fbpx

ACN Tag

 

Project of the Week : Invitation to support this project

23.12.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bulgaria, Catholic Religious Sisters, EU, European Union, Project of the Week, Sisters, SUBSISTENCE

Bulgaria

Support for the life and work of religious Sisters

 

Les Franciscaines missionnaires de Marie de Zitnitza et de Rakovski soutiennent les plus pauvres. Nous leur accordons 2175 dollars canadiens pour qu'elles continuent à aider.

Franciscan Sisters in Zitniza and Rakovski  support the poor.  We are providing them with  2,175 CAN dollars so they can continue to help, just as Sister Francoise as above with this elderly woman.

In the towns of Zitnitza and Rakovski, in the diocese of Plovdiv in the south of Bulgaria, there is a community of five Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Their congregation was founded in the 19th Century and is present today in 20 countries of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

The Sisters preach the Gospel through their example of active service for the poor.

Catholics make up only a very small minority in the total population of Bulgaria of around 7.3 million souls. There are only about 80,000 Catholics living in this country. As a Catholic priest or religious you need to have a great deal of patience. Anyone who expects quick results here, has got it wrong. “We are working for the next generation,” the priests and Sisters agree.

In Zitnitza and Rakovski, the Sisters help the sick and the elderly and do home visits when the priest is unable to do so. They also give catechetical instruction and teach religious education in the schools.

Although Bulgaria is a member state of the European Union, around one fifth of the population nevertheless lives in poverty. So there is plenty of work for the sisters in their ministry to the poor and needy. But at the same time the sisters themselves are in need of help, since their living costs are rising relentlessly.

Each year, ACN has made an effort to help these Sisters make ends meet. This year is no exception: once again they have turned to us for help. Sister Francoise writes,

donate

This year, we are helping the Sisters with a contribution of $2,175 CAD.

Would you like to help us, help them?

 

Text: ACN International
English Canadian adaptation: Amanda Bridget Griffin

ACN PRESS – Message from Chaldean Patriarch of Iraq, Msgr Louis Sako I

22.12.2015 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Communication, Iraq, Persecution of Christians, Press Release

               

Iraq

Message to the Media from the Chaldean Patriarch

With a few days to go before Christmas, Aid to the Church in Need received a message from the Chaldean Patriarch of Iraq.  This message reflects directly what Patriarch Msgr Louis Sako, ascertains as to the situation of Christians in Iraq. A political and social context where the religious freedom of those who have remained – an estimated 200,000 – are in grave danger. Even in areas where the Iraqi government should be protecting them.  Titles have been added to assist with the clarity of the text. 

 

Will the Christians of Iraq one day be able to live the joy of Christmas?

The feast of the birth of Christ—bearer of justice and peace—building love among people, is one of the greatest feasts celebrated by millions of Christians around the world and particularly in Iraq. A true feast is always an occasion to remember an exceptional person or event, bearers of joy and hope. Such a feast strengthens us in our daily life. But this year Iraqi Christians will celebrate Christmas in deplorable circumstances, one the one hand because of the deteriorating condition of the situation of our country at all levels, and, on the other hand, because of what they have gone through as Christians, victims of segregation and exclusion.

For a year and a half now, the Islamic State (Daesh) is still occupying Mosul, as well as the towns on the Nineveh Plain. Some 120,000 Christians were driven out of their homes only because of they belong to the religion of Christ. No one, aside from those who plotted this religious purification, could have imagined such a catastrophe. Christian refugees, far from home for 18 months now, are living in very trying conditions, in camps more or less any kind of care except for what is given them be the Church or Non-Governmental Organizations.

In Baghdad, the homes of the faithful are subject to the greed of militia who have confiscated their belongings. That is what happened just a few days ago to a Christian family living in Palestinian quarter, in the center of Baghdad. The family was threatened and robbed in broad daylight!

Msgr Louis Sako

Msgr Louis Sako

Liberty under threat by the governments response

From a legislative perspective, we are also victims of discrimination. To this day, the Deputies have not changed the terrible law linked to identity cards which forces minors born into Christian, Mandean or Yazidi families to become Muslims themselves if one of their parents follows Islam. The behavior of those who are chosen to represent us, our Deputies, have harmed the very heart of Christian families and their children. It is as if liberty and the most fundamental rights don’t apply to us—as if they are reserved for others. All this robs us of the joy of the great feast.

This situation is that much more saddening given that Muslims, according to their sacred writings, consider Christ and His mother to be “miracles of worlds” and consider Christians to be “closest to them in affection.” What’s more, Muslims continue to remind us and repeat to us that we are founding citizens of the country, while, in reality, they treat us as second-class citizens, and do nothing to ensure that public freedoms, equality under the law and the right to security are applied to all of the population, and not just a part of it.

On this occasion, we want to be very frank again: we will not give in to injustice. On the contrary, we will remain attached to our land, and to our patriotism and we will continue to show love for our fellow citizens, simply because they are our brothers and sisters.

A brotherhood slipping away

Given the continued gains of ISIS, the Assembly should have countered the vision of Daesh by affirming that the nation’s unity and cohesion depends on the granting of equal rights to all Iraqis, making them one single family without distinctions based on ethnicity or religion.

As proof of this national cohesion, we would expect the Deputies to declare the feast of Christians to be a national holiday, as had been announced by the former prime minister of Iraq and as is already the case in Kirkuk, since 2012 and in Kurdistan. Naturally, we have expressed this demand. It would have been a strong sign of the promotion of the coexistence of all communities and the progress of brotherhood.

Automne 2015: les chrétiens manifestent contre la loi dite de « l'islamisation des enfants ».

Fall 2015: Christians protest against the so-called law of islamisation of the children.

Unfortunately, this brotherhood has only been slipping away. Recently, Christians found themselves directly threatened. In Baghdad, on Dec. 13, certain individuals, likely Shiite militia, pasted images of the Virgin Mary on the homes of Christian families. These posters carry a message inviting Christian women to imitate the Holy Virgin and to wear veils. These posters are an assault on the liberty of Christians to dress themselves as they see fit. The Very Holy Virgin Mary lived 2,000 years ago in a different culture and society—and the true veil is the veil of the spirit and of morality.

(Bold in the letter itself) On this occasion, we want to be very frank again: we will not give in to injustice. On the contrary, we will remain attached to our land, and to our patriotism and we will continue to show love for our fellow citizens, simply because they are our brothers and sisters.

In Iraq, we will celebrate the birth of Christ, who will come into our hearts in silence and amidst tears, without public displays or festive gatherings; nonetheless, we continue to enjoy an inner peace with perpetuates the joy of faith, and the hope that, despite all the suffering, we are moving toward the building of a more just country and a better future.

His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako, by virtue of his office as supreme leader of the largest Church of Iraq, sends his sincere thanks to all those who have supported human rights in Iraq. He thanks all those who have supported the Christians and who have made efforts to promote the rights of all Iraqis without distinction.

 

“Glory to God in the highest and peace to people on earth whom He loves.”

La Sainte-Famille, représentée dans la chapelle du Centre Mar Elia.

Holy Family, as represented in the Chappel of Mar Elia Center.

We wish for peace for Iraq.

By Patriarch Louis Sako I

 

Translated by Joop Coopman, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

ACN Feature – The Holy Land

21.12.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Oliver Maksan, Holy Land

 

Mgr Marcuzzo, vicaire patriarcal et évêque auxiliaire du patriarcat latin d’Israël.

Msgr Marcuzzo, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, Auxiliary Bishop

Holy Land

“Exercising mercy and demanding justice belong together”

The Holy Doors in Bethlehem and Nazareth will soon be opened – Auxiliary Bishop Marcuzzo from Nazareth emphasizes the role forgiveness in the Holy Land as also having political dimensions

“The Holy Year of Mercy is very important for the Holy Land. It has spiritual, but also social and political dimensions,” Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo of the Latin Patriarchate and patriarchal vicar for Israel, emphasized. In an interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the bishop, who resides in Nazareth (Israel), explained that the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis should transform both the individual Christian as well as the Christian community.

According to Auxiliary Bishop Marcuzzo, both belong together. “This year is an opportunity to grow in the faith and active love. Mercy is exercising love in difficult situations. The circumstances of the Holy Land, however, are such that the individual faithful Christian is called upon to make a heroic testimony of love.” According to Bishop Marcuzzo, the most important outcome of the Holy Year for the individual would be the rediscovery of the sacrament of penance. “To begin with, I am hoping for a more mature, more conscious and more adult return to the sacrament of confession. This is above all a matter of the individual, but it does also have a social dimension. Because people who are willing to change their ways are also willing to do things for others. We hope that this will lead to more solidarity and selflessness. A Christian has to prove himself to be stronger than the brother of the brother. This is true for the relationships of Christians among each other, but also for associations with members of other religions, whether they are Muslims, Jews or Druze. You have to accept the other in his otherness.”

 

The church does not ask of us to be

merciful but stop calling for justiceProject trip of Agnieszka Dzieduszycka and Ilona Budzbon

 

The auxiliary bishop highlighted a decisive aspect of mercy is the willingness to bestow forgiveness. In light of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of course, the discourse on forgiveness is a special challenge for the primarily Palestinian Christians of the Holy Land. “At the moment, the people are asking me how they can live mercy and forgiveness following such great injustices as those caused by the wars and the violence they experience. There is no easy answer. But one thing is clear, we cannot on the one hand exercise mercy and stop demanding justice. We have to bring them into sync with each other. The church does not ask of us to be merciful but stop calling for justice.” Bishop Marcuzzo mentioned examples from other contexts. “Of course, for us Christians, Jesus Christ is the quintessential example of how this is done. But he was also followed by people who tried to bring mercy and justice into sync. I believe that within his context Gandhi, for example, was the perfect example of this way of living. We can also let this inspire us as Christians in the Holy Land.”

The Holy Door will be opened in Bethlehem on the 24th, in Nazareth on the 27th of December.

 

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International,          

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN Report – Christmas in Aleppo

18.12.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Oliver Maksan, Emergency Aid, Persecution of Christians, Syria

Aleppo, Syria

“Christmas without joy in their hearts”

In the midst of the hellish conditions that have overshadowed Aleppo, Sister Annie endeavours to give the people a merry Christmas – Aid to the Church in Need is supporting her

Christmas gift for the children and the people in Al Hassekeh and AleppoChristmas music, colourful balloons, lights and a Christmas tree: Sister Annie and her helpers have decorated the church hall for the festive season. Gifts are being handed out. Happy faces can be seen. Small children are racing around. There’s a lot of laughter. And yet – this pre-Christmas idyll allows the people of Aleppo to forget at most for a short while the circumstances in which they are forced to live.

“Two days ago missiles struck quite near us. Six people were killed. A few days before an apartment building had been hit. Nobody was hurt but a lot of people were injured. Injured often means that people have lost arms and legs. This is an everyday occurrence for us. No-one knows whether he’ll get home alive whenever he leaves his house. All we have left is our trust in God,” reports Sister Annie .

“Recently I visited a family who were living in their apartment which had been destroyed by a missile. My heart wept. It was such a terrible sight.”

This Armenian-Catholic nun of the Community of Jesus and Mary has held out for years in Aleppo, a town ravaged by the Syrian war. The government and the rebels hold different parts of the town. Time and time again they fight one another. Together with her co-sisters and helpers she is serving Aleppo’s Christians by endeavouring to provide clothing, heating, rent assistance and medicines.

Gifts: Clothing made in Aleppo

Aid to the Church in Need is supporting Sister Annie in her initiative. Hundreds of thousands of Christians once lived in this prosperous commercial metropolis in the north of Syria. Today only a few tens of thousands remain in a city where large parts  have been destroyed. “Life here is so difficult. For days on end there is no electricity or water. It’s bitterly cold in the winter in particular. Recently I visited a family who were living in their apartment which had been destroyed by a missile. My heart wept. It was such a terrible sight.”

As in previous years, Sister Annie is endeavouring to give the people a merry Christmas. “We distribute trousers, pullovers and jackets to the people. They’re often unable to buy new things for themselves. That’s why such things are so important for them specifically in the winter.”

Sister Annie and her volunteers have been preparing the project since September. 12,000 items of clothing have been made for 3,000 needy people. “The clothes have been made by Christian tailors here in Aleppo. They told me that they are so grateful for the orders. This is how they get work to feed their families.”

Les cadeaux de Noël pour des habitants d'Al Hassekeh et d'Alep: des vêtements chauds pour l'hiver.

Christmas presents for the people of AlHassekeh and Aleppo – warm clothing for the winter ahead.

Christians are not only being helped in Aleppo but also in Hasake, a town in the north-east of Syria. “Formerly we were able to transport the relief aid from Aleppo to Hasake by truck. But because Daesh (the terrorist group “Islamic State”) has now conquered the area between these two places this is no longer so easy. We have therefore sent the clothes by air. The priest with whom we work has reported that they arrived safely.”

ACN announces additional aid

The situation in the Near-East is not seeing improvement. Therefore a series of supplementary emergency measures have been taken and announced by ACN for Iraqis as well as Syrians who have fled persecution. For Syria: 19 aid programs have been launched.  All in all, projects financed to support Christians in Syria have totaled $14,500,000 CAN since the onset of the conflict in 2011.

However, Aid to the Church in Need has supported Sister Annie’s Christmas project for years now. “Without Aid to the Church in Need I wouldn’t be able to give the people anything. For me it is one of God’s miracles that things are different. We are so grateful to the benefactors for their generosity. Just now we celebrated a Holy Mass to pray for them. And the people also bless the benefactors when they hear who the gifts are from.” Since Friday last week Sister Annie has been distributing clothes to the needy from ten o’clock in the morning to four o’clock in the afternoon.

“We don’t want the people to feel they are beggars. That’s why we’ve decorated the distributing room so nicely. We’re also trying to talk to them all. It isn’t only supposed to be a clothing distribution point, but a place where people can meet one another.” When they come, Sister Annie says, the people complain about their everyday sufferings. “This is the fifth Christmas festival that Syrian’s Christians will be celebrating in conditions of war. The people no longer have  joy in their hearts. Of course, they will go to church. But the joy which we all used to feel at Christmas has gone. It has been replaced by sadness.”

She reports about an old man who told her despondently that he and his wife were alone at Christmas. “Formerly all his sixteen children and grandchildren celebrated with them. Now they’re all gone, fled. Only the two old people are left.” Many have suffered the fate of this elderly couple. They had lost relatives in the attacks, their sons were serving in the army or the children had fled. “In every household there is a sad story to be told,” Sister Annie explains. “But the people trust in God. And they are happy that their fellow Christians in other countries have not forgotten them.”

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!”

Share with your social network here.

 

 

PROJECT OF THE WEEK – GOD SPEAKS TO HIS CHILDREN

10.12.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Child's Bible, Ethiopia

Ethiopia

God Speaks to His Children – now more than ever!

Ethiopia is a country which embodies a tremendous ethnic and linguistic diversity. There are over 80 different ethnic groups in the country, speaking as many languages and belonging to a great variety of religious faiths.

There are approximately 700,000 Catholics in this country of Ethiopia which account for barely 1% of the total population. But despite its small numbers, the Catholic Church is extremely active in the country.

God speaks to his Children, which has now been published in a total of over 50 million copies worldwide and in more than 170 different languages

For example, the Church maintains 203 kindergartens and 222 schools, all of which are open to children and young people of all faiths and denominations.  Currently these institutions are providing  almost 180,000 children and young people with an education. It is through these schools that the Church hopes to build bridges among the various races and cultures.

In the same vein, the Catholic Church runs no fewer than four universities, serving over 7,000 students. The Church is widely welcomed by the ordinary people, especially in those areas where they still adhere to traditional local religions and in some cases have never even heard of Jesus Christ. Upon first hearing the Gospel, many of these people say to the priests, “We love your God. Please come to us as well!”

One particularly valuable and much loved instrument of the Church’s catechetical outreach is the ACN Child’s Bible, God speaks to his Children, which has now been published in a total of over 50 million copies worldwide and in more than 170 different languages including several of the languages spoken in Ethiopia. So it is that in many village chapels – often little more than a shelter of wooden posts covered with branches – one can find heavily thumbed-through copies of ACN Child’s Bible in the local language. The stories are read out loud to the little ones, time and again by the local catechists, but the children never tire of them and  listen with shining eyes to the words and deeds of Jesus.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Awassa lies in the south of Ethiopia. The Child’s Bible has become so popular here that we have received a request to reprint 10,000 copies: 5,000 in the official Amhara language and 5,000 in the local Sidama (or Sidamo) language, the language spoken by around 1.6 million people in southern Ethiopia.

 

We are helping with a contribution of 13,500 CAN towards the printing costs, so that many more children can embrace the Good News in their hearts.

Dans le Vicariat apostolique de Gambella, les enfants désirent une Bible. Soutenez-les!

In the Apostolic Vicariate of Gambella,the children want Bibles!  Would you like to contribute to this or other similar projects?

 

donate

ACN Interview – Interreligious dialogue in Pakistan

07.12.2015 in ACN Canada, ACN Intl, ACN PRESS, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Interreligious Dialogue, Pakistan

Pakistan

Grand Imam and Dominican Unite Against Christian Persecution in Pakistan

With persecution against Christians rife as the result of radicals and militants,  the Grand Imam of Pakistan’s second largest mosque, Badshahi Mosque in Lahore,  Imam Syed Muhammad  Abdul Khabir Azad, and a Dominican priest, Father James Channan OP, are working together to protect the country’s embattled Christian minority. Father Channan is the Director of Peace Center, Lahore, whereas, Imam Abdul Khabir Azad serves as a board member and close collaborator of Peace Center.

In an exclusive joint interview with Aid to the Church in Need,  Imam Abdul Khabir Azad and Father Channan described the conditions in Pakistan and their work together.

Imam Abdul Khabir Azad and Father Channan act swiftly when outbreaks of persecution occur, seeking to bring healing to those affected and minimize retaliatory attacks.

For example, on 15th of  March 2015, two suicide bombers approached churches; St Joseph’s Church of Catholics and Christ Church of the Protestants/ Church of Pakistan,  in Youhanabad, Lahore, which is  one of Asia’s largest Christian colonies.   At the cost of their own lives, security guards intercepted the bombers at the church gates. Still, the detonations killed 22, Christians and Muslims,  and wounded another 70.

En 2014, à la suite de la mise à mort du couple chrétien Masih selon la loi sur le blasphème, une rencontre interreligieuse afin de dénoncer cet événement.

In 2014, following the execution of a Christian couple who were victim to the Pakistani Blasphemy law, a meeting of an inter-religious nature was called in order to denounce the event.

The great majority opposed to terrorists

In close consultation with Father Channan, Imam Abdul Khabir Azad went to the Youhanabad community the next day as a public witness of Muslim solidarity with Christians.

The next week Imam Abdul Khabir Azad organized a march in front of his Badshai Mosque—a vast facility that can accommodate as many as 100,000 worshippers—to demonstrate mainstream Muslim opposition to terrorism and call  for peace and harmony.

Father Channan’s Peace Center also conducts ongoing efforts of reconciliation through publishing a journal, Umang, and holding Christian-Muslim and ecumenical conference and  workshops throughout the year. Imam Abdul Khabir Azad´s focuses on rural Islamic clerics, who are often the instigators of religious violence. He is very much committed to bring a positive change among these clerics so they do not make announcements in the mosques against the Christians.  In 2004  Imam Abdul Khabir Azad organized an interfaith conference inside the Badshahi mosque, the first time Christians had been invited to speak in the mosque in its 350 year history. Fr James Channan was invited to give first ever speech in this mosque on the significance of Christian-Muslim  relations and dialogue.

Since the atrocities of 9/11 in the United States more than 60,000 Pakistanis—most of them Muslims—have been killed by the  terrorists. While slow to recognize the internal threat, the Pakistani government now pursues a vigorous policy against terrorism under the able command of Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif. Imam Abdul Khabir Azad estimated that the armed forces have successfully eliminated 80% of Pakistan´s terrorists.

Laws that are misused

Many problems remain  however, especially in regard to the abuse of Pakistan’s Blasphemy laws, according to both Father Channan and Imam Abdul Khabir Azad. There is a grave to work on this issues both by the Christians and Muslim so that blasphemy laws are not misused and those who misuse these laws are brought to justice and given exemplary punished so that no one dares to use these laws to settle personal scores.

For example, on March 2, 2011 Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic and the first as Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, was assassinated by members of the Taliban for his opposition to this law and its provisions. The former Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated, by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, after criticizing the blasphemy provisions as “black law.”[i]

L'un des membres de la famille Masih, consoler par les membres du Peace center de Lahore.

A family member or the murdered Masih couple, consoled by the members of the Peace Centre in Lahore.

Father Channan cited a case that illustrates just how bad anti-Christian feelings and  persecution can be. On November 4, 2014, a Christian couple,  Mrs. Shama Masih wife of Shahzad Masih was accused of desecrating the Quran in the village of Kot Rodha Kishan.  Shamah Masih was a 24 year-old mother of four and pregnant at the time. Shama along with her husband  were seized by an angry mob, tortured, and then burned alive in a brick kiln. It was a crime against humanity, says Fr James Channan.  The Imam also condemned this barbaric act in the strongest words.

It is dangerous to speak out against such abuses, but Imam Khabir Azad does so regularly.  “I have received threats from the work that I am doing, but I am not going to give up. It is the need of the hour, and it is my mission.” The Imam takes inspiration from Jesus as the Prince of Peace, his favorite image of Christ.

We must find as much common ground as we can, Fr. Channan says, in order to build a better society for everyone. This can bring about a “conversion of heart” in terms of having Muslims and people from other faiths recognize Christians as worthy fellow citizens.

Constructing a better society

Father Channan calls evangelization and inter-religious dialogue the “two tracks on which the train of Catholicism runs.” Through evangelization Christ’s followers, in obedience to his command, offer all people the opportunity to be reconciled to God through his death and resurrection and thus be baptized. Whereas, the aim  of inter-religious dialogue is not to convert the other, rather seek those things which are common if different religions and thus work jointly for the better of humanity and promoter peaceful co-existence and respect for the religion of the others.

At the same time, inter-religious dialogue has a role to play as well—one with a civic as much as an eternal character. We must find as much common ground as we can, Fr. Channan says, in order to build a better society for everyone. This can bring about a “conversion of heart” in terms of having Muslims and people from other faiths recognize Christians as worthy fellow citizens.

The importance of inter-religious dialogue in countries like Pakistan can hardly be overstated. For this reason Father Channan was appointed as  Consultor of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (1985 -1995), and also served  as a Consultor  to the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims (1999-2004).  Father Channan has been regularly consulted on religious issues by Pakistan’s government and travels internationally lecturing on the importance of peace building through dialogue.

Fr. Channan has seen many Islamic leaders in Pakistan move from a position in which they would not even share a meal with Christians to one of real friendship—the kind of friendship that is so well exemplified by  Imam Abdul Khabir Azad and Father Channan.

[i] Mumtaz Qadri was given death sentence by the Sessions Court and this verdict is upheld by the High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was shocking for some that for the militants Qardi is seen as a hero who has done right thing by killing Salman Taseer. However, such a claim is rejected by all law enforcing agencies.

ACN News – Protecting Christians from ‘elimination’

03.12.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, John Pontifex

Middle East (Iraq, Syria)

Protecting Christians from ‘elimination’

Refugee coordinator says governments must act on  behalf of Christians, the extremists’ top target

 

Le père Jaar, - de l'Association des messagers de la paix - dans un camps de réfugiés en Jordanie.

Father Jaar of the Messengers of Peace Association with children in one of Jordan’s refugee camps.

According to a leading refugee relief coordinator who warns that extremist Islamists are infiltrating groups seeking asylum in Europe – Christians from the Middle East are suffering the most but Western governments are ignoring their plight

 

Father Khalil Jaar of the Messengers of Peace Association said Christians are being “eliminated” by invading Daesh (ISIS) forces, who, he said, have marked them as their main target.

 

The Jordan-based priest, who is providing shelter and schooling for thousands flooding into the capital of Amman, said he was critical of Western governments proposing to take in refugees from the main camps for this reason. He emphasised that Christians and other minorities are not given equal opportunity to seek asylum in Europe.

“Whenever [the Islamist groups] seize any territory, one of their first aims is to eliminate the Christian presence. The people most in danger are the Christians.”

Speaking in an interview with ACN, Father Khalil said that some refugees entering Europe are Daesh sympathisers, evidence picked up from his many interviews with asylum seekers and reports received from Syria and Iraq. He expressed that he noticed “a direct link” between the influx of Middle Eastern refugees over the past few months and the Paris terrorist attack last month.  Most of the refugees were not asylum seekers, said Father Khalil, but economic migrants in search of a better life.

Lors de l'ouverture du bureau Mexicain de l'AED en novembre 2014, le père Jaar en conférence de presse.

Father Jaar speaks at the opening of the new ACN National Office in Mexico 2014

Most in danger are the Christians

“The West has totally failed to recognize what is going on in the Middle East. Most of the refugees flooding into Europe are people looking for a better life. If they were genuine asylum seekers, they would have accepted to stay in the first available country offering them sanctuary. The real refugees are left far behind. Why is the West not doing more for Christians and other minorities? They are the ones who are suffering the most. If the Christians stay in Syria and Iraq, they risk being eliminated by Islamic extremists and if they seek sanctuary abroad in the main refugee camps, they suffer abuse from those already there.”

 

Islamist groups are putting extreme pressure on Christians in Syria and Iraq to convert to Islam, pay the Jizya tax or face being killed, said the priest. Such threats were made by invading Islamist forces including the al-Nusra Front, Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as well as Daesh.

 

Saying that most of the forces fighting in Syria are from outside the country, Father Jaar said: “Whenever [the Islamist groups] seize any territory, one of their first aims is to eliminate the Christian presence. The people most in danger are the Christians.”

 

The cleric paid tribute to organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need and other national and international charitable NGOs, saying that Christians arriving in Jordan and elsewhere are totally dependent on their help.

“If ACN didn’t help the Iraqi refugees in Erbil, the Christians would be in a desperate situation.

Father Jaar said he was told by Joanna Wronecka, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Jordan, this past summer, that there were no grants available to help Iraqi refugees, only Syrians. She said that this was the instruction of the donor countries. Father Khalil’s comment to ACN: “This is discrimination. Both the Iraqi and Syrian refugees are victims of the same violence and intimidation.”

 

Father Khalil’s work at his parish of Marka, a suburb of Jordan, includes help for 450 Iraqi Christian families – 12 families living in the parish compound, the rest living in rented accommodation partly funded by ACN.

Thanking Aid to the Church in Need, he said: “If ACN didn’t help the Iraqi refugees in Erbil, the Christians would be in a desperate situation.” Jaar also thanked and named the other organizations and the many who have made private donations.

 

“I want to thank all those who came to our help – in an official way or a personal way. If these organizations did not take care of these Iraqi refugees, they would be abandoned.”

 

 

By John Pontifex, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN Feature – A chapel for Christian refugees in Baghdad

03.12.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, AED Canada, Aide à l’Église en détresse., By Oliver Maksan, CONSTRUCTION, Iraq

Iraq

“A piece of a lost homeland”

Inauguration de la chapelle dédiée à la Vierge Marie, dans le camps du même nom. de nombreuses familles chrétiennes de la Plaine de Ninive s'y retrouvent. Maintenant, elles auront un endroit propice à la prière.

Inauguration of the chapel dedicated to named for the Virgin Mary with many families from the Nineveh Plains present for the celebration.  Now they will have a place to gather and to pray. 

Father Luis Montes is glad. “We have just consecrated a new chapel. It was high time that our refugees got their own small church. This gives them back a piece of the home they have lost. And the people can now go to Mass without risking their lives.”

This Argentinean priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word has been living in Baghdad for five years – this,  one of the most dangerous cities in the world. “There were 128 bomb attacks in Baghdad in October alone. It is therefore hardly surprising that the people are afraid of leaving their homes to go to church.” And this, he reported, even though the nearest church is not that far away. “However, because of the danger it was important that the church came to them in the camp.”

Since last year, 135 families from the Nineveh plains near Mosul have been living in this refugee camp named for the Virgin Mary where each family, all of them Christian, has been given a caravan. Most belong to the Syrian Catholic church. “The people lost everything last year. When the Islamic State attacked their city of Karakosh, they ran for their lives and left everything behind.”

Over 120,000 Christians have had similar experiences and have been biding their time as refugees in camps primarily in Northern Iraq. Thousands have already left their homelands to go to Australia or other Western countries. “All of our refugees here want to leave. They came to Baghdad because the camps in the North were overcrowded, but primarily because they needed new documents so that they could leave Iraq. Most of them forgot or lost their documents in the chaos of fleeing,” Father Luis said. “None of them still harbour the hope that they will be able to return to their hometowns, which are currently occupied by ISIS. After all, there are no signs of liberation. And furthermore, the people have lost their faith in Iraq and in general in the Arab world,” Father Luis explained. Once, when he asked a woman whether she could imagine a future for herself in what are in fact safe autonomous Kurdish regions in Northern Iraq, she answered, “Yes. Right now it is still safe there. But will it continue to be so tomorrow? Many people from Iraq fled to Syria years ago. And now they have to set out again. No, the best thing for us to do is to leave the Middle East completely.”

A container for a chapel

Visa applications of the families are being processed only slowly. Which means that the people are living in limbo, Father Luis said. “Of course the people are suffering under their situations. Not all have found work here. In particular the fathers of the families feel useless. However, when I look at our people, I am still looking into happier faces than those in the West. The people still have their faith in God. This supports them and fills them with confidence.”

Father Luis has been taking care of the people since their arrival in Baghdad. “I quickly realized that the camp did not have a chapel. And then Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) agreed to help us, which is why we were recently able to consecrate our little container church.”

“I only saw thankful faces looking back at me at the consecration. It shows them that they have not been forgotten, that the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need are thinking of them. Every sign of solidarity is worth a great deal to them in their situation. And we are all one in the Mystical Body of Christ. What we do for each other becomes a blessing for all. The small church is helping the people here. The benefactors, however, and all believers are blessed by the suffering of these confessors of the Christian faith. They are the true treasure of the church and one we have to take care.”

In the future, Holy Mass will be celebrated here on Saturday evenings according to the Syrian Catholic rite. “Of course we are all Catholics. But the Latin rite that I celebrate is in fact very different from what the people are used to. And so priests of the Syrian Catholic church will be called in. However, because there are only two of them in Baghdad and they already hold many services on Sunday, they will celebrate the Sunday liturgy on Saturday evenings. As they do so, I will be taking confession from the faithful.”

The people, Father Luis reported, are very happy about the little chapel. “I only saw thankful faces looking back at me at the consecration. It shows them that they have not been forgotten, that the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need are thinking of them. Every sign of solidarity is worth a great deal to them in their situation. And we are all one in the Mystical Body of Christ. What we do for each other becomes a blessing for all. The small church is helping the people here. The benefactors, however, and all believers are blessed by the suffering of these confessors of the Christian faith. They are the true treasure of the church. And one we have to take care Father Luis Montes is glad. “We have just consecrated a new chapel. It was high time that our refugees got their own small church. This gives them back a piece of the home they have lost. And the people can now go to Mass without risking their lives.”

Enfin, un endroit où l'on pourra vivre le sacrement de réconciliation en toute quiétude. Une chapelle multifonction pour les réfugiés chrétiens de Bagdad.

Finally a quiet place to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.  A multiuse chapel for Christian refugees in Baghdad.

This Argentinean priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word has been living in Baghdad for five years – this,  one of the most dangerous cities in the world. “There were 128 bomb attacks in Baghdad in October alone. It is therefore hardly surprising that the people are afraid of leaving their homes to go to church.” And this, he reported, even though the nearest church is not that far away. “However, because of the danger it was important that the church came to them in the camp.”

Since last year, 135 families from the Nineveh plains near Mosul have been living in this refugee camp named for the Virgin Mary where each family, all of them Christian, has been given a caravan. Most belong to the Syrian Catholic church. “The people lost everything last year. When the Islamic State attacked their city of Karakosh, they ran for their lives and left everything behind.”

Over 120,000 Christians have had similar experiences and have been biding their time as refugees in camps primarily in Northern Iraq. Thousands have already left their homelands to go to Australia or other Western countries. “All of our refugees here want to leave. They came to Baghdad because the camps in the North were overcrowded, but primarily because they needed new documents so that they could leave Iraq. Most of them forgot or lost their documents in the chaos of fleeing,” Father Luis said. “None of them still harbour the hope that they will be able to return to their hometowns, which are currently occupied by ISIS. After all, there are no signs of liberation. And furthermore, the people have lost their faith in Iraq and in general in the Arab world,” Father Luis explained. Once, when he asked a woman whether she could imagine a future for herself in what are in fact safe autonomous Kurdish regions in Northern Iraq, she answered, “Yes. Right now it is still safe there. But will it continue to be so tomorrow? Many people from Iraq fled to Syria years ago. And now they have to set out again. No, the best thing for us to do is to leave the Middle East completely.”

A container for a chapel

Visa applications of the families are being processed only slowly. Which means that the people are living in limbo, Father Luis said. “Of course the people are suffering under their situations. Not all have found work here. In particular the fathers of the families feel useless. However, when I look at our people, I am still looking into happier faces than those in the West. The people still have their faith in God. This supports them and fills them with confidence.”

Father Luis has been taking care of the people since their arrival in Baghdad. “I quickly realized that the camp did not have a chapel. And then Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) agreed to help us, which is why we were recently able to consecrate our little container church.”

In the future, Holy Mass will be celebrated here on Saturday evenings according to the Syrian Catholic rite. “Of course we are all Catholics. But the Latin rite that I celebrate is in fact very different from what the people are used to. And so priests of the Syrian Catholic church will be called in. However, because there are only two of them in Baghdad and they already hold many services on Sunday, they will celebrate the Sunday liturgy on Saturday evenings. As they do so, I will be taking confession from the faithful.”

The people, Father Luis reported, are very happy about the little chapel. “I only saw thankful faces looking back at me at the consecration. It shows them that they have not been forgotten, that the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need are thinking of them. Every sign of solidarity is worth a great deal to them in their situation. And we are all one in the Mystical Body of Christ. What we do for each other becomes a blessing for all. The small church is helping the people here. The benefactors, however, and all believers are blessed by the suffering of these confessors of the Christian faith. They are the true treasure of the church and one we have to take care.”

With the help of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a chapel for Christian refugees is consecrated in Baghdad.

 

By Oliver Maksan, ACN international   Adapted by, Amanda Bridget Griffin,  ACN Canada