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Nigeria: Pray for peaceful elections! – Interview with Mgrs. Kaigama – ACN-Interview

13.02.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Interview, Africa, by Grace Attu, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Mgrs. Ignatius Kaigama, Nigeria, Prayer

Nigeria 

Pray for peaceful elections! 

 “If the elections are marred by violence many innocent Nigerians will pay the price. Aid to the Church in Need can mobilize their world network of friends, benefactors and supporters to commit Nigeria to special prayers at this critical time of elections.”

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*This article was published before the decision of the Nigeria electoral commission to delay the election to next Saturday (February 23rd), and also the second round from March 2nd to March 9. 

Nigerians will be going to the polls on 16th February and 2nd March 2019 to elect a president, Federal Parliament and other representatives. Parts of the Country have continued to experience violence from the Muslim extremist groups such as Boko Haram.  Aid to the Church in Need spoke with Mgr Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Catholic Archbishop of Jos regarding the current situation, the forthcoming general elections in Nigeria and his hopes for the country.   Finally, let remind that the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria still represent an extremely strong moral authority esteemed by the population, in a country where there is great corruption, and also, violence against Christians, especially in the central and northeastern regions of Nigeria.

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Interview by Grace Attu

Bishop Kaigama discussing with Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN in Canada. Mgrs Kaigama toured in Canada in June 2018 talking about the many challenges that Nigeria People are facing.

As the Country’s General Elections approach next weekend, what is the situation across the Country?

Mgr Kaigama: Like every pre-election period everywhere in the world, political emotions here are high. Many politicians and their allies are politically paranoid. One hears of how easily some politicians switch from one political party to another which shows that their reason for being in politics is not motivated by good political principles or ideology or people-friendly political manifestos, but mainly for personal interests. Most of them are hardly concerned about good governance and improving the lot of the common person, especially the poor, marginalized, unemployed, victims of religious extremism and the millions who are also victims of the poisonous by-products of pandemic corruption.

Compared to previous pre-election campaigns, the present campaigns even though have recorded some casualties are fairly moderate, but what stands out is the sometimes wild and unsubstantiated statements made by some politicians that could be regarded as hate speeches or incitements to violence.

While a few political rallies have already recorded a few accidental deaths and the disruption of peace, we must commend the campaigns of most of the parties that have carried out their activities peacefully. However, there is a general tension and apprehension as to what may be the likely reactions of those who already feel that there might be manipulations of the elections.

 

Attacks by Boko Haram have intensified lately. Do you think this is connected to the elections?

Mgr Kaigama: Even before now, Boko Haram has intensified its attacks by killing a number of military personnel. The insurgents have become so daring as to take on armed personnel and to inflict heavy casualties on them and not even sparing International Aid workers. They boldly warn the international community to stay off their track. They are doing their best to take over certain parts of Nigeria and neighbouring countries to consolidate their quest for the Islamic State of West Africa.

Attacks by Boko Haram have surprisingly intensified in the last couple of days in areas like Michika, Shuwa, Madagali, Mubi, – in Borno and Adamawa States. Some people say that the renewed attacks are politically motivated or sponsored to score political points or may be an attempt to disenfranchise some of the electorate during the elections. It is clear, however, that Boko Haram wants to make a statement that it has not been defeated. The threat by Boko Haram is still real. They are far from being defeated.

 

Do you have any concerns?

Mgr Kaigama: I should be concerned. When peace is disrupted, Catholic religious leaders like me suffer more than those elected into government because people flock to our houses and offices knowing that there are no gun-wielding police or soldiers to scare them off or police dogs to sniff and bark at them when they come to ask help for the basic things of life. We have to manage to assist those who are displaced and without means of livelihood. Because of how overstressed and overwhelmed we religious leaders become when there are crises, we pray and work very hard to proactively promote the culture of peace and we are making concerted efforts to ensure that we have free and fair elections which will culminate in peace for all.

Signing of the “Plateau Peace Commitment for the Elections”. The document called “Plateau Peace Commitment in view of the 2019 general elections” was signed by the governourship Candidates in Plateau States and witnessed by traditional/religious heads, civil society groups, senior security personnel and various community stakeholders .The signing ceremony was organized by the Dialogue Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre of the diocese. 

If the elections are marred by violence, many innocent Nigerians will pay the price. I hope for fair, peaceful and credible elections; for good, patriotic, selfless and God-fearing leaders to emerge, who will be more concerned about the masses rather than their personal ambition and luxury of the office. Well-formed and qualified youths are on the streets in huge numbers without jobs. We hope that those aspiring to offices at all levels will consider the plight of the youth as a priority.

 

What role is the Church playing to contribute to the proper conduct of elections?

Mgr Kaigama: As the Catholic Church in Nigeria does during every election, our Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) is proactive and highly sensitive to the need for peaceful and fair elections. The JDPC has served creditably as election monitors/observers in the past, pointing out flaws, weaknesses and strengths witnessed. A statement has recently been issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria encouraging prayers, proper conduct of elections and correct attitudinal approach by citizens of the elections.

The Church in the Archdiocese of Jos has been frantically multitasking as a way of contributing to the peaceful elections. We have cautioned our members to be law abiding, to go on peacefully and not to allow themselves to be used by selfish politicians. They must ensure that they possess their voters’ card and go out to vote. As priests, we encourage our people to be prayerful and alert during this season; we caution ourselves the clergy to remain non-partisan. Our Justice, Peace and Development Commission has in the past two years been running projects in target communities for peaceful elections. They have taught different communities what to ask for by training them on the ‘Charter of Demands’ when the politicians come looking for their votes. Our JDPC has organized training on peace building and Alternatives to Violence Programmes (PB/AVP) in schools and communities. As part of the activities leading to the elections, our Dialogue Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre recently organized a peace accord signing ceremony for all the governorship candidates in Plateau State, which was witnessed by traditional/religious heads, civil society groups, senior security personnel and various community stakeholders. Also, going into the elections, as a Church our JDPC is officially accredited as election observers. We are equally prepared to intervene and manage post-election violence should it occur. We pray it doesn’t.

 

What are your hopes for Nigeria?

Mgrs. Kaigama talking during the signing of the “Plateau Peace Commitment for the Elections”.

Mgr Kaigama: I am a strong optimist. I believe strongly that the best for Nigeria lies somewhere close by. I am deeply patriotic about my country Nigeria. There are so many negative things said about Nigeria but I believe that Nigeria with all her defects and imperfections will surprise the world one day, leaving those who ridicule and write her off spellbound and flabbergasted. Nigerians are a peaceful, joyful, hardworking, religious and resilient people who are only unfortunate not to have selfless leaders with vision but leaders who take joy in pilfering the enormous wealth God has blessed us with. This, they do with the collaboration of some foreign countries, companies, organizations and individuals.

Many like me believe that Nigeria will survive as one nation and one people. The time is coming nearer when a moral revolution by the youths, transcending tribe and religion will bring into leadership only serious persons who are prepared to suffer and even lay down their lives for Nigeria and Nigerians rather than asking the poor people to die for them (political leaders). Those who manipulate elections, buy votes, use government structures to win elections, announce losers as winners and winners as losers will sooner than later have nowhere to hide.

 

How can ACN and her benefactors help Nigeria at this time?

Mgr Kaigama: ACN can mobilize their world network of friends, benefactors and supporters to commit Nigeria to special prayers at this critical time of elections. We need to support our various peace building, awareness-raising initiatives and various proactive programmes of peace education organized before, during and after the elections. Furthermore support for training/empowerment programmes for our youth, teenage girls and widows is needed, to give them hope and to keep them out of trouble.

Above all, let us be in communion of prayers for peaceful elections and general stability, hoping that by God’s grace the forthcoming elections will produce visionary leaders who will lift this promising country from grass to grace.


Please consider donating to support the work of the Catholic Church in Nigeria

To learn more about our support and projects on Nigeria visit acn-canada.org/nigeria2018

Central African Republic – Massacre of Alindao – Emergency Help

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

Central African Republic

Death toll from november massacre in Alindao is 80

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Country Torn Apart

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

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

 

Alindao, “a cow to be milked”

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

 

The Church as a Target

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

 

“We have lost everything, except our faith.”

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

 

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


 

Christmas, it’s you

14.01.2019 in Africa, By Robert Lalonde

Robert Lalonde, regular contributor to the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need, is currently travelling in Africa. Before heading to Burkina Faso and then to the Ivory Coast, he spent Christmas and New Year’s in Senegal. This is the first of a series of three texts about the people who make up the local Catholic Churches in these West African countries. Note that all quotes about the Christmas holiday are from Pope Francis, taken and translated from the book L’esprit de Noël, éditions Michel Lafon, 2016.

Christmas, it’s you

On the night of December 22, 2018, Jean-Baptiste, a friend I met at the Institut de formation humaine intégrale de Montréal – a regular partner of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) – welcomed me at the Dakar airport, in the capital of Senegal.

Over the next few days, this Brother from the Discalced Carmelite congregation passed down so much knowledge on his adopted country to me that one would think he is actually Senegalese. But, above all, he revealed to me the love he feels for his people whose hospitality is only matched by their kindness. I feel this profound love when he celebrates the morning mass on Christmas Eve.

That morning, in the Carmelite chapel of Kaolack, I hear the song of the stone curlews through the barred wrought iron windows. It’s as if these Senegalese birds are approaching to accompany Brother Marie-Pierre caressing his kora. This instrument, a cross between a harp and a guitar, invites God to penetrate our soul.

“Christmas is you, when you decide to be born again each day and let God into your soul.”

Then comes the moment to sing Il est né le divin enfant. My singing is out of tune, but my heart, filled with joy, joins the voices of the monks to worship God. We are one, we are together in His name.

The crucifix on the wall behind the altar reigns over the kingdom of the monks. The crèche is kneeling in front of the altar. Despite the absence of Jesus in this nativity scene, we doubt neither his presence nor his coming. Jean-Baptiste’s homily, recited softly, is proof. After having been invited to go in the peace of Christ, we exit, ready to face life’s torments.

“The Christmas tree is you, when you vigorously resist strong winds and the obstacles of life.”

Right away, I accompany Jean-Baptiste in his mission, that of preparing a choir of some twenty Serer* young adults for the evening mass. Once the keyboard, violin and guitar are in the trunk of the car, we cross the scrubland to head to the parish of Ndiaffate, where we will join the choristers.

Once there, and despite the disorientation, I feel at home. I am surrounded by the humanity and solidarity of the people. The harmony of the voices impresses me, the amount of energy overpowers me. The rhythm is so lively that I seem to see the garlands dance on the ceiling and the lights on the tree following the beat by shining above a motley crèche. Lighthearted, I watch the master craftsman, wearing his most beautiful smile. Jean-Baptiste loves music. For him, it is an occasion to glorify God. “Singing is praying twice”, as St. Augustin says.

 

“Christmas decorations are you, when your virtues are colours that adorn your life.”

On the way back, no motor vehicle. At times we see carts pulled by donkeys or horses, at other times we see herds of cows or goats, guided by Fulani people going in the same direction as us. It’s as if they will all be setting up camp in the Carmelite crèche. All of a sudden, I feel as though I am back in the time of Jesus. Momentarily feeling like an apostle delights me.

Jean-Baptiste frequently stops on the side of the road to greet passersby. He says “Salamalakoum”, they answer “Malakoumsalam”. Muslims, Christians, it doesn’t matter. In Senegal, everyone exists side by side, without hostility. A Muslim man even invited Jean-Baptiste for the next day. Jean-Baptiste declines, not without an explanation, and proposes to postpone the invitation. This simplicity and warmth fill my heart with hope.

“The bell that rings Christmas, it’s you, when you invite to gather and attempt to reunite.”

At supper, silence is in order. I am integrating the day’s experiences and feel the peace reigning and the joy flourishing in me. The four Brothers surrounding me look radiant. One of them, Marie-Pierre, who will be presiding over the evening mass, seems to be preparing his homily. I have no doubt when I see him embodying it in such a dynamic and inspiring way when the moment comes to deliver it to the 200 faithful in attendance.

“You are also a Christmas light, when you illuminate with your life the path of others with kindness, patience, joy and generosity.”

Once the church is full, Jean-Baptiste gives the choristers the signal as the celebrant enters, accompanied by two other Brothers. From the first notes, my heart is touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit. All these liturgical songs contain a comforting je-ne-sais-quoi. As if the invisible momentarily captured all the weight of the world. It was this way throughout the Eucharist. I leave in the peace of Christ, ready to welcome him again tomorrow in the crèche.

“The Christmas angels are you, when you sing to the world a message of peace, justice and love.”

*West African people. In number, they make up the third largest ethnic group of Senegal, after the Wolof and Fulani people.

 

Nigeria – More than 2 000 persons remain in Boko Haram captivity

11.01.2019 in Africa, Nigeria

Nigeria
More than 2 000 persons remain in Boko Haram captivity


The mother of Leah Sharibu, the Nigerian girl held by Boko Haram for more than ten months now, asks the international community: “do not get tired of praying for her, until she comes back.

Leah, 15 years old, was kidnapped along with 110 other students when Boko Haram stormed on February 19, 2018, in a boarding school in the city of Dapchi, in the diocese of Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria. A month later, some of the girls died in captivity and all the others were released, except Leah.

Those who were released declared that Leah was the only Christian of the group and the terrorists had forced her to convert to Islam, but she had refused.

Leah’s mother, Rebekah, has asked for continued prayers for Leah: “I know that all over the world believers are praying and advocating for the release of my daughter, but until now I haven’t seen my Leah. I want to plead that Christians: do not get tired of praying for her till she returns.”

Her refusal to apostatize from her faith in Christ has made an impact on her father Nathan. He said: “My daughter’s trust and faith has made me realize that I have been living under the same roof with an admirable disciple of Christ, I am highly encouraged by her strong faith in the Lord and her refusal to renounce Christ even before death at the hands of Boko Haram.”

In October, the terrorist group released a video threatening to keep Leah as a “slave for life.”

Bishop Kaigama: “Pray for Leah”

During his visit to Malta for the launch of the Report on Religious Freedom in the World a few weeks ago, Bishop Ignatius Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, has also added his voice to the request of Leah’s mother.

The prelate made a strong call to prayer for all the people in the hands of the terrorists: “I invite all of you to pray for Leah and for all those who are captive for refusing to renounce the faith. She chose to remain a Christian even in the face of the possibility of death. Leah stands out for her courage in preserving her Christian faith and identity. We have to pray for all the people held, traumatized and in great danger in the hands of the terrorists. ”

It is estimated that more than 2,000 women, girls and young men remain in Boko Haram captivity. Captives are forced to convert, married off to militants and those who refuse, suffer extreme violence.

Up to January 31, Aid to the Church in Need Canadian Office’s campaign for Nigeria continues. The goal is to support the peace initiative of the local Catholic Church. To give, go on our secure website: acn-canada.org/nigeria2018 .

A roof for a new church

10.01.2019 in Africa, Mali, Project of the Week

Mali

A roof for a new church

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa with an overwhelmingly Muslim population. However, until recent years Christians, Muslims and followers of traditional African religions continued to live peaceably together, as they had for centuries. However, this situation came to a bloody end in 2012 when war broke out in the northern part of the country, much of which lies within the Sahara Desert region. Tuareg rebels had formed an alliance with radical Islamists and sought to establish an independent Islamic state in this part of the country. Initially the jihadists gained control over the northern half and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee as a result.

But then in 2013, when the Islamists attempted to conquer the south of the country as well and turn the civil state into an Islamist theocracy, France and the UN intervened militarily in the conflict and rapidly defeated the Islamist rebels.

However, in practice Mali has been a divided country since 2013. A fact that has also impacted the lives of Catholics in the country, who today make up around 200,000 faithful in the midst of a total population of some 18 million.

Whereas in the north of the country, it is all but impossible for the Church to function normally, and the great majority of her structures there have been destroyed, the situation is somewhat better in the south of the country – although even here there are occasional violent assaults. Nevertheless, the Catholic community is even growing here, although almost all her new members are former animists, rather than Muslims.

In the south of the country, in the diocese of San, lies the very lively parish of Yasso, which is dedicated to Saint Therese of Lisieux. It has some 5 000 active faithful and includes around 40 villages. And the number of Catholics is growing steadily. So far they have only a small and somewhat temporary chapel, which is far too small for the community and at risk of collapsing when the rainy season comes. But now, they have been able to start work on a large and permanent church, big enough to accommodate 2 000 people. The walls are already standing, but they do not have the money for the roof. So they have turned to ACN for help, and we have promised them 72 000 dollars so that they can finally complete their church.

ACN Interview – Sister Yvonne Gera in Algeria

18.12.2018 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Algeria, By Grace Attu

ALGERIA / CONSTANTINE  Management of buildings in the parish of Skikda.

Algeria

“They died at their post”

Between 1994 and 1996, Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 others were killed during the Algerian civil war. The cause for their beatification opened in 2007 and at the beginning of this year, Pope Francis signed the decree confirming that they died in “odium fidei” (hatred of the faith) thus recognizing them as martyrs.

On December 8th the ceremony of beatification took place in the Cathedral of the Diocese of Oran, where Msgr Pierre Claverie was Bishop. 

Sr Yvonne Gera, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary who worked in Algeria for 22 years and knew each of the 19 martyrs personally, speaks to Grace Attu from the ACN National Office in Malta about the martyrs and her experience in Algeria at the time.

 

ACN: The official document of the Congregation for the causes of Saints describes the 19 Martyrs as “Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 companions,” who are they, really?

Sr. Yvonne Gera, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary

Sr. YVONNE GERA: Yes. They are Bishop Pierre Claverie, seven Trappist monks from Tibhirine, one Marist brother, four White Fathers, and six Nuns from various congregations that had a presence in Algeria. They all worked with the people; helping the poor, the sick, the children.  The Marist brother Henry worked in a Library of the diocese that attended to more than a thousand youth  especially poor children, some of the sisters were Nurses. The 7 Trappists had a clinic, one of them was a doctor and all the people came. They didn’t ask if they were Muslim or Christians before helping them. Bishop Pierre Claverie always spoke the truth to the government and the people.

 

ACN: Can you give us a background of the situation that led to their death?

YVONNE GERA: First of all I would like to say that the war in Algeria was not a religious war but a civil war. The Islamists took advantage of the situation. On October 3, 1993, all foreigners were warned that if they didn’t leave the country by the end of the year, they would be targeted.

On the eve of Christmas, the terrorists visited the Monastery. They wanted money but the Prior told them, “we live on our crops.” All of a sudden the bell rang for Christmas Eve Mass and he told them, “Today is born the King of Peace” and they told him, “Ayisa” in Arabic meaning that they will come back.

The quit notice was not only to religious but also to foreign Christian families. So, between 1992 and 1993, the Church lost almost all foreign Catholic families. Even as we were targeted, we all stayed. We used to say that the captain is not going to leave the ship while it is sinking. So we all remained.

 

ACN: They are being beatified together.  What do they have in common?

YVONNE GERA: At that time, almost all religious had to write to their superior general if they were willing to stay. Those who were afraid left. But one thing these 19 had in common was that they decided to stay despite the threats. They continued working and taking care of the people. And they died at their duty posts.

Fr Paul-Elie Cheknoun serving the parishes of om Alger and Constantine

 

ACN: You were also working in Algeria during this period. What was your experience?

YVONNE GERA : I worked 22 years in Algeria and out of it was 14 years of war. Why I am here and was not killed during that time, I don’t know. I was also a target. In the morning I tell the Lord, “keep your Hand on me, help me to do my duty.”

One morning, I received a call from French Ambassador. He asked to speak with Msgr Henri Teissier. The ambassador told him, “Go to the French hospital.” We went to the French hospital, and there were 7 coffins. At first, they didn’t want to open it but Msgr Teissier told them, “If you don’t open it, I can’t say if they are the terrorists or the brothers.” Then he opened and in each coffin, there was only the head of each monk (the 7 Trappists). As I was waiting, Msgr Teissier told me, “Do you want to see them?”, I replied, “Yes, for the last time,” It was horrible to see.

The Church suffered a lot. But it was a Church of presence. We never preached. We didn’t go and preach here and there but everyone was welcomed and they came. I was in charge of all the clinics of the Church and all clinics had a centre for malnourished children and a centre for mother and child-care. Everything was free.

We never had difficulties with the people. During Ramadan we used to be invited every evening to different families to have the meal with them. In the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, it is written “pray for us and for the Muslims.” And the young women (including Muslims) who could not have a baby used to come to pray to our Lady, bringing a doll, and when she had the baby, she came to present it to Our Lady.

Participation of 30 young faithful of the church of Algeria in the WYD in Krakow, Poland, July 2016.

 

ACN: Even today, many priests and religious who work in crisis ridden countries suffer threats to their lives. Some have been abducted. What word do you have for them?

YVONNE GERA: We are missionaries. Whatever happens, we are missionaries. We know that that is our vocation and I say one thing, “you will receive more than you give”. It is sometimes difficult, yes but the Lord has called us. If the people suffer, we suffer with them. It is our vocation and the Lord is always there to help us. Even in suffering or in martyrdom. These 19 martyrs knew that they were targeted but they remained. Don’t be afraid, the Lord is there to help you.

On the occasion of the beatification of the 19 Martyrs in Oran, Algeria on December 8, 2018, Aid to the Church in Need (Malta) will issue a booklet about the Martyrs, who they were, the kind of life they lived and some testimonies about them.

 

To learn more about the situation of the religious freedom in Algeria please see: www.religious-freedom-report.org

ACN Project of the Week – Cameroon

06.12.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Cameroon

ACN Project of the Week: Cameroon

Help for the training of seminarians threatened by Boko Haram terrorists

Nigeria is not the only country suffering from the terror of Boko Haram. Its neighbour, Cameroon also suffers from the violence of Islamist terror groups in the northern part of the country.

 

It is true that the organized armed attacks by Boko Haram have now decreased in the face of a united military offensive by several African countries. On the other hand, suicide bombings have continued, as have murders and abductions in the affected areas—leaving many people to live in fear.

 

The Catholic diocese of Maroua-Mokolo, found in the far north region of Cameroon, faces many difficult challenges. Not only located in a significantly poor part of the country, but the diocese also has to take in large numbers of Nigerian and Cameroonian refugees. A positive side to this difficult remains, however, for the people’s faith is unbroken. And despite the fear of attack, people continue to flock to the churches. The number of vocations is also growing. Right now, 32 seminarians are training for the priesthood in the diocesan seminary, plus another 18 youths at the minor seminary; four more are in their so-called propaedeutic year (a form of educational foundation year in preparation for entering the seminary proper).  This number is astonishingly high given that there are only around 84,000 Catholics in the diocese.

 

 

These vocations naturally delight Bishop Bruno Ateba Edo, but he desperately needs financial help so as to give these young men a solid and thorough formation. He has asked ACN for help and we are planning to give him $40,500 dollars.

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

ACN Project of the Week – Ethiopia

08.11.2018 in Africa, Capuchin Fathers, Ethiopia

ACN Project of the Week

Ethiopia

A bookbinding machine for the Capuchin Fathers in Addis Abeba

The Institute for Philosophy and Theology run by the Capuchin Fathers in Addis Abeba is the only Catholic higher educational institution in central and southern Ethiopia. All the dioceses and all the religious communities in this country of Eastern Africa send their seminarians for their studies there.

The Institute also includes a Capuchin Research and Retreat Center, which provides religious formation for adults, spiritual accompaniment and retreat days for religious and laity alike. These facilities are likewise open to Orthodox and Protestant believers, and every other week there is an ecumenical seminar devoted to various different topics drawn from the fields of religious art, philosophy and literature. National conferences are held four times a year and every three years there is also an international congress.

 

The centre also publishes books, among other things translating spiritual classics from the European languages into Amharic and also publishing the contributions to the conferences, making them available not only to specialist readers but also to a wider public. At present the centre can print the books itself, but not bind them. This results in great delays in publication, and in addition it is expensive to have the books bound externally – which naturally also increases the price of the books.

The centre, which is nonprofit, would like to be able to offer the books at affordable prices. And so the Capuchin Fathers have asked ACN for help. We have promised 27,000 dollars for a bookbinding machine.

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

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

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

Time to act to avoid a civil war

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Why do you think he was killed?

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

A special project in Cameroon – Conversion in Prison

04.10.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Feature, ACN Interview, ACN PROJECTS, Africa, Africa, Cameroon, CONSTRUCTION, Sisters

CAMEROON – CONVERSION IN PRISON

ACN renovates the chapel in Bafoussam prison

Sister Orencya, a Pallottine Sister, gives her service for the Church in Cameroon. She has been a missionary in the prison environment. For nearly a decade, she has been visiting prisoners twice a week at Bafoussam Central Prison. This prison is composed of a women’s ward, an adult men’s ward and a youth ward. Altogether, there are about 1,000 prisoners.

The Christian community, under the patronage of Marcel Callo, (deported by the German gestapo to the concentration camps because he was Christian)  has held a presence in the prison for 20 years now. A chaplain facilitates and is supported by volunteers from the Justice and Peace Association, novices from Xavierins Fathers, Sister Orencya and catechist detainees. In addition to attentive listening to the prisoners and providing material help (medicines, clothing, food), times of prayer, catechesis and mass are all organized for the imprisoned.

Sister Anna Kot from the Pallontine Sisters in Cameroon sent the photos together with the following lines: “Hello, A few days ago, we sent you the letters of thanks and request for grant 2018. Now we send some pictures of our apostolate in Cameroon. I do it as secretary in the name of the superior delegate, Sr. Véronique Sakowska. With the best regards and expressions of respect.”

 

ACN financed the rehabilitation of the chapel in 2017. Several inmates wrote letters of thanks. Here are some excerpts:

 

You have turned our chapel into paradise”

“Many of the faithful have converted and many who did not come to church are now the first to arrive in the chapel on the Lord’s Day. You have, through your actions, attracted souls who have made a firm resolve to change and to be baptized.”

“As God never abandons His children when they cry for help, He has sent an angel among us: Sister Orencya, to listen to our cries and transmit them to you. Thank you for everything you do for us inmates. Many prisoners have converted because of our improved life in the prison environment. Many follow catechesis classes and are part of prayer groups in our Marcel Callo community. By receiving much support from you, we have understood that we are not abandoned despite our faults and that the Lord is always with us. Thanks to God and thanks to you, I consider myself happy to live my detention in the peace, joy and love of Christ.”

“God allowed me to enter this prison to know him. Outside, I lived in debauchery. In this prison, I am a path of conversion and radical change of my mentalities. All this thanks to God and through you through the manifestation of His goodness in my life”.

In his letter of thanks, the chaplain explains the choice of the patron saint: Marcel Callo.

“Marcel Callo was deported by the German gestapo to the concentration camps in Germany. His motive: his detractors said that he was a Christian. He will die there at the age of 23.  During his detention, he devoted his time to serving his brothers. Today, following Christ, through daily prayers, Eucharistic celebrations by the priests of the Sacred Heart and catechesis, the Marcel Callo community continues the work of evangelization within the prison. This environment makes everyone happy. »

 

ACN has promised to continue supporting the prison ministry in Cameroon and has just approved a $13,590 project for pastoral care of prisoners in the main prisons of Kumbo and Nkambe in the Anglophone area of the country.