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

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

 

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

ACN Interview

Uganda and the Hope for refugees from South Sudan

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

 

 

What made you decide to visit this region?

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

 

How would you describe the situation there?

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

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

What moment on the trip made the greatest impression?

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

What is the situation of young people in the camps?

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 


 

Project of the Week: Help for the consecrated people in Siberia

22.08.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Religious men, Russia, Sisters

 
Russia /Siberia

Support for the life and ministry of 63 religious sisters in the diocese of Saint Joseph

 

The diocese of Saint Joseph in Irkutsk, in eastern Siberia, is geographically speaking the largest diocese in the world. With an area of almost 10 million km² it is actually larger than the United States! Scattered thinly across this vast region are 50,000 Catholics, ministered to by around 40 Catholic priests. In addition, there are 63 religious sisters of various different congregations.

 

Their work in the parishes is absolutely indispensable, and they are also involved in all kinds of charitable and social work that is a veritable blessing, above all for so many children from broken homes and for the lonely, the elderly, the sick and the homeless, including many street children.

We would like to share with you two examples of their work with the people in their diocese. In the city of Irkutsk for example, in the parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, two sisters of the congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit work with children from difficult family backgrounds, including children living in poverty, from large families, or with parents who are alcoholics. They have opened a house they call The House of Hope. The children come here every day to do their schoolwork, to eat and to play.

The sisters organize a range of different activities.  They help them with their schooling and strive to create a real family atmosphere so the children can experience something they have never known in their own families. The same two sisters also regularly visit the children at the tuberculosis clinic organizing a range of activities as well as for the children in hospital, suffering from cancer.

In Abakan, the sisters have made space in their convent for homeless women with children and currently have two mothers and three children staying with them. They also visit the sick and elderly.

We are helping all 63 religious sisters from the various different congregations in their work in the diocese of Irkutsk with a small contribution for their financial support. Overall, our help rings up to a total of $47,565 – or $755 per sister for an entire year. Would you be willing to help us?

 

Are you in inspired by this projects supporting seminarians? If you would like to help create more projects such as this, simply click to donate.

ACN Project of the Week – A library for a Catholic centre in Egypt

16.08.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, egypt, Project of the Week

Egypt

Equipping the library in the Diakonia Development Center 

Sheraton-Heliopolis is the name of one of the newer suburbs of Cairo that did not even exist a few decades ago. Named after the original Sheraton hotel, close to the international airport, which was at first the only existing building there at the time, it is now a busy suburb of over 400,000 people.

 

The Catholic Church has established a pastoral centre here, named the Diakonia Development Center, to serve the various pastoral and social needs of the Catholic parish community. It is here that the children and young people of the Good Samaritan group also meet.

The plan is to establish a small library in the centre for the 150 or so children and young people who regularly come here, mainly to help them become more familiar with the Holy Scriptures. For it is especially important for them, as a religious minority, to have a sound knowledge of the Bible, since they are often asked questions and need to be able to respond in a coherent and clear way.

Sometimes the questions are put to them in a deliberately provocative or manipulative way, making it very important for these Christian children to deepen and extend their knowledge of the Scriptures from an early age, and especially to cultivate a good understanding of those passages in the Bible that are often used or abused by non-Christians to attack their faith.

 

Finally, it is very important for these young people and for their own personal development to be able to understand how God leads them and guides them by his Providence. In this way, they come to know Jesus Christ better and believe more deeply in his love. For as Saint Jerome wrote, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

 

ACN has promised $5,285 to furnish this library!

 

https://secure.acn-canada.org/donate/donation/#utm_source=MAIN_WEBSITE&utm_medium=DONATE_BUTTON&utm_campaign=REDIRECTS

Are you in inspired by this projects supporting seminarians? If you would like to help create more projects such as this, simply click to donate.

 

ACN In-Depth Story – Forgiveness without limits in Columbia

10.08.2018 in by Martha Suárez, Peace, Prayer, Reconciliation, Reconstruction

An In-depth Story from Columbia

A story of forgiveness without limits

 

Pastora Mira García from Colombia.
Through acts of Christian love and forgiveness in the face of hatred and violence, she has become one of Colombia’s best-known women of faith as her nation is still grappling with the aftermath of decades of unrelenting violence.

PASTORA MIRA GARCÍA, through acts of Christian love and forgiveness in the face of hatred and violence, has become one of Colombia’s best-known women of faith as her nation is still grappling with the aftermath of decades of unrelenting violence. The past 60 years saw an armed struggle involving Marxist guerillas, government troops and extreme right-wing militias. By the time a controversial peace deal was struck with the largest guerilla group in 2016, by some estimates as many as 900,000 people had died in the conflict and seven million Colombians were displaced.

In September 2017, when Pope Francis visited the country, Pastora was chosen to address the Pope and the nation at large to give a testimony of her commitment to Christ’s commandment to “love one another”. She tells her story in an interview with the Pontifical Charity Aid to the Church in Need. From the beginning, it has been the charism of the charity to promote reconciliation and forgiveness.

 

Colombia, Medellin 2017 – Meeting with Priests, Religious, Seminarians and their families at the Macarena Event Center in Medellín regarding to the Pope Francis visit to Colombia in September 2017

Learning to live again

“On April 4, 1960, my father, Francisco Mira, was killed by political rivals. I was 4-years-old when his nine children were forced to see his murder. Pushing my mother aside, they shot him and then beheaded him in front of us.

“In 1999, my mother suffered a heart attack and died when militants of one of the country’s warring factions knocked down the neighbours’ front door.

“Although not everyone goes to college, we are all attending the ‘University of Life.’”

“In 2001, my daughter Paola took her 5-year-old daughter along when she went to work at a rural school; they were captured by militants; two days later, they returned the girl, that is, my granddaughter. The family entered a very dark night, wondering what had become of Paola. We managed to recover her body after more than seven years of walking through fields and up and down mountains. I had insisted that de-mining equipment was brought in so that we could conduct our search safely.

“My younger brother was also seized on a highway and neither he nor the people who traveled with him have ever reappeared.  On May 4, 2005, an illegal armed group took my 18-year-old son into captivity for 15 days. Then they murdered him and left him lying in the road. At that time, I said: ‘Lord, I am giving him back to you.’ Although not everyone goes to college, we are all attending the ‘University of Life.’

“Before my mother’s death, I went to work in a village where I heard the name of my father’s murderer and asked my mother if he was the man who killed dad, and she replied: ‘Yes, my daughter, but we have no right to do anything about it, nor to hurt him.’ It took me some time to investigate and when at last I came to that house far away, I did not meet a man, but a wreck of a human being.

“I understood that guilt is worse than pain.”

“It would have been very easy, given the circumstances in which he lived, to poison his food or use some other method to end his life—but fortunately I had received that message from my mother. I sat crying on the way back and made the decision to frequently visit him, along with some people who visited the sick; to help him heal, to bring him food and clothes. We did so for a long time.

“I had learned a very important lesson; when the mother of my father’s murderer asked her son one day, ‘Do you know who that person is who has been taking care of you? She is one of the many orphans you have left behind. She is the daughter of Pacho Mira.’ He never looked me in the eye again. I understood that guilt is worse than pain.

COLOMBIA / SONSON-RIONEGRO 2016.

“On May 19, 2005, attending to my son’s vault in a mausoleum I felt a need to look up, and I saw a sculpture depicting of the Pietà. I said to the Virgin: ‘Madrecita (dear Mother), forgive me for crying for my son, when I should stay calm because I had the blessing of being a mother.’

“I begged my dear God that it not be with a mother’s heart that I would be feeling, nor be listening to the boy with a mother’s ears—that He help me.”

‘Three days later, on my way home, I saw a young man who belonged to one of the illegal armed groups. He was hurt and crying out in pain. We brought him home. He was hungry; I gave him some food and coffee, plus a pair of shorts and a shirt that had belonged to my son. A friend who was a nurse came and we washed his wound.

 

“This young man lay down on my son’s bed and, seeing his pictures on the wall, asked: ‘Why are there photos of that dude we killed few days ago?’ We were all shocked, my daughters and I, and the boy started crying and talking. I begged my dear God that it not be with a mother’s heart that I would be feeling, nor be listening to the boy with a mother’s ears—that He help me.

 

Love One Another

“In the end, I told the young man: ‘This is your bed and this is your bedroom.’ The boy cried and talked— it was as if we were giving him a beating. I passed him the phone and told him: ‘There is a mom worried about you somewhere, please call her.’

I went to talk to my daughters, who said: ‘Mom he cannot get out of here alive!’ I answered them: ‘Tell me what you want me to do, but the only thing I ask of you in return is that, when I finish being a murderer like him, you guarantee that my child is going to be sitting here with us.’ They understood that it should not be an eye for an eye, nor a tooth for a tooth.

“Lord, to the one who has hurt me, forgive him; heal me”

“I went back to the boy: ‘Look, you cannot stay here anymore, go to a hospital.’ He left and returned that same year in August, now demobilized and disarmed. When he used to meet me, he greeted me saying, ‘Mom.’ That December he died in a drug-related incident.

“His mother came to collect the body and I had the opportunity of helping her take the body back to her municipality. There is a fundamental principle: ‘Love one another.’ Lord, to the one who has hurt me, forgive him; heal me and make it so that, through your forgiveness, I can look him in the eye as a human being with the right to make mistakes—and to know that in his mistakes it was he who has failed.’”

COLOMBIA / GRANADA Construction of the church Santuario a la Memoria de las Víctimas, parish San Antonio María Claret

Today, Pastora is dedicated to CARE, the Spanish acronym loosely translated as the ‘Center for Getting Close to Reconciliation.’ She founded it 13 years ago to discover different ways to promote the reconciliation of victims and perpetrators. Pastora is convinced that the way to bring reintegration is to fully understand what has happened; that is the foundation for genuine emotional and spiritual healing.

ACN supports reconciliation projects in different parts of the world. In Colombia, ACN has just approved a project to rebuild a church in Aquitania. In this village, both the church and the rectory were destroyed by the guerrillas. Because of the location and the surrounding forests, the fighting had been very intense there. Many people died in the fighting or by stepping on mines left by the insurgents. Finally, the village was abandoned. People gradually returned after the government regained control and the area was de-mined. The people found only ruins and a church in very bad condition.

In order for Aquitania to come to life again, the parish priest has asked for help to rebuild the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. ACN is providing $30,000 for this project.

 

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

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

Success Story… in India!

Consecration of the village chapel, in West Vipparu

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

 

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

 

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

 

Our generous benefactors did not disappoint!

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

 

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

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

If you are inspired by this project and would like to support a similar one – please click to donate!

ACN News – Lies which “create a psychosis of war”

03.08.2018 in ACN NEWS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Lies which “create a psychosis of war”

Sources close to the Catholic Church in Nicaragua are accusing the media in the country of a lack of neutrality. News reports about the grave crisis the country has been going through in recent months should be treated with caution. This applies especially with regard to the stories being posted on social media, many of which are false – for example the fake news spread last week about the murder of Bishop Abelardo Mata of the diocese of Estelí.

“The war that we are currently living through in our country is also a media war, where the major part of this conflict is being played out,” the same source, which prefers to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). At the same time, stating that “the lies, the confusion, the obscurantism that we are facing right now are almost as dangerous as the bullets being fired, because they are creating a psychosis of war, a psychosis of fear.”

A lack of impartiality is to be found on both sides of the conflict in the Central American country. “The state media don’t report when there has been a police or paramilitary shooting, and if they do they blame it on the Maras,” (organized criminal gangs). Media that oppose the Government invent unfounded rumours. “They don’t report if police or people aligned with the regime are killed, or if the offices of the local Town Hall are set on fire.” An example of this was “the killing of three peasant farmers last Sunday for being closely linked to the Sandinista front. But this news was ignored by media not belonging to the Sandinista front.”

Our source also explained one of the most serious concerns is the radicalization of both sides that has taken place since the conflict began. On April 18 of this year, a call went out to people on social networks to protest against reforms of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute, which included an increase in taxes paid by Nicaraguan workers and at the same time cuts in pensions and social security payments.
The confrontations erupted when supporters of President Daniel Ortega also came out on the streets in support of the reforms. Since then the repression and violence by pro-government paramilitary forces against the protesters has grown worse.

“It is important to remember that 30 years ago there was a civil war in Nicaragua. Now the wounds have reopened, and indeed even deepened. It is hatred.” For this reason, the most urgent thing at present is to establish “a process of reconciliation. The true apostles are those who speak of pardon, pardon, pardon.”
For his part Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the international president of ACN, has responded to the call by the Nicaraguan bishops in their last press release on July 14 and re-emphasized the importance of the prayer campaigns for Nicaragua that have been initiated in various different countries by the pontifical charity ACN.

 

Nicaragua, diocese of Managua, diocese of Yangon 

“In difficult times, such as the one Nicaragua is living through at the moment, the people see the Church as a great source of moral support. For this reason, it is essential to support the Church in its difficult task. The central mission of ACN is to combine its pastoral aid program with information, in order to draw the attention of the entire Christian community and indeed the whole world to this painful and violent crisis. For prayer is the motor and driving force of all change,” Cardinal Piacenza added.

 

Ivory Coast : “Religion can bring about reconciliation”

31.07.2018 in ACN Canada, Africa, By Tobias Lehner, Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo, bishop of Katiola on Ivory Coast

“Religion can bring about reconciliation”

Ivory Coast, officially Republic of Côte d´Ivoire, is a country in transition: after years of civil war, the people that make up this multicultural society are trying to lead lives embodying unity and reconciliation. This is true in both politics and religion. The first successes have been achieved in contrast with other African countries – Christians and Muslims are managing to coexist largely without tension. The political situation is not as volatile and a growth in investments has ensured that the economy is slowly gathering momentum.

In an interview during his visit to the German office of the international pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo talks to Tobias Lehner about interfaith reconciliation, places of worship  that build cultural identity and what he thinks is the best refugee policy. Bishop Dogbo oversees the diocese of Katiola in the northern part of Ivory Coast and is president of the Episcopal Conference of Côte d’Ivoire.

 

ACN: Bishop Dogbo, civil war raged in your country from 2002 to 2007. Bloody conflicts broke out once more in 2010 during the presidential elections. During this period, churches and priests also came under attack. What is the situation today?

Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo: By and large, the situation is calm. Fighting broke out after the presidential elections in 2010 because each side claimed victory. The former president Laurent Gbagbo is now in prison and awaiting trial before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The most recent presidential elections took place in 2015 (Editor’s note: The winner of the elections was again Alassane Ouattara. He has been in office since 2011.). The elections were quiet and orderly. However, the Ivory Coast remains divided between the supporters of the government and those of the opposition. The latter often have trouble finding work. They have enormous disadvantages. Membership in the government or opposition is often dependent upon which ethnic group a person belongs to – there are over 60 ethnic groups living in the country. And, this of course stirs up new hostilities.

Msgr Dogbo out visiting Christian communities

How do the religions get along?

Christianity and Islam have about the same number of followers in this country. However, in the northern part of the country, where I am bishop, Catholics are a minority. There are also alot of followers of tribal religions. For the most part, the religions coexist peacefully. We are a big family.

 

Islamist tendencies from outside of the country

This is in big contrast to other African countries, where membership in Islamist groups is growing in leaps and bounds. What makes the Ivory Coast different from other countries?

I think that this can be considered a political achievement and is largely thanks to the first president Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Editor’s note: in office from 1960 to 1993 following the country’s independence from France). He did a great deal to establish a dialogue between the religions. He made sure that if a mosque was built, then a church was built in the same place. This promoted peaceful coexistence. However, the truth is that Islamist tendencies have recently begun to appear. This is happening because of immigrants from other countries, such as Mali and Nigeria.

Celebration of the Eucharist in Ivory Coast

How do these tendencies manifest themselves?

For example, efforts are being made to ensure that there are more marriages between Muslim men and Christian women. The women then have to convert and the children from these unions are raised in the Muslim faith. Recently, a large number of affluent business people from Morocco began investing in our country. Their fellow Muslims are given preference over others. Or, they try to lure our Christian youth with money: “We will give you work, but in return, you will have to become Muslim.” We bishops are trying to work against these kinds of campaigns. For example, we support measures that allow young people to build networks and take charge of their own education.

 

Msgr Dogbo blessing a village woman.

Reconciliation begins with unity

The war years affected all religions and ethnicities equally. In your opinion, how can reconciliation be achieved for the inhabitants of Ivory Coast?

After the civil war, the politicians set up two reconciliation commissions and also appointed bishops to important positions. The commissions, made up of members of the various warring parties, ethnicities and religions, worked hard and made a lot of suggestions. These were ignored. And so the Church had to step in. We cannot manage reconciliation by ourselves, but we might be able to get the process started in society. This is why the Bishops’ Conference developed a new pastoral plan, which is intended for implementation between 2019 and 2023 and includes proposals for several concrete steps.

Msgr Dogbo surrounded by many priests from his diocese. The religious traditions play a role of reconciliation in Ivory Coast, and the priests play a role.

 

Which steps, for example?

The first step to reconciliation is unity. Unity both within and without – that is the path that Ivorians must follow now. We want 30 priests in the country to complete mediation training so that they can assist when conflicts break out in the regions or parishes. A further step is to intensify contact with other Christian denominations and Muslims.

 

For several years now, a highly controversial discussion on refugees has taken place in the West. Many young people no longer believe that they have a future in Africa and so they undertake the dangerous journey. In your opinion, what should the international community do?

The West should start at the source and not at the end. What I mean by this is: the people need help while they are still in Africa and not only after they have arrived in Europe as migrants. Young people from Ivory Coast are also undertaking the dangerous journey to Libya and then across the Mediterranean Sea. But, why are they leaving? Some of them are small farmers who cannot get fair prices for their products such as cacao. Some are being treated like slaves. The West could make a difference by paying fair prices so that these people can live from their earnings. This would stop them from emigrating. A fair trade policy is the best form of aid for developing countries!

An adult baptism in Ivory Coast

What are the most urgent needs of the church on Ivory Coast?

I believe that two things in particular are necessary: good churches and good priests. When I travel through the country, I see alot of newly built mosques on the sides of the roads, while our churches and chapels are often in a desolate condition. However, if nothing is coming forth from the church, it also cannot reach the hearts of the people. The same is true for the priests. I have 54 priests in my diocese of Katiola and only 16 in the diocese of Korhogo, which is also under my direction. We need priests! Many candidates for the priesthood come from poor families and often cannot afford the materials necessary for a course of study. Material aid and solid spiritual training are essential. I know that I can depend on Aid to the Church in Need! I have often received funding to build churches and parish houses and for the seminary. Mass stipends are also very important, because they ensure that at least the basic needs of our priests are met.

 

In addition to building and renovating churches and parish centres, providing funding for the training of seminarians and subsistence aid for priests, the international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need supports the printing and distribution of children’s Bibles and catechisms, the work of religious orders and the peace-building efforts of the local churches.

 

ACN Project of the Week: Help for the training seminarians in Sonson-Rionegro

25.07.2018 in ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, TRAINING

Success-story in Colombia

 

Help for the training of 91 seminarians in the diocese of Sonson-Rionegro

 

It is not easy to fit in all these 91 young men in a single photo… They are the seminarians currently studying at the diocesan seminary of Our Lady in the diocese of Sonson-Rionegro in the south of Colombia. Evidently, it is a diocese rich in vocations.

 

 

In fact, from 1980, the year it was founded to now, the diocese has produced 500 priests! This happened despite the fact that becoming a priest in Colombia is by no means a risk-free decision – time and again there are reports of priests being murdered in this country. At the same time, the wealth of vocations has greatly benefited the universal Church, because today there are no fewer than 200 priests from the diocese of Sonson-Rionegro working as missionaries abroad in 18 different countries where there is a shortage of priests. The bishop continuously receives letters from all over the world begging him to send priests from his diocese.

 

The priest is called to transform pain

Of course priests are needed in Colombia as well. After 50 years of civil war, many wounds are still in need of healing. Reconciliation and forgiveness are urgently needed if the country is to move forward into a better future.

“…hatred does not have the last word, that love is stronger than death and violence”

During his visit to Colombia in September 2017, Pope Francis spoke in front of the “Reconciliation Cross” – a monument to commemorate the victims of the killings in Villavicencio. (It is a bare cross with no body on it). Christ, he told them, “no longer has his arms, and his body is no longer present among us, but his divine countenance remains, he gazes on us and loves us. The broken and amputated Christ is ‘still more Christ’ for us, for he shows us once again that he has come to suffer for his people and with his people, and also to teach us that hatred does not have the last word, that love is stronger than death and violence. He teaches us to transform the pain into a source of life and Resurrection, so that we may learn, with him and from him, the strength of forgiveness and the greatness of love.

“It is also the role of the priest, of course, to help people transform their pain into the joy of the resurrection.

ACN supports the seminary every year for the formation of its seminarians and this year we will be helping once again, with 34,353 dollars, so that these 91 young men can follow their vocation through to ordination.

 

 

Are you in inspired by this projects supporting seminarians?  If you would like to help create more projects such as this, simply click to donate.

 

 

ACN News: Over 4.5 million dollars approved for 40 projects is Syria

23.07.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Syria

Aid to the Church in Need

Over 4.5 million dollars approved for 40 projects is Syria

 

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has approved a new package of aid measures involving over 40 pastoral and emergency aid projects for Syrian Christians of the various different rites and denominations. The charity hopes thereby in some way to ease the grave situation in which the people of the country continue to suffer, above all now due to the various economic sanctions such as the petroleum embargo. As Maronite Bishop Joseph Tobji of Aleppo pointed out on June 27 this year in an address to the European Parliament in Brussels, these sanctions “are killing the Syrian people in the same way that the weapons are.”

 

Maronite Archbishop of Aleppo, Msgr Joseph Tobji, in his bombed-out cathedral, situated at the very heart of the old city.

“Why do the children and sick people have to die for lack of medicines? Why do the unemployed, who have lost their jobs, have to die of hunger because of the embargo?” the bishop asked the assembled European deputies.

 “The aid has to help people rebuild and get back to living a decent life.”

 

Responding to this and other similar desperate appeals for support from the local Catholic and Orthodox communities in Syria, ACN will be allocating over 3 million dollars for the basic support and medical welfare of needy and displaced families in various different parts of the country, and especially in Aleppo and Homs.

 

Another of the grave problems affecting the country is immigration, which, according to Bishop Tobji, is “a dangerous wound, which continues to bleed.” Moreover, an obvious part of this wave of involuntary emigration was the Christian Syrians, of course, already a minority before but now were going to be “wiped out if the situation created by the war does not end soon,” he added. Already “only a third” were left of those who were there before. In the face of this great diaspora, the Maronite Bishop wondered who would be left to rebuild the country, given that Syria was now a country “with no productivity, no labour force, a society without life.” The Christians, he said had always been a “cultural bridge” between East and West and had played a primordial role as an element of peace within Syrian society. “If the Christians disappear, there will be many problems, both for their own country and for Europe, which is not so many miles away,” he predicted.

Helping the children rediscover their capacity for play!

For this reason, among others, another of the main objectives of ACN is the help for children and young people – the future of the country and the reason why so many Christian families are emigrating. That is why a quarter of all the new projects approved by ACN aim to help the young. On one hand, ACN has launched a number of different educational aid programs and scholarships, given that many families have lost their work in their homes and have no means of funding their children’s basic education or university studies. It is this lack of financial means that has forced many to seek a future outside the country.

One of the projects supported by ACN – ‘Let me live my childhood! Children born into a world of bombs are able to get a little break thanks to donations to ACN and the word done by the local Church.

 

Now, in the coming months some 1,215 school pupils and 437 university students in Homs and 105 university students in Damascus will benefit from this program. In addition, ACN has undertaken to support the schooling of the children of some 300 especially needy families in Damascus and also of many sick and orphaned children.

 

“A number of projects are aimed at helping children and young people traumatized by seven years of conflict and war.”

At the same time, a number of projects are aimed at helping children and young people traumatized by seven years of conflict and war. Prominent among these is the initiative “Let me Live My Childhood” in the city of Aleppo. Father Antoine Tahan, parish priest of the Armenian Catholic Church of the Holy Cross, who is in charge of this initiative, explains: “Thank to the support of ACN the child will come out, having been stripped of ‘adult clothes’ and take back some of the gifts of childhood, which are irreplaceable.” In addition to this ACN will be supporting a number of summer courses for young people, organised both by the Maronite Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church in Aleppo, the city that has probably suffered most during the war.

 

Faithful to its pastoral character ACN approved almost a million dollars for the repair or restoration of a number of churches and monasteries, including the Maronite cathedral and the Syro-Catholic cathedral, both of which are in Aleppo, as well the training of seminarians and the support of priests. For as Bishop Tobji emphasizes, “the Church is the first port of call for the people” and yet the Church would be unable to provide is help without the support of “benefactors, organizations and ecclesiastical foundations like ACN.” Our aid “has to be able to help people rebuild, find work and resume a life in dignity”. Hence, his desperate appeal to the West: “Do the right thing; help us to find peace.”

 

An aid mission supported by Aid to the Church in Need – thank you for continuing to support this little girl’s future!

ACN Project of the Week : Success Story in the Philippines

19.07.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Philippines, Project of the Week, Sisters

A Success Story in the Philippines

A vehicle for pastoral work among the indigenous peoples of the diocese of San Jose

 

For the past seven years, Sister Anita has been working among the indigenous peoples of the diocese of San Jose, supporting them with wise counsel and ministering to their needs. She looks after the children in the primary schools, making sure they have enough to eat, helping them with their studies and teaching them the Catholic faith. She helps and advises the women and organizes all kinds of different activities for the young people. “It is a joy and a blessing for me,” she says, speaking of her work.

 

She has to travel to visit the people in the villages where they live, and the distances in this mountainous region are considerable, making this journey a real problem. The only transport available which comes just twice a week called a “Jeepney” (a public minibus) travels through the various villages and back into the city, but it is impossibly overcrowded at all times.

 

People cram in, with their sacks of rice and cement and bulky cardboard boxes, and some passengers even have to sit on the roof. The journeys seem to take forever because at every stop there are things to be off-loaded and then un-loaded onto the minibus, as some passengers get off and new ones get on. If you miss one Jeepney, you have to wait three days for the next one.

 

This was making Sister Anita’s work extremely difficult to undertake, and so she turned to ACN for help.

 

Thanks to the generosity of our kind benefactors, we have been able to provide her with $37,750 for the purchase of a sturdy vehicle that can cope with the untarred roads and the rough and often muddy tracks.

 

Sister Anita is overjoyed and writes, “Your help is a blessing and a great support for our apostolate among the native peoples. Many thanks! We are so happy! And now we are all the more eager and determined to go out to the faithful and serve the Church.”

 

 

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