ACN Canada

 

ACN Project of the Week – Guatemala

14.06.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, South America

Success Story in Guatemala

Formation in loving prisoners

 

First, a little bit of history!  In the eighth century the Moors conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula, and for the next 700 years the Spaniards fought back against the occupying forces. Many Christians were also captured by the Moors and sold as slaves.

 

Young Pedro Nolasco, from Barcelona, decided that something must be done to help them. While still young, he had purchased the freedom of 300 prisoners with money inherited from his father.

 

In the year 1218, he declared having been visited by Our Lady and that she had asked him to establish an order to continue this work of freeing Christian slaves. So it was that the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, more commonly known as the Mercedarians (from the Latin Maria de mercede redemptionis captivorum and the Spanish “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes”), was founded and in England also as the Order of Our Lady of Ransom.

 

The members of the order purchased the freedom of innumerable Christian prisoners held by the Moors often offering their own freedom and even their own lives in exchange for the unfortunate prisoners. They are unusual in that their religious rule has a fourth vow, in addition to the usual three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, namely to purchase the freedom of Christian slaves even at the cost of their own freedom and their own lives.

Today…

The order is particularly strong in Latin America today. Still today, they continue actively caring for prisoners, providing practical and spiritual support to the impoverished families of prisoners. Its members also provide counselling and support for those who have fallen outside the law – in some cases innocently. In addition, they help former prisoners after their release and provide counselling to people encountering difficulties within the justice system. The community continues to accompany the former prisoners even after their release.  Since many of them no longer have any families and find themselves having to make a completely new start, with nothing. The Mercedarians help with finding employment and gradually working toward reintegration into society.

 

The order is happily blessed with many new vocations. Currently, there are 15 young men preparing for the priesthood in their seminary in Guatemala. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN was able to help with $7,100 for their formation.

 

These future priests send you their heartfelt thanks for this support.

Please click to donate to GIVE for a similar project.

 


 

 

ACN Feature Story: Iraq- The Dominicans are going home

09.06.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Daniele Piccini, Chaldean Catholic, CONSTRUCTION, Iraq

Iraq

The Dominicans are going home

 

On the Nineveh Plain, in Iraq, 363 church buildings or other Church properties were damaged or destroyed by Islamic State (IS) and are now in need of rebuilding.

Dominican Sisters Luma Khuder and Nazek Matty, are both saying, “We hope to be able to return to Teleskuf as soon as possible. The families there have need of us.” Father Andrzej Halemba, the acting chair of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, told the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “Already 450 families have returned to Teleskuf; we are hoping that many others will follow their example.”

“The agreement between the three Christian Churches is a good sign. People can see that the Churches are united and that the decisions are not being taken unilaterally.” Sister Luma Khuder and Sister Nazek Matty, both Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena originally from the convent of Our Lady of the Rosary in Teleskuf to the north of Mosul, see it as encouraging sign that Christian Churches in Iraq are committing to rebuilding the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plain, destroyed by the so-called Islamic State. On 27 March this year the Syrian Catholic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church formally established a committee, the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC), whose task is to oversee and plan the repair and rebuilding of almost 13,000 family homes.

March 2017: the Sisters can finally see their convent for the first time in two years.

Before the summer of 2014 the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena had convents in several different towns on the Nineveh plains. Then the extremist fighters of Islamic State arrived and together with around 70 or so fellow Dominican sisters, Sister Luma and Sister Nazek found themselves internal refugees in the autonomous Kurdish -controlled region of northeast Iraq. “In 2014, as soon as we had arrived in Erbil,” explains Sister Luma, “We began distributing food, milk and nappies. We set up “emergency convents” in order to be as close as possible to the Christian refugees, to serve them and accompany them. In 2015, just as soon as the refugees were housed in more permanent lodgings, we opened two schools, one in Ankawa, to the north of Erbil, and the other in Dohuk. There are 600 children at the school in Erbil, ranging in age from 6 to 13. We also opened a nursery school, which has 392 children in it. These centres are financed by ACN among others. We depend totally on their aid.”

 

The return of the displaced peoples – hoping for a domino effect

By now the situation is starting to change, and “the number of internal refugees in Kurdistan is slowly decreasing” notes Sister Nazek. “There is no longer any danger in Teleskuf, and a number of families have now returned to their homes,” she explains. And Sister Luma adds: “ACN is starting to rebuild the homes, including those in Teleskuf. IS only stayed in the village for a short time, and so the houses are not too badly damaged. We are also repairing our convent of Our Lady of the Rosary in Teleskuf, with the help of ACN. We want to return there as soon as possible together with the people, who are tired by now of living far from home.”

Restoration of Immaculate Mary (Al-Um Al-Tahira) convent in favour of Dominican Sisters fof St Catherine of Siena – Qaraqosh

“We know that since January 2017 around 450 families have returned to Teleskuf, and many others are preparing to return”, explains Father Andrzej Halemba, who heads the project section of ACN for the Middle East and is likewise acting chairman of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee. “Today, of all the villages on the plains of Nineveh, Teleskuf is the safest. The area is in fact controlled by the Kurdish army. We are hoping that the return of the Christian families to Teleskuf will have a “domino effect” on the families from the other villages, who are still hesitating to return for fear that the situation is not yet altogether secure. ACN will be contributing over 40,000 Euros towards the cost of restoring the Dominican convent in Teleskuf. The Sisters need to return as soon as possible, for the families have need of them.”

Over the Nineveh Plain as a whole there are 363 Church properties that were attacked by so-called IS and which now need to be repaired or rebuilt. Of these 34 have been totally destroyed, 132 were set on fire and 197 are partly damaged. In Teleskuf alone we have counted 1104 private homes and 21 Church properties that have been damaged by IS.”

 

ACN will be contributing over $58,000 towards the cost of restoring the Dominican convent in Teleskuf.

 

Article: Daniele Piccini, ACN International
English adaptation : Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canada

 

Québec Press Conference — Interfaith Famine Relief campaign launch

08.06.2017 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, By Marie-Claude Lalonde, Famine, Nigeria, South Sudan

Québec Press Conference — Interfaith Famine Relief campaign launch — June 7, 2017

 Against the famine – #PrayGiveSpeakOut

 

Speech given by Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need

(Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin)

 

Aid to the Church in Need is proud to be participating in this collective and interfaith effort that follows the call for solidarity with Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen where famine has struck. We will do what we know how to do best; help on the ground. Though our organization is a pastoral charity, we never let our project partners down when they are hard hit. This time is no exception.

Of course, our charitable aid will not resolve the root problems. However, through our actions we will bring relief, as much as possible, to our brothers and sisters who are suffering from this horrible famine.

 

In order to declare a state of famine, (UN) people must already be dying. That is the case in South Sudan and the situation is more than worrying in Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. It is one minute to midnight.

Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need. (Credit: Webtélé ECDQ.tv)

 

Last year, Aid to the Church in Need provided food assistance to the diocese of Malakal in South Sudan. The situation is not improving. We have already promised to help feed 20,000 displaced people, still from the same region. We need $140,000, and that is only short-term aid. We will have to do much more.

 

In the northeastern part of Nigeria, we have unfortunately been witness to regular sectarian conflicts and attacks by Boko Haram. The least of which we see in the media and therefor we have practically forgotten that it was about a few problems and that hunger has been threatening for some time already. For Nigeria, we need $150,000 to provide food assistance and seeds in order to restart agriculture. In this case, as well, we know that our intervention will have to be extended over a certain time period. These two fundraising campaigns will not  cease at the end of June along with the Federal government’s program. We will continue as long as the needs are desperate.

Press Conference – Diocese of Quebec city, June 7 – Interfaith campaign to fight famine in four countries: South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia. (Credit: Webtélé ECDQ.tv)

In any case, we will provide pastoral support to people traversing this hardship as well as to the Church who is always active is easing the ambient misery, and this whatever the religion of the person who presents themselves to her.

 

Pray, Give, Speak-Out; the theme of the interfaith call made public today. Through our fundraising campaigns, we invite people to be generous in a financial way, but we are also appealing for their solidarity through prayer. Giving for the famine, praying for those who are suffering and for peace to return.

 

We are continuing our work of drawing the awareness of our current and potential benefactors and to the public in general as a response to the call to Speak-Out.

 

Thank you to all the interfaith communities who are joining in this great movement. Together, we can lighten the burden of men, women and children who at this very moment have empty stomachs.”

To GIVE via Aid to the Church in Need to the campaign

Pray, Give, Speak-Out, click here.

Thank you.

Declaration of Interfaith Appeal from Canada’s Faith Communities

Help us alleviate starvation in Sudan and in Nigeria

 


 

ACN PROJECT OF THE WEEK – CZECH REPUBLIC

31.05.2017 in ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Czech Republic, Journey with ACN

Czech Republic

A place for the reawakening of the love of Christ

Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, archbishop of the diocese Praha in Czech Republic, visiting Aid to the Church in Need Intl in 2003

On 17 May 2017, Cardinal Miloslav Kardinal Vlk, the former Archbishop of Prague, would have celebrated his 85th birthday. However, he died just two months earlier. Just a few hours before his death, he whispered the words “Most beautiful King”. When asked what he meant by this, he replied, “Jesus on the Cross.” Those were his last words.

 

Embracing the Cross, and with it the Crucified One, were not empty words. For many long years of his life, throughout the years of the communist persecution of the Church, he had to wait for the privilege of even permission to attend university, since as a young man he had refused to join the communist youth groups. For 17 long years, after completing his secondary schooling, he had to wait for ordination to the priesthood, without ever knowing for sure if this day would ever arrive.

Even after his ordination, and serving as a parish priest and secretary to his bishop, he was banned for 11 years by the state from working as a priest. During this time, he earned his living as a window cleaner and as an archivist, and practiced his priesthood in secret. He would often recall how hard it had been for him to make this sacrifice. Yet, he was also able to say later, “I discovered that this cross did more for my salvation and that of others than if I had continued as the bishop’s secretary during those years… that time as a window cleaner was the most blessed time of my life. And I understood that I was living my priesthood in all its fullness.”

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6). These words stayed with Miloslav Vlk like a leitmotiv in his life. He heard them first as a young man, when he felt the call to the priesthood, yet saw no possibility of achieving this goal. In 1994, when he was made a cardinal, he was shaken to hear these words once again in the letter of Saint Peter and realized how they had literally come true in his life.

He was finally laid to rest on March 25, 2017, in Prague Cathedral. Hundreds of bishops and priests from all over the world, and thousands of people from Prague and all over the Czech Republic were there to pay him their last respects. He was buried in the most important church in the Czech Republic, the same place where the Bohemian kings had been crowned and buried. However, his only King was Christ the Crucified.

As his coffin was lowered into his tomb in the stone floor, the ancient hymn rang out in the packed cathedral: “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat” (“Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules”). This is the King he saw when he whispered his last words, the King who allowed him throughout his life to share in his sufferings and his abandonment and who will now exalt him at the proper time.

The greatest wish of the Cardinal was to reawaken the love of Christ in the hearts of his people. After the years of communism, this was a huge challenge. Cardinal Vlk was a lifelong friend of ACN, and the help our charity was able to help him in rebuilding the Church in his Archdiocese of Prague was repaid by him “in a different currency – that of prayer,” as he again and again repeated to ACN.

 

 

However, there is still a great deal to do for the Church in his country today. Even now, many of the confiscated Church buildings have still not been returned by the state, and many of them are still in a pitiful condition. But most of all, it is the souls of the people that need to be rebuilt. For the Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic countries in Europe today. The good news is that wherever people see the Catholic Faith truly being lived; many young people soon rediscover this Faith and seek baptism. So new and living communities are being formed, with young families bringing their children up in the Faith and so laying the foundations for the Church of the future.

 

That is why this Project of the Week is particularly important in order to fulfill the wishes of Cardinal Vlk. In Tuchomerice, a small town not far from Prague, the new Catholic community Chemin Neuf (New Road) has set up a centre. It is a very active community on an international level, comprising 2,000 members in about 30 countries (Canada among them) organizing meetings for young people, young adults and married couples.  They offer retreats, prayer groups and a Bible school. Every day Holy Mass is celebrated in the community, along with the Morning Prayer of the Divine Office and there is a regular time for Eucharistic adoration. The centre is also intended to be available to visiting groups, so that not only local people but also Catholics from other parts of the Archdiocese can take advantage of the facilities it offers.

Thanks to help from ACN they have already been able to complete the chapel and the refectory, plus more recently an additional 16 guestrooms. But the work is still far from finished. We are planning to help with $36 500.

 

 

 


 

AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED CANADA – REACTION : #zerofamine

30.05.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Aide à l’Église en détresse., By Mario Bard, Famine, Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen

PRESS RELEASE

AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED CANADA – REACTION : #zerofamine

Montreal, Tuesday May 30, 2017—Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) welcomes very favourably, the news from the federal government who yesterday created the Famine Relief Fund (#zerofamine) in order to combat this tragedy more particularly in South Sudan, in the northeastern part of Nigeria and in Yemen and Somalia.

“The news is very bad and confirms what we have been hearing from our project partners for some months about the lack of food and the famine moving in,” announced Marie-Claude Lalonde, the director of the Canadian office of Aid to the Church in Need.

“What is troubling is that in the case of all these countries, it is conflicts provoked by war between different factions causing this tragedy. South Sudan, where the famine has resulted in great part due to the grip of the civil war since 2013, is a good example of this.”

In February of last year, in fact, Aid to the Church in Need reported that the South Sudanese bishops had denounced the situation. They recalled one of the sources of the famine being: the impossibility for villagers to work or harvest their lands because of the presence governmental or opposition fighters, who practiced a “scorched earth” policy. They considered, “everything a form of collective punishment, which is banned and considered to be a war crime according to the Geneva Convention.”

 

In 2015, the local Church in Nigeria already gave help to IDP’s fleeing Boko Haram.

An 800% Inflation rate

A South Sudanese pastoral worker, who wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons, also told Aid to the Church in Need that the problem could take on a new scale if the international community did nothing. “It is extremely difficult to find food and to get money to pay for merchandise … now very expensive merchandise,” he said. Early in the year during the interview, inflation had already risen to 800 percent!

This same person also accused the leaders of different tribes—still of great importance to the South Sudanese society—to fight only “for political power and money (oil, wood, mineral resources). These elites worry more about their own advantages than the well-being of the people, many of whom are dying of hunger,” he denounced.

In 2015, the local Church in Nigeria had already provided help to IDP’s fleeing Boko Haram.

For many years, Aid to the Church in Need has supported the local Church in South Sudan and in Nigeria, particularly in the dioceses touched by the violence of the civil war and by Boko Haram.

 

Photo: South Sudan, January 2017, in the IDP’s camp of Riimenze

 

ACN INTERVIEW – Bishops of Venezuela call on governement

25.05.2017 in ACN International, ACN Interview, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Maria Lozano, Venezuela
Photograph María Alejandra Mora (SoyMAM)

ACN INTERVIEW – Venezuela

The call of  Venezuelan bishops to the government

Cardinal Baltazar Porras: “The room to manoeuvre freely is getting smaller and smaller. At the moment, everything here is one-dimensional.”

During a visit to the international head office of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the archbishop of Mérida, Venezuela, Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras, spoke with María Lozano about the exceedingly grave condition of the country and emphasizing the terrible situation the people are in due to of a lack of medicine and food. He also spoke about  the prayer day for peace in Venezuela held this past Sunday, May 21, initiated by the Bishops’ Conference.

Over the last few weeks, the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference has released two statements on the grave events and the violent political conflicts currently taking place in the country. They are calling for Venezuelans to “repudiate each and every violent statement and to respect the rights of all citizens.” The Bishops’ Conference underlined the duty of the state constitution to ensure that “civil and non-violent protest is possible.” In their last letter dated May 5, the bishops described the latest decisions of the Maduro government and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice as “misguided” and “unnecessary.” They asked that the “constitution not be changed, but followed.” The government should concentrate on the country’s current problems, such as the lack of “foods, medicine, freedom, personal and legal safety as well as peace.”

 

Cardinal Porras, one of the signatories of the letters and honorary chair of the Bishops’ Conference, explained during his visit to the international pontifical charity, ACN, the necessity of these declarations on the part of the Venezuelan church, which needs to take on a “responsible role.” He describes this role as “a kind of subsidiarity task that goes beyond that which would be necessary in other circumstances and says that, at the moment, “the people face reprisals when they do not agree with the official politics or if they hold a different opinion: threats, fines, prison sentences, deportation … The current social climate can scarcely be understood from the outside. The room to manoeuvre freely is getting smaller and smaller. At the moment, everything here is one-dimensional.”

In this context, the archbishop of Mérida considers the lack of respect for the right to pluralism to be especially serious. “It is all about pushing through a system in which nothing other than the official opinion counts. The others are not allowed. If, for example, a demonstration is planned, a parallel event is immediately organized on the same day and at the same time. It is all about showing who is more powerful.” Cardinal Porras deplores that “the discourse on class warfare” is still alive in Venezuela. “One person achieves something by using hatred against the other. This is the militaristic discourse of ‘anyone who is not with me, is against me’. Eliminating the enemy is the only important thing. This has torn social coexistence apart.”

The archbishop does not mention Nicolás Maduro by name. But the responsibility of the current government is assumed when the cardinal emphasizes that the root of the problem can be traced back to much earlier times. “The 18 years of the Chávez government and then Maduro are also the result of the deterioration that occurred during the years preceding them. Venezuela was able to grow thanks to oil. The country grew both economically and in its infrastructure. But the accelerated growth also led the governing class to forget the people. After all, this is a gift of nature and not the result of personal hard work. The government did a lot of things, but they forgot the people. This is why the ‘Messianic’ discourse was later taken up with such enthusiasm.”

 

Obstacles to humanitarian aid

A native of Caracas, the 72-year-old cardinal openly criticizes “the pooling of all government powers. This leads to impunity and corruption.” A key to the problem is also the desire to always make others responsible for the bad. “This is repeated over and over again. All bad things are ascribed to others. Or, comparisons are made to the past. This is how teenagers act! For example, when the fact that there are political prisoners in Venezuela today is called into question, the response is that there were also political prisoners in the past. But the problems are here now, especially the lack of food and medicine as well as safety.”

These are the three problems that the archbishop worries about most. It is obvious just by looking at him. “I had to bury a 35-year-old priest who had had a cerebral haemorrhage. According to the physicians, he could have been saved had a certain drug been available to us, one that is not that unusual. But we did not have it. And so, he died. This happens every day. Because we do not even have the basic supplies for surgical procedures, for accidents, for old people or babies, who usually need a more special kind of medication.”

Officially, “this is all disclaimed. It is not acceptable to talk about humanitarian aid. Because according to official reports, we have everything. But anyone who travels to Venezuela can see that this is not the case. And anyone who gives voice to this arouses the suspicion of standing for something else.” Cardinal Porras, who is also the director of Caritas Venezuela, thanks the international community for the support it has provided. However, inside the country, he comes up “against a wall. It is very difficult to build a bridge to ensure that the aid arrives. Because we come up against obstacles.” The media plays an equally important role in the internal conflict. The political disputes have been transformed into a media war. “If I say, ‘medicine is not available here,’ a photograph of medicine immediately appears. It is then said: ‘that is not true, look at this’. And this happens with everything, with food, with domestic security, etc.”

Photograph María Alejandra Mora (SoyMAM)

“The family, diversity, and consensus are threatened.

The church is trying to defend them.”


When you talk about solutions, the question arises whether the Venezuelan people are not sick of dialogue yet. “Talking about the dialogue in Venezuela today is almost an insult because experiences have been terrible. Dialogue was used merely as a photo opportunity. The actual problems were not talked about, they have not been solved. In order for this to be possible, the other person has to accept you as a discussion partner.” This is why the archbishop insists that a second side is indispensable for achieving a real dialogue. “Holding to agreements. A real offer was made to keep agreements, but these were never kept. Cardinal Secretary of State Parolin addressed this in a letter from December 2016. He wrote that there can be no dialogue as long as not even the slightest attempt is made to keep agreements. This may be why the cardinal prefers to talk about consensus and pluralism instead of using the hackneyed and manipulated term “dialogue.” “Dispute is not a part of our culture. One example: people used to prefer to go to a baseball game – the most popular sport in our country – together with someone who was a fan of the other team. This was a lot more fun for them. This friendly disposition has been diluted. Now everything is about politics and you can only be for it or against it. Life is very rich and now everything is about politics. The family, diversity, and consensus are threatened. The church is trying to defend them.”

He asks the international community “to try to get real and timely information so as not to be taken in by lies.” He also asks for prayers and support. “It is all too understandable that everyone is busy with their own daily challenges, but we live in a globalized world. This is even more the case for the Christians. In Venezuela, we need prayer as a source of inner strength that prevents us from being robbed of hope and joy. Difficulties are there to be overcome and not to make us cry.”

Conferencia Episcopal de Venezuela

A day of  prayer was initiated by the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela on Sunday, May 21 – “to end violence and state oppression as well as to search for ways of communication and reconciliation.”

Contact to the world church – according to Cardinal Porras – lends courage. It “leads us to feel a growing desire to overcome the difficulties. They are an incentive to continue to do everything imaginable for our brothers and sisters. I would like to say one more thing. Among the medicine that we are allowed to receive in Mérida, there were also small boxes bearing labels written in Arabic and English. Puzzled, I asked where this medicine had come from. They had been sent to us from Christians in Egypt. When several days later an attack was carried out against Christians in this country, I was deeply moved and felt a profound connection to this country. Samaritan solidarity leads us to give our material and spiritual best.”

 


 

 

ACN Project of the Week in Togo, Africa

24.05.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Africa, Construction, Journey with ACN, Togo, Togo

Togo

Two classrooms for catechetical instruction in Dapaong

 

Togo is a country in West Africa with a multi-ethnic population of 6.3 million. The diocese of Dapaong lies in the far north of the country, in a region bordering on the Sahel zone.

The desert is encroaching ever further into this area, making agriculture and the survival of the people increasingly difficult. Not surprisingly, therefore, it is one of the poorest regions of the country, with over 80% of the population living on less than 22 dollars per month and 13% of them even on fewer than 14 dollars.

 

The population living in the region is a very youthful one, but with 70% aged under 21. Many of the people are drawn to Christianity and are seeking baptism. The Good News of Christ is attracting a great many former adherents of traditional African religions. For example, the parish of Saint Paul in Dapaong has no fewer than 1000 catechumens! And the catechism classes are filled to overflowing with young people and adults.

The parish priest, Father Joan Sole Ribas, is delighted at the blossoming life of his parish, but at the same time it is a huge challenge for him to cope with instructing so many catechumens. There are simply no spaces available for teaching them.

 

Now he wants to build three classrooms for this catechetical work, which will also serve as evening schools for teaching literacy to adults and young people, and as a musical school as well.

The parish can just about cover the cost of one such classroom, but they need help for the other two. We have promised him $21,900.


 

ACN Feature Story – Where priests double as master-builders

23.05.2017 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Daniele Piccini, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, Persecution of Christians, Reconstruction

Nineveh Plains

Where priests double as master-builders

Meet Father Georges Jahola of the Syriac Catholic Church, and Father Salar Boudagh of the Chaldean Catholic Church, in charge of the reconstruction work in some of the Christian villages on the Nineveh Plains.

Fr. Georges Jahola, a Syrian-Catholic priest from Qarakosh

It happens that Catholic priests must suddenly improvise and move into other roles – such as educators, parents, advisors, teachers and sometimes even as technical instructors. In Iraq, where the so-called Islamic State has damaged or destroyed almost 13,000 homes belonging to Christian families on the Nineveh plains, they have been required to assume the role of engineers and master-builders, in the interests of seeing their Catholic faithful return to their hometowns and villages, one day.

The study of building plans sometimes takes the place of other more priestly duties and the priests, after having celebrated Holy Mass, are soon on the telephone, ordering electrical equipment, window fittings, sanitary ware and other building materials. “Here in Iraq, if the Church does not tackle these things, who else will do it? We have the skills, the ability to engage in dialogue and the necessary contacts,” explains Father Georges Jahola, who originates from the town of Baghdeda (Qaraqosh) and a member of the “Nineveh Reconstruction Commitee” (NRC). This committee set up by the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) as a body tasked with planning and supervising the rebuilding of thousands of Christian homes destroyed by IS.

Fr. Salar Boudagh, from Iraq, Diocese of Alqosh

In Baghdeda, no fewer than 6,327 homes belonging to the Syriac Catholic Christians are in need of rebuilding (at least 108 of them destroyed), while those of the Syriac Orthodox Christians number 400 (only seven of which have been totally destroyed). However, there is no lack of enthusiasm or ability. “After the liberation of the town, between  November 11 and December 3, 2016, we spent 15 working days photographing 6,000 houses in Baghdeda,” explains Father Jahola. “We divided them up and mapped them sector by sector, assessing the degree of damage in each case. There are houses that are very badly damaged or even destroyed, which need complete rebuilding; houses that have been burned or struck by missiles, which can still be rebuilt. And then, there are houses that have been only partially damaged and can be repaired without much difficulty. We began work with a team of 20 volunteer engineers. Today I have 40 of them helping me and almost 2000 able-bodied workers ready to start work. We are optimistic about it. The re-connection of the electricity supply is slowly being extended throughout the town.”

Reestablishing Christianity in the lands of the prophets

The first rebuilding projects are focusing on those villages where IS only stayed for a short time, without doing too much damage. “We have begun rebuilding work in Telleskof and Bakofa, because the damage to the houses is not too serious, unlike in Badnaya, where 80% of the houses have been destroyed,” explains Father Salar Boudagh, 35, vicar general of the Chaldean diocese of Alqosh and a member of the NRC, now responsible for the rebuilding work of five Chaldean Catholic villages in  the Niniveh plains: Telleskof, Bakofa, Badnaya, Telkef, in the eastern section, and Karamless, in the western sector of the Niniveh plains.

“Before the arrival of IS,” continues Father Salar, “there were 1,450 families living in Telleskof, 110 in Bakofa, 950 in Badnaya, over 700 in Telkef and 875 in Karamless. For these families the first precondition for returning to their villages is security. Our area, the eastern part of the Niniveh plains, is patrolled by a Christian security force, the Zeravani, who can give us a 100% guarantee of security. They are an official militia who are paid a salary by Kurdistan.”

The second condition is the financial resources. The almost 13,000 houses that now need rebuilding, following the ravages of IS, have been divided according to the “coefficient of damage.” “It costs 7,000 dollars to refurbish a home that has been lightly damaged,” Father Salar explains, reading the figures from his smartphone. “To repair a house that has been burned out costs 25,000; to rebuild a house that has been totally destroyed costs 65,000 dollars. I pray to God,” he concludes, “that the benefactors of ACN, who have helped us so much up till now, will continue to help us in every way possible – to rebuild our homes and our villages, to encourage the families to return and re-establish Christianity in the land of the prophets.”

 

Article: Daniele Piccini, ACN International
English adaptation : Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canada

 

 

ACN Project of the Week in Philippines

17.05.2017 in ACN Canada

Philippines

A church for the parish of St. Anthony

 

The island of Basilan belongs to the Mindanao group of islands in the southern Philippines. Whereas in the Philippines as a whole Catholics form the great majority of the population, here on the island of Basilan Muslims make up around two thirds of the population.

This is part of a region where the Islamist terrorists of the Abu-Sayaf group have been trying to establish a breakaway “Islamic State of Mindanao”. Though they describe themselves to be “Islamic fighters,” they are regarded by the international community and by the rest of the Filipino population as terrorists and common criminals. They continue to try and spread fear and division through bombings and abductions.

“We would like to build a solid and permanent church that will convey a message of stability and solidarity and of the strong faith of the people of God.”

The parish of Saint Anthony in Lamitan City is a vigorous and thriving parish, despite these circumstances. There is a regular Sunday congregation of 700 Catholic faithful. The parish church has stood here for 40 years, but over the course of time it has become increasingly decrepit and is moreover far too small for the growing Catholic community. There is an urgent need for a new and larger church, but the parish is too poor to raise the funds for such a project.

 

Bishop Martin Jumoad supports this project, dear to his heart. For one thing, the need for the church is obvious.  And, at the same time it will be a powerful sign of the presence and identity of the Catholics in this town. He writes, “We would like to build a solid and permanent church that will convey a message of stability and solidarity and of the strong faith of the people of God. The Muslims respect people who are united and strong and who live a life of prayer.

 

A solid church will earn their respect and will hopefully also help to bring peace to our land.” ACN is helping with a contribution of $43 500 .

 

ACN NEWS: Priest stabbed in Mexico City

17.05.2017 in ACN International, ACN Mexico, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin

Mexico City

Priest in critical condition

Catholic priest is stabbed in Mexico Cathedral – Father Miguel Ángel Machorro in critical condition

Father Miguel Ángel Machorro, who was stabbed Monday evening, May 15, at the main altar in Mexico’s Metropolitan cathedral, is hovering between life and death, according to a press release issued last night in the cathedral itself.

Speaking on behalf on the cathedral chapter, Father Ricardo Valenzuela, the senior sacristan and liturgical director of the cathedral, expressed his concern for the health of the priest and asked for the prayers of all the Catholic faithful. He explained that Father Machorro was close to the cathedral of Mexico city and involved in some of its liturgical ceremonies.

Father Valenzuela also announced that Holy Mass would continue to be celebrated at the normal times and that Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the Archbishop and Primate of Mexico, was currently in Rome. He will decide on the need to celebrate a special Mass of atonement on account of this sacrilegious attack. The Cardinal will be returning to Mexico in time to celebrate the Sunday Mass.

“…in recent years there had been almost 30 violent incursions during religious worship in the cathedral…”

Dr Armando Martínez, the president of the College of Catholic Lawyers, energetically condemned the attack and called for a full investigation and the rigourous application of the law. He confirmed that the attacker had been arrested by the federal police and was being dealt with by the public prosecutor, and he also thanked the Mexico City authorities for having transferred the wounded priest by helicopter to a private hospital, where he is currently being cared for.

Dr Martínez explained that in recent years there had been almost 30 violent incursions during religious worship in the cathedral, most of them carried out by factional groups, as a result which increased levels of security had been introduced. However, the police units assigned to the cathedral have been more focused on the security of the ordinary Catholic faithful and of the property itself. Never before has there been a direct attack of this kind against any priest of the cathedral, nor indeed against the Cardinal, Norberto Rivera Carrera. This attack had taken everyone by surprise.

The authorities are currently investigating the incident, and consequently it has not yet been possible to give detailed answers to all of the questions asked by the press.

 Courtesy ACN Mexico

Photo: Press conference with Armando Martínez Gómez, president of the Bar Association of Catholic Lawyers, courtesy of the Archdiocese of Mexico City.  Father Ricardo Valenzuela, canon of the Cathedral.