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Holy Week — ACN International Reflection by Father Martin Barta, International Ecclesiastical Assistant

03.04.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, COVID19, Prayer

Holy Week — ACN International

Reflection by Father Martin Barta, International Ecclesiastical Assistant

 

The project partners of the 23 Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) national offices are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As these words are written, over one million people around the world have contracted the virus around the world, and over 50,000 people are dead.

 

Thanks to the ability to work from home like many others in these unique times, our ACN offices around the world have remained active and continue to receive information on a regular basis from our project partners. They are also living the terrible effects of this virus that was completely unknown to the general public only a few short months ago.

As we enter into Holy Week, International Ecclesiastical Assistant Father Martin Barta, offers us a reflection about the mystery that is death and the Resurrection – a reading that becomes all the more enriching during these difficult times.

Enjoy the read and have a good Holy Week.

Read Father Martin’s letter

ACN In-Depth Story – Forgiveness without limits in Columbia

10.08.2018 in by Martha Suárez, Peace, Prayer, Reconciliation, Reconstruction

An In-depth Story from Columbia

A story of forgiveness without limits

 

Pastora Mira García from Colombia.
Through acts of Christian love and forgiveness in the face of hatred and violence, she has become one of Colombia’s best-known women of faith as her nation is still grappling with the aftermath of decades of unrelenting violence.

PASTORA MIRA GARCÍA, through acts of Christian love and forgiveness in the face of hatred and violence, has become one of Colombia’s best-known women of faith as her nation is still grappling with the aftermath of decades of unrelenting violence. The past 60 years saw an armed struggle involving Marxist guerillas, government troops and extreme right-wing militias. By the time a controversial peace deal was struck with the largest guerilla group in 2016, by some estimates as many as 900,000 people had died in the conflict and seven million Colombians were displaced.

In September 2017, when Pope Francis visited the country, Pastora was chosen to address the Pope and the nation at large to give a testimony of her commitment to Christ’s commandment to “love one another”. She tells her story in an interview with the Pontifical Charity Aid to the Church in Need. From the beginning, it has been the charism of the charity to promote reconciliation and forgiveness.

 

Colombia, Medellin 2017 – Meeting with Priests, Religious, Seminarians and their families at the Macarena Event Center in Medellín regarding to the Pope Francis visit to Colombia in September 2017

Learning to live again

“On April 4, 1960, my father, Francisco Mira, was killed by political rivals. I was 4-years-old when his nine children were forced to see his murder. Pushing my mother aside, they shot him and then beheaded him in front of us.

“In 1999, my mother suffered a heart attack and died when militants of one of the country’s warring factions knocked down the neighbours’ front door.

“Although not everyone goes to college, we are all attending the ‘University of Life.’”

“In 2001, my daughter Paola took her 5-year-old daughter along when she went to work at a rural school; they were captured by militants; two days later, they returned the girl, that is, my granddaughter. The family entered a very dark night, wondering what had become of Paola. We managed to recover her body after more than seven years of walking through fields and up and down mountains. I had insisted that de-mining equipment was brought in so that we could conduct our search safely.

“My younger brother was also seized on a highway and neither he nor the people who traveled with him have ever reappeared.  On May 4, 2005, an illegal armed group took my 18-year-old son into captivity for 15 days. Then they murdered him and left him lying in the road. At that time, I said: ‘Lord, I am giving him back to you.’ Although not everyone goes to college, we are all attending the ‘University of Life.’

“Before my mother’s death, I went to work in a village where I heard the name of my father’s murderer and asked my mother if he was the man who killed dad, and she replied: ‘Yes, my daughter, but we have no right to do anything about it, nor to hurt him.’ It took me some time to investigate and when at last I came to that house far away, I did not meet a man, but a wreck of a human being.

“I understood that guilt is worse than pain.”

“It would have been very easy, given the circumstances in which he lived, to poison his food or use some other method to end his life—but fortunately I had received that message from my mother. I sat crying on the way back and made the decision to frequently visit him, along with some people who visited the sick; to help him heal, to bring him food and clothes. We did so for a long time.

“I had learned a very important lesson; when the mother of my father’s murderer asked her son one day, ‘Do you know who that person is who has been taking care of you? She is one of the many orphans you have left behind. She is the daughter of Pacho Mira.’ He never looked me in the eye again. I understood that guilt is worse than pain.

COLOMBIA / SONSON-RIONEGRO 2016.

“On May 19, 2005, attending to my son’s vault in a mausoleum I felt a need to look up, and I saw a sculpture depicting of the Pietà. I said to the Virgin: ‘Madrecita (dear Mother), forgive me for crying for my son, when I should stay calm because I had the blessing of being a mother.’

“I begged my dear God that it not be with a mother’s heart that I would be feeling, nor be listening to the boy with a mother’s ears—that He help me.”

‘Three days later, on my way home, I saw a young man who belonged to one of the illegal armed groups. He was hurt and crying out in pain. We brought him home. He was hungry; I gave him some food and coffee, plus a pair of shorts and a shirt that had belonged to my son. A friend who was a nurse came and we washed his wound.

 

“This young man lay down on my son’s bed and, seeing his pictures on the wall, asked: ‘Why are there photos of that dude we killed few days ago?’ We were all shocked, my daughters and I, and the boy started crying and talking. I begged my dear God that it not be with a mother’s heart that I would be feeling, nor be listening to the boy with a mother’s ears—that He help me.

 

Love One Another

“In the end, I told the young man: ‘This is your bed and this is your bedroom.’ The boy cried and talked— it was as if we were giving him a beating. I passed him the phone and told him: ‘There is a mom worried about you somewhere, please call her.’

I went to talk to my daughters, who said: ‘Mom he cannot get out of here alive!’ I answered them: ‘Tell me what you want me to do, but the only thing I ask of you in return is that, when I finish being a murderer like him, you guarantee that my child is going to be sitting here with us.’ They understood that it should not be an eye for an eye, nor a tooth for a tooth.

“Lord, to the one who has hurt me, forgive him; heal me”

“I went back to the boy: ‘Look, you cannot stay here anymore, go to a hospital.’ He left and returned that same year in August, now demobilized and disarmed. When he used to meet me, he greeted me saying, ‘Mom.’ That December he died in a drug-related incident.

“His mother came to collect the body and I had the opportunity of helping her take the body back to her municipality. There is a fundamental principle: ‘Love one another.’ Lord, to the one who has hurt me, forgive him; heal me and make it so that, through your forgiveness, I can look him in the eye as a human being with the right to make mistakes—and to know that in his mistakes it was he who has failed.’”

COLOMBIA / GRANADA Construction of the church Santuario a la Memoria de las Víctimas, parish San Antonio María Claret

Today, Pastora is dedicated to CARE, the Spanish acronym loosely translated as the ‘Center for Getting Close to Reconciliation.’ She founded it 13 years ago to discover different ways to promote the reconciliation of victims and perpetrators. Pastora is convinced that the way to bring reintegration is to fully understand what has happened; that is the foundation for genuine emotional and spiritual healing.

ACN supports reconciliation projects in different parts of the world. In Colombia, ACN has just approved a project to rebuild a church in Aquitania. In this village, both the church and the rectory were destroyed by the guerrillas. Because of the location and the surrounding forests, the fighting had been very intense there. Many people died in the fighting or by stepping on mines left by the insurgents. Finally, the village was abandoned. People gradually returned after the government regained control and the area was de-mined. The people found only ruins and a church in very bad condition.

In order for Aquitania to come to life again, the parish priest has asked for help to rebuild the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. ACN is providing $30,000 for this project.

 

ACN-News – Pakistan – Archbishop appeals for prayers after attacks on Christians

26.04.2018 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Asia, By John Pontifex, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Pakistan, Persecution of Christians, Prayer

Picture: In 2017, interreligious prayer in Lahore with the Mufti of Lahore and Archbishop Shaw. 

Pakistan

Archbishop appeals for prayers after attacks on Christians

A leading Pakistani bishop has appealed for prayer after Christians in Quetta suffered their third attack in five months.

Two Christian men – identified as Rashid Khalid and Azhar Iqbal – and three others were injured after four attackers on motorbikes started shooting at people near a church in Quetta’s Essa Nagri Christian neighbourhood.

The attack, Sunday April 15th, came nearly two weeks after a family of four Catholics from Lahore was gunned down outside a relative’s house during an Easter visit to the city.

The dead – identified as Parvaiz, Kamran, Tariq and Fordous – had reportedly just stepped outside to buy ice cream when they were targeted.

According to a missionary group in Pakistan, the attackers left a pamphlet at the scene of the crime describing the killing as “the first episode of genocide against Christians”.

Archbishop Sebastian Shaw: “When we are tempted to lose hope, we are reminded that, through your compassion and prayers, you are with us, by our side.”

 

Daesh (ISIS) claimed responsibility for both attacks.

 

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore said, “The faithful in Quetta are deeply concerned and worried.

“All these sufferings and pain can be overcome by faith, so through ACN I call on everyone to pray for peace and harmony so that people of all religions may live in Pakistan in peace and harmony.”

The Archbishop, who gave the interview during a visit to ACN’s international headquarters in Königstein, Germany, said: “When we see these atrocities happening one after another, we very much depend on the spiritual communion that we have with friends and benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need.”

He added: “When we are tempted to lose hope, we are reminded that, through your compassion and prayers, you are with us, by our side.”

The Archbishop called for increased police protection. He said: “The government should provide better security so that all the people can live side by side, safe and secure.”

Quetta’s Christians were targeted again in December when two suicide bombers stormed a packed nativity service held in the city’s Bethel Methodist Church, leaving 11 dead and injuring more than 50 others.

Last October, militants hurled a grenade at a Protestant church in Quetta’s Arbab Karam Khan Road area, but nobody was hurt as worshippers had already left the building.

That same month, Pakistan was identified as a country with worsening persecution in ACN’s Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith, a report produced every two years by the charity, examining parts of the world of particular concern for the faithful under threat from religious freedom violations.

 

Pakistan is a priority country for ACN,
which works in more than 140 countries around the world.
You can give for projects in Pakistan via our website:

THANK YOU 


 

Pray for Peace in Korea – Aid to the Church in Need

26.04.2018 in ACN KOREA, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Asia, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Prayer

Historical meeting in Korea on April 27th.

Please, Pray for peace in Korea! 

 

Aid to the Church in Need has a National office in South Korea for three years. At several occasion, people who were visited were brought beyond the boundary line. Just below, one delegation visited in 2017.

 

The ACN Delegation in front of the border line. From left: Sister Kizza, Father Raymond, Mark v. Riedemann, Archbishop Shaw, Johannes Klausa, Bishop Yu Soo-il, David Jones, Samuel Maksan and Philipp Ozores

The PDF File is a prayer card to Our Lady, prepared by the National office in Korea.
You can share it and pray with it as well.
ACN-20180426-70416.

 

 

Special day of prayer and fasting for peace: “God hears the tears of his people.”

23.02.2018 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Maria Lozano, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Pope Francis, Prayer, South Sudan

African bishops welcome the Pope’s call to pray for peace:

“God hears the tears of his people.”

Faced with the tragic situations of conflict in various parts of the world, the Holy Father Pope Francis has called upon faithful Catholics to join in a special day of prayer and fasting for peace, today, Friday, February 23, Friday of the first week of Lent. The Pope has also invited non-Catholics and non-Christians to join together with this initiative in whatever manner they deem most appropriate.

In his appeal, the Holy Father underlined in particular his concern for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and for South Sudan. Two African bishops, Bishop Timothy Bodika Mansiyai of Kikwit in the DRC, and Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of the Archdiocese of Khartoum in Sudan, spoke recently to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the crisis their people are suffering.

“The Holy Father knows well the tragic situation that both countries are going through,” the Congolese bishop remarked. “The Pope has a great desire to visit both places,” stated Bishop Bodika, “but he was forced to cancel both trips”. But “although he was unable to be physically present in our countries, he nonetheless accompanies us spiritually.”

Bishop Timothée Bodika Mansiyai, from Kikwit diocese in Democratic Repupblic of Congo. “The people of Congo were “crying out in pain”, said the bishop, yet “It is a cry that the international community is not hearing”.

During his visit to ACN’s international headquarters, Bishop Bodika expressed great gratitude towards Pope Francis, “who continues to closely follow the tense situation that the DRC is undergoing and the repression and abuses of which the priests, religious and lay Catholic Christians are victims. God hears the tears of his people.”

And indeed, the DR Congo is wracked by different conflicts. The struggle for the country’s mineral wealth for more than a decade has sparked a ruthless war in eastern Congo, to which the conflict in the central Kasai region has been added since 2016. And as if this were not bad enough, the country is also afflicted by “the general crisis due to the political tensions in relation to the general elections.”

In recent months the situation has further escalated, with peaceful demonstrations violently repressed by government armed forces, resulting in deaths and numerous injuries. Some of these protests were initiated by the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa and were simply calling for the accords of December 31, 2016 (the so-called Saint Sylvester Accords) to be respected and for the constitutional rotation of offices in the political institutions of the state.

Prayer and fasting for conversion of hearts
“The special day of prayer and fasting is a call for the conversion of hearts, of all our hearts, but also those of our politicians and leaders”, said Bishop Bodika. “They have forgotten that their duty should be to be at the service of the nation, not merely of a handful of people, while the rest of the community remains in poverty.” The people of Congo were “crying out in pain”, said the bishop, yet “It is a cry that the international community is not hearing”. In his own diocese of Kikwit alone, the number of uprooted people now in need of care, with food, accommodation, healthcare and schooling, has already reached 30,000. “The diocese of Kikwit does not have the financial means to cope with this humanitarian emergency. And so far, our petitions to the authorities and political organizations to help manage this crisis have not met with success,” Bishop Bodika complained.

Terror reigns in South Sudan
For his part, Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum in Sudan, emphasized to ACN the terrible situation in South Sudan. “The war there has created mass displacements in many parts of the land and destruction in relation to the community and the family, with loss of respect for human dignity.”

Explaining the situation in the country, Bishop Adwok deplored the fact that “Terror reigns in South Sudan, with warriors, government and politicians grappling for power, positions and not minding the fate of the ordinary Southern Sudanese. The fact that until today no one knows – the government itself does not know – how many people have died in South Sudan since the start of the war in December 2013 is indicative of how the value of the human person has become of no worth in South Sudan.”

 

Mgr. Daniel Adwok Kur, Auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum in Sudan. “I know of some elderly people who could not physically run away from their homes, but still met their death in the same home killed by people carrying arms.”

“No one keeps count and it looks as if those who died of violence, some of hunger and other mistreatments were ‘unfortunate’ – [as if] they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Referring to attackers targeting vulnerable groups in society, he said: “I know of some elderly people who could not physically run away from their homes, but still met their death in the same home killed by people carrying arms.”

In addition to calling for a cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and for the blessing of peace, Bishop Adwok requested that during the day of prayer and fasting on February 23rd people should also pray for the refugees and displaced, and especially for the young.

“Most of them are jobless and cannot continue with their education, and at the same time they are left alone to fend for themselves, and in many cases to take care of their young siblings and relatives as well. The numerous challenges they face leave them feeling lonely, seeking cheap consolations and in many cases being drawn into groups linked to violence”, he explained.

31 wars and armed conflicts in 2017
The Holy Father’s appeal to pray for peace is a concrete response to the silent cry of so many victims all over the world. There were a total of 31 wars and armed conflicts during 2017, according to research conducted by the Group for the Investigation into the Causes of War based at the University of Hamburg in Germany.

The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need, which supported the African continent in the shape of almost 2,000 projects and a total of over 36 million dollars during 2017, is inviting all its benefactors and co-workers to join together in the day of prayer and fasting today, February 23,  2018.

Actually in the world, more than 65 million people are displaced because of war and internal conflicts. This tragedy cannot be ignored. 

 


 

Central African Republic – The Church fears a massacre in Bangassou

25.01.2018 in ACN Chile, Africa, Aid to refugees, by Loreto Prado, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Prayer

Central African Republic –
The Church fears a massacre in Bangassou

 

From his place in hiding, together with other priests, Father Yovane Cox, a Chilean missionary in the Central African Republic, has contacted the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) with an urgent plea for our prayers. “The cathedral in Bangassou is being attacked”, he told us last Friday 19 January. “The situation is quite critical, because this attack had already been foretold, and yet the UN forces in charge of security here paid no attention to what people told them. It seems almost as though they want to see a massacre here in the cathedral, and in the area where the Muslims are being sheltered”, he told us.

 

Already in May 2017 some 2000 Muslims took refuge in the grounds of the diocesan minor seminary of the Catholic Church (around 200 metres from the cathedral), seeking protection. Today a little under 1000 are still sheltering there. “All around this place there are armed men on the prowl, hoping that one of the Muslims will emerge, so that they can kill him”, Father Yovane explained, at the same time speaking of the inhuman conditions in which they are living. “Some of the Muslims try to leave the site to go and look for firewood, while others do so in order to scavenge in the houses that have been abandoned around the area (in search of food they need to survive on)”, he explained. Yesterday, one of these Muslims was caught by the anti-balakas, (the anti-Muslim rebel gang) and murdered him on the spot. This caused great alarm among the Muslims who are still sheltering in the grounds of the Catholic Church. According to Father Yovane, if it had not been for the contingent of Cameroonian soldiers, who intervened, the situation would have been still more critical.

Central African Republic
Muslim refugees next to the Cathedral in Bangassou.

 

The priests in the Catholic mission are watching helplessly, expecting that at any moment the anti-balakas may invade the camp, intending to kill the Muslims who have taken refuge there. And with no one intervening to prevent them. “By the silence of the state authorities and the inaction of the UN forces in not wanting to move the few Muslims still left on this site, they are simply inviting a confrontation between the two groups and a resulting bloodbath. What we are sounding the alarm about and what we are asking them to do is to please relocate them from this site, because it is the only way of saving those still remaining here, who are for the most part women and children”, the Chilean priest told ACN.

 

United Nations: accused of inaction

 

Nine months have now passed since the truce between the antibalakas and the Muslims broke down. This country, already marked by a history of violence and warfare, is today living through one of its most difficult chapters. “We are in a situation in which nobody is in control – neither the government, nor the United Nations nor the local authorities, and still less we ourselves in the Catholic Church” Father Yovane explained, adding that the Church is the only organisation that has remained here to help. “There are no other organisations, most of them have left. The last to do so wasDoctors Without Borders.”

 

When we asked him about the situation of the Christians in the diocese, he explained that “the Christians are for the most part living in hiding in their villages or in the suburbs. They are too frightened to gather in the churches or in the cathedral. When we celebrate Holy Mass on Sundays those who attend number no more than 15 or so. We priests are limited in what we can do and our pastoral work is at a standstill. Some of the clergy are living in the capital and the rest are limited in our activities.” This is due to the deep gulf between the positions of the radical Muslims, who see the Catholic Church as complicit (with the anti-balakas), and the anti-balakas themselves, who see the Church as a traitor for protecting the Muslims and giving them shelter. “There is a mutual incomprehension, a very deep antagonism, and the Church finds herself caught in the middle between them, a perfect target for anybody who has lost control of the situation”, Father Yovane tells us unhappily.

Central African Republic
Father Yovane Cox, a Chilean missionary, before the start of the conflict.

 

Request for prayers

 

At the present time only two of the eight parishes in the diocese are still open and most of the priests are living at the cathedral in Bangassou for their own security. The violence in the region has forced them to close down all the schools of the diocese. “We cannot gather the children in the schools, knowing that it would be immensely difficult to assure their safety in the classrooms”, the Chilean priest explains. For him this has meant postponing his dream of opening a new school in his own parish of Bema, and educating 400 children.

Central African Republic
Father Yovane Cox, a Chilean missionary in the Central African Republic – now in Bangassou.

 

Above all he is calling on us to pray. “We know that our only security is that which comes to us from God and it is in Him that we place our entire lives and our trust”, he tells us. “We are conscious that the Church in the diocese of Bangassou is in the midst of a fight between men, trying to bring a little peace, though her voice is scarcely being heard.” Nevertheless, he still thanks ACN “for being the voice of those whom nobody listens to, the voice of those who have been forgotten…”

 

From 2014 to 2016 the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need supported the Catholic church
in the Central African Republic with 3,9 million dollars. 

Text: Loreto Prado, ACN-Chile
Adaptation: ACN-Canada.