5Her name is Pastora Mira Garcia and through acts of Christian love and forgiveness in the face of hatred and violence, she has become one of Colombia’s best-known women of faith as her nation is still grappling with the aftermath of decades of unrelenting violence. The past 60 years saw an armed struggle involving Marxist guerillas, government troops and extreme right-wing militias. By the time a controversial peace deal was struck with the largest guerilla group in 2016, by some estimates as many as 900,000 people had died in the conflict and seven million Colombians were displaced.

In September 2017, when Pope Francis visited the country, Pastora was chosen to address the Pope and the nation at large to give a testimony of her commitment to Christ’s commandment to “love one another”. She tells her story in an interview with the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need. From the beginning, it has been the charism of the charity to promote reconciliation and forgiveness.

Image above: Pastora Mira Garcia is known as a woman of great faith in Colombia.

Young Christian parents have found a house for themselves and their newborn child thanks to Aid to the Church in Need. For some Christians in Iraq, the future is just a few weeks old.

Baby Timotheus was born in mid-May. “It is my heartfelt wish that my son will be able to grow up in Iraq. God will find a way,” his father Samir hopes. He and his wife Siba are proud parents – and devout Christians. Their baby will be baptised in just a few weeks. The young couple – he is 30, she 25 – live in Bartella, a Christian town on the Nineveh plains near Mosul. The majority of its inhabitants are Syriac Orthodox. 

Iraq Above: Samir (30) lives with his wife Siba and and their baby in Bartella.

Bishop Raharilamboniaina with the priests in his diocese assisted by ACN
© Aid to the Church in Need

Having a Holy Mass celebrated for a particular intention is a long and venerable tradition. The offering, given to the priest by the person concerned is in no sense a "payment", but rather a gesture of love and gratitude and also of financial support for the individual priest who in the words of Consecration in Holy Mass once more makes present the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the altar. For many priests in the poorest countries of the world these Mass offerings are in fact a crucial means of survival.

Distributing communion to children and young people during Mass in Ecuador 
© Aid to the Church in Need

Christmas is not, first and foremost, about giving presents of course, but rather, for Christians at least, about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. God came into this world as a little child to lead us to salvation. And it is in order to strengthen and deepen this awareness and their faith in it that the apostolic vicariate of Zamora in south-eastern Ecuador is planning to give 2,000 children a little booklet each, with prayers and Bible readings relating to the Advent and Christmas seasons. In this way they will be able to more deeply experience the season of Advent, the time of expectation, and prepare spiritually for the feast of Christ‘s birth.

Seminarians at Prayer during holy Mass in the seminary chapel in the diocese of Kafanchan 
© Aid to the Church in Need

The Nigeria-based terrorist organisation Boko Haram is now notorious throughout the world for the brutality of its attacks. What is less well known is the fact that Islamist nomadic Fulani tribesman are now also engaging in similar activities, burning down villages and launching other kinds of brutal attacks on other Nigerians. In 2016 alone, in the northern Kaduna State, around a thousand people were murdered by Fulani extremists, while hundreds more were injured and dozens of villages burned to the ground. Many of these attacks were deliberately targeted against Christians, and again and again their churches in particular have been destroyed.

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