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 

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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.

 

ACN Press Release – Zimbabwe

The economy is in bad shape

by Reinhard Backes, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Father Felix Tachiona Mukaro     © Aid to the Church in Need

Father Felix Tachiona Mukaro © Aid to the Church in Need

Felix Tachiona Mukaro is disappointed in his country’s politicians, as many Zimbabweans are. “All they care about is influence and power, not the country itself. And that although the economy is in bad shape and the people don’t know how they are supposed to make it through the day.” Felix Tachiona Mukaro has been a Catholic priest since 2007 and is currently working as a development consultant in the Chinhoyi diocese in northern Zimbabwe. Every day, the priest sees new evidence of how this East African country has been in a state of stagnation for years and how the – now open – fight for the legacy of the long-standing president, 90-year-old Robert Mugabe, is paralyzing Zimbabwe: “While administering pastoral care we clearly see just how deeply the majority of the people are suffering from this.”

“Many don’t even have a dollar a day in order to survive”

According to Father Felix, millions have in the meantime left Zimbabwe. They have gone to the neighbouring states of Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa as well as to the United States or Europe. Because the people no longer trust the local currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, those who can afford to, use the US dollar, euro, British pound or South African rand.

ZIMBABWE 3

Many Zimbabweans who live abroad send money back home but “not everyone is so fortunate as to have family living abroad who can send help,” Father Felix emphasized during a talk with employees of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). He gave examples to show just how tense the situation is. “Many don’t even have a dollar a day in order to survive. When priests point out the widespread injustice, they are threatened or even physically attacked.”

The economic regression is palpable in the Chinhoyi diocese, which covers an area of 56,000 square kilometers, 95 percent of which is predominately rural: mines have been closed; farms that were once thriving have been expropriated and taken over by supporters of the governing party. Now the land lies fallow. Father Felix does not expect rapid political change because he feels that this must first be preceded by a change in mentality. He believes in the arduous, day-to-day pastoral work currently being carried out by 48 priests in the 19 parishes of the diocese.

However, they only have scant resources at their disposal. The distances they must travel are great and means of transportation, such as cars, are often not available. “Our diocese is dependent on aid. The Mass Offerings we receive, for example from Aid to the Church in Need, are very important for our priests because they really are destitute,” Father Felix said. He continued by explaining that the pastors cannot provide for themselves because they do not have an income. They also cannot count on the support of the faithful because they themselves barely have the basic necessities. For this reason, Aid to the Church in Need donated $ 28,000 CAN in Mass Offerings to the Chinhoyi diocese in both 2013 and 2014.

The diocese is grateful for this help. It ensures the livelihood of its priests and thus the continuation of pastoral care in rural areas.

“Our work is based solely on the Gospel and we defend its values. However, if we were to accept contributions from politicians, this would weaken our pastoral care because we would then have to justify their actions,” said Father Felix Tachiona Mukaro in closing.

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India: After the BJP election victory – “The Christian minority in India is under serious threat”

20081113_021by Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN, Königstein/Montreal, Thursday, October 16, 2014 –After the election of Narendra Modi of the Hindu “Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)” as prime minister of India the country’s secular constitution is under threat. With these words Ajay Kumar Singh, Catholic priest and human rights activist in Kandhamal District in the East Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), warned of the growing influence of radical Hindu forces on the Indian subcontinent. “Especially under threat is the Christian minority because it is rejected by extremists as alien and because they regard the Christian message as endangering the caste system,” stressed Fr. Kumar Singh, who also works for the “Odisha Forum for Social Action” (OROSA), at a meeting with staff of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

ACN-20141010-14163

According to Fr. Kumar Singh, the aim of the “Bharatiya Janata Party” is to establish a state religion which excludes the lower castes and minorities. “They even want to impose only one language, Sanskrit, even though hundreds of languages are spoken in India,” the Catholic priest continued. The aims of the BJP, which has become the strongest political force in India in only a few decades, were underestimated by the faithful and even by Church personnel. Fr. Kumar Singh: “It is important for us to understand what is happening. As a Church we must think way beyond the bounds of the individual dioceses; we must act regionally, nationally in order to find responses to this challenge. Otherwise Orissa 2008 will be repeated, even worse than then because we learnt no lessons from it.” In August 2008, Hindu nationalists attacked mainly the villages of Christian Dalits, who are among the lowest of the castes and are often exposed to sheer arbitrary action. Previously, a leader of the Hindus had been murdered by persons unknown.

 

© Aid to the Church in Need

© Aid to the Church in Need

According to official figures of the 2008 attacks, which were only the subject of legal prosecution in isolated cases, 39 people were killed. According to the description by the “National People’s Tribunal (NPT)” in 2010, an association of human rights activists in Odisha for the Kandhamal District, approximately 100 were killed. The NPT stated the attacks were prepared well in advance and more than 600 villages were looted, 5,600 houses, 295 churches and 13 schools were destroyed; 54,000 people were made homeless, and of these 30,000 were unable to return to their villages. As a result, approximately 10,000 children were robbed of the possibility of attending school because they were forced to flee and were displaced. 2,000 Christians were compelled to deny their faith. The plight of the innumerable women who were raped is documented in a report of the “National Alliance of Women – Odisha,” which was published in August 2014 under the title “Breaking the shackled silence: unheard voices of women in Kandhamal” and can be downloaded from the internet:  SelectedWorks of Saumya Uma

 

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ACN supports the Catholic Church in the state of Odisha with various programs treating  traumatized people, with projects reinforcing  reconciliation and peace processes, and with measures to renew and deepen Christian communities. Projects intended for the reconstruction of churches and church institutions have been and are being funded.

 

 

Syria – “Our Church is in danger” 

Aid to the Church in Need supports severely war-afflicted Christians of Homs

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

ACN-20140424-07775

© ACN -Sister Maria de Nazaret

It is a very special mission Sister Maria de Nazaret has committed herself to. The Argentinean nun from the Institute of the Incarnate Word has been living in Aleppo for two months, the former million-strong metropolis in the north of Syria which has been the subject of fierce fighting for years.

Previously, she worked in Gaza City for a long time. Therefore Sister Maria de Nazaret knows the flash points in the Middle-East. “Our task in this country is very special. We are constantly confronted with people’s suffering. The war is having a profoundly deleterious effect on human dignity. People are losing their loved ones, their freedom and their rights due to the violence. On top of this, there is poverty and a lack of the most basic things, such as electricity and water,” the young nun reports.

She lives in the Apostolic Vicariate of the Latin Rite in Aleppo in the company of a few other nuns. The Roman Catholics in Syria fall under the Vicariate. “We work in a hostel for girls studying at the university. The institution belongs to the Vicariate. We also take care of the sacristy and the liturgy in the cathedral. On top of that we look after the faithful who visit the cathedral. The main task of devotees at places like this is to listen to the people who are suffering, speak words of hope to them and to help them the best one can to satisfy their most important needs. Certainly only the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ can bring about the miracle of sowing the seed of hope in these souls.”

“Please pray for us every day”

Sister Maria Nazaret places all her hope in prayer. She expressly thanks the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need for their prayers. “Please pray for us every day. We need this. But we also include you in our daily prayers.” On the hazardous journey to Aleppo Sister Maria de Nazaret was able to see something of the devastation which the three-year-long war has wreaked in the country. “We saw a lot of towns which had been completely destroyed and were uninhabited. The war is really a terrible and cruel thing.”

ACN-20140901-13249

© ACN

 

Archbishop Jean Abdo Arbach knows this. The Greek-Catholic spiritual leader of Homs reported to ACN how seriously his diocese has been affected. Dozens of churches, some from as far back as the 4th century, have been damaged or destroyed. “During the night of February 20th, 2014, an armed gang broke into the Church of Our Lady of Yabroud, a 4th century church. They destroyed the fittings in the church, smashed the crucifix, threw the icons on the floor and tore the pages out of the evangeliary. Then the gang burned the altar,” the Archbishop said. Other churches were destroyed not by the rebels, but by the Syrian army, however. Archbishop Arbach quoted the example of the Church of St. George in Nabek, which was destroyed by army bombardment in November 2013.

© ACN

© ACN Archbishop Jean Abdo Arbach

An uncertain fate for his archdiocese

But it’s not only the infrastructure of the diocese that is in desperate straits, including the churches, monasteries and the parochial houses. It’s mainly the people of the region, which have been the subject of the fiercest fighting in the country since the start of the civil war. “To date our archdiocese has had 96 martyrs. The fate of 26 people is uncertain,” the Archbishop said. More than 1,800 families from his diocese have left their houses to seek safety within Syria or to flee directly into countries such as Lebanon. “During my visits to the houses of the families and from the reports by my priests I have established that everyone has been impoverished by the tragic events. We have begun to grant about 600 families monthly assistance.” According to Archbishop Arbach, the high inflation rate in particular is causing people difficulty. “The prices are shooting up while wages are stagnating.”

Despite all the hardships, the Archbishop sees no sign however of a collapse in religious life. On the contrary, “During the crisis there has been a major return to the faith and to prayer by the people who have not left their villages. In spite of the fear, the bombs and the explosions, the families are remaining loyal to their religious convictions.” Regardless of the difficulties, the diocese is continuing with its catechistic endeavours in order to ensure that the faith is passed on to the children and young. “About 3300 young people take part in our catecheses. About 350 instructors look after them.” But Archbishop Arbach mentioned the problems to which religious instruction is also subject. “A number of catechistic centres have been bombed and destroyed, for example in Al-Qusayr.” He is therefore asking for help in reconstructing or restoring the centres and in fitting them out with technical equipment.  He is particularly concerned about the poor who receive assistance from the Church, as well as the sick and the refugees. “Our Church needs help of all kinds: spiritual, material, medical and psychological. The Church in this part of Syria will be in real danger if we don’t react quickly.”

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Aid to the Church in Need has promised Archbishop Arbach help for his humanitarian and religious work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE – Bosnia-Herzegovina

Instability plays into the hands of the extremists

Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

 

Bosnie-1ACN, Montreal/Königstein October 7, 2014 – Bosnia-Herzegovina urgently needs reforms and a rapprochement with the European Union. The Bishop of Banja Luka, Franjo Komarica, explained this while talking to staff of the international Catholic pastoral charity “Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN) on October 2.

 

October 12, people will be going to the polls in the two parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the ten cantons and on a federal level to re-elect the parliaments and the three-member presidency. In the view of observers the economic and the political situation of the country is extremely critical.

Unemployment is more than 50 per cent; nearly three quarters of young adults are unable to find work. Dissatisfaction in the population, comprising three ethnic groups – Bosnians, Croats and Serbs – has grown enormously. The majority reject their own country. Corruption, clientelism and nepotism are widespread

Bishop Komarica is deeply concerned: “We are living in an absurd situation. Bosnia-Herzegovina is not moving forward, either politically or economically. The country has a number of constitutions which obstruct one another. The number of ministers is astronomical, an indulgence which no other allows itself. The people are longing for a new organization of the state.”

Because of the political backlog, lack of legal certainty and growing dissatisfaction, there is the danger. Bishop Komarica believes that parts of the country will become radicalized: “There are people here who could exploit the instability. And we mustn’t ignore the dark clouds arising in the south-east. This region is a region where destructive, radical forces from the Arab world can flourish and they can very easily settle here.”

 

Bosnie-2

 

Context

Before the last Balkan war the people in Bosnia-Herzegovina lived peacefully with one another regardless of their religion or denomination. This fundamental consensus was destroyed by war and violence and has to be reconstructed.

In order to overcome the persistent state of instability, Bishop Komarica believes that a greater commitment on the part of the international community, and specifically the European Union, is absolutely essential.

In his words, the Catholic Church is making a positive contribution in Bosnia-Herzegovina: “We need more justice, reconciliation and willingness to work together. We bishops have therefore invited everyone to go to the polls to cast their vote for law and justice and to make sure the country does not get stuck in this disastrous situation.”

Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting the efforts of the Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina for years. Between 2008 and 2013, 7.46 million dollars was spent, for the reconstruction of churches and church institutions in particular.

 


 

 

 

Press Release – Iraq: Shocked, in pain and worried

For Immediate Release        

By Reinhard Backes, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Archbishops from Mosul, Iraq: “We call on all people of conscience in the world to put pressure on to the militants to stop the destruction”

 

Montreal, Thursday July 24, 2014 – In a dramatic appeal to the international community the Archbishops of Mosul in Iraq are asking for more outside help for minorities in Iraq. With violence still ongoing in parts of the country, they declared: “We, the Archbishops of Mosul, coming from all the denominations gathered in Erbil/Ankawah, headed by His Beatitude Patriarch Raphael Louis I Sako, are shocked, in pain, and worried about what happened to the innocent Christians of Mosul because of their religion. It is a crime against humanity, as the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon said, and ‘a shameful stain that should not be tolerated’ as the Secretary General of the Arab League Mr. Nabil Alaraby called it. It’s a crime in and of itself – a blatant persecution that we condemn and denounce.”

 

In the appeal presented to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the Archbishops stated their demand for the national government to provide protection for Christians and other minorities, financial support for displaced families who have lost everything, as well as a list of all the damage incurred to ensure they are compensated. The Archbishops also declared: “We call on all people of conscience in Iraq and the world to put pressure on to the militants to stop the destruction of churches and monasteries and the burning of manuscripts and relics from our Christian heritage, which are also a priceless Iraqi and global heritage. What has been said about an agreement between the militants and churchmen is completely untrue, because what has happened is an unmitigated crime that cannot be denied or justified!”

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