PRESS RELEASE: Aid to the Church in Need – Invitation to the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Iraq

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget GriffinIRAK-1

Montreal, Thursday, July 31, 2014 – The international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” is inviting people from the whole world to take part in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Iraq, which is scheduled for 6 August, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord.

Together with the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako the charity is using this occasion to call on “all people of good will” to “combine our voices and our hearts before the Lord in order to ask for peace,” Patriarch Sako writes in his message for the World Day of Prayer.

To join together with our suffering brothers and sisters

Johannes von HeeremanThe source of inspiration for this initiative had been the call of the Holy Father to stop the violence in Iraq, Johannes von Heeremann, the International President of “Aid to the Church in Need”, explained:   “Last Sunday at the Angelus, Pope Francis called out to all mankind ‘Please stop! I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop. Stop, please!’ This urgent appeal prompted us to invite not only Christians, but also the faithful of other religions, and in particular various Muslim communities, who are also suffering very much from the war, to join in a prayer for peace which encompasses the whole world. In view of such suffering as we are forced to watch in Iraq today, it is time to join together with our suffering brothers and sisters and to show the world that we have not abandoned them.”

Patriarch Sako, who has also formulated the prayer for this initiative, wrote in his message: “The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord is a feast of the transformation of hearts and minds in the encounter with the light and love of God for mankind. May the Light of Tabor, through our proximity, fill the hearts of all those suffering with comfort and hope. May the message of Tabor working through our prayers move those governing this country to sacrifice their personal interests for the general good.”

Please take note that ACN is currently working on a way to send material assistance to Iraqi refugees.

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PRESS RELEASE: Gaza – Church in Jordan takes in Gaza refugees

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Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

Montreal, Monday, July 28th, 2014 – The Catholic Church in Jordan had taken in Muslim and Christian refugees from Gaza. Father Khalil Jaar from Amman informed the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) of this on Friday. “On Sunday we took in 87 people from Gaza in Amman, including 39 children. Thanks to the support of the United Nations they were able to enter Israel from Gaza at the Erez border crossing. The Spanish consul in Jerusalem then brought them to the Jordanian border,” said this priest of the Latin Patriarchate.

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“The injured are now receiving medical treatment. We have housed the rest in boarding houses,” Jaar continued. “We would like to take in more people from Gaza but all accommodation is fully booked in Amman because of the festival of Ramadan. And so we have to wait a little.” Jaar expects about 32 additional people.

“The children have seen bombing victims”

“The children are particularly badly traumatized. They have experienced terrible things in Gaza. We are paying special attention to them; people from the parish play with them to provide them with some diversion. They are completely traumatized by the bombing. Even if you are not directly affected, you’re bound to feel the impact of the bombs intensely in such as small area as Gaza,” Jaar said. “Many of the children report that their houses or those of their neighbours were destroyed. Many saw bombing victims in the rubble. Many of the little ones are afraid of staying in enclosed spaces because they think a bomb could hit them there.”

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The United Nations claims that in the Gaza conflict more than 700 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli raids, including at least 160 children. Father Jaar is already supporting about 120 Syrian and 320 Iraqi refugee families in his parish. ACN is helping him with his work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Press Release – Iraq: Shocked, in pain and worried

For Immediate Release        

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Archbishops from Mosul, Iraq: “We call on all people of conscience in the world to put pressure on to the militants to stop the destruction”

 

Montreal, Thursday July 24, 2014 – In a dramatic appeal to the international community the Archbishops of Mosul in Iraq are asking for more outside help for minorities in Iraq. With violence still ongoing in parts of the country, they declared: “We, the Archbishops of Mosul, coming from all the denominations gathered in Erbil/Ankawah, headed by His Beatitude Patriarch Raphael Louis I Sako, are shocked, in pain, and worried about what happened to the innocent Christians of Mosul because of their religion. It is a crime against humanity, as the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon said, and ‘a shameful stain that should not be tolerated’ as the Secretary General of the Arab League Mr. Nabil Alaraby called it. It’s a crime in and of itself – a blatant persecution that we condemn and denounce.”

 

In the appeal presented to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the Archbishops stated their demand for the national government to provide protection for Christians and other minorities, financial support for displaced families who have lost everything, as well as a list of all the damage incurred to ensure they are compensated. The Archbishops also declared: “We call on all people of conscience in Iraq and the world to put pressure on to the militants to stop the destruction of churches and monasteries and the burning of manuscripts and relics from our Christian heritage, which are also a priceless Iraqi and global heritage. What has been said about an agreement between the militants and churchmen is completely untrue, because what has happened is an unmitigated crime that cannot be denied or justified!”

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An urgent message of Patriarch Louis Raphael I SakoChaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad

Christians of Mosul : Where are you going?

 

To all who have a living conscience in Iraq and throughout the world

To the voice of moderate brother Muslims who have a voice in Iraq and throughout the world

To all those who are concerned that Iraq should remain a country for all His Children

To all leaders of thought and opinion

To all those who proclaim the freedom of the human being

To all protectors of the dignity of human beings and of religion

 

PEACE AND MERCY of GOD!

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The control exercised by the Islamist Jihadists upon the city of Mosul, and their proclamation of it as an Islamic State, after several days of calm and expectant watching of events, has now come to reflect negatively upon the Christian population of the city and its environs.

The initial sign was in the kidnapping of the two nuns and 3 orphans who were released after 17 days. At the time, we experienced it as a flash of hope and as a clearing of the sky after the appearance of storm clouds.

Suddenly, we were surprised by more recent outcomes which are the proclamation of an Islamic state and the announcement calling all Christians and clearly asking them to convert to Islam or to pay the joziah (the tax all non- Muslims must pay while living in the land of Islam) – without specifying the exact amount. The only alternative is to abandon the city and their houses with only the clothes they are wearing, taking nothing else. Moreover, by Islamic law, upon their departure, their houses are no longer their properties, but are instantly confiscated as property of the Islamic state.

In recent days, there has been written the letter ‘N’ in Arabic on the front wall of Christian homes, signifying ‘Nazara’ (Christian), and on the front wall of Shiite homes, the letter ‘R’ signifying ‘Rwafidh’ (Protestants or rejecters). We do not know what will happen in future days because in an Islamic state the Al – sharia or Islamic code of law is powerful and has been interpreted to require the issuance of new I.D.s for the population based on religious or sectarian affiliation.

This categorization based upon religion or sect afflicts the Muslims as well and contravenes the regulation of Islamic thought which is expressed in the Quran which says, “You have your religion and I have my religion” and yet another place in Quran states, “There is no compulsion in religion.” This is exactly the contradiction in the life and history of the Islamic world for more than 1,400 years and in the co – existence with other different religions and nations in the East and in the West.

With all due respect to belief and dogmas, there has been a fraternal life between Christians and Muslims. How much the Christians have shared here in our East specifically from the beginnings of Islam. They shared every sweet and bitter circumstance of life; Christian and Muslim blood has been mixed as it was shed in the defense of their rights and lands. Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing.

It is clear that the result of all this discrimination legally enforced will be the very dangerous elimination of the possibility of co – existence between majorities and minorities. It will be very harmful to Muslims themselves both in the near and the distant future.

Should this direction continue to be pursued, Iraq will come face to face with human, civil, and historic catastrophe.

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We call with all the force available to us; we call to you fraternally, in a spirit of human brotherhood; we call to you urgently; we call to you impelled by risk and in spite of the risk. We implore in particular our Iraqi brothers asking them to reconsider and reflect upon the strategy they have adopted and demanding that they must respect innocent and weaponless people of all nationalities, religions, and sects.

The Holy Quran has ordered believers to respect the innocent and has never called them to seize the belongings, the possessions, the properties of others by force. The Quran commands refuge for the widow, the orphaned, the poor, and the weaponless and respect “to the seventh neighbor.”

We call Christians in the region to act with reason and prudence and to consider and to plan everything in the best way possible. Let them understand what is planned for this region, to practice solidarity in love, to examine the realities together and so be able together to find the paths to build trust in themselves and in their neighbors. Let them stay close to their own Church and surround it; endure the time of trial and pray until the storm will be over.

† Louis Raphael Sako

Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldean

17 July 2014

 

 

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Syria – “I come to you because my people suffer”

Mark Riedemann, ACN International

Adaptded by Amanda Griffin, ACN Canada

 

“Many Muslims are now shy to declare themselves Muslim. I have heard several Muslim say to me: ‘I am ashamed – I do not understand that Islam is like that’. So I think it is the time for a true dialogue. I think it is the day of the Lord perhaps. So I have to take my Cross in my hand, even if I’m 70, and begin my mission again – and I feel myself a man of 45.” With these words, the Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, voiced his dedication to those whom he calls ‘his people’ during a visit to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

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Struggling to survive

The war in Syria is now three years old. The suffering is indescribable, the devastation terrible. Hundreds of thousands of families in mourning, millions of refugees who no longer know where to turn and so hide at home, hunting day and night to feed their children. Archbishop Jeanbart explains that a barbaric scorched earth policy has left nothing untouched in its passage – thousands of industries damaged and tens of thousands of schools, hospitals and dispensaries destroyed. “All the structures, all the infrastructure, the heritage, all the industry – they have destroyed every single means of income for these people. People have no way to live in the cities – of course in the country they are farmers and they can live – but in the cities … Aleppo has lost 1400 industrial structures, this is a suffering.”

The Christian population too has not been left unscathed. Before the war there were approximately 150,000 Christians, states the Archbishop and Aleppo was home to numerous churches serving a Christian community present in the city since the third century. Today approximately 100,000 Christians, struggling to survive, remain. With inflation at 200 percent, the little income earned buys little and it is for these families that the Catholic Church is providing emergency food baskets. 1400 families receive bread, oil, sugar, rice, butter, pasta, tea and sweets every day.  “Everything that we provide is attached to bread as it is the most nourishing,” says Archbishop Jeanbart.

With the destruction Aleppo’s industries, thousands of fathers found themselves without work, without an income to allow the minimum provisions for their family.  “In this we have also provided emergency support, to give a monthly sum equivalent to half a salary each month. It is not much but 400 Christian families benefit from this financial support and, with the help of God, we hope to continue until the fathers of these families find work again.”

 

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Muslims  take note of  Catholic charity

 

Archbishop Jeanbart explains that the Church structures too have been targeted. More than 18 bombs have struck and damaged the Cathedral and the Archbishop’s house located less than 300 meters from the demarcation line in the old city. The Church of St. Michael has been hit by two rockets, the Church of St. Demetrius situated in a quarter along the demarcation line has been the target of a number of mortar shells and the church in the village of Tabaka is in ruins.

“I am here because my people suffer,” says Archbishop Jean-Clement his tired voice cracking. The electricity is bad. Water is also very bad. We have some wells. We have dug three wells at three different churches. At the Cathedral we have reopened a well that dates back some 100 years and we are distributing water to the population.  We have to do what we can to help.” The Catholic Church is also providing help to Muslim families and Muslims have taken note of the Catholic charity. “There are many Muslims that say: ‘Look, the priests are the ones who are working.’ This is a beautiful witness and even Muslims ask us to intercede for them to get help from the Red Cross or the Red Crescent – they understand that we are a reference for charity and mercy.”

The faith of this 70 year Archbishop has not always been so unshakeable. “I have been a Bishop 18 years now. I did all I could to help our people to stay. And then came the war. Two years ago I was depressed; it was very bad, but then the Lord helped me to see things in another light, which again allowed me to take up my courage, my hope, and to fight against this Christian flight. I realized that what happens does not depend on us. Even if we only have the poor remaining, we will help them to grow and to be the people that we need to be a witness. I thought it is the time to work; it is the time to fight. Over all these years I look to the day of freedom which will allow us Christians to bear witness to Christ.”

 

A cautious optimism

Slowly, and only in some of the larger cities, a certain level of security is being established. According to the Archbishop, the government army advances have created security zones. Increasingly in Aleppo checkpoints are being removed. With a cautious optimism, Archbishop Jeanbart looks to the future and is already planning. “The poor people, the Christian workers will not find work when peace comes. They will be perhaps one or two years without finding any job.  For this reason, I thought to start a training program for construction work.”

Christians, with a greater focus on education, have historically not participated in the construction industry. Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart recognizes this weakness and that the immediate important sector of work will be the rebuilding, the restoration of buildings that have been destroyed. “Everything is completely destroyed or stolen.  When the war stops the reconstruction of houses will start immediately. We have to start preparing now to allow Christians to start getting jobs in this industry. Without work, the young people will leave.”

With hope and projects in hand the Archbishop laid out his plans. “I ask Aid to the Church in Need to continue to be a partner in this struggle. I want you to be beside us in these very hard moments – to help people to stay – because you have the same objective. We have been here for 2000 years. The Church grew up in Syria.  If the Church was born on the Cross, it did not live in Jerusalem. The Christians came to Syria, to Damascus.  St. Paul didn’t find any Christians to arrest in Jerusalem, he had to go to Syria to catch them – it means that the Church was living in Syria two years after the Resurrection.” The Archbishop also awaits this Resurrection.

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Gaza: “Violence will only breed more violence”  

Father David Neuhaus, Jesuit and head of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Israel, on Christian ways out of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians 

Oliver Maksan

Oliver Maksan

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by ACN Canada

 

Jerusalem/Montreal, July 21, 2014 -In view of the Gaza conflict Father David Neuhaus warned against seeing violence as a means of solving the crisis. “The only way out is for Israeli and Palestinians to realize that violence will only breed more violence. Bombarding Gaza will only create more people who seek revenge for their shattered lives,” the head of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Israel said on Sunday in Jerusalem in an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ (ACN). “The international community certainly needs to take a stronger role in bringing the two sides together. The biggest enemy right now is the conviction that military might will bring victory. A first step out of the current crisis will be the admission that military might simply provoke more violence,” Neuhaus continued. “The Israeli leadership, and in a special way the present leadership,” the Jesuit said, “seems to believe that the way to solve the conflict is by military means.” According to Neuhaus Hamas and its like were propagating the parallel lie that violence would bring Israel to its knees.

There was a danger that the conflict would divide the Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking Christians in the Holy Land. “This is the huge challenge! Can we as Christians be united not only in spite of the conflict but also as a part of our mission: to show that brotherhood, peace and reconciliation are possible?” Neuhaus asked. “Christian Palestinians are fully Palestinian, Christian Hebrew speakers identify fully with Israel. This is natural but both need to remember that there are brothers and sisters in faith on the other side. Christians in Beer Sheba should not forget the Christians in Gaza and vice versa!” Neuhaus went on to explain that each was called to solidarity with the society in which he lived. “But this solidarity must be critical solidarity and promote the evangelical values of justice and peace, pardon and reconciliation. We need a ‘prophetic ecumenism’ in the Holy Land that will bring Christians together over the political divide so that Christians on each side of the divide can get to know one another and challenge the societies in which they live with what they learn.” The small number of native Christians was also a blessing because they couldn’t even pretend to be among the powerful, Neuhaus continued. “Planted in the margins, Christians are free to develop a discourse that promotes the values taught in the Gospel.”

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Father David Neuhaus

Neuhaus estimated that the Christians in the west also had an important part to play. “They must take sides with those who are promoting understanding and dialogue.” the Jesuit said. “Most importantly,” this priest of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem continued, “they must take sides with a language that seeks to re-describe reality: not a hostile territory where enemies war it out but rather a land where God has firmly planted Jews, Christians and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, not to fight but to recognize that they are brothers and sisters.”

 

 

 

 

ACN Interview – Gaza: “violence provokes more violence”

Father David Neuhaus, Jesuit and head of the Hebrew speaking Catholic community in Israel, on Christian ways out of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians 

 

By Oliver Maksan

 

  • Father David, is Israel in Gaza fighting for a just cause or is it committing a genocide? Both positions have their supporters also amongst Christians. 

 

Those are two extreme positions, neither of which captures the question very well. What is going on is an intensification of a conflict that remains unresolved for more than sixty years. The Israeli leadership, and in a special way the present leadership, seems to believe that the way to solve the conflict is by military means. They seem to believe that military intervention will bring victory or at least the realization of important goals. This is not genocide but certainly the attempt to crush resistance and make everyone believe that all resistance is terrorism. In Hamas and more radical elements in the Islamic movement, the Israeli leadership has a foe that plays into its hands. Hamas is born out of the despair that has festered for more than sixty years as Palestinians have progressively lost hope that negotiations will bring any fruit. Hamas and its like propagate the parallel lie: violence will bring Israel to its knees.

 

  •  Is this conflict also dividing the Christian community in the Holy Land? Hebrew speaking Christians on one side, Arab speaking on the other?

 

This is the huge challenge! Can we as Christians be united not only in spite of the conflict but also as a part of our mission: to show that brotherhood, peace and reconciliation are possible? Christian Palestinians are fully Palestinian, Christian Hebrew speakers (immigrants and migrants) identify fully with Israel. This is natural but both need to remember that there are brothers and sisters in faith on the other side. Christians in Beer Sheba should not forget the Christians in Gaza and vice versa! Each is called to solidarity with the society in which each lives but this solidarity must be critical solidarity and promote the evangelical  values of Justice and peace, pardon and reconciliation. We need a “prophetic ecumenism” in the Holy Land that will bring Christians together over the political divide so that Christians on each side of the divide can get to know one another and challenge the societies in which they live with what they learn.

 

  • Should Christians in the West take sides? Or what would be their role?

 

Yes, Christians must take sides! They must first and foremost take sides with all those suffering from the leadership’s refusal to enter into dialogue. They must take sides with the children, doomed to this dismal situation because their parents have refused to recognize the other and come to know him or her. They must take sides with those who are promoting understanding and dialogue.  Most importantly they must take sides with a language that seeks to re-describe reality: not a hostile territory where enemies war it out but rather a land where God has firmly planted Jews, Christians and Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, not to fight but to recognize that they are brothers and sisters.

 

  • What is the way out of the current crisis from a Christian perspective?

 

The only way out is for Israeli and Palestinians to realize that violence will only breed more violence. Bombarding Gaza will only create more people who seek revenge for their shattered lives. The international community certainly needs to take a stronger role in bringing the two sides together. The biggest enemy right now is the conviction that military might will bring victory. A first step out of the current crisis will be the admission that military might simply provokes more violence.

 

  •  Can local Christians/the Churches play a role in solving that conflict or are they to few to matter?

 

They can play a very important role. Their small number is also a blessing because they cannot even pretend to be among the powerful. Planted in the margins, Christians are free to develop a discourse that promotes the values taught in the Gospel. A recent document of the local Justice and Peace Commission put it very well: “Our role, as religious leaders, is to speak a prophetic language that reveals the alternatives beyond the cycle of hatred and violence. This language refuses to attribute the status of enemy to any of God’s children; it is a language that opens up the possibility of seeing each one as brother or sister. Pope Francis at the invocation for peace on Pentecost 2014, cried out: “We have heard a summons, and we must respond. It is the summons to break the spiral of hatred and violence, and to break it by one word alone: the word “brother”. But to be able to utter this word we have to lift our eyes to heaven and acknowledge one another as children of one Father.