Christians in Syria divided on returning

A bad day for Selma. Today, the Syrian mother of three children had to watch her oldest son leave for Lebanon. “My son had to go because of the difficulties. It was hard to say goodbye,” she says, fighting back tears as she washes a few coffee cups. “I don’t know when I will see him again. I was only able to give him some money for the trip. Not even something to eat. He has to walk the last leg. I will send him his clothes later.” Her story mirrors the current situation of many Christians in Syria.

The family fled when the crisis began in 2011 and terrorists descended upon the homes of Christians in Idlib. “They hammered against the doors to let us know that we had to leave because they wanted the houses. Who? We had never seen them before. They shot their guns into the air to frighten the people. Everyone packed up their belongings and left.” Since then, the family has been living with Selma’s mother Johaina in the Valley of the Christians in western Syria. When Selma’s husband died in a car accident three years ago, from one day to the next, the family had lost its breadwinner and its entire savings. Her son, 16 years old at the time, suddenly had to support the family by himself.

Image: Syria, Homs, June 2018. A Christian walks in the old quarter of the city of Homs (Syria) with graffiti that expresses the desire of the birds to take refuge in another safe tree, a metaphor for the city at war.

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Nigeria: ‘Watching him butchered will haunt me forever’

Catherine Ibrahim lives in a camp for displaced persons run by the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, Borno State. Here, this Catholic widow describes to Aid to the Church in Need, the murder of her husband and abduction of her children—both at the hands of Boko Haram—and her eventual captivity:

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The first time Boko Haram came to our village, we were lucky. Just as we settled in for dinner, we heard their gunshots and ran to the mountains.

For the two days we were there, our fear of death kept us alive. We returned to burned houses and churches, which led to a crisis between Christians and Muslims that was only stopped by military intervention.

MOZAMBIQUE: “The wounds of the civil war are still open”

by Paulo Aido

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Peace still has not come to Mozambique. For Bishop Adriano Langa of Inhambane, “the wounds left behind by war are not as easy to close as a tap.” The traces and aftereffects of the many years of armed conflict are still visible throughout the African country. During a meeting held at the international headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Königstein, Germany, Bishop Langa explained that there is still quite a way to go before it will actually be possible to live in peace.

ACN is funding two aid projects for the local Catholic community as they return to a scene of utter devastation

The number of people who have died as a result of the terrorist attacks of 15 November last year on the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in the diocese of Alindao and on the refugee camp right next to it, continues to grow, and has now reached over 80, according to information given to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). What is the reason behind this sudden upsurge in violence against Christians in the south of the Central African Republic? In the report below the local Church analyses the situation and explains the consequences of these terrible events.

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"The people, who almost all fled into the forest, are now returning, hoping to be able to find a few grains of rice that they can eat and foraging among the ashes for any beans that have been only partially burnt", says Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa of Alindao, describing the dramatic scenes in his town. The number of those who have died since the attack has now increased to over 80, including two priests and two Protestant pastors, according to hospital sources.

Marco Mencaglia, head of the Latin America section of Aid to the Church in Need, visited Nicaragua in November. The objective of his trip was to learn more about conditions in the country first-hand and to assess how the pontifical foundation has worked with the local church up until this point and how they can continue to work together.

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Last year, Nicaragua experienced a series of intensive and violent clashes between the government and opposition groups that lasted for about three months from 18 April to mid-July. During this period, the clashes claimed hundreds of lives – most of them young protesters. However, the exact number of victims is disputed: the government has estimated 150 dead, other sources say the figure is over 500.

Image: Mgr Jorge Solórzano Pérez, Bishop of Granada, distributing meals for the poor of the city - the bishop blesses a young girl during food distribution. Nicaragua, November 2018.

The Catholic Church played a decisive role in ensuring that the clashes between the armed government forces and the protesters – most of them students – did not cause even more casualties, both dead and wounded.

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