Journey with ACN – Holy Land

11.04.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Holy Land, Journey with ACN, MOTORIZATION

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which is regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with various projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:   The Holy Land


A car for the parish priest in Nablus

Nablus is the largest city in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories and it has a long and honourable history behind it. It is here, among other things, that the tomb of the patriarch Joseph is situated, one of the most sacred places of Judaism, and also a place of pilgrimage for Christians, Muslims and Samaritans. It is 63 km by car from Jerusalem. This city, which has almost 300,000 inhabitants, is today a centre of trade and industry. Soap and sweets are made here, among other things. The average age of the population is young, with over half of the people aged under 20.

The majority of the inhabitants are Muslim, but there are also around 650 Christians in Nablus, of whom 250 are Catholic. Father Johnny Abu Khalil ministers not only to the Catholics living in the city itself but also to those in 3 sub-parishes. There is also a Catholic school in Nablus.

Given the size of this territory,  and in order to fulfill  his many duties, a car is an absolute necessity for this priest . Unfortunately, last winter his car caught fire and was completely burnt out. It has not yet been established just how this fire was caused, but the fact is that he now has no car. And while the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has temporarily given him the use of a car to help him continue with his apostolate and minister pastorally to the faithful, the car is also needed elsewhere.


Despite this generosity, Father Khalil still needs a car of his own and has turned to ACN for help – and we have promised to help him with a contribution of $18,250.


Nigeria – Mass of courage

21.03.2014 in ACN International, Nigeria, Uncategorized

Testimony of faith in city under attack

 By John Pontifex, ACN UK

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

More than 2,000 people in northern Nigeria risked their lives by turning out for Sunday Mass March 16, while their city was being bombed. Describing St Patrick’s Cathedral, Maiduguri, as “packed”, Father John Bakeni, the Mass celebrant, said people told him afterwards that if the attacks worsened they would prefer to die in church than anywhere else.

Sunday’s Mass took place after suspected Boko Haram extremists launched one of their biggest armed campaigns of recent months, firing rocket-propelled grenades and mounting a massive assault on a military barracks.

Hundreds died in the attacks, which were repulsed by the Nigerian military, but there were growing concerns about the government’s capacity to hold back the extremists.

In an interview Monday, March 17 with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father John Bakeni said: “Yesterday morning there were a lot of bomb explosions but that did not seem to deter people from coming to church. It was a very humbling and edifying experience to see so many people at Mass. The place was packed. When it came to the homily, I said to them that there was no need to preach. I told them: ‘Your presence in such large numbers is a homily in itself.’ ”

The priest ACN to call on the world to pray for the people of Nigeria: “Please pray that this violence will stop.”  In an earlier message, he described the start of the attacks early on Friday, March 14and stating: “We were greeted with the deafening sounds of bomb explosions, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire. There was confusion and pandemonium everywhere.”

Hundreds of insurgents, dressed in military fatigues, struck at Maiduguri’s Giwa Military Barracks and succeeded in releasing fellow fighters held in the cells there. Further attacks took place against residential areas and a university campus, an assault typical of Boko Haram, which literally means “Western education is forbidden.”

“We are all living in fear, looking up to God and counting on your prayers”

Boko Haram has declared its enemies as the Nigerian government, education institutes and the Church as well as moderate Muslims.  In military clashes that went on for more than four hours, more than 200 insurgents were reported dead following a massive drive by the Nigerian military to flush them out.

But both Sunday and Monday, Father Bakeni and others reported that the enemy forces had “regrouped” and were mounting further attacks amid increasing concerns that Maiduguri was on the point of falling to the extremists.

There have been reports of “connivance” between the extremists and certain elements within the Nigerian military, which, it is claimed, explain the latter’s failure to foil the enemy.

“We are all living in fear now, looking up to God and counting on your prayers,” said Father Bakeni, “the [Nigerian] military are doing their very best but they lack modern weaponry to counter these guys who are far more sophisticated. Thank you and all those at Aid to the Church in Need for your prayers and support at this trying moment.

We really feel the strength of people’s support both within the country and outside.”

The attacks on Maiduguri coincided with violence reportedly carried out by Fulani Muslim herdsmen against Christian villages not far from Kaduna, in northern Nigeria’s Middle Belt.  At least 100 people are reported dead in the attacks on the evening of March 14.


Ukraine – “For the first time in the history of contemporary Europe, in a European country, people are dying for the European flag, for European values”

20.03.2014 in ACN International, EU, European Union, Ukraine

By Mark von Riedemann, ACN International

Adapted AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Thursday, March  20, 2014 — “We believe that Ukraine is a breath of fresh air for Europe,”stated Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak and Professor Myroslav Marynovych, former Gulag political prisoner. “Ukraine is not a trouble spot, but a partner offering a vision – a reminder of the original European spirit: youth, dynamism, and a profound belief in the principles and values that found the European project. The Ukrainian youth carries this vision, and have been martyred for this same hope. What is Europe’s answer to them?”

© Council of the EU

© Council of the EU

Maidan, the space for political expression on Independence Square in Kiev, and replicated in scores of Ukrainian cities and communities worldwide is in fact an “Agora,” a place to discuss, exchange ideas, create consensus. “The Maidan movement, encompassing all levels of Ukrainian society and all religious traditions, said Myroslav Marynovych, is not ending. There is no going back. It is the voice of the people calling for profound change in Ukraine – not simply to rotate the faces in a quasi-Soviet political structure – but a movement to see true democratic structures in place as in the tradition of European democracy. The opportunity that Ukraine and the ongoing democratic processes present might also be an example to Russians as how to move towards democracy.”

Bishop Borys Gudziak concluded by saying: “We see a great historical shift, a deep movement within the Ukrainian society – a passage from fear to dignity. In fact this revolution is called the “Revolution of Dignity.” The resistance to the Yanukovych regime helped people claim their dignity; the invasion of Crimea is helping the people claim their sense of national identity.”

“In these days of heavy political decisions, we came to the EU to help them help us,” said Bishop Gudziak, “to let them know how young Ukrainians are the best guarantee for Europe’s peace and prosperity.”

Bishop Borys Gudziak, the Greek Catholic Eparch for France, Benelux and Switzerland, and Professor Myroslav Marynovych, a leading moral authority in Ukraine, are respectively President and vice-Rector of the Catholic University of Lviv. With the support of Aid to the Church in Need, they were in Brussels to update policy makers about the situation in Ukraine, the reality on the ground and the potential impact of Europe’s immediate and future policy decisions.


Press Release – Lebanon

14.03.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Lebanon, Syria

The Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria wishes to better serve the poor

Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada, In Lebanon

Translated and adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 Rabwe (Lebanon), Friday March 12, 2014 – On Thursday, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) participated in a press conference given by the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Syria, following their meeting held in Rabwe, in Lebanon.  This assembly, whose president is Patriarch Gregorious III Laham, gathers twice a year to discuss different aspects in order to improve its way of operating to better serve the poor.

During this meeting, there was question of ensuring the betterment of the organization in terms of presenting different projects representing the greatest needs, and to maintain better relationships between various groups within the dioceses in order to better distribute collected funds.

And, the Patriarch Gregorios III traced a sad track record of the Syrian conflict by recalling the 2 million displaced within Syria alone – almost 9 million in total – 450 000 of which are Christians – the overall or in part destruction of 91 churches, not counting that of several thousand businesses, homes and fields; and why he called out for prayers from the entire world to accelerate the Declaration of Geneva.

He took the opportunity to thank Pope Francis – who would be celebrating the first anniversary of his pontificate on the day following this meeting – thanking him for his support, as well as all the bishops, sisters and priests who are very active in helping all the faithful and all those affected.

He concluded his words of thanks by speaking to all the Catholic organizations, and especially the ACN delegation made up of representatives from various countries:  Germany, Chili, Switzerland, Spain, the United Kingdom and Canada, who were travelling through Lebanon and “who have a thirst to listen to us and to make known to their own people our sadness and our difficulties.  This proves the great solidarity of Christians around the whole world, which is a great spiritual force and which demonstrates the universality of the Church.”

Journey with ACN – Pakistan

14.03.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Pakistan

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:    Pakistan



Youth catechesis in the Archdiocese of Lahore

 By ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Well over half of Pakistan’s population, approximately 190 million, are aged 25 and under, while around 34% are under the age of 15. This very young demographic is reflected as much in the country’s Christian population.

Despite their numbers, Christian young people face many challenges and difficulties in this country with a 96% Muslim majority. They have very few opportunities of advancing socially, and are often discriminated against in state schools.

A study by the US State Department’s Commission on International Religious Freedom has recently found that only 60% of teachers in Pakistani state schools even believe that the members of the religious minorities are actually also Pakistani citizens. And even of those who do view them as citizens, many do not regard them as having equal rights with Pakistani Muslims: resulting in Christian pupils in Pakistani schools who are generally treated as second-class citizens, and ultimately also feel as such.

PAKISTAN 1Moreover, the only religion taught in all classes from kindergarten to graduation – is Islam, a lament of many Church leaders. The curriculum is presented as though the country is intended only for Muslims, and even in nonreligious subjects Islam still plays a predominent part. For example, children are given essays to write with titles such as: “Write a letter to your friend, inviting him to convert to Islam.” Even in the teaching of mathematics and chemistry Islam still manages to intrude. History lessons do not metion the achievements of non-Muslims and furthermore, very often, the school textbooks themselves speak in a denigrating manner about non-Muslims. The Church has already appealed to the government to revise such school textbooks. And while there have been some small improvements, there is still a great deal to be done.

Christian pupils are still often being put under pressure to convert to Islam. Making it all the more important for Christian young people to learn to know and treasure their faith, and deepen it.

For this reason, since 1988, the Archdiocese of Lahore has been running special ongoing faith education programs for adolescents on the brink of adulthood who have already outgrown Sunday School. The focus of these programs is very much on the Holy Scriptures and the Sacraments, but the pupils are also told about great Christian people who have played an important role in the history of their country – since these are aspects that are passed over in silence in the official state school curriculum.


The program has borne many good fruits, and indeed many former students have since become priests or religious, or committed and active lay members of the Church.

“Young people are our hope and our future”, writes the Franciscan Capuchin, Father Shahzad Khokher, who is responsible for the youth apostolate in the Lahore Archdiocese. ACN is helping again this year with a contribution of $15,000.

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Press Release – Ukraine

25.02.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN UK, Ukraine, Uncategorized

Your ‘solidarity is very dear to us’

Archbishop’s message of hope and faith at time of huge change

by John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by ACN Canada

Montreal, February 25, 2014. An urgent appeal for prayer has come from one of Ukraine’s most senior Catholic bishops as momentous political change sweeps the country.

Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, President of Ukraine’s Latin-rite Catholic Bishops’ Conference, highlighted the “great solidarity” of people worldwide – shown in prayer and practical aid.

The archbishop’s comments, given in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), came as Ukraine underwent dramatic change, climaxing with President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country and MPs issuing a warrant for his arrest.

The Archbishop of Lviv said: “We are experiencing a great solidarity with the faithful, not only from the neighbouring countries, but also from the whole world.

“So many are supporting us with their prayers. They are remembering us and offering humanitarian aid.

“These gestures of solidarity are very important and dear to us.”

Archbishop Mokrzycki’s appeal for prayer came as Ukraine’s health ministry claimed that 88 people – most of them protestors – had died in last week’s clashes. Others gave a total of more than 100 dead.

Church sources told ACN that 2,000 people had been wounded, with Kiev’s St Alexander Cathedral being used as an operating theatre.

The archbishop said the turmoil of the past weeks had changed Ukrainians’ political and social outlook. “People have developed a deeper sense of responsibility for the country as citizens and a deeper conscience of civic duty,” he said.

The archbishop also said the turmoil had bound the people together. “On Maidan Square, there was an atmosphere of solidarity, regardless of denomination, rite, and ethnicity. All were one. All were united.”

Ukraine 2Many months needed to heal the wounds

Archbishop Mokrzycki gave his comments on Friday ( February 21 ) just hours before President Yanukovych suddenly left the country after MPs voted to remove him. By then, Parliament had voted to reinstate the 2004 constitution which in effect meant returning to MPs powers taken by the President since the 2010 elections.

Parliament, on Sunday( February 23) named Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov as interim president, with the whereabouts of his predecessor still unclear, according to latest reports. And, MPs agreed for Presidential elections to take place on  May 24.

Speaking before President Yanukovych left office, Archbishop Mokrzycki’s secretary, Father Andrzej Legowych, told ACN: “Ukraine will need many months and even years to settle down and start a new life. The country is still divided and we will need many months – and longer – to heal the wounds.”

Ukraine has for many years been a priority country for Aid to the Church in Need, which has given the Church there key support. The charity’s ongoing aid has helped enable the recovery of the Church – notably the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – which for 70 years was heavily persecuted under the Soviet communist regime.

Support for nearly 1,000 seminarians and help for catechists remain essential to the charity’s work in Ukraine.

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Journey with ACN – Brazil

21.02.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Brazil, Journey with ACN, Uncategorized

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:  BRAZIL

A missionary says thank you

ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada




Father Peter Shekleton found his vocation in 1991 as he sat in London’s Westminster Cathedral listening to the preaching of Father Werenfried van Straaten, ACN’s founder. Now he is working as a missionary in the Amazon region of Brazil.

Since January 2012, Father Peter has worked in the parish of Barcelos which extends over a vast mostly uninhabited area. Most of its 25,000 inhabitants live in the town of Barcelos itself, but there are also 45 settlements of varying sizes on the Rio Negro and its 10 tributaries, most of them difficult to reach and some requiring 3 to 4 days by boat.

The majority of people living in these settlements are nominally Catholic, but the sects are very active in this area, trying to woo away the faithful. Therefore, it has become important for a priest to make regular visits, including the most distant settlements. For this reason, our generous benefactors have already helped Father Shekleton with $60,000  for the purchase of a river boat. He has written to tell us about his work:

“I began my work with an old boat belonging to the parish, which was very basic and very much in need of repairs. I was advised not to waste money on repairs but rather to buy a new boat. But why? The parishes are very poor and could by no means afford the cost of the new boat.” So Father Peter had to go on using the old and damaged boat to travel to the remote riverside villages. At least, after a time, he was able to purchase an outboard motor.

“There are many rapids, dangerous currents, hidden rocks and constantly shifting sand banks, and also many dangerous eddies. And one is also exposed to heavy storms and scorching sun – to say nothing of the fact that the water is full of crocodiles, piranha and snakes. At night time you have to hang up your hammock and sleep in it, which leaves you a prey to mosquitoes, bringing malaria and other infectious diseases. Last year I caught malaria.”

“I often come back happy from these journeys into the wilderness, because I have done what I believe to have been my duty. But at the same time I am also saddened by the godlessness of many people. Since the satellite dishes have advanced even into the remotest corners of the jungle, many people are starting to be influenced by the anti-values, such as hedonism, individualism, consumerism and relativism that are typical of our age. They are being robbed of their religiosity and dignity and encouraged to yearn for a life that has nothing to do with their reality. This results in many people no longer turning to God, and many of the chapels are now abandoned, or at least in a poor state. There is a great deal of alcohol abuse and sexual promiscuity. Nevertheless, I am firmly convinced that this is my mission and that the Church must continue to be present: “Preach the word; in season and out of season…” (2 Tim 4:2). For now, this Church is just me and my boat, given by ACN.”

Sudan – An imminent threat of famine

18.02.2014 in ACN International, ACN Interview, ACN UK, Sudan, Uncategorized

“People are on the edge of starvation and, if nothing happens, people will fall into that situation” – Msgr Roko Taban Mousa

by John Pontifex, ACN UK

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Entire communities in South Sudan are at risk of starvation, according to a Church leader, who says fighting continues despite a ceasefire.

Monsignor Roko Taban Mousa said vast numbers of people are “in urgent need” across his diocese of Malakal which extends through the Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states, and where there are scenes of some of the worst fighting between government forces and rebel groups.

Speaking on February 13. from South Sudan in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Msgr Taban warned of mass famine if aid – particularly food – is not sent very quickly.

Describing the difficulties of getting aid to the worst-affected areas, he said that, in spite of the ceasefire on January 24, the fighting had continued – though the conflict had diminished in its intensity.Stressing the need for rice, maize, beans, sugar, oil and salt as well as clean water, he said: “The question of food is very urgent. People are on the edge of starvation and, if nothing happens, people will fall into that situation.“Upper Nile, Bor and Unity are really destroyed. This conflict has been devastating and very inhuman.”



30,000 homes lie in ruins across the diocese

Msgr Taban, who is Apostolic Administrator of Malakal, in effect acting bishop, said that in some of the worst affected areas of his diocese, up to 100,000 people are in dire need of food. According to Msgr Taban, at least 30,000 homes lie in ruins across the diocese, half of them in three main towns – Bor, the center of particularly severe conflict, Malakal and Bentiu. He also highlighted mass looting and attacks on core services such as pharmacies and other medical centers.

The monsignor said people had no access to healthcare at a time when malaria and diarrhea were on the rise. He reported that people without clean water were drinking from the White Nile that runs through the diocese.

The UN has reported that since the violence began on December 15,  2013  in South Sudan, more than 860,000 have fled their homes.thousands have died in the conflict between the government forces and rebels led by former deputy president Riek Machar.

Stressing  the impact of the devastation as being was far worse than during the catastrophic 21-year civil war that ravaged Sudan until 2005, Mgr Roko said: “What we experienced during the [civil] war was never as bad as what we have experienced these past weeks.”

Describing the current violence, he said: “The fighting is continuing but not at the same level as when it started.

“From Christmas Eve until 20th January, there was very heavy fighting. Now it is subsiding because of the [Addis Ababa] negotiations.”

Msgr Roko described how his own home in Malakal was damaged by gunfire – luckily he was not in danger – but he came home to find damage to the doors, windows and lighting. “People need to pray for us. We feel that sense of solidarity when people pray.The need for prayer is very important. For those who have suffered so much, knowing that there are people who are praying for them will encourage them and give them back their hope.”

Aid to the Church in Need is working with Msgr Roko to assess options for emergency aid.

ACN’s Sudan and South Sudan projects coordinator Christine du Coudray Wiehe said: “The charity is willing to offer emergency help, but we would first like to raise the question of logistical capacity; whether there are trained personnel capable of implementing the project efficiently.”

She also raised concerns about aid convoys being looted by underpaid and hungry soldiers, citing instances of this kind involving the UN.

Journey with ACN – Benin

14.02.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:  Benin

The family in Africa – In every corner of the continent

By ACN International

In 12 short years, the African Family Life Federation (AFLF), which was founded on the initiative of Blessed John Paul II, has helped over 1 million people to better understand and live the teaching of the Church on marriage and the family. ACN has supported the AFLF, right from the beginning. We spoke to Christine du Coudray, who heads our Africa section and has also been involved since AFLF was founded.

seite 5 International 13-00932 Sr Alphonsa, Christine Ducoudray, Père Mika, Norbertine

Why does ACN support this Association?

It is vitally important for the Church and for the people. During the plenary session of the first Africa Synod in 1994 the Holy Father warned of the dangers that were emerging from international meetings and from such ideologies as feminism and gender theories, which were threatening to destroy the natural family consisting of father, mother and children. They were prophetic words. As a consequence a number of smaller associations for the defence of life and the family were able to join together and – together with the John Paul II Institute for the Family in Cotonou, Benin – establish the first such association for French-speaking Africa. They had no funding; only ACN stood by them. For years the federation has fought a David and Goliath battle against the anti-family, anti-life and pro-abortion policies of the UN and other massive international organizations.

Has David grown since then?

Yes. Thanks to the support of our benefactors, the federation is now present in 22 countries of French-speaking and English-speaking Africa, and embraces a total of 34 organizations. In the last year alone 141 diocesan and expert groups have trained tens of thousands of (mainly young) couples in family values and also instructed an additional 21,000 married couples in natural family planning. But these are only figures. The real success lies in the fact that, thanks to the federation, millions of people have come to discover and live the happiness that resides in a respectful attitude to life and sexuality. Above all – and despite the massive pressures from a throwaway consumer society that despises human values – tens of thousands of young couples have learned that fidelity and mutual respect and true love can be lived and truly bring happiness. This is also true for young people generally – and it is the best protection against AIDS.

Who is supporting the AFLF?

05 Seite Mgr Henryk HoserSo far, only ACN. In the years since its foundation we have contributed  $6.9 million for a vast number of different projects. But given the number of people helped, that works out at less than $7 to make someone happy and live and love in a manner pleasing to God. We are very much hoping that other organizations will soon get involved. For there is an immense need for teaching materials, pamphlets, handbooks, short films – and also for the teams of experts who have to travel. The demand is immense, the growth of the federation has been remarkable, and the Church in Africa is faithful, but poor.

How do you see the future?

I am pinning great faith in the Synod for the Family, in autumn 2014 in Rome. It will put a strong emphasis on John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. This should give a boost to the federation. The current president of the Africa-wide Bishops’ Symposium (SECAM) Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, from Angola and the president of the pontifical council Cor Unum, Cardinal Robert Sarah both see the Family Life Federation as pivotal for the future of Africa. For thanks to its trans-diocesan infrastructure, it can convey such human virtues as solidarity, fidelity, respect and fraternal charity to every corner of the continent. It is a lynch pin of love. And I am of course hoping that our benefactors will continue to be as generous as before, so that this work of love can still thrive and flourish.     •

Journey with ACN – Morocco

07.02.2014 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Journey with ACN

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.   Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.

This week:  MOROCCO To Holy Mass by lift

Thanks to Aid to the Church in Need, the aged Carmelite nuns of Tangiers can attend the Eucharist again after many years.

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

It is a quiet spot where the Carmelite Convent of the Holy Family and St Therese is situated in the northern Moroccan city of Tangiers. It is far from the bustle of the lively Mediterranean port. But now, for several weeks the contemplative sisters’ quiet was broken by the noise of building work. The reason: a lift was being installed in the building, which dates from the 1930s. Not a luxury but pure necessity. For no good reason, due to the whims of the architect, the house was built as a labyrinth of steps and stairs. For the sisters, aged in their seventies and sometimes with mobility problems, large parts of the building were simply inaccessible. “It was the case for years and we suffered greatly from it. Our dear Mother Superior, for example, was unable to take part in the Holy Mass and choral prayer for years. She is as happy as a child, now that she can once again visit the chapel on the first floor,” says Prioress Maria Virtudes, a young, infectiously cheerful Spanish woman. “In her prayers she takes before God the donors from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) whose generosity made it possible. And we other sisters are also thankful that we can once again all join together for our communal prayers. Every day we pray for the benefactors, who we do not know but who the Lord sees and blesses in his Goodness.”



During the building works, the sisters experienced again the respect with which they are regarded by the Moroccan Muslims. They know it already from their neighbours. In the fasting month of Ramadan, for example, they bring in food for the sisters. “While the lift was being installed, the workers told us again and again how thankful they are to be allowed to work in the house of God, as they call it. They are all faithful Muslims. But perhaps for that reason they respect us sisters as women whose lives are entirely dedicated to God, like that of Maryam the Mother of Jesus. They know her from the Koran,” Sister Maria Virtudes continues. “They are respectful, hard-working and devout. We learn much from their example, such as their faith in prayer. It would often happen that they prayed during their short rest breaks. One could really see in them the joy of prayer and devotion to God. For us, their example is a gift that inspires us to be ever more faithful to our life of prayer in this Islamic country.” Seven sisters live in the convent which was founded in 1934. The majority are Spanish. In 2012 the small community was reinforced by three nuns from other convents. “They are very content and have settled down well. They are even learning a little Moroccan Arabic,” says Sister Maria Virtudes, who has lived for nearly five years in Morocco, a 99 percent Islamic country. “Our mission here is one of peace. We pray for peace in Morocco and Spain and for the spread of the Kingdom of God. The new sisters therefore see it as a true blessing to be able to live here. We hope and pray that the Lord will move other sisters to come and share with us our wonderful calling in North Africa.” But the sisters’ prayers are not only for Morocco but for oppressed Christians throughout the Arabic world. “The situation of our Christian brothers, for example in Egypt or Syria, is always present in our hearts and prayers. We take them all before Our Lady the Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace. With our prayers we want to embrace them all in the love and communion of Jesus Christ.”