From 1989 through till 2003 Liberia went through one of the bloodiest civil wars on the African continent. To this day this West African nation has still not fully recovered from it. More than two thirds of the country‘s almost 5 million population still have little faith in a lasting peace. One reason for this, among many others, is the fact that to this day there have been no prosecutions of the known war criminals. All levels of social life are vitiated by a feeling of profound mistrust. „More than the infrastructure, it was our souls that were destroyed“, says Father Dennis Nimene, the secretary general of the Liberian Catholic bishops‘ conference.
Father Dennis Nimene, the secretary general of the Liberian Catholic bishops‘ conference.
For the Church too the aftermath of the war has been a great challenge. For although – after the end of the war and the subsequent Ebola crisis – various trauma recovery programmes were offered to people, she knows that it is the spiritual dimension that is above all important, and especially for her priests. Consequently, the bishops are hoping to offer spiritual retreats and recovery times for her priests during the current year 2019, so that they in turn can find the serenity to better help the laity.
Accordingly, this year 25 priests from the diocese of Cape Palmas will be given an opportunity to recharge their spiritual batteries and find new strength in God, also sharing their problems and experiences with one another so that they can take new ideas back to their home parishes. ACN is supporting these retreats with a contribution of 4600 Euros. This represents 184 Euros for each priest, to cover travel costs, board and lodging. A small investment indeed, but one that will have a big impact.
200 civilians killed, 20,000 IDPs, 70 communities raided and 40 schools closed
The Diocese of Buea has been seriously affected by the worsening socio-political crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, both Anglophone regions of the country. This is the conclusion reached by the international foundation Aid to the Church in Need after consulting sources close to the local Church in the area.
According to the information received by, there are more than 20,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within the Diocese. Since the crisis began to escalate in November 2016 over eight localities or communities have been burned down, 70 raided and 25 abandoned forcing the inhabitants to seek refuge in farms and bushes. Based on statistics and estimates of local and international Human Rights organizations, more than 200 civilians (not only Catholics) have been killed, including children and women, within the Diocese.
This sociopolitical crisis has resulted in severe consequences for the pastoral life of the Church as well, which has been seriously disrupted. About 10 parishes and mission stations, especially within the Muyuka and Muea Deaneries, were forced to suspend their pastoral work. Some other parishes have been attacked during fighting between government security forces and pro-independence fighters, such as Bolifamba (Mile 16) on 24 December 2018 or Muyuka, Ekona and Muea on 25 March 2019.
The lives of priests have also been threatened. The brutal killing of Rev. Father Alexander Sob of Bomaka Parish on 20 July 2018 in Muyuka remains a true reminder of the risk faced by the clergy in the present context, states the ACN’s sources.
Map of Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis from 2018.
Not only the pastoral work but also the educational activities promoted by the diocese are suffering the consequences of the crisis. 40 Catholic primary schools have been closed since 2016. Others have been attacked and vandalized, like Our Lady of Grace College in Muyuka and Our Lady Mount Carmel College in Muea, on 22 September 2017. This was followed by an attack by armed civilians on the iconic St. Joseph’s College Sasse in Buea. About 20 people, including students and teachers, were injured in the attack, which forced the temporary closure of Catholic colleges in the diocese.
On the other hand diocesan medical centers such as Mt. Mary Hospital Buea and Regina Pacis Hospital Muntengene have witnessed a drastic fall in the number of patients. This has been largely due to the mass exodus of people to other areas. ACN’s information reports that situations have been observed in which state security forces have entered Catholic medical centers with firearms in search of suspected pro- independence fighters undergoing treatment. There have been cases of women giving birth with no medical attention.
In addition, sources predict severe food shortages and rising prices due to the fact that farmers are forced to leave their villages and farmland. Threats to food security, malnutrition and other health-related problems will be inevitable in the near future.
The current crisis began to escalate in the Diocese in October 2016 when Cameroon’s security/defense forces used live ammunition during protests by the population of the Anglophone regions in the southwest and northwest of the country, who felt marginalized by the majority French-speaking authorities. They accuse them of imposing the French language and traditions on them and demand greater autonomy and respect for their customs.
According to ACN, in the face of all these challenges, the clergy and the faithful continue to show perseverance and great faith in observing their pastoral commitments. The massive participation during big celebrations, such as Chrism Mass 2019 at the Cathedral in Small Soppo in Buea, is a clear testament to this.
Aid to the Church in Need has supported in the Diocese of Buea more than 20 projects in the last 25 years. In 2019 most of ACN’s help was dedicated to female religious congregations affected by the crisis.
The Daughters of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple are an Italian congregation, founded in the 19th century. Their particular mission is the care of children and young girls, and the congregation is present today in Italy, India, Djibouti and Somalia, running schools, boarding schools, orphanages and leprosy centres and also caring for the elderly.
The Daughters of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple are an Italian congregation, founded in the 19th century.
In India for example, in the town of Dhabhagudam in the diocese of Eluru, the sisters run a boarding school where they teach between 140 and 150 children from the remote villages of the jungle region. For children such as these, this is the only way they can possibly attend school. The people of the region are extremely poor, often working as day labourers and living precariously from hand to mouth. Very few of them can even read or write, and alcohol abuse is widespread, causing devastation to the lives of many families. The children too would be condemned to an equally precarious existence but for the presence of the sisters, who have given them the opportunity to attend school and learn. The fruits of their apostolate are very evident, with falling illiteracy rates, less child labour and a decrease in the number of child marriages. All in all, the awareness is increasingly gaining ground among the people that education is the key to a better future, at least for their children.
India: a new water well for a boarding school run by Italian sisters in the diocese of Eluru.
The sisters had a problem, however. Their one and only water supply was being used not only by themselves and the boarding school but also by the surrounding population, and above all by elderly people from the neighbourhood who were dependent on the sisters‘ water supply, leading to a situation that was becoming increasingly problematic. Now, thanks to our generous benefactors, we were able to provide 7700 Euros to provide the sisters with an additional water supply. They send their heartfelt thanks to you all.
Despite her 88 years, Sister Halina does not just sit around twiddling her thumbs. She has surely earned the right to do so, after a long life of daily service on behalf of the poor. And yet she continues to this day, tirelessly visiting the sick and sewing quilts and pillowcases for newborn babies. And her equally elderly fellow sisters also still want to make themselves useful – listening to and counselling those who come to them for advice, helping children with their homework and comforting the sick and needy. Some of them even continue to instruct and give talks.
Brazil. Support for 12 elderly and infirm religious sisters.
The sisters are delighted to see that there are many young women who also wish to join their congregation. At the same time, however, seven of their elderly sisters are already in need of constant care, while another five are very advanced in age. Since the congregation has very limited sources of income, we help every year for the most elderly and infirm, with a contribution to the cost of their care and support. This year we are giving 4,600 Euros.
An average age of 41 is something that most convents in the West can only dream of. But the Poor Clare Sisters in Brestovsko in Bosnia and Herzegovina are indeed still young. Only one of them is aged over 60, and the two youngest are just 24 and 26 respectively. The convent was founded in 1989, immediately after the collapse of communism in the country, at a time when the old Yugoslavia still existed. Four religious sisters came from Split, now part of Croatia, to establish a new convent in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina
Today there are seven sisters in the convent. They live a life of poverty and seclusion and ceaseless prayer. They grow their own vegetables in the convent garden and in order to support themselves they bake hosts and sew Mass vestments for the diocese. But even then, the little they earn is not enough to cover even their own very modest needs. Above all, their healthcare is a heavy financial burden for them.
Existence aid for 8 contemplative of the clarissian sisters in Brestovsko.
ACN has always given special priority to the support of the contemplative religious, who pray in quiet seclusion for the needs of the Church and of the whole world – even though they are widely disregarded by many people today, who see them as doing „nothing useful“ in society. But Father Werenfried van Straaten, the founder of ACN, knew better and has found beautiful imagery with which to describe their hidden ministry. He compares them with „Pure snow, high in the mountains in the sunlight of God‘s love. Snow that melts, disappears and is seemingly useless. But see! Little rivulets come rushing down, growing broader, merging together into foaming torrents, into waterfalls which drive power stations, machines, factories and entire industries, conjuring sparkling seas of light and flowing on, transforming arid plains into fertile fields and filling a grey world with trees, plants, grain, flowers, fruit and beauty, and carrying shiploads of food and everything else needed for a life of human dignity to distant shores…“ This, he adds, „is the essence of all contemplative life, of all resting quietly in the presence of God, all loving listening to the Word of God.“
Every year we provide a small sum for the support of the sisters in Brestovsko, and the 2,100 Euros we are sending this year is no exception. Rest assured that these sisters are praying for everyone who is helping them!
Bolivia has long been the poorest country on the South American continent. And even though the economic situation has slightly improved recently, there has been little sign of any benefit for large sections of the population. All this applies equally to the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia‘s fourth-largest city. For although it has grown to become an industrial centre, nevertheless many of its inhabitants continue to live in deep poverty, and at the same time the continuing flight from the rural areas has led to more and more people flocking into the city.
Sister Griselda with the children of the school “Nuestra Señora de Urkupiña”.
The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart have been working since 2005 in two parishes in Quillacollo, a western suburb of Cochabamba. Unlike the Discalced Carmelites, their better-known sister congregation, which is an enclosed, contemplative congregation founded by Saint Teresa of Avila, the Carmelites of the Sacred Heart are an active religious community. The five Carmelites in Cochabamba have opened up an educational centre for children, young people and women, where among other things they offer literacy courses and teach the women basic skills with which they can earn a living and support themselves and their families. They also prepare the children for their First Holy Communion, accompany the children, young people and adults on their path of faith, organise retreat days and – in an area where there are very few priests and the parishes very large – they play a vital role in spreading the Catholic faith. They also support and counsel women who are victims of domestic violence.
The sisters have turned to ACN for support for their life and ministry, since by themselves they cannot make ends meet. They also have to find money for transport, medical provision and so forth, as well as for their own general upkeep. We have promised them 2,170 Euros.