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ACN Press: “Brutal” Closures of Church Administered Health Centres in Eritrea

11.07.2019 in ACN International

 

Eritrea

“Brutal” Closures of Church Administered Health Centres

by Tobias Lehner, for ACN International
Adapted by Mario Bard Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the website July 11, 2019

Beginning in mid-June, the Eritrean military forcibly and “brutally” occupied and closed 21 hospitals and medical facilities run by the Catholic Church in Eritrea. This was reported last week to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), by Father Mussie Zerai, himself of Eritrean origin and currently coordinating the pastoral work for the country in Rome. “The patients were more or less thrown out of their beds. The military smashed wa and doors and pressured the staff […] the director of a hospital in northern Eritrea, a Franciscan Sister, was even arrested when she resisted the closure.”

 

“There is no justification for the actions of the regime. It punishes those who are taking care of the poorest of the poor,” Father Zerai said, also pointing out that the more than 200,000 people who receive treatment year after year at health care facilities run by the Church will suffer as a result of these new measures, for which the government has not announced any kind of replacement. It is believed the government wishes to have sole control of the social sector in favour of the “separation of powers” —It is thus basing its actions on a law passed in 1995 which has never been applied in such a brutal manner to date. “Most of the patients weren’t Catholics, but Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and members of other religions. The facilities are often located in remote [and poor] areas,” the priest explained. In 2018, eight dispensaries were forced to close.

 

The reasons for these massive seizures remain unclear. According to the suggestions of outside observers, in the eyes of President Isaias Aferwerki’s government, the Church has become too self-confident in its efforts to further the peace process with Ethiopia. The situation is clear for Father Zerai: “The government is obsessed with having control over everything and everyone. It sees the Catholic Church as a threat because we are part of an international network and [we dare to] ask questions.”

All Religions Suffer in This State Marked by Atheism

Eritrea has at most 120,000 to 160,000 Catholics. Half of its population is Christian belonging to Orthodox Churches and Lutheran Evangelicals. In addition to Roman Catholicism and Sunni Islam, the Orthodox and Lutheran churches are the only other religious denominations tolerated by the state. A situation reminiscent of the one observed in certain communist regimes, where official religious denominations cohabited parallel with those refusing interference from the state in their affairs. Or those who are held in contempt by the regime, though not prohibited, and thus become clandestine.

 

Moreover, unlike many other countries in North Africa, Islam is not the state religion in Eritrea. The country has a “strong atheistic leaning. If it were up to the government, religion would not exist. Essentially, it follows the same school of thought as China,” explained Father Zerai. In every case, all believers are suffering in similar situations.

 

No Constitution and No Fundamental Rights

“Young Eritreans are leaving the country in growing numbers because there is no rule of law,” Father Zerai explained. Moreover, the country has no constitution implemented to speak of, and this, despite the country declaring its independence in 1993. “This is why the people can just be picked up from their homes without reason. Military service has become legalized slavery. The possibility of a future is taken away from the young people,” Father Zerai said. Of course, at the present time, “the countries are trying to get Eritrea more involved on an international level in order to make it more open and democratic,” he explains. But despite its election in October 2018 to the Human Rights Council by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the human rights situation is still critical and the country remains isolated.

 

 

Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights in Eritrea, Mrs. Daniela Kravetz, considers the seizures of the last weeks demonstrate “that despite the improved regional climate for peace and security, the human rights situation [in Eritrea] remains unchanged.”

 

According to Father Zerai, similar to the overall human rights situation, the freedom of religion is severely restricted and at the mercy of capriciousness: “A few are permitted to freely practise their religion, but not all. Sometimes the cooperation works better [with authorities], sometimes worse.”—a situation which also applies to the freedom of religion.

 

In spite of the current escalation in violence, the priest is certain about one thing, “The Catholic Church will continue its pastoral work, but also its social work. After all, it says in the Bible: faith without works is dead. Taking away the ability of the Church to carry out charitable works is like amputating one of its arms.”

 

Since 2016 alone, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has financially supported 44 projects in Eritrea with a total of about $1.350 million dollars. This includes aid to build chapels and church facilities, funding for stipends and vehicles to secure the mobility of priests and subsistence aid for religious Sisters.

 

Press Release – Activities Report 2015

13.07.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Activities Report, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Mario Bard, Press Release, World

Activities Report 2015 –
Aid to the Church in Need

A record year in a world in crisis

 It is a new record year for the international Catholic organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).  In fact, thanks to 22 national offices established around the world, a little over 175 million dollars were collected in order to support 6,209 projects – a majority pastoral – a total of 595 more than in 2014; an exceptional year which also saw a multiplication of the world’s crises.

“Of course, we are happy to observe the great generosity of ACN benefactors and their response to various requests with as much vigour,” declares Marie-Claude Lalonde, the Canadian office’s national director. “But in quite another sense, it is also difficult to observe that this increase comes – in part – from the urgency created by the never-ending conflicts like those in Syria and in Iraq.”

In Canada alone, the Syrian refugee crisis allowed the Canadian office to collect $460,000, a significant amount for the Canadian office who finished their year with donations totaling close to three million dollars – also a record number.  “Our role is to support local Catholic communities who themselves support people who are refugees or displaced, with urgent aid,” says Mrs. Lalonde

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00180 ID: 1506021 Emergency help for the displaced families from Alqariatin moved to live in Homs city, Fairouzah, Zaidal, Maskanah, Alfuhaila - October, November, December 2015 6 people from Alqaryatain (Mrs. Widad Aziz and her sons Wasim , Nasim and Azoz Khazal, Mr. George Algharib and Mr. William Alkhori) have been killed by ISIS at the beginning of December 2015. the rest of  Widad's family lives in Zaidal and the family consists of her husband who suffered from a disease in his throat that prevents him from talking so he talks through a special device, two deaf- mute daughters and two sons who work to spend on all the family. One of the sons risked his life to go to Alqaryatain to bring the bodies of the martyrs, he arrived there not knowing what to do: to cry on his dead family or bring the bodies quickly fearing the tyranny of ISIS. He found all the bodies except that of William, he put the martyrs in his car and headed to Homs city where they live, and there weeping sound was louder than bullets and all the people of Alqaryatain cried on this good family's loss. Alqaryatain that has gone through calamities several times for this is not the first time that Alqaryatain people are displaced. The funeral for 5 of the martyrs was held in Zaidal Church and during the ceremony the news came that two more young men were killed (Ibrahim  and Georges Algharib) brothers of George Algharib and the missing body was found, but unfortunately it was impossible to bring the bodies because they were in hot spot near ISIS territory. Photo: The people from Alqaryatain are mourning about their martyrs - funeral at Zaidal Church

SYRIA: The people from Alqaryatain are mourning their martyrs – funeral at Zaidal Church

“There are also other projects which have as a goal to help Christians of the Middle East remain and stop the exodus, a phenomenon which many Patriarchs have compared to a tsunami!  Thus, we are supporting Msgr Jean-Clément Jeanbart in Aleppo, Syria, with a project called Building to Stay. As the name suggests, it’s about rebuilding – in spite of the war! – homes for the Christian population, so they will once more have a roof over their heads.

 

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Other hot spots: North Africa, China, India

In the Canadian Activities Report 2015 set for launch this coming Thursday (July 14), other hot spots are being watched closely.  Such as in Africa, it is not so much the poverty which has drawn attention to this region. But the uprising of a more fundamentalist Islam in countries who have known for hundreds of years, a more moderate very integrated into society and living with Animists and Christians, Islam.  At this stage, there is also much concern about Christian minorities in North Africa who are worried about the rise in terrorist groups particularly in Libya.

In China, Christians are again subject to new periods of more significant persecution – imprisonment, house arrest and a campaign of destruction of crosses and places of worship.  This hasn’t stopped the relatively high rate of conversions to Christianity.  “The power of attraction of Catholic parishes is undeniable, especially among the young and educated,” reads the text.

'Bethlehem' is a new village created by Holy Ghost Fathers in Mirpur Khas for Christian converts from Hinduism

Bethlehem’ is a new village created by Holy Ghost Fathers in Mirpur Khas for Christian converts from Hinduism

In the Indian sub-continent, the subject of religious freedom is deeply worrying.  The ruling political party, the BJP, holds to the hope of the creation a ‘pure nation’, uniquely guided by the values of Hinduism.  And if, in certain regions its influence is relative, in others it is marked by acts of violence, red tape and injustices. In 2015, two religious Sisters were raped in the state of Bengal.  “And these are not isolated incidents,” says Véronique Vogel, head of projects for India.

“Reading the Activities Report is essential to grasp the extent of this task,” concludes Marie-Claude Lalonde.  “And it is only an overview of the thousands of partnerships with those who allow for the local Churches to respond to the spiritual needs surrounding them, but also to the many material needs of the societies where they are evolving.”

The annual Activities Report 2015 can be downloaded on the Aid to the Church in Need Canada website:   Activities Report 2015

 

 

 

 

ACN PRESS – Armenian genocide

09.07.2015 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Armenia, By Marta Petrosillo, Press Release

Armenia

“A hundred years later, we are still suffering the consequences of the genocide”

Montreal/Rome, Thursday July 9, 2015 – “We were certain that the Pope would remember the genocide, and his courage has changed the attitude of the entire world.” The words are those of Archbishop Minassian, the Ordinary of Eastern Europe for the Armenian Catholics, who was speaking to ACN about the reactions of his community to the statements made by Pope Francis on the anniversary of the Armenian massacre.

 

Armenian Ordinary for Eastern Europe

The archbishop underlined in particular how Pope Francis “had encouraged us to pursue reconciliation – an act of the highest educational, spiritual and human value, which helps us also to recover what we have lost.”

Archbishop Minassian belongs to the first generation to have succeeded the genocide, and he explains how even those Armenians who did not directly witness the massacre of 1915 nevertheless still suffer the consequences. “Some psychological attitudes, such as the instinctive fear at the sight of an armed guard, have been passed down even to the second and third generations,” he told ACN. The Archbishop is in no doubt as to the responsibility of Turkey. “It is enough to simply observe how the Erdogan government is not controlling its own frontiers. It is testimony to the fact that, after having committed that appalling crime in 1915, Turkey has never changed. I cannot understand how Europe and America can give so much consideration to a criminal country.”

Lack of infrastructure

Armenia/National 07/72Construction of the church at Gyumri, 09.

Recently in Rome for the plenary annual session of ROACO (Riunione delle Opere di Aiuto per le Chiese Orientali) an international symposium of aid agencies for the Oriental Churches, Archbishop Minassian spoke to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), describing the situation of the various Armenian Catholic communities. Although he also has formal jurisdiction in certain countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and in other countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, the Archbishop is principally responsible for the Armenian community in Georgia, Armenia and the Russian Federation. “In the first two countries the Catholic faithful are poorer and have greater need of outside help,” he explained.

Nonetheless, each of the different countries has its own particular problems. In the Russian Federation, for example, the Armenian Church has no juridical status, whereas in Georgia it maintains somewhat complicated relations with the Orthodox Church. “In Armenia the cooperation with the Armenian Apostolic Church is perfect, since there are no differences either of a liturgical or of a sacramental nature.”

Nevertheless, in this mountainous Caucasian nation, the Armenian Catholic Church suffers from a lack of suitable infrastructure. “In the parishes there are no church halls or offices, everything has to be done inside the church itself. Often the priests are obliged to celebrate the Sacred Liturgies in school halls, with the result that we risk being looked upon as a sect.” Moreover, the Catholic Church is not permitted to teach religion in the schools. Only the Armenian Apostolic Church is permitted to teach in the schools – though not catechesis, but rather the history of the Armenian Church.

 

 

 

 

Syria – Do not forget Aleppo!

17.04.2015 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Oliver Maksan, Press Release

 SYRIA / ALEP-CLD 15/00051Emergency help for the displaced familSyria

Do not forget Aleppo!

Montreal/Königstein, Friday April 17, 2015 – “The world must not forget Aleppo.” With these words Johannes Freiherr von Heereman, the Executive President of the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need, has launched an appeal to help the people of Aleppo who are caught up in the war in Syria.

 “The days ahead are expected to be tough for our people. I hope that thanks to your prayers and support it will not be like this. I am deeply moved by your help. May God bless you. We are united in the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary.” – Sister Annie in Aleppo

 

 

 

 

Situated in the north of the country, Aleppo is Syria’s second largest city and has been the scene of conflict between the government and predominantly jihadist rebels foPortrait of Baron Heereman.r the last two years. “Heavy fighting is currently taking place again. Many people are dying and thousands of inhabitants are fleeing the city, including many Christians,” explains Heereman, citing local sources.

Firsthand accounts

Sister Annie has been holding out in the city for several years, and reported a few days ago to Aid to the Church in Need, “Fighting in Aleppo commenced at the weekend. Rebel rocket attacks killed 14 Christians on Saturday alone. Many were injured. Every day buses are taking Christian families away from the city, but there is not enough transport for all those who wish to leave. The people feel abandoned. Eight congregations are still persevering in Aleppo in an endeavour to help the people there. Before the fighting started, 70,000 Christians lived in the city, now there are only around 60,000.”

The Jesuit Refugee Service operating in Syria has also described the desperate conditions in Syria as follows, “The situation in Aleppo has deteriorated significantly in the last 72 hours. There has been an increase in violence on both sides of the city, and preparations to organize churches and other key locations into shelters are under way in Aleppo.”

Germany, Königstein 25.09.2013Fr. Ziad Hilal, SJ, from Homs inThe Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal of Homs is helping refugees from Aleppo. On Thursday he told Aid to the Church in Need, “Hundreds of families, in particular Christian families, have fled to the coastal regions and the Valley of the Christians, including Homs. They have lost all of their possessions and are in need of everything: shelter, blankets, mattresses, clothing, and so on. Some of the sick among the refugees depend on medicines.”

Father Ziad is expecting more arrivals if the violence in Aleppo continues. “Many families are being torn apart. I met a family. The father is still in Aleppo while the mother and her children were able to escape. The people are in a dreadful situation at the moment.”

 

Syria, Aleppo April 2015Damage to Christian quarter of Aleppo aWill we stand with arms crossed?

Sister Annie remarks that the citizens of Aleppo have been suffering for many years, “In the last three years they have endured more than most people. They have lost everything. The city’s water and power supply systems have collapsed, but still they persist. They are a lesson for all of us.” She appeals to the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need, “The days ahead are expected to be tough for our people. I hope that thanks to your prayers and support it will not be like this. I am deeply moved by your help. May God bless you. We are united in the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary.”

 

 

donateThe reality is, the Christian population of Syria is disappearing before our eyes.  Clearly, it is not only Christians who are suffering, but all inhabitants of the city are affected.  Will we continue to stand with arms crossed as human beings suffer and die?

 

 

 

 

 

ACN News – Syria : Aleppo, a forgotten city

13.04.2015 in Press Release, Syria

Syria

Aleppo, a forgotten city

Montreal/Aleppo, Monday May 13, 2015 – Following a new air strike on a school in Aleppo yesterday which killed 9 people, 5 of who were children, Sister Annie, a religious Sister on site wrote to Aid to the Church in Need calling on the world for help, describing the tragic situation which befell this second city in Syria.

 I am crying out loudly: Please save Aleppo! Save our families!

ACN was following-up with Sister Annie on a project funded by ACN which was to provide Easter baskets for many families in need living in the city of  Aleppo.  A much anticipated joy was very short lived due to the tragic circumstances surrounding what should have been a joyful celebration.  Here is Sister Annie’s letter in its entirety.

Dear friends of ACN, 

I am writing to you, to share with you our great sadness about what is happening in Aleppo. It seems to me Aleppo is a forgotten city, people, and the whole world keeps silence. Massacres are occurring against humanity and no one speaks about them.  How long the world will remain silent a spectator? Our Easter feast has turned to grief, people are mourning for the loss of the dear one from their family. Some people woke up to find themselves without a home and others did not see the life died which under the rubble because they were victims of violence.  Until when??????? 

 I ask you please to share this, no more silence; we need to do something to save Aleppo and the people of Aleppo.  Two days ago around 165 families left the city after more than 40 shells rained over Aleppo. All kinds of shells fell as an Easter gift for a peaceful people who do not want anything except to live in peace. I am crying out loudly: Please save Aleppo! Save our families!

I am sorry I could not write to you, there has been no internet for a few weeks. Finally, it worked in the middle of the night. Yesterday, Sunday, a shell fell under our kitchen and by the providence of the Lord we were saved. Only most of our widows are broken. We lost many people we knew, most people are in great fear and they are people dear to our hearts. People in Soulemaneh and Telfon have left their houses either because buildings were destroyed or badly damaged or because they are scared. 

Again my appeal today, to the whole world: Please do not remain silent, do something to save our people. 

Sister Annie, from Aleppo

 

ACN has tried unsuccessful to reach Sister Annie many times since receiving her message, but will continue to try.

 

 

A day of solidarity with Christians in Syria

12.03.2015 in Prayer, Press Release, Syria

 Syria

A day of solidarity with Christians in Syria

Aid to the Church in Need, who has since the onset of the war four years ago – given $8.675 million dollars in emergency aid, supports the appeal for prayer of Patriarch Gregorios III

 

Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada ACN

Gregory III Patriarch of Antioch

Montreal/Königstein Thursday March 13, 2015 – Patriarch Gregorios III of Antioch, the head of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, which is in communion with Rome, has called for a day of solidarity with Syria on March 15 of this year. On this day, four years ago, the protests began in the city of Deraa against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which led to the war.

The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) which in an unprecedented aid campaign has given 8.675 million dollars in aid since the beginning of the war, is supporting this prayer initiative by the patriarch. “Four years on from the beginning of the war, the situation of millions of people in Syria is catastrophic,“ said the executive president of ACN, Baron Johannes Heereman. “With the spread of the conflict into the neighbouring countries, the situation has become still more desperate,” he added, “the more so since the interest on the part of the international community has clearly dwindled. That is why we are providing emergency aid for families in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other affected areas. We are helping to supply basic foodstuffs, medicines, primary medical care, and financial help with rent for lodgings, heating and electricity. But money can only help to ease the suffering, nor end the war.”

An appeal to the whole world: Enough! Enough! Enough of the war in Syria!

ACN would therefore like to extend by one day the call put forth by Pope Francis to a 24-hour period of adoration and prayer for peace, from 13-14 March so that we may also pray together on March 15 with the Christians of Syria and the Middle East for an end to the war and to the suffering. In his appeal Patriarch Gregorios III goes on to say: “Lent is a Way of the Cross, and we are now in the fifth year of this Way of the Cross for the Arab nations. We are today experiencing the greatest tragedy since the Second World War. We are lost in the face of the immense pain that our people are enduring, in all its Christian and Muslim communities. Absolutely everybody is suffering from poverty, hunger, and cold, lack of clothing, sickness and physical handicap. In suffering all of us are equal. “ The appeal for a World Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace in Syria continues: “In deepest suffering and pain in Syria, and together with our suffering people, who are walking a bloody Way of the Cross, we appeal to the whole world: Enough! Enough! Enough of the war in Syria! We believe in the power of prayer and fasting and we are calling for a day of solidarity with Syria, a day of fasting and prayer for hope and peace in Syria.”

The Way of the Cross for Syria

On Saturday March 21, this day of prayer will be followed by the Way of the Cross for Syria over 14 days and conclude Holy Good Friday, April 3. You can follow the unfolding of this event on our website at www.acn.aed.ca.org, where you will find there a text written by the Episcopal Commission of the Family in Syria. More than ever before, Christians of Syria need us to be in solidarity with them.

#SyriaPrayer

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PRESS RELEASE – Syria

25.02.2015 in English, Middle East, Persecution of Christians, Press Release, Syria

Growing fears for the safety of Syrians

By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Iraq, June 2010Father Emanuel Youkhana in his officePhoto: CAACN, Montreal – Wednesday, February 25, 2015 – Fears are growing for the safety of more than 100 people taken captive yesterday (Tuesday, February 24) as the extremist group Islamic State (IS) seized Christian villages in Hassake governorate, north-east Syria.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who works in support of persecuted Christians in the region, received a telephone update on the situation from a contact in Hassake city around midnight last night and relayed the latest information in a message sent to Catholic agencies, including Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), early this morning.

He wrote: “The 24 families from Tel Gouran, 34 families from Tel Jazira, and 14 fighters (12 male and 2 females) from Tel Hormizd are captured and taken to the Arab Sunni village of Um Al-Masamier.” Up to now, the number of people making up the abducted families, has not been confirmed.

“They are alive so far, but the men are separated from women and children.”

An urgent need of action

Commenting on how some local Sunni Arabs had assisted IS, he said: “Um Al-Masamier is another Syrian example of what we witnessed in Iraq on how the Arab Sunni joining and supporting IS to attack their long years Christian and Yezedian neighbours.”

Archimandrite Youkhana went on to describe the latest situation in the various villages: “The 50+ families in Tel Shamiran are still surrounded. It is unclear if IS will attack the village? Can PYD [Democratic Union Kurdish Party] fighters change the situation before the village been taken by IS?”

He reported that in Tel Tamar a car bomb exploded, but no casualties were reported. Three mortar shells were fired into Tel Nasri from the other side of Khabour River. Again no casualties were reported.

PYD fighters have retaken Toma Yelda hill, which is of strategic importance. Archimandrite Youkhana wrote: “By now, only around 200 families are still in Khabour region, more than 100 [are] in Tel Tamar and others [are] in different villages not controlled by IS. Around 1,000 families from Khabour are displaced in Hassake and Qamishli.“

“His Grace Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel [of the Assyrian Church of the East] who resides in Hassake and hasn’t left it despite all difficulties, is doing his best to host and support the displaced. However, due to the lack of resources and the long years of the disaster, there is an urgent need of action to support the displaced families through the Church.“

Archimandrite Youkhana added: “Our thoughts are with the suffering people. We pray for an end to this long history of persecution in our countries.”

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00138 Emergency help for 1200 families from

 

 

 

 

ACN Press Release: Syria Extremists IS – seize Christian towns

24.02.2015 in ACN Canada, English, Syria

Iraq, June 2010 Father Emanuel Youkhana in his office Photo: CAPNI

By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN, Montreal – Tuesday, February 14, 2015 – According to recent reports, one hundred Assyrian Christians in the north-eastern region of Khabour in Syria’s Hassake governate, have been captured and are being held by the extremist Islamist organization IS following attacks on several Assyrian villages yesterday morning, the 23rd of February, and provoking a mass exodus of hundreds toward Hassake city and leaving many trapped and surrounded as the soldiers advanced.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, leader of the Assyrian Christians and head of CAPNI (Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq) told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) he had spoken to a CAPNI contact, who prefers to remain anonymous, in Hassake city, where hundreds of families have fled, “Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel… told me the church and community hall are overloaded with the people and they are now [sending] them to the families in Hassake city.”

“The fight started Monday early morning 4am Syrian time when IS opened a 40km long battle front from Tel Shamiram to Tel Hormizd. IS took advantage of [the fact that the] PYD (Democratic Union Kurdish Party) [had] been fighting in other places – mainly the Syrian-Iraqi borders. So, there were less resistance to face IS fighters. In general, IS was supported by Arab Sunni neighboring villages.”

The destiny of these families of major concern

The situation for Christians is extremely difficult, “There are no clear numbers of the families, but more than 600 families managed to flee. Most of them are in Hassake,” where we are told the people have found refuge in churches – and around 200 others in Qamishly.

“Unfortunately,” explains Archimandrite Youkhana to ACN as told to him by the anonymous source, “most of the families failed to escape and were captured by IS. – 50 families in Tel Shamiran, 26 families in Tel Gouran, 28 families in Tel Jezira, and 14 young people (12 males and 2 females) who were defending Tel Hormiz had been seized by IS and separated men from women and children.” Knowing the brutal barbaric record of IS with the captured, the destiny of those families is a major concern to us,” he added.  One of these sad examples was the martyring of you Milad, only 17 years of age.

According to Archmandrite Youkhana, at least two villages – Tal Shamiran and Tal Hermiz – were still surrounded by IS yesterday evening. The churches in both villages have been torched. “According to the source, IS been defeated in Kobane some places, [but] it tried to gain in other places.” The water level of the Khabur River was able to serve as a natural defense for some villages on the other side of the river.  Some villagers witnessed fires burning in other villages further on which had been seized by IS.

Father Emanuel Youkahna (Iraq) with displaced peoplePhoto: CAP

Father Emanuel Youkahna (Iraq) with displaced people  Photo: CAPNI

But Archmandrite Youkhana also drew attention to acts of solidarity between Sunni Muslims and the attacked Christians. “Arab Sunni villagers nearby Assyrian village of Qaber Shamiat rescued 15 Assyrians (13 males and two females) who are protected by them and are expected to be guided and transported to Hassake, to the church,” he said.

There are 35 Assyrian villages in the Khabour region which were founded in the 1930s following the August massacre in 1933 which took place in Iraq forcing Christians to flee to Syria with the hope of one day returning to their homeland of Iraq. The term ‘village’ is never attributed to their dwelling but always referred to as a ‘camps’ to describe their colonies which were to be temporary installments until they could return home, as was explained to us by the Archmandrite who also said:  “May God bring an end to the continuous suffer of the people in our countries and worldwide.”

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ACN Press Release – Egypt “The Church has been strengthened”

19.02.2015 in ACN Canada, ACN International, egypt, English, Persecution of Christians

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin 

Egypt, Sohag, 17.02.2015Bishop Youssef Aboul-Kheir (Jusef Abul-ACN, Montreal / Königstein – Thursday February 19, 2014. “The Church in Egypt has been strengthened by the murder of our brothers in Libya.” These are the words of the Coptic-Catholic Bishop of Sohag in Egypt, Youssef Aboul-Kheir, on Wednesday (18.2.2015) when talking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The Bishop went on to explain: “Persecution is part of the life of the Church. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. In Europe the Church is free. We, on the other hand, are faced with many obstacles. But which Church is the stronger?” The Coptic guest workers murdered by the Islamic terrorist militia ISIS in Libya were genuine martyrs, the church leader said. “They suffered a holy death with prayers on their lips. They went to their deaths just like the early Christians.”

The Bishop stressed that he had received many telephone calls from Muslim friends after the murders had been announced on Sunday. “They told me that it was their problem rather than ours. It was Egypt and the Egyptians who had been attacked, and not primarily the Christians.” It had certainly been the terrorists’ intention to force a wedge between Christians and Muslims, Bishop Aboul-Kheir said. “But this plan didn’t work, quite to the contrary. Many Muslims are angry because of the murders. President Sisi visited the leader of the Coptic Church to convey his condolences. And the President travelled to the home of the murdered ones. You can see that the attack has united us Egyptians.”

 

On february 15th 2015 the first Catholic church on Sinai peninsuThe urgent problem of church construction

Bishop Aboul-Kheir conceded, however, that he himself was afraid of the extremists in Egypt: “I am afraid of the Salafists in the country. They speak with forked tongues. The Muslim Brotherhood is opposed to society anyway. So there exists an internal danger in Egypt itself.” In view of the imminent parliamentary elections Bishop Aboul-Kheir expressed his concern that individuals with extremist convictions could be elected: “That can happen because many of the candidates are not known to the population.”

It was important, however, that the next parliament should address the urgent problem of church construction, which had to date been subject to all kinds of restrictions. “It is crucial that we Christians in Egypt should finally be able to live as equal citizens,” Bishop Aboul-Kheir emphasized. There should also be a reform of the religious debate on the part of the leading Muslim authorities in Egypt. “The Al-Azhar University is regarded as a moderate force. But in fact there are many things in its teachings and programs which are anything but moderate. For example, the use of force in cases of apostasy by Muslims is justified. This is in contradiction to moderate views. The Al-Azhar University must correct its program,” the Bishop explained.

 

PRESS RELEASE – Syria: Aid to the Church in Need pledges 3.27 million in emergency aid 

16.02.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PRESS, English, Refugees, Syria
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By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN, Königstein/Montreal, Monday, February 16, 2015 – The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has pledged millions in emergency aid in response to the catastrophic situation that has befallen millions of people in Syria after four years of war. More than 3.27 million dollars have been spent to fund a number of projects and to support those in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities who have been hard hit by the war, explained Father Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East section of Aid to the Church in Need.

Since the outbreak of violence in Syria in March of 2011, the situation of the country’s Christians in particular has deteriorated dramatically: hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands have been driven away. Families have lost members, and yes, their entire means of existence. Children and adolescents have been barred from attending school for months, sometimes years at a time. In addition to meeting the most immediate needs, the emergency aid seeks to offer Christians in Syria as well as the entire Middle East new prospects for the future. 

 

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00138 Emergency help for 1200 families from

12.2 million affected

Father Andrzej Halemba said, “We are especially worried about the Christians in Aleppo and Damascus, but also the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Fear is ever present. It is intense, almost palpable, especially since the new so-called Islamic State was proclaimed. Bishop Audo of Aleppo told me, “Aleppo’s Christians are afraid that what happened in Mosul will also happen to them. This is a new, and unfortunately justified, fear of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The Islamic State openly shows its murderous intentions against anyone who does not bend to its brand of extremism. They are proud of their cruelty against ‘unbelievers’ and blatantly fall back on the sword.”

According to Father Halemba, another reason the situation of the Syrian people has become so desperate is because the interest of the international community has noticeably waned and this despite the fact that the European Union has calculated that 12.2 million people are affected by the war in Syria. This brings the number of internally displaced persons to 7.8 million and the number of Syrians living in barely accessible parts of the country or war zones to 4.8 million.

It is estimated that 5.6 million children are directly affected by the war; the number of those who are no longer able to attend school lies at 3 million.

The aid money donated by Aid to the Church in Need has benefited thousands of families living in war-torn regions. The money is being used to provide basic foodstuffs, medicine, and emergency medical care, along with rent for housing as well as heating and electricity. The funds have also been allocated for the pastoral and charitable endeavours of Christians in Syria who are working in various communities to help their fellow Syrians obtain housing and care. For example, for Sisters in Al-Hasakah (Hassaké) in the north-eastern part of Syria by the Turkish border who are providing emergency medical care and distributing relief goods. Or for priests in Aleppo and Damascus who are helping supply the victims of the war with material and pastoral care.


 

Over the next few days on ACN’s blog – aidchurch.wordpress.com – you will have be able to read stories which, along with describing the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also give you access to poignant testimonials from religious workers on site, as well as other people living this unspeakable tragedy.