Pakistani Archbishop raises alarm of kidnapping and forced conversions of under-age Christian girls

by Fionn Shiner

A surge in under-age Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan being kidnapped, raped and forced to marry and convert to Islam has been condemned by one of the country’s leading bishops. 

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In an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore confirmed reports of abductions involving girls as young as 14, acts he condemned as “a crime”. 

His comments come amid research in Pakistan’s Punjab Province stating that up to 700 girls had been abducted in one year. He said: “Yes, [abductions of under-age girls] are happening” and he added that “there have been many kidnappings recently.”

“Kidnapping is a crime. It has to be treated as one. This is the only way to stop it. The girls are usually 14, 15. The men often already have one wife. They can be 25 or older. They can be younger, more like 20.”

Image: Catholic women with Catechist Babu Ilyas Manga, Lahore, Pakistan. Photographer: Reinhard Backes. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

Pope Francis blesses 6,000 rosaries, gifts to console Syrian families (an ACN sponsored initiative)

by Tobias Lehner

ON THE FEAST of the Assumption, August 15, Pope Francis, during the Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square, blessed 6,000 rosaries destined for Syria. They will be given to Christians in Syria who have had relatives or family members abducted or murdered during the civil war. This is part of an ecumenical initiative by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in partnership with Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Syria.

“The rosaries, made at the initiative of ACN, are a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria,” Pope Francis said as part of his Angelus address, adding: “We continue to pray the Rosary for peace in the Middle East and around the world.” ACN arranged for the production of the rosaries in Bethlehem and Damascus.

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The Holy Father and Thomas Heine-Geldern, the Executive President of ACN International presenting the Pope the rosaries. © Servizio Fotografico - Vaticano

Islamist attacks – Christians in northern Burkina Faso are being attacked, expelled and murdered, village by village.

by Maria Lozano

According to sources close to the international Catholic charity and pastoral foundation ACN, the Christian population in the north of Burkina Faso are currently being exterminated or expelled from their villages by Muslim extremists in the country. The most recent villages to have been abandoned are those of Hitté and Rounga, where the inhabitants have been given an ultimatum by the Islamic terrorists, ordering them to convert to Islam or leave their homes. “They are by no means the only ones facing this situation, rather they are just part of a programme by the jihadists who are deliberately sowing terror, assassinating members of the Christian communities and forcing the remaining Christians to flee after notifying them that they will return in three days time – and that they do not wish to find any Christians or catechumens still there.”

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Displaced Christians from the parish and village of Titao, diocese of Ouahigouya in in Burkina Faso 2019. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

The brother of Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, abducted one year ago in Niger, still holds out “hope for his liberation”.

by Paulo Aido

“Of course!” Walter Maccalli, also a missionary and priest, does not have the least doubt that his brother, Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, who was abducted in Niger exactly one year ago on 17 September 2018, will eventually be set free.

Precisely on the first anniversary of his brother’s abduction, Father Walter, an Italian SMA missionary currently working in Foya, Liberia, sent a message exclusively to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International. In it, while expressing his certainty that it is still possible for him to be set free, he confesses that he has had no news about the whereabouts of his brother since the day he was abducted, on 17 September 2018, by eight armed men on motorcycles from his home in Bamoanga, Niger, directly opposite the local church.

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Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli with families in his parish, before his abduction. Photo copyright ©DR.

One Million Children Praying the Rosary for Unity and Peace - October 18th

2019 will mark the 14th year that the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need has held a prayer campaign titled One million children praying the Rosary for Unity and Peace. 

However in 2019 in order to respond to Pope Francis' Extraordinary Mission Month ACN is devoting the prayer initiative to the theme of mission and is encouraging adults to pray, together with their children, especially for missionaries and for new missionary vocations.

And so we are inviting you all – teachers, catechists, educators, parents and grandparents – to participate as in previous years in this great mission of prayer by the children and to pray the Rosary with the children under your care on 18 October 2019 at 9 a.m. (or at another time that is more suitable for you), in union with thousands of other groups of children all over the world.

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