Friday, October 31, 2014

ACN News - Iraqi Christian refugees in Kurdish Iraq—‘their tears have run dry’



Father Andrzej Halemba heads the Middle East Section of international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Earlier this month, he visited the displaced Christians of Iraq: "It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced,” he said.

Do the Christians in Erbil there still have hope?

It is a very difficult situation. Without question, we are talking about genocide here. Genocide is not only when the people are killed, but also when the soul of a people is destroyed. And that is what is happening in Iraq now. It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced.

I have seen people who have been deeply wounded in their soul. In the various crises in this world I have often seen people who have lost everything. But in Iraq there are Christians who have had to leave everything and take flight three or four times. They can see no light at the end of the tunnel.

They are all very traumatized. Normally in such situations it is the women who pull everything together. But in Kurdistan I have seen women who are staring into nothingness and have closed in on themselves. Their tears have run dry. It is something that I have never seen anywhere else.

The men, by contrast, tend to aggressiveness. This has to do with the fact that they are no longer able to fulfil their previous role as the breadwinner and protector of their family. Now they have to beg for everything and they have no perspective.

Do you have the impression that the Christians wish to leave Iraq?

When one has lost all hope, one wishes to leave one’s homeland. The majority do not wish to return to their homes. This is a bad sign for the future of Christianity in Iraq.

The Christians feel that in Iraq they have been betrayed and abandoned, and they want to get out. The Kurdish fighters who were supposed to defend the Christian areas against ISIS assured the Christians that they were safe. Then suddenly ISIS overran the Christian towns and villages. Often they could not even take a change of clothes with them.

That is a bitter feeling, to have nobody on whom one can depend. It reminds many Christians of the massacres in the Ottoman era, 100 years ago, when hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Christians were slaughtered.

According to the Church figures, more than 120,000 Christians are now homeless and stranded in Kurdish Iraq. Are they receiving the aid that they need?

The Christians are not being helped, either by the central Iraqi government or by the Kurdish regional government. So they feel like second-class citizens. This is not the least reason why they are so angry. The Christians are mainly left to their own devices.

Naturally there is aid from outside. But the Christians can only come by it through their own efforts. We have true heroes of neighborly love in Iraq. Bishops, priests and members of religious orders, but also lay people, have done exemplary work on behalf of their fellow men and women

What is the greatest humanitarian challenge at the present time?

The coming winter is a huge challenge. It can get very cold in Kurdistan, and it can snow. The rains are already starting to come. There are efforts underway to re-house the people from tents into accommodation containers.

But in my opinion the greatest challenge is the mentality of the people. Have they already decided to turn their backs on Iraq and the Middle East forever? This is where we must take action and give the people hope.

How?

Above all, the people must once again believe in the future of their ancient and beautiful country. So the international community must work towards ensuring that the government in Baghdad is strengthened and incorporates all the religious and ethnic groups in the country. Only in this way can ISIS be ultimately defeated.


With photo of Father Andrzej Halemba (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:



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 fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to help the souls in Purgatory




The month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls.  As the photo above reminds us, we can pray for them while visiting a cemetery the first week of November and we can earn plenary indulgence.  This indulgence can be applied to ourselves or to a soul in purgatory.  At other times, it is a partial indulgence.


The following are other ways to help the souls:

1.  When a loved one or a friend dies, arrange and request Gregorian masses.  This would be 30 consecutive Masses, usually 10.00 a mass as a donation.  There are many Religious orders of priests who would be happy to arrange this and can be found online.  e.g.
The friars at Seraphic Mass and The priests Marians of the Immaculate Conception to name two.

2.  Request 3 consecutive masses for the repose of the newly departed loved one or friend.
 Saint Padre Pio's order would do this for the friars that died.  They believed it was the most efficacious way to relieve their sufferings.

3.  Those who cannot afford to have masses said for the holy souls should assist at as many masses as possible for their intention.

4.  Meditate on Jesus' Passion and Death while doing the Stations of the Cross.

5.  Pray and meditate on the Holy Rosary.

5.  Offer up our sufferings for the intentions of the Holy Souls.

7.  Offer up a prayer for the Holy Souls every day.

A Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory

O most gentle Heart of Jesus,
ever present i the Blessed Sacrament,
ever consumed with burning love for the poor captive souls in Purgatory,
have mercy on the souls of Thy departed servants.  
Be not severe in Thy judgments, but let some drops of Thy Precious Blood fall upon the devouring flames.
And do Thou, 
O Merciful Saviour, send Thy holy angels to 
conduct them to a place of refreshment, light and peace.
Amen.

8.  Offer all good works, prayers and sufferings and indulgences one day a week, (preferably Sunday) for them.  There is no necessity to do anything new or extraordinary but just offer what one is accustomed to do on that day.

Basic conditions to offer good works for the holy souls:

- It must be carried out in a reverential manner and without any ulterior motives.
- It must be carried out in a state of grace.
- It must apply to them in a general or specific way.

9.  By saying as many aspirations as possible throughout the day.

e.g. "Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee."  Or, simply: "Jesus!"

10.  Love our lady and pray constantly for the release of the souls from purgatory, (following Saint Padre Pio's example).

11.  Our indulgences can be offered for the intentions of the souls in purgatory, Plenary indulgences can be applied to a holy soul ONCE a day.  Partial indulgences can be applied to the souls several times a day.

The conditions for plenary indulgence to be gained:

- sacramental confession (you must
- Holy Communion
- pray for the Pope's intentions

12.  Continue praying for our beloved dead because even if they are in heaven and no longer need our prayers, they are applied to other souls.

13.  Give alms to the poor (the intentions must be there first).

14.  Fast.

15.  Mortify our bodies.

Lastly, "what you do for the dead, you do in a most excellent manner for yourself.  The reason of this is, that this work of mercy will be returned to you a hundredfold, in the day when you yourself shall be in distress..." - Fr. Paul O'Sullivan

References:
The Holy Souls - Viva Padre Pio by Father Alessio Parente, OFM Cap.
Purgatory by Fr. F. X. Schouppe, S.J.
Read Me or Rue it/How to Avoid Purgatory - Father Paul O'Sullivan, O.P.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On the Run From ISIS: Stories From Iraq

"We had only one choice: face death or leave," says Sister Luma, a nun of the Dominican order who left her hometown of Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian town, in August -- one of roughly 50,000 Christians who fled ISIS's advance on the ancient town
Read the rest HERE.

EWTN: World Over - 2014-10-26 -Synod on the Family Analysis

ACN News - Worst-hit Nigerian diocese is reeling from Boko Haram attacks



"People are dying every day and in most cases with no one to give them a decent burial—they are left to rot; their homes and properties looted."

Since 2009 and the start of Boko Haram’s reign of terror in Nigeria, the Diocese of Maiduguri has been the worst hit by attacks from the extremist Islamic group. The diocese covers most of the territory comprised by the Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, which has been at the center of Boko Haram activities.

In the past five years, many of the local Catholic community’s churches, rectories, schools, hospitals, shops, ordinary homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed. More than 80,000 Catholics have fled their ancestral villages.

Thus far—though it is not openly reported by most of the country’s media—the Nigerian armed forces have failed to protect the civilian population. In the face of Boko Haram’s technical superiority and resilience, soldiers have fled, while urging civilians to do the same.

A recent cease-fire agreement between the government and Boko Haram proved very short-lived, with reports of Boko Haram attacks and kidnappings in Adamawa.

As a consequence of Boko Haram’s almost unchallenged takeover of many towns and villages in north-eastern Nigeria, there are thousands Internally Displaced People (IDPs) living in caves or in the forest. A number of IDPs have been taken in by friends and relatives in Maiduguri, Mubi and Yola.

Thousands were able to escape to Cameroon, where, however, they are facing very difficult conditions because of lack of food, shelter and medication.

The IDPs and refugees are in urgent need of water, food, clothes, shelter and medical care, Bishop Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in an Oct. 25 interview.

“Given the political situation in the country, the funds earmarked for the victims of terrorism very seldom reach the actual people on the ground.”

“The Church has been making efforts to offer as much help as possible. The Diocese of Maiduguri has given some relief materials to over 1,500 IDPs and it has joined hands with the Yola Diocese to assist those who have taken refuge there,” the bishop said.

He added that, “in the spirit of ecumenism, we have even assisted refugees in Maiduguri who are mostly Christians from other denominations.”

However, the prelate made it clear that the local Catholic Church’s ability to respond is being taxed to the breaking point: “We are in dire need of external assistance to help alleviate the difficult situation of the refugees, especially of the children who, out of school and vulnerable to diseases, face an uncertain future.”

Bishop Doeme said that "people are dying every day and in most cases with no one to give them a decent burial—they are left to rot; their homes and properties looted.”

The bishop added that people “have become slaves and prisoners in their own homeland. Here is a government that cannot safeguard the lives of its citizens.”

“Life has become so cheap that it can be wasted any moment. We use to think that salt is the cheapest commodity in the market place—life is cheaper now, especially in the northeastern part of Nigeria."

The bishop stressed that both Muslims and Christians have been affected by Boko Haram’s unrelenting campaign of terror. But he added that there is "still a religious undertone to this whole mess.”

“We might shy away from it and we may be silent, unable to speak up—at least for now—against this push to Islamicize the northeast and eventually all of Nigeria. But what we are witnessing in Adamawa is a clear confirmation of the pursuit of this agenda.”

He continued: “many young people were forcefully taken and conscripted into Boko Haram and are currently receiving training in the captured [military base] in Limankara.”

“Women who could not escape were forced to convert to Islam and married out to the terrorists; some of the elderly who cannot escape are being killed—some are left to die from hunger and starvation.”

This is the fate of every single town or village that has fallen into their hands. Killings, destruction, looting, forced marriage, forced recruitment or conscription, forced conversion to Islam and the mounting of their flags and declaration of Sharia law or the Caliphate."

The bishop is gravely concerned about the future, as it is utterly unclear when “Boko Haram will be flushed out of these areas so that our people can come back home.”

“It is our prayer that it happens soon. But no one knows when it will happen."


With photo of IDP’s cared for by the Diocese of Maiduguri (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:



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 fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Monday, October 27, 2014

ACN News - As IS approached, a seminarian took the Blessed Sacrament from the church and fled



Bombs are falling and the sound of the explosion is sending shock and fear into the hearts of the people. Amid the sound of crying and frenzied activity, people pack up what belongings they can carry and make off into the night.

In the midst of it all stands Martin Baani, a 24-year-old seminarian. It’s dawning on him that this is Karamlesh’s last stand.

For 1,800 years, Christianity has had a home in the hearts and minds of the people of this village so full of antiquity. Now that era is about to be brought to a calamitous end; Islamic State are advancing.

Martin’s cell phone rings: a friend stammers out the news that the nearby town of Telkaif has fallen to “Da’ash” – the Arabic name for Islamic State.  Karamlesh would surely be next.

Martin dashes out of his aunt’s house, where he is staying, and heads for the nearby St. Addai’s Church. He takes the Blessed Sacrament, a bundle of official papers and walks out of the church. Outside a car awaits – his parish priest, Father Thabet, and three other priests are inside.

Martin gets in and the car speeds off. They leave Karamlesh and the last remnants of the village’s Christian presence go with them.

Speaking to Martin in the calm of St Peter’s Seminary, Ankawa—a suburb of the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil—it is difficult to imagine he is describing anything except a bad dream. But there is nothing dreamy in Martin’s expression. “Until the very last minute, the Pashmerga [the Kurdish armed forces protecting the villages] were telling us it was safe.”

“But then we heard that they were setting up big guns on St. Barbara’s Hill [on the edge of the village] and we knew then the situation had become very dangerous.”

Taking stock of that terrible night of August 6, Martin’s confidence is bolstered by the presence of 27 other seminarians at St. Peter’s, many with their own stories of escape from the clutches of the Islamic militants.

Martin and his fellow students for the priesthood know that the future is bleak as regards Christianity in Iraq. A community of 1.5 million Christians before 2003 has dwindled to less than 300,000. And of those who remain, more than a third are displaced. Many, if not most, want a new life in a new country.

Martin, however, is not one of them. “I could easily go,” he explains calmly. “My family now lives in California. I already have been given a visa to go to America and visit them.”

“But I want to stay. I don’t want to run away from the problem.”

Martin has already made the choice that marks out the priests who have decided to
stay in Iraq; his vocation is to serve the people—come what may.

“We must stand up for our rights; we must not be afraid,” he explains. Describing in detail the emergency relief work that has occupied so much of his time, it is plain to see that he feels his place is to be with the people.

Martin is already a sub-deacon. Now in his final year of theology, ordination to the priesthood is but a few months away.

“Thank you for your prayers,” says Martin, as I take my leave of him. “We count on your support.”


With photo of Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:



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 fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Friday, October 24, 2014

ACN News - ‘You can die any number of ways in Damascus’





With much of the focus on the plight of Chaldean Christian in Iraq and the fight of the US-led coalition against ISIS, the ongoing crisis in Syria has to some extent fallen from the headlines. However, life for Christians—and the majority of Muslims—in the country remains extremely difficult. Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus spoke Oct. 22, 2014 with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the situation in the Syrian capital.

The war in Syria has now lasted for more than three years. How are the people able to cope?

Problems are increasing. The economy is dead. The people have no work. Inflation is rising. Our currency is rapidly losing value against the dollar. Gradually everyone is becoming poor. People have used up their savings. They all need help. We as a Church are trying to support as many families as possible. At the present time this involves about 300-400 Christian families. The problem is getting the help to them.
This isn't without its dangers. It's possible to get robbed or even abducted. But we have to take this risk. Otherwise our people will leave. We've already been forced to close down three parishes because the faithful have left. So if we don't help the few that remain, there'll no longer be a Church in Damascus.

Is the Syrian state still able to grant any assistance?

No. People have to rely on their own resources. But as I said, even those who are still working are becoming poor because of the high inflation. And there is hardly any work. Elderly people are of course particularly badly affected. To date they have been supported by their families. But these no longer have anything. And so we are trying to take their place. For example, we are running program to make sure the elderly have access to the medication they need.

Please describe day-to-day life in a war zone.

Well, we are now in the fourth year of the war. In the beginning everybody was afraid of the fighting, the bombs and the missiles. Now we've got used to it. Life must go on. Of course we try to be very careful. It's better to stay at home than to be on the street. You can die any number of ways in Damascus. For instance, you can be shot by a sniper or blown up by car bombs. And of course there are the shells. Then again you can die from lack of medical care if you are injured. The hospitals no longer have sufficient supplies of medicine.

One shell can kill three or four people immediately on impact and perhaps injure 30 or 40 others. That means ten more will die because they do not receive adequate medical attention. You can also die of malnutrition. If you are a diabetic, for example, and need to stick to a certain diet, but don't get it, you are also at grave risk. Living conditions are also poor in other ways. We have two million children who no longer go to school. Many schools have been destroyed—and the ones that are left are completely overcrowded. Each classroom now has around 60 pupils. Just imagine how that affects the teaching and learning process.

Is it possible to buy food if you have money, or is there simply nothing available?

You can indeed buy things, especially canned goods. But what's lacking is fresh foodstuffs, like vegetables, cheese and meat. The problem is also that you have to keep fresh food in cold storage because of the heat. But unfortunately we have problems with the power supply. As a result, we eat mainly canned products and non-perishables such as rice or lentils. 

Have the war and the distress it causes deepened the faith of your flock?

Yes. There is definite a return to the faith. People are praying a lot more. The churches stay open longer. Many of the faithful go there to pray in silence, often for hours on end. They have nothing left but their faith. They are in a dead-end and are waiting for death. At the end of Mass they make a point of saying goodbye, because they don't know whether they will see one another the next day.

The mood is very resigned. People surrender to their fate. So it's a very difficult situation. We as a Church are at the moment doing more social work than pastoral work, as we are trying to alleviate the people's distress. There is no other help available. The family is basically the only intact institution. It's the family which helps, shares and supports. People’s identification with their families is very pronounced. Without the family, the situation would be an utter and complete disaster.

Are you able to keep track of the number of your faithful who have left Syria?

No. We don't have any statistics. Bu the number of people taking the sacraments is falling from year to year—very sharply. In 2012 there were more baptisms and weddings than in 2013. The number of funerals, on the other hand, is rising. There were previous plans to build a kindergarten or a school, but now we are planning for the enlargement of the Christian cemetery.


With photo of Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:



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 fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ACN News - Egypt – Christians feel safer even as jihadism still looms



The Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government has been unseated and Egyptian Christians are breathing easier. At the time of the fall of that government in the summer of 2013, Father Rafik Greiche, head of the press office of the Egyptian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said, “The ousting of President Morsi is a joyous day for Christians.” Nonetheless, Christian-Muslim tensions persist. Father Greiche spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.


In August 2013 churches were burning in Egypt when Islamists took revenge for the overthrow of President Morsi. What is the situation of Christians under the leadership of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi?

The mood has improved considerably. The security situation is getting better. There is greater stability. All Egyptians are enthusiastic about economic projects such as the extension of the Suez Canal. Christians feel a lot safer. They are going to church without feeling threatened as they did under President Morsi. Under the Muslim Brotherhood, Molotov cocktails were hurled at churches or graffiti was sprayed on the walls. In all, a more peaceful atmosphere is being created.

Are there no more Islamist attacks against Christians?

The number of acts of aggression has fallen to a low level, a minimum. Sometimes there are still inter-religious tensions in some villages. It still happens that jihadists abduct Christian girls. But the situation has nevertheless improved considerably. The problems that exist are only a fraction of those that Christians experienced under Morsi. That does not mean that there are no incidents whatsoever. There continue to be Muslim-Christian difficulties of the kind we have been familiar with for more than 30 or 40 years.

Is President Sisi receptive to the problems of Christians?

He has received all the bishops and leaders from the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches. He told them that Christians have every right to have their churches and to pray. His government is working with the Churches to prepare a law governing the construction of churches. This is one of our most urgent problems here in Egypt—to-date it has been very difficult to build a new church. This draft envisages that Christian symbols such as crucifixes and bells may be mounted visibly on the exterior.

The proposed law will also stipulate that the construction of new places of worship is no longer subject to the approval of state security authorities.

The President himself will no longer himself have to grant permission to build a new church; instead this will be the responsibility of the provincial governor. If the latter has no objections after a period of 60 days after a proposal is submitted, the work can proceed. However, this new legislation is in limbo, as the country currently has no Parliament that could pass such a law. Elections are due to take place at year’s end.

Will Islamists again play a major role in the new Parliament?

Yes, I'm afraid so. The problem is that the civilian parties are very weak and lacking direction. They also don't have much backing. The Islamists will probably not have a majority, but they could form a substantial minority that is capable of upholding or delaying the passing of legislation.

In Syria and Iraq Christians face the horrors of ISIS. Do Egyptian Christians also feel threatened by Islamic extremists from abroad?

We also feel under threat, if obviously not in the same way as the Christians in Iraq and Syria. We are afraid of the jihadists based in neighboring Libya, who are sending weaponry into Egypt. There are also jihadists on the Sinai Peninsula.

Are Muslim authorities in Egypt forceful enough in their condemnation of groups like ISIS?

When ISIS started to drive Christians out of Mosul last summer, not a word was heard initially from the Sunni Al-Azhar University, for example. The Copts then gathered in front of the Vatican Embassy here in Cairo and appealed to Al-Azhar University to condemn the violence. Shortly afterward, the school actually did publish a statement. But that's not the only issue at hand.

Unfortunately, the curriculum of the university and that of the schools managed by Al-Azhar feature many aspects that are pretty much in line with ISIS transgressions. Fundamental changes must be made because such teachings have a big effect on people’s thinking.


With photo of Father Rafik Greiche, head of the press office of the Egyptian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:


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 fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ACN News - ACN aid for Iraq



Thousands of displaced Iraqi Christians are to receive food, shelter, schooling and gifts for children in a concerted emergency relief program by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) before the onset of winter.

The $5million plan announced by Aid to the Church in Need, one of the largest in the charity’s 67-year history, also includes pastoral support for priests and Sisters displaced by the crisis that has swept the country.

The projects, a number of them agreed on Tuesday, October 14th, come amid new reports from Iraq that the crisis facing up to 120,000 displaced Christians is on the verge of worsening drastically.

There is huge pressure to move thousands of families out of tents before winter comes and the weather is expected to deteriorate sharply in the next few weeks.

Other families have just days to leave public buildings such as schools which have been converted into displacement centers where they have been sleeping up to 20 to a room.

The Christian communities are entirely dependent on outside help and have been supported by the Church since they arrived in Kurdish northern Iraq. Many of them have found refuge in Ankawa, close to the regional capital, Erbil, and further north in the region of Dohuk, close to the Turkish border.

It is now nearly four months since they left their homes with little more than the clothes they were wearing when Islamic State fighters advanced on Mosul city and towns and villages in the neighboring Nineveh plains.

Amid growing concerns for their future as winter approaches, ACN’s emergency projects’ package includes:

Eight schools,  four in Ankawa, Erbil, and the rest in Dohuk: pre-fabricated PVC structures providing for 15,000 children ($2.5 million)

Food for displaced people totally reliant on outside help ($801,600)

Rented accommodation in Ankawa and Dohuk for displaced people ($509,000)

150 PVC porta-cabins in Ankawa for use as accommodation ($598,000)

Christmas gifts for 15,000 children including warm clothes (coats and socks), pencils, coloring books and devotional items and ACN Child’s Bibles ($375,400)

Mass stipends for more than 100 priests, both Chaldean and Syrian Catholic, from Iraq, most of them displaced by violence and other unrest ($112,227)

Help for 28 seminarians at St. Peter’s Seminary, Ankawa ($49,600)

Additional grants include $24,175 emergency aid for Sacred Heart Sisters displaced from Mosul, $99,200 support for Babel College of Philosophy and Theology in Ankawa and $48,400 help for Christian education (catechism) in 20 parishes across Baghdad.

Taken together, the aid builds significantly on the $254,500 given as emergency aid to Christians fleeing Mosul and the Nineveh Plains in the immediate aftermath of the IS attacks.

The projects were drawn up during an ACN fact-finding and project assessment trip organized at short notice and completed a little over a week ago.

The charity’s head of Middle East projects Father Andrzej Halemba said, “This ancient community, which dates back to Biblical times, is on the verge of disappearing forever.”

“They have suffered so much and this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help them and give them what they need to get through the winter.”

Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said, “I would like to thank Aid to the Church in Need for acting so quickly to help the people especially as we get close to winter.”

Chaldean Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul, who was among the 500,000 who fled the city in June when it was seized by Islamic State, is chair of the Emergency Committee of Bishops formed to coordinate relief efforts, also thanked ACN.

He said: “I am personally so grateful to ACN. You are giving us new hope.”

The archbishop also called on ACN and all people of goodwill to pray for Iraq. He told ACN, “Please pray for the safety of our people, that none are killed by terrorists; we should also pray for those who have persecuted us and we should also pray for an end to evil which is now so great in the world.”

Aid to the Church in Need, which has offices around the world, is launching an international campaign to raise awareness and raise money for suffering Christians in Iraq.


With picture of Iraq children being helped by Aid to the Church in Need holding an ACN sign (© ACN)


Editor’s Notes:


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 fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org

Thursday, October 16, 2014

ACN News - In northern Iraq, Christian refugees are preparing for winter


Earlier this month, Karin Maria Fenbert, an official of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need travelled to Erbil, capital of Kurdish Iraq, to assess the needs of more than 100,000 Iraq Chaldean Christians, who had fled their homes in Mosul and surrounding communities on the Nineveh Plane in the wake of the violent take-over of the area by forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the spring and summer. She reported on her findings in this Oct. 14, 2014 interview.


How are the refugees in northern Iraq doing?

In Erbil, the situation is hard for the refugees. The school year has begun again and the refugees who had taken shelter in the school buildings have to vacate the premises as soon as possible—to avoid tensions with the local Christian population.

Moreover winter is not far away and many refugees are still living in tents that are not waterproof, some of which are set up on the bare ground. The Church is pretty much alone in caring for them; so far the Iraqi government has not done anything for them. The tents of the refugees are set up on parish properties. The Church in Iraq is urgently in need of financial support from abroad—and it has to arrive very quickly.

What is Aid to the Church in Need doing to help?

After weeks of intense communication with local Church leaders, this fact-finding mission allowed us to put the final touches on projects that we will be funding in the weeks and months ahead. To put in broad strokes, we will help the refugees get through the winter; they should have a permanent roof over their heads, and the refugee children should be able to go to school.

For example, later this month we will complete building a village featuring houses made out of residential container modules. This settlement is already under construction and will be named “Father Werenfried Town,” after the founder of Aid to the Church in Need. It will provide some 4,000 people with shelter for the winter.

Likewise, starting in December, lodgings for the refugees in the vicinity of Erbil will be rented. In order to give parents hope for the future of their children in their own country, we will support the construction of four schools in Erbil and four additional schools in Dohuk. These buildings, too, will be made out of weatherproof residential container modules. We were able to tour a model school of this type that is under construction and are convinced that this is a workable concept.

There are also priests and nuns among the refugees—and they too will get a roof over their heads. In addition we will support the one major seminary in Iraq, which now has 28 seminarians, as well as Babel College, currently the only institute in Iraq where theology and philosophy are taught. There are nuns in Erbil, too, to whom we have promised basic assistance, among other things.

In the Dohuk region we will distribute food packages to approximately around 8,000 families. In addition, we are preparing 15,000 Christmas packages for children. To pull off all these projects, of course, we are counting on the generous support of all our benefactors

What specific impressions were you able to get about the current conditions of the refugees?

We visited a refugee camp made out of tents. One parish made its property available for this purpose. The local pastor rewards the refugee children for good deeds, for example collecting trash. Therefore it is spanking clean in this tent camp, even though the people there have had to endure the most primitive conditions since early August. For example, eight persons live together in a tent that is only about 10 by 13 foot. Bathing and hygiene are taken care of outside, with the help of a bucket. The nearest showers are far away.

We also visited a school in which many refugees are housed. I deliberately use the expression “are housed,” because you can’t call that living. For instance, 22 people are staying in one classroom that measured perhaps 16.5 by 20 foot. During the day the thin mattresses are stacked up to the ceiling against one wall. We also saw people lying on their mattresses and sleeping throughout the day in that room. Under such conditions there is no privacy. And the sanitary conditions are very poor. A person who comes from the outside to get a look at the degrading situation feels anything but well—the refugees must feel that they are trapped in a zoo.

You spoke with the local bishops and the nuncio to Iraq. What future do they see for Iraq?

The bishops are only reporting what they hear hundreds of people say: the Christians feel betrayed: betrayed by their central government in Baghdad; betrayed by their former Muslim neighbors; and betrayed also by the international community. They feel that they are being perceived merely as collateral damage in geopolitical power plays. Add it all up, and the bishops feel quite helpless and powerless.

Their main focus is on the needs of the moment, namely, to do everything they can to make sure that the refugees can survive the winter—and, as far as possible, with some dignity, although under these conditions it is difficult to give the refugees any kind of privacy.

At the moment more than one third of the Christians in Iraq are living as refugees in their own country. They see a future for themselves only if a certain degree of security can be guaranteed. How that might happen, if it ever will, is far from obvious.  Also fathers of families must be able to get a job; and the young must be able to complete their education. Surely, lack of education is one of the main causes of Islamic extremism.

Right now, most of the refugees remain in limbo, which keeps them—for now—from being able to make a free decision as to whether they want to remain in Iraq or would like to pursue s a chance at happiness abroad instead.


Editor’s Notes:



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 fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.  www.churchinneed.org