ACN International


ACN Interview with Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “This is Iraq’s darkest hour”

04.07.2014 in ACN International, ACN Interview, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Uncategorized

The Head of the Chaldean-Catholic Church fears Christian exodus in Iraq


Interview with Oliver Maksan of the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” in the Middle East on the current situation in Iraq. The interview was conducted on Saturday, 28.6.2014, in Ankawa near Erbil.


Question: Have you any hope that Iraq can remain a single state?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “No. Perhaps a symbolic unit and the name of Iraq will continue to exist. But de facto there will be three independent zones with their own budgets and armies.”


Question: What are the consequences of the disintegration of the state for Christians in Iraq?

IRAK-1Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “That is the question. To be honest we bishops are somewhat at a loss at the present time. The future may lie in Kurdistan. Many Christians are already living there after all. But there are also many who live in Baghdad, and there are also some in Basra in the Shiite south. We must wait and see how things develop.”


Question: On Friday the synod of the Chaldean Church in Erbil came to an end. Did you decide on any measures in view of the crisis of Christian refugees from areas occupied by ISIS or otherwise under threat from them?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “We have been closely concerned with this. We also assigned a commission of five bishops from the areas affected whose task is to ensure initial aid for the refugees. The American and French consuls were here to help us and to develop a vision. But everything is still in a state of flux. I and other bishops are of the opinion that the situation will deteriorate. At present there are three fragments of Iraq, a Sunni one, a Kurdish one and a Shiite one. The Kurds already enjoy autonomy anyway. The Shiites do as well in a sense. Now the Sunnis are following suit. Iraq will therefore be divided up. If this is the case it will be better to sit down together and find a consensus in order to prevent further fighting and loss of human life.”


Question: Is this the darkest hour for Iraqi Christianity?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “It is the darkest for everybody. There is no persecution of the Christians. Many more Muslims have fled from Mosul and the surrounding area. But what worries us greatly is the fact that the exodus of Christians from Iraq will increase. When I was in Turkey recently ten Christian families from Mosul arrived. And in the space of only one week twenty families left Alqosh, a completely Christian town not far from Mosul. This is very serious. We are losing our community. If Christian life in Iraq comes to an end, this will be a hiatus in our history. Our identity is threatened.”


Question: Should western countries give Iraqi Christians a visa or not?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “The tragedy is that the families are split up. Many are already in the west. The children are constantly asking their parents why they are still there and not following them. You can’t stop this trend. It’s impossible.”


Question: So there’s no hope?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Perhaps the older ones will return when the situation has stabilized. But the young ones will stay outside the country. In ten years there will perhaps be 50,000 Christians left. Prior to 2003 this figure was about 1.2 million. Within ten years we have shrunk to a community of perhaps four to five hundred thousand faithful. We don’t have exact figures.”


Question: What can we Christians in the west do?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “The Christians in the west are very weak. There are good Christians there who support us with their prayers and in material terms. But their influence is slight. On the whole the west is doing nothing at all. We are very disappointed. They are just uninvolved observers. They find football more interesting than the situation here or in Syria. Western policy only pursues economic interests. The international community should put pressure on Iraqi politicians to make them find a political solution and form a government of national unity.”


Question: What can “Aid to the Church in Need” do for Christians in Iraq?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Pray for us. We will need help in the future to create a Christian infrastructure when the situation has stabilized. We will need new houses, and we will have to rebuild the factories and agriculture. The remaining Christian towns will have to be modernized. We will rely on outside help for all this.”


Question: Can you, as someone who is not directly involved, play a mediatory role in the present situation? When you were Archbishop for the town of Kirkuk, which was the subject of contention between the Arabs and the Kurds, your house was open to all parties.

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “I have continued with this in Baghdad. All the important decision-makers are based here. For example, I visited the president of the parliament. But the time for this is now past. The cleft is worse than ever. How should I get to Fallujah in the Sunni Anbar Province? The problem is that the Sunnis do not have a real leader in Baghdad who can speak for them.”


Question: Do you think that the majority of Arab Sunnis support ISIS?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Yes. Quite clearly. They do not necessarily share their ideology. But they support the political goal of regime change and the foundation of their own state. ISIS intends to found an Islamic state with oil wells in order to islamize the world.”


Question: Is this also a danger for the west?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “I think this is a danger for all.”


Question: There are calls for American intervention to stop the advance of ISIS. What do you think?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “No. I don’t view it like that. The Americans have been here and they made a lot of mistakes. The current situation is their fault. Why replace a regime by something even worse? This is what happened after 2003. The Americans deposed a dictator. But under Saddam Hussein at least we had security and work. And what do we have now? Confusion, anarchy and chaos. The same thing has happened in Libya and Syria. If you want to change the situation here you have to educate the people in the schools, media and mosques in matters of freedom, democracy and the construction of their own country. It is impossible to install a democracy on the western pattern here. Under the old regime prior to 2003 we had no denominational problems. We were all Iraqis. Now we talk about Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Arabs and Kurds.”


Question: But wasn’t it only like that because Saddam held the different groups together with an iron fist?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Perhaps in the present context we need in the Middle East a strong leader who is at the same time just and not only looking out for his family or tribe.”


Question: This strong leader isn’t there at the moment. But do you still see a chance of stopping the disintegration of Iraq and finding a political solution?

Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako: “Such a possibility will still exist if the west and our neighbours such as Iran, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia want it to.”


Press Release: Iraq – Create a new ‘village’ for people fleeing ISIS

30.06.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN UK, Iraq, Persecution of Christians
© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

By John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Montreal, Monday June 30, 2014 – A LEADING archbishop has called for the creation of a huge displacement centre, the size of a village, in Kurdish northern Iraq for tens of thousands of people – many of them Christians – fleeing ISIS.


Reports today (Monday, 30th June) that the jihadists have announced the creation of a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, appointing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph and “leader for Muslims everywhere.”


Speaking today in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda said thousands of “mobile homes” erected in his diocese were vital as the region anticipates a mass influx of people desperate to escape the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). “We are expecting an influx of people. It is not going to be a case of people wanting to stay one day – it will last one year or up to 18 months. They cannot live in tents – especially given so many of them will be elderly and women with children.”


Soon after ISIS captured Mosul on June 10, ACN responded by providing EUR 100,000 (nearly $147,000 CAN) – emergency assistance for food and shelter for many of the Christian families fleeing the city. The aid project was overseen by Catholic Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul, who fled the city for the nearby Tal Kayf and began mounting a relief operation amid reports that 500,000 people were on the move.


The advance of ISIS has prompted a mass exodus from towns and villages and the BBC reported that 40,000 people fled towns and villages in the Nineveh plains outside Mosul amid reports of heavy fighting. Archbishop Warda said that since then many, if not most, of the people had returned but added that an influx of people into Kurdish northern Iraq was highly likely because of the ongoing conflict and insecurity.


“Creating a village with mobile homes is necessary to help them,” said the archbishop. “We need to find a site where they can go and where they have the facilities available to help them.”


With no end in sight to the conflict which has uprooted so many communities, Archbishop Warda stressed the need for government unity in the face of the threat from ISIS.  He said: “The international community must put pressure on the Iraqi government to pull themselves together, to put their past disputes behind them and negotiate. This is what is necessary to deal with the crisis. Everything is unclear. It is chaotic.”


Soon after the capture of Mosul by ISIS, Archbishop Warda said that for the first time in 1,600 years no Sunday Mass had taken place in the city.



For Immediate Release: Central African Republic “Central African Republic threatens to become a hub for terrorism”

25.06.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Central Africa, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Montreal, Wednesday June 25, 2014 – The current crisis threatens to turn the Central African Republic into a “hub for terrorism and fundamentalism.” This was the warning given by the Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera last Friday (June 20) while speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Boko Haram and Al Qaida are getting closer and closer,” the missionary said in his address, having worked in the country for 22 years. The role of the international community was “fundamental” he continued.  But to date the international community had “not managed to really change anything.”


Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera  © Aid to the Church in Need

Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera
© Aid to the Church in Need

Concrete action at the grass roots 

Gazzera demanded a speedier and more effective intervention: “Over the past few months I have been present as the vicious circle of ethnic and intercommunity strife has developed. This spiral of violence is causing the population to flee and is sowing the seeds of terror, and it has developed at such a rate that the international community comes too late, even when it acts quickly; too late to help the defenceless people and to stop the armed men.”  The international community “often only steps in to stabilize a situation which has been imposed by the various rebel groupings.”


On the other hand, various local peace-mediating initiatives had been successful. In the town of Bozoum in the north west of the country, where Father Aurelio Gazzera works, for example: The state was absent, he said. “In Bozoum there is practically no gendarmerie or police force and in general the authority of the officials and forces of law and order is almost at zero level. At any rumours of attacks they regularly take immediate flight.” In December Father Gazzera had therefore established a mediation committee in collaboration with two imams, a protestant pastor and volunteers from the local population.  Through negotiations with all the groups involved it had been possible “to lessen the violence of the Séléka”. This work had resulted in January this year in the withdrawal of the Séléka from the town.

The members of the mediation committee had “exposed themselves to risks” in order to work for peace. Gazzera himself had been slapped around the face, had stones thrown at him and been shot at with Kalashnikovs by the rebels. Even so, it had been possible “with a handful of men and women to prevent a thousand rebels from completely destroying the town of Bozoum.” In view of these facts the Italian Carmelite stressed the need to conduct talks not only at governmental level, but also “to listen to those who are taking concrete action at the grass roots.”


Good intentions are not always enough

The committee, which continues to operate, had installed a toll-free telephone number to enable people to report violent assaults. Furthermore a “Committee of Wise Men” has been established which “is intended to solve problems because, in the absence of the court and relevant personnel, there was a danger that the administration of justice would be in the hands of armed groups.”  Gazzera emphasized the role of the media, and especially the internet: “They are a unique instrument for providing information and transmitting news. By means of emails, blogs and social networks we have created links which are valuable and can bring about changes.” Finally he said: “The most important thing seems to me to be the reconstruction of the heart: by means of schools, education and information.  We also need expertise. There are so many people of good will! But good intentions are not always enough. We must understand what has brought the country to such an abyss in order to identify and acknowledge the mistakes of the past, and also to analyse the situation in such a way that we will be able to create a peaceful future.”


© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

In view of his experience in peace mediation, Gazzera also took part last week in the “Oslo Forum,” one of the highest ranking meetings of peace mediators, which was held on 18 and 19 June near the Norwegian capital. At a panel discussion with the President of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, he also reported on his experience with mediation.

At the invitation of the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need,” the missionary had already informed EU politicians in Brussels and diplomats accredited at the Holy See in Rome in April and May of this year about the situation in the Central African Republic.



JOURNEY WITH ACN – Serbia and Russia

20.06.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Journey with ACN, Russia, Serbia

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :   Serbia and Russia

Bishop Ladislav Nemet of Zrenjanin

Bishop Ladislav Nemet of Zrenjanin


Installation of a kitchen in a retirement home for priests in Kikinga

Some years ago, Bishop Ladislav Nemet of Zrenjanin had to address the problem of caring for his retired priests who, after many years of faithful service, had become frail or sick. He knew this was a problem that would become even more acute in the future and that he simply could not close his eyes to it.

At that time there was only one retirement home in the diocese, which was already fully occupied and otherwise unsuitable for retired priests, and so he decided to establish a new retirement home. In the town of Kikinda, on the border with Romania, he found an empty house that had been occupied until 1993 by the Sisters of Divine Love, who had bequeathed it to the parish.

With help from ACN, the bishop has been able to convert this building to serve his needs. It has a small chapel in the attic for the celebration of the Eucharist which will be open to all, both in the house and in the surrounding area. There is also a separate floor reserved for elderly Sisters, in addition to the accommodation for the retired priests. On the ground floor there a day care centre for those in need is being planned for, which will be run by the diocese in collaboration with Caritas Serbia.

Since the centre has to support itself and be economically viable – an extra wing will be added, which will serve to accommodate the elderly from the local town of Kikinda. In this way the centre can be incorporated into the state social system and receive state support, and at the same time it will be a blessing for the elderly of the town, since at present the elderly must wait for two years for a place.

Everything is almost finished now; all that remains to be done is the installation of the kitchen. Bishop Ladislav Nemet has asked ACN to help, and we have promised him $21,400.



Our support for the prison chaplaincy work of the Orthodox Church – and the blessings it has brought

The Orthodox Church in Russia is one of the few institutions attempting to help inmates in the country’s prison system. ACN has been supporting its work by helping with the construction of prison chapels and the provision of religious literature. Father Igor, who is responsible for the prison chaplaincy service in Nizhny Novgorod, has personally baptized almost 400 prisoners since 1998.Journey with ACN 2 June 2014It all started in a very modest way. “When we began providing our pastoral ministry in the prison, all we had was a tiny room in the laundry area where we could pray. We bought some paint and painted the walls. Later, the prisoners with artistic ability decorated the walls with icons. I heard confessions in an adjacent room. Very soon I was able to observe many changes in people’s souls. Half a year later there was a group of them who came, as a matter of course, to morning and evening prayer. And on Sundays, when I came to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy, they had already prepared themselves during the week with fasting and prayer, for confession and the reception of Holy Communion.”

What saddened Father Igor, were the many people who actually possessed many talents and gifts which they could have used for the good of society, had fallen on evil ways and used their gifts and their intelligence for the wrong ends. He believes it is due to the spiritual emptiness in many people’s souls. For many of them, their time in prison, with the help of this pastoral support, is a chance to find their way back to the right path.

Many of the former inmates whom Father Igor has supported over the years have since served their time and been released. He still keeps in touch with many of them today. He has married them and baptized their children, and many of them continue to come, Sunday after Sunday, to church. And a few of them, who have managed to become successful and build up a new professional life for themselves, also support the work of the Church financially and have themselves become true benefactors. As Father Igor explains, “In actual fact, many people who have been sent to prison are well disposed towards the Church. In my experience, they think a lot about their sins and about the meaning of life. People whose lives run smoothly often think they don’t need God.” Surprising though that may sound at first, it is exactly what Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “It is not the healthy who need the physician, but the sick.”

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Iraq – “We fear a civil war”

18.06.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Italy, Iraq, Press Release

By Marta Petrosillo, ACN Italy

Adapted by, Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad

Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad

Montreal, Wednesday June 18, 2014 – “We fear a civil war. If the various different opposing internal parties do not succeed in finding an agreement, then we must expect the worst. Another war would mean the end, especially for us Christians.” This was the message from Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad, speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) from the Iraqi capital.

For Bishop Syroub, the present crisis in Iraq is a direct consequence of the war of 2003 and of the inefficiency of the new democratic system “which cannot function if there is no true reconciliation.” For this reason, rather than an external military intervention, the bishops would prefer to see greater pressure applied by the international community, and by the United States in particular, to persuade the various internal factions within the country to reach an accord. “More than a week has passed since the invasion of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and still there is no common political plan. Only an Iraq based on consent and reconciliation within can react to external dangers. Shi’ites and Sunnis have to understand that nothing will be resolved by violence.”

Bishop Syroub returned to Baghdad just this morning from a foreign trip, which he interrupted “in order to be close to my community at such a difficult time.” The situation in the capital is abnormally quiet. There are not many cars or people in the streets, even though it is a working weekday. “Everyone is afraid and people prefer to stay at home,” he told ACN, “while others have left the city.”

According to unconfirmed rumours, reported to ACN by the bishop, some of the northern suburbs of Baghdad may already be in the hands of the ISIS militia, who it is suggested may have imposed a curfew and be preventing the inhabitants from travelling to other areas of the city.

Meanwhile, for the past five days the government has blocked access to various Internet sites, including the main e-mail servers and all the social networks, thereby “preventing us from communicating with the outside world.”

The Christians are “terrorized and deeply distressed” and many of them are asking for their baptismal certificates, so that they can leave the capital. “After more than 2,000 years during which we have withstood obstacles and persecutions, Iraq is today almost emptied of its Christian presence,” says Bishop Syroub. “Our young people are abandoning the country, and we can do nothing about it. Besides, what reason can we possibly give them for staying? How can we protect them and assure them that the future will be better?”


Journey with ACN – Latin America

13.06.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Brazil, FORMATION, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :  Latin America


By ACN International

El Salvador

acn-20140331-06630Help for the training of eight novices of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception 

The Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception was founded in 1874 in Mexico City. Today it has over 1,100 Sisters. They have close to 150 convents in various different Latin American countries as in some African and European countries. The Sisters’ principal charism is the education of the young, the teaching of catechesis and the care of the sick and elderly.

Happily, the number of young women ready to join the congregation has been plentiful. The congregation in El Salvador currently has eight novices preparing for the Consecrated Life.

acn-20140331-06627For decades now life in this, the smallest country of Central America, has been lived against a backdrop of violence. From 1981 to 1991 a bloody civil war cost thousands of human lives. To this day, the country is plagued by violence and has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Gang warfare is a major source of insecurity, as are murders, abductions, extortion, robberies and other forms of violence which leave these people in a state of constant fear for their lives. And, as if this were not enough, the country is frequently struck by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides. Many young people see no future for themselves, and feel that life is meaningless. The Sisters have an important task here in helping young people find their way to a better future.


We are helping this year with a contribution of $5 330, for the training of eight novices who have chosen to place their lives at the service of God and their fellow men.





 Help for the training of 31 seminarians in Feira de Santana

People living in the northeast of Brazil are generally poor and often have to contend with drought conditions. As a result, many are leaving the area in the hope of finding a better life, however modest, somewhere.. elsewhere… generally finding their way to the big cities, which are growing rapidly as a result of the influx.

acn-20140124-04588Often these disillusioned and uprooted people are easy prey for the many sects that are springing up like mushrooms in the suburban slums. In some cases one can find a dense network of as many as 50 or so of their temples in a relatively small area. Their message can be an attractive one – often too good to be true – and as a result many people fall for their easy promises of instant salvation. On Mondays, there is a prayer service for material prosperity, on Tuesdays another for a good job, on Wednesdays one for health, and so forth. But so often, hope springs eternal… and so many people living in these slums continue to cling to this last illusion.

The Catholic Church is trying to address not only the visible, material needs, but to help people out of their spiritual poverty, a frequently far more urgent and devastating problem. But of course, there has to be someone there to proclaim the Good News in the first place. For the millions of Catholic faithful in Brazil (estimates vary widely, from around 130 million to 155 million) there are only 18,000 or so priests available. Generally, the parishes are enormous and some even serve over 100,000 Catholic faithful. As our Lord tells us in the Gospels, “The harvest is great, but the labourers are few” – and this is especially true of Brazil. That is why here, as in numerous other countries, helping for the formation of priests is a priority for ACN.

In the archdiocese of Feira de Santana in north-east Brazil there are currently 31 young men preparing for ordination. Archbishop Itamar Vien has their formation very much at heart. He is already looking forward to this year’s ordinations and is delighted that the number of vocations in his diocese is growing. He has once again turned to ACN for help for the studies of the 31 seminarians, counting as always on the goodwill and generosity of our benefactors. We share his confidence in you, and so we have already promised him $13 250.



Sudan – Pressure mounting for Mariam to convert to Islam       

12.06.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN UK, Persecution of Christians, Prayer, Press Release, Sudan

  John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by, Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Montreal, Thursday June 21, 2014 – Sudanese Christian woman Mariam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death for apostasy from Islam, still refuses to abandon her Christian Faith – despite ongoing calls for her to convert.

 Exactly a month after she was sentenced to death, the Archdiocese of Khartoum, north Sudan, issued a statement describing her current predicament. “There are many people trying to persuade Mariam to renounce Christianity in order to be freed but she is refusing. Some people are pleading with her husband to convince her to abandon [her] Christian faith in order to save her life but to not avail.”

The statement issued yesterday ( June 11 ) from Fr. Mussa Kacho, Episcopal Vicar of Khartoum region, aimed to correct media inaccuracies and “pleaded” with authorities to resolve the case.

Describing the present situation, Fr. Kacho said: “Mrs Mariam is still in Omdurman prison, practically on death row, breast feeding her child in chains. Her case is currently in the court of appeal. No one knows when the appeal court will decide on it. According to the concerned authorities, Mrs Mariam can only be released on the condition that she renounces Christianity and gets divorced from her husband ‘Daniel’ to embrace Islam and gets divorced from the husband.

“The only way to save their marriage, supposing that Mariam abandons her Christian faith, is for the husband ‘Daniel’ to embrace Islam and be remarried according to Islamic religion.”

The couple were married in the Catholic Church on December 19, 2011. Her husband, Daniel Bicensio Wani, is a life-long Catholic and Ms. Ibrahim converted from Ethiopian Orthodox to Catholic shortly before her marriage. Although her father was a Muslim, she was baptized and raised in her mother’s Orthodox Faith.

The statement from the Archdiocese of Khartoum stressed: “Never in her life did she embrace the Islamic religion nor renounce it. She has never been a Muslim in her life.”

It also drew attention to the fact that the 2005 interim constitution of Sudan guarantees freedom of religion: “no person shall be coerced to adopt such faith, that he/she does not believe in nor to practice rites or services to which he/she does not voluntarily consent.”

The Church statement concluded: “Therefore, in light of the facts that we have provided above, and to honour Mariam’s steadfast position to maintain her Christian faith, we are pleading with the Judiciary and other concerned authorities to review the case against Mrs. Mariam and to bring it to a reasonable end.”


Brazil – But it’s World Cup time

11.06.2014 in ACN Brazil, ACN Canada, ACN International

Father Evaristo Debiasi, Ecclesiastical Assistant ACN Brazil

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

It’s the World Cup and the world is watching. Watching the news, like you, I too have my doubts and questions. But it is the World Cup. What strikes me in all of this is what we as human beings have within us: whether by instinct, by desire, or through our dreams,  it is the will to triumph. It is something within our nature. The human individual ceases to live when he or she no longer has a cause for which to struggle. Without an objective, life loses its meaning.

Like many around me, I too have been caught up in the World Cup fever. I like to see the fans of the different teams, their enthusiasm, how they cheer, their unity, how they shout, how they are thrilled when their team wins. With the World Cup, allegiances to the various local teams and clubs break up and we become national supporters.



For a while we forget the differences of class, colour, race, or creed. We wrap ourselves up in our own flags and we cheer for just one team, one team among all the teams in the world (I think there are 32 of them taking part in this World Cup), our team, to be the winner – the best in the world. If we lose, we cannot help but being downcast. That’s natural. But if a single football has the capacity to unite all the different fans … if one ball can unite us, can cause us to break away from the work we’re doing, to sit down in front of a TV, to shout and cheer and forget ourselves just a little, and get exhilarated – or maybe downcast and miserable – then why cannot life unite us more closely? Why can we not cheer together for a better country? For a more just, a more fraternal society? Is it that we lack a common objective, a common ideal? Do we perhaps lack the coaches, the cheerleaders, the cause? Isn’t it about time, then, that you and I begin to feel more like citizens of one country, brothers and sisters of a single people?

My God, if a football can unite individuals, and races, why can love not unite us? Why does justice not unite us? So, I ask you: how are you playing in the team of your family, among your loved ones? How are you playing in the team of our society, a society in which everyone wins and so I too am more of a winner; that the happiness of all makes me happier… Why do we not cheer for the cause of greater justice? Why do we not cheer for that cause which cherishes human life? Or is life of lesser value than a game of football?

My friends, a football unites us. There is a coach in whom we can put our faith, there are players for whom we can shout, and everyone is cheering that only one team – our team – will be the one to win the trophy. Ah, but in the field of human life no one should be defeated, no one is to be beaten. Either I win along with everyone, or else I am not a citizen of the world, a citizen of my country, within my family, within my own life. Do we lack the supporters, the enthusiasm for a cause? Ask yourself! Let us all ask ourselves. One ball unites a people. Why can the cause of good not unite us all? The time has come to think about this. We need to win together. This is the ideal and the dream of mankind.

PRESS RELEASE : Iraq – The greatest challenge is to retain hope

11.06.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Iraq, Persecution of Christians

Marta Petrosillo, ACN Italia

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN CanadaIRAK-1

Montreal, June 11th, 2014. “We have never witnessed anything like it before. A large city like Mosul plunged into chaos and at the mercy of the groups that have attacked it”. That is how Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shimon Nona of Mosul has described to ACN the tragic situation facing Iraq’s second city, which has been under siege now for almost two days.

Fled towards the nearby plain of Niniveh

According to the archbishop, the clashes began quite suddenly, on Thursday 5 June. However, initially they were limited to some of the suburbs in the western part of the city. “The army began bombarding the areas concerned, but then, in the night from yesterday to Monday, the army and the police simply abandoned Mosul, leaving it at the mercy of the attackers.”

Over half the inhabitants of the city and the entire Christian community immediately fled towards the nearby plain of Niniveh. “Up till five o’clock yesterday morning we were taking in the fleeing families, and we tried to find them somewhere to stay, in the schools, in the catechism classrooms, in the abandoned houses”, explained Archbishop Nona, who himself is now in Tall Kayf, a village about 3 km to the north of Mosul.

It is believed that the attack is the work of the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which is noted for the savage anti-Christian attacks it has carried out in Syria. However, Archbishop Nona believes that other groups may also be involved. “We do not yet know which groups are involved; some people are speaking of ISIS, while others think that there are other elements among them. We have to wait in order to better understand the actual situation. Undoubtedly there are extremists among them; many of them have been seen patrolling the streets.”

35,000 christians In 2003,  no one left today


Obviously, the jihadist presence is a cause of real concern to the Christians, and in the last few hours in fact, news has already been coming in of attacks by ISIS on four churches and a monastery. “We have not received any threats”, the archbishop told ACN, “because by now all the Catholic faithful have abandoned the city. Who knows if they will ever be able to return there?” In 2003 the Christian community in Mosul numbered around 35,000 souls. In the 11 years that followed the outbreak of war this number had tragically fallen to around 3,000. “Now there is probably no one left there.”

“We are continuing to pray that our country may one day find peace”, insists Archbishop Nona, who in the last few days has been obliged once again to urge his faithful not to lose hope. “It is not easy after so many years of suffering, but we Iraqi Christians are strong in our faith and we have to retain our hope, even in persecution. It is an enormous challenge, above all after what has happened in these last few days.”

Ivory Coast – Promoting Reconciliation

10.06.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Ivory Coast



Father Alphonse N‘guessan, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Ivory Coast

The Catholic Church needs to continue promoting the reconciliation process

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada 

Ivory Coast needs to be in a continual process of reconciliation. This was the message of Father Alphonse N‘guessan, the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Ivory Coast, during a recent visit to the international headquarters of the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Since the mid-1990s there have been a succession of civil-war-type conflicts in this West African nation, most recently following the presidential elections in 2010. However, there is an “effort at reconciliation,” adds Father Alphonse. “Even during the war there were contacts between representatives of the churches and the Muslims, and there continue to be regular, ongoing meetings; there are also informal contacts with politicians, which help to serve the cause of peace.”

Despite all these efforts however, more needs to be done in order to achieve a genuine reconciliation, says Father Alphonse. “The conflicts in the country are political in nature, so they are not religious clashes. The Catholic Church can and should continue making her contribution towards finding a solution, because she enjoys widespread respect in the country,” he adds. According to Father N‘guessan, approximately 35% of the 20 million Ivorians are Christians, while roughly a third are Muslims and the remaining third belong to traditional African religions. However, there are no reliable official statistics. “The last national census was over 10 years ago,”  he told ACN.




The Catholic Church in Ivory Coast is divided into 15 dioceses, manned predominantly by native Ivorian clergy. The task of the pontifical mission societies in Ivory Coast, which is coordinated by Father Alphonse, is the promotion of pastoral initiatives for the proclamation of and formation in the Catholic faith. ACN is supporting its work with a contribution of $35,400 .