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.

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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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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.

Journey with ACN – Iraq

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 :  Iraq


 

Teaching the Faith, even in time of war

No matter how difficult life has been for Christians in Baghdad since 2003, the Church still strives by every possible means to keep on with the teaching of the Faith, and also to continue with her other work involving children and young people.

Now, above all, the local Church needs to feel part of the universal Church. This can be done best by passing on the eternal truths of the faith to the next generation – a generation that hopefully, will be able to make its own contribution in the future to a peaceful coexistence among all religions in Iraq.

Every Friday – the Muslim day of prayer – the various Christian communities provide religious instruction for the faithful. There are at least 20 large and small Chaldean communities involved in organizing such instruction. Many of their communities are situated in the most dangerous areas of the city – although at the same time, in the current instability, people are in danger everywhere and at all times in Baghdad.

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To reduce the potential danger to children, both they and the catechists have to be collected safely from their homes by bus and brought to one of the eight larger and nine smaller centres, and driven home again afterward – keeping one such bus going costs anywhere between 150 and 300 dollars a month, depending on the size of the bus. This results in a total cost each year of 45,000 dollars for the parishes of Bagdad to deal with transport alone.

But money is also needed for the teaching materials and books. Here again the total cost to the parishes is around 5,000 dollars annually. The Christians of Iraq need all the help we can give them – especially now – if they are to remain in their own homeland and live their faith daily.

We were happy to promise a contribution of $53,600 for this project.  Now we are counting on your support to help us make good on our promise to these Iraqi parishes.

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

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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.

 

Greetings from Dohuk – Iraq

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Today I would like to share with you the points below which we heard from the majority of the displaced people who we met.

Why we need international protection?

Why we need safe haven area?

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There are today new realities on the ground in northern Iraq after the speed through which ISIS controlled vast swaths of land including area mainly inhabited by non-Muslim indigenous minorities (Christians and Yezidis).  With regard to the above those minorities are in fear of losing their centuries old culture, faith, livelihood, and heritage.  The situation of these indigenous people is in real peril if something is not done fast.  They are living a real fear of extinction and eradication if they are not protected and we believe we need to do that for the following reasons:

1- They have lost trust in the Iraqi government’s will and capacity to protect them, needless to say how the Iraqi forces left Mosul or rather surrendered Mosul and many other areas to ISIS without putting up a fight.

2- They have lost trust in KRG’s capacity to protect them. In some cases the famous Peshmarga escaped without informing the civilians they were supposed to protect.

3- They have lost trust in their own neighbors, in the city of Mosul as well as other cities such as Sinjar and Telkef where non-Muslim minorities lived side by side with their Muslim neighbors in peace and tranquility as long as there was a power that checked the Muslim majority. In the absence of that power, the Muslim neighbors saw their non-Muslim neighbors stealing all they can put their hands  just like what happened in the aftermath of the Massacre of Semele (Iraq) in 1933. With the power vacuum that was instigated by the ill-designed policies of the Iraqi government and with the sweeping control of ISIS, it was the neighbors who told ISIS where were the non-Muslim houses were because they, Muslim neighbors, served as an incubator to support ISIS terrorists, not only did they show the houses to ISIS but they also participated in the looting and stealing that ensued.

4- We see that the perpetuity of these ancient communities has become, at this point, the responsibility of the civilized world, because they have lost all faith in their government(s) and neighbors

5- The world has to stop the current genocide, displacement, and forced migration, and that could only be accomplished if we protect these minorities In their own historic lands and we believe this is doable if the world acts on establishing a safe haven area.

6- It will be good even for those Muslim neighbors alluded to in 3 above as these thriving minorities will serve as catalysts that will benefit the cultural exchange and coexistence across the Iraqi mosaic.

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7- It will serve as an international example if marketed wisely to the region and the world.  The success of which could serve as a good example of the possibility of different ethnic groups, religions to live side by side in peace and harmony.

8- It will entice the local governments to induce the example into their education systems and eventually to the national level which will lead to forming laws and regulations where ethnic and religious minorities will not feel they are second class citizens.

9- It will prevent further forced migration and eventually lift a burden on the economy of the western countries these non-Muslim minorities are heading to.

10- It will tell the majority Muslims in Iraq that they are on the watch when it comes to persecuting non-Muslims.

11- it will force other countries with non-Muslim minorities to be on the watch and treat their non-Muslim minorities fairly.

This is a cry for help, this is an appeal for preservation of ancient human culture that contributed to immensely to mankind, we hope you will find in your good heart the means and ways to protect these minorities.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana

ܐܪܟܕܝܩܘܢ ܥܡܢܘܐܝܠ ܝܘܚܢܢ

Christian Aid Program CAPNI

Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan

 

An ACN exclusive interview with an Iraqi priest

The following interview was conducted by Robert Lalonde, head of information for ACN Canada, on Monday, September 1st, 2014, with Father Majid McDassy o.p., Dominican fathers convent in Baghdad

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 Have any northern Iraqis moved towards Baghdad? 

Yes. In fact, families are beginning to move and to come to Baghdad in order to seek refuge.

 

What do you estimate their numbers to be and how do they manage to meet their basic needs? 

We don’t have exact statistics, but after communicating with some priests, there seem to be about a hundred refugee families in Baghdad.   

 

Are you worried about the security of Christians in the capital? 

Yes indeed, as the series of abductions has continued in Baghdad and each abducted person must pay a considerable amount (sometimes over $100,000 US) to obtain his or her freedom. Unfortunately, for a Christian, there is no tribe to protect him or her or to pay a ransom. We are simply easy prey, living in an aggressive society. And bombings are multiplying and continue to take innocent lives every day.

 

What is the present climate in the streets of Baghdad?

There is a climate of fear and distrust. We are also waiting for a new government to form and to begin establishing order in Iraq.

    

Are there any events to report which would particularly concern Christians in Baghdad? 

To start with, the abductions terrify us. Then, the inequality, namely the fact of being Christian, which leads to us to being marginalized in Iraqi society.  

 

According to you, what is this conflict based on?  

When everything is tangled up, such as religion (Sunni and Shiite), politics (power of domination), economy (petroleum) and tribalism, the agendas of neighbouring countries with great international powers   all of this obviously results in a considerable basis of permanent conflict.  

 

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Do you see a solution? 

There is no quick, immediate and close solution falling from the sky at this time. We must plan a solution beginning with the liberation of the Nineveh valley. Then, we must immediately begin to reimburse our exiled families, as the Islamic State (IS) has stolen all of their goods. There is also the international community, which must put pressure on Baghdad’s central government so that we are respected and our rights are given back to us.

An Iraqi Christian is always marginalized in this country.  

 

How do you foresee the future of Christianity in Iraq?

Answering this question is very difficult; the reality is harsh and also, we must be optimistic and act as people who carry hope for ourselves and for others. A hard future is ahead, because the Iraqi society does everything for islamization and we are victims of this project. The islamization project easily finds its place, in schools as well as in the whole education system. An example of this is that, in Iraq, we are learning the Arabic language through the Qur’anic verses. The following observations certainly lead to reflection on the future in Iraq:

In Iraq, there is no equality and room for the small minority is always violated;

Iraqi law is based on the foundation of Islamic law;

A Christian does not find work easily. And when he finds work, he remains undesirable, as our values go against the grain. For example, we don’t accept corruption;

A Christian cannot easily exert his rights; he’s always a loser;  

The condition of Christian women in this society is not easy;

In short, the future of those who are different and do not share the same faith, the same skin color and the same opinion remains unknown in this country!

 

Do you have a message to transmit to our benefactors?

A word of thanks to our benefactors, because it is thanks to your donations, that children and seniors can go on with their lives with dignity. Your donations are our consolation in this moment of distress. We feel that we are not alone and that we have brothers and sisters throughout the world who think of us, pray for us and work for us. It’s a Eucharistic gesture which carries a sense of giving and of sharing with others. Despite our misery, your goodness heals our wounds. Despite the IE’s presence, the weed in the body of humanity, you are there, the good-willed people who sow joy in others. It’s evangelization in action. May God bless you!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jordan – “We have lost everything”

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Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

ACN-20140823-13017

©AED/ACN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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