PRESS RELEASE – Syria

Growing fears for the safety of Syrians

By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Iraq, June 2010Father Emanuel Youkhana in his officePhoto: CAACN, Montreal – Wednesday, February 25, 2015 – Fears are growing for the safety of more than 100 people taken captive yesterday (Tuesday, February 24) as the extremist group Islamic State (IS) seized Christian villages in Hassake governorate, north-east Syria.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, who works in support of persecuted Christians in the region, received a telephone update on the situation from a contact in Hassake city around midnight last night and relayed the latest information in a message sent to Catholic agencies, including Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), early this morning.

He wrote: “The 24 families from Tel Gouran, 34 families from Tel Jazira, and 14 fighters (12 male and 2 females) from Tel Hormizd are captured and taken to the Arab Sunni village of Um Al-Masamier.” Up to now, the number of people making up the abducted families, has not been confirmed.

“They are alive so far, but the men are separated from women and children.”

An urgent need of action

Commenting on how some local Sunni Arabs had assisted IS, he said: “Um Al-Masamier is another Syrian example of what we witnessed in Iraq on how the Arab Sunni joining and supporting IS to attack their long years Christian and Yezedian neighbours.”

Archimandrite Youkhana went on to describe the latest situation in the various villages: “The 50+ families in Tel Shamiran are still surrounded. It is unclear if IS will attack the village? Can PYD [Democratic Union Kurdish Party] fighters change the situation before the village been taken by IS?”

He reported that in Tel Tamar a car bomb exploded, but no casualties were reported. Three mortar shells were fired into Tel Nasri from the other side of Khabour River. Again no casualties were reported.

PYD fighters have retaken Toma Yelda hill, which is of strategic importance. Archimandrite Youkhana wrote: “By now, only around 200 families are still in Khabour region, more than 100 [are] in Tel Tamar and others [are] in different villages not controlled by IS. Around 1,000 families from Khabour are displaced in Hassake and Qamishli.“

“His Grace Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel [of the Assyrian Church of the East] who resides in Hassake and hasn’t left it despite all difficulties, is doing his best to host and support the displaced. However, due to the lack of resources and the long years of the disaster, there is an urgent need of action to support the displaced families through the Church.“

Archimandrite Youkhana added: “Our thoughts are with the suffering people. We pray for an end to this long history of persecution in our countries.”

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

 

 

 

 

ACN Press Release – Egypt “The Church has been strengthened”

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin 

Egypt, Sohag, 17.02.2015Bishop Youssef Aboul-Kheir (Jusef Abul-ACN, Montreal / Königstein – Thursday February 19, 2014. “The Church in Egypt has been strengthened by the murder of our brothers in Libya.” These are the words of the Coptic-Catholic Bishop of Sohag in Egypt, Youssef Aboul-Kheir, on Wednesday (18.2.2015) when talking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The Bishop went on to explain: “Persecution is part of the life of the Church. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. In Europe the Church is free. We, on the other hand, are faced with many obstacles. But which Church is the stronger?” The Coptic guest workers murdered by the Islamic terrorist militia ISIS in Libya were genuine martyrs, the church leader said. “They suffered a holy death with prayers on their lips. They went to their deaths just like the early Christians.”

The Bishop stressed that he had received many telephone calls from Muslim friends after the murders had been announced on Sunday. “They told me that it was their problem rather than ours. It was Egypt and the Egyptians who had been attacked, and not primarily the Christians.” It had certainly been the terrorists’ intention to force a wedge between Christians and Muslims, Bishop Aboul-Kheir said. “But this plan didn’t work, quite to the contrary. Many Muslims are angry because of the murders. President Sisi visited the leader of the Coptic Church to convey his condolences. And the President travelled to the home of the murdered ones. You can see that the attack has united us Egyptians.”

 

On february 15th 2015 the first Catholic church on Sinai peninsuThe urgent problem of church construction

Bishop Aboul-Kheir conceded, however, that he himself was afraid of the extremists in Egypt: “I am afraid of the Salafists in the country. They speak with forked tongues. The Muslim Brotherhood is opposed to society anyway. So there exists an internal danger in Egypt itself.” In view of the imminent parliamentary elections Bishop Aboul-Kheir expressed his concern that individuals with extremist convictions could be elected: “That can happen because many of the candidates are not known to the population.”

It was important, however, that the next parliament should address the urgent problem of church construction, which had to date been subject to all kinds of restrictions. “It is crucial that we Christians in Egypt should finally be able to live as equal citizens,” Bishop Aboul-Kheir emphasized. There should also be a reform of the religious debate on the part of the leading Muslim authorities in Egypt. “The Al-Azhar University is regarded as a moderate force. But in fact there are many things in its teachings and programs which are anything but moderate. For example, the use of force in cases of apostasy by Muslims is justified. This is in contradiction to moderate views. The Al-Azhar University must correct its program,” the Bishop explained.

 

International Prayer for Nigeria – Day 3

PRAYER FOR PEACE IN NIGERIA

God the Father our creator, God the Son our Redeemer, God the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier!

We praise and thank you  for the precious gift of Nigeria, which was and still remains a cosmopolitan, multi- cultural, multi- ethnic as well as multi-religious society. Your gift of tolerance, moderation, accommodation and Love for one another were the traits that made great this people and this society.

Sadly though, in recent times, they have been plagued by political, ethnic and religious crises and have suffered the destruction of lives and property. We humbly ask for the gift of reconciliation, that we forgive each other. Heal the wounds with the radiance of your love and mercy.  Teach us to live in peace and harmony.

May their leaders be instruments of love, peace, tolerance, social and economic development. Help them to be selfless in service and to lead their people in the path of dialogue and reconciliation, so that they can truly be one family, working for the common good. May dissenting views be a source of harmony and peaceful coexistence! Bless and provide for their youth and help them to be peace loving.


Lord may the weapons of evil, hatred and violence be silenced by love. May we enjoy unity and stability as your children who live, move and have our being in you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

O Jesus prince of peace: be merciful, restore permanent peace to the world and, these days especially, to Nigeria, from north to south.

Our Lady Queen of Peace: Obtain for us peace in our hearts, peace in our families, peace in our countries.

Amen

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.

 

International Prayer for Nigeria – Day 2

PRAYER FOR PEACE IN NIGERIA

10930907_10153006259510325_675961016726696272_n

God the Father our creator, God the Son our Redeemer, God the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier!

We praise and thank you  for the precious gift of Nigeria, which was and still remains a cosmopolitan, multi- cultural, multi- ethnic as well as multi-religious society. Your gift of tolerance, moderation, accommodation and Love for one another were the traits that made great this people and this society.

Sadly though, in recent times, they have been plagued by political, ethnic and religious crises and have suffered the destruction of lives and property. We humbly ask for the gift of reconciliation, that we forgive each other. Heal the wounds with the radiance of your love and mercy.  Teach us to live in peace and harmony.

May their leaders be instruments of love, peace, tolerance, social and economic development. Help them to be selfless in service and to lead their people in the path of dialogue and reconciliation, so that they can truly be one family, working for the common good. May dissenting views be a source of harmony and peaceful coexistence! Bless and provide for their youth and help them to be peace loving.

Nigeria/Kaduna 11/121 Remodelling and extending of St. John´s paLord may the weapons of evil, hatred and violence be silenced by love. May we enjoy unity and stability as your children who live, move and have our being in you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

O Jesus prince of peace: be merciful, restore permanent peace to the world and, these days especially, to Nigeria, from north to south.

Our Lady Queen of Peace: Obtain for us peace in our hearts, peace in our families, peace in our countries.

Amen

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.

 

International Prayer for Nigeria – Day 1

PRAYER FOR PEACE IN NIGERIA

10959335_10153006259570325_6653319181642960602_nGod the Father our creator, God the Son our Redeemer, God the Holy Spirit our Sanctifier!

We praise and thank you  for the precious gift of Nigeria, which was and still remains a cosmopolitan, multi- cultural, multi- ethnic as well as multi-religious society. Your gift of tolerance, moderation, accommodation and Love for one another were the traits that made great this people and this society.

Sadly though, in recent times, they have been plagued by political, ethnic and religious crises and have suffered the destruction of lives and property. We humbly ask for the gift of reconciliation, that we forgive each other. Heal the wounds with the radiance of your love and mercy.  Teach us to live in peace and harmony.

Nigeria/Kontagora 08/14Maintenance grant for 5 new resident MisMay their leaders be instruments of love, peace, tolerance, social and economic development. Help them to be selfless in service and to lead their people in the path of dialogue and reconciliation, so that they can truly be one family, working for the common good. May dissenting views be a source of harmony and peaceful coexistence! Bless and provide for their youth and help them to be peace loving.

Lord may the weapons of evil, hatred and violence be silenced by love. May we enjoy unity and stability as your children who live, move and have our being in you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

O Jesus prince of peace: be merciful, restore permanent peace to the world and, these days especially, to Nigeria, from north to south.

Our Lady Queen of Peace: Obtain for us peace in our hearts, peace in our families, peace in our countries.

Amen

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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

 

ACN News : Niger “The Christians must die, according to the disciples of Boko Haram”

© Aid to the Church in Need

Niger

“The Christians must die, according to the disciples of Boko Haram” 

By Dennis Peters / Maria Lozano, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

The islamist terror group Boko Haram wants to massacre all the Christians in Níger. So writes a missionary Sister in a dramatic e-mail message from the country. As a result of the violence, this Sister was forced to flee, along with the rest of her congregation, and they are now living in hiding with a family in the capital Niamey. In her e-mail she describes the terrible violence in the capital and in the town of Zinder, the second largest city in Niger. To protect her safety, we are not revealing her name.

The violent protests in Niger last week in reaction to the French satirical weekly Charlie hebdo claimed the lives of at least ten people and left 173 wounded. According to the Sister, these attacks “were planned.” 

 

Love is stronger than hatred

“At Christmas time Boko Haram had threatened to burn down all the churches in Niger and burn us alive! But for some reason it did not happen; no one knows quite why. It was by coincidence that the cartoons in Charlie hebdo set the world on fire. The Christians must die; that way we will be able to go to paradise, say the disciples of Boko Haram. It’s diabolical. But we are not going to let ourselves be moved by fear. Love is stronger than hatred.”

But apart from the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, it was also “the social crisis in Niger” that was one of the reasons for these cruel protests, she writes. In her e-mail, headed with the word “peace,” the Sister asks: “Why so much hatred and violence? Peace is not simply a word. We know just how fragile everything is. We have to work so hard to achieve peace, and starting with ourselves. Why so much hatred, so much violence? We are weeping. The tears are flowing. O Jesus, save us!”

She relates what had happened: “It started in Zinder first of all – with five deaths, four people inside a church and one in a bar. The French cultural centre was attacked and totally burned out, as was the BRS Bank also. The church was also set on fire, where the White Fathers live, and next door to them the Sisters of the Assumption, their house, the cars and the school – everything was on fire. They have nothing left except their lives, and that alone is something to be grateful for. They were able to flee in time and took refuge on a military base. One of the White Fathers, Father Ghislaine, was injured and is in hospital, but not too seriously.”

According to the Sister, the violence in Niamey was “on a major scale.” She describes how a group of men on motorcycles looted “the churches, one after another,” then destroyed them and burned them. “They took away everything they could use and then set fire to them, with cans of petrol. They also burned the Protestant and Evangelical churches – altogether around 40 churches; it was incredible!” But then they also looted and burned down bars, restaurants and petrol stations. Afterwards, they went on to attack the orphanages. “Fortunately the carers were able to take the children to where the police were, where they were safe, but they stole all the supplies of food,” she writes. According to the Sister, the nuns of Mother Teresa were at least able to save their hospital, along with its patients. The violent demonstrators were about to set fire to the hospital, but the Sisters bravely asked them: “Can we first of all take out the patients before you set fire to it? These words gave the rebels pause for thought and as a result they did not touch the hospital, but nevertheless they still burned down the church.”

 

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

“We had to flee immediately”

Continuing her account, the Sister writes: “When the bishop heard that the two communities of Sisters were being attacked, Msgr. Laurent phoned both communities and told them they must flee immediately and seek refuge. We had already had phone calls from concerned Muslim friends, who had urged us: ‘Come with us, they will not burn down the neighbourhood where they themselves live.’ You never know with these gangs. I went to the chapel with another sister to consume the Blessed Sacrament, because they also try to burn the Tabernacles. We locked everything up, hoping to find the others again.”

Between them the Sisters did all they could in the little time they had. In the midst of the drama there was one Sister in the community who was from Rwanda – and who knew what it meant to flee, having been through the cruel genocide in Rwanda in 1994. She put on all the clothes she could find. “She had on five skirts and five blouses, one on top of the other. We were in fits of laughter when she came out of her room, like a giant; she could scarcely walk, she had so many clothes on! One of the other missionaries had only just returned from Poland and had not even had time to unpack her things, but we had to flee immediately.

 

“Pray for us, for our people, for the world.”

What a shock it was for her! The neighbours came to say goodbye, with tears in their eyes. We entrusted the key of the house to one of them. It was very emotional. A Middle Eastern family took us in, with the hospitality that the people of the East are known for. On the way we saw a Protestant church that had already been totally burnt out. No, it was incredible in a country so peaceful as Niger… But no, now Niger is no longer peaceful. For now we are safe, and living with a family. We pray, keep silence; respond to innumerable telephone calls from friends who are concerned for us and from other sisters. On Sunday we did not go to church, but last night there were two priests who came to celebrate Mass in a small downstairs room. It was very moving, as it was quite unplanned. God does not desert us. He is balm for our hearts, and our faith grows stronger.”

ACN-20131214-03689“We are at peace again. We do not intend to let ourselves be moved by violence or fear. No one knows what the future will bring. Let us only hope it will be more peaceful and that we will be able to return to live in community.”

The Sister concludes her message by asking our prayers for the situation in Niger. “Pray for us, for our people, for the world. So that the Light of the Love of Christ may be able to shine forth!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, AED Canada

 

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

MINORITÉS-1

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

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

No time to loose

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

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

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

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