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PRESS RELEASE: Syria – The Catholic Church launches appeal in response to refugee crisis

17.09.2015 in ACN Canada, Aid to refugees, Emergency Aid, Press Release, Refugees, Syria

Syria

CAMPAGNE - SYRIE - 20130307_008The Catholic Church launches appeal in response to refugee crisis

Funds to be matched by Canadian government

Montreal, Thursday September 17, 2015 – The Catholic Church in Canada is mobilizing to respond to the growing refugee crisis that is currently affecting Europe and the Middle East.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Aid to the Church in Need are launching for the first time a joint appeal to the generosity of Canadian Catholics and all Canadians, showing the magnitude of this tragic crisis.

The majority of refugees currently attempting to enter Europe are from Syria, where an ongoing civil war that began over four years ago has displaced 7 million Syrians within their own country and has created 4 million refugees.

Funds collected through this appeal will go towards humanitarian aid for Syrians living through the suffering of war and those who have fled to other countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey who are hosting the vast majority of Syrian refugees.

The Canadian government has announced the Syrian Emergency Relief Fund and will match donations made by Canadians to organizations responding to this crisis, including Development and Peace, CNEWA and Aid to the Church in Need. Donations made before December 31st, 2015 are eligible for matching.

This fund was announced in the wake of a mass influx of refugees from Syria, as well as from Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and other countries plagued by poverty, war and lack of human rights, that are making treacherous journeys to enter Europe. Pope Francis called on parishes around the world to open their doors to Syrian refugees, and dioceses across Canada have launched sponsorship initiatives.

In his open letter to Canadians earlier this month, the Most Reverend Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “The refugee crisis is an important moment to deepen our faith, extend our charity, and summon up hope. Together we can make a better world for all those in need, and so witness to Christ’s Kingdom.”

Canadians can show their solidarity by contributing to this appeal for humanitarian aid and/or to sponsorship programs in their dioceses. Collections will be taking place in parishes across Canada over the coming weeks, and Canadians can also donate directly to the organizations participating in this joint appeal by visiting their respective websites or contacting the organizations by phone.

3 LOGOS FINAL ANG

Development and Peace

devp.org    

1-888-634-3387

CNEWA               cnewa.ca    

1-866-322-4441

Aid to the Church in Need

acn-aed-ca.org

1-800-585-6333

For more information or an interview, please contact:

Kelly Di Domenico
Communications Officer, Development and Peace
514 257-8710 ext. 365
[email protected]

 

Lauriane Ayivi

CNEWA
514 288 8290 poste 233

[email protected]

 

Robert Lalonde

Aid to the Church in Need
1-800-585-6333 ext. 224
[email protected]

donate

 

 

Feature story – Lebanon

18.08.2015 in ACN Canada, By Oliver Maksan, Lebanon

Lebanon

“What will become of us Christians?”

Due to the large number of Syrian refugees, Lebanon is in danger – warns a Lebanese Archbishop

Mgr Simon Atallah, archbishop of Baalbek Dayr Al-Ahmar Fr. Andrzej Halemba Trip to Lebanon 14 - 24 August 2012

The Lebanese Archbishop Simon Attallah fears for the future of Lebanon’s Christians. The cause is the threat to the country’s demographic balance arising from the large number of Syrian refugees in the country. The former Maronite Archbishop of Baalbek-Deir Al Ahmar emphasized this in an interview with the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We have two million Syrians in the country as refugees. Many will return to their homeland when the war is over. But many refugees will remain in the country and apply for Lebanese citizenship in ten years. What will become of us Christians then?” asks Archbishop Attallah, who recently retired from the leadership of his diocese for reasons of age. “Lebanon is marked by a very delicate religious composition. Those Syrians who will remain in the country are mostly Sunnis. And the religious balance will thus be destroyed. That is a problem for us.” Archbishop Attallah hastens to add that his remarks should not be misunderstood as showing a lack of solidarity with the refugees. “We show much solidarity. We want to act in solidarity. But we have obvious problems before our eyes. There is a question mark over our future.”

A Syrian majority labour force

To give an example of the demographic changes, Archbishop Attallah mentioned his former bishop’s seat of Deir Al Ahmar in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border. “Nine thousand Syrians now live in the area. But in the city itself there are only some 3 to 4 thousand Christians. Thus the Syrians represent a large majority.” There are many problems associated with the presence of the refugees according to Archbishop Attallah. “There is economic competition. Many Syrians have opened shops and restaurants.” Further, prior to the crisis Syrians made up a large section of the labour force and this situation has now intensified, the Archbishop says. “As a result the Lebanese cannot find work anymore.”

According to Archbishop Attallah, there have also been problems in the field of public morals. Thus, Syrian women prostitute themselves for Lebanese men. Conversely, the Archbishop continues, Lebanese women would also prostitute themselves for Syrian men. Moreover, there are also religious tensions. In individual cases, Muslims from Syria, especially Sunnis, have defiled Christian symbols in acts of blasphemy. “They defile crosses, statues of the Virgin Mary, and so on.” Anti-Christian slogans have also been painted on walls. “This leads to tensions in the region,” says the Archbishop.

Refugee camps, near Baalbeck

Refugee camps, near Baalbeck

Of greater concern is the import of security problems by Sunni extremists from Syria who have found refuge among their co-religionists in Lebanon. “The Lebanese Shiites are in favour of the Syrian regime, but the Sunnis are on the side of Daesh (Arabic acronym for ISIS). In the region where I work there are some Sunni villages such as Arsal and others. The Sunnis provide an inviting environment for Daesh. The members of Daesh can therefore penetrate into the region and find refuge among the Sunnis.”

According to Archbishop Attallah, the experience of the Syrian occupation also helps to explain the regional tensions. “Our experience with the Syrians was very bad. They occupied the country for thirty years. We suffered terribly under them.” Archbishop Attallah is referring here to the occupation of Lebanon by Syrian troops which lasted until 2005. “There were Lebanese who were kidnapped and taken to Syria. They are missing without trace. There are hundreds, thousands of such cases.” Lebanon also suffered economically under the occupation. Many companies left the country and settled elsewhere. “And finally they killed our democracy. Lebanon’s democracy was well known. So we Lebanese really do not have good memories of the Syrian occupation.”

Looking back on his period in office, Archbishop Attallah says that his relationship with the Muslims in the region, especially the Shiites, was good. “We had no problems with the Muslims, especially the Shiites, who are in the majority in our district. On the contrary, I was able to prepare two visits to the district by our Patriarch. He visited both Christian and Muslim villages. He was always well received everywhere.”

 

 

 

ACN FEATURE: South Sudan – And the indescribable suffering of its people

09.07.2015 in ACN International, By Maria Lozano, Refugees, Sudan

South Sudan

 And the indescribable suffering of its people                    

Representatives of the international pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) travelled to South Sudan recently, where they were told first-hand about the terrible situation of the refugees and internally displaced peoples uprooted by the current conflict in the states of Upper Nile and Unity in this new Republic. On July 9, it will be four years since independence was gained by this, the youngest country in the world, which has subsequently been torn apart by internal rivalries and tribal struggles, ever since the eruption of a “political crisis” in December 2013 – as the South Sudanese describe the bitter conflict in the north of the country.

850,000 refugees from South Sudan

This fierce armed conflict between the forces loyal to the government of President Salva Kiir and the rebels allied to the former vice president Riek Machar has forced more than 2 million people from their homes, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). According to the information published on July 3 by this organization, there are currently over 850,000 refugees from South Sudan now living in Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan and Kenya, while there are around 1 ½ million people internally displaced within South Sudan[1].

Beneficiaries from Khorfilus, Jonglei

“The suffering of the people in Upper Nile is inexplicable. They are left on their own,” local sources told ACN. “We have lived through situations of war in the past, but the brutality and violence of the struggles this time is indescribable. Especially the attacks on women and children, and also on people who are entirely external to the conflict between the two gangs. Up until a few weeks ago the women from the refugee camps in Upper Nile State used to leave the refugee camp to collect grass and berries to eat, since there is immense hunger there. But there were a number of cases of rape and physical violence, and some of the women never returned to the camp. It is like being in a prison inside your own country, and yet at the same time it is the only place people feel safe”, ACN staff were told by one of the nearly 20,000 registered civilians seeking protection in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) “Protection of Civilians” site in Malakal.

“Nevertheless, even inside the camp we have to be careful. There has been deliberately targeted shooting from the trees, into the interior of the camp, above all into the part of the camp where the refugees of the Shilluk tribe are concentrated”, the refugees report. This information was also confirmed by the UNMISS[2]. The people of the Shilluk tribe, the third largest numerically within the country, live on both banks of the River Nile, close to the town of Malakal, and have been among the most seriously affected, collaterally, by the conflict between the Dinka and the Nuer tribes.

When the Republic of South Sudan was created in 2011, a balance between the largest and most powerful ethnic groups in the country was aimed for: by naming Salva Kiir, a dinka, president and Riek Machar, a nuer, vice-president. What started as a political power crisis between the two in December 2013, has quickly become a deeper conflict of vast antagonism between the two ethnic groups. A number of local sources – corroborated by the humanitarian organisations – have accused both parties in the conflict of acts of “genocide” and extreme tribalism. There have been numerous cases of violence, rape, pillaging, vandalism and even murder of civilians unconnected either with the rebels or with the army, simply on account of their belonging to a particular ethnic group. At the same time there is serious but deliberate and underhand failure to cooperate and even obstruction by both sides, effectively preventing access to the aid and food supplies for the refugees and displaced peoples in the UNHCR refugee camps.

Basic pleas of refugees

20 tonnen Hirse (220 sacks), Malut nach Tonga to help 8 villages

This drastic situation has meant that the number of South Sudanese seeking refuge in the northern neighbour Sudan has been increasing every day. According to information from UNHCR, just since May 2015 almost 30,000 people have crossed the border from the South to take refuge in the camps that have opened in the North. Altogether there are estimated to be more than 90,000 refugees here, above all in the refugee camps of White Nile State – South from Kosti – but also in Kordofan, Blue Nile State and around Khartoum. Although their situation is undoubtedly better than that of the refugees in their own country, their living conditions are far from ideal.

One of the basic pleas of the refugees who have ended up in these camps in the northern state of Sudan is for an end to the ban on UN agencies gaining access to the camps, since at present only Sudanese government organisations are permitted to enter them. ACNUR is able to provide basic services only via the Sudanese government channels, since they are not permitted to enter directly into the refugee camps. Moreover, the security situation in these camps leaves much to be desired, since there is no proper control on those entering and leaving the camps in order to protect the safety of the refugees. There have been local reports of attacks, robberies and abuse of the women refugees by persons from outside the camps. In such cases the refugees have no one to turn to for help.

Another major problem is the refusal by Sudan to officially grant refugee status to the people coming from South Sudan. The government of Sudan, from which South Sudan broke away to become independent four years ago, continues to treat them as “brothers and sisters” who are returning to their own country. There is no process of registration and no formal process whereby these people can acquire refugee status. Yet despite the official claims by the Sudanese government that it is treating refugees from the South as citizens of Sudan, “the treatment of the citizens from this newly independent country is by no means equal, even when they possess an identity card. For example many of the women work as domestic servants in Khartoum, in order to survive. There are many complaints of ill-treatment and abuse.

Women, children, who fled Malakal and are hiding in the bush sin

The same is true of the men who seek work, and who are paid low wages for long hours of work, since they do not possess any legal papers,” ACN representatives were told by sources close to those affected. The UN conventions on the status of refugees grant formal recognition to their refugee status and would thereby allow these refugees to obtain work permits and enjoy legal protection.

 

 

 

[1]  http://data.unhcr.org/SouthSudan/download.php?id=2122

[2]   http://www.unmiss.unmissions.org/Portals/unmiss/%20Press%20Releases/2015/July%202015/Press%20release%20on%20shooting%20of%20civilians%20at%20protection%20site%20in%20Malakal%20–%201%20July%202015.pdf

 

Cameroon: The terrorism of Boko Haram is spreading

30.04.2015 in ACN International, By Eva-Maria Kolmann, Cameroon

Cameroon 

 The terrorism of Boko Haram is spreading 

“What happened during the Paris attacks is what we are experiencing here every day!”

 

 

 

Montreal / Königstein  April 22, 2015 –  In a document made available to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Bruno Ateba EdoCAMEROON / MAROUA-MOKOLO 15/00094ConstruBishop Bruno Ateba of the diocese of Maroua-Mokolo, complains that the violence perpetrated in northern Cameroon by the terrorist organization Boko Haram, remains largely unnoticed by the world.

“What happened in Paris during the attacks there is something we experience here every day, and yet nobody in the world says anything about it. Instead the attention of the world is focused above all on the Middle East.”

And yet, in his diocese alone, since the last quarter of the year 2014, no fewer than two senior diocesan staff, three catechists and over 30 other Christians have been murdered, and in addition there have been numerous abductions.

However, it is not only the Christians who are affected by the terror, he adds, for many Muslims have also fallen victim to it. In many places mosques have been burnt down and the imams have had their throats cut, because “they refused to obey the orders of Boko Haram.” Since as early as December 2013 the native Muslim community within Cameroon has adopted an increasingly clear stance against Boko Haram, declaring that it has no right to claim to be Muslim. In fact, Muslims have often been willing to help Christians who were in danger.

It is true, the bishop adds, that in the past three decades there has been a change within Islam in northern Nigeria and northern Cameroon, a change attributable to the influence of Salafist and Wahabi tendencies, strongly promoted and financially supported by Saudi Arabia and more recently also by Qatar. As a result, he says, more and more students are being sent to study in Saudi Arabia, Sudan or Niger. Nor should it be forgotten that it is this particular tendency within Islam that “has produced the terrorists of Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, the Islamic State, Boko Haram and so forth, and nurtured them,” the document states. And while, “this wind of Islamic reform, which is in the process of changing the face of Islam in our region, cannot yet be described as radical Islamism, yet where is the boundary?” Such reformism becomes radical Islamism “once it adopts a clear political plan for an Islamic society.”

In northern Cameroon the Muslim community has not yet crossed this line, by adopting a political plan to impose an Islamic society there. Instead there have been an increasing number of interreligious meetings between Christians and Muslims. “We are enduring this suffering together with them,” the bishop writes.

CAMEROON / MAROUA-MOKOLO 15/00094Construction d'un hangar comme

Already in the past, Boko Haram has used the villages on northern Cameroon, on the Nigerian frontier, as places to retreat to for the terrorists seeking to escape the retaliation by the Nigerian army. Over time, however, more and more weapons have been smuggled into the region. Additionally, in 2013 Boko Haram took advantage of the elections by fraudulently obtaining Cameroonian identity documents, which they are now using to escape government controls and remain unchallenged in Cameroon. Another worrying aspect, it seems, is the fact that many local police are corrupt and willing to issue false identity documents in return for a cash payment that is 5 to 7 times the cost of the official fee – with the result that “undesirable persons now are able to find their way into the country,” the bishop explains.

One of the earliest warning signs of the spread of the terrorist incursions was the abduction of a French family in February 2013, followed in November of the same year by the abduction of a French priest, Father Georges Vandenbeusch. Since July 2014 the attacks have been almost incessant, and above all during the period from 24 December 2014 to 8 January 2015 there was “not a single day when peace prevailed.”

Heavily armed men, travelling in threes or fours on motorcycles are “sowing panic” in the region. People have also observed a “degree of professionalisation” of these fighters, the bishop adds. The use of landmines from October 2014 onwards likewise marked a new phase in the strategy of terror and has dealt a “heavy blow” to the morale of the Cameroonian troops, he writes.

Another major problem lies in the strategy of Boko Haram of enticing away children, aged between 5 and 15, by means of financial inducements for their families, or of simply abducting them by force and th

en compelling them to serve as canon fodder, the bishop reports. According to his information as of December 2014, within a few months no fewer than two thousand Cameroonian children and adolescents have been seized by Boko Haram, including a number of girls.

The infrastructure of the affected region – already one of the poorest in Cameroon – has been severely damaged. According to Bishop Ateba, the terror attacks have caused the closure of over 110 schools and 13 health centres, and many police stations have been destroyed. Over 55,000 people are now refugees in the diocese of Maroua-Mokolo alone. Many have sought shelter with friends and relatives, but more than 22,000 are still hiding somewhere in the bush.

CAMEROON / MAROUA-MOKOLO 15/00094Construction d'un hangar comme

 

The situation is particularly bad in Amchidé, where a series of attacks by Boko Haram have caused the entire population to flee. As a result, the pastoral activities in the area have for now been brought to a complete standstill. The chapel has been burned down and, according to eyewitness reports, there are human skulls lying in the streets. The local population, all of whom have fled, has been swollen by tens of thousands of refugees from Nigeria, who are likewise trying to escape the terror of Boko Haram.

Bishop Ateba has issued this appeal to the world: “Today we beseech your attention, your prayers and your help. Help us to bring an end to this nameless brutality that is destroying all hope for the future and bringing to nothing all the hard work of generations of believers.”

At the same time he praises the courage of the faithful, who continue to gather together to pray, despite the dangers and the fear. They are like “glow-worms of faith, illuminating the night,” he writes.

donateACN is proposing to help with $19 560 for the construction of a multipurpose hall where the 5,200 Catholic refugees in the Minawao refugee camp can gather to pray, join in Holy Mass and be given pastoral and practical support.

 

 

 

 

Christian refugees celebrate Easter in Iraq

02.04.2015 in By Oliver Maksan, Iraq
© ACN/Ignacio Zori

© ACN/Ignacio Zori

Iraq

Between the Cross and hope: “Suffering with Christ” 

Palm branches, cries of ‘Hosanna’: As it is in the rest of the world, Palm Sunday marked the start of Holy Week for Catholics in Iraq. In Malabrwan, a small Christian village in the north of the country dozens of children gathered in the Chaldean parish church holding palm and olive branches to commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. They listen to the Gospel and they sing songs. Happiness can be seen on their faces, as can light-heartedness. But one should not be deceived: many of the children have gone through bad times. They are among the Christian refugees who had to leave their villages and towns around Mosul last summer to avoid the terror of the jihadi militia “Islamic State” (ISIS).

The priest is a monk of the Chaldean Antonian order. “I was born and grew up in Mosul. And up to June of last year I worked there as a monk in our monastery of St. George. But like thousands of others I fled from the town when the ISIS jihadists marched in. Now there are no Christians in Mosul any more. And our monastery has been destroyed.” This made him very sad, he says.

‘Faith is the only thing we have left’

But Father Dankbar doesn’t want to sound bitter. “We Christians were baptized into the suffering of our Lord. So persecution is something we have to expect. Furthermore in a few days we will be celebrating Easter. We know that Easter, which means life, will be victorious. It gives us hope in spite of all the difficulties.” And there are plenty of difficulties. Dozens of families have found refuge in the parish. People have been given accommodation wherever there is space. Some are now living in the catechism school:  each classroom houses a Christian family, often five people or more. Religious instruction, in the meantime, is taking place in a tent. The people are not starving, Father Dankbar says. They also have clothing and shelter. “But they don’t have any prospects. And the children don’t go to school. Their homeland has been occupied. There’s no way of foreseeing what will happen. This is of course a great burden for them.”

Iraq, March 2015Iraqi Christians both refugees and locals are pFadil, a young father, comes from Mosul. The town is today the capital of the ISIS caliphate. “We Christians must suffer as Christ suffered. That is what our faith teaches us. But that also comforts us,” he says. “Faith is the only thing we have left. After all, we had to leave everything else back in Mosul.” But Fadil does not want to go away. “We will not leave Iraq. Where would we go? This is our home. We belong here.”

But not everybody sees it like that. There is the family of five of Abdel, a Christian from Qaraqosh. Once the largest Christian city in Iraq, it has been in the hands of ISIS since the beginning of August. Abdel and his family intend to leave Iraq. They will already be in Jordan to celebrate Easter. “Of course we don’t find it easy to leave our homeland. But we have no future here,” Abdel stresses. His wife and three children agree. “We want to go to Australia and start a new life there. We have family there. And so the new start will not be too difficult.”

It’s not easy, however, to get to Australia. Those who want to go have to register as refugees with the authorities of the United Nations. It often takes years before it is actually possible to travel to the west. There are already Christian families who can’t afford to stay in Jordan, Turkey or Lebanon and who return to their homeland. Abdel is aware of the difficulties: “We have enough money for two years. I hope that will suffice.”In fact the work of the Church is a race against time. “Every day Christian families are leaving Iraq,” says Archbishop Bashar Warda, the head of the Chaldean Church in Erbil. “But we do what we can to help our people.”

A lot has actually happened since last August when tens of thousands of distressed and desperate people sought refuge in Erbil and other towns in Iraqi Kurdistan. Initially the people slept on the bare ground and in the open. “We were of course not prepared for something like this,” the Archbishop says. “But the humanitarian situation has since stabilized. In this phase we are Iraq, March 2015Iraqi Christians both refugees and locals are pconcentrating mainly on two things: schools for the children and proper accommodation for the people.

With the help of Aid to the Church in Need we have been able to set up eight provisional schools for refugee children. We hope it will be possible to get them all up and running for the new school year. In addition we have rented hundreds of apartments, again with the support of ACN.” This was restoring the people’s dignity, the Archbishop stressed, adding: “I wish to thank all benefactors for their generosity. Without them we would not be able to do what we are doing because Aid to the Church in Need is our most important source of help. Please continue to support us. In particular pray for the Christians and all people suffering in Iraq. I wish you and your families a Happy Easter!”

 

 

ONE YEAR AGO IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

05.12.2014 in ACN Canada, Central African Republic, Prayer

Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin

ACN-20140821-12798

©Aid to the Church in Need

On December 5, 2013, the convent of the Carmes of Bangui, the Capital of Central African Republic, was transformed into a refugee camp when 2,500 people arrived unannounced in search of refuge due to threats by the Seleka Rebel group.

The eleven brothers who dwell in the convent welcomed the people with open arms – though without knowing exactly how they would accommodate so many people. At that time, what they did not know, is that the number would not be 2,500 – but more like 10,000 people that would come to find shelter as the situation unfolded and more attacks would take place on the following December 20.

One year later, today, December 5, 2014, 4,000 of them are still there living in circumstances that are a little calmer, but no less precarious.  In remembrance of this sad anniversary, the brothers have decided to celebrate a Holy Mass at 3:30pm with all the refugees.  “We will implore the Lord for the gift of a lasting peace, and a true reconciliation for Central Africa.  We ask God for the gift of conversion of hearts and minds,” says Father Federico Trinchero, the community’s prior.

But their prayers will also be offered for numerous people: “We will pray for Christians and for Muslims, for the anti-Balaka and for the Seleka; for those among our refugees who we have known and loved and who are now dead; for those of the French Army who have died and in the other African armies and from other countries; for the different humanitarian organizations who have contributed through their work and with the sacrifice of their own lives for the return of peace to Central Africa; for those who govern and for those who will govern this country; for all people who helped us and who are helping us through their prayers, their friendship and their generosity.”

ACN-20140603-09660

©Aid to the Church in Need

If by the celebration of Christmas 2013 the convent had been transformed into a living Crèche, as a result today, there are numerous children who have been born in this very place. This is why Father Federico adds: “And we give thanks to God for all the children who were born at Camel, and for protecting us from all danger.”

And finally, “this Mass will allow us to pay homage to the thousands of innocent victims who died in this war which has endured for almost two years.”

We invite you to join with us, but especially with them, in their prayers.

 

 

 

 

News from Nigeria

21.11.2014 in ACN PRESS, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Boko Haram, Nigeria, Persecution of Christians

Nigeria

WITH THE FALL OF MUBI…

 
By ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Boko Haram emerged as a terrorist group in 2009. In the last few months we have seen the aggressive devastation of the Boko Haram activities. Many of our people are forced out of their ancestral homes. Right now, thousands are living in mountain caves; the few who were able to escape have been taken in by friends and relatives in Maiduguri and Yola. Thousands have managed to escape to Cameroon and are living in very difficult conditions lacking food, shelter and medication.

Parents stood by watching their children grow weak and die. A good number of our youth are forcefully conscripted, while the elderly, women and children are converted to Islam. A lot of Nigerians are trapped and are forced to practice strict Sharia law in communities like: Bama, Gwoza, Madagali, Gulak, Shuwa, Michika Uba up on till Mubi. These are the towns on the Federal road linking Maiduguri and Yola in Adamawa state.

All of these captured towns by our estimation are no longer part of the Nigerian entity because no one can go in, but those who would luckily escape have got stories to tell. The terrorists have declared all the captured towns as Islamic Caliphate. The people trapped are forced to accept and practice the strict doctrines the militants are out to propagate.

Mubi is predominantly a Christian community and the second largest commercial nerve in Adamawa state after Yola. It forms a district in the Diocese of Maiduguri and has two strong parish centers: St. Andrew’s Catholic Church and Holy Trinity. It also has two great Chaplaincies: Federal Polytechnic and Adamawa State University.

Wednesday October 29th was a sad day in the whole diocese.  The Boko Haram insurgents over ran the town making over 50,000 inhabitants flee. A good number fled to Cameroon and were trapped for days: Including five priests and two sisters. With the fall of Mubi; of the six districts, three have been captured and occupied by the terrorists. What a life!! We are keeping to the Church’s teachings on the witness of presence.

We have over 100,000 Catholics displaced and some who were trapped are still finding their way out to safe towns.  For now the diocese is saddled with the responsibility of caring for the Internally Displaced persons. This she does across board not minding religious confessions, because we look at our common humanity.  We have more than seven camps in Maiduguri and other displaced brethren are with their relations and friends.

 

With the fall of Mubi the Estimated Figure of Destruction reads:

 

  • of Persons killed: Over 2,500 Catholic Faithful have been killed.
  • Displaced persons: Over 100,000 Catholic faithful are displaced. Most schools in the Northeast cannot reconvene regular activities not only because of the terrorists, but also because such school premises now serve as refugee camps.
  • Displaced Priests: Out of the (46) priests currently working in the diocese (26) are displaced. Many of such Priests are accommodated by Bishop Dami Mamza of Yola Diocese.
  • Displaced Catechists: Over (200) Catechists are displaced.
  • Displaced Rev. Sisters: Over (20) Rev. Sisters are displaced.
  • Abducted women and girls: Over (200).
  • Forceful conversion to Islam: A good number of our faithful have been converted to Islam against their will.
  • Deserted convents: Out of the (5) convents, (4) have been deserted.
  • Churches destroyed: Over (50) churches and rectories have been razed down, a good number were destroyed more than once.
  • Deserted Churches/Chaplaincies: Out of the (40) parish centers / chaplaincies (22) are presently deserted and occupied by the terrorists.
  • Affected Schools: The diocese has over (40) primary and secondary schools, over (30) have been deserted.
  • Compensation: The diocese has not seen any compensation for the destructions of lives and properties from 2006 and 2009 to date.

NIGERIA-2

Borno State has been captured and occupied by Boko Haram, Gomboru Ngalla and Bama, Gwoza, Maffa and Abadam. Askira Uba, Dikwa, and  Marte. Other towns include: Pulka, Banki etc. Maiduguri is completely surrounded by the terrorists.  The one exit out of Maiduguri city is only the Maiduguri-Damaturu road.  The same is true for areas of Adamawa State and Yobe State. These towns are under strict control by the terrorists and no well meaning Nigerian can trespass.

 

 

 

 

 

ACN helps kids go back to school

23.10.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Iraq, Middle East, Refugees
All projects underway adding up to a total amount of 5.77 million CAN – one of the largest efforts in ACN’s history – shows the scale of the drama experienced by our Iraqi brothers and sisters.  If our partners recognize us for our support, we still know that they are far from the end of this unspeakable catastrophe. The threat remains and the fragility of their hearts no less persistent.
 
This is why we still your help to continue supporting our brothers and sisters of the Middle-East trapped and forced to seek refuge elsewhere in their country… if not in another.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director

 


 

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Iraq

ACN helps kids go back to school 

John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted by Amanda Bridget-Griffin

RANIA and Ranin are inseparable. The twins, who have just turned 10, both enjoy school or at least they did until they were forced to flee their homes as Islamic State forces advanced. We met Rania and Ranin and their mother Thirka, in Ankawa, outside the Kurdish capital, Erbil, where they are sharing a tent with other families in the compound of St Joseph’s Chaldean Church. It was early October when we saw them and Thirka was anxious about the start of the school year, which the twins and their brother, Habib, a year older, had already missed.

It is for children such as Ranin, Rania and Habib that Aid to the Church in Need has committed 2.9 million for schooling projects. Under the scheme, eight schools will be built: four in Ankawa and another four in the Dohuk province in the far north of Kurdish northern Iraq.

On our very first day in northern Iraq, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil proudly took us to see the new porta-cabin Mar Yamana School (St. Mary’s School) being developed in Ankawa. The school will provide for 900 children, classes divided into morning and afternoon rotations of 450 each, and next door a clinic is being created, run by the Ankawa-based Holy Cross Sisters so any medical needs they have can quickly be dealt with. With 120,000 Christians now descended on Kurdistan, there are teachers and others in the education profession among their number willing and able to join the staff, their salaries met by the government.

Greeted with news of the schools, Rania and Ranin’s mother is immediately enthusiastic. “Thank you for offering your kind support,” she says. Thirka, who dresses in black, continues to grieve her husband, a policeman in Qaraqosh, killed five years ago attending the scene of a bomb blast. “I was just beginning to cope with life without my husband,” says Thirka, “but being forced to leave our homes has made life impossible. “To have no school for the children to go to is a disaster. If they are to have any hope for the future, school is an absolute necessity.”

Irak-3


Aid to the Church in Need announces 12 urgent aid packages for Iraq to help the thousands of displaced Iraqi Christians. They are to receive food, shelter, schooling and gifts for children in a concerted emergency relief program rushed through by aCatholic charity before the onset of winter. The 4 million Euros scheme announced by Aid to the Church in Need – one of the largest in the charity’s 67-year history – also includes pastoral support for priests and Sisters displaced by the crisis that has swept the country.

Jordan – “We have lost everything”

29.08.2014 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to refugees, Iraq, Persecution of Christians
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Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

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 Raed is in his mid 40s. But when he is telling his story he looks much older than that. Weeks of fear and uncertainty have left the mark on the Chaldean Catholic from Mossul. “We have been fleeing from ISIS for a month,” he says tiredly, and draws on a cigarette. “I left my home in Mossul on 18 July. Perhaps for ever. Who can say.”

Prior to that, the Jihadists had confronted the Christians of Mossul with the notorious ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay the capitation tax for Christians or face death, the extremists had declared. But an ultimatum from the self-proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim permitted the Christians to leave the district in advance. The price was that they must leave behind everything they had. “My house was marked with an ‘N’ to show that Christians lived in it and that it was now in the possession of the Islamic State. Then, one day before the expiry of the ultimatum, we fled. When we reached the ISIS checkpoints they took everything – laptop, camera and all the cash I possessed. That was the capitation tax that was due from Christians, they said. My six-year-old son is hard of hearing, and they even stole the batteries from his hearing aid. Can you imagine that?”

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When Raed protested, the bearded men threatened him with heavy machine guns; either he obeyed or they would immediately take him away. “And it is not hard to imagine what would happen then,” he says. Having thus barely escaped with his life and that of his family – his wife and three small children – they found refuge in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq. The city is hardly more than two hours drive from Mossul. “There we had to sleep in the open. There were so many refugees. The Church supplied us with the most necessary provisions such as rice and other food. But when Erbil also appeared to come under threat from ISIS for a time, I just wanted to get out of Iraq.”

The family man had to take a loan to finance the journey out of the country for himself and his loved ones. The destination was the neighbouring country of Jordan. They reached Amman on Monday, 18 August. “I am very grateful to the King of Jordan for accepting us here. Here, for the first time, we feel safe.”

As well as with Raed and his family, Pastor Khalil Jaar has taken about a hundred other Iraqi refugees into his parish in Amman since the middle of August. Mattresses and suitcases belonging to the new arrivals are piled in the parish hall. All of them came from Mossul and its surroundings. But it is not the first time that refugees have come knocking on his door.

The Catholic priest has been giving shelter to oppressed Christians in the Middle East for years. “First came the Iraqis after 2003. Then we took in Syrians trying to escape from the war in their homeland. And now a new wave of Christian Iraqis is arriving here. Our King has provisionally offered to accept some 500 Christian families from Iraq. If all goes well, about 1,500 further families will follow,” he says. “These people are totally exhausted. The old people just want to sleep, because they have been fleeing for weeks. The women and children cry a lot. Their experiences have been dramatic and they are completely traumatised. A young woman told me in tears how she had to watch while an ISIS man ripped the gold earring from the ear of a two-year-old girl, shouting: “That belongs to the Islamic State.” Naturally the people are scarred by this. The children cry when they hear the aircraft at the nearby airport. They think they are bombers. As soon as they have settled in here a bit, I will try to provide them with psychological help.”

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ACN has been supporting Pastor Khalil Jaar and his work for many years. And today too, the Catholic pastoral charity does not leave him alone with his task. “I try to support the people not only in terms of their material needs. I am also concerned to give them psychological strength. We try to give the children distractions, by taking them to an open-air swimming pool for example. But above all I wish to strengthen them in their faith. This is the time to show that we are shepherds who care for Christ’s flock.”

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Pastor Khalil also calls on the faithful of his parish to be generous to the newcomers. “At every Mass I preach that these are our brethren. The people should re-consider whether they really need all the things that they have, or if they could not share them with the refugees. And the people give help,” the priest says with gratification. “And one can always give a smile.” But Pastor Khalil is thinking beyond the first emergency aid.

The refugees will probably have to stay in Jordan for a long time before they can return to Iraq, or – as the majority want – migrate to the West. “The people need health care. And the children must go to school. And, as a Church, we must rely on our own resources. It is not easy to manage all these things. But providence will come to our aid, as it has done in the past.”