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ACN News: Nigeria Bishops call on the president to “consider stepping-aside”

11.05.2018 in ACN NEWS, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, Africa, Nigeria

Nigeria

Bishops call on the president to “consider stepping-aside”

Last April 24, Nigeria’s bishops  issued a formal statement calling on the President to “consider stepping aside,” and accusing the government of security failures which they blame for the murder of 17 Christians, including two priests.

Father Joseph Gor, Father Felix Tyolaha and 15 parishioners were killed during a funeral Mass in Mbalom, Benue State, by gunmen, with reports that about 30 Fulani militants waited for the faithful to gather at the church before attacking. They also burned down about 50 homes in the area.

Condemning the “rampaging and murderous terrorists”, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) issued a formal statement, asking: “…how can the federal government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wails of helpless and armless citizens, who remain sitting ducks in their homes, farms, highway and now, even in their sacred places of worship?”

Writing in bold typeface, the bishops stressed: “…it is time for [Nigeria’s President Mudammadu Buhari] to choose the part of honour and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse.”

Accusing the President of ignoring repeated calls to step up security, the bishops assert: “He should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become.”

Written in the wake of the funeral Mass killings, which took place last Tuesday (24th April), the bishops assert that they have lost confidence in the country’s security apparatus.

In their statement, the bishops declare: “Faced with these dark clouds of fear and anxiety, our people are daily being told to defend themselves. But defend themselves with what?”

The statement notes that the “government should encourage and empower citizens to secure themselves and their environments. This is not the time to disarm people with legally procured weapons of self-defense.”

The CBCN statement reports that back in January, Father Gor, one of the priests killed last Tuesday, had warned about the continuing threat posed by Fulani herdsmen, of whom he said: “‘They still go grazing around. No weapons to defend ourselves.’”

Highlighting security concerns across Nigeria’s Middle-Belt, Father Alexander Yeyock, parish priest of St John’s Catholic Church, Asso village in nearby Kaduna State, told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “The concern now is that the entire nation should not depend so much on national security protection.

“Every individual, group and community should struggle to defend themselves.  This is grossly unfortunate.”

 

Nigeria, diocese of Maiduguri in October 2017
The diocese of Maiduguri has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, in which context Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme has reconsecrated it to the Immaculate Heart of Mary: People are at the foot of the cross.

Fulani militias forming abroad

Father Yeyock’s parish was attacked a month ago when two Catholic men were shot dead, an atrocity which took place almost exactly a year after Fulani militants murdered 12 Christians during the Easter Vigil service at his church.

Referring to tension in his parish and across the region, Father Yeyock said: “In Asso, farmers go to farms in fear and in groups… Bereaved families have come to terms with the reality that attacks by Fulani herdsmen [occur] frequently in Asso, but no place is spared.”

Father Yeyock added: “It’s again unfortunate that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are known by the government of Nigeria, those who sponsor them too, and yet no action is taken.”

Highlighting that Fulani militants receive military training abroad before going on to target Christians, he said: “With the news of the current attacks, Nigerians have argued with the earlier narrative from the federal government, which has very often told the world that it was always a clash between the herdsmen and farmers.

“It’s now evidently revealing that there is more to it than meets the eye… it is purely a religious jihad in disguise.

According to reports, the Acting Governor of Benue State, Benson Abounu, said last Tuesday’s attack showed that the security breakdown had “gone beyond [a] farmers-herders crisis.”

 


 

Central Africa Tuesday’s attack: The number of deaths increase

04.05.2018 in ACN France, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Africa, Africa, Central African Republic, Central African Republic (CAR), Emergency Aid, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau

Photo: Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba

Central Africa Tuesday’s attack:

Number of dead increased

The attack on the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Bangui, the capital of Central Africa, on Tuesday, May 1, reportedly killed more than 20 people, including Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba. Initially, it was already known that 15 parishioners and Father Albert had been killed. Father Albert, who we met during an ACN delegation (it says AED) trip to Central African Republic , asked us for our continual prayers for peace in his country.

 

On May 1st, violence broke out once more in the Central African Republic. In the capital of Bangui, a group of armed men attacked the parish church of Our Lady of Fatima. Sixteen people were killed during the attack, including Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba, and around one hundred people were injured. The fighting continued in the afternoon, costing two more Central Africans their lives and resulting in a fire that burned down a mosque.

Central African Republic, November/December 2015: Father Albert Tongoumalé-Baba, St Joseph Mukasa parish priest (on the left) with HE Mons Nzapalainga.

The archbishop of Bangui, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, rushed to return to the Central African Republic today to make a statement about the attack. The people are still suffering from the aftermath of years of conflict and are now afraid that this will bring about another bout of violence.

In a statement released by MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) on May 1st, the member states of the G5 (United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of Central African States, European Union, France and the United States) condemned “without reservation the attacks on the Church of Our Lady of Fatima and the mosque of Lakounga,” pointing out that “the manipulation of religion to serve the interests of criminal groups is not acceptable.” They called upon Central Africans to “resist this manipulation, the goal of which is to drive the country back into the trap of violence and vengeance.”

 

Honouring Father Albert, “a man of peace”

ACN would like to honour the life’s work of Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba, the priest of the St. Joseph Mukasa parish in Bangui. Father Albert worked tirelessly for peace in his country and gave shelter to thousands of refugees in his parish. In a short video from an interview ACN held with him in 2016, he says, “Our country has been a country bruised, in distress, since December 2012. Weapons have not yet managed to stop the war, but continue to be heard. … No one has been able to bring peace back to the country. Pray, pray unceasingly for us, as Jesus taught us. Do not despair. May this message be heard by all who love peace.”

Text and Informations: ACN-France

 

EMERGENCY AID:
Aid to the Church in Need will give over 37,000 dollars for the victims of Tuesday’s attack.
Thank you for donating by clicking the button below.
Thank you!

 


 

ACN Project of the Week in Central African Republic

03.05.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Religious publications

Central African Republic

Printing thirty thousand copies of the New Testament in Sango

 

The Central African Republic has been a country in crisis since it gained independence in 1960, with one coup after another. Its population has been terrorized by an unending stream of armed groups that although they may have gone by different names, always committed the same crimes: looting houses, burning down villages, abducting innocent people, raping women and girls, and killing. In 2013, a bloody civil war broke-out and large parts of the country have since remained under rebel control until this day. The government has done nothing to intervene, abandoning their people to an awful fate.

 

The only help the general population receives comes from the Church. The Church cares for orphans, the poor and the sick. It runs schools and hospitals and, in its convents, monasteries and missions, provides shelter to refugees whose houses were burned down by rebel groups. Time and again, priests and religious risk their lives to protect defenseless women and children from armed assailants. Priests have been taken hostage and several have been killed. Many more have been threatened at gunpoint (see news from May 2 on FIDES).

Central African Republic, diocese of Bangassou, 14.04.2017
Fr. Yovane Cox and the faithful during procession of the Way of the Cross

Putting the country back together is not only a matter of rebuilding houses and institutions that have been destroyed through the conflict. But first and foremost, the hearts and conscience of the people requires strengthening and renewal.

 

Central African Republic: A baptism in the Bouar Diocese

The country only has hope for a future if hatred is overcome and a new leaf turned over through reconciliation and forgiveness. Believers must also gain a deeper understanding of the Good News of Christ. After all, two thirds of the population may be Christian, but a belief in witchcraft is still deeply rooted in many places and superstition is widespread.

 

The archbishop of Bangui, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, believes that it is essential for the people to have the opportunity to read the Holy Scriptures themselves and to immerse themselves in their message. Translated copies of the Bible into the national language have now sold out and need to be reprinted. The cardinal considers this one of the most pressing projects of all.

 

ACN would like to help by giving $56,000 to print 30,000 copies, in Sango, of the New Testament for the people of the Central African Republic.

 

 

 

 

Please click to support a similar project!

 


 

Congo-Brazzaville: The Church is drawing new hope and strength

13.04.2018 in ACN Feature, Africa, Congo, Feature Story, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau

 Congo-Brazzaville

The Church is drawing new hope and strength to overcome its problems

Having lived for a long time under a communist regime, the Republic of Congo for many years left its Christian faith aside. But today, the Catholic Church in the country is gathering new strength to deal with its problems – which are many – and move forward. Kinga von Poschinger, of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), heads the project section covering the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville). She recently travelled to the country to gain a first-hand impression of the situation there. She was interviewed by Monica Zorita about the challenges facing the Congolese people and the current and future aid projects of ACN in the country.

 

What were the main reasons for this visit? 

Little boy during sunday mass at St Brigitte, Epéna, diocese of Impfondo, Congo

The visit to Congo-Brazzaville was a priority for ACN for a number of reasons. After having been subjected to a communist regime for many years, its people have, to an extent, abandoned their faith, relegating it to something of secondary importance, so there is a need now to return to it, to revisit it, revive it. The last time ACN visited this country was in 2002. So with this visit and the new projects we are proposing to fund, we are hoping to give new impetus to the Church here and to Congolese society.

What is the situation here at the present time?

Like many other African nations, they are going through a very difficult economic situation. People are living in poverty in countries which could be very rich. The region in which the diocese of Impfondo is situated is in the north of the country, in the midst of the rainforest. Many of the houses here are simply mud huts; it is a region of rivers and high rainfall and the dense forest vegetation makes it difficult to get about, except by boat – or occasionally by car when the road conditions allow. This is the poorest part of the country. On the other hand, in the southern region – and specifically in the diocese of Pointe-Noire – there are extensive oil reserves, but the fall in world prices, combined with corruption, has plunged this African country into a profound economic crisis that has had severe consequences for everyone. Obviously, it is a situation that has brought great uncertainty, but this has been responded to by the optimistic spirit of the Congolese people – especially in the Catholic areas, where there is a strong family spirit and a spirit of ongoing mutual support.

What are the major religions in the Republic of Congo?

Despite the fact that the Republic of Congo is officially a secular state, a majority of the population is in fact Christian, while others follow local animist beliefs and a small minority follows Islam. Within the Christian population, the majority belong to Protestant Pentecostalist groups, while between 30% and 35% are Catholics.

 

Congolese Catholics have a very lively and joyful faith and tend to be somewhat calmer in their forms of worship. This is something very much emphasized by Bishop Bienvenu Manamika Bafouakouahou of the youthful diocese of Dolisie, who reminds his Catholic faithful of the importance of silence and quiet inner prayer.

The Catholic Church in the Republic of Congo currently has nine dioceses, two of which were created in 2013, and is planning to establish more in the next few years, as the country is a vast one and it is very difficult to cover it with so few bishops.

Before building a new rectory, the priest lived in this house. He died some years ago, but his homilies and personal writings are still in the clay hut. Although this is not his bed, it might have looked similar.

What are the principal challenges facing the Church in Congo?

There is no lack of them… Poverty, the rapid increase in the Pentecostalist sects, masonry, exorcism, the disrespect shown by some of the local animist groups, with their fetishes, towards the Catholic faith – and also the fact that the parishes are so far from one another and so isolated that many of the priests feel very much alone and can sometimes lose their sense of vocation and mission. This is why ACN wants to help with various forms of spiritual retreats and other projects aimed at the training of priests and religious, especially the younger ones, in order to renew their strength and provide the example they need.

What other kinds of projects do you envisage as a result of this visit to Congo?

We want to sponsor certain projects in the national seminary – the only seminary in the whole of the country – to encourage the careful discernment of authentic vocations.

We also saw for ourselves the lack of financial resources for evangelization – both the lack of religious books, such as missals for example, and the lack of transport, such as boats, to reach all the Catholic faithful. And there is also a need to repair and renovate the houses and convents of the priests and religious sisters. Many of them are living in appalling conditions, and some without drinking water.

Congo – Brazzaville, February 2018 – Farell, 27 year old, never met a priest before he was 11 years old. Christened at 11, he comes from Kinkala diocese. He wants to become a priest because : ” I don’t want my little brothers to live the same thing as me – I mean – not to meet a priest during my entire childhood.”

In the Church’s year we have just celebrated the Resurrection of Christ. What kind of Paschal message, what message of hope has stayed with you since your journey?

We recall in particular the hard work, the inner light, the goodness and hope that shine forth from people like Bishop Manamika Bafouakouahou. He is filled with energy in his desire to help his people move forward and overcome, little by little, the problems they face. He has a very deep faith and a very clear vision. He goes out into the streets himself to talk with the people, and he organizes a regular “week of evangelization” that inspires thousands of people to come and listen to him.

What, for you, was one of the most moving or emotional moments of your journey?

We had a wonderful experience in the diocese of Impfondo, where they were celebrating the first Holy Mass of three new priests who had been ordained on January 6th of this year. It was a traditional ceremony, and afterwards they danced and sang with an exceptional spirit of joy. The priests were dressed in garlands of greenery over the top of their priestly dress, around their necks and around their waists, while the faithful themselves were dressed in their traditional garments and danced with a sort of broomstick made of branches – as a symbol of unity, flexibility and endurance. The happiness and also the pride of these people in their three new priests, and despite their many sufferings, were most impressive.

Sister Roberta is the rector of the catholic primary school in the diocese of Gamboma. The sisters painted the school in a very colorful way and use the pictures donated by ACN (above her head) for catechesis. Some of the families sending their children to this school are not even able to feed them. The sisters need to wash and shower the children and give them a breakfast before school starts. Some of the children come even on a Saturday and ask the sisters if they can help with some gardening, because they have nothing to eat at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo: The people are well and truly on the Via Dolorosa!

29.03.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Mario Bard, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), DRC Congo, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The people are well and truly on the Via Dolorosa!

Since the mid-1990s, entire areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and particularly the eastern parts of the country, have been caught up in a never-ending nightmare: the people are well and truly on the Via Dolorosa! Just like Jesus on the Cross, the deeply devout people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have every reason to call out to God in desperation: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

“Yes, in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one can really speak of a Via Dolorosa,” a contact person from the diocese of Butembo-Beni, who remains anonymous out of safety concerns, said to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “A climate of terror reigns in the diocese, which is maintained by the armed groups that have moved into the region since 1995.” The source emphasized that the situation is even worse in a number of parishes that are located in the region that journalists call the “triangle of death”. This concerns four parishes, “namely Eringeti, Mbau, Oicha and Buisegha in the commune of Beni. The parishes Kipese, Kagheri, Bingi and Luofu are located in the territory of Lubero. A number of residents of these parishes have spent more than twenty years constantly fleeing from one place to the next!”

Dioceses are doing what they can to help displaced and refugee people. Here in Butembo-Beni, distribution of food.

 

 

The cause of this never-ending nightmare is the presence of rebel groups that have been slaughtering the population since 1995. “These massacres are taking place in the northern parts of the diocese of Butembo-Beni, or, to be more precise, in the commune of Beni, as well as the environs of the city of Beni,” the source told ACN. “These massacres have now spread to the neighbouring province of Ituri, which is located in the northern part of our province of North Kivu.”

 

Among other groups, a Muslim guerrilla organization that originated in Uganda and goes by the name of ADF-Nalu (Allied Democratic Forces) is responsible for the massacres. The rebels have been in the diocese since 1995. The contact person further reported that “analyses have shown that the manner in which the killings are being carried out is similar to that used during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.” This has convinced a number of observers that a “Rwandan mastermind” could be behind the massacres that have been terrorizing the people in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than 25 years.

 

“These villains use machetes and axes to mercilessly kill young and old people, women and children,” the informant said.

 

He also mentioned “a project for Balkanization” that is being promoted by unknown forces with the goal of literally creating a “Tutsiland” that would reach “over our entire province of North Kivu, across South Kivu and across the province of Ituri. These would then join Rwanda. That is the reason why the peaceful population is being massacred: to obliterate all traces of the indigenous peoples who are cultivating the land. This is what has turned these populations into a flood of refugees. We don’t know at which level the complicity [of the different state agencies] is happening – on a regional, national or even international level,” the informant continued.

 

He also explained that the exploitation of natural resources and the control over these riches, as well as “greed”, also play a role in these massacres and have led thousands upon thousands of people to flee. According to estimates provided by Doctors without Borders, since December 2017, 50,000 people have crossed Lake Albert, a large lake in Ituri province, to escape the massacres, the raping of the women, children and old people and the destruction of their villages. They are finding shelter in Uganda on the other side of the lake.

 

How is it possible to proclaim the Gospel here?

 

Mothers with their children, expecting better days.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Church continues to be one of the strongest moral and social powers. “Our church in Butembo-Beni is working on sensitizing the people so that the refugees are taken in by families,” the contact person explained. “The diocese has called for donations of money and goods (food, clothing, equipment) several times. However, the never-ending war has so impoverished the people that almost nothing is collected anymore in response to these calls for donations.”

 

The Church remains strong in spite of the atmosphere of terror and persecution under which it is suffering. The source explained that the passage in the Gospels “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) helps the people to keep going. He also made reference to a well-known biblical figure: Job. “We have taken as an example the tenacity and the witness in suffering as well as the perseverance and patience of Job.”

 

During Holy Week, ACN specifically calls for prayers for the inhabitants of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as for the Church that works for the Congolese people and is being persecuted for this reason. Since 2015, the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting 823 projects with over 16 million dollars.

 


 

 

ACN’s Project of the week: A generator for Radio Huruma, Tanzania

27.03.2018 in ACN PROJECTS, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Communications, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Radio, Tanzania

Tanzania

A generator for Radio Huruma

For 10 years now Radio Huruma has been an integral part of life in the diocese of Tanga in northern Tanzania. Thanks to this radio station, the Church is able to reach many people who could not otherwise get to church. For the Catholic faithful live widely scattered across this vast diocese of close 30,000 km2. Many people simply cannot get to Mass on Sundays because the distances are simply too great and there is no adequate public transport. But thanks to the radio station, they can at least join in with Holy Mass, which is broadcast live every Sunday, either from the cathedral or from one of the parishes.

But Radio Huruma is also an important vehicle for promoting interreligious understanding in the region. For only around 11% of the 200,000 people living in the diocese are Catholics, while the majority are Muslims. So, in addition to the broadcast Masses, there are also numerous programmes that are equally of interest to Muslims and to Christians of other denominations and which are helping to promote good relations and peaceful coexistence. For example, many of the broadcasts deal with such things as disease prevention and treatment, and aim to combat poverty and ignorance – and all the programmes are devoted to “encouraging, entertaining and informing the public on the basis of Christian values and the Word of God”, as Father Richard Kimbwi explains.

Broadcasting radio is an extraordinary tool when a diocese wants to reach his people. And when its promoters are also taking care of the common good, it is even better! So that people can continue to listen even with power cuts, Aid to the Church in Need promised to Radio Huruma 9, 960 dollars to buy a generator. 

Father Kimbwi was appointed by his bishop as director of the radio station because of his technical expertise. Previously, he spent six years in Vienna studying electronics and sound technology. And so the station is in safe hands with him. Nonetheless, after 10 years on air, a number of repairs and upgradings to the station are now necessary. And above all, there is a need for a more powerful generator since the existing one is unreliable, resulting in frequent power cuts, which means that the transmitters cannot function. When everything is working as it should, the station can broadcast well beyond the borders of the diocese and reach around half a million people. We have promised the Bishop 9,960 Dollars, so that the broadcasts will no longer need to be interrupted by power cuts.

Thank you for your donation!

Central African Republic – The forgotten war in the heart of Africa

13.03.2018 in ACN International, Africa, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Maria Lozano, Central African Republic, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, War

Central African Republic:

“we were obliged to bury many people of all different religions”

 

The present situation in the Central African Republic, following five years of war and violence, is a profoundly distressing one. Speaking to the 37th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Bishop Juan José Aguirre-Muñoz of Bangassou described the country as a “failed state.” Ever since the arrival of the fundamentalist Islamic Seleka group in 2013, the country has been “without an army, without police, without a judicial system,” he said. The total absence of the state was demonstrated, he added, in the complete absence of any reaction on the part of the state in the face of the present and continuing threat of an attack on the city of Bangassou, in the southeastern part of the country, the city where he himself has been bishop for the past 17 years.

 

Bishop Aguirre was invited to Geneva on Wednesday, March 7, by the international Catholic charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) to speak at an event devoted to the religious minorities in armed conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. In his intervention the Spanish bishop, who is 63 years old and has been working for 38 years as a missionary in the Central African Republic, pleaded for better “control and security on the borders” of the country, since at the present time they were being freely crossed by “criminals of every kind, who are sacking, destroying and laying waste to” the country, which was effectively “in the hands of mercenaries.” And he appealed at the same time for action against the sale of arms.

 

The origins of the crisis are economic

The CAR currently holds the unenviable distinction of being in the very last place in the world on the UN’s Human Development Index. The list of its woes is a long one, the bishop explained:

“The people are tired, abandoned, left to themselves. Entire neighbourhoods have been razed to the ground because the Muslim mercenaries have used fire as a weapon of war. Almost a million refugees are currently sheltering in the Congo. Over half the population is in need of food aid, and infant mortality has increased considerably as a result of the war and violence. The educational system has not been functioning for years, and the health system is non-existent. Our medical centre in the north of the diocese has been destroyed, along with our mission. Now nothing is left but the foundations.”

In the face of these overwhelming difficulties, Bishop Aguirre appealed to ACN: “We need your prayers, that the Lord may help us to discern the path we should take in order to be able to emerge from the crisis we are in,” he said.

 

Bishop Juan Jose Aguirre in Bangassou and Auxiliary Bishop Jesus Ruiz Molina

The forgotten war in the heart of Africa

The bishop, who is a Comboni missionary, called on all those involved in the communications media to tell people about this “forgotten war in the heart of Africa.”.And he asked for something more besides: “Please make this forgotten war your own concern too.” At the same time, however, Bishop Aguirre urged people not to see this war as “a religious crisis,” because those who have lived through it right from the beginning know that it is the result of a “purely economic problem, though undoubtedly with religious consequences.” Among other things, the bishop insisted that “the extraction of diamonds, gold, uranium and petroleum, the trade in hardwoods and the complex issue of transhumance” were “the real reasons behind our disputes.” He suspects “interest groups” of being behind the gross manipulation of information, together with the sad revelation that there are commercial interests actually taking advantage of the crisis.

 

The critical situation in regard to interreligious dialogue

For Bishop Aguirre, the hardest and saddest part of the picture is the situation with regard to interreligious dialogue at the present time. “Despite the great efforts that the Christian and Muslim leaders are making throughout the country, the real situation today is a critical one,” he said. Not only because some of these leaders themselves have been attacked or threatened, but also because “the hatred is growing between Muslim and non-Muslim groups, as are the reactions of religious intolerance on both sides.”

Central Africa Republic Bangassou: “During attacks in the Diocese of Bangassou: 30 Muslims died, 20 non-Muslims, two Imams, women and children. We make a common grave. Only inside the pit is peace”.

 

Speaking of the difficult situation faced by his own priests, who for months now have been sheltering hundreds of Muslims in the grounds of the cathedral and at the same time risking their own lives in an effort to mediate with the frenzied and violent groups of the so-called ‘anti-balaka’, the bishop explained, “We have held out the hand of friendship to those who attacked us, because that is what the Church does.” And he sadly acknowledges that “in the midst of so much violence we were obliged to bury many people of all different religions, and so it was there, in a common grave, that they were finally united again. In peace.”

 

Despite everything, Bishop Aguirre is convinced that the only solution is to “continue working for reconciliation, justice, peace and forgiveness, so as to disarm people’s hearts.”

 

Aid to the Church in Need has been helping the people of the Central African Republic ever since the beginning of the crisis. In 2017, ACN supported some 30 separate pastoral aid projects in the country, giving a total of over $ 936.200.


 

Special day of prayer and fasting for peace: “God hears the tears of his people.”

23.02.2018 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Maria Lozano, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Pope Francis, Prayer, South Sudan

African bishops welcome the Pope’s call to pray for peace:

“God hears the tears of his people.”

Faced with the tragic situations of conflict in various parts of the world, the Holy Father Pope Francis has called upon faithful Catholics to join in a special day of prayer and fasting for peace, today, Friday, February 23, Friday of the first week of Lent. The Pope has also invited non-Catholics and non-Christians to join together with this initiative in whatever manner they deem most appropriate.

In his appeal, the Holy Father underlined in particular his concern for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and for South Sudan. Two African bishops, Bishop Timothy Bodika Mansiyai of Kikwit in the DRC, and Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of the Archdiocese of Khartoum in Sudan, spoke recently to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the crisis their people are suffering.

“The Holy Father knows well the tragic situation that both countries are going through,” the Congolese bishop remarked. “The Pope has a great desire to visit both places,” stated Bishop Bodika, “but he was forced to cancel both trips”. But “although he was unable to be physically present in our countries, he nonetheless accompanies us spiritually.”

Bishop Timothée Bodika Mansiyai, from Kikwit diocese in Democratic Repupblic of Congo. “The people of Congo were “crying out in pain”, said the bishop, yet “It is a cry that the international community is not hearing”.

During his visit to ACN’s international headquarters, Bishop Bodika expressed great gratitude towards Pope Francis, “who continues to closely follow the tense situation that the DRC is undergoing and the repression and abuses of which the priests, religious and lay Catholic Christians are victims. God hears the tears of his people.”

And indeed, the DR Congo is wracked by different conflicts. The struggle for the country’s mineral wealth for more than a decade has sparked a ruthless war in eastern Congo, to which the conflict in the central Kasai region has been added since 2016. And as if this were not bad enough, the country is also afflicted by “the general crisis due to the political tensions in relation to the general elections.”

In recent months the situation has further escalated, with peaceful demonstrations violently repressed by government armed forces, resulting in deaths and numerous injuries. Some of these protests were initiated by the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa and were simply calling for the accords of December 31, 2016 (the so-called Saint Sylvester Accords) to be respected and for the constitutional rotation of offices in the political institutions of the state.

Prayer and fasting for conversion of hearts
“The special day of prayer and fasting is a call for the conversion of hearts, of all our hearts, but also those of our politicians and leaders”, said Bishop Bodika. “They have forgotten that their duty should be to be at the service of the nation, not merely of a handful of people, while the rest of the community remains in poverty.” The people of Congo were “crying out in pain”, said the bishop, yet “It is a cry that the international community is not hearing”. In his own diocese of Kikwit alone, the number of uprooted people now in need of care, with food, accommodation, healthcare and schooling, has already reached 30,000. “The diocese of Kikwit does not have the financial means to cope with this humanitarian emergency. And so far, our petitions to the authorities and political organizations to help manage this crisis have not met with success,” Bishop Bodika complained.

Terror reigns in South Sudan
For his part, Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum in Sudan, emphasized to ACN the terrible situation in South Sudan. “The war there has created mass displacements in many parts of the land and destruction in relation to the community and the family, with loss of respect for human dignity.”

Explaining the situation in the country, Bishop Adwok deplored the fact that “Terror reigns in South Sudan, with warriors, government and politicians grappling for power, positions and not minding the fate of the ordinary Southern Sudanese. The fact that until today no one knows – the government itself does not know – how many people have died in South Sudan since the start of the war in December 2013 is indicative of how the value of the human person has become of no worth in South Sudan.”

 

Mgr. Daniel Adwok Kur, Auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum in Sudan. “I know of some elderly people who could not physically run away from their homes, but still met their death in the same home killed by people carrying arms.”

“No one keeps count and it looks as if those who died of violence, some of hunger and other mistreatments were ‘unfortunate’ – [as if] they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Referring to attackers targeting vulnerable groups in society, he said: “I know of some elderly people who could not physically run away from their homes, but still met their death in the same home killed by people carrying arms.”

In addition to calling for a cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and for the blessing of peace, Bishop Adwok requested that during the day of prayer and fasting on February 23rd people should also pray for the refugees and displaced, and especially for the young.

“Most of them are jobless and cannot continue with their education, and at the same time they are left alone to fend for themselves, and in many cases to take care of their young siblings and relatives as well. The numerous challenges they face leave them feeling lonely, seeking cheap consolations and in many cases being drawn into groups linked to violence”, he explained.

31 wars and armed conflicts in 2017
The Holy Father’s appeal to pray for peace is a concrete response to the silent cry of so many victims all over the world. There were a total of 31 wars and armed conflicts during 2017, according to research conducted by the Group for the Investigation into the Causes of War based at the University of Hamburg in Germany.

The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need, which supported the African continent in the shape of almost 2,000 projects and a total of over 36 million dollars during 2017, is inviting all its benefactors and co-workers to join together in the day of prayer and fasting today, February 23,  2018.

Actually in the world, more than 65 million people are displaced because of war and internal conflicts. This tragedy cannot be ignored. 

 


 

ACN News – Nigeria: In spite of attacks and radicalization – the faith is growing

16.02.2018 in ACN International, Africa, Boko Haram, by Tobias Lehner, Faith, Fulani, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Karla Sponar, Nigeria, Nigeria

Nigeria: In spite of attacks and radicalization – the faith is growing

The Archbishop of Kaduna, on the situation of Christianity in his homeland

 

Even though the government has initiated efforts to regain control over the areas occupied by Boko Haram, attacks on Christians and their communities take place regularly, particularly in the northeastern parts of the country. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso most recently visited his former diocese in Maiduguri on November 2nd of last year. Two days later, another attack was carried out. The present archbishop of Kaduna escaped with his life, “but once again, there were many fatalities – attacks such as these make our day-to-day lives very uncertain,” Ndagoso said.

 

According to international statistics, there are currently almost 1.8 million displaced persons in Nigeria; this number grew by at least 140,000 people last year alone because of ongoing attacks. The focus of the attacks is primarily markets and churches; however, Ndagoso said that mosques have also been targeted lately. “Terrorist groups pretend that they would like to pray. They mingle among those gathered in places where one would normally not suspect bomb attacks.” This spreads confusion. A

ccording to the archbishop, some of the greatest problems today are abductions and demands for ransom payments.

 

More groups have radicalized in the meantime, including members of the Fulani, a nomadic, pastoral people. It is conspicuous that they are outfitted with modern weapons – a circumstance that indicates that “powerful forces with connections to terrorist organizations such as IS and al-Qaeda are behind groups such as these,” Ndagoso explained. However, no matter how hard Christians are hit by the attacks, “they just grow stronger in their faith.” Not only has the number of students enrolled at the seminaries in Nigeria grown, but also the number of Christians overall. “Over the past four years, I have opened at least three new parishes per year,” reported the archbishop of Kaduna. And that although his diocese in northern Nigeria is located in what is anything but an easy environment for Christians. They are a minority living among a Muslim majority, in areas governed in part by Islamic Sharia law. Attacks on churches are a regular occurrence. Building projects for new churches are not approved. The house in Maiduguri in which Ndagoso once lived as bishop was destroyed by Boko Haram. The terrorist group was formed in a mosque in the neighbourhood of the bishop’s house.

 

The activities of Boko Haram are like “a wake-up call” for the Christians in his diocese, Ndagoso said. He gave the example of a church in the city of Kaduna that became the target of an attack in 2012 that killed several and wounded over a hundred. Three services a week were held there before the attack, now Holy Mass is celebrated almost every day. The number of faithful has tripled since the attack. Funding from

Archbishop Matthew Ndangoso of Kaduna

Aid to the Church in Need has made it possible to rebuild the once destroyed pastoral centre nearby.

 

 

With regard to the role of Christians in his country, Ndagoso emphasized, “We have to be as patient as God has been with all people for millennia – time and again we must take the initiative ourselves, we must take a stand for truth – because our God is a God of peace and not of violence.”

 

Government agencies have now allocated relief goods to the church for further distribution among displaced persons because of the transparency of the aid work carried out by Christians in the northeastern part of Nigeria.

 

In over ten years, Aid to the Church in Need has granted more than 14.4 million Dollars in aid to Nigeria, about 2.7 million Dollars of this in the past year alone. In addition to rebuilding church buildings destroyed by violence, the international Catholic pastoral charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has set up a special program in Maiduguri to help the widows and orphans of the victims of Boko Haram.

 

Nigeria: Destruction of churches and houses at Gogogodo in Jemaa local Goverment Area in Kafanchan Diocese (Kaduna State) by the Fulani Herdsmen terrorists. These are just a tip of iceberg.


 

Uganda: Birth of a new place of grace

09.02.2018 in ACN Feature, Africa, Feature Story, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Uganda, Uganda

Uganda:

Birth of a new place of grace

 

“Don’t go there, they worship the devil there,” the people warned Bishop Francis Aquirinius Kibira when he was ordained as bishop. This region in southwestern Uganda, at the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was considered a dark and dangerous place. Violence and crime were a normal part of everyday life, and drug use and prostitution were widespread. However, the area was especially known for its deep belief in witchcraft. A lot of damage was done by magic rituals and occult practices, with symptoms of obsession, suicides and destroyed families being just a few of the disastrous consequences.

 

However, the new bishop of Kasese did not let the warnings deter him: only two days after his ordination in July 2014, Bishop Francis Aquirinius Kibira drove out to this border region. He stopped at a chapel in the village of Kabuyiri. Upon entering, he found twenty young women between the ages of 16 and 20, all paralyzed. The catechist explained to the bishop that they had been “bewitched”. The bishop began to pray, saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, You have sent me to this diocese, do good here. Heal these girls in Your Almighty Name.” According to Bishop Kibira, it was not long before the girls got up and were able to walk again.

 

The bishop was surprised to learn that the chapel had been built in 1982 by a police officer who, in response to the many problems afflicting the area, had understood that “Jesus was needed here”. “However, I did find it strange that there was no priest in the area,” commented Bishop Kibira. In an interview with the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) he confided, “Deep down inside, I heard a voice saying to me that a priest needed to be sent there. I also suddenly realized that this would be a good place for a Shrine of The Divine Mercy.”

 

The bishop then visited the priest who oversaw the parish to which the chapel* belongs. The priest could not believe that the bishop was in fact serious about his idea. Up until now, all priests had refused to go there to work. Unperturbed, the bishop set a deadline for the foundation of a new Shrine of The Divine Mercy. He eventually found a priest who was willing to serve there.

 

The “Portal of the Divine Mercy”

Bishop Acquirino Francis Kibira of Kasese Diocese, at river Nile

The shrine was completed in 2016, the Holy Year of Mercy. This place has become a place of grace for countless people. The Eucharist is celebrated there every day, and at 3 pm, the hour of Jesus’s death, the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy is prayed, as well as the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Hundreds of worshippers gather even on weekdays; on Sundays and holidays they number in the thousands. Moreover, every Monday, many worshippers receive the Sacrament of Penitence. Many confide their personal problems to a priest and find solace and counsel. Local priests have told the bishop that this has allowed for the reconciliation of many broken families.

 

Bishop Kibira is deeply moved, “I can hardly believe it! Every seat is taken on the day of the Feast of Divine Mercy; thousands of people came and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. That evening, as I lay in bed, I shed tears of joy. Before, everyone was saying, ‘You can’t go there, you could be killed, it’s a mistake’, but I replied, ‘Do you not believe in the power of the Blessed Sacrament?’ Today, they all say, ‘It was a good decision.’” Believers constantly speak of prayers answered and healings.

 

According to the bishop, many people have changed their lives. “There was a family in the village that was rumoured to worship the devil. People advised the priest not to go near them. In the end, this was the first family to have their child baptized in this shrine,” the bishop rejoiced.

Uganda, November 2017: 
Bishop Acquirino Francis Kibira with children at the St. Michael Divine Mercy Shrine in Kabuyiri.

“Even the local police officers said to me, ‘Thank you, we are so glad that we have a priest here now. There used to be problems here every day. Today, there are far fewer. That is the power of Jesus!’” The police officers themselves take part in the Eucharist and the Eucharistic adoration. As for the truck drivers who cross the border, they also find strength and solace in this shrine “in the encounter with Jesus Christ.”

 

The changes are also evident on other levels. Thus, about 300 fathers who had fallen prey to drug addiction have returned to their families. Unlike before, there are only a few suicides in the region; instead of destroying their lives, as in the past, with alcohol, drugs, sexual adventures and crime, adolescents regularly attend the Eucharist and the Eucharistic adoration. Even the number of traffic accidents has declined. Things have also changed for the prisoners in the two local prisons: they now receive pastoral care and some of them have started arranging time for devotions. And so the grace that emanates from this place goes beyond the locked doors and walls of the prisons, Bishop Kibira commented.

 

The bishop also notes that pilgrims come on foot from afar to pray in this shrine. “When we open our hearts, we act in the power of God. This particularly neglected place has become a portal of divine mercy for the diocese.”

Priest and altar servers at the St. Michael Divine Mercy Shrine in Kabuyiri.

 

Toni Zender, Project Manager for Uganda for the pontifical Aid to the Church in Need, recently paid a visit to the area and was very impressed, “I was deeply moved by this experience. It is overwhelming to see over a thousand people kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. We can see how a large number of people open themselves up to the grace of Christ and rejoice in the presence of the church in their area.”

 

Last year, Aid to the Church in Need supported the Catholic Church in Uganda with over $1,133 million, mainly to finance training of prospective priests and clerics. Furthermore, many priests were helped through Mass stipends. Finally, aid helped to purchase vehicles for use in pastoral care, as well as to renovate church buildings.

 

*In remote areas, rural or jungle, the Church often constructs chapels for people who reside far from the parish church.