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ACN Interview: Professor Muna Yako, Iraqi Christian activist and constitutional expert

20.09.2019 in ACN, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq

Iraq

Political Islamists attempt to radicalize judiciary in Iraq

 Christians fear a theocracy as parliamentarians try to change the Federal Supreme Court, which interprets the constitution and determines the constitutionality of laws and regulations.

By Xavier Bisits, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Griffin ACN Canada

In a country where Christians have grappled with targeted bombings, kidnapping, and discrimination, leaders are grappling with a new crisis: an attempt to give Islamic clerics voting rights on the country’s Federal Supreme Court.

The move, which is not yet confirmed, would bring Iraq a step closer to an Iran-like theocracy, where non-Muslims are forced to live under Islamic Sharia law. For example, in Iran, Christian women are forced to wear the veil, and alcohol is completely banned.

The change would include four Islamic jurists as part of 13 voting members of the country’s Federal Supreme Court. All decisions would require the support of at least three of the four jurists, permanently radicalizing the country’s judiciary.

This past August, Professor Muna Yako, an Iraqi Christian activist and constitutional expert, explained to ACN that although the Constitution refers to Islam as the foundation of law, it also references the importance of democracy and human rights.

This change to the Federal Supreme court would likely mean that Islamic law will always take precedence: “You need to have the court to interpret the constitution. Right now, I hope that if a case goes to the Federal Court they might prioritize human rights and democracy, in some instances. If, however, these Islamic jurists join the court, we will have no chance of ever prioritizing democracy or human rights.”

Iraq, Karamlesh (Karamles), July 2019 – buildings destroyed by ISIS

 

It would also mean an end to any attempts to overturn legislation that discriminates against religious minorities and treats them as second-class citizens. For example, current law says that non-Muslims can convert to Islam, but the reverse can’t happen. Likewise, Christian men are not allowed to marry Muslim women without converting to Islam, which is “unconstitutional discrimination.”

“If, however, these Islamic jurists join the court, we will have no chance of ever prioritizing democracy or human rights.”

“The Iraqi government has disappointed us so far, but I still have hope of seeing change. If the court adopts this law, though, I will no longer have any hope. This will make Iraq like a theocracy because all the laws will be based on religion – for example, rules about clothes and alcohol.“

She worries that if this “terrifying” change happens,  even more Christians will leave the country and “we will become just a memory, just like the Jews.” Most Christians belong to indigenous groups who have been in the country for thousands of years.

Vigil prayer for the Middle East at Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark´s Basilica) in Rome, 27.09.2017: His Beatitude Louis Raphaël I Sako (Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church from Iraq)

Cardinal Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, in a letter to the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, wrote of his concern that this is proposed “after all the suffering we have endured from terrorism, displacement, pillaging, murder, and property theft.” He expressed his worry that the proposal would threaten the future of Christians in the country, by applying Islamic law to Christians in personal matters, such as inheritance.

This opinion is backed up by other legal experts. Dr Majida Sanaan-Guharzi, writing in the newspaper Kurdistan 24, believes that the change “could substantially alter the court’s function, promoting an increasingly theocratic state wherein religious rules take precedence over the existing, mostly secular, legal system.”

 

The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need has extensive operations underway in Iraq and has mostly been working to provide emergency support to Christians affected by Daesh (also known as the Islamic State or ISIS). ACN’s main focus at present is on rebuilding church properties that were deliberately targeted during the three-year occupation.

 

November 2018, Immaculate Conception Church in Qaraqosh, destroyed during violence under reconstruction.

ACN Press: A Papal Blessing of an Icon for Syria

16.09.2019 in ACN, Pope Francis, Prayer, Press Release, Syria

A Papal Blessing of an Icon for Syria
Marie-Claude Lalonde among ACN delegates to Vatican

By Mario Bard, ACN Canada
Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Monday, September 16, 2019 — The national director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN), Marie-Claude Lalonde, attended this past Sunday, September 15, the blessing of an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Consoler of the Syrian People by Pope Francis. 

The ceremony took place at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican. The icon will be carried through 34 dioceses in Syria—as a sort of pilgrimage—offered for the veneration of the faithful along its path intended to finish in Damascus, in May 2020.

“It is a great joy for me to have participated in this event which took place just before the Sunday Angelus,” said a joyful Marie-Claude Lalonde on the other end of the line. “This blessing is a pure joy as we are at the very heart of ACN’s mission: providing pastoral support to Christians who are in need.” And she adds: “This initiative touches on every one of the calls for peace that Pope Francis has launched to put a stop to the abominable conflict that has caused so much suffering for Syrian civilians. With this gesture he has reaffirmed with strength his support of the Syria population broken by war.”

 

Pilgrimage of the icon: For the healing of hearts

This icon of Our Lady of Sorrows was written last August by Father Spiridon Kabbash of Homs and will be presented for the veneration of the faithful in 34 dioceses of Syria, likely until May 31, 2020.

I greeted the Pope in the name of all Canadian benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need Canada,” says Mrs. Lalonde

“The blessing of an icon can seem inconsequential to secularized societies like our own,” explains Mrs. Lalonde. “But in Syria, religious traditions are still present in public and social society and these gestures—such as to write an icon, bless it and offer it for veneration by the faithful for a period of nine months is a veritable balm, immense and almost essential for all Christians who are wounded by this filthy war, they who have survived through over eight years of fratricidal conflict.”

“Finally, I greeted the Pope in the name of all Canadian benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need Canada,” says Mrs. Lalonde in closing.

The Pope’s message to the families who will accompany the icon is: “You are not alone; we are with you.”

Meanwhile in Syria, the 6,000 rosaries blessed by Pope Francis one month ago were distributed throughout Syrian parishes as part of a larger prayer campaign for and with the Syrian people called Console my People, an initiative promoted by Aid to the Church in Need and the Syrian Churches.

Sunday, September 15, 2019 : Pope Francis,  blessing the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Consoler of the Syrian People. Next to the Icon, Father Spiridon Kabbash of Homs, the writer of the icon. (© ACN/AED)

A Drop of Milk in Homs, Syria

Aid to the Church in Need Canada continues to promote its fundraising campaign to raise over $378,000, for the provision of daily milk, for over 6,000 children aged 0 to 10 in the city of Homs for a period of six months.

There are three easy and secure ways to give for these children:

  • Give through our secure site: http://bit.ly/DropofMilk2019
  • By telephone: 1(800) 585-6333, Ext 222
  • By mail Aid to the Church in Need Canada
    PO. Box 670, Station H
    Montréal (Québec) H3G 2M6

 

ACN Interview: ISIS invasion of Iraq, five years on

06.08.2019 in ACN, Iraq, Middle East, Peace, Persecution of Christians

The final struggle:

What remains of Christianity in Iraq five years after the ISIS invasion?

On August 6, 2014, IS (Islamic State) units razed and conquered the Christian settlements of the Nineveh Plain, north of Mosul. Some 120,000 Christians had to flee overnight. Many of them found refuge around the Kurdish city of Erbil. For the following three years, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Msgr. Bashar Matti Warda, was one of the pillars in the maintenance and support of the community. In October 2016, Iraqi forces and their allies were able to recover the territories and tens of thousands of displaced Christians returned to the ruins of their home cities. Others decided to stay in Erbil or emigrate out of the country. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) together with the local churches provides significant support to the reconstruction effort.

 

Five years after the invasion of the Nineveh Plains, ACN interviews Msgr. Bashar Matti Warda – an eye-witness of all these events – about the consequences for Christians in Iraq, as well as for the entire Middle East and Western countries.

The interview was conducted by Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web, August 6, 2019

 


It has been five years of Calvary. Looking back what lesson have you learned?
When a people have nothing left to lose, in some sense it is very liberating, and from this position of clarity and new-found courage I can speak on behalf of my people and tell you the truth. But I would like to remark that we are a people who have endured persecution in patience and faith for 1,400 years confronting an existential struggle, our final struggle in Iraq. The most immediate cause is the ISIS attack that led to the displacement of more than 125,000 Christians from historical homelands and rendered us, in a single night, without shelter and refuge, without work or properties, without churches and monasteries, without the ability to participate in any of the normal things of life that give dignity; family visits, celebration of weddings and births, sharing of sorrows. Our tormentors confiscated our present while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future. This was an exceptional situation, but not an isolated one. It was part of the recurring cycle of violence in the Middle East over 1,400 years.

So in fact, the ISIS invasion was just the “tip of the iceberg”?

With each successive cycle the number of Christians falls away and today we are at the point of extinction. Argue as you will, but extinction is coming, and then what will anyone say? That we were made extinct by natural disaster, or gentle migration? That the ISIS attacks were unexpected, and we were taken by surprise?  –That is what the media will say. Or will the truth emerge after our disappearance: that we were persistently and steadily eliminated over the course of 1,400 years by a belief system which allowed for regular and recurring cycles of violence against us – like the Ottoman genocide of 1916-1922.

But during these 1,400 years of Christian oppression, were there periods of Muslim tolerance as an alternative to violence and persecution?

One cannot deny the existence of times of relative tolerance. Under al Rashid, the House of Wisdom, the great library, was founded in Baghdad. There was a time of relative prosperity while Christian and Jewish scholarship was valued, and a flowering of science, mathematics and medicine was made possible by Nestorian Christian scholars who translated Greek texts, already ancient in the ninth century. Our Christian ancestors shared with Muslim Arabs a deep tradition of thought and philosophy and engaged with them in respectful dialogue from the 8th century onwards. The Arab Golden Age, as historian Philip Jenkins has noted, was built on Chaldean and Syriac scholarship. Christian scholarship. The imposition of Shari’a law saw the decline of great learning, and the end of the “Golden Age” of Arab culture. A style of scholastic dialogue had developed, and which could only occur, because a succession of caliphs tolerated minorities. As toleration ended, so did the culture and wealth which flowed from it.

 

final-struggle-camp

So, would you say that peaceful coexistence is possible and tolerance is the key to the development of peoples?

Exactly. But these moments of toleration have been a one-way experience: Islamic rulers decide, according to their own judgment and whim, whether Christians and other non-Muslims are to be tolerated and to what degree. It is not, and has never, ever, been a question of equality.  Fundamentally, in the eyes of Islam, Christians are not equal. We are not to be treated as equal; we are only to be tolerated or not tolerated, depending upon the intensity of the prevailing Jihadi spirit.  Yes; the root of all of this is the teachings of Jihad, the justification for acts of violence.

Iraqi Christians are going back to their villages again. Is the situation improving? How is life for Christians and other minorities?

There are still extremist groups, growing in number, asserting that killing Christians and Yazidis helps spread Islam. By strictly adhering to Koranic teaching they prescribe Dhimmi status (second class citizenship) to minorities, allowing confiscation of property and enforcement of jizya Islamic tax. But it is not just this. If you were a Christian in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East, you would never accept for one moment the shadow under which we Iraqis live – and under which we have lived for centuries. By my country’s constitution we are lesser citizens, we live at the discretion of our self-appointed superiors. Our humanity gives us no rights.

In Western countries you stand equal under the law. This basic principle of European and American life is a foundation of Christian civic order, in which we are all children under a loving God, created in His image and likeness, which gives us all dignity, and urges on us mutual respect. Civic security grows out of a worldview that values every individual human not for their position or role, but simply because they are human. This view has been the great gift of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Rebuilding civil society means rebuilding it for everybody. Everyone has a place, and everyone has a chance to thrive.

The truth is, there is a foundational crisis within Islam itself, and if this crisis is not acknowledged, addressed and fixed then there can be no future for civil society in the Middle East, or indeed anywhere where Islam brings itself to bare upon a host nation.

 

Some voices said that the brutality and the violence of ISIS have changed the Islamic world, too. What do you think?

Clearly, ISIS shocked the conscience of the world, and has shocked the conscience of the Islamic-majority world as well. The question now is whether or not Islam will continue on a political trajectory, in which Shari’a is the basis for civil law and nearly every aspect of life is circumscribed by religion, or whether a more civil, tolerant movement will develop.

The defeat of Daesh has not seen the defeat of the idea of the re-establishment of the Caliphate. This has re-awoken and is now firmly implanted in minds throughout the Muslim world.  And with this idea of the Caliphate there comes all the formal historical structures of intentional inequality and discrimination against non-Muslims. I speak here not only of Iraq. We see leaders in other countries in the Middle East who are clearly acting in a way consistent with the re-establishment of the Caliphate.

How do you think that the West will react to this?

This is a crucial question and the religious minorities of the Middle East want to know the answer. Will you continue to condone this never-ending, organized persecution against us? When the next wave of violence begins to hit us, will anyone on your campuses hold demonstrations and carry signs that say, “we are all Christians”? And yes I do say, the “next wave of violence”, for this is simply the natural result of a ruling system that preaches inequality, and justifies persecution. The equation is not complicated.  One group is taught that they are superior and legally entitled to treat others as inferior human beings on the sole basis of their faith and religious practices. This teaching inevitably leads to violence against any “inferiors” who refuse to change their faith. And there you have it – the history of Christians in the Middle East for the last 1,400 years.

But what would the solution be? How are we to build a better future?

This change must come about as the conscious work of the Muslim world itself. We see the small beginnings, perhaps, of this recognition in Egypt, in Jordan, in Asia, even in Saudi Arabia. Certainly much remains to be seen as to whether there is actual sincerity in this.

 

Does Christianity in Middle East have a prophetic mission?

Mine is a missionary role: to give daily witness to the teachings of Christ, to show the truth of Christ and to provide a living example to our Muslim neighbours of a path to a world of forgiveness, of humility, of love, of peace. Lest there be any confusion here I am not speaking of conversion. Rather, I am speaking of the fundamental truth of forgiveness which we Christians of Iraq can share, and share from a position of historically unique moral clarity. We forgive those who murdered us, who tortured us, who raped us, who sought to destroy everything about us. We forgive them. In the name of Christ, we forgive them. And so we say to our Muslim neighbours, learn this from us. Let us help you heal. Your wounds are as deep as ours. We know this. We pray for your healing.  Let us heal our wounded and tortured country together.

And what about our Western secular society, according to your opinion, what would our task be?

We ask that you consider our situation truthfully, as it actually exists, and not in stretched attempts at historical relativism, which diminishes, or more honestly, insults, the reality of our suffering, and thereby robs us even of the dignity of our continued faith. The heart of the struggle is to understand the nature of the battle. You will have to ask yourselves, how long can a moderate and decent society survive without the influence of Christian institutions? How long can the tradition exist after the faith has died?  What will flow into the vacuum?  The role Christian communities play, or have played, in Islamic societies has been overlooked. It is an important part of the formation of civil society in most of the world. It needs highlighting because the situation in Iraq has been woefully misread by Western decision makers. There is no reason to believe they will not misread the same signs and portents in their own countries. You think you are a long way from the chaos of Iraq? Let me assure you; it is only six hours away.

Speaking about decision makers, what would be the role of politicians?

We ask them to support efforts to ensure equal treatment for all minorities in Iraq and elsewhere. We pray that policy makers can find in themselves the humility to recognize that their theories, which over the past decades have become our horrific reality, have been almost universally wrong, based on fundamentally flawed assessments of the Iraqi people and situation. And in these mistaken policies, designed in comfort and safety from afar, argued over in the media as partisan intellectual talking points, hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died.  An entire country has been ripped apart and left to the jackals. This horror all began with policy, and we beg those of you who continue to have access in shaping policy for your country, to daily remember that your policy assessments and those of your allies have life or death consequences. Please, walk humbly and make sure that you truly understand the people on whom you are passing sentence. Understanding what has happened in Iraq means being truthful about the nature and purpose of Christian civil order. It means being truthful about the nature and purpose of the laws of Islam. It means being truthful about what happens when these two come together in one place. I appreciate that this is an uncomfortable subject to discuss in the comfort of a peaceful country. But for Iraqi Christians this is no abstract matter.

 

final-struggle-bishop

 

The most painful question: Are we facing the end of Christianity in Iraq?

It could be. We acknowledge this. Christianity in Iraq, one of the oldest Churches, is perilously close to extinction. In the years prior to 2003, we numbered as many as one-and-a-half million: six percent of Iraq’s population. Today, there are perhaps as few as 250,000 of us left.  Maybe less. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom.

In the end, the entire world faces a moment of truth. Will a peaceful and innocent people be allowed to be persecuted and eliminated because of their faith? And, for the sake of not wanting to speak the truth to the persecutors, will the world be complicit in our elimination? The world should understand, in our path to extinction we will not go quietly any further. From this point we will speak the truth, and live out the truth, in full embrace of our Christian witness and mission, so that if someday we are gone no one will be able to say:  how did this happen? We Christians are a people of Hope. But facing the end also brings us clarity, and with it the courage to finally speak the truth. Our hope to remain in our ancient homeland now rests on the ability of ourselves, our oppressors, and the world to acknowledge these truths. Violence and discrimination against the innocents must end. Those who teach it must stop.  We Christians of Iraq, who have faced 1,400 years of persecution, violence and genocide, are prepared to speak out and bear witness to our oppressors and to the world, whatever the consequence.

Sri Lanka Undeterred courage!

25.07.2019 in ACN, ACN NEWS, Asia, Sri Lanka

Saint Sebastian Church reopens

Last Sunday, July 21, in Sri Lanka at Saint Sebastian Church (situated in the Katuwapitiya neighbourhood of Negombo, close the capital of Colombo), Mass was celebrated for the first time in a long time. This comes after three months ago to the day, on Easter Sunday last April 21, a bomb ripped through the inside of the church during Mass. 

According to local media (newsfirst.lk) over 1,000 people participated in the reopening of the repaired Church. The surviving families were seated in the front pews.

It should be recalled that on the feast of the Resurrection of our Lord—the most significant day of the year on the Christian calendar—suicide bombers killed 253 people injured over 500 others in six different locations in Sri Lanka. Saint Sebastian’s Church was one of the places targeted by terrorists and 100 people lost their lives.

Inside the church, the parishioners could see a statue representing the risen Jesus, now preserved under protective glass—the statue is covered by the blood of the victims of the bombing. For many Christians, this symbol is not seen as morbid, but instead represents the memory of the deceased who lost their lives because of the hatred expressed against them, solely because they were Christian.

The first Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo. Newsfirst.lk reported that near the end of his homily, the cardinal reminded Christians not to hate Muslims or the people of the Muslim faith, for in his estimation, the attacks were not at all orchestrated by the members of this faith. Rather, by an international group—not named in this article—who used a group of young people for its international conspiracy. He urged people to treat people of the Muslim faith with respect for he feels they should not be held responsible for the attacks.

The images you see in this video were filmed by a team from the Catholic Radio Television Network (CRTN), regular partners of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). CRTN produces among others Where God Weeps—a program broadcast in Canada on Salt and Light TV/ Télé Sel et Lumièreand dozens of documentaries produced by ACN which are also broadcast countrywide in Canada, in English and in French.

ACN Success Story – Central African Republic (CAR)

17.07.2019 in ACN, ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Africa, Central African Republic

ACN Success Story

Central African Republic (CAR)

Ongoing training in the diocese of Bouar

Published to the web Wednesday July 17,2019

Thanks to the support of our benefactors who have given $4,500, close to 40 diocesan priests and religious from the diocese of Bouar were able to participate in an ongoing formation session last March.

 

Given the country is suffering such violence and extreme problems in the Central African Republic, it is especially important to lend support and strength to priests. They are often the only ones who can really reach their people and help them not to lose hope.

The program included important pastoral issues such as marriage preparation, preparation for the sacraments, adult baptisms and the role of catechists in small and remote rural villages. At the same time, the priests were able to reflect on their own vocation and the importance of the priesthood, while additionally receiving training in a range of practical matters. Some topics such as bookkeeping, general administration and record keeping, all subjects essential and obligatory in every parish and institution, but for which many priests are often inadequately prepared.

 

The priests of the diocese have all benefited greatly from these days of sharing and ongoing formation and wish to express their gratitude to all our generous benefactors who made this meeting possible.

A facilitator found assassinated

Sadly, immediately after these beautiful and encouraging days, a terribly tragic incident occurred. A 47-year-old Capuchin, Father Toussaint Zoumalde, who had so recently given a talk on the priesthood and vocation, was murdered on his way home from the meeting.

 

This priest, who had originally come from the diocese of Bouar, but was currently serving as Provincial Superior of his order in Chad, had been planning to spend the night in Ngaoundere, Cameroon. He was stabbed to death by unknown assailants on his way home.

 “This priest who was so rich in the fine qualities of the Gospel and the beauty of the priestly order.”

Father Toussaint was a highly educated priest who had studied in Rome and been involved in the work of priestly formation. Friends and colleagues have described him as a fine and multi-talented individual with a profound soul and great love for the Church and the priesthood in particular.

A songwriter and poet, he had a wonderful way with young people, to whom he brought the Gospel message. He was previously responsible for the Catholic radio station in Bouar. In addition to his many other activities in Chad, he was the head of a cultural museum of the Mboum ethnic group. In their obituary for him the Capuchin Fathers wrote: “In killing him on the night of 19 March, the cowardly hand of his murderer knew nothing of the beauty and elegance of Brother Toussaint, this priest who was so rich in the fine qualities of the Gospel and the beauty of the priestly order.”

It was that just a few days after meeting with his fellow priests in Bouar, where Father Toussaint had given his confreres an inspiring and profound reflection on the priesthood, that his mortal remains were carried to their burial by his brother priests. Great mourning could be felt among all the people and the entire Church in the diocese. The words he had spoken at this meeting of the priests have thus become his lasting legacy.

In Central African Republic, the last words of an assassinated Capuchin priest, became a special legacy for forty or so priests whom you helped receive continuing education.

 

ACN Press – ACN supports UK report on persecution of Christians

16.07.2019 in ACN, ACN International, ACN PRESS, ACN United Kingdom, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Persecution of Christians

Persecution of Christians

Aid to the Church in Need Supports the Publication of a Government Report in the United Kingdom

Published on the web July 16, 2019

Montreal-London-Konigstein, Monday, July 15, 2019An independent report commissioned by the British Foreign Secretary has been published showing the scale of persecution of Christians around the world and the response of the United Kingdom Government to their plight.

 

The report is the first of its kind to be requested by a national government minister and produced with the cooperation of government civil service and other officials. The review was overseen by the Anglican Bishop of Truro, the Reverend Philip Mounstephen. The UK Office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) provided support for its publication.

 

In his introduction to the report, Bishop Mounstephen points out that Christian persecution is not an isolated incident, but rather a “global phenomenon.” In the report, he also remarks that the focus on Christianity is “not about special pleading for Christians, but making up a significant deficit.” Reflecting on the findings of the report, he states that Christians are the religious group who suffer the most persecution. The Church of England Bishop expressed regret that Western nations “have been blind to this issue” and expressed the hope that the report would be a wake-up call “not to be spectators but to be actors,” emphasizing the persecution of Christians is a question of universal human rights and should be seen as such.

 

The report of 176 pages analyzes world trends, detailing the situation in countries such as Iraq, Nigeria, China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Syria and concludes with a list of 22 recommendations directed at the FCO (Minister of Foreign Affairs). It calls for more government action in response to the violence against Christians, which it describes as having at times reached “near genocidal levels.” Among other things it calls on the British government to ensure that “freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) remains at the heart of the priorities of UK foreign policy,” and urges the country to become a “global leader in championing FoRB.”

 

Common Funeral Service for Easter Sunday Victims at St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo (Sri Lanka).

 

The report was drawn up by a commission composed of FCO staff, members of NGOs experienced in the field of religious freedom and other independent members. Among the bodies included was the Catholic pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), which for over 70 years now has been supporting persecuted Christians around the world. ACN was closely involved in the information-gathering for the first part of the report with essential investigative work on the scale of persecution in Africa, the Near-East and in South Asia.

“I hope the action of the British Government will inspire other governments in the world to dare to broach the question—the larger question—of religious freedoms.” – Marie-Claude Lalonde, national director ACN Canada

 

UK’s social media image.

ACN’s DNA: Keep Talking About Importance of Religious Freedom

“As an international organization we are happy to be able to give voice to the voiceless,” said Marie-Claude Lalonde, national director of ACN Canada. “From the beginning, our founder Father Werenfried warned western countries in the ’50s of the terrible tragedy endured by Christians ruled by authoritarian regimes, such as communism. Still today, our work with our partners in 139 countries allows us to ascertain the extent of the discrimination and persecution exercised against Christians. I hope the action of the British Government will inspire other governments in the world to dare to broach the question—the larger question—of religious freedoms.”

 

Neville Kyrke-Smith, director of the UK national office of ACN, underlined report’s importance, saying: “We are delighted to have been involved in this report. It is an incentive for our work that these problems should finally be recognized at the political level.” At the same time, he stressed the importance of protecting Christian minorities in countries where they face persecution and oppression. “There is a vital need to support this Christian presence, given that the Christians are frequently bridge builders and agents of peace in many of these countries.”

 


 

ACN Interview: Attacks on Christians becoming more frequent in Nigeria

14.06.2019 in ACN, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians

ACN Interview: Attacks on Christians becoming more frequent in Nigeria

Nigeria

An ACN Interview in the German magazine F1rstlife – 

Attacks on Christians becoming more frequent in Nigeria

Published on-line June 14, 2019

The turmoil continues in Nigeria. Reports of the defeat of the terrorist group “Boko Haram” contradict what Father John Bakeni experiences every day. The priest is responsible for coordinating aid for survivors of terrorist attacks and displaced persons in his native diocese of Maiduguri in northern Nigeria. The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been working closely with him for many years.

While the threat of terrorism is omnipresent in the north, in Central Nigeria, attacks on Christian farmers by the predominantly Muslim nomads from the tribe of the Fulani are becoming ever more frequent. According to ACN project partners, anti-religious sentiments can also be found behind disputes over land.

Roman Kris from the youth magazine “F1rstlife” talked with John Bakeni about the current situation.


 

Roman Kris: Father John, Boko Haram is considered one of the most dangerous Islamist terrorist groups in the world. Recently, attacks on Christian farmers by Fulani shepherds have been occurring more frequently. What is the current situation?

Unfortunately, not much has changed. A large number of villages are still under attack. Even as we speak, people are being killed and their property destroyed. The fact that the people in rural areas are no longer able to cultivate their fields is deeply concerning. They are afraid of being kidnapped or killed. The state of safety in the nation is becoming ever more precarious.

 

Which dangers and challenges do you personally face?

The persecution of the Christian minority has been a problem in northern Nigeria for a long time. It ranges from political exclusion and the refusal to approve properties for the building of churches to the kidnapping and forced marriage of young girls as an act of calculated violence. The attacks on Christians are growing more flagrant and more aggressive. The ongoing conflict with Boko Haram and the attacks by predominantly Islamist Fulani shepherds have instilled a feeling of great uncertainty and fear in us Nigerians. We consider each day we live in safety a blessing, because we do not know what will happen the next day. It is very difficult to be a Christian in this part of the world, but our faith encourages us to bravely bear witness to the Gospel.

 

Today, the persecution of Christians is growing worse in many places. How do the state and civil society deal with the terrorism in Nigeria? Which kinds of aid, measures and strategies are or should be in place?

Christianity is experiencing difficult times all over the world. It is sad that countries that were once trailblazers and were developed on a foundation of Christian values are turning away from the faith. In Nigeria, the state is not putting forth much effort when it comes to the protection and safety of the lives and property of Christians. We citizens, no matter whether we are Christians or Muslims, expect the state to protect us and ensure our safety. This is the only way that people can go about their business without fear or reservations.

How does the Church in Nigeria help the people who are suffering from terrorism and where does it get the support it needs to do this?

In my diocese of Maiduguri, we receive a great deal of solidarity from other dioceses in Nigeria. But the greatest support comes from other countries, in particular from ACN and other organizations. Moreover, several dioceses in the US have helped us by allowing us to personally bear witness in their parishes. Countries such as Hungary have also sent us aid.

 

How would you describe the relationship between Islamism and Islam? Can and is it necessary for the peaceful majority of Muslims to become more active?

Islamism is a distortion of Islam. The silence of the Islamic majority is disturbing. The people should confront Islamism and denounce it.

 

What can we do here in Canada and in the Western World, to help the hard-pressed and suffering Christians in Nigeria?

First and foremost, pray for us. Secondly, support us financially and make resources available to us so that Christians can continue to keep the faith even in difficult situations. Thirdly, the governments need to convince our government to strengthen the democratic institutions that promote the rule of law, religious freedom and the freedom of assembly for all.

Nigeria is one of the focal countries for Aid to the Church in Need on the African continent. The pontifical charity funds a variety of projects, including support for destitute families who have lost family members during acts of terrorism and the rebuilding of church facilities that have been destroyed.

 


 

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada

 

ACN News – Aid to the Church in Need International receives Path to Peace Award

24.05.2019 in ACN, Peace, Persecution of Christians, Press Release

United Nations-New York

 

 

Aid to the Church in Need, ‘leading organization’ in the world and ‘voice’ for persecuted Christians

 

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and president of the Path to Peace Foundation, has praised Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)—the recipient of the 2019 Path to Peace Award—as “the leading organization in the world putting words to the persecution Christians are suffering in certain places and, even more importantly, responding with action.”

 
 
by Joop Koopman, ACN USA
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web, May 24, 2019

New-York/Montreal, May 23, 2019 – Speaking May 22, 2019 at the Path to Peace Foundation’s annual Award Gala at the Pierre Hotel in New York, Archbishop Auza said that the foundation sought to honor ACN “as a voice crying in the wilderness, echoing the voices of Christians crying out for help.” The archbishop cited ACN’s biennial reports—“Persecuted and Forgotten?” and “Religious Freedom in the World”—as “the best reports that exist detailing, respectively, the ravages of Christianophobia” as well as the state of religious freedom in 196 countries.

“The importance of the information these reports provide cannot be overstated,” said the archbishop, even as ACN “has done even a greater service by all their work on the ground.” Archbishop Auza—who, as a young priest, received a scholarship from ACN that allowed him to study in Rome—noted in particular ACN’s work on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, where the organization “is leading a what has been boldly called a ‘Marshall Plan’ for the rebuilding of houses, institutions, churches and lives in response to ISIS destruction.”

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December 2014, Erbil, Iraq:  Thanks to ACN, these children and their families displaced by the barbaric Islamic State, return to a stable life.  You can see it in their smiles!

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Early 2017 Iraq: Christians of the Nineveh Plains recover their churches along with many profaned sacred objects.  In this picture, a statue of Our Lady of Peace whose head has been cut off and shot right where the heart is positioned: signs of hatred of Christians.

Able to be a voice, thanks to benefactors

Accepting the award, Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, president of ACN International, said that the honour belongs to “those Christians who, just because of their faith, are persecuted, oppressed, discriminated or silenced. Tonight, in lending them my voice, my hope is that their martyrdom is a little less silent.”

He continued: “Our work would not be possible without the unflagging support of our benefactors worldwide. We exist because of their extraordinary moral and financial support and we should keep in mind that it is often the mite of the widow which helps us. Our donors are the foundation on which we build bridges of faith, hope and charity in support of the persecuted Church.”

ACN was founded in 1947 by a young Dutch Norbertine priest, Father Werenfried van Straaten (1913 -2003), to help meet the needs of refugees and displaced people in post-World War II Germany. Today, ACN is a papal charity that supports persecuted and suffering faithful with more than 5,000 projects around the world each year.

Projects include the construction of churches and chapels; support for the training of seminarians, men and women religious as well as lay catechists; emergency aid; and transportation for clergy and religious.

Last year, ACN donors gave more than $150 million in aid. Since 2011, ACN has provided more than $105 million to support Syrian and Iraqi Christians threatened by ISIS and other Islamist groups, ensuring the survival of Christianity in the region.

Persecution of Christians: brought to the UN thanks to ACN

“Religious freedom,” said Dr. Heine-Geldern, “is a fundamental human right. It is the responsibility of all nations and international NGOs to protect every individual’s right to religious freedom. We must not give up the fight for the full implementation of this basic human right, which is inseparably linked to the dignity of every human being.”

Concluding his remarks, he said that “we all have an obligation to respond and show our solidarity with Christian communities suffering persecution, though in the end, the hardest job is not ours.

“Standing with the faithful on the frontlines, confronting persecution, hate and violence, are courageous men and women—bishops, priests, women religious and lay volunteers. The ultimate servants of peace, they remain with their people. I also dedicate the 2019 Path to Peace Award to them.”

The Path to Peace Foundation supports various aspects of the work of the Holy See Mission to the UN. The Foundation also funds humanitarian projects in developing countries. Previous recipients of the Path to Peace Award include: Cardinal Mario Zenari, papal nuncio to Syria; Prince Henri of Luxembourg; and Queen Sofia of Spain.

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Auza said that “the Holy See Mission would not be able to do what we have tried to do in defense of Christians at the United Nations were it not for ACNUSA’s steady and superlative collaboration.”

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Msgr Bernadito Auza and Mr Thomas Heine-Geldern at an evening gala on May 22nd in New York City.

Aid to the Church in Need in Canada

Aid to the Church in Need has had an office in Canada for 30 years.  It sensitizes the population, raises funds and organizes various activities such as over the last 5 years in Montreal, a Mass celebrated on behalf of persecuted Christians in the world, presided over by Archbishop Msgr.  Christian Lépine.  And, for a second consecutive year, the national Canadian office has coordinated the Red Wednesday event.  The next one is planned for November 20th of this year with confirmed events in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and other interested cities.  For more information, or to participate, please contact ACN at 1-800-585-6333, ext 226.

ACN Project of the Week – Seminarians need help in Romania

15.05.2019 in ACN, ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Romania, SEMINARIANS

ACN Project of the Week in Romania

Seminarians are in need of us

The Greek-Catholic diocese of Oradea continues to rejoice at the high number of new priestly vocations. One of the most important contributing factors is the intensive family apostolate in the diocese. It has often been observed that families who play an active part in Church life, who truly live their faith, can provide very fertile soil for future priestly and religious vocations.

 

In 2017, the seminary in Oradea celebrated its 225th anniversary. In the 20th century, however, this long history was brutally interrupted by the communist persecution of the Church. And, it was not until after political changes were made, that young men were again able enter the seminary. A new beginning was far from easy – above all from an economic point of view.

ACN has been helping the reconstituted seminary in Oradea since 1993. And it still urgently needs our help because the immense poverty in this diocese.

Father Anton Cioba, the rector of the seminary, wrote to us. “Without help from abroad, we could not fulfill our mission. We continue to depend on your support and we thank you with all our hearts for the help you have already given us in the past. In doing so you are helping us to experience the universality of the Catholic Church. May God bless you and all our kind benefactors.”

 


We are helping the seminary once again with the training of its 54 seminarians with total of $48,600.

ACN Project of the Week: Support for Catholic radio in Lithuania

24.04.2019 in ACN, ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Lithuania, MEDIA, Radio

Lithuania

Support for the Catholic radio station: Mazoji Studija

Since 1993, ACN has been supporting the Mazoji Studija Catholic radio station in Vilnius. The name means “Little Studio.” But though little, it is an important and precious instrument of evangelization in the country and a very dear one to the Lithuanian bishops‘ hearts. Its work is of great importance to the Church in Lithuania.

Lithuania is in fact the only country of the former Soviet Union that is overwhelmingly Catholic (80% of the population). Hence this Catholic radio station is widely welcomed and listened to, as the abundant positive feedback from its listeners testifies. Indeed, its programs are enjoyed and appreciated even by people who have never had any contact with the Church before and such Christian radio broadcasts are an excellent means of introducing such people to the faith and encouraging them to reflect on it. It allows them to ask questions and find answers and so take a growing interest, even without ever setting foot inside a church or speaking to a priest. But for Catholic believers alike, the radio broadcasts from Mazoji Studija are a welcome source of information, allowing them to learn more about their faith and enter more deeply into the life of the Church. Furthermore, for the sick, the elderly and housebound these radio broadcasts are a special comfort and consolation.

ACN regularly supports the work of Radio Mazoji Studija. Again this year, thanks to our donors, we will with a contribute 22,500 dollars to support this worthy project.