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Africa

 

Project of the Week: Marian devotion in Ethiopia

20.09.2017 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Africa, Ethiopia, Journey with ACN, Religious publications

A touching scene of a child burying himself in Mary’s robe as if asking for protection at the Salesian Youth Centre, Mekanisa, Addis Abeba.

Project of the Week in Ethiopia

Printing a book on the devotion to Mary

Ethiopia is an ancient Christian country. “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

 

This is what the Ethiopian man said to Philip in the Acts of the Apostles (8:36). This spontaneous decision, just a few years after the death of Jesus, marks the beginning of Christianity in Africa, and Ethiopia is the first country in sub-Saharan Africa in which Christianity put down permanent roots.

 

Almost 45 percent of Ethiopians belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The Catholic Church only became established in the country in the 19th century, and today Catholics still form only a tiny, albeit a very lively, minority.

 

Our Lady is greatly revered in Ethiopia, both by Orthodox and by Catholic Christians. In fact there are 33 Marian feasts in the Ethiopian Church year! Traditionally, great importance is attached to the “Covenant of Mercy,” also known as the “Covenant of the Lady Mary.”  This relates to a beautiful story about a covenant  believed to have been made between Mary and Jesus whereby Mary asks of her Son that every individual who in his lifetime has performed at least one good deed in her name may be spared from hell – for example someone who for her sake has given a thirsty person a sip of water.

 

This motif of the “Covenant of Mercy” is a common theme of Ethiopian icons, in which Mary and Jesus are portrayed side by side, holding hands. In fact pictures of the Virgin Mary of all kinds are extremely common, above all the image of Our Lady with the Child Jesus, but also depicting other scenes from her life, such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity and the Flight into Egypt. Meanwhile,  among Catholic Christians in Ethiopia numerous other Western images and statues of Mary have become popular and also widely revered.  Because the Blessed Mother is so important to the people, their is also great interest in learning more about international Marian shrines such as at Lourdes, Fatima and many others.

A better understanding Marian devotion

Ethiopian Capuchin Father Antonios Alberto has written a number of books on a variety of academic themes. Now he has written a book on devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, outlining the great importance of the Mother of God for the Church. In his book he describes the history of Marian devotion, explains the Marian dogmas of the Catholic Church and describes in detail the history of the major Marian shrines around the world. The book is 200 pages long and written in two languages – Amharic, the principal language spoken in Ethiopia, and English. A book of this nature has not been available before now to the Church in Ethiopia.

 

This book is intended to help deepen and strengthen knowledge of, and devotion to, the Mother of God among priests, religious, catechists and the Catholic faithful generally. It also holds the potential to become an important contribution to the work of ecumenism, since this book will also be valuable and interesting to Orthodox Christians, who, like Catholics, have a profound devotion to Our Lady.

 

Aid to the Church in Need is supporting the publication and printing of this book with a contribution of $9,490.

Click to donate!


 

ACN Project of the Week – Ethiopia

09.08.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Aid to refugees, Ethiopia, EVANGILIZATION, MOTORIZATION, Project of the Week

 

Ethiopia

Bicycles for 30 catechists in Gambella

 

The apostolic vicariate of Gambella lies in the extreme west of Ethiopia, on the frontier with South Sudan. It is a remote and underdeveloped region where there is widespread poverty.

 

Therefore, there are recurrent and intermittent inter-tribal conflicts mainly between the more settled, farming tribes and the nomadic herders. The cattle eat the farmers’ crops, and the farmers are taking away the traditional grazing lands of the herders. In this conflict over scarce resources, there are frequent and violent clashes. Recently, there have also been clashes between the local population and refugees of the Nuer tribes from South Sudan.

 

According to the UNHCR, there are over 330,000 refugees from South Sudan in the area at present – almost as many people as the existing population of Gambella state. In early 2016 in particular, there was violent unrest here, with numerous deaths. The Catholic Church is working hard for peace and reconciliation. It is the only force in this region capable of combating the violence, hatred and rising anger in this volatile region of the world.

The people of Gambella thirst for the sacraments and especially to hear the Word of God for the first time.

 

Announcing the Good News in more villages!

There are many people in this corner of Ethiopia, a newly evangelized region, who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. Many of them are open to the faith, well disposed to the activity of the Church and eager to receive baptism. However, the region is remote and the villages widely scattered. There are too few priests, and so the catechists play a vital role, both in preparing people for baptism and in promoting the process of peace and reconciliation.

 

On Sundays these catechists often have to travel many hours on foot to reach the villages where there is no priest to celebrate Holy Mass, in order to pray with them and instruct them in the Catholic Faith. In order to provide the catechists with more autonomy, ACN has promised 10, 875 dollars to equip some 30 of these catechists with one bicycle each, to help make more efficient use of their time and energies and help them to better carry out their vital and precious service.

 

 

 

In this way, they will reach more villages and devote themselves still more intensively to the work of evangelization.

 

*  United Nations High Commission for Refugees 

ACN Interview – The Suffering Hearts of the South Sudanese people

04.08.2017 in ACN Canada, Africa, Famine, South Sudan

Sr Yudith Pereira RJM Ass. Executive Director, Photo: solidarityssudan.org/

South Sudan/Rome

The Suffering Hearts of the South Sudanese people

An interview with Sister Yudith Pereira by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

Sister Yudith Pereira, a Religious of Jesus and Mary from Spain, spoke passionately to Aid to the Church in Need about the situation in South Sudan, the work of the Church and her organization’s mission to assist the people of South Sudan—always—but especially now, in the throes of a famine with catastrophic consequences.

 

We reached out to the Associate Executive Director of “Solidarity with South Sudan” at their international office located in Rome. The clear-voiced joyful and at the same time, soft-spoken, Sister Yudith, who has 17 years of missionary experience in Africa and a background in Agricultural Engineering, was especially happy to tell us that her order of religious had a special connection to Canada and a mutual cause for celebration, for the first of the blessed women in Canada—Dina Bélanger—also later known as Marie Sainte-Cécile de Rome—was also a religious of Jesus and Mary. Fittingly, the order’s charism is in part to provide education in the faith and a special concern for the poor and the disadvantaged.

 

“The situation is worsening”

In mid-June, the statistics indicated approximately one million children and possibly more, were suffering from malnutrition; while 250,000 of the food crisis cases were classified as very critical, and 5.5 million people were staring helplessly at the possibility of starvation—that is a shocking 40% of the country’s population.

When asked to share an overview of the situation in South Sudan and whether the famine was worsening or improving, she said: “No.  It is getting worse. The general situation of the country is worsening day by day.” As a frequent visitor to the country she ascertained, “the situation is worsening on all levels. The people are hungry, all of them. And you can see it, it’s terrible.”

Sister Yudith went on to explain the problem of inflation and access to supplies. “On one hand, the inflation is about 900%, so people can’t buy anything. The salaries have not increased. Even if there are things they could buy at the market; people still can’t reach them.” (…)It’s impossible to buy anything,” she said.

 

“But where are we going to get the food?”

Explaining that a great many people throughout the country have now been displaced, “people who were used to cultivating, once displaced, lose the capacity for producing food. So even in areas that may be producing food like in Riimenze where we [Solidarity with South Sudan] have a farm— around the main house there are more than 5,000 people displaced people who have left their farms because of fear of being attacked by one side or the other.”

“When rain comes, because the land is very flat in many areas it gets flooded. People cannot move. They cannot go to places to get food—or to camps to get food—so very often they eat grass”

Continuing with her description of the situation facing the people without singling out any of the different fighting factions she insisted, “We will only talk about the victims, because the situation is very complicated.” The religious Sister explained that even the people whose land is in a good location for cultivation are afraid of sackings by the armed groups for it is a regular occurrence. She said, “and they do it, even the refugees are sacked many times over, though they have nothing in their tents. It is a terrible situation. You may have money, but there are no roads and there is no market so you don’t know where to buy the food. It is a huge problem,” she said.

 

Sometimes, we are offered money to buy food—but where are we going to get the food? You can’t buy any. I know of some internationals bringing food from Uganda and Kenya, but it is very hard because there are no roads, there are huge holes in the roads, and they are very dangerous. You might be attacked,” she emphasized.

Reduced to eating grass

Another obstacle to food access according to Sister Yudith, is the rainy season which by mid-June, is well underway. “And then there is the rainy season … When rain comes, because the land is very flat in many areas it gets flooded. People cannot move. They cannot go to places to get food—or to camps to get food—so very often they eat grass. ‘People become isolated in many places, so it’s difficult to reach them— it has happened many times, that in an emergency, supplies have to be dropped by air in the hope that someone will find it. So it’s hard. Apart from that—the state does not give out enough for salaries, so people are not getting the usual money they should get—so the whole situation is terrible—it’s terrible everywhere. With much emotion, Sister Yudith reiterated the tragic reality, “Yes, they eat grass.” 

 

Is armed conflict at the source of the famine?

In early June, Pope Francis cancelled his foreseen trip to South Sudan indefinitely for security reasons. When asked about this and the conflict as the main source of the famine crisis, Sister Yudith said, “I think that yes, the origin of the famine crisis is the armed conflict. The people in South Sudan, the government and the opponents, they are fighting for power and for money, for funds. It is not an ethnic fight. And as for Pope Francis visiting… the last time I went to the airport—there was no airport!  One side was not yet finished, and the other was taken down and the new one is under plastic tents. It’s like a tent airport—there is no security for the Pope.”

“We are very sad about not having the visit. On the other hand, people need to be aware that we also need to work for peace. At the higher and the lower levels, more and more because if not, peace never will be there,” she said almost as a plea.

 

Religious of Jesus and Mary Sr. Yudith Pereira interacts with some children on a visit to South Sudan. (Provided photo) from the Global Sisters Report http://globalsistersreport.org

 

Helping Refugees and channeling emergency aid

 

When asked how the Church is working with the internally displaced people and what are they able to do she said “Most of us are helping refugees and channeling emergency aid, but as for Solidarity with South Sudan, we are not an emergency (relief) organization.”  The organization works with building community and providing training, “We still are focused on that but, of course, we channel emergency help. The problem is we don’t have the structure to do it, but we still have to do it! Around every parish and cathedral, everywhere—everywhere—around all the churches, you will find refugees and displaced people because they are considered safe places, or safer places. They are very involved in denouncing the situation and speaking up for peace—they can’t do more. They are doing a lot.” She went on to ask us to pray also for the people who are on the front lines helping the suffering, for it is very difficult work.

 

Please speak loudly!

 

When asked what the most pressing needs were for people of South Sudan in her view, she said what was of greatest importance was something somewhat surprising. “The thing people ask us for, is not food nor money. They tell us: Please speak loudly about what is happening in South Sudan. When Bishop Erkolano of Solidarity for South Sudan came to Rome, he asked us please to tell this story, to speak about this. He said a genocide is going on, killings are going on, and nobody speaks about it. It does not interest the world.”

 

 


This concludes this first part of our interview with Sister Yudith Per. Stay tuned to our networks for the second part where we will learn more about the role of women in solving the problems threatening South Sudan, and some of their stories and more. For more on how to help with the situation in South Sudan, you can visit our special website set-up to alleviate hunger in the region  http://www.acn-aed-ca.org/iamstarving/.

 

 

Québec Press Conference — Interfaith Famine Relief campaign launch

08.06.2017 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Marie-Claude Lalonde, Famine, Nigeria, South Sudan

Québec Press Conference — Interfaith Famine Relief campaign launch — June 7, 2017

 Against the famine – #PrayGiveSpeakOut

 

Speech given by Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need

(Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin)

 

Aid to the Church in Need is proud to be participating in this collective and interfaith effort that follows the call for solidarity with Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen where famine has struck. We will do what we know how to do best; help on the ground. Though our organization is a pastoral charity, we never let our project partners down when they are hard hit. This time is no exception.

Of course, our charitable aid will not resolve the root problems. However, through our actions we will bring relief, as much as possible, to our brothers and sisters who are suffering from this horrible famine.

 

In order to declare a state of famine, (UN) people must already be dying. That is the case in South Sudan and the situation is more than worrying in Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. It is one minute to midnight.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need. (Credit: Webtélé ECDQ.tv)

 

Last year, Aid to the Church in Need provided food assistance to the diocese of Malakal in South Sudan. The situation is not improving. We have already promised to help feed 20,000 displaced people, still from the same region. We need $140,000, and that is only short-term aid. We will have to do much more.

 

In the northeastern part of Nigeria, we have unfortunately been witness to regular sectarian conflicts and attacks by Boko Haram. The least of which we see in the media and therefor we have practically forgotten that it was about a few problems and that hunger has been threatening for some time already. For Nigeria, we need $150,000 to provide food assistance and seeds in order to restart agriculture. In this case, as well, we know that our intervention will have to be extended over a certain time period. These two fundraising campaigns will not  cease at the end of June along with the Federal government’s program. We will continue as long as the needs are desperate.

Press Conference – Diocese of Quebec city, June 7 – Interfaith campaign to fight famine in four countries: South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia. (Credit: Webtélé ECDQ.tv)

In any case, we will provide pastoral support to people traversing this hardship as well as to the Church who is always active is easing the ambient misery, and this whatever the religion of the person who presents themselves to her.

 

Pray, Give, Speak-Out; the theme of the interfaith call made public today. Through our fundraising campaigns, we invite people to be generous in a financial way, but we are also appealing for their solidarity through prayer. Giving for the famine, praying for those who are suffering and for peace to return.

 

We are continuing our work of drawing the awareness of our current and potential benefactors and to the public in general as a response to the call to Speak-Out.

 

Thank you to all the interfaith communities who are joining in this great movement. Together, we can lighten the burden of men, women and children who at this very moment have empty stomachs.”

To GIVE via Aid to the Church in Need to the campaign

Pray, Give, Speak-Out, click here.

Thank you.

Declaration of Interfaith Appeal from Canada’s Faith Communities

Help us alleviate starvation in Sudan and in Nigeria

 


 

AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED CANADA – REACTION : #zerofamine

30.05.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Aide à l’Église en détresse., By Mario Bard, Famine, Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen

PRESS RELEASE

AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED CANADA – REACTION : #zerofamine

Montreal, Tuesday May 30, 2017—Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) welcomes very favourably, the news from the federal government who yesterday created the Famine Relief Fund (#zerofamine) in order to combat this tragedy more particularly in South Sudan, in the northeastern part of Nigeria and in Yemen and Somalia.

“The news is very bad and confirms what we have been hearing from our project partners for some months about the lack of food and the famine moving in,” announced Marie-Claude Lalonde, the director of the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need.

“What is troubling is that in the case of all these countries, it is conflicts provoked by war between different factions causing this tragedy. South Sudan, where the famine has resulted in great part due to the grip of the civil war since 2013, is a good example of this.”

In February of last year, in fact, Aid to the Church in Need reported that the South Sudanese bishops had denounced the situation. They recalled one of the sources of the famine being: the impossibility for villagers to work or harvest their lands because of the presence governmental or opposition fighters, who practiced a “scorched earth” policy. They considered, “everything a form of collective punishment, which is banned and considered to be a war crime according to the Geneva Convention.”

 

In 2015, the local Church in Nigeria already gave help to IDP’s fleeing Boko Haram.

An 800% Inflation rate

A South Sudanese pastoral worker, who wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons, also told Aid to the Church in Need that the problem could take on a new scale if the international community did nothing. “It is extremely difficult to find food and to get money to pay for merchandise … now very expensive merchandise,” he said. Early in the year during the interview, inflation had already risen to 800 percent!

This same person also accused the leaders of different tribes—still of great importance to the South Sudanese society—to fight only “for political power and money (oil, wood, mineral resources). These elites worry more about their own advantages than the well-being of the people, many of whom are dying of hunger,” he denounced.

In 2015, the local Church in Nigeria had already provided help to IDP’s fleeing Boko Haram.

For many years, Aid to the Church in Need has supported the local Church in South Sudan and in Nigeria, particularly in the dioceses touched by the violence of the civil war and by Boko Haram.

 

Photo: South Sudan, January 2017, in the IDP’s camp of Riimenze

 

ACN Project of the Week in Togo, Africa

24.05.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Construction, Journey with ACN, Togo, Togo

Togo

Two classrooms for catechetical instruction in Dapaong

 

Togo is a country in West Africa with a multi-ethnic population of 6.3 million. The diocese of Dapaong lies in the far north of the country, in a region bordering on the Sahel zone.

The desert is encroaching ever further into this area, making agriculture and the survival of the people increasingly difficult. Not surprisingly, therefore, it is one of the poorest regions of the country, with over 80% of the population living on less than 22 dollars per month and 13% of them even on fewer than 14 dollars.

 

The population living in the region is a very youthful one, but with 70% aged under 21. Many of the people are drawn to Christianity and are seeking baptism. The Good News of Christ is attracting a great many former adherents of traditional African religions. For example, the parish of Saint Paul in Dapaong has no fewer than 1000 catechumens! And the catechism classes are filled to overflowing with young people and adults.

The parish priest, Father Joan Sole Ribas, is delighted at the blossoming life of his parish, but at the same time it is a huge challenge for him to cope with instructing so many catechumens. There are simply no spaces available for teaching them.

 

Now he wants to build three classrooms for this catechetical work, which will also serve as evening schools for teaching literacy to adults and young people, and as a musical school as well.

The parish can just about cover the cost of one such classroom, but they need help for the other two. We have promised him $21,900.


 

ACN Press Release – Pope Francis in Egypt

27.04.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, ACN PRESS, Africa, By Mario Bard, egypt, Jesuits, Journey with ACN, Pope Francis

Pope Francis in Egypt

“Re-knitting ties with Islam”

 

Montreal, April 27, 2017 – Father Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit priest and specialist in Islam, and a professor at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Rome, visited the Canadian national office of Aid to the Church in Need last Thursday (20 April 2017). An Egyptian himself, born in Cairo, he gave us this interview in light of the forthcoming visit of the Pope to Egypt. We asked his views on the papal visit, on the importance of dialogue between Islam and Christianity and the fear of seeing the Middle East emptied of Christians. Here are some extracts from the interview.

Father Samir: Pope Francis wants to ”Reknit the ties with Islam”.

 

He spoke to Mario Bard of ACN Canada.

 

ACN: What would you say to Pope Francis in regard to his approaching visit to Egypt? Would you tell him to stay in Rome or to go ahead with his visit?

Father Samir: Being the man he is, I think he must go. He is not someone who is afraid. At the same time, considering the possibility of an assassination attempt, I believe that Egypt will do the impossible to protect him and ensure that there are no dangerous elements around – if only for their own sense of honour. Looking at it this way, I think that everything should go ahead normally.

And besides, there is the character of Pope Francis himself, who might well say, “I’m not afraid of anything and I am in the midst of the people. And if I should die, well, I am like anyone else, simply because I happen to be in this place [where there is an attack].” So that might explain why he has decided to go ahead with his visit.

Moreover, for a long time now he has wanted to reknit the ties between the Vatican and Islam. And this is what he told me personally when I had a half-hour conversation with him a few months ago. He told me, “Why is it that I insist on the fact that Islam is a religion of peace? Because we need, first of all, to rekindle our friendship with the Muslims and with Al Azhar.”

 

Why is it necessary to “re-knit our ties.” What has happened?

Let me recall the context: there was the attack in Alexandria on the Coptic Church at Christmas, six years ago. Someone blew himself up and there were dozens of deaths. A few days later Pope Benedict XVI, in a meeting with the ambassadors of the Holy See, said: “I call on the president of the Egyptian Republic to protect the Christians.” In response Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, the rector of the Al Azhar University, declared that it was unacceptable for the Pope to interfere in Egyptian politics and broke off relations with Rome. Today, after a number of fruitless attempts, relations have resumed. And it was the principal aim of Pope Francis to re-establish relations with Islam and with the Al Azhar University in particular, which represents the majority of Muslims in the world – 80% or so. It represents an unassailable moral and intellectual authority for them.

 

Father Samir, why is it important to maintain an interreligious dialogue with Islam?

First of all, because Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with over 1.5 billion Muslims scattered in almost every country of the world. We cannot ignore it. Second, because Islam is a monotheistic religion, alongside Judaism and Christianity. And hence we have to be able to engage in dialogue with them. That is the essential aspect, I think. It is not a question of a political goal. It boils down to saying: let us endeavour to understand one another. In just the same way as we maintain a dialogue with the Jews.

 

People are saying that the Middle East is in the process of being emptied of Christians. What can be done to change the way this pattern? Even many Muslims do not want this situation to come about.

Most Muslims say, “We need the Christians.” Recently there was a radio broadcast in Egypt which impressed everyone. The theme of the eight-minute programme was the Christian schools which educated the intelligentsia of Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries.

People can also see Lebanon, which is the only country in the Arab world with a certain degree of parity, precisely because it was the Christians who built it – even though today they represent no more than 35% of the population. In the Parliament the Muslims want to retain the balance of 64 Muslims and 64 Christians, because they maintain that this is essential. It is recognized by all Muslims who think about it.

Besides, as to the disappearance of Christians in the Middle East, in Egypt it is they who are, so to speak, the indigenous ones! People are aware that if they wish to maintain the national conscience, they cannot eliminate the Christians. Unfortunately, for reasons that are political, economic and religious, the Christians are leaving, more and more. And what is happening at the moment is what is wanted by ISIS/Islamic state/Daesh. But they are fanatics. Globally speaking, the Muslims are not fanatics. They lack the courage to say that these people should be arrested. Instead of that they say: ‘it has nothing to do with Islam’, which resolves nothing. But in their heart of hearts, the majority of Muslims say, “no, it is shameful!”

What we must do now, if they are to stay, is to help them so that they can stay in their own homes. In Egypt that is not a major problem, owing to the large number of Christians (almost 10 million). But in Iraq and Syria, where the homes of the Christians have been destroyed, it takes enormous courage to stay on in the country. That is what the patriarchs are doing, including Patriarch Sako of the Chaldeans, of Babylon. He is fighting with all his strength to prevent the Christians from emigrating, to encourage them to remain, to save the local Church. And it is the same thing in Syria.

We have to help them to stay on. To help them financially as far as we are able, but also to help them morally by supporting them and attempting to put a stop to this crime which is ISIS.”

Aid to the Church in Need is helping 3000 young people from all over Egypt who will travel on pilgrimage to Cairo to be present for the visit of Pope Francis on 28 and 29 April. Their visit began on Tuesday 25 April and includes liturgical celebrations in various shrines on the road to Cairo, celebration of Holy Mass, confessions and a visit to the hospitals in Cairo the day before the arrival of the Pope. The group will include 250 representatives from every Catholic diocese in Egypt, in addition to the 1,000 participants from the capital itself.

 


 

Nigeria- Visit of solidarity at the very heart of the violence

04.04.2017 in ACN Feature, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Maria Lozano, Nigeria

Nigeria

Visit of solidarity at the very heart of the violence

A delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) composed of national directors and members of the communications department travelled two weeks ago to Nigeria.  The delegation visited dioceses situated in the North of Nigeria to the states of Borno, Jos and Kaduna, in order to visit projects supported by benefactors of the international organization and as a show of solidarity with the Christians of the region who are suffering tensions and acts of violence perpetrated by the terrorist group: Boko Haram.

Nigeria, March 2017
At the seminary of Kaduna

The delegation travelled by air to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, the birthplace of Boko Haram, still one of the states known today to be most severely affected by fundamentalist Islamist terror. Maiduguri itself is now under the government’s control that has driven the terrorists out of the town and as far as the swamps of Sambisa. The city has nevertheless suffered repeated suicide attacks in recent weeks.

Borno state has no fewer than 20 government refugee camps, for example Dalori, with over 14,000 people in it. There are also an estimated 500,000 refugees living in the state capital, where they have been taken in by family members, friends or charitable institutions. The ACN delegation visited 25 Catholic families from the community of Pulka de Gwoza, who have now been living as refugees for the past two years in an area made available to them by the Church in Maiduguri, and a non-government camp with 7,000 Christian refugees of various different denominations, run by the Christian Nigerian Association, CNA.

According to figures provided by the United Nations, Boko Haram has affected the lives of 26 million people, in Borno state and in five other states of Northern Nigeria. The Catholic diocese of Maiduguri alone has registered over 5,000 widows and 15,000 orphans. The ACN delegation was able to put faces to the statistics by listening to the terrible and agonizing testimonies of some of the victims. They listed to women speak of being forced to watch their husbands’ throats cut, priests who had to secretly evacuate dozens of children from the schools, people who had survived for weeks hidden in their homes in order to avoid being found by the terrorists.  There were also testimonies like those of Rebecca and Raquel, who were captured and tortured by Boko Haram. At the end of the visit, the Bishop of Maiduguri, Mgr. Oliver

The Good Sheperd Major Seminary in Kaduna
We help to build the new chapel

Doeme thanked the ACN delegation for the “uncommon courage you have displayed in taking the risk to come and strengthen our people. It was a wonderful and moving experience.”

Especially important for the information work of ACN was the visit to the diocese of Kafanchan, found in the southern part of the state of Kaduna.  Since the end of 2016, the state has suffered a spate of savage attacks by Fulani tribesmen, nomadic Muslim pastoralists, who have been destroying and annihilating Christian villages. Although these problems are ancestral and the Fulani are expanding across a number of African countries, in the region of Kafanchan there have been since 2011 no fewer than 71 villages attacked, with a total of 988 people killed, 2,712 houses and 20 churches destroyed, according to a report handed by the diocese to the ACN delegation. Above all, the lack of any protection or response by the security forces has created consternation in the Christian community here in the south of Kaduna state. The report documents cases of deliberate inaction and even collaboration by the state forces with the attackers.

The “joy and the faith” of Christians

The trip’s organizer, María Lozano, head of the international press department of ACN, summarizes the information gathered from various meetings with Church leaders and local political and press representatives in Jos, Plateau and Kaduna states: “The attacks by Boko Haram and the Fulani are only the tip of the iceberg, but in reality the Christians living in the states of northern Nigeria with a Muslim majority suffer constant discrimination and have been the victims of attacks and persecution in a cyclic and continuing manner for decades.

Bishop Oliver and his staff welcoming the ACN Delegation at the airport in Maiduguri

For example, in Kaduna in the 1970s the state government expropriated 17 Catholic schools without any form of compensation. Especially since the introduction of sharia law in the year 2000 by no fewer than 12 of the 19 states of North Nigeria, the civil and legal support for the Christians has been very feeble. This is something not widely known in the Western world. Nonetheless, the really moving thing about this trip, on a personal level, has been the joy and faith of these people. They are living in constant danger, yet their churches are full. When they ask for help in Europe to build churches, people often tell them, but it is very big, there is no need for such a big church… But they do need big churches, very big ones. It is difficult to understand from our perspective, but the people of Nigeria are truly thirsting for God. They are growing, and this is why they are being attacked, because the fundamentalists see them as a threat. They are proud and happy of their faith. Every Mass is a feast, every encounter a celebration of joy. And finally, the example of Christian forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of the attacks and harassment is a moving one.”

Nigeria, March 2017
After Sunday Mass at St. Rita in Kaduna (Pic taken by Dominik K.)

In addition to gathering first-hand information and visiting the communities who are suffering because of their faith, the ACN delegation took advantage of the occasion to visit some of the projects the charity has been funding in this part of the country, thanks to the generous support of its many benefactors. Among them were two churches and parish houses in Kaduna destroyed in attacks by Islamist fundamentalists and rebuilt thanks to the support of the charity as well as the major seminaries of Saint Augustine in Jos and the Good Shepherd in Kaduna, with 437 and 147 seminarians respectively.  Both are receiving annual support from ACN and now need help enlarging their premises, owing to the fact that the number of aspirants for the priesthood is growing and there is no physical space available to accommodate them.

Nigeria, March 2017
Brief meeting with Archbishop Kaigama in his office

A visit with a therapeutic effect

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, described the trip as the ‘Sacrament of Presence’ and summed up the effect of the visit by ACN to the dioceses of Maiduguri, Jos, Kafanchan and Kaduna with these words: “This visit brought to prominence the need for pastoral solidarity between the Church of other continents and Africa. Relationships should not be formed or based only on television, newspaper or radio reports or letters through posts or emails. Such a warm friendly visit by the fourteen men and women bound together by the mission and vision of ACN, who came to celebrate the “Sacrament of Presence” in Nigeria, is a veritable witnessing in love. The visit was therapeutic to a people traumatized by natural disasters, the menace of criminals and religious fanatics, persecution, discrimination and the challenges of daily life. They had time to learn about issues such as inter-religious dialogue (Muslim/Christian relationship in Nigeria), peace building initiatives, pastoral growth, etc.”

 

Meeting with Archbishop Ingnatius Kaigama and ACN Delegation

 

ACN is currently studying a package of emergency aid measures for those affected by the attacks of the Fulani in Kafanchan and for the victims of Boko Haram in the diocese of Maiduguri. At the same time, requests for help with the rebuilding of the minor seminary of Saint Joseph, which has been closed since 2014 after being destroyed by the terrorists of Boko Haram.

 

Nigeria, March 2017
Visit to Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) IDP Camp

 

 

By Maria Lozano, Aid to the Church in Need International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canadian Office

 

ACN Project of the Week – A new dormitory for the seminary in Conakry

30.03.2017 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, CONSTRUCTION, Guinea, Journey with ACN, SEMINARIANS

Guinea                                                                                   

A new dormitory for the seminary in Conakry

Guinea is an overwhelmingly Islamic country in which roughly 85% of the population of 11.6 million people are Muslim. Christians make up only around 8% in this country, while the remainder of the population adhere to the traditional African religions.

For decades, this country of West Africa was dominated by the regime of dictator Ahmed Sékou Touré, who ruled from 1958 until his death in 1984. After his death, the Senegalese newspaper Le Soleil spoke of the end of what it had once called the “longest and most murderous dictatorship on the continent.” Torture and executions were an everyday occurrence, and thousands of people disappeared without trace.

The Catholic Church, which opposed the regime, was forced into silence and Archbishop Raymond-Maria Tchidimbo of Conakry spent almost 9 years in prison where he suffered torture. His successor, the present Cardinal Robert Sarah, was on the dictator‘s death list, though in fact Sékou Touré died before he was able to carry out his plans.

During these years of dictatorship, the Catholic Church was barely able to develop. To this day, it still only has three dioceses. For many years, the seminarians training for the priesthood had to study in neighbouring Senegal and Mali.

The Catholic Church built its own seminary, the doors opened for the academic year 2012/2013 to new seminarians in Kendoumaya in the Archdiocese of Conakry. The seminary is named after Pope Benedict XVI and serves the seminarians from all three dioceses of the country.

In 2014, there were serious setbacks because of the Ebola epidemic resulting in the delay of opening the academic year. The seminary, although still in its infancy, managed to cope even with this challenge.

Until now, the seminarians have only been able to study philosophy here. For their theology studies, they have had to travel to Bamako in Mali. This is all about to change…

Completion of the construction of the chapel for the Grand Seminary Benedict XVI in Kendoumaya

Aid to the Church in Need has provided substantial support for the new seminary. We are contributing $58,000 for the construction of an additional dormitory wing for the theology students; we are also giving $43,500 for the training of the 69 seminarians to help them reach their goal of becoming priests, to be of service to the Church and the African population.

 

Would you like to give to a similar project?  Simply click below to donate!

 


 

ACN Project of the Week – A vehicle to help a priest in Malawi

22.03.2017 in Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Malawi, MOTORIZATION, Pastoral work

Malawi                                                                                 

 A vital vehicle to reach remote parishioners in the mountains

Here is a success story signed by Aid to the Church in Need!  

 

The parish of Saint Paul is one of the largest parishes in the diocese of Blantyre and lies in a mountainous area, close to the frontier between Malawi and Mozambique.
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