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Pakistan – Interview – “The blasphemy law destroys lives”

01.02.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Interview, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Aide à l’Église en détresse., Asia, By Mario Bard, By Tobias Lehner, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, liberté religieuse, Mario Bard, Pakistan, Religious freedom, Voyager avec l’AED

Pakistan

“The blasphemy law destroys lives”

Dominican Father James Channan has been working to establish a dialogue between Christians and Muslims for years – in a country in which acts of violence against the infinitesimally small minority of Christians are a regular occurrence and any perceived criticism of Islam is subject to draconian punishments under the blasphemy law; Asia Bibi was not an isolated case. Father Channan is head of the Peace Center located in the city of Lahore in Pakistan.

During a visit to the headquarters of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Channan talked about the impact of the blasphemy laws, propitious developments in the Islamic world, and the future prospects of Asia Bibi in an interview with Tobias Lehner.

***

Tobias Lehner: The fate of Asia Bibi has given the world a face to associate with the perilous situation of many Christians in Pakistan. After years on death row, she was acquitted of blasphemy charges in late October 2018 and released from prison. What can you tell us about the current situation?

Father James Channan: The situation of the Christians in Pakistan is alarming. They live in fear and uncertainty. This situation has not changed since the 1970s, when legislation in Pakistan began to be based on Islamic Sharia law. Radical Muslims are misusing the controversial blasphemy law in particular to settle personal scores. Anytime, Christians are accused of supposed blasphemy, all Christians in the region are indicted with them. This often leads to acts of violence against Christians.

And this is exactly what happened in the case of Asia Bibi. She was on death row for nine years on charges of blasphemy. Even now, after her acquittal, she is anything but safe. Radical Islamists are trying to find her so that they can kill her. That is why she is currently under state protection. We hope that the Supreme Court will soon confirm her acquittal and refuse to grant permission to appeal. Then, hopefully, she will be able to leave the country and live in freedom.

Asia Bibi is not an isolated case. What can you tell us about the fate of Christians who are also facing charges of blasphemy?

According to a report of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, there are 224 other cases of Christians since 1984 facing charges of blasphemy, and currently 25. One of these is the case of the married couple Shafqat Masih and Shagufta Bibi. I visited them on death row. They have been accused of sending blasphemous text messages, which the couple denies. Their prospects are very bleak. Even should they be acquitted, they and their children will no longer be able to live in Pakistan. Fanatic Muslims will try to kill them. The blasphemy law destroys the lives of those who have been accused, even if they avoid being executed.

Following the acquittal of Asia Bibi we saw pictures of an angry mob that continued to call for her execution. In view of this, is there even a chance of religious freedom for Christians living in Pakistan?

It seemed as though at any moment, a group of militant Muslims would bring the entire country to a standstill. However, militant Islam does not hold the majority in Pakistan. The country has a fraction of about 10 to 15 per cent of radical Islamists who are provoking people to violence. The majority of Muslims do not follow these agitators. They are advocates for religious freedom, also for Christians. Both Christians and Muslims were greatly relieved when Pakistani security forces recently arrested more than 1000 Islamists. Cracking down on extremism was the right thing for the government to do. And I hope that this will continue.

Aid to the Church in Need has been working with you for many years. From a European standpoint, there is little one can do to change the situation. Does the aid actually make a difference for the Christians in Pakistan?

The support provided by ACN plays a crucial role in ensuring that the church in Pakistan can continue to proclaim the faith and promote a dialogue. The assistance has allowed us to build many bridges between Christians and Muslims. We want to demonstrate that the different religions have nothing to fear from one another. A large number of Muslim clerics, including the Grand Imam of the second largest mosque in Pakistan, are a fixed part of our programme at the Peace Center in Lahore and close friends. I am convinced that the foundation for a good and peaceful future can only be built by establishing a dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Amanda Griiffin and Mario Bard from ACN-Canada met Father James Channan last September.


 

ACN PRESS RELEASE – iRAQ

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

 

Iraq

Is hope reborn?

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

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

Msgr Louis Sako Chaldean Patriarch of  Baghdad. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A real sense of hope returning

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

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

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

Une dame déplacées âgées de 89 ans.

An 89 year old woman.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Translation and adaptation, Amanda Bridget Griffin ACN Canada


 

Our Project of the Week in Brazil

29.06.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aide à l’Église en détresse., Brazil, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Voyager avec l’AED

Brazil

New books for a seminary in Diamantina

It was not by chance that the city of Diamantina got its name – for in the 17th century this was the first place where diamonds were found outside of Asia. But, as happens everywhere in the world, those who got rich were only a few lucky ones. There are many men who are still trying to support their families by digging for diamonds here. They are not slaves as their forefathers were, but they earn very little from this backbreaking work. What profit there is goes into others pockets, and anyway, diamonds have become quite rare in the region now.

 

Au Séminaire du Sacré-Coeur de Jésus, à Diamantina au Brésil, les livres vont servir à nourrir l'instruction des jeunes séminaristes. Grâce à vous!

These men spend months in mountain camps trying to pull these precious stones from the rocks, often leaving their wives and in most cases their numerous children behind to struggle in poverty. Because of these difficult conditions, many of  families break apart, and many children are left neglected. But there are few other opportunities for work. Only a handful of people benefit from tourism, while others, who endeavour to live from making handcrafted items do not find many buyers. The land is rocky and ill-suited to agriculture and until now no industry worth mentioning has been established in the region.

 

Hope for the future

The city of Diamantina is also the seat of the diocese of the same name. The Archbishop knows that good priests are needed to help the people, to provide guidance for lives to be led with dignity, for as Our Lord tells us in the Gospels, “man does not live by bread alone.” The archdiocese is vast, covering an area of over 18,000 square miles (47,000 km²) – half the size of Portugal, in fact – yet there are only about 60 priests for a population of half a million people.

 

There is hope, however, for the future in the form of new vocations to the priesthood. In fact there are more than 40 young men currently training for the priesthood in the local diocesan seminary. However, this diocesan seminary is as poor as all the people in the region. The seminarians themselves cannot afford to pay for their own training. They do their best to make themselves useful in the seminary, by cleaning, serving one another at table and performing other menial household tasks. They do so gladly, and with joy, yet this is only a small contribution to the cost of running the seminary. At the moment, the greatest need for the seminary is to upgrade and update the stock of books in its library. For a well furnished library is one of the bases for the sound formation of future priests.

 

 

donateAid to the Church in Need and its benefactors are providing the seminary with $4,553  for the purchase of  the books necessary for their training.

Would you like to help support a similar project?

 

 


 

ACN Project of the Week for Contemplative Carmelites in Bolivia

11.05.2016 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aide à l’Église en détresse., Bolivia, CONSECRATED LIFE, CONSTRUCTION, Journey with ACN, Voyager avec l’AED

 

Bolivia

Success Story: renovation of the Carmelite convent in Reyes

The Carmelite convent in the small town of Reyes, in northwest Bolivia, was founded in 1979 by eight Spanish Carmelite Sisters. The bishop at the time would never have dared hope that one day a congregation of contemplative nuns would settle here, in this remove vicariate, neglected and often forgotten region of the Amazon jungle.

 

Sister Maria Teresa of the Child Jesus had always dreamt, even as a young novice, of founding a Carmelite convent in the mission field. Thirty years later, her dream became reality. The Spanish Sisters of the congregation wanted to be close to the missionaries in order to be able to support them with their prayers, and at the same time they also wanted to give an opportunity to the indigenous population to get to know and appreciate the riches of a contemplative life.

 

ACN-20160201- BOLIVIA

 

They succeeded and the community has continued to grow. In fact, in 1991 they were even able to send a group of Sisters to the Carmelite convent in Cochabamba, in the central Bolivian Andes, where the original group of Spanish Sisters has now grown old. Thanks to the influx of indigenous Latin American vocations, the Spanish Sisters who had originally founded the community were  able to return home to Spain in 1995, leaving their convent in good, Bolivian hands.

 

The Sisters in the convent in Reyes are young; most of them are aged between 30 and 40 in fact. They support themselves by painting and restoring holy pictures, by sewing and embroidering liturgical vestments and garments and by making and selling fruit preserves and yogurt. They also grow fruit and vegetables in their convent garden for their own needs. But all this activity only provides for their most basic daily needs.

 

In recent years the Carmelites have had to face the necessity of carrying out repair work on their convent, which was founded in 1980 and had never been renovated since. The heavy rains, hot sun and high humidity had taken their toll of the building, however, and so they had no choice but to have some essential repair work done.

 

In February last year Sister Susana Maria of the Most Holy Trinity wrote to express her great surprise and delight at receiving our letter promising help. Now the repair work has been completed, and Sister Susana has written again to say thank you to all our generous benefactors. “We are so grateful to God, and to all of you at ACN, and to all the benefactors! May God richly bless you all and grant you eternal life! May God, who is rich in mercy, reward you for the good that you are doing in this world. We thank you with all our hearts and will always remember you when our prayers before the Lord.”

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to help their community with a contribution of $21,750 CAD.

 

donate

To donate to this or to a similar project – please do so on-line on our new secure donation page. If you would prefer to call us, or write to us – our contact information can be found here

 


 

Press Release – Upcoming symposium in Montreal : “Are Christians in the world victims of genocide?”

19.04.2016 in ACN Canada, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, AED Canada, By Mario Bard, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom, Uncategorized, Voyager avec l’AED

 

Canada                
Symposium on Christians victimized by genocide

With participation from Aid to the Church in Need Canada

Montreal, April 19 2016 – “ We estimate from our point of view that Christians in Syria and in Iraq are suffering a slow, but certain, genocide,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde the national director of the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) who will take part in a panel this weekend at the invitation of the organization ‘Solidarité International Trinitaire’. 

 

 

Also on the panel, Sami Aoun, a geopolitical specialist and Msgr Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Greek Catholic Melkite Archbishop of Syria and Aleppo. The panel will be led by journalist, Pierre Maisonneuve.  The theme tabled for discussion: “Are Christians in the world victims of genocide?”

The panel, which will take place Saturday April 23 at 9am, will officially open the Symposium of the same name which will be held from the 22 to the 24th at the Grand Séminaire de Montréal, 2065 Sherbrooke West.

“The question is a broad,” considers the director who has held the position for 15 years.  “When we speak of genocide, we must be extremely cautious as to the type of situation we wish to qualify.  If we are talking about what is happening in Iraq or in Syria, it is clear the Islamic State (IS) is doing everything to eliminate the presence of Christians and other religious minorities.”

Partie de l'affiche annonçant le Colloque.

From the poster made by (S.I.T.)

Canada: Still in waiting

“When speaking about genocide, we always refer back to the definition given by international law,” says the director.  “In other words: as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.“ The Islamic State (IS) is guilty of genocide, according to the European Parliament and the American Secretary of State.

Now, the question remains: When will there be acknowledgement on the part of the Government of Canada?”

This past February, Mrs. Lalonde sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion, asking that the Canadian government recognize that what is happening in Syria and in Iraq is a genocide against Christians and other religious minorities.

Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity, has been working for over 60 years to bring awareness to the world of the fate of persecuted Christians and the situation of religious freedom throughout the world.  Every two years, a report called Persecuted and Forgotten? Addresses the situation of Christians throughout the world – whereas, also published every two years, the report on Religious Freedom in the world encompasses all religious traditions.

The Symposium: “Are Christians in the world victims of genocide?” will be held from Friday April 22 beginning at 4pm, through to Sunday April 24 at noon.  Simultaneous translations will be offered and voluntary contributions will be gratefully accepted.  The Grand Séminaire of Montreal is located at: 2065 Sherbrooke Street west, near Guy-Concordia Métro.

 

By Mario Bard, ACN Canada

Translated and adapted by, Amanda Bridget Griffin

 

 


 

 

 

 

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

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

Jerusalem, the Holy Land

“We identify more with Good Friday than with Easter”

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Bishop Fouad Twal leads the procession on Palms Sunday 2016.

Bishop Fouad Twal leads the procession on Palms Sunday 2016.

“The people are afraid to come to Jerusalem”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

The city of Jerusalem.

The city of Jerusalem.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


 

 

Project of the Week: A house of Mercy

16.03.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aide à l’Église en détresse., Centrafrique, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Construction, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Mario Bard, Voyager avec l’AED

Central African Republic

 

Help to renovate and extend a parish church in Bozoum

The parish of Saint Michael, in Bozoum, Central Africa, is one of the oldest in the country. Founded in 1927, it was the first mission station outside the modern capital of Bangui and become famous mainly due to the courageous work of the Italian Carmelite, Father Aurelio Gazzera.

 

Father Aurelio, who is 53 today, had already become something of a legend by his mid-40s. It was in 2007, in fact, when he  single-handedly succeeded in putting a stop to the ravages of the bandits, the so-called “Zaraguinas,” who were looting houses, abducting children, extorting ransoms and generally keeping people in fear and in terror.

Father Aurelio went out, unarmed, to meet the heavily armed bandits and succeeded in persuading them to return to a normal life with their families, to mend their ways and leave the people in peace. “My only weapon was prayer,” he says.

A few months later, the people were able to live in peace once more and their children went back to school again. To this day, the children in the villages of the region still sing a song about him: “Merci na Aurelio na Nzapa ti lo” – “Thanks to Aurelio and his God for making the bandits put down their guns.”

The next time though, that Bozoum caught the world’s eye,  was during the bloody warfare of 2013 and 2014. On this occasion Father Aurelio again succeeded, through tireless peace negotiations  with all the warring parties and with the various different ethnic groups, in preventing a massacre in his town. Many of the world media reported on the action of this courageous priest, who saved hundreds of lives but who on many occasions almost paid with his own life for this. But his motto was, and is: “Even if they kill me, I will not die.”

A celebration in the church of Bozoum. Father Aurelio hope people can pray in a bigger church and receive Mercy there too.

A celebration in the church of Bozoum. Father Aurelio hopes people will be able to pray in a bigger church and receive Mercy there too.

In his efforts to bring peace, his face was slapped by the rebels, his car was shot up, and on one occasion an overheated Muslim mob very nearly lynched him. While stones rained down on his car and furious individuals threatened him with guns, Father Aurelio quietly prayed the Rosary. He lived by the literal word of the Gospel: “Do good to those who hate you.”

No to vengeance, yes to generosity

Immediately after this incident, he set out, together with a handful of volunteers from the parish, to bring water, rice and medicines – provided at his own expense – to the Muslims, who had retreated together in a dense crowd for safety, for fear of reprisals. But, above all, he wanted to bring them consolation as he said later, adding, “They were the same people who had threatened me and smashed the windows of my car with stones. But now they were nothing but frightened children, women and men, who were also in need.”He even succeeded in persuading the people of his parish get involved in active of charity to benefit the Muslims.

Initially, he ventured out cautiously, asking  people to bring money and food to the church in order to help the Muslims. “I did not press this point too hard, because I know that the wounds are still very much open. Many people have lost family members, others had relatives who were tortured; some were robbed, and all of them were forced to spend weeks far away from home – and all this because of the overwhelmingly Muslim Seleka rebels and some local Muslims.” But in the end Father Aurelio was overwhelmed by their generosity. “Normally, with the collection for the poor which we hold once a month, the people give a little bit of food for the orphans and a little bit of money, between 20 and 30 CAN dollars. But that Sunday my Christians really touched me. They brought a great quantity of foodstuffs with them and contributed more than 100 CAN dollars!” That is a lot of money in such a bitterly poor country. And he adds, visibly moved, “The people were willing to give much more for their enemies of yesterday than they normally give for their own brothers and sisters, the poor people of the parish.”

 

A bigger place for Mercy

Father Aurelio knows well that the most important thing of all is to break the terrible spiral of hatred and revenge and, after the war, to rebuild not only the ruined houses but above all the hearts and consciences of the people. The present Year of Mercy is an ideal opportunity to do so. In fact it was in the Central African Republic that Pope Francis actually anticipated this year by opening the Holy Door in the Catholic cathedral of the capital Bangui on 29 November 2015, in order to make this Mercy tangibly present above all in this country so torn apart by hatred and violence. And in his homily he also declared Bangui the “spiritual capital of the world.”

 

Father Aurelio wants to proclaim this message of Divine Mercy to everyone. Above everything else, he is a priest – in both heart and soul. He says, “If I can give some food to someone who is hungry, then that is already something. But if I can give him the true Food, namely Christ, then I am giving him everything.” His parish is flourishing, and every year there are over 100 baptisms. There have been spiritual vocations from the parish, and his church is full for every Holy Mass. Yet it is precisely this – though in fact a reason for joy – that has also brought him a problem, for the church has now become too small! The structure of the church, which was built in the 1960s, is also suffering, and there are cracks in the foundations. This damage must be corrected, and at the same time Father Aurelio wants to enlarge the church so that it can accommodate more of the faithful.

ACN is helping him with 58,000 CAN dollars, so that he can repair and enlarge this church and so that this parish church of Bozoum can in future become a place of mercy for still more of his people.

Vocations are Floroushing in Bozoum.

Vocations are flourishing in Bozoum.


 

Project of the week: Feeding Iraqi refugees

03.02.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to refugees, Emergency Aid, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Lebanon, Projets pastorale, Refugees, SUBSISTENCE, Syria, Voyager avec l’AED

Lebanon

Help to feed Iraqi refugees 

Right now, Lebanon is facing huge challenges . This small country of just 4.5 million has had to find space for no fewer than 1.1 million refugees. In fact, this number includes only those refugees officially registered with international agencies. The real figure is almost certainly much higher than this.

Every day more refugees are arriving in Lebanon, from Syria and Iraq. More often than not, their dreams of a better life here are quickly devastated for while they have at least saved their lives, they very soon find themselves confronted with immense difficulties with simply finding ways to live and  to survive.  They face astronomical rents for example, even for the smallest and most miserable living accommodations. There is no work. Medical treatment is expensive and indeed virtually unaffordable for most refugees. If refugees attempt to move elsewhere within Lebanon, they can be arrested and imprisoned as illegal immigrants. Many have had false expectations of what awaited them abroad.

Lebanon: exemple of pastoral projects to the refugees children of Syria and Iraq.

Lebanon: An example of pastoral projects to the refugees children of Syria and Iraq.

In the capital city of Beirut, the Chaldean Catholic eparchy is striving to take care of  Iraqi families, most of who have fled here from Mosul and the Plain of Niniveh from the advancing ISIS fighters. The eparchy provides these people with basic necessities, helps them look for work, and also ministers to them pastorally.

For example,  children can prepare for their First Holy Communion and there are other catechetical classes for children and young people, plus pastoral and social services for women and many other services besides. Last year ACN gave a total of 43,500 CAD towards the cost of this pastoral and human support for the Iraqi refugees. For example, helping with the supply of catechetical materials, including audiovisual equipment .

Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut has thanked ACN for all the help he has already received, and in advance,for the help he still about to receive. “We pray to Christ our Lord, the Good Samaritan, to pour out his graces on you in rich measure and bless you, and to reward you, and all those who have contributed to this wonderful work of charity, a hundredfold for the good you have done.”

At the same time he has asked us to help his community with additional aid for food and other necessities.

We have promised him 14,500 CAD.

Holy communion for the refugee children of Iraq and Syria, at St.Joseph Parish.

Holy communion for the refugee children of Iraq and Syria, at St.Joseph Parish.


 

Project of the week: Haiti

18.12.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, AED Canada, Haiti, Journey with ACN, Project of the Week, Voyager avec l’AED

Each week, Aid to the Church in Need will present a project that our international organization would like to support.

Today, the project we are calling on your help for rests in the Pearl of the Antilles, where the sun can play a significant role in providing energy! A solar generator for a parish in Basse-Voldrogue.

 

Haiti

The sun to the rescue

Father Stanley Fleuriot.

Father Stanley Fleuriot

For the last  year and a half , Father Stanley Fleuriot has had to sit in the dark every evening for there is no electricity in his new parish of Saint Anne of Basse-Voldrogue. In fact, he lives in a small hut which doesn’t even have a window. For now he has to make do with a meager gas lamp or a solar lamp, providing him with the only available lighting for the celebration of Holy Mass.

His parish is a very poor one situated around 15 miles (25 km) from the town of Jérémie, and serving a population of about 25,000 people. Bishop Joseph Gontrand Decoste is convinced that the local community has strong spiritual reserves, however. That is why he has established a new parish here which is now in its earliest beginnings and in need of establishing a minimum of infrastructure to support it.

What is most needed is a small solar generating plant that will provide at the very least, a modest supply of electricity for the parish.

donate

ACN is planning to contribute $4,060 CAD to provide a source of light to Father Stanley and the parish community.

 

YEAR OF MERCY : A MESSAGE FROM ACN’S PRESIDENT

11.12.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, AFRIQUE, Aide à l’Église en détresse., Projets pastorale, Voyager avec l’AED
Mauro cardinal Piacenza, président d'Aide à l'Église en Détresse.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, President of Aid to the Church in Need

Year of Mercy

A message to ACN benefactors from Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, President of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

The symbol of hope, in heraldry too, is the anchor; but there is also another image which in some sense seems to me to be still more significant. I am thinking of the sails. The anchor holds the boat securely in the ocean, whereas the sails serve to drive it forward and to cause it to run through the sea towards the dry land. Hope is the breeze which, filling these sails, propels us forward. It was hope which, at the beginning of the Church, gave to the Christian message that extraordinary power to expand which carried it very rapidly to the ends of the earth.

 

“Dear friends,

On December 8, under the protection of the Virgin Immaculate, and together with the Holy Father and the whole Church, we have spiritually crossed over the threshold of the Holy Door and thus entered into the Holy Jubilee, the Year of Mercy.

This open Holy Door is the Door of Hope, the Door of Trust in Divine Mercy. With our crossing, we are called to forget the past and to turn our hearts forward, towards a new adventure of Grace, towards the fullness of God’s Mercy. In order for this to happen in an authentic way, we ought to seek to pass through the Holy Door after a sincere and heartfelt sacramental confession, coupled with the lively desire to embark upon the road of holiness. This holiness is a vocation written into our Baptism, through which each one of us is called to holiness. It is holiness that represents the full realization of our personality. This holiness is achieved within the context of our own personal situation, in the family, in the workplace.

Holiness is something immensely glorious, yet something extremely simple and ordinary. It means living the particular details of each day, of every circumstance, as a “vocation,” with intense love. We need to reach the point where we can allow the Lord to act within us, through us; until we’re able to say along with St Paul: “No longer I, but Christ lives in me; to me life is Christ.”

To hope, to hope always, to begin again to hope after the umpteenth disappointment, to hope that tomorrow will be better, even after it has on so many occasions been worse, to absorb all the apparent denials, just as the earth absorbs the heavy rain – this is truly great and reveals the omnipotence of Divine Grace. The symbol of hope, in heraldry too, is the anchor; but there is also another image which in some sense seems to me to be still more significant. I am thinking of the sails. The anchor holds the boat securely in the ocean, whereas the sails serve to drive it forward and to cause it to run through the sea towards the dry land. Hope is the breeze which, filling these sails, propels us forward. It was hope which, at the beginning of the Church, gave to the Christian message that extraordinary power to expand which carried it very rapidly to the ends of the earth. Our charity also lives completely on hope. When, for example, many project applications arrive, we must hope that our benefactors will help us fulfill so many hopes.

This world is starved of hope and will listen to a message to the extent that it is capable of offering it genuine hope. We Christians are responsible for the hope that has been given to us; for this hope we must be ready to give reason and not merely lip service.

We must be heralds of hope, passing it on to others; just as the faithful do in their processions when they pass the blessed water from hand to hand, so too we must pass this divine hope from heart to heart. For indeed, there are many things we can live without, but we cannot live without hope.

Christian hope is an active hope, full of things to do while we wait: to watch, to grow in love towards all. For this reason it is like yeast and salt in the dough of this world. To the Christ who is coming we must go forward with good works, with works of mercy, with the lighted lamp of faith. In good works Christ has already come. Hence we must focus on Him, and on all the rest only in relation to Him, in view of Him!

Dearest Friends, I pray that through the intercession of Mary, the Beloved Mother of the Redeemer, you may be able to grow each day of this Jubilee year in trust in the infinite Mercy of God, and that we all overflow the whole world with joy, every person and environment that we know, because there’s more joy in giving than in receiving. And with this thought I’d like to send you my warmest greetings.

May God bless you and the Virgin protect you!

Goodbye!”

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