persecution of Christians Tag

 

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:

THANK YOU 


 

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.                                                                   


 

 

 

ACN News – Nigeria: In spite of attacks and radicalization – the faith is growing

16.02.2018 in ACN International, Africa, Boko Haram, by Tobias Lehner, Faith, Fulani, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Karla Sponar, Nigeria, Nigeria

Nigeria: In spite of attacks and radicalization – the faith is growing

The Archbishop of Kaduna, on the situation of Christianity in his homeland

 

Even though the government has initiated efforts to regain control over the areas occupied by Boko Haram, attacks on Christians and their communities take place regularly, particularly in the northeastern parts of the country. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso most recently visited his former diocese in Maiduguri on November 2nd of last year. Two days later, another attack was carried out. The present archbishop of Kaduna escaped with his life, “but once again, there were many fatalities – attacks such as these make our day-to-day lives very uncertain,” Ndagoso said.

 

According to international statistics, there are currently almost 1.8 million displaced persons in Nigeria; this number grew by at least 140,000 people last year alone because of ongoing attacks. The focus of the attacks is primarily markets and churches; however, Ndagoso said that mosques have also been targeted lately. “Terrorist groups pretend that they would like to pray. They mingle among those gathered in places where one would normally not suspect bomb attacks.” This spreads confusion. A

ccording to the archbishop, some of the greatest problems today are abductions and demands for ransom payments.

 

More groups have radicalized in the meantime, including members of the Fulani, a nomadic, pastoral people. It is conspicuous that they are outfitted with modern weapons – a circumstance that indicates that “powerful forces with connections to terrorist organizations such as IS and al-Qaeda are behind groups such as these,” Ndagoso explained. However, no matter how hard Christians are hit by the attacks, “they just grow stronger in their faith.” Not only has the number of students enrolled at the seminaries in Nigeria grown, but also the number of Christians overall. “Over the past four years, I have opened at least three new parishes per year,” reported the archbishop of Kaduna. And that although his diocese in northern Nigeria is located in what is anything but an easy environment for Christians. They are a minority living among a Muslim majority, in areas governed in part by Islamic Sharia law. Attacks on churches are a regular occurrence. Building projects for new churches are not approved. The house in Maiduguri in which Ndagoso once lived as bishop was destroyed by Boko Haram. The terrorist group was formed in a mosque in the neighbourhood of the bishop’s house.

 

The activities of Boko Haram are like “a wake-up call” for the Christians in his diocese, Ndagoso said. He gave the example of a church in the city of Kaduna that became the target of an attack in 2012 that killed several and wounded over a hundred. Three services a week were held there before the attack, now Holy Mass is celebrated almost every day. The number of faithful has tripled since the attack. Funding from

Archbishop Matthew Ndangoso of Kaduna

Aid to the Church in Need has made it possible to rebuild the once destroyed pastoral centre nearby.

 

 

With regard to the role of Christians in his country, Ndagoso emphasized, “We have to be as patient as God has been with all people for millennia – time and again we must take the initiative ourselves, we must take a stand for truth – because our God is a God of peace and not of violence.”

 

Government agencies have now allocated relief goods to the church for further distribution among displaced persons because of the transparency of the aid work carried out by Christians in the northeastern part of Nigeria.

 

In over ten years, Aid to the Church in Need has granted more than 14.4 million Dollars in aid to Nigeria, about 2.7 million Dollars of this in the past year alone. In addition to rebuilding church buildings destroyed by violence, the international Catholic pastoral charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has set up a special program in Maiduguri to help the widows and orphans of the victims of Boko Haram.

 

Nigeria: Destruction of churches and houses at Gogogodo in Jemaa local Goverment Area in Kafanchan Diocese (Kaduna State) by the Fulani Herdsmen terrorists. These are just a tip of iceberg.


 

ACN Press Release – Iraqi Christians’ future threatened by referendum crisis

06.10.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bishops, By John Newton, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, Press Release, [email protected]

 

Iraq

 Iraqi Christians face new threat

Church leaders in northern Iraq have issued a stark warning that the crisis triggered by last week’s Kurdistan independence referendum could endanger the region’s Christian presence.

Vigil prayer for the Middle East at Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark´s Basilica) in Rome, 27.09.2017 
(From left to the right): 
Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul, 
Mons Timothaeus Mosa Alshamany (Syriac Orthodox Archishop from Iraq) 
Syrian orthodox bishop Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf (Syro-Orthodox Metropolitain from Musu, Kerkuk and Kurdistan)

Following the referendum, which could see the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) area seceding from northern Iraq, five senior Catholic and Orthodox bishops issued a statement appealing to the international community to protect Christians and help them stay in their ancestral lands, especially the Nineveh Plains. In the statement, a copy received by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, they wrote: “We cannot hide our concern that the situation for the Christians has become very difficult and leads to uncertainty.”

“It is a clear fact that this situation has created in Christians a state of fear and concern about the possibility that the struggle may develop into a crisis that will have far-reaching repercussions for all,” they added.

The message was written by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Nicodemus Sharif of Mosul, Archbishop Apris Jounsen, Chaldean Bishop Rabban Al-Qas of Amadiyah and Zaku, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Timotheos Mousa of the Archdiocese of Mor Mattai Monastery.

Their message stressed the precarious situation of Nineveh’s Christians – many of whom are still in the capital of the Kurdish northern Iraq, Erbil, after Daesh (ISIS) drove them out of their homes in 2014. With many Christian settlements located in disputed territories, the bishops cautioned, “Care should be made not to involve the last remaining Christian land in political bargaining, as our vulnerable community cannot withstand further schism and division in addition to the ongoing political and sectarian fights.”

The statement stressed that in the community’s vulnerable situation, further upheavals could see new waves of emigration – threatening its very survival.

Photo: Iraq, September 2017  Qaraqosh the procession of the Christians in Qaraqosh who symbolically coming back their town (from the outskirts of the city at the roundabout with a huge Cross to the Church of Immaculate Conception Church (Syriac Catholic)

 

The Plain of Nineveh should remain a unified territory

Notably, the bishops called for the Nineveh Plains not to be split between Iraq and an independent Kurdistan. “The future Plain of Nineveh should be maintained as a unified territory – it is critical to not divide it into parts.” The bishops expressed fears that the restoration of the towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains may be brought to a standstill as the area now faces an uncertain political future.

“While both the federal government and the KRG are engaged in struggles over the disputed area, including the historical areas of our people, the areas liberated from the control of the criminal ISIS gangs are in an appalling condition in terms of reconstruction, public services, and security.

“There are no serious attempts at reconstructing the area at all by the governments. This makes it difficult for the IDPs to return, thereby prolonging their plight.”

 

Committed to the resettlement program

In the meantime, Archbishop Warda, fellow bishops and aid coordinators including Stephen Rasche in interviews, have underlined their commitment to enabling the resettlement program to continue in spite of the post-referendum setbacks.

Photo: Archbishop Warda at Myeondong Cathedral, cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul, where Special Mass and Lecture for the Church in Iraq was held.

Expressing concerns that Christian areas risked losing their historic identity, the bishops in their statement called for dialogue between the Iraqi Federal Government and the KRG.

“Amidst the crisis that the country experiences today following the referendum of Kurdistan Region, we call upon all parties involved to opt for dialogue and moderation and to stop the escalation of the conflict through the media.”

The bishops hoped that both sides could work on the disputed issues “to reach a suitable solution apart from spreading the feelings of hatred that fuel conflicts.”

 

Grateful to Kurdistan

Fearing that Christians could be caught in an armed struggle between factions vying for power, the bishops added: “We demand that the use of arms be restricted to the official government security forces, which we encourage our young men to join.”The bishops also paid tribute to the Kurdish people who had assisted the Christian community after they were driven out of their homes.

“Undoubtedly, we Christians can never forget how our brothers in Kurdistan Region, as a people and government, received us and supported our displaced persons, not only Christians but also other components of the Iraqi people.”

 

 

Headline Photo : Iraq, September 2017  Qaraqosh the procession of the Christians in Qaraqosh who symbolically coming back their town (from the outskirts of the city at the roundabout with a huge Cross to the Church of Immaculate Conception Church (Syriac Catholic)
Text by John Newton, ACN UK
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

 

ACN Press – Aid to the Church in Need Canada : A busy fall program!

08.09.2017 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians, Religious freedom

Aid to the Church in Need Canada

A busy fall program!

“This is by far one of the busiest and fall seasons in our history!” declares Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) with regard to the upcoming fall program for the organization which will be marked by four major events.

They are:  the arrival of Msgr. Ignatius Kaigama, Archbishop of the diocese of Jos in Nigeria and the president of his Episcopal Conference; a campaign to support reconstruction for Christians on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains; a Mass for persecuted

Christians in the Archdiocese of Montreal; the launch of the biennial 2015-2017 Persecuted and Forgotten? Report on persecution of Christians around the world.

 

“Keeping people informed is part of our mission,” Mrs. Lalonde emphasizes. “To remain faithful to it, nothing could be better than a witness who agrees to meet with us.  The archbishop of Jos and president of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria, Monsignor Ignatius Kaigama, will be in Canada from October 31 to November 4.  We can confirm that there will be events in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and possibly in Ottawa.  Nigeria is especially touched by the violent terrorism of the Boko Haram extremist group, and Msgr. Kaigama will be able to help us grasp the point to which – and that despite some progress – the situation remains a worrying one for the population.”

 

Monsignor Kaigama will participate in celebrating Mass for persecuted Christians, presided over for a fourth consecutive time by the archbishop of Montreal, Msgr. Christian Lépine and celebrated on Friday, November 3rd at the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral (in Montreal).  “It will be a unique opportunity to gather for these millions of Christians, who, every day, live with discrimination and persecution as a result of their faith,” recalls Mrs. Lalonde.  Robert Lebel, a popular Québec French language singer of religious songs – a priest himself and a good friend of ACN – as well as the choir from the Centre étudiant Benoit-Lacroix, will assure a wonderful quality musical presence for the liturgy.

 

A campaign and liturgy

Among the four elements to watch for, there will be the launch of a report and of a fundraising and information campaign highlighting the situation of Christians of the Nineveh Plains in Iraq.  “Little by little, Christians who fled the Islamic State in summer 2014 are starting to return,” explains Mrs. Lalonde.  “Aid to the Church in Need is supporting this process.  We have begun the construction and repairs of a hundred or so houses in Christian neighbourhoods in this region.  But this is only a beginning. Our campaign aims not only to raise money, but it is also a part of our mission to inform the public about the importance of rebuilding to maintain a Christian presence in Iraq.”  Since the second war in Iraq in 2003, their very presence has been threatened by terrorist groups, such as the ‘so-called’ Islamic State.  “ We have denounced this genocide they are guilty of perpetrating. Now, and despite the continued fighting in some sectors, we wish to ensure that Iraqi Christians, whose presence has been held by this land for two millenniums, get to go home.”  She insists, “This position is not an ideological one. We are talking about their ancestral land.  It is where they were born, and their parents and their grandparents were born! Leaving is the last solution and Aid to the Church in Need will do everything it can to help them return to their lands and live there again,” she explains.  Videos, calls on social media, and a micro-website dedicated to the task will be the tools used to support the information aspect of the fundraising campaign.

Photo: Persecuted and forgotten: Christians under attacks just because of their faith…

Finally, the Persecuted and Forgotten? 2017 Report is due to be published in early October.  Every two years, Aid to the Church in Need takes an inventory and alerts us to the situation of Christians in countries where persecution against them is most pronounced.  The report provides information on the lack of religious freedom lived by an impressive number of Christians.  “A sad reality that this international report highlights more than every today,” she underlines and finally adding, “The people of the Laurentians will also we gathering for a second vigil on November 8 organized in this region by the Groupe L’Étincelle.  This year, Christians in Africa will be honored.

Follow updates from ACN Canada on social networks – Facebook, Twitter, and Google +. Regular updates are also posted to the ACN Canada website: www.acn-aed-ca.org.

 

 


 

ACN Interview – Central African Republic

16.06.2017 in ACN International, ACN Interview, ACN Intl, By Jürgen Liminiski, Central African Republic
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC /  DIOCESE OF ALINDAO

Central African Republic

“We weep for our abandoned children!”

Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa of Alindao, Central African Republic, at the ACN National office in Rome, October 2015

Jürgen Liminski interviews Mons. Cyr-Nestor YAPAUPA, bishop of the Diocese of Alindao in the Central African Republic, for Aid to the Church in Need International (ACN) about the new clashes between factions of the Seleka and the Anti-balaka still present in the region. The violence erupted on May 8,  in response to the abduction and murder of several young people in Datoko by the Seleka. Following the intervention of UN troops, the situation has calmed down, for the moment. Nevertheless there are still around 5,000 refugees, who are currently being cared for in various centres of the Catholic Church.


Interview text :  Jürgen Liminiski, ACN International
Adapted by : Amanda Bridget Griffin

ACN: Is it possible to speak of a normalization of the situation in the country, since the political accords?

Bishop Cyr-Nestor YAPAUPA : The simple truth is that we cannot speak of a general normalization of the situation in our country since the outbreak of the crises that have shaken us ever since 2012 and up to the present day. If from time to time and from place to place we have occasionally observed a temporary calming of the situation, here and there and in certain regions, these are nonetheless very ephemeral. There is no lack of fresh outbreaks of violence, creating new crises. More or less the majority of our country is infested with the presence of armed individuals who are a threat to the freedom of our citizens.

How do people live, and on what, in your diocese? Where do they get their food, water, milk?

The people in my diocese essentially live on the local agricultural produce; food from hunting and fishing having become very rare in recent times. As a result there is a risk of a food crisis, which we are already beginning to see. The people are no longer able to cultivate their fields safely, and the reserves and food stores of these country people have been ransacked, pillaged and even burned. As far as water is concerned, the majority of the people depend on man-made wells and boreholes, while others depend on natural water sources such as the rivers. The occasional modern water supply systems serve only a tiny proportion of the population. I can certainly tell you, however, that in the current crisis access to drinking water is is extremely difficult, not to say critical, since the climate of insecurity has made it very dangerous to approach the water sources. Some form of medical intervention is needed to detoxify some of these water supplies from natural sources or man-made wells; this would be of great benefit to the people’s health.

 

Are you getting any help from the international organisations? From the NGOs? From the Church?

Sadly, I have to tell you first of all that the crisis we are facing today seems to be very little known about, since it receives less media attention than what is happening elsewhere (in Bangui, Bangassou, Bria, Bambari etc.). And since our particular crisis has received so little media attention, how can we expect to get the aid we need from the international organisations? The Church here in my diocese is fighting alone to provide the barest minimum to live on for the refugees and displaced, through the Caritas network and CORDAID. But I can only tell you in all honesty that conditions are extremely precarious still and our resources very much inadequate for effectively helping all these unfortunate people.

 

Are the schools able to function still?

Even in normal times we were concerned about the schools in our area. We worked unstintingly for the education of the young. But now we face the double sorrow of finding all our efforts blocked by this wind of violence and our children unable to go to school at present. All the schools are closed now. We weep for our abandoned children! But nevertheless we are hoping for a lease of new life so that we can try and quickly establish something for them. I will be very grateful for anyone who can help us in this direction, so that we can give our children one more chance to catch up.

 

ACN: What are relations like between the Christians and the Muslims in your diocese of Alindao?

First of all I can tell you that my diocese is one of the parts of the country that still has Central African citizens of every religion, all mixed up together, including the Muslims. In this diocese the Christians, both Catholics and Protestants, all lived in perfect harmony with the Muslims. Proof of this is the fact that in almost all the sub prefectures of the region that coincide with my diocese there are organisations known as religious platforms which aim is to maintain links between the religions and consolidate the social peace between the different groups.

The big surprise was to find that during these events some Muslims behaved as persecutors towards some of their Christian brethren. This has certainly affected the bonds of mutual confidence that have hitherto always prevailed. But we intend to do all we can to work to repair this unexpected gulf and promote the path of dialogue and mutual respect, so that we can re-establish confidence.

 

How many sisters and priests are caring for the refugees?

In my diocese we only have priest at the moment. The sisters left the diocese following the events of 2013 and have not returned. It is impossible for them. With the priests and the other Church personnel we are ten people in all, and we organize ourselves to manage the ongoing work of the diocese, added to which today there is this humanitarian crisis which demands our support, based on our sense of evangelical commitment.

 

What is on people’s minds, what is talked about?

According to discreet soundings taken by my priests among the faithful after Mass, it appears that the crisis in Alindao is much marginalised. According to the opinions people have shared with us at this time it is only the Catholic Church that has grasped the full consequences of the situation and is struggling to provide its victims with security, protection, food and basic care.

Here is one such statement: « You have done enough! », said one Catholic parishioner to the priest who had celebrated Mass that day. « If there is no outside aid to support your efforts, then we know that no one can do the impossible. We are praying that these events will quickly come to an end so that we can soon return home. They are helping people everywhere else, but here they show no interest in our particular crisis. Our only refuge is God; that is why we come to Mass every day to ask God’s aid in our situation. Fortunately the Catholic Church is there for us. The bishop is a central figure in finding a solution to this crisis. »

 

And how about the children?

As you know, our children normally have various activities to shape the pattern of their day. In ordinary times their day is divided between school (for those who attend), working in the fields (for the children of the country people) and games and play for all of them after their various other activities. But in the conditions we face today the tensions for our children are very serious as they confront the problem of the violence that is forcing their parents to flee and disrupting their own normal daily activities. One wonders what impact this situation may have on the mental landscape of these children who find themselves brutally transported to these makeshift camps where the sound of gunfire never ceases to thunder around them.

To sum up, the children remain confined beneath the wings of their frightened parents. Together with my priests I often travel to visit the refugees in order to cheer up the parents and their children and give them fresh hope, but the anxiety is still very strong. Obviously, the children need lots of space and freedom to run about in, but sadly they have not the means to do so in this time of crisis. Hence the urgent need to create a space for them where they can play, and above all a makeshift school in which we can very urgently convey to them a spirit of peace and quickly drive from their spirits the tendency to violence, hatred or revenge. For as you know, children’s minds are very quick to remember events, simplistically, and react to them rather than discerning more deeply.

 

The foundation Aid to the Church in Need is in contact with Mons. Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa and asks for support and donations to assist the Diocese in the emergency situation in which it now finds itself.