Syria – “The Christians want to stay”

This is the last day we will be offering you a story which, along with describing to you the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also offer you poignant testimonials from the religious personnel on site and from the people living through this unspeakable tragedy.

You will see, though Syrians have a capacity for resilience which is quite remarkable, their suffering remains a weight that they cannot bear alone.  Prayer, information and action can help them continue to move ahead on their journey, despite the formidable challenges they face. How can you support them?

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.

#DONATEFORSYRIA


 

The Christian district of Nebek was hit hard in the battles before Christmas. Aid to the Church in Need helps rebuild

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Sister Houda Fadoul sounds relieved. “Fortunately, the battles are over. There was fierce fighting in Nebek all through Advent. No one was able to flee and the people were trapped. Peace was then finally restored in the week before Christmas. But you never know.” The Syrian-Catholic Sister presides over a congregation of nuns near Nebek, a city of around 50,000 inhabitants situated at the edge of the desert. Only 120 Catholic families live here, about 500 souls. There are two parishes, one Syrian-Catholic and one Greek-Catholic. To the South, Nebek lies about 80 kilometres from Damascus, the capital of Syria. To the North, it is just about the same distance from Homs. Even though it has been under government control since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, fierce fighting has now broken out. “The jihadists are not far away. We Christians are scared of them. But so are the Muslims of Nebek. After all, the jihadists also kill Muslims. No one wants them here. In Nebek, the Christians and Muslims are like family.”

About 90 Christian houses were destroyed or damaged during the battles before Christmas. “The jihadists thought that the government would spare them if they attacked in the Christian district. But that was not the case. There was fierce fighting here. However, the Christian district lies unprotected on a hill. And so the Christian houses were hit especially hard. Through it all, the people hid for weeks in cellars. They were extremely frightened.”

May 16 , 2012-Damascus , Syria : Funeral and prayer in the Churc

Faith in the future

Sister Houda is now trying to do something about the housing shortage that has befallen the people. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is lending a hand.  “Many families either don’t have a flat at all anymore, or the ones they have are uninhabitable. We must help these people. The Christians of Nebek don’t want to leave. They want to stay at home. However, to make this possible, their houses need to be rebuilt.” Some only have broken panes of glass or damaged power lines. Other houses, on the other hand, have been gutted. “These people are now living in emergency housing. They have lost everything. They urgently need mattresses, gas cookers, blankets and things like that.”

However, even before the most recent bout of destruction, life in Nebek was not easy. “We often don’t have any electricity. The people sit in the dark. There is also a shortage of heating fuels. Neither diesel nor wood is available. And the winter is cold. The people suffer.” Sister Houda also deplored the fact that although food is available, it is very expensive. And you cannot get everything. Medical care is also poor. Furthermore, many medicines are no longer available. “However, the biggest problem here is that there is no work. Many factories have closed or have been destroyed. The young men are unemployed. We have to take care of them.” For this reason, Sister Houda wants to come to the aid of small businesses that do not have enough raw materials. “I am thinking of carpenters. We could supply them with wood. And we could also help small stores that sell batteries or torches by providing them with goods.

SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00144Emergency assistance to struggling fam

However, Sister Houda believes that the people’s faith in God has not suffered. “The Christians here are very brave. They celebrated a large Mass of Thanksgiving after the most recent battles. The destroyed houses are one thing. They don’t consider that so important. Instead, they thanked God for the fact that they are still alive. We have to help the people regain their hope and faith in a future in Syria. If not, we will lose them. We therefore thank everyone who has donated to Aid to the Church in Need for their support. In the past they have helped us build flats for young Christian families. Now we are again dependent on their generosity and especially on their prayers:

May God bless them.”

 

 

Syria – The Lord acts subtly, but He acts

Beginning last Tuesday, and through until tomorrow, we have been offering you a variety of stories which, along with describing to you the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also offer you poignant testimonials from the religious personnel on site and from the people living through this unspeakable tragedy.

You will see, though Syrians have a capacity for resilience which is quite remarkable, their suffering remains a weight that they cannot bear alone.  Prayer, information and action can help them continue to move ahead on their journey, despite the formidable challenges they face. How can you support them?

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.

#DONATEFORSYRIA


 

Hunger, destruction, death: for years, Sister Ani has been helping the people of Aleppo – Aid to the Church in Need lends a hand 

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Hunger, destruction and death: for years, Sister Anie has been helping the people of Aleppo – Aid to the Church in Need supports her mission.

“You can’t imagine in what kind of circumstances the family was living. It was damp and cold in that cellar. It is like a catacomb. You can hardly breathe. The girl lost her teeth, one by one, because of the perpetual darkness down there. It was horrible when I saw it. They lived like that for three years.”

Even after so many years of war, Sister Ani Demerjian is still affected by the misfortunes of the people. The young Armenian-Catholic Sister belongs to a community that was established in France, the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary (RJM). For years, the Damascus-born Syrian has endured in Aleppo, a contested metropolis in the northern part of Syria. The government and the insurgents have fought bitter battles there, which is why hundreds of thousands have left the once so affluent, now largely destroyed city.

Those who remain are those who cannot afford to leave and start a new life elsewhere. “On Christmas we had neither electricity nor water. Instead, massive bombs were dropping. And that is the rule, not the exception. We often go for days without electricity. And when it works, then only for one or two hours a day.

Daily encounters with death

The water supply system has also broken down. Old people have to haul water in buckets from wells or tank wagons to their flats on the sixth storey or so. It is also very cold at the moment. Diesel and gas are in short supply. There are people who are burning their furniture. I have heard of a family who was burning plastic bags to keep warm. Afterwards, a child had to be treated in hospital for poisoning. This is our life at the moment. The people have by now used up everything they had, cash, jewelry, or other valuables. They are at the end of their ropes. How often are we in houses in which there is no food. It is not easy to see your own people in such a state.” Then there is the danger that accompanies the universal state of distress. “You may die on any given day. An acquaintance of mine took a taxi. A grenade hit her. There was nothing left of her. This is the life we lead. What will become of us? We are entirely in God’s hands. Our lives belong to Him alone. When it is over, it is over.”

Despite the daily encounters with death, Sister Ani is fighting for life. Together with volunteers – among them many adolescents – she organizes aid for those who are suffering. “At the moment we are helping about 600 families with clothing, food, gas or anything else they need to survive. We are only able to do this thanks to the support of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).  I can’t express how thankful we are to those who have made donations.

SYRIA / NATIONAL 14/00124 Emergency help for the needed families

Pious words are not enough in a situation like this. The people need spiritual food, but also the kind you can bite into.” And the need is great. Many fathers have lost their jobs because the factories they worked in were destroyed or had to close for some reason. This has plunged entire families into poverty who had been quite prosperous before.

New hope to live

Such as the Christian family from the cellar. “The father owned a flower shop,” Sister Ani reported. “However, he had to close it. Bit by bit they had to sell everything they owned. Furniture, electrical devices, clothing: they gave everything away for a little food. At some point they moved into the cellar. The rent for their former flat was too expensive. There was no electricity in the cellar. Both children, a son and a daughter, had to give up their studies because they didn’t have any more money.”

Fortunately, the father went to see Sister Ani last year. “We immediately decided to help the family,” she said. “They now have electricity, perhaps not all the time, but still. We want to help the children continue their studies. And we want to help the girl get new teeth. You can’t imagine the joy in their hearts. The girl has told us that we have given them new hope to live.”

Sister Ani was also touched by the story of another family in Aleppo. “It is a family of four, also Christian. Their house was bombed and with it everything they had. They were forced to move into the small shop the father uses to make tea and coffee to sell on the streets. Poor people, you see. The mother couldn’t take the hardships any longer or went out of her mind and ran off with a Muslim. She now lives in Raqqa, where ISIS rules. The father stayed behind with his two daughters. The oldest is 15. Both girls were hit hard by the hardships and their mother’s departure. They did poorly in school and also began to look completely neglected and dirty. The younger girl even became sick. We are now supporting the family by helping them meet their everyday needs. We are also looking for a new flat for them. In the district they now live, they are gossiped about because of the mother. And so they can’t stay there. Most importantly, the girls should return to school. We are trying to make a new life possible for the family.”

SYRIA / ALEP-CLD 15/00050 Emergency help (medical)  for the disp

 

All of this suffering has left its mark on Sister Ani. “Somehow, all of this is bigger than I am. It doesn’t matter which house you go into, each has a sad story to tell. We are really surrounded by evil. However, as time goes on it becomes ever more apparent to me that the Lord is with us.” Holy Mass in the morning, Adoration and prayer strengthen Sister Ani and her fellow sister so that they can carry out their everyday work. They volunteered for this work. “Our superiors told us that we could leave. As the crisis began, my sister and I decided that we would stay. You can’t just share in the good times with people.” However, at this point the good times are just a vague memory, Ani said. “I don’t ask God about the why. I only ask Him to give me the strength I need for the day. This removes the burden from my shoulders. And I have realized one thing: the Lord acts subtly, but He acts. We see this every day. This is the only reason we can go on.”


 

Tomorrow :  The Christians want to stay”

“There was fierce fighting in Nebek all through Advent.”

 

 

Syria – “All that counts is the degree of need”

Starting yesterday, and through to Friday, we will offer you a variety of stories which, along with describing to you the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also offer you poignant testimonials from the religious personnel on site and from the people living through this unspeakable tragedy.

You will see, though Syrians have a capacity for resilience which is quite remarkable, their suffering remains a weight that they cannot bear alone.  Prayer, information and action can help them continue to move ahead on their journey, despite the formidable challenges they face. How can you support them?

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.

#DONATEFORSYRIA


 

Across denominational boundaries: Catholics help Orthodox Christians in Syria 

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

Al-Hasakah is located in the north-east of Syria. The area is mainly populated by Kurds, but there is also a Christian community there. Like all those who live in Al-Hasakah, they are also suffering because their area is virtually cut off from the rest of the country. The reason for this is that the islamist terrorist militia ISIS controls the surrounding regions. “The families in Al-Hasakah are in great need. They have to go without power and water for days on end. Many of them don’t even have enough to eat,” says Sister Annie Demerjian. “Al-Hasakah is a forgotten city. In Aleppo, where I live, the situation is also disastrous. But nobody talks about Al-Hasakah.”

This Armenian-Catholic Sister belongs to the community of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary. In Aleppo she organizes help for people in the war-ravaged town, which is quite enough to keep her busy. But when she heard about the precarious situation of the people in Al-Hasakah she decided to help them. “We share what we have. I can’t get to Al-Hasakah myself. The overland route passes through ISIS territory. That’s too dangerous for Christians. We therefore work together with a Syriac-Orthodox priest in Al-Hasakah. He organizes help for the people there. Through him we support about 100 Christian families. We hope that there will be more in future.”

Almoukales center - package SYRIA / NATIONAL 15/00146 Emergency

It is not easy sending relief into this area. “In the past year we had to resort to a ruse. We wanted to send more than 600 anoraks for children and young people by bus to Al-Hasakah. But we were warned that ISIS could confiscate the goods if it was evident that they were coming from Christians for Christians. We were therefore helped by friendly Muslims who entered the name of a Muslim as the sender and a Muslim as the recipient on the delivery note. It worked,” she explained and still expresses pleasure at the trick’s success.

Aid to the Church in Need supports the work of Sister Annie and her Orthodox partner in Al-Hasakah. “Last October and December we distributed 100 litres of heating oil to the families with the help of Aid to the Church in Need. And we managed to supply the families with oil again in January. This is very important in view of the winter.” Besides heating oil – sanitary articles, food and medicines are also being distributed to the needy families in Al-Hasakah.

Sister Annie regards this inter-denominational aid as a matter of course. “We are all Christians and we’re in the same boat. When it comes to aid it doesn’t matter whether someone is Chaldean or Syriac-Orthodox, or whatever. All that counts is the degree of need.” Every day, Sister Annie reports, Christian families are leaving the Al-Hasakah region on account of the hardship, mostly over the Turkish border. “Our aid is crucial to enable them to stay. Otherwise we will lose even more Christians.”


 

Tomorrow :  The Lord acts subtly, but He acts”

“You can’t imagine in what kind of circumstances the family was living. It was damp and cold in that cellar. It is like a catacomb.” 

 

 

Syria – Before the jihadists arrived

In the coming days, we will offer you a variety of stories which, along with describing to you the situation as it is lived by Christians in Syria, will also offer you poignant testimonials from the religious personnel on site and from the people living through this unspeakable tragedy.

You will see, though Syrians have a capacity for resilience which is quite remarkable, their suffering remains a weight that they cannot bear alone.  Prayer, information and action can help them continue to move ahead on their journey, despite the formidable challenges they face. How can you support them?

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.

#DONATEFORSYRIA


 

Before the jihadists arrived

Despite vast destruction: the Church is trying to improve the lives of people in Syria and strengthen their faith – Aid to the Church in Need provides support

By Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

The Syrian city of Yabrud looks back on a long Christian tradition. It is home to one of the oldest Christian churches in Syria. The house of prayer, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in the fourth century. “In February of 2014, the jihadists completely ravaged our church. They destroyed the icons, shredded the evangeliary and burnt down the altar. They also stole anything they could get their hands on.” Father George Hadad, for many years the Greek-Catholic priest in Yabrud, is still despondent over the desecration of the church. He held out in the rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border for almost three years. The strategically important city fell under the control of the Syrian opposition very early on.

St. Mayrs Church - Syrian Orthodox in Homs We will come back" i

From that point on, fighting repeatedly broke out between the government and the rebels. Then, in March of 2014, the government army regained control over the city. This was preceded by fierce fighting. “Fortunately, the damage was not as extensive as we had feared. The Blessed Virgin had protected Yabrud. The Muslims of Yabrud are also saying this. They revere the Blessed Virgin just as we do. In fact, we have always got on well with the Muslims of Yabrud. During the occupation there were a few who collaborated with the jihadists. But this was a small minority of uneducated people. The Muslims even helped the Christians to safeguard me whenever I left the house.”

Meanwhile, the jihadists from outside of the city – at times they even included fighters of the infamous al-Nusra brigades, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda – made the lives of Christians difficult. “They said that we worship the cross and that we should therefore remove it from our church. I replied that we do not worship the cross, but the Word of God.” However, the holy warriors of Islam were not convinced. They used explosives to remove the cross from the cathedral in October of 2013. The damage to the church was extensive. “However, we were always able to celebrate mass and the liturgy of the hours. Always,” he said. “Last year, when we returned to the city right before Easter, we used the speakers of the mosque to broadcast the call to prayer on Good Friday. Even Muslims came.”

SYRIA / HOMS-MLC 15/00038Help for Quseir (church, catechism cen

Before the war, Father George reported, about 3,500 Christians lived in Yabrud. “When I was there last year after it had been recaptured by the army, there were only nine left. They fled because of the fighting. However, almost 80 per cent of the Christians have now returned.”

Nevertheless, together with the rest of Yabrud’s residents, the members of his parish are suffering because of the poor supply situation. “We only have electricity and water sporadically. There is also a shortage of heating fuels. There is almost no work to be had. Before the war, Yabrud was a highly industrialized city. There is almost nothing left of this now.” But Father George is convinced that there is a future for the Christians in Syria. “After all, where else could it be? In Europe? The people there have lost their faith through capitalism. And you won’t find the land of milk and honey there, either. If we could only be left alone here, the future could be bright for us in Syria.” Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is supporting Father George and the Christians in Yabrud with such projects as the reconstruction of destroyed residential buildings.

Father George’s archbishop is also convinced that there is a future for Syria’s Christians. Archbishop Jean Abdo Arbach is head of the Greek-Catholic diocese of Homs, Hama and Yabrud. During the past few years, his diocese has suffered greatly due to the conflict. Thousands of his parishioners have had to flee, a large number of churches and church buildings were also destroyed. “The rebels used my residence in Homs as their headquarters until the government took control of the city last year. The cathedral was so severely damaged during the fighting that we had to think about whether it was even worth restoring, or if it wouldn’t be better to simply tear it down and build a new one.” However, the faith of his Christians is more important to Archbishop Arbach than the buildings.

“The faith of the people has deepened. More people are coming to church than before, including children. No one is reproaching God. Everyone knows that the suffering that surrounds us is the handiwork of humanity.” For this reason, Archbishop Arbach’s chief concern is reviving the pastoral life in his diocese. For example, a catechesis centre for 450 children and adolescents in Yabrud is now up and running – also thanks to support from Aid to the Church in Need.

“Thankfully we are able to continue with our pastoral life, despite the difficulties. We thank Aid to the Church in Need for this. Our clergy is doing what they can. I am very proud that the priests stayed with their congregations, even in difficult situations. I trust that God will give us peace through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. At any rate, it is our job as Christians to be the instruments of peace. We have to raise our children to this end.”

 


 

Tomorrow : “It’s the degree of the need that counts”

“Al-Hasakah is a forgotten city. In Aleppo, where I live, the situation is also disastrous. But nobody talks about Al-Hasakah.”

 

Press Release – Conference on ‘The tragic fate of Christians in the Middle East’

MARIE-CLAUDE COMMUNIQUÉConference with Marie-Claude Lalonde in Montreal

The tragic fate of Christians in the Middle East

By Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Translation by Amanda Bridget Griffin

Montreal, Wednesday January 21, 2015 – Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Canada, will be giving a conference on the theme of The tragic fate of Christians in the Middle East. This presentation will take place (in French) on Thursday, January 22, at 7:30pm at 2715 Côte Sainte-Catherine road, in Montreal.

This follows a report entitled Religious Freedom Report in the World 2014 which was published by the International Catholic Charity ACN this past November, 2014.  This report, which is published every 2 years, was compiled by journalists, academics and commentators, reveals the disquieting problems facing the faithful living in 116 countries of 196 around the world.

“This work shows that religious liberty is compromised in close to 60% of countries around the world,” explains Marie-Claude Lalonde, “which should send a clear message to governments and religious leaders that this question can no longer be ignored.”

Along with the portrait the national director will trace with regard to persecution lived by Christians during the tragic events in Iraq last summer, the participants will have the opportunity to hear the testimony of Dr. Catherine Elian, a Syrian doctor who has been established in Montreal for two years.  She was born and trained in Aleppo, in Syria and in Paris, and was very active in helping youth in her country and knows well the situation lived by Christians as many of her family members still reside in the country.

And Marie-Claude Lalonde concluded in saying “The emergency relief package of 5.77 million dollars – one of the most considerable in ACN history – which is currently in use to fund projects in Iraq, demonstrates the scope of the tragedy lived by our Iraqi brothers and sisters.  We still have so much work ahead of us,” she says, “for we know these projects are far from able to put to an end this unspeakable catastrophe.  The threat remains constant at the fragility of their hearts no less persistent.”

About ACN

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is an international Catholic organization which has as mandate “fraternal charity towards local suffering and poor Churches.”  Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried, it helps the Church in need in both spiritual and material ways in over 145 countries.

 

What Future for Iraq? Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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or click the image to make a secure on-line donation.

A speech delivered on September 9, 2014 by His Beatitude Patriarch Sako, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, in Antwerp, during a conference organized by Sant’Egidio.0807Iraq_Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad

For almost two millennia Christian communities have lived in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. These groups have contributed economically, politically, and intellectually, and have helped shape their respective cultures. Unfortunately, in the 21st century Middle Eastern Christians are being severely persecuted. When they have the means, many are fleeing the region.

It has become obvious that Iraqi Christians along with other minorities have received a fatal blow at the heart of their lives and their existence when more than one hundred and twenty thousand Christians were forced to flee from their houses and villages, when their possessions of a lifetime, valuables and documents were looted and when their houses were occupied: all these, just for being Christian!

Displacement and emigration have had great impact on us, both Christian and Muslim. Iraq is losing an irreplaceable component of its society, the Christian one; hence a genuine and ancient tradition is endangered!

Due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, the international community cannot be indifferent. It is also sad to say that the response of the international Muslim community towards the barbaric acts committed (in the name of their religion) against the life, dignity and freedom of Christians is not up to our expectations, considering that Christians have contributed and fought for this country, living in partnership with their Muslim brothers alongside the Islamic civilization (sharing their sufferings and their joys).

Religious fundamentalism is still growing in power and force, provoking tragedies, and making us wonder when the Islamic religious scholars and the Muslim intellectuals will critically examine this dangerous phenomenon and eradicate it by educating a true religious consciousness and spreading an authentic culture of accepting people of other faiths as brothers and as citizens with equal and full rights. ISIS is moving forward with its ferocious war against culture and diversity, and thus threatening the intellectual and social fabric of the entire society.

Christians and Muslims should not give up on raising their voices against the extremists and should work together to create a new mentality of living together in peace and harmony. Therefore it is high time that an effective action be undertaken at the ideological level within the Islamic world to stop the claim of these extremists of their religious legitimacy for receiving resources and for recruiting new militants.

We urge all religious and political leaders to spread the culture of openness, diversity, plurality and equality in the face of a culture of extremism, elimination, marginalization and social backwardness supported by a weak individual and collective consciousness of its own deficiency. Only education can commence this transformation and build a society where equality amongst citizens succeeds. This can be achieved primarily by revising accordingly the curriculum of all centers of learning, especially centers of religious education. To guarantee a better coexistence it is imperative to create a civil society that respects every religion and does not politicize religions for its own benefits.

ACN-20140731-11989

©AED/ACN

The title of this meeting 100 years post World War I, is Religions and Cultures in Dialogue for more peace in the future. This should be our way of life. So I suggest some practical points.

The notion of religion in Islam and its theological language differs from Christian perspective. Islam is a system where religion and politics are interlocked and which dictates all areas of human existence. I think the moment has come to separate religion which is based on truth, from politics, which is based essentially on interests (of the one who rules or of the one who wants to rule)!

  1. Dialogue is a process, a way of life. It is not an office business neither something that can be reduced to some meetings or discussions. Dialogue is a genuine intellectual effort to think and to analyze one’s own faith, life and culture, while creating space to understand the faith, life and culture of other peoples. In this process, the authentic seeker of dialogue finds more similarities than dissimilarities between religions, more reasons to be united than to be divided between faiths. Then religion becomes personal and not an inherited reality.
  1. The promotion of human rights is the best common ground between Muslims and Christians on which both can work and act in order to promote a peaceful coexistence. We both should care for the health and fight against hunger and analphabetism. An updating of the religious vocabulary and a reform of the programs of religious teaching is crucial. Transformation and renewal is part of nature. Culture is evolving, mentalities are being refined, and languages are developing.  We should seek a new method to think and exist in a spirit of “mercy and in service of love” (cfr.Ut Unum Sint, 92-93, 95) instead of having recourse to excuses to justify the current situation. Religions should seek a new human and theological language which speaks and touches the heart of persons and gives their life a direction and a hope instead of being instruments of violence for the benefits of a few. I invite our Muslim friends in the Middle East to bring a common action to “a Common Word.”
  1. Reforms of Constitutions: Islam is the religion of the state in the Constitutions of Islamic Countries. To do justice to the situation and to the history, an amendment of these Constitutions is necessary. An amendment which guarantees the Christians and other minorities, who were inhabitants of this land from their beginnings, equal treatment like the Muslim citizens. Toleration “dhimi” is not what we expect, but equality. Religion should not become a criterion for discriminating citizens. Christians are a distinguished minority in the Middle East, rooted in their lands, with open minds and a capacity to dialogue, who contributed a lot to their countries in different fields of life, especially in the field of education.

Finally: Let us Christians, Muslims and Yezides stop the logic of conflicts and violence and replace it with the logic of dialogue and peace, then we all will have future. I do believe that the solution for our problems is a federal regime which can keep the unity of the country and can help.

There are only 6 months left before we face winter, so please we urge you:

  • To liberate not only the plain of Nineveh, but also Mosul.
  • To support the safe return of the displaced population to their homes.
  • To help to immediately reestablish water and electricity and other services.

 

ACN-20140808-12348

 

 

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.  

 

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Do you see a solution? 

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

An Iraqi Christian is always marginalized in this country.  

 

How do you foresee the future of Christianity in Iraq?

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

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

Iraqi law is based on the foundation of Islamic law;

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

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

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

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

 

Do you have a message to transmit to our benefactors?

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

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

To make a donation by please call: (514) 932-0552 or toll free 1-(800) 585-6333
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