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Persecution of Christians

 

ACN News: Egypt, Situation of Christians seeing improvement

02.12.2019 in egypt, Persecution of Christians

Egypt

 

Situation of Christians seeing improvement

by Fionn Shiner, ACN International,
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted online, December 2, 2019

 

After decades of persecution ‘things are getting better’ for Egypt’s Christians. Despite the ongoing threat of extremist attacks in Egypt, the situation is improving for the country’s Christians according to Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut, who expressed his hopes to Aid to the Church in Need for Egypt’s Christians.

 

“We thank God that the situation is getting better. The president [el-Sisi] has goodwill towards the Christians. He is a president for all Egyptians,” said the bishop. But the threat of extremist attacks continues, with Islamists wanting to make Christians fearful of losing their place in Egyptian society.

“Attacks happen from time-to-time perpetrated by Islamists. The goal is not only to attack Christians but also the Egyptian government,“ he emphasized. “They want to say to Christians, ‘the government cannot protect you. You should leave Egypt.’”

“They [the extremists] would like to establish an Islamic State but in Egypt it will never materialize. Egyptians are close – Christians and Muslims are too united for the extremists to cause problems.”

 

Building churches more accessible, but abductions still happening

 

“There has been a mentality since 1952 that treats Christians as second-class citizens. Now, some change has happened and things are getting better,” added the bishop. “Building Churches is easier than before. We don’t have to wait years to get a church built.”

 

According to Bishop William, this is a marked change – for more than 160 years, Christians had to get permission from Egypt’s head of state for new church buildings.

 

Coptic Christian girls are still abducted with some reports suggesting the police facilitate the kidnappings. “In areas where the Islamic organizations are strong they are happening but in our area it is not much of a problem.”

 

World Watch Monitor interviewed a former member of an Islamist network who actively targeted Coptic girls before he left Islam. The kidnapper said: “A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims. They keep a close eye on Christian houses and monitor everything that’s going on. “On that basis, they weave a spider’s web around the girls.”

 

Thank you to ACN!

Bishop William expressed gratitude for ACN and its benefactors, which provides Mass Offerings, training of seminarians, church restoration, and more to Egypt.

 

“We appreciate very much what ACN is doing in many countries to keep Christians in their homelands,” said Bishop Kyrillos. “We thank all benefactors for their help and donations to ACN so we can realize our dream of keeping Christians in the Middle East.”

ACN Feature Story – The kidnappings of under-age Christian girls in Pakistan

25.11.2019 in ACN Canada, Asia, Pakistan, Persecution of Christians, Violence against Women and Girls

 

Pakistan

Two kidnappings of under-age Christian girls

 

by Tabassum Yousef, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada

 

Samra Munir was 13 when she was kidnapped.

This is the story of Samra Munir (13 years) and Neha Pervaiz (14 years). Both Catholic girls were kidnapped from their homes by Muslims. Samra was forced to marry and convert to Islam; her family has not seen her since her abduction. Nehah got away from her captor, though she suffered sexual assault. These are but two examples of kidnapping of under-age Christian girls in Pakistan and the practice of forced marriage and conversion to Islam. The number of such incidents is sharply on the rise.

Samra loves her family and understands that she must help them; she enjoys cooking and assisting with household chores. She has only completed three years of primary school; the family lives on daily wages and her parents cannot afford school fees.

On September 16, 2019, Samra was abducted.  She was home alone. Her parents were at work and her siblings were at the market. It was then that she was kidnapped; she was forcibly thrown into a car and taken away. Samra’s brother Shahzad saw the car drive away. He ran after it but could not keep up. Samra’s parents repeatedly reported the kidnapping, but local police insisted that she was not taken. Police said she ran away from home. Her parents were even told not to create a scene.

 

Forced into marriage: the authorities do nothing

Some time passed before the family received any news.  They learned that Samra had married and converted to Islam. Her marriage certificate listed her age as 19. The police ordered her parents not to come again and also threatened that their other daughter, Arooj, would suffer a similar fate.

Still, the family persisted. They took out a 40,000 rupee loan (about $260) so they’d have money to give to officers each time they went to the police station, in the hope that the money would prompt the police to act; they sold their sewing machine and phones, too. Every dollar they made went toward the search for Samra, but nothing has come of their efforts so far. Arooj said: “My life is not easy. We miss Samra; we don’t eat or sleep properly. I don’t go to school because we can’t afford the fees. Still, I know that God hasn’t forsaken us. Jesus is with me. I carry a Rosary with me at all times, and I pray that Mother Mary continues to protect us.

This area isn’t safe for us. My Muslim friends treat me well, but their mothers don’t like me. They think that I’m impure; I can only use certain plates and glasses. I love my country, but I want to live where we are all respected. I humbly ask that world leaders work on behalf of our safety and peace. People forget to be kind.”

 

Neha Pervaiz was held for seven days 

Neha Pervaiz (14), Catholic girl, was kidnapped from her home by Muslims. She got away from her captor and she suffered sexual assault.

And now, here is the story of Neha Pervaiz.  Contrary to Samra, she was able to tell her own story because she was able to escape the claws of her abductors.  Here is what she said to the Aid to the Church in Need:

“ In many ways, I am a normal girl. I love to draw, sketch, and race; I love to play with my best friend Madiha and my three younger siblings. But I am also Christian, and I have suffered greatly for it.

“My aunt, whose children I’ve cared for and bathed, allowed my rape and abduction. While in her home, my brother and I were locked in separate rooms and beaten. A man named Imran raped me and forced me to recite the Koran; I initially refused, but they beat my brother harder because of it. I relented to keep him safe.

“God protected me and I escaped. I proudly carry the cross wherever I go.”

 

“Then, for seven days, I was held captive in Imran’s home, until one of his daughters spared me. One of my aunt’s children took me in and managed to keep me hidden. She lent me a burka and 500 rupees (about $3.50) so I could safely return to my family. But my parents did not believe me when I told them what had happened.

“I now live under the protection of the Church. But I am not safe. I cannot go anywhere alone, for I might be attacked again, and I cannot worship freely. I have no security or legal protection. Still, I do not want to leave my country. This is my home. I want to study law so I can protect other girls from similar crimes. I also hope that world leaders support legislation that ensures the safety of women and prevents forced conversion and marriage. “God protected me and I escaped. I proudly carry the cross wherever I go.”

 

Aid to the Church in Need publishes a report every second year called Persecuted and Forgotten?  Which reveals the situation of religious persecution around the world of which Christians are often victims of.  The PDF version may be accessed through the following link: https://acn-canada.org/persecuted-and-forgotten/

 

 

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

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

Press Release  – For Immediate Release

 

#RedWednesday, November 20, 2019

Stones and Prayers

A show of solidarity with persecuted Christians!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

A Great International Movement

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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


 

ACN PRESS: Red Wednesday – 2019 A Second Edition in Canada

24.10.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, Persecution of Christians, RED WEDNESDAY

Red Wednesday 2019

A Second Edition in Canada
Will you participate?

 

Montréal, October 23, 2019 – As the results of the latest Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International Report on the persecution of Christians 2017-19 are coming out around the world today, the Canadian announces that the 2nd edition of Red Wednesday, an event to raise awareness and educate about the persecution of Christians around the world and the importance of religious freedom, will be held on Wednesday, November 20. Red Wednesday is also a moment to demonstrate in solidarity with persecuted Christians.

As was done last year, a Mass will be celebrated at 7:30 pm at the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montréal, while an ecumenical prayer vigil will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, also scheduled for 7:30 pm. Both events will be presided over by the archbishops of these two dioceses, Msgr. Christian Lépine and Cardinal Thomas Collins, respectively.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada, is delighted by the attention given to the event this year by the Chancellor of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal, Mr. Guy Guindon, Sulpician. “The historic building of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal will be lit up in red and the seminarians will hold a vigil on Thursday, November 21, at the historic chapel,” she said before adding: “We are also waiting for news from the Diocese of Calgary. Last year, more than 50 activities were organized there.” The Red Wednesday tradition began in the United Kingdom a few years ago and has been taken up by several national ACN offices around the world, including France, Italy and the Philippines.

Those interested in recognizing this day can now visit the micropage created by the Canadian office at acn-canada.org/red-wednesday/. Whether preparing a time of prayer in a parish, a Mass, or by illuminating any emblematic building in their part of the country – church, diocesan centre, cathedral, basilica, etc. – they are invited to join us so that we can spread the word of this gesture of solidarity to all Canadians. At 1 (800)585-6333 or by email at info@acn-canada.org.

Iraq: 90% less than in 2003 

Furthermore, ACN announces the release of its new report devoted exclusively to the persecution of Christians around the world. Among the major issues addressed in this report, including the situation in Nigeria and that in south and southeast Asia, that of the Christian communities in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, is simply alarming.

A map showing the countries overview in the new Report Persecuted and Forgotten 2017-19, availalble next week in PDF Format on the web site of Aid to the Church in Need Canada. (© ACN)

“They are more than ever in danger of disappearing,” said Marie-Claude Lalonde. In 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians. “In little more than a generation, their numbers have tragically decreased by 90% to 150,000! Unfortunately, we believe that the international community has failed to take concrete action on the very strong concerns it expressed in 2016 when some governments recognized the genocide of Christians by the Islamic State group (Daesh/ISIS). According to our partners in the field, if these terrorists were to come back in force and reattack the Nineveh Plain, an ancestral site of Iraqi Christians, it would practically be the death of Christianity in Iraq, even though it is more than 1,900 years old! “Mrs. Lalonde said sadly.

 

 

The full findings of the report will be available in PDF format on the Canadian office’s website the week of October 28th.


For more information on Red Wednesday and Aid to the Church in Need, visit the website: acn-canada.org/red-Wednesday.

ACN Feature Story – Celebrating the restoration of a church in Syria

11.10.2019 in Peace, Persecution of Christians, Reconstruction, Syria

Syria

Celebrating the inauguration of the newly restored church of Haret Saraya, destroyed by jihadists in 2012

by Marta Garcia, for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

Marmarita/Königstein. —Evening is falling in the Valley of the Christians. From its high vantage point the Crusader fortress, the Crac des Chevaliers, built in the 11th-12th century, looks down impassively on the arriving visitors. Today is a day of festival in the church of Haret Saraya in the village of Al-Husn. The band of trumpeters and drummers plays on unceasingly.

The church, which is dedicated to Our Blessed Lady, looks resplendent with its freshly painted white walls and brightly coloured iconostasis. “They’ve rebuilt it just as it was before,” says local Archbishop Nikolas Sawaf, the Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Latakia.

In 2012 this church was ransacked and burned by the jihadists, who dominated the valley from their position overlooking the village in the historic Crusader fortress the Crac des Chevaliers, built by the Knights Hospitaller. They tore down the cross, profaned the holy icons and smashed and disfigured the statues. Nor did they spare the parish premises or the presbytery, even ripping the electric wiring from the walls of the house.

But seven years later—exactly on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross—the day becomes a feast for the faithful and the little church is packed with people during the re-dedication ceremony. Both Catholic and Orthodox priests from the region are present for the occasion. It is a scene of great joy. Outside in the courtyard, in front of a rejoicing crowd, the Orthodox choir of Our Lady of Al Wadi sings hymns of hope, peace and forgiveness, at the same time remembering those who disappeared, were killed or exiled by the war and calling on the Christians to stand fast and remain on their lands.

“Now that the church has been renewed, it is time for us to renew the living stones, our own hearts,” urges Father Andrzej Halemba to the faithful during the celebration. The head of the project section for the countries of the Middle East of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) says: “Our hearts have been broken by the violence, divided and unsettled by the events in our lives. Now is the time to renew them with the love of Christ. Let us pray for peace in Syria.”

ACN helped not only for the renovation of the church of Haret Saraya, but also for the repairs to the parish buildings and the presbytery. And at the same time it was possible to add on additional guest rooms and small business outlets in the village, so close to the historic tourist attraction of the Crac des Chevaliers, which will soon be welcoming visiting tourists once again. In this way it has been possible to some extent to help guarantee a longer term future for the Christian legacy here, where it has such ancient roots.

“ACN is like Simon of Cyrene for us, supporting us and helping us to carry our cross,” said Archbishop Sawaf, at the end of this day of celebration.

 

The projects for the rebuilding of the Christian structures in the village of Al-Husn were supported by ACN with grants totalling over $255,000. They are part of a broader program by the charity, for the reconstruction of the Christian infrastructure affected by the war in the various dioceses of Syria.

ACN NEWS: Pope Francis Calls on Catholics to Pray for Syrian Families

16.08.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians, Syria

POPE FRANCIS AND ACN – AN ACN EVENT SUPPORTING SYRIANS

Pope Francis calls on Catholics to pray for Syrian families

By Amanda Griffin and Maria Lozano, ACN International
Published on the web, Friday August 16, 2019

Rome/Montreal, Thursday August 15, 2019 – This Thursday, August 15th, Pope Francis welcomed a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and blessed 6,000 Rosaries which will be offered to the families of the war victims in Syria.

Committed to helping the suffering Christians in Syria ACN has, since 2011, supported approximately 850 projects with a budget of 52.5 million dollars. But it is clear that money is simply not enough. Spiritual support is necessary to heal the wounds and scars left by a long war.

“The Rosaries, made on the initiative of ACN, shall be a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria, especially those who have lost a loved one. We continue to pray the Rosary for peace in the Middle East and in the whole world.” The words of Pope Francis came during the Angelus prayers at the Vatican audience with the pontiff attended by ACN President, Thomas Heine-Geldern, as Pope Francis’ personal commitment to praying for peace in solidarity with the Syrian people.

 

Consoling my people – September 15th

Considering the profound need for Christians, and indeed for the whole of Syrian society, for solidarity, consolation as well for forgiveness, reconciliation and purification of memory at both the personal and communal levels –the benediction of the Rosaries will be followed-up with a special celebration of prayers for peace in Syria, on Sunday, September 15, led by the Holy Father (In Rome).  The local Christian leaders with the support of the international pontifical charity are organizing a celebration in Syria on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.  Prayers for the families of victims of war (killed and kidnapped alike). Pope Francis will bless the icon of “Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians” written by a Greek-Orthodox priest in Homs.

On the same date many celebrations will unfold in all Syrian parishes where pastoral gifts will be given to families in mourning, with a special Vespers and a Procession titled: Console my people (cf. Is 40:1). With the Console my people celebration, ACN hopes to provide a much needed spiritual consolation and moral support to Syrian families and communities recovering from profound losses of members who were killed or kidnapped, to console families who mourn the loss of their dearest ones and commemorate the victims of war.

 

ACN Drop of Milk campaign for the children of Homs

Aid to the Church in Need Canada has launched a campaign to help the children in the city of Homs, Syria. The goal is to give milk daily to children of 0 to 10 years old, for a period of six months.  The objective is to raise 378,000 dollars.

Information: DropofMilk2019 or 1-800-585-6333.

 

 

ACN News : Boko Haram strikes with new terror tactic using women in Cameroon

08.08.2019 in Cameroon, Persecution of Christians

Cameroon

Boko Haram strikes with new terror tactic using women

On the night of July 29, members of the Boko Haram terrorist group attacked the town of Gagalari in the diocese of Yagoua located in the far north region of Cameroon.

By Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Published on the web, Thursday August 8, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

According to information received August 1, 2019 from local sources of Aid to the Church in Need in the African country of Cameroon, the terrorist organization seems to have changed strategies, but in no way has it diminished its devastating level of violence meant to terrorize.  The amputation of an ear is a way of pressuring and terrifying the citizens of the area who, according to the terrorists, “listen to the government and the voices of those who do not follow the extremist ideology of Boko Haram.”

“Only the women”

“They arrived during the night, entered the houses one by one and kidnapped the women. Only the women. They took them to the outskirts and amputated one ear off each of the victims. Then they released them threatening them and telling them that they would return. That this is the first line intervention, but others will follow. It is terrifying,” said the source who will remain anonymous to ensure their safety.

The source went on to explain that for security reasons, the men do not sleep inside the houses and a Vigilance Committee has even been formed. “But it was no use in this repulsive surprise attack. The women were dragged out of their homes before their children’s eyes.”

Later, the victims were found and picked up by the army who then transferred the wounded 260 kilometers away where they could receive medical assistance.

The people, especially the women and children, have experienced significant trauma and are terrified. “But what are they going to do? They are simple and very poor people who live on agriculture and right now, in the rainy season, they are waiting for the harvest. Where are they going to go? “

The small town of Gagalari is 120 kilometers from the nearest parish. Let us pray for these poor women and their people: the victims, the families, the local Church and the persecutors.

ACN Interview: ISIS invasion of Iraq, five years on

06.08.2019 in ACN, Iraq, Middle East, Peace, Persecution of Christians

The final struggle:

What remains of Christianity in Iraq five years after the ISIS invasion?

On August 6, 2014, IS (Islamic State) units razed and conquered the Christian settlements of the Nineveh Plain, north of Mosul. Some 120,000 Christians had to flee overnight. Many of them found refuge around the Kurdish city of Erbil. For the following three years, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Msgr. Bashar Matti Warda, was one of the pillars in the maintenance and support of the community. In October 2016, Iraqi forces and their allies were able to recover the territories and tens of thousands of displaced Christians returned to the ruins of their home cities. Others decided to stay in Erbil or emigrate out of the country. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) together with the local churches provides significant support to the reconstruction effort.

 

Five years after the invasion of the Nineveh Plains, ACN interviews Msgr. Bashar Matti Warda – an eye-witness of all these events – about the consequences for Christians in Iraq, as well as for the entire Middle East and Western countries.

The interview was conducted by Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web, August 6, 2019

 


It has been five years of Calvary. Looking back what lesson have you learned?
When a people have nothing left to lose, in some sense it is very liberating, and from this position of clarity and new-found courage I can speak on behalf of my people and tell you the truth. But I would like to remark that we are a people who have endured persecution in patience and faith for 1,400 years confronting an existential struggle, our final struggle in Iraq. The most immediate cause is the ISIS attack that led to the displacement of more than 125,000 Christians from historical homelands and rendered us, in a single night, without shelter and refuge, without work or properties, without churches and monasteries, without the ability to participate in any of the normal things of life that give dignity; family visits, celebration of weddings and births, sharing of sorrows. Our tormentors confiscated our present while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future. This was an exceptional situation, but not an isolated one. It was part of the recurring cycle of violence in the Middle East over 1,400 years.

So in fact, the ISIS invasion was just the “tip of the iceberg”?

With each successive cycle the number of Christians falls away and today we are at the point of extinction. Argue as you will, but extinction is coming, and then what will anyone say? That we were made extinct by natural disaster, or gentle migration? That the ISIS attacks were unexpected, and we were taken by surprise?  –That is what the media will say. Or will the truth emerge after our disappearance: that we were persistently and steadily eliminated over the course of 1,400 years by a belief system which allowed for regular and recurring cycles of violence against us – like the Ottoman genocide of 1916-1922.

But during these 1,400 years of Christian oppression, were there periods of Muslim tolerance as an alternative to violence and persecution?

One cannot deny the existence of times of relative tolerance. Under al Rashid, the House of Wisdom, the great library, was founded in Baghdad. There was a time of relative prosperity while Christian and Jewish scholarship was valued, and a flowering of science, mathematics and medicine was made possible by Nestorian Christian scholars who translated Greek texts, already ancient in the ninth century. Our Christian ancestors shared with Muslim Arabs a deep tradition of thought and philosophy and engaged with them in respectful dialogue from the 8th century onwards. The Arab Golden Age, as historian Philip Jenkins has noted, was built on Chaldean and Syriac scholarship. Christian scholarship. The imposition of Shari’a law saw the decline of great learning, and the end of the “Golden Age” of Arab culture. A style of scholastic dialogue had developed, and which could only occur, because a succession of caliphs tolerated minorities. As toleration ended, so did the culture and wealth which flowed from it.

 

final-struggle-camp

So, would you say that peaceful coexistence is possible and tolerance is the key to the development of peoples?

Exactly. But these moments of toleration have been a one-way experience: Islamic rulers decide, according to their own judgment and whim, whether Christians and other non-Muslims are to be tolerated and to what degree. It is not, and has never, ever, been a question of equality.  Fundamentally, in the eyes of Islam, Christians are not equal. We are not to be treated as equal; we are only to be tolerated or not tolerated, depending upon the intensity of the prevailing Jihadi spirit.  Yes; the root of all of this is the teachings of Jihad, the justification for acts of violence.

Iraqi Christians are going back to their villages again. Is the situation improving? How is life for Christians and other minorities?

There are still extremist groups, growing in number, asserting that killing Christians and Yazidis helps spread Islam. By strictly adhering to Koranic teaching they prescribe Dhimmi status (second class citizenship) to minorities, allowing confiscation of property and enforcement of jizya Islamic tax. But it is not just this. If you were a Christian in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East, you would never accept for one moment the shadow under which we Iraqis live – and under which we have lived for centuries. By my country’s constitution we are lesser citizens, we live at the discretion of our self-appointed superiors. Our humanity gives us no rights.

In Western countries you stand equal under the law. This basic principle of European and American life is a foundation of Christian civic order, in which we are all children under a loving God, created in His image and likeness, which gives us all dignity, and urges on us mutual respect. Civic security grows out of a worldview that values every individual human not for their position or role, but simply because they are human. This view has been the great gift of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Rebuilding civil society means rebuilding it for everybody. Everyone has a place, and everyone has a chance to thrive.

The truth is, there is a foundational crisis within Islam itself, and if this crisis is not acknowledged, addressed and fixed then there can be no future for civil society in the Middle East, or indeed anywhere where Islam brings itself to bare upon a host nation.

 

Some voices said that the brutality and the violence of ISIS have changed the Islamic world, too. What do you think?

Clearly, ISIS shocked the conscience of the world, and has shocked the conscience of the Islamic-majority world as well. The question now is whether or not Islam will continue on a political trajectory, in which Shari’a is the basis for civil law and nearly every aspect of life is circumscribed by religion, or whether a more civil, tolerant movement will develop.

The defeat of Daesh has not seen the defeat of the idea of the re-establishment of the Caliphate. This has re-awoken and is now firmly implanted in minds throughout the Muslim world.  And with this idea of the Caliphate there comes all the formal historical structures of intentional inequality and discrimination against non-Muslims. I speak here not only of Iraq. We see leaders in other countries in the Middle East who are clearly acting in a way consistent with the re-establishment of the Caliphate.

How do you think that the West will react to this?

This is a crucial question and the religious minorities of the Middle East want to know the answer. Will you continue to condone this never-ending, organized persecution against us? When the next wave of violence begins to hit us, will anyone on your campuses hold demonstrations and carry signs that say, “we are all Christians”? And yes I do say, the “next wave of violence”, for this is simply the natural result of a ruling system that preaches inequality, and justifies persecution. The equation is not complicated.  One group is taught that they are superior and legally entitled to treat others as inferior human beings on the sole basis of their faith and religious practices. This teaching inevitably leads to violence against any “inferiors” who refuse to change their faith. And there you have it – the history of Christians in the Middle East for the last 1,400 years.

But what would the solution be? How are we to build a better future?

This change must come about as the conscious work of the Muslim world itself. We see the small beginnings, perhaps, of this recognition in Egypt, in Jordan, in Asia, even in Saudi Arabia. Certainly much remains to be seen as to whether there is actual sincerity in this.

 

Does Christianity in Middle East have a prophetic mission?

Mine is a missionary role: to give daily witness to the teachings of Christ, to show the truth of Christ and to provide a living example to our Muslim neighbours of a path to a world of forgiveness, of humility, of love, of peace. Lest there be any confusion here I am not speaking of conversion. Rather, I am speaking of the fundamental truth of forgiveness which we Christians of Iraq can share, and share from a position of historically unique moral clarity. We forgive those who murdered us, who tortured us, who raped us, who sought to destroy everything about us. We forgive them. In the name of Christ, we forgive them. And so we say to our Muslim neighbours, learn this from us. Let us help you heal. Your wounds are as deep as ours. We know this. We pray for your healing.  Let us heal our wounded and tortured country together.

And what about our Western secular society, according to your opinion, what would our task be?

We ask that you consider our situation truthfully, as it actually exists, and not in stretched attempts at historical relativism, which diminishes, or more honestly, insults, the reality of our suffering, and thereby robs us even of the dignity of our continued faith. The heart of the struggle is to understand the nature of the battle. You will have to ask yourselves, how long can a moderate and decent society survive without the influence of Christian institutions? How long can the tradition exist after the faith has died?  What will flow into the vacuum?  The role Christian communities play, or have played, in Islamic societies has been overlooked. It is an important part of the formation of civil society in most of the world. It needs highlighting because the situation in Iraq has been woefully misread by Western decision makers. There is no reason to believe they will not misread the same signs and portents in their own countries. You think you are a long way from the chaos of Iraq? Let me assure you; it is only six hours away.

Speaking about decision makers, what would be the role of politicians?

We ask them to support efforts to ensure equal treatment for all minorities in Iraq and elsewhere. We pray that policy makers can find in themselves the humility to recognize that their theories, which over the past decades have become our horrific reality, have been almost universally wrong, based on fundamentally flawed assessments of the Iraqi people and situation. And in these mistaken policies, designed in comfort and safety from afar, argued over in the media as partisan intellectual talking points, hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died.  An entire country has been ripped apart and left to the jackals. This horror all began with policy, and we beg those of you who continue to have access in shaping policy for your country, to daily remember that your policy assessments and those of your allies have life or death consequences. Please, walk humbly and make sure that you truly understand the people on whom you are passing sentence. Understanding what has happened in Iraq means being truthful about the nature and purpose of Christian civil order. It means being truthful about the nature and purpose of the laws of Islam. It means being truthful about what happens when these two come together in one place. I appreciate that this is an uncomfortable subject to discuss in the comfort of a peaceful country. But for Iraqi Christians this is no abstract matter.

 

final-struggle-bishop

 

The most painful question: Are we facing the end of Christianity in Iraq?

It could be. We acknowledge this. Christianity in Iraq, one of the oldest Churches, is perilously close to extinction. In the years prior to 2003, we numbered as many as one-and-a-half million: six percent of Iraq’s population. Today, there are perhaps as few as 250,000 of us left.  Maybe less. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom.

In the end, the entire world faces a moment of truth. Will a peaceful and innocent people be allowed to be persecuted and eliminated because of their faith? And, for the sake of not wanting to speak the truth to the persecutors, will the world be complicit in our elimination? The world should understand, in our path to extinction we will not go quietly any further. From this point we will speak the truth, and live out the truth, in full embrace of our Christian witness and mission, so that if someday we are gone no one will be able to say:  how did this happen? We Christians are a people of Hope. But facing the end also brings us clarity, and with it the courage to finally speak the truth. Our hope to remain in our ancient homeland now rests on the ability of ourselves, our oppressors, and the world to acknowledge these truths. Violence and discrimination against the innocents must end. Those who teach it must stop.  We Christians of Iraq, who have faced 1,400 years of persecution, violence and genocide, are prepared to speak out and bear witness to our oppressors and to the world, whatever the consequence.

ACN FEATURE STORY— INTER-RELIGIOUS CONFERENCES IN NIGER

30.07.2019 in ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Matthias Böhnke & Thomas Oswald, Niger, Persecution of Christians, SUBSISTENCE

Niger

Inter-religious conferences to unleash the “good”

“Less than one per cent of the about 15 million inhabitants of the diocese of Maradi are Christian,” reported Bishop Ambroise Ouédraogo in an interview with ACN International. The 70-year-old cleric is the first, and so far the only bishop of the diocese of Maradi, one of two dioceses in Niger, a landlocked country in western Africa.

 

by Matthias Böhnke & Thomas Oswald, for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on line, July 30, 2019

 

For the most part, the about 5,000 to 6,000 Catholics in his diocese coexisted for years safely with the majority Muslim population, said the bishop. “That changed in 2015, when caricatures critical of Islam published by the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo unleashed a wave of violence.” Within a few hours, at least ten Christians were killed and over 70 churches and other Christian institutions were destroyed in the numerous riots that broke out across the country. About 80 percent of the Christian churches in the country were targeted—particularly those in the regions of Niamey and Zinder.

“Christians deeply feared the radical Islamic fundamentalists. And still do as time and again, at irregular intervals, incidents are directed against Christians,” reported Bishop Ouédraogo. Just two weeks ago in his diocese, the Protestant church in Maradi was set on fire by radical groups who were protesting the incarceration of an imam. He had been arrested after speaking out in his sermons against a draft law for stricter regulation of funding sources for the construction and operation of private places of worship. In spite of the demonstrations, the law was passed by parliament on Monday, June 17.

 

 

Evil unleashed elsewhere, spreading as if with an accelerant

Sister Marie Catherine Kingbo lives eight kilometres from Maradi, the scene of the most recent attack with her congregation the Fraternité des Servantes du Christ (Fraternity of the Servants of Christ). In an interview with ACN she said, “We expected attacks, but we did not think that they would be triggered by a draft law.” The situation in Niger has changed beyond recognition since she came to the country 15 years ago. At that time, hardly any tensions existed between the religions, she explained. “Now I hear even Muslims say that there are too many mosques and Quran schools, and not enough wells and hospitals,” Sister Catherine continued. Her congregation and the pupils that she teaches are under constant police protection for fear of Islamist attacks. “The evil that was unleashed in Libya, Syria and other countries in northern Africa and the Middle East is spreading like an accelerant here as well,” she deplored.

 

“We will not go. They may have guns, but we have Jesus!”

But Sister Catherine is convinced: it is not only evil that is spreading, but also good! Her religious order organizes many campaigns for the benefit of society. The Sisters help women in need, but also organize an encounter between Christians and Muslims each year. In 2006, the first of these inter-religious conferences took place with 28 people. By 2018, the number had grown to 350. Relations with local imams and neighbours are good, Sister Catherine said. Which is why she will not even consider cutting back her efforts out of fear of extremist attacks. “We will not go. They may have guns, but we have Jesus!”

“Many Muslims find the current situation absolutely disgraceful and show solidarity for the Christians”

Bishop Ouédraogo feels the same way. He has never called the cooperation and dialogue with Muslims into question. “Many Muslims find the current situation absolutely disgraceful and show solidarity for the Christians,” the bishop insisted. “95 to 98 percent of the pupils at our institutions are Muslim, and Caritas also carries out projects in regions which are almost exclusively Muslim. We do not discriminate. And this will remain so.”

 

The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been supporting the Church in Niger for many years and has approved funding in such areas as the formation of faith and to help priests in the country secure a means of subsistence.

 

 

 

ACN Iview: Nigeria When prejudices lead to distortions

29.07.2019 in Nigeria, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom

 

Nigeria

When prejudices lead to distortions; or the aggressor easily pegged as a victim

In Nigeria, biased and prejudiced official security reports is a major problem heightening tension as victims are blamed instead of the aggressors, because of the Nigerian “factor” of tribal or religious affiliation.

 

A typical example in Nigeria: A militant herdsman vanishes after deadly attacks on a village. The poor villagers try to protect or defend themselves. Often, the villagers end up apprehended, detained and tortured by security forces as was the case with the “Kona” youths.

By Grace Attu
Revised for Canadian office : Amanda Bridget Griffin
Published on line : Monday 29th of July, 2019

The Co-adjutor Archbishop of Abuja and Apostolic Administrator of Jos Nigeria, Msgr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama made this known in a message released and made available to Aid to the Church in Need regarding the conflict which started on the May 6, 2019 as a clash between a Fulani herdsman and Jukun Kona Farmer at Yawai Abbare in Jalingo Local Government of Taraba State, Nigeria and lasted for more than a month. The conflict degenerated so badly that at in the end, 18 villages were attacked and burned, 65 persons were killed and 9000 displaced, 15 churches, two primary schools and a health care centre were also destroyed.

“It beats my imagination that in Nigeria when there is a misunderstanding, people tend to vent their anger and frustration on places of religious identity and worship, trying to give what is a social conflict a religious coloration. This is reprehensible. It is surprising too that those who claim to be “believers” would destroy places of worship and even take lives without the slightest compunction,” he said.

“As usual, what actually triggered the crisis will remain at the level of conjectures. The Fulani and the Kona are each telling their story in a manner that favours their ethnic group. This explains why, too often when a security authority adopts a particular narrative without factual, analytical and objective consideration of the stories peddled around, and comparing very well the narratives of the parties concerned, a distorted report could be made to the “oga at the top” or for the consumption of the public. In such cases the aggressor could easily become the victim while the victim becomes the aggressor!” he remarked. Msgr. Kaigama explained the reaction of security agents should have been prompt and devoid of what has sadly polarized Nigerians at all levels: religious and ethnic prejudices, but this was not the case.

Officers lack neutrality

According to him, the violence went on unchecked for a protracted period and the attempted attack on Kofai on June 16 provoked the Kona youths who felt that they had been neglected. They set up road blocks and out of anger and frustration tried to antagonize the soldiers. They claimed that they were shot at and arrested for rising in defense of their community against the marauding herdsmen. Kona women in their hundreds went on a peaceful demonstration to protest the killings and the harassment and detention of the Kona youths by the security agents while the real aggressors (gunmen) vanished after their deadly attacks.

Msgr Kaigama explained that when he heard about the helplessness of the people, he felt impelled to contact security personnel and top government officials for their intervention. He however expressed disappointment at the negative response he received from some.

“Of all the people I telephoned, it was the not so polite response, reaction and attitude of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Taraba State in charge of operations that surprised me the most. In my nineteen years as the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, I have had a good working relationship with all the Police Commissioners, GOCs, SSS Directors, Civil Defence Commandants, Commanders of Operation Safe Havens posted to Plateau State, to the point that not too long ago after successfully working together to avert what would have been a great crisis and bloodshed in Jos, I invited them to my residence where we shared ideas, because of their commendable cooperation with the Church. Each time there was a new senior security officer in Jos they visited my office or we met at dialogue fora, such as the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre which I founded in Jos in 2011.”

“It becomes obvious in some cases that security officers become prejudiced about what happened during a crisis,” he said. He further commended the response of the Vice President of the Country, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who listened to him and promised to act.

“I believe that my asking the Vice President to intervene led to the pronouncement by President Buhari on the 20th of June that Kona land and its people should be protected. Through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President condemned the attacks on the Kona people and warned that attacks on innocent people, in the name of revenge, or whatever motives, would not be tolerated by government. By God’s grace, there was some measure of peace,” he said.

Seeking peace through truth and reconciliation

Nigeria-5

 

“Only guerilla attacks now take place as farmers who attempt farming their farmlands are killed,” he continued, “three persons were killed the morning of my visit of July 10th.”

According to the Archbishop, the big question is: After the return of peace, what next? The people are displaced, no homes to return to, no farming activity possible, etc. Again, there is the anxious fear that the attacks could erupt again.

The Archbishop recalled that this Fulani/Kona crisis seems to be a replication of the event of the 1890s between the Jukun Kona people and the Fulani in Jalingo. This he said, has unfortunately escalated and worsened the relationship between these two tribes.

Something must therefore be done urgently and fairly to bridge the gap and heal the historical wounds. Genuine justice and reconciliation must be pursued and there is need to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to get to the root of this matter, he suggested.