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Christian Tag

 

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.

 

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ACN News – Christians still in a state of shock in Sri Lanka

27.06.2019 in ACN Feature, ACN International, ACN NEWS, by Matthias Böhnke, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Christians still in a state of shock

by Matthias Böhnke, for ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin for ACN Canada
Published on the web June 27, 2019

“The attacks have reminded many people of the time when a state of emergency was declared during the civil war. The general public and especially all of the Christians in Sri Lanka are still in a state of shock.” This was the summary given by Veronique Vogel, head of projects in Asia for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), upon returning from a visit to the country (Sri Lanka), exactly four weeks after the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday that killed or injured hundreds of people all over the country to take stock of the situation and to sympathize with some of the partners who were directly touched by the violence.

 

She spoke of palpable tensions throughout the country, recurring unrest and fear. “The security measures throughout Sri Lanka were very strict during our visit; security forces and the military were everywhere. But fear persists, particularly among the Christian population. Everyone is well aware of the fact that more assassins were involved on Easter Sunday than were identified and arrested. Therefore, everyone knows that somewhere out there extremely dangerous people are running around who could attack again at any time.”

 

The archbishop of the diocese of Colombo, Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith, is now appealing to the public to remain calm and to refrain from carrying out acts of revenge. “During our trip, I repeatedly got the sense that the Christians were thankful for the words of their archbishop and were taking them to heart,” Veronique Vogel reported. Over a period of just a few days, the small delegation from ACN visited mainly the regions around the capital city of Colombo and the neighbouring city of Negombo, where most of the attacks on churches and hotels had taken place. “This trip was arranged so that we could see for ourselves the state of the Catholic parishes and to assure them of our solidarity. After all, the terrorist attacks were specifically targeted at Christians,” Vogel continued. “It is important for us to provide the benefactors of ACN with first-hand information about the situation on site to ensure that we don’t forget to pray for Sri Lanka and we can give the country our support.”

 

In spite of everything, Christians have a great faith

Veronique Vogel reported that although the churches in the country have been accessible again to the faithful since 21 May, exactly one month after the series of attacks were carried out, many Christians are severely traumatized. “Many told me that they are afraid to enter a church at the moment or feel fear when they hear the bells ring. Saddening testimony of just how stressful the memories of Easter Sunday must be for them.”

 

However, she also discovered that many who had themselves become victims or had lost family members felt that their experiences had strengthened them in their faith. “Since the situation in the country had been comparatively quiet over the last few years, many people are having trouble understanding why they in Sri Lanka had to endure such suffering. But their will to live and faith remain very strong. The Christians and the people in Sri Lanka do not want civil war, but are actively working to maintain lasting peace,” the head of projects in Asia for ACN emphasized.

 

Mrs. Vogel was especially impressed by their visit to a Franciscan convent in Negombo. She explained that the convent is located directly across from the Catholic Church of St. Sebastian. During the attacks, at least 100 people were killed at this location alone. She spoke of how the Franciscans showed them videos of horrible scenes from the day of the attacks and how they had immediately rushed to the scene after the explosions to care for the wounded and help recover the dead. “In spite of these traumatic experiences, they are models of lived charity and have not let terrorism and violence detract them from their faith and their willingness to help others.”

 

The island nation of Sri Lanka is situated in the Indian Ocean and has about 22 million inhabitants: 70 percent are Buddhist, 12.5 percent Hindu, 9.5 percent Muslim and 8 percent Christian. Many people were killed or severely wounded during a series of attacks on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, that mainly targeted three Christian churches and three hotels in the capital city of Colombo, the neighbouring city of Negombo and the east coast city of Batticaloa. The latest figures estimate nationwide casualties of at least 253 dead and about 500 wounded. The authorities have attributed the attacks to radical Islamist group and jihadists.

 

Over the last 15 years, the pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has invested more than 12 million dollars in projects for Sri Lanka. Among other projects, these funds were used for the building of Christian facilities, for Mass Offerings for priests, for theological education and to ensure the local availability of Christian literature. Following the latest terrorist attacks, ACN is even more strongly committed to strengthening long-term pastoral aid in the country to help heal wounds and bring back hope and confidence to the parishes.

 

ACN Project of the Week – Supporting the family apostolate in Papua New Guinea

08.05.2019 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Family Apostolate, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea 

Support for the family apostolate in the diocese of Wabag

Papua New Guinea is the largest and most populous country in Oceania. It also has one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet as well as the most diversity of human societies and cultures, with a total of some 830 different spoken languages.

Most of its 5 million inhabitants follow Christianity today, and roughly half of these are Catholics – though Christianity was in many cases introduced only a few generations ago and is in some cases not deeply rooted in the culture.

Many people in Papua New Guinea have found it difficult to adjust to the extremely rapid social developments associated with the modern information age, while the State in many regions seems unable to fulfill even its most basic duties. The consequences have included a sense of social uprootedness, extensive crime, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and child abuse. The Church is therefore focusing very much upon the family apostolate, since this is the only way to bring about improvement.

In the diocese of Wabag, the work with families is likewise a major priority. Conditions are difficult, however. The diocese is poor and many of the priests also have to support themselves by growing their own food, in addition to carrying out their priestly duties. Most of the faithful live in remote and inaccessible mountain regions, and the parishes are vast, with numerous outstations, while the roads are often nearly impassable. In order to be able to reach as many of the Catholic faithful as possible, there are 13 diocesan committees which operate pastoral and social activities in the parishes, thereby covering almost every area of social life.

Training is also offered to members of the laity that they in turn can carry on the same work independently later on. Along with all this work, the improvement of the practical living circumstances of the people goes hand in hand to deepen and strengthen their faith. ACN has committed to supporting this extensive pastoral outreach program for a period of three years. Our contribution for this year is $45,000.


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ACN Feature Report: Christians as victims of global developments

06.05.2019 in Religious Freedom Report, Sri Lanka, United Nations, Venezuela, Violence against Christians, World

WORLD

2019 – One of the bloodiest years for Christians thus far 

The papal charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has voiced concern in the face of increasing attacks on Christians all over the world. “As the brutal bombings perpetrated against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday show, 2019 is already one of the bloodiest years for Christians,” declared the executive president of ACN, Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern.

The charity, which brings aid to poor and persecuted Christians in more than 140 countries, has become aware of and reported publicly on, among others, the following anti-religious attacks in the first four months of the year alone:
  • – Attacks by Islamist Séléka militia on a catholic mission station in Bangassou Diocese in the Central African Republic in which dozens were killed and around 20,000 people fled the violence at the first of January;

  • – The Islamist attack on the cathedral of Jolo in the southern Philippines which killed 20 people and injured around 90 at the end of January;

  • – Attacks by members of the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen tribe on Christian villagers in the Nigerian state of Kaduna in mid-March that left more than 130 dead; and,

  • – Attacks by extremist Hindu nationalists on a Catholic school in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu at the end of March, in which the nuns who worked there were categorically hunted down.

Jesus

Christians as victims of global developments

Heine-Geldern

“The atrocities in Sri Lanka mark the bloody climax of a trend that has endured for some years now: the persecution of Christians knows no bounds. It knows no let-up, especially on the holiest days of the Christian calendar. It knows no mercy on innocent people, who are often made scapegoats for global developments,” Heine-Geldern explains.

Following the attacks in Sri Lanka responsibility was claimed by the Islamic State terrorist militia. Security authorities harbour the assumption that the bombings may have been organized in retaliation for the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand where, in mid-March, a 28-year-old man killed 49 people in two mosques.

Aid to the Church in Need also points to the continuing Islamist threat in the Middle East, as well as the violence by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. “To say that IS has been beaten militarily and therefore no longer exists is a fallacy – the ideology lives on, as do its supporters; the contact channels appear to be working. Our project partners in the Middle East remain extremely concerned,” states Heine-Geldern.

Religion often used as a political weapon to plunge countries into chaos. Most recently additional concerns for the charity have arisen about the situation in countries on the American continent such as Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela, where bishops and priests have suffered repeated attacks as a result of political turmoil. “Here it is a mixture of political ideology and the accusation that the Church is meddling because it calls on people to resist authoritarian governments and corruption. This makes it a target for aggression and violence,” Heine-Geldern says.

 Religion: used as a weapon

In many parts of the world religion is used as a political weapon to destabilize countries and plunge them into chaos. This, Heine-Geldern continues, is what is happening again in Sri Lanka. There the Church is trying extremely hard to prevent outrage at the atrocities from spiralling into further violence. “Social stability is based to a large extent on the peaceful coexistence of the various faiths. This is something many of our project partners are working to achieve,” comments Heine-Geldern.

It is rare for anti-Christian attacks to attract public attention. Thus, the perilous situation in which the Christian minority in Pakistan finds itself first became internationally known through the fate of Asia Bibi, a mother who was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy and acquitted by the court of last instance. Together with other organisations, Aid to the Church in Need had campaigned for her release. Notwithstanding this, Asia Bibi’s fate still remains uncertain.

Religious and political extremism: main causes of persecution

Extremist Islamism, excessive nationalism and authoritarian ideologies are still the main drivers of persecution against Christians and other religious minorities. This is also the conclusion of the Religious Freedom Report, the latest edition of which ACN presented in November 2018 and which illuminates the situation in 196 countries. “We note with great concern that, regrettably, none of these three trends has diminished – quite the contrary. This is currently evident among other places in African states such as Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin, where the hostilities on mission stations, priests and nuns have dramatically increased. People are becoming more and more frightened,” Heine-Geldern observes. According to Heine-Geldern, this distressing development must be challenged. “It is the duty of governments and the UN to bring about peace, to guarantee freedom of religion and to repel anti-religious attacks,” says Heine-Geldern. As for Church, Heine-Geldern says, their role is to stand by the persecuted Christians through prayer and active support and to give them a voice and a face. “ACN has been campaigning for this for more than 70 years. In view of the growing violence against Christians, it is a cause worthy of every support and every effort.”

The 2018 Report on Religious Freedom is available at : www.religious-freedom-report.org.  
For a quicker overview, please go to view our summary version for the report:  Religious Freedom Report 2018

ACN Project of the Week – Help for seminarians in Congo

03.10.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Africa, By ACN Project Services

Republic of Congo (Brazzaville)

Help for the training of 83 seminarians

The statistics reflecting the numbers of the Catholic Church in Africa represent something of a record holder. For one in every nine priests, one in every four seminarians and one in every six lay Catholics in the world hail from this continent!

 

Seminarians in training – Brazzaville, Congo

Many of the seminaries are bursting at the seams, and—in contrast with other parts of the world—the number of priests is actually growing year after year. However, in the Republic of the Congo—also known as Congo Brazzaville—the Catholic faith is only now experiencing a somewhat slow revival owing to the fact that from 1969 to 1991, the country was under a communist regime and the Church suffered widespread repression and reprisals as a result.

 

Today, approximately one third of the country’s 5 million inhabitants are Catholic. However, despite decades of oppression and the fact that the priests in this country must often live and work in conditions of extreme poverty—in many cases minister to vast territories—vocations are still plentiful. In the country’s only major seminary, situated in the capital Brazzaville, 83 young men are currently training for the priesthood. Last year six new priests were ordained and 11 seminarians were ordained to the diaconate.

 

 

In order to ensure these future priests receive a sound and solid formation, ACN is supporting the Brazzaville Seminary as it has done in previous years. This time though, we are proposing to give $22,650 so these 83 young men can continue serenely on their path to the priesthood.

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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.

 

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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?

 

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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

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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.