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Aid to refugees

 

DECEMBER 22nd – SIXTH DAY: NOVENA for CENTRAL AFRICA

22.12.2013 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Aid to refugees, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Peace, Prayer, Uncategorized

FOR THE POLITICIANS – THAT THEY MAY NOT  FOSTER HATRED BETWEEN THE RELIGIONS

“O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay.”

 COME QUICKLY, LORD. COME, O SAVIOUR!

GRANT US PEACE

ACN-20131212-03629“ Turned out that Selekas demand for all refugees to come back home but there’s no guarantee. The problem is not the Muslims. They, the Selekas, are the killers. They are the ones who throw dead bodies in the river, who even took it up on me and the Red Cross because we went looking for them. Seleka arrests and tortures people, Seleka threatens. It’s the Seleka that beats up people and steals from them, Seleka who places barriers illegally with the excuse of protecting: the truth is that they want to exact a tribute from everybody. Their only interest is to protect their own pockets. They forced people to flee, made them escape here and since August demand all food and supply trucks pay them a fee. We have no issues with Muslims, nor Pelus. Our doors were open to anyone in need, we give food to refugees here in the Mission and in the Mosque. Our problem is with you, the Selekas.

Testimony of Fr. Aurelio Gazzera, Carmelite missionary in Bozoum

 

ACN-20131214-03689REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

Text by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada

 

DECEMBER 21st – FIFTH DAY: NOVENA for Central Africa

21.12.2013 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Aid to refugees, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Novena, Prayer

FOR ALL THE VICTIMS, FOR ALL WHO HAVE DIED; FOR ALL WHO HAVE LOST THEIR LOVED ONES 

“O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death”.

COME QUICKLY, LORD. COME, O SAVIOUR!

GRANT US PEACE

ACN-20131212-03627“Seeing all these atrocities and the cold-bloodedness of those committing them with impunity, one has the right to question the humanity of those faithless and lawless oppressors of the peaceful people of the Central African Republic. Seeing how they have no respect for the living or the dead, it makes one wonder if human life has any value in their eyes. We have heard of older people [who have been victims], whom a humane person must respect, be he or she living or dead. More than the living, the dead deserve respect and honor. Death? Now that is celebrated. Asked about the reasons for all the strewn across the roadways and streets of the capital, the Red Cross responds: No safe passage permitting the movement of aid workers, no vehicle to transport staff or to move the dead and burial for most of the victims takes place by the side of roadways or streets at the spot where they are found. This has some grave consequences: Parents consider their loved ones missing while in fact they are dead and already buried, Families are unable to honor some of their dead because they do not know the date of their passing, nor the place of their burial…”

 

ACN-20131214-03689REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

Text by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada

 

December 19th – THIRD DAY: NOVENA for Central Africa

19.12.2013 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Aid to refugees, Central Africa, Central African Republic, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Peace, Prayer, Uncategorized

For the women and children, for the widows and the orphans, for the helpless and the sick.

“O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.”

“Women are far braver than men: one of them spoke. Selekas killed her husband last Friday, she's got 7 small kids and nothing left. This testimony made many of us cry."

“Women are far braver than men: one of them spoke. Selekas killed her husband last Friday, she’s got 7 small kids and nothing left. This testimony made many of us cry.”

COME QUICKLY, LORD. COME,O SAVIOUR!

GRANT US PEACE

ACN-20131214-03689REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

Text by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada

December 18th – SECOND DAY: NOVENA for Central Africa

18.12.2013 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Aid to refugees, Catholic priests, Central Africa, Central African Republic, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Uncategorized

 For the Pastors and the faithful;

For the living stones of the church.

“O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power”

COME QUICKLY, LORD. COME, O SAVIOUR!

GRANT US PEACE

“Sunday Masses were celebrated in the parishes only in the morning, as holding Masses at night was impossible given the continued security threats. Attendance at the liturgies varied from church to church, but overall there was a decline. Father Iréné Fernand, vicar of the Church of Our Lady of Africa commented: “Ah, my friends, this was the first time in my life that I said Mass for just nine faithful in a parish that often attracts 3,000 faithful on Sundays. ‘There where one or two are gathered in my name, Jesus says, I am in their midst.’ Christ was with us and still is with us.” The parish served by this pastor was subject to repeated threats by the seleka to the point of exasperating him and prompting him to say: ‘Ah, those Seleka! They came to the parish of Our Lady of Africa at 11.30, the third time in two days. The result : a pick-up truck was stolen and three cars were damaged. … Thanks to the intervention of a parishioner and French troops, they were not able to take off with the other cars.’

These men without scruples! They have no respect, not even for the sacred … All the parishes prayed for peace in the Central African Republic. One thing is certain: God will not remain silent in the face of all these prayers offered him by these men and women for the intention of the Central African Republic.

Letter P. Dieu-Béni Mganga, 8th December, Archidiócesis de Bangui

ACN-20131214-03689 REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

Text by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada

December 17TH – FIRST DAY: NOVENA for CENTRAL AFRICA

17.12.2013 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Aid to refugees, Central Africa, Central African Republic

FOR THE REFUGEES, FOR THE 600,000 INTERNALLY DISPLACED AND THE 80,000 CENTRAL AFRICANS WHO HAVE BEEN FORCED TO FLEE TO NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIE

“O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth.”

COME QUICKLY, LORD. COME, O SAVIOUR!

GRANT US PEACE

“Christians in the Archdiocese of Bangui went to sleep last night planning to get up today to join the diocesan pilgrimage to the Marian sanctuary at Ngukomba, some 24 kilometers (14 miles) from Bangui, on the Damara route.

It turned out very differently. The firing of weapons of war awoke everyone in Bangui. There were reports of clashes between armed groups: on the one hand fighters belonging to anti-balaka forces, and, on the other hand, Seleka forces.

Some residents caught between warring parties stayed holed up at home; others found refuge in churches and with religious communities. By mid-morning, the parishes of St. John of Galabadja and Bangui’s Cathedral of Our Lady the Immaculate had taken in close to 1,000 people; St. Peter of Gobongo about 2,500; St. Bernard more than 3,000; Our Lady of Africa more than 3,500; and St. Paul of the Rapids more than 5,000.

The stream of people seeking shelter continued to grow in the afternoon, doubling in size, with their number tripling by nightfall. Church facilities also took in the wounded who have been without medical care until now.”

Letter P. Dieu-Béni Mganga, 5th December,

Archidiócesis de Bangui

© ACN/AED

“Help your people, Oh Lord! Bring your peace and harmony to the people clamoring for your help”.

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

 

Text by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada

Think Again: 10 Myths about Egypt’s Second Revolution

30.10.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Interview, Aid to refugees, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Uncategorized

Introduction by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by AG Griffin, ACN Canada

Copyright Status: Copyright: free with credit to Photographer Copyright notice: © Council of the EU Credit: No commercial use."The Council of the European Union"

Copyright Status:
Copyright: free with credit to Photographer
Copyright notice:
© Council of the EU
Credit:
No commercial use.”The Council of the European Union”

The following is a reference document following  Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan’s visit to the EU institutions in Brussels, a visit supported and organized by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) (September 17- 19, 2013).

ACN recently received this document from Bishop Kyrillos which he prepared in response to the more common questions posed around the nature of the situation in Egypt, and what could reasonably be expected from the situation.

The following answers he offered to the EU policy-makers  over a month ago, and they have not lost their pertinence.  The bishop referred to these questions as “myths” because he noticed the power and presence they hold in the imaginations of the people he met.  The bishop is now looking forward to dispelling these ‘myths’ and says:  “We must give the Egyptian constitution and the Egyptian people the chance they have been fighting for.”


Msgr Kyrillos William

مطران الكاثوليك الأقباط                                                                                                                    Bishop Coptic Catholic

A reference document following our visit to the EU institutions in Brussels  

1. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) represents the majority of Egyptians. In Europe we have Christian Democrats – are not the Muslim Brotherhood ‘Muslim Democrats’?

No. The MB, in its political party form, obtained only 12 out of a possible 50 million votes in the elections of 2011. Their rate of support fell sharply to as little as 5% when the Morsi government eliminated a pluralist Parliament and replaced it with one in which they were the absolute majority, was stopped short from replacing 3500 judges by people they knew would uphold Sharia law over the existing more secular laws, and declared illegal the work of foreign-funded pro-democracy and human rights NGOs. The MB, however, has an important detachment of press officers abroad still propagating a message of massive support with little or no bearing on reality in Egypt.

The above short list of exactions bears no comparison to any form of Christian Democracy as known in the West.

2. There are massive, peaceful pro-Morsi demonstrations still taking place and being suppressed.

They are an illusion fuelled by the lack of presence of foreign correspondents outside Cairo. A few hundred supporters still gather intermittently but they have worked with broadcast media owned by well-known Sunni Sheiks, even using images of the anti-Morsi demonstrations labeling them as pro-Morsi.

The demonstrations are not peaceful. Extremists have attacked police stations with rocket-propelled grenades (Kerdasa, Aswan, Menya) killing many policemen. Many MB members are on camera threatening Christians of genocide and raising Al-Qaeda flags in the sit-in areas. Dr. Morsi himself is recorded on video calling the Shia “filth worth only of extermination”. Protestors have also paid families to resist the calls of the police to clear the area or face being expelled.

3. There was a coup and there is now a military government.

It was not a coup, but the military supporting the will of 33+ million Egyptians demonstrating in the streets under the slogan “Food, Freedom, Social Justice and Human Dignity”.

The MB international spokespeople have insisted on isolating two events as if they were disconnected: the elections that brought Morsi to power and his removal from office. There is little mention of what happened in between: the dissolution of the nascent democratic structures such as the pluralist Parliament in favor of the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly and the single-handed appointment of 13 MB regional leaders (out of 27).

The interim government is not military. It is a civilian government and the army has no intention of taking up power. In February 2011, when Mubarak listened to the people and stood down, he surrendered the government to a military council who proceeded to organize elections and a civilian government was installed. The lesson learnt then is replicated now and the interim government is promising to have a new full government in 9 months, shorter again than the previous transfer of 15 months following Mubarak.  

4. The Tamarod was organized by the military and pressured citizens to sign the petition.

No. Tamarod is a youth movement, which started in May 2013 and the timeline of events demonstrates that the collection of the 22 million signatures (with full identification) started well before the army decided to ask Morsi to listen to the people. The Tamarod set a 30 June deadline for Dr. Morsi to respond to the demands, which included calling for early presidential elections.

5. Egypt had bad elections and a bad Constitution. There is no sign this time that things will be better.

Yes and No. Yes, the elections could have been better; Morsi came to power with 12 million votes in an election with approximately 43% turnout of the 50 million registered voters. Moreover, the multiple claims of fraud taking place outside Cairo had no electoral tribunal for recourse (pre-filled ballots, repeated voter names, etc.). Elections can only be improved with a truly independent electoral body and tribunal. In addition, a controversial move of the MB was to first hold the presidential elections and only afterward address the Constitution. This effectively prevented the majority of Egyptians, not members of the winning political party, to participate in the Constitutional process.

Lessons have been learnt. The new Constitution is now being drafted before elections, the Committee has a clear deadline in November, and it includes 50 Egyptians from all backgrounds, including Salafists and one former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, committed to “the creation of a constitutional Nation State, democratic and modern, founded upon a text approved by the nation supporting the separation of powers. Its current Article 3 defines “citizenship as the sole criterion of responsibility within society” (Source: interview of Mahmoud Azab, counselor for Dialogue to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University,  La Croix 16sept2013).

6. There are waves of arrests against the MB; news media are being harassed.

Most MB members are free to live and participate fully in civil society. Judiciary mandates have been issued against individuals who have incited hatred and violence: committing murder (such as those caught on camera throwing youngsters off a roof in Alexandria), as well as perpetrating acts of violence against Egyptians, victimizing not only Christians but also the majority of Muslims. At the same time, the sources of funding used to buy weapons and explosives are also being investigated – and many lead to the MB. This is the origin of the order to banish the MB’s activities, as the investigation continues. The MB is constituted of several operating arms: political party, NGO, social services providers, etc. making the investigation difficult.

As to the alleged media harassment, the broadcasting and social media units that were closed (seen abroad as news media), are rarely more than the medium of expression of well-known foreign Sheiks financing their own objectives. Al-Jazeera is Qatar-funded, largely like the MB, and in Egypt Al-Jazeera has never pretended to be impartial. Most of these broadcasters have little to do with what the West considers as free and responsible media, necessary to a democratic society. (These are facts and are proved with relative ease). Meanwhile, language barriers also play an important part in the misunderstanding abroad of what goes on in Egypt. Multiplying information sources is still the only way to overcome this challenge.

7. Egyptian society is divided, the process of reconciliation is necessary.

No. There is a small minority of Egyptians, approximately 5%, who might be open supporters of the MB. The other 95% want a modern democratic state with a rule of law based on citizenship not on religious background, gender, age or other potentially discriminating measurements. The MB has declared that the only option for consideration is the reinstatement of Dr. Morsi to power. Contrary to the situation in Libya or Syria, the fabric of Egyptian society remains unified; the present desire is to integrate all parties in a peaceful and inclusive manner without a tyranny of the minority.

8. If it were true the people only wanted change, there was no need for a military coup. We do not do that in the West.

With a simple review on the sequence of events it is evident that it was not a coup but an answer to the voice of 33+ million Egyptians who, disillusioned with the Muslim Brotherhood, again sought democratic change by going to the streets.

Since their narrow win in May 2012, the Morsi regime and the Muslim Brotherhood made a rapid power-grab, eliminating the possibility of participation in political life to Egyptians from other political affiliations. The Islamist-dominated Constitutional Assembly quickly issued new laws voiding existing rules protecting the rights of children and women (pushing to make the legal age for marriage as low as 9 years) and freedom of expression and education (going as far as arresting comedians and teachers expressing opinions contrary to the Sharia). With neither political means nor free media to address their government, Egyptians took to the streets demanding Dr. Morsi to meet with them and discuss the changes they thought urgent. Morsi never opened the door, with the consequences we now know.

Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, informed the European Parliament that she had met with Dr. Morsi before the demonstrations and made it known to him that she “…could feel the antipathy to the Brotherhood and could see the growing numbers of people on the streets…” (Source: EU’s Ashton ready to return to Egypt to ‘support’ not ‘interfere’, Ahram Online, 12sept13) and urged him on behalf of the EU to accept dialogue with the population, but he refused to negotiate.

9. Egypt has no tradition of democracy; this will happen again soon.

Egypt may not as yet have a “tradition of democracy” as we understand in the West, but the interim government and the civil society are giving themselves the means to establish its foundations. As reflected by the popular will and the progress of the interim government, Egypt seeks to be a modern, democratic society based on citizenship as the sole source of rights and responsibilities. Transitions are the same the world over, where the economic situation is oppressive and people are tired, unemployed and hungry. The roadmap of 9 months must succeed, and for this Egypt needs every help it can get, particularly to offer its citizens a ray of hope in both material and educational terms. If the West wants to help us, support the interim government in its hopes to establish a new secular Constitution and to implement the roadmap to Parliamentary and Presidential elections. The greatest challenge to this process, especially with the onset of winter, is a revolution deriving from greater economic hardship and hunger. Where possible, help also in civic education programs led by the civil society organizations such as a one meal per day program for school-going children.

10. But Muslims and Christians will continue their sectarian strife.

No. There is no sectarian strife in Egypt. In some communities Christians have suffered more attacks than in others because they are peaceful and a relatively easy target. The tensions grew out of the beginning of the Morsi regime, but the 14 August violence against Christians, police, firemen, museums, schools, hospitals, etc. in fact created a greater solidarity from the side of the moderate Muslims toward the Christians. Many Muslims in Upper Egypt are now protecting the Christian buildings assuring them of their protection from extremists. The exemplary relationship between Al Azhar – the institution representing the highest Sunni authority in the Islamic world, known also for its university and library – and the Coptic Churches has been described as “the two wings carrying Egypt towards its future” (Source: interview of Mahmoud Azab, counselor for Dialogue to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University,  La Croix 16sept2013).

Copyright Status: Copyright: free with credit to Photographer Copyright notice: © Council of the EU Credit: No commercial use."The Council of the European Union"

Copyright Status:
Copyright: free with credit to Photographer
Copyright notice:
© Council of the EU
Credit:
No commercial use.”The Council of the European Union”

Additional Background

Summer is never a good moment for big news, but it was the moment Egyptian society decided they had enough of the Morsi regime and took to the streets by the millions. Egyptians of all backgrounds had seen the democratic illusion dissolve and their rights wither as soon as the results of the elections were confirmed. Morsi had been elected to office by 12 million people, out of 50 million registered voters, which gave him a clear majority over the other candidates. Egyptians celebrated the advent of the first ever elected government.

Over one year, however, the methodical elimination of normal – albeit incipient – avenues of popular expression such as Parliamentary and Judiciary review, as well as NGO action left citizens without a voice unless they showed their number in the open. A youth movement called Tamarod (Rebellion) collected 22 million signatures from identified signatories in early June 2013 asking the Morsi regime for crucial changes in his administration. As they were ignored, Tamarod called for demonstrations in Cairo and other cities on 30 June, to which an estimated 33 million Egyptians responded. After two days of massive and peaceful demonstrations, the military gave notice to the President of the need to respond within an established deadline. Mr Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party refused, leading to his arrest and the immediate establishment of an interim, civilian government.

On 3 July 2013 a Roadmap to the next elections was set. Within the next 9 months, a new Constitution would be drafted by a new Constitutional Committee as inclusive as possible, where also the Muslim Brotherhood as such (not as political party) were invited. The MB rejected both the Roadmap and the invitation, calling as a condition the return of Mr Morsi to the Presidency.

The new Constitution would pave the way for the election of the new Parliament and then of a new President. Meanwhile, some supporters of the deposed government took to the streets as well, and organized sit-ins in squares.

The sit-ins were tolerated for several weeks until the security forces informed them that there would soon be a clearing of the area, inviting them to leave, using loudspeakers and walking through the crowds. Many did, but others defied the orders. On 14 August in the morning, the security forces entered the squares, and they were met with sniper fire from the nearby buildings, which unleashed a violent confrontation leaving and estimated 638 dead, 43 of them policemen.

Simultaneously, however, in several cities in Egypt, far from the eyes of the diplomatic and foreign media corps, a coordinated armed attack on government, cultural and Christian buildings was deployed. Museums were ransacked; police and fire stations were set ablaze, as well as churches, hospitals and schools. Muslim populations moved to protect the Christians forming human chains around their houses and churches, thus in fact unifying the moderate Muslim majority and the Christian community in their desire for a stable society worthy of the sacrifices made for democratic change.

Syrian refugees – “The prospects for Lebanon are somber”

27.09.2013 in ACN Canada, Aid to refugees, Syria

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

20130430_001

©AED/ACN

The American threats to attack Syria have led temporarily to a rise in the numbers of refugees in Lebanon, as the President of the Lebanese organisation Caritas, Monsignore Simon Faddoul, explained to the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need”. He said on Friday: “Now that the military strike has not materialized after all, the number of refugees has returned to its original level.”

The Lebanese government, Faddoul continued, estimated the number of Syrians in Lebanon as about 1.4 million. Of these, 1.1 million were refugees, and the rest had already been in the country when hostilities broke out. “If it comes to the decisive battle for Damascus there will be a refugee disaster,” is Faddoul’s great concern.

The large number of refugees in Lebanon were already having a destabilizing effect in the country. “The latest report of the World Bank showed what a disastrous effect the Syrian war was having on Lebanese society, security and economy,” the Caritas head stressed. According to the most recent estimates by the World Bank, the loss suffered by the Lebanese economy due to the conflict will amount to 7.5 billion US dollars by the end of the coming year. On top of this, Faddoul lamented, there were the social and security problems. “In this respect the future is a somber one.”

This priest of the Maronite Church stressed, however, that the number of those refugees who refused to register with the United Nations had fallen “considerably”. “Many have recognized that registration is the only way to obtain medical aid. Whereas previously 40 per cent failed to register, the figure is now 20 per cent”, according to Faddoul.

Women and children forced to beg or into prostitution

His organisation had to date been caring for about 125,000 refugees in the whole country with the support of “Aid to the Church in Need”. About 10,000 of these were Christians and the remainder Muslims. Faddoul was worried about the approach of winter. “We need everything: blankets, heating oil, clothing, food, hygiene articles, financial assistance for housing and so on. Our resources are never enough. But we are doing our best with what we can get.”

Sister Georgette Tannoury from the Community of the Good Shepherd (Bon Pasteur) also expressed her concern to “Aid to the Church in Need” in view of the destabilising effects of the Syrian conflict. She heads a walk-in clinic for refugees in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. The clinic looks after more than 150 Syrians daily, mostly women and children. “Aid to the Church in Need” supports her humanitarian work.

20120912_022

©AED/ACN

“The number of Syrians is very large,” according to Sister Georgette. “Children fill the streets and run between the cars begging. We’ve never experienced so many robberies and other crimes in the country as in the present year. The result is increasing frustration in Lebanon in the face of the many refugees. One lady reported to me that she was afraid of sending her daughter out onto the street to do the shopping.”

Unlike in Jordan, for example, Lebanon has no reception camps and so the refugees are spread throughout the country. “They often live in garages. Families who lived in large houses in Syria suddenly find themselves in a room with 15 other people. Their children reject this and prefer to live on the streets.”

The hardship, according to Sister Georgette, often forces people to take desperate measures.  “One woman told me that her husband had forced her into prostitution to feed the family. Another father had sold his 13-year-old daughter to a 60-year-old man to get money. I hear stories like these all day long. May God take pity on his people. I thank “Aid to the Church in Need” for their support. We will continue to help the poorest of the poor.”

Syria – “We’re afraid of the winter”

26.09.2013 in Aid to refugees, Syria

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

The conflict in Syria can only be solved politically, not by military means: that is the firm conviction of the Syrian Jesuit Ziad Hilal. Speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” he said on Friday: “The use of weapons will not stop the bloodshed in Syria.

In this I disagree with America and France. Rather the international community must work towards a peaceful solution and convene an international peace conference. In Syria itself the government and opposition must start a dialogue. The arms deliveries must also be stopped, as must the infiltration of Syria by jihadists from all over world.”

© ACN/AED

© ACN/AED

In Homs, Father Ziad heads a social centre which provides medical, psychological and other charitable services. It is located in an area controlled by government troops. About 6000 families from Homs and the surrounding area are taken care of there. He is supported in this by about 100 volunteers.

A third winter of war

Father Ziad claimed that the situation in the embattled city of Homs was difficult. “Time and again there are fights between the “Free Syrian Army” and government troops. Recently a bomb fell very close by. Fortunately nothing happened to our secretary, but her home was destroyed.”

Of the 120,000 Christians who used to live here, 6,000 had left the city and fled to other areas in Syria or abroad. The historical city centre was in the hands of the rebels,and it had been totally abandoned for practical purposes, Father Ziad explained. His superior had given him permission to leave the city if he so wished. But he had rejected the idea. “If we go, who will then serve the people?”

Father Ziad is looking forward to the third winter of the war with some trepidation. “We are afraid of the winter. We need everything to get our people through the winter: heating oil, clothing and blankets. I appeal to our fellow Christians in Europe not to forget us.”

Father Ziad is very worried about the future of Christians in Syria. “I’m very much afraid that the exodus will continue. The Christians are an integral part of this country, its culture and history. But if there is not a major change in the situation, it will soon look here like in Iran or Turkey. The countries also had flourishing Christian communities of which hardly anything is left now. May God spare Syrian Christians the same fate.”

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Press Release: Central African Republic

12.09.2013 in Aid to refugees, Central African Republic, Emergency Aid, Uncategorized

More than 3,500 houses burned down in the Diocese of Bouar; thousands of people are fleeing

By Eva-Maria Kollman, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Montreal, September 20, 2013 – A dramatic worsening of the situation in the Diocese of Bouar in the north of the Central African Republic has been reported to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by the missionary Father Aurelio Gazzera. “Events have occurred thick and fast in recent days, and the aggressiveness of the rebels has increased,” says the Italian Carmelite. More than 3,500 houses have been burned down in the town of Bohong alone. “Apocalyptic scenes have been played out.” Many people have been killed, and their bodies are still lying in the streets, Gazzara reports.

Since August, 6,500 refugees have arrived in Bozoum where one of the Carmelites’ five mission stations is located. Many thousands more people are in flight. Many of these have been hiding out in the bush for fear of the rebels, reports Father Gazzera. “They are deeply traumatized and have lost everything.”

In recent days, there has been heavy fighting in many places around the town of Bossangoa in which at least 60 people have lost their lives. More than 30,000 people, some 80 percent of the inhabitants, have fled. “The situation is very confusing. On the one hand it is said that supporters of the deposed former President Bozize have been fighting against the Séléka; on the other hand, an eye-witness who fled on foot from Bossangoa to Bozoum reported to me that it all began with fighting between the Séléka and young inhabitants of the town,” Gazzera explains. The situation is an “extremely dangerous mixture of different armed groupings and an increasing propensity to violence by the Séléka rebels,” who seized power in the country in March of this year.

“… the worst that is in people’s hearts.”

The missionary, who has been working in the Central African Republic for twenty years, is very concerned about the worsening conflicts between Muslims and Christians. Until recently, according to Gazzera, the people got on well together. But the arrival of Muslim rebels from Sudan and Chad, who only speak Arabic, has “destroyed much”. In the attacks of recent days, in a similar pattern to what generally occurs when the Séléka strike, “not one single Muslim house was burned down.” There have even been numerous cases where young Muslim people have pointed out to the rebels which buildings and facilities they should burn down or loot. “It is as if the coup in March has brought out the worst that is in people’s hearts,” the Carmelite complains.

©ACN/AED

©ACN/AED

“It is difficult to say how things will develop,” according to Gazzera. “It is possible that fighting may break out again. But even now, reconstruction will take years: the reconstruction of buildings, but also – what is even more important – the inner reconstruction of the people. The people feel bitter, but they also bear their burden with great dignity. Despite everything, one sees no hatred or anger against those who have brought these sorrows upon them. But the people are also very tired, because nothing is working. The state is absent. People fear the future and cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel. And it seems as though nobody hears all of this and that nothing is being done to solve it. But at the same time there is great faith: the sentence that one hears most often is ‘NZAPA A YEKE’ – ‘God is there’.”

Mali – A deceptive sense of calm

21.05.2013 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Aid to refugees, Emergency Aid, Mali, Pastoral care, Uncategorized

Montreal, May 21, 2013 – Presently, Christians living in the north and east of Mali are no longer. An approximate 500 Catholics have now left the region. Although French troops control important towns such as Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu – pastoral workers, men and women in religious orders, cannot return to their mission stations. Brother Wilfried Langer of the Order of White Fathers and Germain Arama, priest and economist of the diocese of Mopti, bore the news during a visit to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Brother Wilfried Langer described the situation in both the north and east of Mali as unclear and deceptive: “The government and army are not permitting any return of pastoral workers and nuns because one of the Islamists’ sources of money is hostage-taking. Millions of euros are being demanded as ransom. The leaders of the Islamists have pulled back across the borders to Algeria, Libya and Mauretania. They are waiting for the French to withdraw.”  Wilfried Langer, originally from Germany, worked as a missionary in Mali from 1963 to 2012. In the past few decades he has supervised numerous parishes and built churches, mission houses and presbyteries.

The context

Fighting broke out in the north of Mali in early 2012 between Tuareg and regular forces; in a region which is about twice the size of Newfoundland-Labrador. The Tuareg joined forces with Islamist groups, who soon seized power. The internal conflicts came to a head when the military toppled the Malian government in the capital of Bamako. Since this strategically important West African country was in danger of falling completely into the hands of Islamist forces. Last January, France in support of the Malian army, finally staged a military intervention.

Also in January last, ACN guaranteed the Malian southern diocese of Mopti $53,000 in emergency relief for 326 refugee families. According to Abbé Germain Arama the money was used to provide initial medical care to the refugees and to buy pharmaceuticals, food and blankets.

Forty thousand Catholics live on the territory of this diocese which is substantially larger than the Province of Manitoba. Throughout its six large parishes, 22 priests are performing pastoral work. In relation to the country as a whole the proportion of mostly Catholic Christians in Mali is only a small one per cent.  Eighty to ninAety per cent of its 16 million inhabitants are Muslim, and the rest are assumed to belong to traditional African religions.

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada