Journey with ACN


ACN Interview with Msgr. Nidal Thomas of Northern Syria

29.04.2020 in COVID19, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Syria, Syria

Interview with Msgr. Nidal Thomas: “We are not afraid, but we don’t know what the future holds for us.”

Published on the web April 29, 2020

More than 20,000 Christian families lived before the war in the Al-Jazeera region, on the border with Turkey in east-northern Syria. Many of them are the descendants of those who came seeking refuge fleeing the genocide of the Armenians in 1915 or Kurdish attacks in the neighbouring Iraqi area of ​​Duhok in 1933. Today, although it is difficult to give figures because a census has not been conducted, an estimated 7,000 – 8,000 families remain.

Three bishops still have their headquarters in this area also known as Hassake Governorate – they are the representatives of the Syrian Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox and the Assyrians.  Some thirty priests of different Christian denominations are serving the Chaldean, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Syrian Orthodox and Assyrian Christians who remain in their land. One of them is Monsignor Nidal Thomas, Vicar of the Chaldean Church in Al-Jazeera. Aid to the Church in Need, which has helped Christians in Hassake Governorate with different programs in more than nine years of conflicts in the region, talks to the priest about the current situation in the region.


Interview with Msgr Nidal Thomas by Maria Lozano, ACN International


What is the present situation of Christians in Al-Hassake? How is the day-to-day life of Christians in Al-Hassake’s region?

The status of Christians is the same as other religious in the area, Muslims and others. Because of COVID, everyone is staying at home. Shops are closed. The living situations are very difficult because most people are self-employed. Christians must spend a lot of their income on food and other necessities and are currently suffering from financial hardships. Price increases create a lot of problems, in addition to the scarcity of some basic materials. Gas, fuel, bread and electricity are available, and their prices have not increased during the Corona crisis as other materials.


Is the region affected by the coronavirus?

The local authorities have imposed a curfew, and everybody is respecting it. People are staying at home and go at certain times to shop for necessities. There are no reports of COVID-19 infections.


Are they able to bring their children to school?

Now with the Coronavirus, all schools are closed. Some private schools – all affiliated with the denominations – are helping with the payment of yearly tuition fees; others have increased the tuition without mercy. Private lessons for the 9th and 12th grade are common, and the teachers are taking advantage of the situation and raising the prices for each subject taught to 1 million Syrian Pounds (nearly 1000 USD per subject).


Are the Christians schools just for Christians children?

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, only Christians schools were working because 90 percent of the state schools are controlled by the Kurds and they transformed them into military bases. Christian Schools accept Kurds and Muslim students because the percentage of the Christian students are about 10%. Even the educational staff is mixed: Kurdish, Muslims and Christians.


Are there still attacks?

There are still attacks in Ras-Alain, the suburbs of Qamishli, Al-Hassakeh and Malikiya. The Kurds, the Russians, the Americans, the Turks, Hezbollah and the coalition forces are harassing everybody. War planes continue to fill the skies especially above the prisons full of Muslim extremists guarded by Kurdish Militia. The attacks don’t stop; only two or three consecutive days per week have gone by calmly since the Corona outbreak.


 Are the lives of Christians’ still threatened?

There is no threat. On the contrary, the state strives to stand beside the Christians and the Church is respected by it, and also by the Kurds, except for some very few violations.  We are not afraid, but we don’t know what the future holds for us.


Can Christians show their presence without fear?

Christians are loved in the region, especially since the humanitarian organizations are all Christians, and provide eighty percent of the aid to Muslims. Going to churches, ringing bells is possible as it was always. This has never changed. Christians enjoy a lot of respect. Nothing has changed for the Christian way of life.


Are Christians returning to this region of Syria? Do Christians want to stay here in their villages? 

Not at all. Nearly all Christian villages are empty except for one village with Assyrian residents. Lots of families have left the country and their relatives want to leave and join them. Some Syrian farmers come briefly from Europe to plant or harvest their crops and go back to Europe.

More generally: How is the relationship with Kurdish government?

The relationship with the Kurdish government is good, given that there is the Christian Sutoro Armed Forces (mostly Syriac) working with them, except for some violations by the Bedouin soldiers that work with the authorities.


In these difficult moment, let us continue to offer our support to our brothers and our sisters in the faith.


COVID-19 in Africa Catholic radio stations broadcast hope!

17.04.2020 in Africa, Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Malawi, Mozambique, RDC CONGO, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia

COVID-19 in Africa

Catholic radio stations broadcast hope!


More than 14,500 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Africa. The virus has cost the lives of almost 800 people there. Public institutions such as churches and schools are closed in numerous countries on the continent. Many Africans do not have access to the Internet or to television, and the radio remains the best instrument for the Church to reach and support its faithful. In this, the Church is taking its mission as a “church on the go“ seriously.


By Christopher Lafontaine, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web April 17, 2020


“In these days of social distancing and confinement measures, the radio has become an area of life necessary to many people.” Father Apollinaire Cibaka Cikongo discussed the situation that he is currently experiencing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with ACN International (Aid to the Church in Need). The country is also affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The priest from the diocese of Mbujimayi founded Radio Ditunga with headquarters in Ngandajika, a city in his diocese that is centrally located in the country. The radio station was founded ten years ago with the support of ACN.

“Since the churches are now closed due to the health concerns we are all familiar with, Radio Ditunga has adapted its programme to allocate more air time to the celebration of the Eucharist, prayer and spiritual exercises held by priests from Ngandajika,” Father Cibaka Cikongo explained. He also emphasized that all of the spiritual exercises and liturgical celebrations are broadcast live, as was the Easter Triduum.


This station has a broadcasting range over an area with about five million inhabitants. However, it did not observe its traditional day of silence on Holy Saturday this year. “In view of the competition that exists between the communities of faith, which other local radio stations use to spread false messages, one example being that several of them are giving the pope and the Catholic Church the spiritual responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic,” Father Cikongo continued, “we decided that the period of silence might lead our listeners to turn to competitor stations, with all the risk of manipulation this involves.”

A new challenge: school lessons live on the radio

In response to the schools closing on March 19, the radio station decided to broadcast lessons live to maintain the connection between teachers and their students. “This is a completely new experience for us,” the priest acknowledged. “We started working with the Catholic education centre La Robertanna (Centre éducatif catholique La Robertanna). As we have a total of 153 families with children, we bought small transistor radios to distribute to each of these families. Other families are interested in the project and will be able to participate because radio is accessible to all. Two hours of lessons are arranged for each day.”


“The teachers come to the radio station and the plan is to broadcast questions and answers live for 30 minutes during the time of the evening lesson.” One of the challenges will be “to make sure that the parents participate, particularly those who are illiterate,” while the other challenge is a financial one, the priest explained. “Because of the school closures, it is difficult for the parents to make spontaneous payments.”

Messengers of hope

The medium of radio has proved to be a critical hub for Christians in these times of health crisis, and not only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A large number of project partners of ACN have turned to the radio stations for even more intensive use.


One such example can be found at Radio Sol Mansi in Guinea-Bissau, which has also extended its broadcasting programme. This was done not only to raise awareness among the population of the measures being taken against the coronavirus epidemic, but also to continue their evangelisation efforts, now more than ever, by broadcasting divine services, catechesis and the various hours of prayer, Sister Alessandra Bonfanti, assistant manager of the Portuguese radio station, explained to ACN. She then continued, “In the current times, it is our mission to act as ambassadors of hope for a society that fears the pandemic. We have to help keep burning the flames of faith in hope – the hope that the world will return to normal if everyone does his or her part.”


ACN supports a number of radio stations in Africa. Over the past five years, the pontifical charity has not only helped stations in Guinea-Bissau and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also in Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia. ACN has made financial contributions to 35 projects for the acquisition of new technical equipment and five projects for the production of new radio programs.


Together, let us continue to support our suffering brothers and sisters.  In these times of crisis when the needs are greater than ever, we should be in solidarity all the more.  To give a donation or to offer a prayer, visit our website: www.acn-canada.org/covid-19



COVID-19: Religious on the front lines in Ukraine

17.04.2020 in COVID19, Journey with ACN, Ukraine


 Sisters on the front lines

By Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web April 17, 2020

The Coronavirus has reached Eastern Europe. For Ukraine, the spread of this disease could have devastating consequences. Already, even before the arrival of COVID-19, with an  ongoing civil war combined with a crisis around pensions, exposed the frail and elderly in particular to the risk of falling into sickness and poverty.

Consequently, the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need has just approved emergency aid for priests and religious  to enable them in  continuing to carry-out their pastoral and social ministry among the most vulnerable people.



The Grace of God on the front

Below, four Sisters who are currently working right on the front line, bringing God‘s love to the suffering and elderly, talk about their work during the time of the coronavirus in Ukraine

Sister Daniela Pukhalska (with a doctor in the photo, wearing protective clothing) is a nursing sister in Odessa on the Black Sea. She works in the infectious diseases section and consequently has first-hand experience of the suffering. “At the moment many patients are coming to us with suspected Covid–19,” she tells ACN. “A few days ago we were told that from now on we must only accept patients who have already tested positive. There is so much work to do that at the end of the day I feel absolutely exhausted.“ Even some of the doctors have panicked,” she tells us, “and a couple have actually left.” For her part, however, she remains relatively relaxed. “As our boss always tells us, we knew what kind of a department we were working in and what we might have to expect.”

She herself is not afraid of infection. As a religious sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she assures, this confidence is down to the grace of God, and to the fact that many people are praying for her and for the sick.  “I know that many people are praying for us,” she says, ‘”for the doctors and all the staff, and we are very grateful for this. Please continue to pray for us, so that we do not lose our strength.”



The Grace of God in senior’s homes

Likewise hard-hit by the pandemic are those religious Sisters caring for the frail and elderly. For example, Sister Justiniana, who works in the elderly care home of Mary the Mother of Mercy in Lviv in West Ukraine. Here the Sisters of Saint Joseph are caring for 25 bedridden people who require round-the-clock medical care and supervision. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic they have tightened their security measures and it is now forbidden to visit patients, Sister Justiniana tells ACN, and the staff have to wear masks and protective clothing. Everything has to be deep cleaned with disinfectant. “We are afraid that we may soon run out of the necessary equipment and medicines, because it is difficult to get new supplies. But despite everything we‘re trying not to panic but instead to soothe and protect our patients.”

She also finds new strength and courage in her faith for the daily battle. “In early April we commemorated the 15th anniversary of the death of Saint John Paul II. We recalled his words –‚’Do not be afraid! Open the doors to Christ!’ If we open our hearts to Christ and welcome him, then we are under his special protection. And so we entrust our homes and all the world to him.“

Sister Jana Lypivska of the Benedictine Missionary Sisters (giving the thumbs up in the photo) has been working for the past two years in the parish of Saint Aloysius, in Zhmerynka in the centre of the country. Until recently her main duty was giving catechetical instruction to children and adults and preparing them for the Sacraments. But Sister Jana has always been caring for the elderly and needy people in her parish. Now though, this has become her most important duty, she explains. “In this difficult time of lockdown above all, these people need our help and the witness of our lives. Many of them ask us for our prayers. We open up our chapels so that one person at a time can pray there, and we run errands or try to simply be there for these people during these difficult times.”


God’s Grace protects and soothes the downtrodden

Already before the pandemic, the economic situation in Ukraine was dire on account of the war that has dragged on in the country since 2014. Few people have any savings, and the loss of employment as a result of the pandemic has pushed many to the brink of survival. This is something also felt by the sisters in Ivano-Frankivsk in West Ukraine. Sister Elena Gnadziuk belongs the congregation of the Myrrh-bearing Sisters (the Myronositsi). Their convent is visited daily by around a dozen people living in poverty. The sisters share their food and other necessities with them. There are more and more of them every day “Every time I hear the doorbell and open our convent door, I see people in need. They include homeless people, and those who have lost their jobs and are now in financial difficulties. Yesterday a woman came to us asking for food for her three children. After her there was a man asking for food for his mother… Among the needy there are many people living on their own,” Sister Elena explains.


ACN has been supporting all these communities for years now, thereby enabling the Sisters to better fulfil their specific charism of care and service to the poorest of the poor. Our support helps them train new vocations, support their own sick and elderly Sisters and provide help for those who serve others absolutely free and without charge. Again and again the Sisters tell us just how very important and precious this aid is to them.

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ACN Interview in Mozambique Cabo Delgado Province with Bishop of Pemba

20.02.2020 in By Paolo Aldo, Journey with ACN, Violence against Christians


Cabo Delgado Province – continuing attacks “a tragedy” says Bishop of Pemba

By Paulo Aido & Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web February 20, 2020

The continuing attacks in northern Mozambique have already claimed over 500 lives and left thousands displaced, according to Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of the diocese of Pemba.

The wave of violence that has affected this northernmost province of Mozambique since October 2017 shows no signs of coming to an end. Bishop Lisboa confirmed that there were “six attacks” in the province of Cabo Delgado in the two days of 29 and 30 January this year, causing a general exodus of the population and leaving behind a broad swathe of destruction in the villages of the administrative centres of Bilibiza and Mahate, both of which belong to the district of Quissanga, approximately 75 miles (120 km) from the city of Pemba. The bishop described the attacks as “a tragedy.” One of them “targeted the agricultural school in Bilibiza; a teacher training school, which has over 500 students,” he added.

“I heard that the school was burned down, then they smashed up other shops and businesses nearby,” the bishop explained. “It is a very sad fact that the defense and security forces are unable to contain these attacks without international support. It has already been [going on for] two years and three months… If the government of Mozambique had done something to improve the conditions, then perhaps this problem would have been resolved – but instead many people are dying,” Bishop Lisboa told ACN.

In his interview with ACN, given during a visit to Portugal, Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa explained that although there are no official statistics of the number of people who have lost their lives, he is certain that the number of people killed must now be at least 500 since the violent attacks began near the end of 2017 on villages, administrative centres and army personnel. The killers have left decapitated bodies behind as a sign of the terror they are causing among for the population.

“There will be hunger…”

The present situation is causing direct repercussions on the daily lives of the people. “The villages are being left empty, and people are not planting their crops – which means that there will be hunger, and we will have thousands of internal refugees”, the bishop explained. According to the UN figures, there are approximately 60,000 internally displaced people as a result of the attacks on the villages in this region of northern Mozambique. However, Bishop Lisboa thinks the figures should also include other displaced people among the victims, for example those made homeless by Cyclone Kenneth. “I think the total number could be nearer to 100,000 internally displaced people,” he suggested.

A regional threat from Islamic fundamentalism

The region of Cabo Delgado, in northeast Mozambique, has suffered numerous attacks by armed groups. Bishop Fernando Luiz Lisboa recalls that at the beginning of the attacks in October 2017 local Muslim leaders had clearly distanced themselves from the attacks and condemned them. “When the attacks began, and it was being said that it was the work of a radical Islamist group, the Muslims distanced themselves from it and said, ‘They don’t belong to us, they are bandits.’ But we are concerned and saddened, because it does indeed seem that they are the work of a radical Islamist group.”

The intensification of the attacks might signal a threat to regional security, and there are signs that the authorities in neighbouring Tanzania are also on the alert. For in fact Tanzania is regarded by experts in the field of terrorism as something of a safe haven and place of recruitment for extremist militants, who can move easily across the border between the two countries.

If so, this would be “of grave concern” says the bishop of Pemba, since “if there is an international or transnational network involved it means that they are much stronger and it will be much more difficult to put a stop to them.”


“I am not afraid”

Nobody knows the real size of the terrorist groups operating in the North of Mozambique. The Christian community feels threatened, and the bishop himself knows that he might well be the target of one of these attacks. “I am aware that this could happen, but quite honestly, I am not afraid. I’m simply trying to fulfill my own role, which is to support the missionaries who are already there, in the direct line of fire, in the districts where the attacks are taking place. They are being extremely brave. I praise God and I thank them for the courage they are showing, because at all events they are the oasis that the people need, someone to whom they can turn to, cry out to, complain and tell their problems and seek some kind of help… None of them has abandoned their posts; they are still there, and so I have no right to be afraid. It is precisely so that I can support and help them to continue their mission that I am trying to do mine to the best of my ability.”


ACN International is helping

Speaking to ACN shortly before returning to Mozambique, Bishop Fernando Lisboa also expressed his gratitude to ACN International for the projects the charity is supporting in his diocese. “ACN has helped a great deal,” he said. “We have various different projects, such as vehicles for the missionaries, and for the formation and support of our seminarians. This help is important, because without the support of international organizations like ACN it would be very difficult for poor dioceses like our own, and like the majority of African dioceses and many Asian and Latin American ones, to fulfill our work.”

Project of the Week – Support for pastoral outreach in Ethiopia

19.02.2020 in ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN


Support for ongoing pastoral outreach to the Borana people

By ACN Projects Department and ACN Canada
Published on the web February 19, 2020


Holy Cross Parish is based in the village of Dhadim, in a remote and underdeveloped region of southern Ethiopia. Its people are members of the Borana tribe who were until very recently, nomadic. Today more and more of them are becoming settled, although some continue their traditional pattern of migration with their herds of cattle.


At present around 5,000 of the 9,000 people in the area are Catholics, however a growing number of people are also seeking baptism. The parish itself is alive with catechetical classes and Bible study circles and in addition, the vocations apostolate is now starting to bear fruits. Two girls have expressed a desire to become religious Sisters, and five of the boys are showing an interest in the priesthood.


The youth are very active with around 250 young people regularly involved in the parish. Thanks to assistance supplied by ACN somewhere between 65 and 100 young people are able to take part each year in a three-day pastoral program in another diocese.


Father Kenneth Iwunna, the parish priest and a missionary from Nigeria, reports: “Most of them have never been anywhere except their own village. So for them it is an important new experience to meet together with young people from other ethnic backgrounds and share their life experiences with them. They don’t speak the same language, but we make sure there is someone there to interpret. The young people are able to grow in their faith and enjoy an important new experience of being Church. And it is not only they themselves who benefit from these days, but the whole community, for when the young people come back home, they talk about their experiences in church. And the older people are also very interested to hear about it.”



Overall, the involvement of the Church has tangibly changed the lives of these people. In the past there were intermittent feuds between members of the various local tribes, but the reconciliation work done by the Church has made a major contribution to the calming of the situation. At the same time, the situation of women has greatly improved in the society. Traditionally, the women of the Borana had no voice and were not permitted to do anything outside the home. But things have changed now, thanks to the work of the Church, and today more and more girls are attending school. And now women can even work as catechists.


As we did last year, ACN is proposing to support the pastoral work in the parish with $7,500. These funds will be used for the training of catechists, for the youth meetings and wedding ceremonies for couples wishing to marry in the Church following their Baptisms. The money will be also used to fund retreat days and other pastoral activities in the parish.


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

ACN Project of the Week – Supporting training in the Amazon region of Brazil

06.02.2020 in ACN Brazil, Journey with ACN


Training of 27 seminarians in the Amazon region

 Posted to the web February 6, 2020


Currently there are 27 young men from the diocese of Rio Branco in western Brazil training to serve God and their fellow men in the Catholic priesthood. The life that awaits them as priests will be a far from easy one, since their diocese lies to a large extent in the Brazilian rainforest and covers an enormous area of over 40,000 square miles (104,000 km²). The distances they must travel are great, many places can only be reached via river travel.


Undoubtedly, their vocation is also in part a fruit of the decades of tireless commitment by the Italian missionary Paolino Baldassarri, who even at the age of almost 90 was still travelling long journeys into the wilderness on his simple boat in order to visit the Catholic riverside communities. Since he could not swim, he always wore a life vest and a motorcycle helmet. He was also a doctor, and continued to practice even at an advanced age, treating and helping innumerable patients.



When he first arrived in the region, almost half a century ago, he immediately fell victim to malaria in the first week of his stay. But somehow, miraculously, he survived and soon afterwards began to visit the jungle settlements in a simple canoe. Because of the shortage of priests in the region, many families had drifted away from the Catholic faith. Father Paolino won them back. He died in 2016, widely regarded as a saint.



Today the people’s faith is again in danger, because the 40 priests struggling to minister to the 450,000 or so Catholic faithful in this vast and inaccessible region can only rarely visit some of the remotest villages and settlements. Meanwhile, the religious sectarian groups are spreading rapidly, seemingly well-funded, wasting little time on training their preachers, and promising miracle healings to all the people.


In this light, the 27 future priests are a great ray of light and hope for the Church in the diocese of Rio Branco.  ACN is supporting the diocese in providing formation with a total of $15,600  this year.



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

ACN Feature Story from Nigeria –  A spiritual reflection on the recent terrorist attacks

23.01.2020 in ACN Feature, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Tobore Ovuorie, for ACN USA, Journey with ACN
Photo, Nigeria, diocese of Minna – March 2012
St. Theresa´s Catholic Church in Madalla – partly destroyed by Christmas day bombing in the church on 25.12.2011


“Darkness has thrived, but it has never won.”

  A spiritual reflection on the recent terrorist attacks


By Tobore Ovuorie, for ACN USA
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web January 23, 2020


The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) on Dec. 26, 2019 released a video of its fighters beheading 10 blindfolded Christian hostages. And on Christmas day, executing an eleventh person.


The victims’ names have not been released. However, an earlier ISWAP video revealed that they’d been taken from the African states of Borno and Yobe (Nigeria). The terror perpetrated by ISWAP and Boko Haram has deeply scared Nigerians, particularly the country’s Christians, who suffered a further shock at the news of the December 26 beheading of a bridal party in Gwoza, in the state of Borno.


Aid to the Church in Need spoke about the killings with Father Panachy Longinus Ogbede, the Catholic pastor of the Church of the Visitation in Lagos, Nigeria. Father Panachy said:


St. Theresa´s Catholic Church in Madalla – partly destroyed by Christmas day bombing (by Boko Haram) in the church on 25.12.2011


“We must never accept violence. It is not a part of our culture. Traditional Nigerians are known to have discussions; our forefathers taught us that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves everyone blind and toothless. There will always be better and more productive ways to express our grievances.


“But many people feel otherwise. They would benefit from a stronger relationship with God, which leads to more positive relationships with other human beings; it’s how the human being becomes sacred in our eyes. And we are quickly losing our sense of the sacred, as well as our sense of community. Egotism and relativism have crept in everywhere, and we have forgotten that there are still objective truths. It is not right to kill your brothers and sisters. It is not right to behave cruelly. I implore Boko Haram and ISWAP to reconsider their ways.



To stay and live in freedom


A little girl at Sunday Mass at St. Rita’s in Kaduna

“The truth is that Christians cannot leave their homelands. Where would we emigrate to? And for how long? We are aliens everywhere we go. Only in our parents’ homes are we safe. We must learn tolerance and fortitude; we must persist and live freely.


“The Scriptures predicted hard times for us, but hard times don’t last. Tough people do. Life is filled with ups and downs, which are often the results of human selfishness. And there will always be a Judas among the disciples. There will always be a child who strays. And when they do, they see that it rarely works out.


“It’s when things fluctuate that we find opportunities for growth. And in order to achieve that growth, we must accept instability, imperfection, and uncertainty. Life is a mystery and requires our ongoing formation. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we must walk through that tunnel before we reach it, or even see it.


“The early apostles faced persecution, too. But Christ has never abandoned His Church. Without Him, all of us would be gone. Darkness has thrived, but it has never won.”




Press Release  – #RedWednesday, November 20, 2019 – Stones and Prayers

18.11.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN PRESS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Persecution of Christians, Press Release, RED WEDNESDAY

Press Release  – For Immediate Release


#RedWednesday, November 20, 2019

Stones and Prayers

A show of solidarity with persecuted Christians!


The face of at least five monuments will be illuminated in red this year across Canada.  Of them: Mary-Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal and Saint Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.


Montréal, November 18, 2019 – This Wednesday, November 20, Aid to the Church in Need Canada is inviting all Canadians to participate in Red Wednesday events (#RedWednesday).  For the occasion, five stone monuments will be lit up in red:  Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal, Saint Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary, the entrance of the Grand Seminaire de Montreal and the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa located in the historic Chateau Birkett building. 


In the diocese of Calgary, more than 80 activities are already planned. “I believe that more and more Canadians are aware of the problems connected to the lack of religious freedom in the world, and in particular, of the situation of over 327 million Christians living in  persecution stricken countries,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada.



A Great International Movement


The events planned in Canada open an entire week of events taking place across the world until November 27.  In at least 15 countries, moments of prayer and information sessions have been organized along with monuments and buildings to be lit in red. To date it has been announced that there will be over 2,000 in Philippines and 120 in the United Kingdom in order to bring awareness to questions related to religious freedom and the persecution of Christians.


In Canada, there are several ways to offer a show of solidarity:

  • Participate in one of the planned events listed at this address acn-canada.org/red-wednesday/ or call : 1 (800)585-6333 or by email at info@acn-canada.org.
  • Find out more about the situation of Christians through the Persecuted and Forgotten? 2017-19 Report https://acn-canada.org/persecuted-and-forgotten/
  • Share the information on social media using the hashtag: #RedWednesday
  • Wear red on November 20th
  • Pray for persecuted Christians around the world in small or large groups and for all who suffer because of a lack of religious freedom.


Among the many scheduled activities taking place Canada-wide we would like to highlight a few:

  • Mass will be celebrated at 7:30 pm at the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montréal,
  • An ecumenical prayer vigil will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, also scheduled for 7:30 pm.
  • Mass will be celebrated at Saint Mary’s Parish in Banff, Alberta at 6:30pm.


ACN News: Christians in northeastern Syria in Danger

04.11.2019 in Journey with ACN, Middle East, Syria

Christians of Northeastern Syria

 We need help.

by Marta Petrosillo, October 28 2019, ACN Italy
adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted November 1, 2019

“At least 300 Christians have been forced to leave the towns of Ras al-Ain, Derbasiyah, Tall Tamr and one area of al-Malikiyah, and we are afraid that if the fighting continues, there could be a still greater exodus which might even include the town of Qamishli, where there are 2,300 Christian families living at present.” This was the desperate picture given to ACN by Msgr Nidal Thomas, the episcopal representative of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Hassaké.

The situation he describes is a critical one. “We don’t know what is actually happening. Every hour we hear reports from the Kurds, the Turks, the Americans and the Russians, of victims and people fleeing. But we don’t know the real truth. The only thing we know for certain is that the bombings and above all the massacres committed by Turks against our community are forcing more and more Christians to flee.”

For the moment, few Christian families have sought refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, but Monsignor Thomas believes that it will be difficult for the Christian refugees to choose this semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. “Life there is too expensive for the impoverished Syrian Christians. Quite apart from the fact that the Iraqi people have not done anything to prevent the dramatic situation that has unfortunately unfolded in Syria. There were thousands of Christian families in our country. No one attempted to defend us.

Christians are in danger: “We need help.”

Today the Christians in northeast Syria also fear a return of jihadism, despite the killing of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. “Unfortunately, this is an eventuality we have to take into account,” says Monsignor Thomas, according to whom many ISIS fighters have now joined the Free Syrian Army, which has entered the region of Ras al-Ain.

And so this priest is appealing through ACN to the international community, asking for support for his own community. “We need help,” he says. “We Christians are the ones who have suffered most as a result of this interminable conflict. We are the weakest link, because we want to live in peace and reject war. Two thirds of the Christians have left the country and the remaining third risks being unable to survive. And meanwhile, the Western countries are fighting among themselves to divide up Syria, which has been brought to its knees also by the international sanctions.”

ACN Canada is continuing to support Christians in Iraq and in Syria.  In the aforementioned country, the campaign, A Drop of Milk, for the children of Homs, is still active.  You can give by visiting our web page at acn-canada.org and click the donate icon at the top right of the page. For more information, please call 1-800-585-6333.

ACN News: Fate of Christians tied to deadly Iraq protests 

04.11.2019 in Iraq, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Violence against Christians


Fate of Christians tied to deadly Iraq protests

by Xavier Bisits, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted Monday November 4, 2019
  Although Iraqi Christians, concentrated in the north of the country, lie far from the epicentre of deadly protests in Baghdad, their fate may be tied to the outcome of what demonstrators in Iraq are calling a “revolution.”

While protesters in Baghdad have emphasized interfaith unity, protests have in fact been concentrated in Iraq’s nine Shiite provinces, with limited involvement from the Sunni Muslim and minority-dominated north.

Most Christians live close to Mosul, Iraq’s largest Sunni Arab city, where the streets have been quiet. Mosul residents told ACN that after three years of war, people are tired of violence and “do not want war anymore.” Protesting, they also said, might lead to accusations that they are ISIS sympathizers trying to bring down the Iran-backed regime—leading to an even more violent reaction from the militias and security services who control the city.

Christians, meanwhile, largely live in towns where, because of the fraught security situation, protesting is banned by security forces and the Nineveh Provincial Council. At most, some churches have held services calling for peace. At Sts. Behnam and Sarah Church in Baghdeda (Quaraqosh), the largest Christian city in Iraq, Catholics gathered to pray for peace in their country, with altar servers carrying Iraqi flags for the occasion.


Christians and other minorities: victims of political strife

Many of the issues highlighted by protesters in Baghdad are the same ones faced by young Christians: unemployment, corruption, and a government motivated by Iranian interests. In the Nineveh Plains, many Christians live under the control of Iranian-backed militias, who have been accused of extorting the local population, interfering with the economy, and intimidating minorities.

These factors explain why some Christians, mostly young, in the Nineveh Plains, have expressed solidarity with the protesters, some of them apologizing on social media for not being able to come out on the streets. On October 27, a group of Christian activists launched a campaign of solidarity, with the slogan: “We are Christians of the Nineveh Plains, in solidarity with our fellow protests. We apologize for not being able to demonstrate because in our cities we are not allowed to demonstrate.”

Other Christians express skepticism about how much the protests will achieve and concerns about violence. Since the protests began on October 1, at least 200 protesters have been killed at the hands of the Iraqi police. If the situation deteriorates, it would not be the first time that Christians and other religious minorities became the victim in the political strife that has characterized Iraq since 2003. Between 2003 and 2017, at least 1,357 Christians were murdered by hostile sectarian militant groups, according to the Shlomo Organization for Documentation—bystanders in a civil war that disproportionately affected Iraq’s ancient religious minorities.

The Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche, told ACN: “It is just and appropriate that the oppressed and others deprived of their rights demonstrate—provided that they will be listened to and respected.


Expressing their peace

‘This is not the case in Iraq. There is no government, no respect for the human person, and people may use these circumstances to take revenge on others. Moreover, in the Nineveh Plains, we have had enough. “I hope that prayer will, in some way, play a role, accompanied by an intervention that will make things calmer and bring different ideas together. In the end, it’s the people who will be the victim.”

In a statement, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, Raphael Sako, who on October 28 cancelled a planned trip to Hungary and visited wounded protesters in a hospital in Baghdad, called on the government to listen to protesters: “We appeal to the conscience of Iraqi Officials, who are in charge, to listen seriously to their people, who are complaining of the current miserable situation, the deterioration of services, and the spread of corruption, leading to such crisis.”

“This is the first time for the Iraqi people, since 2003, to express their peacefulness away from politicization, breaking sectarian barriers and emphasizing their Iraqi national identity.