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Africa

 

ACN Project of the Week – Burkina Faso Support for Catholic Radio

01.07.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Africa, Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Support for Catholic Radio

Support for a Catholic Radio Station
By ACN International Projects Department
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin
Published online July 2, 2020

 

For over 50 years now ACN has been supporting media-based evangelization, mainly via the radio waves. ACN founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, understood very early on how the modern media could help to reach people in remote regions where distances are an obstacle and where there are too few priests; bringing the Church to the faithful – where the faithful could not get to church.

 

Africa especially uses radio as a medium ideally suited to this purpose. Radio can reach people in remote and inaccessible parts of the vast continent and play a vital role, not only in spreading the Faith, but also in the fields of education, development and agriculture.

 

For over 10 years now, Burkina Faso has enjoyed diocesan radio stations and today 12 of the country’s 15 dioceses have their own radio transmitters. The bishops’ conference however, has decided to merge all these stations together, they now see the need to unite all their energies and pool their resources together given the numerous problems the country is facing.

 

Radio: Crucial in Times of Crisis

Radio presence is particularly significant in the northern part of the country where recent terrorist attacks and killings have left over three quarters of 1 million people homeless and caused more than 1,000 schools closures, spreading chaos and insecurity amidst the population.

 

In crisis regions radio is a crucial means of communicating with the people to accompany and strengthen them in their faith while keeping them informed. It also provides a means to relaying practical advice and counsel as the struggle to rebuild lives plays out. Also, at times it is used to provide a minimum of education to the children and young people. Radio is also a vital means of promoting peace and reconciliation.

 

The Impact of COVID-19

More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has further underlined the importance of the role played by local radio, helping to inform people as to the best way of protecting themselves from the virus. And, last but not least, it plays a crucial role in enabling people to join in the Celebration of the Liturgy and pray together across the miles that separate them.

 

ACN is contributing $14,500 towards the establishment and improvement of this Catholic radio service.

 

 

https://secure.acn-canada.org/

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

ACN News – Mozambique: Carmelite Sisters testify to the “barbarity” of jihadists

22.06.2020 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, ACN International, Mozambique

 Mozambique

Carmelite Sisters testify to the “barbarity” of jihadists

Three days of attacks in the village of Macomia

by Paulo Aido & Christophe Lafontaine
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin
Published on the web, June 22, 2020

 

At the end of May, terrorist groups launched a merciless attack on the town of Macomia, in the province of Cabo Delgado, in northeast Mozambique, an area rich in oil and natural gas. The Theresian Carmelite Sisters of Saint Joseph have been present in Macomia for 16 years now and do important work in the field of education. Having fled earlier, they returned a few days after the attack and have now related what they saw. The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), which has supported the sisters in the past and which visited their community in 2015, has expressed its alarm and concern at what has happened.

 

The attack began in the early morning of May 28. “It was fierce, cruel and lasted three days,” reported Sister Blanca Nubia Castaño of the Carmel in Macomia, on her Facebook page. Just a few days prior to the attack, she and the other Sisters, who were aware of the imminent danger they were in, abandoned their central mission station, which includes a school and boarding house.

 

 

“For the past two and a half years,” Sister Blanca writes, the Macomia region and indeed the whole of the province of Cabo Delgado, have been “terrorized” by the savage attacks of these armed jihadist groups, whose motives, according to some experts, may have something to do with the discovery of rich submarine deposits of natural gas just off the coast of the province. The operations of the terrorists have intensified since the beginning of this year, and they are sowing terror among the population, burning towns and villages and attacking civilians on the roads or those travelling by public transport.

 

On Thursday, June 4, the Sisters decided to return to Macomia to assess the extent of the damage done by the terrorists, “even though the danger had by no means receded.” But they were hoping, “at the very least to be able to visit (our) employees and their families and help them and give them new courage.”

 

According to Sister Blanca Nubia Castaño, the destruction was violent. “As a result of this barbarism, the town centre was completely destroyed, the majority of the administrative infrastructure was damaged and the commercial and shopping centre was reduced to ashes.”

 

Quite apart from the material destruction, what is still unknown is the number of human victims. “We still don’t know the number of civilian victims or those of the security forces. On June 3, people slowly began to return to their homes, some of which had been burnt, others had been looted… You may remember that it was only a year ago that we suffered the destructive force of Cyclone Kenneth…” – the tropical cyclone that particularly affected the province of Cabo Delgado, causing widespread destruction.

 

Fortunately for the Theresian Carmelite Sisters, their mission of Saint Joseph was spared during the attack, seemingly only because it was situated somewhat outside the area attacked by the terrorists. “Our mission was saved because it is situated in the hills, close to a military base.” For their own security, however, the sisters had to leave again that same day and return to the mission where they had taken refuge, since it was not safe for them to stay in Macomia.

 

Little known crisis, ignored by the international community

Since the end of 2017, the violence in the region has claimed the lives of over 1,100 people, including 700 civilian victims, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). The violence has also caused the displacement of some 200,000 people since the end of 2017, according to UN data. According to the same sources, this new attack on the town of Macomia, which was already sheltering some 30,000 refugees before the attack, has now occasioned yet another exodus.

During his Easter Sunday Urbi et Orbi message in April, the Holy Father himself mentioned this little-known crisis, bringing it to world attention.

In 2015, a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need International visited the Carmelite Sisters in Macomia and also funded a vehicle for their pastoral work. “I am deeply saddened by the situation in Macomia, and especially so since I personally met with the Carmelite Sisters during my most recent visit to Mozambique,” said Rafael D’Aquí, head of the charity’s international desk for projects in Mozambique who said he was particularly impressed by the work of these Sisters, since “their commitment extends not only to the boarding school they run but also to the entire population in the surrounding area.”

In addition to looking after the pupils in their care they also help the families and the teachers themselves; they run a healthcare program, aimed at helping young mothers learning to breastfeed and providing basic primary health care for their babies.

Burkina Faso: No stop to terrorism during this pandemic

19.05.2020 in ACN Feature, Africa, Burkina Faso, By Maria Lozano, Persecution of Christians

Burkina Faso

No stop to terrorism during this pandemic

by Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin
Published to the web May 19, 2020

The terrorist threat, which has affected five regions of northern and eastern Burkina Faso in particular, has been “eclipsed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to a number of different local sources consulted by the international Catholic pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). For those directly affected by the terrorist attacks, the coronavirus is “a disaster within a disaster” sources told ACN. All those spoken to by the charity, in the three Catholic dioceses of Dori, Kaya and Fada N’Gourma – all of which have been gravely impacted by the consequences of the terrorism – were in agreement that “the gravity of the situation is unchanged, and indeed in some places even worse” than before the pandemic, with almost a million people left homeless and a total absence of any effective response from either the national or the international authorities.

Sheltering thousands of refugees while under daily attacks

In the department of Bourzanga (Central northern region) and Djibo (Sahel region), the attacks are continuing on a daily basis. Entire regions have been cut off – not because of the lockdown resulting from the pandemic, but because of the total insecurity in which they are forced to live. The few still inhabited towns and villages are now sheltering thousands of homeless refugees, yet at the same time they are finding themselves increasingly cut off from the rest of the country.

This is particularly true of the town of Djibo, which has been cut off by the terrorists since mid-January this year (2020). According to ACN’s sources, “there is no transport, no food supplies, no possibility of entering or leaving the town. There is a shortage of water, vehicle fuel and food, frequent electricity cuts and so forth.”

According to the national emergency relief and rehabilitation agency CONASUR (Conseil National de Secours d’Urgence et de Réhabilitation), there are close on 150,000 internally displaced people now living in the provincial capital Djibo, while the town of Arbinda, which is similarly blockaded, is sheltering around 60,000 internally displaced people. These two towns are the last remaining enclaves of life in the province, and the last remaining protective barrier for thousands of people in the face of the terrorist occupation.

 

Water.

One displaced priest, forced from his parish in the diocese of Kaya in the central-northern region, told ACN of a similar situation. “The villages are almost completely deserted. Their entire rhythm of life has been disrupted, although there are still some signs of hope. In my parish, where many people have sought refuge, there are problems in obtaining basic necessities. The crucial problem is always water. It is very difficult to obtain this precious liquid, and this means that the women are forced to return to the neighbouring abandoned villages, with all the risks that implies, since they are under constant threat from the terrorists, in order to try and obtain water and transport it back on their tricycles.”

Again in Kaya region, there are important villages, such as Namisgma and Dablo, which are cut off from the towns which supplied them until now. And after repeated attacks, the terrorists have now established themselves in the large village of Pensa, leaving this small town effectively cut off from the rest of the territory.

A fervent plea for authorities to react

Those involved acknowledge that local and national authorities are fully aware of the crisis suffered by the people. But most of the time their efforts are quickly brought to nothing by a lack of adequate resources. Many people are disappointed that the sheer scale of the tragedy is not understood outside the country itself. “Out of the 75 villages in my parish, there are no more than 10 that are still inhabited. Everyone else has fled. And given that certain key villages have been abandoned, a large part of the territory is now in the hands of the terrorists, outside the control of the state,” explains another priest from the diocese of Kaya, who has also been forced to flee because of the threats made against him in his parish.

Although there are foreign troops present, principally French, many people in Burkina are skeptical and complain that they have seen no resulting response. They also criticize the fact that if their own national army had the same level of equipment and weaponry as the foreign troops, it would be able to respond more effectively.

Both dangers are real

Generally speaking, most people feel helpless in the face of this evil, and “all the more so at this time when all the emphasis is on the coronavirus pandemic, forgetting that this terrorism is causing as many and indeed more victims than Covid-19,” the priest explains.

There are many voices appealing to the authorities to show the same determination and seriousness in doing something to improve the situation of the refugees within its own borders and to fight against terrorism, as it is in conducting the fight against the pandemic. “Both dangers are real. And we are trapped in the middle. It is very difficult to know which is worse. At all events, the consequences are the same; both situations lead to death,” says one of ACN’s project partners in the Fada N’Gourma region who has just been given help to build a security wall around his parish centre after having suffered a number of violent attacks.

For almost 5 years now, Burkina Faso has been struggling with this unprecedented wave of terrorism. In February 2020 a delegation from ACN visited the country to see for itself the problems faced by Christians in the north of the country and to reaffirm the solidarity of the universal Church with its people.

According to the information obtained by ACN during this visit, the number of internally displaced people has reached almost a million. Since last year over 1,000 people have been killed – including Christians, members of traditional African religions, Muslims and members of the Armed Forces. Thirteen priests and 193 community leaders, or pastoral coordinators, have been forced to leave their parishes and take refuge in other parishes that are still safe for the time being. It should be said, finally, that at least eight parishes have had to be closed and seven religious communities belonging to different congregations have had to flee to safer places.

 

 

Project of the Week – Burkina Faso

14.05.2020 in Africa

Project of the Week – Burkina Faso

Info from ACN International Projects Department
Posted online May 14 , 2020

Help for the families of forced to flee their homes

The diocese of Dori lies in the far north of Burkina Faso, in the Sahel region. Ninety-five percent of this population is Muslim, while Christians make up only a tiny and widely scattered minority.

Since 2015 the north of the country has been plagued by a wave of Islamist terrorism, leaving over 750,000 people homeless and over 1,000 schools closed. As the crisis continues, an average of 4,000 people still fleeing each and every day from the continuing terrorist attacks. There have been a number of massacres and abductions.

Among the many people who have been forced to flee are the lay catechists   of the diocese, along with their families. Some have been able to find shelter and work in the other dioceses of the country, but a number of them speak only the regional Gourmantché language, which is spoken only in a few other regions making them unable to work in the other regions.

Eighteen of these families now need help to rebuild their lives here in the diocese of Dori. Among them, the family of deceased catechist named Philippe. A father of seven children murdered in a February massacre of this year.

ACN is proposing to help these 18 families with a total of $45,000, for food and lodging, medical care and essential help to rebuild their lives – for example by providing livestock so they can support themselves with the revenue. For Church life today, and particularly in Africa, would be unthinkable without these lay catechists who fulfil a vital function in the parishes, especially where the faithful live scattered across vast regions.

 

Will you join us in helping them?

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

ACN Interview – Mozambique: The hidden war

28.04.2020 in ACN International, ACN Interview, ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Mozambique

Mozambique: The hidden war

“It is important to know what is happening – 52 young people were massacred on April 7 for refusing to join the insurgents.”

An interview with Mgr. Luiz Fernando Lisboa, Mozambique 27.04.2020
by Maria Lozano

Published on the web April 28, 2020

Pope Francis has been one of the few international figures to speak publicly about the terrorist violence in the province of Cabo Delgado, in the north of Mozambique. It is a tragedy ignored by many and unknown to others.

Maria Lozano, of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), spoke recently with Catholic Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of the diocese of Pemba, which is in the region of Cabo Delgado, to find out more about the situation.

 

A few weeks ago we heard about attacks on the town of Mocímboa da Praia, in the north of your diocese. What is the situation there at present?

In the past few months not only Mocímboa da Praia, but also Quissanga and Muidumbe have been attacked. These are the three major centres that have suffered such attacks. In Mocímboa da Praia, as I speak, the situation is under control, but unfortunately there was a lot of looting. During the attacks many people fled the town and took refuge in the forest, spending the night there. Some heartless scoundrels took advantage of the situation and many houses were broken into; they stole food, clothing and other belongings. Last week [20 April] one of these thieves was captured and lynched by the people. Unfortunately, this whole climate of terror has ended up generating insecurity and increasing crime. The people are so weary and very anxious after what has happened.

 

You mentioned Muidumbe; this was in fact the district where the most recent attack occurred, on Good Friday 10 April, on the Catholic mission in the town of Muambula. What else can you tell us about this attack?

In the district of Muidumbe seven small towns or villages were attacked in fact during the days of Holy Week, among others that of Muambula where the Catholic mission of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is situated, in Nangololo. They attacked the church and burnt the benches and a statue of Our Lady, made of ebony. They also destroyed an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom the parish is dedicated. Fortunately, they were unable to burn the building itself, only the benches.

 

Was this the first attack on a church?

No, this was not the first attack on a church. They had already attacked and burnt five or six local chapels, but they also burned some mosques. Although ultimately, it seems, the target is the Christian churches. The tragic thing for us is that this mission in Nangololo is almost a hundred years old and is the second most important mission in the diocese. So, it was a very tragic attack in what it symbolizes.

 

Is it true that there was a massacre in one of the towns of the Muidumbe district?

Yes, on April 7 in Xitaxi. To our immense sadness, 52 young people who refused to join the insurgents were massacred. To us they are true martyrs of peace because they would not agree to take part in the violence, in warfare, and that is the reason why they were murdered.

 

How many attacks have there been, to your knowledge, since the beginning of 2020?

I don’t know exactly how many attacks there have been altogether. But as I said, in this last wave alone they attacked seven towns and villages. Today I read a news bulletin that speaks of 26 attacks so far this year. But to tell you the truth, I think the true figure will have been higher.

 

These terrorist attacks have increased since 2017 and Mozambique has gone from being a safe place to being numbered on the foreign embassy lists as a place of potential danger… How is it that Mozambique has become a theatre of Islamic terrorism? What are they trying to achieve exactly?

I believe that this change of international perception is due to the war in Cabo Delgado. Here in the north, and also in the centre of the country, there have been attacks on public transport, and this creates a clear sense of insecurity within the country. However, I would not say that Mozambique is a theatre of Islamic terror. The most recent attacks have apparently been claimed by the Islamic State, but there are still doubts about this. Some people are saying that it is a local group which began small and is using the name of Islamic State, while others say that it really is the Islamic State. All we can say is that we don’t know for certain. Equally, we don’t know what is behind all this, but we imagine that it has to do with the natural resources. There are many financial interests and those who are funding all this are finding fertile ground due to the poverty, the lack of opportunities and the resulting youth unemployment. Cabo Delgado has always been a very poor province, neglected by everyone, including the authorities. What we’re seeing is the result of all these factors.

 

But the authors of these acts of terror are the same ones in every case, are they not? Where do they come from?

As I said earlier, we don’t know exactly who are the agents behind these actions. We have noted that initially they would only attack a single locality, but recently they have carried out several attacks at the same time, at least in two places at once… Nor do we know where they come from, although many reports indicate that while some of them are Mozambicans, the rest are from Tanzania and other countries…

 

But how do they operate? Is there a particular area under terrorist control, or do they attack and then withdraw again?

I don’t know if we can say that there is an area under the control of the terrorists, but there is certainly a region where they are most active. The people from the villages closest to this area have been forced to abandon their homes and are unable to return, because the terrorists go from there to other places and then come back again.

 

Is there also a religious element to these attacks?

That is difficult to say. Ever since they started, the main Muslim authorities in Cabo Delgado and throughout the country have distanced themselves from the attacks and have said that they have nothing to do with all this. A few days ago they published another letter, the second one, distancing themselves from these groups. In the declaration they insist that Islam is a religion of peace and understanding among peoples and among religions. They do not want violence. We cannot say that these attacks were carried out by religious groups. Both in Cabo Delgado and in the rest of Mozambique we have never had problems between our religions or between their leaders. We have engaged in many joint activities – prayers, declarations and walks for peace.

 

Are the priests and religious of the region in danger?

We have priests and religious, men and women throughout this region where the attacks are taking place. The official government personnel, such as teachers and healthcare workers, have left the districts because they were attacking public buildings. A large proportion of the population has fled out of fear. And several foreign NGOs which were operating within the territory have also left because they were being threatened. I asked the missionaries to leave because as their diocesan bishop I am responsible for them and the risk of attacks was imminent, given that they were the only ones who had remained. They were starting to attack churches, and the violence was taking on a religious dimension. I have to keep them safe, although they want to return as soon as they can in order to serve the people.

 

What is the central government doing to alleviate the situation?

The central government has strengthened its defences and sent reinforcements. It is playing its part; I don’t know if it couldn’t do more, but it is here to provide a defence. However, there are many young people in the military who are mere conscripts, and when the attacks take place there are many desertions and they flee to the woods with the people. They have very little training and little ability to cope with this situation. I feel terrible sorrow for the young people who have to go and fight, because a great many of them have already lost their lives.

 

The Holy Father spoke about Mozambique during his Easter Mass; he is one of the few voices to have broken the silence…

Yes, on Easter Sunday, after celebrating the Eucharist and giving the Urbi et Orbi blessing, the Holy Father spoke about the situation the world is facing, about the pandemic and the various conflicts around the world. For us it meant a great deal that he referred to the humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado because there is a certain “law of silence” surrounding it.

 

What precisely do you mean by referring to a “law of silence”?

The situation is a very grave one, because we can’t speak about it openly. Some journalists in the country have been arrested, and many of them have had their cameras confiscated. There is a journalist from the Community Radio station of Palma, Ibraimo Abu Mbaruco, who has been missing since April 7. It is important to know what is happening and important for the international organizations such as the UN, the European Union and the African Union to do something about it. The people here have suffered greatly, there have been hundreds of deaths, thousands of people forced from their homes. In our province we have over 200,000 refugees. It is an injustice that is crying out to heaven. The people here have very little, and what little they have they are losing because of this war. I appeal for help and solidarity for my people, so that they can live in peace once again, as they desire and as they deserve to do.

COVID-19: How are ACN Project Partners coping in Mali?

20.04.2020 in ACN PROJECTS, Africa, By Annie Desrosiers, Mali

COVID-19:  How are our project partners coping in Mali?

 

The impact of the pandemic in developing countries is very significant.  But despite this – they are thinking of us.  Here are some difficult stories collected by ACN in the diocese of Segou, that are coloured by hope and faith in God in Mali.

“Everyone is aware of what is happening around the world today. How will end 2020? Who can answer? GOD ALONE. Yes, God alone can answer. Coronavirus disease is very real in Mali today. 144 cases have been reported, 13 have died (press release from the Ministry of Health on April 16) … I think that the impact on the population will be enormous, especially in poor countries. Here, churches are closed, unnecessary travel is prohibited. The curfew is too heavy for small traders. Money is increasingly scarce, income-generating activities are reduced. I think it’s hard all over the world.  At Easter, we were unable to baptize our catechumens. We will do it when the churches will be open again. However, the triduum was celebrated in small groups. I celebrated at the postulate of the Sisters Servants of the Sacred Heart in Ségou. At each celebration, we were about twenty people. We hope that coronavirus disease will soon be overcome.”

Our donations are fundamental in these unprecedented conditions, to support disadvantaged and suffering communities.

Thank you for giving to the Church in need.

#ACNSolidarityCOVID19

 

COVID-19 in Africa Catholic radio stations broadcast hope!

17.04.2020 in Africa, Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Malawi, Mozambique, RDC CONGO, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia

COVID-19 in Africa

Catholic radio stations broadcast hope!

 

More than 14,500 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Africa. The virus has cost the lives of almost 800 people there. Public institutions such as churches and schools are closed in numerous countries on the continent. Many Africans do not have access to the Internet or to television, and the radio remains the best instrument for the Church to reach and support its faithful. In this, the Church is taking its mission as a “church on the go“ seriously.

 

By Christopher Lafontaine, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web April 17, 2020

 

“In these days of social distancing and confinement measures, the radio has become an area of life necessary to many people.” Father Apollinaire Cibaka Cikongo discussed the situation that he is currently experiencing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with ACN International (Aid to the Church in Need). The country is also affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The priest from the diocese of Mbujimayi founded Radio Ditunga with headquarters in Ngandajika, a city in his diocese that is centrally located in the country. The radio station was founded ten years ago with the support of ACN.

“Since the churches are now closed due to the health concerns we are all familiar with, Radio Ditunga has adapted its programme to allocate more air time to the celebration of the Eucharist, prayer and spiritual exercises held by priests from Ngandajika,” Father Cibaka Cikongo explained. He also emphasized that all of the spiritual exercises and liturgical celebrations are broadcast live, as was the Easter Triduum.

 

This station has a broadcasting range over an area with about five million inhabitants. However, it did not observe its traditional day of silence on Holy Saturday this year. “In view of the competition that exists between the communities of faith, which other local radio stations use to spread false messages, one example being that several of them are giving the pope and the Catholic Church the spiritual responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic,” Father Cikongo continued, “we decided that the period of silence might lead our listeners to turn to competitor stations, with all the risk of manipulation this involves.”

A new challenge: school lessons live on the radio

In response to the schools closing on March 19, the radio station decided to broadcast lessons live to maintain the connection between teachers and their students. “This is a completely new experience for us,” the priest acknowledged. “We started working with the Catholic education centre La Robertanna (Centre éducatif catholique La Robertanna). As we have a total of 153 families with children, we bought small transistor radios to distribute to each of these families. Other families are interested in the project and will be able to participate because radio is accessible to all. Two hours of lessons are arranged for each day.”

 

“The teachers come to the radio station and the plan is to broadcast questions and answers live for 30 minutes during the time of the evening lesson.” One of the challenges will be “to make sure that the parents participate, particularly those who are illiterate,” while the other challenge is a financial one, the priest explained. “Because of the school closures, it is difficult for the parents to make spontaneous payments.”


Messengers of hope

The medium of radio has proved to be a critical hub for Christians in these times of health crisis, and not only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A large number of project partners of ACN have turned to the radio stations for even more intensive use.

 

One such example can be found at Radio Sol Mansi in Guinea-Bissau, which has also extended its broadcasting programme. This was done not only to raise awareness among the population of the measures being taken against the coronavirus epidemic, but also to continue their evangelisation efforts, now more than ever, by broadcasting divine services, catechesis and the various hours of prayer, Sister Alessandra Bonfanti, assistant manager of the Portuguese radio station, explained to ACN. She then continued, “In the current times, it is our mission to act as ambassadors of hope for a society that fears the pandemic. We have to help keep burning the flames of faith in hope – the hope that the world will return to normal if everyone does his or her part.”

 

ACN supports a number of radio stations in Africa. Over the past five years, the pontifical charity has not only helped stations in Guinea-Bissau and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also in Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia. ACN has made financial contributions to 35 projects for the acquisition of new technical equipment and five projects for the production of new radio programs.

 

Together, let us continue to support our suffering brothers and sisters.  In these times of crisis when the needs are greater than ever, we should be in solidarity all the more.  To give a donation or to offer a prayer, visit our website: www.acn-canada.org/covid-19

 

 

ACN Feature – Covid19: What will become of Africa?

27.03.2020 in ACN Feature, ACN International, Africa

Central African Republic

“Don’t abandon Africa” – Father Gaetán Kabasha’s dramatic appeal on the Covid-19 epidemic

Letter Father Gaetán Kabasha to the world and Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

 Original Portuguese, ACN Portugal
to English, Felipe Bezerra, ACN Canada and adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web March 27,2020

“Do not abandon Africa, remain very attentive and when the complicated situation arrives in these countries, be willing to reach out to help,” asks Father Gaetán Kabasha of all people in the face of the dramatic evolution that Covid 19 may take on this continent of more than a billion souls.

The priest sent a video message to the ACN office in Lisbon, Portugal,  appealing for everyone’s solidarity with the victims of this pandemic. – A native of Rwanda and ordained a priest in the Central African Republic and currently living in Madrid where, as a chaplain at the San Carlos Hospital, Father Gaetán is dealing daily with patients infected with Covid19  “It is very complicated, there are a lot of patients and a lot of stress.”

“If the pandemic cannot be controlled in countries with many economic and health means, I don’t know how it can be controlled if it reaches Africa.”

This experience also allows him to draw a comparison with what may happen in the short term in Africa. He doesn’t hide his concern. “As an African, I am also very concerned about our countries, because if the pandemic cannot be controlled in countries with many economic and health means, I don’t know how it can be controlled if it reaches Africa.”

With the figures being updated almost every hour, it is difficult to understand the scale of this pandemic in Africa, with more than a thousand confirmed cases in about forty countries. But this data can be illusory, Father Gaetán underlines in his message sent to ACN.

“It is true that there are very few cases and that we can still control them, but as we saw here in Europe, everything starts with a case and little by little it grows, multiplying until it gets out of control,” says the chaplain of the Madrid hospital. “It is important for African countries to take action before the situation is too difficult, because really this virus that is transmitted in an incredible way can cause a catastrophe in African countries. I think of the suburbs of big capitals or cities in Africa … ”

 

 

A continent in danger

Father Gaetán, who was in Portugal last November invited by ACN in Portugal, knows like few what suffering, persecution and life means in refugee camps.

The knowledge of this reality leads him to look now at the African continent to conclude that the fight against the coronavirus can be extremely difficult. And he explains why: “Because it is said that people have to isolate themselves and [in Africa] there are people who have nowhere to isolate themselves. There are thousands of people who live on the street, who live day to day and who get something to eat because they go out on the street. If the authorities decide to isolate themselves, these thousands of people will not know where to isolate themselves and, if they find somewhere, they will not be able to survive.”

In the face of this frightening reality, there is hope that scientists will be able to find the solution to the pandemic before it hits the African continent. “We are praying a lot that this situation that I am seeing in Spain, that is happening in Italy and that can happen in other European countries, does not reach Africa before the remedy is discovered,”says Father Gaetán Kabasha.

All around the world, the members of the Catholic Church are actively comforting people most touched by this pandemic.  In many countries Sisters are nurses, they manage the dispensaries, the homes for the elderly and other health related institutions.  Helping them through this crisis means supporting the presence of the Church for the weakest members of society. Aid to the Church in Need around the world will continue to support the Church in every way possible.

Thank you for continuing your support, in any way you find possible.

ACN News, Cameroon: Boko Haram – “ the beast of the Apocalypse”

27.01.2020 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Maria Lozano, Cameroon, Nigeria

Cameroon

Boko Haram – “ the beast of the Apocalypse”

The toll of daily attacks on Cameroon’s villages bordering on Nigeria

By Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted for ACN Canada by Mario Bard and Amanda Griffin

Published on the web January 27, 2020

 

Boko Haram is like the beast of the Apocalypse, or a many-headed Hydra; whenever you cut off one of its heads, it simply seems to grow another,” says Bishop Bruno Ateba of the diocese of Maroua-Mokolo in northern Cameroon, while speaking to representatives of the international Catholic pastoral pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International).

 

Nearing the end of 2015, the Nigerian government announced that the terrorist group called Boko Haram – born in Nigeria in 2002 and radicalized in 2009 – had finally been defeated.

However, according to information received by ACN, there is every indication that the group has simply shifted its sphere of operations to the more rural areas of Nigeria and even extended it into the border regions of Cameroon and Lake Chad. “In the villages of Borno State in Nigeria, and throughout the border regions of Cameroon, not a day passes without news of attacks and incursions by the terrorists. The abductions and executions of the country-people have become a veritable reign of terror and a source of deep psychosis among the population,” Bishop Bruno insists.

Since just after this past Christmas, a video has publicly circulated showing the beheading of 11 people in Nigeria. Responsibility for this atrocity has been claimed by the so-called Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), one of the two factions into which Boko Haram split in 2016.

At almost the same time, Bishop Barthélemy Yaouda Hourgo of Yaouga in Cameroon, native to a village close to the Nigeria border, wrote the following alarming message to ACN: “My birthplace, the village of Blablim, no longer exists! The terrorists have murdered a young man of my family and totally devastated the entire village, including the house I was born in. Everybody, with the exception of the sick and elderly, was forced to flee to Mora, 10 miles (17 km) away. It will be impossible now to gather in the cotton harvest. Right now the weather is very cold in this area. Please pray for all those who are having to sleep outside in the inclement weather at this time the year.”

 

Terrorism, or organized crime?

Destruction, pillaging, robbery and kidnappings are the hallmarks of this terrorist group’s activity. According to senior figures in the Nigerian army, the jihadist Islamic group has lost its power and broken up into organized criminal gangs. Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, the current Chief of Staff of the Nigerian army, indicated on September 19, 2019 that “the mode of operation of these elements is pure criminality for personal gain. It is common knowledge that the criminals no longer pretend to be championing any cause other than the quest for materialism as manifested in murder and terror of hapless people.”

At the same time, he urged the Nigerian people to refrain from “glorifying these criminals by calling them by any name other than “criminals” “rapists” “kidnappers” “armed robbers” and “murderers.”

According to the data from the Nigeria Security Tracker, although more than 36,000 people have died since 2012 as a result of these conflicts, including civilians, soldiers and terrorists, the number of victims in Nigeria has now fallen sharply, in comparison with the horrific numbers recorded in 2014 and 2015.

This positive result has been due in part to the defensive efforts of the multi-national military forces, which in addition to the Nigerian army include also those of Cameroon, Niger and Chad. According to the independent International Crisis Group, in Cameroon alone an army of over 7,000 soldiers was deployed during two important military operations, including units of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), an elite army corp.

 

A more violent beast re-emerges

Nevertheless, although in recent years these Armed Forces have effectively prevented the conventional attacks previously launched by Boko Haram, they have not succeeded in cutting off the movement at its roots; instead it appears that a new generation of militants is now posing a fresh threat. “The poverty and insecurity faced by people in the rural areas and the lack of prospects for young people makes them an easy target for manipulation by the jihadists,” Bishop Ateba confirms.

According to data supplied by Human Rights Watch, the conflict between Boko Haram and the international armed forces has led to the displacement of over 270,000 people within the country since 2014. The armed Islamist Boko Haram group apparently carried out over 100 attacks in Cameroon during 2019, killing more than a hundred civilians.

“Just at the moment when people thought that the beast of Boko Haram had been completely decapitated, the horror has resurfaced in northern Cameroon. Within my own diocese there have been 13 attacks in the last weeks. One church was burnt down on the feast of the Epiphany. We are still investigating who was behind the incident, but everything points to a terrorist attack,” Bishop Bruno explains.

ACN Project of the Week Democratic Republic of the Congo

09.01.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

ACN Project of the Week

Democratic Republic of the Congo


Two-year’s of support for training for 10 catechists

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as in almost every African country, catechists play a vital role in passing on the faith. Church life in the diocese of Lolo, in the north of the country, would practically grind to a halt were it not for the catechists living and working alongside the faithful in the villages and encouraging them to gather together for prayer and study of their faith.

Many of these parishes cover vast areas including numerous, often very difficult of access, villages. The handful of priests available have to cover long distances on foot, sometimes wading through waist-high streams, in order to reach the people in the villages. Hence it is impossible to them to visit as often as they would need to if they want to teach and guide the faithful. But the lay catechists are always on hand which says everything about how important they are!

Training over a two-year period

In the diocese of Lolo there is a catechetical centre where the lay catechists can receive solid training for this precious service they offer to diocesan life, and also regularly update and refresh their knowledge. The basic training for these catechists lasts two years. Since they generally already have a family, they can go with them. So the diocese also provides basic accommodation for the whole family.

While the fathers are studying, their children also attend school, the diocese covering the cost and providing teaching materials and school uniforms as well. And at the same time the mothers also follow a range of courses, for example in needlework, domestic science, reading and writing and also basic courses in Bible studies and morality.

The aim is to provide the future catechists with both a theoretical and a practical training in pastoral studies and proclaiming the Catholic faith. For Bishop Jean Bertin Nadonye Ndongo the training of his catechists is a project dear to his heart and he is quite sure that their improved formation has given a “new impetus“ to the diocese and been a “source of inspiration“ to them all. But the need for well-trained catechists is still acute, he says, and this is why he has asked our help for the training of 10 more catechists and their families. We have promised him $19,500.