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Middle East

 

ACN Feature – Catholics in the Arab World

27.12.2015 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Brazil, By Oliver Maksan, egypt, Feature Story, Gaza, Lebanon, Middle East

Catholics in the Arab World

“We will pray for Daesh [the Islamic State] ”

The Holy Year of Mercy is hailed with joy from Iraq to Morocco – Catholic voices are heard throughout the Arab world 

The Holy Year of Mercy that was solemnly inaugurated by Pope Francis on December 8 in Rome is being hailed with joy by Catholics throughout the Arab world – from Morocco all the way to Iraq and Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has gathered these impressions from across the Middle East.

Father Dankha Issa is a monk of the Alqosh Chaldean order. Last summer, hundreds of Christian refugees found refuge in the city after their villages were seized by jihadists. The ancient, exclusively Christian city is situated in the northern part of Iraq. As the crow flies, only about 15 kilometers separate the monastery of the Virgin in the Corn Field from the front line of the Islamic State. At night you can see the lights of the Islamic State from the mountains of Alqosh.

Au centre, le père Issa, qui a dû fuir la violence de l'ÉI en 2014. « Ce jubilé nous redonne espoir. Espérons donc que cette année éteindra le feu de la haine et apportera la paix. »

At the centre, Father Issa who fled the violence of IS in 2014 with an ACN delegation from several world offices.

“We are very thankful to Our Holy Father that he has proclaimed a Holy Year of Mercy. It is a time of grace for us,” the priest told ACN. He himself had been forced to flee IS from Mosul last June. “This Jubilee gives us new hope. Let us hope that this year will extinguish the fires of hate and bring peace.”

It is important for Father Dankha that the Christians of Alqosh experience the goodness of God that delivers us from sin. “In this year our attention is particularly drawn to how merciful God is with us sinners. God forgives us. But this also means that we have to forgive each other. Even the people of Daesh (IS), who have done so many evil things to us. After all, as a Christian you also have to love your enemies.” Father Dankha knows that this is anything but easy. “This is almost humanly impossible. But it is easier through faith. God is capable of everything.” Father Dankha’s particular wish is that the jihadists will change their ways. “Of course we hope that God will open and soften the hearts of the people of Daesh so that they cease their murderous doings. Let us pray that he will dispel the hate and violence in their hearts and let love take hold.”

His monastery wants to make it possible for the refugees to experience the mercy of God over the course of the year. “We will continue to support them with food and the like. However, we especially want to pray together, above all the rosary. This is what makes it possible for us suffering limbs of the Body of Christ to become one with the universal church and the Pope.”

To love as Jesus did

In Lebanon, Father Raymond Abdo wants to use the Holy Year as an opportunity to give a Christian response to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. “The people who persecute Christians have to come into contact with Jesus Christ. Mercy thus means not allowing ourselves to hate these people,” the Carmelite from the northern city of Tripoli said. “We need the courage to pray for them and to love them. Because when they persecute Christians, they do not know what they are doing. This is what Jesus did on the cross.”

Le père Raymond Abdo, supérieur des carmes du Liban, en compagnie d'une religieuse. « La Miséricorde signifie donc de ne pas accepter de haïr ces gens »

Order of the discalced Carmelites in the Semi-Province of Lebanon: Rev. Fr. Raymond Abdo OCD (superior of the Carmelites in Lebanon)  in the company  of  a Sister

According to Father Raymond, what is decisive in this Year of Mercy is to love, as Jesus loved, people of other religions as well. “The church in the Middle East plays a role in many institutions that are visited by non-Christians. We have to love these people and show the mercy of the Gospels to them by example. Jesus did this with the Gentiles.” In the school in which he teaches, 65 per cent of the students are Muslim. “Respecting the Muslim students the same as the Christian ones: this is what mercy means to me.”

The Year of Mercy is also receiving attention in Gaza. Over the past years, the narrow Palestinian strip along the Mediterranean has experienced several Israeli-Palestinian wars leaving hundreds dead, thousands injured and tens of thousands homeless. Nowhere else is the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as brutal as it is here.

More than 1.8 million people live in the densely populated area. There are only about 1,300 Christians. The number of Catholics is hardly higher than 160. Father Mario da Silva is the priest of the Catholic parish of the Holy Family, who are said to have passed through today’s Gaza Strip on their way to Egypt.

Bringing his assistance to the conversion of hearts

The Brazilian from the Argentine Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) has been living in Gaza City for several years. During this time he has witnessed several wars. “This Holy Year is a big chance,” he told the charity. “TWe Christians can re-learn what the mercy of God means. This includes re-thinking the reality of sin. We are dependent upon the forgiveness of God. This is an opportunity to find out something new about the sacrament of penance.” his is why Father Mario wants to offer retreats in the summer that will address the mercy of God. The Sunday Sermons this year will also repeatedly focus on the subject of forgiveness.

Le père Mario da Silva. Cette photo fût prise durant un cessez-le-feu dans la Bande da Gaza, en août 2014. « Cette Année sainte représente une grande chance ».

Gaza City, during the ceasefire that lasted between August 5h and 8th: Father Mario da Silva. The Brazilian cleric works in the Catholic “Holy Family” parish in Gaza City. He belongs to the order “Institute of the Word Incarnate IVE”, which originated in Argentina.

Father Mario believes that interpersonal forgiveness grows out of God’s mercy for humans. “From the first moment I arrived in Gaza, of course I felt the hatred that the people harbour because of Israeli politics. This hatred is rooted in the injustice the people here experience every day. It may be less pronounced among the Christians because forgiveness belongs to our faith. But of course they also know this feeling. That is only human,” Father Mario said. “The wars, the destruction, the high unemployment rate that also affects the Christians: all this eats away at the people. However, as a priest I do not feel it is my first priority to change the political situation. That is not in our hands, even though the church of course draws attention to injustice as such. However, what we can do is to help convert our hearts.”

Reintroducing a culture of forgiveness

In Egypt as well, which borders on the Gaza Strip, the focus is on the conversion of hearts. For several months now, Father Beshoi has been the priest in Azareia, a Christian town in Upper Egypt near Asyut. The Coptic Catholic cleric wants to make the sacrament of penance more accessible to his parishioners again. “We need the forgiveness of God. Here, there are a lot of cases of revenge because of insults to family honour. These are often caused by something trivial. But the situations escalate until there are casualties. And that, even though only Christians live in our town. But they have assimilated to the Islamic culture that surrounds us. In Islam, God is only seen as a lawmaker who metes out punishment when His commandments are not heeded. However, I want to change this mentality. I want to show God to my brothers and sisters as a merciful Father who forgives us. However, this is also why we have to forgive each other. Thus, the Year of Mercy has come at just the right moment for me.”

There are many problems especially among the adolescents in the town. “Many take drugs because they feel unloved or misunderstood. I want to show them that God loves them and is waiting for them with open arms. I know that God can work miracles in the souls. Just recently, an almost 60-year-old man came to me for confession: for the first time in his life! I hope that I will see many such small miracles over the course of this year!”

The Holy Year is also being celebrated at the outermost Western edge of the Arab world. Admittedly, there are hardly any Catholics living in Morocco and the vast majority of these are foreigners. However, the few Catholics who are there take an active role in the life of the world Church. Such as the Sisters of the Carmelite convent of Tanger. “We embrace the Holy Year with pleasure and gratitude. It is a great grace that we want to experience together with the entire church. With all of our poverty and weakness and in recognising our sinfulness, we are on our way to the Father, whose embrace we have need of,” Sister Maria Virtudes said to ACN.

The Spaniard is the prioress of the community of Sisters who began the Jubilee with a prayer vigil. “We prayed to the Lord who is present in the Eucharist. In doing so, we took turns in singing the hymn that was composed for the Holy Year and held long moments of silent worship. As we did this, we were, together with the Immaculate Virgin, in communion with the entire Church.”

Des religieuses au Couvent des Carmélites de Tanger, au Maroc.

Carmelite Sisters of Tanger in Morocco.

By Oliver Maksan: ACN International
Adapted by : Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN Press: Refugees in the Middle-East to receive wishes from Canada

06.11.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, Middle East

 

 

Gatineau

Refugees in the Middle-East to receive wishes from Canada

Montreal-Gatineau, November 5, 2015 — Profoundly touched by the fate of Christian refugees in the Middle-East who are obliged to stay despite the conflicts, Chantal Lareau, a benefactor of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN), let her “Missionary Heart” speak.

“The fate of Christians in the Middle-East is something that moves me deeply,” she explained. “I do not know how to do this work [missionary].” And then she exclaims “If I could only write to them!” So she submitted the idea to a person in with whom she works to animate a group of young people ages 12 to 17 in her parish – St Mark in Quebec (Gatineau region).  They accepted her idea; the young people will write Christmas Cards and send wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

When the parish priest, Father Dan Kelly, learned of the idea – he thought it was so good that he decided to invite his whole parish to contribute! “So, I presented the idea at all three masses over the weekend,” and people really got into the idea.  Furthermore, the video of Myriam was also presented at the 11 am Mass, it was magical!”

A transformative little girl

Produced by SAT7TV, a Catholic Lebanese network supported by Aid to the Church in Need, the seven minute long clip introducing little Myriam from Qaraqosh, Iraq – went viral over social media.

In it, she declares having no resentment toward those who took away her home, Islamic State (ISIS). “ I will not do anything to them.  I will only ask God to forgive them,” she said to the interviewer and adding: “Kill them? Why kill them?”

“When we presented the video, it was full [the church]: many adults were weeping, moved by the faith of this little girl,” explained Chantal Lareau.  Other parishioners experience different kinds of awareness, from the abundance we have here to the fact that God forgives. “ One woman was angry with God.  But to see little ten year old girl who forgives and says she is not angry with God, overwhelmed her. In fact, everyone was moved,” she said.
Great was the surprise when they realized that there are Christians in the Middle-East, or for the younger generation to realize that children like themselves have no homes and must live in refugee camps.

Cartes de Noel-2015-VF

Christmas Cards for refugees in the Middle-East

Chantal Lareau’s initiative has snow balled!  Aid to the Church in Need who she has supported for many years is getting on board and asking its benefactors and all interested people to get on board as well and participate in this wonderful initiative.

On its Facebook page, the Canadian section of the international Catholic charity has invited all to send their Christmas and New Year wishes which will be destined for refugees in the Middle East.

Left to right : A parishioner at St. Mark, Chantal Lareau and Father Dan Kelly.
(Thanks to : Chantal Lareau)

“The kids would like to get involved with the persecuted Catholics by writing them letters,” wrote Chantal Lareau when she submitted her project last October.  Thanks to her for sharing her idea, and now it’s your turn to participate in this momentum of solidarity!

 

Christmas cards can be sent to ACN at the Montreal office:

Aid to the Church in Need (Canada), Christmas Card Project, Post office box 670, Station H, Montreal, Quebec, H3G 2M6.   Ou send your wishes virtually by writing to the following  email  address created specifically for this reason : aedacn2015@gmail.com. The campaign will end: Monday November, 23 at 5pm.

 

 

By Mario Bard, ACN Canada

Translation by Amanda Bridget Griffin

 

ACN PRESS – ACN speaks to Archbishop Warda of Iraq

23.10.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Oliver Maksan, Iraq, Middle East, Press Release

 

 

Iraq

“No one has to live in a tent anymore”

Montreal/Königstein, October 23, 2015 – More than a year after having fled and been driven out by the terrorist militia “Islamic State (ISIS),” Christians in Iraq no longer harbour the hope that they will be able to return to their homes anytime soon. This is what the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Matti Warda, said recently during a visit to the head office of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

 

 

“The people are not fooling themselves by believing that the occupied regions can quickly be liberated. In the meantime, we as the church are trying to make it possible for them to stay in Iraq. When the people see the efforts the church is making on their behalf, they think twice about leaving.” In the summer of last year, more than 125,000 Christians fled to the autonomous Kurdish regions of Iraq after the “Islamic State” advanced like lightning into Mosul and the Nineveh Plains. The majority continue to live there as refugees.

 

 

The Church gives a humanitarian and pastoral response

In the meantime, Archbishop Warda has observed a considerable exodus of Christians from Iraq. “Last year we had 13,500 registered Christian refugee families in our archdiocese. Now there are only about 10,000 left. This means that more than 3,000 families have left Iraq.” News of the stream of refugees from the Middle East to Europe has long since also made the rounds among Iraqi Christians. “We feel the effects of this development in Europe acutely. Of course the people find out about this and believe that the gateway to Europe is now wide open.” However, the bishop said that up until now he has yet to notice an acceleration in the emigration from Iraq due to the events in Europe. “However, of course it does not make our work convincing the people to stay any easier.”

 

 

Trip to Iraq of ACN UK, May 2015

ACN supports children returning to school

According to Archbishop Warda, the main concern of the church is to offer humanitarian as well as pastoral aid. “Thanks to our partners, the humanitarian situation has in the meantime been stabilized. No one has to live in tents anymore, as they did last year. The majority is now living in caravans or in flats we have rented. Furthermore, with the help of Aid to the Church in Need, we were able to get eight schools up and running so that today, there are practically no children who are not receiving lessons. Naturally, things looked a lot different last year. Finally, our supply network for food is now running smoothly. Each family receives a packet from us each month.” However, the archbishop believes that more Christians would leave the country should the support from outside of the country wane.

 

 

Project trip to Iraq of Fr. Dr. Andrzej Halemba, Caroline van Pradelles (ACN France), LoÏc Bondu (ACN France)...Support from the Church enables youth take up hope

The archbishop emphasized that next to humanitarian aid, pastoral care plays a decisive role. “Just recently we held a Festival of Faith. Twelve hundred people took part. I was deeply moved by the stories the people told. Many young people spoke of the darkness they had been forced to pass through. After all, when they fled, they not only lost their homes, but also their hopes, joy, trust and dreams. However, when they saw that the church was with them, that priests and nuns stood by them, they took courage once more. Their faith returned. They may no longer have a house, but at least they have a living faith.”

However, despite this Archbishop Warda is certain that the number of Christians in Iraq will further decline. “The situation is dire. We as the church are doing what we can. However, I believe that, in the long term, it will be decisive that those that stay have a mission. We Christians of Iraq belong to this land. It is our job to build bridges, to live Christian values. It is my dream to also pray the Lord’s Prayer together with non-Christians. After all, this would be easy to do. What is decisive, however, is living it. The message of the Lord’s Prayer is that God’s love is for all people.”


Aid to the Church in Need
has been supporting the Christians in Iraq for many years. With the beginning of the Christian refugee crisis, it greatly intensified its commitment. Thus, more than 15 million dollars were approved for projects in 2014 and this year. This was primarily used to rent living quarters for the people, to build schools and to provide food.

 

Original text from ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 20 – World Refugee Day

18.06.2015 in ACN International, By Teresa Engländer, Cameroon, Central Africa, Emergency Aid, Gaza, Middle East, Nigeria, Pastoral aid, Refugees, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Uncategorized

 June 20 – World Refugee Day

ACN-20141012-14339Refugees ask: “What now?”

In 2014, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) spent more than 13.9 million helping refugees and displaced persons around the world.

 

Montreal, Thursday June 18, 2015 – When the militia attacked their village in Nigeria, they knew that there was no time to lose. They grabbed their children and ran for their lives. We’ll call them Family G. – as they fled, the father was killed; the mother and children made it to the safety of a refugee camp. However, although the camp offers a certain degree of security, there isn’t really anything else. Essentials like water, food, blankets, medicine and hygiene items are in scarce supply and these refugee families are simply overcome by a deep lassitude.

These people have been traumatized. For they have had to watch as family members died or were lost to them as they attempted to flee. They no longer have homes they can return to. Their uncertainty gnaws at them like hungry rats, asking themselves the same question every day: What now? Family G. represents countless refugee families around the world, all of whom have similar stories to tell.

51.2 million displaced people around the world

Approximately 51.2 million people around the world are currently in search of safe haven[1]. These families come from Nigeria, Eritrea or South Sudan, from Syria, Iraq or Ukraine. They are fleeing war and terror, political or religious suppression. Their persecutors may bear different names, but sow destruction under the same mask of hatred and delusion.

The Islamic terror organization, Boko Haram, has been ravaging northern Nigeria and Cameroon for six years. Around 1.5 million Nigerians are searching for safe haven within the country; another 136,405 people have fled to neighbouring countries. ACN is helping displaced persons from the especially hard hit dioceses Bamburi and Maiduguri in Nigeria with $62,500 and from Maroua-Mokolo, Cameroon, with another $20,700.  In Central Africa the rebel forces Seleka are creating havoc. Communities overflowing with displaced persons in this area have received $90,300 in aid.

 

InRefugee CAF Credit ACN Fr. Federico Trinchero South Sudan and Eritrea, people are fleeing both the unrests that keep breaking out between individual rebel forces as well as political and religious suppression. According to UNHCR, more than 560,000 South Sudanese are searching for a safe haven. Many have found refuge in refugee camps in Ethiopia: since 2014, ACN has come to their aid with $91,630. Projects for Eritrean refugees have been funded with $134,700.

 

In the Middle East, war and the terror organization Islamic State (IS) have been responsible for the displacing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Christians and intensified the wave of emigration in these countries that has been increasing exponentially since the Arab Spring began in 2011. UNHCR estimates 6.6 million refugees have come from Iraq and just under 4 million registered Syrian refugees.

Many have fled to neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Since 2014, Aid to the Church in Need has donated 10 million dollars to providing pastoral and charitable care to Iraqi refugees and another 6 million dollars for Syrian refugees inside and outside of the country, mainly in emergency relief.

The Gaza Strip remains in a constant and sad state of unrest. In 2015, ACN donated $20,820 to ensure that displaced Christians receive access to medical care in this region.

During the past year, the aid organization donated approximately $55,530 to Ukraine to fund a soup kitchen and provide medical care for people fleeing the Crimean conflict. Another $83,300 was given in 2015 to ensure the refugees access to pastoral care.Refugee Gaza

A major concern for ACN

From its veRefugee Ukrainery beginning, the situation of refugees has been a major concern to Aid to the Church in Need and remains so to this day. Through its refugee aid projects, ACN is keeping Father Werenfried’s legacy alive, a man who recognized the distress of German refugees after World War II and called upon his Flemish compatriots to make donations.

In his very first, evocative letter asking for donations, he wrote: “Many of us have it warm; we are doing well. We have a flat, glass windows that protect us from the cold and, despite the scarcity of food and other things that prevails because of the post-war period, despite extortionate prices, there is very little that we actually lack. But do we even think about the fact that outside, thousands of Marys and Josephs are making their way through Europe? That Christ is weeping in the guise of the poor, the homeless and the refugees, of hungry and thirsty people, of those incarcerated or sick, and of all those whom He has called the lowliest of His children and in whose misery He has concealed His incarnate form?”

An aid organization arose from this mission. The pontifical aid organization Aid to the Church in Need developed out of Father Werenfried’s first fundraisers and now has benefactors in over 21 countries. In 2014, the organization supported around 5,000 local church projects around the world with donations totaling 155 million dollars. Just from January 2014 to today (June 2015), the aid organization has invested more than 13.9 million dollars – in projects for refugees.

 

[1] These and other figures, source: UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c4d6.html

donateRefugee Iraq

Feature Story – Iraq “We … will be the last to leave”

14.04.2015 in By Oliver Maksan, Iraq, Middle East

Iraq

“We … will be the last to leave”

The heroes of faith in Iraq: Priests, seminarians and religious hold out while their flock is besieged by ISIS 

Chaldean priest Steven from Batnaya explains where his parrish t

Credit: Aid to the Church in Need / I. Zori

As the crow flies, the town of Alqosh scarcely 15 kilometres away from the front line, where the heavily armed Kurdish Peshmerga forces and fighters of the Islamist terror organization ISIS are facing off. Behind them, extend the expansive Nineveh Plains, an area the jihadists conquered last year and declared part of their caliphate, which comprises parts of Syria and Iraq.

When the weather is good, you can see the Christian towns that are now under ISIS control from Alqosh with the naked eye. “Back there is my village Batnaya,” the Chaldean priest says and points in the direction of the Christian town on the Plains. “I was the priest there. Now it is ruled by ISIS.” The cleric talks about how fast everything went that summer, how ISIS continued to advance relentlessly and how more than 125,000 panicked Christians fled before them. “I was the last to leave Batnaya. The jihadists arrived shortly thereafter. Their first question was: Where is Father Steven?” He also reported stories of Muslims from neighbouring villages who had lived alongside Christians all of their lives, who had joined with jihadists, making of the situation “an especially bitter pill for us to swallow.”

“At night we often hear gunfire. But luckily we are quite a bit away from the fighting,” says Father Steven.

Father Steven now lives as a refugee in Alqosh, located only a few kilometres away from his parish in Batnaya. He has been joined by more than 480 Christian families from the area who have taken refuge in the small ancient Christian town characterized by its beautiful churches. A Chaldean bishop resides here where the ruins of a synagogue harbour the grave of the Old Testament prophet Nahum. It would not have taken much for the black flag of the caliphate to now be waving over Alqosh as well. “In early August they were right before Alqosh,” Father Steven says. “But for reasons unknown to us, ISIS turned back. That is what saved us.”

Iraq, Alqosh 26.03.2015 Chaldean priest Steven from Batnaya show

Credit: Aid to the Church in Need / I. Zori

Ready to risk their young lives

His fellow brother Ghazwan believes that this was the work of God. “It is a miracle that we can still be here. The police told us in the summer to leave the town immediately because ISIS was advancing relentlessly. Because of this, at times there was no one left here.” Only about 100 brave young men held out in the mountains near Alqosh, the priest continues. “They were ready to risk their young lives to defend the town from ISIS. They were ready to die for their homeland.” At first Father Ghazwan was forced to flee with the remaining inhabitants. But only for a week. “That was the first week in our long Christian history here in Alqosh in which no Mass was celebrated.” However, this was not the case for long. “I returned on 15 August. I wanted to be with our young people.”

Dozens of priests and religious have been made homeless in the past year. They not only lost their convents, churches and monasteries, but also their schools and children’s homes, basically the entire apostolate that they had built up over the years. “We lost 23 of our monasteries and houses,” Sister Suhama says. The Dominican Sister now lives in a development of terraced houses near Erbil. Aid to the Church in Need is helping her and dozens of other homeless Sisters, monks and priests to start anew. “We were 26 Sisters in Qaraqosh alone. We led a flourishing community life there. Some of our Sisters are having trouble getting over the loss. At night they dream of soon being able to return.” A Sister from the same community cries quietly as she listens  to Sister Suhama. Fourteen older Sisters have even died of sorrow since they fled.

Credit: Aid to the Church in Need / I. Zori

Credit: Aid to the Church in Need / I. Zori

It is our job to be with our people

Sister Suhama says that it has not been easy to continue to lead a regular monastic life under these circumstances. “After all, we have to take care of those of our people who are now living here. They have a lot of problems. However, we are trying hard to keep Mass and prayer in their proper place.” Most importantly, the people need to feel that the church is close to them, the Sister emphasizes. “It is our job to be with our people. I don’t believe it will happen, but should the day come on which every last Christian leaves Iraq: we priests and nuns will be the last to leave.”

Just like the Sisters, the two seminarians Martin and Randi have also lost their homes. With the support of Aid to the Church in Need, the young men are now studying at the seminary in Erbil. “ISIS has strengthened our vocation,” says Randi, a Syrian Catholic seminarian from Qaraqosh. “Losing your home is of course a bitter pill to swallow. My parents are now living here as refugees. However, it is fortunate that the people have survived. That shows me that God is a God of life and not of property and objects. God is taking care of us.” Martin agrees with him. The Chaldean from Karamlish, a town near Qaraqosh, is already a deacon. “Our village priest and I were among the last to flee after we had made sure that no one had been left in the village. We were able to save the Holy Eucharist and several liturgical books. But nothing else. I truly feared for my life,” he says. As they fled to Erbil, he thought that death could be near. He is overcome by sadness when he thinks about his lost home. “I only want to be consecrated as a priest when I can celebrate the first Mass in my village. I realise that this may take months or longer.” Deacon Martin has consciously made the decision to live in Iraq. “My parents live in the US. I also spent some time there. But I wanted to return to Iraq. My place is here. This is where I want to serve the people.”

Iraq, Erbil-Ankawa 25.03.2015IRAQ / NATIONAL 14/00248Financial

Credit: Aid to the Church in Need / I. Zori

Randi also feels bound to the faithful. “I don’t just want to serve at the altar, but also take care of the poor. And we now have more than enough of these.” It pains him to see how more and more Christians are leaving Iraq for good. “However, although our flock may be even smaller in the future, we Christians still have an important job to do here. We have to rebuild our country. Despite everything, we have to learn how to live with the Muslims again. We have to teach our children to respect and esteem the other. Or else this will be missing from Iraq.”

donateThe Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need supports religious, priests and seminarians who have been forced to flee from ISIS. This is achieved by Mass stipends for priests as well as direct emergency aid for housing and provisions.

 

 


Appeal of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III for a World Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria

15.03.2015 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Middle East, Prayer, Syria, Uncategorized

In a press release sent out on Thursday March 12, Aid to the Church in Need who, since the onset of war four years ago, has given 8.675 million dollars in aid to help the population, announced its support of the call to prayer issued from Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch, the head of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, which is in communion with Rome, has called for a day of solidarity with Syria to be held today, Sunday, March 15, for on this day, four years ago, the protests began in the city of Deraa against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and eventual the war.

Excerpts from the letter of  Appeal of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III For a World Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria 

Damascus – 24/02/2015 – As bishops, our role is to be with our people, alongside our people, before our people, behind our people and in the service of our people. We want to wash the feet of those who suffer, as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Yet we ask forgiveness from our faithful, because, despite our efforts, we are unable really to meet all their needs which are increasing on a daily basis. We are at a loss before the great pain and great suffering of our people in all its Christian and Muslim communities. This is tragedy and suffering on a global scale, which affects everyone. All have been affected by poverty, hunger, cold, lack of clothing, illness, sufferings and disability. The great majority of our faithful suffer from all that, especially in Syria. All are equal now in this kind of suffering. And as we said, this is the case also for all Arab countries, especially, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon, and also Libya, Egypt and the Yemen.

Emigration

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00138Emergency help for 1200 families fromWe notice with great sadness that many of our faithful are leaving or going away, in various ways, both legal and illegal. How many stories we have heard of their suffering in this flight! Some are going away and leaving the country for good reasons, others, so to speak, without pressing reasons. We urge everyone to stay, to be patient, strong, always to hope and to hang on to hope, faith and trust in God’s will. We can never oblige anyone to stay: but it is a personal decision and is up to each person’s or family’s responsibility.

 

Pope Francis speaks to us in our difficulties

We thank His Holiness, Pope Francis, especially for his prayers, his concern, his appeals, his speeches and also for his material assistance through the Roman dicasteries and the various organizations related to the Vatican. In particular, we should like to thank him for his special letter that he addressed to the Christians of the Middle East for the occasion of the Feast of the Nativity and the civil New Year, and we have the pleasure of mentioning here passages which are very beautiful and significant for us and for all our fellow-citizens.

LETTRE-1“I am gratified by the good relations and cooperation which exist between the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches and those of the Orthodox Churches, and also between the faithful of the different Churches. It is the ecumenism of blood!

“Your very presence is precious for the Middle East. You are a small flock, but one with a great responsibility in the land where Christianity was born and first spread. You are like leaven in the dough.

“The greatest source of enrichment in the region is the presence of Christians themselves, your presence. Thank you for your perseverance!

“Within the region you are called to be artisans of peace, reconciliation and development, to promote dialogue, to build bridges in the spirit of the Beatitudes (cf. Matthew 5:3-12), and to proclaim the Gospel of peace, in a spirit of ready cooperation with all national and international authorities.

“The entire Church is close to you and supports you, with immense respect and affection for your communities and your mission. We will continue to assist you with our prayers and with every other means at our disposal.

“You are not alone. I do hope to have the chance to come to you in person and to visit and to comfort you.”

 

Suffering a school of faith

We say all this in the hope of strengthening the faith of our children. Besides, we hear the witness of many of our faithful who tell us about their faith, resistance and experience of God’s protection, and that He protects and preserves all citizens from many disasters. We as bishops, feel that we are being taught by the faith of our faithful.

We thank God for all that, just as we are also rejoicing over the return of some faithful, some citizens to their towns: so for example, at Ma’alula, at Qusayr, some districts of Homs and elsewhere. We are also happy to see and learn that there are now building yards open to begin rebuilding homes and churches at Ma’alula, Nabk, Homs and Yabrud. We are also glad about the compensation given by the State and for the aid of our faithful and we also thank all the international institutions and our friends who are helping us in this direction.

 

Syrian Arab Republic/Damas-MAR 10/30A vehicle for the servicesThe flame of hope

We turn to all our children and all fellow-citizens, as we did in our previous letters with the Holy Father, Pope Francis who said, “Do not let the flame of hope be extinguished in your hearts.” We launched the initiative, “The flame of hope for peace in Syria” at Christmas time. We again ask everyone to light this flame daily in their homes and hearts, in their souls and feelings. May it be a real inextinguishable light (despite the occasional lack of electricity or gas or oil!) to lighten the way for all citizens.

We believe in the power of the prayer and fasting in this Great Lent, and we call for a day of solidarity with Syria, a day of fasting and prayer for hope and peace in Syria.

 

+ Gregorios III Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

 

Appeal for a World Day of Prayer for Peace in Syria 15-16 March 2015

From the very depths of our suffering and pain in Syria we cry out with our suffering people, who are walking on the bloody way of the cross, and appeal to the whole world: Enough! Enough! Enough of war on Syria!

 

 

The Way of the Cross for Syria

Beginning Saturday March 21, this day of prayer will be followed by the Way of the Cross particularly for Syria over 14 days and ending on Good Friday, April 3.  You can follow its unfolding on our site every day at @www.acn-aed-ca.org

donate

More than ever before, the Christian population of Syria needs your help.

Be generous!

 

#SyriaPrayer   #StopSyriaWar

 

PRESS RELEASE – Syria

25.02.2015 in English, Middle East, Persecution of Christians, Press Release, Syria

Growing fears for the safety of Syrians

By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Iraq, June 2010Father Emanuel Youkhana in his officePhoto: CAACN, Montreal – Wednesday, February 25, 2015 – Fears are growing for the safety of more than 100 people taken captive yesterday (Tuesday, February 24) as the extremist group Islamic State (IS) seized Christian villages in Hassake governorate, north-east Syria.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who works in support of persecuted Christians in the region, received a telephone update on the situation from a contact in Hassake city around midnight last night and relayed the latest information in a message sent to Catholic agencies, including Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), early this morning.

He wrote: “The 24 families from Tel Gouran, 34 families from Tel Jazira, and 14 fighters (12 male and 2 females) from Tel Hormizd are captured and taken to the Arab Sunni village of Um Al-Masamier.” Up to now, the number of people making up the abducted families, has not been confirmed.

“They are alive so far, but the men are separated from women and children.”

An urgent need of action

Commenting on how some local Sunni Arabs had assisted IS, he said: “Um Al-Masamier is another Syrian example of what we witnessed in Iraq on how the Arab Sunni joining and supporting IS to attack their long years Christian and Yezedian neighbours.”

Archimandrite Youkhana went on to describe the latest situation in the various villages: “The 50+ families in Tel Shamiran are still surrounded. It is unclear if IS will attack the village? Can PYD [Democratic Union Kurdish Party] fighters change the situation before the village been taken by IS?”

He reported that in Tel Tamar a car bomb exploded, but no casualties were reported. Three mortar shells were fired into Tel Nasri from the other side of Khabour River. Again no casualties were reported.

PYD fighters have retaken Toma Yelda hill, which is of strategic importance. Archimandrite Youkhana wrote: “By now, only around 200 families are still in Khabour region, more than 100 [are] in Tel Tamar and others [are] in different villages not controlled by IS. Around 1,000 families from Khabour are displaced in Hassake and Qamishli.“

“His Grace Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel [of the Assyrian Church of the East] who resides in Hassake and hasn’t left it despite all difficulties, is doing his best to host and support the displaced. However, due to the lack of resources and the long years of the disaster, there is an urgent need of action to support the displaced families through the Church.“

Archimandrite Youkhana added: “Our thoughts are with the suffering people. We pray for an end to this long history of persecution in our countries.”

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00138 Emergency help for 1200 families from

 

 

 

 

ACN Interview – Jerusalem

03.12.2014 in ACN Interview, Holy Land, Israel, Middle East
© Ilona Budzbon / Aid to the Church in Need

Jerusalem, Holy Land

“Nineteen Christian families have left Bethlehem”

Franciscan Custos Pierbattista Pizzaballa talks with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the violence in the Holy Land and its consequences

GAZA-1

©Aid to the Church in Need

by Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

Aid to the Church in Need: Father Custos, with unrest on the Muslim Temple Mount and the terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is increasingly taking on a religious dimension. Do you fear that a national conflict will be turned into a religious one?

There is that risk. On the other hand, one should not forget that this religious dimension has always existed. Religion has always been part of the problem. Now, there is the risk that the religious dimension will become pre-eminent. But we are not the only ones who are concerned about this.

I am under the impression that the respective politicians are working to calm things down. I don’t know whether it may not already be too late for this. Like I said: the religious aspect will always be there. What is crucial is keeping it as small as possible.

Aid to the Church in Need: However, would you agree that the crux of the conflict is still the fight of two peoples for the same piece of land?

Yes. But like I said, it is not that easy to separate the religious aspect from the national one. To be a good patriot, you either have to be a good Muslim or a good Jew. You also have to realize that the lay movements on both sides, both in Israel and in Palestine, have become very weak during the past twenty years.

However, I don’t believe that politicians such as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas want to transform the conflict into a religious one. But it is true that religious parties on both sides are working in this direction.

Aid to the Church in Need: Also in Israel?

© Aid to the Church in Need

©Ilona Budzbon / Aid to the Church in Need

Yes. Take the national religious parties. I am not saying that everyone in Israeli society wants this. But the risk of an increasingly religious dimension is there and we have to do everything in our power to avoid it.

Aid to the Church in Need: Most recently there was unrest on the Islamically administered Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Jews are trying to enforce their right to pray there. Up until now, they have been prohibited from doing so, also under Israeli law. Do you believe that this should change?

© Aid to the Church in Need

©Ilona Budzbon / Aid to the Church in Need

According to traditional Jewish views, Jews are forbidden from entering the Mount where the Jewish temple once stood. Thus the religion in and of itself is not the problem, but the mixing of religion and politics. However, this is what is happening at the moment. Up until now, the status quo on the Temple Mount has always been respected in Israel. If this is changed, it will transform the conflict in a religious direction that will be irreversible.

Aid to the Church in Need: The year 2014 was not a good one in terms of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. In April, peace talks were broken off, in the summer war broke out in Gaza, now in autumn Jerusalem has been plagued by terror. Are we further away from peace than ever before?

I don’t know whether we are further away from it than ever before. But we are doubtlessly far away from peace. I can’t see that there is any possibility of changing the situation in the near future. There is deep-seated frustration and a profound lack of mutual trust between these two peoples.

Aid to the Church in Need: What would have to happen to build up trust?

It will take a long time. And there are no easy solutions. What we are seeing at the moment is the result of years of hate and frustration. You have to start in the schools and in society. You have to give the Palestinians something concrete and not just promises. And the Israelis also have to feel as if they have a contact person on the other side.

Aid to the Church in Need: Could the Christians in the Holy Land play a role in this?

Here in the Holy Land, we Christians are irrelevant. There are too few of us. In addition, we are confessionally divided. We can’t even agree on who cleans what in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. How then are we supposed to be a model for unity and reconciliation? This is why we cannot be the ones to build the bridge. However, we can of course provide opportunities for encounters. After all, every church has interreligious fora. However, I don’t believe that there is very much else we can do.

Aid to the Church in Need: How are Christians in the Holy Land affected by the violence and tension?

Naturally we feel the massive decline in religious tourism. As compared to last year, we have had a sixty per cent drop in visitors to the holy sites since the Gaza War. That is a dramatic decline. It is only climbing back up slowly. But those Christians who live from tourism are used to this. These kinds of conflicts occur every few years. However, in addition to the economic dimension, frustration is also on the rise among Christians. Nineteen Christian families have left Bethlehem for Europe and America in the past two, three months.

Aid to the Church in Need: What is the reason for this?

All Christians are appalled by what is happening in Iraq at the hands of ISIS. It was also a horrendous shock for the Christians in the Holy Land. It strengthens the feeling that there is no future for Christians in the Middle East, that they are not wanted here. Added to this is the frustration that peace has failed to appear.

Aid to the Church in Need: Two reasons are given to explain the emigration of Christians from Palestine: the consequences of Israeli occupation and the Islamization of Palestinian society. What do you consider the main reason?

There is no “either or,” only a “not only but also.” The one does not exclude the other. From an economic standpoint, life in the Palestinian areas is very difficult. On the other hand, relations with the Islamic community are not the same as they once were. All of that plus everything else that is going on around us and you get a feeling of hopelessness.

Aid to the Church in Need: Israel is currently discussing a nation state bill that would establish the Jewish character of the state. Will this happen at the expense of Israeli democracy with its large Arabian minority, including its many Christians?

Now, it is nothing new that Israel considers itself a Jewish and democratic state. This has been the case ever since the state was founded. I believe that the bill currently under discussion will not fundamentally change the situation of the minorities, including the Christians. However, it will intensify the feelings of reserve that minorities in Israel harbour towards the state. It will make them even more convinced that they are not really wanted here.

ACN-20141030-15507

©Ilona Budzbon / Aid to the Church in Need

Aid to the Church in Need: Looking beyond the Holy Land: with the advance of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, has the year 2014 been a turning point for Christianity in the Middle East in general?

Yes, 2014 has been a turning point. What World War I was for Europe, this year was for the Middle East. The old orders no longer exist. However, we don’t know yet what the new will look like. In Syria, for example, hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing. The middle class is leaving the country. What is left are the poor. The ecclesiastical infrastructure that we built up in Aleppo and other such regions of the country has been destroyed or abandoned. We are faced with enormous tasks. We not only have to rebuild the Christian community, but also the relationship with the Muslim majority.

© Aid to the Church in Need

©Ilona Budzbon / Aid to the Church in Need

ACN helps kids go back to school

23.10.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Iraq, Middle East, Refugees
All projects underway adding up to a total amount of 5.77 million CAN – one of the largest efforts in ACN’s history – shows the scale of the drama experienced by our Iraqi brothers and sisters.  If our partners recognize us for our support, we still know that they are far from the end of this unspeakable catastrophe. The threat remains and the fragility of their hearts no less persistent.
 
This is why we still your help to continue supporting our brothers and sisters of the Middle-East trapped and forced to seek refuge elsewhere in their country… if not in another.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director

 


 

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Iraq

ACN helps kids go back to school 

John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted by Amanda Bridget-Griffin

RANIA and Ranin are inseparable. The twins, who have just turned 10, both enjoy school or at least they did until they were forced to flee their homes as Islamic State forces advanced. We met Rania and Ranin and their mother Thirka, in Ankawa, outside the Kurdish capital, Erbil, where they are sharing a tent with other families in the compound of St Joseph’s Chaldean Church. It was early October when we saw them and Thirka was anxious about the start of the school year, which the twins and their brother, Habib, a year older, had already missed.

It is for children such as Ranin, Rania and Habib that Aid to the Church in Need has committed 2.9 million for schooling projects. Under the scheme, eight schools will be built: four in Ankawa and another four in the Dohuk province in the far north of Kurdish northern Iraq.

On our very first day in northern Iraq, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil proudly took us to see the new porta-cabin Mar Yamana School (St. Mary’s School) being developed in Ankawa. The school will provide for 900 children, classes divided into morning and afternoon rotations of 450 each, and next door a clinic is being created, run by the Ankawa-based Holy Cross Sisters so any medical needs they have can quickly be dealt with. With 120,000 Christians now descended on Kurdistan, there are teachers and others in the education profession among their number willing and able to join the staff, their salaries met by the government.

Greeted with news of the schools, Rania and Ranin’s mother is immediately enthusiastic. “Thank you for offering your kind support,” she says. Thirka, who dresses in black, continues to grieve her husband, a policeman in Qaraqosh, killed five years ago attending the scene of a bomb blast. “I was just beginning to cope with life without my husband,” says Thirka, “but being forced to leave our homes has made life impossible. “To have no school for the children to go to is a disaster. If they are to have any hope for the future, school is an absolute necessity.”

Irak-3


Aid to the Church in Need announces 12 urgent aid packages for Iraq to help the thousands of displaced Iraqi Christians. They are to receive food, shelter, schooling and gifts for children in a concerted emergency relief program rushed through by aCatholic charity before the onset of winter. The 4 million Euros scheme announced by Aid to the Church in Need – one of the largest in the charity’s 67-year history – also includes pastoral support for priests and Sisters displaced by the crisis that has swept the country.