me because I had built too many churches.

 

Father Damas Mfoi at the grave of Father Evaristus Mushi

The next morning, I escaped to the mainland, and a month later, I returned. I thought to myself, ‘There is no abandoning our mission. Jesus wouldn’t want to see us fail. There are Christians still here—why should their leaders run?’

 

Upon my return, I found that the police had set up a command post within my compound, and over the next two years, they patrolled the area because of the tension that lingered. The government took good care of us, but we knew, above all, that God protected us. When I was offered a bodyguard, I refused, believing that the work of Jesus did not require a machine gun; He promised his people that he would be with us until the end of time.

 

Six or seven months passed, and for a while, we thought that the worst was over, though security was still tight. But come September, a priest had acid splashed on him as he was leaving his regular café. He survived the attack but sustained major injuries.

 

There is no recovering from what’s happened, and since the assailants might still be active, we aren’t completely safe. But through all these problems, we continue our interfaith work. We talk to people in the community, and we tell them that we believe God created us all and gave us the freedom to believe in whatever way we were taught. Muslims are taught about Muhammad; Christians are taught about Jesus Christ. We should all do our best to respect that and avoid mixing politics with religion.”

 

In 2017, Aid to the Church in Need supported the Church in Tanzania with projects totaling more than 2,5 Million dollars.

 

On line: March 8, 2019


 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Aid to the Church in Need supports the video of Pope Francis

05.03.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN International

Persecuted for their faith
Aid to the Church in Need supports the video of Pope Francis

Rome/Königstein/Montréal, 5 March 2019 – The March edition of the pope’s video is dedicated to the persecuted Christians who live in countries that do not guarantee religious freedom and human rights. The video is produced by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in collaboration with the international pontifical charity ACN (Aid to the Church in Need).

To make the sign of the cross, read the Bible, go to church on Sundays, talk about Jesus, pray the rosary – for us, these are normal and everyday things. However, for millions of people, this is not the case in many parts of the world. Any one of these can lead to exclusion, imprisonment in a work camp or even death, as it is demonstrated in the 2018 religious freedom report produces by the pontifical international charity Aid to the Church in Need (www.religious-freedom-report). An executive summary is available on the web site of Aid to the Church in Need Canada, acn-canada.org.

The year began with an attack carried out on Jojo Cathedral in the Philippines during Holy Mass; 23 people were killed. Around the world in 2018, forty missionaries were murdered, 35 of these were priests. Two of them were massacred in late November together with 80 believers in a refugee camp in Alindao in the Central African Republic.

One also should not forget Asia Bibi, the Pakistani mother who was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy and only released from prison after 9 years. It is estimated that more than 25 Christians are currently incarcerated on the same charges.

Also the Coptic Christians in Egypt are also under constant persecution. This calls to mind the pictures of the 21 Egyptians who were beheaded in 2015. In contrast, the murder of 33 Coptic pilgrims in 2017 and 2018 were virtually ignored.

And let’s not forget Asia Bibi’s case, this Pakistani mother of three accused of blasphemy, put on death row and finally released by the Pakistan Supreme Court after nine years in jail. We estimate to 25 the number of Christians actually imprisoned in this country, accused of the same crime. For more information click here

There are thousands of cases of persecution and discrimination that go unnoticed because they are not reported by the media. In the video, Pope Francis commented, “We find it difficult to believe, but there are more martyrs today than there were in the early centuries,” because “they speak the truth and proclaim Jesus Christ,” even “in countries in which freedom and human rights are protected in theory, on paper.”

According to the Religious Freedom in the World Report of ACN, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. This fundamental human right is severely threatened in 38 countries – 17 of which are even classified as countries in which persecution occurs.

“This prayer intention of the Holy Father is quite significant for the Christian community. Praying for our persecuted and discriminated brothers and sisters is one of the pillars of ACN. We support this prayer intention of the Holy Father with great joy and gratitude,” Thomas Heine-Geldern, ACN President, said.