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Breaking News – Acquittal of 40 Christians falsely accused in lynching case

30.01.2020 in Pakistan, press@acn-intl.org, Religious freedom

 

PAKISTAN

Justice and freedom at last

 

By John Pontifex, ACN International
Adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web January 30, 2020

 

Christians across Pakistan are rejoicing after a court yesterday (Wednesday, 29th January) acquitted 40 men jailed for alleged involvement in the lynching of two people in a district outside Lahore.

 

The 40 individuals, almost all of them Christians, shouted “Alleluia, Praise God” as the anti-terrorism court in Lahore ordered their release after nearly five years in custody.

More than 40 others, on bail after being accused of lesser offences that took place at about the same time in Youhanabad district, were also acquitted.

 

 

A look back at the arrests of these Christians in 2015

They had all been arrested as police responded to riots in Youhanabad sparked by suicide bomb attacks on two churches one Sunday morning in March 2015, in which at least 15 people were killed and more than 70 were injured.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) just hours after the acquittal verdict, Father Emmanuel ‘Mani’ Yousaf described how emotion swept through the court as the accused began to absorb the court’s decision, citing insufficient evidence to prove the men’s guilt.

Reporting that the accused were now back home with their families, Father Yousaf said: “What we have seen today is wonderful news for Pakistan.”

“Throughout Pakistan, people had been praying, every day praying that the court would rule in their favour. It is a big day for us all.  “The accused have been through a big, big trauma and now, thank God, come out the other side.”

Father Yousaf, National Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), went on to thank ACN for providing legal and paralegal aid, which, he said, had been crucial to the successful outcome of the case. As well as funding legal fees, the charity sponsored schooling for the families of the accused and gifts at Easter and Christmas.

“First of all, we are very grateful to ACN. With the charity’s support and prayers, all the accused are now free. Thanks to ACN, they are now able to restart their lives,” expressed Father Yousaf. He also added that two of the accused had died in jail; that there had been reports of physical maltreatment and pressure to convert to Islam were.

ACN to continue providing help

ACN has pledged to continue helping the families of the accused, especially over the coming year. Father Yousaf explained how the families of the accused had struggled to cover basic costs as the men behind bars had been “the major bread winners.”

He said that starting again back home would be difficult for a number of the men who had suffered multiple bereavements of close family members during their incarceration.

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: 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

 


 

Press Release – Hope in Erbil

10.01.2017 in ACN International, ACN International, ACN Interview, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Mónica Zorita, Christmas in the Middle East, Iraq, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org, SUBSISTENCE

Christmas Celebration in Erbil – Community of Father Luis Montes IVE

Iraq

After the liberation of villages in the Nineveh Plains

Christmas celebrations filled with hope in Erbil

“There is still a long way to go before the refugees can return to their homes. The region is riddled with bombs,” Father Luis Montes reports. In fact, the area he says has been “riddled with land mines.”

Iraq: the remnants of a statue of Our Lady in the Mar Quryaqus (Qeryaqos) in Batnaya destroyed by  Daesh  (Picture – December 2016)

“The refugees in the northern part of Iraq know that Christians from other countries have kept them alive,” Father Luis Montes, episcopal vicar of the Latin bishop for Kurdistan who has lived in Iraq since 2010, reported to Aid to the Church in Need. This year, Christian refugees in the northern part of Iraq are twice as excited to celebrate the birth of Christ. This is because the vast majority of the villages on the Nineveh plains, which have been under occupation by the “Islamic State” (IS) since the summer of 2014, have now been liberated. At the time, 120,000 people fled the advancing jihadist threat, leaving their homes in great haste.

“When we received the news that IS was retreating, a spontaneous celebration broke out in the refugee camps. The people went out into the streets to dance and sing, as though they did not have any other problems in their lives,” said Father Luis.

In an interview with the international pontifical charity   Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Argentine priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word explained that despite this initial joy, very difficult steps must first be taken before the refugees can return to their homes.

According to some estimates, “approximately 60% of the homes on the Nineveh plains were burned down. The terrorists not only seized all of their belongings. They riddled the region with land mines.” They even “put bombs in with children’s toys” so that they would explode when the people returned home.

According to some estimates, “approximately 60% of the homes on the Nineveh plains were burned down.”

 

“It is true that some people were able to return to their houses. However, they were only able to determine that they still exist. Because it is impossible to live there,” Father Montes said gravely. “The mines first need to be cleared out of the entire region. Only then can the villages be restored, and that from the ground up. Everything still needs to be done, the people have nothing left.”

 

December 2016 – seen here, a partially destroyed village of Batnaya in the Niniveh Plain.   

Meanwhile, the refugees are living in Erbil, the capital city of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, in what is practically a dream state. Most of the country’s Christians are living there at the moment. “They have not lost the hope of being able to return to their homes. They envision themselves living back in their houses, receiving friends and relatives there. Because hospitality is very important to them. Despite everything, Iraqis have lost neither their smiles nor their hope.” Father Luis Montes described them as a model of willpower. They held out all through these horrible years “not only in peace, but also with joy. It is easy being a pastor here because they really live what they say. To talk about forgiveness with them is easy because they forgive without bearing a grudge. They are what gives us strength.”

 

Christmas with blankets and chocolate

Christmas 2016 in Erbil, Iraq. “I find it quite impressive to look into the faces of the children when they see the presents. Not only because of the things in and of themselves, but because people who live very far away were thinking of them.” Father Luis Montes

The Christmas holiday is celebrated very intensely in the northern part of Iraq. The houses and streets are decorated with Christmas trees and lights. A very special atmosphere pervades. During Advent, believers prepare themselves by going to confession and Masses are highlights of the celebration during these days.

The Argentinian priest describes how chocolate is passed out in the refugee camps after Holy Mass as a sign of joy and brotherhood. If an aid organization has donated gifts, they are also distributed. “I find it quite impressive to look into the faces of the children when they see the presents. Not only because of the things in and of themselves, but because people who live very far away were thinking of them.”

 

These days, the average temperature is minus three degrees Celsius. A great contrast to the sweltering 50 degrees that the country experiences in the summer. The solution is “blankets and more blankets,” because the walls of the prefabricated barracks in the refugee camps are very thin. “Because they had to be built very quickly to accommodate the large masses of people, many of these barracks have construction defects. These are gradually being repaired. Sometimes the families live in flats that they share with other families and that have been rented by the diocese of Erbil.”

Finally a little hope for Iraq!  Shown here, a  Christmas celebration in Erbil.

“They know that Christians from other countries have kept them alive.”

For several years now, Aid to the Church in Need has been providing aid to Iraq.  In Erbil alone, the help given by the international organization has risen to – since 2014 – more than 17 million dollars representing 43% of the local support to displaced Christians and refugees in the Archdiocese of Erbil. This support becomes concrete through various projects throughout the country such as the building of schools, renting flats for refugee families, Mass offerings for priests, and the distribution of Christmas presents or covering the cost of the maintenance for various Christian refugee camps.

Father Luis Montes expressed how deeply he appreciates the charities’ work. He affirmed that the refugees “know that Christians from other countries have kept them alive. They always pray for their benefactors.” Nevertheless, the priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word asked that the international community not forget Iraq once the Islamic State has been defeated. “This country needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. The people have lost everything.”

 

Mónica Zorita, Aid to the Church in Need International

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

 


 

ACN Press: Syria – More bombings in Aleppo

19.07.2016 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org

Syria

A “consternating” situation leaving Christians “exasperated”

Aid to the Church in Need recently received information coming from its partners in Syria from the village of Aleppo.  For many days, the inhabitants have suffered through many more bombings.   “Aleppo has known a veritable war for the third consecutive day,” writes Father Fadi. 

“The terrorists bomb the neighbourhoods of the city with hundreds of rockets and explosives.  All the people in the city are hiding and no one dares to go and see what has happened.”

According to what he wrote to the international catholic charity, “the Syrian army has made a great offensive lasting 5 hours.” He adds, “What language are we speaking?  In the name of what religion are we addressing you? We have lost our work, our security and our homes but not our humanity and or our Faith in God,” he indicates before adding:  “Please share.”

Syria, 11.July 2016 Old Syriak in Aleppo after the bomb attack on the weekend. Only that very small file quality available

Syria, 11.  July 2016  Aleppo after the bomb attack on the weekend.

Another project partner, Sister Annie, asks for prayers and tells how “enormous attacks” are directed against the Christians, who are “a targeted group.”  She considers the situation to be a “consternating” one.

 

Exasperated, they no longer know where to go to find refuge

Msgr Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, has written a new letter in which he reports on attacks last July 2. “Thanks to Divine Providence, none of the 25 souls gathered suffered a scratch!” he writes as two rockets are shot down only a few meters form a school yard – adjacent to Saint Dimitrios parish church – where parishioners were gathered after Saturday evening Mass.

He indicates that once again,” fire and destruction once again ravaged the poor parish which already had seen its buildings bombarded and destroyed four times since the beginning of this detestable war.”

“What a sad ending to the week. Once more, residents of the city had to suffer greatly the terror that has not stopped menacing them day and night.”

Alep, Syrie, 11 juillet 2016. Des enfants regardent les dommages causés par des bombardements.

Aleppo, Syria – July 11 2016. Children examine the devastation caused by the bombings.

In this letter available on Aid to the Church in Need Canada’s website in PDF, he recalls that “many [Christians] are leaving the country” and he estimates that “many of them are fleeing the country and there is talk that Aleppo will lose all its Christians. What unhappiness, as our 2000-year-old is confronted with such a fateful time in its history,” he writes and adding, “Yet, despite everything, we will not let ourselves be defeated.”

“May our friends who wish us well accompany us with their prayers, may they be at our sides to defend our cause, strengthen our resistance and help us stay put,” he requests.

For over five years, Aid to the Church in Need has supported projects in Syria – with among others, in partnership with Msgr Jeanbart.  In 20145 alone, over 8 million Canadian dollars were essential for emergency projects in Syria.  Whether it was for food aid, shelter or for help with education.  This precious support has continued through this year.

(Read Msgr Jean-Clément Jeanbart’s letter ( translation courtesy of Joop Coopman of ACN USA)

 

By Mario Bard, Aid to the Church in Need Canada

Adapted and translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin


 

ACN Press – Syria: A Bishop’s plea

26.05.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN PRESS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By John Pontifex, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org, Religious freedom, Syria

Cover picture – Bishop Antioine Chbeir, Maronite Bishop in Syria with Head of Middle East Projects for ACN – Father Halemba

Syria

A Bishop’s plea as blasts cause carnage 

A diocese rallies in support of wounded and the grieving

Bishop warns of exodus following bomb blasts

 

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, a Maronite Bishop in Syria has described the desperate efforts made to tend to the injured and the dying following multiple Daesh (ISIS) attacks in Tartous and Jableh, which left more than 200 dead and nearly 650 injured.

 

Bishop Antoine Chbeir stressed that Monday’s (May 23) attacks in his diocese were the first of their kind in an area where displaced Syrians had gathered in their hundreds of thousands, believing it to be one of the last remaining safe areas of the country.

 

Tartous_Maronite Cathedral_Maronite Bishop Geroges Chbier

Tartous_Maronite Cathedral_Maronite Bishop  Chbier

 

The Maronite Bishop of Latakia described the desperate efforts of clergy and others from the diocese helping the wounded and the dying, saying that Tuesday, (May 24) his priests had begun burying the dead.

 

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need by telephone, Bishop Chbeir said: “We are trying to help the people and are taking care of the wounded. It is a very dramatic situation and when the disaster struck we wondered if we could cope.

“Right now, our priests and people are on the scene. They are visiting the people – many of them have broken legs and deep wounds, not to mention the psychological effects.”

 

Near to a another exodus?

 

In a government-controlled area which has escaped almost completely unscathed in spite of five years of war, the bishop warned that the attacks on the two coastal cities, said to be perpetrated by Daesh (ISIS), may prompt a surge in people fleeing Syria.  According to the bishop, there were five explosions in Jableh killing 110 people and wounding 340 while on the same day at around 9.30am in Tartous, four blasts went off leaving more than 100 dead and 300 injured.

 

1 Syria ChbeirThe bishop, who recalled hearing the attacks in Tartous which took place less than two miles from his home, said: “These attacks are the first we have had here during this time of war and they will have dramatic consequences. If you do not have safe areas in Syria, they will leave the country – probably for good… Many of them will go by sea.”The bishop spoke of the desperate need to rebuild hope. “Today, we are more determined than ever to stay in Syria. Every time we have a bombing, we will do whatever it takes to stay in the country where we are living.”

 

The bishop, who is a leading project partner for Aid to the Church in Need in the region, said that his response to the crisis builds on the foundations of existing ACN help for thousands of displaced people in the region, providing them with food, shelter and medicine. “First of all, we need physical and material help, just to help those affected to have something to eat and to help them take care of those who are suffering the most,” he emphasized.

 

Aid to the Church in Need Canada is continuing to accept donations for the displaced refugees in Syria. To make a donation: Please call: 514.932-0552, extension 221 or visit the website at secure.acn-aed-ca.org.

 

“We care for people not because of their particular religion but because they are human beings” adding that the people’s needs had increased because the Syrian economy was failing with food and other basic items in short supply.

 

“Tartous is in [a desperate state]. In the last two weeks, the Syrian currency has lost 40 percent of its value. The Syrian state has no income. It is always spending. The economic sanctions against Syria are really affecting the people,”the Bishop continued. “In this month of May, we are praying to Our Lady to help us. Thank you to Aid to the Church in Need for standing by us.”

 

Turning criminals into human beings

 

The bishop denounced the attack, confirming reports that it was perpetrated by Daesh (ISIS): “ISIS are barbaric people. The worst thing about it is that they are doing these awful things in the name of God. In the name of God, they are killing people everywhere.” But the bishop said retaliation was not the answer. “We must call for peace’” he said. “We must not kill these criminals. We must turn the criminal into a human being who cares for human life.”

 

Reports from the region state that Daesh’s apparent aim was to strike the Assad regime in its core stronghold, which is backed by the nearby Russian fleet.

 

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By John Pontifex, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canadian office

 


 

ACN Press – Abbey targeted by extremists in Jerusalem

21.01.2016 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Oliver Maksan, Jerusalem, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org

Jerusalem

“Praying for those who hate us”

The Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem has been targeted by vandals again. Last Saturday night, unknown persons defaced the walls and doors of the German-speaking Benedictine monastery on the outer edges of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Also targeted were nearby establishments of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Church. The graffiti, which had been written in Hebrew and in several different handwriting styles, proclaimed: “Christians go to hell,”; “Death to heathen Christians, the heretical enemies of Israel,” “Revenge for Israelis” or “Erased be His name.”

Holy Land/Jerusalem, 19 Jan. 2016. The Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem has once again been targeted by vandals. On Saturday night, unknown persons defaced the walls and doors of the German-speaking Benedictine monastery on the outer edges of the Old City of Jerusalem. Also targeted were nearby establishments of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic church. The graffiti, which had been written in Hebrew and in several different handwriting styles, proclaimed: “Christians go to hell”, “Death to heathen Christians, the heretical enemies of Israel”, “Revenge for Israelis” or “Erased be His name”. A sword dripping with blood was also drawn next to a Star of David. Only this very small file quality available

© Latin Patriarchate of Jerusale

A sword dripping with blood was also drawn next to a Star of David.

The community of monks reacted with dismay to the incidents. “We are praying for those who hate us,” Father Nikodemus Schnabel, sub-prior of the monastery, said to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “If we are being attacked because we are Christians, then we want to react as Christians.” When asked, Father Nikodemus was not able to explain why the extremists had targeted the Abbey of the Dormition again. However, he emphasized that the Jewish community had reacted with commiseration.

 

Holy Land/Jerusalem, 19 Jan. 2016. The Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem has once again been targeted by vandals. On Saturday night, unknown persons defaced the walls and doors of the German-speaking Benedictine monastery on the outer edges of the Old City of Jerusalem. Also targeted were nearby establishments of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic church. The graffiti, which had been written in Hebrew and in several different handwriting styles, proclaimed: “Christians go to hell”, “Death to heathen Christians, the heretical enemies of Israel”, “Revenge for Israelis” or “Erased be His name”. A sword dripping with blood was also drawn next to a Star of David. Only this very small file quality available

© Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem          Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem  – The graffiti, which had been written in Hebrew and in several different handwriting styles, proclaimed: “Christians go to hell”, “Death to heathen Christians, the heretical enemies of Israel”, “Revenge for Israelis” or “Erased be His name”.

“We are thankful for all of our friends in Israel who stand by us in solidarity,” said Father Nikodemus. “We as monks of the Abbey of the Dormition will not cease praying for reconciliation, justice and peace – as well as for the perpetrators of last night, that the hatred may disappear from their hearts.” But in the meantime, he has also called for the Israeli authorities to act.  “We ask that the security forces take this criminal act seriously and finally take steps to improve the security situation on Mount Zion, something which has been promised to us since the summer of 2013.”

The police had already approved the installation of cameras in the summer of 2013, after parked cars belonging to the monastery were heavily damaged and vitriolic graffiti was discovered. However, Father Nikodemus said that nothing has happened to date. Over the last few years the Benedictine community has repeatedly been targeted by what are suspected to be Jewish extremists.

Shortly after Pope Francis visited in May of 2014, an attempt was made to set fire to the abbey church in Jerusalem. Up to this point, the worst incident was an arson attack on Tabgha Priory belonging to the monastic community on the Sea of Galilee, in June of 2015. The priory sustained damages totaling more than 2.32 million dollars. Two people suffered from smoke poisoning. The perpetrators, Jewish extremists, have since been arrested. It remains unclear how much of the costs for the reconstruction of the destroyed parts of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes the state of Israel will undertake to pay.

For years now, Christian and Muslim churches and establishments have been under attack by what are presumably Jewish extremists. The perpetrators are suspected to be primarily extremist Jews who support the Settlement movement. Hardly any arrests or convictions have yet to be made. Recently, in December, the cemetery of the Salesian monastery of Beit Gemal in Israel was desecrated by unknown persons who overturned and damaged crosses.

 

 

*  Cover photo:  Father Nikodemus Schnabel OSB is subprior of the German speaking Benedictine monastery Dormitio Mariae in Jerusalem. The abbey has been attacked repeatedly by presumably Jewish extremists.

 

 

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International, press@acn-intl.org

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada, ag@acn-aed-ca.org

 


 

Press release : ACN is developing 20 more emergency aid programs for Syria

15.01.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN United Kingdom, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Emergency Aid, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, John Pontifex, Journey with ACN, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org, Syria

Syria

Starved into submission

January 15, 2016 –  Food has become “the most deadly weapon of war” in Syria, according to a leading Catholic charity’s Middle East projects coordinator, who says both government and rebel forces are blocking humanitarian aid to force entire communities on the brink of starvation to submit to their rule. 

Father Andrzej Halemba, from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), says that many groups are preventing food aid from getting through in an attempt to weaken the resistance of opposition groups. Father Halemba, who is in constant communication with Church leaders in Syria and who visited the country three times last year, said the crisis was putting extra pressure on ACN and other organizations to increase emergency help to areas open to aid. It also confirmed what the media around the world reported this week via the troubling images of starving children – numerous groups had mounted blockades and were letting no one through, no convoys transporting food, in order to weaken the resistance of the opposition.  Civilians are paying the price.

Fr Andrezj Halemba: .“We wish to fulfil 100 percent of the requests we receive however it is not always possible to achieve everything we hope to do. Every item of help is appreciated so much. People have told us of their joy on receiving our help. They were crying with joy, saying now we can survive the winter.”

Fr Andrezj Halemba: .“We wish to fulfil 100 percent of the requests we receive however it is not always possible to achieve everything we hope to do. Every item of help is appreciated so much. People have told us of their joy on receiving our help. They were crying with joy, saying now we can survive the winter.”

Such regions have become a magnet for people fleeing aid-blockaded areas. “Forces on both sides – Government and rebels alike – are preventing humanitarian aid from getting through in an attempt to subdue the people,” said ACN‘s Head of the Middle East section, adding that rebels had taken humanitarian aid and sold it to the highest bidder to generate funds. Referring to Madaya, the town north-east of Damascus where people have reportedly starved to death, he said: “There are quite a few places like Madaya where people are in desperate need but where help is not getting through.”

Amid reports that up to 4 million people in Syria are living in areas cut off from aid, Father Halemba cited statistics showing that, since the violence began nearly five years ago, 280,000 people had been killed in conflict but that 350,000 had died from lack of medicine and other essential supplies. ACN was building up emergency aid programs in centres such as the capital of Damascus, which is receiving thousands of people fleeing Madaya.

Since March 2011 when the conflict first began, ACN has provided  $15,051 million dollars  in aid for Christians and others in the country. Of that figure, nearly 60 percent – $8.99 million  – was provided last year alone.

Renew prayers and increase programs for Syria

Last month, the charity put into action 19 relief programs for Syria. Father Halemba stated that the charity is developing 20 more emergency aid programs for Syria to be rolled out over the coming months.  ACN is working with bishops in Damascus, Tartus, Aleppo and Homs as well as Jesuits and religious communities providing food, medicine, anoraks and shoes in regions such as Aleppo, north-east Syria, as well as Homs, further south and surrounding Marmarita and the Valley of the Christians. He stressed how the crisis was compounded by a loss of power supplies in key areas, saying that Aleppo had been without electricity since mid-November, a problem made worse by below zero night-time temperatures.

Saying that last year, 15,000 items of aid were given to families across the country, Father Halemba added: “Many of the families have received numerous packages of aid from us. This year, we are seeking to increase our aid to meet the growing needs of the people.“We wish to fulfil 100 percent of the requests we receive however it is not always possible to achieve everything we hope to do. Every item of help is appreciated so much. People have told us of their joy on receiving our help. They were crying with joy, saying now we can survive the winter.”

Already 5 years of conflict in Syria.

Already 5 years of conflict in Syria.

Father Halemba spoke to us of the urgent need to provide aid to villages near the north-eastern city of Hassake newly liberated from Islamist forces. At present, many Assyrian Christians exiled from the villages are unable to return because of the lack of basic supplies.

The priest also urged everyone to renew prayers for Syria, especially for the 79 Christians kidnapped in the Assyrian villages near Hassake and held by Daesh at its stronghold of Raqqa in the north of the country. Reports say the Islamists have requested ransoms of up to  $46,545 per person.

Fr Halemba went on to highlight the suffering of Christians unable to pay extortionate Islamic jizya tax demanded in areas controlled by ISIS (Daesh) and other militant groups. He said that Christians were forced to pay jizya of up to 87,000 Syrian pounds per year ( $525 CAN  – according to the official exchange rate) but that people could not afford it in a country where since 2010 1 kilo of sugar has risen from 5 Syrian pounds ($2.90) to 5,000 Syrian pounds ($30.22 CAN).

Responding to the build-up of international military action in Syria, Father Halemba said: “A Pandora’s Box has been opened up and nobody is willing to close the lid. Instead of talking about waging war, what is needed is for people to sit down and talk about ways to bring peace. That is what the people really need right now.”

 

 

 

 

By John Pontifex, ACN UK, press@acn-intl.org

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada, ag@acn-aed-ca.org 

A day of prayer to bring Pope Francis safely to Africa

19.11.2015 in Central African Republic, Pope Francis, Poverty, Prayer, press@acn-intl.org

Central African Republic

“The visit by Pope Francis will be for us a witness of peace”

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is appealing to its benefactors to pray this Sunday for the papal visit, despite the most recent violence in the country 

On 29 and 30 November Pope Francis is due to visit the Central African Republic, but the fresh outbreaks of violence in the capital of Bangui since  October 29 may put his visit in jeopardy. For the people of Central Africa, this would be yet another tragedy. Conscious of the great importance of this visit, ACN is calling for a Global Day of Prayer on Sunday 22 November (Feast of Christ the King, Prince of Peace) for the re-establishment of peace, so that the papal visit can go ahead as planned.

 

The members of an ACN delegation who have just returned from Bangui actually witnessed the violence, which is continuing on the outskirts of the capital. “We witnessed a real exodus of people on the day when the violence erupted again in one of the suburbs (Cattin). People were fleeing with whatever they could carry, while others were looting what was left in their abandoned homes.” On all Saints’ Day the parish priest in the parish of Saint Joseph of Mukassa found his church emptied of three quarters of its congregation.

“the eyes of the world will finally be turned on the Central African Republic”

In the midst of all this violence, the expectations of the papal visit are becoming more and more intense. Apart from the fact that his visit will be a profound encouragement towards peace, “the eyes of the world will finally be turned on the Central African Republic,” as the people explain.

 

 Here is what some have to say as they await with impatience the Holy Father’s visit to their home.

 

Mgr Dieudonné Nzapalainga, archevêque de Bangui. « C'est le pape des pauvres qui vient visiter les pauvres. »

Msgr Dieudonné Nzapalainga, archbishop of Bangui. “The Pope for the poor is coming to visit the poor. »

Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui also explains: “We are looking forward to this visit for a message of peace, reconciliation and above all mercy. The visit of the Pope is a sign of God coming to meet us, through his messenger. He is the Pope of the poor, coming to visit the poor. Central Africa is a poor country, a forgotten country, a helpless and abandoned country.”

 

Soeur Prisca, paroisse Notre-Dame d'Afrique, Bangui. « La venue du pape peut nous apporter un témoignage de paix. »

Soeur Prisca, from Our Lady of Africa, in Bangui. “The visit by Pope Francis will be for us a witness of peace.”

Sister Prisca, a religious in the parish of Our Lady of Africa in Bangui, also explains: “Our country has suffered greatly in these last three years. The visit by Pope Francis will be for us a witness of peace – this is what the people of Central Africa are hoping for. I am also expecting him to invite us, the consecrated religious, to go out even more and carry the Good News to those who are massacring their brothers and sisters and I am hoping that he will help us to go out and speak of peace and reconciliation.”

 

Christian, president of the Parish Pastoral committee of Saint Sauveur states: “What we are hoping from the Pope’s visit is that he will bring a spirit of social cohesion between Christians and Muslims. We young people of Central Africa want to be able to move towards the development of the Central African Republic.”

 

For Christine du Coudray, who heads the ACN project section responsible for this part of Africa, the visit of the Pope is of crucial importance. “It would be a tragedy if the visit of Pope Francis had to be cancelled. It would be a humiliation for the country and for its people. The Central African Republic is a forgotten country. The people have been victims of violence for years. It is of crucial importance that the Pope should come and put a stop to this cycle of violence. For the Christians, and even for the Muslims, the Pope represents the hope of a better future.”

 

For Msgr Franco Coppola, the apostolic Nuncio in Bangui, “the Holy Father wishes to remind the whole world by this visit of the difficulties into which the Central African Republic has been plunged and is trying with all its strength to emerge from.”

The Catholic Church in the country is playing a vital role, not only for the Christian population (66%) but also for the Muslims. “Without the Church the situation would be far more unstable. Archbishop Nzapalainga is a charismatic and widely respected figure of authority. We have seen for ourselves how he has succeeded in calming the situation in the areas of conflict,” Christine du Coudray continues. The priests and religious are also greatly admired, both by Christians and Muslims, because in spite of the danger, they faithfully remain next to the people. 

Since 2013, the International Catholic charity ACN has allocated more than 2.9 million dollars (CAN) to help the Central African Republic, especially to help the one million displaced people (representing nearly one fourth of its population).

 

At noon this coming Sunday November 22, (Feast of Christ the King, Prince of Peace) ACN is appealing to all its 600,000 benefactors and friends to join this Global Day of Prayer for the papal visit to the Central African Republic – by reciting the following prayer:

 

Prière à Notre-Dame d'Afrique

Praying at Our Lady of Africa

Prayer for the papal visit to the Central African Republic – by reciting the following prayer:

Lord our God, we give You thanks

For Pope Francis, who is coming to Central African Republic.

Guide his steps through the paths of the world and our country.

Inspire all his words and actions

So that he may announce to all nations Your love and mercy.

God of Mercy, amidst all our sufferings, You have had mercy upon us;

And You have sent Pope Francis to show us Your love.

Help us to follow the path of true Christians that he shows us.

Free our hearts from pride and malice,

So that we may follow the way of peace together.

God of Peace, You who protect your servants,

Let Pope Francis’s visit to our country

Give new strength to the Bishops and to our country’s authorities;

Give a new wisdom to the children, youth, men and women

So that we may work together for
the Church to thrive in our country.

Saint Mary, you who are a good Mother of Family;

Pray for the fathers and mothers who are heads of their families

So that they may give their children a good education.

Our families will then become families of peace;

And we will be able to receive Pope Francis with joy and peace.

We ask you,

For your Son Jesus Christ our Lord!

Amen.

Prayer at the chapel “Centre d’accueil missionnaire” in Bangui