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ACN Press Tag

 

ACN Interview: Christians in the Middle East

19.12.2019 in ACN Feature, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Fionn Shiner, Iraq, Middle East, Syria
Photo: Iraq 30 November 2019
Candlelight vigil around the cross in Baghdeda

Christians in the Middle East

Fresh risk of genocide to Middle East Christians

by Fionn Shiner, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web December 19, 2019

 

Middle East Christians are at direct risk of a second genocide which threatens them with wipe-out from the lands of the Bible – according to an expert in the region who has coordinated emergency relief there for nearly a decade. 

 

Father Andrzej Halemba, head of Middle East projects at Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said that Christians could face total eradication from countries such as Iraq and Syria where they have existed since the time of Christ’s first apostles.

 

“I cannot imagine the Middle East without Christians,” said Father Halemba. “But the threat is real. Daesh (ISIS) wanted to eradicate Christians. The genocidal mentality is alive with Al-Nusra and other groups. If Christians can stay together and help each other they can stay in the Middle East. If they don’t, it may be like Turkey after the terrible genocide in 1915.”

Father Halemba said Christianity’s eradication would be tragic from a religious plurality point of view and because of Christians’ role as bridge builders in conflict zones.

“Christians are the soul of the country and they play a very important role in Middle Eastern societies. They are the peacemakers,” said the director. “Christians work for peace and peaceful co-existence and collaboration for the good of the country.”

 

ACN helps all Christians 

In 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, now there are less than 250,000 – with some reports putting the number as low as 120,000. Similarly, in Syria in 2011, there were 1.5 million Christians and there are now 500,000.

Fr. Halemba said all Christians must work together to ensure their survival in the region.

“Families which pray together stay together. We all need to work for the good of all. ACN helps all Christians – not only the Catholics. Christians should stay together and this is the desire of Jesus Christ. He wanted unity among His supporters,” stated the priest.

In Iraq and Syria, ACN has supported hundreds of different projects, helping Christians who wanted to stay in their homelands with food baskets, water in Aleppo, milk for children, education grants, reconstruction of houses and churches, and much more.

This year the charity has approved 147 projects in Syria. In 2018 ACN supported 40 projects in Iraq.“ACN is always trying to help Christians and others in need with both hands. In one hand we have bread to feed the people, and in the other hand we have the Bible,” Father Halemba recalled. “We provide material help and spiritual help in the form of the Word of God.”

Iraq, December 18, 2016 Mr Emab Kiryakos (Syriac Orthodox) visiting the Mart Shmony Church in Bartella (Syriac Orthodox Church) Mart Shmony Church It’s unknown when this church was first built, but it is old for sure. It was perhaps built after the destruction of Mar Aho Dama Church. It was renovated in 1807. Then brought down completely and rebuilt in 1869. The construction included the transfer of a piece that dates back to 1343 from the Assyrian village of Ba-skhraya. It was reinvigorated again in 1971.

ACN PRESS – Red Wednesday in Canada

13.12.2019 in ACN, ACN Canada

Red Wednesday in Canada
A large draw in attendance

Montreal, December 12, 2019—Over one hundred events took place in Canada, mainly in the Montreal, Toronto and Calgary archdioceses, on Wednesday, November 20, to highlight the international Red Wednesday movement. The archdiocese of Calgary saw large numbers of Catholic school children involved in, participating in, and even organizing local activities geared to raising awareness, to prayer and many also wore the colour red.

One example, in Medicine Hat, Alberta about two hours south east of Calgary, three young students of Saint John Paul II school simulated a news report for their school news service.

JPII News—a student creation once a week. “It’s wonderful to see a growing dynamism around this event,” declared Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) National Director, Marie-Claude Lalonde. “I am very touched to see that in this second edition of Red Wednesday in Canada, and a sixth year in Montreal, about a dozen schools took part where students and educators took time out to talk about the phenomenon of Christian persecution and questions related to religious freedom,” explained Mrs. Lalonde.

School kids at Christ the Redeemer, Calgary (Photo – Courtesy Christ the Redeemer’s School)

 

A second-class right 

At the very beginning of the Mass celebrated at Mary Queen of the World Basilica in Montreal,

Marie-Claude Lalonde lamented the fact that religious freedom is often considered to be, “a second-class right, or less important than others.” As she does often during conferences organized by diverse groups, parishes, or speaking at a Sunday Mass, she recalled that freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are intimately connected. “When we read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” she continues, “in a single article, there are mentioned the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. If one does not have the freedom of thought and of conscience, how can you have religious freedom? These rights are interrelated and thus equal in their importance.”

In his homily, the archbishop of Montreal, Msgr Christian Lépine—also a member of ACN’s international council—invited the hundred or so people present to unite in prayer to reflect on the thought of Pope Francis on human fraternity so as not to become the persecutor or discriminator. “When we prayer for the victims of persecution, this should speak to us. So that never should we ourselves, exercise discrimination.”

Montréal: The face of Mary Queen of the World Basilica. (Photo : ACN/AED)

 

Toronto: “Lest we forget.”

In Toronto, the archbishop, Cardinal Thomas Collins, recalled that only recently in our country and in others we recalled the first World War and the second, the Korean war and and the Armenian genocide among others. The moto used on November 11 for Remembrance Day: “Lest we forget,” from Rudyard Kipling’s poem. “We think to day of the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, and offering their lives in witness to our Lord, Jesus.” Adding: “We are conscious also of other people who are persecuted for their faith, we think of the Muslims in China, persecuted for their faith and others of different religions. Our prayers are with them as well on this day.”

The ecumenical vigil brought together Christians from various religious confessions, as well as from different Protestant denominations.

Just like the Cathedrals in Montreal and Calgary, Toronto was also illumined in red. There were also dozens of other churches that marked the occasion in the same way.

 

The Christmas Campaign

Elsewhere, Aid to the Church in Need is currently fundraising with the ‘Gifts of Faith.

Campaign for Christmas. This great worldwide fundraising effort has as an objective to support Catholics by giving them the means to support the practice of their Faith. Whether it is to support the purchase of a boat to transport missionary teams in the Amazon regions, or to support the evangelization of young people by providing Bibles to children.

Give the lasting Gift of Faith, to suffering Christians!

 

Ghana, a Success Story: A church for the people of Nkontrodo

25.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Ghana

Ghana

A Success Story: A church for the people of Nkontrodo

 

The town of Nkontrodo is one of eight smaller communities belonging to the parish of Saint Francis in Elmina. The town, located in the south of Ghana, has around 200 actively practicing Catholics who regularly attend Holy Mass and play an active part in Church life.

 

For many years the people of Nkontrodo have been waiting for a church of their very own. Only recently did Holy Mass and other forms of worship and liturgical services move from being celebrated in the dining hall of a local school. Not only was it a less than fitting setting for the celebration of the Eucharist, but the parish also had to negotiate with the school for its use for every event. Inevitably, there were constant clashes and conflicts in scheduling. Moreover, the town already had eight different sectarian groups and Pentecostalist groups, all of whom already had their own, solidly built places of worship, making it a real danger that members of the Catholic faithful might leave to join these groups out of sheer frustration with the situation.

 

To “pray” day and night

Father Martino Corazzin, their parish priest, had constantly exhorted the faithful to “pray day and night, with faith and trust, and the Lord will hear your prayers and touch the hearts of those who are able to help us!” They were not left disappointed.

 

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors we were able to contribute $75,000 to bring the dream of the Catholic faithful at last, into reality. In August 2019, the new church was finally consecrated. We helped with an initial contribution of $45,000, but the construction work ran into problems because of difficult soil conditions and other unexpected complications, hiking the cost higher than originally planned for. Thanks again to our generous benefactors, we made another contribution, this time of $30,000.

 

Father Martino has written to thank us: “We are all extremely happy and grateful to you for your generous support and for the confidence you have placed in us, and above all for the fact that you have made our dream come true. We ask God to bless you and the many benefactors who have helped us. The faithful of the parish of Saint Anne in Nkontrodo have also asked me to thank you on their behalf and they have promised to remember you in their prayers, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. They also asked me to tell you that more and more people are now coming to our church. And it is true, we are already seeing new faces.”

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 Release: Red Wednesday 2019 – On November 20th, all across Canada Show your solidarity!

12.11.2019 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, RED WEDNESDAY, Violence against Christians

Red Wednesday 2019
On November 20th, all across Canada
Show your solidarity!

 

Montréal, November 12, 2019 – For the second year in a row, Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) is organizing and coordinating Red Wednesday – #RedWednesday – a day of action to raise awareness of the plight of more than 300 million Christians around the world who live in countries where religious persecution is rampant.  On November 20th, support them!

 

“I invite people organizing an activity as part of this day to contact us so that we can announce it on the ACN Canada website,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director. One of the proposed activities is to illuminate in red an emblematic building, whether religious or civil. “This year, there are new participants: the Grand Séminaire de Montréal – which will be partially illuminated – and the pro-cathedral of The Assumption in North Bay, where prayers will be said at the 12:05 Mass  in solidarity with persecuted Christians.” Along with the liturgies that will be celebrated at the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montréal, the Grand Seminaire de Montréal and St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto will also be illuminated. Finally, in the Diocese of Calgary, activities should be announced shortly. In this diocese last year, more than 50 activities were scheduled. To learn more about the 2019 edition and find materials to participate: https://acn-canada.org/red-wednesday/ .

 

Persecuted and Forgotten? 2017-19: A deepening crisis

In Canada, November also marks the release of a biennial ACN report on religious freedom around the world. “This year’s report, which documents exclusively the situation of Christians, does not have anything good to say. In Persecuted and forgotten? 2017-19, we fear for the survival of the historic Christian communities of Syria, but even more so those of Iraq,” explains Mrs. Lalonde. Since 2003, the number of Christians has decreased by 90%, from 1.5 million to less than 150,000. The most pessimistic speak instead of 120,000.

 

“Despite the efforts of our organization to rebuild Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh plains, we fear that the Christian presence in Iraq will be a thing of the past in only a few years. We’ve been talking about it for years, but it seems like the international community is giving no concrete answer to this threat of extinction,” said Mrs. Lalonde.

 

She also pointed out that between 2017-19, the situation in South and East Asia deteriorated the most. “In India, attacks on Christians took place in 24 of the 29 states of the subcontinent, and there are anti-conversion laws in nine states. Hindutva – Hindu nationalism – is partly responsible for this. It advocates the return of a purely Hindu India where only religious traditions derived from it (Buddhism, Jain, Sikh) would be recognized. On the contrary, Christianity and Islam are seen by the promoters of Hindutva as foreign elements that cannot participate in the construction of the country. ”

Photo: Cross desecrated in the remains of a burned church (Egypt).

Finally, sub-Saharan Africa is more than ever under attack. “Christians and moderate Muslims are victims of groups claiming to be Islamic State (IS). In Nigeria, 19 people who attended Mass – including two priests – were killed by armed men and responsibility for the attack was claimed by Fulani Islamist shepherds,” said Lalonde.

She concluded, “In 2020 I will have been National Director for 20 years, and I have not seen a decrease in the persecution against Christians. It’s very difficult. However, events such as Red Wednesday, and the growing interest of more and more Christian communities in Canada to organize an event, give me hope. It does not solve anything right away, but it may be the beginning of a better knowledge that people will have about this global phenomenon.”

 

Nigeria: Already in 2015, the diocese of Maiduguri was targeted by Boko Haram. In this photo, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme visits a church that was burned by terrorists.

  

 

To read the report Persecuted and Forgotten? 2017-19, visit the ACN Canada website at https://acn-canada.org/persecuted-and-forgotten/

 

 

*ACN’s articles and press releases are given freely for partial or full publication on condition that ©Aid to the Church in Need is mentioned as the source.

*ACN’s articles are given freely for partial or full publication on condition that
©Aid to the Church in Need
 is mentioned as the source.  If you would like to use an original photo, or for an interview with the National Director, Marie-Claude Lalonde, please contact us at the contact details above. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, is a Pontifical Charity, which has as Mission to provide assistance to Catholics, wherever the Church suffers from poverty or persecution. The international charity operates offices in 23 countries including Canada, who together support projects in 139 countries. (our Annual Report).

 Aid to the Church in Need in History: The miracle of political change

12.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Father Werenfried van Straaten, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need

 Aid to the Church in Need – in History

The miracle of political change

By Tobias Lehner & Volker Niggewöhner, ACN-International
Revision: Amanda  Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

November 9 marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A crucial milestone in the events leading up to the collapse of Communism in Europe. It was a dream come true for a great many people, not only those in East Germany. Dedicated Christians of all denominations and many organizations had worked tirelessly for decades to achieve this political change. One of these was the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and its founder, the Dutch Premonstratensian priest Father Werenfried van Straaten (1913–2003).

42 years of waiting—and working for—political change

For the pastoral charity, the events leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall did not come as a surprise. ACN had worked towards this end from the very beginning. “After waiting 42 years for this change to happen, our credibility will be at stake if we are not twice as willing now to make sacrifices to help the persecuted Church. Even in those places where the Church has been freed from its chains, it stands bereft of all means of survival. Its liberation will have been for naught if there are no priests, broadcasting programs and [distributing] books,” Father Werenfried wrote to the benefactors of ACN. The challenges that the charity now had to overcome were reminiscent of those that faced the pioneers in their day.

Looking back in time: in 1947, in response to an initiative of Pope Pius XII, Father Werenfried van Straaten launched a relief campaign for Germans who had been displaced and expelled from the East. After receiving reports of human rights violations and the persecution of the Church in those countries newly under Communist rule, he extended the relief efforts to these regions in 1952. For this reason, the name of his charity was, for the first few years, “Aid to the Eastern Priests,” before being renamed “Aid to the Church in Need” in 1969.

Very different conditions prevailed in the countries behind the Iron Curtain. The Soviet Union itself was considered inaccessible territory. It was only possible to spread the Good News there via radio broadcasts from outside the country—or by smuggling. More aid could be provided to other countries, particularly to Poland and Yugoslavia.

Another important activity of the charity was the dissemination of information. Father Werenfried believed that the Western world needed to know about what was happening in the East. He therefore preached hundreds of sermons in which he talked about the situation of the persecuted Church in Eastern Europe, giving a voice to those who were repressed and without one.

 

“Armed” for Peace

Beginning in the 1960s, ACN extended its aid efforts to other regions throughout the world such as Latin America and Africa; however, relief for Eastern Europe remained one of its most fervent concerns. Its efforts were inspired by the words of Pope Pius XII, who once said to Father Werenfried, “Everyone is currently taking up arms for war, but hardly anyone remembers to get ready for peace, should this suddenly come upon us.” And that became Father Werenfried’s goal, to have everything in readiness when that day came.

In response to Mikhail Gorbachev’s political reforms in the Soviet Union, ACN increased its aid for the republics of the Soviet Union from less than one million US dollars to 3.5 million US dollars between 1987 and 1988. Father Werenfried also began to collect money for the recruitment of priests in the Eastern bloc states. Both of these initiatives proved to be extremely helpful as events unfolded.

Behind the Iron Curtain in Poland Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Saint John-Paul II, visits the building site of Nowa Huta (1977). The communist regime wanted a new city without God: the people decided otherwise. 

The day ACN was waiting for finally arrived with the fall of the Berlin Wall and other revolutionary events. Whereas up until this point, the aid had always been distributed in secret, it could now be granted openly—in some cases it was even requested by the government. In all cases, it was absolutely essential. As of 1990, the aid for Eastern Europe increased to more than 22 million US dollars and would reach almost 30 million dollars by 1994/95. This was equivalent to more than 40 percent of all aid granted by ACN worldwide. The amount remained constant until the turn of the millennium.

Humanitarian and Spiritual Aid

To highlight a few particularly remarkable relief projects carried out in the years following the fall of Communism: during the Romanian Revolution, in December 1989, Father Werenfried travelled to Bucharest one day after the execution of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife. Prior to this, he had been one of the first to organize deliveries of relief supplies for the suffering Romanian people.

ACN had a special relationship with the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. When the leader of the Church, Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, returned to his native Ukraine from exile in Rome on March 30, 1991, he was accompanied by Father Werenfried. While celebrating Holy Mass in Lviv, Father Werenfried made a solemn promise: “In the name of our benefactors, I promise that everything humanly possible will be done to help you, the bishops, the priests and religious sisters, the seminarians and all of the faithful, in the re-evangelization of Ukraine.”

ACN again kept its promise. The construction of a large seminary in Lviv became one of the greatest projects undertaken by the charity. Today, with around 200 students, the seminary in Lviv is one of the largest in the world.

A focus on priestly formation, convents and monasteries, spreading the Good News

Funding for the formation of young priests was a primary concern in other Eastern European countries as well. The contemplative orders were another issue, many of which had survived the years of Communism under inhumane conditions or were now being newly founded. In many countries, the Church was on the brink of ruin, having had all of its buildings expropriated under Communist rule and lacking an organizational structure. ACN granted aid here as well, particularly to smaller local Churches, such as those in Albania, Bulgaria, Romania or Kazakhstan. In these countries, the Catholics are in the minority and have hardly any advocates in society.

The first chapel boat navigating on the Volga was inaugurated on May 22nd 1998

Lived Ecumenism

A special assignment for the spiritual rehabilitation of Eastern Europe came from the highest authority: Pope John Paul II first mentioned the idea of initiating a more intensive dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church to ACN in 1991. And with Father Werenfried, this seed fell on fertile ground. He travelled with a delegation to Russia for the first time in October 1992. There, he met with Patriarch Alexy II and other Orthodox dignitaries. After Father Werenfried personally delivered his report to the Pope in early 1993, the charity not only distributed aid to Catholic communities, but also extended its efforts to projects supporting the Russian Orthodox Church. The best known of these projects were the so-called “chapel ships”—converted boats used by priests to visit communities that no longer had a church. Father Werenfried was convinced that “the vital task of re-evangelizing Russia was the mission of our Orthodox Sister Church.” In his opinion, the Orthodox Church was also in need of assistance after suffering persecution during Communism and having to start again from zero.

 

Regina Lynch, Director of Projects at the opening of an ACN national office in Slovakia

From Aid Recipients to Helpers

Since 1990, ACN has granted more than 750 million dollars in aid to the Church in Eastern Europe. Although the focus of its relief efforts today has shifted to the Near East and Africa, the organization has not forgotten the Christians in Eastern Europe. The small, poverty-stricken Church in Ukraine is therefore ranked fourth among the countries that receive aid from ACN.

However, the communities in the former Communist countries were never just aid recipients. Soon after the Iron Curtain collapsed, solidarity campaigns developed among the Catholics in different countries who had recently been the victims of persecution themselves. Poland played and still plays a major role in this. One of the national offices of Aid to the Church in Need is now located there—another in Slovakia. The miracle of political change is also at work here.

 

 

ACN Project of the Week – India

07.11.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN Intl, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, MOTORIZATION

India

Success Story: A car to reach marginalized tribal peoples

For many years now, Sister Christine of the Merciful Sisters of the Cross has been serving the poor and oppressed in the East Indian province where her congregation is also located.  Members of the indigenous tribal peoples are the main group of people she tends to. She has a great deal of experience behind her and now coordinates the pastoral work in the various small Christian communities that have formed here, many of them places a priest very rarely is able to visit. The faithful generally gather with a catechist to pray together, celebrate liturgies of the Word and to share their life experiences.

 

 

Sister Christine must cover considerable distances to fulfill her pastoral work. She frequently faces travelling on poor roads leading into nearly inaccessible regions. Her old car served her well for eight long years. But, unfortunately, owing to the harsh conditions, it became increasingly unreliable, repeatedly leaving her stranded mid-route and becoming ever more expensive in repair costs.

 

Thanks to the help of our generous benefactors, we were able to provide $15,000 for the purchase of a new vehicle. Sister Christine is delighted with her new vehicle. She writes, “May God richly bless you all. I promise you my prayers and the prayers of all the people in our parishes!”

 

ACN PRESS: Red Wednesday – 2019 A Second Edition in Canada

24.10.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, Persecution of Christians, RED WEDNESDAY

Red Wednesday 2019

A Second Edition in Canada
Will you participate?

 

Montréal, October 23, 2019 – As the results of the latest Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International Report on the persecution of Christians 2017-19 are coming out around the world today, the Canadian announces that the 2nd edition of Red Wednesday, an event to raise awareness and educate about the persecution of Christians around the world and the importance of religious freedom, will be held on Wednesday, November 20. Red Wednesday is also a moment to demonstrate in solidarity with persecuted Christians.

As was done last year, a Mass will be celebrated at 7:30 pm at the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montréal, while an ecumenical prayer vigil will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, also scheduled for 7:30 pm. Both events will be presided over by the archbishops of these two dioceses, Msgr. Christian Lépine and Cardinal Thomas Collins, respectively.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada, is delighted by the attention given to the event this year by the Chancellor of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal, Mr. Guy Guindon, Sulpician. “The historic building of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal will be lit up in red and the seminarians will hold a vigil on Thursday, November 21, at the historic chapel,” she said before adding: “We are also waiting for news from the Diocese of Calgary. Last year, more than 50 activities were organized there.” The Red Wednesday tradition began in the United Kingdom a few years ago and has been taken up by several national ACN offices around the world, including France, Italy and the Philippines.

Those interested in recognizing this day can now visit the micropage created by the Canadian office at acn-canada.org/red-wednesday/. Whether preparing a time of prayer in a parish, a Mass, or by illuminating any emblematic building in their part of the country – church, diocesan centre, cathedral, basilica, etc. – they are invited to join us so that we can spread the word of this gesture of solidarity to all Canadians. At 1 (800)585-6333 or by email at info@acn-canada.org.

Iraq: 90% less than in 2003 

Furthermore, ACN announces the release of its new report devoted exclusively to the persecution of Christians around the world. Among the major issues addressed in this report, including the situation in Nigeria and that in south and southeast Asia, that of the Christian communities in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, is simply alarming.

A map showing the countries overview in the new Report Persecuted and Forgotten 2017-19, availalble next week in PDF Format on the web site of Aid to the Church in Need Canada. (© ACN)

“They are more than ever in danger of disappearing,” said Marie-Claude Lalonde. In 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians. “In little more than a generation, their numbers have tragically decreased by 90% to 150,000! Unfortunately, we believe that the international community has failed to take concrete action on the very strong concerns it expressed in 2016 when some governments recognized the genocide of Christians by the Islamic State group (Daesh/ISIS). According to our partners in the field, if these terrorists were to come back in force and reattack the Nineveh Plain, an ancestral site of Iraqi Christians, it would practically be the death of Christianity in Iraq, even though it is more than 1,900 years old! “Mrs. Lalonde said sadly.

 

 

The full findings of the report will be available in PDF format on the Canadian office’s website the week of October 28th.


For more information on Red Wednesday and Aid to the Church in Need, visit the website: acn-canada.org/red-Wednesday.

ACN Success Story in Nigeria: Completion of St Patrick’s Cathedral!

07.10.2019 in Mgrs. Ignatius Kaigama, Nigeria

Nigeria

Completion of St Patrick’s Cathedral a Success!

By Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

In summer 2018 we at ACN Canada decided that it was important to talk to our Canadian benefactors, through a fundraiser, about Nigeria done later that year.  Why?

Some background. In early June, we received the charismatic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, then archbishop of Jos, a village situated in a region of Nigeria called: ‘the Middle Belt’. On our trip across Canada with him, we learned in depth of the very difficult circumstances our brothers and sisters in Nigeria were facing, and also their determined spirit of interreligious peaceful dialogue and a strong desire to live their faith in the face of persecution, terrorism and near civil war. From these important discussions with Bishop Kaigama, a great desire to take action was born—a desire to give Nigerians hope! And so that’s what we went about doing. The response from our benefactors was touching—along with hundreds of letters of encouragement we transmitted directly to Archbishop Kaigama, hope poured into our post office box and website in the form of donations. Close to $300,500 was collected over the period of under six months.

 

 

Photo: Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme inspecting a burnt church in Bahuli community in Catholic diocese of Maiduguri.

One of the projects we were able to support for the church in need in Nigeria, is in the diocese of Maiduguri found in the Northeastern part of the country. The application for the completion of St. Patrick’s Cathedral came with pictures of the old cathedral grounds flooded out, as it did every rainy season. A bombing in 2011 had also affected every structure in the compound. In these pictures we can see that parts of the structure were already under construction, the flooring, the half-finished roof, all at this stage “purely funded locally” without any other kind of assistance. The diocese had applied to organizations and been refused. Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme having known ACN’s work previously turned to us and in his letter wrote: “We are aware of the fact that we should be building people and rendering humanitarian services, but the need for decent places of worship is too important as the faith of the persecuted church grows.”  He said, “the Cathedral project is a miracle to us and a testimony, that in the midst of the difficulties and challenges our people can demonstrate such faith, resilience and commitment.”

The Cathedral-Building Project Has Come to a Successful End

Not quite another year has gone by and the Cathedral project begun on August 26, 2015, is finally completed and the building original put in place in 1945 is given a new dedication and new life! ACN benefactor’s generosity has already had a tremendous impact. The new cathedral has a gallery capacity for 1,300 and the floor another 1,200 people. Among other things, a Chapel for Perpetual Adoration was added along with two rooms above the main sacristy for lectors and altar servers, staircases house four confessionals.

 

Rev. Father Dr John Bogna Bakeni said in his dedication speech “To the glory of God and sanctification of all Creation. The cathedral building project has come to a successful end. Thanks to the generosity and support of the parishioners and friends home and abroad especially Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) without whose support we would not have completed this project and dedicated it.”

 

Bishop Doeme writes in his letter to us: “Things might not have worked according to plans and estimates because of the downturn and instability of our economy, but we have managed to complete it. It would not have been possible without your support and the generosity of your benefactors.”

 

Thank you from the bottom or our hearts for giving the Catholic Church of Nigeria a little bit of hope.


 

ACN Interview: Uganda and the Hope for refugees from South Sudan

28.09.2018 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Africa, By Robert Lalonde, Uganda

 

Uganda, 2018
Christine du Coudray (project officer for Africa I at ACN) visiting the refugee camp in Bidibidi
(From left to the right:  Christine du Coudray, Mgr Tombe Trille (Bishop of El Obeid in Sudan)

ACN Interview

Uganda and the Hope for refugees from South Sudan

Christine du Coudray, the person responsible for the Africa Department at the Pontifical Charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), returned from a journey to Uganda a few weeks ago. While there she visited the Bidibidi and Imvepi camps located in the north-west of the country. There are 1.2 million refugees, coming for the most part from South Sudan, dispersed throughout the camps in this region covering the dioceses of Arua, Nebbi and Gulu. Moreover, there are also refugees to be found in the Kampala area, the capital located at the centre of the country. In an interview, Robert Lalonde gathers some initial impressions of her trip.

 

 

What made you decide to visit this region?

I was invited by three bishops: Msgr Eduardo Kussala, Bishop of Tombura Yambio and President of the Episcopal Conference, Msgr Roko Taban, the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Malakal  – both from South Sudan -, and Msgr Tombe Trille, Bishop of El Obeid in Sudan. They had come to see for the first time the situation of their compatriots who had fled to Uganda to escape the violence in South Sudan. I was also invited by the American foundation Sudan Relief Fund with which ACN is linked since we co-fund a number of projects. Msgr Sabino Odoki, the Bishop of Arua in Uganda, took us to get an overview of the situation in these camps. It was a highly enriching week and it left a strong impression.

 

How would you describe the situation there?

Since we are dealing with refugee camps, you would think that the prevailing mood was one of distress. But it’s important to know that these camps have been in existence since 2013. The residents have food, drinking water and medical care. They even have a plot of land that they can cultivate. All things considered, the living conditions are definitely better than in many African villages which do not receive any external aid. Even so the situation is difficult, which is why the refugees expect support from us. That’s what we came to assess their needs on the spot.

Formation courses for the people of South Sudan (Formation courses via Emmaus Center Katikamu for refugees from South Sudan in Bidibidi and Palorinya refugee camps (Uganda)): Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala (diocese of Tombura-Yambio in South Sudan) with a group of young South Sudanese refugees

What moment on the trip made the greatest impression?

We were all impressed by the welcome given to us by Msgr Odoki and by the leadership he has shown. Among other things, he has assigned two diocesan priests to carry out pastoral work in the camps. We were also highly impressed when we learned that the pieces of land on which the 9 camps of the dioceses in the north-west region have been constructed originally belonged to ordinary Ugandans who generously offered them to the refugees. This welcoming attitude shown by the brothers and sisters in the faith is also in Uganda’s interest since Uganda hopes that its neighbouring country will one day live in peace. Does this not demonstrate a great spirit of hospitality and provide a lesson that should be remembered?

 

 

In what way is the Catholic Church involved in the camps?

The presence of the bishops was a good opportunity for the Church to demonstrate its concern for all these people, who are not there by choice but who have been forced there by life’s vicissitudes. Even so, this period of enforced exile can be used marvelously as a time for training with a view to building the society of tomorrow. When these individuals return home, the re-construction of their country will be in their hands. The Church is already involved and may possibly become further involved by giving other training sessions.

 

Last year ACN sent $51,000 to the Emmaus community based near Kampala. This community has considerable expertise in different fields such as catechesis, pastoral care, social doctrine, the family apostolate and in providing emotional and sexual education to young people, which is so important in a country decimated by AIDS. Sixty-five young people have been trained in the camps.

 

What is the situation of young people in the camps?

These young people have gone through major traumas. Some saw their parents killed before their very eyes, others suffered severe facial burns… they are now asking themselves how they shall ever be able to forgive. The Emmaus community has set up a program to accompany them in the process of forgiving and invites young people to come and kneel before the Holy Sacrament to pray. The accounts of healing have multiplied, as though the Lord has intervened to soothe hearts and spirits.

 

Will other means be applied in future to help the refugees?

On the one hand, the bishops have committed themselves to returning in September to celebrate Holy Mass in the camps and, on the other, to ask their priests who speak the various Ugandan dialects to come and conduct an apostolate.

 

What is more, Msgr Odoki, the bishop of Arua, told us that he was part of a delegation that recently met Pope Francis. The delegation informed him about the situation in the diocese and mentioned the urgent need for the presence of religious sisters among the refugees. The Pope assured them that he would make a special appeal to convents, urging them to respond to this need.

 

Formation courses via Emmaus Center Katikamu for refugees from South Sudan in Bidibidi and Palorinya refugee camps (Uganda) (SRF) – Formation courses for the people of South Sudan: Group work

 

And what kind of support can be given by Aid to the Church in Need in the spirit of these commitments?

To foster the presence of Church personnel we envisage building a house with a number of rooms to accommodate priests for a certain time. With the help of other organizations, we could do the same for the nuns. Such a house could provide half a floor per congregation with a chapel and a communal dining room.

 

With regard to the training courses, we intend to continue vigorously with our work in this domain. It is clear that the desire for such training, combined with the atmosphere of peace, which prevails in the camps, is a factor, which favours this kind of involvement. The bishops were delighted with such a proposal from ACN. They know that, once trained, the leaders we address (catechists, the young people who study the Church’s social doctrine and those who go more deeply into the family apostolate) will share their knowledge and experience with other refugees. In this way, they will build the future together. One of them, Santos, also described his experience to us as having been “more than wonderful”. The more we provide these training conditions, the more the country will rise again. Isn’t that a glorious prospect of hope and for a future?

 


 

ACN Project of the Week – Success Story… in India!

08.08.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Asia, CONSTRUCTION, India

Success Story… in India!

Consecration of the village chapel, in West Vipparu

May 5 2018 was a day of great celebration for the Catholic faithful in West Vipparu, for it was on this day that their beautiful new chapel was finally consecrated after 16 long years of waiting. Up to then, all they had was a very small chapel with an asbestos roof, which threatened to collapse at any moment, and was also far too small for the steadily growing number of faithful.  The people had long dreamt of building a new church, but in their poverty, and despite the many great sacrifices they made, they simply could not raise the necessary funds. 

 

West Vipparu is one of many villages belonging to the parish of Tadepalligudem. In 11 of these villages, almost all the inhabitants have been baptized, while in others there are still many people awaiting baptism. As a result, the priest is kept very busy visiting the people in the villages. In West Vipparu the new chapel has truly become the heart of the community, and not only during times of Mass and catechetical teaching. As their parish priest tells us, “The faithful are quite certain that God is here, and so they also go to the chapel even when the priest cannot get there, and bring their cares to Jesus.”

 

The chapel is dedicated to the Infant Jesus of Prague who is greatly venerated by the Catholic faithful all over India. It is seen in the many large shrines honouring the Infant Jesus; in fact, they are some of the greatest shrines in the world where the Infant Jesus of Prague is venerated, this devotion can be seen even in the most remote corners of the country as increasingly churches and chapels are dedicated to him.

 

Our generous benefactors did not disappoint!

ACN was able to give $15,100 for the construction of a new chapel. All the building work was carried out by the Catholic faithful themselves, under the supervision of an expert builder, while the essential building materials were obtained thanks to the generosity of our benefactors.

 

“The dedication ceremony was an unforgettable day,” writes the parish priest, Father Dharma Raju Matta. The local Bishop Jaya Rao Polimera had also come especially from Eluru to consecrate the new chapel and remaining for a long time, close to his people and listening to their cares and concerns after the ceremony.

“We want to express our profound and sincere gratitude for the wonderful help you have given to our mission,” writes Father Raju Matta, and also giving us assurances that his faithful are praying the Rosary regularly for everyone who helped!

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