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

Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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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.

 

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

IRAK-1

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.

The situation of the Christians in Turkey – between the past and the present

By Sébastien de Courtois, Istanbul (Turkey) 

The population of Turkey is regarded as a majority Sunni Muslim one, of almost 65%, but with a strong minority of Alevis – a branch of Shia Islam – estimates of which vary between 25% and 35% of the total population. The Alevis of Turkey are somewhat on the margins of the Muslim world. They do not attend the mosques, but rather the cem evi, or « houses of prayer »; they do not observe the Ramadan fast, nor do they observe the practice of the five daily prayers. While they are officially regarded by the Turkish administration as « Muslims », it is apparent from the above facts that they are outside what is generally regarded as Islam. That is why, when considering the place of the various religions within Turkey it is important not to forget them, since very often the Alevis see themselves as a « minority », just like the Jews and the Christians. Politically, they are opposed to the Islamic and conservative government of the ruling AKP party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), which has been in power since 2002, and they tend to support a republican, progressive and secularist agenda.

Having themselves suffered at times from a similar kind of discrimination, the Alevis of Turkey are demanding official recognition of their specific character by the Diyanet, the administration for religious affairs. Since 2009 it has no longer been compulsory to indicate one’s religion on one’s identity card.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

As for the Christians of Turkey, they are thought to number no more than around 100,000 individuals, a very small minority in relation to a population that now exceeds 75 million. The Christian communities are divided among several historical branches – the Armenians, with perhaps 80,000 individuals, the Syriac Christians, numbering between 20,000 and 25,000, the Greek Orthodox (known as rum in Turkish – meaning « Roman » in fact) and a few hundred Latin-rite Catholic families living in some of the larger cities around Izmir (the ancient city of Smyrna) and above all in Istanbul. This vast metropolis – which is not however the capital of Turkey – is home to a veritable mosaic of Eastern Christianity. All the churches of East and West are represented here – in addition to the major communities mentioned above. They include Chaldeans from the south-east (originally from the Hakkâri), the Syriac Orthodox of Tur Abdin, Bulgarians, Russians (with their churches built on the roofs of Karaköy), Poles, Ukrainians, Protestant and Anglican churches and a series of Catholic institutions engaged in an educational and social system. An example of the latter are the Don Bosco school, run by the Salesian sisters, or the hospice in Bomonti, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have been present in Turkey since 1892.

Now, with the explosion in the number of refugees from all over the world – but principally those from Sub-Saharan Africa, Syria and Iraq – the churches in Istanbul are becoming full again. Generally speaking, and still today, the Christian churches have always found themselves at best in a « minority » situation – and at worst in a « ghetto » situation in Turkey. However, the Christian presence cannot be reduced to these small ersatz communities, even though they are very appealing: the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, for instance, who embodies the heritage of the ancient Byzantine Empire and the destiny of the Orthodox world, governing as he does from the Fener quarter on the Golden Horn. Even though the rum community is now reduced to just a few hundred people, the importance of this patriarchal see is a symbol that far transcends international frontiers. The Byzantine past of Istanbul and Anatolia should not be underestimated; there are still thousands of churches and monasteries scattered across the countryside – many of them ruined and abandoned. The historic peninsular of Istanbul would be nothing without the massive silhouette of Santa Sofia – Hagia Sofia – which dates back to the first half of the sixth century under Emperor Justinian. By its sheer size and grace this monument reminds the visitor that Turkish society is also built on a Christian past. We should not forget this invisible continuity with the present.

At the same time, in the south-east of the country in the Mardin region, one can still find the last of the active Christian monasteries in Turkey. There are five of them (around 20 religious altogether) and they are under the jurisdiction of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Some of the monasteries produce pistachios, raisins and olive oil. This region is called the Tur Abdin, the « Mountain of the Servants of God », an ancient preserve of the Syriac presence and spirituality. The Christians of the region still speak a language of Aramean origin, known as the turoyo. Around these monasteries there are a number of Christian villages, twenty or so in all, which once again have their own specifically regional character.

Santa Sofia – Hagia Sofia

Santa Sofia – Hagia Sofia

Since 1915 and the destruction of the First World War the Armenian population of Eastern Anatolia was – with rare exceptions – deported and massacred by the Young Turk government of the time. The fact that Turkey has always refused to recognise this genocide of the Armenians is indicative of a malaise that still constitutes one of the major handicaps for Turkey on the international stage. The normalisation of relations between Greece and Turkey, which began with the reciprocal aid that these neighbour countries gave each other at the time of the earthquakes in 1999, has been reinforced thanks to the joint efforts to resolve the problem of Cyprus.

However, it is still not enough; the Christians of Turkey continue to depend too heavily on international relations (with Armenia and Greece principally), whereas in fact they are fully Turkish citizens in their own right. Indeed, very often their presence within the Turkish Republic is more ancient than that of those people ordinarily considered as « Turkish ». This is a paradox that exists to this day. The Christians in Turkey are very often regarded as « foreigners » in their own country, which is a great pity. Despite the freedom of worship, they are constantly being forced to justify their place in society. In recent years there have been some very disturbing murders of Catholic and Protestant priests and religious, not to mention the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin. A not insignificant section of the Turkish population, driven by nationalism, still accuses the « Christians » of Turkey of wanting to destabilize the Turkish « nation » and even of being foreign agents, an attitude that smacks of acute paranoia.

Finally, it should be kept in mind that many of the major cities mentioned in the Gospels and in the journeys of the Apostles Peter and Paul are today to be found in Turkey – Antioch, Ephesus, Caesarea and even Sardis, and the region of Galatea, which is modern day Ankara. The Jews – principally Sephardi – make up the third largest religious community in the country, with around 25,000 faithful. All the religious minorities are looking forward to the visit of the Pope at the end of November.

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

 

The massacre of the Armenians and Syriac Christians of Turkey

The Armenian and Syriac communities in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire were the victims of a series of massacres between 1895 and 1915. The fate of the Syriac communities was linked with the more general fate of the Armenians. The eastern provinces, strongly Christianized over history, were the most affected – Cilicia, Eastern Anatolia, the provinces of Erzurum, Van, Bitlis and Hakkâri, as well as the province of Diyarbakir. Nor was Istanbul spared, where the Armenians were also massacred, especially the leading figures and intellectuals.

The Syriac Churches

The Syriac world is the least well-known. It represents a sort of eastern ecumenism of its own. This inheritance goes back to Antioch, the town where the Christians were for the first time called by the name « Christian ». This family includes five distinct Churches, which all share the Syriac language as their heritage – the Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic Churches, the Oriental and Chaldean Churches and the Maronite Church of Lebanon.

 

Even though Turkey´s Christian population is barely 0.3%, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported 100 projects in Turkey in the last twenty years. 

A significant amount of ACN´s help has gone towards Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the eastern part of the country. Since 2010, ACN donated a total of $182,600 to Iraqi refugees, mainly via the Chaldean Church and the Salesian Fathers in Istanbul. The Salesians look after families and are particularly concerned to ensure that the children continue to receive a school education. ACN has also helped Syrian refugees in Eastern Turkey, since the onset of the Syrian crisis. From 2013 to 2014, ACN has donated a total of $66,000 – towards their most essential needs.

We invite you to visit our blog – www.aidchurch.wordpress.com over the coming days to get more information on the subject and the situation effecting refugees in Turkey.


 

 More to come on this special series about Christians in Turkey on Monday, December 1

All projects underway adding up to a total amount of 5.77 million CAN – one of the largest efforts in ACN’s history – shows the scale of the drama experienced by our Iraqi brothers and sisters.  If our partners recognize us for our support, we still know that they are far from the end of this unspeakable catastrophe. The threat remains and the fragility of their hearts no less persistent.
 
This is why we still your help to continue supporting our brothers and sisters of the Middle-East trapped and forced to seek refuge elsewhere in their country… if not in another.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director

 


 

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

Iraq

ACN helps kids go back to school 

John Pontifex, ACN United Kingdom
Adapted by Amanda Bridget-Griffin

RANIA and Ranin are inseparable. The twins, who have just turned 10, both enjoy school or at least they did until they were forced to flee their homes as Islamic State forces advanced. We met Rania and Ranin and their mother Thirka, in Ankawa, outside the Kurdish capital, Erbil, where they are sharing a tent with other families in the compound of St Joseph’s Chaldean Church. It was early October when we saw them and Thirka was anxious about the start of the school year, which the twins and their brother, Habib, a year older, had already missed.

It is for children such as Ranin, Rania and Habib that Aid to the Church in Need has committed 2.9 million for schooling projects. Under the scheme, eight schools will be built: four in Ankawa and another four in the Dohuk province in the far north of Kurdish northern Iraq.

On our very first day in northern Iraq, Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil proudly took us to see the new porta-cabin Mar Yamana School (St. Mary’s School) being developed in Ankawa. The school will provide for 900 children, classes divided into morning and afternoon rotations of 450 each, and next door a clinic is being created, run by the Ankawa-based Holy Cross Sisters so any medical needs they have can quickly be dealt with. With 120,000 Christians now descended on Kurdistan, there are teachers and others in the education profession among their number willing and able to join the staff, their salaries met by the government.

Greeted with news of the schools, Rania and Ranin’s mother is immediately enthusiastic. “Thank you for offering your kind support,” she says. Thirka, who dresses in black, continues to grieve her husband, a policeman in Qaraqosh, killed five years ago attending the scene of a bomb blast. “I was just beginning to cope with life without my husband,” says Thirka, “but being forced to leave our homes has made life impossible. “To have no school for the children to go to is a disaster. If they are to have any hope for the future, school is an absolute necessity.”

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Aid to the Church in Need announces 12 urgent aid packages for Iraq to help the thousands of displaced Iraqi Christians. They are to receive food, shelter, schooling and gifts for children in a concerted emergency relief program rushed through by aCatholic charity before the onset of winter. The 4 million Euros scheme announced by Aid to the Church in Need – one of the largest in the charity’s 67-year history – also includes pastoral support for priests and Sisters displaced by the crisis that has swept the country.

ACN helps kids go back to school

Aid to the Church in Need provides 2 million dollars in aid

to build 8 schools of prefabricated structures – 4 in Ankawa, Erbil and the rest in Dohuk – for 15,000 children 

Read more about what ACN is doing to help refugee children go back to school 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
or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

Greetings from Dohuk – 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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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?

ANKAWA-7

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.

ANKAWA-4

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