27.09.2016 in ACN International, ACN UK, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, AED Canada, Aide à l’Église en détresse., By Mario Bard, Chaldean Catholic, Communiqué, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Irak, Iraq, John Pontifex, Mgr Louis Sako, Moyen-Orient, Persecution of Christians, Refugees, Voyager avec l’AED



Is hope reborn?

Montreal/Surrey, September 27, 2016  – If the town of Mosul is taken back from the hands of Daesh (ISIS), the event might pave the way for Christians of Iraq to return home to the Nineveh Plains, to their ancestral home.  It is at least the hope of the leading bishops and other lay organizers in the local Church who wish to establish an agreement with the Iraqi government on the subject.

Mgr Louis Sako 1er, Patriarche chaldéen de Bagdad. Selon lui, « fournir une protection légale » est essentielle pour les chrétiens qui reviendraient à Mossoul.

Msgr Louis Sako Chaldean Patriarch of  Baghdad. 

A delegation led by Aid to the Church in Need arrived in early September to the North of Iraqi Kurdistan – where half of the country’s 250,000 Christians live in present day Iraq.  The delegation met with many people displaced from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains who had fled the Islamic State in August 2014.

Along with providing emergency help, the delegation found that the local Church is in the process of developing proposals which will enable Christians to return to their towns and villages which were previously taken from them.

The delegation had the opportunity to speak with Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Msgr Louis Raphael I Sako, the spiritual leader of the largest Christian community in Iraq.  According to him, it is essential that, in the case of the now imminent liberation of Mosul – Christians may return to their village where at one time, they made up a strong minority.

“Freeing Mosul and Nineveh from ISIS might be a glimmer of hope for native residents to return home with the condition of providing legal protection for them, and also granting them the necessary time to rebuild trust with their neighbours.

“Otherwise, the “hemorrhage” outflow of migration [of Christians] will continue, even from safe areas, which is a very serious sign,” said the Patriarch.

The Christian population of Iraq numbered over one million inhabitants prior to the fall of Iraq’s former president, Saddam Hussein.


A real sense of hope returning

“I sensed much more hope among Church leaders and faithful than I did on my visit last year,” declared Neville Kirke-Smith, director of the UK office of Aid to the Church in Need and member of the delegation which brought with them aid for at least 100,000 people. “It is clear that the Church is making a strong case to reclaim its place in a region where – until 2014 – there had been an unbroken Christian presence stretching back almost to the start of Christianity.”
“This is indeed really good news reported to us by our colleagues!” said Marie-Claude Lalonde, national director of the Canadian office of the international organization. « To be frank, I was beginning to lose hope, especially because few government bodies around the world are prepared to recognize the tragedy underway in Iraq where Christians are living.  Massive waves of immigration are progressively emptying the country of an inestimable inheritance, and Christianity is in danger of losing the first Christian community in its history.  Aid to the Church in Need will stand by the Church in Iraq as long as they will need us to help them rebuild. ““This is a commitment that we made long ago. Hopefully, more Canadians will help us achieve this goal that we have to strengthen the Church in Iraq. “

” The delegation also went to Alqosh,” reported Mrs Lalonde.

“Our colleagues had the opportunity to visit this ancient which is completely Christian and situated about 10 minutes from the front with ISIS.  The people have displayed their determination to stay where they are and to save their village and the Church.”

Une dame déplacées âgées de 89 ans.

An 89 year old woman.

For his part, Mr. Kyrke-Smith had the opportunity to meet Msgr. Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Bishop of Erbil.  Msgr Warda has partnered with Aid to the Church in Need to help distribute emergency aid.  “For nearly 2,000 years we Christians have been present on the Nineveh Plains and to return we need international protection,” he said.

According to the bishop, “The Iraqi army needs to be a united force and the Peshmerga [Kurdish military] will help, with outside support. Military action as reconciliation work needs to be done. As Christians we have no involvement in violence – we have suffered – so we can help rebuild.”

Des dames déplacées au camp d'Ankawa, dans la région d'Erbil.

Women displaced to a refugee camp in Ankawa, in the Erbil area.


Since August 2014, Aid to the Church in Need has supported 100,000 Christians displaced by the advances of the Islamic State.  Over 9 million dollars were given in emergency aid and for the construction of infrastructure for schools so that the children will not be a generation lost to war.  The Catholic organization also provided support for the spiritual lives of the population – by helping priests, Sisters, supporting the training of seminarians and the construction of a chapel in the refugee camp.


By Mario Bard and John Pontifex,
Aid to the Church in Need Canada/ ACN international

Translation and adaptation, Amanda Bridget Griffin ACN Canada


ACN Interview – Aleppo: the dark city

12.08.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, ACN UK, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Middle East, Moyen-Orient, Syria, Syrie

ACN Interview

Aleppo: the dark city

Father Ziad Hilal, a Jesuit priest who has been helping the victims of the war in Syria for a very long time now, once in Homs and now in Aleppo, recently spoke with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.


What was the situation like in Aleppo?

Father Ziad Hilal: '' It is the same situation, our country is divided now. I think the only way is dialogue between Syrian and Syrian, because of the issues of the day, because with weapons – we could not find a resolution. We have to stop the weapons and work for peace. This is the most important thing for us as Syrians.”

Father Ziad Hilal: ” It is the same situation, our country is divided now. I think the only way is dialogue between Syrian and Syrian, because of the issues of the day, because with weapons – we could not find a resolution. We have to stop the weapons and work for peace. This is the most important thing for us as Syrians.”

“It is a sad situation for everybody because of the fighting. I couldn’t sleep well there because all the night we heard the bombardment and the fighting between the groups.”

“When I was there, there was electricity for maybe one hour, two hours, a day – but not every day either. Then it is a dark city, if you want, without electricity but the people use the generators, but not all the time they give them electricity for a few hours. But from midnight until morning it is black – a dark city – nothing happens.”

“Without electricity we couldn’t have warmth and a lot of people couldn’t go to their job also – and the city, it’s divided between two sides. Between the opposition and the government, then people couldn’t move from one side to the other side. And you can imagine every family can be divided between the two sides of the cities. And a lot of people couldn’t go from here to there, from there to here, to get to their jobs – and so they lost their jobs, they lost their houses.”


Are there any signs of hope?

“On one side things are dark, things are sad. On the other hand, we see the activities of the Church there and people, especially the Christian associations. These provide a sign of hope.”

“We have many services there with Aid to the Church in Need, with JRS, and the bishops to help the Christians to stay in their land – and also to help the Muslim people.”


What is exactly the action of the Church? 


“We have a big kitchen, this kitchen was sponsored by ACN and other associations, and a lot of people who come – we give about 7,500 meals every day. It is a lot – the team is a Muslim and Christian team, and a lot of the people who benefit from these meals are Muslims.”


He added that at the Missionaries of Mary, where the kitchen is based, are helping women – including Muslim women to sew handbags and other items to sell to make a living.

“The problem is Syria is not between Christians and Muslims – but I am giving you an example how our church works for reconciliation.”


Can you give us an example of how families are suffering?

“There are many poor families without work. I met a Catholic family where three children are working in a restaurant, one is 7 or 8 years old, the other one is 10 years old and the third one, he is 14 years old. Their father has died, we don’t know how, and their mother is also working. And the boss of the restaurant told me – you see these three children are working and I couldn’t tell them no it is summer now because they are helping their mother. I was choked.”


Aleppo, July 2016

Aleppo, July 2016

What is the situation like in Aleppo now that the rebels have driven further in to the city?

“I don’t know. What I can say? It is chaos now – and not only in Aleppo but throughout Syria.  Fighting is everywhere.  We speak a lot about Aleppo, but we also forget the other cities. It is the same situation, our country is divided now. I think the only way is dialogue between Syrian and Syrian, because of the issues of the day, because with weapons – we could not find a resolution. We have to stop the weapons and work for peace. This is the most important thing for us as Syrians.”


Do you think there will be peace?

“It is important now to say what Pope Francis said a few days ago – ‘I encourage everyone – young and old people – to live with enthusiasm in this year of mercy, to overcome indifference, and firstly proclaim peace in Syria is possible. Peace in Syria is possible.’ This is our cry today, that peace in Syria is possible, this is the only hope for us.”




What is your prayer for Syria?

“My prayer today is to ask God to give us peace and consolation. What the people in Syria and especially in Aleppo need is security and mercy to continue  with their lives, because it is a hard situation. God makes us understand that the only way is reconciliation between each other, as Syrian to Syrian, to stop the war and start a new life in peace”

Aid to the Church in Need continues to help in Syria the catholic communities that provides support
to the displaced and refugees.

Thanks to you.


Emergency help in Syria, January 2016.

Emergency help in Syria, January 2016.



By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada


Feature story : “We identify more with Good Friday than with Easter”

24.03.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN Feature, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, AED Canada, Aide à l’Église en détresse., By Oliver Maksan, By Oliver Maksan, Feature Story, Holy Land, Israel, Jerusalem, Journey with ACN, Mario Bard, Middle East, Moyen-Orient, Uncategorized, Voyager avec l’AED

Jerusalem, the Holy Land

“We identify more with Good Friday than with Easter”

Holy Week has begun in Jerusalem with the big Palm Sunday procession – but the political situation has left its mark   


Jerusalem belongs to the Christians on Palm Sunday. Bearing palm fronds and olive branches, thousands of locals and visitors from all over the world make their way singing and praying down the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem to receive the blessing of the Latin Patriarch.


Much to the annoyance of motorists, Israeli police close off the streets to traffic so that the kilometres long procession can pass through unhindered. Long after the Palm Sunday procession has ended, the celebrations continue in and close to the Christian quarter of the Old City. Even the tram has to temporarily discontinue operations when the Christian scout groups parade with their bagpipes. With these celebrations Palestinian Christians – only a small minority in both Israel and Palestine – not only want to commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, but also show Jews and Muslims: We are still here – even though we only make up two percent of the population in Israel, and even less in Palestine.


This year however, the joy was subdued. The wave of violence that has shaken the Holy Land since last autumn has left its mark. Since fewer foreign pilgrims are traveling to the Holy Land because of the current situation, the procession was much smaller than usual. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a representative of the Israeli police estimated that the procession, which had 30,000 participants last year, was probably only half as large this year. Most importantly, however: Christians from the West Bank were missing.


Bishop Fouad Twal leads the procession on Palms Sunday 2016.

Bishop Fouad Twal leads the procession on Palms Sunday 2016.

“The people are afraid to come to Jerusalem”


“Last year we arrived from Bethlehem in seven buses. This year there were only three,” explained Johnny, a Catholic from the birthplace of Christ. He said that in contrast to previous years, no Christians came from West Bank cities such as Nablus or Jenin. The reason, he explained, was that Israeli authorities only started issuing entry permits to Jerusalem very late this year. “We only found out on Friday whether we would be able to go on Sunday. For many this was just too short notice,” he told the pastoral charity.


However, Johnny then said, what the real reason was: “The people are afraid to come to Jerusalem. They fear that something could happen to them. We constantly hear about Palestinians being shot here.”


In fact, since autumn more than 180 Palestinians have died in clashes with Israeli security forces in the Holy Land. However, many of them were killed because they attacked Israelis, including civilians. The attacks were carried out with knives, scissors or guns. More than 30 Jews were killed in this way. Israelis speak of victims of terrorism when referring to their dead and insist on their right to self-defence. Most Palestinians consider their dead to be resistance fighters who were executed by Israelis without sentencing. These viewpoints are irreconcilable. And thus hatred and distrust continue to grow on both sides.


“The church is opposed to any form of violence, be it from Palestinians or from Israeli soldiers. After all, the fact that they are wearing a uniform does not justify everything they do. However, at the same time we are for justice. It is simply not enough to say: No more violence. As long as there is injustice, there will be no peace,” Jamal Khader, said the rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Beit Jalla, a neighbouring town of Bethlehem.


Jerusalem has to be an open city. It belongs to everyone…


In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, he was not surprised to hear about the drop in the number of visitors to the Palm Sunday procession this year. “I can understand that Palestinian Christians do not feel like coming to Jerusalem – and that despite the fact that it is Easter and we traditionally celebrate it in Jerusalem.” The priest said that it all started in the late nineties with the checkpoints. “The people often had to wait for hours. Then came the

The city of Jerusalem.

The city of Jerusalem.

wall and the permits. I used to come to Jerusalem for an ice cream. Today, I avoid coming here whenever I can. I do not want to have to pass through the checkpoints. And many feel the same.”


Father Jamal believes that Israel wants to discourage Palestinians from visiting Jerusalem. “Not everyone is issued an entry permit for the high feast days. Sometimes only the parents receive a permit and not the children. Then everyone stays home of course. Sometimes they are all issued a permit, but are then turned back again for some reason. This can’t be. Jerusalem has to be an open city. It belongs to everyone, Jews, Christians, Muslims. It can never be an exclusive city. Because then there will never be peace.”


Father Khader said that the political situation also influences how Palestinian Christians celebrate Easter. “We Christians of Palestine identify more with Good Friday than with Easter. We as Palestinians can closely relate to the sufferings of Christ. When we see Christ suffering, we see our suffering. The Gospels of the Passion not only tell the story of Jesus, but also our own. That does not mean that we do not believe in resurrection and the hope that goes along with this. But we are not that far yet.”


Interview by Oliver Maksan
Adaptation: Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada.