Friend's and staff of a leading Catholic charity's UK office are running the Fitbit Semi de Paris this March, joining European and Latin American colleagues, raising funds for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Aid to the Church in Need's UK runners of the half-marathon on the 5th March will include Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, National Ecclesiastical Assistant and assistant priest at Farm Street Parish - as well as Sebastian Cichocki, Maintenance Manager at Farm Street.
A contemplative community of religious Sisters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who pray for persecuted Christians will have their future ensured by a new well - after a chronic shortage of water threatened their survival. "We didn't know how we were going to survive after the collapse of our old well a year ago," Sr Mahele Mwamini, the Prioress of the Discalced Carmelites at the Glorious Saint Joseph Convent, Kinshasa, told Aid to the Church in Need.
Vital help for Syrian mothers and children forced to flee violent extremism is one of nearly 100 new projects announced this month by the UK office of Aid to the Church in Need. The ACN projects include help for vulnerable refugee women being looked after by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lebanon at their residential centre in Sehaile, Keserwan. The Sisters provide education and training classes as well as counselling to traumatised women who have experienced the violence of war and loss of family members.
Iraqi Christians returning to their homelands trashed by Daesh (ISIS) have described the horror of finding their houses burnt and their churches desecrated. Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, eye witnesses reported the destruction caused by the jihadists and how church statues were beheaded and mannequins from a clothes shop were used for shooting practice. Manal Matti used to run a beauty salon near the now fire-damaged Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in the Nineveh Plains.
Extremists driven out of Iraq's the Nineveh Plains "riddled the region with land mines" and "put bombs in children's toys" according to a senior Catholic cleric.Father Luis Montes, Latin Episcopal Vicar for Kurdistan, told Aid to the Church in Need: "Approximately 60 percent of the homes on the Nineveh Plains were burned down. The terrorists not only seized all of their belongings. They riddled the region with land mines." He said that members of Daesh (ISIS) had also "put bombs in with children's toys"
Catholic parents whose son was killed by a suicide bomber in the 2016 Easter Sunday attack at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Pakistan have told Lahore's Archbishop that they have forgiven the man that killed their child. Speaking with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw said: "After celebrating Holy Mass I went up to a married couple to give them my blessing. "They told me that my homily on mercy and pardon had helped them greatly, since they had lost a son in the attack in the Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park on Easter Sunday and that they had forgiven the suicide bomber who
A Christian mother and son in Iraq have told their story of survival after two years of terror living under Daesh (ISIS). In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, widow Jandark Behnam Mansour Nassi, 55, and her son, 16-year-old Ismail, describe their experiences at the hands of Daesh extremists. Ismail, who the militants jailed, recounts seeing gun-wielding Jihadi children kill orange-clad Daesh prisoners and how he witnessed a woman bound hand and foot being stoned to death.
HRH The Prince of Wales has released a message today describing the "evil" of religious persecution today. The Prince's message - broadcast on BBC Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day'- was inspired by Aid to the Church in Need's recently released Religious Freedom in the World 2016 Report. HRH goes on to highlight the report's key finding that extremism is seeking to eliminate all types of religious diversity. Prince Charles speaks out against the persecution of Christians, Yazidis, Jews, Ahmadis, Baha'is and other groups and stresses how for some people religious freedom is a daily stark choice
HM the Queen sent a personal message, while Prince Charles was the guest of honour.... Prime Minister, Rt Hon Theresa May, sent a letter to be read out to the congregation in which she spoke of how "the appalling violence that has afflicted so many areas of the Middle East reminds us how fortunate we are to live in a country where different religious beliefs are not only tolerated, but welcomed." Yet that welcome did not extend to Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Archbishop of Mosul or to Timothius Mousa Shamani, Archbishop of St Matthew's...who were refused UK visas to attend the cathedral's consecration in
Religious fundamentalism - more lethal than ever seen before - is unleashing death, destruction, displacement and instability at unprecedented levels, according to a report launched in the House of Commons yesterday, attended by faith leaders and MPs. The Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, produced by Aid to the Church in Need, warns of the global impact of "a new phenomenon of religiously-motivated violence", which it terms 'Islamist hyper-extremism'.
Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart of the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo will speak on the subject 'What hope for Syria?' in the Hall at Mount Street Jesuit Centre this Friday. All welcome. No charge. The talk, in cooperation with the Aid to the Church in Need UK and Aid to Eastern Christians (L'Oeuvre d'Orient), will address the real issues regarding the future of Syria's Christian community. With half of Syria's population displaced and more than 400,000 people killed due to ongoing civil war, Mgr Jeanbart is visiting London to convey a message of hope for the future of Syria
Walking down the steep path from Montserrat was much easier than going up! Eventually the path levelled out and took us through woods at the bottom of a long valley. At a place called Castellgali we came across a sad monument to two nuns, Sr Regina and Sr Rosa, who were shot here, in July 1936, during the Spanish Civil War. We said a rosary as we continued along through fields and vineyards, until we reached what looked like an ancient fortified farmhouse.
Christian leaders serving in areas plagued by persecution, terrorist violence and war will speak at an event in Chester tomorrow. The Most Rev Sebastian Shaw, the Catholic Archbishop of Lahore, is coming to the North West to raise awareness of the persecution faced by the Christian minority of Pakistan. The archbishop will make his visit just months after 72 people were massacred on Easter Sunday by a suicide bomber who targeted a Lahore children's playground used by Christian families. He will be joined by Sister Annie Demerjian, who will give an eye-witness account of the plight of civilians caught in
Dear ICN readers - Have just got back from walking the Ignatian Camino... A group of us, led by Father Dominic Robinson SJ, went on the eight-day 200 km trek in the steps of St Ignatius Loyola - from the Shrine of St Peter Claver in Verdù across Catalunya to the Abbey of Montserrat and Manresa. The weather was hot and sunny every day. Walking partly along the roads, but often along steep rugged tracks, we passed through some stunning scenery and beautiful historic towns and villages.
For the last three days we have been on the road, averaging 20K a day - from Cevera to Montmaneu, on to La Panadella, and Igualada. The weather has been hot and sunny, the scenery rugged, our path taking us across agricultural land with beautiful wild flowers, down busy highways, through villages and towns. We've met some friendly people and I've realised of course this is Catalonia - not Spain - the style and atmosphere here is very new to me and the language sounds very different and unusual.. Iguelada was the place where
Dear Readers - On Sunday morning I'm setting out for Heathrow Airport with a group of walkers from Farm Street Church, to fly to Barcelona where we will begin our ten-day 'Ignatian Camino' to Montserrat, to raise funds for Aid to the Church in Need projects in northern Iraq, and the Jesuit Refugee Service UK. We will be following the route that St Ignatius walked hundreds of years ago, from the Shrine of St Peter Claver in Verdù across Catalunya to the Abbey of Montserrat and Manresa.
A religious Sister from Syria is to come to the UK to give first-hand testimony about life in Aleppo as part of a series of events organised by Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity helping those suffering persecution. Sister Annie Demerjian and Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan will give personal witness accounts at ACN events both in England and Scotland. In her keynote addresses, Sister Annie is expected to describe her life-threatening work providing emergency aid and spiritual support to
A week from today, a group of walkers will be setting out on a 200K trek from Barcelona to Montserrat, to raise funds for Aid to the Church in Need projects in northern Iraq, and the Jesuit Refugee Service UK. These pilgrims will be walking the 'Camino Ignaciano' (the Ignatian Camino or Ignatian Way), following the route that St Ignatius himself walked hundreds of years ago, from the Shrine of St Peter Claver in Verdù across Catalunya to the Abbey of Montserrat and Manresa.
Three MPs joined an Aid to the Church in Need trip to see the situation of refugees in Erbil, northern Iraq, who are being cared for by the Church. The group visited camps for displaced families, met with with high-ranking prelates and government officials, and also attended an ordination ceremony. Jim Shannon MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, travelled with Chris Green, MP, Mark Menzies, MP, Canon Pat Browne, Catholic Duty Chaplain to Parliament, Jim Shannon,
The Church is continuing to provide help for those remaining in Aleppo - despite rebel forces pushing forward to seize the city - including feeding thousands every day. Jesuit priest Fr Ziad Hilal told Aid to the Church in Need: "It is a sad situation for everybody because of the fighting. I couldn't sleep well there because all the night we heard the bombardment and the fighting between the groups." In many cases people are relying on charity for their food, and the Church has stepped in to help feed those left in Aleppo
A project partner of Aid to the Church in Need has warned that the upsurge of fighting in South Sudan will see the humanitarian crisis affecting millions of civilians worsening. One of the charity's South Sudanese project partners, who cannot be named for security reasons, described how renewed violence in Juba has caused immense suffering and increased insecurity amongst its people. Referring to calls from the governments of neighbouring countries Uganda and Kenya for their citizens to leave South Sudan, he said:
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is a Catholic charity working in over 140 countries across the world, helping Christians who are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. An outline of this role and how to access a full job description and apply are below:
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is a Catholic charity working in over 140 countries across the world, helping Christians who are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. We are currently seeking to fill four vacancies, three based in UK National Office in Sutton, Surrey, and one working from home in the Birmingham Archdiocese. An outline of these roles and how to access a full job description and apply are below:
Prayer, information and action for the suffering Church is the focus of a campaign being launched by a leading Catholic charity at World Youth Day in Poland later this month. Aid to the Church in Need will invite those taking part in the event in Krakow, Poland from 26th-31st July to show solidarity with oppressed and persecuted Christians. The ACN 'Let's be One' campaign is an opportunity for all young people to connect with others who share their faith in the presence of the Pope.
More than 1,000 young people from across Scotland took part in a youth rally on Thursday, 16th June, standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with those who are persecuted and oppressed for their religious faith. The event, involving 26 Catholic schools, was organised by the Scottish office of Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and oppressed Christians. The focus of the day in Carfin Grotto, Motherwell, was to raise awareness, encourage prayer, and take action in support of the persecuted Church.
A video message by Pope Francis was released on Friday to highlight an awareness and fund-raising initiative by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The charity's 'Be God's Mercy' initiative marking the Jubilee Year of Mercy was formally launched at a press conference in the offices of Vatican Radio. In his film, the Pope urged 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."
Generous Church of England parishioners have raised well over double their target in an ecumenical fund-raising project for suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria. The Anglican Diocese of London surpassed their 2016 Lent appeal's original target of £35,000, hitting the £90,000 mark thanks to a generous response by parishes across the capital. The Bishop of London, The Rt Revd Dr Richard Chartres commended parishioners' efforts to raise funds on behalf of Christian charities Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and Open Doors, with proceeds going to
A bishop in Syria has described desperate efforts to tend to the injured and the dying following multiple Daesh (ISIS) attacks in Tartous and Jableh, which left more than 200 dead and nearly 650 injured. Bishop Antioine Chbeir stressed that Monday's attacks in his diocese were the first of their kind in an area where displaced Syrians had gathered in their hundreds of thousands, believing it to be one of the last remaining safe areas of the country.
A Franciscan priest in bomb-stricken Aleppo has called for the prayers of Christians worldwide, describing what he calls the worst violence since the Syrian conflict began more than five years ago. Fr Ibrahim Alsabagh told Aid to the Church in Need: "Never, since the beginning of this terrible war, were things as bad as they are now. I have no words to describe all the suffering I see on a daily basis." He described seeing rockets and bombs falling on churches, mosques, schools and hospitals. "So many houses have been
Aid to the Church in Need has called on the UK Parliament to support a motion calling on the Government to state that Christians, Yazidis and other minority groups in the Middle East are facing genocide. The charity, which is working closely with Church partners in the region, is asking members of the House of Commons to recognise that the ongoing attacks amount to genocide as defined by international law. ACN UK National Director Neville Kyrke-Smith said: "We strongly urge the Government to put its support behind this
On the eve of fresh peace negotiations in Geneva, the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church has expressed fears that opposition groups taking part include extremists - and have virtually no backing among the people. Talking to Aid to the Church in Need from Al Qaryatayn, which was liberated from Daesh (ISIS) on 3rd April, Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said that some of the Syrian opposition at Geneva III lacked popular support in the country. The Patriarch added: "Of course, I hope that the talks will be successful.
Christians will not be returning to Al Qaryatayn, according to Church sources, despite the Syrian army's success in driving Daesh (IS) from the town. Father Jihad Yousef, of the Syriac-Catholic Order of Mar Musa, told Aid to the Church in Need: "The residents who have fled - both Christians and Muslims - are afraid. They fear that IS may come back again." Although Daesh was driven out of Al Qaryatayn in central Syria early last week, Fr Yousef said it was unlikely life would return to normal soon.
Victims of the Easter Sunday Pakistan bomb blast recovering in hospital have received a personal message of sympathy from the Pope. Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore described how he was going from bed to bed visiting the wounded when he received a call on his mobile phone from Vatican officials who said that they had received a message from Pope Francis who was anxious to send a greeting to those wounded and grieving. Latest reports say 72 people - 29 of them children - were killed and more than 340 were injured
Iraqi Christians have expressed their heartache over news that Iraq's oldest Christian monastery has been destroyed by terrorist militia Daesh (ISIS). Father Dankha Issa, an Iraqi monk belonging to the Antonian Order of St Ormizda of the Chaldeans, told Aid to the Church in Need: "St Elijah's Monastery in Mosul was a symbol of the Christian presence in Iraq. The fact that it has been destroyed is terrible." Up to the conquest of Mosul by Daesh in June 2014 thousands of Christians had been living in the predominantly Sunni city in northern Iraq.
Emergency aid has been rushed out to Ethiopia by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) amid reports that the famine crisis affecting millions of people has dramatically worsened. Father Haile Gabriel Meleku, deputy secretary general of the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops' Conference, said he feared the number threatened by famine in the country could be much higher than the 10.2 million government estimate. Saying "the catastrophe can be felt everywhere", Fr Meleku warned of conflict in the desperate struggle for dwindling resources
Aid to the Church in Need has announced a series of extra emergency aid packages for people in Syria and Iraq escaping persecution and grappling with the onset of winter. The charity is rolling out 19 relief programmes in Syria and a further 11 in Iraq - providing food, medicine, shelter and pastoral support. The projects include extra support for families who fled ISIS in northern Iraq: For Christians who took refuge in Baghdad, Iraq, ACN is helping to provide a nursery school for 125 toddlers.
On Tuesday, Dr Paul Bhatti, brother of the assassinated Pakistani government minister, Shahbaz Bhatti gave a moving account of his brother's life and work, in an address to Members of both Houses and supporters of Aid to the Church in Need, and led a discussion on persecution issues in Pakistan. The other main speakers were Lord Alton, who chaired the event, Dr John Newton, Wilson Chaudhry, Chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Rehman Chishti MP, and Revd Rana Khan,
Religious leaders in South Sudan warned that thousands of internal refugees could starve or fall dangerously ill unless a ceasefire stops heavy fighting in the country's Mundri region. Following a visit to the crisis-hit area, members of the Inter-Faith Council for Peace in Western Equatoria described how those who had fled the conflict were now living rough. A statement by the council read: "As we speak people are already dying, and in particular children and elderly people. During the past two months more than 80,000 people had been forced to live in the bush and the jungle
The priest of a Syrian Church shelled by Islamist rebels has said that the lives of the congregation were saved by the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Out of 400 Massgoers, only six were injured when a bomb exploded after falling from the roof of St Francis Church in Aleppo, north-west Syria. The attack, which damaged the outside of the building, occurred during the 5pm Mass last Sunday. According to Father Ibrahim Alsabagh of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, who was saying Mass, the shell was probably fired from the old town - which is still under
...Masking itself in the cover of conflict, and no doubt fortified by the world's silence, in Syria and Iraq a genocide of Christians is underway. With its echoes of the genocide launched against Armenian Christians one hundred years ago, in 1915, other defenceless ethnic-religious minorities, such as the Yazidis, are also victims of this Islamist genocide. Deep rooted religious hatred, a hatred of difference, is driving on a systematic campaign of deportation and exodus, degrading treatment, including sexual violence, enslavement, barbaric executions, and attempts to
Christianity is being systematically wiped out in many part of the Middle East. In 20 countries around the world Christians face major discrimination, imprisonment and death for their faith - those are the findings of a new report launched this week by Aid to the Church in Need, at a reception in the House of Lords hosted by Lord Alton. 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 Church could all but disappear within five years.
The impact of violence, persecution and exodus on Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere will be highlighted in a wide-ranging report due to be released by a leading Catholic charity. Aid to the Church in Need will next week publish Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2013-15, assessing the situation in 22 countries where there are grave violations of religious freedom including physical attacks, kidnappings and murders.
Scottish Parliament member Dave Thompson has endorsed a campaign of solidarity with persecuted Christians organised by Aid to the Church in Need in Scotland. The Scottish National Party representative for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch pledged his support for ACN's Solidarity Campaign which - at a time of increased Christian persecution around the world - is calling on Scots to defend religious freedom. By signing the pledge, the Member of the Scottish Parliament agreed to raise the issue of Christian persecution in Parliament, pray for Christians who suffer for their faith and
A Nigerian bishop has claimed that more than 100,000 people have been driven out of their homes as a result of a rise in attacks on Christians by Islamist terror group Boko Haram. Bishop Bruno Ateba of Maroua-Mokolo Diocese told Aid to the Church in Need that about 50,000 Cameroonians have been made refugees within their own country. Sandwiched between Nigeria and the Central African Republic
One of Syria's most senior Catholic leaders has issued an impassioned plea to young people, describing a "tsunami" of youth emigration and begging them to stay. Referring to "an almost communal wave of youth emigration", Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III said the exodus was so severe it begged serious questions about the future of the Church in Syria. In an open letter to youth, the Damascus-based prelate said emigration of Christian youth was especially severe in Syria but was also of grave concern elsewhere in the Middle East.
In a strongly-worded statement addressed to the Iraqi government, the leader of the Chaldean Church, Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako called on his country's leaders to do their utmost to defeat "extremist groups that wear religious habits [whose] use of violence to extend their control are a danger to all." The thinly veiled reference to Daesh (ISIS) came in a letter dated Thursday 6 August 2015, exactly one year after more than 120,000 Christians fled the Nineveh Plane after Daesh's capture of Qaraqosh, the last Christian majority town in Iraq.
Jihadist camps made up of nearly 1,500 children as young as nine have been uncovered in central Africa, according to reports received by a leading Catholic charity at work in the region. Sources close to Aid to the Church in Need - who cannot be named for security reasons - stated that poverty-stricken youngsters are being lured off the streets of the Democratic Republic of Congo and taken to remote camps where they are being brutalised and indoctrinated by Islamist militia.
People from South Sudan are being driven to starvation as a result of ongoing conflict - according to a Catholic charity which carried out a fact-finding visit to Africa's youngest country. Aid to the Church in Need, describes in a report on South Sudan how displaced people in the north-east - have been so hungry they have had to scavenge for grass and berries. One of the nearly 20,000 registered civilians seeking protection in the United Nations Mission in Unity and Upper Nile states told the charity they felt they had been abandoned.
More than 1,200 young people from across Scotland stood in solidarity with millions of suffering Christians around the world, at Carfin Lourdes Grotto, near Motherwell last Thursday. Organised by the Scottish office of Aid to the Church in Need, the charity for persecuted Christians, the rally began with Bishop John Keenan of Paisley reading out a personal message from Pope Francis intended for those taking part. The message stated: "His Holiness imparts to all those young persons from Scotland who have clearly expressed their solidarity and concern for suffering and
Government should step up efforts in Iraq to "free" Mosul and neighbouring Nineveh from so-called Islamic State so Christians and others can fulfil their dream of returning home - according to a leading archbishop from the region. Marking the first anniversary of the fall of his city to the Islamist terror group, Syrian Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Mouche made an impassioned plea to the "people who have the responsibility" to remove IS and enable people forced out to return and rebuild their lives.
The total aid paid out by Aid to the Church in Need topped €100 million (£73 million) for the first time in 2014 - with persecution and upheaval placing increased demands on the Catholic charity for those who suffer for their faith. The record-breaking figure of €105 million (£76.7 million) - published in the charity's annual report - showed that last year the charity paid out €17 million (£12.4 million) more than in 2013.
Full-scale intervention by the West is urgently needed "to halt these monstrosities" being perpetrated in Syria and Iraq, according to the bishop whose diocese is at the epicentre of the conflict. In an impassioned plea sent to Aid to the Church in Need, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart described how his archbishopric in Aleppo - already hit more than 20 times by mortar shells - had once again come under fire.
Another priest has been kidnapped in Syria. Local Christians fear Islamic extremists have seized him. Father Jacques Mourad was travelling in Qaryatayn with a co-worker on Thursday, when two motorcycles drew up alongside their car. The kidnappers seized the vehicle and abducted the priest. Qaryatayn is a small town around 65 miles (100 km) southwest of Palmyra, which was seized by IS/Daish on Wednesday, 20th May. For the past 12 years Fr Mourad had been ministering to Qaryatayn's Syriac Catholic community.
The Catholic Church in Pakistan has expressed its solidarity with the Ismaili Muslim community, after an attack left 47 dead - including senior citizens, women and children - and 24 injured. According to reports, six unidentified assailants on motorbikes opened fired on a bus yesterday, (Wednesday 13th May), which was going to the Shi'a group's place of worship in Karachi. The Catholic Church in Pakistan's National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) strongly condemned the attack.
People from across Manchester and beyond are to take part in an overnight vigil - the first of its kind - being held in support of persecuted Iraqi Christians and others who suffer oppression. ONE NIGHT for Religious Freedom will take place at Holy Name Church, Oxford Road, central Manchester this Saturday, 18th April, starting at 8pm. Organised by Aid to the Church in Need and hosted by the Jesuits at the Holy Name, ONE NIGHT has received support from large sections of the community in a city now home to 18,000 people with Iraqi origins.
A youth movement devoted to the traditional Latin liturgy will be having a series of Masses offered for persecuted Christians. The initiative by Juventutem, a Catholic network fostering the sanctification of the young through the traditional liturgy and spirituality of the Roman rite, comes in response to a growing number of attacks against Christians around the world. According to figures published by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, 75 per cent of all persecution is directed against Christians.
Aid to the Church in Need has called on the Government to act to save persecuted Christians and other faith groups in Iraq and Syria after a UN human rights office report said recent atrocities there could be classed as 'genocide'. The report, based on interviews with more than 100 alleged victims and witnesses, called on the security council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court. While welcoming the report, ACN has demanded the UK Government take action to address the situation. The report highlights substantial human rights violations, including killings, torture, rape and sexual slavery, forced religious conversions
A petition calling for the release of a Christian woman sentenced to hang for blasphemy in Pakistan has topped half a million signatures. The online petition calls for the release of mother-of-five Asia Bibi, who was condemned to death in November 2010. She was convicted of blasphemy after a heated conversation with Muslim co-workers. The campaign received a surge in support last week, with the number of signatures rising to more than 570,000. The Change.org petition was organised by university student Emily Clarke, who was moved by the plight of Asia Bibi, the first woman to be
The extremist group Islamic State has now released some of the Christian hostages it seized in north-east Syria last week. According to London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, today, 19 captives have been released – 18 were from the village of Tel Goran, one of the Assyrian Christian villages in Hassake governorate captured on 23 February, The other captive is not thought to have been seized during these attacks. All 19 were reported to have arrived safely at St Mary’s Church in the town of Hassake.
Extremist terror group Islamic State has attacked Christian villages in north-east Syria. The assault took place yesterday (Monday, 23rd February) targeting Assyrian villages in the Khabour region of Syria’s Hassake governorate. Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana spoke to a contact in Hassake city where around 400 families have fled following the advance of IS. “Bishop Mar Aprem Athniel… told me the church and community hall are overloaded with the people and they are now [sending] them to the families in Hassake city.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols welcomed Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq on Wednesday. Archbishop Bashar has been visiting the UK to ask for additional humanitarian help and protection for Iraqi Christians fleeing IS. The Archbishop was accompanied on this visit by a delegation that included Neville Kyrke-Smith, UK National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), ACN Head of Press and Information John Pontifex, Dr Suha Russam, Iraqi Christians in Need Trustee, and Fr Nadheer Dako, the Chaldean Catholic Chaplain in Westminster Diocese.
This weekend’s ‘Songs of Praise’ – tomorrow, 8 February 2015 at 5pm on BBC One – will feature a clip of HRH The Prince of Wales talking about his concern for Christians in the Middle East and about his visits, before Christmas, to Middle East Christian communities in London – including his meeting with ACN and the Chaldean community. BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sunday Programme’ beginning at 7.10am will also feature a clip of Archbishop Bashar Warda, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq commenting on Prince Charles’ fears for the survival of Christianity in the Middle East.
An archbishop from Kurdish northern Iraq grappling with the influx of more than 120,000 Christians fleeing ISIS, is to come to London to plead their cause. Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil is due to give an address in the Houses of Parliament on Monday, 9 February amid increasing concerns about the future of Christians who escaped from Mosul and Nineveh with no more than the clothes they were wearing. At the House of Lords event sponsored by human rights campaigner Lord David Alton of Liverpool,
An archbishop from Kurdish northern Iraq grappling with the influx of more than 120,000 Christians fleeing ISIS, is to come to London to plead their cause. Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil is due to give an address in the Houses of Parliament on Monday, 9 February amid increasing concerns about the future of Christians who escaped from Mosul and Nineveh with no more than the clothes they were wearing. At the House of Lords event sponsored by human rights campaigner Lord David Alton of Liverpool,
Pope Francis would be “100 percent” safe if he visited Iraq, according to the Patriarch of Baghdad, who has stressed the importance of such a trip to the country’s dwindling Christian community. In an interview apparently accusing Papal advisors of being overcautious, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako described any such visit as having “high pastoral and spiritual symbolism”. Outlining an itinerary for a possible one-day Papal visit to Iraq, the Patriarch
The Religious Freedom in the World Report 2014, published by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), has been presented to the European Parliament in Brussels. Speaking to an audience of 110 invited MEPs and NGO representatives, the report’s Chairman of the Editorial Committee, Peter Sefton-Williams, invited the European policy-makers “to call on religious leaders to speak together against religiously-inspired violence.”
Western politicians are ignoring suffering Christians in Iraq thinking they offer no “economic advantage” – according to the head of one of the most ancient Churches in the Middle East. Patriarch Joseph III Younan of Antioch and All the East said that the Western world had been largely silent about the situation facing Christians in northern Iraq... Patriarch Joseph said: “The international policy makers have other policies when it comes to minorities, who have neither the numbers, nor riches to make them attractive.. And we have no oil
China’s government has stepped up its persecution of the country’s Christians, according to a leading Chinese prelate. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, former bishop of Hong Kong, criticised the government’s recent actions towards members of the country’s growing Christian churches. He said: “The Chinese government has intensified the persecution recently. We have seen demolished churches, crosses taken away from the buildings, therefore there’s not much we can hope for immediately.
One of the most senior Christian leaders in Africa will visit Manchester tomorrow to deliver a lecture on religious freedom. The Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos, is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, a country which this year witnessed the horrific abduction of 276 female students by the Boko Haram terrorist group and which was yesterday named as one of about 20 nations in the world where levels of religious persecution are “high”.
The necessity for UK Christians and non-Christians alike to stand in solidarity with persecuted and oppressed Christians throughout the world was emphasised at events in Motherwell, near Glasgow, and London, organised by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Each of the events – the first in Motherwell Cathedral last Thursday, and the other one two days later in Westminster – attracted about 250 people. The keynote speaker at both ACN events was Maronite Archbishop Elias Nassar of Saida, Lebanon.
The leaders of Iraq’s Christians have called on the United Nations to urgently address the growing refugee crisis before a freezing winter forces displaced Christians to leave the country. “We Christians in Iraq have a future if the international community gives us immediate assistance. Don’t forget us,” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako told a conference at the UN in Geneva. The patriarch told the delegates that “People are disappointed how little help has been received to date.” He was addressing a conference
A Catholic charity is sending out nearly £300,000 in emergency aid to Syria to help persecuted Christians and other suffering communities amid stark warnings about the survival of the Church in key regions of the Middle East. Sister Annie Demerjian of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary told charity Aid to the Church in Need: “If we want the Christians to remain in the Middle East, then we must help them with what they need in order to survive.” In response to urgent appeals from those working in Syria,
HRH The Prince of Wales has made a personal donation to help Christians terrorised in northern Iraq and offered a heartfelt message of sympathy and support. The payment – which is being made through Aid to the Church in Need, the international charity for persecuted Christians – will go to provide food, shelter and medicine for Christians taking refuge in the Kurdish north of the country. In August alone, 120,000 Christians fled their ancient homelands in the Nineveh plains after the region was seized
The plight of thousands of displaced people suffering in soaring temperatures has been highlighted by a delegation from a charity for persecuted Christians now in northern Iraq. The team of three from Aid to the Church in Need, including the Executive President, Baron Johannes Heereman and Projects Director Regina Lynch have been visiting internal refugees desperate for sanctuary both in the Kurdish regional capital, Erbil, and towns and villages further north.
Iraq’s most senior Christian leader has declared that the US and the EU have a moral obligation to flush out jihadist forces from the Nineveh plains and enable communities to return to their ancestral homes. In a statement on Wednesday, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad calls on the US, European countries and Arab nations to join forces and reclaim ancient communities in Nineveh from Islamist fighters. He said outside intervention was necessary because the Iraq government in Baghdad
The UK head of a Catholic charity has hit out at the British Government for helping “to lay the foundations” for the rise of extremists in Iraq who have flushed out the last remaining Christians from Mosul after 1,600 years. Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said the UK’s response to uprisings in the Middle East “has blown up in our face” and called on the Government to help form “an axis of moderation” in the region. He went on to warn that, unless action was taken, “before long” the UK could be in line
A "brutal" attack on nuns in Bangladesh – said to be the first of its kind in the country – has been condemned by the bishop of the diocese. Following reports that Sisters from the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions were violently assaulted, Bishop Sebastian Tudu of Dinajpur spoke to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need about the incident. The bishop reported that up to 60 armed men targeted the Catholic mission in Boldipukur on 7 July at 2am, attacking the presbytery, the convent and the hospital.
A bishop has warned that more Sudanese Christians could suffer severe violations of human rights – like Mariam Ibrahim – stating that their legal protection in the country has been taken away. Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio, in neighbouring South Sudan, described the "worrying" legal situation of Christians since his country seceded from Sudan in July 2011. Stressing concerns for fellow clergy in particular, Bishop Hiiboro said: "In Sudan bishops and priests have been living de facto as illegals since
The Church in Iraq is on the brink of disappearing into obscurity, according to the country's leading bishop, who says the migration of Christians has shot up. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad described how the rate of Christians leaving Iraq was growing and went on to raise the spectre of Christianity in Iraq coming "to an end". In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need given at the close of a Synod of Chaldean bishops held in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan,
...Bishop Sirop said: “We fear a civil war. If the various different opposing internal parties do not succeed in finding an agreement, then we must expect the worst. Another war would mean the end, especially for us Christians.”.. Echoing concerns about international military intervention made on Monday by Latin-rite Catholic Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad, Bishop Sirop called for diplomatic pressure – especially from the USA – to reach an accord between the leaders of Iraq, Sunni and Shi‘a in particular.
Tributes have been pouring in to Dutch Jesuit Fr Francs van der Lugt who was killed yesterday in the besieged city of Homs. Fr Francs was shot twice in the head by an unknown sniper while he tended his small garden. Speaking from Syria, fellow Jesuit Fr Ziad Hillal explained that Fr Francs had been looking after a group of Christians trapped in the Old City who were sheltering in an old monastery. Several had managed to leave during a truce but 20 or more were still left and he had remained to take care of those who could not leave.
Farm Street Jesuit Church in central London is hosting a new Syria Shrine at its Seven Dolours Altar to pray for peace in Syria, for its many refugees, and for Italian Jesuit Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio SJ. Fr Dall’Oglio, who has been involved in reconciliation ministry in Syria for more than three decades, has been missing since July 2013. On Tuesday 8 April Farm Street is hosting a Lenten Evening of Reflection and Witness to raise awareness and funds for the Syrian refugee relief project through Aid to the Church in Need.
Entire communities in South Sudan are at risk of starvation, according to a Church leader, who says fighting continues despite the ceasefire. Monsignor Roko Taban Mousa said vast numbers of people are "in urgent need" across his diocese of Malakal which covers Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states, scenes of some of the worst fighting between government forces and rebel groups. Speaking on 13 February from South Sudan in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Mgr Taban warned of mass famine if aid – particularly food – is not sent quickly.
The brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Ukraine is acting as a recruiting sergeant for the protest movement, according to a bishop, who described the country as engaged "in a battle for dignity". Bishop Borys Gudziak, Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Paris, defended protestors on the streets coming under fire from government forces, but repeated calls that they do not take up arms.... Bishop Gudziak spoke out against the violent security response to the demonstrations, describing protestors as prayerful and non-violent.
Islamist groups have killed and beheaded a young Christian man, seriously wounding another. The incident, which occurred on 8 January, has just been reported to Fides by a priest in the diocese of Homs. The two, Firas Nader, 29, and Fadi Matanius Mattah, 34, were traveling by car from Homs to the Christian village of Marmarita. A group of five armed jihadists intercepted the vehicle and opened fire on the car. Upon reaching the car, militiamen, noting that Fadi was wearing a cross around his neck, beheaded him.
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Egypt's Coptic Christians had reason to be of good cheer this Christmas after early reports showed that their festive celebrations passed off without incident – unlike in previous years. Government security was tight at St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, in Alexandria and other high-profile churches during the liturgies marking Christmas, which in the Coptic rite fell on Tuesday (7 January). Turnout was higher than normal at the liturgies which went ahead as normal in contrast to previous years,
The Sacred Heart Fathers' mission station in Bouar in the north of the Central African Republic was attacked by Islamist rebels last Friday, 27 September. Sources in the country told Aid to the Church in Need, that Italian missionary Fr Beniamino Gusmeroli and locally born Deacon Martial Mengue were threatened by five armed men with Kalashnikovs, who tied up the clerics and gagged them with adhesive tape. The armed men, who were believed to be Sudanese, ransacked the rooms of the mission station taking money, cameras, computers and other items.
The situation in the Central African Republic is deteriorating dramatically – according to a Catholic missionary working in the country. Fr Aurelio Gazzera told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that “the situation is getting worse and worse” in the north-westerly Archdiocese of Bouar. The Italian Carmelite priest said: “Events have occurred thick and fast in recent days, and the aggressiveness of the rebels has increased.” Fr Gazzara reported that more than 3,500 houses have been burned down in Bohong and the bodies of those killed are still lying in the streets.
An urgent appeal opposing armed intervention in Syria, made by a Damascus-based Patriarch, was heard during a debate in the UK Houses of Parliament. Speaking in the House of Lords on Thursday, 29 August, Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury quoted Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III who said that armed intervention by the West in Syria would only "fuel" violence and unrest. The Patriarch had made his comments in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, stressing that, in spite of the growing conflict, reconciliation initiatives were still viable.
The leader of Catholic Copts has called on the world to pray for peace in Egypt amid growing tensions as millions throng the streets in rival protests. Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Sidrak of Alexandria highlighted the growing crisis and unrest across the country in the build-up to a weekend of demonstrations marking one year since Mohammed Morsi became the country's first Islamist president. With protests already attracting nearly three million people and signs that the numbers will dwarf
Churches and mission stations are being looted, destroyed and pillaged by militia soldiers directly under the Central African Republic's new government. Sources in the country told Aid to the Church in Need that a number of Christians have been killed or wounded in attacks by Islamist rebel group Séléka which seized control of the country in March. Attacks include the pillaging of the Holy Ghost Fathers' motherhouse by armed gunmen on the night of 25 March and the abduction of Fr Dieu-Béni Banga, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Bangui, and Fr Francis
Syrian Christians who fled their homeland were among those at a Mass asking Our Lady's intercession for peace in the country. Up to 150 people attended the Mass for Syria held at St Paul's Church, Ayr, at 7pm on Monday, 13 May. Parish priest, Fr Gerald Donnelly presided at the Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and Bishop John Cunningham of Galloway concelebrated.
Describing a conversation with a Syrian Christian now living in Scotland after Mass, Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said the ongoing problems
An urgent appeal for the release of two archbishops kidnapped in Syria is being announced today (Tuesday) by a leading charity for persecuted Christians. Syrian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi were seized yesterday (Monday, 22 April), while driving back to the city from the Turkish border. The prelates were kidnapped after trying to negotiate the release of abducted priests. Fathers Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox)
Iraq’s most senior Catholic leader has said that security is urgently needed to stem the tide of Christians continuing to flee the country. Assessing the situation for Christians in Iraq, Patriarch Raphael I Sako of the Chaldean Church told Aid to the Church in Need that Christians are continuing to leave for a number of reasons – but the key factor is the lack of security. The patriarch, who was elected on 31 January, said: “They are leaving the country because there is no stability. Another reason is the rise of fundamentalism.
The Catholic Church in Egypt has issued a stinging critique of the country’s president, accusing him of cynical manipulation of the people, and an act of gross incompetence which caused more than 50 deaths. Speaking as spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Egypt, Fr Antoine Rafic Greiche accused Mohammed Morsi of failing to foresee the need for significant security in protests that turned ugly last weekend. He went on to condemn the Islamist leader’s initiatives to dialogue with the people, indicating that the discussions’ primary purpose was to
Emergenciy food and medicine is being sent to hundreds of stricken families in Mali who have fled their homes to escape the fighting. Young children are already reported to be suffering from malnutrition. A grant, totalling £34,000 was announced by Aid to the Church in Need on Friday, is being administered by Mopti Catholic diocese, southern Mali, a region where thousands of people have been displaced by war in the land-locked west Saharan country.
The difficulties facing Christians in Israel and Palestine have helped bind them together and break down divisions between the Churches – according to the new ambassador representing the Pope. Speaking at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18 – 25 January), Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, the Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, described marked improvements in ecumenical relations over the past 30 years.
Christmas in Bethlehem this year will be especially joyful for local Christians who – according to their bishop – have hailed the United Nations' recognition of the state of Palestine as a “victory”. Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem stressed that the morale of Palestinians – both Christians and Muslims – was boosted by last month’s ‘status upgrade’ for Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly. A motion changing Palestine’s “entity” status to a “non-member state
The international community stands accused of fuelling a humanitarian crisis engulfing the heart of Africa – according to a leading bishop. Bishop Bernard Kasanda of Mbuji-Mayi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) condemned the UN and world leaders, saying a failure to stop the advance of rebel militia group M23 is proving disastrous and apparent favouritism towards neighbouring Rwanda is proving highly divisive. Bishop Kasanda has criticised the international community for preventing M23 from capturing the eastern city of Goma – a move the UN says it was powerless to stop.
A young UK-based mother has given a powerful testimony of the suffering of close family and friends in Syria reeling from the savage murder of their parish priest. The young married woman with two daughters described how Christians and others in her native city of Qatana, south-west of the Syrian capital, Damascus, were being terrorised by extremists demanding they leave the country or risk being killed. Reporting on telephone conversations and other contact
Senior Catholic Church leaders from Nigeria and Syria yesterday told a Parliamentary event of the growing level of violence in their countries and the particular threat to Christians. They condemned the use of religion to justify violence and call on all communities – secular and state – to work together for peace and human rights, in particular religious freedom. Bishop Antoine Audo from Aleppo in Syria and Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria,
The head of a UK charity has echoed calls by the leader of Nigeria’s Catholics for the country’s government to redouble efforts to crackdown on Islamist terrorists. Neville Kyrke-Smith,UK national director of Aid to the Church in Need, said: “The government of Nigeria needs to take urgent action to stop the spiralling violence aimed at Christians and other vulnerable groups in the country. “Christians around the world are shocked and sickened by the repeated attacks which – according to the Nigerian government’s own statistics – have claimed the lives of more than 1,500 Christians.”
A Senior Russian Orthodox bishop has identified ways that the Orthodox and Catholic Churches can work together to respond to the challenges of materialism and consumerism. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, made the remarks at a meeting in Moscow with Johannes von Heereman,
Revelations about the scale of hate crimes against Christian women in Pakistan and Egypt are to be the subject of a meeting in parliament next week. At the briefing in the House of Commons next Tuesday (15 May), MPs and Peers will hear how Christian women in countries marked by religious persecution experience kidnapping, violence, rape,
Aid to the Church in Need has provided 250,000 rosaries for the faithful in Cuba to mark Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the island which begins today (Monday 26 March). ACN also gave 250,000 leaflets explaining how to pray the Rosary, 15,000 children's rosary booklets and 10,000 'prayer boxes' containing a rosary ring, a small bottle of holy water, a pocket crucifix and basic prayers.
Almost the entire Christian population of the Syrian city of Homs has fled violence and persecution – and Aid to the Church in Need is providing emergency aid to help them. The mass exodus of 50,000 or more people to villages and towns around the city comes amid reports that the homes of Christians in Homs have been attacked and seized by 'fanatics'.
The UK director of Aid to the Church in Need has said the authorities in Nigeria should step up action to stop the violence in the north, warning of yet more deaths. Neville Kyrke-Smith urged religious leaders – both Muslim and Christian – to dialogue and work for peace. He made his statement after a 24-hour wave of violence in which 30 people died in anti-Christian attacks
Christians in one corner of Iraq have trebled in number over the past 15 years according to a leading bishop who is grappling with an influx of people escaping persecution and oppression. The Christian population in Ankawa, a suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, has increased from just over 8,500 in the mid-1990s to more than 25,500 today. Of those, up to 1,500 have arrived within the last year alone.
The situation in Gaza is “unbearable” – amid ongoing aerial bombardments – according to church sources there. Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Father George Hernández, parish priest of Gaza’s Holy Family Church, said: “The need of the people and the humiliations that they must endure daily are unbearable.” Fr Hernández told ACN staff visiting Gaza as part of a project assessment trip that people there had been “repeatedly subjected to low-level flyovers and even bombardments by the Israeli Air Force”.
A leading Iraqi bishop has described how Christians in Iraq believe "there is no future" for them there but are afraid to flee abroad because of political uncertainty and crisis in neighbouring countries. Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in the Kurdish north of Iraq, described the people's shock after father of four Arakan Yacob, an Orthodox Christian, was shot dead
Plans for a university and a hospital in northern Iraq are being seen as 'symbols of hope', enabling Christians to build a future away from the violence and intimidation that have caused so many to flee the country. The two initiatives planned for Ankawa, a suburb of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, passed a crucial hurdle yesterday,
Christian and other minorities in Pakistan are being warned to be on their guard in the wake of the assassination of a leading politician and avoid doing anything that might incite violence. Auxiliary Bishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore described how across Pakistan people were “shocked and horrified” by the death of Salman Taseer, Governor of Pakistan’s Punjab Province.
Attacks on Christians in Iraq have escalated in recent weeks, with hundreds of families fleeing persecution in Mosul and Baghdad. Aid to the Church in Need is providing emergency aid which is being distributed by the Chaldean Sisters of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, like Sister Merna (pictured).
The last Burundian refugees in Tanzania are preparing to return home – ending an humanitarian crisis that began more than 30 years ago. Bishop Protase Rugambwa of Kigoma Diocese spoke of his hopes for the future after UN reports stated that Burundian refugees – who numbered half a million just a decade ago – have fallen to 36,000.
The most senior Catholic leader in the Middle East has said the future of the Church in the Holy Land is now in doubt unless fellow Christians around the world step up efforts to help them. Patriarch Fouad Twal said: "It seems that politicians are more afraid of peace than of war and they prefer to manage the conflict rather than solve it."