Monday, August 10, 2020

ACN-USA News - Bishop Kukah - Genocide is happening in Nigeria







SYSTEMATIC VIOLENCE against Nigerian Christians perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen constitutes genocide, according to a leading Catholic bishop, who also stressed that Muslims are also subject to the violence.

In the wake of the execution of five aid workers by Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) he believed the recent violence was genocidal in nature.

When asked whether he agreed that that Fulani killings of Christians can be categorized as genocide according to international law, he said: “I believe so.”

He added that Muslims were also victims of the violence: “These killings are not to be narrowed down to Christians because they have been far worse in the predominantly Muslim north, in such states as Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara.”    

ISWAP recently released a video of the five aid workers being executed, three of whom were reportedly Christian, as a warning to “all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity.”

Bishop Kukah said “there is no dispute at all” that Nigeria is a largely failed state. He added: “It has been an old secret. It has failed its people, but the oil companies are still making a killing on the carcass.” He also said “the evidence is there for all to see” that Nigeria is an epicenter of terrorism in the region.

Bishop Kukah suggested the government is complicit in the violence. He said: “There are multiple levels of funding and, with time, terrorism has been able to fund itself by criminality, violence, kidnappings and it is feared that government may be funding these groups inadvertently, largely because they have penetrated the security agencies.

“Governments have also paid huge sums of money for ransom and also ostensibly to placate the terrorists, rescue kidnapped citizens, and so on.”

He added: “The inefficiency of the military has made the terrorists bolder and there are also issues of the complicity of the various levels of the military.”

Bishop Kukah criticized Western powers that have not done more to help Nigeria. He said: “We hear promises from the United States and Europe and they all come to nothing.”

Bishop Kukah’s remarks echoed the findings of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief’s report entitled “Nigeria – Unfolding Genocide?” It was released in June.

—Fionn Shiner


With picture of Fulani herdsman (Secretariat of Nigeria, Directorate of Social Communications)


Editor’s Notes:

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

 

ACN-USA News - Young ministers of mercy help victims of bomb blast in Beirut

THOUSANDS of young Christian volunteers are on the ground in Beirut delivering emergency help, as Lebanon reels from the explosion that ripped through the heart of the capital.

With schools, convents and parishes opening up as refuge centers following the Aug. 4 blast, Msgr. Toufic Bou-Hadir, director of the Maronite Patriarchal Commission for Youth, described how teams of young people were clearing the debris and delivering urgent aid, with medicine, clothes, blankets and food in huge demand.

The priest highlighted the young people’s “amazing” response to what he called “an apocalypse” in which 300,000 families have been displaced. He made his comments in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which is providing food for 5,000 families affected by the explosion.

Msgr. Bou-Hadir, an ACN project partner, highlighted the ordeal of people desperately searching for news of missing loved ones and the trauma of trying to identify the dead from badly disfigured bodies being placed in a makeshift mortuary.

Amid reports that Beirut’s mainly Christian district of Achrafieh was affected worst by the blast, the priest described how the body of one of the Maronite young people, named Joe, aged 25, was discovered deep in the rubble. He was holding a cross.

Msgr. Bou-Hadir said that the Catholic youth had always resisted calls to leave the country, saying that he had—as Joe put it—to stay in order to “water the cedar,” the national symbol of Lebanon. The priest added: “Now, Joe has watered the cedar with his blood.”

Both Msgr. Bou-Hadir and fellow Beirut ACN project partner Sister Hanan Youssef stressed the toll of the explosion on the people, saying they were totally dependent on international aid as Lebanon’s economic crisis had rendered the country helpless.

Sister Hanan told ACN: “I survived 15 years of civil war and yet I could not imagine such a horrible thing happening to our people.” She added: “More than ever, the people are in need of help. We are so grateful for the prayers and support of our dear friends at ACN.”

Acknowledging the generous response of donors to the ACN Lebanon Emergency Appeal, Edward Clancy, director of outreach at ACNUSA, said: “I would like to thank those who are standing in solidarity with all who are suffering in Beirut at this tragic and painful time.”

“The support of ACN donors across the region and around the world is absolutely vital to sustain the Christian presence in the Middle East amidst the sufferings of conflict, violence, upheavals and tragedy.”

—John Pontifex


With picture of Beirut (Bertel-Videt_Creative Commons)


Editor’s Notes:

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Monday, August 03, 2020

ACN USA - After 60 years of independence, Africa is still mired in poverty and violence—only the Church is bulwark of positive change

1960 HAS BEEN called the Year of Africa, since in that year 17 African countries gained their independence from European rule—14 from France, two from Great Britain and one from Belgium. Cameroon became independent on the first day of the year, followed by Togo, Madagascar, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). August will mark the anniversaries of the independence of nine other countries, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Gabon and Senegal. Three more anniversaries will follow later this year, those of the independence of Mali, Nigeria and Mauritania.

Asking him to reflect on 60 years of independence in Africa, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) spoke with Father Apollinaire Cibaka Cikongo, a Congolese priest, who serves as dean and Professor at the University of Mbuji-Mayi in DRC. He is the author of many books and articles of theology, social commentary and literature.


ACN: 60 years after independence, Africa continues to suffer so much conflict and unrest. You referred to 60 years of failure that have turned Africa into the continent of violence. Is that not a very harsh analysis?

No, it is the truth. The current state of Black Africa is not the fruit of a positive dynamic but rather of a dynamic of violence caused by the Western conquest of Africa—the treatment of Negro slaves, colonialism, the false independences, the Cold War, the dictatorships and the apparent democracies. Activated both from within and from without, this violence is a constitutive feature of Black Africa, to the extent that it has become a geopolitical entity built upon violence, suffering from violence and living from violence.

Why is this?

The physical violence continues each year, and pitilessly, costing the lives of thousands of people. There are three key factors causing these wars to break out. First, the conflicts caused by “failed coexistences,” the result of artificial geopolitical configurations, the result of internal and external power interests which manipulate and create conflict between the different African peoples. Secondly, there are wars caused by greed and covetousness, by the economic interests of certain indigenous groups and international powers. The struggle for the control and exploitation of continent’s immense human and natural resources is costing many human lives in Africa. And finally, there are religious wars by means of which certain peoples and cultures are being forcibly converted and which currently, in the case of Islam, have assumed an expression of violent terrorism, blind, absurd and gratuitous in the name of causes that have nothing to do with the vital interests of the African people.

Why is this still the case after 60 years?

Our economy is built around the interests of the major powers which subjected us, and likewise by the new ones coming from Asia. These powers still get more benefit from the continent’s resources than the African nations themselves due to the unjust rules of a cruel market system. In addition, the economy has been unable to develop or diversify; it has not gone beyond the extraction, transport and sale of raw materials. Afterwards, we have to buy back these goods at high prices in markets controlled by others. It is also the result of mismanagement and theft in the countries themselves. What little is left in the country is not managed for the good of all citizens, but according to the wants and whims of those who flaunt the power of the state and its elected representatives.

Some of ACN’s project partners complain of a “social subjection” in relation to their culture. Many NGOs, including even the international aid agencies, impose conditions designed to change the worldview, the way life of the African people. Is this true?

It’s a form of cultural violence exerted by external powers and interest groups who deny the deep-rooted African cultural values with the aim of imposing ideologies that are alien to us and very often contrary to natural law. This happens principally in matters relating to life and the family, through the use of economic, diplomatic, political and cultural pressure; it is also an anthropological form of violence, because it deprives us of the right to freely determine our lives, a right which belongs to every human being. This is the principal legacy of the slave trade, which transformed Africa into a veritable hell and in which black people have suffered centuries of denigration, not merely from outside, but also from a sort of “auto-racism” through the interiorization by the Africans themselves of their condition of being “less than human.”

What role has the Catholic Church played these past 60 years?

The Church functions better than any other institution. Despite the failings and the difficulties, it is the only one of all the institutions inherited from the West that actually performs. In many places, such as DRC, for example, you could say that the Church is the state, without which there would be no life, no hope, and no future. This can be seen in many areas, notably in the field of education and healthcare.

In the absence of a state that looks out for the education and health of its people, the Church is responsible for around 50 percent of all the schools, formation centers, hospitals and health centers, with some among them the best in the country. They are often the only ones in all those towns and villages forgotten by the state.

What are the difficulties for the Church in this respect?

The Catholic Church is carrying out its pastoral and social work in the face of internal fragility and external hostility which constantly threaten to undermine or ruin its work. We suffer an internal fragility on account of the laity, who have little sense of commitment to their secular vocation; the social commitment of the Church rests on the bishops and the episcopal conferences, and this weakens her. Additionally, we lack the material resources and depend on generosity from outside, for without this help the African Church would be unable to survive and serve.

Finally, we are facing a situation of fierce religious competition from the evangelical sects and Christians are decreasing demographically, because we have not succeeded in renewing our approach to the Christian apostolate.

What it the nature of external hostility to the work of the Church?

Because of her social work, the Church threatens many private interests and for this reason undermining her influence is the objective of many such actors, especially the politicians. The Church is inconvenient, hated and even persecuted by some states which, rather than facilitating her work, instead try to silence her voice, using violent and intimidatory methods to suppress every expression of criticism of the status quo.

One of the strategies used to weaken the Church is to create division among Christians, and the other is fomenting corruption of the “religious world” through the multiplication of new Christian Churches, many of which are purely money-making schemes. In the case of DRC, during the past 30 years the state has granted juridical personality to around 17,000 so-called Christian Churches. To put it another way, an average of three new Churches have been created every two days. The same thing happens through the state’s social promotion of Islam.

What can Catholics do not to be a part of the problem but rather a part of the solution?

Only a Church that is faithful to Christ and to the Gospel, through contemplation, humility, service, exemplary behavior and commitment on the part of all its members can be equal to its spiritual mission within society. It is the one thing that Christ asks of the Church, so that she may be the temple and instrument of his love and his grace.

—Paulo Aido


With picture of Fr. Apollinaire Cibaka Cikongo (© Emmeric Fohlenz-ACN)


Editor’s Notes:

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Saturday, August 01, 2020

ACN-USA News - Pakistan Christian man is murdered for living in a Muslim neighborhood


LAST MONTH’S MURDER of a Christian in Pakistan has increased the fear among Christians throughout the country. Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been an increase in cases of religion-based violence and discrimination against Christians in the country. The recent death of Nadeem Joseph has prompted numerous protests among Christians in the country, with some comparing it to the case of George Floyd in the United States.

 

“It is terrible. I know Nadeem’s family well, because it is one of those that survived the terrorist attack on the church of All Saints in 2013, when other members of his extended family were killed,” said Qamar Rafiq, a friend of the family. He was speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

 

“This new attack on his family highlights the vulnerability of Christians in Pakistan and the ease with which they can be attacked.”

 

“In May this year Nadeem bought a house in TV Colony in Swati Gate, in Peshawar, where he lived with his two children, his wife and his mother-in-law. Nadeem’s family was repeatedly harassed and threatened by Salman K., a Muslim neighbor, who tried to force him to leave the area and move elsewhere, since this place was “not for filthy Christians,” Rafiq said.

 

“On June 4 Salman and his sons once again threatened Nadeem’s family, ordering them to leave the district in the next 24 hours or be ready to face the grave consequences of having moved into a Muslim neighborhood,” Rafiq told ACN. Nadeem immediately informed the police of these repeated threats, but before they arrived, Salman K. opened fire on Nadeem, who was struck by three bullets. He also shot at two other members of his family, who had hurried to his assistance.

 

“The neighbors, on hearing the shots, shut their doors and none of them came to the aid of the wounded men or attempted to call the emergency services,” Rafiq added. After several surgeries, Nadeem died from his injuries June 29.

 

In a communiqué published by the National Justice and Peace Commission, Bishop Joseph Arshad, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, called on the forces of law and order to do everything possible to bring to justice the killer of this Christian man.

 

“This case is a clear violation of human rights, and an unlawful act, so it cannot be allowed to go unpunished,” said the statement, which also called on the government to protect Nadeem’s family, whose lives are still in danger.

 

Joel Amir Sahotra, a former member of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab and a Christian community leader, told ACN that “religious discrimination against the minorities is sadly very common in Pakistan,” adding that “people are unwilling to rent out properties to non-Muslims.”

 

In fact, frequently “they even tell them openly that non-Muslims cannot make their homes there.”

 

“It’s like the Stone Age,” Sahotra charged. “What kind of mentality is this? I really have no answer for it. I don’t know if people in the West can understand what a difficult situation we have to face here on account of our faith.”

 

—Maria Lozano

 

 

With picture of poster showing Jadeem Joseph (© Samson Salamat)

 

 

Editor’s Notes:

 

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

 

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

 

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

 

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

 

 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

ACN-USA News - Seoul’s cardinal announces the consecration of Pyongyang to Our Lady of Fatima




THE DIOCESE OF PYONGYANG, the capital city of North Korea, will be consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima. This was announced by Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, the archbishop of Seoul, South Korea on June 25, 2020, the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War—at a time when tensions on the peninsula are once again on the increase.

Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung spoke about the significance of peace and harmony for the Korean Peninsula. He commemorated the approximately three million people who died during the war that broke out on June 25, 1950, the suffering of refugees, the drama experienced by families that were torn apart, and the persecution of Christians by the North Korean regime.

The 70th anniversary of the beginning of the war has come at a particularly tense time as leaders of the North Korean regime have severed all communication channels with South Korea. On June 16, the north blew up a building in Kaesong that served as the joint liaison office for delegations of both countries.

Technically speaking, the two countries are still at war, and the regime in Pyongyang continuously threatens the development of new weapons of mass destruction. The escalation of tensions over the past few weeks has brought the possibility of a direct military confrontation ever closer.

The renewed standoff signifies a large step backwards on the path of reconciliation, a path that the two countries had been pursuing for several years and which culminated in the Panmunjom Declaration signed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April 2018.

The Catholic Church has been actively supporting the peace process on the Korean Peninsula. For example, a Mass for peace is celebrated each day in South Korea; the first took place in December of last year and the last will be held on November 28.

The Korean conflict was one of the bloodiest episodes of the Cold War. The main backer of the regime in Pyongyang was China, while the United States helped the government in Seoul. An armistice ended active combat operations in 1953.

In addition to the ever-present danger of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, the two countries are also divided by the issue of religious freedom. According to the most recent report on the persecution of Christians, published by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in October 2019, “North Korea is widely considered the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian.” The profession of Christianity, which is seen as “Western,” is “severely punished” in the country.

According to ACN, witness statements by defectors from North Korea describe how Christians who are arrested by the regime “face torture” and many of them are “sent to camps” primarily set up for political prisoners, where they are required to perform forced labor.

According to the ACN report, “between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians could be present in these camps,” comprising about half of all prisoners held there. Christians suffer “extra-judicial killings, forced labor, torture, persecution, starvation, rape, forced abortion and sexual violence,” once they become ensnared in the expansive surveillance network of the North Korean regime.

—Paulo Aido


With picture of Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

ACN News - Turkey – Nationalism, not religion, drives the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque

HE GREAT CATHEDRAL of Hagia Sophia in the Turkish capital of Istanbul was once the center of Eastern Orthodoxy before being transformed into a mosque upon the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottoman Empire in 1453; in 1934, Hagia Sophia became a museum. On July 24, 2020, the cathedral will officially become a mosque again at the behest of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan.

To understand the motivation behind this development, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) spoke to Etienne Copeaux, a historian of modern Turkey. He is a former fellow of the French Institute of Anatolian Studies (Institut français d'études anatoliennes) in Istanbul and a former researcher at the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique).

By turning the ancient Christian Basilica of Hagia Sophia into a mosque again, is President Erdoğan completing a long-term process?

The process dates back to the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottoman Empire. To "act out" the capture of the city and the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the victor,
Sultan Mehmet II, went to pray inside Hagia Sophia (in Turkish: Ayasofya). As a result of this, Hagia Sophia became a mosque for almost five centuries.

Ayasofya is also mentioned in Muhammad’s sayings (hadith). One hadith lionizes whomever would take Constantinople.  Legend attributes a prophecy to Muhammad, which is important to understand the importance of Hagia Sophia in the eyes of Muslim Turks. The dome of the basilica collapsed during an earthquake in 558, according to legend on the same night as Muhammad’s birth. Muhammad then visited the Byzantine emperor in a dream and authorized him to rebuild the basilica "because […] his believers would one day pray there."

Under the Ottoman Empire, the building was so holy that Muslims would try to spend the ‘Night of destiny’ inside Hagia Sophia to mark the sacred time in the month of Ramadan when Muslims celebrate the Koran’s revelation to Muhammad.

Was Atatürk’s desacralization of the mosque in 1934 a breaking point for Turkish Muslims?

Since Hagia Sophia holds a special place in the hearts and faith of Turkish Muslims, one can understand how scandalous for them was the desacralization of the mosque and its conversion into a museum by Atatürk, the founder of the secular Turkish republic. This act has become the symbol of Turkish secularism. But this must be seen in context: by this time, Turkey had eliminated most non-Muslims by genocide, mass expulsions and pogroms. And the process of ethnic cleansing did not stop but continued in 1955, 1964, and 1974.

The desacralization provoked anger among Muslims, which caused a reaction that came to light on the fifth centenary of the conquest of Constantinople, in 1953. Right-wing parties, both nationalist and religious, organized regular protests in front of Hagia Sophia to demand its return to Muslim worship. Since then, the demand has never stopped. Furthermore, during the victory in the legislative elections of 1995 of the Islamist party, Refah, of which Erdoğan was a member, voters were promised the return of Aya Sofya to Islam. Now the job is done.

How much does the decision have to do with Erdoğan's personality?

It took some nerve; no one before him had dared to go so far. It must be noted, however, that at present Erdoğan doesn’t act from a position of strength and popular support. He is in trouble. Islamists lost control of Istanbul; the economic situation is disastrous. Erdoğan has been criticized in many quarters and has failed to silence the opposition through repression. By this act, he is obviously hoping to firmly rally the religious right around him. Turkey’s openly anti-Western military operations, despite the country’s membership in NATO, offer a favorable context.

Are the rising tensions caused by Erdoğan's decision primarily religious or political?

Ayasofya was a mosque for five centuries. It is imbued with great sacredness, for both Christians and Muslims. If people can continue to visit it respectfully, like any Turkish mosque, if the Byzantine mosaics are respected, why be so offended? In my opinion, the problem is political, not religious since the Koran and many Islamic religious texts revere Jesus/Isa and Mary/Maryam.

Erdoğan acted for the sake of Turkish nationalism, not the Muslim faith. Ayasofya is a nationalist question. The return serves no purpose from a cultural point of view since Istanbulites have far more mosques than they need, many of them huge and magnificent.

What message is Erdoğan sending to Turkey’s religious minorities, specifically to Christians?

On a religious level, Turkey’s main "message" to the world in the 20th century was the total destruction of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society by means of extreme violence. All the massacres and expulsions were carried out on purely religious grounds as part of a nationalist agenda.

Cyprus is the latest example. The northern part of the island is a real laboratory for this process: when Turkey invaded in 1974, all Orthodox Christians were expelled by the Turkish military, within an hour; not because they spoke Greek but because they were Orthodox.

Such actions are Ottoman in orientation with people institutionally divided into distinct religious communities. The paradox is that, despite problems and massacres, the Ottoman Empire remained multi-religious.

It is the supposedly secular republic that made Turkey 99 percent Muslim. In this respect, the Armenian genocide, although perpetrated a few years before the founding of the republic, was in fact its foundational moment.

For many people Hagia Sophia’s universal cultural and religious vocation is being trampled upon. Should this move be seen as an attack on religious freedom in Turkey?

"Religious freedom" in Turkey has been destroyed by violence. Turkish nationalism is based on the notion that "the Turkish nation is Muslim” and that one is not truly Turkish if one is not a Muslim. Plus, I have often heard Jews and Orthodox Christians, Turkish citizens, say: "I am not Turkish.”

This is a basic problem: for nationalist Turkey, non-Muslims are foreigners. Nationalism is the real problem of this country. It sometimes comes across as clearly black and white. For example, on several occasions, commissions have replaced place names of Greek, Armenian or other origin deemed "foreign.” Armenians, Orthodox Christians, and Jews are foreigners in their own country, even though they have lived there for far longer than the Turks!

In such a context, religious freedom formally exists, on paper, but there is a lot of intimidation: graves and cemeteries vandalized in Cyprus, and even Istanbul, not to mention murders. Non-Muslims have been forced to keep a low profile, an attitude encouraged by priests in their sermons.

Will there be major protests against the Hagia Sophia becoming a mosque again?

Why so much fuss over Hagia Sophia, since Turkish nationalists have always done whatever they wanted to non-Muslims, without any protest from the West? The terrible pogrom targeting Orthodox Christians in Istanbul in September 1955 is a case in point; this was followed by the expulsion of 100,000 ethnic Greeks from the city, Turkish citizens forced to leave for Greece, a country they didn’t know, descendants of the city’s original population driven out.

Any protests should have been activated not by religion, but by a simple sense of humanity. Aren’t these facts—I'm not even talking about the Armenian genocide—more important than the return of Hagia Sophia to Islam?

—Christophe Lafontaine


With picture of Hagia Sophia


Editor’s Notes:

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Saturday, July 18, 2020

ACN-USA News - Kidnapped Pakistani Catholic girl has been raped and is pregnant


TABASSUM YOUSAF is the lawyer representing the parents of the young Catholic girl, Huma Younus, now aged 15, who was abducted in October 2019 and forced to convert to Islam. Speaking with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), she gave a dramatic update on the personal and legal situation of this adolescent girl, who was also forced to marry her captor.

Ms. Yousaf reported: “Huma has telephoned her parents, telling them that she has now become pregnant as a result of the sexual violence she has been subjected to. Asked by her father if she could leave her abductor’s house and return to her parents’ home, she told him that she is not allowed to leave the house and that her life has become still more difficult, since she is now imprisoned within the walls of one room.”

The girl’s Muslim abductor, Abdul Jabbar, has a brother by the name of Mukhtiar who is a member of the Rangers, a branch of the security forces. “This man, said Ms. Yousaf, “has contacted Huma’s parents via video telephone calls and threatened them directly, showing them his weapons and telling them he would kill them if ever they should come looking for their daughter. This same man, Mukhtiar, has added in audio messages that even if all the Christians should band together to bring Huma back, he would kill both her parents and anyone who tried to help them.”

On the legal front, Huma’s family lawyer explained that the court of first instance, the Third Judicial Magistrate for Karachi East, had closed the case on the grounds of lack of proof. An appeal has been launched to the same judge to re-examine the documentary proof, and the magistrate thereupon contacted the official public records authority, NADRA, in order to obtain the girl’s birth certificate. The next hearing has been set for July 13, 2020.

The lawyer had already presented two official documents in the course of one of the earlier hearings which prove that she is under age; a sworn statement by her school and her baptismal certificate from her Catholic parish of Saint James in Karachi both clearly state Huma’s date of birth as May 22, 2005. Thus she is 15 and below the marriageable age of 18. This fact renders her marriage to her abductor invalid.

As for the High Court of Sindh province, it is still closed on account of the coronavirus pandemic and will probably not open again until August. Only after this will it be possible to set a date for a hearing before this court.

The lawyer representing Huma’s abductor is doing what he can to gain time, Ms. Yousaf reported, because in three years’ time the girl will be 18 and it is highly likely that the case will then be shelved indefinitely. In theory, the Pakistani Supreme Court, which earlier acquitted Asia Bibi, could examine and rule on this case very rapidly.

Ms. Yousaf said that Islamic radicals in Pakistan prevent the judicial system from having full autonomy. She added that, moreover, when it is a matter of the rights of the religious minorities, there are often long delays, since these cases are considered neither urgent, nor a priority.

With regard to the prevalence of the kind of phenomenon, the ordeal of Huma Younus is all too common. Ms. Yousaf, citing research, stated that, “according to my reading, and based on experience, there are around 2,000 such cases per year, whether reported or not.” 

She continued: “Justice delayed is justice denied, hence every delay in reaching judgment on the rights of religious minorities represents a denial of these rights. The court has delayed and continues to delay justice on behalf of Huma, solely because she is an underage Christian girl.”
“If a similar case were to happen involving an underage Muslim girl, authorities would act immediately. As a lawyer, I am certain that the president of the Pakistani Supreme Court could grant justice to the parents of the girl and to Huma herself. However, at every other lower level of the judicial system justice for minorities will not be possible.”

—Massimiliano Tubani


With picture of Human Younas (Facebook)


Editor’s Notes:

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

ACN News Moroccan Christians have to practice their faith in secret




THE MALEKITE rite of Sunni Islam is the state religion of Morocco and authorities do not legally recognize followers of any other religions, except Judaism. The 2012 Moroccan Constitution guarantees freedom of worship but it penalizes conversions to any religions other than Islam. That puts the Christian community in a difficult position, Jawad Elhamidy, president of the Moroccan Association of Rights and Religious Liberties, told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

There are two Christian communities in Morocco: foreigners who work and live in the country and Moroccans who converted from Islam to Christianity. Moroccan Christians face a grim situation, because only Christian foreigners enjoy freedom of worship, even though they have no legal status in the eyes of the state. There are an estimated 30,000 foreign residents who are Catholic, while 10,000 are Protestant. The number of Moroccan Christians is an estimated 8,000, though some sources put that number as high as 25,000. Morocco has a population of 34.6 million.

There are some 44 churches in the country, which were built during the French protectorate era (1912-1956), some of which have been turned into meeting halls and municipal headquarters. The government does not give permits to build new churches.

“The penal code holds that all Moroccans are Muslims, so those who convert to Christianity face legal problems, beside threats to their security,” Mr. Elhamidy said, adding that “Moroccan Christians worship in secret house churches to avoid state sanctions or harassment from society.” Moroccans do not worship publicly, because they risk being accused of proselytizing if they engage in public expressions of any religion other than Islam.

Foreign clergy, because of fear of being criminally charged with proselytism, are said to discourage Christian citizens from attending their churches. According to Mr. Elhamidy, Church leaders receive a weekly warning from the authorities not to welcome Moroccans, or they will be held accountable for proselytizing.

“If a Moroccan enters a church, one of two things happens; either a policeman sitting in front of the church arrests him or her, or the cleric in charge of the church asks the person to leave, unless the purpose is tourism,” said Mr. Elhamidy.

Also, the government restricts the distribution of non-Islamic religious materials, as well as Islamic materials it deems are inconsistent with the Maliki-Ashari school of Sunni Islam.
Under Moroccan law, proselytizing or converting to another religion is a criminal offence punishable by six months to three years in prison.

ACN’s 2018 Religious Freedom in the World report cites the European Parliament, which “acknowledges that religious freedom is constitutionally enshrined in Morocco but adds that [Moroccan] “Christians and especially Muslims who converted to Christianity face ‘numerous forms of discrimination’ and ‘are not allowed to set foot in a church.’”[

Some Moroccan Christians are arrested three times a week and subjected to bullying and harassment at the police station. For the most part, they are released after interrogation or after they have been put under pressure to return to Islam; those who refuse face insults and abuse, according to Mr. Elhamidy.

When an allegation of blasphemy is made, it can become very dangerous for Christians in custody; there can be violence, and some Christians are held for several days, and police make threats that spouse and children would be arrested, too.

Mohamed Al Moghany is a Muslim man from Al Hajeb city who converted to Christianity; his employer, gun in hand, threatened to kill him. When he filed a complaint with police, he was told to keep quiet about his conversion and threats were made against his family. Six months later he quarreled with his employer again. He was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison. Meanwhile, his wife was interrogated as well.

“The state considers Christianity to be a danger,” Mr. Elhamidy said referring to his association’s monitoring indications of discrimination in the country’s legislation. Researchers found official language referring to “Christian danger” and “the religious entities that threaten the Moroccan nation”—the danger being Muslims converting to Christianity.

There are some 2,400 Jews living in Morocco, with Judaism enjoying full legal recognition. Authorities treat the Jewish community with respect for two reasons—first because it is economically strong, and, secondly, argues Mr. Elhamidy, the government uses its toleration of Judaism to whitewash the abuses targeting other religious minorities.
According to the 2018-2019 report from the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) report, there is ongoing denigration of Shia Islam in the media and in Friday sermons. During Ramadan, a teenage girl eating in public was attacked by a bus driver and several young men were arrested and hit with a fine for smoking in public, incidents reflecting an imposition of a conservative strain of Sunni Islam.
—Engy Magdy

With picture of Jawad Elhamidy (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:

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Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax 718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Devotional Journey into the Mass by Christopher Carstens, Foreword by Dan Burke. Sophia Institute Press. 2017



Most of us enter Church and never give a thought to the symbolism of this simple act.  We make the sign of the cross as we have been taught since childhood almost mechanically.  We participate in the Mass but are we really entering into it fully conscious of the profound symbolism of each physical act we make?

Christopher Carstens is the Director of the Office for Sacred Worship in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  He was commissioned to write this book following the inspiration Dan Burke had with Romano Guardini's book entitled Sacred Signs.  The Mass must be prayed fully conscious of the mystery that is behind the physical outward signs and symbols. 

The chapters include how to enter the church building, how to make the sign of the cross and pray the opening prayer, how to listen to the readings and participate in the Eucharistic Prayer, how to receive Communion to the fullest and how to respond to the dismissal.

In addition to these beautiful and enlightening chapters, Mr. Carstens adds a summary at the end of each chapter to help put the suggestions into practice.

This book is highly recommended.  It will help the thoughtful reader pray each Mass more devotedly and reverently.

Review by Rosa M. Sautner, Catholic Homeschooling mother of two in New Jersey

Book Review - Conquering Coronavirus by Teresa Tomeo. Sophia Institute Press. 2020



On the Feast Day of St. Joseph this year, Teresa Tomeo lost her mother to the current coronavirus pandemic.  Through the pain of her loss and the complications of social distancing she found strength in her faith.

In this lovely book, Teresa has carefully put together a well-researched summary of how this pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world in general and on each family whose lives have been touched by sickness and death.  She speaks from her experience and from her heart.

The reader will find in this well-organized book practical advice and Biblical inspiration on how to remain faithful and optimistic in the face of this pandemic.

More importantly this book is about encouragement during this difficult time of the current crisis.  It is also a book of spiritual and material resources to help the reader with practical applications of their faith.

Review by Rosa M. Sautner,
Catholic homeschooling mother of two in New Jersey