Jordan – “We have lost everything”

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Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada



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

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



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

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

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

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



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



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

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


Nigeria – The evil of Boko Haram

Joop Koopman, ACN USA

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada



The Christian world is focused on Iraq, where thousands of believers are refugees in their own country, hounded if not actually brutalized by the merciless Islamist radicals of the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Africa’s most populous country is under siege from Jihadist forces equally determined to impose their iron grip through a relentless killing campaign that has recently begun enlisting girls as young as 10 as suicide bombers.

That is the situation in Nigeria, where a rather toothless and inept response by the government has left Church leaders among the few remaining public figures the people trust.

Among them is Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, the 56 year-old president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference, one of the country’s most visible and courageous Catholic prelates. With the city of Jos the site two bomb attacks by Boko Haram on a single day last May—leaving more than a 100 dead—the archbishop is clearly in harm’s way. Yet, he firmly refuses to make his pastoral visits surrounded by armed guards.

“I don’t have a security detail,” he tells international charity Aid to the Church in Need on a recent visit to New York; “that would be a magnet for evildoers.” Plus, the archbishop adds, “protecting myself would make me a prisoner. It would make people afraid. Imagine if priests would go around with protection! We believe God is with us. We believe that we will triumph despite the machinations” of the terrorists.

“Dialogue of Life”

The archbishop considers it his task to “be present,” to go out among the people, “even if violence is taking place nearby.” “Our leaders,” he charges, “are simply not very sensitive to the poor,” while the Church, even with its “limited possibilities,” does what it can to help Christians and Muslims alike, “reaching out beyond political and religious divides.”



Even before the advent of Boko Haram—which, he says, relies on “serious sympathizers” both inside and outside Nigeria—the archbishop has been a pioneer of what he calls the “Dialogue of Life.” It is an approach to Muslim-Christian relations that, realistic about the vast theological divide between the two faiths, emphasizes the establishment of friendship and connection on the most basic level. The “Dialogue” simply recognizes that “your life affects mine and mine affects yours,” as the archbishop puts it.

The archbishop does not mince his words: “when you kill and destroy not only combatants but women and children, poor people, it is evil. Those who died in the Jos marketplace were orange sellers, ground nut sellers, milk sellers, looking to make a little money for the evening. This is an expression of evil.”

He is no stranger to fear. “It is normal to be afraid,” the archbishop says, “but I have given up everything to serve God and his people. I don’t have a biological family, no possessions I can call my own. If I should lose my life in the process of defending people’s rights to freedom of worship and the unity of humanity, I would leave behind no liabilities. Still, one is afraid of death, which is true for everybody.”

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)

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The great interest of the Aid to the Church in Need Canada (AED) to monitor what is happening in Iraq now, motivates us to share with you this beautiful text signed by four Canadian bishops, including the President of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Bishop Paul-André Durocher.

An appeal for mercy, compassion and justice in the Middle East and throughout the world

The Executive Committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting on August 25, 2014, in Quebec City, issues the following appeal:

In the name of the Father of life, and of the Crucified Christ, and of the Spirit of love, we make this appeal for mercy, compassion and justice.

We hear resounding about us still the question that God, Father of all life, posed to humanity at the beginning: “Where is your brother?” We see the homeless and the wounded of the Middle East: in Iraq, Syria and the Holy Land. We hear their cries in Ukraine and in parts of Africa. We observe the persecutions and hardships that hundreds of thousands of people today endure because of their faith and convictions – Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, members of other religions as well as ethnic minorities. The horrors of war and violence are ravaging so many innocent hearts. Families and children are left without water, food, aid and shelter. Homes and communities are being destroyed. Not only is the future at risk for the people of these regions, but international security itself is in peril. War and violence are again eroding the common bonds of humanity, fragmenting the human family. It is Jesus who is being persecuted, who is homeless, who is hungry, who is in prison, who is being tortured.



As followers of the Crucified One, we recognize particularly in the Middle East the sufferings of our own brothers and sisters in faith. Moved by their pains and afflictions, we make their cause our own. We are united with them in solidarity and faith. Our unceasing prayer and hope are rooted in the love and forgiveness by which Our Lord transforms the human heart. Our one comfort is in the concern and care that people around the world are offering. Encouraged by the calls of Pope Francis for peace and justice, we echo the statements and actions of the leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches of the Middle East. We make our appeal to all people – of every faith and in the name of good will, here in Canada and around the world – to do even more to assist the suffering of those in need.

We pray that the Holy Spirit continue to inspire Canadians, particularly the faithful of our Catholic Church, to support the work of agencies that bring solace and aid to the persecuted and the exiled. We pray too that the transforming power of the Spirit inspire political, religious and community leaders, in each of the troubled regions of our world, to speak out loudly for justice and reconciliation, to denounce atrocities, to renounce violence and oppression, to announce and demand peace.

“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people and to his faithful…” (Psalm 85.8)

+ Paul-André Durocher Archbishop of Gatineau President

+ Douglas Crosby, O.M.I. Bishop of Hamilton Vice President

+ Lionel Gendron, P.S.S. Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil Co-Treasurer

+ Anthony Mancini Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth Co-Treasurer

Iraq “Silence and passivity will encourage IS to commit more tragedies”

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


0807Iraq_Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of BaghdadBaghdad/Montreal, August 25, 2014 – The Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako has warned of the spreading violence of Islamic State (IS). “Silence and passivity will encourage IS fundamentalists to commit more tragedies.” The question must be asked, “Who will be next?” to be affected.  In a letter of mass appeal which reached the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he urgently calls for “effective international support.” 

Also in his letter to “The Conscience of the World,”  the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church states that since August 6,   “an immediate concrete solution for the crisis we are facing,” has not come to pass,  while “on the other hand the flow of funds, arms and fighters continues to the IS.”  The actions taken up till now have produced “no real change,” and “the fate of the affected people is still at stake, as if these people are not part of the human race.”

He emphasizes the importance that the international community, principally the United States and European Union, “due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, cannot be indifferent.” In his view, “the world conscience is not fully awake to the gravity of the situation.”

The Patriarch pointed out that now, with the emigration of Christian refugee families, the “second phase of the calamity” has begun. In his words: “Iraq is losing an irreplaceable component of its society. (…) We do respect the decision of those who wish to migrate, but for those who wish to remain, we underline our long history and deeply rooted heritage in this land. God has his own plan for our presence in this land and invites us to carry the message of love, brotherhood, dignity, and harmonious co-existence.”

However, according to him, safety of the people in this region can only be guaranteed with the cooperation of the international community along with the Central Government of Iraq and the Regional Government of Kurdistan.








 Testimonial  by a Catholic Sister in South Sudan

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


It has taken me a couple of months now reflecting on South Sudan’s conflict that erupted in Juba on the December 15, 2013, and the ongoing peace process between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A ) in opposition in Addis Ababa. The question that lingers in my mind is; “Was this conflict necessary?” I am indebted to so many people including the international community who have been working tirelessly to ensure that true peace returns in South Sudan. In spite of the breach to the cessation of hostilities agreement of May 9, 2014, many of them are still determined to walk the rough and tough road to peace for another round table discussion in Addis Ababa. I would like to thank every one of you involved in this peace process and may God bless your efforts.

This unshakable desire to continue with the peace process provoked in me the thoughts on the words of Dag Hammarskjold, the former UN Secretary General who died in a plane crash in September 1961, on his way to negotiate a ceasefire between non-combatant UN forces and Katangese troops of Moise Tshombe in Congo. Dag said: “The longest journey of any person is the journey inward.”

Each one of us may comprehend the quote differently but through my life’s experiences, the journey to explore our inner space is one of the most difficult and challenging journeys in the life of any person. It is much easier to take a plane and fly to Addis Ababa or to another known destination, unless the plane crashes like in the case of Dag. Today Dag challenges each one of us  South Sudanese, those involved in the peace process in Addis Ababa and all those craving for peace in the youngest nation, “What kind of journey have I made within myself in order to contribute to this peace process in sincerity of heart?”


Each one of us is responsible

“What baggage do I carry within me as an individual for the peace process?” I strongly believe that true peace in South Sudan should start with this inward journey, a journey of transparency towards oneself and to God, facing up the truth about myself, feelings and attitudes towards the others. We have each contributed to this conflict because of our selfishness, aggression, greed, gossips, jealousy and prejudices which divided us. It is important that we begin this inward journey no matter what it takes to realize, not only through rationalization or blaming the two parties; that you and I are also responsible for the existing conflict because we have contributed to it in our daily lives through hate speech, indifference and failing to act when needed.


As stated by Dag, our work of peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. In my view, to build peace in South Sudan we must be just and act without fear. How can we fight for freedom in the country if we are not free in our minds? “What can you and I do to create a completely different South Sudan without boundaries?” Each one of us is responsible for everyone’s security, safety and peace since peace is a collective responsibility of all of us and not only of President Salvar Kiir and the rebel leader Dr Riek Machar. We can only build a peaceful South Sudan, if we are ready to sacrifice and truly surrender to the interest of all which is a journey to be made at individual and societal level. I pray and hope that we may realize the significance of the present moment as a bridge between the past and future in South Sudan if we are capable of making this journey together.





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“I want to stay in Iraq, I love it.” 

By Maria Lozano, ACN International,

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada


This morning we [the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) delegation], left Ankawa and Erbil with their concentration of tens of thousands of refugees, and drove with Archbishop Emil Nona of the Chaldean Archdiocese of Mosul to the area of Dohuk north of Mosul where the refugees are spread out over many villages. He, too, is a refugee, having been absent from Mosul while attending a youth meeting in another Christian village, when the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) took over. Like so many of his faithful, he had to leave everything behind.

The usual way to Dohuk is through Mosul, but with ISIS still holding occupation of the city and surrounding areas, we took a more mountainous route passing at times just 20 km from where ISIS is located. Despite this, there were only a few military check-points through which we passed very easily. In the distance we could see the Christian town of Alqosh, which has for the most part been abandoned by its inhabitants in anticipation of ISIS’s arrival.


For my children’s sake

Our first visit of the day was in the village of Mangesh just north of Dohuk. Twenty-five years ago this was an entirely Christian village until Sadam Hussein brought in so many Kurds that the Christians became a minority. Today the Christian families number about 300 and they were joined recently by some 77 Syrian Orthodox families, who fled their village close to the village of Alqosh on August 6.


One of the men from the village had already gone out three days earlier in search of a safe refuge for these families and per chance discovered the village of Mangesh. When they heard bombardments on August 6 – which was their sign to leave – they were very thankful when the parish priest of Mangesh, Fr. Yoshia Sana, offered them the Catholic catechetical centre as a temporary home. When we arrived at the centre their Orthodox priest expressed their gratitude to Msgr. Nona for the kindness and generosity they received. They are still in need of more tents and some ventilators and Msgr. Nona promised to get some for them. As in Erbil, temperatures were soaring to over 43° C and in one case 7 families were sharing one tent. One man told us that he wants this situation to end, “Not for my sake, but for my children’s sake.”  One woman with three disabled children was crying and saying she wanted to go back to her village but she was afraid to return.




The generosity of Christian families


During the rest of the day, we visited several more villages with Fr. Yoshia and Fr. Samir Youssef, parish priest in a neighbouring parish and listened to the anquish of the refugees, who had fled from Mosul, Alqosh, Telkef, Telascof and so many others. We saw the cramped conditions under which they live and heard of the generosity of other Christian families, who share their own often humble homes with one or two other families.

We went to one village, Baghere, where the priests had only just discovered 47 refugee families. Among them were one-month old twins, coming into the world as refugees.



Concern for their children

All these people told the same story of how they had left Mosul with nothing, often fleeing in panic once they realized that the 60,000 government troops had gone. They spoke of their concern for their children. One man introduced us to his two daughters who have been studying at the university in Mosul – one of them a medical student with 15 other Christian students in her class. Some 8,000 of the approximately 40,000 students at the university in Mosul are Christian. Will they be able to return?


Some of the refugees spoke about wanting to leave Iraq believing that they have no future in the country and disappointed by the attitude of their former Muslim neighbours, who robbed their homes once they had left. Others said they wanted to stay; they want to go back to their villages and homes, but only if there is an international peace-keeping force ready to protect them.  As the day went on, this same wish was repeated several times. One young fifteen year-old girl, Ronda, looked surprised when we asked her if she wanted to leave. “I want to stay in Iraq,” she said, “I love it.”



The gathering of the Eastern Christian Churches in Canada

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To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
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Click on the image to make a donation for Syria or Iraq

Maronite, Catholic and Orthodox Syriac, Greek-Melkite Catholic, Antiochian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic and Orthodox, Coptic Catholic and Orthodox, Chaldean, Protestant,

Invite you to a peaceful massive rally in solidarity with the victims of violence in Syria and Iraq, the persecuted religious minorities, especially Christians of the Middle East.

Canadians of all backgrounds and faiths, you are invited to share these moments to denounce this religious genocide.

Date: Sunday, August 24, 2014

From 17:30 to 19:30

Location: St-Sauveur Cathedral

10025 Boulevard de l’Acadie


– Prayer.

– Walk To Marcelin-Wilson Park.

– Vigil with candles continues until 7:30 p.m.

Ps: Only Canadian flags, candles and posters prepared by the organizers will be allowed.