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

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To make a donation TO BRING AID TO SYRIA please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
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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.

 

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Press Release – Nigeria

Nigeria

Germany, Munich 23.04.2013Press Conference with presentation ofBishops attack government corruption 

John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Attacking “the ugly tide of corruption” in Nigeria’s government, a Catholic bishop has highlighted the tough challenges the country’s new administration will face after the election. 


Montreal, Friday
February 13 In a message sent to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria said the next parliament will need to deal with pressing issues destabilizing the nation. “Years of corruption have diminished the sense of loyalty to the Nigerian state,“ he said calling on the new president “to rally citizens around the project of a national identity and national unity.”

According to Bishop Kukah major inequalities have resulted from the wealth from Nigeria’s natural resources being concentrated in the hands of a few. “Despite the huge resources that the nation has received from the unprecedented sales in oil, there is hardly anything to show for it in the lives of ordinary citizens. The uncontrollable hemorrhaging of resources has led to the ubiquity of misery among the people.” He called on the election’s winners to channel resources into education, job creation and agriculture.

The impact of Boko Haram

Bishop Kukah warned that terrorist group Boko Haram had increased tensions between religious groups saying: “the insurgency has depleted a lot of the good will among the various ethnic groups and further deepened the fracture between Christians and Muslims.”

Nigeria: Military forces entering the north-east to help repel BDrawing attention to recent attacks by Boko Haram, Bishop Kukah said: “In Sokoto where I live, as well as most northern cities, the last few months have witnessed a huge exodus of citizens, some out of the country, and others to their ancestral homes in different parts of the country.”

There are fears of a repeat of the violence that followed the 2011 election, when 800 killed were killed over a three-day period and many churches, businesses and homes were destroyed. Bishop Kukah explained, “Sadly, the federal government did almost nothing to redress these issues. No one was prosecuted and except for a few, the federal government did not deal with the issues of compensation for the majority of the citizens who lost property.”

“This is based on the ugly experiences that have been associated with some of the worst form of violence in Nigeria,” said the bishop describing how Christians had started sending their families to their ancestral homes and states even before the Christmas.

But the prelate was largely positive about the elections, which are currently scheduled for Saturday, March 28. “Nigerians,” he said “are approaching the forthcoming elections with measured optimism, excitement but a deep sense of caution and even trepidation.” Saying that the result was “too close to call,” Bishop Kukah paid tribute to efforts to repel Boko Haram’s recent incursion further south ahead of polling day.

ACN has provided $64,220 in emergency aid to the displaced people of the Maiduguri diocese who fled the advance of Boko Haram.

The charity also provided $52,800 in Mass Offerings to priests in the diocese, half of whom found refuge in the neighbouring Yola diocese.

PRESS RELEASE – Nigeria

 Aid to the Church in Need organizes a prayer campaign for Nigeria

Montreal, Friday February 6, 2015 – On 14 February 2015 Nigeria will be voting for a new president and a new parliament. The April 2011 elections in Nigeria “were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history, but they were also among the bloodiest,” according to Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.  

St. Rita´s Catholic Church and it´s Catechists house in Kaduna h

Across 12 northern states – more than 800 people were killed in 3 days of rioting and 65,000 people were displaced. The imminent election is also overshadowed by the terror campaign of the Islamist organization Boko Haram, which wants to destabilize the country.

A show of solidarity 

Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, President of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference and the Christian Association of Nigeria said to Aid to the Church in Need: “It is time to show solidarity. We want to hold free and fair elections without violence. We want democracy, good government policies and that the militant Islamist groups change their attitude. We want to live together peacefully, as brothers and sisters. I therefore ask for your prayers so that the upcoming elections can be held peacefully, without violence and without bloodshed.”

Nigeria, Maiduguri diocese 2014Displaced kids

Bishop Dashe Dome, whose diocese of Maidiguri is the heartland of the Islamist terror group, called also for prayer to overcome the Boko Haram threat: “The most important thing is to pray for our people; I know people are praying for us and I am very grateful. I want people to pray the Hail Mary – our mother Mary has been championing our cause. We have a lot of devotion to the Blessed Virgin.”

The Call to Prayer will start one week before elections, on Saturday 7th February and will be held throughout the week, to raise awareness and encourage people to pray for Nigeria and for the peace in this country. Each day we will offer different prayers. In Twitter and Facebook you can follow the action using the hashtag #2015NigeriaPrayer.

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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 News – The Ebola Virus

© Aid to the Church in Need

“The virus has taken away many of our experienced workers”

Church has made considerable efforts in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN, Königstein/Montreal –  Thursday, January 22, 2015 – The Catholic diocese of Kenema in the eastern part of Sierra Leone is deeply involved in the fight against Ebola. The Bishop of Kenema, Patrick Daniel Koroma, has pointed this out in a letter to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “The diocese of Kenema works through its networks of parishes, small Christian communities, hospitals, clinics, schools, religious communities to reach out to many people in these key areas: sensitization, safe burial or appropriate burial techniques, psycho-social support, education and training, help the discharged, social mobilization, message of hope.”

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Aid to the Church in Need has provided 140,000 CAN in support of the efforts of the Catholic church in the fight against Ebola in Kenema as well as other dioceses of the West African country. The money was and continues to be used to finance medical emergency and aid programs, food aid, the training and mobilization of employees and for pastoral work with patients, family members and aid workers. In the neighbouring country of Liberia, which is also affected by the Ebola epidemic, Aid to the Church in Need has provided almost 70,000 CAN in support to date, especially in the Archdiocese of Monrovia. Further projects are in the planning stage.

Risking their lives to prevent the spread of the virus

In his letter, the Bishop of Kenema in Sierra Leone confirmed that these efforts come with considerable risk for the workers. “The virus has taken away many of our experienced health care workers which is sad. Some of these nurses and lab technicians are parishioners. We continue to hold in esteem and pray for front-line workers who are risking their lives to prevent the spread of the virus.”

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

According to Bishop Koroma, this crisis is demanding a great deal from the Church. “The urge to respond to acute humanitarian needs has led the Church to utilize the little resources available. To pay staff is a big problem.” There are first indications that it may be possible to push back the Ebola virus, but the bishop is very concerned for the future. The tasks are immense. “Learning from the civil war in the past, the impact of the Ebola virus on our communities is hard. Market days have been put on hold, schools were closed in the country before the end of the school year and still remain so. The number of orphans is increasing by the day. So there is the need to look at the following: economic revitalization, education, agriculture, healing the wounded memories, care of orphans.”

 

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

 

News from Nigeria

Nigeria

WITH THE FALL OF MUBI…

 
By ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Boko Haram emerged as a terrorist group in 2009. In the last few months we have seen the aggressive devastation of the Boko Haram activities. Many of our people are forced out of their ancestral homes. Right now, thousands are living in mountain caves; the few who were able to escape have been taken in by friends and relatives in Maiduguri and Yola. Thousands have managed to escape to Cameroon and are living in very difficult conditions lacking food, shelter and medication.

Parents stood by watching their children grow weak and die. A good number of our youth are forcefully conscripted, while the elderly, women and children are converted to Islam. A lot of Nigerians are trapped and are forced to practice strict Sharia law in communities like: Bama, Gwoza, Madagali, Gulak, Shuwa, Michika Uba up on till Mubi. These are the towns on the Federal road linking Maiduguri and Yola in Adamawa state.

All of these captured towns by our estimation are no longer part of the Nigerian entity because no one can go in, but those who would luckily escape have got stories to tell. The terrorists have declared all the captured towns as Islamic Caliphate. The people trapped are forced to accept and practice the strict doctrines the militants are out to propagate.

Mubi is predominantly a Christian community and the second largest commercial nerve in Adamawa state after Yola. It forms a district in the Diocese of Maiduguri and has two strong parish centers: St. Andrew’s Catholic Church and Holy Trinity. It also has two great Chaplaincies: Federal Polytechnic and Adamawa State University.

Wednesday October 29th was a sad day in the whole diocese.  The Boko Haram insurgents over ran the town making over 50,000 inhabitants flee. A good number fled to Cameroon and were trapped for days: Including five priests and two sisters. With the fall of Mubi; of the six districts, three have been captured and occupied by the terrorists. What a life!! We are keeping to the Church’s teachings on the witness of presence.

We have over 100,000 Catholics displaced and some who were trapped are still finding their way out to safe towns.  For now the diocese is saddled with the responsibility of caring for the Internally Displaced persons. This she does across board not minding religious confessions, because we look at our common humanity.  We have more than seven camps in Maiduguri and other displaced brethren are with their relations and friends.

 

With the fall of Mubi the Estimated Figure of Destruction reads:

 

  • of Persons killed: Over 2,500 Catholic Faithful have been killed.
  • Displaced persons: Over 100,000 Catholic faithful are displaced. Most schools in the Northeast cannot reconvene regular activities not only because of the terrorists, but also because such school premises now serve as refugee camps.
  • Displaced Priests: Out of the (46) priests currently working in the diocese (26) are displaced. Many of such Priests are accommodated by Bishop Dami Mamza of Yola Diocese.
  • Displaced Catechists: Over (200) Catechists are displaced.
  • Displaced Rev. Sisters: Over (20) Rev. Sisters are displaced.
  • Abducted women and girls: Over (200).
  • Forceful conversion to Islam: A good number of our faithful have been converted to Islam against their will.
  • Deserted convents: Out of the (5) convents, (4) have been deserted.
  • Churches destroyed: Over (50) churches and rectories have been razed down, a good number were destroyed more than once.
  • Deserted Churches/Chaplaincies: Out of the (40) parish centers / chaplaincies (22) are presently deserted and occupied by the terrorists.
  • Affected Schools: The diocese has over (40) primary and secondary schools, over (30) have been deserted.
  • Compensation: The diocese has not seen any compensation for the destructions of lives and properties from 2006 and 2009 to date.

NIGERIA-2

Borno State has been captured and occupied by Boko Haram, Gomboru Ngalla and Bama, Gwoza, Maffa and Abadam. Askira Uba, Dikwa, and  Marte. Other towns include: Pulka, Banki etc. Maiduguri is completely surrounded by the terrorists.  The one exit out of Maiduguri city is only the Maiduguri-Damaturu road.  The same is true for areas of Adamawa State and Yobe State. These towns are under strict control by the terrorists and no well meaning Nigerian can trespass.

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE – Aid to the Church in Need nominated for the Sakharov Prize

Aid to the Church in Need nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament

Montreal/Königstein, 22 September 2014 –  The Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been nominated this year for the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The Prize is awarded every year by the European Parliament to honour individuals or organizations for their efforts on behalf of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion or belief.

ACN has been selected among a group of agencies including l’Oeuvre d’Orient and Open Doors International coordinated by the French organization CHREDO (La Coordination des Chrétiens d’Orient en Danger). This proposal is promoted by Mr. Philippe Juvin, Member of the European Parliament (France, EPP), obtaining individual support from colleagues of different countries and political families.

The total of seven nominations for the Sakharov Prize includes that of the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, His Beatitude Louis Raphaël Sako along with Prof. Mahmoud Al-Asali who was murdered for defending the rights of Christians in Mosul on 20 July 2014. ACN encouraged greatly this proposal within the membership of the European Parliament to keep a spotlight on the suffering of the persecuted Christians in Iraq at this time. Two nominations in the defense of the fundamental right to freedom of religion and thought in the same year are highly unusual, acknowledging Europe’s growing awareness of the danger to religious minorities throughout the Middle East.

PRESSURE-1

Previous winners of the prize include Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, the Russian NGO Memorial and the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his staff.

ACN Executive President Johannes Heereman said: “We understand this nomination as an acknowledgment from the international community to the terrible suffering of persecuted Christians around the world and as a recognition of the work of ACN in protecting and promoting religious freedom and thought. This would not be possible without the grace of God and the support of our benefactors.”

For more information please see:

The official EP press release:  http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/content/20140919IPR66309/html/Nominees-for-Sakharov-Prize-2014-announced

The official Sakharov Prize webpage: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/00f3dd2249/Sakharov-Prize-for-Freedom-of-Thought.html

ACN-20140808-12348_1c314

SPECIAL REPORT: ACN DELEGATION IN 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
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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.

ANKAWA-4

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.

 

DÉLÉGATION-1

 

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.

 10599719_266352196887890_6883681972064147114_n

 

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.”