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ACN News – Myanmar Cardinal’s statement on healing the country

30.09.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Journey with ACN, Myanmar, Religious freedom

Myanmar

Healing the country, moving forward in peace, justice and reconciliation

 

The Myanmar military is accused of violence against minority populations, including the Rohingyas and Rakhine.  Close to 500,000 people found refuge in Bangladesh.  This is a major crisis where the government has been accused of allowing a genocide.  The archbishop of Rangoun, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, updates us on the situation.

 

A Statement By Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., DD, SDB

 

Dear Fellow Citizens and International Community,

Greetings.

The recent sad tragic events in our country affecting thousands of  Muslims, Rakhines and Hindus and others have brought the concerned attention of the world.  The trigger to violence and the aggressive response are lamentable  We feel with great compassion at  the flight of thousands of Muslims, Hindu, Rakhine, Mro and many others were also scattered  especially children, This is a tragedy that should not have happened.

 

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed her concern over all forms  violence in her recent speech, we strongly advocate that aggressive responses without any embedded long term peaceful policies would be counterproductive.

 

Much has been said by the western media on the role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  Many feel that the sentiments and principles she expressed so strongly in  her latest  address should have come earlier.    But to lay all blame on her, stigmatizing her response is a very counterproductive measure.   The circumstances under which her government took over, the multiple humanitarian challenges her government had to face during the short time, the continued role of military constitutionally imposed lack of  leverage in security issues and scores of other challenges make her role a daunting one.

 

Her assurance in her speech about rights in Rakhine state, the return of refugees and development of the state is to be welcomed.  Those who  have  lived in this country for a long time, need justice and the Kofi Annan Commission took the right direction in suggesting constructive measures. She has formed a working committee to implement recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission.These are positive initiatives that need the appreciation and collaboration of all stakeholders and the international community.
All of us need to move from a wounded past towards a healing future. Let the lessons of the past enlighten our future.

 

Peace based on justice  is possible, peace is the only way.

Sincerely yours,

 

+Charles Cardinal Maung Bo
Archbishop of  Yangon


 

Project of the Week: Marian devotion in Ethiopia

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

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

Project of the Week in Ethiopia

Printing a book on the devotion to Mary

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

A better understanding Marian devotion

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

 

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

 

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

Click to donate!


 

ACN News – Iraqis return home to the Nineveh Plains

15.09.2017 in ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, John Pontifex, Journey with ACN, Middle East

Nineveh Plains

“…the land where we belong.”

Celebrations mark return of Iraqi Christians to Nineveh

About 500 Christian families – up to 2,500 people – celebrated their long-awaited homecoming to Iraq’s Nineveh Plains with ceremonies marking a fresh start in their old towns and villagesTrip to Iraq of Fr. Andrzej Halemba and John Pontifex September 2017 Families with olive trees outside St George’s Church, Bartela

In Qaraqosh (Baghdeda), the largest of Nineveh’s Christian towns, priests and people holding olive branches processed through the streets chanting hymns in Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ. Protected by security personnel in armoured vehicles, the procession was headed by priests holding crucifixes aloft.

 

A service took place at the Immaculate Conception Syriac Catholic Church, in the town centre, a building desecrated and burnt by Daesh (ISIS) militants. During the ceremony, Aid to the Church in Need Middle East projects’ coordinator Father Andrzej Halemba called on people to forgive those who had forced them out of their homes and attacked their towns and villages.

 

Father Halemba told the returnees: “Of course we cry when we see the violence that has been carried out but we should remove the anger in our hearts. There should be no hatred in our hearts. We should reconcile with our neighbour.”

Afterwards, Father Halemba, who organized the ceremonies in conjunction with local clergy distributed to each family olive trees symbolising the returnees’ return to their roots – the communities where they have lived for centuries.

Another olive tree distribution ceremony took place earlier that day (Sunday, September 10) at the Virgin Mary Syriac Orthodox Church, Bartella, a largely Syriac Orthodox town, close to Qaraqosh.

At least 2,000 families – 10,000 people – are reported to have returned to Qaraqosh, with at least another 500 families – 2,500 people – expected by the end of the month (September).

ACN is repairing hundreds of homes in a number of Nineveh’s Christian-majority towns and villages, where widespread destruction was carried out during and after the Daesh (ISIS) occupation of the region from August 2014 to October 2016.

 

The charity is also committed to repairing churches in both towns as well as in Teleskuf, where restoration of St George’s Church is well under way.

 

Thanking the charity for organising the ceremonies and helping with the repair of homes, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Timotheos Moussa Al Shamany of Bartella said: “This was a wonderful way to mark the start of our return to our homes – the land where we belong.”

 

More celebrations and processions are due to be held today (Thursday), the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, an especially important feast in the region.

 

 

Text by John Pontifex, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

 


 

Project of the Week in DR Congo

14.09.2017 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, CONSTRUCTION, Contemplative Sisters, Journey with ACN, RDC CONGO
 There is one elderly French Sister – the last one, the rest are Congolese. While asked by ACN delegation what was their charisma,she replied “we search for God in simplicity and love in every time.”

Democratic Republic of Congo

Thanks to you, they are living by the work of their hands!

In the middle of the violent area the contemplative monastery has been settled. The Sisters are threatened with danger, sometimes they can’t sleep at night because the soldiers or other military group comes in. One of them was killed couple of years ago, she got shot dead upon opening the door to the monastery. Despite the danger the sisters remain praying for peace for the region. They are an oasis of peace in the midst of violence. People also often come to them for the retreat in silence. 

The monks and nuns of the Trappist order live a strict, enclosed life of prayer and penance. They are particularly known for spending the majority of their time in silence, with ears for God alone. The order includes both a male and a female branch, though their lifestyle is to a large extent identical.

The female branch of the order has around 70 convents throughout the world, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are 21 Sisters living in the east of the country in Murhesa, close to the frontier with Rwanda, in the region of South Kivu. This region has been the theatre of some of the bloodiest conflicts in recent African history, and for much of the population the presence of the Catholic Church is their sole source of hope. Priests and religious sisters alike are bearing faithful witness to Christ here, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood.

The Trappist convent here has been no exception and has been sorely tried by the warfare, insecurity, burglaries and natural disasters. Indeed, in December 2009 one of their Sisters was even murdered.

 

The Sister welcomed ACN Projects Director Regina Lynch and Africa Projects Director Christine de Coudray.

Despite all these difficulties and trials, their community, which has been here for about 60 years, continues to enjoy numerous vocations and there is a constant trickle of young women knocking on their door because they wish to follow Christ.

It is a general principle of the Rule of the Order that the Sisters should live by the work of their hands, and therefore they have tried various different ways of supporting themselves. They produce yogurt and ice cream, originally intended above all for sale to the UN troops stationed in the locality, and in addition they have endeavoured to raise chickens and rabbits and also keep bees. But their efforts have not been altogether  successful. The principal problem was that the convent did not have the necessary facilities and working premises. They did begin in 1994 to enlarge the convent and build a separate building for this purpose, but the war put an end to this enterprise.

Now, after more than 20 years, the Sisters have turned to ACN to help them build adequate buildings for their various lines of work. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we did not have to disappoint them and were able to give a total of $ 62,000 .

Now the Sisters are able to set up a bakery and a candle-making workshop as well as produce soap and honey to support their life and ministry as mandated by the Trappist order. They are sending you their heartfelt thanks. To all our benefactors, with a promise to pray for everyone who has helped them.


 

ACN Project of the Week – Mexico

07.09.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Journey with ACN, Mexico, Priests

Mexico

Mass Offerings for 18 Jesuit priests

 

Mexico is a land of deep contrasts. Some of its areas are popular holiday destinations, and yet others are in the throes of bloody drug warfare and plagued by abductions, extortion, robberies and murders on an alarming scale.  In fact, in 2016 Mexico topped the charts with the second highest murder rate in the world with 23,000 murders reported that year. The Catholic Church has also suffered the shock of this crime wave.  In no other country in the world have so many priests been murdered, year after year, as they have in Mexico.

This same contrast is true economically speaking in Mexico. On one hand it is an emerging economic power, while on the other, almost half the population lives in deep poverty. The Jesuits are active in the country with 18 Jesuits working within the indigenous population in some of the areas of most touched by extreme poverty. While proclaiming the Gospel message to the poorest of the poor, they themselves live in poverty. The faithful share their simple food with them, but that alone is not enough to cover their overall living costs. So they are most grateful for the Mass Offerings ACN has been able to send them, to a total value of $21,155, thanks to the generosity of our committed Aid to the Church in Need benefactors.

 

“With the blessing of your help,” writes Father José Francisco Magaña Aviña, the Provincial of the Jesuits in Mexico, “we can continue to proclaim the Gospel and better serve this People of God, who though lacking in material prosperity nonetheless possess an astonishing spiritual strength, which nourishes the whole Church.”

 

ACN Project of the Week – A pilgrimage to Fatima for 50 young Catholics from Russia

07.07.2017 in ACN International, Fatima, Journey with ACN, World

Russia

A pilgrimage to Fatima for 50 young Catholics

This year, the Church is celebrating the centennial of the apparitions at Fatima.  In 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared six times to three shepherds and entrusted them with a message for the world.  She warned the children of the danger that the Russian Revolution and Communism represented for Humanity.  She revels to them that prayer, repentance and inner conversion are the means by which the wars and calamities could in fact be prevented for the world.

 

On October 13, the day of the very last apparition – over 50,000 people were witness to a miracle often deemed the ‘Miracle of the Sun’. At the very place above the apparitions, the sun began to spin and then zigzag careening to the earth before returning back toward the sky.  The two little shepherds, Francisco and Jacinta, died of Spanish Fever in 1919 and 1920, respectively.  They were canonized this past May 13 by Pope Francis. As for Lucia, she became a Carmelite nun – Sister Lucie – and lived to be 97 years old at Carmel de Coimbra.  Her beatification process was initiated in 2008, three years after her death.

 

Inspiration for giving God to the world

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The pontifical charity has very close ties to the Fatima message.  During his lifetime, the founder of the international charity, Father Werenfried van Straaten, considered the message given at Fatima by the Holy Mother as the guiding principle informing all his actions.  He first heard talk of Fatima in 1942 while still a young religious Premonstratensian.  On several occasions, he consecrated Aid to the Church in Need to the Holy Mother of Fatima, for it was clear to him that the world was in danger of death if the call of the Holy Mother was not followed.

The “rebellion against God,” culminating during the Russian Revolution and the unprecedented persecution of the Church which followed has continued to this day in various forms.  ACN is an immediate response to the call of the Holy Mother of God to convert and to turn towards God.

In this jubilee year, initiatives to commemorate the Fatima message are planned across the entire planet .  Some are supported by ACN, for example the pilgrimage of 50 young Russian Catholics to the Fatima sanctuary.  For these young Catholics who feel like a small minority in a majority Orthodox country, such a pilgrimage to one of the most significant Catholic sanctuaries signifies a lot,  affirming them in their faith and giving them the opportunity to pray with thousands of other pilgrims from around the world.

 

Thanks to you, our benefactors, we were able to give them $9,000 for their journey, which we believe will be a moving one which they will carry with them throughout their lives and faith journey.

 

Photo top: Portugal, Fatima 13.05.2017 
Pope Francis in front of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Portuguese Marian shrine of Fatima.

 

 

 

Fatima 2017 and Aid to the Church in Need Take part in the celebration !

06.07.2017 in ACN International, Journey with ACN, Prayer, World

Our Lady of Fatima Pilgrimage with ACN 

From September 9 to 18

 

 

Fatima 2017 and Aid to the Church in Need

Take part in the celebration !

 

In order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the charitable organization, Aid to the Church in Need, we would like to offer you the opportunity to participate in a very unique pilgrimage due to its international presence.

 

Organized in collaboration with Spiritours, a specialist in source of faith tours, and the international headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need, this sojourn will offer you out of the ordinary opportunities: attending an international Mass with other individuals close to Aid to the Church in Need, a candle-lit procession, testimonials and moments of reflection with guests from around the world are planned.  Many powerful and unforgettable spiritual moments!

 

Act quickly, the registration deadline is this Sunday, July 9th!

Here is a simple trip outline :

 

*2 999$/per person for a  double occupation. Departure from Montreal or Toronto  *Also available – departures from  Calgary or Vancouver, on demand.

Day 1 – Departure from Montreal or Toronto for Lisbon

 

Day 2 – Arrival in Lisbon and city tour

 

Day 3 – Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO, travel to Fatima.

 

Day 4 – Guided tour of Fatima.  Official opening  of the pilgrimage with a Eucharistic procession in the evening followed by dinner, reciting the Rosary and candlelight procession.

 

Day 5 – Solemn Mass with Cardinal Piacenza presiding.  Free afternoon and possibility of a concert in the evening.

 

Day 6 – Visit Coimbra including time for prayer, testimonials from guests in attendance from around the world.

 

Day 7 – International closing Mass. Departure for Porto.

 

Day 8 – Guided visit in Porto and departure for Santiago de Compostela where a Mass will be celebrated.

 

Day 9 – Free day for exploring, wandering and shopping.

 

Return to Porto.

 

Day 10 – Departure from Porto for Montréal or Toronto.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For further information : http://spiritours.com/voyage/portugal-et-espagne-sept2017/ or call

Mikaël Maniscalco  (514) 374-7965, Ext 207  mikael@spiritours.com

 

 

 

 


 

ACN Interview – Violence in Marawi, Philippines – Bishop’s speaks

02.06.2017 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, ACN International, Adaptation Mario Bard, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Interreligious Dialogue, Jonathan Luciano, Journey with ACN, Persecution of Christians, Philippines

Violence in the Philippines

Cathedral destroyed and interreligious dialogue in peril

 

“The general population is not sympathetic to ISIS elements.

 

Interview by Jonathan Luciano, ACN Philippines National Director, with Bishop Prelate of Marawi Edwin dela Peña (MSP) about the situation in the Prelature of Marawi in the Southern Philippines, where the terrorist Maute group attacked the city, killing Christians and burning down buildings. including the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians. As of press time, 104 people have been killed and more than 12,500 families have been displaced. Fr. Chito Suganob, the Vicar General, was abducted together along with several staff from the ca. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) confirmed the authenticity of the video now circulating on Facebook which had surfaced on Fr. Chito Suganob’s profile on Tuesday (30 May). 

 

How is the present situation now in the Prelature of Marawi?

We are still right in the midst of it, I don’t know how to describe it, our people are not there anymore, they have been evacuated.  Those who have been left behind, I don’t know what their situation is because there is a continuing operation to clean up the city, to flush out the terrorists plus there is aerial bombing.  I don’t know how they are surviving it.

Source: Wikimedia

 

Was the Cathedral totally destroyed?

Yes, I was told that the cathedral and the bishop’s house have been totally destroyed, first by the torching, it was set on fire, and then by the bombing as we are right there at the center of the fighting. I’m not so sure how soon we will be able to recover. It will be very difficult for all of us, not only for Christians, but for the Muslims as well.

 

How was the Muslim-Christian relations in Marawi before the incident happened?

Marawi is about 95% Muslims. We are a very tiny minority, we are a very small church in Marawi and the greater bulk of the Catholic population in the city in the area of the university where we have students coming from other provinces in Mindanao.

 

It was beautiful. We were engaged in interfaith dialogue and we have many partners. And in fact, Fr. Cito was in the thick of it because he was, his primary focus really is to connect, to link up with all the Muslim NGOs who have partnered with us in community development and education for interfaith dialogue. It was beautiful until this extremism emerged, the fighting, the presence of these extremist elements from the Middle East. Then the radicalization of our young people, unwittingly, unknowingly, some not oriented towards the current situation in the Middle East, still have become radicalized, especially here in Mindanao.

But generally, our relations with our partners have remained very positive and in fact, we learned from them that also disavow this influx of ISIS elements coming into Marawi, because they understand exactly what this would do to the culture of their people, to their way of life. The people of Marawi have always been very peaceful.

Marawi City on fire during the first day of the siege. (Photo: Ms. Sittie Ainah U Balt/ACN)

 

Is it correct to say that the general population is not sympathetic to ISIS elements.

Yes, yes, yes, that is correct. In fact, what is happening today, especially that we are on Ramadan, a very holy month for them, they are not able to celebrate it the way they would have wished. They feel a certain kind of anger toward these terrorist groups coming in to disturb this very holy remembrance of Ramadan. So if these extremist groups wanted to get the support of the people, they are going about it all wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on your knowledge of how ISIS operates in the Middle East, do you see any difference with what is happening in Syria and Iraq versus what is happening now in Marawi?

It is something like that. It may not be another Syria or Iraq, but the way the city looks now after the bombing and all, it doesn’t look like Marawi anymore. The remnants of the old city, everything that we see on the news feed about Marawi, is all ruined, there is destruction everywhere. That is the image we have in mind of Syria and Iraq.

 

Who are the Maute group who led these terror attacks in Marawi?

From my own discussion with some religious figures here in Marawi, Maute is made up of Maranaos who have had to fend for themselves since the ouster of their mayor.   The mayor, previous heir of Marawi, had supported their drug-trade business.  Because he’s no longer mayor, and now that the drug peddling has been controlled by the government, the people who were used to an easy life of free-flowing drug money are suddenly without. That was probably one factor that led them toward radicalization.

We were also informed that money was coming from the outside,  as well as individuals who are part of some training.  There are foreign elements training them inside the lairs of Lanao Sur.  All of which probably are driving them to this kind of life.

The Maranao Muslims of Marawi City preparing to evacuate their ancient hometown. (Photo: Ms. Sittie Ainah U Balt/ACN))

 

The government has kept denying that there is ISIS presence in the Philippines. What can you say about that?

I’m not so sure about it. They can deny it for as long as they can, but some people…you know what?  I’m not the right person to speak about it. I’m just echoing what I know: that some of them have even been trained outside.  For instance, the Maute brothers studied in the Middle East. They come from very rich families here who have the means to send their children to school in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. I have heard about this.

 

Is there a relationship between Maute and the infamous terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf? 

I think so, the fact that Hapilon is in Lanao, in fact they were about to serve him with an arrest warrant before all this happened. That was the trigger. Hapilon is Abu Sayyaf, so they have a tactical alliance with the Maute brothers in Lanao Sur aside from the fact that both are also sympathetic to ISIS, so they have this tactical alliance, and they probably have joined forces.

 

Do you have any updates about Fr. Chito and other kidnapped Christians?

I am aware of the video of Fr. Chito since yesterday. He is alive! I am happy about that, but sad also about the reactions of the DDS netizens (DDS stands for Digong Duterte Supporters- the supporters of the president), who castigated him for his message without any regard for his present situation as a hostage deprived of his freedom. We have lost our sense of humanity! How sad! I grieve for this country, and I am so sorry for the situation of Fr. Chito and company.

Father Teresito Suganob kidnapped Mai 2017 in Marawi. (Pictures taken from facebook page from Father Suganob) Fr. Chito Suganob, the Vicar General was abducted together with other Cathedral Staff.

We did not have any contacts with the military until a few days ago when I was able to link up with a commanding officer of the Marines division who are now doing up the clean-up operations in Marawi.  He has promised that they will do their best to locate Fr. Chito and company. There are about 12 to15 people with him. Some of them were teachers from nearby Dansalan college and they just happened to be meeting together in one place where they are being held, but some of them were at the Cathedral at the time as they were preparing for the feast of Mary, Help of Christians the following day. So we had many people in the house and in the Church doing all sorts of things.

 

Do you consider this incident as an escalation of the various anti-Christian events that have happened in Mindanao?

Yes, I suppose it is.

 

Do you know of any personal stories of solidarity between Muslims and Christians these past few days?

Yes, personal knowledge concerning the family of my driver who were holed up in one of the rice mills in Marawi City.  Accompanying them was their barangay (village) chairman. who is Maranao.  He was the one who organized the group and gave them an orientation as to how they should respond if the Maute group intercepts them along the way. So they left the house together and went toward the bridge, where buses were waiting to take them out of Marawi. I would consider them heroes for leading this group of both Christians and Muslims, to flee the danger that awaited them.

But there were some people in the group who were trying to catch up, part of the crowd trying to cross the bridge, who were then accosted by this Maute group, this terrorist group. They were asked if they were Christians. Unfortunately, they responded “yes” because they were not there when the orientation was given.

One fellow, the husband of one of our adopted families living in the cathedral compound in Marawi, was pulled out of the group because he was wearing a sleeveless shirt and had a cross tattoo on his shoulder. So he was identified as a Christian and was pulled out.

Then, lately we have heard reports of men being killed and dropped into a ravine. They say they were also part of the group trying to catch up to join the convoy of evacuees.

You can also read in the papers many other stories of Muslims trying to protect Christians.

 

How would this incident affect Christian-Muslim relations in Marawi?

Even though people are familiar with what we have been doing here in Marawi and the relationship that we have built up through the years, the old biases that Christians have had against Muslims are bound to be stirred up because of the current situation. This is very frustrating.  Interfaith dialogue is a very fragile process, and incidents like these can destroy the very foundation.

And there are some people fueling these anti-Muslim sentiments. It’s sad, because we’ve made such headway in improving relations between Muslims and Christians in Marawi. Without a doubt,  Muslim-Christian relations among the Maranaos is the best compared to others considering we have done in the 41 years since the establishment of the prelature.

Our schools, some of which were here before the prelature, have always been dear to our Muslim brothers and Christians because many of their parents studied there.  Professionals in the town have attended our schools and sent their children to our schools, because they have developed this kind of patronage and loyalty to our schools.

 

What is your message to the ACN community worldwide?

It is very unfortunate that our small prelature which is the smallest and poorest local church in the Philippines had to undergo this very difficult crisis. Our Cathedral, the Bishop’s house and our parish have been destroyed.  We will have to start from scratch to rebuild and to re-establish the Christian presence in this predominantly Muslim area of Central Mindanao. We must continue our mission of offering the hand of reconciliation and friendship to our Muslim brothers and sisters because this was the legacy of Pope Paul VI when he re-established the prelature of Marawi.

At the height of the crisis in the early 70s, the Pope, quoting Bishop Tutu, stated, “We Christians should be the first to offer the hand of reconciliation and brotherhood to our Muslim brothers and sisters. That is the way to establish peace that has been broken because of the war.” I think that the same holds true for our present situation today.

We cannot turn our backs away from what we have started, what the Prelature had begun in the middle 70’s: to continue the work of dialogue, continue working with our Muslim brothers and sisters, to establish, to rebuild the broken relationships, the broken dreams and hopes of so many people to live in peace. We just want to live in peace and we would like to ask you to help us to rebuild that peace with the kind of work that we do: working with and being in dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

A group of 100-200 armed men of the Maute group, a terrorist group founded by a Muslim clan whose children studied in the Middle East. The Maute group has pledged its allegiance to ISIS. (photo:  Ms. Sittie Ainah U Balt/ACN)

 

 

 

What are the most urgent needs at the moment?

We are not so much concerned about our needs in the moment. Our focus is more trying to do what we can to respond to the humanitarian crisis that happening in Iligan right now.  We have so many evacuees from Marawi, and they need all the support that we can give.

This is what some of our dioceses and all the dioceses of the Phillipines, including Caritas Filipinas in Manila and the Archdiocese of Manila through Cardinal Chito Tagle have requested.  They have asked us how they can be of help, and where to send all their donations. So we have united with the Diocese of Iligan to put up command centers at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Iligan City to be able to receive donations, and have organized volunteers to do the repacking and the distribution.

We are also working with our Muslim brothers and sisters who are with us in dialogue.  It is a great opportunity for us to show our solidarity in responding together to the needs of our brothers and sisters, especially those in the evacuation centers. So this is what we are doing.   If there is anything you can do to help us, to bring the attention of the world to what is happening in Marawi right now, to our relief operations, we would appreciate it so much.

One of the evacuation centers for Marawi City refugees. (Photo: Ms. Sittie Ainah U Balt/ ACN).

Interview: Jonathan Luciano, ACN Philippines
English adaptation: R.P.Delaney for ACN Canada

ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK – CZECH REPUBLIC

31.05.2017 in ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Czech Republic, Journey with ACN

Czech Republic

A place for the reawakening of the love of Christ

Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, archbishop of the diocese Praha in Czech Republic, visiting Aid to the Church in Need Intl in 2003

On 17 May 2017, Cardinal Miloslav Kardinal Vlk, the former Archbishop of Prague, would have celebrated his 85th birthday. However, he died just two months earlier. Just a few hours before his death, he whispered the words “Most beautiful King”. When asked what he meant by this, he replied, “Jesus on the Cross.” Those were his last words.

 

Embracing the Cross, and with it the Crucified One, were not empty words. For many long years of his life, throughout the years of the communist persecution of the Church, he had to wait for the privilege of even permission to attend university, since as a young man he had refused to join the communist youth groups. For 17 long years, after completing his secondary schooling, he had to wait for ordination to the priesthood, without ever knowing for sure if this day would ever arrive.

Even after his ordination, and serving as a parish priest and secretary to his bishop, he was banned for 11 years by the state from working as a priest. During this time, he earned his living as a window cleaner and as an archivist, and practiced his priesthood in secret. He would often recall how hard it had been for him to make this sacrifice. Yet, he was also able to say later, “I discovered that this cross did more for my salvation and that of others than if I had continued as the bishop’s secretary during those years… that time as a window cleaner was the most blessed time of my life. And I understood that I was living my priesthood in all its fullness.”

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6). These words stayed with Miloslav Vlk like a leitmotiv in his life. He heard them first as a young man, when he felt the call to the priesthood, yet saw no possibility of achieving this goal. In 1994, when he was made a cardinal, he was shaken to hear these words once again in the letter of Saint Peter and realized how they had literally come true in his life.

He was finally laid to rest on March 25, 2017, in Prague Cathedral. Hundreds of bishops and priests from all over the world, and thousands of people from Prague and all over the Czech Republic were there to pay him their last respects. He was buried in the most important church in the Czech Republic, the same place where the Bohemian kings had been crowned and buried. However, his only King was Christ the Crucified.

As his coffin was lowered into his tomb in the stone floor, the ancient hymn rang out in the packed cathedral: “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat” (“Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules”). This is the King he saw when he whispered his last words, the King who allowed him throughout his life to share in his sufferings and his abandonment and who will now exalt him at the proper time.

The greatest wish of the Cardinal was to reawaken the love of Christ in the hearts of his people. After the years of communism, this was a huge challenge. Cardinal Vlk was a lifelong friend of ACN, and the help our charity was able to help him in rebuilding the Church in his Archdiocese of Prague was repaid by him “in a different currency – that of prayer,” as he again and again repeated to ACN.

 

 

However, there is still a great deal to do for the Church in his country today. Even now, many of the confiscated Church buildings have still not been returned by the state, and many of them are still in a pitiful condition. But most of all, it is the souls of the people that need to be rebuilt. For the Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic countries in Europe today. The good news is that wherever people see the Catholic Faith truly being lived; many young people soon rediscover this Faith and seek baptism. So new and living communities are being formed, with young families bringing their children up in the Faith and so laying the foundations for the Church of the future.

 

That is why this Project of the Week is particularly important in order to fulfill the wishes of Cardinal Vlk. In Tuchomerice, a small town not far from Prague, the new Catholic community Chemin Neuf (New Road) has set up a centre. It is a very active community on an international level, comprising 2,000 members in about 30 countries (Canada among them) organizing meetings for young people, young adults and married couples.  They offer retreats, prayer groups and a Bible school. Every day Holy Mass is celebrated in the community, along with the Morning Prayer of the Divine Office and there is a regular time for Eucharistic adoration. The centre is also intended to be available to visiting groups, so that not only local people but also Catholics from other parts of the Archdiocese can take advantage of the facilities it offers.

Thanks to help from ACN they have already been able to complete the chapel and the refectory, plus more recently an additional 16 guestrooms. But the work is still far from finished. We are planning to help with $36 500.

 

 

 


 

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.