PRESS RELEASE : Ukraine – The Catholic Church is trying to aid the people

Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Koenigstein , 21 February, 2013 Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, ArchbishopMontreal/Königstein – March Monday 2nd – 2015 – The Catholic Church in Ukraine is trying to aid the people regardless of their confession. The Archbishop of Lviv, Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, drew attention to this during a visit to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We look after refugees, provide pastoral as well as material care for the families of soldiers, operate soup kitchens, and we are now also distributing food and medicines to other needy people,” said Archbishop Mokrzycki while looking in briefly after an ad limina visit to Rome.

“Pope Francis listened very carefully to us, the bishops from Ukraine, and he promised to speak out for peace in Ukraine to those in positions of political responsibility and to the international institutions. He also agreed to give us material assistance for our work on behalf of Ukraine,” the Archbishop of Lviv emphasised.

UKRAINE / NATIONAL 14/02434 Support of the Ukrainian Caritas for

The Catholic Church’s aid activities are directed to refugees from the conflict regions in the east of the country as well as to the needy in West Ukraine. The conflict has been made more acute by the critical economic situation in the country. Archbishop Mokrzycki said: “The Mayor of Lviv, for example, addresses himself directly to the Churches again and again, asking if we can help to accommodate such-and-such a number of refugees.

There is great solidarity; Christians of different confessions are coming closer together. Although the people do not have very much, they help one another.” In order to house the refugees, according to the Archbishop, makeshift shanties have now been erected in both East and West Ukraine. ACN supports the Church’s aid activities in numerous Ukrainian dioceses. In recent months, a sum of more than 182 300 dollars has been provided for this purpose.

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LETTER FROM ALEPPO, SYRIA

This description was written by the missionaries of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (Instituto del Verbo Encarnado) and the Institute of the Servants of the Lord and of the Virgin of Matará (Instituto Servidoras del Señor y de la Virgen de Matará), currently working in the city of Aleppo, providing spiritual and material support for the Christians of Syria – who have now been suffering for over two years from the scourge of war.

The sound of Christmas carols, mixed with tears

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©Aide à l’Église en Détresse-Aid to the Church in Need

 

Along with a small group of the faithful, we celebrated Christmas this year in the Cathedral of the Child Jesus in Aleppo. Together with them we celebrated that wonderful event that happened on a day like today – when the Lord, clothed in our flesh, made his entrance into this world as a little child – defenceless, poor, weak and in need of help.

The liturgy had been prepared with great care, with a group of enthusiastic young people forming part of the choir that participated in the liturgy. The people came to Mass, despite the cold and the profound darkness that engulfs Aleppo every day of winter from 4:30 p.m. onwards. They took part in the Mass with joy, and after the celebration we shared a coffee with them as a way of celebrating together the birth of the Redeemer. The simple and fraternal atmosphere that reigned in the happiness of this day led us to turn our thoughts from time to time to the cave of Bethlehem – where on that night the Most Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph were united, together with a few shepherds, around the new-born Child. In Bethlehem there was no sound of trumpets, nor any solemn announcement of the arrival of the King of Kings; there were no palaces to welcome him, but only a cave, the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph, the shepherds, and the silence and darkness of the night… The tears and cries of God, now become a Child, mingled with the sound of the heavenly melodies intoned by the angels…

Here too the world outside the church followed on its usual course, without recognising the fact that God had become man and had been born like one of us, in order to save us. Only a small group of Christians were gathered around the manger – singing carols and rejoicing at the birth of the Redeemer – yet at the same time their faces bathed in tears, which ran down their cheeks as they contemplated the cave that echoed the cave of Bethlehem. Families separated by the war, some remembering lost loved ones; some had lost their homes just two days before Christmas as a result of the missiles; others celebrated the Christmas night queuing up in the cold, dark and rainy night in the hope of obtaining a few litres of water to take back to their homes. Many days there is no electricity at all, no water, no gas, no fuel with which to heat – even minimally – their homes in the bitter Aleppo winter.

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©Aide à l’Église en Détresse-Aid to the Church in Need

There was no ringing of bells on Christmas Eve in Aleppo, no light shows…

On the contrary, there was a dense darkness – like that deep darkness that once enveloped the earth before the coming of the Messiah and which cried out for the coming of the Saviour. Just as we continue, each day,  to listen to the sound of the explosions, which do not cease, not even at Christmas. The doors of the churches were all protected by police guards, in order to avert the risk of attack during the Christian holy days. There were children whose faces revealed their suffering – like an echo of the cry of the Child in Bethlehem; children wounded by the violence of war, orphaned children, refugee children, separated from their families, living in conditions of extreme poverty, homeless children who spend their days in the icy streets of Aleppo, begging for help, offering to work, holding out their little hands, cold and dirty, in the hope of receiving a coin. There were the married couples, the fathers of families, crushed because they were unable to provide anything better for their little children. There were some families who did not attend the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve – because, after many days without water, it suddenly arrived for just a few hours, and they had to work urgently, cleaning their houses. For most of us, who do not live through such situations or do not hear at first hand from those who do suffer them, it is impossible to form an adequate idea of what it is like to live in the midst of so many privations.

So that was Christmas, as it was celebrated by the Christians of Aleppo… Outside, the world continued on its normal course. Gathered around the manger, we rejoiced at the birth of a Child who caused the angels to sing “Glory to God in the highest!”. And together with them we prayed, our tears mingling with the notes of the Christmas carols – Peace to men of goodwill; peace to the whole world; peace for the Middle East; peace for the so terribly afflicted people of Syria…

 

 

 

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”.

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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.”

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©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.

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©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
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PRESSE RELEASE: Iraq – Aid to the Church in Need opens refugee school in Iraq

First of eight schools for Christian children inaugurated

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adaptation Robert Lalonde, AED Canada

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Montreal/Königstein / Erbil-Ankawa, December 15th, 2014- Last thursday, a school for Christian children was inaugurated in Erbil-Ankawa. This is the first of a total of eight schools funded by the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need ACN).

The charity’s President, Johannes von Heeremann, had come to attend the inauguration in the Christian district of Erbil, Ankawa. “For our organisation the education of children is the top priority. We must not allow conditions to develop in Iraq such as prevail in Syria, where children have sometimes not been attending any kind of school for years. This leads to lost generations with unforeseeable long-term consequences. I am therefore very happy that, by inaugurating this school, we can make a small, but important contribution to safeguarding the Christian presence in Iraq,” Johannes von Heereman stressed on Thursday in Ankawa.

The school project is being supervised by the head of the charity’s middle east department, Andrzej Halemba. “We have provided about 2 million euros for the school projects. The schools cannot cover their needs, of course. But it’s a beginning. The ecumenical cause is also being supported. One school in Dohuk will serve primarily Syriac-Orthodox children. In addition Yazidi children will also be able to attend our schools.”

A further argument for staying

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Halemba went on the stress that the communities taking the refugees in would therefore be relieved of some of their burden. “After all, many school buildings have been used and are being used as accommodation for refugees. The schoolchildren’s parents feared that their offspring’s schooling would be interrupted. This led to tensions. These can now be reduced,” according to Halemba. “The schools are giving parents and children fresh hope. They are a further argument for staying in the country they love.”

The Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil-Ankawa, Bashar Matti Warda, thanked Aid to the Church in Need for their support. “This is an important contribution to giving our refugees new perspectives. We wish to thank all benefactors for their generosity.”

The school, made of prefabricated parts, will be the first of a total of eight schools in the Iraqi provinces of Dohuk and Erbil. In January of next year it is intended that they will all be in operation. In all, about 7200 mainly Christian children are to receive instruction in this way. There will be two shifts, morning and afternoon, and in each about 450 children of all grades will be taught. They will be taught by teachers from the Christian places now occupied by ISIS. The central government in Baghdad will pay to maintain the teaching staff. The classrooms are to be used not only for school teaching, but also for catechistic instruction and other Church activities.

Since the ISIS terrorist militia advanced into northern and western Iraq in June this year, many more than 100,000 Christians in several waves had to flee from their home areas and leave everything behind. They mostly found refuge in the northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan. The bishops fear there will be an increasing exodus from Iraq if the people cannot be offered a perspective quickly.

ACN has therefore made available aid to the tune of 5,77 millions dollars for the persecuted Christians in this and the previous year. This includes, among many other things, the acquisition of mobile homes and the provision of food.

ONE YEAR AGO IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin

ACN-20140821-12798

©Aid to the Church in Need

On December 5, 2013, the convent of the Carmes of Bangui, the Capital of Central African Republic, was transformed into a refugee camp when 2,500 people arrived unannounced in search of refuge due to threats by the Seleka Rebel group.

The eleven brothers who dwell in the convent welcomed the people with open arms – though without knowing exactly how they would accommodate so many people. At that time, what they did not know, is that the number would not be 2,500 – but more like 10,000 people that would come to find shelter as the situation unfolded and more attacks would take place on the following December 20.

One year later, today, December 5, 2014, 4,000 of them are still there living in circumstances that are a little calmer, but no less precarious.  In remembrance of this sad anniversary, the brothers have decided to celebrate a Holy Mass at 3:30pm with all the refugees.  “We will implore the Lord for the gift of a lasting peace, and a true reconciliation for Central Africa.  We ask God for the gift of conversion of hearts and minds,” says Father Federico Trinchero, the community’s prior.

But their prayers will also be offered for numerous people: “We will pray for Christians and for Muslims, for the anti-Balaka and for the Seleka; for those among our refugees who we have known and loved and who are now dead; for those of the French Army who have died and in the other African armies and from other countries; for the different humanitarian organizations who have contributed through their work and with the sacrifice of their own lives for the return of peace to Central Africa; for those who govern and for those who will govern this country; for all people who helped us and who are helping us through their prayers, their friendship and their generosity.”

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©Aid to the Church in Need

If by the celebration of Christmas 2013 the convent had been transformed into a living Crèche, as a result today, there are numerous children who have been born in this very place. This is why Father Federico adds: “And we give thanks to God for all the children who were born at Camel, and for protecting us from all danger.”

And finally, “this Mass will allow us to pay homage to the thousands of innocent victims who died in this war which has endured for almost two years.”

We invite you to join with us, but especially with them, in their prayers.

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: Jordan – Aid to the Church in Need supports Christian refugees from Iraq

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.

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada 

Montreal, Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 – The Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has allocated $77 500 of humanitarian aid for Christian refugees from Iraq. This will support about 200 families from the Mosul region who have been taken in by the Catholic parish “Mary, Mother of the Church” in Amman (Jordan).

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Parish priest Khalil Jaar said to Aid to the Church in Need: “The people arrived here with nothing. They therefore urgently need anything that could in any way be useful, such as shoes, clothing, blankets and medicine. Daily meals also need to be provided for about 200 families. No one can say for how many days or months they will be living in our parish.”

King Abdullah II condemn violence

According to Father Jaar, the families are no longer only living in the common rooms of the rectory; some have in the meantime been moved to flats the parish has rented in the surrounding area. “We are still taking in new arrivals every day. We have started renting small flats close to our church. We are housing at least two families in each of these because the rental costs are very high.”

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In addition to meeting everyday necessities, the parish is also caring for the psychological needs of the children and their parents as well as organising discussion groups and prayer meetings, Father Jaar said. He explained that the Christians who fled Mosul to escape the militias of the “Islamic State” have experienced terrible things. “In the summer,” the priest continued, “the Muslim extremists who conquered Mosul gave Christians the choice of either converting to Islam, paying a tax or risk being executed. The result was a mass exodus of Christians to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. A man told me how they were inspected at an ISIS checkpoint as they fled Mosul. Everything was taken from them, money, passports, jewellery and watches. Their three-year-old son was not even allowed to take his milk bottle with him.”Jordanie-3

According to Father Jaar, King Abdullah II of Jordan has reacted to the persecution by allowing many of the Christians from Mosul to stay in his country. “The king has proclaimed his sympathy and his support for the persecuted groups and has condemned the violent acts of the ISIS as not Islamic.”

Aid to the Church in Need supports the Christians suffering from ISIS terror both inside and outside of Iraq. The pastoral charity recently granted 5,77 million dollars of emergency aid to internally displaced Christians in Iraq, one of the largest individual programmes in the charity’s history.