Pope Francis calls on the Catholic faithful to support Aid to the Church in Need's Year of Mercy appeal
Pope Francis has given his personal support to an awareness and fund-raising campaign organised by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) to mark the Pontiff's Year of Mercy. ACN's "Be God's Mercy" was launched on 17th June in Rome. The Pope personally associated himself with the campaign through a video message, highlighting the work of ACN.
In his message, the Pope calls on people to "carry out works of mercy together with ACN in every corner of the world, in order to meet the many, many needs of today". ACN projects supported during the four-month "Be God's Mercy" campaign include prison ministry, drug rehabilitation centres, support groups for women and help for refugees. In his video message, the Pope says: "I am entrusting these works to Aid to the Church in Need."
The very first benefactor of the campaign was Pope Francis himself who, prior to a recent visit by an Italian delegation of ACN to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, entrusted a donation to the charity for Iraqi Christians via Italian Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi. The gift of the Pope will assist the work of the St Joseph's Clinic in Erbil, which offers free medical care to around 2,800 refugees of all religions who fled from the Islamist terror group Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.
The Pope asks all of us to follow his call for works of mercy. At ACN we seek to support those who give their lives at the service of mercy: the men and women of the Church - priests, sisters, either active or contemplative, and laity - those who dedicate their energy to serve others to overcome their needs. Often reaching out to those who cannot or will not be reached by others, they feed the poor, heal the sick and console the sorrowful, keeping them in their prayers and carrying them by sharing the Good News.
For more information about the Be God's Mercy Campaign, please consult the multi-language website www.acnmercy.org
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 eleven 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.
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 archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil has thanked all the benefactors of ACN.
Archbishop Nona, who was among the 500,000 people forced to flee in June 2014 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 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 and Syria, 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 and Syria.
You can also call the ACN office on 02 9679-1929 and give your donation over the phone or send it via the post.
"Persecuted and Forgotten?" 2015 Edition - ACN Report on Christians oppressed for their faith
CHRISTIANITY looks set to disappear from key parts of the Middle East, according to the latest report compiled the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) which highlights a worsening cycle of persecution. Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2013-15,concludes that if the exodus of faithful from Iraq continues at existing levels, the faithful could all but disappear within five years and that a faster rate of attrition is noted in Syria whose faithful have reportedly plummeted from 1.25 million in 2011 to as few as 500,000 today. The report states that the loss of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere represents a blow to community relations as the faithful have acted as bridge-builders in increasingly fragmented societies.
Assessing 20 countries where persecution is severe, ACN's Persecuted and Forgotten? report describes what it calls a "religiously motivated ethnic cleansing" of Christians by Islamist terror groups especially in Iraq and Syria but also in parts of Africa. Examining countries of core concern in the Middle East and elsewhere such as China, Egypt, Eritrea, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan, and Vietnam, Persecuted and Forgotten? draws on eye-witness reports and testimonies. The report concludes that since 2013 the situation for Christians has worsened in 15 of the 19 core countries under review. In 10 countries - more than half - the persecution is ranked "extreme" - up four from the last edition of Persecuted and Forgotten? report which covered 2011-13.
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.
Ranking Islamism as the greatest threat, the 2015 Persecuted and Forgotten? report also highlights growing problems caused by other extremist religious groups - militant forms of Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism - with attacks increasing in number and ferocity. Totalitarian regimes, notably China, have put increasing pressure on the Church, according to the report, with severe threats facing Christians in Eritrea and Vietnam. The report notes that in many cases Christians are persecuted not so much because of their faith but because of their perceived links with the West and a view associating the faithful with colonialism.
In the report's foreword, Archbishop Jeanbart from Syria writes: "We are confronting one of the most important challenges of our 2,000 year history. Despite our problems here in the Middle East, we are doing everything we can to help those who lack food, clothes, or other essentials. By God's grace, and with the continuing help of organisations including Aid to the Church in Need, we have been able to respond to the urgent needs of our people."
Religious liberty as a fundamental human right is often neglected by world public opinion, 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 support and pray for them.
To read the whole report click HERE (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report)
To read the Executive Summary of the report click HERE
Persecution mapped out. To view a world map of where persecution is worsening for Christians click HERE
To view a video about the report click HERE
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.
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.
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.
Mexico: Success story - 24 religious sisters thank you for your support
The territorial prelature of Jesus Maria del Nayar covers an area of 25,000 km2 in the highlands of central western Mexico - an area more than half the size of Switzerland. And yet the population is only around 135,000 and widely scattered. Around 120,000 of these people are Catholics. But there are just 14 priests to minister to this vast area, which is one of the poorest in the whole of Mexico.
Given this situation, the work of the religious sisters is especially important and valuable. There are some 24 religious sisters of the local congregation of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of Jesus and Mary, who work within the prelature. The congregation was established in 1970 to provide pastoral and social support to the people in this difficult mountainous terrain. It has eight small communities in the local towns, from which the sisters go out to minister to the villages of the surrounding area. Needless to say, many of the settlements are widely scattered across this hilly region. In the past the sisters used to have to travel with donkeys or mules through the mountains in order to reach these villages. They work among the indigenous Indian peoples, who live in great poverty. Their apostolate includes working with children and young people, helping expectant and nursing mothers and teaching them how to care for their babies, supporting and advising the families, caring for the sick and elderly and providing medical support where needed. They also teach. But their pastoral role is of primary importance. They gather the people together for prayer when the priests are unable to reach them, singing and praying and giving catechetical instruction.
The sisters themselves live in great poverty and carry out their difficult apostolate among the poor and disadvantaged without asking any payment in return. But they still need the basic necessities in order to survive, and so - in order to help them for one more year with their basic necessities, food, transport, medical supplies and other essentials - the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) have provided them with vital basic support of $14,000. In thanks the sisters have written back to ACN with thanks and promised their prayers for the charity’s benefactors.
The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929
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