Journey with ACN – Tanzania

© 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:   Tanzania

Seminarians train for the priesthood 

In the Archdiocese of Tabora, in central western Tanzania, there are 35 seminarians waiting for your support, for without it they cannot continue their studies, or one day be ordained to the priesthood.

Tabora is one of five archdioceses in Tanzania established in 1953 by the White Fathers, who had been working in this area since 1878. It has 23 parishes and 51 priests – a number too low for Father Kibobera Makona, the priest responsible for the vocations apostolate in the diocese. “Of the more than 2 million people living in the archdiocese, some 450,000 are Catholics. Muslims are a majority in this region.

The reason there are so few parishes, is because there is a shortage of priests. In fact, many parishes have actually had to be closed down already for this reason. We have so much to do and we need priests,” he emphasizes. Not surprisingly, he rejoices all the more at every candidate who feels called to the priesthood and is admitted to train for it. The 35 major seminarians currently training here need our help, since the cost of living have risen in Tanzania and the archdiocese cannot afford the full cost of their training – which in Tanzania lasts a total of nine years.

ACN-20141014-14623

The candidates work in the archdiocese in their first year, followed by three years of philosophy, four years of theology and then a pastoral year, working in the parishes. Currently there are 13 seminarians in the philosophy years and 20 in the theology years, while two seminarians have completed their pastoral year and have now been ordained as deacons.

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Aid to the Church in Need has promised a contribution of $17,160 dollars to cover the expenses and studies of these seminarians for an entire year! During this time it is expected that 14 young men will be ordained to the priesthood. “While the diocese is seeking ways to fund the training of these future priests, we appeal to your generosity to help us for the support and formation of these seminarians,” writes Archbishop Paul Rusoka. We are convinced that with your help, they will indeed succeed!

 

Syria – “All that counts is the degree of need”

Starting yesterday, and through to Friday, we will offer you a variety of stories which, along with describing to you the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also offer you poignant testimonials from the religious personnel on site and from the people living through this unspeakable tragedy.

You will see, though Syrians have a capacity for resilience which is quite remarkable, their suffering remains a weight that they cannot bear alone.  Prayer, information and action can help them continue to move ahead on their journey, despite the formidable challenges they face. How can you support them?

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.

#DONATEFORSYRIA


 

Across denominational boundaries: Catholics help Orthodox Christians in Syria 

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Al-Hasakah is located in the north-east of Syria. The area is mainly populated by Kurds, but there is also a Christian community there. Like all those who live in Al-Hasakah, they are also suffering because their area is virtually cut off from the rest of the country. The reason for this is that the islamist terrorist militia ISIS controls the surrounding regions. “The families in Al-Hasakah are in great need. They have to go without power and water for days on end. Many of them don’t even have enough to eat,” says Sister Annie Demerjian. “Al-Hasakah is a forgotten city. In Aleppo, where I live, the situation is also disastrous. But nobody talks about Al-Hasakah.”

This Armenian-Catholic Sister belongs to the community of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary. In Aleppo she organizes help for people in the war-ravaged town, which is quite enough to keep her busy. But when she heard about the precarious situation of the people in Al-Hasakah she decided to help them. “We share what we have. I can’t get to Al-Hasakah myself. The overland route passes through ISIS territory. That’s too dangerous for Christians. We therefore work together with a Syriac-Orthodox priest in Al-Hasakah. He organizes help for the people there. Through him we support about 100 Christian families. We hope that there will be more in future.”

Almoukales center - package SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00146 Emergency

It is not easy sending relief into this area. “In the past year we had to resort to a ruse. We wanted to send more than 600 anoraks for children and young people by bus to Al-Hasakah. But we were warned that ISIS could confiscate the goods if it was evident that they were coming from Christians for Christians. We were therefore helped by friendly Muslims who entered the name of a Muslim as the sender and a Muslim as the recipient on the delivery note. It worked,” she explained and still expresses pleasure at the trick’s success.

Aid to the Church in Need supports the work of Sister Annie and her Orthodox partner in Al-Hasakah. “Last October and December we distributed 100 litres of heating oil to the families with the help of Aid to the Church in Need. And we managed to supply the families with oil again in January. This is very important in view of the winter.” Besides heating oil – sanitary articles, food and medicines are also being distributed to the needy families in Al-Hasakah.

Sister Annie regards this inter-denominational aid as a matter of course. “We are all Christians and we’re in the same boat. When it comes to aid it doesn’t matter whether someone is Chaldean or Syriac-Orthodox, or whatever. All that counts is the degree of need.” Every day, Sister Annie reports, Christian families are leaving the Al-Hasakah region on account of the hardship, mostly over the Turkish border. “Our aid is crucial to enable them to stay. Otherwise we will lose even more Christians.”


 

Tomorrow :  The Lord acts subtly, but He acts”

“You can’t imagine in what kind of circumstances the family was living. It was damp and cold in that cellar. It is like a catacomb.” 

 

 

Syria – Before the jihadists arrived

In the coming days, we will offer you a variety of stories which, along with describing to you the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also offer you poignant testimonials from the religious personnel on site and from the people living through this unspeakable tragedy.

You will see, though Syrians have a capacity for resilience which is quite remarkable, their suffering remains a weight that they cannot bear alone.  Prayer, information and action can help them continue to move ahead on their journey, despite the formidable challenges they face. How can you support them?

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.

#DONATEFORSYRIA


 

Before the jihadists arrived

Despite vast destruction: the Church is trying to improve the lives of people in Syria and strengthen their faith – Aid to the Church in Need provides support

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

The Syrian city of Yabrud looks back on a long Christian tradition. It is home to one of the oldest Christian churches in Syria. The house of prayer, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in the fourth century. “In February of 2014, the jihadists completely ravaged our church. They destroyed the icons, shredded the evangeliary and burnt down the altar. They also stole anything they could get their hands on.” Father George Hadad, for many years the Greek-Catholic priest in Yabrud, is still despondent over the desecration of the church. He held out in the rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border for almost three years. The strategically important city fell under the control of the Syrian opposition very early on.

St. Mayrs Church - Syrian Orthodox in Homs We will come back" i

From that point on, fighting repeatedly broke out between the government and the rebels. Then, in March of 2014, the government army regained control over the city. This was preceded by fierce fighting. “Fortunately, the damage was not as extensive as we had feared. The Blessed Virgin had protected Yabrud. The Muslims of Yabrud are also saying this. They revere the Blessed Virgin just as we do. In fact, we have always got on well with the Muslims of Yabrud. During the occupation there were a few who collaborated with the jihadists. But this was a small minority of uneducated people. The Muslims even helped the Christians to safeguard me whenever I left the house.”

Meanwhile, the jihadists from outside of the city – at times they even included fighters of the infamous al-Nusra brigades, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda – made the lives of Christians difficult. “They said that we worship the cross and that we should therefore remove it from our church. I replied that we do not worship the cross, but the Word of God.” However, the holy warriors of Islam were not convinced. They used explosives to remove the cross from the cathedral in October of 2013. The damage to the church was extensive. “However, we were always able to celebrate mass and the liturgy of the hours. Always,” he said. “Last year, when we returned to the city right before Easter, we used the speakers of the mosque to broadcast the call to prayer on Good Friday. Even Muslims came.”

SYRIA / HOMS-MLC 15/00038Help for Quseir (church, catechism cen

Before the war, Father George reported, about 3,500 Christians lived in Yabrud. “When I was there last year after it had been recaptured by the army, there were only nine left. They fled because of the fighting. However, almost 80 per cent of the Christians have now returned.”

Nevertheless, together with the rest of Yabrud’s residents, the members of his parish are suffering because of the poor supply situation. “We only have electricity and water sporadically. There is also a shortage of heating fuels. There is almost no work to be had. Before the war, Yabrud was a highly industrialized city. There is almost nothing left of this now.” But Father George is convinced that there is a future for the Christians in Syria. “After all, where else could it be? In Europe? The people there have lost their faith through capitalism. And you won’t find the land of milk and honey there, either. If we could only be left alone here, the future could be bright for us in Syria.” Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is supporting Father George and the Christians in Yabrud with such projects as the reconstruction of destroyed residential buildings.

Father George’s archbishop is also convinced that there is a future for Syria’s Christians. Archbishop Jean Abdo Arbach is head of the Greek-Catholic diocese of Homs, Hama and Yabrud. During the past few years, his diocese has suffered greatly due to the conflict. Thousands of his parishioners have had to flee, a large number of churches and church buildings were also destroyed. “The rebels used my residence in Homs as their headquarters until the government took control of the city last year. The cathedral was so severely damaged during the fighting that we had to think about whether it was even worth restoring, or if it wouldn’t be better to simply tear it down and build a new one.” However, the faith of his Christians is more important to Archbishop Arbach than the buildings.

“The faith of the people has deepened. More people are coming to church than before, including children. No one is reproaching God. Everyone knows that the suffering that surrounds us is the handiwork of humanity.” For this reason, Archbishop Arbach’s chief concern is reviving the pastoral life in his diocese. For example, a catechesis centre for 450 children and adolescents in Yabrud is now up and running – also thanks to support from Aid to the Church in Need.

“Thankfully we are able to continue with our pastoral life, despite the difficulties. We thank Aid to the Church in Need for this. Our clergy is doing what they can. I am very proud that the priests stayed with their congregations, even in difficult situations. I trust that God will give us peace through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. At any rate, it is our job as Christians to be the instruments of peace. We have to raise our children to this end.”

 


 

Tomorrow : “It’s the degree of the need that counts”

“Al-Hasakah is a forgotten city. In Aleppo, where I live, the situation is also disastrous. But nobody talks about Al-Hasakah.”

 

PRESS RELEASE – Syria: Aid to the Church in Need pledges 3.27 million in emergency aid 

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation TO BRING AID TO SYRIA please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN, Königstein/Montreal, Monday, February 16, 2015 – The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has pledged millions in emergency aid in response to the catastrophic situation that has befallen millions of people in Syria after four years of war. More than 3.27 million dollars have been spent to fund a number of projects and to support those in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities who have been hard hit by the war, explained Father Andrzej Halemba, head of the Middle East section of Aid to the Church in Need.

Since the outbreak of violence in Syria in March of 2011, the situation of the country’s Christians in particular has deteriorated dramatically: hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands have been driven away. Families have lost members, and yes, their entire means of existence. Children and adolescents have been barred from attending school for months, sometimes years at a time. In addition to meeting the most immediate needs, the emergency aid seeks to offer Christians in Syria as well as the entire Middle East new prospects for the future. 

 

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00138 Emergency help for 1200 families from

12.2 million affected

Father Andrzej Halemba said, “We are especially worried about the Christians in Aleppo and Damascus, but also the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Fear is ever present. It is intense, almost palpable, especially since the new so-called Islamic State was proclaimed. Bishop Audo of Aleppo told me, “Aleppo’s Christians are afraid that what happened in Mosul will also happen to them. This is a new, and unfortunately justified, fear of genocide and ethnic cleansing. The Islamic State openly shows its murderous intentions against anyone who does not bend to its brand of extremism. They are proud of their cruelty against ‘unbelievers’ and blatantly fall back on the sword.”

According to Father Halemba, another reason the situation of the Syrian people has become so desperate is because the interest of the international community has noticeably waned and this despite the fact that the European Union has calculated that 12.2 million people are affected by the war in Syria. This brings the number of internally displaced persons to 7.8 million and the number of Syrians living in barely accessible parts of the country or war zones to 4.8 million.

It is estimated that 5.6 million children are directly affected by the war; the number of those who are no longer able to attend school lies at 3 million.

The aid money donated by Aid to the Church in Need has benefited thousands of families living in war-torn regions. The money is being used to provide basic foodstuffs, medicine, and emergency medical care, along with rent for housing as well as heating and electricity. The funds have also been allocated for the pastoral and charitable endeavours of Christians in Syria who are working in various communities to help their fellow Syrians obtain housing and care. For example, for Sisters in Al-Hasakah (Hassaké) in the north-eastern part of Syria by the Turkish border who are providing emergency medical care and distributing relief goods. Or for priests in Aleppo and Damascus who are helping supply the victims of the war with material and pastoral care.


 

Over the next few days on ACN’s blog – aidchurch.wordpress.com – you will have be able to read stories which, along with describing the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also give you access to poignant testimonials from religious workers on site, as well as other people living this unspeakable tragedy.

 

Journey with ACN – Liberia

© 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:   Liberia

An archdiocese says “Thank you!”

 Thanks to your generous support, ACN has been able to help for the ongoing work of 27 Catholic schools in the archdiocese of Monrovia, with the purchase of a car. There are officially 140,705 Catholics in the archdiocese. In Liberia generally, Christians make up some 40% of the total population (Catholics 6%, Protestants 34%). Another 40% of the population are still adherents of traditional, animist religions, while Muslims account for a sizable minority of around 20%. The area of this region is very extensive (25,000 km sq); the roads are untarred, and a robust vehicle is essential for travel. Archbishop Lewis Zeigler wrote to tell us that the two vehicles then in use by the diocese already had around 70,000 km under their belts and, given the increasingly high cost of repairs, were coming to the end of their useful service. Needless to say, such vehicles are essential to the smooth running of the 27 Catholic schools in the archdiocese. “We need to visit each school at least five times in order to be able to supervise them effectively,” the archbishop told us.

© Aid to the Church in Need - Transportation Project

© Aid to the Church in Need – Transportation Project

The new car is used not only for the visits of the school inspectors, however, but also for transporting school meals, books and other teaching materials and equipment for the schools –  altogether serving some 15,500 pupils, for the most part from very poor families. Liberia is today only slowly recovering from the massive economic collapse that followed the 14 years of civil war, from 1989 to 2003. At the same time the population has now been hit by the frightening spread of the Ebola virus, which has already infected over 6,500 people in the country and claimed more than 2,500 lives to date. Father Sumo Varfee Molubah, who is responsible for school education within the archdiocese, wrote to us in November 2014 saying, „The ongoing crisis and the rapid spread of the Ebola virus has brought many of our activities to a standstill. We thank God that the vehicle has reached us nonetheless.” Because of the crisis, the teaching in the schools has been temporarily suspended. So the car is currently being kept in a secure place until the schools can be reopened again. Father Sumo writes: “We are most grateful for your support.”

 

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.

Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

Father Werenfried van Straaten – also known as ‘The Bacon Priest’ – January 17, 1913 – January 31, 2003 © Aid to the Church in Need

“Someone must begin: Let it be us!”

Good news often gets drowned out by the tide of shock-horror stories. And yet the seed of peace and reconciliation is burgeoning in many places around the world. Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), dedicated the whole of his life to the service of reconciliation. He died on 31 January twelve years ago.

By Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International – Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

It often begins with a gesture of help. Father Werenfried van Straaten, founder of Aid to the Church in Need, followed the principle: “Someone must begin: Let it be us!” When Pope John Paul II asked him in 1991, after his long life as a bridge-builder, to now seek the means of creating a dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, he couldn’t wait to get going. After all, this Church had had to start practically from scratch after decades of persecution. The figures speak from themselves: of the approximately 60,000 houses of worship in which the Holy Liturgy had been celebrated prior to the October Revolution in Russia, only 100 were left twenty years later. In the first two years after the October Revolution alone 15,000 Orthodox priests had been killed. More than 300 bishops had been executed or had died in prison. When he was almost 80 years old, he said that to give support to the Orthodox sister Church after the collapse of the communist regime not only with fine words was the “last and greatest joy of my life.”

“Ecumenism is the work of the Holy Spirit”

The “ecumenism of the martyrs,” the common confession of faith by the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the labour camps and prisons of the Soviet Union, was now to become transformed after the political turnaround into an “ecumenism of solidarity.”.Help in training new priests, the “chapel boats” which acted as floating churches visiting villages which had no houses of worship on the shores of the rivers Volga and Don, joint media initiatives intended to break down prejudices and to inform the faithful about the respective other Church and support in pastoral care for prisoners and drug addicts have all borne rich fruit, as has the support given to the first Orthodox hospice for terminally ill children. Numerous friendships and initiatives have emerged from these actions. The help given was not only one-sided since in Russia, where Catholic Christians are only a small minority, open-minded Orthodox clerics can be valuable helpers for the Catholic communities. Successive Popes have expressed the wish that this commitment be continued. Often mutual mistrust is based on ignorance and prejudices, and so it is important to get to know one another better and thus be able to come closer together.

“Ecumenism is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not have hands or feet and so we Christians must become his hands and feet in the world.” With these words the young Protestant pastor Vladimir Tatarnikov from Belarus encapsulated what more and more Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians feel: that reconciliation is not just a theory, but something concrete. That it consists of words which are consciously spoken, of deeds which create facts, of steps which people take to come closer to one another. And that, in the final analysis, it is a gift of God.

In many countries there now exist successful ecumenical initiatives. For example, in Lutsk in the north-west of Ukraine an ecumenical benefit event is held every year. For this joint celebration, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants prepare a programme of Christmas carols, plays and dances.  The proceeds go to orphans. The programme is broadcast on state television. The fact that the Churches join together to help poor children also sets a good example to people who generally have nothing to do with the Christian faith.

“Not only a choice, but a duty” is how Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, describes the commitment to ecumenism. In many countries the collaboration between the different denominations and religions is, however, also a bitter necessity, since wherever hatred rules it can save lives if the representatives of the religious communities join together to advocate reconciliation and peace. In the spiral of violence into which the Central African Republic was drawn further and further in 2013/2014 it was the combined voices of Catholic, Protestant and Muslim religious leaders which could be heard opposing the law of vengeance and supporting reconciliation and reason. It is thanks to the joint intervention of representatives of the Churches and religions that it was possible to prevent massacres in many places; for example in Bozoum, a town in the north west of the country where the Italian Carmelite father Aurelio Gazzera joined with a Protestant pastor and an imam in January 2014 to conduct intensive peace negotiations and achieve the withdrawal of the Séléka rebels when it was feared there would be a massacre with hundreds of dead.

Always trusted in the power of God

 In view of the spreading persecution of Christians, collaboration is becoming more necessary than ever. Pope Francis said in December 2013 in an interview with the Italian newspaper “La Stampa” that, in view of the persecution of Christians, ecumenism was for him a “matter of priority” since in many countries Christians are being killed because they wear a crucifix or own a Bible. And before they are killed, they are not asked whether they are Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans or Orthodox believers. The blood is mixed.” It was the wish of Jesus that all should be one. Father Werenfried, the founder of Aid to the Church in Need, who died twelve years ago on 31 January, always trusted in the power of God which opens the hearts of people to one another. The desire to build bridges and bring about reconciliation was the great mission in his life. Taking the first step in this direction was the major feature of Aid to the Church in Need  from the very beginning.

 

 

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – Day 8

Day 8: Witness

Prayer : God, spring of living water, make of us witnesses of unity through both our words and our lives. Help us to understand that we are not the owners of the well, and give us the wisdom to welcome the same grace in one another. Transform our hearts and our lives, so that we might be genuine bearers of the Good News. And lead us always to the encounter with the other, as an encounter with you. We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

 

Commentary (John 4:39): With her heart transformed, the Samaritan woman goes out in mission, announces to her people that she has found the Messiah. The force of her witness stems from the transformation of her life caused by her encounter with Jesus. Every Christian is called to announce the name of the Lord. Mission is not proselytism. Those who truly announce Jesus approach others in loving dialogue, open to mutual learning, and respecting difference. Our mission must be a work both of word and witness. The witness of the Samaritan woman led her community to believe in Jesus because her brothers and sisters saw coherence between her words and her own transformation. If our word and witness are authentic, the world will hear and believe.