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ACN International Tag

 

ACN News – “2019 was a year of martyrs”

10.01.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Thomas Heine-Geldern, Urgent need, Violence against Christians, World

ACN International

Initial assessment of the last year: “2019 was a year of martyrs”

by Maria Lozano & Jürgen Liminski, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Published on the web, January 10, 2019

Thomas Heine-Geldern, president of the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), gives an initial assessment of the last year for Christians around the world: “2019 was a year of martyrs, one of the bloodiest for Christians in history culminating in the attacks on three churches in Sri Lanka that cost more than 250 people their lives. We are also very concerned about the situation in China and India.”

On a positive note, “politicians and opinion leaders in Western Europe are talking about religious freedom much more frequently now.” As a particularly encouraging example, Heine-Geldern mentioned the video message recorded by the British heir apparent, Prince Charles, for Aid to the Church in Need at Christmas. In this video, Prince Charles refers to the growing suffering and persecution of Christians all over the world and calls for solidarity.

In this context, Heine-Geldern again called upon multinational and international organizations – such as the European Union and the United Nations – to enable and protect religious freedom as a fundamental human right on all levels and in all countries. “More and more is being said about it, but still too little is being done. It is difficult to believe that in a country like France, attacks against Christian institutions far exceeded 230 in number past year. Also shocking were the events in Chile, where 40 churches have been desecrated and damaged since mid-October.”

 

 

Funeral of Fr Simeon Yampa and 5 faithful after the terrorist attack in the parish church of Dablo on 12 May 2019 (Good Shepherd Sunday)

Distress over Christmas executions

Looking towards Africa, the president of ACN expressed his deep concern for the situation of Christians in Nigeria, where Islamic terrorists of Boko Haram have been keeping the North and the area along the border to Cameroon in a state of fear. “On Christmas Eve, Kwarangulum, a village in the state of Borno that is inhabited by Christians, was attacked by jihadists. Seven people were shot dead, a young woman was kidnapped and the houses and the church were burned down. Only a day later, a faction of ISIS (Daesh) released a video that they claimed showed the execution of ten Christians and a Muslim in north-eastern Nigeria. We are deeply distressed by this. We are celebrating while others are in mourning and live in fear.”

According to Heine-Geldern, 2019 was also a disastrous year for Christians in Burkina Faso. He went on to describe how, little by little, Christians are being pushed out in some parts of the country. Schools and chapels have had to be closed. “Our sources have reported at least seven attacks on Catholic and Protestant communities that have led to the deaths of 34 Christians – among them two priests and two pastors. Our project partners talk about attempts to destabilize the country, foment religious conflict and stir up violence.”

 

A prayer vigil in Baghdeda, Iraq – 2019

“Many attacks on this community of Christians”

The situation of the Christians in the Middle East is always in his thoughts and prayers. In this context, Heine-Geldern quoted the words of the Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Matti Warda, which drew attention to the dangers and situation of the Christians in Iraq: the invasion of the terrorist Islamic State was only “one of many attacks on this community of Christians.” The bishop had further said that the invasion had been preceded by a number of other attacks in the history “and with every attack, the number of Christians in Iraq – and Syria – is reduced dramatically.” According to the bishop, the escalating crisis in Lebanon exacerbates the situation of the Christians in the country and at the same time has as a side effect the creation of many obstacles for providing aid to Syria.

Nevertheless, Heine-Geldern looks back at the year with gratitude. “The beauty of our work is that, in addition to the cross and the suffering, we can also experience at first hand the deep devotion and love of a large number of people. Take Syria as an example. A country that de facto is still at war and is suffering from the repercussions of war. Over the past few years, we have visited the country several times and it is awe-inspiring how everyone – dedicated lay people, religious sisters, priests and bishops, supported by the generosity of our benefactors – is doing everything possible and impossible to alleviate the spiritual and material hardships of the people.”

ACN Project of the Week: Subsistence Support for Religious Sisters in Benin

05.12.2019 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Benin, Religious formation

Benin

Subsistence Support for Religious Sisters

Sister Helène and Sister Epiphanie, both from Togo, belong to the Congregation of the Missionary Catechetical Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart. Since July 2018, they have been living and working in Parakou, a large and quickly developing town, situated in northern Benin. Many different cultural and ethnic groups make up the population of Parakou, with a Muslim majority.

 

Since Parakou is at the centre of an important intersection and is easily accessible, the congregation established its formation house here in 1997, a place where the congregation’s young Sisters receive their training. Currently there are five young religious in the program. All are from poor African families, most are from faraway and cannot hope to be supported by their families – nor the local parishes which cannot afford to support their work despite the vital contribution they make. For example, instructing young people and adults in the Faith, or visiting the sick and elderly and bringing them Holy Communion.

ACN decided to step in and help. We are proposing subsistence support of $3,000 for the coming year for Sister Helène and Sister Epiphanie to sustain them in their work of providing a sound formation for the younger sisters.

 

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN Project of the Week—Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo, Bosnia

29.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Eastern Europe, Pastoral aid, Pastoral care, Pastoral work, Religious formation

Project of the Week—Bosnia

Support for the youth pastoral centre in Sarajevo

By ACN International, Adapted by ACN Canada
Published online – November 29, 2019

Catholics are a minority in Bosnia and Herzegovina—now at a bare 14% of the population, and falling. This decline began during the Bosnian War (1992 to 1995) when half the Catholic population was expelled or forced to emigrate from the country. And with every new year, many continue their exodus as the future looks dim, owing to the discrimination they face when seeking employment, in attending schools and in regular social life. Catholic bishops have been complaining for years that Catholic Croat families who would otherwise be willing to return are not receiving the support they are entitled to. At the same time, a growing Islamization of the society is very noticeable, with the building of numerous new mosques.

 

The Catholic Church continues to work hard for a better future, through its reconciliation work, its schools and its charitable work, all of which are open to people of all ethnic groups. At the same time, the Church strives to offer steady employment opportunities that will provide families with some prospect for the future. One beautiful example of reconciliation work is the John Paul II Youth Centre in Sarajevo, offering a range of initiatives for promoting interfaith and interdenominational dialogue.

Spiritual Retreats, Pilgrimages and Interfaith Dialogue

Each year thousands of young people benefit from a broad range of programs offered by the centre. Their enthusiasm remains as they return with great energy to their own parishes to work with a renewed faith for a better future. The centre also offers employment, with 10 full-time positions and 10 part-time positions, providing these men and women with a steady income and a future for their families. An additional 300 volunteers help out as needed. Training in leadership is available along with courses in spiritual exercises for confirmation candidates, volunteers, altar servers and other types of youth groups. An ecumenical program is in place for young people of different faiths to learn about shared responsibility and how to create a better future in the society in which they live. Those attending come not only from the archdiocese of Sarajevo (Vrhbosna) itself, but from all over the country.

Other big events are have been organized, such as a large youth pilgrimage in May to the Shrine of Our Lady in Kondzilo,  which was attended again this year by well over 3,000 young people. A music festival, with modern Christian music, and a young people’s Way of the Cross procession giving hundreds of youth from individual parishes the opportunity to gather together in shared faith.

 

ACN recognizes the valuable work done by this youth centre named for the great Pope, Saint John Paul II. The Saint who held such great affection for young people, established the very first World Youth Days during his pontificate. This year we are helping once again, with a promised contribution of $37,500.

 

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN Press: “Brutal” Closures of Church Administered Health Centres in Eritrea

11.07.2019 in ACN International

 

Eritrea

“Brutal” Closures of Church Administered Health Centres

by Tobias Lehner, for ACN International
Adapted by Mario Bard Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the website July 11, 2019

Beginning in mid-June, the Eritrean military forcibly and “brutally” occupied and closed 21 hospitals and medical facilities run by the Catholic Church in Eritrea. This was reported last week to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), by Father Mussie Zerai, himself of Eritrean origin and currently coordinating the pastoral work for the country in Rome. “The patients were more or less thrown out of their beds. The military smashed wa and doors and pressured the staff […] the director of a hospital in northern Eritrea, a Franciscan Sister, was even arrested when she resisted the closure.”

 

“There is no justification for the actions of the regime. It punishes those who are taking care of the poorest of the poor,” Father Zerai said, also pointing out that the more than 200,000 people who receive treatment year after year at health care facilities run by the Church will suffer as a result of these new measures, for which the government has not announced any kind of replacement. It is believed the government wishes to have sole control of the social sector in favour of the “separation of powers” —It is thus basing its actions on a law passed in 1995 which has never been applied in such a brutal manner to date. “Most of the patients weren’t Catholics, but Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and members of other religions. The facilities are often located in remote [and poor] areas,” the priest explained. In 2018, eight dispensaries were forced to close.

 

The reasons for these massive seizures remain unclear. According to the suggestions of outside observers, in the eyes of President Isaias Aferwerki’s government, the Church has become too self-confident in its efforts to further the peace process with Ethiopia. The situation is clear for Father Zerai: “The government is obsessed with having control over everything and everyone. It sees the Catholic Church as a threat because we are part of an international network and [we dare to] ask questions.”

All Religions Suffer in This State Marked by Atheism

Eritrea has at most 120,000 to 160,000 Catholics. Half of its population is Christian belonging to Orthodox Churches and Lutheran Evangelicals. In addition to Roman Catholicism and Sunni Islam, the Orthodox and Lutheran churches are the only other religious denominations tolerated by the state. A situation reminiscent of the one observed in certain communist regimes, where official religious denominations cohabited parallel with those refusing interference from the state in their affairs. Or those who are held in contempt by the regime, though not prohibited, and thus become clandestine.

 

Moreover, unlike many other countries in North Africa, Islam is not the state religion in Eritrea. The country has a “strong atheistic leaning. If it were up to the government, religion would not exist. Essentially, it follows the same school of thought as China,” explained Father Zerai. In every case, all believers are suffering in similar situations.

 

No Constitution and No Fundamental Rights

“Young Eritreans are leaving the country in growing numbers because there is no rule of law,” Father Zerai explained. Moreover, the country has no constitution implemented to speak of, and this, despite the country declaring its independence in 1993. “This is why the people can just be picked up from their homes without reason. Military service has become legalized slavery. The possibility of a future is taken away from the young people,” Father Zerai said. Of course, at the present time, “the countries are trying to get Eritrea more involved on an international level in order to make it more open and democratic,” he explains. But despite its election in October 2018 to the Human Rights Council by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the human rights situation is still critical and the country remains isolated.

 

 

Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights in Eritrea, Mrs. Daniela Kravetz, considers the seizures of the last weeks demonstrate “that despite the improved regional climate for peace and security, the human rights situation [in Eritrea] remains unchanged.”

 

According to Father Zerai, similar to the overall human rights situation, the freedom of religion is severely restricted and at the mercy of capriciousness: “A few are permitted to freely practise their religion, but not all. Sometimes the cooperation works better [with authorities], sometimes worse.”—a situation which also applies to the freedom of religion.

 

In spite of the current escalation in violence, the priest is certain about one thing, “The Catholic Church will continue its pastoral work, but also its social work. After all, it says in the Bible: faith without works is dead. Taking away the ability of the Church to carry out charitable works is like amputating one of its arms.”

 

Since 2016 alone, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has financially supported 44 projects in Eritrea with a total of about $1.350 million dollars. This includes aid to build chapels and church facilities, funding for stipends and vehicles to secure the mobility of priests and subsistence aid for religious Sisters.

 

ACN Feature – Burkina Faso: Religious congregation forced to flee

11.04.2019 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Burkina Faso, By Emmanuelle Ollivry, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need

Burkina Faso

Sisters forced to flee their convent

  After their hasty departure from Kompienbiga, in the south-east of Burkina Faso, the sisters of the congregation, Sœurs des Campagnes took refuge with the brothers in the male branch of their same congregation, in Pama, back in January 2019 and just before the assassination of Father César Fernandez. Sister Thérèse, the Mother Superior, and Father Soubeiga, the parish priest of Pama, spoke to the international Catholic pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) about the increase in violence which has struck the country, despite the fact that it is generally considered more peaceful than its tumultuous neighbours, Mali and Niger.
 
By Emmanuelle Ollivry for ACN-International Revision for ACN Canada by: Amanda Bridget Griffin

“Either you give us the medicines, or we blow your head off!” was the order given to Father F. Soubeiga, the parish priest of Pama and missionary brother of the congregation Frères Missionnaires des Campagnes. He was describing the threats made back in January 2019 against Sister Victorine, a nurse at the health and social care centre in Kompienbiga and a member of the female branch of his own congregation. “She was working alone at the dispensary. At around four in the afternoon a group of some 8 to 10 individuals, armed and wearing balaclavas, burst in and demanded medical supplies for their wounded comrades. But Sister Victoria did not have access to the pharmacy. So instead they made violent threats against her and smashed up everything in order to help themselves.”

The incident was the last straw for the sisters in Kompienbiga. Coming on top of a succession of other violent incidents, it forced them to finally withdraw and take shelter with the brothers of their congregation, just 15 km away, since they no longer felt safe on their own.

“The tension is growing, and the people are gripped by fear”

“During the night of 14 September 2018, two terrorist attacks took place in the villages of Diabiga and Kompienbiga, respectively 60 km and 15 km from Pama, in the east of the region,” according to the governorate of the region. According to Father Soubeiga, “the violence began in Pama back in March 2017, and there were a string of bomb explosions aimed at the police – at least three or four of them since August 2018.” Sister Therese, who is Mother Superior of the female branch of the congregation, the Soeurs des Campagnes in Kompienbiga, adds, “The tension is growing, especially since August 2018, in Kompienbiga. The attackers regularly come into the villages, round up the population, and shout orders at them. Fear is gripping them.” A little further north, Father Caesar Fernandez was assassinated in February 2019 and on 17 March 2019 Father Joël Yougbaré was “probably abducted by armed individuals,” according to the local Church. And so the sisters have taken refuge with the brothers in Pama, where it is just a little calmer.

The community is scattered

“This is the first time we have had to leave everything in haste like this,” admits Sister Therese, who had been living in Kompienbiga since 2001. “Out of the seven sisters in the community, four have taken shelter in Pama, while three have left the country for Togo, where they are completing their formation. Nobody knows when they will be able to return. It is hard,” she continues. In fact, their priory was established in Kompienbiga 25 years ago. They had established an elementary school in which they were caring for around 40 young children aged between three and six, children who in many cases had been neglected or abandoned. And they had just opened a sewing and dress-making school, where they were planning to teach five young women.

“All we want to do is to go back as soon as possible so that we can continue the work that we began,” insists Sister Therese. “Please pray for us!”

“The Catholics are the most vulnerable”

For now, even in Pama, “where things are calmer,” there is an obligatory curfew. “We are living in a deteriorating climate,” Father Soubeiga confirms. “As Catholics, we are the most vulnerable, because we represent a centralised institution, and thus an easy target. To attack a priest is to inflict harm on an entire territory. The consequences would not be the same for the Protestants or the Muslims, in their more fragmented communities, led by numerous different pastors and local imams.”

 

 

Unable to celebrate the Easter Vigil

As a result, the police have imposed strict security regulations. “Some areas are forbidden to me”, says the parish priest of Pama, sadly. “In January, in the space of two weeks, I had to evacuate all the catechists from Diabiga, Kompenbiga and another village, around 50 miles (78 km) from Pama. As for the immediate future, it’s looking very unlikely that we will even be able to celebrate the Easter Vigil.”

In response to the question as to who is responsible for the criminal armed attacks of recent months, Father Soubeiga is quite candid: “It’s impossible to say. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Some people refer to them as mercenaries, but some of the terrorists are quite clearly from Burkina itself, because they speak the local languages perfectly.”

Iraq – Rebuilding with The Pope’s Lamborghini profits! – ACN-News

26.02.2019 in ACN International, ACN NEWS, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Marta Petrosillo, By Marta Petrosillo, Communiqué, Construction, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Reconstruction

Aid to the Church in Need in Iraq

Rebuilding with The Pope’s Lamborghini profits!

Montreal, February 26thThanks to a donation of 300 000 dollars from the Holy Father, following the auctioning of the Lamborghini that was given to him last year, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will be able to fund two new projects on behalf of the Iraqi Christian families and other minorities who have returned to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

Marta Petrosillo for ACN-International and Mario Bard, ACN-Canada

On 15 November 2017 the Holy Father decided to give ACN part of the proceeds from the auctioning of the Lamborghini Hurricane that had been donated to him by the famous Italian carmaker. Now ACN will give concrete form to the Pope’s gesture by funding the reconstruction of two buildings of the Syriac Catholic Church, destroyed by the war. They are the nursery school (kindergarten) of Our Lady and the multipurpose centre of the parish of the same name.

Both buildings are in the village of Bashiqa, just 30 km from Mosul. The village was badly damaged during the war, but the Christian community has returned, and in large numbers. In facts by now, 405 of the 580 homes that were destroyed here have already been rebuilt and around 50% of the Christians, or 1,585 people, have already returned.

The Parish Hall was totally destroyed.

The two projects funded with money from the Lamborghini will also benefit the other minorities in the town, since the multipurpose centre, which has capacity for over 1,000 people, will be used for weddings and the religious feasts of all the different communities. It will be the largest such centre in the area and will be available for use to over 30,000 people of all different faiths and ethnic groups.

The Return of Iraqi Christians: An Unexpected Success!

signature

Just a little over two years since the liberation of the villages of the Nineveh Plains, the number of Christians who have been able to return to their homes has exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. By January 11th this year at least 9108 families had returned to their villages, almost 46% of the 19,832 families dwelling there in 2014 prior to the arrival of the so-called Islamic State (IS). This is thanks above all to the immense work of reconstruction – to which ACN have greatly contributed – that has made it possible so far to rebuild or repair some 41% of the 14,035 homes
destroyed or damaged by IS.

This intervention, in which the pontifical foundation ACN has played a major role in collaboration with the local Churches, has also found a generous benefactor in the person of the Holy Father. Already back in 2016 Pope Francis gave 150,000 dollars in support of the “Saint Joseph Charity Clinic” in Erbil, which provides free medical assistance.

This most recent gift by the Holy Father will be a further help to local Christians, enabling them to live their own faith and offer a future in Iraq to their children. At the same time it is a powerful message and an invitation to peaceful coexistence between the different religions in a region where fundamentalism has sadly damaged interreligious relations.

***

Since 2014 and up to the present day ACN has given over 60 million dollars for the support of Iraqi Christians.
Thanks to you, Christians in Iraq can return home.
Thank you!

Iraq: New hope for Christians in Iraq!


ACN Info – Nigeria Attacks by Fulani herdsmen; “a timebomb”

19.12.2018 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Thomas Oswald & Maria Lozano

Nigeria

Attacks by Fulani herdsmen; “a timebomb”

 

NIGERIA / GBOKO – Bishop William AVENYA

Christians in northern Nigeria, in addition to suffering attacks by the terrorist Boko Haram group, are also facing a terrible situation as a result of the bloody attacks by Fulani herdsmen against Christian villages in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt.

 

“This is a time bomb that threatens to ignite the whole region,” says Bishop William Amove Avenya of the diocese of Gboko. He was speaking to representatives of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). He described how in his diocese, located in Nigeria’s majority Christian Benue State, “Fulani tribesman, armed to the teeth, are murdering pregnant women and children and destroying our smallholdings”. Ever since 2010 the Christian villages have been the target of violent attacks by the nomadic, Muslim Fulani herdsman from the Sahel region, who have been armed with a wealth of modern weaponry. The result has been thousands killed and numerous communities forced to flee. “The Fulani have claimed far more victims during 2018 than Boko Haram, but no one is doing anything about it,” the bishop explained.

Fulani Herdsmen in Nigeria  Credit: © Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Directorate of Social Communications

“This is a time bomb”

According to Bishop Avenya, the Nigerian authorities are simply not taking the necessary measures to address the violence. He denounced the silence of the government and of the media. During his visit to Europe to attend the official launch of ACN’s Report on Religious Freedom in the World, the bishop met with EU politicians from Brussels who likewise “seemed poorly informed about the situation in our country and about the threat posed by the Fulani, who have been supplied with modern weapons of a kind not used by simple herdsmen. We need to ask who is behind this.”

 

Presentation of the Religious Freedom Report at the European Parliament in Brussels on 04.12.2018
(from left to right):
Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla (Head of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace),
Mark von Riedemann ( ACN Director of Public Affairs and Religious Freedom)
His Excellency Mgr. Alain Lebeaupin (Apostolic Nuncio to the EU),
His Excellency Mgr William Avenya (Bishop of Gboko, Nigeria),
Sister Fida Chaaya (Damascus in Syria)

“We have not lost hope, but we do need help.”

Nigeria, Kaduna : Destruction by fulani attacks 2017

Already a month ago, Bishop Avenya had issued a desperate appeal to the international community, urging it “not to wait for a genocide to happen before intervening.” Additionally, on numerous occasions, the Nigerian bishops’ conference has called on the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to provide effective guarantees for the safety of his people or, if he is unable to do so, to resign. Their petition has been ignored and the violence continues. Meanwhile, Muhammadu Buhari plans to stand once again for president in the new elections to be held in February next year.

“Meanwhile, the Church continues to try and heal the wounds,” Bishop Avenya added. “We have not lost hope, but we do need help.”

ACN Canada is supporting the Church in Nigeria.  Please be generous with our project partners!  Learn more here: NigeriaACN

 

ACN Interview – Sister Yvonne Gera in Algeria

18.12.2018 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Algeria, By Grace Attu

ALGERIA / CONSTANTINE  Management of buildings in the parish of Skikda.

Algeria

“They died at their post”

Between 1994 and 1996, Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 others were killed during the Algerian civil war. The cause for their beatification opened in 2007 and at the beginning of this year, Pope Francis signed the decree confirming that they died in “odium fidei” (hatred of the faith) thus recognizing them as martyrs.

On December 8th the ceremony of beatification took place in the Cathedral of the Diocese of Oran, where Msgr Pierre Claverie was Bishop. 

Sr Yvonne Gera, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary who worked in Algeria for 22 years and knew each of the 19 martyrs personally, speaks to Grace Attu from the ACN National Office in Malta about the martyrs and her experience in Algeria at the time.

 

ACN: The official document of the Congregation for the causes of Saints describes the 19 Martyrs as “Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 companions,” who are they, really?

Sr. Yvonne Gera, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary

Sr. YVONNE GERA: Yes. They are Bishop Pierre Claverie, seven Trappist monks from Tibhirine, one Marist brother, four White Fathers, and six Nuns from various congregations that had a presence in Algeria. They all worked with the people; helping the poor, the sick, the children.  The Marist brother Henry worked in a Library of the diocese that attended to more than a thousand youth  especially poor children, some of the sisters were Nurses. The 7 Trappists had a clinic, one of them was a doctor and all the people came. They didn’t ask if they were Muslim or Christians before helping them. Bishop Pierre Claverie always spoke the truth to the government and the people.

 

ACN: Can you give us a background of the situation that led to their death?

YVONNE GERA: First of all I would like to say that the war in Algeria was not a religious war but a civil war. The Islamists took advantage of the situation. On October 3, 1993, all foreigners were warned that if they didn’t leave the country by the end of the year, they would be targeted.

On the eve of Christmas, the terrorists visited the Monastery. They wanted money but the Prior told them, “we live on our crops.” All of a sudden the bell rang for Christmas Eve Mass and he told them, “Today is born the King of Peace” and they told him, “Ayisa” in Arabic meaning that they will come back.

The quit notice was not only to religious but also to foreign Christian families. So, between 1992 and 1993, the Church lost almost all foreign Catholic families. Even as we were targeted, we all stayed. We used to say that the captain is not going to leave the ship while it is sinking. So we all remained.

 

ACN: They are being beatified together.  What do they have in common?

YVONNE GERA: At that time, almost all religious had to write to their superior general if they were willing to stay. Those who were afraid left. But one thing these 19 had in common was that they decided to stay despite the threats. They continued working and taking care of the people. And they died at their duty posts.

Fr Paul-Elie Cheknoun serving the parishes of om Alger and Constantine

 

ACN: You were also working in Algeria during this period. What was your experience?

YVONNE GERA : I worked 22 years in Algeria and out of it was 14 years of war. Why I am here and was not killed during that time, I don’t know. I was also a target. In the morning I tell the Lord, “keep your Hand on me, help me to do my duty.”

One morning, I received a call from French Ambassador. He asked to speak with Msgr Henri Teissier. The ambassador told him, “Go to the French hospital.” We went to the French hospital, and there were 7 coffins. At first, they didn’t want to open it but Msgr Teissier told them, “If you don’t open it, I can’t say if they are the terrorists or the brothers.” Then he opened and in each coffin, there was only the head of each monk (the 7 Trappists). As I was waiting, Msgr Teissier told me, “Do you want to see them?”, I replied, “Yes, for the last time,” It was horrible to see.

The Church suffered a lot. But it was a Church of presence. We never preached. We didn’t go and preach here and there but everyone was welcomed and they came. I was in charge of all the clinics of the Church and all clinics had a centre for malnourished children and a centre for mother and child-care. Everything was free.

We never had difficulties with the people. During Ramadan we used to be invited every evening to different families to have the meal with them. In the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, it is written “pray for us and for the Muslims.” And the young women (including Muslims) who could not have a baby used to come to pray to our Lady, bringing a doll, and when she had the baby, she came to present it to Our Lady.

Participation of 30 young faithful of the church of Algeria in the WYD in Krakow, Poland, July 2016.

 

ACN: Even today, many priests and religious who work in crisis ridden countries suffer threats to their lives. Some have been abducted. What word do you have for them?

YVONNE GERA: We are missionaries. Whatever happens, we are missionaries. We know that that is our vocation and I say one thing, “you will receive more than you give”. It is sometimes difficult, yes but the Lord has called us. If the people suffer, we suffer with them. It is our vocation and the Lord is always there to help us. Even in suffering or in martyrdom. These 19 martyrs knew that they were targeted but they remained. Don’t be afraid, the Lord is there to help you.

On the occasion of the beatification of the 19 Martyrs in Oran, Algeria on December 8, 2018, Aid to the Church in Need (Malta) will issue a booklet about the Martyrs, who they were, the kind of life they lived and some testimonies about them.

 

To learn more about the situation of the religious freedom in Algeria please see: www.religious-freedom-report.org

ACN Project of the Week – Cameroon

06.12.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Cameroon

ACN Project of the Week: Cameroon

Help for the training of seminarians threatened by Boko Haram terrorists

Nigeria is not the only country suffering from the terror of Boko Haram. Its neighbour, Cameroon also suffers from the violence of Islamist terror groups in the northern part of the country.

 

It is true that the organized armed attacks by Boko Haram have now decreased in the face of a united military offensive by several African countries. On the other hand, suicide bombings have continued, as have murders and abductions in the affected areas—leaving many people to live in fear.

 

The Catholic diocese of Maroua-Mokolo, found in the far north region of Cameroon, faces many difficult challenges. Not only located in a significantly poor part of the country, but the diocese also has to take in large numbers of Nigerian and Cameroonian refugees. A positive side to this difficult remains, however, for the people’s faith is unbroken. And despite the fear of attack, people continue to flock to the churches. The number of vocations is also growing. Right now, 32 seminarians are training for the priesthood in the diocesan seminary, plus another 18 youths at the minor seminary; four more are in their so-called propaedeutic year (a form of educational foundation year in preparation for entering the seminary proper).  This number is astonishingly high given that there are only around 84,000 Catholics in the diocese.

 

 

These vocations naturally delight Bishop Bruno Ateba Edo, but he desperately needs financial help so as to give these young men a solid and thorough formation. He has asked ACN for help and we are planning to give him $40,500 dollars.

Are you inspired by this project? To give to this project, or another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN News: A First #RedWednesday in Canada

05.12.2018 in Uncategorized

A First #RedWednesday in Canada

Close to 1,500 participants across the land

“This first edition of Red Wednesday – #RedWednesday – is a real success across the board,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN), a little over a week after the event which, from one ocean to the other, gathered close to 1,500 people in at least 8 Canadian dioceses with a total 65 different activities.

“A response for which we feel overjoyed and demonstrates to us the extraordinary desire people hold to be in solidarity with those whose fundamental right for religious freedom and freedom of conscience is not respected,” adds Mrs. Lalonde. “We are already asking people across the country to mark Wednesday, November 20, 2019, on their calendars.  Join us in this global movement aiming to raise awareness about the persecution of Christians and serious lack – in certain cases an extreme lack – of religious freedom in close to forty or so countries.”

 

Calgary: 58 Activities

The team at the Diocese of Calgary responded with great enthusiasm to the call launched by ACN and then by their bishop, Msgr. William Terrence McGrattan. “There were 51 activities organized throughout the region taking place throughout the day,” said Theodoric Nowak, director of Social Justice and Outreach Ministries for the diocese.  “Essentially, times for prayer were scheduled, or in some cases, parishes decided to offer masses that day for the intentions of persecuted Christians and to subscribe to the objectives of #RedWednesday.  Mr. Nowak who was the principal promoter of the event of the diocese indicates, “people in our diocese hold religious freedom to heart and cannot conceive of people, including their brothers and sisters in the faith, would be obligated to practise in secret or worse, face imprisonment for simply professing their faith.  It is inconceivable to us!” he adds.  According to Mr. Nowak, another reason is also that in the parishes one can find “a large number of immigrant people coming from countries where religious freedom is under pressure.  They understand the situation all too well,” he concludes.

 

Braving a Storm

On November 21st, in the afternoon, snow fell abundantly and was accompanied by violent winds,” Robert Lebel, the priest who heads the ecumenical pavilion of Versant-la-Noel (roughly translated as Christmas Slope for it sits at the foot of a mountain slope in Thetford Mines, diocese of Quebec) and author-composer-singer of the well-known songs, among others the World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. “The thick powder made travelling very difficult and the mercury quickly fell to zero! But the team of Versant-La-Noel chose not to cancel nor to reschedule the vigil anticipated for this Red Wednesday.”

 

In a message sent to ACN, he also wrote, “Despite the temperature, thirty or so people gathered in the ecumenical pavilion which was completely lit in red.  In the spirit of simplicity and as a symbol of solidarity people were wearing red and also wore the scarves provided by ACN.  We also used the presentation texts about the global situation prepared by ACN, as well as the suggested prayers.  Of course, we shared in our prayers spontaneously and our evening was punctuated with song: Intercession, Consolez mon Peuple, Rien jamais, Comme la Prunelle de tes yeux…. Thank you to the ACN team for this invitation to raise awareness in our world about these never-ending persecutions and in bringing us into solidarity through this chain of prayer.”

 

An Embassy That Went Red

Elsewhere in Canada, the archbishops of Toronto and Montreal both presided over events connected to #RedWednesday.  In cosmopolitan Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins presided at an evening interfaith prayer vigil broadcast live on Salt and Light television.  And in Montreal, Msgr Christian Lepine presided for a fifth consecutive year at a mass for persecuted Christians. The mass was broadcast over the radio waves of RadioVM, a Catholic radio station reaching a vast number of Quebecers.  In Ottawa, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) lit their offices in red, one way to give support to persecuted Christians.

Finally, the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa illuminated their building.  The Christians of Hungary, when living under a communist regime, benefitted from ACN support.  Today the government is contributing to the reconstruction of Christian towns and villages on the Nineveh Plain in Iraq.  In 2017, it was the first member country of the European Union to consult with Aid to the Church in Need with regard to the reconstruction of this region devastated by the Islamic State.

In all, 65 activities took place in at least eight dioceses: Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Rimouski, Toronto, Saint Jerome and as far away in northern Ontario as Hearst.  “We are already making plans for next year!” said Mrs. Lalonde.  “The enthusiasm shown by the organizers for this activity of awareness raising, prayer and information is very encouraging.  We hope to see everyone next year!”

The archdiocese of Toronto was also very active this Red Wednesday with activities and spreading the word to all their parishioners. We invite you to read the homily given by Archbishop Collins of Toronto and also view the beautiful vigil in replay which was broadcast live from Saint Michael’s right here: Red Wednesday Vigil in Toronto.

For more information: www.acn-canada.org

Full 2018 Religious Freedom Report: www.religion-freedom-report.org

Executive Summary  (PDF Version) : bit.ly/RFR_ACNCanada

Key words: #ReligiousFreedom  #RFR2018  #ACN