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persecution of Christians Tag

 

ACN Info – Nigeria Attacks by Fulani herdsmen; “a timebomb”

19.12.2018 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Thomas Oswald & Maria Lozano

Nigeria

Attacks by Fulani herdsmen; “a timebomb”

 

NIGERIA / GBOKO – Bishop William AVENYA

Christians in northern Nigeria, in addition to suffering attacks by the terrorist Boko Haram group, are also facing a terrible situation as a result of the bloody attacks by Fulani herdsmen against Christian villages in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt.

 

“This is a time bomb that threatens to ignite the whole region,” says Bishop William Amove Avenya of the diocese of Gboko. He was speaking to representatives of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). He described how in his diocese, located in Nigeria’s majority Christian Benue State, “Fulani tribesman, armed to the teeth, are murdering pregnant women and children and destroying our smallholdings”. Ever since 2010 the Christian villages have been the target of violent attacks by the nomadic, Muslim Fulani herdsman from the Sahel region, who have been armed with a wealth of modern weaponry. The result has been thousands killed and numerous communities forced to flee. “The Fulani have claimed far more victims during 2018 than Boko Haram, but no one is doing anything about it,” the bishop explained.

Fulani Herdsmen in Nigeria  Credit: © Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Directorate of Social Communications

“This is a time bomb”

According to Bishop Avenya, the Nigerian authorities are simply not taking the necessary measures to address the violence. He denounced the silence of the government and of the media. During his visit to Europe to attend the official launch of ACN’s Report on Religious Freedom in the World, the bishop met with EU politicians from Brussels who likewise “seemed poorly informed about the situation in our country and about the threat posed by the Fulani, who have been supplied with modern weapons of a kind not used by simple herdsmen. We need to ask who is behind this.”

 

Presentation of the Religious Freedom Report at the European Parliament in Brussels on 04.12.2018
(from left to right):
Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla (Head of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace),
Mark von Riedemann ( ACN Director of Public Affairs and Religious Freedom)
His Excellency Mgr. Alain Lebeaupin (Apostolic Nuncio to the EU),
His Excellency Mgr William Avenya (Bishop of Gboko, Nigeria),
Sister Fida Chaaya (Damascus in Syria)

“We have not lost hope, but we do need help.”

Nigeria, Kaduna : Destruction by fulani attacks 2017

Already a month ago, Bishop Avenya had issued a desperate appeal to the international community, urging it “not to wait for a genocide to happen before intervening.” Additionally, on numerous occasions, the Nigerian bishops’ conference has called on the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to provide effective guarantees for the safety of his people or, if he is unable to do so, to resign. Their petition has been ignored and the violence continues. Meanwhile, Muhammadu Buhari plans to stand once again for president in the new elections to be held in February next year.

“Meanwhile, the Church continues to try and heal the wounds,” Bishop Avenya added. “We have not lost hope, but we do need help.”

ACN Canada is supporting the Church in Nigeria.  Please be generous with our project partners!  Learn more here: NigeriaACN

 

ACN Interview – Sister Yvonne Gera in Algeria

18.12.2018 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Algeria, By Grace Attu

ALGERIA / CONSTANTINE  Management of buildings in the parish of Skikda.

Algeria

“They died at their post”

Between 1994 and 1996, Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 others were killed during the Algerian civil war. The cause for their beatification opened in 2007 and at the beginning of this year, Pope Francis signed the decree confirming that they died in “odium fidei” (hatred of the faith) thus recognizing them as martyrs.

On December 8th the ceremony of beatification took place in the Cathedral of the Diocese of Oran, where Msgr Pierre Claverie was Bishop. 

Sr Yvonne Gera, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary who worked in Algeria for 22 years and knew each of the 19 martyrs personally, speaks to Grace Attu from the ACN National Office in Malta about the martyrs and her experience in Algeria at the time.

 

ACN: The official document of the Congregation for the causes of Saints describes the 19 Martyrs as “Bishop Pierre Claverie and 18 companions,” who are they, really?

Sr. Yvonne Gera, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary

Sr. YVONNE GERA: Yes. They are Bishop Pierre Claverie, seven Trappist monks from Tibhirine, one Marist brother, four White Fathers, and six Nuns from various congregations that had a presence in Algeria. They all worked with the people; helping the poor, the sick, the children.  The Marist brother Henry worked in a Library of the diocese that attended to more than a thousand youth  especially poor children, some of the sisters were Nurses. The 7 Trappists had a clinic, one of them was a doctor and all the people came. They didn’t ask if they were Muslim or Christians before helping them. Bishop Pierre Claverie always spoke the truth to the government and the people.

 

ACN: Can you give us a background of the situation that led to their death?

YVONNE GERA: First of all I would like to say that the war in Algeria was not a religious war but a civil war. The Islamists took advantage of the situation. On October 3, 1993, all foreigners were warned that if they didn’t leave the country by the end of the year, they would be targeted.

On the eve of Christmas, the terrorists visited the Monastery. They wanted money but the Prior told them, “we live on our crops.” All of a sudden the bell rang for Christmas Eve Mass and he told them, “Today is born the King of Peace” and they told him, “Ayisa” in Arabic meaning that they will come back.

The quit notice was not only to religious but also to foreign Christian families. So, between 1992 and 1993, the Church lost almost all foreign Catholic families. Even as we were targeted, we all stayed. We used to say that the captain is not going to leave the ship while it is sinking. So we all remained.

 

ACN: They are being beatified together.  What do they have in common?

YVONNE GERA: At that time, almost all religious had to write to their superior general if they were willing to stay. Those who were afraid left. But one thing these 19 had in common was that they decided to stay despite the threats. They continued working and taking care of the people. And they died at their duty posts.

Fr Paul-Elie Cheknoun serving the parishes of om Alger and Constantine

 

ACN: You were also working in Algeria during this period. What was your experience?

YVONNE GERA : I worked 22 years in Algeria and out of it was 14 years of war. Why I am here and was not killed during that time, I don’t know. I was also a target. In the morning I tell the Lord, “keep your Hand on me, help me to do my duty.”

One morning, I received a call from French Ambassador. He asked to speak with Msgr Henri Teissier. The ambassador told him, “Go to the French hospital.” We went to the French hospital, and there were 7 coffins. At first, they didn’t want to open it but Msgr Teissier told them, “If you don’t open it, I can’t say if they are the terrorists or the brothers.” Then he opened and in each coffin, there was only the head of each monk (the 7 Trappists). As I was waiting, Msgr Teissier told me, “Do you want to see them?”, I replied, “Yes, for the last time,” It was horrible to see.

The Church suffered a lot. But it was a Church of presence. We never preached. We didn’t go and preach here and there but everyone was welcomed and they came. I was in charge of all the clinics of the Church and all clinics had a centre for malnourished children and a centre for mother and child-care. Everything was free.

We never had difficulties with the people. During Ramadan we used to be invited every evening to different families to have the meal with them. In the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, it is written “pray for us and for the Muslims.” And the young women (including Muslims) who could not have a baby used to come to pray to our Lady, bringing a doll, and when she had the baby, she came to present it to Our Lady.

Participation of 30 young faithful of the church of Algeria in the WYD in Krakow, Poland, July 2016.

 

ACN: Even today, many priests and religious who work in crisis ridden countries suffer threats to their lives. Some have been abducted. What word do you have for them?

YVONNE GERA: We are missionaries. Whatever happens, we are missionaries. We know that that is our vocation and I say one thing, “you will receive more than you give”. It is sometimes difficult, yes but the Lord has called us. If the people suffer, we suffer with them. It is our vocation and the Lord is always there to help us. Even in suffering or in martyrdom. These 19 martyrs knew that they were targeted but they remained. Don’t be afraid, the Lord is there to help you.

On the occasion of the beatification of the 19 Martyrs in Oran, Algeria on December 8, 2018, Aid to the Church in Need (Malta) will issue a booklet about the Martyrs, who they were, the kind of life they lived and some testimonies about them.

 

To learn more about the situation of the religious freedom in Algeria please see: www.religious-freedom-report.org

ACN Press Release: #RedWednesday A first in Canada

19.11.2018 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, Religious freedom, Violence against Christians, World

 

Press Release

#RedWednesday
A first in Canada

Montreal, Friday November 16 – Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Rimouski, Hearst, and Quebec and more: Wednesday November 21st, close to 50 activities planned, each one connected to Red Wednesday (#RedWednesday) will take place in dioceses across Canada.  Initiated a few years ago by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), this event helps to sensitize and inform people about the situation of 200 million Christians who regularly live situations of persecution and discrimination because of their faith, and in a particularly acute way in at least 30 countries.

 

This is the fifth Mass for persecuted Christians to be held in Montreal where the event saw it’s beginning in Canada.  Msgr Christian Lépine will preside over the liturgy which will begin at 7:30pm and will be preceded by a 5 à 7 gathering around the subject of religious freedom – created for youth 18-35 years old, to be held in the basement of the Cathedral.

 

In Toronto, Cardinal Archbishop Thomas Collins will preside over the interfaith prayer vigil beginning at 6:30pm.  In Alberta’s metropolis, Calgary and greater area throughout the diocese many events have been planned including a Rosary Prayer followed by a Mass at Saint Mary’s University.  In Versant la Noel, at Robert Lebel’s, composer of the theme song for World Youth Days in Toronto in 2002 (doors open at 6:15).

 

“This is a first experience for us which is starting on a very positive note!” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director at the ACN Canada.  “We are very happy that so many people are willing to take part in the event and willing to share with us in this deep concern with regard to the situation of persecuted Christians and victims of discrimination in the world.  It is also a way to demonstrate one’s solidarity with those who are suffering.”

 

Some elements that will be present in various buildings across the country – the doorways to the Cathedrals in Montreal and Toronto for example, as well as the interior of the Saint Michael’s Toronto cathedral, will be lit with red lights, the colour of the blood of the martyrs.  The ecumenical pavilion at Versant-la-Noel will be robed in red as well.

 

Many nations deprived of a fundamental right

In his letter inviting the faithful of his diocese to participate in the event, the Archbishop of Calgary, Msgr William T. McGrattan, underlined, “while it is true that Canadian Christians are facing increasing challenges in the practice of our faith, we must also continue to express gratitude for the many liberties which our country provides. Sadly, many nations across the globe continue to deprive their citizens of even the most basic religious freedoms.

Currently, over 30 events have been organized in his diocese, generally masses and moments of prayer prepared as acts of solidarity with persecuted Christians suffering from severe forms of discrimination.

 

ACN’s 2018 report on Religious Freedom launch date: November 22

“This Red Wednesday is also in accord with the publication of our Religious Freedom in the World Report 2016-2018 which will be launched the following day, Thursday November 22, at the Vatican,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde for whom this event represents a shift in the understanding Catholics here have of religious persecution lived by Christians.  “I think that people are beginning to grasp the scope of the problem and realize that article 18 of the Universal Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms that should ensure the right to religious freedom in all signatory countries, is far from being respected.”

This will be the fourteenth edition of the ACN report on Religious Freedom in the World. It examines the situation in over 190 different countries and documents not only the current legal situation but also the abuses against the right to religious freedom over the time period 2016–2018. The report also details developments and changes in the situation in a number of the most critically threatened countries documented in the previous report of 2014-2016.

Nigeria: Fulani Herdsmen – mostly Muslim – threaten farmers – mostly Christians. Economic or religious conflict? Answer November 22nd
(Photo: © Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Directorate of Social Communications)

 

The report will only be available online in Canada, in French and in English at the following website : www.religion-freedom-report.org. An executive summary will be available on ACN Canada’s website: www.aed-canada.org.

For more information:

http://bit.ly/RWednesday-Canada
1-800-585-6333 or,
[email protected]


Source: Mario Bard, Information, Aid to the Church in Need Canada
Amanda Griffin, English Information, ext. 221 or toll free at 1-800-585-6333
[email protected]
Website: acn-canada.org Cell. Phone: 514-967-8340

*ACN’s articles are given freely for partial or full publication on condition that ©Aid to the Church in Need is mentioned as the source.  If you would like to use an original photo, or for an interview with the National Director, Marie-Claude Lalonde, please contact us at the coordinates above.Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, is a Pontifical Charity which has as Mission to provide assistance to Catholics wherever the Church suffers from poverty or persecution. The international charity operates offices in 23 countries including Canada, who together support projects in over 145 countries.

 

 

 

ACN Interview – Bishop Msgr. Michael MIABESUE BIBI speaks to tensions building in Cameroon

23.10.2018 in ACN International, ACN PRESS, Africa, By Maria Lozano, Cameroon, Cameroon

ACN Interview – Bishop Msgr. Michael MIABESUE BIBI speaks to tensions building in Cameroon

Time to act to avoid a civil war

Cameroon is in the midst of a political and social conflict between the English and French-speaking areas. What was a German colony in the late nineteenth century was divided into British and French mandates after the defeat of Germany in World War I. Both joined in an independent Cameroon in 1961. However, the population of the anglophone regions – in the southwest and northwest of the country- have felt marginalized by the French-speaking authorities. They accuse them of imposing the French language and traditions and demand greater autonomy and respect for their customs.

The level of unrest in Cameroon has been growing since 2016, when the country’s English-speaking community began to demand a return to federalism. There have been violent confrontations between government forces and secessionist militants, who have sought independence of the self-proclaimed republic of Ambazonia from the Republic of Cameroon. The army has not refrained from using force in its repression of Anglophones, which has led to more than 500 deaths and some 200,000 displaced persons.

Maria Lozano from the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need speaks about the situation with Auxiliary Bishop Msgr. Michael MIABESUE BIBI of Bamenda, a mostly English-speaking archdiocese in northwestern Cameroon.

Maria Lozano: Please fill us in on the background to the current situation in Cameroon: What happened in 2016? What triggered the crisis?

Mons. Michael MIABESUE BIBI: The Crisis began in 2016 when the common-law lawyers of the anglophone regions in Cameroon requested that the *Ohada Law be translated from French into English so that they too could apply it properly in a language they understood. This was accompanied by peaceful demonstrations but the military was sent out to stop them. The lawyers boycotted work in court and requested that French lawyers should not be sent to English courts and also that in the Anglophone courts cases should be handled in English and not French.

In November 2016, teachers called for a strike to begin on the 21st to protest the fact that French teachers were being sent to work in the English regions and they were not teaching children in proper English since they were not anglophone. They requested that such teachers be transferred and in their stead, English speaking teachers be sent to work in the anglophone regions. These demands also met with repression and herein lies the root causes of the present problem.

 

Some media talk about the threat of a civil war in Cameroon. Do you think that the situation is so serious?

The situation is very serious. Since it started in 2016, it has been steadily degenerating. What began as a matter of translating documents, transfer of teachers and reinstating the English subsystem of education, grew into the request for a two state federation and finally to a request of secession from the French speaking Cameroon. Since February 2018, there has been serious loss of human life on the side of the military and the boys fighting for the secessionist cause. We are living in a situation of grave insecurity and if the conflict is not solved quickly, there will be even worse ahead.

 

The recent elections of  October 7 will have some effect on the crisis. Do you think that positive and productive steps can be taken?

In my opinion, the president can solve this problem if he decides to bring the people together and dialogue with them. What has happened so far is that government officials have been sent out on a good number of occasions, but it has not helped solve the problem. In my opinion, the silence of the president has been one of the reasons why people have been radicalized. If he comes out and speaks to all Cameroonians as his children, I am sure they will listen to him. We need frank and sincere dialogue to solve the problem and this demands humility from both conflicting parties.

The Cameroonian Episcopal Conference has said that there were “serious irregularities in the English-speaking regions” and many voters were not able to participate in the vote due to insecurity. How is the situation now regarding security?

Nearly every day in the English speaking region especially from Bamenda where I come from, there are gunshots fired either by the military or by the boys fighting for the cause, known as “Ambazonian Boys” (short Amba Boys). There is insecurity in the region and it was the reason why the elections could not take place in certain areas. In some areas where few people voted, they were heavily guarded by the military in order to be able to do so. Yes, there is insecurity in the region. Almost 95 percent of voters in both regions could not vote because of the lack of security.

 

Can you travel everywhere? How about the pastoral work of the Church, how is this influenced by the crisis?

Mobility in both regions is difficult. In the North West Region, roads are constantly blocked by the boys, bridges destroyed and trees felled on roads to restrict movement. Some days the roads are opened and on other days they are not. This makes it difficult for people to travel. This has greatly affected pastoral work since most priests in parishes cannot leave the main mission to go to other missions for pastoral work. It has become difficult for the bishops to carry out pastoral visitations since June. The pastoral week of the Archdiocese that was to run from the 13th to the 20th was canceled because people could not come to town. In Bamenda, travel is possible on some days, although from the 1st to the 10th October it was not possible to move about at all. On Mondays, the city turns into a ghost town and shops and business are all closed. No movement is possible even though some isolated people try to move about.

 

Akiata Gerard Anjiangwe, a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Bamenda, dead the 4th October 2018 at the St. Therese’s Church, Bamessing Quasi Parish, Ndop.On October 4th, shortly before the elections, Gérard Anjiangwe, a seminarian from your archdiocese of Bamenda, was killed in front of the parish church of Bamessing in Ndop commune, Ngo-Ketunjia department. What happened?

Around 9:30am, at the end of the Holy Mass, after some of the Christians had left, Gerard Anjiangwe and some readers were still in the Mission preparing for the liturgy of the following day. A military van coming from Ndop stopped at the entrance of the road leading to the Church. Some of the military alighted from the van and started shooting. Some altar servers who were returning home after the mass ran back to the Church and others to the nearby bush. The readers who were with Gerard near the sacristy, seeing the military coming, ran into the sacristy and closed the door whereas Gerard, who was still outside, prostrated on the ground while praying the Rosary. The military men tried to open the Church door but did not succeed. They approached Gerard lying prostrate on the ground and asked him to stand up, which he did without hesitating. After interrogating him, he was asked to lie down again. Then, he was shot three times on the neck and he died instantly. His father is a catechist and Gerard was the only son of the family.

 

Why do you think he was killed?

It is difficult to say exactly why Gerald was killed. But one can easily conclude that he was taken to be one of the Ambazonian Boys. This is the only reason I can think of for his being killed. There is a systematic attempt to kill all the young boys in the area since there is fear that they might be part of the Ambazonian Boys promoting the crisis.

 

There were already two priests killed in July this year in Cameroon, one in the north (Batibo) and one in the south (Fr. Alexandre Sob Nougi), and several church properties were also destroyed. Are these all collateral damages? What is the role of the Church in the conflict?

Only one priest has been killed, namely Fr. Alexander Sob from Buea. According to our information, the person killed in Batibo was not a priest but a Ghanian pastor. In an attempt to flush out the Amba Boys, the military burns down and destroys property and as a result, the Church too has been affected with many Church buildings, presbyteries and other material goods being destroyed. The role of the Church is simply to speak the truth and encourage dialogue. But the Church is sandwiched between the government and the Amba Boys. Whatever the Church says, it is accused by one camp or the other. When the Church says that children have a right to go to school and should not be stopped from schooling, the Amba Boys think that the Church has been bribed by the government to say that. Some government officials have out rightly accused the Church of fueling the crisis through the various write-ups that we have produced. The Church believes in peace. But there can be no peace without justice. Justice and truth must prevail and that is what the church stands for.

According to different reports, 160,000 people fled their homes within Cameroon, and 34,000 have fled to Nigeria. How is the situation of the refugees in Bamenda?

We have internally and externally displaced persons. The Archdiocese has formed an ad hoc committee to take care of the internally displaced persons living in Bamenda. They have identified all these persons, noted their names and where they live. Some people of good will and some parishes make contributions, which they forward to this committee who use it to buy food, drugs, mattresses and some other basic needs to assist them. As for those who are externally displaced in Nigeria, assistance is given to them as regards health, food and other basic necessities through the diocese of Mamfe.

 

What is your message to the benefactors of ACN? What can we do to support your people in this difficult time?

During this difficult time, I would like that ACN should keep us in their prayers so that this crisis may be resolved as soon as possible. The amount of human life being lost, properties destroyed and persons displaced is a reason for real concern. ACN can also assist us in caring for the internally and externally displaced persons and also assist some of our parishes where priests suffer greater difficulty in carrying out their pastoral work.

* The Ohada Law: To harmonize business Law in Africa in order to guarantee legal and judicial security for investors and companies in its Member states. Source : www.ohada.org). Signed October 17,1993.”

 

Revision of text for the Canadian office: Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

ACN Editorial: A Summit for Pope Francis and Kim Jong-Un?

19.10.2018 in ACN PRESS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, by Johannes Klausa, South Korea

Korea

Italy, Rome 29.09.2017 Johannes Klausa (Director of ACN South Korea)at St. Peter Square in Rome

A Summit for Pope Francis and Kim Jong-Un?

Editorial by Johannes Klausa, National Director of ACN Korea

Last year in October, US President Donald Trump tweeted out to the world: “being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it now?” Just months before he had called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “little rocket man” and threatened him with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

One year later, the tone on the Korean peninsula changed completely. The two Korean leaders have met three times after a peace- and charm offensive before and during the Olympic Winter Games paving the way for summits, family reunions, as well as a considerable amount of political and cultural exchange. Donald Trump also held a summit with Kim, now publicly praising his personality, calling him “very talented,” “a smart cookie,” and said he wants to see him again after the elections.

A rare glimpse of North Korea by a foreign delegation

The latest development in this almost theatrical performance: Kim Jong-Un reportedly would “enthusiastically” welcome the Holy Father, if he would be willing to visit Pyeongyang. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is en route to the Vatican next week, carrying in his briefcase an invitation for the Pontiff.

All this is a good reason to get excited, but not for everyone in Korea to applaud enthusiastically.
Although a majority of Koreans, especially the younger generation, seems euphoric about this prospect, there are voices heard, which would not welcome the Holy Father’s visit to the North. Many question the true motives and willingness of the “Young Marshal” to break with the politics of his father and grandfather. They doubt he would give up his nuclear arsenal and lead his country towards peace and reconciliation.

North Korea

For them, a Papal visit to Pyeongyang would look as if the Catholic Church would forgive crimes against humanity as well as the persecution of Christians even before the perpetrators have been brought to justice. Crimes have undoubtedly been committed by the brutal Kim dictatorship in the past. The Catholic Church, in the eyes of the critics, should be the advocate of the regime’s victims and denounce its crimes, rather than helping Kim to polish his negative image and offering a stepping-stone onto the world-stage and into the presidential palaces of the international community.
However, until now, nothing substantial has happened. The Vatican has not accepted the invitation. Neither is it the first time that Pyongyang called for a Papal visit. During the period of political rapprochement and the so-called “sunshine-policy” of former president Kim Dae-jung at the beginning of the new Millennium, Pope John Paul II was also invited to visit the DPRK. But the Holy Father did not accept.

Pope Francis at the Wednesday audience on St. Peter’s Place in Vatican City (Rome, Italy) during the ACN pilgrimage to Rome in Octobre 2013.

If Pope Francis should take the decision to travel to Pyeongyang, he would not do so naively. He could demand concessions, such as the acceptance of a permanent presence of priests in North Korea. Or, he could promise to come after “verifiable and irreversible” progress in other fields.
Should he accept the invitation, this would certainly not happen without a previous series of unofficial contacts and negotiations. The president of the Korean Bishop’s Conference and other religious leaders were also part of the delegation that personally met Kim Jong-un last month. Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-jong has already been to Pyeongyang with a delegation of South Korean bishops and priests a few years ago and was appointed presidential “special envoy to the Vatican” by South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who is himself a devout Catholic. Therefore, all critics can rest assured the Holy Father will take an elaborate and well-informed decision.

The Archbishop of Seoul and president of ACN Korea, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, who is also Apostolic Administrator of Pyeongyang, recently said he was “waiting for the day” when he could send missionaries, priests as well as monks and nuns to North Korea, so that he could celebrate the sacraments together with them. He continued: “I knew that Pope Francis has a lot of concern for peace on the Korea Peninsula and that he prayed several times for us. So, I want all these efforts to work like a trigger for a ‘self-priming pump’ for peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

“When the groundwork is done, the Pope can go”, Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, another Korean bishop close to the Holy Father is quoted. The Holy Father’s visit would be a “gigantic step, a qualitative step for the Korean peninsula, for its pacification,” he said.

Catholics, regardless of their political views, should always trust that Our Lord will also watch carefully over these developments. Let us pray that – should Pope Francis make a historic journey to Pyongyang – will hold not only bilateral talks with Kim Jong-un but a trilateral summit led by the Holy Spirit. And that the Holy Spirit will guide the way to peace and stability in Korea and beyond.

ACN Update: Nigeria’s Msgr. Ignatius Kaigama to do a cross-Canada tour

25.05.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Nigeria


Canada

A word of hope amidst violence and persecution

Msgr. Ignatius Kaigama is the archbishop of Jos in Nigeria and the president of the Episcopal Conference of the country.

He will be visiting Canada from June 7 to June 14 to speak about the circumstances in his country of Nigeria, the most populous in Africa.

The difficulties are many: poverty, corruption, lack of healthcare and problems with the education system. In addition, factors contributing to the difficulties like the presence of Islamic extremist terrorist groups in the north, such as the so-called Boko Haram as well as the situation of Christians living under the Sharia Law in at least nine of the northern states.

Archbishop Kaigama will address these issues.
However, he strongly believes that dialogue is the key to a peaceful country.

Dates and times:

Vancouver:
Friday June 8: Karol Wojtyla Hall, 4885 Saint John Paul II Way, 7:30 pm

TorontoSaturday June 9: Mass at the Cathedral St. Michael, 65 Bond Street, at 5pm, will be followed by a talk given by the Bishop Kaigama
Sunday June 10: after the noon Mass, at St Clare Parish, 1118, St.Clair Ave West

Ottawa-Gatineau
Tuesday, June 12: Diocesan Centre, 180 Mont-Bleu Blvd, 7:30 pm

Montreal
Thursday, June 14: Atwater Library
1200 Atwater Avenue – Atwater Metro, 7:30 pm

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-800-585-6333.

 


 

ACN-News – Pakistan – Archbishop appeals for prayers after attacks on Christians

26.04.2018 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Asia, By John Pontifex, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Pakistan, Persecution of Christians, Prayer

Picture: In 2017, interreligious prayer in Lahore with the Mufti of Lahore and Archbishop Shaw. 

Pakistan

Archbishop appeals for prayers after attacks on Christians

A leading Pakistani bishop has appealed for prayer after Christians in Quetta suffered their third attack in five months.

Two Christian men – identified as Rashid Khalid and Azhar Iqbal – and three others were injured after four attackers on motorbikes started shooting at people near a church in Quetta’s Essa Nagri Christian neighbourhood.

The attack, Sunday April 15th, came nearly two weeks after a family of four Catholics from Lahore was gunned down outside a relative’s house during an Easter visit to the city.

The dead – identified as Parvaiz, Kamran, Tariq and Fordous – had reportedly just stepped outside to buy ice cream when they were targeted.

According to a missionary group in Pakistan, the attackers left a pamphlet at the scene of the crime describing the killing as “the first episode of genocide against Christians”.

Archbishop Sebastian Shaw: “When we are tempted to lose hope, we are reminded that, through your compassion and prayers, you are with us, by our side.”

 

Daesh (ISIS) claimed responsibility for both attacks.

 

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore said, “The faithful in Quetta are deeply concerned and worried.

“All these sufferings and pain can be overcome by faith, so through ACN I call on everyone to pray for peace and harmony so that people of all religions may live in Pakistan in peace and harmony.”

The Archbishop, who gave the interview during a visit to ACN’s international headquarters in Königstein, Germany, said: “When we see these atrocities happening one after another, we very much depend on the spiritual communion that we have with friends and benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need.”

He added: “When we are tempted to lose hope, we are reminded that, through your compassion and prayers, you are with us, by our side.”

The Archbishop called for increased police protection. He said: “The government should provide better security so that all the people can live side by side, safe and secure.”

Quetta’s Christians were targeted again in December when two suicide bombers stormed a packed nativity service held in the city’s Bethel Methodist Church, leaving 11 dead and injuring more than 50 others.

Last October, militants hurled a grenade at a Protestant church in Quetta’s Arbab Karam Khan Road area, but nobody was hurt as worshippers had already left the building.

That same month, Pakistan was identified as a country with worsening persecution in ACN’s Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith, a report produced every two years by the charity, examining parts of the world of particular concern for the faithful under threat from religious freedom violations.

 

Pakistan is a priority country for ACN,
which works in more than 140 countries around the world.
You can give for projects in Pakistan via our website:

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ACN Interview – “In India, the Church serves all, fighting discrimination on all fronts”

20.04.2018 in ACN Interview, ACN USA, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Joop Koopman, Dalits, India, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau

India

“The Church serves all, fighting discrimination on all fronts”

 

Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur was recently appointed Chairman of the Commission for Scheduled Castes (SCs)/other Backward Castes (BCs) by the Catholic Conference of Bishops of India (CBCI). An important part of the Commission’s task is to shape the Church’s policies with regard to the country’s dalits—the lowest caste in the Hindu hierarchy, formerly known as ‘untouchables’—who suffer severe discrimination in Indian society. Dalits comprise 65 percent of India’s Catholic population of close to 20 million. A native of Kandhamal, Odisha State, where some 100 Christians were murdered by a Hindu mob in 2008, Bishop Nayak is one of only 12 dalit bishops, out of a total 224. Aid to the Church in Need met him. 

 

Why are Christian (and Muslim) dalits still denied affirmative action, even though the Indian Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens?

After independence from England in 1947, the Indian Constitution went into effect in January 1950. It guaranteed equal fundamental rights for all of its citizens, irrespective of caste and creed. On Aug. 10, 1950, a Presidential Order went into effect to grant Hindu tribal people and dalits affirmative action benefits to compensate for their low socio-economic status after centuries of neglect and discrimination. Dalits belonging to other religions, however, were not included. Eventually, Buddhist and Sikh dalits were granted the so-called ‘Scheduled Castes’ status along with the benefits. However, Muslim and Christian dalits remain deprived of these rights to this day, despite continuous protests and appeals to the government for the past 60 years.

Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur diocese in India. The motto’s Bishop is “to be a happy servant”. 

Previous governments, mostly run by the Congress Party, did not have the political will to amend the Constitution, even when they had the absolute majority in Parliament. The present BJP government, with its Hindu nationalist ideology, is openly against extending the Constitution’s affirmative action provision to Muslim and Christian dalits.

 

Is the Church in a position to change the situation? What is the Church’s strategy on this front?

Christians comprise only 2.5 percent of the total population, so politically, the Church has not been able to do much to challenge the constitutional validity of the 1950 Presidential Order. It must be challenged, as it discriminates purely on the basis of religion, which runs against the basic tenets of the Indian Constitution that hold that all citizens must be treated equally—irrespective of caste, creed, gender or religion. The Church’s sustained peaceful protests have not succeeded thus far, though news coverage has brought the issue to the attention of the general public.

As a strategy, the Church is trying to fight it out alongside Muslims and people of goodwill from other faiths and various political ideologies. The Church is also trying to unite all dalits on this issue; unfortunately, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh dalits are concerned that the extension of benefits to Muslims and Christians might reduce their benefits. Finally, the Church approaches the issue from a human rights perspective. The deprivation of dalit Christians is a violation of human rights, a violation by international standards.

 

Some believe that if Christian dalits were granted government benefits many Hindu dalits would convert to Christianity. What are the aspects of the Christian life that are attractive to lower-caste Hindus?

The fear of mass conversions to Christianity seems unfounded; it is also another form of degrading dalits to presume they would change their religion to gain material benefits. This has been the strategy of the Hindu mind-set, irrespective of political ideologies: to instil fear of a mass exodus in the Hindu majority. Facts prove that the opposite is true: even though dalit Christians are deprived of government benefits, and even, in some states, suffer discrimination, they still remain faithful to their faith—even to the point of suffering martyrdom. What’s more, when the affirmative action provisions were extended to Buddhists and Sikhs, Muslim and Christian dalits or Hindu dalits did not join those faiths.

 

It is true, however, that Christians are known for their peace-loving, service-minded way of life that respects all people and that is dedicated to mission work. Hindu fundamentalists try to prevent or put obstacles in the way of Christian services such as those in the fields of education, health care or social services, lest people become attracted and embrace Christianity. Six states have anti-conversion laws in place to prevent any conversions. It is often said and accepted as fact that, though they only account for 2.5 percent of the population, Christians provide 20 percent of national services in various fields—yet, the size of the Christian community has not grown much in India.

 

Can you explain why Hindu nationalists are so hostile to Christianity?

In February 2016: Visit to a Hindu Temple.

First of all, they associate colonial British rule with Christianity. Relatively few British came to India, and yet they ruled it for more than 200 years; the Hindu nationalists fear that if there are more Christians in India, they will rule India again. Christianity is seen as a foreign religion. Secondly, Christianity challenges various tenets and practices of the Hindu religion and Hindus fear losing their influence.

For example, the Christian faith challenged the age-old practice of sati pratha, by which a widow was burned alive together with the dead body of the husband; the Hindu religion held that women have no independent existence apart from men—that widows have no right to exist, to own property or to remarry. That practice is almost fully eradicated today. Secondly, there is the jati pratha (the Caste System), which classifies people according to their birth and treats them as low or high. There are no social relationships allowed among the various castes.

Dalits are considered outcasts or untouchables—even coming under their shadow is considered to make someone impure. The caste system does not allow a person to take up a profession other than the job of the caste or family one is born into. The Church strives to eradicate casteism. It promotes and upholds the equal dignity and rights of every citizen.

The hindutwa ideology espoused by Hindu nationalists is trying to impose cultural nationalism, which calls for one culture, one language and one religion. While faithful to the teachings of Christ, the Church recognizes, respects and promotes the pluralism of cultures and language.

Finally, Hinduism is steeped in many dark beliefs, including the practice of black magic, sorcery, etc., which are used to exploit, torture and blackmail people. The Church, through education and awareness-raising, especially among dalits and tribal people, liberates people from these evil forces.

 

What are the bishops doing to combat discrimination against Catholic dalits within the Church itself?

At many national meetings, the bishops of India have issued statements calling for the end of the discrimination against dalits and of casteism, not only in the Church but also in society at large. However, casteism appears to be deeply rooted in the psyche of many Indians, including Christians. The “tail” of casteism survives even after Baptism. Now, by formally adopting the dalit policy in the Church, the Indian bishops have committed to a campaign to empower the dalits and educate all the faithful, reaffirming the equality of all people, and stressing the fact that dalits must be given equal opportunity in various professional and social fields.

 

How does the tension play out between deep-rooted Hindu notions of purity and the Gospel’s message that all men and women are equally worthy in the eyes of God?

Casteism in India is not only part of the Hindu religion—it is part of the Indian culture. Even though the Constitution of India forbids the practice of casteism, it still exists; and, sadly, it still exists even among Christians. In the past, as part of a missionary strategy for evangelization, casteism was tolerated by some missionaries, and some of that attitude persists today. Christianity is believed to first have been brought to Kerala and some parts of Tamilnadu by St. Thomas; local higher-caste Christians for centuries claimed a direct bloodline to the apostle; because of this caste mentality, the faith remained confined to that region and did not spread to other parts of the country for more than 1,500 years. It is only when St. Francis Xavier came to India that Christianity spread.

India, February 2018:  Holy Eucharist in a village – dalit community

 

You are a dalit yourself; what has been your experience pursuing your vocation in the Church?

I personally did not experience any discrimination in my childhood and even during my seminary formation. Discriminating against people according to caste is not only un-Christian; it is also inhuman. I am happy to be a priest and consider my priesthood to be the greatest gift God has given me for the good of His people. The episcopacy is an added responsibility and I try “to be a happy servant,” which is the motto of my episcopate. Being a dalit, it may be easier for me than for others to understand the concept of a being servant; and as a first generation Christian in my family, my faith in Christ brings me great happiness—as it is still new and still uncontaminated.

 


 

Syria – “We want and we need peace. Please pray for us!”

20.04.2018 in ACN Canada, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Middle East, Syria, Syria

Syria 

“We want and we need peace. Please pray for us!”

an appeal from Syria by Archbishop Jean-Abdo Arbach.

 

The Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Homs, Mons. Jean-Arbach, has issued a message tinged with weariness and sadness at the current situation in Syria, after seven years of war and the most recent events. “People cannot take any more,” he says. “They simply want to live an ordinary life, to sleep peacefully in their beds and wake and go to work, and not to the sound of falling bombs. It is enough, it is too much.”

 

Speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he asked the charity to pray
for them. “We need prayers, prayers and more prayers. It is the only thing that can bring us unity in this country,” he repeated, recalling that Pope Francis has also called for us to pray for the situation in Syria which – as he himself explained – is not simply about this country, but has now crossed international frontiers, so that the whole world needs peace. “What was the point of this war?” he asked. Everything has been destroyed, there are millions of refugees… If only the politicians of the world would work for peace and not for war,” he repeated despairingly.

This picture was taken in Syria, January 2016, in Yabroud Our Lady of Peace church with destroyed abnd damaged icons and frescoes. Since then, they were replaced. 

 

Yet despite this terrible situation, the Syrian people have not lost courage or the belief that their country can rise again from the ashes. ACN is helping with a number of different projects in the region of Homs, including study grants for 4,000 students, basic foodstuffs, medicines and the rebuilding of people’s homes and of Church properties. 80% of churches and catechetical centres have already been repaired, Mons. Jean-Arbach pointed out.

 

Patriarchs denounce “a brutal aggression”

 

For their part, the patriarchs of the three main churches in Syria – Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X, of Antioch and all the East, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and all the East, and Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarch Joseph Absi of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem have issued a statement, sent to ACN, in which they “condemn and denounce the brutal aggression … by the USA, France and the UK“ in response to a supposed chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government on the city of Duma. They denounce this terrible situation which they describe as “a clear violation of the international laws and the UN Charter,” and describe it as “unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence.”

 

They insist that this is “a brutal aggression that destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution and leads to escalation and more complications,” and say that it “encourages the terrorist organizations and gives them momentum to continue in their terrorism.” In their statement, the patriarchs call on “all Churches in the countries that participated in the aggression to fulfill their Christian duties according to the teachings of the Gospel, and condemn this aggression and to call on their governments to commit to the protection of international peace.”

 

Aid to the Church in Need continues its support in Syria. 
Thank you to help our partners. To give, click on the button just below. 

Destroyed city in Syria. In March, it was 7 years.                                                                                        


 

Philippines: “The reconstruction of the city of Marawi will take years”

13.04.2018 in ACN Feature, Asia, By Reinhard Backes, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Marawi, Philippines

Philippines:

“The reconstruction of the city of Marawi will take years”

 

Reinhard Backes travelled to the Philippine city of Marawi for the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need. The Christian minority in the city was suppressed for months by Islamists. An interview about relations between Christians and Muslims in the region and how the aftermath of the conflict is being dealt with.

 What has been happening in Marawi over the last few months?

The city is a centre of the Muslim faith on Mindanao, even though the island itself, the second largest of the Philippines, has a Christian majority. And of all places, this was the place that was targeted by Islamist extremists. It all started on May 23, 2017. The Philippine military had planned an operation to arrest the leader of the so-called “Islamic State” of the region. However, extremists beat them to it and occupied the historic city centre of Marawi until well into October. In the end, the conflict was resolved through violence. The army heavily bombed the city centre. According to official sources, 920 extremists, 165 soldiers and 45 civilians were killed.

 

Was this more of a spontaneous attack, or had the occupation been planned for a long time?

Apparently the attackers were well prepared and well informed about the planned military operation. They may even have been warned by informants within the military. However, like so many other things, this is a matter of speculation because detailed information about what happened during the attack on Marawi is still not available. When I visited the city in early March, it was explained to me that the majority of extremists were Indonesians. Mindanao is easy to reach from Indonesia by sea. It apparently was, and still is, difficult for the military to control the ocean route. Observers believe that the army was not prepared for such a threat.

March 2018: visit to the historic centre of Marawi city, now called Ground Zero. During the Marawi siege, which lasted from May to October 2017, military airstrikes have transformed what was once the pride of Muslim Mindanao into rubble.

Were the Islamists helped by members of the general population?

It has to be assumed that they did receive some sort of “backing” from the general population. After all, the extremists apparently used a tunnel system to move about underground. And something like that certainly does not happen overnight.

 

According to media reports, Christians were taken hostage, among them a priest.

Many hostages were taken, the majority of which were Christians. Apparently the Catholic Saint Mary’s Cathedral was one of the first sites targeted by the extremists in the city. It is to be assumed that they wanted to take the bishop of Marawi, Edwin de la Peña, hostage, but he was not in the city centre at the time. And so they took the vicar general, Teresito Suganob, and other believers instead. However, the Islamists also took hostages from among the Muslims whom they accused of collaborating with the Christians.

 

Was Saint Mary’s Cathedral defiled or desecrated in any way?

March 2018: image of paradise, but this is just an illusion. These two men were abducted by the islamists, for weeks. They keep psychological wounds. ACN will support program that will help them to recover.  

Yes. The church is pretty much completely destroyed, including all sculptures, statues of Our Lady and crucifixes. I saw a statue of the Virgin Mary that had been beheaded. They probably burned the head. All that was left was the clothed corpus. From an architectural standpoint, the cathedral is a rather simple, hall-like structure. Marawi is majority Muslim and so it was not acceptable to build an overly conspicuous Christian church. The Catholic community there has only a few thousand members, who are scattered for the time being.

 What was the relationship between Christians and Muslims before the Islamists invaded?

Just as in other countries such as Pakistan, where Christians are only a small minority among Muslims, they try to establish a good relationship with their Muslim neighbours. At least this is what I have noticed on the Catholic side. This is also the reason why Christians usually maintain close ties to the Muslim authorities, and Marawi was no exception. The same is probably also true for the Muslims, because the vast majority just wanted to coexist peacefully with their neighbours. This is why relations were mostly friendly. Now, however, a certain degree of distrust pervades.

 

How is the bishop of Marawi, Edwin de la Peña, dealing with the situation?

Bishop de la Peña is very keen on reconciling the two sides. That is why he has not made rebuilding the cathedral a top priority. He is focusing on strengthening the feeling of community and rebuilding relations between people and religions.

 

Have specific projects been developed to work towards these goals?

The diocese has started a number of initiatives. One of these is a rehabilitation centre, which offers assistance to over 200 people who were held captive for months and suffered physical and emotional torment. The centre is open to both Christians and Muslims. The counselling services include group and individual therapy sessions for women, girls and teenagers who have been raped, for men who have fallen victim to violence or were beaten, and for children who need to be reintegrated into daily life following the terrible experiences they have suffered.

 

And you mentioned another project…

It is called “Youth for Peace” and is also an initiative of the local Church. As part of this project, 184 predominately Muslim students attending Mindanao State University visit refugee camps. Thousands upon thousands of people fled the city centre during the conflict and are now living in camps that were set up outside of the city. The objective of “Youth for Peace” is to help these refugees, showing them “we are here for you, we want to recreate that which we once had, namely, a peaceful coexistence”: this is what the students want to achieve. In doing so, it does not matter whether the refugees are Christian or Muslim.

Inside the markedly destroyed St. Mary’s Cathedral of Marawi.

How is Aid to the Church in Need supporting these projects?

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) first provided emergency relief for the refugees during the conflict. Now we would like to help make sure that the rehabilitation centre can continue its work. We are also supporting the “Duyog Marawi” Peace Corridor Program of the local Church. “Youth for Peace” is one of the projects started by this program. So far, two vehicles have been donated, a van and a transporter. Further aid is planned. We are also talking about helping to set up shelters for the refugees who have been living for months in tents. With tropical temperatures far exceeding 30 degrees, conditions inside the tents are almost impossible to endure. And then it also starts raining, at times heavily. Tents are therefore not a long-term solution. Instead, small temporary houses are being discussed, which should meet the needs of the refugees for the time being. ACN may become involved in this.

 

Is there a realistic chance that the city can be rebuilt in the next few years?

Reconstruction will certainly take many years. I have never seen a city centre destroyed to the degree that Marawi has been. And not much has happened since the fighting ended in October last year. The military says that all the unexploded bombs, ammunition and booby traps left behind by the extremists first need to be removed.

 

What are your thoughts now after your trip?

On the one hand, it is quite dramatic to see how Islamists have used and destroyed an entire city, an established culture, and to what extremes ideological delusion can lead. On the other hand, I was very surprised by the people of Marawi. Their situation may be catastrophic, but they have hope, they are taking action. I learned how important their Catholic faith is to them, the selfless concept of charity, which can be seen in the concrete aid being offered to the victims. And it was very encouraging to see how openly the young volunteers, both Muslims and Christians, interacted with each other. Almost in unison they said that by working together, they came to understand the beliefs of the others better, but at the same time, were strengthened in their own sense of identity.

During the Marawi siege, which lasted from May to October 2017, military airstrikes have transformed what was once the pride of Muslim Mindanao into rubble. On the picture: View of the destroyed historic Centre of Marawi city.