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Religious Freedom Report Tag

 

Ghana, a Success Story: A church for the people of Nkontrodo

25.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Ghana

Ghana

A Success Story: A church for the people of Nkontrodo

 

The town of Nkontrodo is one of eight smaller communities belonging to the parish of Saint Francis in Elmina. The town, located in the south of Ghana, has around 200 actively practicing Catholics who regularly attend Holy Mass and play an active part in Church life.

 

For many years the people of Nkontrodo have been waiting for a church of their very own. Only recently did Holy Mass and other forms of worship and liturgical services move from being celebrated in the dining hall of a local school. Not only was it a less than fitting setting for the celebration of the Eucharist, but the parish also had to negotiate with the school for its use for every event. Inevitably, there were constant clashes and conflicts in scheduling. Moreover, the town already had eight different sectarian groups and Pentecostalist groups, all of whom already had their own, solidly built places of worship, making it a real danger that members of the Catholic faithful might leave to join these groups out of sheer frustration with the situation.

 

To “pray” day and night

Father Martino Corazzin, their parish priest, had constantly exhorted the faithful to “pray day and night, with faith and trust, and the Lord will hear your prayers and touch the hearts of those who are able to help us!” They were not left disappointed.

 

Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors we were able to contribute $75,000 to bring the dream of the Catholic faithful at last, into reality. In August 2019, the new church was finally consecrated. We helped with an initial contribution of $45,000, but the construction work ran into problems because of difficult soil conditions and other unexpected complications, hiking the cost higher than originally planned for. Thanks again to our generous benefactors, we made another contribution, this time of $30,000.

 

Father Martino has written to thank us: “We are all extremely happy and grateful to you for your generous support and for the confidence you have placed in us, and above all for the fact that you have made our dream come true. We ask God to bless you and the many benefactors who have helped us. The faithful of the parish of Saint Anne in Nkontrodo have also asked me to thank you on their behalf and they have promised to remember you in their prayers, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. They also asked me to tell you that more and more people are now coming to our church. And it is true, we are already seeing new faces.”

Are you inspired by this project? To give and make another similar project a success – click above and select: Project of the Week.

ACN Press Release: Red Wednesday 2019 – On November 20th, all across Canada Show your solidarity!

12.11.2019 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, RED WEDNESDAY, Violence against Christians

Red Wednesday 2019
On November 20th, all across Canada
Show your solidarity!

 

Montréal, November 12, 2019 – For the second year in a row, Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) is organizing and coordinating Red Wednesday – #RedWednesday – a day of action to raise awareness of the plight of more than 300 million Christians around the world who live in countries where religious persecution is rampant.  On November 20th, support them!

 

“I invite people organizing an activity as part of this day to contact us so that we can announce it on the ACN Canada website,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director. One of the proposed activities is to illuminate in red an emblematic building, whether religious or civil. “This year, there are new participants: the Grand Séminaire de Montréal – which will be partially illuminated – and the pro-cathedral of The Assumption in North Bay, where prayers will be said at the 12:05 Mass  in solidarity with persecuted Christians.” Along with the liturgies that will be celebrated at the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montréal, the Grand Seminaire de Montréal and St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto will also be illuminated. Finally, in the Diocese of Calgary, activities should be announced shortly. In this diocese last year, more than 50 activities were scheduled. To learn more about the 2019 edition and find materials to participate: https://acn-canada.org/red-wednesday/ .

 

Persecuted and Forgotten? 2017-19: A deepening crisis

In Canada, November also marks the release of a biennial ACN report on religious freedom around the world. “This year’s report, which documents exclusively the situation of Christians, does not have anything good to say. In Persecuted and forgotten? 2017-19, we fear for the survival of the historic Christian communities of Syria, but even more so those of Iraq,” explains Mrs. Lalonde. Since 2003, the number of Christians has decreased by 90%, from 1.5 million to less than 150,000. The most pessimistic speak instead of 120,000.

 

“Despite the efforts of our organization to rebuild Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh plains, we fear that the Christian presence in Iraq will be a thing of the past in only a few years. We’ve been talking about it for years, but it seems like the international community is giving no concrete answer to this threat of extinction,” said Mrs. Lalonde.

 

She also pointed out that between 2017-19, the situation in South and East Asia deteriorated the most. “In India, attacks on Christians took place in 24 of the 29 states of the subcontinent, and there are anti-conversion laws in nine states. Hindutva – Hindu nationalism – is partly responsible for this. It advocates the return of a purely Hindu India where only religious traditions derived from it (Buddhism, Jain, Sikh) would be recognized. On the contrary, Christianity and Islam are seen by the promoters of Hindutva as foreign elements that cannot participate in the construction of the country. ”

Photo: Cross desecrated in the remains of a burned church (Egypt).

Finally, sub-Saharan Africa is more than ever under attack. “Christians and moderate Muslims are victims of groups claiming to be Islamic State (IS). In Nigeria, 19 people who attended Mass – including two priests – were killed by armed men and responsibility for the attack was claimed by Fulani Islamist shepherds,” said Lalonde.

She concluded, “In 2020 I will have been National Director for 20 years, and I have not seen a decrease in the persecution against Christians. It’s very difficult. However, events such as Red Wednesday, and the growing interest of more and more Christian communities in Canada to organize an event, give me hope. It does not solve anything right away, but it may be the beginning of a better knowledge that people will have about this global phenomenon.”

 

Nigeria: Already in 2015, the diocese of Maiduguri was targeted by Boko Haram. In this photo, Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme visits a church that was burned by terrorists.

  

 

To read the report Persecuted and Forgotten? 2017-19, visit the ACN Canada website at https://acn-canada.org/persecuted-and-forgotten/

 

 

*ACN’s articles and press releases are given freely for partial or full publication on condition that ©Aid to the Church in Need is mentioned as the source.

*ACN’s articles are given freely for partial or full publication on condition that
©Aid to the Church in Need
 is mentioned as the source.  If you would like to use an original photo, or for an interview with the National Director, Marie-Claude Lalonde, please contact us at the contact details above. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, is a Pontifical Charity, which has as Mission to provide assistance to Catholics, wherever the Church suffers from poverty or persecution. The international charity operates offices in 23 countries including Canada, who together support projects in 139 countries. (our Annual Report).

 Aid to the Church in Need in History: The miracle of political change

12.11.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Father Werenfried van Straaten, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need

 Aid to the Church in Need – in History

The miracle of political change

By Tobias Lehner & Volker Niggewöhner, ACN-International
Revision: Amanda  Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

November 9 marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A crucial milestone in the events leading up to the collapse of Communism in Europe. It was a dream come true for a great many people, not only those in East Germany. Dedicated Christians of all denominations and many organizations had worked tirelessly for decades to achieve this political change. One of these was the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and its founder, the Dutch Premonstratensian priest Father Werenfried van Straaten (1913–2003).

42 years of waiting—and working for—political change

For the pastoral charity, the events leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall did not come as a surprise. ACN had worked towards this end from the very beginning. “After waiting 42 years for this change to happen, our credibility will be at stake if we are not twice as willing now to make sacrifices to help the persecuted Church. Even in those places where the Church has been freed from its chains, it stands bereft of all means of survival. Its liberation will have been for naught if there are no priests, broadcasting programs and [distributing] books,” Father Werenfried wrote to the benefactors of ACN. The challenges that the charity now had to overcome were reminiscent of those that faced the pioneers in their day.

Looking back in time: in 1947, in response to an initiative of Pope Pius XII, Father Werenfried van Straaten launched a relief campaign for Germans who had been displaced and expelled from the East. After receiving reports of human rights violations and the persecution of the Church in those countries newly under Communist rule, he extended the relief efforts to these regions in 1952. For this reason, the name of his charity was, for the first few years, “Aid to the Eastern Priests,” before being renamed “Aid to the Church in Need” in 1969.

Very different conditions prevailed in the countries behind the Iron Curtain. The Soviet Union itself was considered inaccessible territory. It was only possible to spread the Good News there via radio broadcasts from outside the country—or by smuggling. More aid could be provided to other countries, particularly to Poland and Yugoslavia.

Another important activity of the charity was the dissemination of information. Father Werenfried believed that the Western world needed to know about what was happening in the East. He therefore preached hundreds of sermons in which he talked about the situation of the persecuted Church in Eastern Europe, giving a voice to those who were repressed and without one.

 

“Armed” for Peace

Beginning in the 1960s, ACN extended its aid efforts to other regions throughout the world such as Latin America and Africa; however, relief for Eastern Europe remained one of its most fervent concerns. Its efforts were inspired by the words of Pope Pius XII, who once said to Father Werenfried, “Everyone is currently taking up arms for war, but hardly anyone remembers to get ready for peace, should this suddenly come upon us.” And that became Father Werenfried’s goal, to have everything in readiness when that day came.

In response to Mikhail Gorbachev’s political reforms in the Soviet Union, ACN increased its aid for the republics of the Soviet Union from less than one million US dollars to 3.5 million US dollars between 1987 and 1988. Father Werenfried also began to collect money for the recruitment of priests in the Eastern bloc states. Both of these initiatives proved to be extremely helpful as events unfolded.

Behind the Iron Curtain in Poland Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Saint John-Paul II, visits the building site of Nowa Huta (1977). The communist regime wanted a new city without God: the people decided otherwise. 

The day ACN was waiting for finally arrived with the fall of the Berlin Wall and other revolutionary events. Whereas up until this point, the aid had always been distributed in secret, it could now be granted openly—in some cases it was even requested by the government. In all cases, it was absolutely essential. As of 1990, the aid for Eastern Europe increased to more than 22 million US dollars and would reach almost 30 million dollars by 1994/95. This was equivalent to more than 40 percent of all aid granted by ACN worldwide. The amount remained constant until the turn of the millennium.

Humanitarian and Spiritual Aid

To highlight a few particularly remarkable relief projects carried out in the years following the fall of Communism: during the Romanian Revolution, in December 1989, Father Werenfried travelled to Bucharest one day after the execution of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife. Prior to this, he had been one of the first to organize deliveries of relief supplies for the suffering Romanian people.

ACN had a special relationship with the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. When the leader of the Church, Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, returned to his native Ukraine from exile in Rome on March 30, 1991, he was accompanied by Father Werenfried. While celebrating Holy Mass in Lviv, Father Werenfried made a solemn promise: “In the name of our benefactors, I promise that everything humanly possible will be done to help you, the bishops, the priests and religious sisters, the seminarians and all of the faithful, in the re-evangelization of Ukraine.”

ACN again kept its promise. The construction of a large seminary in Lviv became one of the greatest projects undertaken by the charity. Today, with around 200 students, the seminary in Lviv is one of the largest in the world.

A focus on priestly formation, convents and monasteries, spreading the Good News

Funding for the formation of young priests was a primary concern in other Eastern European countries as well. The contemplative orders were another issue, many of which had survived the years of Communism under inhumane conditions or were now being newly founded. In many countries, the Church was on the brink of ruin, having had all of its buildings expropriated under Communist rule and lacking an organizational structure. ACN granted aid here as well, particularly to smaller local Churches, such as those in Albania, Bulgaria, Romania or Kazakhstan. In these countries, the Catholics are in the minority and have hardly any advocates in society.

The first chapel boat navigating on the Volga was inaugurated on May 22nd 1998

Lived Ecumenism

A special assignment for the spiritual rehabilitation of Eastern Europe came from the highest authority: Pope John Paul II first mentioned the idea of initiating a more intensive dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church to ACN in 1991. And with Father Werenfried, this seed fell on fertile ground. He travelled with a delegation to Russia for the first time in October 1992. There, he met with Patriarch Alexy II and other Orthodox dignitaries. After Father Werenfried personally delivered his report to the Pope in early 1993, the charity not only distributed aid to Catholic communities, but also extended its efforts to projects supporting the Russian Orthodox Church. The best known of these projects were the so-called “chapel ships”—converted boats used by priests to visit communities that no longer had a church. Father Werenfried was convinced that “the vital task of re-evangelizing Russia was the mission of our Orthodox Sister Church.” In his opinion, the Orthodox Church was also in need of assistance after suffering persecution during Communism and having to start again from zero.

 

Regina Lynch, Director of Projects at the opening of an ACN national office in Slovakia

From Aid Recipients to Helpers

Since 1990, ACN has granted more than 750 million dollars in aid to the Church in Eastern Europe. Although the focus of its relief efforts today has shifted to the Near East and Africa, the organization has not forgotten the Christians in Eastern Europe. The small, poverty-stricken Church in Ukraine is therefore ranked fourth among the countries that receive aid from ACN.

However, the communities in the former Communist countries were never just aid recipients. Soon after the Iron Curtain collapsed, solidarity campaigns developed among the Catholics in different countries who had recently been the victims of persecution themselves. Poland played and still plays a major role in this. One of the national offices of Aid to the Church in Need is now located there—another in Slovakia. The miracle of political change is also at work here.

 

 

ACN Project of the Week – India

07.11.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN Intl, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, MOTORIZATION

India

Success Story: A car to reach marginalized tribal peoples

For many years now, Sister Christine of the Merciful Sisters of the Cross has been serving the poor and oppressed in the East Indian province where her congregation is also located.  Members of the indigenous tribal peoples are the main group of people she tends to. She has a great deal of experience behind her and now coordinates the pastoral work in the various small Christian communities that have formed here, many of them places a priest very rarely is able to visit. The faithful generally gather with a catechist to pray together, celebrate liturgies of the Word and to share their life experiences.

 

 

Sister Christine must cover considerable distances to fulfill her pastoral work. She frequently faces travelling on poor roads leading into nearly inaccessible regions. Her old car served her well for eight long years. But, unfortunately, owing to the harsh conditions, it became increasingly unreliable, repeatedly leaving her stranded mid-route and becoming ever more expensive in repair costs.

 

Thanks to the help of our generous benefactors, we were able to provide $15,000 for the purchase of a new vehicle. Sister Christine is delighted with her new vehicle. She writes, “May God richly bless you all. I promise you my prayers and the prayers of all the people in our parishes!”

 

ACN PRESS: Red Wednesday – 2019 A Second Edition in Canada

24.10.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, Persecution of Christians, RED WEDNESDAY

Red Wednesday 2019

A Second Edition in Canada
Will you participate?

 

Montréal, October 23, 2019 – As the results of the latest Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International Report on the persecution of Christians 2017-19 are coming out around the world today, the Canadian announces that the 2nd edition of Red Wednesday, an event to raise awareness and educate about the persecution of Christians around the world and the importance of religious freedom, will be held on Wednesday, November 20. Red Wednesday is also a moment to demonstrate in solidarity with persecuted Christians.

As was done last year, a Mass will be celebrated at 7:30 pm at the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montréal, while an ecumenical prayer vigil will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, also scheduled for 7:30 pm. Both events will be presided over by the archbishops of these two dioceses, Msgr. Christian Lépine and Cardinal Thomas Collins, respectively.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada, is delighted by the attention given to the event this year by the Chancellor of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal, Mr. Guy Guindon, Sulpician. “The historic building of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal will be lit up in red and the seminarians will hold a vigil on Thursday, November 21, at the historic chapel,” she said before adding: “We are also waiting for news from the Diocese of Calgary. Last year, more than 50 activities were organized there.” The Red Wednesday tradition began in the United Kingdom a few years ago and has been taken up by several national ACN offices around the world, including France, Italy and the Philippines.

Those interested in recognizing this day can now visit the micropage created by the Canadian office at acn-canada.org/red-wednesday/. Whether preparing a time of prayer in a parish, a Mass, or by illuminating any emblematic building in their part of the country – church, diocesan centre, cathedral, basilica, etc. – they are invited to join us so that we can spread the word of this gesture of solidarity to all Canadians. At 1 (800)585-6333 or by email at info@acn-canada.org.

Iraq: 90% less than in 2003 

Furthermore, ACN announces the release of its new report devoted exclusively to the persecution of Christians around the world. Among the major issues addressed in this report, including the situation in Nigeria and that in south and southeast Asia, that of the Christian communities in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, is simply alarming.

A map showing the countries overview in the new Report Persecuted and Forgotten 2017-19, availalble next week in PDF Format on the web site of Aid to the Church in Need Canada. (© ACN)

“They are more than ever in danger of disappearing,” said Marie-Claude Lalonde. In 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians. “In little more than a generation, their numbers have tragically decreased by 90% to 150,000! Unfortunately, we believe that the international community has failed to take concrete action on the very strong concerns it expressed in 2016 when some governments recognized the genocide of Christians by the Islamic State group (Daesh/ISIS). According to our partners in the field, if these terrorists were to come back in force and reattack the Nineveh Plain, an ancestral site of Iraqi Christians, it would practically be the death of Christianity in Iraq, even though it is more than 1,900 years old! “Mrs. Lalonde said sadly.

 

 

The full findings of the report will be available in PDF format on the Canadian office’s website the week of October 28th.


For more information on Red Wednesday and Aid to the Church in Need, visit the website: acn-canada.org/red-Wednesday.

ACN Project of the Week – India

18.10.2019 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Holy Cross, India, Religious men, SEMINARIANS, Youth Apostolate

ACN Project of the Week – India

Help for the formation of 23 seminarians

The Congregation of the Holy Cross was officially founded in Mans, France, in 1837. Born of a fusion between the Brothers of Saint Joseph—founded in 1820 by Father Jacques Dujarie and auxiliary priests of Mans, founded by the canon Basile Moreau in 1835. During this post-revolution era, an entire generation of young people grew up without practically any Christian or Catholic education. This community of men was thus born of a group of young men who wanted to educate youth in rural areas. The resulting religious congregation spread swiftly over 20 or 30 years, as far as Algeria, the United States, Italy and East Bengal (which now includes parts of India and Bangladesh).

Today, the congregation is present and active in 16 countries. Its religious brothers and priests are devoted to the religious instruction and general education of young people and run many schools, as they see the formation of the spirit as the essential foundation for treating pressing present-day problems.  Canadians know them well, for one thaumaturge priest, Brother André Bessette, who founded Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal in 1904. This place of pilgrimage receives approximately 2 million visitors every year.

 

Families First

The congregation is particularly active in four Indian provinces where it enjoys numerous new vocations. Indian priests of the Holy Cross Congregation are present not only in India but offer themselves at the service of the Universal Church in other countries.

These days, helping families and young people to become more deeply rooted in the Christian faith as they face consumerism and many other challenges brought about by the phenomenon of globalization. But in order to achieve this, the priests themselves must have a sound formation.

In the southern Indian province of the congregation 23 young men are currently studying for the priesthood. ACN is proposing to help them, with a contribution of $10,350. The seminarians pray for all those who are helping them. Thank you to all of you who can help monetarily, and thank you for praying for them as well.

ACN Project of the Week – Post flooding, Malawi receives help from ACN

09.10.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Emergency Aid, Malawi

Malawi

 

Mission accomplished! Emergency aid following severe flooding

 

In March 2019 many areas of southern Malawi– a country located on the border between southern Africa and East Africa— were struck by torrential rainfall which continued for days on end resulting in devastating floods  which affected close to 1 million inhabitants in 16 of the 28 districts of the country.

 

 

The toll it took: Close to 80,000 people lost their homes, over 500 people were injured and some 60 lost their lives. Adding to the devastation, houses, fields, roads and bridges were also damaged or destroyed

Malawi, already has its share of difficulties as it is already one of the poorest nations in the world. And,  according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as reported in Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)  Religious Freedom Report “thousands of refugees have come to Malawi from Mozambique in recent years, fleeing fighting between the Mozambican government and rebels. The provision of care for refugees also presents a challenge for Malawi’s Churches and religious communities in social as well as pastoral terms. Experience shows that religious tensions often worsen when different faith groups live in close proximity in extreme poverty.”

Where we came in

Despite the reality in the country, the Catholic Church was on the ground immediately, ready with spiritual and moral support. But given the circumstances there was also a very real need for food, clothing, blankets and temporary shelters. Every day articles like cooking utensils and water purification systems to prevent the spread of diseases were also needed at a minimum.

 

ACN also responded immediately. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, we were able to provide $30,000 in emergency aid. Our heartfelt thanks to all of you who contributed and prayed for the relief effort in Malawi!

 

 

ACN Success Story in Nigeria: Completion of St Patrick’s Cathedral!

07.10.2019 in Mgrs. Ignatius Kaigama, Nigeria

Nigeria

Completion of St Patrick’s Cathedral a Success!

By Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

In summer 2018 we at ACN Canada decided that it was important to talk to our Canadian benefactors, through a fundraiser, about Nigeria done later that year.  Why?

Some background. In early June, we received the charismatic Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, then archbishop of Jos, a village situated in a region of Nigeria called: ‘the Middle Belt’. On our trip across Canada with him, we learned in depth of the very difficult circumstances our brothers and sisters in Nigeria were facing, and also their determined spirit of interreligious peaceful dialogue and a strong desire to live their faith in the face of persecution, terrorism and near civil war. From these important discussions with Bishop Kaigama, a great desire to take action was born—a desire to give Nigerians hope! And so that’s what we went about doing. The response from our benefactors was touching—along with hundreds of letters of encouragement we transmitted directly to Archbishop Kaigama, hope poured into our post office box and website in the form of donations. Close to $300,500 was collected over the period of under six months.

 

 

Photo: Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme inspecting a burnt church in Bahuli community in Catholic diocese of Maiduguri.

One of the projects we were able to support for the church in need in Nigeria, is in the diocese of Maiduguri found in the Northeastern part of the country. The application for the completion of St. Patrick’s Cathedral came with pictures of the old cathedral grounds flooded out, as it did every rainy season. A bombing in 2011 had also affected every structure in the compound. In these pictures we can see that parts of the structure were already under construction, the flooring, the half-finished roof, all at this stage “purely funded locally” without any other kind of assistance. The diocese had applied to organizations and been refused. Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme having known ACN’s work previously turned to us and in his letter wrote: “We are aware of the fact that we should be building people and rendering humanitarian services, but the need for decent places of worship is too important as the faith of the persecuted church grows.”  He said, “the Cathedral project is a miracle to us and a testimony, that in the midst of the difficulties and challenges our people can demonstrate such faith, resilience and commitment.”

The Cathedral-Building Project Has Come to a Successful End

Not quite another year has gone by and the Cathedral project begun on August 26, 2015, is finally completed and the building original put in place in 1945 is given a new dedication and new life! ACN benefactor’s generosity has already had a tremendous impact. The new cathedral has a gallery capacity for 1,300 and the floor another 1,200 people. Among other things, a Chapel for Perpetual Adoration was added along with two rooms above the main sacristy for lectors and altar servers, staircases house four confessionals.

 

Rev. Father Dr John Bogna Bakeni said in his dedication speech “To the glory of God and sanctification of all Creation. The cathedral building project has come to a successful end. Thanks to the generosity and support of the parishioners and friends home and abroad especially Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) without whose support we would not have completed this project and dedicated it.”

 

Bishop Doeme writes in his letter to us: “Things might not have worked according to plans and estimates because of the downturn and instability of our economy, but we have managed to complete it. It would not have been possible without your support and the generosity of your benefactors.”

 

Thank you from the bottom or our hearts for giving the Catholic Church of Nigeria a little bit of hope.


 

Release of Asia Bibi : “A Triumph of Human Rights”

30.01.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN NEWS, Adapted by Julie Bourbeau and Amanda Griffin, Asia, By Mario Bard, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, Pakistan, Press Release, Religious freedom, Religious Freedom Report

 Press Release – Release of Asia Bibi

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is relieved by the definitive release of Asia Bibi.

Montréal, Tuesday, January 30, 2019 – “This is a great day for the respect of human rights, for religious freedom and for justice. The Pakistani government didn’t allow the extremists who took to the streets with violence to influence them,” declared Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN).

The international Catholic charitable organization, which regularly provides information on the issue of religious freedom in the world, and particularly on the issue of Christians persecuted because of their faith, is celebrating today. Philipp Ozores, Secretary General of ACN-International added, “Today’s decision is a triumph of human rights over religious intolerance, a victory of the law over the hatred of fanatics – and above all, personal happiness and great joy for Asia Bibi and her family”.

“Now, I would like the family to spend beautiful moments together and to savour the newfound freedom,” indicated Ms. Lalonde. She reminds us that, throughout the nine years of detention, many ACN benefactors prayed for her release. “Many prayed for her and this shows that faith really can move mountains,” she added, very moved by the events. “What’s most important is that Ms. Bibi is free, and that she can at last be reunited with her loved ones.”

At least 224 others accused since 1984

If Asia Bibi is free at last, there are 25 Pakistani Christians accused of blasphemy who are still in prison, some of whom are awaiting execution. Philipp Ozores, Secretary General of ACN-International added, “ACN will continue to pray and work for them with other organizations and project partners in Pakistan. We can only hope that the court’s decision will at least cause the government to rethink its position and that the blasphemy laws will be relaxed or better respected.”

Marie-Claude Lalonde is sad to say that, “in Pakistan, the blasphemy law can be invoked to accuse one’s neighbour in order to resolve an unrelated dispute. We hope that the signal given with the decision of the Pakistani Supreme Court is a step in the right direction.”

Pakistan is part of the sad list of 38 countries identified in ACN’s 2018 Abridged Report on Religious Freedom as a country where violations of religious rights are significant. The situation has even worsened for religious minorities in 2018, with the country’s President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops describing “an alarming increase in violence, intolerance and extremism.” *

Summary of the story

Asia Bibi is a Catholic woman who is now 51 years old. In the fall of 2009, she was in the fields with other women, harvesting the crops. During a break, she drank from the same well as the other women, but these women considered that Asia had just contaminated it since she is not Muslim.  Asia replied, the situation escalated and her colleagues accused her of blasphemy. After a hearing, she was found guilty of blasphemy according to the laws in effect in Pakistan. In 2010, she was sentenced to death by hanging. Thanks to the persistence of the country’s Christian community, her lawyers and international organizations denouncing this situation, Asia Bibi was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on October 31, 2018. A fundamentalist group wanted to appeal this decision, which forced Asia Bibi to remain in the country, in hiding, for her protection. Finally, on January 29, 2019, the Supreme Court definitively rejected the request to appeal and Asia Bibi is finally free.  

In Pakistan, only 2% of the population is Christian, with a population of more than 192 million inhabitants, which is in majority Muslim.

*Page 38, Abridged Report on Religious Freedom in the World, available at the address https://files.acn-canada.org/2018/11/ACN-Religious-Freedom-Report-2018_CanENGL_WEB-1.pdf

ACN News: Aid to the Church in Need Religious Freedom Report 2018

22.11.2018 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN NEWS, ACN PRESS, Refugees, Religious freedom, Religious Freedom Report

Aggressive nationalism is fueling religious hatred –
and the West is failing to act

Report says West is not doing enough to confront new crisis of oppressive nationalism

A surge in aggressive nationalism in key parts of the world is to blame for a rise in violence and other intimidation against religious minorities – and the West is failing to convert words of concern into action, according to a report just out.

Religious Freedom Report 2018

Religious Freedom Report 2018

Assessing all 196 countries around the globe, the Religious Freedom in the World 2018 Report concludes that “ultra-nationalism” by both government and non-state actors has caused a spike in hatred against faith minorities in countries including leading regional powers such as India, China and Burma (Myanmar). The full report is to be found on the following: www.religion-freedom-report.org. The Executive Summary is in PDF format on www.acn-canada.org.

The report, produced every two years by the charity Aid to the Church in Need, finds that religious illiteracy, including within the media, and the lack of political action in the West, has exacerbated the problem, concluding that many faith minority groups suffer behind a “curtain of indifference.”

“This is a situation that we believe is a real challenge for Canada,” considers Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) “Experience tells us the more people know about a situation, the more they can act on to change what at first may have seemed completely unchangeable. Freedom of religion must become an essential concern for Canadians if we want a real change in the numbers of countries where rampant discrimination and persecution are killing so many.”

Religious Freedom in the World 2018 criticizes governments stating: “Most Western governments have failed to provide urgently needed assistance to minority faith groups, especially displaced communities wanting to return home.”

The report says most governments failed to offer displaced minority faith groups the help they themselves have requested to enable their return to northern Iraq and elsewhere following the ousting of Daesh (ISIS) and other militant groups.

Photo: © Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Directorate of Social Communications

Nigeria: Fulani herdsmen (Muslims), and farmers (Christians). What was mainly an economic conflict is becoming more religious as one group wants to dominate the other. (Photo: © Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) Directorate of Social Communications)

The investigation by the Catholic charity finds that media coverage about militant Islam has focused almost exclusively on the fight-back against Daesh and affiliate groups during the period under review – 2016-18 – and has largely ignored the relentless spread of militant Islamist movements in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

According to the report, a main driver behind the growth in extremism is the growing clash between Sunni and Shi’a, the main rival branches of Islam. The report states that in the 25-month review period the situation for minority faith groups deteriorated in almost half of the countries classed as having significant violations of religious freedom – 18 out of a total of 38 countries.

Worsening intolerance towards religious minorities meant that for the first time in the report’s 19-year history two new countries: Russia and Kyrgyzstan – were placed in the “discrimination” category.

The report adds that in a number of cases, such as Saudi Arabia and North Korea, the situation was already so bad that in the period under review it was virtually impossible for it to get any worse.

“This rapid deterioration of rights in critically classified countries, such as the right to practice one’s faith in freedom and security as stipulated in article 18 of the UN Charter of Human Rights should be of great concern for all people of all faiths,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, the National Director of ACN Canada.

 

Turning to the West

Turning to the West, the report highlights a surge in extremist attacks by militants against targets in the West. Such terrorism striking at the heart of liberal democracies means that the threat can be called “neighbourhood terrorism.” The report says the danger from such terrorists is “universal, imminent and ever-present.”

Religious Freedom in the World 2018 underlines in this context the growth of both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the West as well.  Summarizing the report’s main findings, Editor-in-Chief John Pontifex said: “Aggressive ultra-nationalism – be it by hard-line governments or violent extremist groups – means many minority faith groups feel like aliens in their own country. They are easy targets in a new era of ignorance and intolerance.

“True, there are some like the Rohingya Muslims, whose plight has received due attention in the West, but so many others – such as Christians in Nigeria, Ahmadis in Pakistan and Baha’is in Iran – feel abandoned by the West where religious freedom has slipped down the human rights priority rankings.”

Mme Lalonde, in Toronto on Wednesday November 21, for a Red Wednesday interfaith prayer vigil, an event organized by Aid to the Church in Need to raise awareness about the persecution of Christians around the world said, “We must challenge this pervasive ignorance by informing, as we are doing with this rare global report on religious freedom, and challenge intolerance through acts of unity like we are doing today by praying together as brothers and sisters of many faiths.”

 

ACN News: 22.11. 2018 – International/Religious Freedom Report 2018 
by John Pontifex, Adapted by Amanda Griffin ACN Canada