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 : 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”.


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.


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


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


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.


Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin


©Aid to the Church in Need

On December 5, 2013, the convent of the Carmes of Bangui, the Capital of Central African Republic, was transformed into a refugee camp when 2,500 people arrived unannounced in search of refuge due to threats by the Seleka Rebel group.

The eleven brothers who dwell in the convent welcomed the people with open arms – though without knowing exactly how they would accommodate so many people. At that time, what they did not know, is that the number would not be 2,500 – but more like 10,000 people that would come to find shelter as the situation unfolded and more attacks would take place on the following December 20.

One year later, today, December 5, 2014, 4,000 of them are still there living in circumstances that are a little calmer, but no less precarious.  In remembrance of this sad anniversary, the brothers have decided to celebrate a Holy Mass at 3:30pm with all the refugees.  “We will implore the Lord for the gift of a lasting peace, and a true reconciliation for Central Africa.  We ask God for the gift of conversion of hearts and minds,” says Father Federico Trinchero, the community’s prior.

But their prayers will also be offered for numerous people: “We will pray for Christians and for Muslims, for the anti-Balaka and for the Seleka; for those among our refugees who we have known and loved and who are now dead; for those of the French Army who have died and in the other African armies and from other countries; for the different humanitarian organizations who have contributed through their work and with the sacrifice of their own lives for the return of peace to Central Africa; for those who govern and for those who will govern this country; for all people who helped us and who are helping us through their prayers, their friendship and their generosity.”


©Aid to the Church in Need

If by the celebration of Christmas 2013 the convent had been transformed into a living Crèche, as a result today, there are numerous children who have been born in this very place. This is why Father Federico adds: “And we give thanks to God for all the children who were born at Camel, and for protecting us from all danger.”

And finally, “this Mass will allow us to pay homage to the thousands of innocent victims who died in this war which has endured for almost two years.”

We invite you to join with us, but especially with them, in their prayers.





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


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.”


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.


PHILIPPINES – One year later

ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde


©Aid to the Church in Need

On 8th November 2013, super typhoon Haiyan pounded the island of Leyte in the Philippines with winds nearing 315 kilometres per hour and a tremendous storm surge that bulldozed the countryside. 11 million people were affected by the storm. Over 6,000 people lost their lives.

The Minor Seminary of the Sacred Heart in Palo was almost totally destroyed. At that time, there were only four priests in the building: the rector, the vice-rector, the dean of the College of the Philosophy and the Prefect of Studies, Father Mark Ivo Velasquez. As the latter explains, there were no seminarians because they were gone on their annual retreat.


©Aid to the Church in Need

Father Velasquez recalls the frightful events of that night: “I woke up at four, as did the other priests because we could not sleep and we wanted to monitor the progress of the storm. We were watching as the strength of the wind increased and I was becoming increasingly worried because I could see the roof of the chapel being lifted up little by little. One of the dorms there, the walls exploded. The pressure was so great that it pushed one door to the other dorm. The high school building was destroyed. The auditorium it was totally flattened in a matter of minutes. Our carpentry shop which is at the back, it was completely destroyed”.

The wind damaged 80% of the Seminary buildings. Several months after Haiyan made landfall, the seminary has resumed operations.


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


 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.  




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.