Iraq: Please help Christians being Persecuted for their Faith
Imagine having your house daubed with a Cross or a big 'C' for Christian, knowing that your house was about to be targeted and taken. This is what happened in Mosul - and the Arabic letter 'N' equating to Nazarene was daubed on Christian properties by Islamist terrorists of the Islamic State. Now a city which had up to 60,000 Christians ten years ago has no Christians - they have had to flee, after being told to convert or face the sword. It is estimated that 100,000 Christians have since fled Mosul and the surrounding villages of the Nineveh Plains to seek refuge in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq (Ankawa, Dohuk & Erbil). For the first time in 1,600 years no Mass or any Christian service has been celebrated in Mosul since the IS militants forced the Christians to flee. Churches have been detonated and set ablaze, converted to Mosques and all crosses torn down - with ancient tombs desecrated and destroyed.
Thanks to the generosity of the benefactors of the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), these uprooted Iraqi Christians now have access to food, lodging and even schooling. These families have at last been able to leave their makeshift shelters, in camps, public buildings, and especially schools, where they were crowded together, sometimes 20 people to a room.
Among other relief goods, ACN is also preparing gift packs for some 15,000 children, consisting of warm clothes (coats and socks), crayons, colouring books, religious articles and Children's Bibles. Fr Halemba, the head of the ACN projects section for this region, explains: "This ancient Christian community, which dates back to biblical times, is in danger of disappearing for ever. They have already suffered so much. Now we have a unique opportunity to help them with what they need to get through these difficult times" The Chaldean archbishops Bashar Warda of Erbil and Amel Nona of Mosul have thanked all the benefactors of ACN.
Archbishop Nona, who was among the 500,000 people forced to flee in June from the forces of ISIS, was in charge of the bishops' emergency committee for coordinating the aid relief effort. He wrote at the time: "I am personally grateful to ACN - you have given us new hope". The archbishop, who is now the Eparch of the Chaldean Diocese in Sydney, has called on all people to pray for Iraq. "Please pray for the safety of our people and that no one else will be murdered by the terrorists. And we must also pray for those who are persecuting us and for an end to the evil that seems so strong at this moment".
The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has in place an ongoing campaign to support to the work of the Church for the Christians of Iraq, helping tens of thousands of displaced people fleeing persecution from IS militants.
A donation of whatever you can afford will make a difference to our brothers and sisters in Christ suffering persecution in Iraq.
You can also call the ACN office on 02 9679-1929 and give your donation over the phone or send it via the post.
International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need's Religious Freedom in the World 2014 Report, compiled by journalists, academics and commentators, reveals worrying concerns for people of faith in 116 of the world's 196 countries.
The report - looking at all religious groups and covering events from October 2012 to June 2014 - concludes that where the situation regarding religious liberty has changed, it has almost always changed for the worse. In the 196 countries analysed, deteriorating conditions are noted in 55 countries (or 28%). Only six of the 196 countries - Iran, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Qatar, Zimbabwe and Taiwan - have been classified as improved and yet, even of those, four remain categorised as experiencing "high" or "medium" persecution.
The report, which follows on from ACN's biennial Persecuted and Forgotten? research on persecuted Christians, is the most comprehensive analysis on religious freedom by a Catholic organisation. The Religious Freedom in the World Report 2014 examines the degree to which nation states uphold the principle of religious freedom - as enshrined primarily in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - and the impact of destabilising extremist groups within society.
John Pontifex, London-based Editor-in-Chief of the report, said: "In the period under review, global religious freedom entered a period of serious decline and the report confirms media perceptions of a rising tide of persecution aimed at marginalised religious communities. The report we have produced indicates that many of those in authority - governments and religious leaders - have continually failed to stand up for religious freedom and hence it has become an orphaned right. Serial human rights abuses - from the threat of massacres in the Middle East and discrimination in the workplace in Western countries - are the direct result of religious freedom violations. As a Catholic organisation, it is our duty not simply to stand up for Christians suffering religious freedom violations, but for people of all faiths."
The document, which includes a foreword by Paul Bhatti, brother of Shahbaz, murdered Pakistan Federal Minister for Minorities, also includes 10 case studies describing serious religious freedom abuses and examples of good practice in which different faith communities have worked towards cooperation and understanding. The report notes other trends, including:
A 32-page executive summary of the full report, categorises 20 countries as having a "high" degree of religious intolerance or active persecution. Of these, 14 experience religious persecution linked to extremist Islam. These are Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Maldives, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In the remaining six countries, religious persecution is mainly linked to authoritarian regimes. These are Burma (Myanmar), China, Eritrea, North Korea, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.
The executive summary of the report, includes a map identifying countries where persecution is worst. The summary concludes with a table which ranks more than 100 countries on their religious freedom record.
The full report - complete with continent analysis - is available only on the web.
Celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life by supporting priests, religious sisters and brothers wherever the Church is poor, persecuted or threatened
Throughout the world wherever the Church is poor, persecuted or threatened, there are tens of thousands of priests, religious sisters and brothers daily living the 'Yes' they have already given to God.
They have left everything in order to follow the One who has called them. They can be found wherever Jesus is to be found - in silent adoration before the tabernacle, and in the slum quarters and refugee camps of the Third World; in bombed out cities; at the bedside of the sick and dying - in short, wherever their fellow men and women are alone and despairing. But they are also to be found engaged in building a better future. Millions of children have them to thank for the opportunity to go to school and benefit from some form of vocational training. And many initiatives for reconciliation have come about thanks to their involvement.
The average grant ACN gives to support consecrated religious is between $200 - $500 but whatever you can afford will be enormously appreciated. ACN forwards the donations directly to the religious superiors in charge of the religious communities and congregations.
A complimentary beautiful 'Year of Consecrated Life' rosary designed by the Vatican Rosary makers and blessed by Pope Francis will be sent out to all those who donate to help this cause. The rosary comes with a leaflet explaining the meaning behind the design of the rosary.
To send your online donation please click on this link and select the donation you would like to give. If you would like to receive the complimentary Papal rosary please simply write in the optional Comments box when prompted "For Consecrated Life and Rosary". You can also call the ACN office on 02 9679-1929 and give your donation over the phone.
Help Religious Sisters - the unsung heroines in the Church!
They smile, they heal, they teach, they comfort. Around the globe Catholic religious sisters quietly perform their dedicated and heroic service without remuneration and barely even noticed by the wider world. But in order to help others, they themselves also need to be helped, for although they are ministering angels to so many, they themselves still need their daily bread and a roof over their heads.
Each year the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) supports over 9,000 religious sisters in every corner of the globe. Many religious congregations turn to the charity for help, not least for the formation of their precious new vocations. While many congregations in the Western world have few or no new vocations and even seem to be dying out, in other parts of the world the religious communities are filled with young and smiling faces.
It is vital that the indispensable work of religious sisters in Christ's Holy Catholic Church and throughout the missions worldwide continues. Religious sisters are the unsung heroines in the Church. ACN is therefore proud to help them in their efforts to make the world a better place. The average grant ACN gives to support a religious sister or novice is $300 - but whatever you can afford will be enormously appreciated. ACN forwards the donations directly to the religious superiors in charge of the religious communities and congregations.
Anyone able to help this cause will be sent a complimentary Vatican Rosary blessed by Pope Francis. The Papal rosary features the crucifix from the crozier of Pope John Paul II and a centre medal of Pope Francis and his coat of arms.
To send your online donation please click on this link and select the donation you would like to give. If you would like to receive the complimentary Papal rosary please simply write in the optional Comments box when prompted "For Religious Sisters and Rosary". You can also call the ACN office on 02 9679-1929 and give your donation over the phone.
"Persecuted and Forgotten?" 2013 Edition - ACN Report on Christians oppressed for their faith
In many countries the situation of Christians has sharply deteriorated. This is the finding of Persecuted and Forgotten? the 2013 report on Christians oppressed for their Faith. The report examines the situation of Christians in 30 different countries, including Afghanistan, China, Laos, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. In particular it analyses the situation in a number of majority Islamic countries and in those states whose political systems have a pronounced authoritarian character.
For Christians the so-called "Arab spring" has in many cases become what the report calls a "Christian winter". Although the political upheavals have brought suffering to people of all faith communities, nonetheless it is above all the Christian confessions that have experienced the most open hostility and violence. They have become victims of every kind of political, economic, social and religious conflict - for example the conflicts between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. As a result, a great many Christians have been forced to flee. The report describes the exodus as reaching "almost biblical proportions".
According to the information presented in Persecuted and Forgotten? the influence of fundamentalist Islamist groups has increased markedly in the past two-and-a-half years. They represent possibly the greatest threat to religious freedom in the world today. Their goal is the elimination, or at the very least the subjugation, of Christians. In communist countries to the efforts have increased to exert control over the Christian population. However, in these countries Christians tend to be persecuted above all on account of their contacts with dissidents and with the West, and not so much on account of their faith alone. In North Korea there is no official recognition of any religious activities, while those that are tolerated are strictly controlled. China continues to insist on asserting its authority over all Christian groups, especially over those not registered with the State.
Drawing on the latest Christian persecution reports available and first-hand testimony, Persecuted and Forgotten? describes the struggles faced by Christian communities who are prevented from practicing their faith and living normal lives. It is for these people that Catholic charities like Aid to the Church in Need exist.
Religious liberty as a fundamental human right is being neglected by world public opinion, above all by politicians and the media. And yet religious liberty is one of the most vital preconditions for democracy. You will find no better summary about your fellow Christian brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted for their faith. Please pray for them.
To read the whole report click HERE (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report)
To read a short one page summary of the report click HERE
Persecution mapped out. To view a world map of where persecution is worsening for Christians click HERE
Egypt: Kidnapped brides
It is a phenomenon that is scarcely known in the West: the kidnapping and rape of Christian women and girls and their forced conversion to Islam. "Before 2011 it affected perhaps six or seven girls in the whole of Egypt. But now the numbers have grown into the thousands," emphasised Said Fayez, a Coptic lawyer and human rights activist, during an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Very young girls are a particular target for radical Muslims. Such as the 14-year-old Nadia Makram. In 2011 she was kidnapped during a church service. Since then, her family have had no contact with her anymore. Although the family know who did it, the police do not help them. "They even warned us not to pursue the matter any further. I must accept that my daughter has been kidnapped," says Nadia's mother, filled with pain. (Pictured is Nadia's mother holding a photo of her kidnapped daughter)
Kidnapping, forced conversion, female circumcision, social discrimination: Christian women in Egypt face many problems. But the Catholic Church is working on their behalf.
The help ACN provides for religious sisters around the world
For many people, women religious are the visible face of the Catholic Church. Around the world they are responsible for a whole range of vital pastoral and social initiatives. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the service they render. Frequently they work, without remuneration, in places where no one else wishes to go or help. They belong to many different religious communities and congregations - charitable, contemplative and missionary. Around the world these women care, quite literally, for everyone and everything - for children and adults, for orphans, the sick and the dying, for those who are lost and for those who seek, for the victims, the violated, the traumatised.
Despite the numerous challenges and difficult conditions, the number of callings in Africa has grown by 28% and in Asia by 18% over the last years. This extraordinary growth of professed sisters has given rise to increasing requests from novitiates world-wide to ACN in support of formation and professional training.
ACN over the last ten years, has provided over $16.6 million for contemplative sisters, $71 million to active sisters and $3 million for the formation of novices.
Russia: The Orthodox Metropolitan of Kemerovo thanks ACN for supporting his seminarians
Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), always led from the front, with the famous phrase: "Somebody has to make a start - we do!" In 1991, when Pope John Paul II asked him, after a long life as a bridge builder, to look now for ways of dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church, he embraced the idea with enthusiasm. After all, the Orthodox Church in Russia was forced at the time to begin from almost nothing, following decades of persecution. The numbers speak for themselves: just 20 years after the October revolution in Russia, of the 60,000 or so churches in which the Sacred Liturgy had previously been celebrated only 100 were left standing. In the first two years of the revolution alone, around 15,000 Orthodox priests were murdered; over 300 bishops were executed or died in prison. The possibility, following the collapse of the communist regime, of helping our Orthodox sister Church not only with fair words but also with practical deeds of love was one that Father Werenfried, aged almost 80 at the time, described as the "last and greatest joy of my life". The challenge of building bridges and promoting reconciliation had always been the great mission of his life, and right from the start, taking the first step had been the defining characteristic of his charity ACN.
Click here for past weeks' featured projects
Catholic News: Reports for you to read about the work of Aid to the Church in NeedPlease note that you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader (AAR) to view these reports. You can download AAR free of charge from the net by going to the Adobe website. To open a report simple click on the cover of the report you are interested in.
ACN is unique from other Catholic Charities as it offers pastoral assistance and Catholic news to the Church wherever she is poor or suffering under Christian persecution.
Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153 ABN: 62 418 911 594
Ph/Fax (02) 9679-1929 e-mail: email@example.com web: www.aidtochurch.org