fbpx

Christian persecution Tag

 

Project of the Week: Support for the youth apostolate in Pakistan

27.02.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Family Apostolate, Pakistan, Pastoral aid, Youth Apostolate

Project of the Week:  Pakistan

A spiritual breath for a youth apostolate in Faisalabad

Published on line February 27, 2020

Roughly half of the 207 million people who make up the population of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are under the age of  25, and one third of these are actually aged 14 or younger. Young Christians, living in a society that is 97% Muslim, face many more and much greater challenges than their Muslim counterparts. In fact, for many Christians it is almost impossible to advance professionally within society. And, the religious minorities such as the Christians find themselves in, the lowest strata of society, Most having to work as street sweepers, labourers, or domestic employees.

 

A Christian name can be enough to block one’s access to higher studies. Non-Muslims are in effect seen as second-class citizens, not full Pakistani citizens. They are even unfavourably portrayed in official school textbooks, and the many services performed by Christians on behalf of the country are passed over in silence. Islam is promoted in almost every area of the curriculum, most notably in the selection of essay topics. Christian pupils are often insulted and excluded, or else pressured to convert to Islam. For Christian girls it is even worse, since they are doubly discriminated against, because  of their gender. And young Christian girls face a very real danger of being abducted and forcibly married to their abductors – also meaning: being forcibly converted to Islam.

2020: Year of Youth!

 

In response to this situation, the Catholic Church in Pakistan is working very hard to encourage Christian youth to take pride in their faith and give confident and capable answers whenever they are confronted with prejudice and ignorance. Many Catholic children also attend one of the many Church-run Sunday schools, but the older teenagers also need guidance and support in living their faith. So it was that in November 2019 the Catholic Church in Pakistan announced a “Year of Youth” for this 2020 year, which will contain a range of different initiatives.

The Youth Commission of the diocese of Faisalabad is seeking support for its youth apostolate program. Its aim:  to strengthen young Catholic women and men in their faith and help them to stand firm – and find their rightful place in society. ACN is supporting this initiative with a contribution of $10,725.

 

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN Feature: Stopping India becoming a confessional state

07.02.2020 in by Doreen Abi Raad, Dalits, India

India

The battle to stop the country becoming a confessional state

by Doreen Abi Raad, for ACN International
Adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web February 7, 2020

 

Millions of demonstrators all over India have been protesting the country’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which essentially fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslim refugees. Critics charge that the CAA sets a dangerous precedent for the country in using religion as a criterion for citizenship.

 

The Indian government also plans to roll out two other citizenship measures—the National Population Register and the National Register of Citizenship—that could negatively affect India’s Christian community. Because most Indian Christians don’t have the required birth certificate to prove their citizenship, they might feel pressured to identify themselves as Hindus.

Driver and passengers on the tuk-tuk in Bihar State.

Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash is the founder of Prashant, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Center for Human Rights, Justice and Peace. He is part of a national campaign of citizens, “We the People of India,” which is demanding that the CAA, the National Register of Citizenship (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR) be withdrawn immediately and unconditionally. Father Prakash spoke with Aid to the Church in Need:

 

“The CAA, in assuring citizenship for all undocumented persons, except for Muslims risks tearing the country apart, reopening the wounds of partition (between India and Pakistan), and ultimately destroying the secular and democratic tenets of the Constitution. Furthermore, the Act is blatantly discriminatory, divisive and draconian. It is also clearly unconstitutional and goes against the grain and spirit of India’s secular, democratic framework.

 

“The cry of the people is for a more just, humane and egalitarian society in which their dignity and rights are respected. As a human being, a Christian and a Jesuit, I have no option but to listen and respond to these cries, above all, by trying to accompany those who suffer in whatever way I can. My driving force is the person and message of Jesus himself.

 

“The citizenship laws are particularly troublesome for Christians, since the majority of Indian citizens do not have a government-issued official birth certificate. Previously, identity documents such as a driving license, passport or certificate from secondary school were accepted as proof of birth.  And for Christians, particularly Catholics, a Baptism certificate sufficed.  This is no longer the case. In order to prove that you are a citizen of India today you have to produce a birth certificate from an official Government agency.

India, February 2017
A gate of metallic spikes and a cross on top of the convent chapel in the background in Bihar State.

“A considerable number of India’s Christians are from the lower castes and from indigenous peoples, most of whom had come from remote and backward areas of the country.  For them, obtaining the mandatory birth certificate is impossible.”

 

“If they say that they are Hindus, [their lack of paperwork] may be overlooked; however, if they insist on saying that they are Christians and are unable to produce the required documentation, they risk being rendered stateless; they could be sent to detention camps and even deported.  But God knows where? There are going be very serious implications for the future of the Christians.”

 

“These are extremely bad times for Christians in India. We have had consistent attacks on pastors, priests and lay Christians.  Church property is targeted. Intimidation, harassment and denigration of Christians by Hindu nationalists which conform to the Hindutva ideology continue with frightening regularity.

 

Hindutva has nothing to do with mainstream Hinduism, which is by and large rather tolerant. There is a very small percentage of Indians who subscribe to the Hindutva ideology, but today they control the reins of power in the central government and in some states in India. Hindutva adherents believe in the fascist dictum of one nation, one religion, and one language. All the rest are meant to be subservient and minorities—particularly Christians and Muslims—who are treated as second class citizens.”

 

Christians in India number approx. 30-35 million, some 70 percent of whom are Catholic. Though this number seems large, Christians comprise solely an estimated 2.3 percent of the Indian population.

ACN Project of the Week – Supporting training in the Amazon region of Brazil

06.02.2020 in ACN Brazil, Journey with ACN

Brazil

Training of 27 seminarians in the Amazon region

 Posted to the web February 6, 2020

 

Currently there are 27 young men from the diocese of Rio Branco in western Brazil training to serve God and their fellow men in the Catholic priesthood. The life that awaits them as priests will be a far from easy one, since their diocese lies to a large extent in the Brazilian rainforest and covers an enormous area of over 40,000 square miles (104,000 km²). The distances they must travel are great, many places can only be reached via river travel.

 

Undoubtedly, their vocation is also in part a fruit of the decades of tireless commitment by the Italian missionary Paolino Baldassarri, who even at the age of almost 90 was still travelling long journeys into the wilderness on his simple boat in order to visit the Catholic riverside communities. Since he could not swim, he always wore a life vest and a motorcycle helmet. He was also a doctor, and continued to practice even at an advanced age, treating and helping innumerable patients.

 

 

When he first arrived in the region, almost half a century ago, he immediately fell victim to malaria in the first week of his stay. But somehow, miraculously, he survived and soon afterwards began to visit the jungle settlements in a simple canoe. Because of the shortage of priests in the region, many families had drifted away from the Catholic faith. Father Paolino won them back. He died in 2016, widely regarded as a saint.

 

 

Today the people’s faith is again in danger, because the 40 priests struggling to minister to the 450,000 or so Catholic faithful in this vast and inaccessible region can only rarely visit some of the remotest villages and settlements. Meanwhile, the religious sectarian groups are spreading rapidly, seemingly well-funded, wasting little time on training their preachers, and promising miracle healings to all the people.

 

In this light, the 27 future priests are a great ray of light and hope for the Church in the diocese of Rio Branco.  ACN is supporting the diocese in providing formation with a total of $15,600  this year.

 

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

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN NEWS – the murder of Nigerian seminarian Michael Nnadi

05.02.2020 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, ACN International, By Maria Lozano, Nigeria

 

Nigeria

ACN expresses great sadness at the murder of Nigerian seminarian Michael Nnadi

Published on the web February 5, 2020

 

Michaeil Nnadi, 18 years old

Great sadness and dismay was expressed by the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) at the murder of the 18-year-old Nigerian seminarian, Michael Nnadi on Sunday.

 

Last January 8, Michael Nnadi was He was abducted by unidentified assailants, along with three other seminarians from the Good Shepherd Seminary in Kaduna,northern Nigeria. Whereas his three fellow students were all eventually able to regain their freedom, sadly, Michael Nnadi was found dead on Saturday.

 

“With a very heavy heart, I wish to inform you that our dear son, Michael was murdered by the bandits on a date we cannot confirm. He and the wife of a doctor were arbitrarily separated from the group and killed. The Rector identified the corpse this afternoon,” Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, said in a statement released on Feb. 1. According to local media, the other murdered person was the wife of a doctor living in Kaduna. She had apparently also been abducted, along with her two children, by armed men on 24 January this year.

 

“I am appalled at the unleashing of such terrible evil,” commented Dr Thomas Heine Geldern, the executive president of ACN. “The news of the brutal murder of this innocent young man saddens me deeply,” he continued.

 

According to Dr Heine Geldern, the local Catholic communities are demonstrating an admirable degree of faith and trust in God, as evidenced by the final words of Bishop Kukah‘s message: “The Lord knows best. Let us remain strong and pray for the repose of his soul.” For the ACN president the task of ACN must be to support and sustain the Nigerian Church on its Way of the Cross, by means of prayer and practical help.

 

“But at the same time, the world needs to wake up. The Nigerian government is facing an enormous challenge. The insecurity is as bad as in times of civil war. Nigeria is a multifaith and multi-ethnic nation, and security must be provided for all,” Dr Heine Geldern insisted.

 

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto

“His only crime was his desire to serve God”

 

One of the teaching staff at the seminary in Kaduna, who asked not to be named, told ACN: Michael was a young and gifted seminarian. He was an orphan who had been brought up by his grandmother. Just a few weeks ago, after a year of spiritual preparation, he had been clothed in the soutane. It seems that his only crime was his desire to serve God. The security forces and the government have failed him.”

 

Two of the three seminarians abducted together with Michael were released on  January 31. Two weeks ago, another of the seminarians was found, badly wounded, lying by the side of the highway.

 

Kidnappings of this kind are a regular occurrence in the state of Kaduna. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an independent American organization, no less than 114 people were abducted in Kaduna state in January this year alone – the highest number for  any part of Nigeria.

 

ACN Project of the Week – Transportation aid in Belarus

30.01.2020 in Sisters, TRANSPORTATION

Belarus

A car for the Dominican Sisters in Baranovichi

 

Back in 1992, almost immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, three Dominican Sisters from Poland came to Belarus and began their apostolate in the town of Baranovichi. Evidently, their example was a powerful and attractive one, for the order grew and today has a fine number of local vocations with no fewer than 18 Sisters from Belarus itself. And more young women are waiting to join the order.

 

Today the Dominican Sisters are working in four different locations across Belarus. In the Catholic parish in Baranovichi, today a city of 170,000 people, they perform duties as sacristans and parish clerks, they work with children and young people and care for the sick and elderly. Around a hundred children and young people attend the catechism classes, and the Sisters also prepare adults for reception of the Sacraments. At the same time, they help to ferry the frail and elderly to church or bring them Holy Communion in their homes, comforting and supporting them in many different ways. At Christmas time they organize gifts, with parcels of clothes, food and medical items for those in need.

In urgent need of a vehicle

 

The three Sisters living in Baranovichi have just one 10-year-old car at their disposal, which is becoming unreliable and costly because of needed repairs. They have urgent need of a reliable vehicle, for in addition to their ordinary pastoral duties they also travel to the diocesan Centre in Pinsk for retreats and ongoing formation sessions, a distance of some 180 km (112 miles). They also travel to the Dominican formation house in Minsk (190 km) and the other Dominican houses within Belarus, a distance of up to 300 km in some cases.

 

The Sisters cannot afford a new vehicle from their own resources, so they have turned to ACN for help. It would be helpful for them to have a vehicle with a larger boot, since they often have many things to transport – like the Christmas parcels for example.

We have promised to help them with a contribution of $15,000 towards the cost of a new vehicle. The sisters want to thank all our benefactors in advance and they already enfold you in their prayers!

 

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN Feature Story: Religious Sister and sexual assault survivor rebounds to ‘bring her people hope’

15.01.2020 in ACN Canada, ACN International, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom, Sisters

India

Religious Sister and sexual assault survivor rebounds to ‘bring her people hope’

by Anto Akkara, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada

Posted to the web January 15, 2020

 

In August 2008, the Odisha state’s Kandhamal district witnessed the worst eruption of Christian persecution in modern Indian history. It was sparked by the murder of a local Hindu leader. Hindu radicals labeled the killing “an international Christian conspiracy,” blaming the Pope, Europe, and the United States. They called for revenge on Christians, which led to the deaths of 100 people and the destruction of 300 churches and 6,000 homes. Seven Christians, falsely accused of the murder of the *Swami, spent 9 years in jail. In early December, the remaining five Christians were finally released on bail.

 

Courage alongside trauma

Kandhamal district in Odisha where in 2008 riots by radical Hindus took place against Christians.

During the wave of violence that swept through the Kandhamal district, Sister Meena Barwa was raped and paraded half-naked through the streets. After years of trauma and legal proceedings—which are still ongoing—Sister Barwa decided to enroll in law school and work on behalf of the marginalized. She recently spoke with Aid to the Church in Need:

“The trauma was nearly unbearable, and I moved several times for my own safety, sometimes to places where I could not speak the language. I even wore disguises. For years, I was separated from my family. And the nights were especially bad. I dreamt of the assault often. The knowledge that Kandhamal’s Christians were suffering only added to my pain.

“From time to time, I returned to Odisha for court proceedings. The first trial traumatized me all over again. I couldn’t sleep for days afterwards; I was humiliated, offended, and mentally tortured. I developed a serious aversion to India’s legal system.

“But this did not keep me down. I decided to act on behalf of the people who suffered with me, to pursue justice for them. In 2009, I anonymously enrolled in a college outside of Odisha; I was just one of the girls living in a convent hostel. In 2015, I began a three-year law program, while continuing to attend to my duties as a nun.

 

 

Strength born of suffering and God’s blessings

“Many things have changed in the last decade. Today I lead a normal life, and I have become much stronger. The people I’ve met have helped me forget my pain; I consider them blessings from God. They were angels sent to guide me, so that I did not wallow in misery. Instead, I rose from my trauma and found a way to bring my people hope. I’ve become more humble, more patient, and more human.

“I pray the Lord’s prayer every day. The prayer is only meaningful when I forgive. How can I pray Our Lord’s Prayer if I do not forgive? By forgiving my attackers I have become free of my trauma, fear, shame, humiliation and anger. I feel I am living normal life and am happy because I forgave them. Otherwise, I would have gone mad. I have no ill feeling towards my attackers. I only wish that they become good people.

 

Tribal Catholics in Kandhamal district in Odisha where in 2008 riots by radical Hindus took place against Christians. These villagers have been expelled from their lands, losing all their goods, and have been resettled, often after living for months in the forest or in refugee camps, in another part of the district.

“He has empowered me to serve others”

“I am grateful for my life, my strength, and my sense of purpose, all of which were given to me by God. He is my strength, even as my trial drags on. And He has empowered me to serve others.

“The people of Kandhamal have suffered so much, but they are putting all their trust in the Lord. Suffering in itself is a grace. I see it as a challenge to grow out of it. The Christian community’s attitude towards what happened in Kandhamal in 2008 is not negative. They are hopeful and have a deeper faith. The tragedy has made them stronger. He words of St. Paul come to mind: ‘Who can separate us from the Love of Christ?’ The people of Kandhamal are living this.

* Meaning of ‘Swami’ – a teacher – in Sanskrit language: “One who knows.”

 


Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) published a book called ‘God’s Initiative’ co-authored by Marie-Claude Lalonde and Robert Lalonde, made-up of interviews conducted in 2015 of religious Sisters around the world.  Among them can be found Sister Meena’s story.

Please contact ACN Canada if you would like a copy: suggested donation is $20.  Please call (514) 659-4041 x227 or write to info@acn-canada.org.  All proceeds go to supporting pastoral projects supported by ACN in 140 countries around the world.

ACN News: Four seminarians abducted – Nigeria at risk of becoming a failed state

13.01.2020 in ACN PRESS, Nigeria, Peace

Nigeria

“The government must act now, before it is too late”


by Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Posted to the web – Monday January 13, 2020

 

Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International, has learned with dismay of the abduction of four young seminarians in Kaduna, Nigeria.

Königstein/Montreal, Monday, January 13, 2020 – According to local sources, four seminarians were abducted from the Good Shepherd seminary in the city of Kaduna in northern Nigeria on Wednesday January 8. Shortly after 10.30 p.m. armed intruders broke through the fence surrounding the seminarians living quarters shooting sporadically and forcing their way into the student hostel. They then stole laptops and phones, and finally kidnapped four of the seminarians.

 

Who are these seminarians?

The four young men concerned are Pius Kanwai (aged 19), Peter Umenukor, (23), Stephen Amos (23) and Michael Nnadi (18). All come from various Catholic dioceses across northern Nigeria and had only recently begun to study for the priesthood. There has as yet been no news of them since their abduction and no information as to their whereabouts. Nothing is known thus far of the identity or background of their abductors.

 

Religiously motivated?

According to ACN, there has been no indication of the abduction being religiously motivated up to now.  No clear information about the demand for ransom has been made to the families.

What is concerning is the security situation of the whole of Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt – which includes Kaduna. The situation is already extremely precarious owing to the numerous and repeated attacks on mainly Christian villages by members of the nomadic Fulani people. Thousands of people have lost all their properties and been left as refugees. At the same time, Islamist Boko Haram terrorist group has continued to perpetrate its atrocities across the northeast of the country.

 

Marie-Claude Lalonde, director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada commented on the news of the abductions saying: “We are devastated.  It is so difficult to believe that these kidnappings have happened and continue to happen.  We feel so powerless in the face of this tragedy happening to our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, to the priests whose role it is to guide and comfort God’s people. Worst of all, it seems that nothing is being done to put a stop to it!“

Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, the executive president of ACN International, expressed his outrage at the abduction. “The security situation in Nigeria is appalling,” he said. “Criminal gangs are further exploiting the chaotic situation and making matters still worse.” It is time for the government to address the issue urgently, he said, and protect the lives and property of its citizens. It is the duty of government to guarantee the security of the country and its people, he added. Otherwise Nigeria would run the risk of becoming a failed state. “The murders and abductions remind me of the situation in Iraq before the invasion of the forces of the so-called Islamic State. Already at that stage, Christians were being abducted, robbed and murdered because there was no protection by the state. This must not be allowed to happen to the Christians of Nigeria. The government must act now, before it is too late,” Dr Heine-Geldern insisted.

 

“This violent abduction of innocent young seminarians is a horrific act,” he added. “Two of the victims are not even 20 years old. We appeal to the conscience of their abductors and urge them to release these young men. At the same time, we call on all people of goodwill to join us in praying that the four seminarians will soon be freed unharmed.” Dr Heine-Geldern also expressed his sympathy with the families of the abducted young men and with the remaining 268 students at the seminary in Kaduna. “They must be going through a terrible time,” he said. “For years now Nigeria’s Christians have been going through hell, but their faith remains unshaken,” the ACN president concluded.

 

ACN News: Fate of Christians tied to deadly Iraq protests 

04.11.2019 in Iraq, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Middle East, Violence against Christians

Iraq

Fate of Christians tied to deadly Iraq protests


by Xavier Bisits, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted Monday November 4, 2019
  Although Iraqi Christians, concentrated in the north of the country, lie far from the epicentre of deadly protests in Baghdad, their fate may be tied to the outcome of what demonstrators in Iraq are calling a “revolution.”

While protesters in Baghdad have emphasized interfaith unity, protests have in fact been concentrated in Iraq’s nine Shiite provinces, with limited involvement from the Sunni Muslim and minority-dominated north.

Most Christians live close to Mosul, Iraq’s largest Sunni Arab city, where the streets have been quiet. Mosul residents told ACN that after three years of war, people are tired of violence and “do not want war anymore.” Protesting, they also said, might lead to accusations that they are ISIS sympathizers trying to bring down the Iran-backed regime—leading to an even more violent reaction from the militias and security services who control the city.

Christians, meanwhile, largely live in towns where, because of the fraught security situation, protesting is banned by security forces and the Nineveh Provincial Council. At most, some churches have held services calling for peace. At Sts. Behnam and Sarah Church in Baghdeda (Quaraqosh), the largest Christian city in Iraq, Catholics gathered to pray for peace in their country, with altar servers carrying Iraqi flags for the occasion.

Mgr.-Yohanna-Petros-Mouche

Christians and other minorities: victims of political strife

Many of the issues highlighted by protesters in Baghdad are the same ones faced by young Christians: unemployment, corruption, and a government motivated by Iranian interests. In the Nineveh Plains, many Christians live under the control of Iranian-backed militias, who have been accused of extorting the local population, interfering with the economy, and intimidating minorities.

These factors explain why some Christians, mostly young, in the Nineveh Plains, have expressed solidarity with the protesters, some of them apologizing on social media for not being able to come out on the streets. On October 27, a group of Christian activists launched a campaign of solidarity, with the slogan: “We are Christians of the Nineveh Plains, in solidarity with our fellow protests. We apologize for not being able to demonstrate because in our cities we are not allowed to demonstrate.”

Other Christians express skepticism about how much the protests will achieve and concerns about violence. Since the protests began on October 1, at least 200 protesters have been killed at the hands of the Iraqi police. If the situation deteriorates, it would not be the first time that Christians and other religious minorities became the victim in the political strife that has characterized Iraq since 2003. Between 2003 and 2017, at least 1,357 Christians were murdered by hostile sectarian militant groups, according to the Shlomo Organization for Documentation—bystanders in a civil war that disproportionately affected Iraq’s ancient religious minorities.

The Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche, told ACN: “It is just and appropriate that the oppressed and others deprived of their rights demonstrate—provided that they will be listened to and respected.

deadly-protests-in-Iraq

Expressing their peace

‘This is not the case in Iraq. There is no government, no respect for the human person, and people may use these circumstances to take revenge on others. Moreover, in the Nineveh Plains, we have had enough. “I hope that prayer will, in some way, play a role, accompanied by an intervention that will make things calmer and bring different ideas together. In the end, it’s the people who will be the victim.”

In a statement, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, Raphael Sako, who on October 28 cancelled a planned trip to Hungary and visited wounded protesters in a hospital in Baghdad, called on the government to listen to protesters: “We appeal to the conscience of Iraqi Officials, who are in charge, to listen seriously to their people, who are complaining of the current miserable situation, the deterioration of services, and the spread of corruption, leading to such crisis.”

“This is the first time for the Iraqi people, since 2003, to express their peacefulness away from politicization, breaking sectarian barriers and emphasizing their Iraqi national identity.

ACN Project of the Week – Renovation needs in Ecuador

01.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Journey with ACN

Project of the Week in Ecuador

Renovation of the presbytery on Isla di Puná

Posted Friday, November 1, 2019

The Isla di Puná is an island of some 900 km² just off the south coast of Ecuador. It has a population of around 7,000 and is actually a somewhat impoverished area, although efforts have been made more recently to promote tourism. Most people depend either on small-scale fishing or on selling local crafts to tourists.

 

The island also holds important history of the Church in Latin America. In 1541 the first Bishop of Cusco – who was also one of the first bishops in all Latin America – was martyred and thus the evangelization of the island has held a special place in the story of the local Catholic Church.

 

Despite its ancient Christian history, only in 2018 was the first parish actually established here, covering 13 small towns and villages on the island. The parish priest, Father Celso Miguel Montesdeoca Robles, would like to breathe new life into the local Church. Indeed, he has already achieved a great deal! Regular catechetical instruction now exists for children, young people and adults, plus a pastoral youth outreach and local groups who visit the sick and elderly. But Father Robles would like to provide a more solid formation for the group leaders and encourage more new people to get involved. The sisters of the congregation of the Daughters of Mary (Hijas de Maria) have been assisting him in his work.

 

His presbytery and parish house are in very dire condition and urgently require renovation. This is an area prone to frequent earthquakes, often leaving damage to the walls and roof – especially the devastating earthquake of 2016, which caused extensive damage. And the sharp salt-laden sea air has eaten away at the fabric of the building. Now the ageing plumbing and electrical wiring need a complete overhaul. Last but importantly, the building has very little protection against the many criminal gangs who roam the area.

ACN is proposing to contribute $21,900  towards the cost of these necessary renovations.

 

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

Project of the Week in Russia – Beekeeping for to help with the rehabilitation of addicts

26.09.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Russia

Russia

Beekeeping, a harbinger of hope for the rehabilitation of addicts

 

Before his ordination as a priest, Father Sergij was a police commissioner with the homicide squad, for many years, witnessing daily to the evils that enslave people and make them capable of such terrible deeds. His experience taught him that every crime starts with smaller things. “Before someone commits criminal acts and breaks the law, he invariably begins by breaking the moral laws,” he explains.

 

While at the height of his career, he felt himself drawn to the priesthood. “Serving as a policeman and the vocation to the priesthood might seem to be two very different things. But, in reality, both of them are different ways of confronting evil. I was determined to help people, and eventually it came to me that a more effective way of doing so than simply fighting crime was to offer them spiritual support and to help them to overcome sin, with God‘s help and through the Sacraments, the Scriptures and prayer. But ultimately, we must also remember that a vocation does not spring from our own human will, but that it is God who calls us to the service of the priesthood.“

 

Drugs are often the beginning of an ever-deeper entanglement in evil and crime. Consequently, as a police officer he was already familiar with the problem of drug addiction. But after he was ordained in 1992, and continued hearing the confessions of drug addicts, he felt a call to devote himself completely to these people. And so, in 1996, in Sapjob border, he set up a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts which aims to address the whole person, including in his spiritual dimension. For it was clear to him now, as a priest, that addiction is much less a matter of a medical or a sociological problem than a spiritual sickness, which demands a spiritual and pastoral response.

 

Each one a Prodigal Son

 

The centre takes in young men aged between 18 and 35, who have already been through a physical detox program in a clinic. The centre is organized like a family. Father Sergij and his wife Ljudmila welcome each young man who comes in, like the prodigal son in the Gospel. “We make no distinction between our own children and the young men who come here. The most important thing is to see the child in them, as we do in our own children,” says Ljudmila. The young men are like brothers to one another, with the more senior ones helping the newer ones to grow into this new life. And, of course, there are many other helpers who also belong to this big family. In this kind of environment, something soon changes in the hearts and souls of these young men.

 

One who has already turned his life around, is 22-year-old Mikhail. In his own words, he had become a “walking zombie“ when he finally decided to change. It was clear to him that he would not live much longer if he continued with drugs as he was doing.

 

He had lost all contact with his family, hardly slept or ate, and simply lived for his next fix. He also inevitably clashed with the law. In fact, it seemed to him that his life was already over. He went and asked for help at the Alexander Nevsky monastery in Saint Petersburg, and they advised him to turn to Father Sergij. Even before being accepted into the centre, Mikhail began to regularly attend church. He wanted to find out all about the Christian Faith, which was something entirely new to him. As soon as he arrived in Sapjornoe, he was bowled over by the beauty of the place and by the love with which he was welcomed. He rapidly adjusted to the way of life and recalls: “I felt so incredibly happy getting up in the morning to the sound of the bells, hurrying to prayer, then eating breakfast and afterwards going on to work for the glory of God. In Sapjornoe I began to read books again, something I hadn’t done for five or six years. I loved the beautiful liturgies in the church and how lovingly and delicately the meals were prepared! It was never like that at home. “ He stayed at the centre for a year. “During this time, I re-evaluated the whole of my past life and began to look forward to the future with a deep faith in God. The year in Sapjornoe gave me the impetus to begin a new life. I‘m not sure if I would still be alive if I hadn’t gone to Sapjornoe. Glory be to God for all of this!”

 

Each of the young men is given a specific task right from the start. They may work with the livestock, or in the vegetable garden, or they may learn a trade as a bricklayer, carpenter, joiner or roofer. A number of them work in the candle-making and host-baking workshops. Right now there are 60 young men who have been accepted into the centre. In order to provide an occupation for them all, Father Sergij would now like to start up an apiary with 50 beehives. We are proposing to help with a sum of $45,000.

 

Are you in inspired by this project? If you would like to help support more projects such as this, simply click to donate and select ‘Project of the Week’.  Thank you!