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Africa

 

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
  • Modifier

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

MOZAMBIQUE: “The wounds of the civil war are still open”

01.03.2019 in Africa, AFRIQUE, Mozambique, Paolo Aido

Peace still has not come to Mozambique. For Bishop Adriano Langa of Inhambane, “the wounds left behind by war are not as easy to close as a tap.”

The traces and aftereffects of the many years of armed conflict are still visible throughout the African country. During a meeting held at the international headquarters of the Pontifical Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Königstein, Germany, Bishop Langa explained that there is still quite a way to go before it will actually be possible to live in peace.

By Paulo Aido, ACN-International

“We say that the war continues to claim lives even though the guns have fallen silent,” he said. “We have yet to overcome the aftereffects of the war fought to gain independence from the colonial power, the civil war as well as the political tensions of 2014 to 2015 … and it will take a very long time for them to disappear. It is something that cannot be seen, but still exists.” The civil war in Mozambique, which lasted from 1977 to 1992, cost the lives of almost one million people. Moreover, an estimated five million people were forced to leave their homes and their homeland. In spite of the peace agreement signed in 1992 the spectre of war could never be banished completely.

“We say that the war continues to claim lives even though the guns have fallen silent,”

Jihadist attacks in the North?

As though this were not enough, a wave of violence was unleashed in October of 2017 in the northern part of the country, in the province of Cabo Delgado. Extremely violent attacks were carried out on villages, during which houses were destroyed and people killed. It is estimated that over one hundred and fifty Mozambicans lost their lives during these attacks, but none of the known groups have claimed responsibility for them. This has given rise to all sorts of speculation, including a direct link to radical Islamist groups. The bishop of Inhambane is aware of the problem. He gave voice to the concerns of the church, “People die. Or their lives are destroyed … When a house or a village is destroyed, life is also destroyed. The Church is concerned and we hope that the situation can be resolved. More than anything, we hope that this will all come to an end. We want the attacks to cease because there has been a great deal of violence and the situation is very difficult.” According to Bishop Adriano Langa, it is important “to offer signs that the Church is right there.”

Immense Poverty

The civil war has had a dramatic effect on Mozambique: in addition to the numbers of deceased, injured and displaced, the entire country was plunged into underdevelopment. In 1990, while the civil war still raged, Mozambique was considered the poorest country in the world. Today, the prevailing poverty is another sign that the “tap” of war has not been completely turned off yet. The Church is aware of the problem.

According to Bishop Alberto Vera, president of Caritas Mozambique and bishop of Nacala, the poverty rate primarily rose in rural areas this year and prosperity has only increased in the circles of the political and financial elite. This has only deepened the chasm between the country’s rich and poor.

Bishop Adriano Langa confirmed this assessment during the interview with the ACN Charity. “Of course there is poverty in Mozambique, that is indisputable.” For the bishop of Inhambane, the poverty is particularly evident in rural areas, one example being in his diocese, which has very poor infrastructure. “When there are no roads, communication becomes very poor and that is what is happening in Mozambique. The north produces a great deal; however, the products do not reach the south because of the lack of roads.”

ACN supports the church in Mozambique with subsistence support to priest and religious sisters as well as with financial aid for formation and building projects. The organization funded projects in 2017 with almost 975 000 dollars in grants.

March 1, 2019

Nigeria – Leah Sharibu, one year in captivity – ACN-News

22.02.2019 in ACN International, Africa, by Grace Attu, Nigeria

Nigeria
Leah Sharibu, one year in captivity

On February 19, 2018, Leah Sharibu, a young girl of 15th years old was abducted and since then, she is still hostage by Boko Haram Terrorists from Dapchi in Maiduguri, North East Nigeria.

By Grace Attu

Speaking with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Reverend Gideon Para-Mallam who is the family guardian and spokesman of the Sharibu family said of the current situation:

“I have just finished speaking with Leah’s parents, Nathan and Rebecca Sharibu. And then prayed with both of them. The parents are strong in Christ but one could feel the pain in their heart. My own heart is heavy too. I told them the efforts of all Christians worldwide including Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). They personally asked me to thank all who are standing with them, both local and international.”

Also speaking, Leah’s Father, Nathan Sharibu sighed, “We will not give up. We are strong in Christ” and agreeing with him, her mother Rebecca Sharibu added, “God is able to keep us and bring Leah back, so to give up is not an option.”

Reverend Para-Mallam described Leah as the heroine of the Christian faith in the 21st century, an icon of the Christian faith for the younger generation and a symbol of faith resilience emerging from North Eastern Nigeria- a people who have suffered persecution for so long.

“God is making a powerful statement through the captivity and courage of Leah Sharibu. Christianity can never be destroyed by Boko Haram or any force on earth: spiritual or physical – temporal or long-term,” the evangelical pastor said.

“The God of justice reigns,” he emphasized, “Boko Haram will not escape God’s divine justice and intervention on Leah’s behalf and others in captivity.”

Rev. Para-Mallam prayed for the release of not only Leah but through her, other several unknown captives – Muslims and Christians alike – who are being held captive by the deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram.

“My appeal and question to Boko Haram is – Where is your humanity? Imagine if Leah were your daughter, would you like what you are doing to her? Against her will and consent? God never forces anyone to convert!” he said.

Burkina Faso – Alarming situation for Christians – ACN-News

22.02.2019 in Africa, AFRIQUE, By Maria Lozano

Burkina Faso
Alarming situation for Christians in Burkina Faso

The murder of a missionary in Burkina Faso reflects the alarming situation into which the country is sliding

“Their vehicle was returning from a meeting in Togo when, just a few kilometres after the frontier, they were ambushed by terrorists who had just murdered four policemen and burned down a customs post. The armed men stopped the vehicle and forced passengers to disembark. Then they took the priest to one side and shot him in the head.” This was the account of Father Jacob Lompo, the bursar for the diocese of Fada N’Gourma, who was speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the murder of the Spanish missionary Father Antonio Cesar Fernández.

By Maria Lozano, ACN-International

The attack took place on Friday 15 February when this 72-year-old Spanish priest was returning to Burkina Faso together with two other Salesian religious – both of whom escaped unharmed from the attack.

“It is the first time that something like this has happened in this area. They have never experienced anything of the kind before. But it is undoubtedly true that we have recently seen worrying activities by gangs of bandits and terrorists,” said a source close to ACN, which prefers to remain anonymous. “There are areas bordering on the diocese of Tenkodogo and Fada N’Gourma where it is no longer possible to celebrate Holy Mass, because in some of the villages there have been abductions and hostage-taking.”

The murder of this priest is just one more misfortune in the tragic chain of events that is afflicting the country. According to Father Lompo, in the diocese of Fada N’Gourma “a number of communities and churches have been forced to close down because jihadist groups have been going through the villages threatening the inhabitants and demanding that they convert to Islam.”

600 State Schools Have Had to Close Down On

“Many of the Christians are terrified and have fled. The parish priest has had to go looking for his catechists, who have been intimidated, and relocate them to other, safer places. A congregation of religious sisters has also had to move because of the danger,” he told ACN.

This climate of fear is affecting above all the north, the east and the Sahel zone where, according to Father Lompo, “600 state schools have had to close down on account of the terrorist threats.”

“The most alarming reports in recent months have come to us from the diocese of Fada N’Gourma and above all from the frontier region with Niger, where the insecurity is acute, especially in the forest region. So this recent attack and the murder of Father Antonio Cesar in the south of the country, closer to the border with Ghana and Togo, is really worrying”, says Rafael D’Aqui, ACN’s section head with responsibility for the projects in Burkina Faso.

“From a geographical point of view, the problem of insecurity and radicalization that initially existed on the border with Mali has then extended towards the east, to the border with Niger, and in the last year also to the southeast of the country – for example in the areas close to Pama, where we had already had reports in the past of radicalization, and of insecurity among the Christian community. But the murder of this Salesian priest on Friday the 15th took place some 130 km from there. It seems as though the terrorists and guerrilla fighters are trying to encircle the frontiers of Burkina Faso. This is something new and it is really alarming,” Mr D’Aqui explained.

“What is especially shocking is the fact that they should murder in this way a priest and religious who has given his life to bring about development and worked with the young people, a man who loved this country where the social work of the Catholic Church in education and healthcare has brought major benefits to everyone, and not just to the Christians. It saddens me greatly, for this attack is not simply on the life of a single person but in all the country,” added D’Aqui, who recently travelled to Burkina Faso to visit some of the projects supported by ACN. And concludes: “We have to pray for peace and for an end to this situation, which is creating a psychosis that is harmful to the country.”

Cameroon – The Church is threatened – ACN-Interview

15.02.2019 in ACN International, ACN International, ACN Interview, ACN Intl, AED Canada, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Cameroon, Journey with ACN, Thomas Oswald, War

Cameroon


“The truth we speak is not welcome in this fratricidal conflict.”

At present the Anglophone areas of Cameroon are constantly being shaken by a conflict between Anglophone separatist groups and the Francophone central government. In this context of fratricidal conflict, the Church is attempting to rekindle dialogue between the two parties. Bishop Emmanuel Abbo of Ngaoundéré, in the Francophone area, who is 49, and Auxiliary Bishop Michael Bibi of Bamenda, in the Anglophone area, talk about the situation in their country. Aid to the Church in Need spoke with them (By Thomas Oswald).

 

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Mgrs. Emmanuel Abbo: ”I am not on the spot, but the news that reaches us is not reassuring. ”

ACN: “Are we talking about ‘civil war’ in the Anglophone areas?

Bishop Michael Bibi: The Elections in October 2018 should have enabled the people of this region to express themselves democratically via the ballot box. But in reality the situation is more complicated than that, since there are a great many internally displaced people and very few Cameronians were able to vote in practice. Unfortunately, the conditions for a peaceful exercise in democracy are not established. And yet it is only through a candid and inclusive dialogue that we will be able to emerge from this crisis. But for the time being, the only voices urging this are the religious leaders!

Bishop Emmanuel Abbo: I am not on the spot, but the news that reaches us is not reassuring. We receive widely differing information, so it is difficult to speak objectively.

 

ACN: On several occasions the Church in Cameroon has sounded the alarm, alerting us to the situation of the priests and religious living in the Anglophone areas. What kind of role is the Church able to play?

Bishop Michael Bibi: The Church is on the front line. A priest and a seminarian have both been murdered in the Anglophone region. In the case of the latter it was a deliberate execution, staged in front of his church in the presence of the parishioners. And sadly, these two are not simply isolated cases. I receive alarming news from many priests and religious who have been shot at, or kidnapped and ransomed. I myself have been arrested, but they let me go again after a few hours.

I can bear witness to the fact that the clergy who stay on in the Anglophone area is particularly under threat. We speak the truth. We tell the young people to stay in school and not join the militias that it will lead to nothing – and so the militias accuse us of playing the government’s game for them. But we also denounce the actions of the government army and call for the region to be demilitarized – and so all of a sudden we are accused by the authorities of siding with the rebels! The truth we speak is not welcome in the midst of this fratricidal conflict. The truth is that both sides are involved in the killing and are only adding violence to violence.

Bishop Emmanuel Abbo: The Church is playing her part in resolving conflicts and upholding the peace. The bishops’ conference is taking initiatives, but we prefer the path of quiet diplomacy, talking directly to the parties in the conflict, since too much media attention risks undermining the success of these initiatives.

 

ACN: How is the Church faring in your country?

Mgrs. Michael Bibi: ”I receive alarming news from many priests and religious who have been shot at, or kidnapped and ransomed. I myself have been arrested, but they let me go again after a few hours.”

Bishop Michael Bibi: Thanks be to God, the Cameroonian people have a strong faith. They attend Sunday Mass with real fervour, and we have a number of priestly vocations. What is needed now is for our political leaders to be likewise illuminated by this faith.

Bishop Emmanuel Abbo: My diocese was evangelized barely 60 years ago. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a congregation of French origin, arrived here in the 1950s. There are three factors that give me hope: I have a cohort of priests in my diocese who are very young, very dynamic and with whom I enjoy an excellent collaboration; then we have the presence of the religious congregations, who share our pastoral concerns; and finally, despite the widespread poverty, we have the Catholic faithful who are willing to do whatever they can to help our Church move forward.

We are facing enormous challenges. On the pastoral level, the diocese does not have enough priests – that is why I have appealed for fidei donum priests to come – nor does it have enough of human and material resources. In the social sphere, we would like to be able to rebuild our schools and health centres in solid materials. And in the development field we would like to be able to support our people, who are extremely poor, in organizing associations or cooperatives. And one of our priorities in the pastoral field is the construction of a diocesan pastoral centre where we can hold our formation sessions which we would like to organize for our 343 catechists and 57 priests.

 

ACN: Would you like to say something to our benefactors?

Bishop Michael Bibi: We need the prayers of ACN. And we also need practical help for the victims of the conflict in the Anglophone region, in line with the words of Jesus: “I was hungry, and you fed me, naked, and you clothed me.”

Bishop Emmanuel Abbo: I would like to thank them all for their generosity. They have been a huge support for us in our dioceses, and especially here in Cameroon, because ACN helps us greatly with our pastoral projects. And please redouble your generosity, because our problems and our concerns are continuing to grow.

 

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Good news came from Aid to the Church for Mgr George Nkuo.

 

Just now arrived an email from Kumbo. After they got a message announcing grants to various projects for the diocese. Please find the thank you message of Bishop George Nkuo:

“You have allotted grants for our 110 major seminarians, for the NFP in our family life office, for the novices of the Tertiary Sisters, and for the Brothers of St Martin de Porres.  I wish to sincerely thank you for your very kind consideration.

These grants come at a time when the church in our Ecclesiastical Province is going through a very difficult time and our local income has been seriously affected because of the war going on in our regions so you can imagine the relief it has brought to our various communities. I hasten to write on their behalf to say Thank You. Once more thank you and may God continue to bless you and our benefactors. +George.’’