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Africa

 

ACN Project of the Week: A youth centre in Benin

19.09.2019 in Benin, Journey with ACN

Benin

An Evangelization Centre for Youth

In Benin, there is a constant thirst and need for the deepening of the Catholic faith. Whereas the north of Benin is largely Muslim and Christians are only a small minority, in the south of the country the population consists mainly of Christians and of members of traditional African pagan religions.

Voodoo is a widely practiced religion and superstition is widespread – even among many Christians.

 

Because of the situation, religious formation is one of the highest priorities for the local Church. For this reason, , a special school of evangelization was established in 2014 for young people aged between 18 and 30. The school is located in Cotonou, which is the economic and administrative – though not official – capital of the country and also the seat of government, and which sits in the far south of the country on the Atlantic coast. The project is is known as the Jeunesse Bonheur“ ( “Happy Youth”) project and is regularly supported by ACN. It is derived from the well-known “Jeunesse Lumière” project in France, initially established by the well-known priest, Daniel Ange. The youth involved spend a full year living their faith together, getting to know it better and discovering how to pass it on to others – and with joy.

Among their other activities, these young people go into the schools and visit the families, people in prison and the elderly, and share their faith with all who are willing to listen.

The School

This school of evangelization makes the Church in Benin something of a pioneer in Africa. And since 2014 young people have been able to take part in its various programs. It has borne many visible and tangible fruits – for example, out of the young people who took part in the first four years of its program, no fewer than 12 have since entered the seminary and five, a religious order. Several have gone on to establish their own Christian families, while others have found work within the Church sphere and now play an active role in its life.

 

However, the school was initially established on a provisional basis and in temporary conditions doing nothing  to dampen the enthusiasm of those involved, but over the long term the centre does need suitable and appropriate premises, so that it can accommodate more participants. It is to be expected that in future young people will come from other African countries to take part in the program.   With this possibility in mind, a new building is being built progressively, in stages. The first section, which is currently under construction, is the accommodation block for the young men.

ACN has promised $75,000 towards the realization of the project!  We would love to have your help in fulfilling it!

 

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 – Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis, Tunisia

05.07.2019 in ACN Interview, ACN Intl, By Maria Lozano, Tunisia

ACN INTERVIEW – Tunisia

Our mission here is to bear witness

The ancient city of Carthage, in the era of the Phoenicians – where modern Tunis stands today – was the city that saw the greatest number of martyrs of the Church after Rome. Now, in the 21st century, it has become a “very fragile” Church, according to Archbishop Ilario Antoniazzi of Tunis. He was speaking in an interview with Maria Lozano, during a visit to the  headquarters of the international Catholic pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International).

* It should be noted that this interview was done prior to the suicide bombings of June 27 which claimed one life and injured eight in central Tunis.

 

by Maria Lozano , for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the website July 7, 2019

 

ACN: What is the situation in Tunisia today, eight years after the so-called “Arab Spring”?

P: The “Arab Spring” raised high hopes of greater freedom and prosperity, but it lacked a leader who could tell the people how to achieve this. That is why many people have become disillusioned. People today want jobs and security to give them a sense of greater peace and serenity, since for many people the future seems uncertain. As far as the situation of the Church is concerned, the truth is that we cannot complain. We can do what we want within the Church and go wherever we wish without asking permission. We are free, and that is a good thing.

 

ACN: What you mean when you say that you are free? What aspects are you referring to, given that the field of action for the Church is very limited?

We are governed by a modus vivendi, the accord signed in 1964 between the Holy See and Tunisia during the presidency of Habib Bourguiba. Prior to that the French army had been expelled from Tunisia. The Church was viewed as the “long arm” of France, the colonial power. It was for this reason that almost all the property of the Church was confiscated in Tunisia. We had 125 churches, and today we have just four. That left the Church in a fragile state, but at the same time it did do one thing for us: our faith became stronger. Being unable to count on the support of men and having nothing, we are compelled to turn to God and to call on him for everything we need and ask him to give the strength to work in the situation in which we currently find ourselves, in Tunisia. Our modus vivendi does have certain negative aspects as far as the Church is concerned, but at the same time it has forced her to concentrate on the essential, on the spiritual.

 

We had 125 churches, and today we have just four.

ACN: Given that 99% of the population is Muslim, the Church is in a very delicate situation. What does the Church do in your country?

P: We are simply missionaries. The missionary is someone who witnesses to the presence of Christ where He is not known. In Tunisia Christ is not known. All the Christians are foreigners – either students coming for the most part from sub-Saharan Africa or else entrepreneurs who have come to work in Tunisia. We have to support them and welcome them to the best of our ability, something that is not easy, because there are no church bells to hear. All the Church activities have to take place inside the churches; there is nothing to see from the outside. It is not easy to make contact with them, but once we do manage to do so they play an active part in the Church in Tunisia. As a result we number between 15,000 and 20,000 Christians. It is not easy to obtain statistics because, for example, the students leave once they have finished their studies and other students arrive. According to our own calculations we lose around one quarter of our faithful each year, but at the same time another quarter arrives. This means in effect that every four years the Catholic community we serve is a completely new one. As a result it is not easy to establish long-term projects within the Church, or with the Church, because those who begin such a project almost never complete it, while those who are newly arrived do not know what it’s all about. Hence there is no stability, and this is another additional difficulty for our Church.

I am the only bishop in Tunisia, because, little by little, Tunisia abandoned the Christian faith and today the population is entirely Muslim.

 

ACN: But Tunisia has Christian roots! Should that not be something seen and felt?

P: In Tunisia they were saying Mass in Latin even before they were doing so in Rome. Christianity arrived in Tunisia in the earliest centuries of the Church. We need only think of Saint Cyprian, Saint Augustine or all the martyrs we have had in Tunisia. After Rome, the city that gave the highest number of martyrs to the Church was Carthage, in other words Tunis. The country had some 120 bishops, and the bishop of Carthage was regarded as the Primate of Africa, with authority over all the bishops of Africa. Of course we no longer have 120 bishops today. I am the only bishop in Tunisia, because, little by little, Tunisia abandoned the Christian faith and today the population is entirely Muslim.

 

ACN: We cannot see the future of course, but some people think that in a hundred or two hundred years Europe itself may have lost the Faith and be living in a situation like that in North Africa. What do you think we can do to avoid such a situation happening?

P: It is true that Europe is in danger. However, not because the Muslims have invaded, but because we no longer attach sufficient importance to the faith that we do have. If we look at the Muslims and the way they live, on the other hand, on the day of prayer everybody goes to the mosque. In our countries the churches are empty. The Muslims have children, but the Christians have fewer and fewer. Little by little, we are committing suicide for lack of believers, for lack of children. You only have to look at our churches in Europe; the majority of those praying there are aged 60 or over. Where are the young people?

 

ACN: Another factor is the shortage of priests. In Europe the average age of priests is also increasing. What is the situation like in your country?

P: I am quite possibly the only bishop in the world who is complaining that his priests are too young. Currently, among my priests there are two or three who are aged around 90. But of all the rest the oldest priest is 45 years old. We don’t have enough older priests who have a historical knowledge of Tunisia, of its society, of the Church and everything else. That is something we lack. The same is true of their work in supporting the religious sisters, and other priests… There is a need for a priest to have a degree of religious and pastoral experience.

There are no Tunisian priests.

 

ACN: Is it true that in Tunisia all the religious sisters and all the priests are missionaries who have come here from outside?

P: Yes. There are no Tunisian priests. The religious sisters and the priests belong to various different congregations, and most of them come here for a missionary stay of 5 to 10 years and then return to their home countries. We lack a permanent presence of our priests.

 

ACN: Caritas plays an important role here, and not only for the Christians…

P: Caritas is not simply a “movement” within the Church, something that is a part of the Church. For us Caritas is the Church. This represents a great responsibility. With its help, everything we do can actually reach the families, reach society, where no priest or religious can go. Hence Caritas is seen as the “missionary” of the Church. It witnesses to Christ, to a Christ who loves, who helps people, through all the individuals working with Caritas. When someone comes to us, we never ask him about his religion but only about his troubles. Whether the person is a Christian or not is something of no importance to Caritas. We do have Christians; those who come to us are above all Africans, but there are also many Tunisians. We work in areas of Tunis that are 100% Muslim, and we are there to help the women to learn a trade, such as making sweets and pastries for example, so that they can lead an independent life. Once they have been trained in this way they can earn a living and live a more dignified life.

 

ACN: What would you like to say to the Aid to the Church in Need benefactors? What can we do for Tunisia, to help you in your work as a bishop?

P: We have a Church that is fragile, because its activities are very limited, fragile, too, on account of our lack of means of subsistence, since everything we once had has been taken from us. And equally because for everything we need, we have to ask help from abroad. ACN is extremely important for us in enabling us to continue our work and our apostolate, above all among this people, who need our witness. Simply being there is to bear witness for Christ, through our own lives and not simply by words. It means showing by our conduct who Christ is, a Christ who loves, a Christ who forgives. The Tunisians will never have a Bible in their homes, but we are the Gospel that they can read, through the way we behave. And all the aid we get from ACN enables us to bear witness, by our lives, to who Christ is. In the end it is He who gives the grace that touches hearts, not us. I want to thank ACN for all the aid you are giving us. Because this is helping us to stay on our feet, helping us to continue our mission.

 

 

ACN Interview – ACN Head of section sheds light on the DRC, Africa

06.06.2019 in ACN PRESS, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Maria Lozano, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Religious freedom

DRC: “What ACN offers, no other organization does”

On her return from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she visited the Catholic dioceses of the Kasai region, Christine du Coudray, ACN’s section head for this country, reported on the situation in the region and gave her impressions.

 Interview conducted by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Published to web – June 6, 2019

 

Can you give us a description of the overall situation in the country?

This was the first time I had visited the Kasai region of this immense country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, four times the size of France in area. You’re walking on land rich in mineral wealth of every kind – diamonds, gold, minerals of all kinds, petroleum and so forth, yet the infrastructure is wrecked. This particular region, which I spent two weeks travelling, is particularly isolated, and some areas are isolated enclaves. In the country as a whole, the state of the roads, where they exist at all, is catastrophic, but I really found this particular region to be in a state of complete desolation. Historically, this was a privileged region during the time of King Leopold II, the King of the Belgians, who founded the Congo Free State in 1885. He made it his shop window and gave hundreds of hectares of land to the Catholic Church, which he wanted to see established in the country. The Scheutist Fathers (Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) in particular were there in numbers, and in every diocese one can still see today the remains of the buildings built by these missionaries. Later the tables were turned, and the region was punished after independence, under the regime of Mobutu and afterwards, suffering from under-investment and generally abandoned to its fate. The structures are falling apart. The Kivu region, on the frontier with Rwanda, which I know better, is suffering from still worse conflicts, but benefits from having more and better structures.

The situation you describe sounds pretty desperate. How were the people you met on the spot living?

What struck me was the situation of complete abandonment on the one hand, yet on the other hand the local people displayed incredible energy in coping with the situation. I’m thinking of the young people who set out, sometimes from Lake Tanganyika, in the extreme east of the DRC, pushing their bicycles with loads of up to 500 kg of goods piled on them which they plan to sell on the other side of the country. They walk for days and nights like this on the potholed roads, helping each other as they go. I met with one of these young men, who explained to me that he had managed to save up enough for a brand-new bicycle, so that he could also become a “bayanda” – that’s the name they give to these young human beasts of burden – and that he was going to have to make still more savings in order to be able to change his wheels, so that he could carry still heavier loads.

After years as leader of the country, Joseph Kabila finally decided not to stand for the presidential elections last December, partly under pressure from the strong opposition, particularly on the part of the Church. How was this change of decision received by the Catholic leadership in the DRC?

Within the Catholic Bishops’ Conference there was some fairly lively discussion, and this body, which had deployed thousands of observers in the polling stations around the country, finally published a communique stating that in its view the election of the new president, Felix Tshisekedi, had not been in accordance with the “truth of the ballot.” They made it clear that they were pleased to see the political transition, but at the same time considered that the candidate declared as the victor was not necessarily the person who had received the most votes according to their own observations. But the most important thing to be borne in mind was that this change in the head of state is a historical one and that the transition took place almost without any violence. In January everyone had expected that the announcement of the results by the electoral commission would trigger an explosion of violence, and observers continue to be surprised that there has not been. That said, Joseph Kabila is still very much a part of the political scene and the present “truce” is a fragile one.

What is the situation of the Catholic Church, both in the country and within this particular region?

In the Kasai region there are eight dioceses, but for the moment there are only seven bishops, because the diocese of Kabinda is in a state of transition. Of these eight dioceses three, in my view, are in a particularly bad way, namely Kabinda, Mweka and Kole. In addition to its own internal problems, the Church here has to make up for the deficiencies of the state and is at the forefront of all the civic activities – social, political, development and so forth. For example, the town of Kabinda suffers from a terrible problem of soil erosion – it is literally in danger of collapsing – and it is the diocese that is leading the efforts to try and resolve this problem.

What particularly impressed you during this trip?

On the one hand it was the fact that a region so rich in diamonds could be suffering such poverty, yet on the other hand it was the commitment of many of the priests, who are doing exceptional work. I’m thinking of Father Apollinaire Cibaka and his association, which he founded and which is doing wonderful work. They have built 62 schools, four orphanages and four health centres, one of which has its own operating theatre and the regular support of Spanish doctors; then the pastoral work with albino children, helping them to be recognized in their own right, the work with abandoned children or street children, with teenage mothers and the programs for the advancement of women. The construction of an enclosure wall around the local prison, so that the prisoners do not have to be locked up 24 hours a day in a dark, unlit building, the work for the protection of the environment, including the planting of 30,000 trees… We helped Abbé Apollinaire to complete his studies for a doctorate in Spain, and on his return we helped him to set up a radio station, which is an authoritative voice in the local society. So despite the isolation, despite the difficulties, the courage and energy of the people are impressive and admirable. That is why a visit like this one is so very important.

And what would you say was the most difficult moment?

I was horrified to learn that, just a few hours after our visit there, the philosophy seminary in Kabwe had been attacked and vandalized. This is an indication of the fragile situation of the local Church.

What kind of aid is ACN supplying to the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Given the many issues requiring assistance, we are liaising closely with the bishops in order to decide with them on their various projects and assess their priorities in light of our resources. The important thing is that, following our visit, we can provide our aid rapidly. We are concentrating our support on the spiritual formation of the priests and on their living conditions, and likewise on the formation of religious sisters and catechists and the implementation of the teachings of Pope St John Paul II in regard to the family.

What kind of aid is ACN giving to the priests and seminarians?

We want to do all we can so that the Church here can have holy priests. A bishop once said to me, “What ACN offers, is something no other organization offers.” The structures vary greatly from one seminary to another. For example, in the philosophy college in Kabwe there are no toilets, no showers, and the septic tank is blocked up. It is hard to leave them in conditions like that. The seminarians only eat meat once a term.

As to the formation of the future priests, which is truly one of the priorities of ACN, we think that this depends on the formation of the teaching staff in the seminaries. And so we are sending entire teams of trainers for a five-week training course in Rome each summer. Quite apart from the fact that they can in this way live the experience of the universal Church, together with other trainers from all over the world, they learn to live, work and pray together there. Their testimonies of the sense of satisfaction and spiritual renewal there make for moving reading.

As far as their living conditions are concerned, we are providing vehicles to enable the local Church to reach the furthest corners of their dioceses. And sometimes even just a moped will help priests to travel much further than they can ever do on foot. We are also helping the priests with Mass stipends and contributing to the renovation and improvement of their presbyteries, which are frequently in a shocking state and which they scarcely dare to show us.

But you have also mentioned the support for religious brothers and sisters. What form does this aid actually take?

We are also very responsive to the needs of the religious, and especially the contemplative religious, who play a major role in the growth of the Church, thanks to their presence and their prayer. I visited the communities of the contemplative Poor Clare sisters in Mbuji-Mayi and Kabinda. They are a French foundation, formerly supported by their mother house, but today totally dependent on their own resources. It is not easy to provide the daily necessities for 40 religious sisters, including the novices and the postulants. They have a vegetable garden, they rear pigs and poultry, they have a host baking workshop. And they also have a guest house, offering a place of silence and prayer that is open to all. Their convent is some way from the town of Mbujimayi, and sometimes the sisters need hospital care. And there is also necessary shopping to be done, for which they need a robust 4×4 vehicle which we are hoping to be able to help them with.

Does ACN have any projects linked to the various internal wars and conflicts within the country?

Ever since 2016 the Kasaï region has been the theatre of tribal violence of exceptional cruelty; even the ethnologists are puzzled by these outbreaks of brutality, which mingle political issues with fetishist pagan beliefs. It is thought that the Kamwina Nsapu movement alone may have claimed between 4,000 and 23,000 victims, leaving some 1.4 million people uprooted and homeless as a result. The conflict suddenly came to an end with the election of the new president in January 2019, who is a son of the region. But the consequences are enormous, whether visible or invisible.

The visible scars can be seen because, for example, the diocesan structures in Luebo became the target – with the Bishop’s house set on fire, the convent of the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the cathedral both burnt out after first being looted, the presbytery destroyed, the novice house and the propaedeutic seminary both burnt to ashes, official buildings ransacked and looted, many people with their throats cut… Since June 2017 the Bishop has had to take refuge in the parish of Ndeseka. We have promised to help rebuild his diocesan chancery and the convent of the sisters, whose role is so important in helping the traumatized population.

The invisible wounds are in people’s hearts, but they are going to need a long-term program of re-integration for people of all ages – some of the killers were children of seven years old, who after just having served Mass beheaded as the people coming out of the church, they were under the effect of drugs! In light of these events of such enormous and still “unexplained” violence, the Catholic Church now needs to reconsider its pastoral approach and work for an in-depth evangelization, so that Christ may truly reign in people’s hearts through the grace of a profound and personal encounter. ACN’s mission is to accompany the local Church in this new evangelization.

ACN Project of the Week : Transportation project in RDC

22.05.2019 in Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

ACN Project of the Week in 

Democratic Republic of Congo  

 

Repairing essential transportation for travel on the Congo River

 

The diocese of Lisala is one of the oldest and – with an area of over 67,600 km² –one of the most geographically extensive in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Situated in the north of the country, in the Congo basin, it is crisscrossed by the Congo River and its many tributaries making the waterways absolutely vital to the life of the Church.

The diocesan river boat, called: the Magnificat, is of crucial importance to pastoral outreach. But, sadly, the vessel was severely damaged in September 2018 while travelling downriver towards Kinshasa. Surprised by a sudden storm and unable to moor safely, it was flung against a large tree projecting it into the water causing a huge hole to tear on its side. Fortunately, the people on the boat were able to evacuate safely, but the boat sank almost completely. Needless to say, the material damage was extensive and the rescue campaign difficult. One of the priests and other helpers had to paddle across the river to reach the accident site.

In need of expertise

Initially, they attempted to repair the boat themselves and get it underway again, but it soon became clear that the whole process would be much more difficult than they had imagined and would require specialist materials and expert skills. Two of the motors were out of action, and repairing the hole in the side will require the work of skilled boat builders.

The diocese has turned to ACN for help.  In turn we have  promised $13,200, so that this boat with a vital mission, can quickly be rendered serviceable again.

 

Mauritania – Support for the life and ministry of 27 religious sisters

10.04.2019 in ACN PROJECTS, Africa, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Mauritania

Mauritania

Support for the life and ministry of 27 religious sisters
The religious affiliation of the population in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, northwest Africa, is almost 100% Muslim. A mere 4,000 or so Catholics are exclusively foreigners. The bishop, priests and sisters belonging to the only diocese in the country, are also native to 20 different countries throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.

These 27 sisters have their hands and hearts absolutely full in this, one of the poorest countries in the world. They care for expectant mothers, the sick, of migrants, prisoners and the disabled. Their work also takes them into the schools and other educational facilities teaching women who have not had the privilege of an education , practical skills such as sewing, as well as reading and writing.

Moreover, the sisters care for many undernourished and malnourished children 40,000 all toll in the capital city of Nouakchott, alone.

A worsening situation

The situation facing the Mauritanian people is headed into greater difficulty. Whereas as recently as 1960, when the country became independent, some 85% of the population were nomads and pastoralists, living from their livestock. The desert has been spreading ever further outwards, since the early 1970s, and many have now lost their flocks. More and more people are migrating to the cities and ending up in the slums. At the same time, the country, which faces west onto the Atlantic Ocean, is also affected by rising sea levels, which have rendered many outlying areas of the coastal towns and cities uninhabitable.

Although pressure from an insurgent Islamism is increasing in the country, the work of the Catholic Church is nevertheless highly esteemed by many Muslims.

The reach of Catholic sisters

Bishop Martin Happe has one Mauritanian friend who is a Muslim and has very happy childhood memories of the Catholic sisters. While he was still a child, he and his playmates used to think up all kinds of minor ailments, so that they could ring the doorbell at the convent of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. For then, his friend told him, “we not only got a band aid but always a glass of lemonade as well.” To this day he still remembers the names of the sisters of that convent

The Catholic Church is also respected by the government for its charitable work, but it does not receive any financial support. And so, this year once again, ACN is supporting the life and ministry of the 27 religious sisters in Mauritania, with a contribution of 30,000 dollars.

ACN News: The Pope confirms trip to Mozambique!

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

ACN News – Mozambique

Awaiting the Holy Father in September

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

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

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

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

The martyrs of Guiúa

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

 

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

 “Heartfelt thanks to ACN”

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

by Paulo Aido & Maria Lozano ACN International

ACN News : Nigeria  ‘Carnage’ in Kaduna State

01.04.2019 in ACN, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Marta Petrosillo, Nigeria

Nigeria

 ‘Carnage’ in Kaduna State

Since February, 130 people have been killed in Kaduna state, leaving an additional 10,000 homeless as a result of the Fulani herdsmen attacks.

Montreal, March 27, 2019 – “The violence of Boko Haram has now been added to by that of the Fulani herdsmen. While so-called Islamic State has been losing ground in Iraq and Syria, Nigeria is today the country recording the highest levels of Islamist terrorist activity in the world. Our country is, so to speak, the future “hope” of the Islamist fundamentalists.” This was the view expressed by Father Joseph Bature Fidelis, from the diocese of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria, at a meeting organized by ACN with members of the European diplomatic corps at the Holy See.

The reports reaching the international Catholic pastoral charity ACN International from this African country in recent days are dramatic indeed. Since the beginning of February, in the state of Kaduna alone, more than 130 people – mainly from the Adara tribe – have reportedly been murdered by Islamist herdsmen of the Fulani tribe. A veritable wave of violence has left over 10,000 people homeless and caused the destruction of some 150 homes. “These latest attacks have reduced many village communities to rubble and raised the level of the humanitarian crisis here to one of extreme gravity,” writes Father Williams Kaura Abba, of the diocese of Kaduna.

“The latest wave of killings began on Sunday, 10 February 2019, when the Fulani herdsmen murdered 10 Christians, including a pregnant woman, in the village of Ungwar Barde in the district of Maro near Kajuru.”

 

 

Particularly brutal attacks

The priest went on to tell ACN about the critical situation in the hospital in Kajuru and in particular about the five-year-old child who had been gravely wounded. “First they tried to kill him with pistols, and then with a machete, but fortunately God protected him.” Not content with that, the Fulani herdsman beat him violently on the back with sticks. Now he is paralysed. “This poor little child has also lost one of his sisters during the attack, while his mother is still fighting for her life in another hospital.”

The sheer brutality of the Fulani tribesmen is staggering. “Not even the animals kill people like that”, adds Father Kaura Abba, at the same time pointing out the inadequate response on the part of the local authorities. “Neither the governor of Kaduna nor any other representatives of the federal government has so far deigned to visit the victims or seek to console their loved ones. It is the Christian communities alone who are taking care of the medication and treatment of the wounded.”

On  March 19 in the capital Abuja there was a peaceful protest march against the killings. On that occasion Father Kaura Abba issued an appeal to the international community, one that he repeats again today to ACN: “We ask you to put pressure on the Nigerian government to come to the aid of our people. We cannot remain silent in the face of this human slaughter. If we are to salvage what is left of our humanity, then the government bodies concerned must do their duty without fear.”

 

 


by Marta Petrosillo ACN International

Adapted for Canada by Amanda Griffin

 

 

 

 

The Memory of the Gift of Self-Sacrifice Day

12.03.2019 in ACN Canada, Africa, By Robert Lalonde
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Senegal

On November 30, 2014, Pope Francis inaugurated the Year of Consecrated Life, which ended on February 2, 2016, date of the World Consecrated Life Day launched in 1997 by Pope John Paul II. The Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) then decided to write a book to honour 13 sisters scattered around the globe: God’s Initiative – Stories of Exceptional Sisters. This book echoes another one, in honour of priests, which was also published by ACN in 2008, with the title of Heroic Priests.1

This shows the admiration that ACN has towards consecrated persons. On February 3rd, in the parish of Christ-Roi de Passy in Senegal, an event took place to celebrate the work accomplished by all the consecrated people of the Kaolack diocese. Story by Robert Lalonde, special collaboration for ACN-Canada.  

A celebration of the encounter

Upon my arrival at the centre of the village where the festivities were about to begin, I knew right away that I was about to experience a special day: a celebration of the encounter. This special celebration, as suggested by Pope Francis in this year’s homily devoted to the World Day for Consecrated Life, embodies this “Encounter with the Lord who is the Source”.

The women and children dressed up in the African way sway to the rhythm of the tam-tams, while next to them, men strut, dressed in their traditional Serer costumes. Father Quentin Coly, the parish priest, accompanies them, dancing with such vitality that one would think he was a young seminarian. I see how close the parishioners are to the people who serve them and how grateful they are to them.

Members of various religious communities arrive on the other side of the road; they start hopping up and down as soon as they get out of their vehicles. The Carmes Déchaux Brothers, with whom I live, the Filles du Christ-Roi, the Missionaries of Charity, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of Providence and many others join us one by one.

When Mgr. Martin Tine arrives, people gather around their leader to form a festive procession which stretches over a distance of about 500 metres and leads us to a church where the bishop presides over a mass worthy of big occasions. In so doing, the parishioners celebrate according to the Serer tradition, to the great pleasure of the bishop riding in a cart pulled by a horse.  

Amazed at such enthusiasm, I zigzag through this parade like a child who doesn’t want to miss anything. I grab my multifunction camera, sometimes to capture striking images, sometimes to record the rhythms that fascinate the Westerner that I am.  

A plethora of charismas

While inside the church, the choir settles while waiting for the right moment to begin the opening chant, the faithful and consecrated people mingle in front of the church, exchanging hugs and handshakes. Meanwhile, a dozen priests gather around the bishop to continue the religious procession all the way to the altar.

The ceremony is interwoven with liturgical chants, all very touching, giving the word celebration its full meaning. It’s incredible how these songs have a way of carving out a space within us to reach the divine. It’s not naively that ACN supported a training project in liturgical chants for the youth of the Diocese of Kaolack last December.   

 

After the Eucharist, the facilitator will present a brief history of each of the communities which will help to better understand their charisma. These presentations are a reminder that this celebration of the encounter makes it possible to ask for, according to the Pope’s wishes, “the grace to rediscover the living Lord, in the believing people and to encounter the charisma received with this day’s grace.” Throughout these presentations, everyone has a radiant smile that demonstrates the pride of their belonging and the solemnity of this event.

This day, first and foremost placed under the sign of Thanksgiving, led Mgr. Martin to say, “How beautiful and right it is to thank the Lord for the great gift of the consecrated life which nourishes and enriches the Church through the multiplicity of charismas and the devotion of so many lives totally given to the Lord and the brothers.”

Later, he concluded his homily by speaking of this day as being one of “the memory of the gift of self” where each person becomes consecrated in his/her own way, in a concrete way: “Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means having a contemplative heart, able to discern how God walks in the streets of our cities, towns, villages and neighbourhoods. Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means taking charge and wanting to help our brothers and sisters to carry the cross.”

How could this solemn ceremony have ended differently than the way in which it began, that is by songs, dances and a typically Senegalese meal.

A celebration of encounter which never ends!

  1. To obtain one of these books, please contact Sédrick or Adelmira,
    at 1-800-585-6333 or at 514-932-0552, at extensions 227 and 222, respectively.

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

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

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

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

Interview by Anne Kidmose

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Father Damas Mfoi at the grave of Father Evaristus Mushi

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

On line: March 8, 2019


 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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