Sri Lanka 10 years after the Tsunami – ACN helps to rebuild the Church in the country

On December 26th, 2004, a powerful tsunami, caused by an earthquake off the north coast of Indonesia devastated Sri Lanka killing over 30 thousand people and displacing close to 1.5 million inhabitants of this island nation. This year, will mark the 10th anniversary of the disaster.

This short film we are inviting you to watch, produced by CRTN (Catholic Radio and Television Network) was made to share with you impressions still alive in the minds of those who lived the event  10 years ago, and the great progress made in rebuilding with your help, since the catastrophe.  

Thanks to you, our benefactors, and thanks to your tremendous generosity, Aid to the Church in Need has been able to help  in the recovery effort to raise the Church in Sri Lanka out of the devastation brought on by the tsunami. In this film – Bishop Raymond Kinglsley Wickramasingher, Bishop or Galle, says to you :I want to extend a special thank you to Aid to the Church in Need, to all its collaborators and benefactors in different parts of the world who help you. Please thank them. We love them very much we will certainly uphold all of you in our prayers.”

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Iraq – “Christian love transcends all frontiers”

 ©Aid to the Church in Need

Christian refugee children of Iraq have lost everything. Thanks to ACN they are being remembered this Christmas.

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

The Sisters and their helpers work tirelessly, opening cardboard boxes that are stacked, head high, around them. They lift out items of clothing, the plastic packaging rustling loudly as they do so. Piles of clothing lie around them on the floor. Along with the other Sisters and volunteers, Sister Angela, of the Chaldean order of the Daughters of Mary fastens parcels for Christian children. Preparations for this campaign aimed at children aged between two and twelve have been ongoing for weeks and been funded by the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“The children have an extremely traumatic year behind them. In the summer they were forced to flee from IS and ended up as refugees. We want to bring back a little joy into their lives and so we are putting together a Christmas parcel for each of them,” explains one of the younger Sisters’ who was also forced to flee.

“We had an orphanage in Karamles. Last August, we had to flee for our lives in the middle of the night – eight of us crammed together into a small car. We were terrified.”  Now the Sisters are putting together 15,000 Christmas parcels destined foremost for Christian refugee children from Mosul and the Niniveh Plain region, to brighten up their Christmas.

 ©Aid to the Church in Nee

©Aid to the Church in Need

As well as clothing, such as a tracksuit, the children will receive a small ACN Child‘s Bible and, needless to say, some sweets as well. There will also be a little Christmas crib,” explains Sister Angela, opening another packing case as she speaks. “Each parcel costs around 25 dollars and also contains a Christmas card from our benefactors, in English and in Arabic,” adds Father Andrzej Halemba, ACN’s section head in charge of the projects for Iraq. “In this way it makes it a more personal gift for the children, so that they can see that other people around the world are thinking about them, and so understand that Christian love transcends all frontiers.”

Often it is the children who are hardest-hit by the trauma of flight and expulsion, as Father Douglas Bazi knows all too well. This Chaldean priest runs the Mar Elia Centre in Ankawa, a mainly Christian suburb of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, where since August, hundreds of people from the Niniveh plains have sought refuge and are now living in tents. “They arrived here with us, utterly devastated. Many of them have suffered nightmares,” he explains.

“Right at the beginning we gave out some toys, because we wanted to make the children happy – for they had absolutely nothing. But afterwards my colleague came back, quite shaken, and told me that the children had destroyed all the toys. Everyone wanted something for himself and thought he was being left out. As a result it all ended in chaos. It made us realize just what fear and insecurity the children were suffering and just how much aggression there was within them. Since then things have changed greatly. Thank God, they have become much calmer.”

 ©Aid to the Church in Need

©Aid to the Church in Need

In Shaklava, in the Kurdistan mountains, many children are living in a large hall where once great weddings and family festivities hosted by large Christian families used to be held. There are now hundreds of people living in this one hall. “It is not easy. There is absolutely no privacy, and it is also very noisy. At night the lights are put out at 11 PM, but that doesn‘t mean that things get quieter then. But what else can we do? We are trying to make the best of it.

Hanna is the mother of four children; the youngest of them is just six months old. A Syrian Catholic Christian, she fled here with her husband and children in August from the town of Karakosh. “We have nothing left; we left everything behind us there.” She goes on to tell us how, in the Christian villages of the plain of Niniveh, Christmas was traditionally a great feast, with people visiting one another‘s houses. “We used to fast on Christmas Eve, making the joy of our Christmas meal was always all the greater for it. We women prepared special meals and sweets. But this year we couldn’t do that. We had no ingredients and, to be honest, we no longer had the heart for it.

 Nonetheless, for her and her family, Christmas has still not been forgotten. “The local Christians here in Shaklava have brought us pastries and sweets. And the Church has organized a big feast for us refugees. The children are looking forward to it.” But her 10-year-old daughter Tamara says she has just one wish above everything: “My biggest wish this Christmas is that I can go back home one day, and play with my friends again. I want to go home. That is the most important thing of all.”

 

 

 

 

Press Release – Montreal Archbishop Lépine appointed to ACN International Board

PRESS RELEASE

 By Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin

Montreal, Friday December 19, 2014 – Yesterday, the National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Marie-Claude Lalonde, learned that Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation of Clergy, has appointed Msgr Christian Lépine, the Archbishop of Montreal, to sit on ACN’s International Board of Directors.

‘Msgr Lépine,’ says Marie-Claude Lalonde who rapidly communicated with the Archbishop of Montreal, ‘was happy to be nominated and demonstrated a great deal of enthusiasm when he learned of the new collaboration to come to the aid of poor and persecuted Christians throughout the world.’

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Just recently, Msgr Lépine recently partnered with ACN Canada to participate last November in a campaign to provide help to Christians in the Middle East.  He celebrated a Mass at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, and the collection was given in its entirety to ACN.

In a letter he addressed to all the priests, deacons and consecrated persons as well as the faithful laypeople within the Archdiocese of Montreal, Msgr Lépine reminded us, when speaking about 200 million persecuted Christians in the world, ‘there is a responsibility to inform and to find ways of providing support.’ He also added that ACN, ‘who exercises the tripled task of praying, informing and giving, ‘is an organization whose support to support local churches where Christians are persecuted, has existed since 1947.

 

Journey with ACN

© Aid to the Church in Need

JOURNEY WITH ACN is  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 helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.

This week :   Peru  & Honduras


Peru

“It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church”

Renovation of the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Pevas, San José de Amazonas

There are no other countries in South America where the shortage of priests is more acute than in Bolivia and Peru. Even though some 84% of Peru’s population of around 28 million inhabitants have been baptized Catholic, there remains a tremendous lack of the most basic knowledge of the Catholic Faith and an acute shortage of necessary pastoral care, resulting in the flourishing of sects. Today approximately 10% of Peruvians belong to one of the many evangelical “free churches” – and this trend is increasing rapidly.

Even in the most remote regions, the sects are advancing – including here, in the vicariate of San José de Amazonas which is found in the extreme north-east of the country, bordering Colombia. This is an exceptionally remote region most easily reached by aircraft, or by boat along the upper reaches of the Amazon River. And quite apart from the growth of the sects, the sheer remoteness, inaccessibility and scattered nature of the settlements is another of the greatest challenges for priests and missionaries here.

In many of the smaller towns and villages the sects have already built small chapels and in this way they are luring to them many Catholics. There are, perhaps, 800 small Catholic settlements altogether along the rivers Amazon, Napo, Putumayo and Yavari and their countless tributaries – all in an area of around 60,000 square miles (155,000 km²). One of these centres is the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Pevas, which has existed since 1956. Due to the shortage of priests, most of these small communities are looked after by religious Sisters or lay missionaries, who conduct liturgies of the Word and prepare the faithful for reception of the Sacraments.

The poverty is almost unimaginable by Western standards. Most Catholic faithful are simple campesinos who barely manage to scrape a meagre living from the land. Socially, and culturally, they have few prospects. This is one reason, perhaps, why the Church plays such an important role in their lives. Most of the villages’ inhabitants and of the homesteads and settlements in the surrounding area come to the churches to worship. And the parish church itself is both House of God and a communications centre at the same time – a place of shared prayer, but also a social and cultural meeting place. This is very much the case in Pevas. But time has not been kind to their parish church.

Bishop Miguel Olaortua Laspra has visited the community personally and seen for himself the state of the church, which was built in 1968. The rain and heat have caused the roof to rust through by now and the water drips through onto the altar missals. It has become dangerous even to remain inside the church, since at any moment pieces of the ceiling can break and fall. Therefore, the Bishop would like the church to have a new roof. “Unfortunately, the vicariate is not in a position to cover the costs of the repairs itself,” he writes. “We are therefore appealing to your generosity and would be most grateful if you can help us.”

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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.

 

The parishioners themselves are willing to play an active part in renovating the church. But their efforts alone will not be enough. And so we were happy to promised them a contribution of $12,000 dollars.

 

Honduras

Providing religious Sisters with the basics of life

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

She is young, and she works full-time – and yet she still does not have enough to live on. Ruth Nohemi Martinez is 29 years old, and since December 2010, she has been a religious Sister in the community of Our Lady of Guadalupe in San Francisco, in the Department of Atlántida.

Sister Ruth is one of 23 religious Sisters working in the dioceses of La Ceiba on the northern Caribbean coast of the country. Most of these nuns are active in the pastoral and catechetical field. They look after children, young people and adults providing religious instruction in the kindergartens and schools, preparing children for their First Holy Communion and young couples for the Sacrament of Matrimony. In many of these parishes the parish priests simply could not cope without the help of these parish Sisters of “theirs.” At the same time, many of the Sisters are also active in charitable and social fields. In their work with young people they run day-cares, help the children with their homework, provide lunchtime meals service for the poorest children, care for young people in the country areas and provide psychological and pedagogical counselling… Other Sisters work in retirement homes and hospitals and in the apostolate with mothers and women.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

The scope of their work is enormous – but there is one thing that all these sisters have in common, and that is the fact that the little money earned by just some of the Sisters for their work is not sufficient to support their communities. Without the help of generous donations from outside this precious and richly blessed ministry of theirs would be impossible. Bishop Michael Lenihan of La Ceiba writes to say: “We thank you with all our hearts for your precious support, which is helping us spread the Good News in our diocese.”

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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.

 

ACN has always given to the work of these Sisters and will continue to do so this year as well – with a contribution of $13,800 dollars, to ensure apostolates among those of the Consecrated Life, like Sister Ruth, can continue.

 


 

PRESS RELEASE – Pakistan

Pakistan

“The Taliban will stop at nothing now”

 Archbishop Coutts warns of increased threat to innocent people – 

Prelate asks schools to hold one-minute silence for Peshawar victims

by John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

UK/Montreal, Wednesday, 17th December 2014 – INNOCENT people in Pakistan – young and old alike – are now at increased risk of terrorist attack, according to the leader of the country’s Catholics, who has called on the government to step up security in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre.

Pakistan-1Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi said yesterday’s terrorist incident at the Army Public School was a “revenge attack” against the Pakistan military and that the Taliban “will stop at nothing now” to harm people.

Speaking today (Wednesday, 17th December) from Karachi, Archbishop Joseph Coutts, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the threat to schools, hospitals, churches, mosques and other public places had grown and that tighter security was crucial.

“The [security services] should be increasing security in public places.”

In his ACN interview, Archbishop Coutts said: “What happened yesterday was a sign of desperation.  The Taliban are prepared to carry out brutal attacks, killing school children, shooting them in the head. “They will stop at nothing now. The [security services] should be increasing security in public places. We are dealing here with people who have no conscience. It is just blind hatred.”

Stressing that the attack on Peshawar was the Taliban’s response to Pakistan military offences in the Khyber region and North Waziristan, regions close to the Afghan border, Archbishop Coutts said: “The Taliban want to show [the military] that they can hit the [army’s] children and all their families. Their message is: ‘We can get you in your own territory’.”

But the archbishop said that the Peshawar massacre was not a sign of the Taliban’s growing military might.  “I don’t think it was a show of strength. It is more likely to be a last ditch attempt to show what they can do,” he said.

20121011_002In his statement, the archbishop calls on church communities to “celebrate Christmas in a sober manner as a mark of respect for all victim[s] of terror attacks.” The statement goes on: “On the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, all Christians must pray fervently for peace. “It is the duty of every Christian to be a promoter of peace, reconciliation, harmony and unity … work[ing] together with fellow citizens [so] that Pakistan may be free from the scourge of violence and terrorism.”

In a statement issued today strongly condemning the attack, the prelate calls on Pakistan’s 300 or more Catholic schools and colleges to hold prayers and a one-minute silence to remember the 141 people who died.  Archbishop Coutts appealed to his faithful to pray not only for those killed yesterday but also for other Taliban victims including vaccinators against polio as well as the 127 people killed during the September 2013 attack on All Saints’ Church, Peshawar. He also urged people to pray for brick kiln workers Shama Bibi, 24, and Sajjad Maseeh, 27, the young Christian couple burned to death earlier this month for alleged blasphemy.

PAKISTAN-2

A call to “join hands to end this menace of terrorism”

In his ACN interview, Archbishop Coutts called on friends and benefactors to pray for Christians and others suffering violence in Pakistan. “It is very important for us to know that there are others praying for us, wanting to help us, wanting to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in faith. In spite of all our difficulties, we find a lot of strength in the prayers of all those who are concerned for us and I thank everybody who is remembering us, especially at this time of great tragedy and sadness.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice & Peace, an advocacy agency of the Catholic bishops’ conference which supports the victims of persecution, also condemned the Peshawar massacre.

PAKISTAN-3

In a message signed by Fr Emmanuel Mani, NCJP director, and Cecil Chaudhry, executive director, the agency stated: “We are running out of demands for human rights and now plead to the governments, all political parties, religious leaders, civil society organizations and the judiciary to set aside all their personal and political differences and join hands to end this menace of terrorism collectively. “The government, both federal and provincial, along with the intelligence agencies should take serious and effective measures to prevent such an atrocity and also demand to increase security and ensure [the] safety of all children and citizens of Pakistan.”

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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.

Pakistan is a priority country for Aid to the Church in Need, which in this country of 3 million faithful helps Christians escaping persecution, and provides Child’s Bibles, religious buildings and supports Sisters, seminarians and catechists as well as media projects.

PRESS RELEASE : Persecution of religious minorities in conflict régions – A silent war

Marcela Szymanski and Mark Riedemann, ACN InternationalACN-20140930-13994

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, AED Canada

 

Montreakl/Brussels/Königstein, 17 December 2014 – Aid to the Church in Need’s (ACN) Worldwide Religious Freedom Report 2014 was presented on Thursday 11th December at the European Parliament in Brussels. Speaking to an audience of 110 invited MEP’s and NGO representatives, the report’s Chairman of the Editorial Committee, Peter Sefton-Williams, invited the European policy-makers “to call on religious leaders to speak together against religiously inspired violence”.

MINORITÉS-1

In addition to presenting the key-note speech for this 2-day seminar hosted by the European People’s Party, ACN supported the event with the participation of four witnesses Bishop Steven Mamza of Nigeria (Yola Diocese), Sister Hanan Yousef of Lebanon, Mrs. Dina Raouf Khalil of Egypt and Dr. Paul Bhatti of Pakistan who each related their own experiences of persecution, or care of those who suffer persecution or discrimination at the hands of others.

MINORITÉS-2Nigeria’s Bishop Mamza, who feeds 60,000 refugees in his diocese and gives shelter to 10,000 in Church buildings as a consequence of the terrorist aggression said, “Boko Haram is only looking for power, they say it is like ancient Islam but even local imams say Islam has never been such a heartless religion”. Pakistan’s Dr. Paul Bhatti added, “The Taliban inspires the hate speech of many imams in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India and the lack of education makes it difficult to protect the young from this kind of fundamentalism”.

No time to loose

The speakers highlighted that religious persecution is generating unprecedented waves of migration and displacement, often affecting the most vulnerable – women and children. Sister Hanan Youssef of the Good Shepherd Sisters working with Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the poor quarters of Beirut, said that in 2014 her small dispensary alone had served 18.000 patients. Illness such as polio long eradicated from Lebanon, have returned with the refugees and that the majority of the 120 new patients she treats everyday have no means with which to pay for the medication having been stripped of every possession in their flight.

Mrs. Dina Raouf Khalil, coordinating the development of 35 schools with 12.000 students in the poorer regions of Upper Egypt, explained that in many ways Egypt had been spared the tragedy presently tearing apart the fabric of societies in neighboring countries. As she explained, although Egypt clearly faces a number of challenges there are small signs of hope such as “a young population that is beginning to renew an educational interest in the arts, which is also indicative of a move away from violence”.

MINORITÉS-3As summarized by the Members of the European Parliament chairing the panels, there is no time to loose to stop the advance of religious extremism and that strong words from governments must be accompanied by actions that support the persecuted minorities worldwide. So too, here in the West, action must be taken to address a growing concern regarding the level of religious illiteracy and the fertile ground this creates for radicalization as reflected by the number of young Europeans and Americans joining the jihadists.

Among the proposals, Father Patrick Daly Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe to the European Union, suggested that public and private education should work to increase the religious literacy of young Europeans: historically accurate and factual information about religion and beliefs and their role in society’s cultural, historical and artistic development. “Churches and religious communities are ready to cooperate in this important task to help people understand the cultural background and the religious environment that surrounds us”. No less, officers in public services and diplomatic and external services should be trained in religious affairs to better understand the social fabric in the areas of their expertise.

 

Central African Republic – Catholics reach out to Muslim ex-rebels

Bishops call for peace and reconciliation and offer humanitarian help 

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

CENTRAFRIQUE ACN-20140603-09674

©Aid to the Church in Need

The Catholic Church in the Central African Republic continues to work for peace and reconciliation within the country. That is why Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the president of the bishops’ conference and archbishop of the capital city, Bangui, recently visited a camp where former members of the Seleka Muslim rebel militia are now housed together with their families.

In the last couple of years the fighters of this now dissolved militia group had committed many atrocities, above all against the Christian population of the country. Archbishop Nzapalainga was accompanied during his visit by representatives of Catholic aid agencies, who brought food and hygiene articles into the camp and supplied medical aid.

Speaking during his visit, Archbishop Nzapalainga emphasised that God never turns away anyone who repents of his faults and is willing to return to Him. He said, “Here in this camp there are men, women and children living. For me, as a man of God, they are children of God whom He has created in His image and to whom I am obliged to reach out.”

CENTRAFRIQUE ACN-20140603-09675

©Aid to the Church in Need

He went on to explain that he could not remain inactive in the face of the misery in the camp. “I have therefore appealed to all the Christians of the Catholic Church that it is time to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters. For when we go to church we receive the power of God to help our brethren in need.” The archbishop spoke with the former rebels and listened to their needs. The ex-Seleka fighters were worried about their reintegration into society and about the future of their children. Archbishop Nzapailanga appealed to them not to resort to arms again.

852,000 people are still refugees

Ahead of his visit, in their Advent pastoral letter, the episcopal conference had appealed to Catholics in the Central African Republic to work for reconciliation. “Even if a genuine and lasting peace is a gift of Christ, nonetheless it depends on each one of us also”, they stated.

The bishops also appealed to the government of their country, which is still racked by internal unrest: “We call upon the government, with the help of the international community, to establish security for all its citizens, to fight against impunity, restore the authority of the state and so strengthen the social cohesion, dialogue and peace.” The bishops also expressed their concern at the growing levels of banditry in the country. “The people continue to remain hostage to armed groups”, the bishops wrote.

CENTRAFRIQUE ACN-20140603-09662

©Aid to the Church in Need

The security situation in the Central African Republic remains highly unstable. There are continuing and repeated outbreaks of violence, as for example just recently, in October, when there were clashes between armed militia groups and international troops. According to the UNHCR over 852,000 people are still refugees, forced to flee their homes – a figure that corresponds to one fifth of the total population of the Republic.

In 2015 the transitional president, Catherine Samba-Panza is due to hand over the reins of government to an elected successor. However, observers are now assuming that the elections will not take place in February, as planned, but not until the second half of the year.

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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.