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Aid to the Church in Need Tag

 

ACN’s Interview – Iraq – “If the families do not return to their homes, then Christianity will disappear”

06.04.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Josué Villalón (ACN Spain), Construction, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Middle East

Iraq:

“If the families do not return to their homes, then Christianity will disappear”

 

Father Salar Kajo is one of the priests who have accompanied the over 120,000 Christians who were forced to flee their homes following the invasion by Daesh (Islamic State/IS), and who have spent the last three years as refugees in their own country, Iraq. He was among the first to return when the Iraqi army finally succeeded in driving out the jihadists. Father Salar is now working with the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, coordinating the work of recovery and rebuilding in nine villages on the Nineveh plains.

 

“The Church is the only organization working with the Christians of Iraq and the other minorities to recover their homes. If these families do not return to their homes, Christianity will disappear from Iraq,” he affirmed emphatically during his visit to the Spanish national office of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

 

What is the current situation in the villages of the Nineveh plains?
In the northern region of the Nineveh plains, around 1,000 families have already been able to return to their homes. All this has been possible thanks to the Church, which has made it possible for them to return. But we have to continue working so that everybody can return.

 

How are the people who have returned managing to live?
The great challenge in many cases now is for them to find work. They thought they would never be able to return to their homes and they had lost hope, although not their faith in Jesus. One example of their deep faith is the fact they have been able to forgive Daesh and their neighbours who collaborated with the jihadists.

Trip to Iraq 2016 December 19 / Fr. Salar Soulayman Bodagh (Chaldean priests) on the balcony of the presbytery of the Mar Quryaqus (Qeryaqos) church in Batnaya Mar Quryaqus (Qeryaqos).

They firmly believe that only forgiveness can change the hearts of those who committed so much violence against them.

 

You were one of the first people to return to these places. What did you find?
It was the very day of the liberation of villages such as Telleskuf, near Mosul. I arrived with a group of young people. In Batnaya, the first place I visited was the church and I could see that everything had been destroyed. Lying on the ground were Bibles and lectionaries that had recently been burnt. Before leaving the village, the militants of Daesh made a special point of ransacking the churches. After that, we visited a number of nearby houses, but we could not visit anything else because the village was full of landmines. We prayed an Our Father in Aramaic and then rang the church bells, which were sounding out for the first time in three years.

 

What were your thoughts when you saw the ruined churches and houses?
I felt a sense of great pain. We had many memories of our villages and of the churches. We had worked hard in the past to keep these churches well maintained. But I said to myself, “Thank you, Lord, because if we could not save the church buildings themselves, we did keep the faith of the people.”

 

Do you think the faith of the Christians in Iraq is stronger now than before?
I believe so. For now we are seeing the fruits of this faith, for example in the kindness towards those who have lost everything, including their neighbours of other religions and many Muslims from other villages. And also, as I said earlier, the fact that the Christians have forgiven the people who were their neighbours, and who helped Daesh to occupy their homes and to rob and burn their villages.

Iraq, February 2017: Desecrated image of Our Lady and burned in the courtyard of the St Addai Church in Batnaya – a small town on the Nineveh plains, 15 kilometres from Mosul. 

 

How is it possible to forgive, after having lost everything? Have they really forgiven?
In the name of Jesus Christ everything is possible. The people have suffered greatly; for three years, as refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, they faced many difficulties. But they have a faith that has enabled them to overcome everything, although not without difficulty. This faith also makes it possible for them to truly live this forgiveness.

 

Can you give us any examples?
The first thing these families did upon returning to their villages was to go and visit their Muslim neighbours. To ask them how they were. And they told them that they wanted to return to live in peace, and recover the spirit of mutual coexistence. That is something humanly speaking impossible, but from the logic of our faith it is possible.

 

What do you need now?
It is urgently necessary for everyone to return to their towns and villages. But this will only be possible thanks to the help of organizations like ACN, because the governments are not giving us any help. After a year of rebuilding, the only channel of aid has been through the Church. We want to return, to recover our dignity and to work and live as we did before Daesh. This is our land, this is our identity.

 

How has your life changed personally, after so much destruction?
The crisis with Daesh has made me grow stronger in my priestly vocation. The Lord is using priests so that we can be closer to the people in these difficult moments, in every area of their lives and not only in pastoral matters. This has strengthened relations between the Church and the faithful. It is important for the Christians to stay on in Iraq. They have a moral responsibility to make peace and change the hearts of their fellow citizens. They see themselves as peace builders in the region of the Middle East.

 

We are still helping in Iraq. Thank you for your donation!

 

Iraq, 2016 December: 19 destroyed houses in Batnaya (view fron the roof of the Mar Quryaqus (Qeryaqos) church in Batnaya.


 

ACN’s Project of the week – Guatemala – a car for a very large parish

05.04.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Central America, Guatemala, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, MOTORIZATION

Guatemala

A car for pastoral work in a very large parish

The parish of El Calvario in  Cobàn is under the care of three priests belonging to the congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Although the parish church is close to the city centre, the parish itself covers a vast and mountainous area of 2,000 square kilometres, with 117 outlying communities to care for, and there is only three priests! In comparaison, the Megacity and capital of Japan, Tokyo, is a little bigger.

 

The challenges are enormous , and the distances considerable, and often on poor roads. The northern part of the region is unsafe on account of the drug traffickers, organized crime, and three quarters of the population live in poverty, often extreme poverty. Most of the population belong to the indigenous Kekchi (or Q’eqchi) tribe. The first roads into the region were only built in the 1960s and 1970s, and to this day the Kekchi still live on the margins of society.

In the mountain of Guatemala, in a territory a little bit less larger than Japan’s capital and megacity Tokyo, the three religious of the congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary wants to improve the time they passed with their parishioners. A new car will be of great help! 

 

 

During the civil war that lasted from 1968 until 1996 many people were abducted and tortured or lost close family members, and many children were orphaned. “The wounds from this time have still not healed,” says Father Charitable Derisseau, who in fact comes from Haiti himself. “The widows, orphans and other survivors of this conflict are still living here in our parish”, he adds. Father Derisseau has left his own country, the poorest in the Western hemisphere, to devote his life to the poor in Guatemala.

 

The Catholic Church here is devoting itself particularly to the Kekchi people. “They are the majority in our parish, and they are particularly poor and marginalized”, their parish priest tells us. Many of their villages can only be reached on foot, which means that the priests sometimes have to wade through the mud to get to their destination. “Generally, we aim to visit 10 communities in five days. Sometimes we have to walk for hours to get from one village to another. But although walking through the mud is extremely hard work and makes us sweat and struggle, we are welcomed with such warmth and celebration”, he tells us. The Catholic faithful are overjoyed when the priest comes, bringing them the Sacraments and helping them with wise spiritual and practical counsel. Many of the villages can, however, be reached along very poor, muddy and deeply potholed tracks – but these can only be managed in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

 

At present the priests do have an old car, which is causing them more and more problems, however, and so they have asked our help for a new vehicle that can cope with the difficult conditions. We have promised them 22 650 dollars.

Guatemala: Father Charitable Derisseau presiding the Eucharist with his parishioners. 

 

 

 

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Iraq: There are forces interested in destabilizing the situation and expelling the Christians

29.03.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Interview, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, by Ragheb Elias Karash, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Middle East, Orthodox Church, Persecution of Christians

IRAQ:

There are forces interested in destabilizing the situation and expelling the Christians

 

SYRIAC-ORTHODOX Archbishop Mar Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf heads the Archeparchy of Mosul, Kirkuk and the Syriac Orthodox Church. In this interview, conducted by Ragheb Elias Karash for the foundation Aid to the Church in Need (USA), he addresses the plight of Christians in northern Iraq.

 

What is the current situation of the Christian community on the Nineveh Plains and in Mosul? How many Christians have returned to the region in the wake of the ouster of ISIS?

To start with, the number of families that have returned to Mosul does not exceed 60! And these families have done so because their children had to go back to school and university; some heads of households are state employees and were forced go back in order to keep their jobs. That does not mean that these families are living in a safe and stable situation. There are no guarantees for their security and their future there.

We need help from national and international authorities so that the criminal activities that targeted Christians before 2014 and the invasion of ISIS will not resume. Case in point: five shops owned by our Church in Mosul were seized by a customs officer for his personal benefit. He refuses to return them to us, saying we are infidels! Several discussions with central and regional government authorities have not helped us. This confirms the continued presence of religious extremism and social backwardness.

Syrian orthodox Bishop Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf (Syro-Orthodox Metropolitain from Musu, Kerkuk and Kurdistan). 

What about the Nineveh Plains?

Things are a bit better on the Nineveh Plain compared to the situation in Mosul. Some 5,200 families have returned to Qaraqosh; 1,169 to Bartella; 350 to Karamles; 456 to Baishika and Bahzani; an estimated 973 families have returned to Teleskuf. All of these figures are estimates, because the situation in the area remains confusing and is evolving.

 

What are the biggest challenges Christians in the region face?

There is a significant influx of Shiite Muslims to the region, which is having a big impact. This has to do with the role Shiite troops and militias played in the liberation of our towns and their return to control by the Iraqi government. This battle against ISIS, however, was a patriotic duty—it doesn’t mean these fighters can take over our territory now. Christians are afraid and lack confidence about the future, in part because of this evident greed.

Syriac Catholic chalice from Qaraqosh/Bakhdeda destroyed by a bullet. Symbol of what some extremists would like, the genocide of Christians in Iraq. 

 

The Shiite Shabak people are turning on us, saying we are their enemy! They are putting pressure on us to leave our region and towns. That would be a humanitarian disaster. In Bartella, the Shabak Shiites are completing a residential project of 25 acres; who will live there? It clearly means that there is a plan to bring in people from outside the region. Isn’t that a threat to the security of the region and to the Christian communities? We are very pessimistic about this project and we call on all concerned parties to intervene, because it threatens to change the demographics of the region.

 

Last week, an office of the Islamic Dawa Party opened in Bartella. What is the significance of this?

We do not know what the real motives are, but every Christian citizen is wondering why an Islamic party is setting up shop in an exclusively Christian Syriac region. I think the answer is clear; it is meant to cause unrest and destabilize the security situation to oust the remaining Christians and seize their land. That is what happened years ago in Iraq’s southern provinces and in the cities of Tikrit, Baghdad and Hillah. This is a very dangerous development. The headquarters were opened in Bartala, with an opening ceremony held in Qaraqosh, confirming their intention to open another branch for them there!

 

If there wasn’t a plan to threaten the Christian presence on the Nineveh Plains, why did the party have to open its doors in our area, while there are some 15 Muslim Shabak villages right next to us. Why wasn’t the Dawa Party office opened there? This will only attract other Islamic parties to come to our territory, threatening our destruction.

 

What do you fear will happen?

If Islamic parties keep up the pressure to bring about a population shift in the Christian regions and towns, and there is a lack of legal recourse and protection of the rights of Christians, many of our people will want to leave the country; Iraq will lose all of its Christians, and with it, our commitment to brotherhood and peaceful coexistence—the ancient and authentic legacy of our faith.

 

What must be done?

We call for international and national legal protection for our people and our towns—that is one of the most fundamental human rights. We also demand that the Iraqi state provide concrete guarantees and pledges to limit these abuses and violations of the human rights of Christians. In addition, we appeal to the Baghdad government to establish a security presence in non-Christian areas of the Nineveh Plains, so that Christian communities need not carry the burden of our protection. Only when these conditions and demands are met can Christians live with dignity, peace and security.

August 2017: Orthodox Mor Afrem Church in Mosul (Mossul) – damaged by ISIS.

 

What is your message to the West?

The first message is addressed to Christians. Tell the world that Christians are a model of peaceful coexistence, love and peace. Join hands with our Christian people in Iraq. Please listen to us and urge your governments to provide support for us to keep our hope alive and give us the confidence that we will be able to live safely in this country.

To Western governments, I say: help us for the sake of humanity, not for material gain. Do all that is in your power to help us and to encourage us to remain in our country.

 

 

 

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN is currently working to encourage the return of the Christians to their former homes in Iraq. With its appeal for a “return to the roots,” ACN is closely involved in an extensive program to rebuild the homes and churches of the uprooted Christians from the Nineveh plains region, not far from the city of Mosul. And indeed with some success – for already around a third of the Christian exiles have now returned to their homes on the Nineveh plains.

August 2017, Qaraqosh: returning to their villages was not only tainted with joy for Christians seeing the damaged made by hate. 

 


 

 

Egypt: “Help our faithful to stay”, asks Coptic Pope

29.03.2018 in ACN Interview, By John Pontifex, egypt, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Julie Bourbeau, Middle East, Persecution of Christians

Coptic Pope: ‘Help our faithful to stay’

The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church has called on a Catholic charity to redouble its efforts to help Christians stay in the Middle East. Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II made the plea at a meeting with Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), during a visit to Egypt. Pope Tawadros said: “I would ask you please to support the presence of Christians in this land and in the Middle East.

“Christians are a vital presence – and a buffer in the Middle East between Sunnis and Shi‘as. “Please do not help the Christians to leave, but help them to stay.

Egypt, 22. March 2018
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II (© Aid to the Church in Need), during a visit to Egypt.

“Everyone needs the stability which comes with the presence of Christians.” Aid to the Church in Need is supporting projects in Egypt, including repair of churches and convents – particularly those destroyed by extremist violence in 2013 after the fall of President Morsi –, assistance for youth work, and Mass stipends for priests. ACN is also helping Christians to stay in Iraq by rebuilding towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains destroyed by the extremist group Daesh (ISIS).

At the meeting with Mr. Kyrke-Smith on Tuesday evening (20th March), Pope Tawadros said the attacks by Daesh and other extremist groups on Egypt’s Christians were intended to destroy the good relations between different groups within Egyptian society. He said: “The situation in Egypt has improved and is more stable…

“The attacks in recent years were not so much attacks against Christians, Muslims or security forces, but attacks against national unity. “The attackers wanted to destroy unity – but we stand and we pray … trying to give an example like Jesus Christ with an open heart and open arms for all.” Pope Tawadros also stressed the importance of building bridges not only with other Christians, but with other faiths, stating that the visit of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman earlier this month, was of “great significance”. He said the April 2017 meeting with Pope Francis was important for both Churches.

He went on: “It was very good to pray together with the heads of the Churches in Egypt in the chapel of St. Peter at St. Mark’s Cathedral.” Pope Tawadros added how welcome he had felt when he visited Rome in 2013 and first met Pope Francis. Mr. Kyrke-Smith also met with the Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Sidrak, who also said that there were signs of change for the better. Patriarch Sidrak said: “Recent developments including the visit of Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the Pope’s meeting with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the visit of Pope Francis are important steps of hope for all Egyptians.

“Pope Francis gave us a lot of encouragement – the prayer service involving Pope Tawadros in the chapel of St. Peter at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria was very significant, as was the Mass held at the sports stadium in New Cairo.”

 


 

Democratic Republic of the Congo: The people are well and truly on the Via Dolorosa!

29.03.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN Interview, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Mario Bard, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), DRC Congo, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau

Democratic Republic of the Congo:

The people are well and truly on the Via Dolorosa!

Since the mid-1990s, entire areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and particularly the eastern parts of the country, have been caught up in a never-ending nightmare: the people are well and truly on the Via Dolorosa! Just like Jesus on the Cross, the deeply devout people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have every reason to call out to God in desperation: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

“Yes, in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one can really speak of a Via Dolorosa,” a contact person from the diocese of Butembo-Beni, who remains anonymous out of safety concerns, said to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “A climate of terror reigns in the diocese, which is maintained by the armed groups that have moved into the region since 1995.” The source emphasized that the situation is even worse in a number of parishes that are located in the region that journalists call the “triangle of death”. This concerns four parishes, “namely Eringeti, Mbau, Oicha and Buisegha in the commune of Beni. The parishes Kipese, Kagheri, Bingi and Luofu are located in the territory of Lubero. A number of residents of these parishes have spent more than twenty years constantly fleeing from one place to the next!”

Dioceses are doing what they can to help displaced and refugee people. Here in Butembo-Beni, distribution of food.

 

 

The cause of this never-ending nightmare is the presence of rebel groups that have been slaughtering the population since 1995. “These massacres are taking place in the northern parts of the diocese of Butembo-Beni, or, to be more precise, in the commune of Beni, as well as the environs of the city of Beni,” the source told ACN. “These massacres have now spread to the neighbouring province of Ituri, which is located in the northern part of our province of North Kivu.”

 

Among other groups, a Muslim guerrilla organization that originated in Uganda and goes by the name of ADF-Nalu (Allied Democratic Forces) is responsible for the massacres. The rebels have been in the diocese since 1995. The contact person further reported that “analyses have shown that the manner in which the killings are being carried out is similar to that used during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.” This has convinced a number of observers that a “Rwandan mastermind” could be behind the massacres that have been terrorizing the people in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than 25 years.

 

“These villains use machetes and axes to mercilessly kill young and old people, women and children,” the informant said.

 

He also mentioned “a project for Balkanization” that is being promoted by unknown forces with the goal of literally creating a “Tutsiland” that would reach “over our entire province of North Kivu, across South Kivu and across the province of Ituri. These would then join Rwanda. That is the reason why the peaceful population is being massacred: to obliterate all traces of the indigenous peoples who are cultivating the land. This is what has turned these populations into a flood of refugees. We don’t know at which level the complicity [of the different state agencies] is happening – on a regional, national or even international level,” the informant continued.

 

He also explained that the exploitation of natural resources and the control over these riches, as well as “greed”, also play a role in these massacres and have led thousands upon thousands of people to flee. According to estimates provided by Doctors without Borders, since December 2017, 50,000 people have crossed Lake Albert, a large lake in Ituri province, to escape the massacres, the raping of the women, children and old people and the destruction of their villages. They are finding shelter in Uganda on the other side of the lake.

 

How is it possible to proclaim the Gospel here?

 

Mothers with their children, expecting better days.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Church continues to be one of the strongest moral and social powers. “Our church in Butembo-Beni is working on sensitizing the people so that the refugees are taken in by families,” the contact person explained. “The diocese has called for donations of money and goods (food, clothing, equipment) several times. However, the never-ending war has so impoverished the people that almost nothing is collected anymore in response to these calls for donations.”

 

The Church remains strong in spite of the atmosphere of terror and persecution under which it is suffering. The source explained that the passage in the Gospels “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) helps the people to keep going. He also made reference to a well-known biblical figure: Job. “We have taken as an example the tenacity and the witness in suffering as well as the perseverance and patience of Job.”

 

During Holy Week, ACN specifically calls for prayers for the inhabitants of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as for the Church that works for the Congolese people and is being persecuted for this reason. Since 2015, the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting 823 projects with over 16 million dollars.

 


 

 

ACN’s Project of the week: A generator for Radio Huruma, Tanzania

27.03.2018 in ACN PROJECTS, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Communications, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Radio, Tanzania

Tanzania

A generator for Radio Huruma

For 10 years now Radio Huruma has been an integral part of life in the diocese of Tanga in northern Tanzania. Thanks to this radio station, the Church is able to reach many people who could not otherwise get to church. For the Catholic faithful live widely scattered across this vast diocese of close 30,000 km2. Many people simply cannot get to Mass on Sundays because the distances are simply too great and there is no adequate public transport. But thanks to the radio station, they can at least join in with Holy Mass, which is broadcast live every Sunday, either from the cathedral or from one of the parishes.

But Radio Huruma is also an important vehicle for promoting interreligious understanding in the region. For only around 11% of the 200,000 people living in the diocese are Catholics, while the majority are Muslims. So, in addition to the broadcast Masses, there are also numerous programmes that are equally of interest to Muslims and to Christians of other denominations and which are helping to promote good relations and peaceful coexistence. For example, many of the broadcasts deal with such things as disease prevention and treatment, and aim to combat poverty and ignorance – and all the programmes are devoted to “encouraging, entertaining and informing the public on the basis of Christian values and the Word of God”, as Father Richard Kimbwi explains.

Broadcasting radio is an extraordinary tool when a diocese wants to reach his people. And when its promoters are also taking care of the common good, it is even better! So that people can continue to listen even with power cuts, Aid to the Church in Need promised to Radio Huruma 9, 960 dollars to buy a generator. 

Father Kimbwi was appointed by his bishop as director of the radio station because of his technical expertise. Previously, he spent six years in Vienna studying electronics and sound technology. And so the station is in safe hands with him. Nonetheless, after 10 years on air, a number of repairs and upgradings to the station are now necessary. And above all, there is a need for a more powerful generator since the existing one is unreliable, resulting in frequent power cuts, which means that the transmitters cannot function. When everything is working as it should, the station can broadcast well beyond the borders of the diocese and reach around half a million people. We have promised the Bishop 9,960 Dollars, so that the broadcasts will no longer need to be interrupted by power cuts.

Thank you for your donation!

Bosnia – Two professions in the life of the Croat religious sister Marija Bešker

23.03.2018 in ACN International, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Bosnia Herzegovina, Catholic Religious Sisters, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Josip Vajdner, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Karla Sponar, SUBSISTENCE

Bosnia

The more people give, the greater their contentment

 

“She is stronger than Tito,” a doctor at the Trauma Surgery Unit of the Clinical Centre of the University of Sarajevo says. She is quick to retort, “Of course! President Tito is long dead and I – thank the Lord – am very much alive.” Marija Bešker grew up in a family of 14. She spent most of her life at the hospital after she had already chosen her first profession. That came about suddenly. “My aunt was already a religious sister. When I was small, my uncle used to say to me that I could be her Mother Superior one day. I definitely did not want that. But once when I was visiting my aunt in Bijelo Polje, I saw beautiful flowers everywhere. I was so taken by the gardens. On that day, I had to admit to myself that there was a definite possibility that I would one day become a religious sister.”

 

She took her decision at the age of 14 and joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King in the Croatian province near Mostar, in the Herzegovina region. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported this religious order on a number of occasions. Although the principal duty of this religious congregation was the care of orphans, the sisters were not allowed to run a kindergarten or orphanage, much less work in a school, during the reign of the Communist regime in Yugoslavia. This meant that she was forced to choose a different profession, and so she became a nurse.

The Croatian sister Marija Bešker from Bosnia. She took her decision at the age of 14 and joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King in the Croatian province near Mostar in the Herzegovina region. Today she is matron in charge of the fourth ward of the Trauma Surgery Unit of the Clinical Centre of the University of Sarajevo. “The more people dedicate themselves to others, the greater their contentment and happiness.”

 

Holding out in Sarajevo, even during the war

 

“You can neither buy nor learn true standing. It has something to do with an honest attitude towards life, a professional attitude towards work and more than anything else: a love for humanity,” the 61-year-old is convinced. She professed her vows in 1980. Three years before the Iron Curtain fell, Sister Marija moved to Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia-Herzegovina. She had been offered a place in the picturesque city of Dubrovnik, a city of fine arts and poets on the Croatian coast. However, she remained in Bosnia, even when war broke out in the region shortly thereafter. She recalls that it became necessary to bear the “reality of evil”. “However, I came away from the war years with something positive. Even during the worst battles, our medical staff never made a difference between saving a Croat, Serb or Muslim.”

 

A way to make proper use of time

 

When asked about her work, she emphasizes, “It is not enough to have completed medical training. You need to have the proper attitude: you need to understand that it is a calling.” This attitude has helped her to advance – today she is matron in charge of the fourth ward of the Trauma Surgery Unit. She has never encountered any problems at work due to the fact that she belongs to a Catholic order. “All of my colleagues treat me with utmost respect.” However, that alone is not enough. “When I have to go to a doctor to ask him for something, I pray inwardly, ‘Think of me, merciful Madonna, so that he is in a good mood and will do me this favour’.” After her work is done for the day, Sister Marija visits patients who are going through difficult times in a society that is still processing the trauma of war – socially, economically and psychologically.

 

Her wish to have a beautiful garden like the one she saw on the day she visited her aunt has come true. “When the flowers in the garden are blooming, all tiredness just falls away,” Sister Marija describes. For her, prayer is the most important part of religious life, both shared as well as private. “From older fellow sisters I learned that the day would come when we would be held responsible for lost time.” Sister Marija smiles almost mischievously. She radiates that of which she speaks. “The more people dedicate themselves to others, the greater their contentment and happiness.”

Sister Marija Bešker in front of the hospital where she work. 

 

In 2017, Aid to the Church in Need donated approximately $120,800 to a number of communities of religious sisters in Bosnia-Herzegovina for subsistence aid, pastoral work and transportation.

 

 

 

 


 

India: A love that doesn’t take retirement

23.03.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Asia, By Maria Lozano, Feature Story, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Mass Offerings

A love that doesn’t take retirement

They have dedicated their lives to God and to their fellow men, following a path of great renunciation. They are seven priests who, many decades ago, left behind their own home territory in the South of India to work as missionaries in the North of the country. A thousand miles and more from home, both in geographical terms and in terms of their faith, these priests may not have changed their country, but they did have to learn a new language and new customs in this vast and immensely richly varied subcontinent that is India. And now they are living in a small home for retired priests. But if their bodies have suffered the ravages of time, their spirits have not. They continue to burn with the desire to incarnate the very essence of their vocation by serving God in their fellow men, right up to the hour of their death.

“My mission has been and still is to suffer with Christ,” says Father Joseph Mattathilani, summing up a life marked by grave illnesses, including a brain tumour. “I was left paralyzed for months, and at one point they gave me just three days to live,” he explains. Yet he radiates peace and serenity, despite his fragile health. “My mother died when I was a child. Our Lady was the one to take care of me and bring me to the priesthood. I wanted to give my life for other people. The miracle was to get so much love back from other people.”

Archbishop William D’Souza and Father Aloysius, 90 years old. In this diocese, 60 Novena Masses for 10 retired priests were distributed. 

In a similar way, speaking with some difficulty, Father George Theruvan recalls other sufferings. Now aged 87, he vividly recalls one of the attacks on their mission, when guerrillas put a pistol to his temple and he thought his last moment had come. “I began to pray and I offered my life to God, asking to be able to embrace this moment in peace. Those were two terrible hours. But then, after destroying everything, they left again. Not everyone welcomed us with open arms; many times we had to start over again. But all of us can truly say that it was worth the trouble and that we have been treated with great affection and gratitude by the ordinary people.”

“We travelled from one place to another, spending a night in each village, where we explained the Gospel and celebrated the sacraments,” recalls Father Sebastian Puthenpura. He also tells us about the beginnings of his missionary work. This priest, who has just celebrated his 85th birthday, quickly discovered “that our work would have been in vain if we had not educated the women. The Church cannot progress without those who will be the future pillars of their society, namely the mothers,” he insists. At that time it was not easy to convince the fathers to send their daughters to school, nor is it easy even today in the poorest rural areas of the state of Bihar. The South of India has centuries of Christian tradition behind it, whereas in the region of Bihar, the archdiocese of Patna will only just be celebrating the first century of its existence in 2019.

But “always and in everything I find my support in the Lord,” he adds. Even during the times when the ordinary cultural difficulties were exacerbated by the instability in the region due to the presence of terrorists and armed gangs. “Once I went to a village where there were 11 girls and nobody was willing to send them to school; they thought it too dangerous. The school was empty. But then it occurred to me that Saint Joseph was the guardian of the Child Jesus and looked after him and cared for him. So I entrusted the school to his care, and within two months we had 400 children.”

At the age of 90, Father Aloysius Sequeira is the oldest of the group. “I became a priest because I wanted to be a missionary. To do so, I travelled over 2000 miles (3000 km) to give my life for the people. I knew that the Lord would do the rest. This year I will complete my 60th year in the priesthood, and I have never regretted it even for a single day.”

“What good does it do you to gain the whole world if you don’t have God?

Father Sebastian picked up the thread of the conversation here and told us how he had a good job and everything he could possibly need to live a comfortable and happy life in the South of India, until one day he heard a bishop from the North of India speak about the missions. He asked himself, “What good does it do you to gain the whole world if you don’t have God? Everything else is in vain.” Still full of vitality, he recalls how “I went to my father and told him, I’m going to be a priest. I’m going to leave work and travel with the bishop. It’s been over 50 years since then, and I am still helping as much as I can, above all hearing confessions, and they call me up from the charismatic spiritual centre as well to help them, because they can’t cope with the demand.”

Visit of ACN Team in the residence for old priests – Father Sebastian: ““What good does it do you to gain the whole world if you don’t have God?”

Many of them have health problems now, especially their hearts which seem to be worn down after having battled and cared so much for the simple, ordinary people in so many villages and rural corners of the dioceses of Patna and Buxar. Thanks to the Mass stipends channelled to them by the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), they are able to cover at least some of their medical expenses. They are immensely grateful to ACN and to all its generous benefactors: “We are missionaries and we are on the front line, but you are supporting us from your own home countries with your prayers and your financial support, thanks to the Mass stipends that come to us through ACN. And so you too have become missionaries, so that we can work together for the glory of God.”

 

ACN provides a significant part of its financial aid to priests in the poorest parts of the world (above all in Africa and Asia) in the form of Mass intentions, which they celebrate for the intentions of our benefactors. A total of around 1.5 million Masses are celebrated in this way each year – or one every 22 seconds. For places like the archdiocese of Patna, this represents an indispensable support, since in many such poor areas of the world the priests cannot count on the support of the people but, on the contrary, even have to support them instead.

 

If you want to pass via Aid to the Church in Need for your Mass intentions, please visit the following web address:
https://secure.acn-canada.org/product-category/mass-offerings/


 

ACN Project of the week – India – ACN Help to build a church

21.03.2018 in ACN PROJECTS, Asia, Construction, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

India

Construction of a new church in the mission of Jubaguda

 

Jubaguda is one of the 36 villages in the archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in Odisha (formerly Orissa) State in northeast India which made tragic headlines back in 2008 when they were the scene of murderous and violent attacks against Christians.

 

Jubaguda is a large village around 300 km, or 7 hours drive by car, from Bhubaneswar. It lies in the southwest of Odisha State in the inner Kandhamal mountains and was first established as a mission in 1960 by the Vincentian Fathers. It is a promising area of evangelization. Currently the mission serves some 2,693 families (12,176 individuals) in some 51 remote mountain villages. Of these, some 770 families (4,850 people) already profess the Catholic faith, and their numbers are growing. Around 90% of the people here belong to the indigenous “Khond”people, while the rest are members of the Dalits, the lowest caste in Indian society. According to our project partners, the Khonds are among the less developped peoples in Odisha. They number around 1.5 million and speak their own dialect, Kui. Until recently this tribe lived hidden in the jungle and followed a form of animist belief. Both they and the Dalits are extremely poor and live by a form of subsistence farming, growing rice, maize and vegetables.They were socially and politically exploited. However, this is now slowly changing.

Parishioners in Kandhamal in Odisha during the celebration of holy Mass.

 

Thus they are all the more appreciative of the blessings the mission station has brought them, including the boarding homes for 270 girl and boy pupils, the healthcare station, the simple parish house and the convent of religious sisters. Two priests and five sisters live and work here in the mission, supported by a team of 37 volunteer catechists. But even by their combined efforts they can do no more than compensate for, rather than overcome, the glaring lack of infrastructure (roads, electricity supply, schools, etc.).

 

In 2008 Jubaguda was also threatened with destruction by a violent mob, but was fortunately spared. Yet despite this threat, the people have clung to their faith, and the Church is growing rapidly.

In the villages served by the mission station the people generally have to make with thatched huts for chapels, where the priests can also stay overnight if necessary. Back in 1978 Jubaguda itself had managed to build a small church with an asbestos roof, which, however had long since grown too small to accommodate the 1000 or so people who we are attending Holy Mass each Sunday. As a result it had long since been necessary to provide a second Sunday Mass.

 

However, in March 2013 lightning struck a large tree, which fell across the church, causing half of it to collapse and smashing most of the roof. This happened just as the children from the boarding house had gathered to pray there, and 62 of them were injured when the roof fell on them. Miraculously, however, none of the children suffered any lasting injuries as a result.

 

At any rate, Holy Mass is now hold in a room in the boys’ boarding house, which, of course, is far too small for the whole community. Originally, they had been planning to repair the damaged church, but on the advice of experts they have decided that it would be more costly than building new. So now the parish is planning to build a new and much larger church, that would also be more suited in size to the present number of the Catholic faithful. ACN has already promised 36.240 dollars towards the cost.

Parishioners in Odisha during the celebration of holy Mass.

Thank you to help to build a new church for the people of  Jubaguda!
You can give via our website: just click on the button below. 


 

Kazakhstan : ACN’s Success Story of the week !

15.03.2018 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Julie Bourdeau, Project of the Week, Uncategorized

ACN’s Success Story in Kazakhstan

Furnishing run by religious sister’s home for abandoned and orphaned children

 

In the town of Kapshagay 60 or more children have found a new home in a centre run by Catholic nuns. For in practice they have no families of their own. All of them have experienced trauma and suffering at a very early age. For some their mother has died or has gone off with another man and abandoned them, the father is an alcoholic or works on a construction site, far from home, and no longer cares about his children. For others the parents themselves are living on the streets as alcoholics or drug addicts, or else they are in prison.

 

In 2001, in order to help children like these, an Italian priest set up a sort of Catholic Centre in Kapshagay. He built a church on the outskirts of this city of 57,000 souls and managed to purchase a couple of houses. This is where the sisters have come to live, taking in children facing all kinds of difficult circumstances. And gradually a Catholic community has built up around the centre. The number of people from the city now attending Mass is growing steadily.

Working with children who suffered of familial violence and other abuses: a vocation that also needs, with the heart, equipment. 

 

Here at the centre the children are able to experience a sense of loving care and security, often for the first time in their lives, within the framework of an ordered life, like in a real family. They play, learn and pray together, and from time to time are taken on nice outings. The centre is close to a lake, and so these little ones are able to experience the beauty of nature practically outside of their own front door. This is a precious experience for children who have experienced only poverty and disorder in their lives.

 

Many of these sisters’ former charges have now themselves grown up and founded their own families. They continue to remain close to the Centre and the Catholic community here and themselves do what they can to help.

 

Now the sisters have been able to open another house, and three more sisters have come to join the community in Kapshagay and help care for the children there. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to give them $22,650 to buy furniture and electrical goods for the new house. Now the sisters have written to us, saying: “We are most grateful for your help. We are making every effort to do everything possible for these children and young people. May the Lord bless you and grant you his peace and joy!”

 

If you want to give for similar projects, please do so by clicking on the button Donate. THANK YOU! 

Kazakhstan: Equipment for the house of St. Clara for the establishment of the sisters of the Holy Family from Nazareth in Kapshagay, for their pastoral and social work with children.