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Aid to the Church in Need Tag

 

ACN IVIEW – Beirut, Lebanon: “Christians in Lebanon can count on help from ACN”

11.08.2020 in ACN International, ACN Interview, By Tobias Lehner, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Lebanon, Middle East

Beirut, Lebanon

“Christians in Lebanon can count on help from ACN”

The charity is funding food parcels for survivors of the explosion in Beirut

 

By Tobias Lehner, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

The international Catholic pastoral and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) has been working for decades with numerous different project partners within Lebanon – above all in the areas of pastoral care and help for refugees. This has proved to be a great advantage in the aftermath of the recent catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut.

 

ACN has immediately sent $ 362,500 in emergency aid of starving Christian families, many of whom are facing real hunger. There is a great deal more still to be done. For example, the Christian quarter of Beirut has been extensively damaged. Tobias Lehner has spoken to Regina Lynch, the Director of Projects for ACN International, about the situation in Beirut and what further aid the charity is planning.

 

What news do you hear from the project partners in Beirut? What is the situation in the city?

 

Beirut is in a state of crisis. There is hardly any electricity and in some places no means of communication (telephone, Internet etc.). Some 90.000 homes and houses have been destroyed or damaged. The international aid of US$297 million promised on Sunday falls far short of what is needed to rebuild the district affected by the explosion.

 

What is the local Church doing to help those who have survived the disaster?

 

Already before the explosion, the Catholic Patriarchates (Maronite, Greek-Catholic, Syriac-Catholic, Armenian) in Lebanon had got together with local parishes and institutions such as Caritas, St. Vincent de Paul and the Pontifical Mission Societies, and created a committee to see how to help the Christians who were already facing soaring inflation, coupled with spiraling unemployment. Many families were on the brink of starvation and Christians were already talking of leaving the country.

 

Regina Lynch: “Christians in Lebanon can count on help from ACN”

Since an aid distribution plan had already been set up, this now means that the Church is in a good position for distributing the aid that is being provided by foreign NGOs, e.g. food, medicine, blankets. It is inspiring to see the role that the Catholic young people are playing in helping with the distribution of the emergency aid.

 

For what purpose will the aid from ACN be used?

 

The initial aid of $362,500from ACN will be used for supplying food packages to 5,000 families, most of whom were affected by the explosion, but also for those Lebanese and refugee Christians, who were already struggling to survive before the explosion. Some of Lebanon’s main grain silos were destroyed in the explosion, resulting in even higher food prices.

 

What other relief efforts is ACN planning?

 

Some 80% of the Christian district of Achrafieh has been among the areas worst affected by the explosion – the lower part of it nearest to the port has disappeared. Hundreds of Christian families have lost their homes and livelihoods. Numerous Catholic hospitals and dispensaries are in urgent need of repair, so that they can continue to function. Countless Church structures have been destroyed or badly damaged, e.g. St. George’s Maronite Cathedral, several parish churches, the Middle East provincial houses of various congregations, convents. Aid to the Church in Need is working with our local Church partners to see which of these needs can be addressed immediately and which subsequently, in the next few months before winter sets in.

 

Christians in Lebanon may be sure that they can count on the prayers and financial support of ACN’s benefactors.

 

To learn more and to donate to projects helping the people of Lebanon, please visit our website: https://acn-canada.org/urgent-call-for-lebanon/


 

ACN Project of the Week – Sri Lanka : Mass Offerings for 30 Rosarian Fathers

28.07.2020 in ACN PROJECTS, Asia, Mass Offerings, Sri Lanka

ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK: Sri Lanka

Mass offerings for 30 Rosarian Fathers

The Rosarians, an Institute of Consecrated Life, are the first contemplative male religious congregation to be founded in Asia. Established in 1928 the congregation also grew a female branch to their order beginning its seeding in 1950.

The founding memberof the institute was  Father Bastiampillai Anthonipillai Thomas, who was born in a village near Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

Today, the male branch of the Rosarians has 25 monasteries which are mainly scattered around  Sri Lanka and India. Since this is a poorcongregation, it lacks the resources of an international religious family. ACN has felt it important to provide regularl support to the Institute, both in Sri Lanka and in India, funding a range of different projects, including, as in this case with Mass Offerings and help for the formation of its novices.

 

Help needed more than ever

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, our help is needed more than ever. In Sri Lanka the ongoing lockdown was imposed in mid- March. Like in many other places, public, religious worship is forbidden.

Father Anil, of the monastery in Kochchikade describes what he and his confreres have experienced over the last few months in this   densely populated region, among those worst affected in the country by the Covid-19 outbreak. “Within our convent we have been able to maintain our regular prayer times, Eucharistic Adoration and the celebration of Holy Mass. We have prayed and made sacrifices for the people. I have the feeling that we have been permitted to experience many blessings during this time. At present we have no income, but we rejoice in sharing what little we have with our neighbours and with the poor.”

During the lockdown, the Rosarians continue to visit the poor and, while observing the required safety precautions, bring Holy Communion to those who request it. They pray for those in need and provide material assistance.

“We shared with them whatever generous people had brought and helped everyone who requested our help. And we are continuing to help them as much as we can.’

We are proposing to give to the 30 Rosarian priests of the congregation in Sri Lanka your prayerful Mass Offerings, for a total value of$28,188  which will then provide the congregation with a source of subsistence

These Masses will be celebrated for the intentions of the benefactors who have given them. And, at the same time, your offerings will become a vital contribution not only to their own support, but also to the works of charity to which they are devoted.

ACN Feature Story – Algeria: In the footsteps of Charles de Foucauld

24.07.2020 in ACN Feature, Africa, Algeria, Construction

ACN Feature Story—Algeria

In the footsteps of Charles de Foucauld

The difficult challenge of maintaining a female Christian presence in Tamanrasset

 

By Christophe Fontaine, ACN International
Adapted by: Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

On May 27 of this year, Pope Francis recognized the attribution of a second miracle to Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858–1916), thereby paving the way for his canonization.

 

Deep in the Sahara, Charles de Foucaud was murdered in Tamanrasset, a town located in the south of Algeria. This celebrated French hermit and former cavalry officer, experienced a radical conversion at the age of 28 and went on to live a contemplative life, abandoning himself to the will of the Father and living a life centred on the Eucharist.

 

At the age of 32 he became a Trappist monk, then seven years later left the Cistercian life and worked for three years in Nazareth as a general handyman for the Poor Clare Sisters. He divided his time between manual work, Eucharistic adoration and meditating on Scripture, particularly on the Hidden Life of Jesus in Nazareth, deciding to imitate Him in his silence and discretion. He later felt called to the priesthood so as to reach the remotest people.

 

Ordained on June 9, 1901, he settled first in southern Morocco in Beni-Abbès where he built, not so much a hermitage, but a fraternity, a Khaoua, a place open to all, whether Christian, Muslim or Jew. Always attentive to the poor, ransoming slaves, offering hospitality to all who passed by, he spent long hours in prayer (especially at night), doing manual and agricultural labour and showing hospitality towards all who visited.

 

In 1905, Charles de Foucauld finally settled in Tamanrasset, in the Hoggar (Ahaggar) Mountains, following his desire live among the Tuareg people, isolated from the world by the vast desert. He wanted to live as a brother to all, giving freely, without preaching, respecting all and making no distinction as to their religion or origin, while living a very simple and austere life.

 

“Having lived in Tamanrasset for the past 20 years and more, I was filled with an interior joy on hearing of the forthcoming canonization of Charles de Foucauld, which has renewed my faith and given new life to my presence in this Muslim country,” said Sister Martine Devriendt recently to ACN recently. A member of the congregation of the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, whose spirituality is inspired by the saint-to-be, she added “The news of this canonization officially confirms in the Church the intuitions this man had, and the more so since these intuitions seem to me to be extremely relevant in the place we are living—prayer, austerity of life, closeness to all who are vulnerable.”

 

And indeed, here in Tamanrasset, no more than a little village at the beginning of the 20th century, but now grown to a sizeable city of some 150,000 souls, the vocation of the sisters, like that of Charles de Foucauld in his time, is manifested by a spirit of fraternal presence, discreet and contemplative, and a life of service in the midst of this majority Muslim country, and without any shadow of proselytism.

 

An Apostolate of Kindness

 

In the authentic spirit of Charles de Foucauld, who wrote in his Notebooks from Tamanrasset  “My apostolate is to be the apostolate of kindness. In seeing me, people should be able to say, ‘Because this man is good, his religion must also be good.’ If people ask me why I am kind and gentle, I should be able to say, ‘Because I am the servant of one who is far more good than I am. If only you knew just how good he is, my Master JESUS’.”

 

The congregation of the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart is one of a dozen or so religious congregations informed, as lay institutions, by the spirituality of the future Saint. Contemplative, while living in the world, the Little Sisters were founded in 1933 and settled in Tamanrasset in 1952, very close to the original hermitage of Blessed Charles, where he spent the last 11 years of his life.

 

An Essential Feminine Presence

As Sister Martine explained to ACN, the female Christian presence in Tamanrasset is important, because women can go into the families and thereby have access to all levels of the Muslim population, particularly the poorest and neediest—the women, the children and especially those suffering various disabilities, of whom there are very many. Their work includes counselling and supporting women, home visits, hospital visits, prison visits and even helping in administrative and medical matters or at times of funerals and festivities.

 

Moreover, Tamanrasset, in the far south of the diocese of Laghouat-Ghardaïa, has become a crossroads where all of Algeria and Africa meet. The local people are Harratins, Tuaregs, and they rub shoulders with other Algerians from every region of the country—Arabs, Kabyles, Mozabites… The years of terrorism (1992–2000) drove many people from the North of the country to seek a quieter life in this region, which also has many migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Those from Niger and Mali come here to work and the “other sub-Saharans” are hoping to be able to get to Europe. Many among these are Christians and for them the Sisters are a source of comfort and spiritual support, “a mission we share with the three Little Brothers of Jesus in Tamanrasset and shortly a new priest, who is waiting for his visa. It is 15 months now and we have had no priest for the parish,” Sister Martine explains to ACN.

 

For the past five years, Sister Martine has been the only member of the community living here, after the older Sisters have had to return to France. It is a priority for the congregation to re-establish a real presence and spirit of Christian and feminine fraternity in Tamanrasset.

Tamanrasett: ACN contribute to replace the mud (toub) building by a more modern one. So, the spirit of Charles de Foucauld can go on in Tamanrasett.

“As with many other congregations, especially in remote frontier regions, we can no longer maintain these communities on our own, owing to the shortage of vocations. We can no longer think of communities of sisters of the same congregation or the same spirituality. We now have to achieve a fraternity and diversity of the charisms of the various congregations and of lay religious women who are willing to commit themselves for a greater or lesser period,” wrote the Sisters in September 2019.

 

At that time, they were appealing for donations for rebuilding their existing residence in order to be able to offer a better welcome, in terms of autonomy and security, to women who might feel called to live the life of their apostolate in Tamanrasset. ACN has decided to co-fund this project.

 

“Your positive approval coincided with the announcement of the forthcoming canonization of Charles de Foucauld—which is Providential and which makes our project even more relevant,” writes Sister Isabel Lara Jaén, the General Prioress of the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart. The original building, built in mud (toub) had to be abandoned due to inconvenience, difficulties with maintenance and complicated to renovate, lacking comfort (smaller rooms, lack of light and air, outside toilets…) and has now been completely demolished. The construction of four studios will provide necessary independence to women coming from different backgrounds, while guaranteeing a considerable degree of autonomy. The new building will also have a common missionary project in the form of a life of prayer and solidarity in the midst of the Muslim population and among the Christian migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

 

The major work on the project is now complete; the finishing work should be done by early autumn. Alongside their search for aid in September 2019, the Sisters also launched an appeal in the Catholic journal La Croix, inviting both lay and religious women who might wish to live for at least a year in the fraternity. “Some people were due to come and see, but the Covid-19 pandemic has stopped all travel in recent months. But the appeal is still very much alive!” Sister Martine is in no way discouraged by this setback.

 

ACN News – Mozambique: Unfolding Violence Goes Unseen by the World

23.07.2020 in ACN NEWS, Africa, Mozambique

Unfolding Violence Goes Unseen by the World

 “The international community is nowhere to be seen in regard to the problem” in Cabo Delgado, says European deputy Paulo Rangel

ACN News, 23.07.2020
by Paulo Aido for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Briget Griffin, ACN Canada

“The world does not see, or does not wish to see, what is happening in the province of Cabo Delgado in the far north of Mozambique.” This is the view expressed by Paulo Rangel, a member of the European Parliament and vice president of the European Popular Party, about the situation currently unfolding in northeast Mozambique, where violent attacks by armed groups have already caused hundreds of deaths and left over 200,000 people homeless.

“This should be an absolute priority for the international community,” he believes; ‘instead, it barely seems to have noticed.”

 

Too Late to Act?

“It is already becoming late to act, yet it is better to do so now rather than later. Since 2017 we have been confronted by this re-emerging and increasing situation, yet the international community is absolutely nowhere to be seen.” Speaking to the Portuguese national office of the international Catholic pastoral and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), Mr. Rangel described the situation in the province of Cabo Delgado as “a powder keg” and appealed for help for the people affected by the violence, especially those uprooted and internally displaced, the people who have lost everything they have as a result of the attacks by these armed groups, who claim to belong to Daesh, or the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

“What is happening at present in Cabo Delgado is that people are fleeing to the towns, where they believe the attacks will be less likely, because they have seen what is happening in the villages… At the same time this dislocation of the population is not just a direct result of the attacks on the villages and smaller towns but is even a reaction of panic, which is absolutely justified. As a result, people are fleeing for their own protection, even before being attacked.”

 

Not a Religious War

Paulo Rangel: “We are talking about one of the poorest regions in the world”.

Paulo Rangel is at pains to emphazise, however, that this is not about a religious war. Both Christians and Muslims have been victims of the hatred of these extremist groups. And he stresses the position of Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa, the Bishop of Pemba, in his statements on the subject. “The Bishop of Pemba has been absolutely clear in all his prophetic interventions and in all the appeals he has made – and he has been the great apostle of this cause: he has made clear that the Muslims are also suffering greatly. And the Muslim leaders themselves are extremely concerned.”

 

All are Suffering; Especially the Children

All the people are suffering from the violence; all of them are victims of the brutal destruction that has afflicted this region, which is already so poor. For this reason, too, the support of the international community is urgently needed. “We are talking about one of the poorest regions in the world,” the European deputy insists. “The people were already living in extreme poverty, facing grave difficulties. The problem is that at the present moment these people are facing the threat of death, of losing their homes, of becoming uprooted”

Paulo Rangel described to ACN International the atmosphere of fear and extreme violence that has gripped the region. “At present we know that there are young girls who have been abducted and enslaved, forced into sexual slavery by some of these guerillas, these insurgents, these terrorists… We know that the recruitment of boys and adolescents, some of them very young, aged 14, 15, 16, is also happening. It is obvious that these young boys are under coercion. If they refuse to join the group, they could be killed…”

 

 

ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK: India – Support for the life and ministry of 63 religious in Rourkela

22.07.2020 in ACN PROJECTS, India, SUBSISTENCE

ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK: India

Support for the life and ministry of 63 religious in Rourkela

 

In the diocese of Rourkela, in the north of the Indian state of Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) there are 63 Sisters belonging to the congregation of the Daughters of the Cross. Normally, most work in the diocese’s schools or parishes. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic however, they are now occupied in helping those who suffer most as a result of the situation.

The Sisters care for the sick, the elderly and disabled. Their main activity is to support   migrant labourers who have suddenly found themselves without work and nothing to live on.

Meanwhile, India is now ranking as the third highest place in the world in terms of the number of Covid-19 infections. At the same time, many millions of the poorest people, mainly the migrant workers and day labourers, have lost their sole source of income.

Doing what can be done

The Sisters are doing all they can to help. They write, “We cannot save the whole world, but at least we can help those

people here among whom we live and work.” Some of the Sisters are sowing hundreds of metres of material into protective face masks and that they then hand out to the needy. But the material is expensive, and disinfectants and gloves are also required in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Since the schools are also closed on account of the pandemic, the Sisters who were working as teachers have not received an income for months – which is truly problematic as their salaries are the principal source of income for their entire congregation.

ACN is proposing to help with $14,500.

ACN Press Release – For Immediate Release

22.07.2020 in ACN PRESS, Turkey

 Press Release – For Immediate Release

Statement by Catholic charity, ACN International, on the Turkish government’s decision to allow the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Königstein-Montreal, Wednesday July 22, 2020The executive president of ACN International, Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, has issued the following statement concerning the Turkish government’s decision to allow Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to be used as a mosque.

 

“ACN views the proposed reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque with grave concern. Once again a religious issue is being exploited for the purpose of consolidating internal political power. Turkish President Erdoğan is apparently attempting to improve his personal popularity ratings by means of this measure, which has been widely criticized around the world, while at the same time diverting attention from the internal problems of his own country.

 

ACN fully comprehends the outrage this measure has provoked among Christians living in Turkey and throughout the Middle East. It can only intensify the constant weakening and disadvantaging of Christians and other religious minorities in this whole region. Despite the protestations to the contrary, and likewise despite the clear constitutional provisions, these minority groups among the population are often treated as second-class citizens and are increasingly undermined in their roots and their identity.”

 

The national director of ACN Canada, Marie-Claude Lalonde, also shares this concern. “We are living in a time when dialogue, respect for religious minorities is declining and the politicization of issues for partisan purposes is on the rise. I have the distinct impression that in general in the world we no longer understand the importance of respect for minorities, especially religious minorities. This is extremely worrying.”

 

She is calling on the Canadian Government to take strong action. “I sincerely hope that the Canadian Government will react forcefully with respect to these issues where religious minorities are facing the loss of their rights, as well as when the fragile balance of respect for minorities is in jeopardy.”

 

 

Scepticism with Regard to the International Reaction

In his statement, the International president expressed the international organization’s scepticism about the international response to this news. “ACN views the negative reaction among many nations and politicians in regard to this decision with some scepticism. While there has been a high degree of indignation about the repurposing of a religious building, the constant and in some cases state-sponsored acts of violence and discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities in many countries around the world have often met with little or no reaction.

 

ACN once again reiterates that the human right to full freedom of religion is inseparably linked to the unimpeachable dignity of the human person, therefore calls upon all national governments, and on international organizations such as the United Nations, to actively defend this right.

 

ACN condemns the increasing forms of extreme nationalism in many countries of the world, frequently motivated by particular religious ideologies. The result of these is that the members of religious minorities in these countries are often seen as aliens and enemies, even where their ancestors have lived in these lands long before those who now constitute the majority took possession of them.

 

ACN is calling on the Western nations in particular to draw lessons from the history of the Middle East in the 20th century and no longer remain silent over the destruction of the fundamental right to survival of minority groups, whether in Turkey, Iraq, India, China, Pakistan or elsewhere. Compared with this frequently bloody persecution, the proposed repurposing of this important religious building, the precise effects of which are still unknown, is a relatively minor matter.”

 

ACN is an international Catholic and Pontifical Charity supporting the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in distress. Today, the charity supports the Church through information, prayer and assistance projects in more than 140 countries where the Church is persecuted or does not have sufficient resources for its pastoral tasks.

ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

16.07.2020 in ACN PROJECTS, Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Success Story: Mass Books in the Chiluba language

 

The Chiluba (Ciluba) language is spoken by close to 6 million people in the Kasai Region in the southeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a large country right at the heart of Africaand it is one of the nation’s four official spoken languages.

 

Some years ago, the bishops of the eight Catholic dioceses comprised in this region recognized the urgent need for new editions of the liturgical books in this language to be gradually introduced. For one thing, the books were already largely worn out; but  they required   extensive revision and correction linguistically.

 

A Theatre of Violence

The Kasai Region is a vast and neglected region, with widespread deep poverty. In 2016 and 2017 it was a theatre  terrible violence , leaving behind several thousand dead. Dozens of mass graves have been subsequently found there . Many church buildings were also attacked, looted and burned down, among them the cathedral and Bishop‘s residence in Luebo.

 

Government is to all intents and purposes, absent from this neglected region., It is therefore left to the Church to  meet the needs of the population  and to provide assistanceto whatever extent they can stretch themselves to do so.

 

The first concern of the Church

But man does not live on bread alone, and for the Church  importance has always lain with  the health of the human soul, that is its first concern. The Eucharist is the “Source and summit of the life and mission of the Church” as it says in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, making the republication of these liturgical books a top priority for the bishops Now, thanks to the generous help of our benefactors, ACN has been able to provide a subsidy of  $29,000 for the printing of the first edition of the new Lectionary andwelcomed with great joy.

The bishops, priests and the entire  family of the Catholic faithful throughout  eight dioceses of the Kasai Region, are profoundly grateful to you, dear benefactors, for your generosity!

ACN News—Religious Freedom: EU to reinstate Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion

14.07.2020 in Aid to the Church in Need Canada, EU

ACN News—Religious Freedom
EU to reinstate Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion at a crucial time

By Marcela Szymanski, ACN International

The European Union (EU) has decided it will have a Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion, responding to calls from political and civil society fronts in Europe and abroad. The decision was announced on Wednesday,  July 8 by the European Commission (EC) Vice-president, Margaritis Schinas, prompting a sigh of relief among the many organizations working for the protection and promotion of this fundamental freedom, including Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“The stakes were very high,” indicated ACN’s executive President Thomas Heine-Geldern, “with many Human Rights under threat since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, and particularly Religious Freedom curtailed in many countries. The EU is now confirming its engagement, which seemed compromised a few weeks ago.”

Indeed, the EC had cancelled the position on June 15, without explanations, and then immediately retracted after an outcry pointing out with evidence that the threats to religious freedom, such as the resurgence of extremism and violent persecution, are on the rise globally.

The position has been vacant since November 2019. All the cases which were being followed by the Special Envoy were in limbo, including cases of prisoners in Pakistan accused of blasphemy, kidnapped Christian girls in Nigeria, and the largely Muslim Uighur minority in China. Thomas Heine-Geldern said, “We hope the nomination will come sooner rather than later, before the damage increases. Sometimes the mere knowledge that someone cares in the West for the victims of persecution does wonders to keep hope alive. In fact, ACN will be delighted if the position gets a permanent and multi-annual mandate and is not subject to yearly review.”

Jan Figel, a Slovak politician, had performed the function of EU Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief Outside the EU since May 2016. His work had been highly appreciated by victims and advocates, especially for his important contribution and constant vigilance of the case of Mrs. Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman awaiting release after 6 years in prison in Pakistan. Mr. Figel’s visits to countries where faith-related tensions are mounting helped release the pressure on religious minorities for example in Indonesia and Egypt. His mandate might be continued in the coming weeks.

There is interest from some EU Member States, but the decision about the appointee lies solely with the President of the European Commission, Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, as this is a mandate dependent on the executive branch of the EU.

 

The Guardian of Religious Freedom Guidelines

A Special Envoy fulfills the mission of promotion and protection of the fundamental right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion, as specified in Article 10 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. He or she is to become the “guardian” of the application of the EU Guidelines for Freedom of Religion or Belief and interact with European faith-based organizations and Churches with operations abroad.

“Because of this bridge function of the Envoy, his work has been very important to ACN,” continued Thomas Heine-Geldern, “for us it is very important that our project partners in difficult situations, like Myanmar, Iraq, Indonesia, Central African Republic or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have someone to address directly and who can be trusted to bring their message back to Europe, where the policy-makers’ decisions can be made with the needs of the victims in mind.”

“ACN International also follows up on the contacts established with our project partners and regularly informs the policy-makers about the situation on the ground. This in turn helps the politicians and staff to address not only issues of freedom of religion, but also the consequences of persecution which ACN witnesses in countries where the EU has agreements and can review its policy of Emergency Aid, Development and Cooperation, Security, Foreign Affairs, Youth and Education, and Trade,” concluded Heine-Geldern.

ACN PRESS RELEASE – ANNUAL REPORT 2019

17.06.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS

PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release

Aid to the Church in Need – 2019 Report
Praying, informing and giving, more essential than ever before!

by ACN  International
Adapted by ACN Canada
Published online June 17, 2020

Königstein-im-Taunus-Montreal, Wednesday June 17, 2020 – Close to 160 million dollars raised by Aid to the Church in Need last year.

 

With its 23 national offices and over 333,000 benefactors worldwide, the international pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), collected over $157.95 million in donations for persecuted Christians in need around the world in 2019, maintaining roughly the same level as in 2018.  To this is added a balance of $7.58 million carried over from the previous year, making it a total of $165.2 million, allowing for the funding of the total ensemble of activities for the international organization. Of this total, $132.8 million funded projects directly, the balance being divided among administrative costs, fundraising activities and information work.

 

Senegal : a Dominican Sister of the Immaculate Conception in Diassap. We support her community so they can concentrate on their work of helping young people.

In Canada, a modest player, although recognized year after year as a vital international organization, 5,000 benefactors contributed to the collecting $1.9 million, an amount that provided the financing for several programs, including urgent needs, mass offerings, and the special ‘Drop of Milk’ project in Syria.

 

“It is a tremendous challenge to continue, year after year, to speak about our brothers and sisters in the faith who are living in situations of great distress, whether because of religious persecution or material poverty,” explains Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada.  “I rejoice in the fact that more and more people are joining in solidarity, the younger generation in particular.”  In that respect, in Alberta, elementary school students have been learning about the issue of religious discrimination and persecution for the last two years. “They are impressive!” rejoices Mrs. Lalonde.

 

“Incidentally, with the COVID-19 pandemic, forms of discrimination and persecution have not taken a break,” she explains.  “So, along with continuing to support these Churches as we usually do, we help them to meet the needs of their community in this time of pandemic.  Pakistan is a sad example, where some Imams have called for a stop to helping the Christians affected by the effects of confinement.  So we were there,” relates Mrs. Lalonde, who relates that $7.5 million have already been dispatched by ACN to different corners of the world. “Support that will continue,” she assures.

 

Today, ACN estimates there are some 200 million Christians around the world who are unable to practice their faith freely, and there are over 80 countries in the world where the fundamental right to religious freedom is not guaranteed. At this moment in time, Christians are persecuted, oppressed or actively discriminated against in over 40 different countries.  In 2019, ACN continued to give voice to Christians experiencing persecution from institutions such as the UN and the European Union.

 

In Ukraine, children pray the Rosary for the International prayer campaign – One Million Children pray the Rosary

Support in over a third of all dioceses worldwide

With the additional help of some $7.28 million in donations carried forward from previous years, the charity was able to fund activities for a total of $165.2 million. Some 80.4% of these – or approximately $132.8 million – were spent on the three areas regarded by the charity as the main “pillars” of its mission: direct financial support via various aid projects, providing information about the situation of Christians in different countries, and encouraging Christians to pray for their suffering brethren.

 

Altogether, the charity supported 5,230 projects – an increase of 211 from 2018 – providing assistance for a wide range of different needs in 139 countries, above all in Africa and the Middle East, for a total value of $112.7 million benefitting 1,162 different dioceses, over one third of all the Catholic dioceses in the world.

 

Once again, Africa was the region in which most of ACN’s projects were located, with 29.6%, or almost a third, of the project funds allocated, making possible a total of 1,766 projects. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), owing to its vast size of over 2 million km² and the grave conflicts it is suffering, including international indifference, was the single country in Africa in which the greatest number of projects were realized in 2019, and the third worldwide. Here ACN funded 268 projects to a total of $4.9 million.

 

And, some 22.1% of the project aid allocated went to the support of the Christian minorities whose existence is threatened in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity. In Syria, which is still suffering from the terrible civil war, ACN funded 132 projects for a total of almost $11.3 million, for the most part focused on basic emergency and survival aid. The other major beneficiary was Iraq where, following the rebuilding of over 6,000 homes in previous years, a new phase has begun for the reconstruction of places of worship and monasteries. Among the 50 major projects approved by the charity, for a total of $8.3 million in Iraq, was the rebuilding of the Al-Tahira cathedral in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian church in Iraq.

 

Syria : a family says ‘Thank you !’ to benefactors

 

Another country affected by warfare and grave economic poverty, yet at the same time spiritually rich, is Ukraine. This has been the priority country for ACN in Eastern Europe, with a total of almost 300 projects and over $5.9 million allocated in funding in 2019.

 

In Latin America, Venezuela has become the country in receipt of the most aid, after Brazil. Here, ACN funded 108 projects providing vital support for the Church in Venezuela and its people, for many of them the sole support in a country suffering from a profound political and economic crisis, social upheaval and the almost total lack of healthcare provision. Similarly in Asia, ACN’s priority has included aid for Pakistan and India, where Islamic religious fanaticism in the one, and extreme Hindu fundamentalism in the other, are bringing daily discrimination and danger to the ordinary lives of the Christian minorities there.

 

Venezuela: The Catholic Church stays one of the only institution to care for the population, on spiritual and material matters, in the midst of social, economical and political crisis with no precedent.

 

Outside of the geographical context, ACN has also supplied aid in the form of 1,378,635 Mass Offerings, which were celebrated in 2019 for the intentions of its benefactors representing some 15.9% of total donations. This has allowed the charity to support 40,096 priests – roughly one in every ten around the world. Most of the stipends were used not simply for the support of the priests themselves, but also for the benefit of the people by supporting their pastoral and social work.

 

For more information – please visit ACN Canada’s website: acn-canada.org.

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ACN Interview: COVID-19 With creativity and trust in God against the crisis

25.05.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, COVID19

ACN Interview:  COVID-19

With creativity and trust in God against the crisis

By Tobias Lehner, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web May 25, 2020

ACN supports Church work during the Coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19 is not only a medical, social and economic problem, but also a pastoral one. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the international pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has received many statements of solidarity from project partners all over the world, but also learned of growing hardships and the heroic efforts of priests and religious in the battle against Coronavirus. In response, the aid organization has initiated a special program to promote these efforts. Tobias Lehner spoke with Regina Lynch, project director at ACN, about current relief initiatives and the efforts of the Church during the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Regina Lynch, Director of Projects – Photo: Ilona Budzbon

What are we currently hearing from our project partners regarding the greatest needs in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic?

From our project partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe we are not so much hearing about medical needs but rather about the effects of the restrictions on the daily life of the Church. In most countries where Aid to the Church in Need supports the local Church, governments have applied the same restrictions as in our donor countries. That means no public Masses, no public gatherings, schools are closed and more and more people have difficulty in earning a living. And these in countries where, for the most part, Christians are a minority – sometimes persecuted – and belong to the lower social strata. The Church itself is hardest hit by the fact that there are no public Masses or the possibility to carry out the normal pastoral and social programs in the parishes. In many of our partner countries, the collection at Sunday Mass ensures the survival of the parish. The money from the collection – or often instead it can be chickens, vegetables, rice etc. – guarantees that the priest can eat, pay the Sisters serving the parish, buy gas for his motorcycle for visiting the sick or even have a small sum to help the poorest of the parishioners.

Bolivia: Sisters “Misioneras Siervas del Espíritu Santo” (without habits) in the distribution of masks, food and toys in the neighborhoods near Oruro.

What is the focus of ACN’s aid in response to the COVID-19 crisis?

As a pastoral charity, ACN wants to help the local Church carry out its primary mission of bringing God’s Love and Word to people and ensure that it is not hindered in this mission by a lack of financial resources. That means that we are providing subsistence aid to priests and to Sisters, both active and contemplative. We have continued to help the seminaries, as in many cases the seminarians are in confinement and the rector has no means to look after them. For example, in the major seminary in Goma, Dem. Rep. Congo, the rector sent us an SOS, as he could no longer rely on the local population to help feed the seminarians. We are providing funds for masks and other protective clothing to priests, sisters and seminarians, for example in Chile or in Ukraine, where they continue to visit their parishioners, particularly the sick or the dying. And in order to bring the Holy Mass and the gospel message to the faithful at home via television or radio, we have funded the necessary technical equipment. For the Christians in Syria, who were already struggling to survive after nine years of war, we are launching a special program enabling each family to buy food and some form of protection against the pandemic. In Pakistan, another country where Christians face discrimination and sometimes persecution because of their faith, we are working on a program to come to provide aid because we heard from the Church that the Christians were not receiving emergency aid from the government.

Ecuador: Sisters working during corona times, San Antonio de Cebadas parish. Visiting the families to bring the Holy communion.

ACN started an emergency program in order that the priests and Sisters could face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. What have you done so far and what are the next steps?

Thanks to the generosity of our donors since March, we have managed to send out more than 385,000 Mass Offerings (more than $5,250 million) to over 10,500 priests. More than half of these went to the Church in Africa, the continent where the Church and priestly vocations continue to grow but where the Church faces the challenge of an increasingly aggressive form of Islam, conflicts and natural disasters. So far, we have made promises of some $1.2 million as subsistence help to Sisters in all parts of the world and more requests are coming in. This has always been a strong focus of our help for Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America in particular, where the Sisters not only teach the catechism or prepare the faithful for the sacraments in isolated regions in Siberia or in the Andes, but where the sisters care for orphans, for the abandoned elderly or for girls forced into prostitution. One of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis is that we are being asked to help for the first time in dioceses where until now they have managed without our help. One example is the Diocese of Kamyanets-Podilsk in Ukraine, where normally the parish pays the sisters. With the absence of Sunday Mass and the growing poverty of the faithful, the bishop no longer can give the Sisters what they need to survive.

Bolivia: Teresianas Sisters working during corona times distributing food.

What about aid to Asia, where the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged?

The Archbishop of Chittagong in Bangladesh sent us an urgent appeal for the Sisters working in his archdiocese. With the schools, hostels and dispensaries closed, there is no income to pay the Sisters. Even before the crisis, the little amount that the faithful could contribute to the upkeep of the sisters was not enough but now the situation has become dramatic. In Mymensingh, also in Bangladesh, the Holy Cross Sisters together with the bishop are putting all the money available into helping the people, who are suffering, but the sisters need to survive and that is where ACN can help. In normal times the Holy Cross Sisters, like many  in the developing world, teach the Gospel and also teach the people the skills they need to leave behind their poverty.

Burkina Faso: Subsistence aid for the Sisters of Notre Dame du Lac de Bam

From the very beginning, ACN has been dedicated to helping not only the active, but also the contemplative orders. How are they faring?

We should also not forget the contemplative nuns, who responded enthusiastically to our prayer campaign at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic but who also depend on the generosity of the faithful and their own small income-generating initiatives for their survival. The Carmelite Monastery in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, have difficulty in surviving at the best of times by the production of hosts for Holy Mass but with the current restrictions there is no demand for the hosts and so the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz has appealed to generous donors of ACN to help the nuns through this difficult time.

We expect to continue these projects of support for priests and sisters for the next few months, because even if in some countries public Mases are beginning to recommence, the economic situation will worsen and our help will be needed more than ever. In other countries the pandemic is still raging.

 

Which project, where priests and Sisters respond to the COVID-19 crisis, has particularly impressed you?

It is very difficult to pick out one project. There are the priests in the Diocese of Dolisie, Congo, who share the stipend from our Mass intentions with their poor parishioners. I am also impressed by the devotion of so many sisters, who at risk to themselves continue their work. One example are the Hermanas Sociales in Cuba. While respecting the restrictions put in place, they still find a way to continue their pastoral work and their care of the elderly, who live alone, and their outreach to the homeless. There are the seminarians in the major seminary of St. Peter and St. Paul in Burkina Faso, whose families have become IDPs because of terrorist attacks. Now they have lost one of their formators due to the virus and four of their fellow students are ill. We have helped them and their families and are now also sponsoring a program to protect the rest of them from Covid-19. And we have to recognize the creativity of the Church. Quite early on in the crisis, Bishop Dode Gjergji of Kosovo realised that he had to try to reach his faithful despite the ban on public Masses and asked us to sponsor equipment for broadcasting Sunday Mass from the Mother Teresa co-cathedral in Pristina. We gladly provided him support and just recently he has told us that during one Holy Mass broadcast online in Albanian there were more than 50,000 people logged on. This is where we should not underestimate the power of the media. In Africa, where we support different initiatives of Radio Maria, the Church is encouraging the Catholic families to become a “domestic Church” during this time of COVID-19 and to pray even more intensively together.

Bukina Faso: Family attending to holy mass through a radio broadcast, Tenkodogo.

ACN is a pastoral charity: in public life the focus is on the humanitarian and medical sectors. How do we reconcile ACN’s response with these needs?

While a medical – and in many countries – humanitarian response to the COVID-19 crisis is absolutely necessary, this is first and foremost the responsibility of the local civil authorities. We know that in many countries where ACN helps, this does not happen and that NGOs and the Church do this work instead.  However, while the ministry of charity or diakonia is one of the ministries of the Church, the pastoral mission, the care of the soul precedes it and in this time of crisis the people need the Church more than ever. They are afraid and unsure of the future. The Church comforts and brings both spiritual and material help to not only its own flock but to all God’s people. We have just granted subsistence help to four elderly and sick Dominican Sisters in Subotica, Serbia. Their superior wrote to us, “The people of Subotica are grateful for the presence of the sisters, because they are the sign of God’s love for the people, the sign of everlasting life.”

 

Let us stay united in our support for our brothers and sisters in the faith!