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International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need

 

Iraq – Mossul – 1st part of a visit in the heart of the destruction

15.02.2018 in ACN International, By Jaco Klamer, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Middle East, Most Urgent Needs

Mossul – Iraq – 1st part

“I cannot believe my eyes when I see what ISIS has done to my church.”

 

While most displaced Christians are still living in the Erbil refugee camp, the first 60 families have recently decided to return to Mosul, according to Patriarch Sako. Nadia, a Christian woman, visits the city for the first time after ISIS left. Jaco Klamer accompanied her and described the painful memories for Aid to the Church in Need. Read the first part of this very emotionnal visit.

 

Lemons, grapefruits, oranges and figs grow in abundance in the three gardens of Nadia Younis Butti’s house in Mosul, the house her parents built. Nadia always enjoyed the luxuriant vegetation, trees and succulent fruits, sitting in her rocking chair in the midst of the fragrant shrubs and flowers. However, everything changed on July 17, 2014. Nadia was forced to leave her house in Mosul, because ISIS had occupied the city. “With pain in my heart, I left.”

 

After the liberation of Mosul last summer, Nadia returned to her hometown. “It is still extremely dangerous in Mosul,” sighs Nadia. “I just spoke to a police officer who lost a colleague this week, near the Mar Gurguis church. He was shot at night. Many residents of Mosul worked together with jihadists for three years, and some might have relatives or family members who were with ISIS. There are a lot of Sunnis who supported ISIS. The city was liberated by the Iraqi army, which is supported by many Iranian Shiites. In Mosul, they are met with a great deal of distrust; they are not seen as allies. For me, the city has not become safe since the recapture of Mosul.”

 

A worry-free period

 

“The Islamic State will always remain in Iraq.” This is the message a jihadist scribbled in black on a wall of the famous monastery of Saint George

Damaged cross on St. George’s Monastery (Mar Gurguis) in Mosul (Mossul).

(Mar Gurguis), in Mosul. Nadia Younis Butti lets the words sink in while taking a look at the famous monastery, which has been completely destroyed by extremists.

“Each spring and each fall, the faithful and Christian monks gathered here in this monastery for three days,” she recounts. “There were various activities and we could spend the night here. I look back at that worry-free time with great joy.”

 

Yohanna Youssef Towaya also has many beautiful memories of the time when Christians could gather freely in the 17th century monastery of Saint George. Yohanna worked as a professor at the University of Mosul and lived in the city, but when the university acquired an additional building in Qaraqosh, another Christian city on the Nineveh plains, he moved there.

 

With Nadia, he looks at the monastery’s sloping dome and walks through the imposing corridors of the monastery, the floors, walls and arches of which have been stripped of the beautiful marble slabs. The marble slabs were stolen, leaving only debris scattered throughout the building. The jihadists also decapitated an eight-century old statue, which is still in its niche. As a final token of their disrespect, they destroyed the altar.

 

Praying through the chaos

 

In another niche, Nadia and Yohanna find prayer cards, a booklet with the New Testament and prayer books of the Chaldean Catholic Church, victims of harsh weather conditions, containing the well-known Morning Prayer:

 

“Our Lord and our God, at this time of morning, give salvation to the oppressed, release to the prisoners, recovery to the wounded, healing to the sick, return to those who are far away, protection to the kindred, forgiveness to the sinners, atonement to the descendants, exaltation to the righteous, support to those in need. (…) So act in Your kindness and mercy, now and ever shall be, world without end.”

 

“Amen,” whispers Nadia in the empty monastery, where no prayer has been heard in three years.

Nadia Younis Butti, a Christian woman, at St. George’s Monastery (Mar Gurguis) in Mosul (Mossul). She visits the city of her birth for the first time after ISIS left.

 

“The monks left for a monastery in Alqosh, where the prophet Nahum wrote his prophesies on the nearby city, Nineveh,” says Professor Yohanna. “We are not sure whether the monks will ever return to Mosul, which is close to the ruins of Nineveh.”

An arrow on the walls of the monastery points in the direction of Mecca, allowing the ISIS warriors to pray five times a day during the demolition. Not even the graves of the monastery were spared during the occupation by ISIS: the gravestones were systematically destroyed.

 

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN is currently working to encourage the return of the Christians to their former homes in Iraq. With its appeal for a “return to the roots,” ACN is closely involved in an extensive program to rebuild the homes and churches of the uprooted Christians from the Nineveh plains region, not far from the city of Mosul. And indeed with some success – for already around a third of the Christian exiles have now returned to their homes on the Nineveh plains.

 

Help to rebuild in Iraq: Thank you! 


ACN’s Project of the Week: Paraguay – A boat for pastoral care

14.02.2018 in ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Paraguay, TRANSPORTATION

Paraguay 

A boat for pastoral care in Carmelo Peralta

 

The apostolic vicariate of Chaco is located in the far north of the country. It extends over a vast area of swamps and semi-arid forests. There are only 30,000 inhabitants. The roads are very bad and some locations are only accessible by water.

 

The parish of Carmelo Peralta counts 3,500 inhabitants and is located right at the Brazilian border. Brazilian farmers clear the jungle in order to gain additional pas

tureland for their cattle. This attracts workers who are looking for work in farming.

 

However, this region has a lot of Indigenous people who have a traditional way of life: for them, meeting these workers is a cultural shock. This community’s young people are vulnerable. Attracted by the other culture, they become involved in it at the risk of losing their fundamental human values allowing them to keep both feet on the ground. The problems arising from this are well known: alcoholism, substance abuse and promiscuity. Of course, all of this is destroying families.

 

The presence of the Church is very important to accompany and help people in this difficult situation. However, some of the Indigenous villages can only be reached by boat and the parish does not have any. The current situation is not viable because renting a boat is expensive. The sustainable solution would be to buy some. Aid to the Church in Need will support this project by contributing a sum of $5,400. Thank you for helping us in order make possible regular visits to families, more frequent liturgical celebrations in the parish chapels, as well as pastoral accompaniment and catechesis.

 

Thank you for your donation!

Paraguay: Purchase of a boat for the pastoral care of indigenous communities: Children at holy mass

Uganda: Birth of a new place of grace

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

Uganda:

Birth of a new place of grace

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The “Portal of the Divine Mercy”

Bishop Acquirino Francis Kibira of Kasese Diocese, at river Nile

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


 

ACN’s Project of the Week ! – Sierra Leone: teaching materials

07.02.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN PROJECTS, Africa, FORMATION, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone

Teaching materials for the minor seminary in the diocese of Makeni

 

Sierra Leone is still struggling to emerge from its state of near-permanent crisis. The consequences of the terrible civil war, from 1991 to 2002, are still all too painfully evident to this day. During this civil war, approximately half the population was forced to flee their homes and thousands of people were killed. One still sees people today with a missing arm or foot, hacked off by the rebels of the so-called “Revolutionary United Front”. So many women were raped, and many children born of rape were left to wander the streets, helpless. The economy is ravaged by poverty, unemployment and corruption and today this country of West Africa is still one of the poorest in the world – a poverty only exacerbated by a series of natural disasters, including above all the devastating Ebola epidemic of 2014.

 

While around 70% of the population are Muslims, the Catholic Church is nonetheless widely respected, above all for its many schools and the selfless help it has provided to so many people, regardless of race or religion. At the same time, however, the Church is very careful not to neglect the spiritual and religious dimension, and is accordingly stepping up its efforts to promote vocations and provide a solid formation for its future priests.

Discerning in the prayer: one of the crucial step when priesthood seems to call. 

 

The diocese of Makeni covers a vast area of over 36,000 square kilometres, though it has only 25 parishes. It also has a „minor seminary“ – that is, a form of school that precedes the seminary itself. Here, young boys who feel a calling to the priesthood attend school and are given a normal academic formation. But, in addition to their ordinary schooling, they are also introduced to the religious life. This includes daily Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, regular personal prayer and spiritual accompaniment. Each month there is a retreat day and at the end of each semester the youngsters take part in a longer spiritual retreat. “The spiritual formation is at the heart of their education,” says the rector of the seminary, Father Peter S. Kanu. Attention is also paid to psychological and social-cultural aspects of their formation, since the training for the priesthood has to address the whole person. “Our future priests are being trained not only for the local Church but also for the universal Church,” the rector explains.

 

Many of the 40 priests currently working in the diocese also attended the minor seminary themselves and, happily, every year there are one, two, or even several priestly ordinations in Makeni. This is the fruit of an intensified vocations apostolate. “We spend some time in the parishes and schools, talking about vocations. We believe that this apostolate inspires the desire in the hearts of these boys to devote their lives to God,” Father Peter adds.

 

But now world economic factors are also impacting on the life of the seminary in this desperately poor country. Prices are rising almost daily, and it is a struggle for the seminary to make ends meet. Above all they need school textbooks and Bibles. We are proposing to help the seminary with a contribution of 3,975 dollars, so that they can purchase the necessary materials.

 


“If it weren‘t for the Church, we‘d be dead by now.”

02.02.2018 in ACN International, Africa, Bishops, by Tobias Lehner, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Nigeria, Syria

A Syrian and a Nigerian archbishop talk about the situation of Christians in their countries

If it weren‘t for the Church, we‘d be dead by now.

 

At a press conference held in Cologne, Germany last weekend by the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), two archbishops from Nigeria and Syria spoke about the difficult and dramatic situation facing Christians in their respective countries. Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of the diocese of Kaduna, in northern Nigeria and Maronite Archbishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo, in Syria, warned about the continuing perils and threats of violence, the many uprooted people and refugees, and even the danger of the extinction of Christianity in their respective regions.

 

In the case of Syria, even though the so-called “Islamic State” appears almost finished, there are many other like-minded groups still active, Archbishop Tobji warned. While emphasizing that in Syria, and in Aleppo, life was indeed slowly beginning to return to normal and people were beginning to recover new hope, the consequences of the war were still being very strongly felt, he said.

 

“It is the entire Syrian people who have lost,” the Archbishop observed. “Everywhere, there is poverty, unemployment, unimaginable devastation of people’s homes and of the social and moral fabric of society, together with a sense of hopelessness and mistrust with regard to the future.” In this situation, the support of the Church is particularly important, he insisted, adding his particular thanks for the commitment and generosity of ACN. “Many people in Syria openly acknowledge that if it weren’t for the Church, we’d be dead by now,” he confessed.

Syria :  Sr. Marie-Claire Zacar and Sr. Pascale, in Alep. ACN helped them to renovate the nursery. (Sisters of Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours).

Archbishop Tobji also criticized the role of the international community. “It is absolutely clear to everyone,” he insisted, “that the reasons for such a disastrous war as we have endured for seven years now have nothing to do with the demand for democracy or freedom. They have much more to do with a dirty game of world economics.” He maintained that the principal factors were, above all, the arms trade, natural resources such as oil and gas, the importance of the geographical and economic position of the country and opposing world political attitudes. For the world powers, Syria was like a cake to be divided up, with each party wanting the biggest slice, he said.

 

The dire consequences of emigration

 

It is above all the younger and better-educated people who have left Syria on account of the war and the lack of future prospects, the Archbishop pointed out, adding that the consequences of this emigration are very dire. The number of Christians in Syria had now fallen to one third, he said, and while the internal refugees were now slowly returning

home, those who have moved abroad were staying put.

 

Similarly, in northern Nigeria, thousands of people have now fled the violence, intimidation and oppression. The Christians here are exposed not only to the attacks by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, but also to a systematic discrimination by the regional state, according to Archbishop Matthew Mano-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna.

 

Nigeria is the only country in the world in which the population is more or less evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, with Christians the majority in the south and Muslims the majority in the north, Archbishop Matthew explained, adding that his own diocesan city of Kaduna is a particularly important centre of Islam in Nigeria.

Nigeria, March 2017
Stations of the cross at St. Murumba Parish

 

Nigeria – where Christian religious education is banned in some places

 

In some of the federal states of northern Nigeria, moreover, Islamic sharia law has now been introduced, and in some of the northern Nigerian provinces, Christian religious education is no longer allowed in the schools, whereas Islamic religious education is supported and Islamic teachers of religion officially employed by the state are paid out of public funds. Even mosques are being funded with public monies, whereas Christians are being refused plots of land on which to build churches, the Archbishop complained.

 

Archbishop Ndagoso is therefore calling for the Christian minority in the north to be given “fair treatment, based on justice and an honest approach towards one another, regardless of religious confession, tribal identity, political affiliation and social status. The Christians of Nigeria are calling for their fundamental human rights and freedoms to be honoured and respected throughout the country,” he added.

 

Archbishop Ndagoso also praised the support and solidarity offered by the international Catholic pastoral charity ACN, which “has always been there for our people in times of need.” Owing to the insecurity of the situation, even some of the bishops had not dared to venture into the north of Nigeria, he said. ACN was a “voice,” he added, that was giving audible expression on the international stage to the fears, anxieties and needs of the persecuted Christian minority in Nigeria.

 

This is why it is urgently necessary to show our solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, said Berthold Pelster, ACN’s human rights expert, summarizing the situation at the press conference which was organized by the German branch of ACN. “In the past 30 or 40 years or so, we have seen the advance of intolerant religious ideologies, above all in parts of the Islamic world,” he said. “Following the upheavals in the Arab world since 2011, we have seen the growth of extreme forms, and meanwhile radical Islamist ideas have also been spreading increasingly on the African continent,” he added.

 

It is therefore crucial, he believes, to draw the attention of world public opinion again and again to the abuses against the basic right to religious freedom. For the persecuted and oppressed Christians, it is a source of a special strength in their faith to know they have not been abandoned in their need by the universal Church.

 

For many years now, ACN has been documenting the persecution of Christians worldwide and monitoring the situation of religious freedom in 196 countries around the world. The charity and pontifical foundation publishes its findings in a global report every other year, the only NGO to regularly do so (religious-freedom-report.org). The next global report on religious freedom will be published in the autumn of this year. In 2017, a Report dedicated to the situation of the persecuted Christians was released. Persecuted and Forgotten highlights the challenges endure by Christians in 13 countries.


 

ACN’s Project of the week – Argentina – Scholarship funding for 12 seminarians

31.01.2018 in ACN PROJECTS, Adaptation Mario Bard, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Argentina, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, SEMINARIANS

Argentina

Scholarship  funding for  12 seminarians

Miles Christi – a religious community of priests, was founded in 1994 in Argentina. The “Soldiers of Christ’’ – the name in English – speaks something different from what the world has to offer. The vow of the members stipulates that they should reject a “vulgar, empty and useless life”. Instead, they must ask themselves, as they turn to Jesus Christ’s teachings and Cross : What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What must I do for Christ ?

Their particular charism lies in the pastoral care of young people and adults, and the goal of their apostolate is the “sanctification of the lay people.”. One example is by organising spiritual retreats for different groups that they have eshtablished.

As the congregation grows,  there are presently 12 young seminarians. In 2016, two young men took their first, temporary vows and were clothed in the habit of the order. The Miles Christi formation house is situated close from the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lujàn, held in high honour by the Argentinian people. It was consecrated in April 1987
by Pope Saint John Paul II. 

The economic crisis in the country and the high inflation create a challenge to this growing Congregation. Their superiors are concerned about covering their cost. How will they be able to support these young men on their journey? To achieve this goal, they are hoping very much that our benefactors will come to their aid. So, we have already promised them 3 600 dollars in your name.

Just click if you want to give to a similar project.

Central African Republic – The Church fears a massacre in Bangassou

25.01.2018 in ACN Chile, Africa, Aid to refugees, by Loreto Prado, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Prayer

Central African Republic –
The Church fears a massacre in Bangassou

 

From his place in hiding, together with other priests, Father Yovane Cox, a Chilean missionary in the Central African Republic, has contacted the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) with an urgent plea for our prayers. “The cathedral in Bangassou is being attacked”, he told us last Friday 19 January. “The situation is quite critical, because this attack had already been foretold, and yet the UN forces in charge of security here paid no attention to what people told them. It seems almost as though they want to see a massacre here in the cathedral, and in the area where the Muslims are being sheltered”, he told us.

 

Already in May 2017 some 2000 Muslims took refuge in the grounds of the diocesan minor seminary of the Catholic Church (around 200 metres from the cathedral), seeking protection. Today a little under 1000 are still sheltering there. “All around this place there are armed men on the prowl, hoping that one of the Muslims will emerge, so that they can kill him”, Father Yovane explained, at the same time speaking of the inhuman conditions in which they are living. “Some of the Muslims try to leave the site to go and look for firewood, while others do so in order to scavenge in the houses that have been abandoned around the area (in search of food they need to survive on)”, he explained. Yesterday, one of these Muslims was caught by the anti-balakas, (the anti-Muslim rebel gang) and murdered him on the spot. This caused great alarm among the Muslims who are still sheltering in the grounds of the Catholic Church. According to Father Yovane, if it had not been for the contingent of Cameroonian soldiers, who intervened, the situation would have been still more critical.

Central African Republic
Muslim refugees next to the Cathedral in Bangassou.

 

The priests in the Catholic mission are watching helplessly, expecting that at any moment the anti-balakas may invade the camp, intending to kill the Muslims who have taken refuge there. And with no one intervening to prevent them. “By the silence of the state authorities and the inaction of the UN forces in not wanting to move the few Muslims still left on this site, they are simply inviting a confrontation between the two groups and a resulting bloodbath. What we are sounding the alarm about and what we are asking them to do is to please relocate them from this site, because it is the only way of saving those still remaining here, who are for the most part women and children”, the Chilean priest told ACN.

 

United Nations: accused of inaction

 

Nine months have now passed since the truce between the antibalakas and the Muslims broke down. This country, already marked by a history of violence and warfare, is today living through one of its most difficult chapters. “We are in a situation in which nobody is in control – neither the government, nor the United Nations nor the local authorities, and still less we ourselves in the Catholic Church” Father Yovane explained, adding that the Church is the only organisation that has remained here to help. “There are no other organisations, most of them have left. The last to do so wasDoctors Without Borders.”

 

When we asked him about the situation of the Christians in the diocese, he explained that “the Christians are for the most part living in hiding in their villages or in the suburbs. They are too frightened to gather in the churches or in the cathedral. When we celebrate Holy Mass on Sundays those who attend number no more than 15 or so. We priests are limited in what we can do and our pastoral work is at a standstill. Some of the clergy are living in the capital and the rest are limited in our activities.” This is due to the deep gulf between the positions of the radical Muslims, who see the Catholic Church as complicit (with the anti-balakas), and the anti-balakas themselves, who see the Church as a traitor for protecting the Muslims and giving them shelter. “There is a mutual incomprehension, a very deep antagonism, and the Church finds herself caught in the middle between them, a perfect target for anybody who has lost control of the situation”, Father Yovane tells us unhappily.

Central African Republic
Father Yovane Cox, a Chilean missionary, before the start of the conflict.

 

Request for prayers

 

At the present time only two of the eight parishes in the diocese are still open and most of the priests are living at the cathedral in Bangassou for their own security. The violence in the region has forced them to close down all the schools of the diocese. “We cannot gather the children in the schools, knowing that it would be immensely difficult to assure their safety in the classrooms”, the Chilean priest explains. For him this has meant postponing his dream of opening a new school in his own parish of Bema, and educating 400 children.

Central African Republic
Father Yovane Cox, a Chilean missionary in the Central African Republic – now in Bangassou.

 

Above all he is calling on us to pray. “We know that our only security is that which comes to us from God and it is in Him that we place our entire lives and our trust”, he tells us. “We are conscious that the Church in the diocese of Bangassou is in the midst of a fight between men, trying to bring a little peace, though her voice is scarcely being heard.” Nevertheless, he still thanks ACN “for being the voice of those whom nobody listens to, the voice of those who have been forgotten…”

 

From 2014 to 2016 the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need supported the Catholic church
in the Central African Republic with 3,9 million dollars. 

Text: Loreto Prado, ACN-Chile
Adaptation: ACN-Canada.

Turkish offensive in northern Syria: Christians desperate for help

25.01.2018 in ACN International, ACN International, Adaptation Mario Bard, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Karla Sponar, Middle East

Turkish offensive in northern Syria
Christians desperate for help

 

Just a few days after the attacks on north Syria began, Christians in Afrin have launched an urgent appeal for help. “The congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Afrin is asking for immediate international protection for the believers in the city,” reads the appeal, which was forwarded to the international aid organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We call for an immediate stop to the Turkish bombardment.”

 

The appeal had been written by members of the local evangelical community during the shelling that began in northern Syria over the previous weekend.

“We are under serious attack,” states the desperate message from Christians in Afrin. Afrin is part of the Aleppo Governorate with around 36 000 inhabitants.

According to the appeal, the community is even under siege from two sides: for days, they have been subject to heavy Turkish shelling as well as attacks from Islamic troops that are also moving in on the zone from the periphery.

Damascus: Christians attacked

ACN’s partners on the ground have reported that in Damascus in southern Syria, attacks on Christian districts began last Monday. Several individuals were injured, with at least one fatality. Most of the victims are young, including a student According to the Maronite Archdiocese of Damascus 24 people were injured, including seven children who were hit while entering their school. The short message stated that there was fear and trepidation among the faithful and called for prayers for peace on January 25th, the feast of Saint Paul’s conversion, which is a key date in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

 

Last autumn the security situation had improved to the point where schools in Syria were able to reopen.  In 2017 the international charity ACN has contributed 6,9 millions dollars in emergency aid to Syria.

 

 


 

DRC – Attacks on the Catholic Church

19.01.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Africa, By Murcadha O'Flaherty and John Pontifex, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Julie Bourdeau

DRC :

security forces accused of killings in more than 130 Church attacks

 

Army and police in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stand accused of killing at least four people and injuring several others in attacks on more than 130 churches around the country. In the latest incident on Friday (January 12th), two people were injured when security forces reportedly fired tear gas at Kinshasa Cathedral after a mass for lay people killed by the military and the police.

 

Father Apollinaire Cikongo, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Kananga Province, which covers eight dioceses in central DRC, said: “There was a mass at Kinshasa Cathedral remembering at least four people killed on December 31st.”

In his statement given to the Catholic charity “Aid to the Church in Need,” he continued: “After this mass, the army and police again fired tear gas and two people were injured.”

Church leaders have blamed DRC’s security forces for attacks over the New Year which took place at 134 churches and chapels in the capital, and a number of provinces in the country.

This lady was shot in the head with a live bullet. They thought at the time that she was dead but she had survived. Soldiers and police are accused of firing live ammunition as the faithful were coming out of Mass at St Dominic’s Church, Limete. 

Soldiers and police are accused of firing live ammunition as the faithful were coming out from mass at St. Dominic’s Church, Limete.

Accusing the DRC’s police and army of an unprovoked attack in the grounds of the church, St. Dominic’s parochial vicar, Father Jean Nkongolo, said that when he asked them to stop shooting the parishioners, he was shot in the face by a rubber bullet and injured.

As well as rubber bullets, security forces fired ‘stun’ projectiles and tear gas at the religious procession in the grounds of the church, reportedly almost killing a woman.

Four other parishioners were injured by rubber bullets during the attack.

Father Nkongolo’s account was relayed through Father Cikongo, who said: “Every Sunday after mass, the parishioners go to the Grotto of Our Lady within the church grounds to pray the Salve Regina prayer and get a blessing. Father Nkongolo said that it was at this moment that the parishioners were attacked and shot with tear gas and rubber bullets by the security forces.”

 

Describing how Fr Nkongolo received his facial injury, Father Cikongo said: “Father Nkongolo went over to the police to tell them to stop because the people were innocent and had done nothing wrong. Father Nkongolo told me that it was at this moment that a policeman shot at him directly towards his eyes with a rubber bullet, but thanks be to God, Fr Nkongolo reacted quickly and moved his head away from the attack. Otherwise he would have been hit in the eyes, but he was shot on the side of his face

Father Cikongo said that after the attack, Father Nkongolo noticed the woman shot in the head, picked her up off the ground and carried her into the church.

Father Cikongo said: “This one lady was shot in the head with a live bullet. Fr Nkongolo said: ‘we thought at the time that she was dead, but she had survived.’”

 

The woman was taken to hospital, where the latest reports describe her condition as stable.

Father Cikongo said that after the mass, the parish had decided against taking part in a peaceful march organized by lay faithful after the DRC’s President Joseph Kabila reneged on a deal to stand down and not serve a third term.

But now, after the attack at Kinshasa Cathedral, Father Cikongo said the lay faithful – the Lay Coordination Committee – has called for a peaceful demonstration on Sunday (January 21st).

Blood stained Tiles on the church compound – St Dominic’s Church.

Pray for the People of DRC and pray for the Catholic Church and Her pacific work. 

ACN Project of the Week – DRC

11.01.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Africa, Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Dominican Fathers, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, MOTORIZATION, Project of the Week, TRANSPORTATION

Success Story: Democratic Republic of the Congo

 

A minibus for the Dominican Fathers in Kinshasa

 

The Dominican Fathers in Kinshasa are delighted to have received their new minibus. Their old vehicle finally gave up the ghost, irrevocably, while travelling on the road, some 210 km (130 miles) away from their home monastery. From that time onward, they were forced to cope somehow or other without a vehicle. But thanks to the generosity of our benefactors who have given $33,000, they have at last been able to purchase a new minibus.

 

The Dominican Order, which celebrated its 800 years of existence in 2016, has been in existence since 1912 in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Long ago, at that time, it was Belgian priests who arrived as missionaries, but now it is the home-grown Congolese religious who are following in their footsteps. The order is represented in four dioceses of the country and has six houses, with a total of 42 priests. The Dominican Fathers are involved in chaplaincy work with the military and the police, and they also care for former child soldiers, for orphans, the crippled and disabled and for victims of sexual violence. They are also involved in the running of five local parishes.

 

A minibus translates into more study time

Blessing of the minibus offered by the benfactors of Aid to the Church in Need, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

There are many new vocations. Currently there are 17 students, six novices and eight pre-novices who are preparing to commit themselves one day fully to the order through their solemn vows. Two young men have already been ordained to the diaconate in fact, and are now looking forward to their ordination as priests.

The new minibus is very important to the Dominicans for the effective realization of their many different activities. However, its most important use is for the young men who are pursuing their studies. For one of the two universities where these students are training is around 10 miles (15 km) away from the Dominican monastery, and public transport in the 13 million-strong (new statistics show 17 million!) city of Kinshasa is inadequate and unreliable.

As a result, the students found it almost impossible to arrive punctually and reliably for their studies, and on top of this they were in a constant state of near exhaustion, having been forced to waste a great deal of time that they should have been able to devote to their studies and to their monastic life.

Father Albert Akora Kanika writes, “Thanks to the new vehicle, our students are exposed to fewer dangers on the roads; they are healthier and happier and can pursue their studies better and more regularly – and above all take part in the life of the monastery while looking to achieve better grades in their studies.”

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