Growing fears for the safety of Syrians

By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada 

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

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

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

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

An urgent need of action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






ACN Press Release: Syria Extremists IS – seize Christian towns

Iraq, June 2010 Father Emanuel Youkhana in his office Photo: CAPNI

By John Newton, ACN United Kingdom

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

ACN, Montreal – Tuesday, February 14, 2015 – According to recent reports, one hundred Assyrian Christians in the north-eastern region of Khabour in Syria’s Hassake governate, have been captured and are being held by the extremist Islamist organization IS following attacks on several Assyrian villages yesterday morning, the 23rd of February, and provoking a mass exodus of hundreds toward Hassake city and leaving many trapped and surrounded as the soldiers advanced.

Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, leader of the Assyrian Christians and head of CAPNI (Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq) told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) he had spoken to a CAPNI contact, who prefers to remain anonymous, in Hassake city, where hundreds of families have fled, “Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel… told me the church and community hall are overloaded with the people and they are now [sending] them to the families in Hassake city.”

“The fight started Monday early morning 4am Syrian time when IS opened a 40km long battle front from Tel Shamiram to Tel Hormizd. IS took advantage of [the fact that the] PYD (Democratic Union Kurdish Party) [had] been fighting in other places – mainly the Syrian-Iraqi borders. So, there were less resistance to face IS fighters. In general, IS was supported by Arab Sunni neighboring villages.”

The destiny of these families of major concern

The situation for Christians is extremely difficult, “There are no clear numbers of the families, but more than 600 families managed to flee. Most of them are in Hassake,” where we are told the people have found refuge in churches – and around 200 others in Qamishly.

“Unfortunately,” explains Archimandrite Youkhana to ACN as told to him by the anonymous source, “most of the families failed to escape and were captured by IS. – 50 families in Tel Shamiran, 26 families in Tel Gouran, 28 families in Tel Jezira, and 14 young people (12 males and 2 females) who were defending Tel Hormiz had been seized by IS and separated men from women and children.” Knowing the brutal barbaric record of IS with the captured, the destiny of those families is a major concern to us,” he added.  One of these sad examples was the martyring of you Milad, only 17 years of age.

According to Archmandrite Youkhana, at least two villages – Tal Shamiran and Tal Hermiz – were still surrounded by IS yesterday evening. The churches in both villages have been torched. “According to the source, IS been defeated in Kobane some places, [but] it tried to gain in other places.” The water level of the Khabur River was able to serve as a natural defense for some villages on the other side of the river.  Some villagers witnessed fires burning in other villages further on which had been seized by IS.

Father Emanuel Youkahna (Iraq) with displaced peoplePhoto: CAP

Father Emanuel Youkahna (Iraq) with displaced people  Photo: CAPNI

But Archmandrite Youkhana also drew attention to acts of solidarity between Sunni Muslims and the attacked Christians. “Arab Sunni villagers nearby Assyrian village of Qaber Shamiat rescued 15 Assyrians (13 males and two females) who are protected by them and are expected to be guided and transported to Hassake, to the church,” he said.

There are 35 Assyrian villages in the Khabour region which were founded in the 1930s following the August massacre in 1933 which took place in Iraq forcing Christians to flee to Syria with the hope of one day returning to their homeland of Iraq. The term ‘village’ is never attributed to their dwelling but always referred to as a ‘camps’ to describe their colonies which were to be temporary installments until they could return home, as was explained to us by the Archmandrite who also said:  “May God bring an end to the continuous suffer of the people in our countries and worldwide.”



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

Oliver Maksan, ACN International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin 

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

To make a donation to ACN for refugees

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

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 – – 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.



 Aid to the Church in Need organizes a prayer campaign for Nigeria

Montreal, Friday February 6, 2015 – On 14 February 2015 Nigeria will be voting for a new president and a new parliament. The April 2011 elections in Nigeria “were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history, but they were also among the bloodiest,” according to Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.  

St. Rita´s Catholic Church and it´s Catechists house in Kaduna h

Across 12 northern states – more than 800 people were killed in 3 days of rioting and 65,000 people were displaced. The imminent election is also overshadowed by the terror campaign of the Islamist organization Boko Haram, which wants to destabilize the country.

A show of solidarity 

Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, President of the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference and the Christian Association of Nigeria said to Aid to the Church in Need: “It is time to show solidarity. We want to hold free and fair elections without violence. We want democracy, good government policies and that the militant Islamist groups change their attitude. We want to live together peacefully, as brothers and sisters. I therefore ask for your prayers so that the upcoming elections can be held peacefully, without violence and without bloodshed.”

Nigeria, Maiduguri diocese 2014Displaced kids

Bishop Dashe Dome, whose diocese of Maidiguri is the heartland of the Islamist terror group, called also for prayer to overcome the Boko Haram threat: “The most important thing is to pray for our people; I know people are praying for us and I am very grateful. I want people to pray the Hail Mary – our mother Mary has been championing our cause. We have a lot of devotion to the Blessed Virgin.”

The Call to Prayer will start one week before elections, on Saturday 7th February and will be held throughout the week, to raise awareness and encourage people to pray for Nigeria and for the peace in this country. Each day we will offer different prayers. In Twitter and Facebook you can follow the action using the hashtag #2015NigeriaPrayer.

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.


Press Release: Celebrating the World Day of Consecrated Life


© Aid to the Church in Need

God’s initiative 

Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada

Translation by Amanda Bridget Griffin

logo-anno-vita-consacrata_enMontreal, Tuesday February 2, 2015 – While we are today highlighting the World Day of Consecrated life, a Mass is being celebrated at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican giving homage to all who have chosen the religious life, and all those who are consecrated to religious life.  Last November 2013, Pope Francis announced that 2015 would be the Year of Consecrated Life.  The year officially began November 30, 2014, the first Sunday in Advent and will come to an end February 2, 2016 on the official World Day of Consecrated Life.

The Pontiff, meeting with the members of the International Union of Superiors General in Rome. Before thanking them warmly for what they bear witness to – he spoke to them these words spoken by Jesus to the apostles during the Last Supper:  “ You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John 15:16) and thus reminding them that vocation is always ‘God’s Initiative.’

Inspired by these words spoken by Pope Francis, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Canada decided to write a book entitled God’s Initiative – Stories of Exceptional Religious Sisters (Une initiative de Dieu – histories de religieuses exceptionnelles.)) This volume of about 60 pages which is due to be available in spring 2015, will retrace the history of 13 religious Sisters from every continent – the heights of their work – incomparable.  To reserve a copy of this work, please call (514) 932-0552 ext 226.

Additionally, please note that you will also be able to listen to an interview (in French) of one of these exceptional Sisters – Maria Elena Diaz – who works in Honduras.  The interview will air on Vues d’ailleurs, animated by Mario Bard and broadcast on Radio VM (91.3 FM in Montreal), Wednesday February 11, 2015.

ACN produced a similar book in 2010 centered on the lives of priests in a volume entitled – Heroic Priests.

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.