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ACN Project of the Week – Helping the poor build a church in Pakistan

02.05.2019 in CONSTRUCTION, Construction, Pakistan, Pakistan

Project of the Week in Pakistan

Help us to complete a church in Issanagri

Issanagri is a village in Pakistan lying within the parish of the Assumption, which itself is based in the village of Chak 7, in the diocese of Faisalabad. The parish as a whole has a total of 6,000 Catholic faithful, while Issanagri itself has around 300 Catholic families, or approximately 1,500 Catholics.

This village is around a 10 km distance from the centre of the parish making it a long walk to the parish church. Issanagri already has a small chapel of its own, but it is far too small for the number of the faithful who need access it.

Interestingly, the Catholic faithful have taken initiative and have begun building a larger church, making great sacrifices to do so.  They have been collecting money, though poor themselves, and work hard on the building site even though they already have to work very hard to support their families. But despite all their efforts and hard work, they have so far only managed to build part of the church. Holy Mass is still being celebrated in the open air, between the partly built walls, where there is no shelter from the scorching sun or torrential rain, or indeed the biting cold that can still be felt in winter, even in Pakistan.

The parish priest, Father Waseem Walter, has written to ACN for help so that they can finally complete their church. He writes, “It is urgently necessary to build this church.“ We have promised him our help, and his people were overjoyed to learn that we are willing to support them. Now we need YOUR HELP to raise the $16,500 we have promised.

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

To learn a little more about the overall situation for Catholics in Pakistan, where Christians make up a mere 2% of the population, please visit or Religious Freedom Report 2018 on line.

Iraq – Rebuilding with The Pope’s Lamborghini profits! – ACN-News

26.02.2019 in ACN International, ACN NEWS, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Marta Petrosillo, By Marta Petrosillo, Communiqué, Construction, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Reconstruction

Aid to the Church in Need in Iraq

Rebuilding with The Pope’s Lamborghini profits!

Montreal, February 26thThanks to a donation of 300 000 dollars from the Holy Father, following the auctioning of the Lamborghini that was given to him last year, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will be able to fund two new projects on behalf of the Iraqi Christian families and other minorities who have returned to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

Marta Petrosillo for ACN-International and Mario Bard, ACN-Canada

On 15 November 2017 the Holy Father decided to give ACN part of the proceeds from the auctioning of the Lamborghini Hurricane that had been donated to him by the famous Italian carmaker. Now ACN will give concrete form to the Pope’s gesture by funding the reconstruction of two buildings of the Syriac Catholic Church, destroyed by the war. They are the nursery school (kindergarten) of Our Lady and the multipurpose centre of the parish of the same name.

Both buildings are in the village of Bashiqa, just 30 km from Mosul. The village was badly damaged during the war, but the Christian community has returned, and in large numbers. In facts by now, 405 of the 580 homes that were destroyed here have already been rebuilt and around 50% of the Christians, or 1,585 people, have already returned.

The Parish Hall was totally destroyed.

The two projects funded with money from the Lamborghini will also benefit the other minorities in the town, since the multipurpose centre, which has capacity for over 1,000 people, will be used for weddings and the religious feasts of all the different communities. It will be the largest such centre in the area and will be available for use to over 30,000 people of all different faiths and ethnic groups.

The Return of Iraqi Christians: An Unexpected Success!

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Just a little over two years since the liberation of the villages of the Nineveh Plains, the number of Christians who have been able to return to their homes has exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. By January 11th this year at least 9108 families had returned to their villages, almost 46% of the 19,832 families dwelling there in 2014 prior to the arrival of the so-called Islamic State (IS). This is thanks above all to the immense work of reconstruction – to which ACN have greatly contributed – that has made it possible so far to rebuild or repair some 41% of the 14,035 homes
destroyed or damaged by IS.

This intervention, in which the pontifical foundation ACN has played a major role in collaboration with the local Churches, has also found a generous benefactor in the person of the Holy Father. Already back in 2016 Pope Francis gave 150,000 dollars in support of the “Saint Joseph Charity Clinic” in Erbil, which provides free medical assistance.

This most recent gift by the Holy Father will be a further help to local Christians, enabling them to live their own faith and offer a future in Iraq to their children. At the same time it is a powerful message and an invitation to peaceful coexistence between the different religions in a region where fundamentalism has sadly damaged interreligious relations.

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Since 2014 and up to the present day ACN has given over 60 million dollars for the support of Iraqi Christians.
Thanks to you, Christians in Iraq can return home.
Thank you!

Iraq: New hope for Christians in Iraq!


ACN Project of the Week: Rebuilding chapels in Mozambique

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

Mozambique

Rebuilding two chapels destroyed by a cyclone

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

complete the roof.

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

 

 

 

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

ACN Feature Syria: The 300 Christians of Krak des Chevaliers, a World Heritage Site

19.04.2018 in ACN Feature, ACN International, Construction, Feature Story, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Syria

Syria

The 300 Christians of Krak des Chevaliers, a World Heritage Site

Father George Maamary, parish priest of the Church of the Assumption, which is close to the fortress, is asking our help to rebuild their church so that the families can return there soon

ACN (Josué Villalón, Qalat’al Hosn).- Qalat’al Hosn is a village in western Syria in a region known as the Valley of the Christians, best known for the imposing fortress, Krak des Chevaliers, which dominates the area. The castle is a World Heritage Site, one of the historic jewels of Syria and a place which, before the war, attracted tourists from all over the world.

 

“A group of Salafists and Muslim extremists arrived here, many of them from Lebanon, crossing over the border which is only about 30 km (20 miles) away. They seized control of the fortress and the village,” explains Father George Maamary, parish priest of the local Catholic community. “As soon as they arrived, they came to the church where I was living, forced their way in and abducted me. They beat me, so that afterwards I had to have an operation on my shoulder. Thanks be to God, my imprisonment did not last long; they exchanged me for a jihadist fighter who had been captured by the government.”

Syria: Father George Maamary, Parish priest of Al Hosn, town next to the fort. The Church was destroyed by jihadists who took the town and the fort. It was released in 2014. 

At that time the village had around 25,000 inhabitants of various religions, most of them Sunni and Shia Muslims. There were also around 300 Christians, living around the only Christian church, Our Lady of the Assumption, which belongs to the Greek Catholic Church.

As soon as news of the abduction of Father Maamary came to the ears of his Christian neighbours, they all abandoned their homes for fear of suffering the same fate. “It was a warning. Since then, not one Christian family has returned to live here.” That was six years ago.

The rebel groups had wanted to turn the fortress into a second Palmyra – a world-renowned historic site, and also one of great strategic and sentimental importance for the Syrian people. The fortress was damaged by the rebel groups and by the fighting to recover it, along with a considerable part of the village itself. In 2014, the castle and the village were reconquered by the Syrian army. This was the only place in the Valley of the Christians where there was fighting. As for the rest, this region has become a place where many refugees now live, since it is one of the more peaceful parts of the country.

But before this there was looting, and among the places that were looted were the church and the homes of the Christians. “The life of the community used to revolve around the church,” Father George explains to a delegation from the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We had a basketball pitch and rooms for catechesis and other gatherings. You can see how everything is now,” he adds. The church is also linked to various other buildings, and there was formerly a hotel named after John Paul II, which welcomed tourists who had come to visit the fortress. They also had other centres, with up to 17 shops, a restaurant, a café, and various souvenir and gift shops.

The war has left a terrible wound

After the fighting, the conflict continued. The vengeance against the Sunnis was terrible on the part of the government troops, linked to the Assad government and pro-Shiite. Father George had to hasten back and mark the houses of the Christians with black crosses, so that the soldiers did not burn them down also.

“Before the fighting, life between Christians and Muslims was good,” said Father George. Now the war has left a terrible wound that will take years to heal. “It is safe again now in this region, but there is still no electricity or water,” he adds. As a result, the Christians have been unable to return despite the fact that the village was liberated all of four years ago. “The sense of helplessness of these families is very great; they are still uprooted and living in other villages of the Valley of the Christians, such as Marmarita and Kafra, only 10 km away from here, and yet they still cannot return.”

Syria, March 2018: Fr. George Maamary, Samir Bashur (christian neighbor), and Fr. Bassam Maamary, cousin of Father George who is reapering his family house.

Around the Church of the Assumption, there are a few houses that people have begun to rebuild. One of them belongs to the family of Bassam Maamary, a cousin of Father George and himself a priest. “I have begun to rebuild the house with my own money, in order to show my neighbours that it is possible to return, that there is still hope,” he says.

He is being helped with the electric wiring by a young man named Wagdi Yazzi. He too is from the village of Al Hosn. “It won’t take much for us to return; but first we need the government to reconnect the water and electricity,” he says, adding, “Life here was very pleasant and peaceful. We had contact with people from all over the world and we were a very open village.”

Another neighbour appears, walking up an alleyway. He is Samir Bashur and he explains that he is also working on his house and that he comes here from time to time, little by little repairing the damage. He thinks that if people are to return here permanently, they will first have to rebuild the church. “It is a place that is very important to us, where we celebrate the most important feasts together, where we meet and pray together, along with our parish priest.”

Father George assures that he has not lost contact with the other families. “We are doing the impossible to help them on a daily basis, and so that they will be able to return to their homes.” He thanks ACN for the aid provided for the care of these refugees, and he is also hoping to be able to begin soon on the rebuilding of their church.

Father George Maamary, Parish priest of Al Hosn, town next to the fort shows the destruction made by djihadits.

“We are praying for peace in our country. And also for all the people who are helping us from other countries. You are all very welcome to come here. We need the people and the tourists to return.”

 

And finally, Father Maamary expresses his gratitude for the support of Pope Francis, who has sent aid directly each year for the families and the priests. “He is a humble man, he is doing great things for Syria, including through his prayer and his messages of peace.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

ACN’s Interview – Iraq – “If the families do not return to their homes, then Christianity will disappear”

06.04.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Josué Villalón (ACN Spain), Construction, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Middle East

Iraq:

“If the families do not return to their homes, then Christianity will disappear”

 

Father Salar Kajo is one of the priests who have accompanied the over 120,000 Christians who were forced to flee their homes following the invasion by Daesh (Islamic State/IS), and who have spent the last three years as refugees in their own country, Iraq. He was among the first to return when the Iraqi army finally succeeded in driving out the jihadists. Father Salar is now working with the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, coordinating the work of recovery and rebuilding in nine villages on the Nineveh plains.

 

“The Church is the only organization working with the Christians of Iraq and the other minorities to recover their homes. If these families do not return to their homes, Christianity will disappear from Iraq,” he affirmed emphatically during his visit to the Spanish national office of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

 

What is the current situation in the villages of the Nineveh plains?
In the northern region of the Nineveh plains, around 1,000 families have already been able to return to their homes. All this has been possible thanks to the Church, which has made it possible for them to return. But we have to continue working so that everybody can return.

 

How are the people who have returned managing to live?
The great challenge in many cases now is for them to find work. They thought they would never be able to return to their homes and they had lost hope, although not their faith in Jesus. One example of their deep faith is the fact they have been able to forgive Daesh and their neighbours who collaborated with the jihadists.

Trip to Iraq 2016 December 19 / Fr. Salar Soulayman Bodagh (Chaldean priests) on the balcony of the presbytery of the Mar Quryaqus (Qeryaqos) church in Batnaya Mar Quryaqus (Qeryaqos).

They firmly believe that only forgiveness can change the hearts of those who committed so much violence against them.

 

You were one of the first people to return to these places. What did you find?
It was the very day of the liberation of villages such as Telleskuf, near Mosul. I arrived with a group of young people. In Batnaya, the first place I visited was the church and I could see that everything had been destroyed. Lying on the ground were Bibles and lectionaries that had recently been burnt. Before leaving the village, the militants of Daesh made a special point of ransacking the churches. After that, we visited a number of nearby houses, but we could not visit anything else because the village was full of landmines. We prayed an Our Father in Aramaic and then rang the church bells, which were sounding out for the first time in three years.

 

What were your thoughts when you saw the ruined churches and houses?
I felt a sense of great pain. We had many memories of our villages and of the churches. We had worked hard in the past to keep these churches well maintained. But I said to myself, “Thank you, Lord, because if we could not save the church buildings themselves, we did keep the faith of the people.”

 

Do you think the faith of the Christians in Iraq is stronger now than before?
I believe so. For now we are seeing the fruits of this faith, for example in the kindness towards those who have lost everything, including their neighbours of other religions and many Muslims from other villages. And also, as I said earlier, the fact that the Christians have forgiven the people who were their neighbours, and who helped Daesh to occupy their homes and to rob and burn their villages.

Iraq, February 2017: Desecrated image of Our Lady and burned in the courtyard of the St Addai Church in Batnaya – a small town on the Nineveh plains, 15 kilometres from Mosul. 

 

How is it possible to forgive, after having lost everything? Have they really forgiven?
In the name of Jesus Christ everything is possible. The people have suffered greatly; for three years, as refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, they faced many difficulties. But they have a faith that has enabled them to overcome everything, although not without difficulty. This faith also makes it possible for them to truly live this forgiveness.

 

Can you give us any examples?
The first thing these families did upon returning to their villages was to go and visit their Muslim neighbours. To ask them how they were. And they told them that they wanted to return to live in peace, and recover the spirit of mutual coexistence. That is something humanly speaking impossible, but from the logic of our faith it is possible.

 

What do you need now?
It is urgently necessary for everyone to return to their towns and villages. But this will only be possible thanks to the help of organizations like ACN, because the governments are not giving us any help. After a year of rebuilding, the only channel of aid has been through the Church. We want to return, to recover our dignity and to work and live as we did before Daesh. This is our land, this is our identity.

 

How has your life changed personally, after so much destruction?
The crisis with Daesh has made me grow stronger in my priestly vocation. The Lord is using priests so that we can be closer to the people in these difficult moments, in every area of their lives and not only in pastoral matters. This has strengthened relations between the Church and the faithful. It is important for the Christians to stay on in Iraq. They have a moral responsibility to make peace and change the hearts of their fellow citizens. They see themselves as peace builders in the region of the Middle East.

 

We are still helping in Iraq. Thank you for your donation!

 

Iraq, 2016 December: 19 destroyed houses in Batnaya (view fron the roof of the Mar Quryaqus (Qeryaqos) church in Batnaya.


 

ACN Project of the week – India – ACN Help to build a church

21.03.2018 in ACN PROJECTS, Asia, Construction, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

India

Construction of a new church in the mission of Jubaguda

 

Jubaguda is one of the 36 villages in the archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in Odisha (formerly Orissa) State in northeast India which made tragic headlines back in 2008 when they were the scene of murderous and violent attacks against Christians.

 

Jubaguda is a large village around 300 km, or 7 hours drive by car, from Bhubaneswar. It lies in the southwest of Odisha State in the inner Kandhamal mountains and was first established as a mission in 1960 by the Vincentian Fathers. It is a promising area of evangelization. Currently the mission serves some 2,693 families (12,176 individuals) in some 51 remote mountain villages. Of these, some 770 families (4,850 people) already profess the Catholic faith, and their numbers are growing. Around 90% of the people here belong to the indigenous “Khond”people, while the rest are members of the Dalits, the lowest caste in Indian society. According to our project partners, the Khonds are among the less developped peoples in Odisha. They number around 1.5 million and speak their own dialect, Kui. Until recently this tribe lived hidden in the jungle and followed a form of animist belief. Both they and the Dalits are extremely poor and live by a form of subsistence farming, growing rice, maize and vegetables.They were socially and politically exploited. However, this is now slowly changing.

Parishioners in Kandhamal in Odisha during the celebration of holy Mass.

 

Thus they are all the more appreciative of the blessings the mission station has brought them, including the boarding homes for 270 girl and boy pupils, the healthcare station, the simple parish house and the convent of religious sisters. Two priests and five sisters live and work here in the mission, supported by a team of 37 volunteer catechists. But even by their combined efforts they can do no more than compensate for, rather than overcome, the glaring lack of infrastructure (roads, electricity supply, schools, etc.).

 

In 2008 Jubaguda was also threatened with destruction by a violent mob, but was fortunately spared. Yet despite this threat, the people have clung to their faith, and the Church is growing rapidly.

In the villages served by the mission station the people generally have to make with thatched huts for chapels, where the priests can also stay overnight if necessary. Back in 1978 Jubaguda itself had managed to build a small church with an asbestos roof, which, however had long since grown too small to accommodate the 1000 or so people who we are attending Holy Mass each Sunday. As a result it had long since been necessary to provide a second Sunday Mass.

 

However, in March 2013 lightning struck a large tree, which fell across the church, causing half of it to collapse and smashing most of the roof. This happened just as the children from the boarding house had gathered to pray there, and 62 of them were injured when the roof fell on them. Miraculously, however, none of the children suffered any lasting injuries as a result.

 

At any rate, Holy Mass is now hold in a room in the boys’ boarding house, which, of course, is far too small for the whole community. Originally, they had been planning to repair the damaged church, but on the advice of experts they have decided that it would be more costly than building new. So now the parish is planning to build a new and much larger church, that would also be more suited in size to the present number of the Catholic faithful. ACN has already promised 36.240 dollars towards the cost.

Parishioners in Odisha during the celebration of holy Mass.

Thank you to help to build a new church for the people of  Jubaguda!
You can give via our website: just click on the button below. 


 

Iraq – Back to School

29.08.2017 in ACN International, Adaptation Mario Bard, By Daniele Piccini, Children, Construction, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Middle East

Kids in school, essential to the survival of Christian villages

 

The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is working against time, together with the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC) to repair and rebuild as many family homes as possible, so that the Syriac Catholic families can return in time for the beginning of the school year. Already at least 600 families have returned to this town in the Nineveh plains. Father Georges Jahola, who is in charge of the Syriac Catholic team on the NRC, predicts confidently: “In 10 years time the city will be repopulated as it was before IS.”

 

The town of Baghdeda (or Qaraqosh) on the plains of Nineveh is engaged in a fight against time, a fight for life. In September, its schools will be reopening. The Syriac Catholic families, forced to flee the town three years ago to escape the violence of the fighters of the so-called Islamic State (IS), and who have spent the last three years as internal refugees in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, now want to return home finally – in time for their children to begin their school year… if possible.

In the center, Fr. Georges Jahola, syro-catholic priest from Qaraqosh, Iraq, last spring. Celebration of the olive tree ceremony to mark the begining of the reconstruction in the Nineveh Plain.

 

“The schools in Baghdeda have been repaired by various international agencies such as the UN”, explains Father Georges Jahola, a Syriac Catholic priest who is in charge of the Syriac Catholic team and a member of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, tasked with rebuilding the city. “Unfortunately, however, the houses of the Christian families who want to return have not yet been rebuilt. Before the arrival of IS there were around 5,000 Syriac Catholic families here, of whom around 60% have school-age children. If their homes are not yet ready for habitation by September, these families might well decide to go elsewhere, and this time for good. On the other hand, if we succeed, I am sure that within 10 years, Baghdeda will have been repopulated and there will be just as many Christians here as before.”

 

An inheritance of destruction

 

In this town, 2 ½ years of occupation by thousands of IS militants – who, Father Georges suggests, “probably had their operational base right here” – have left a “legacy” of some 6,327 homes needing to be rebuilt. The terrorists set fire to 2,269 homes, partially damaged 3,950 apartments and bombed another 108. In collaboration with other organizations, ACN is helping to rebuild these homes, starting with those that are least damaged. In fact, 47 are already rebuilt in Sector E of the city. “The families are responding to this signal of hope and are beginning to return,” Father Georges remarks. “In Baghdeda 600 families have already returned. And then we have around 120 workers who have already transferred here to work on their homes while their families are still waiting in Erbil to be able to rejoin them. The children especially are so happy to be able to return home”, he adds.

Last May in Qaraqosh. The inhabitants looked at what was done to their houses by ISIS. Though hope is back, there is still a lot to do.

 

In order to be able to bring life back to Baghdeda, the water and electricity networks are gradually being repaired. “The electricity supply is slowly returning. The government in Baghdad has repaired the old generators and purchased 15 new ones, which are still not enough, however. In fact, we would need at least another 150. The terrorists of the Islamic State also damaged the water supply network and in some areas of the town, there is still no water. The authorities really need some form of earthmoving equipment, which we have not got, however”, Father Jahola explains.

 

The real beating heart of the reconstruction effort in Baghdeda is precisely here, in the offices of the Syriac Catholic team, led by Father George. “Every day we receive phone calls from Christian families who want to return home. Our engineers go and check on the structural condition of their homes and record the damage. Then they return to the office here and register the data recorded in the survey. More and more families are asking us to provide a cost estimate for the repair of their homes – in fact on account of the many requests in the last few days we have even had to engage two more engineers.”

 

Other villages in line

 

Despite the difficulties, other Christian families are now slowly returning to other places too, including Bartella, a majority Syriac Orthodox town on the Nineveh plains. Of the 650 families who lived here before the invasion of IS, 24 have now already returned. In this town, which was occupied from 6 August 2014 until 20 October 2016, IS burnt down 69 homes belonging to Syriac Catholic families, damaged 274 and totally destroyed 19. Father Benham Benoka of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee is overseeing the reconstruction of these homes in Bartella. As in Baghdeda, a team of engineers visits the homes, surveys the structural damage and provides a cost estimate. “This is the home of Dhiya Behnam Nuna, and it was built on the ruins of old Bartella”, explains Father Benoka. “The terrorists smashed holes in the walls of the apartments, so they could move from house to house without being spotted by the American helicopters”, he explains, as we walk from house to house through these very same holes in the house walls.

Hope to return home is clear for the children or Mariana school. A dream that will become true only with the help of the Universal Church.

 

The ground is covered with all kinds of ruined items – holy pictures, items of clothing, mattresses and pieces of furniture. It seems impossible that anyone could come back to live here. Yet there is an engineer measuring the size of the holes in the walls. Before long, Mr Dhiya Behnam Nuna will have new windows in his house.

 

The challenges facing Christians in the Nineveh Plains are enormous.  Currently, the count of registered families who have fled from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains living in Erbil is 14,000 (approximately 90,000 people); nearly 13,000 homes require rebuilding; there are security concerns in the villages; there are Kurdish-Iraqi political manoeuvrings on the ground; infrastructure concerns (water, electricity, roads, schools and clinics)… At the top of the list of concerns is the transition period between the end of monthly rentals and food packages and the move of these families to the restored villages. Drawing from the most recent surveys updated by the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee on July 14, 2017, 1228 families have already returned to Nineveh Plains and 423 properties are under renovation of which 157 have been restored through financial contributions by ACN.

 

Since the crisis began in the summer of 2014, Aid to the Church in Need has provided ongoing support to the Christian refugees in northern Iraq. To date, a total of 45 million dollars has been donated for emergency aid including food, education, housing, pastoral help and reconstruction.


 

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.


 

Project of the Week – Helping elderly Sisters in Slovakia

25.01.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, CONSECRATED LIFE, Construction, Czech Republic, Journey with ACN, Sisters, Slovakia

Slovakia

 

Providing accommodations for elderly Sisters in Eastern Europe

 

Renovation of the Sister’s Home of the Premonstratensian Sisters Convent in Vrbove

The former Czechoslovakia was one of the countries in Eastern Europe where the Church was most brutally persecuted during the communist era.

The Catholic faithful at that time were subject to repression and reprisals, many priests were imprisoned or sent to labour camps, the convents were dissolved in 1950. And, the consecrated people being no exception, in a covert police operation, male and female religious were forcibly deported to “concentration convents” – isolated centres where they were deprived of all contact with the outside world. Church historian Vaclav Vasko has described these places as “nothing else but supervised concentration camps for religious.” Nuns and Sisters were urged to throw away their religious habits in exchange for freedom and a chance to study. But almost all of them refused and remained faithful.

February 20, 1969, the atheist journalist Milos Vetvicka, writing in the “Reporter,” decided to call for the rehabilitation of the 7,646 Religious Sisters in Czechoslovakia at that time. He wrote “They wear long habits and a large cross on their breast. They live subject to pressure and discrimination, but they endure their fate with a smile, because Golgotha is also their mission. They hope in another world, because our world has proved to them that there is no justice in this one.”

Following the political changes in Eastern Europe, the former Czechoslovakia was divided into two separate republics, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Today people in this land can live their faith freely. But the Sisters who lived through those difficult times of oppression are now older and frail. And so it came to be that the Norbertine (Premonstratensian) Sisters, in what is now the Slovakian town of Vrbove, are caring lovingly for their elderly Sisters in religion.

Many of the Sisters who now need special care were recently moved from their former home which had become dilapidated and unsuitable, and placed temporarily in an evangelization centre. However, this is only a short-term solution since the centre can no longer be used for its intended purpose of pastoral work with the laity. And this work is also important, of course, as a means of deepening the faith of the people. And so the congregation wants to build additional rooms where the frail and elderly Sisters can be cared for properly.

Aid to the Church in Need is eager to help. We have promised 21,750 CAD. Sister Akvitna has already thanked us in advance saying, “May the Lord reward you for everything you are doing for the welfare of Holy Mother Church! ”  

 

To support this, or similar projects, please ‘click’ to donate!  Let us know how you are interested in helping!

 

 


 

ACN Interview – Father Halemba on Syria

30.09.2016 in ACN International, ACN Interview, By Aleksandra Szymczak, Construction, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Syria

Syria

“We are never safe”

Father Andrzej Halemba, Head of the Middle East Projects Department of the international Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need recently returned from a trip to war-torn Syria. In this interview with journalists from within the organization, he speaks about the current situation.

 

What does the situation look like in Syria right now?

“Right now everybody is holding his breath because the situation looks promising, but on the other hand we are facing a humanitarian crisis on an enormous scale. That is why people say “ok, we have hope, once again we have experienced a little bit of peace,” but this is of course not a complete peace. Damascus, for example, during the time I was there was quiet for two days, but on Sunday there were eight explosions in the outskirts of the city. DAESH, Al Nusra and other Al-Qaida groups want to destabilize the situation and show that there will be no peace in Syria without their engagement.

Syria has changed completely in just 5 years. From a rich country which was enjoying peace and where business was going very well, to suddenly being completely destroyed.

Syria September 2016 The celebrations of the Feast of the Cross in Yabroud, September 2016. School children carried on their shoulders the Cross, the image of Christ, etc. After the Mass the Cross is being burnt as the symbol of the light and the warmth which comes from the Cross to the whole World.

Syria September 2016
The celebrations of the Feast of the Cross in Yabroud. School children carried on their shoulders the Cross, the image of Christ, etc. After the Mass the Cross is being burnt as the symbol of the light and the warmth which comes from the Cross to the whole World. An essentiel in the middle of the darkness of the war. 

 

How did the war change the life of Syrians?

The population of Syria has dropped from 24.5 million to little over 17 million. Nearly 6 million people are outside the country. There are over 4.8 million Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries and 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian help inside Syria. Many areas are extremely difficult to reach. Food is very expensive. For example, in the area controlled by the government the price of rice rose from 2010 nearly 250%, but in the rebel areas its price rose 28 times! So if basic food is so expensive, what kind of a miserable life is it? Over 57% of people are not able to find jobs. They make their living by begging and from humanitarian help. And, 4.6 million people are in hard-to-reach areas.

Everybody is afraid of the possible division of the country and of the prolongation of the conflict due to new factors like actions of Turkish army on the territory of Syria against so-called rebels and against Kurdish people. The situation is extremely complex, but certainly for the first time in several months there is a small flame of hope.

Syria September 2016 Holy Mass on the Feast of the Cross, 14th September 2016, in front of the Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Homs destroyed by the bombing with Father Andrzej Halemba (ACN) and Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean Abdou Arbach of Homs. ACN is helping in reconstruction of the Cathedral. SYRIA / HOMS-MLC 16/00057 Cathedral renovation "Our Lady of Peace" in Homs

Holy Mass on the Feast of the Cross, 14th September 2016, in front of the Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Homs destroyed by the bombing with Father Andrzej Halemba (ACN) and Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean Abdou Arbach of Homs. ACN is helping in reconstruction of the Cathedral.

 

Which experiences during your trip to Syria saddened you the most?

First of al the ruins that you can see around Damascus – It is a lovely city and still the people refuse to be in [a state of] despair there. Despite the difficult situation they try to live a “normal life.” But the landscape of the surroundings of the city is terrible. When we went to Homs, we had to use side roads because the motorway was blocked by snipers. The streets are dirty, people are poorly dressed, the prices are very high and there is a lot of suspicion. A growing number of checkpoints have definitely an impact on people’s mentality: “We are always in danger because there are so many soldiers checking on every car and every person.” Due to constant pressure on them caused by bomb attacks everybody is extremely tired, especially the police.

In Homs we’ve been passing through a place where few days before there had been an attack by Al Nusra. They drove the car into the city centre and at the checkpoint they triggered off the bomb, killing themselves and six soldiers. With this terror people are very deeply traumatized. “We are never safe” they say. And that makes them really tired.

The families are in a dramatic situation as they can’t sustain themselves. They have no work or are being very much underpaid. And the displaced people who had to leave their homes – 6.5 million of them to be more precise – need to rent rooms, but the rental prices are extremely high. Without having the income this becomes a big challenge for them.

Last but not least the question of the young people who are very afraid to be taken by the army or by the rebels to fight. They are the most vulnerable, that is why they run away. That is also why amongst the refugees in Europe there are so many young people.

 

Were there any situations at all that you could describe as beautiful ones?

The moment they come and say to us: “We cannot thank you more” or very often without words they burst into tears because nobody is helping them in such a way as they need. It is very emotional for us. They are so grateful. But this help has not only a material aspect. It gives them so much more: strength through the gesture of solidarity which they experience. People in Marmarita told me: “Father, it is so important for us that we don’t feel forgotten.”

We should remember that Aid to the Church in Need is one of the biggest donors who contributed emergency aid in Syria, especially for Christians. According to the analyses, we have learned that at least 195,000 Christians and other people were helped by Aid to the Church in Need. The help was in the form of food baskets, electricity, gas, medicines, scholarships… we were able to identify nearly 17 different ways of helping Syrian people in 2015.

I also always ask people in Syria to pray for benefactors and for their families. And they say, “We pray daily for them.” And in fact, they are doing just that. Very often they carry the rosaries, pray together in the churches, and also individually. This is, in fact, an exchange of love through a bridge of prayer.

Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean Abdou Arbach of Homs shows the inside of the destroyed Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. ACN helps to rebuild the Cathedral. SYRIA / HOMS-MLC 16/00057 Cathedral renovation "Our Lady of Peace" in Homs

Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean Abdou Arbach of Homs shows the inside of the destroyed Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. ACN helps to rebuild the Cathedral.

Is there a story from one of the project partners that you would like to share?

There is a teacher from Damascus. She went abroad twice: once to the USA and once to Europe and she says: “I cannot live over there. I have to come back to Syria. I have to help children in the schools. I want to grow old here and I want to die here.” This is a person who really loves her country despite the difficulties and despite the temptation of having an easy life.

I also remember two young people from the Valley of Christians. They were extremely well educated; both spoke very good English. With their qualifications they could easily find work in Western countries. Furthermore, their parents lived in the USA and call every day for them to come. But they refuse to go. They say: “We have to help others. There are so many who depend on us.” Indeed, they are helping a few hundred families. They work as volunteers. This is amazing.

Holy Mass on the Feast of the Cross with Archbishop Jean Abdou Arbach, 14th September 2016, in front of the Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Homs destroyed by the bombing. ACN is helping in reconstruction of the Cathedral. SYRIA / HOMS-MLC 16/00057 Cathedral renovation "Our Lady of Peace" in Homs

Holy Mass on the Feast of the Cross with Archbishop Jean Abdou Arbach, 14th September 2016, in front of the Melkite Greek Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Homs destroyed by the bombing. 

 

Since the eruption of the war in Syria in 2011, Aid to the Church in Need hassupported emergency humanitarian projects and pastoral aid projects
with an amount of close to 19 million dollars CAN. 

 

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By Aleksandra Szymczak, Aid to the Church in Need International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canada