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Africa

 

ACN Project of the Week – Help for seminarians in Congo

03.10.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Africa, By ACN Project Services

Republic of Congo (Brazzaville)

Help for the training of 83 seminarians

The statistics reflecting the numbers of the Catholic Church in Africa represent something of a record holder. For one in every nine priests, one in every four seminarians and one in every six lay Catholics in the world hail from this continent!

 

Seminarians in training – Brazzaville, Congo

Many of the seminaries are bursting at the seams, and—in contrast with other parts of the world—the number of priests is actually growing year after year. However, in the Republic of the Congo—also known as Congo Brazzaville—the Catholic faith is only now experiencing a somewhat slow revival owing to the fact that from 1969 to 1991, the country was under a communist regime and the Church suffered widespread repression and reprisals as a result.

 

Today, approximately one third of the country’s 5 million inhabitants are Catholic. However, despite decades of oppression and the fact that the priests in this country must often live and work in conditions of extreme poverty—in many cases minister to vast territories—vocations are still plentiful. In the country’s only major seminary, situated in the capital Brazzaville, 83 young men are currently training for the priesthood. Last year six new priests were ordained and 11 seminarians were ordained to the diaconate.

 

 

In order to ensure these future priests receive a sound and solid formation, ACN is supporting the Brazzaville Seminary as it has done in previous years. This time though, we are proposing to give $22,650 so these 83 young men can continue serenely on their path to the priesthood.

Are you in inspired by this projects supporting seminarians? If you would like to help create more projects such as this, simply click above – to donate.

ACN Interview: Uganda and the Hope for refugees from South Sudan

28.09.2018 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Africa, By Robert Lalonde, Uganda

 

Uganda, 2018
Christine du Coudray (project officer for Africa I at ACN) visiting the refugee camp in Bidibidi
(From left to the right:  Christine du Coudray, Mgr Tombe Trille (Bishop of El Obeid in Sudan)

ACN Interview

Uganda and the Hope for refugees from South Sudan

Christine du Coudray, the person responsible for the Africa Department at the Pontifical Charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), returned from a journey to Uganda a few weeks ago. While there she visited the Bidibidi and Imvepi camps located in the north-west of the country. There are 1.2 million refugees, coming for the most part from South Sudan, dispersed throughout the camps in this region covering the dioceses of Arua, Nebbi and Gulu. Moreover, there are also refugees to be found in the Kampala area, the capital located at the centre of the country. In an interview, Robert Lalonde gathers some initial impressions of her trip.

 

 

What made you decide to visit this region?

I was invited by three bishops: Msgr Eduardo Kussala, Bishop of Tombura Yambio and President of the Episcopal Conference, Msgr Roko Taban, the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Malakal  – both from South Sudan -, and Msgr Tombe Trille, Bishop of El Obeid in Sudan. They had come to see for the first time the situation of their compatriots who had fled to Uganda to escape the violence in South Sudan. I was also invited by the American foundation Sudan Relief Fund with which ACN is linked since we co-fund a number of projects. Msgr Sabino Odoki, the Bishop of Arua in Uganda, took us to get an overview of the situation in these camps. It was a highly enriching week and it left a strong impression.

 

How would you describe the situation there?

Since we are dealing with refugee camps, you would think that the prevailing mood was one of distress. But it’s important to know that these camps have been in existence since 2013. The residents have food, drinking water and medical care. They even have a plot of land that they can cultivate. All things considered, the living conditions are definitely better than in many African villages which do not receive any external aid. Even so the situation is difficult, which is why the refugees expect support from us. That’s what we came to assess their needs on the spot.

Formation courses for the people of South Sudan (Formation courses via Emmaus Center Katikamu for refugees from South Sudan in Bidibidi and Palorinya refugee camps (Uganda)): Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala (diocese of Tombura-Yambio in South Sudan) with a group of young South Sudanese refugees

What moment on the trip made the greatest impression?

We were all impressed by the welcome given to us by Msgr Odoki and by the leadership he has shown. Among other things, he has assigned two diocesan priests to carry out pastoral work in the camps. We were also highly impressed when we learned that the pieces of land on which the 9 camps of the dioceses in the north-west region have been constructed originally belonged to ordinary Ugandans who generously offered them to the refugees. This welcoming attitude shown by the brothers and sisters in the faith is also in Uganda’s interest since Uganda hopes that its neighbouring country will one day live in peace. Does this not demonstrate a great spirit of hospitality and provide a lesson that should be remembered?

 

 

In what way is the Catholic Church involved in the camps?

The presence of the bishops was a good opportunity for the Church to demonstrate its concern for all these people, who are not there by choice but who have been forced there by life’s vicissitudes. Even so, this period of enforced exile can be used marvelously as a time for training with a view to building the society of tomorrow. When these individuals return home, the re-construction of their country will be in their hands. The Church is already involved and may possibly become further involved by giving other training sessions.

 

Last year ACN sent $51,000 to the Emmaus community based near Kampala. This community has considerable expertise in different fields such as catechesis, pastoral care, social doctrine, the family apostolate and in providing emotional and sexual education to young people, which is so important in a country decimated by AIDS. Sixty-five young people have been trained in the camps.

 

What is the situation of young people in the camps?

These young people have gone through major traumas. Some saw their parents killed before their very eyes, others suffered severe facial burns… they are now asking themselves how they shall ever be able to forgive. The Emmaus community has set up a program to accompany them in the process of forgiving and invites young people to come and kneel before the Holy Sacrament to pray. The accounts of healing have multiplied, as though the Lord has intervened to soothe hearts and spirits.

 

Will other means be applied in future to help the refugees?

On the one hand, the bishops have committed themselves to returning in September to celebrate Holy Mass in the camps and, on the other, to ask their priests who speak the various Ugandan dialects to come and conduct an apostolate.

 

What is more, Msgr Odoki, the bishop of Arua, told us that he was part of a delegation that recently met Pope Francis. The delegation informed him about the situation in the diocese and mentioned the urgent need for the presence of religious sisters among the refugees. The Pope assured them that he would make a special appeal to convents, urging them to respond to this need.

 

Formation courses via Emmaus Center Katikamu for refugees from South Sudan in Bidibidi and Palorinya refugee camps (Uganda) (SRF) – Formation courses for the people of South Sudan: Group work

 

And what kind of support can be given by Aid to the Church in Need in the spirit of these commitments?

To foster the presence of Church personnel we envisage building a house with a number of rooms to accommodate priests for a certain time. With the help of other organizations, we could do the same for the nuns. Such a house could provide half a floor per congregation with a chapel and a communal dining room.

 

With regard to the training courses, we intend to continue vigorously with our work in this domain. It is clear that the desire for such training, combined with the atmosphere of peace, which prevails in the camps, is a factor, which favours this kind of involvement. The bishops were delighted with such a proposal from ACN. They know that, once trained, the leaders we address (catechists, the young people who study the Church’s social doctrine and those who go more deeply into the family apostolate) will share their knowledge and experience with other refugees. In this way, they will build the future together. One of them, Santos, also described his experience to us as having been “more than wonderful”. The more we provide these training conditions, the more the country will rise again. Isn’t that a glorious prospect of hope and for a future?

 


 

Ivory Coast : “Religion can bring about reconciliation”

31.07.2018 in ACN Canada, Africa, By Tobias Lehner, Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo, bishop of Katiola on Ivory Coast

“Religion can bring about reconciliation”

Ivory Coast, officially Republic of Côte d´Ivoire, is a country in transition: after years of civil war, the people that make up this multicultural society are trying to lead lives embodying unity and reconciliation. This is true in both politics and religion. The first successes have been achieved in contrast with other African countries – Christians and Muslims are managing to coexist largely without tension. The political situation is not as volatile and a growth in investments has ensured that the economy is slowly gathering momentum.

In an interview during his visit to the German office of the international pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo talks to Tobias Lehner about interfaith reconciliation, places of worship  that build cultural identity and what he thinks is the best refugee policy. Bishop Dogbo oversees the diocese of Katiola in the northern part of Ivory Coast and is president of the Episcopal Conference of Côte d’Ivoire.

 

ACN: Bishop Dogbo, civil war raged in your country from 2002 to 2007. Bloody conflicts broke out once more in 2010 during the presidential elections. During this period, churches and priests also came under attack. What is the situation today?

Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo: By and large, the situation is calm. Fighting broke out after the presidential elections in 2010 because each side claimed victory. The former president Laurent Gbagbo is now in prison and awaiting trial before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The most recent presidential elections took place in 2015 (Editor’s note: The winner of the elections was again Alassane Ouattara. He has been in office since 2011.). The elections were quiet and orderly. However, the Ivory Coast remains divided between the supporters of the government and those of the opposition. The latter often have trouble finding work. They have enormous disadvantages. Membership in the government or opposition is often dependent upon which ethnic group a person belongs to – there are over 60 ethnic groups living in the country. And, this of course stirs up new hostilities.

Msgr Dogbo out visiting Christian communities

How do the religions get along?

Christianity and Islam have about the same number of followers in this country. However, in the northern part of the country, where I am bishop, Catholics are a minority. There are also alot of followers of tribal religions. For the most part, the religions coexist peacefully. We are a big family.

 

Islamist tendencies from outside of the country

This is in big contrast to other African countries, where membership in Islamist groups is growing in leaps and bounds. What makes the Ivory Coast different from other countries?

I think that this can be considered a political achievement and is largely thanks to the first president Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Editor’s note: in office from 1960 to 1993 following the country’s independence from France). He did a great deal to establish a dialogue between the religions. He made sure that if a mosque was built, then a church was built in the same place. This promoted peaceful coexistence. However, the truth is that Islamist tendencies have recently begun to appear. This is happening because of immigrants from other countries, such as Mali and Nigeria.

Celebration of the Eucharist in Ivory Coast

How do these tendencies manifest themselves?

For example, efforts are being made to ensure that there are more marriages between Muslim men and Christian women. The women then have to convert and the children from these unions are raised in the Muslim faith. Recently, a large number of affluent business people from Morocco began investing in our country. Their fellow Muslims are given preference over others. Or, they try to lure our Christian youth with money: “We will give you work, but in return, you will have to become Muslim.” We bishops are trying to work against these kinds of campaigns. For example, we support measures that allow young people to build networks and take charge of their own education.

 

Msgr Dogbo blessing a village woman.

Reconciliation begins with unity

The war years affected all religions and ethnicities equally. In your opinion, how can reconciliation be achieved for the inhabitants of Ivory Coast?

After the civil war, the politicians set up two reconciliation commissions and also appointed bishops to important positions. The commissions, made up of members of the various warring parties, ethnicities and religions, worked hard and made a lot of suggestions. These were ignored. And so the Church had to step in. We cannot manage reconciliation by ourselves, but we might be able to get the process started in society. This is why the Bishops’ Conference developed a new pastoral plan, which is intended for implementation between 2019 and 2023 and includes proposals for several concrete steps.

Msgr Dogbo surrounded by many priests from his diocese. The religious traditions play a role of reconciliation in Ivory Coast, and the priests play a role.

 

Which steps, for example?

The first step to reconciliation is unity. Unity both within and without – that is the path that Ivorians must follow now. We want 30 priests in the country to complete mediation training so that they can assist when conflicts break out in the regions or parishes. A further step is to intensify contact with other Christian denominations and Muslims.

 

For several years now, a highly controversial discussion on refugees has taken place in the West. Many young people no longer believe that they have a future in Africa and so they undertake the dangerous journey. In your opinion, what should the international community do?

The West should start at the source and not at the end. What I mean by this is: the people need help while they are still in Africa and not only after they have arrived in Europe as migrants. Young people from Ivory Coast are also undertaking the dangerous journey to Libya and then across the Mediterranean Sea. But, why are they leaving? Some of them are small farmers who cannot get fair prices for their products such as cacao. Some are being treated like slaves. The West could make a difference by paying fair prices so that these people can live from their earnings. This would stop them from emigrating. A fair trade policy is the best form of aid for developing countries!

An adult baptism in Ivory Coast

What are the most urgent needs of the church on Ivory Coast?

I believe that two things in particular are necessary: good churches and good priests. When I travel through the country, I see alot of newly built mosques on the sides of the roads, while our churches and chapels are often in a desolate condition. However, if nothing is coming forth from the church, it also cannot reach the hearts of the people. The same is true for the priests. I have 54 priests in my diocese of Katiola and only 16 in the diocese of Korhogo, which is also under my direction. We need priests! Many candidates for the priesthood come from poor families and often cannot afford the materials necessary for a course of study. Material aid and solid spiritual training are essential. I know that I can depend on Aid to the Church in Need! I have often received funding to build churches and parish houses and for the seminary. Mass stipends are also very important, because they ensure that at least the basic needs of our priests are met.

 

In addition to building and renovating churches and parish centres, providing funding for the training of seminarians and subsistence aid for priests, the international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need supports the printing and distribution of children’s Bibles and catechisms, the work of religious orders and the peace-building efforts of the local churches.

 

ACN Project of the Week: Rebuilding chapels in Mozambique

12.07.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Construction, Mozambique, Project of the Week

Mozambique

Rebuilding two chapels destroyed by a cyclone

In January 2017, the coastal region of northern Mozambique was battered for five long days by a severe cyclone. The tropical storm brought heavy rainfall and devastated large swaths of the countryside in two coastal provinces of this country in southeast Africa – already one of the poorest in the world.

 

Thousands of homes were destroyed and countless people left homeless. Many of the properties of the Catholic Church were also severely damaged, especially in the mission parish of Netia-Natete in the diocese of Nacala covering an also very poor vast and predominantly rural area.  The parish, with fewer than 120 outstations with very modest little chapels inviting the faithful to gather for prayer and catechesis. More than half – some 66 – of these chapels, were left destroyed by the cyclone.

 

Now, Father Antonio Gasolina has turned to ACN for help!  His Catholic faithful in these villages are dismayed at having lost their familiar places in which to gather, worship God, and hear His Word proclaimed. God is first and foremost in their lives. Now they are hoping, above all in two of the remotest and most inaccessible villages of the region, to rebuild a small chapel where they can gather to pray.

 

They plan to begin work on these two chapels at least, themselves. The Catholic faithful here already live from hand to mouth, but have nonetheless made their own modest contributions to rebuilding and have promised to pay the carpenters who will

complete the roof.

This parish still needs our help to pay for the costly building materials. We have promised them  22,650 dollars. To give to a similar project, please click on donate and select ‘Project of the Week’.

 

 

 

*All photos – construction of chapels destroyed by the cyclone in January 2018, Parish of “Nossa Senhora da Assunção”, Netia-Natete

Feature Story of the Week – Mozambique

22.06.2018 in By Monica Zorita & Maria Lozano, Mozambique

Mozambique

Bishop Lisboa of Pemba calls for calm after the latest terrorist attacks

There is grave concern in the Church in Mozambique, following the recent violent attacks perpetrated by members of a new jihadist group who, since the month of October last year and through to June this year, have killed dozens of people and are sowing terror among the population, burning houses and attacking not only Christian churches but also Islamic mosques in the province of Cabo Delgado.

Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa of Pemba issues an appeal, calling for “calm and serenity” among the people of this region in the north of Mozambique, which also happens to be one of the poorest in the country.

Little is known about this terrorist group which bears the same name as the Somali terror group Al Shabab, although there are apparently no links between them. At present the rumours spreading among the population are only making the situation worse. “This ‘enemy’ has no face and no official spokesman”, Bishop Lisboa told to the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need. “We don’t know our enemy; we don’t know who we are fighting against, we don’t even know the motive behind its attacks. People speak of religious radicalism, of a conflict over natural resources, of illegal arms trafficking, political disputes, ethnic rivalries… But the truth is that so far nobody can confirm with any certainty who we are dealing with”, he continued, adding that “there were no common factors among the victims of the attacks, who were from different villages and of different religions. It doesn’t appear to be a persecution of Christians specifically.”

He described the situation of extreme violence as “absolutely new to us all.” It has taken the government, the ordinary people and the security forces by surprise. In the province of Cabo Delgado many people have been detained and interrogated. “Some of them have been released again, but many others have not. Neither the prisons nor the prison staff in Mozambique are prepared for this situation, and so meanwhile there has been a chain reaction of problems linked to human rights violations,” lamented the bishop. In order to prevent new attacks, “they have stationed armoured vehicles in several districts, and there are many soldiers and armed police stopping and searching individuals and vehicles, especially throughout the Northern region of the province.”

Another aggravating factor in the situation is the extreme poverty and high level of youth unemployment in Mozambique, which makes young people an easy prey for the terrorists. “It is said that the young people who agree to take part in this group are promised large sums of money,” Bishop Lisboa told ACN. “We can see that this terrorist group wants to express its fury or its discontent; it is its way of crying out and demanding attention. The young people involved in it are not strangers to us, not foreigners or ‘terrorists’ as we are accustomed to call them. They also include young people from our own families, our own villages, our own parties, our own religious faiths…”

As head of the Church in his diocese of Pemba, Bishop Lisboa is visiting the communities and parishes affected by the violence, offering words of comfort and spiritual support to the people and the missionaries. “We are working to calm people’s spirits and ask them to remain tranquil. We have asked people not to transmit violent images and also not to spread any more rumours about what has happened, because this only creates more panic and only succeeds in fostering an atmosphere of insecurity. We are praying fervently and we ask for your prayers so that these attacks may stop and that the authorities may detain and convict those behind them. We must not allow ourselves to feel trapped or paralysed, though at the same time we still have to exercise caution.”

The main challenges facing the Church in Mozambique

When asked what are the major challenges facing the Church in Mozambique at the present time, the bishop explained, “In Mozambique in general and in Cabo Delgado in particular, we have what is both the great treasure and at the same time the great problem of our rich natural resources. This could be an opportunity to put an end to or at least lessen the differences within the country, but instead it has been the source of constant conflicts.”

Looking back, the bishop recalled that “in recent years, following the discovery of many of these natural resources, we have been the target of a veritable invasion of people from all sorts of different places, companies and projects. Our natural resources could create employment, stability and hope for our society if they are well managed, shared and supervised. But the inequalities that have always existed can only be overcome if there is a serious and responsible sharing out of the benefits.”

There are many other challenges facing the Church – poverty, maternal and infant malnutrition, premature marriages, teenage pregnancies, lack of adequate healthcare among the people, lack of educational opportunities, the problem of hidden debt run up by the previous government, which has contributed to the increase in poverty, the absence of national reconciliation after the two wars they have been through – to name just a few.

In a communiqué sent from his diocese Bishop Lisboa encourages all the people to intensify their prayers and “not allow ourselves to be blinded by religious, ethnic or political prejudices, but instead to form ourselves into a great movement of kind sentiments, good actions, good relations, good advice, good initiatives… So that peace, which is always the fruit of justice, may return and reign again among us.”


 

 

ACN Project of the Week – Transportation project in Algeria

14.06.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Algeria, Journey with ACN, TRANSPORTATION

Algeria

A vehicle for pastoral work in the birthplace of Saint Augustine

 

In the birthplace of Saint Augustine, there are only around 5,000 Catholics living today.

Algeria, located in the northwest Africa, is the largest country in Africa, with an area of almost 930,000 square miles (2.38 million km²) – approximately one quarter the size of the United States!  Almost all citizens – 97% of its 36.5 million inhabitants – are Muslim, and the few Christians who live in the country are scattered around the territory. As a minority, they tread very carefully for they run the risk of being accused of proselytizing among the people in the Muslim majority.

Father Paul-Elie Cheknoun is a young priest, newly ordained in 2016. He grew up in his native Algeria, though he trained for the priesthood in France. After his ordination, his French bishop sent him home to Algeria in response to a request from the Archbishop of Algiers, who needed a priest to serve the Catholic faithful.

Father Paul has to cover very long distances in order to reach the faithful. He has made an urgent appeal to ACN for help in purchasing a suitable vehicle. He writes: “By helping me you will be helping the Christians of Algeria, to whom I have dedicated my life.”

We have promised him $32,400 to help the good father reach the faithful in his parish.

Feeling inspired by this ACN success story?  Would you like to GIVE for a similar project helping with transportation or priests in Africa?

 

Please click to donate!


 

ACN Project of the Week – Angola

30.05.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Intl, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, CONSECRATED LIFE, Dominican Sisters

Angola

Subsistence aid for Dominican Sisters

 

Thirty-four Dominican Sisters in Benguela pray the canonical hours 7 hours a day. Their prayers rise up for the Church and for all of humanity. These contemplative nuns live secluded from the world and in poverty, but say, “We are aware of the greatness of our calling. In our enclosure, we offer up our lives to God to magnify His Kingdom and save souls.”

 

To make a modest living, the Sisters bake communion wafers and sew liturgical vestments. They tried their hand at a small pastry shop, but it was not a success. The raw materials were so expensive, the revenue did not even cover their costs and left them operating at a loss.  Misfortune has recently come knocking again – the vegetables they grow in their garden, the maize, tomatoes and onions, were all afflicted by disease. The Sisters were in a crisis. They did not know how they would be able to go on and prayed to God for help.

 

At times, God works through other people. Our benefactors donated $13,500 to help them and of course, they were overjoyed and filled with gratitude when they received it. They wrote to us, saying, “It was a great surprise and we are filled with joy at the amount that you have sent us! We are very, very grateful for the generosity of our benefactors. This is a sign of Divine Providence, which always watches over us. We hope that all of our benefactors are blessed with God’s bountiful grace and His mercy and assure you that all of our prayers, our affection and gratitude are yours.”

 

 * To make a donation which will go to support a similar project – please click to‘ donate’ .

 

 


 

ACN News: Nigerian Archbishop to visit Canada

29.05.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN PRESS, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Mario Bard, Faith, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Interreligious Dialogue, Nigeria, Nigeria, Translated by Amanda Griffin

ACN CANADA

A visit from Msgr. Ignatius Kaigama to Canada
A word of hope amidst violence and persecution

Montreal, Tuesday May 29, 2018 – Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) will welcome Msgr. Ignatius Kaigama this coming June 8 through to June 14 to Canada.   The archbishop of Jos in Nigeria, capital of the Plateau State and city situated at the very heart of the area regularly suffering the effects of violence that is being described now, less as a struggle over territory and more as the desire to Islamicize regions that are mainly Christian.

What we are observing in certain regions of Nigeria is alarming,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada, situated in Montreal.

“I am anxious to hear Msgr. Kaigama, a long time partner of ours, speak to us about the complex and difficult situation lived by the people in this region, the Christians in particular.”  This region – called the ‘Middle Belt’ because it is situated directly in the middle of the country – divides Nigeria in half: the southern half holding a Christian majority, and to the north, a Muslim majority.

“Some recent reports lead us to believe that there may be an attempt at Islamization of the majority Christian regions situated in this belt.  The coups, the massacres, the displacements and the theft of land leave thousands of people, many of who are Christians, without any resources.”

The city of Jos where Msgr. Kaigama has had a seat since 2000 was the theater of similar affronts in 2004.  Since, this man who currently presides over the country’s Catholic Bishops Conference has become an ardent defender of dialogue between Christians and Muslims.  If religious fundamentalism is one of the main reasons for violence, the Archbishop has no trouble speaking out regularly against a lack of means to fight efficiently against a mounting extremism. There is no educational system worthy of claiming an effective defense of minorities. Moreover, the welfare situation is endemic at over 14%.

Msgr. Kaigama in the Sanctuary of “Lourdes Grotto” Santiago, Chile 2016. Praying for peace in Nigeria

A first visit to Canada

Msgr. Kaigama has expressed that he is “very happy about this first visit to Canada.” And despite some very serious problems in his country, the archbishop also has a great desire to convey “a note of hope” to all the people who will be coming out to hear him speak.  “A Christian must always live in hope, while continuing all the while to live and struggle so that the world becomes a just and human place.”

This recipient of the Golden Dove in 2012 for his work in promoting peace and interreligious harmony will be visiting Vancouver on June 8 where he will have a public engagement at 7:30 at Karol Wojtyla Hall.  June 9, he will be in Toronto where he will preside at Mass held at 5:00pm at Saint Michael’s Cathedral.

The following day, June 12, he will be visiting Saint Clare’s parish at 11:00am, will preside over the Mass, and will be available to meet with people directly afterwards.  On June 11 and 12, he will be in the country’s capital and will celebrate Mass at Ottawa’s Notre-Dame Cathedral.  Once again, the following day, the public is invited to meet him at the Diocesan Centre in Gatineau.

Finally, on June 13 and 14, he will end his visit in Montreal where he will celebrate Mass at at Saint Patrick’s Basilica on June 13 at 5:15pm. The following day, he is inviting the public to come and meet him at the Atwater Library for a conference beginning at 7:30pm.

For more information and for the addresses of the meeting places and parishes, please visit ACN’s website acn-canada.org/kaigama/

Or call:  1-800-585-6333.

*Given by the Italian organization named Istituto di richerche internazionali Archivio disarm.


 

ACN News: Bishop of Makurdi speaks about the massacres of Christians in Nigeria

25.05.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Nigeria, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians

Nigeria

 

“There is a plan to Islamize the Christian areas.”

The Bishop of Makurdi speaks about the massacres of Christians in Nigeria: “There is a plan to Islamize the Christian areas.”

There is a clear agenda, a plan to Islamize all the areas that are currently predominantly Christian in the so-called Middle Belt of Nigeria.” This was the statement made by Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of the diocese of Makurdi in Nigeria, who was speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). It is in his diocese that the parish of Saint Ignatius is situated, in Ukpor-Mbalom in Benue State which was the scene of the most recent attack last April 24.

“Two of my priests were murdered, Father Joseph Gor and Father Felix Tyolaha, together with at least 17 of the faithful. They were celebrating Holy Mass at 6 in the morning.” Among the victims were a lay catechist and the president of the parish council, “both of them mothers of families,” and also the head teacher of the only secondary school in the town. During the interview, Bishop Anagbe noted the total number of victims has not yet been ascertained since tragically, some family members of the Catholic faithful had disappeared.

This was no isolated incident. Since early this year, over 100 people have been killed in similar attacks. “Eleven parishes in the diocese have been attacked,” the bishop told ACN, “and there have been numerous other attacks throughout Benue State, where 99% of the population are Christians.” In January, the local government organized a mass burial for 72 victims for their families.

 

Islamizing the entire region: So who is funding them?

These attacks were carried out by nomadic cattle herders of the Fulani tribe with extremist views. “We are not speaking of Boko Haram this time, although some of the cattle herders have connections with that terrorist group in the past and both groups are united in the same intention to Islamize the entire region.” the bishop added.

In the face of so much violence one of the most worrying aspects for the bishop is a complete lack of action on the part of the government, especially the federal government. “When the attacks take place, there are never any police or soldiers present. Quite apart from the fact that the Fulani tribesman for the most part live in the forest and cannot afford the luxury of such sophisticated weapons. So who is funding them?”

Nigeria, March 2017
Impressions out of the car on the way from Kaduna to Jos

The violence has resulted in a large number of internal refugees, over 100,000 of them, now living in four separate refugee camps in the diocese of Makurdi. “The Church is helping the people, whereas the government is  not helping us at all in this case,” the bishop explained.

The area where the most recent attack took place is now completely abandoned and deserted. The parish of Mbalom was established only in 2015. “There was nothing at the time, no schools and no hospitals. We built these, above all thanks to the dedication of Father Joseph and Father Felix. They were priests who were truly active and devoted to their community,” the bishop observed.

In the face of so much pain and suffering, the Nigerian Christians are not losing hope – but they do need the support of the international community. The Catholic Church in Nigeria has organized a march for 22 May to protest against the continuing massacres of Christians by the Fulani cattle herders. “Please pray for us and make yourself spokesmen for the suffering our community is going through. We need people to raise their voices in our defense. Nigeria is part of the United Nations, and we cannot simply be abandoned and forgotten by the world.”

 

 


 

 

ACN Interview – The situation in Nigeria and Maiduguri

18.05.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Nigeria

Nigeria – Maiduguri

“We may be doing better. But we are still far from normalcy.”

 

Father Tobias Bature, a priest of the diocese of Maiduguri in the state of Borno, Nigeria recently visited the headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Koenigstein im Taunus, 23 April 2018

Father Tobias Bature, a priest of the diocese of Maiduguri in the state of Borno, Nigeria recently visited the headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The foundation is helping to rebuild the diocese both materially and spiritually after it suffered for many years under the violence and terror inflicted by the Islamist group Boko Haram.

 

ACN: What is the situation in the state of Borno at the moment?

Father Tobias Bature: The situation in the state of Borno has improved a little. The people who had fled from the terror are returning to their houses and their work. However, the job market has not improved. Unemployment remains very high, but the people are returning to their previous places of employment. During the conflict, not even those who had jobs went to work. Some came back to find their houses had been destroyed. In other cases, their houses had been ransacked by vandals. This means that they now have to start afresh and somehow deal with the new situation. This is difficult, but there are organisations in Maiduguri that are helping the people restart their lives. A number of them have already returned because of this. They are trying to restore their houses and lead normal lives, which is why one can say that the situation is improving.

Are there still a lot of displaced persons?

Yes, there are still a lot of refugees, but not as many as there once were. Their numbers have declined because many were sent back to where they came from. Others who were originally from rural areas have also returned home. There are still refugee camps in Maiduguri, but the number of refugees has gotten smaller.

Refugees for Catholic families at St. Hilary Church, all the people fleed because the Boko Haram. They are from the Pulka Parish Community in Gwoza Local Area of Borno State.

The terrorist group Boko Haram was thought to have been weakened. But there are still reports of kidnappings and attacks. How do the inhabitants of Maiduguri see the situation?

The inhabitants of Maiduguri see a lack of transparency and honesty on the part of the authorities. The citizens believe that they are not being kept properly informed. The government says that it has defeated the rebel group and that things are getting better… However, although we may be doing better now, we are still far from normalcy. The situation is not anywhere near what the people had hoped it would be. Kidnappings are still taking place, the latest happened in Dapchi in the state of Yobe, which is close to Maiduguri.

 

Hands of the widows, there husbands were killed by Boko Haram

Immediately thereafter, it was reported that Boko Haram had released all of the girls except one, whom they continue to hold hostage because she is a Christian. Do you know anything about this?

One hundred and sixty-six girls were kidnapped, all of them 14 to 15-year-old school girls. The secondary school is located next to the property of Saint Mary Damatro. I often celebrated Mass there. One of the kidnapped girls testified that this one girl was not released because she would not abandon her Christian faith. She did not want to renounce her Christian faith and become Muslim. And that is why she was not released and continues to be held hostage by the terrorists. Several of the other girls became Muslim. Others renounced their faith. There is no news about the girl who refused to

Nigeria, March 2017
Most Rev.Oliver Dashe Doeme at IDP camp

convert to Islam. The last I heard is that prayers were being said for her survival. She is currently being held in one of the camps of Boko Haram. The girls who were released were able to return home.

 

What is the local Church doing to help all those who have suffered for years from violence and persecution?

The local Church in the Diocese of Maiduguri has worked hard to support them. It has supplied them with small things, such as food. I know that Bishop Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri has sent them food aid on more than five occasions. He bought the food and asked us all the priests in the urban area to go with him to distribute the aid. Thanks to ACN, we have also been able to help widows. A fund was set up to help them begin to earn a living through small trade initiatives. Scholarships have been granted to help orphans.

 

In addition to material assistance, is psychological support also necessary to help people deal with the trauma they suffered?

Yes. Bishop Doeme has appointed several priests to organise classes or workshops on overcoming trauma. Someone is there to listen to the people. We are trying to help them get out of this situation. The priests have received special psychological training from professionals from Abuja. They held a training programme for priests in Maiduguri that lasted at least six months. Now special classes are being held in Church facilities, with an open invitation to all who are suffering from trauma. People are there to talk to them. Their situation is explained to them. All the priests who are residing in the capital city have taken part in this. They are actively involved. It is more difficult for priests in mission areas to take part.

 

Nigeria, March 2017
Smiling faces at ACN welcoming parade for ACN at Archbishop’s house

ACN is helping to rebuild a minor seminary that was also attacked and destroyed by Boko Haram. What can you tell us about this project?

The project is already well underway. The rector, Father Alex Misquita, is back at the minor seminary with three other priests. The buildings are not fully functional yet, but students and teachers are already living there. Five students are from my parish. And we have also resumed Bible school. Two priests are responsible for that.