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ACN PRESS

 

ACN Interview: Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, auxiliary bishop of Ranchi and Secretary General of the Indian Bishops’ Conference

18.04.2019 in ACN International, ACN PRESS, By Maria Lozano, Dalits, India, Peace, Persecution of Christians

INDIA

Rise in violent attacks against Christian minorities

 

India has just begun its electoral process, which will take place in seven separate stages between April 11 and 19 May this year. Fears that this, the most populous democracy in the world, might end up becoming a theocratic Hindu nation have strengthened recently, in light of the fact that the Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata (BJP) and its president Narendra Modi are seeking a second mandate. During its present term in office there has been an increase in interreligious violence, according to the report on Religious Freedom Worldwide by the international Catholic Pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). The figures speak for themselves: in 2016 a total of 86 people were killed and 2371 injured in 703 separate incidents of sectarian (Hindu fundamentalist) violence; in 2017 the figures were 111 killed and 2384 wounded in 822 separate reported incidents.

 

The most recent attack –  March 26 – took place in Tamil Nadu against a Catholic school, the Little Flower Higher Secondary School in Chinnasalem, when a crowd of Hindu fundamentalists smashed up the school and even attempted to strangle the religious sisters who were running the school. ACN journalist Maria Lozano interviewed Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, auxiliary bishop of Ranchi and Secretary General of the Indian Bishops’ Conference and asked him about the elections and the gravity of this recent incident.

 

Interview with Msgr. Theodore Mascarenhas, 12.04.2019
by Maria Lozano
Published by ACN Canada April 18, 2019

ACN: We have heard of the increase in attacks by Hindu fundamentalists against religious minorities in other parts of India, especially in the north of the country, but the brutal violence of this recent incident has shocked us. Was there any particular reason for the attack?

Over the last year or so there has been a rise in fundamentalism in Tamil Nadu. Above all it has been the evangelical or Protestant so-called “house churches” that have complained of these attacks. There is an activist, who publishes on the web stories of groups of Christians being beaten up while praying in their house churches or some little church structure destroyed. But as the Catholic Church we have not had this type of open attack until this time, at least not such a big one, we have had small, small things. Two years ago there was a Good Friday incident; a mob did not allow us to worship in one place.  So we have had incidents here and there. But the Protestant churches or Protestant groups or these smaller denominations have had a lot of problems over the last two years. So it did not come to me as a surprise that eventually we would be attacked. But that it took place on such a large scale is really frightening.

 

ACN: It must also have been an enormous shock for the sisters of the Franciscan Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who have been running the school for 74 years now. What is the present situation in Chinnasalem? And how are the sisters faring?

 

It is a small town. And the sisters have been doing a lot of this work for very, very poor children. And in fact the hostel, the boarding school can take girls who come from very poor areas and poor families.

 

I spoke to the Sisters a few days ago and I spoke to the Archbishop also, and they say for the moment that some people have been arrested and we are waiting for some more people to be arrested. But for me it is not what happens after the incident. For me the whole thing we have to question is how such incidents can even come about in a civilized society.

 

ACN: But apart from the incident itself and notwithstanding the gravity of it, are you concerned about the social dimension that this kind of attack implies?

How is so much hatred being spread in society and how can we stop this hatred being propagated – that is exactly the question. There are groups that are promoting hatred and these groups are not being stopped, neither in social media nor in actual life, and they seem to be getting political privilege, patronage, and that is my worry, even political authorization, and that is my problem. It is not that these small groups make demands against us or make charges against us or accuse us. The problem is that political leaders are actually encouraging them.

 

ACN: Do you think this increase in incidents in the last year is also related to the elections?

It might be related to the elections but I think it is going long-term now. I have a very simple philosophy on this. Once you plant the seed of hatred, once you bring the beast, the animal of anger, hatred, violence, that animal cannot be controlled. And this is my worry. All those who are spreading this hatred must know what harm they are doing to society and that it will become difficult to bring back things under control; and if it cannot be brought back under control we will have a problem.

 

ACN: But this problem is already damaging especially to the minorities in India…

Yes, it is the minorities, but today I was just thinking of that beautiful poem attributed to a German Lutheran pastor: ‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.’ So we use this now today because first you start with one minority and then the second. the Muslims are under attack, the dalits are under attack and we are under attack, we don’t know who next.

 

ACN: Does that mean then that in the end this nationalist fundamentalism which the political leaders are promoting will actually damage the whole country?

We must say one thing in all fairness. A large Hindu majority, and a large Indian majority of whatever religion we belong to, we are tolerant, we accept each other, and we live with each other, we have been living for thousands of years together, this is a multi-cultural, multi-religious diverse society, and we’ve been living with each other and enriching each other. Now we suddenly come to a situation where certain groups are getting strong and spreading this hatred around and that is not acceptable, because eventually it is the nation that is going to suffer from this. Not just the minorities.

 

ACN: Is India heading towards becoming a theocratic nation like Pakistan?

In 1947 two countries were born, Pakistan and India. Pakistan decided that it would be a country founded on a religion, Islam; our founding fathers in India decided we would not be based on any religion or any one culture but we would be multi-cultural, pluri-religious and with diverse languages and regions. And the country has lived peacefully after that.

 

ACN: But who are these new people who want to change what the founding fathers decided, and why? 

These are certain fundamentalist groups which come up in every society and fundamentalist groups always damage society. But when they start getting overt or covert support from the others then they become dangerous.

ACN: What has been the reaction of the Christian community on hearing this news? Surely these incidents must make them feel very frightened?

We as Christians, we trust in the Lord, we are not afraid. When I asked the Sisters ‘Are you afraid?’ they said ‘No, we shall continue our work.’ I think that is our spirit, we shall continue our work, we will not be afraid of anyone. We think of Jesus who told us ‘Be afraid of the one who can take care of your soul rather than those who can destroy your body.’ So that is our basic principle. I don’t think anyone is frightened and we will go ahead with our work, we will continue serving the poorest of the poor. We know that this will bring us difficulties, this will bring us persecution, and this will bring us even hardships, but we will continue doing our work for the poor, for God and for Jesus.

 

ACN: One last question: do you believe that it is precisely the fact that you are working with the poorest and most socially discriminated against is one of the reason why some people don’t seem to like the work of the Church?

We have a saying in my own local language Konkani: ‘Stones are thrown only at a tree that bears fruit’. You don’t throw stones at a useless tree, only at a tree that bears fruit. So I think that one of the reasons we are under attack is that we are serving the poor, somebody does not like that we are serving the poor and this I believe is the real reason why the fundamentalists do not like us.

 

 

 

 

On Sunday, February 10th, pray for Venezuela!

08.02.2019 in ACN Feature, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Maria Lozano, By Mario Bard, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Venezuela

Venezuela

Call to pray for the country on Sunday, February 10

 

United in their concern to “avoid still greater suffering and pain for the people” and in their hope for a change in the course of the political and democratic situation that Venezuela is currently going through, the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference has launched a joint communiqué, together with the Conference of Male and Female Religious and the National Council of the Laity in Venezuela, published on Monday, February 4th in Caracas.

Photo : María Alejandra Mora (SoyMAM)

The statement expresses the “determination and hope,” with which the signatories urge the search, “for a political transformation via a process of transparent and peaceful transition that will lead to free and legitimate elections, and the resumption of a democratic course, the restoration of the rule of law, the rebuilding of the social fabric, the revival of economic production, the restoration of the morale of the country and the coming together of all the Venezuelan people.”

They speak of the difficult situation that is currently being written in the annals of Venezuelan history and one that both the Venezuelan people and clergy and also the international community are witnessing with great hope, and yet at the same time with great concern.

In their communiqué, the presidents of the three bodies, which most fully represent the Catholic Church of the country, denounce “the growing, politically motivated repression, the violation of human rights and the selective and arbitrary detentions,” of individuals and they stress that this path of democratic change to be allowed to unfold peacefully and with the National Constitution in hand.

They express their appreciation of the work of the activists who are defending and promoting human rights at a time of crisis and despite the risks, and they urge them to continue in their concern for “the victims who are suffering injustices.” They state: “We call for personal and legal respect and safety for those who are exercising this worthy service in Venezuela.” In this way, they remind people that the Catholic Church is committed to helping those most in need, “acting in accordance with the principles of independence, impartiality and humanity” and at the same time they request, “the necessary permission to have access to humanitarian aid as a means of mitigating the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable of the people. Caritas Venezuela and the various other social support institutions of the Church which have a wider outreach throughout the national territory commit themselves to continuing the service we have been providing, with equity, inclusivity, transparency and effectiveness.”

The communiqué ends with a call for prayer on Sunday, February 10th in “every church, every home and every community, calling on the Lord to grant us peace, reconciliation, liberty and health of body and spirit.”

An unprecedented situation

The current political situation in Venezuela is the result of the presidential elections held in May 2018 which, according to the official government version, were won by the current President Nicolas Maduro, but which were widely qualified as “illegitimate” by the majority of countries in the international community. It includes other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Santa Lucia, as well as Canada, Spain and the United States. They base their decision on accounts of numerous irregularities in the way in which elections were held.

Hence, given the illegitimate nature of the elections, President Maduro would thereby cease to be the legitimate president as at the conclusion of his previous mandate, on 10 January, and therefore no longer be recognized as President of the Republic.

Instead, and in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution, the acting president of Venezuela would be the president of the National Assembly of the country, who in this case is Juan Gerardo Guaidó. And so, on 11 January 2019, Guaidó announced that he would be invoking article 233 of the Constitution and calling new national elections, and on 23 January he was sworn in as acting president of Venezuela.

 

PLEASE, on Sunday, February 10th, please pray for the People of Venezuela! 


 

Central African Republic – Massacre of Alindao – Emergency Help

01.02.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Africa, By Mario Bard, By Tobias Lehner, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

Central African Republic

Death toll from november massacre in Alindao is 80

ACN is funding two aid projects for the local Catholic community as they return to a scene of utter devastation

The number of people who have died as a result of the terrorist attacks, on November 15 last year – in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, diocese of Alindao and on the refugee camp right next to it –, continues to grow. Now, it is estimated that over 80, according to information given to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). What is the reason behind this sudden upsurge in violence against Christians in the south of the Central African Republic? In the report below, the local Church analyzes the situation and explains the consequences of these terrible events.

“The people, who almost all fled into the forest, are now returning, hoping to be able to find a few grains of rice that they can eat and foraging among the ashes for any beans that have been only partially burnt”, says Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa of Alindao, describing the dramatic scenes in his town. The number of those who have died since the attack has now increased to over 80, including two priests and two Protestant pastors, according to hospital sources.

Even if they live under constant threat of attacks and they are sometimes afraid, the Monks are there to help, and vocations are on the rise!

A local Church source reports that the refugee camp, which once sheltered over 26,000 people and was supervised by the priests of the diocese, has now been totally destroyed. “The old people and the handicapped were simply burned alive, if they were not already shot dead or beheaded”, Bishop Yapaupa added. “In their panic, many parents were forced to leave one or other of their children behind in order to save the others. The attackers simply fired indiscriminately on the people.” Quite apart from the loss of human life, “the fire tore through the reception centre and several of the Church buildings. The cathedral lost its roof. The terrorists stole cars, motorcycles, solar panels, food from the storeroom, money and fuel…”

 

A Country Torn Apart

At the present time, there are over 14 different armed groups scattered across the Central African Republic. The president of the country, Faustin Touadéra, does not have the resources to control the activities of these groups, the remnants of the civil war initiated in 2013. That was dissolved into clashes between the Seleka rebels – an almost entirely Muslim coalition – and the so-called “anti-balaka”, initially a self-defence militia (a contraction of the phrase “anti-balas AK-47”, or “anti-bullet AK-47”) which ultimately degenerated into gangs of animist or nominally ‘Christian’ youths.

The authors of this particular terrorist attack were a Muslim militia, an offshoot of the Seleka, ironically named “Unity and Peace in Central Africa” (UPC). So why have the tensions suddenly increased just here in Alindao?

 

Alindao, “a cow to be milked”

According to the UPC, this was a legitimate act of defence because the Anti-balaka in Alindao had killed two Muslims on 14 and 15 November. However, our source informed us that it was rather the desire to compensate for a lack of means on the part of the UPC, which saw Alindao as “a flourishing commercial centre, and a cow to be milked”. After being expelled from Bambari in October, the UPC was forced to abandon its local commercial support base and the gold and diamond mines it controlled. “The weekly collections extorted from local traders in order to feed their troops,” had led to big protests, and so they had had to go in search of another source of income, “Alindao and its war booty.”

 

The Church as a Target

“Organized and structured as she is, the Catholic Church plays a fundamental role in responding to the local humanitarian crisis”, this African bishop explains. The Church maintains relations with the humanitarian agencies, with the president and the UN mission MINUSCA. At the same time, however, she is an “object of covetousness” and an institution that the men of war would like to bring down. Was this the reason for the inaction of the Mauritanian UN forces during the terrorist attack on Alindao, who, “in this way smoothed the path for the attackers by not fulfilling their mission of protecting the refugee population”? Our source also provided a further piece of information, explaining that “two days before the tragedy, the leader of the UPC was received by the Mauritanian contingent.” The diocese sees this meeting as having been possibly one of “consensual planning”, or outright collusion. The leaders of the three main faith communities in the Central African Republic – Cardinal Nzapalainga, Pastor Guerekoyame Gbangou and Iman Omar Kobine Layama – have called for an investigation by the international community.

 

“We have lost everything, except our faith.”

“We have lost everything, except our faith”, Bishop Yapaupa concludes. “We can still look into the eyes of our enemy and offer him our sincere pardon, without giving way to a spirit of vengeance or fear.”

 

ACN is proposing an emergency aid for the diocese of 60 000 dollars, to help rebuild the community, and also Mass stipends to help the local clergy in this situation of total desolation. You can give on our secure web page.  


 

ACN News: Aid to the Church in Need Religious Freedom Report 2018

22.11.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN NEWS, ACN PRESS, Refugees, Religious freedom, Religious Freedom Report

Aggressive nationalism is fueling religious hatred –
and the West is failing to act

Report says West is not doing enough to confront new crisis of oppressive nationalism

A surge in aggressive nationalism in key parts of the world is to blame for a rise in violence and other intimidation against religious minorities – and the West is failing to convert words of concern into action, according to a report just out.

Religious Freedom Report 2018

Religious Freedom Report 2018

Assessing all 196 countries around the globe, the Religious Freedom in the World 2018 Report concludes that “ultra-nationalism” by both government and non-state actors has caused a spike in hatred against faith minorities in countries including leading regional powers such as India, China and Burma (Myanmar). The full report is to be found on the following: www.religion-freedom-report.org. The Executive Summary is in PDF format on www.acn-canada.org.

The report, produced every two years by the charity Aid to the Church in Need, finds that religious illiteracy, including within the media, and the lack of political action in the West, has exacerbated the problem, concluding that many faith minority groups suffer behind a “curtain of indifference.”

“This is a situation that we believe is a real challenge for Canada,” considers Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) “Experience tells us the more people know about a situation, the more they can act on to change what at first may have seemed completely unchangeable. Freedom of religion must become an essential concern for Canadians if we want a real change in the numbers of countries where rampant discrimination and persecution are killing so many.”

Religious Freedom in the World 2018 criticizes governments stating: “Most Western governments have failed to provide urgently needed assistance to minority faith groups, especially displaced communities wanting to return home.”

The report says most governments failed to offer displaced minority faith groups the help they themselves have requested to enable their return to northern Iraq and elsewhere following the ousting of Daesh (ISIS) and other militant groups.

Photo: © Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Directorate of Social Communications

Nigeria: Fulani herdsmen (Muslims), and farmers (Christians). What was mainly an economic conflict is becoming more religious as one group wants to dominate the other. (Photo: © Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Directorate of Social Communications)

The investigation by the Catholic charity finds that media coverage about militant Islam has focused almost exclusively on the fight-back against Daesh and affiliate groups during the period under review – 2016-18 – and has largely ignored the relentless spread of militant Islamist movements in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

According to the report, a main driver behind the growth in extremism is the growing clash between Sunni and Shi’a, the main rival branches of Islam. The report states that in the 25-month review period the situation for minority faith groups deteriorated in almost half of the countries classed as having significant violations of religious freedom – 18 out of a total of 38 countries.

Worsening intolerance towards religious minorities meant that for the first time in the report’s 19-year history two new countries: Russia and Kyrgyzstan – were placed in the “discrimination” category.

The report adds that in a number of cases, such as Saudi Arabia and North Korea, the situation was already so bad that in the period under review it was virtually impossible for it to get any worse.

“This rapid deterioration of rights in critically classified countries, such as the right to practice one’s faith in freedom and security as stipulated in article 18 of the UN Charter of Human Rights should be of great concern for all people of all faiths,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, the National Director of ACN Canada.

 

Turning to the West

Turning to the West, the report highlights a surge in extremist attacks by militants against targets in the West. Such terrorism striking at the heart of liberal democracies means that the threat can be called “neighbourhood terrorism.” The report says the danger from such terrorists is “universal, imminent and ever-present.”

Religious Freedom in the World 2018 underlines in this context the growth of both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the West as well.  Summarizing the report’s main findings, Editor-in-Chief John Pontifex said: “Aggressive ultra-nationalism – be it by hard-line governments or violent extremist groups – means many minority faith groups feel like aliens in their own country. They are easy targets in a new era of ignorance and intolerance.

“True, there are some like the Rohingya Muslims, whose plight has received due attention in the West, but so many others – such as Christians in Nigeria, Ahmadis in Pakistan and Baha’is in Iran – feel abandoned by the West where religious freedom has slipped down the human rights priority rankings.”

Mme Lalonde, in Toronto on Wednesday November 21, for a Red Wednesday interfaith prayer vigil, an event organized by Aid to the Church in Need to raise awareness about the persecution of Christians around the world said, “We must challenge this pervasive ignorance by informing, as we are doing with this rare global report on religious freedom, and challenge intolerance through acts of unity like we are doing today by praying together as brothers and sisters of many faiths.”

 

ACN News: 22.11. 2018 – International/Religious Freedom Report 2018 
by John Pontifex, Adapted by Amanda Griffin ACN Canada

ACN News – The nightmare of Fulani herdsmen attacks in Nigeria

09.11.2018 in ACN Malta, ACN NEWS, ACN PRESS, ACN-Malta, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Grace Attu, Nigeria
An ACN Press Release – for Immediate Release

Nigeria

The nightmare of Fulani herdsmen attacks

Msgr. Kaigama sends out a call to terrorists

ACN Canada’s fundraising campaign for Nigeria underway

 

We shall not give up in our struggle for peaceful coexistence and civilized conduct. Msgr.Ignatius Kaigama – Archbishop of Jos

Montreal, November 9, 2018 – The city of Jos in Northern Nigeria has suffered severely from many long years of inter-religious violence at the hands of the terrorist group Boko Haram and just now when it seems to be recovering like the phoenix from the ashes, the incessant Fulani herdsmen attacks that have already affected many other areas in the country, are putting an end to these hopes.

 

Article and interview by Grace Attu, ACN-Malta
Adapted by ACN Canada

 

At the end of September, another fresh cycle of violence was triggered by a night attack of the herdsmen on Rukuba Road in Jos. Two days earlier, both the military and Fulani herdsmen had come to the area, claiming to search for the corpse of a missing Fulani boy. The outbreak rendered so many people orphaned, widowed and helpless.

Nigeria, Kaduna an example of destruction wrought by the Fulani –  attacks 2017

 One such person is Blessing Kogi, a 23-year-old university student who lives in Jos with her family. In an interview with the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), she explained how she in one night lost her mother, three siblings and six other family members to a tragic attack by the Fulani herdsmen.

 

Blessing Kogi, a 23 year old university student who lives in Jos with her family.

A horrific tale 

“In the evening of September 27th at around 7:00 pm, we were all in the house having dinner, my grandmother, my mother, three of my siblings, my sister-in-law, nephew and three of my cousins. We were eating when unknown gunmen suddenly burst in and opened fire.”

“So, I fell on the floor and played dead, but one of them still came to where I was lying down and shot me twice – in my neck and shoulder.”

“The men who were speaking to each other in the Hausa and Fulani languages, continued their killing spree in my neighbourhood. In total, 15 people were killed in my area: 10 in my house, three in another and two elsewhere. Five people sustained injuries, including three children in another house, and the two of us (i.e. Blessing and her cousin).” Blessing’s father survived only because he was at work when the terrible attack occurred.

Just like many other victims of such gratuitous violence, Blessing is broken and traumatized. She says, “I feel I don’t have anything left to live for in my life again. My father has not been eating. He cannot even talk. We don’t know what to do and how to start either.”

 

“This situation has really affected my faith as a Christian. Immediately after all this happened, I said many things without even knowing why, like I doubted whether Christ was really there, but I later realized that God is alive and He knows everything and so I leave everything in His hands. Now, I find strength in praying and singing praises to God,” she said.

 

She makes a passionate appeal to Christians all over the world, “I really need Christians all over the world to help us with their prayers because we are not finding things easy. Pray for us that we will be stronger in Christ, and He will give us the strength of heart to bear this loss.”

 

The Fulani herdsmen, also known as the Fulani militia, are a nomadic, pastoralist ethnic group living in the North and central regions of Nigeria, predominately in the Middle Belt. The majority of the Fulani herdsmen are Muslim. They have been clashing with indigenous tribes and locals, mainly Christian farmers, over grazing land for years.

 

Parishioners of St. Francis Parish Fwapwa at the Mass in honour of those killed in the Fulani attacks, in September.

Msgr. Kaigama: “People need help”

The archbishop of Jos in Nigeria and uncontested face of interreligious dialogue in his country and around the world, Msgr. Kaigama often spoke about the situation on his trip to Canada this past June.

Commenting on the Fulani herdsmen attacks in many parts of the country, especially in his Archdiocese of Jos, Most. Rev Ignatius Kaigama said, “once again, in Jos, innocent lives have been lost, properties destroyed, healing wounds re-opened, psychological trauma caused, inter-ethnic and religious suspicion rekindled”.

“The people have been unable to go about their normal farming activities this year because of the fear of constant attacks. They certainly need help with food, medication, clothing and above all, to be able to return to their homes to start rebuilding without any further molestation by the merchants of evil,” he said.

Terrorists, criminals- stop injuring humanity! Life is sacred. Respect it!”

The Archbishop continued, “we shall not give up in our struggle for peaceful coexistence and civilized conduct. Everyone must do his/her part: Religious leaders must sincerely preach peace. Politicians – avoid operating negatively behind the scenes! Security agents – be fair, unbiased and neutral in your operations! Government leaders- care for citizens facing hostile attacks by terrorists/criminals. Youth – avoid irrationality and stop being used! Terrorists, criminals- stop injuring humanity! Life is sacred. Respect it!”

 

The Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need launched a campaign in early November to support the peace efforts of the Catholic Church in Nigeria.  It is called “Let’s offer a bit of hope!”  To learn more and to make a donation, please visit the website dedicated to this campaign:  http//bit.ly/NigeriaACN

Or by phone: 1 -800-585-6333

Contact

 

ACN Interview – Bishop Msgr. Michael MIABESUE BIBI speaks to tensions building in Cameroon

23.10.2018 in ACN International, ACN PRESS, Africa, By Maria Lozano, Cameroon, Cameroon

ACN Interview – Bishop Msgr. Michael MIABESUE BIBI speaks to tensions building in Cameroon

Time to act to avoid a civil war

Cameroon is in the midst of a political and social conflict between the English and French-speaking areas. What was a German colony in the late nineteenth century was divided into British and French mandates after the defeat of Germany in World War I. Both joined in an independent Cameroon in 1961. However, the population of the anglophone regions – in the southwest and northwest of the country- have felt marginalized by the French-speaking authorities. They accuse them of imposing the French language and traditions and demand greater autonomy and respect for their customs.

The level of unrest in Cameroon has been growing since 2016, when the country’s English-speaking community began to demand a return to federalism. There have been violent confrontations between government forces and secessionist militants, who have sought independence of the self-proclaimed republic of Ambazonia from the Republic of Cameroon. The army has not refrained from using force in its repression of Anglophones, which has led to more than 500 deaths and some 200,000 displaced persons.

Maria Lozano from the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need speaks about the situation with Auxiliary Bishop Msgr. Michael MIABESUE BIBI of Bamenda, a mostly English-speaking archdiocese in northwestern Cameroon.

Maria Lozano: Please fill us in on the background to the current situation in Cameroon: What happened in 2016? What triggered the crisis?

Mons. Michael MIABESUE BIBI: The Crisis began in 2016 when the common-law lawyers of the anglophone regions in Cameroon requested that the *Ohada Law be translated from French into English so that they too could apply it properly in a language they understood. This was accompanied by peaceful demonstrations but the military was sent out to stop them. The lawyers boycotted work in court and requested that French lawyers should not be sent to English courts and also that in the Anglophone courts cases should be handled in English and not French.

In November 2016, teachers called for a strike to begin on the 21st to protest the fact that French teachers were being sent to work in the English regions and they were not teaching children in proper English since they were not anglophone. They requested that such teachers be transferred and in their stead, English speaking teachers be sent to work in the anglophone regions. These demands also met with repression and herein lies the root causes of the present problem.

 

Some media talk about the threat of a civil war in Cameroon. Do you think that the situation is so serious?

The situation is very serious. Since it started in 2016, it has been steadily degenerating. What began as a matter of translating documents, transfer of teachers and reinstating the English subsystem of education, grew into the request for a two state federation and finally to a request of secession from the French speaking Cameroon. Since February 2018, there has been serious loss of human life on the side of the military and the boys fighting for the secessionist cause. We are living in a situation of grave insecurity and if the conflict is not solved quickly, there will be even worse ahead.

 

The recent elections of  October 7 will have some effect on the crisis. Do you think that positive and productive steps can be taken?

In my opinion, the president can solve this problem if he decides to bring the people together and dialogue with them. What has happened so far is that government officials have been sent out on a good number of occasions, but it has not helped solve the problem. In my opinion, the silence of the president has been one of the reasons why people have been radicalized. If he comes out and speaks to all Cameroonians as his children, I am sure they will listen to him. We need frank and sincere dialogue to solve the problem and this demands humility from both conflicting parties.

The Cameroonian Episcopal Conference has said that there were “serious irregularities in the English-speaking regions” and many voters were not able to participate in the vote due to insecurity. How is the situation now regarding security?

Nearly every day in the English speaking region especially from Bamenda where I come from, there are gunshots fired either by the military or by the boys fighting for the cause, known as “Ambazonian Boys” (short Amba Boys). There is insecurity in the region and it was the reason why the elections could not take place in certain areas. In some areas where few people voted, they were heavily guarded by the military in order to be able to do so. Yes, there is insecurity in the region. Almost 95 percent of voters in both regions could not vote because of the lack of security.

 

Can you travel everywhere? How about the pastoral work of the Church, how is this influenced by the crisis?

Mobility in both regions is difficult. In the North West Region, roads are constantly blocked by the boys, bridges destroyed and trees felled on roads to restrict movement. Some days the roads are opened and on other days they are not. This makes it difficult for people to travel. This has greatly affected pastoral work since most priests in parishes cannot leave the main mission to go to other missions for pastoral work. It has become difficult for the bishops to carry out pastoral visitations since June. The pastoral week of the Archdiocese that was to run from the 13th to the 20th was canceled because people could not come to town. In Bamenda, travel is possible on some days, although from the 1st to the 10th October it was not possible to move about at all. On Mondays, the city turns into a ghost town and shops and business are all closed. No movement is possible even though some isolated people try to move about.

 

Akiata Gerard Anjiangwe, a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Bamenda, dead the 4th October 2018 at the St. Therese’s Church, Bamessing Quasi Parish, Ndop.On October 4th, shortly before the elections, Gérard Anjiangwe, a seminarian from your archdiocese of Bamenda, was killed in front of the parish church of Bamessing in Ndop commune, Ngo-Ketunjia department. What happened?

Around 9:30am, at the end of the Holy Mass, after some of the Christians had left, Gerard Anjiangwe and some readers were still in the Mission preparing for the liturgy of the following day. A military van coming from Ndop stopped at the entrance of the road leading to the Church. Some of the military alighted from the van and started shooting. Some altar servers who were returning home after the mass ran back to the Church and others to the nearby bush. The readers who were with Gerard near the sacristy, seeing the military coming, ran into the sacristy and closed the door whereas Gerard, who was still outside, prostrated on the ground while praying the Rosary. The military men tried to open the Church door but did not succeed. They approached Gerard lying prostrate on the ground and asked him to stand up, which he did without hesitating. After interrogating him, he was asked to lie down again. Then, he was shot three times on the neck and he died instantly. His father is a catechist and Gerard was the only son of the family.

 

Why do you think he was killed?

It is difficult to say exactly why Gerald was killed. But one can easily conclude that he was taken to be one of the Ambazonian Boys. This is the only reason I can think of for his being killed. There is a systematic attempt to kill all the young boys in the area since there is fear that they might be part of the Ambazonian Boys promoting the crisis.

 

There were already two priests killed in July this year in Cameroon, one in the north (Batibo) and one in the south (Fr. Alexandre Sob Nougi), and several church properties were also destroyed. Are these all collateral damages? What is the role of the Church in the conflict?

Only one priest has been killed, namely Fr. Alexander Sob from Buea. According to our information, the person killed in Batibo was not a priest but a Ghanian pastor. In an attempt to flush out the Amba Boys, the military burns down and destroys property and as a result, the Church too has been affected with many Church buildings, presbyteries and other material goods being destroyed. The role of the Church is simply to speak the truth and encourage dialogue. But the Church is sandwiched between the government and the Amba Boys. Whatever the Church says, it is accused by one camp or the other. When the Church says that children have a right to go to school and should not be stopped from schooling, the Amba Boys think that the Church has been bribed by the government to say that. Some government officials have out rightly accused the Church of fueling the crisis through the various write-ups that we have produced. The Church believes in peace. But there can be no peace without justice. Justice and truth must prevail and that is what the church stands for.

According to different reports, 160,000 people fled their homes within Cameroon, and 34,000 have fled to Nigeria. How is the situation of the refugees in Bamenda?

We have internally and externally displaced persons. The Archdiocese has formed an ad hoc committee to take care of the internally displaced persons living in Bamenda. They have identified all these persons, noted their names and where they live. Some people of good will and some parishes make contributions, which they forward to this committee who use it to buy food, drugs, mattresses and some other basic needs to assist them. As for those who are externally displaced in Nigeria, assistance is given to them as regards health, food and other basic necessities through the diocese of Mamfe.

 

What is your message to the benefactors of ACN? What can we do to support your people in this difficult time?

During this difficult time, I would like that ACN should keep us in their prayers so that this crisis may be resolved as soon as possible. The amount of human life being lost, properties destroyed and persons displaced is a reason for real concern. ACN can also assist us in caring for the internally and externally displaced persons and also assist some of our parishes where priests suffer greater difficulty in carrying out their pastoral work.

* The Ohada Law: To harmonize business Law in Africa in order to guarantee legal and judicial security for investors and companies in its Member states. Source : www.ohada.org). Signed October 17,1993.”

 

Revision of text for the Canadian office: Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

ACN Editorial: A Summit for Pope Francis and Kim Jong-Un?

19.10.2018 in ACN PRESS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Johannes Klausa, South Korea

Korea

Italy, Rome 29.09.2017 Johannes Klausa (Director of ACN South Korea)at St. Peter Square in Rome

A Summit for Pope Francis and Kim Jong-Un?

Editorial by Johannes Klausa, National Director of ACN Korea

Last year in October, US President Donald Trump tweeted out to the world: “being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it now?” Just months before he had called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “little rocket man” and threatened him with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

One year later, the tone on the Korean peninsula changed completely. The two Korean leaders have met three times after a peace- and charm offensive before and during the Olympic Winter Games paving the way for summits, family reunions, as well as a considerable amount of political and cultural exchange. Donald Trump also held a summit with Kim, now publicly praising his personality, calling him “very talented,” “a smart cookie,” and said he wants to see him again after the elections.

A rare glimpse of North Korea by a foreign delegation

The latest development in this almost theatrical performance: Kim Jong-Un reportedly would “enthusiastically” welcome the Holy Father, if he would be willing to visit Pyeongyang. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is en route to the Vatican next week, carrying in his briefcase an invitation for the Pontiff.

All this is a good reason to get excited, but not for everyone in Korea to applaud enthusiastically.
Although a majority of Koreans, especially the younger generation, seems euphoric about this prospect, there are voices heard, which would not welcome the Holy Father’s visit to the North. Many question the true motives and willingness of the “Young Marshal” to break with the politics of his father and grandfather. They doubt he would give up his nuclear arsenal and lead his country towards peace and reconciliation.

North Korea

For them, a Papal visit to Pyeongyang would look as if the Catholic Church would forgive crimes against humanity as well as the persecution of Christians even before the perpetrators have been brought to justice. Crimes have undoubtedly been committed by the brutal Kim dictatorship in the past. The Catholic Church, in the eyes of the critics, should be the advocate of the regime’s victims and denounce its crimes, rather than helping Kim to polish his negative image and offering a stepping-stone onto the world-stage and into the presidential palaces of the international community.
However, until now, nothing substantial has happened. The Vatican has not accepted the invitation. Neither is it the first time that Pyongyang called for a Papal visit. During the period of political rapprochement and the so-called “sunshine-policy” of former president Kim Dae-jung at the beginning of the new Millennium, Pope John Paul II was also invited to visit the DPRK. But the Holy Father did not accept.

Pope Francis at the Wednesday audience on St. Peter’s Place in Vatican City (Rome, Italy) during the ACN pilgrimage to Rome in Octobre 2013.

If Pope Francis should take the decision to travel to Pyeongyang, he would not do so naively. He could demand concessions, such as the acceptance of a permanent presence of priests in North Korea. Or, he could promise to come after “verifiable and irreversible” progress in other fields.
Should he accept the invitation, this would certainly not happen without a previous series of unofficial contacts and negotiations. The president of the Korean Bishop’s Conference and other religious leaders were also part of the delegation that personally met Kim Jong-un last month. Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-jong has already been to Pyeongyang with a delegation of South Korean bishops and priests a few years ago and was appointed presidential “special envoy to the Vatican” by South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who is himself a devout Catholic. Therefore, all critics can rest assured the Holy Father will take an elaborate and well-informed decision.

The Archbishop of Seoul and president of ACN Korea, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, who is also Apostolic Administrator of Pyeongyang, recently said he was “waiting for the day” when he could send missionaries, priests as well as monks and nuns to North Korea, so that he could celebrate the sacraments together with them. He continued: “I knew that Pope Francis has a lot of concern for peace on the Korea Peninsula and that he prayed several times for us. So, I want all these efforts to work like a trigger for a ‘self-priming pump’ for peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

“When the groundwork is done, the Pope can go”, Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, another Korean bishop close to the Holy Father is quoted. The Holy Father’s visit would be a “gigantic step, a qualitative step for the Korean peninsula, for its pacification,” he said.

Catholics, regardless of their political views, should always trust that Our Lord will also watch carefully over these developments. Let us pray that – should Pope Francis make a historic journey to Pyongyang – will hold not only bilateral talks with Kim Jong-un but a trilateral summit led by the Holy Spirit. And that the Holy Spirit will guide the way to peace and stability in Korea and beyond.

ACN News – Pakistan: Acquittal could be close for Asia Bibi, says family

09.10.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN NEWS, ACN PRESS, ACN United Kingdom, By John Newton, By John Pontifex and John Newton, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Pakistan, Persecution of Christians

Pakistan

Asia Bibi: acquittal could be close, says family

 

The family of a Christian woman fighting a death sentence in Pakistan believe the country’s Supreme Court may be on the verge of announcing her acquittal.

 

The court yesterday (Monday, 8th October) referred judgement in the final hearing in the case of Asia Bibi, whose conviction for blasphemy is on appeal.

Speaking on behalf of Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih and daughter, Eisham Ashiq, Father Emmanuel Yousaf said the Supreme Court’s decision could be announced within a few days.

Father Yousaf, who is with Eisham and Ashiq Masih in the UK for events organized by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said: “Although the judges didn’t give a judgement, this has happened in many cases of this kind in the past – and they still ended positively.”We will have to wait a few days but we are confident that things will go well.”

Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five, in 2010 became the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy. During yesterday’s final hearing of the case in the Supreme Court, there was a protest outside, calling for the death sentence to be upheld but proceedings ended with a verdict still pending.

Fr. Yousaf said: “There is no decision – we are hanging in the air – but God willing it will soon be over an

d [Asia Bibi] will be back home with the family.”

Throughout proceedings, Asia Bibi has insisted that she did not insult the Muslim Prophet Mohammad, which carries the death sentence under Section 295 C of Pakistan’s Penal Code.

Renewing calls for prayers for Asia Bibi’s release, Fr Yousaf said: “We have prayed 10 years now for our sister, Asia, and I am confident that our prayers will be heard, and the judgement will go in favour of Asia, her family and the entire Pakistani Christian community.”

He added: “[The judgement] may come tomorrow. It may come after two or three days but I am sure it will be favourable.”

“Everyone who believes that the Blasphemy Law has been misused time and time again should pray for Asia Bibi’s release, regardless of their faith.”

 

New edition of One Million Children – A Powerful Prayer

24.09.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Children, Children, Prayer

New edition of One Million Children

A Powerful Prayer

 

Again, this year, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) invites people in charge of doing  pastoral work with children, whether in parishes or elsewhere, to contact the organization in order to participate in the great international prayer movement – One Million Children Pray the Rosary.

 

“For the last few years, on October 18th, we have invited children of the world to pray for peace,” explains Marie-Claude Lalonde, Director of the international organization’s Canadian office. “We are very happy to have taken over the initiative launched in Venezuela. Some children who desired world peace spontaneously got together to pray the Rosary, but they quickly wanted for other kids to participate. And here we are, 12 years later.”

 

Children in the Philippines praying the Rosary together in 2017.

Many of the ACN’s national offices offer original material designed to facilitate the organization of this activity. She says, “By contacting us, the people in charge will be able to receive the necessary information and material to organize the event. I know that, this year, October 18 falls on a weekday and that it can be more difficult to gather children together on that day. Thus, you can organize this time of prayer on the days preceding or following that date.” In the Catholic Church, the month of October is specifically dedicated to praying the Rosary.

 

For more information about the organization of this event in your parish or pastoral youth group or Sunday School group, please contact Annie Desrosiers at 514-932-0552, ext. 224. You will also find information and a downloadable link at the following address: bit.ly/1MchildrenEN.

 

In addition, we invite you to share this activity on your social media! bit.ly/1MChildren.

This activity is specifically geared towards children ages 5 to 12, but all are welcome to participate.

 


 

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 [email protected]
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.