Press Release: Iraq – Create a new ‘village’ for people fleeing ISIS

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

By John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Montreal, Monday June 30, 2014 – A LEADING archbishop has called for the creation of a huge displacement centre, the size of a village, in Kurdish northern Iraq for tens of thousands of people – many of them Christians – fleeing ISIS.


Reports today (Monday, 30th June) that the jihadists have announced the creation of a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, appointing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph and “leader for Muslims everywhere.”


Speaking today in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda said thousands of “mobile homes” erected in his diocese were vital as the region anticipates a mass influx of people desperate to escape the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). “We are expecting an influx of people. It is not going to be a case of people wanting to stay one day – it will last one year or up to 18 months. They cannot live in tents – especially given so many of them will be elderly and women with children.”


Soon after ISIS captured Mosul on June 10, ACN responded by providing EUR 100,000 (nearly $147,000 CAN) – emergency assistance for food and shelter for many of the Christian families fleeing the city. The aid project was overseen by Catholic Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul, who fled the city for the nearby Tal Kayf and began mounting a relief operation amid reports that 500,000 people were on the move.


The advance of ISIS has prompted a mass exodus from towns and villages and the BBC reported that 40,000 people fled towns and villages in the Nineveh plains outside Mosul amid reports of heavy fighting. Archbishop Warda said that since then many, if not most, of the people had returned but added that an influx of people into Kurdish northern Iraq was highly likely because of the ongoing conflict and insecurity.


“Creating a village with mobile homes is necessary to help them,” said the archbishop. “We need to find a site where they can go and where they have the facilities available to help them.”


With no end in sight to the conflict which has uprooted so many communities, Archbishop Warda stressed the need for government unity in the face of the threat from ISIS.  He said: “The international community must put pressure on the Iraqi government to pull themselves together, to put their past disputes behind them and negotiate. This is what is necessary to deal with the crisis. Everything is unclear. It is chaotic.”


Soon after the capture of Mosul by ISIS, Archbishop Warda said that for the first time in 1,600 years no Sunday Mass had taken place in the city.




For Immediate Release: Central African Republic “Central African Republic threatens to become a hub for terrorism”

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Montreal, Wednesday June 25, 2014 – The current crisis threatens to turn the Central African Republic into a “hub for terrorism and fundamentalism.” This was the warning given by the Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera last Friday (June 20) while speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Boko Haram and Al Qaida are getting closer and closer,” the missionary said in his address, having worked in the country for 22 years. The role of the international community was “fundamental” he continued.  But to date the international community had “not managed to really change anything.”


Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera  © Aid to the Church in Need

Italian Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera
© Aid to the Church in Need

Concrete action at the grass roots 

Gazzera demanded a speedier and more effective intervention: “Over the past few months I have been present as the vicious circle of ethnic and intercommunity strife has developed. This spiral of violence is causing the population to flee and is sowing the seeds of terror, and it has developed at such a rate that the international community comes too late, even when it acts quickly; too late to help the defenceless people and to stop the armed men.”  The international community “often only steps in to stabilize a situation which has been imposed by the various rebel groupings.”


On the other hand, various local peace-mediating initiatives had been successful. In the town of Bozoum in the north west of the country, where Father Aurelio Gazzera works, for example: The state was absent, he said. “In Bozoum there is practically no gendarmerie or police force and in general the authority of the officials and forces of law and order is almost at zero level. At any rumours of attacks they regularly take immediate flight.” In December Father Gazzera had therefore established a mediation committee in collaboration with two imams, a protestant pastor and volunteers from the local population.  Through negotiations with all the groups involved it had been possible “to lessen the violence of the Séléka”. This work had resulted in January this year in the withdrawal of the Séléka from the town.

The members of the mediation committee had “exposed themselves to risks” in order to work for peace. Gazzera himself had been slapped around the face, had stones thrown at him and been shot at with Kalashnikovs by the rebels. Even so, it had been possible “with a handful of men and women to prevent a thousand rebels from completely destroying the town of Bozoum.” In view of these facts the Italian Carmelite stressed the need to conduct talks not only at governmental level, but also “to listen to those who are taking concrete action at the grass roots.”


Good intentions are not always enough

The committee, which continues to operate, had installed a toll-free telephone number to enable people to report violent assaults. Furthermore a “Committee of Wise Men” has been established which “is intended to solve problems because, in the absence of the court and relevant personnel, there was a danger that the administration of justice would be in the hands of armed groups.”  Gazzera emphasized the role of the media, and especially the internet: “They are a unique instrument for providing information and transmitting news. By means of emails, blogs and social networks we have created links which are valuable and can bring about changes.” Finally he said: “The most important thing seems to me to be the reconstruction of the heart: by means of schools, education and information.  We also need expertise. There are so many people of good will! But good intentions are not always enough. We must understand what has brought the country to such an abyss in order to identify and acknowledge the mistakes of the past, and also to analyse the situation in such a way that we will be able to create a peaceful future.”


© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

In view of his experience in peace mediation, Gazzera also took part last week in the “Oslo Forum,” one of the highest ranking meetings of peace mediators, which was held on 18 and 19 June near the Norwegian capital. At a panel discussion with the President of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, he also reported on his experience with mediation.

At the invitation of the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need,” the missionary had already informed EU politicians in Brussels and diplomats accredited at the Holy See in Rome in April and May of this year about the situation in the Central African Republic.



JOURNEY WITH ACN – Serbia and Russia

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :   Serbia and Russia

Bishop Ladislav Nemet of Zrenjanin

Bishop Ladislav Nemet of Zrenjanin


Installation of a kitchen in a retirement home for priests in Kikinga

Some years ago, Bishop Ladislav Nemet of Zrenjanin had to address the problem of caring for his retired priests who, after many years of faithful service, had become frail or sick. He knew this was a problem that would become even more acute in the future and that he simply could not close his eyes to it.

At that time there was only one retirement home in the diocese, which was already fully occupied and otherwise unsuitable for retired priests, and so he decided to establish a new retirement home. In the town of Kikinda, on the border with Romania, he found an empty house that had been occupied until 1993 by the Sisters of Divine Love, who had bequeathed it to the parish.

With help from ACN, the bishop has been able to convert this building to serve his needs. It has a small chapel in the attic for the celebration of the Eucharist which will be open to all, both in the house and in the surrounding area. There is also a separate floor reserved for elderly Sisters, in addition to the accommodation for the retired priests. On the ground floor there a day care centre for those in need is being planned for, which will be run by the diocese in collaboration with Caritas Serbia.

Since the centre has to support itself and be economically viable – an extra wing will be added, which will serve to accommodate the elderly from the local town of Kikinda. In this way the centre can be incorporated into the state social system and receive state support, and at the same time it will be a blessing for the elderly of the town, since at present the elderly must wait for two years for a place.

Everything is almost finished now; all that remains to be done is the installation of the kitchen. Bishop Ladislav Nemet has asked ACN to help, and we have promised him $21,400.



Our support for the prison chaplaincy work of the Orthodox Church – and the blessings it has brought

The Orthodox Church in Russia is one of the few institutions attempting to help inmates in the country’s prison system. ACN has been supporting its work by helping with the construction of prison chapels and the provision of religious literature. Father Igor, who is responsible for the prison chaplaincy service in Nizhny Novgorod, has personally baptized almost 400 prisoners since 1998.Journey with ACN 2 June 2014It all started in a very modest way. “When we began providing our pastoral ministry in the prison, all we had was a tiny room in the laundry area where we could pray. We bought some paint and painted the walls. Later, the prisoners with artistic ability decorated the walls with icons. I heard confessions in an adjacent room. Very soon I was able to observe many changes in people’s souls. Half a year later there was a group of them who came, as a matter of course, to morning and evening prayer. And on Sundays, when I came to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy, they had already prepared themselves during the week with fasting and prayer, for confession and the reception of Holy Communion.”

What saddened Father Igor, were the many people who actually possessed many talents and gifts which they could have used for the good of society, had fallen on evil ways and used their gifts and their intelligence for the wrong ends. He believes it is due to the spiritual emptiness in many people’s souls. For many of them, their time in prison, with the help of this pastoral support, is a chance to find their way back to the right path.

Many of the former inmates whom Father Igor has supported over the years have since served their time and been released. He still keeps in touch with many of them today. He has married them and baptized their children, and many of them continue to come, Sunday after Sunday, to church. And a few of them, who have managed to become successful and build up a new professional life for themselves, also support the work of the Church financially and have themselves become true benefactors. As Father Igor explains, “In actual fact, many people who have been sent to prison are well disposed towards the Church. In my experience, they think a lot about their sins and about the meaning of life. People whose lives run smoothly often think they don’t need God.” Surprising though that may sound at first, it is exactly what Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “It is not the healthy who need the physician, but the sick.”

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.

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.

Iraq ACN grants $150,000 in emergency aid to refugees from Mosul

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Emil Shimon Nona, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul

Emil Shimon Nona, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul

Montreal, June 19, 2014 – Aid to the Church in Need has granted $150,000 in preliminary emergency aid to Christian refugees who fled Mosul after a wave of jihadist attacks in early June.

According to Emil Shimon Nona, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, all of the approx. 3 000 Christian inhabitants of Mosul directly fled the city following the onset of the attacks; most found refuge in villages on the nearby Nineveh plains. The church has found provisional shelter for the refugees in schools, catechesis rooms and abandoned houses. It is “uncertain whether all of the families will be able to return to Mosul.”

The emergency aid is intended for the primary care of those refugees who left all of their possessions behind in Mosul. A few of the Christians have supposedly returned to Mosul, but most of the families are afraid and are staying in the emergency shelters. According to the archbishop, 1000 refugee families are currently receiving care.

Regina Lynch, Project Director at Aid to the Church in Need

Regina Lynch, Project Director at Aid to the Church in Need

Regina Lynch, Project Director at Aid to the Church in Need, said: “We are very close to this church and have shared in their suffering and worries since 1983. This never-ending suffering is like an open wound for us. Now more than ever, the Christians in Iraq need to know that Christians in the rest of the world are not leaving them alone, but are praying for them and also supporting them as much as they can. In addition to our ongoing projects, we would like to dispatch this urgent emergency aid to demonstrate this to our brothers and sisters.”

On 5 June, alleged militants of the terror organization ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) began to take over Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. Half of the inhabitants fled the city, including the entire Christian population. Jihadists continue to advance in Iraq and are taking over further cities.

Over the last five years, Aid to the Church in Need has supported Iraq with approximately 3.54 million dollars.



Iraq – “We fear a civil war”

By Marta Petrosillo, ACN Italy

Adapted by, Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad

Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad

Montreal, Wednesday June 18, 2014 – “We fear a civil war. If the various different opposing internal parties do not succeed in finding an agreement, then we must expect the worst. Another war would mean the end, especially for us Christians.” This was the message from Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Syroub of Baghdad, speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) from the Iraqi capital.

For Bishop Syroub, the present crisis in Iraq is a direct consequence of the war of 2003 and of the inefficiency of the new democratic system “which cannot function if there is no true reconciliation.” For this reason, rather than an external military intervention, the bishops would prefer to see greater pressure applied by the international community, and by the United States in particular, to persuade the various internal factions within the country to reach an accord. “More than a week has passed since the invasion of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and still there is no common political plan. Only an Iraq based on consent and reconciliation within can react to external dangers. Shi’ites and Sunnis have to understand that nothing will be resolved by violence.”

Bishop Syroub returned to Baghdad just this morning from a foreign trip, which he interrupted “in order to be close to my community at such a difficult time.” The situation in the capital is abnormally quiet. There are not many cars or people in the streets, even though it is a working weekday. “Everyone is afraid and people prefer to stay at home,” he told ACN, “while others have left the city.”

According to unconfirmed rumours, reported to ACN by the bishop, some of the northern suburbs of Baghdad may already be in the hands of the ISIS militia, who it is suggested may have imposed a curfew and be preventing the inhabitants from travelling to other areas of the city.

Meanwhile, for the past five days the government has blocked access to various Internet sites, including the main e-mail servers and all the social networks, thereby “preventing us from communicating with the outside world.”

The Christians are “terrorized and deeply distressed” and many of them are asking for their baptismal certificates, so that they can leave the capital. “After more than 2,000 years during which we have withstood obstacles and persecutions, Iraq is today almost emptied of its Christian presence,” says Bishop Syroub. “Our young people are abandoning the country, and we can do nothing about it. Besides, what reason can we possibly give them for staying? How can we protect them and assure them that the future will be better?”


Iraq: Foreign intervention won’t help

Archbishop of Baghdad speaks out: Iraqi leaders must unite to confront ISIS threat


John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


Archbishop of Baghdad Msgr. Jean Sleiman

Archbishop of Baghdad Msgr. Jean Sleiman

Montreal, Tuesday June 17, 2014 – The international community should not intervene in the struggle against ISIS extremists in Iraq, according to the Archbishop of Baghdad, who says the priority is for Iraqi leaders to “work together” to overcome the crisis.

In an interview today (Monday, June 16,  2014) with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN),  speaking directly from Baghdad, Archbishop Jean Sleiman stressed political “consensus” within Iraq was critical in overcoming the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which last week pulled off a series of military take-overs of key northern cities including Mosul, the country’s second city.

People in Baghdad were “surprised,” said Archbishop Sleiman, by the ISIS take-over of Mosul a week ago. Adding that in the capital, there was scepticism about the reliability of reports about the Jihadists’ advance.


Baghdad airport fully booked

The archbishop described how many people were trying to leave the city, fearing an onslaught from ISIS amid reports of it pressing south towards the capital and also reporting, with many roads out of the capital blocked, departures from Baghdad’s airport were fully booked until the the month’s end.

With all roads north of Baghdad closed, and others to the south full of checkpoints and other obstacles, he said, people’s only option was to leave on one of the seven flights that depart from the capital everyday.  “What all this means is that you can only leave Baghdad if you have got money to pay for a flight. In any case, flights are booked until the end of the month.”

When asked if he was considering leaving the city himself, the Archbishop replied: “I don’t know if I should stay or go. I leave this problem to my angels.”

Having  observed “a great deal of confusion” in the capital, he said numbers were down at Sunday‘s (June 15) Mass which he celebrated at Baghdad’s St Joseph’s Cathedral, down the road from where he lives. The archbishop, whose Latin-rite Catholic community is much smaller than the Chaldeans – Iraq’s largest Catholic community – added: “People I met after Mass were stressed by the situation.”


Hope for leadership to find consensus

The archbishop, who became Latin-rite Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad in 2001, said: “In responding to this crisis, the international community should think of the common good, not their own interests. They should think of peace.”

Speaking out against intervention by the international community, Archbishop Sleiman said: “ISIS needs to be stopped… and it needs the Iraqi leaders to work together to stop it. That is more important than getting the international community involved.” I hope Iraqi leaders will find a consensus about how to tackle this situation or there will be a tragic outcome,” he added. “I don’t know what will happen next. Of course the military will resist ISIS but who knows if it will be strong enough. It is a possibility that the terrorists will succeed but we don’t know.”

Archbishop Sleiman, a Carmelite originally from Lebanon, appealed for prayer for Iraq, saying: “We should all pray for peace and solidarity and for a solution to the crisis.”



Journey with ACN – Latin America

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our blog and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have been brought into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :  Latin America


By ACN International

El Salvador

acn-20140331-06630Help for the training of eight novices of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception 

The Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception was founded in 1874 in Mexico City. Today it has over 1,100 Sisters. They have close to 150 convents in various different Latin American countries as in some African and European countries. The Sisters’ principal charism is the education of the young, the teaching of catechesis and the care of the sick and elderly.

Happily, the number of young women ready to join the congregation has been plentiful. The congregation in El Salvador currently has eight novices preparing for the Consecrated Life.

acn-20140331-06627For decades now life in this, the smallest country of Central America, has been lived against a backdrop of violence. From 1981 to 1991 a bloody civil war cost thousands of human lives. To this day, the country is plagued by violence and has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Gang warfare is a major source of insecurity, as are murders, abductions, extortion, robberies and other forms of violence which leave these people in a state of constant fear for their lives. And, as if this were not enough, the country is frequently struck by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, heavy rainfall, flooding and landslides. Many young people see no future for themselves, and feel that life is meaningless. The Sisters have an important task here in helping young people find their way to a better future.


We are helping this year with a contribution of $5 330, for the training of eight novices who have chosen to place their lives at the service of God and their fellow men.





 Help for the training of 31 seminarians in Feira de Santana

People living in the northeast of Brazil are generally poor and often have to contend with drought conditions. As a result, many are leaving the area in the hope of finding a better life, however modest, somewhere.. elsewhere… generally finding their way to the big cities, which are growing rapidly as a result of the influx.

acn-20140124-04588Often these disillusioned and uprooted people are easy prey for the many sects that are springing up like mushrooms in the suburban slums. In some cases one can find a dense network of as many as 50 or so of their temples in a relatively small area. Their message can be an attractive one – often too good to be true – and as a result many people fall for their easy promises of instant salvation. On Mondays, there is a prayer service for material prosperity, on Tuesdays another for a good job, on Wednesdays one for health, and so forth. But so often, hope springs eternal… and so many people living in these slums continue to cling to this last illusion.

The Catholic Church is trying to address not only the visible, material needs, but to help people out of their spiritual poverty, a frequently far more urgent and devastating problem. But of course, there has to be someone there to proclaim the Good News in the first place. For the millions of Catholic faithful in Brazil (estimates vary widely, from around 130 million to 155 million) there are only 18,000 or so priests available. Generally, the parishes are enormous and some even serve over 100,000 Catholic faithful. As our Lord tells us in the Gospels, “The harvest is great, but the labourers are few” – and this is especially true of Brazil. That is why here, as in numerous other countries, helping for the formation of priests is a priority for ACN.

In the archdiocese of Feira de Santana in north-east Brazil there are currently 31 young men preparing for ordination. Archbishop Itamar Vien has their formation very much at heart. He is already looking forward to this year’s ordinations and is delighted that the number of vocations in his diocese is growing. He has once again turned to ACN for help for the studies of the 31 seminarians, counting as always on the goodwill and generosity of our benefactors. We share his confidence in you, and so we have already promised him $13 250.