Press Release Central African Republic: Further attacks on missionaries

By Eva Maria Kollman, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

Montreal, September 30, 2013 – Following the attacks on a Carmelite priest a few days ago, the mission station of the Sacred Heart Fathers of Bétharram (Bétharramites) in Bouar in the north of the Central African Republic was the victim of a severe assault by Séléka rebels on Friday night. 

Père BeniaminoAccording to information from the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Italian missionary Father Beniamino Gusmeroli  and the locally-born deacon Brother Martial Mengue were threatened with Kalashnikovs,  tied up and gagged with adhesive tape.  The five armed men, who evidently came from Sudan, stole money, cameras, computers, documents and further items, and ransacked the rooms of the mission station. When they went away, the rebels took Brother Martial Mengue as a hostage but released him some hours later. In view of the further deterioration in the situation, Father Piero Trameri, the mission procurator of the Sacred Heart Fathers, demanded the “speedy and determined intervention of the international community”. The Bétharram Fathers devote themselves in particular to pastoral care, the people’s mission and education. Mission stations and ecclesiastical facilities are a favourite target for attack by the rebels.

The Italian Carmelite priest Father Aurelio Gazzera, who works in Bozoum, also hopes that the international community will react: “Central Africa is one of the subjects presently under discussion at the UNO General Assembly. We hope that it will bring concrete results, because the situation is continuing to deteriorate. As well as the fighting that took place in recent weeks in Bossangoa and drove 30,000 people to flight, last week the Séléka rebels killed two people and burned down 206 houses in the village of Herba, which lies 70 kilometres from the road to Bocaranga.”

In the past two weeks, clashes between the former Séléka and other armed groups in Ouham Pende Prefecture alone have resulted in more than 170,000 refugees. In the Central African Republic, according to the United Nations, 400,000 out of a population of nearly 5 million are in flight.

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Press Release: 600 ACN benefactors, friends and staff make pilgrimage to Rome

© ACN

© ACN

ACN, Montreal, September 30, 2013 –  On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth year of Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the international Catholic pastoral charity has organized a pilgrimage to Rome. Six hundred benefactors, friends and staff from around the world will travel to Italy’s capital city from October 1st to the 5th.

On October 2nd, Pope Francis will welcome the participants in a General Audience. Meetings with Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and with Mons. Hon Tai-Fai Savio, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, are also planned.

Father Werenfried van Straaten was born on  January 17, 1913, in Mijdrecht near Amsterdam (Netherlands). In 1934 he entered the Flemish Norbertine abbey of Tongerlo (Belgium). At Christmas 1947, concerned about the suffering of the 14 million refugees in post-war Germany, including some six million Catholics, he wrote in his abbey’s magazine calling for help for the Germans expelled from the East. This set a wave of aid in motion that led to the founding of “Kirche in Not/Ostpriesterhilfe”. In 2011 Pope Benedict XVI granted the charity the status of a Pontifical Foundation.

Syrian refugees – “The prospects for Lebanon are somber”

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

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©AED/ACN

The American threats to attack Syria have led temporarily to a rise in the numbers of refugees in Lebanon, as the President of the Lebanese organisation Caritas, Monsignore Simon Faddoul, explained to the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need”. He said on Friday: “Now that the military strike has not materialized after all, the number of refugees has returned to its original level.”

The Lebanese government, Faddoul continued, estimated the number of Syrians in Lebanon as about 1.4 million. Of these, 1.1 million were refugees, and the rest had already been in the country when hostilities broke out. “If it comes to the decisive battle for Damascus there will be a refugee disaster,” is Faddoul’s great concern.

The large number of refugees in Lebanon were already having a destabilizing effect in the country. “The latest report of the World Bank showed what a disastrous effect the Syrian war was having on Lebanese society, security and economy,” the Caritas head stressed. According to the most recent estimates by the World Bank, the loss suffered by the Lebanese economy due to the conflict will amount to 7.5 billion US dollars by the end of the coming year. On top of this, Faddoul lamented, there were the social and security problems. “In this respect the future is a somber one.”

This priest of the Maronite Church stressed, however, that the number of those refugees who refused to register with the United Nations had fallen “considerably”. “Many have recognized that registration is the only way to obtain medical aid. Whereas previously 40 per cent failed to register, the figure is now 20 per cent”, according to Faddoul.

Women and children forced to beg or into prostitution

His organisation had to date been caring for about 125,000 refugees in the whole country with the support of “Aid to the Church in Need”. About 10,000 of these were Christians and the remainder Muslims. Faddoul was worried about the approach of winter. “We need everything: blankets, heating oil, clothing, food, hygiene articles, financial assistance for housing and so on. Our resources are never enough. But we are doing our best with what we can get.”

Sister Georgette Tannoury from the Community of the Good Shepherd (Bon Pasteur) also expressed her concern to “Aid to the Church in Need” in view of the destabilising effects of the Syrian conflict. She heads a walk-in clinic for refugees in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. The clinic looks after more than 150 Syrians daily, mostly women and children. “Aid to the Church in Need” supports her humanitarian work.

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©AED/ACN

“The number of Syrians is very large,” according to Sister Georgette. “Children fill the streets and run between the cars begging. We’ve never experienced so many robberies and other crimes in the country as in the present year. The result is increasing frustration in Lebanon in the face of the many refugees. One lady reported to me that she was afraid of sending her daughter out onto the street to do the shopping.”

Unlike in Jordan, for example, Lebanon has no reception camps and so the refugees are spread throughout the country. “They often live in garages. Families who lived in large houses in Syria suddenly find themselves in a room with 15 other people. Their children reject this and prefer to live on the streets.”

The hardship, according to Sister Georgette, often forces people to take desperate measures.  “One woman told me that her husband had forced her into prostitution to feed the family. Another father had sold his 13-year-old daughter to a 60-year-old man to get money. I hear stories like these all day long. May God take pity on his people. I thank “Aid to the Church in Need” for their support. We will continue to help the poorest of the poor.”

Journey with ACN

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.  This weekly newsletter will an opportunity for us to acquaint you with the needs of the Church and the projects we have realized together in countries around the world.

Today:  Bosnia

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The Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King

Grateful for your help

 By ACN International and ACN Canada

 The Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King are a local congregation originating from Bosnia. Sister Ivanka Mihaljevic has been a member of this congregation, which has been engaged in pastoral, and social work, for 22 years now. She has been its Provincial Superior for Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina since 2009, which means that this Sister  Superior is responsible for 260 women in 13 different religious houses.

Despite all the upheavals in their society, many young people still feel called to the religious life, as Sister Ivanka can confirm. However, it is by no means easy to follow the call of God in our modern times. As Sister Ivanka explains, “Everything has become quicker and noisier. The new digital media are everywhere. Young people in particular are influenced by this. They are inwardly unsettled, and do not respond to the call God because they do not hear it. Religious vocations require silence; only then do they mature. That is why I tell young people: Do not be afraid to discover the will of God…”

bosnie2Fortunately, for quite a few, these words fall on fertile soil. Currently, six young women have joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King as candidates, while four others have become novices and are preparing to embrace the religious life – further, another 10 young women have already taken their first, temporary vows and are undergoing further training.

Later-on they will work in schools, hospitals or in a parish. ACN has already helped the congregation to carry out renovations and alterations on the novitiate, with a grant of $41,300. ACN is also providing assistance for the formation of these Franciscan sisters. Sister Ivanka has written to express their heartfelt thanks to all our benefactors!

Syria – “We’re afraid of the winter”

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada

The conflict in Syria can only be solved politically, not by military means: that is the firm conviction of the Syrian Jesuit Ziad Hilal. Speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” he said on Friday: “The use of weapons will not stop the bloodshed in Syria.

In this I disagree with America and France. Rather the international community must work towards a peaceful solution and convene an international peace conference. In Syria itself the government and opposition must start a dialogue. The arms deliveries must also be stopped, as must the infiltration of Syria by jihadists from all over world.”

© ACN/AED

© ACN/AED

In Homs, Father Ziad heads a social centre which provides medical, psychological and other charitable services. It is located in an area controlled by government troops. About 6000 families from Homs and the surrounding area are taken care of there. He is supported in this by about 100 volunteers.

A third winter of war

Father Ziad claimed that the situation in the embattled city of Homs was difficult. “Time and again there are fights between the “Free Syrian Army” and government troops. Recently a bomb fell very close by. Fortunately nothing happened to our secretary, but her home was destroyed.”

Of the 120,000 Christians who used to live here, 6,000 had left the city and fled to other areas in Syria or abroad. The historical city centre was in the hands of the rebels,and it had been totally abandoned for practical purposes, Father Ziad explained. His superior had given him permission to leave the city if he so wished. But he had rejected the idea. “If we go, who will then serve the people?”

Father Ziad is looking forward to the third winter of the war with some trepidation. “We are afraid of the winter. We need everything to get our people through the winter: heating oil, clothing and blankets. I appeal to our fellow Christians in Europe not to forget us.”

Father Ziad is very worried about the future of Christians in Syria. “I’m very much afraid that the exodus will continue. The Christians are an integral part of this country, its culture and history. But if there is not a major change in the situation, it will soon look here like in Iran or Turkey. The countries also had flourishing Christian communities of which hardly anything is left now. May God spare Syrian Christians the same fate.”

To make a donation by  please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333  or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

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or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Press release : Pakistan – Church mourns victims of suicide bomb attack in Pakistan

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©AED/ACN

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Montreal, September 24th, 2013 – Two suicide bombers attacked a 130-year-old church in the north of Pakistan, killing more than 80 people.

A few hours after the explosion Pakistan’s Catholic bishops issued a statement condemning the murders which took place at All Saints Anglican Church yesterday (22nd September).In the statement Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, president of Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said: “The attacking of innocent men, women and children while praying in the church is a shameful act of cowardice.”

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need on Monday (23rd September), Bishop Sebastian Shaw, Apostolic Administrator of Lahore Archdiocese, said: “81 people were buried yesterday, some people are still in critical condition. This was very, very saddening.” While according to official figures 81 people were killed – and the figure for those wounded currently stands at 146 – according to some Christian sources in the country the final tally of the dead could exceed 100. The explosions struck the church in the Kohati Gate area of Peshawar just after the morning Communion service had ended.

Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (formerly called the North-West Frontier Province), where Islamist extremist groups have a number of strongholds. Militant group, Tahrik-e-Taliban Jandullah, claimed to have carried out the bombing in retaliation for US drone strikes. But a statement by Pakistan’s main Taliban group, Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, made it clear that they took no responsibility the church attack. In his statement Archbishop Joseph Coutts said the incident “proves” that “increasing religious and sectarian intolerance… has reached alarming proportions”.

He demanded that the government “take immediate steps to apprehend those responsible for this attack” and called on authorities to protect the worship places of all the religious minorities. Bishop Sebastian Shaw said that the whole country had been distressed by the deaths. He told ACN: “We are very, very sad about it. All people, especially Christians – but I think all Pakistani people – are very, very sad about this matter. Everybody expressed their grief that these are innocent people.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack, saying: “Terrorists have no religion – and targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions.” Following the blast the national government announced three days of mourning (23rd – 25th September), and Archbishop Coutts announced that Church-run educational institutions will also remain closed through this period.

290794_332790670084430_813020397_oFinally, CYDM (Christian Youth Development Movement) and ICC (International Christian Concern) recorded their protest in front of Lahore Press Club and Punjab Assembly Hall (Lahore) on 23rd September, 2013. In which Catholic Spiritual leaders Rev. Fr. Morris Jalal CAP and Fr. Shahzad Khokhar CAP (Director Catholic Youth Ministry Archdiocese of Lahore – Pakistan) supported CYDM’s protest by participating in it and also hundreds of young people stood together in solidarity with their brothers and sisters.

The CYDM declared: “This is really painful that lot of Christian families lost their loved ones in this brutal suicide attacks. This is Inhuman and we condemn this attack on Christian Community. We pray the souls may rest in peace and God give courage to the families to bear the irreversible loss. Let’s be united in prayer for them and for the people around the world who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ may the sufferings bring eternal peace. ”

International Day of Peace « … that Peace break out! »

Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

And AB Griffin

 

Montreal, Friday September 20th  In order for the wish expressed by Pope Francis on his Twitter account @Pontifex – to see “Peace break out,” Aid to the Church in Need (Canada) would like to invite everyone to participate in the International Day of Peace taking place tomorrow, Saturday the 21st of September.

MCL National Director Loyal to the encouraging spirit of Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of ACN and author of the book “100 Words of Father Werenfried“ or “Combattant pour la paix” (Combatant for Peace); the National Director of ACN Canada, Marie-Claude Lalonde, called out to all men and women of good will: “It is urgent that a ‘chain of commitment to Peace’ be forged and that together we fight for Peace in order to put a halt to war and to the persecution clamping down at the moment, and this for far too long and in too great a number of countries.”

 International PeaceEducation for Peace as a central theme

The International Day of Peace taking place on September 21st of each year was decreed by the National Assembly of United Nations in 1981, in order to promote peace.  With the International Day of Peace 2013 having as a theme “Education for Peace,” the UN hopes to create an opportunity for reflection on the role that education can play in forming the citizens of the world.

Within this perspective, it would be opportune to highlight that in October 2012, during the Bishops Synod, the theme was put at the top of the bishops’ list.  They were united in saying that priests and religious sisters provide a great contribution through their zealousness and their apostolate in Catholic schools, universities and hospitals alike.  Add to this these places are as much open to Christians as to Muslims.

Consequently, ACN will continue over the course of the next few years to ensure that priests and religious sisters receive the training necessitated, while giving particular importance to the Middle-East and to helping the faithful to remain in their homelands, as well as those who have been forced to flee to other countries.

And Marie-Claude Lalonde concludes: “Join your voices with ours to cry out and to pray, let us unite it behind Pope Francis – as he expressed on his Twitter account – to let the cry for Peace ring out around the world!”