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Press Release

 

ACN Press: A Papal Blessing of an Icon for Syria

16.09.2019 in ACN, Pope Francis, Prayer, Press Release, Syria

A Papal Blessing of an Icon for Syria
Marie-Claude Lalonde among ACN delegates to Vatican

By Mario Bard, ACN Canada
Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Monday, September 16, 2019 — The national director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN), Marie-Claude Lalonde, attended this past Sunday, September 15, the blessing of an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Consoler of the Syrian People by Pope Francis. 

The ceremony took place at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican. The icon will be carried through 34 dioceses in Syria—as a sort of pilgrimage—offered for the veneration of the faithful along its path intended to finish in Damascus, in May 2020.

“It is a great joy for me to have participated in this event which took place just before the Sunday Angelus,” said a joyful Marie-Claude Lalonde on the other end of the line. “This blessing is a pure joy as we are at the very heart of ACN’s mission: providing pastoral support to Christians who are in need.” And she adds: “This initiative touches on every one of the calls for peace that Pope Francis has launched to put a stop to the abominable conflict that has caused so much suffering for Syrian civilians. With this gesture he has reaffirmed with strength his support of the Syria population broken by war.”

 

Pilgrimage of the icon: For the healing of hearts

This icon of Our Lady of Sorrows was written last August by Father Spiridon Kabbash of Homs and will be presented for the veneration of the faithful in 34 dioceses of Syria, likely until May 31, 2020.

I greeted the Pope in the name of all Canadian benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need Canada,” says Mrs. Lalonde

“The blessing of an icon can seem inconsequential to secularized societies like our own,” explains Mrs. Lalonde. “But in Syria, religious traditions are still present in public and social society and these gestures—such as to write an icon, bless it and offer it for veneration by the faithful for a period of nine months is a veritable balm, immense and almost essential for all Christians who are wounded by this filthy war, they who have survived through over eight years of fratricidal conflict.”

“Finally, I greeted the Pope in the name of all Canadian benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need Canada,” says Mrs. Lalonde in closing.

The Pope’s message to the families who will accompany the icon is: “You are not alone; we are with you.”

Meanwhile in Syria, the 6,000 rosaries blessed by Pope Francis one month ago were distributed throughout Syrian parishes as part of a larger prayer campaign for and with the Syrian people called Console my People, an initiative promoted by Aid to the Church in Need and the Syrian Churches.

Sunday, September 15, 2019 : Pope Francis,  blessing the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Consoler of the Syrian People. Next to the Icon, Father Spiridon Kabbash of Homs, the writer of the icon. (© ACN/AED)

A Drop of Milk in Homs, Syria

Aid to the Church in Need Canada continues to promote its fundraising campaign to raise over $378,000, for the provision of daily milk, for over 6,000 children aged 0 to 10 in the city of Homs for a period of six months.

There are three easy and secure ways to give for these children:

  • Give through our secure site: http://bit.ly/DropofMilk2019
  • By telephone: 1(800) 585-6333, Ext 222
  • By mail Aid to the Church in Need Canada
    PO. Box 670, Station H
    Montréal (Québec) H3G 2M6

 

ACN News: The call of Chaldean Bishop Sako for the guarantee of minority rights in Iraq

27.05.2019 in Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, Middle East, Press Release, Religious freedom

Iraq

 ‘Constant discrimination, uncertainty’ are pushing Christians out of Iraq

 

The leader of the Chaldean Church has called on the Iraqi government to put in place and enforce laws “that guarantee Christians and other religious minorities … full citizenship and freedom in practicing their faiths explicitly.

 

Montreal, Friday – May 24, 2019: “The absence of serious steps” to protect the rights of minority faiths in the country, says Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako in a statement to Aid to the Church in Need, “will push the remaining Christians and minorities to choose emigration.”

 

Christians and minorities “have played a significant role in enriching Iraq’s cultural, social and economic diversity, making valuable contributions to education, health, public administration and social services,” said the Cardinal; without them, Iraq would become “a country with one homogeneous fabric [that] could be isolated from the world and [which] may generate a kind of radicalism, [and] ethnic and sectarian fanaticism.”

 

In his declaration, Patriarch Sako lists a number of factors that are pushing Christians and other minorities into leaving the country. These include the ongoing “fragility of the security situation” and Iraq’s “institutional weakness at the level of justice,” the state’s failure to protect non-Muslims from discrimination in the realms of “education, employment and social life,” as well as at the political level. Christians with outstanding professional qualifications, the cardinal charged, are denied positions only because of their faith. “Qualification and competence,” the cardinal insisted—and not an individual’s faith—should be the “measure for employment.”

 

Christians denied seats in Iraqi Parliament

Furthermore, the patriarch notes that Christians are denied their rightful quota of five seats in the Iraqi Parliament. He also calls for the application of “a civil law for all Iraqis,” rather than Christians and other religious minorities being “subjugated to [an] Islamic court, [with regard to] spiritual, religious matters, marriages, inheritance, etc.”

 

Patriarch Sako proposes a number of additional “practical measures” to fight the “injustice and discrimination” suffered by religious minorities. He calls on the Iraqi leadership and “political ‘powers’” to combat “religious extremism that uses violence” and to take measures toward “disarming militias; providing security and stability; combating extremism, discrimination, terrorism and corruption.”

 

The cardinal insists that the Iraqi political leadership should promote “citizenship values” that support the common good by drawing on “principles of freedom, dignity, democracy, social justice and true relationship among all Iraqi citizens regardless of their religious, cultural and ethnic affiliations.” Such policies will bring about harmonious “coexistence with Muslims” for Iraqi’s religious minorities.

 

Finally, the Patriarch calls for laws that help create “good conditions that guarantee Christians and other religious minorities … full citizenship and freedom in practicing their faiths explicitly; preserve their heritage, archaeological and historical monuments as an integral part of Iraqi civilization, in order to enable them to continue their lives with dignity.”

 

By Joop Koopman for ACN International
 And Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web Monday May 27, 2019

ACN News – Aid to the Church in Need International receives Path to Peace Award

24.05.2019 in ACN, Peace, Persecution of Christians, Press Release

United Nations-New York

 

 

Aid to the Church in Need, ‘leading organization’ in the world and ‘voice’ for persecuted Christians

 

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and president of the Path to Peace Foundation, has praised Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)—the recipient of the 2019 Path to Peace Award—as “the leading organization in the world putting words to the persecution Christians are suffering in certain places and, even more importantly, responding with action.”

 
 
by Joop Koopman, ACN USA
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web, May 24, 2019

New-York/Montreal, May 23, 2019 – Speaking May 22, 2019 at the Path to Peace Foundation’s annual Award Gala at the Pierre Hotel in New York, Archbishop Auza said that the foundation sought to honor ACN “as a voice crying in the wilderness, echoing the voices of Christians crying out for help.” The archbishop cited ACN’s biennial reports—“Persecuted and Forgotten?” and “Religious Freedom in the World”—as “the best reports that exist detailing, respectively, the ravages of Christianophobia” as well as the state of religious freedom in 196 countries.

“The importance of the information these reports provide cannot be overstated,” said the archbishop, even as ACN “has done even a greater service by all their work on the ground.” Archbishop Auza—who, as a young priest, received a scholarship from ACN that allowed him to study in Rome—noted in particular ACN’s work on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, where the organization “is leading a what has been boldly called a ‘Marshall Plan’ for the rebuilding of houses, institutions, churches and lives in response to ISIS destruction.”

press-release-1

December 2014, Erbil, Iraq:  Thanks to ACN, these children and their families displaced by the barbaric Islamic State, return to a stable life.  You can see it in their smiles!

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Early 2017 Iraq: Christians of the Nineveh Plains recover their churches along with many profaned sacred objects.  In this picture, a statue of Our Lady of Peace whose head has been cut off and shot right where the heart is positioned: signs of hatred of Christians.

Able to be a voice, thanks to benefactors

Accepting the award, Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, president of ACN International, said that the honour belongs to “those Christians who, just because of their faith, are persecuted, oppressed, discriminated or silenced. Tonight, in lending them my voice, my hope is that their martyrdom is a little less silent.”

He continued: “Our work would not be possible without the unflagging support of our benefactors worldwide. We exist because of their extraordinary moral and financial support and we should keep in mind that it is often the mite of the widow which helps us. Our donors are the foundation on which we build bridges of faith, hope and charity in support of the persecuted Church.”

ACN was founded in 1947 by a young Dutch Norbertine priest, Father Werenfried van Straaten (1913 -2003), to help meet the needs of refugees and displaced people in post-World War II Germany. Today, ACN is a papal charity that supports persecuted and suffering faithful with more than 5,000 projects around the world each year.

Projects include the construction of churches and chapels; support for the training of seminarians, men and women religious as well as lay catechists; emergency aid; and transportation for clergy and religious.

Last year, ACN donors gave more than $150 million in aid. Since 2011, ACN has provided more than $105 million to support Syrian and Iraqi Christians threatened by ISIS and other Islamist groups, ensuring the survival of Christianity in the region.

Persecution of Christians: brought to the UN thanks to ACN

“Religious freedom,” said Dr. Heine-Geldern, “is a fundamental human right. It is the responsibility of all nations and international NGOs to protect every individual’s right to religious freedom. We must not give up the fight for the full implementation of this basic human right, which is inseparably linked to the dignity of every human being.”

Concluding his remarks, he said that “we all have an obligation to respond and show our solidarity with Christian communities suffering persecution, though in the end, the hardest job is not ours.

“Standing with the faithful on the frontlines, confronting persecution, hate and violence, are courageous men and women—bishops, priests, women religious and lay volunteers. The ultimate servants of peace, they remain with their people. I also dedicate the 2019 Path to Peace Award to them.”

The Path to Peace Foundation supports various aspects of the work of the Holy See Mission to the UN. The Foundation also funds humanitarian projects in developing countries. Previous recipients of the Path to Peace Award include: Cardinal Mario Zenari, papal nuncio to Syria; Prince Henri of Luxembourg; and Queen Sofia of Spain.

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Auza said that “the Holy See Mission would not be able to do what we have tried to do in defense of Christians at the United Nations were it not for ACNUSA’s steady and superlative collaboration.”

press-release-3
Msgr Bernadito Auza and Mr Thomas Heine-Geldern at an evening gala on May 22nd in New York City.

Aid to the Church in Need in Canada

Aid to the Church in Need has had an office in Canada for 30 years.  It sensitizes the population, raises funds and organizes various activities such as over the last 5 years in Montreal, a Mass celebrated on behalf of persecuted Christians in the world, presided over by Archbishop Msgr.  Christian Lépine.  And, for a second consecutive year, the national Canadian office has coordinated the Red Wednesday event.  The next one is planned for November 20th of this year with confirmed events in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and other interested cities.  For more information, or to participate, please contact ACN at 1-800-585-6333, ext 226.

Release of Asia Bibi : “A Triumph of Human Rights”

30.01.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN NEWS, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, Asia, By Mario Bard, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Pakistan, Press Release, Religious freedom, Religious Freedom Report

 Press Release – Release of Asia Bibi

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is relieved by the definitive release of Asia Bibi.

Montréal, Tuesday, January 30, 2019 – “This is a great day for the respect of human rights, for religious freedom and for justice. The Pakistani government didn’t allow the extremists who took to the streets with violence to influence them,” declared Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN).

The international Catholic charitable organization, which regularly provides information on the issue of religious freedom in the world, and particularly on the issue of Christians persecuted because of their faith, is celebrating today. Philipp Ozores, Secretary General of ACN-International added, “Today’s decision is a triumph of human rights over religious intolerance, a victory of the law over the hatred of fanatics – and above all, personal happiness and great joy for Asia Bibi and her family”.

“Now, I would like the family to spend beautiful moments together and to savour the newfound freedom,” indicated Ms. Lalonde. She reminds us that, throughout the nine years of detention, many ACN benefactors prayed for her release. “Many prayed for her and this shows that faith really can move mountains,” she added, very moved by the events. “What’s most important is that Ms. Bibi is free, and that she can at last be reunited with her loved ones.”

At least 224 others accused since 1984

If Asia Bibi is free at last, there are 25 Pakistani Christians accused of blasphemy who are still in prison, some of whom are awaiting execution. Philipp Ozores, Secretary General of ACN-International added, “ACN will continue to pray and work for them with other organizations and project partners in Pakistan. We can only hope that the court’s decision will at least cause the government to rethink its position and that the blasphemy laws will be relaxed or better respected.”

Marie-Claude Lalonde is sad to say that, “in Pakistan, the blasphemy law can be invoked to accuse one’s neighbour in order to resolve an unrelated dispute. We hope that the signal given with the decision of the Pakistani Supreme Court is a step in the right direction.”

Pakistan is part of the sad list of 38 countries identified in ACN’s 2018 Abridged Report on Religious Freedom as a country where violations of religious rights are significant. The situation has even worsened for religious minorities in 2018, with the country’s President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops describing “an alarming increase in violence, intolerance and extremism.” *

Summary of the story

Asia Bibi is a Catholic woman who is now 51 years old. In the fall of 2009, she was in the fields with other women, harvesting the crops. During a break, she drank from the same well as the other women, but these women considered that Asia had just contaminated it since she is not Muslim.  Asia replied, the situation escalated and her colleagues accused her of blasphemy. After a hearing, she was found guilty of blasphemy according to the laws in effect in Pakistan. In 2010, she was sentenced to death by hanging. Thanks to the persistence of the country’s Christian community, her lawyers and international organizations denouncing this situation, Asia Bibi was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on October 31, 2018. A fundamentalist group wanted to appeal this decision, which forced Asia Bibi to remain in the country, in hiding, for her protection. Finally, on January 29, 2019, the Supreme Court definitively rejected the request to appeal and Asia Bibi is finally free.  

In Pakistan, only 2% of the population is Christian, with a population of more than 192 million inhabitants, which is in majority Muslim.

*Page 38, Abridged Report on Religious Freedom in the World, available at the address https://files.acn-canada.org/2018/11/ACN-Religious-Freedom-Report-2018_CanENGL_WEB-1.pdf

ACN Press Release – Visit to Canada Postponed

20.10.2017 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, AED Canada, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians, Press Release, Priests

Archbishop Msgr Ignatius Kaigama, of Jos in Nigeria

Visit to Canada Postponed

 

Nigeria, March 2017
Most Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos

Montreal, Friday, October 20, 2017—Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is announcing that the visit of Msgr Ignatius Kaigama, archbishop of Jos in Nigeria has been postponed due to delays in the visa acquisition process. The visit, initially scheduled for October 31 through to November 3 with a series of conferences in between, will be rescheduled to the week of June 5 through to June 8, 2018.

“We are maintaining contact with Msgr Kaigama who regrets this situation and who is also very excited to be able to come and speak about his work of dialogue and about the situation of Christians in Nigeria,” explains Marie-Claude Lalonde, the National Director of ACN Canada. Our partners who have supported the organization in various dioceses where conferences were planned, have been informed and have expressed their support and readiness to welcome Msgr. Kaimaga this coming June.

 

November 3rd Mass: Remains on the Schedule

Otherwise, the Mass which will be celebrated for persecuted Christians and presided over by Msgr Christian Lépine, the Archbishop of Montreal, and to which Msgr Kaigama was due to participate, will go ahead on Friday, November 3, at 7:30 pm, at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal. The popular author/singer/songwriter Robert Lebel will be at the celebration to provide the music for the liturgy and will be accompanied by l’Espace Benoit-Lacroix. Mrs Chantal Roussety, a musician and friend of ACN, will be at the organ with musical meditations before and during the liturgy.

For more information about this event, plus call 514-932-0552, or contact ACN via email at info@acn-canada.org.

 

 


 

ACN Press Release – Iraqi Christians’ future threatened by referendum crisis

06.10.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bishops, By John Newton, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org

 

Iraq

 Iraqi Christians face new threat

Church leaders in northern Iraq have issued a stark warning that the crisis triggered by last week’s Kurdistan independence referendum could endanger the region’s Christian presence.

Vigil prayer for the Middle East at Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark´s Basilica) in Rome, 27.09.2017 
(From left to the right): 
Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul, 
Mons Timothaeus Mosa Alshamany (Syriac Orthodox Archishop from Iraq) 
Syrian orthodox bishop Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf (Syro-Orthodox Metropolitain from Musu, Kerkuk and Kurdistan)

Following the referendum, which could see the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) area seceding from northern Iraq, five senior Catholic and Orthodox bishops issued a statement appealing to the international community to protect Christians and help them stay in their ancestral lands, especially the Nineveh Plains. In the statement, a copy received by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, they wrote: “We cannot hide our concern that the situation for the Christians has become very difficult and leads to uncertainty.”

“It is a clear fact that this situation has created in Christians a state of fear and concern about the possibility that the struggle may develop into a crisis that will have far-reaching repercussions for all,” they added.

The message was written by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Nicodemus Sharif of Mosul, Archbishop Apris Jounsen, Chaldean Bishop Rabban Al-Qas of Amadiyah and Zaku, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Timotheos Mousa of the Archdiocese of Mor Mattai Monastery.

Their message stressed the precarious situation of Nineveh’s Christians – many of whom are still in the capital of the Kurdish northern Iraq, Erbil, after Daesh (ISIS) drove them out of their homes in 2014. With many Christian settlements located in disputed territories, the bishops cautioned, “Care should be made not to involve the last remaining Christian land in political bargaining, as our vulnerable community cannot withstand further schism and division in addition to the ongoing political and sectarian fights.”

The statement stressed that in the community’s vulnerable situation, further upheavals could see new waves of emigration – threatening its very survival.

Photo: Iraq, September 2017  Qaraqosh the procession of the Christians in Qaraqosh who symbolically coming back their town (from the outskirts of the city at the roundabout with a huge Cross to the Church of Immaculate Conception Church (Syriac Catholic)

 

The Plain of Nineveh should remain a unified territory

Notably, the bishops called for the Nineveh Plains not to be split between Iraq and an independent Kurdistan. “The future Plain of Nineveh should be maintained as a unified territory – it is critical to not divide it into parts.” The bishops expressed fears that the restoration of the towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains may be brought to a standstill as the area now faces an uncertain political future.

“While both the federal government and the KRG are engaged in struggles over the disputed area, including the historical areas of our people, the areas liberated from the control of the criminal ISIS gangs are in an appalling condition in terms of reconstruction, public services, and security.

“There are no serious attempts at reconstructing the area at all by the governments. This makes it difficult for the IDPs to return, thereby prolonging their plight.”

 

Committed to the resettlement program

In the meantime, Archbishop Warda, fellow bishops and aid coordinators including Stephen Rasche in interviews, have underlined their commitment to enabling the resettlement program to continue in spite of the post-referendum setbacks.

Photo: Archbishop Warda at Myeondong Cathedral, cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul, where Special Mass and Lecture for the Church in Iraq was held.

Expressing concerns that Christian areas risked losing their historic identity, the bishops in their statement called for dialogue between the Iraqi Federal Government and the KRG.

“Amidst the crisis that the country experiences today following the referendum of Kurdistan Region, we call upon all parties involved to opt for dialogue and moderation and to stop the escalation of the conflict through the media.”

The bishops hoped that both sides could work on the disputed issues “to reach a suitable solution apart from spreading the feelings of hatred that fuel conflicts.”

 

Grateful to Kurdistan

Fearing that Christians could be caught in an armed struggle between factions vying for power, the bishops added: “We demand that the use of arms be restricted to the official government security forces, which we encourage our young men to join.”The bishops also paid tribute to the Kurdish people who had assisted the Christian community after they were driven out of their homes.

“Undoubtedly, we Christians can never forget how our brothers in Kurdistan Region, as a people and government, received us and supported our displaced persons, not only Christians but also other components of the Iraqi people.”

 

 

Headline Photo : Iraq, September 2017  Qaraqosh the procession of the Christians in Qaraqosh who symbolically coming back their town (from the outskirts of the city at the roundabout with a huge Cross to the Church of Immaculate Conception Church (Syriac Catholic)
Text by John Newton, ACN UK
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

 

ACN Press Release : ACN Pilgrimage to Fatima

15.09.2017 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN Portugal, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Paolo Aido, Press Release

 

ACN Pilgrimage to Fatima

Praying together for peace in the world

The risk of “new powers and devastating wars” was underlined yesterday afternoon, September 13, by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Major Penitentiary of the Holy See, during a press conference at the Cova da Iria, held to mark the beginning of the international pilgrimage to Fátima of the international Catholic pastoral and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

 

The pilgrimage also made in honour of the 70th anniversary of the birth of ACN and 50 years since the charity’s consecration to Our Lady of Fatima. Cardinal Piacenza, who is also the International President of ACN, made a point of expressing just how much “Fátima and ACN have in common.”

 

 

The Cardinal noted how “Fatima is a light of supernatural charity that supports us whenever we fall,” while ACN was a “light of fraternal charity for those most in need.”

Among those who most need ACN’s help, it was important to place particular attention on the persecuted Christians, especially those living in the “biblical lands” and highlighting the need to preserve a Christian presence in the Middle East especially in Iraq and Syria, as a top priority for the charity at this time.

 

The close ties binding the charity to the Fatima message

 

Cardinal Piacenza described some aspects of the work already undertaken in the form of direct support for these Christian communities, and notably in the “reconstruction of homes and churches” which, he also emphasized, was an “ecumenical effort.”

 

Also present at the press conference were Philipp Ozores, the international general secretary of ACN, and Catarina Martins, the director of the Portuguese national office of ACN. Philipp Ozores underlined that the charity currently supports projects in an unprecedented 150 countries, also referring to the close ties binding the international charity and the message given by Our Lady to the shepherd children 100 years ago.  “Fatima is key to understanding our existence,” he stated. Catarina Martins also spoke of the “importance” of this pilgrimage and of the “inspiration Our Lady has been for us throughout all these years.”

 

 

The Portuguese national director of ACN concluded by remembering “Bishop Antonio of Porto, who departed from us so suddenly this Monday.” The bishop, who “was a generous friend of ACN,” she added, “will always be remembered for his kindness, generosity and sympathy, especially for the poorest, neediest and the loneliest.” She concluded her remarks by promising that ACN would “continue every day to pray for peace in the world, just as Our Lady asked us to do in this place.”

 

 

Press Conference by Paolo Aido, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

ACN Press: The Church in Camagüey Cuba takes a direct hit from Irma

12.09.2017 in ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Cuba, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org, Urgent need
PHOTOS : CUBA – Archdiocese of Camagüey – 11.09.2017 
After the Hurrican Irma
 sent by S.E.R. Mons. Wilfredo Pino Estevez 

 

The Church in Camagüey Cuba takes a direct hit from Irma

Like the sound of an explosion

In Cuba, Archbishop Wilfredo Pino Estevez of Camagüey tells of his visit to the most badly damaged areas of his diocese where homes and buildings sustained damage and one recently renovated church.  Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) was able to reach him to find out more.

According to the local municipal emergency services, Hurricane Irma lashed the town of Esmeralda in the eastern province of Camaguey for a full nine hours, with winds in excess of 250 km an hour. Over 7000 people had to be evacuated.

On Sunday, the day after the passage of Hurricane Irma, the Archbishop of Camaguey visited the town, where he saw “great destruction, not only in Esmeralda itself, but also in the area around the sugar refinery in Jaronú in the nearby town of Brazil, where the recently restored church was damaged.” Likewise, in the small town of Jiquí, the chapel had collapsed. “Apparently, it exploded,” the Archbishop was told. “When we arrived in Esmeralda, we celebrated Mass there with the handful of people who were able to attend. There too we saw many damaged homes, partially or totally demolished, roofless, etc. Some of the people were still visibly scared. ‘What a long night that was!” was the most common thing I heard from the people I talked to.”

Archbishop Wilfredo went on to tell ACN that on arriving in Jiquí “it was painful to see our church totally razed to the ground, with the benches smashed and the holy pictures ruined”. While he was there, despite the continuing rain, he met with Ismaela and Alberto a local married couple and was deeply impressed by the first words Ismaela said to him: “Archbishop, the chapel may have collapsed, but not the Church.”

In his message, Archbishop Wilfredo spoke about the work underway by the Church in the various different towns and parishes affected. When he asked his priests and religious if they were all okay, the response of most of them was unanimous: “We are well, but we were going out with some food and a few other things, practical items, in order to help anyone who may be in need.”

 

Cuba/Santiago – celebration of the 400 years of the finding of Our Lady of the Charity of Cobre

Archbishop Wilfredo concluded his message by recalling that on 8 September, Our Lady’s birthday and the feast of the Patroness of Cuba, “We were unable to hold the usual processions of Our Lady of Charity, but now, as on other occasions, Our Good Lord is inviting us to make “processions of love” like the ones I’ve just been telling you about. I’m sure that tomorrow, Monday, when the priests come to the Bishop’s House, they will be telling me about new “processions” of this kind…”

Ulrich Kny, ACN’s section head with responsibility for projects in Cuba, thinks that the priorities for aid will be the rebuilding of the ruined churches in Jaronú and Jiquí. ACN is also considering sending emergency aid, “so that the Church can act as an instrument of God’s mercy and help remedy some of the damage caused by the hurricane, which also did not spare other dioceses, such as Ciego de Ávila, Santa Clara, Matanzas and Havana, where 10 deaths have already been reported.”

 

 

 Text by Maria Lozano, ACN International Press
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada



 

ACN Press – Emergency aid for Nigeria

01.08.2017 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org

Nigeria

$101,500 in emergency aid for Nigeria

ACN will send emergency aid to help widows and orphans affected by Boko Haram violence in the Nigerian Catholic diocese of Maiduguri

During a the recent ACN visit in March 2017 to the diocese of Maiduguri, Bishop Oliver Doeme highlighted the main challenges for his diocese, which include a humanitarian crisis, a lack of food, a lack of education (schools were destroyed), but also, what he calls, a spiritual crisis. The majority of people in his diocese are severely traumatized.

 

The bishop went on to explain that most of those killed by Boko Haram were men, which leaves the diocese with over 5,000 widows and 15,000 orphans to care for. The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has approved an urgent grant of $101,500 to support these victims of Boko Haram.

 

“Boko Haram fighters came to my home early in the morning” – explains Esther in her local language Hausa – ”they started to loot everything, then they took my husband and told him to convert to Islam, and when he refused, he was slaughtered in front of my eyes.” In the same way, Rose’s husband “was shot right in the forehead” for refusing to convert to Islam.

 

Photo: Widows of Boko Haram victims helped by the Diocese of Maiduguri

 

Grief overwhelms Agnes, 40 years old and mother of nine children, when she laments that she was unable to bury her beloved husband. “My husband was a builder; he was working outside of a house when Boko Haram surrounded all the people and gunned them down. The terrorists didn’t allow anybody to into the place to recover the bodies. No burial was possible, no funeral could be celebrated. They just left the bodies to rot there.” When she finishes speaking Agnes dries away her tears with the apron of her colorful typical dress.

 

These stories are but some examples of the thousands of traumatic experiences that Nigerian women in Maiduguri have endured in recent time. Kathrin, Helene, Justine, Juliette, Hanna… and so on up to the 5,000th. Behind each number, there is a face and although their faces appear composed, their hearts are full of pain. In order to assist these highly traumatized widows, a part of the ACN grant will be used to provide healing-sessions.

 

These women will also be trained in how to take care of their basic needs, now that they are alone. Before the attacks, they relied on their husbands’ income. Life has not been the same since losing them. Most of the widows have more than six children to feed and educate. Most refuse to marry again because they still feel very close to their husbands who were killed under terrible circumstances. A great many of these women continue to grieve, mourning their missing spouses, because their bodies have not been returned for burial leaving an open wound that is hard to close. Bishop Oliver has created the “St. Judith Widow Association” with an aim of better adapting the aid to the particular circumstances of every individual in need.

 

Photo: Refugees and displaced sitting in front of their hut

 

Another part of the project relates to school fees and feeding orphans. As bishop Oliver pointed out, “it is mostly the children living in the eastern part of the diocese who will benefit from this, as this part is the most affected and the poorest.”

The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri is located in the northeastern part of Nigeria. Not only the birthplace of Boko Haram, but also the worst hit by its attacks. The three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa lie at the center of Boko Haram activities. The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri covers two and half of these states. Since 2009, over 200 churches and missions, numerous priests’ rectories, 25 schools, 3 hospitals, 3 convents, countless shops, personal houses of lay people and business centers have been destroyed on this territory.

 

According to data collected by the pontifical charity ACN during its recent trip to the affected area, Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people, 26 million people have suffered directly from the conflict and 2.3 million children and youth are deprived from accessing to education.

 

They may destroy our structures but not our faith. Our Faith is active and alive in persecution we are purified.”
Photo: Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme inspecting a burnt church in Bahuli community in Catholic diocese of Maiduguri.

By Maria Lozano, ACN International,
Text adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 


 

Archbishop Lépine calls us to Pray, Give, Speak-Out

12.07.2017 in Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Famine, Mario Bard, Nigeria, Prayer, Press Release, South Sudan

The Pray, Give, Speak-Out Campaign

Archbishop Lépine calls for solidarity

 

“It is now that millions of people suffer from hunger… let us stand in solidarity with them,” answers Msgr. Christian Lépine when asked why give for the famine in Nigeria and in South Sudan in a short video published yesterday on Aid to the Church in Need Canada’s Youtube channel.

 

Marie-Claude Lalonde and Msgr Christian Lépine during the Pray, Give, Speak-Out campaign launch in June.

A reminder from the Archbishop of Montreal and member of the ACN International Council, that the campaign launched by the Canadian Catholic Bishops is still underway and that the situation itself remains a major concern for our project partners.

 

“If the period for matching donations by the Canadian government has ended, Aid to the Church in Need continues to receive donations to relieve hunger due to famine,” indicates Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need.

“We are happy that Msgr. Lépine supports us in this urgent action as a member of our organization’s International Council.  We therefore would like to invite people who have not yet had the chance to give to this campaign to do so as quickly as possible.”  ACN Canada is one of three charitable organizations proposed by the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops as part of the campaign they launched in June called, Pray, Give, Speak-Out, aiming at countering the famine threatening over 20 million people in Yemen and in three other African countries namely Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.  ACN has been able to give support to project partners in the last two countries among those listed.

Concrete results already emerging

In fact, our project partners have begun receiving what is needed to feed the people coming to them.  “They have already begun work to help the population.  What our organization is sending is but a bare minimum for the time being.  Our objective of collecting $290,000 is on its way to being achieved!  Let us hope for it and thanks to the generosity of Canadians, that we may do more than we initially planned for.  Thank you for your help with this urgent mission!” declares Mrs. Lalonde.

 

To assist our project partners in Northern Nigeria and in South Sudan, please give at the following address:
www.acn-aed-ca.org/iamstarving/

 

We also welcome donations by credit card over the phone:
1-800-585-6333, Ext 227 for Donor Services.

Finally, cheques can be sent by mail.  Please mention ‘Famine Campaign 2017’ on the envelope and making cheques payable to Aid to the Church in Need.  Our mailing address:

Aid to the Church in Need Canada
Famine Campaign 2017

P.B. Box. 670, Station H
Montreal (Québec) H3G 2M6

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