With a symbolic campaign entitled “CANDLES FOR PEACE IN SYRIA” the charity is hoping to highlight the existential drama facing Christians in Syria

In its current Christmas campaign, the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) will intensify its efforts on behalf of the various Christian communities in Syria.

The Christian presence in Syria is in grave danger of becoming a relic of the past. Before the beginning of the war Christians accounted for some 10% of the population, around 2.5 million people. As of today it is estimated that approximately only 700,000 remain, which would amount to between 3% and 4% of the population – although it is difficult to give precise figures at this stage.

This dramatic decline is a direct consequence of the humanitarian crisis sparked by the cruel civil war in Syria and subsequently aggravated by the open outright persecution of Christians at the hands of extremist groups such as Daesh /IS and Al-Qaeda.

ACN aims to finance emergency, reconstruction and pastoral assistance projects valued at a total 15 million Euros, and directed especially to the needs of children and young people:

1) Emergency: food, medicines, personal hygiene items, rental dues, electricity and fuel payments for displaced families

2) Reconstruction: private homes of refugee families that have returned as well as other essential structures in Christian towns and villages, such as churches and monasteries;

3) Pastoral: Basic subsistence support for priests and religious sisters, training programs and spiritual care, as well as post-trauma support programs.

4) School fees and scholarships for children and university students, school equipment and educational materials, milk and food supplements for babies and children aged three years and under as well as token Christmas gifts for over 15,000 children.

The campaign will be preceded by a symbolic action in which some 50,000 children from different Christian communities in six war-torn cities of the country (Damascus, Homs, Marmarita, Aleppo, Hassake, Tartous and Latakia) will light candles for peace.

 

Light a Candle for Pease in Syria

Light a Candle for Pease in Syria

 

“By means of this Christmas campaign, ACN hopes to offer consolation to Syrian Christians in the suffering they are going through, for peace still has not arrived everywhere in the country. At the same time we hope to touch the hearts of all people of goodwill and mobilise the world to help this Christian community in the Middle East and allow the Syrians to stay put in their ancient homeland“, explains Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive Chairman of ACN.

Meanwhile, many Christians in Syria have already expressed their gratitude for the planned campaign. The Greek Orthodox Bishop Demetrios Charbak of Banias, is one of the voices in this grateful choir: “We need to pray and stand together in order to be able to meet all the challenges that face us here in Syria. Candles for peace in Syria is a really beautiful and symbolic idea.”

 

Light a Candle for Pease in Syria

Light a Candle for Pease in Syria

 

The campaign will begin worldwide on the First Sunday of Advent. To mark its launch, the ACN foundation has organised various events, including a formal reception on the 3rd of December in Rome for ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, a direct link up via Skype with children in Syria taking part in the event Candles for peace, and a meeting at the European Parliament on 4 December, where testimonies will be given by two Syrian religious sisters who have been working with and supporting the country’s Christian communities throughout the eight years of the war and are now helping with the reconstruction programme.

ACN is a pontifical foundation which, thanks exclusively to the generous support of  private benefactors throughout the world, is able to support more than 5,000 projects each year, including persecuted Christians and other beneficiaries in greatest need in over 160 different countries. Since the Syrian war began in 2011, ACN has supported projects for a total of almost 29.5 million Euros in the country.

 

For more information about the campaign: syria.acninternational.org

To learn about the state of religious freedom in the world, see: religious-freedom-report.org

The extremely grave situation for priests in Venezuela continues to be one of the major concerns of the pontifical foundation ACN.

Yet another priest has been murdered in Venezuela in the wave of violence that has swept across the country. Father Irailuis García of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima was shot three times by intruders who stole his van in the grounds of his presbytery on Tuesday 9 July. His death was confirmed in a communiqué from the diocese of Barquisimeto, in the northeast of the country, which at the same time appealed for prayers for his soul.

Owing to the lack of reliable information, it is difficult to give an exact figure for the number of priests and religious who have been murdered since the outbreak of this terrible wave of violence in Venezuela. In March 2017 the Colombian Foreign Minister expressed his sadness at the murder of Colombian Father Diego Bedoya Castrillón, who was murdered in Aragua, Venezuela, during an attack on the convent of the religious community where he was staying. In 2016 Father Darwin Antonio Zambrano Gámez was murdered in a knife attack in the city of San Cristóbal, in the southeast of the country, during what was presumed to be a robbery while he was engaged in sporting activities. In September 2014 Father Reinaldo Alfonso Herrera Lures, a military chaplain to the Venezuelan Armed Forces, was the victim of a kidnapping and subsequent murder in September 2014. That same year, two Salesian brothers – Brother Luis Heriberto Sánchez, a lay brother and a priest, Father Jesús Erasmo Plaza – died of their wounds at the Don Bosco College in Valencia, Venezuela after being severely beaten during a robbery in the building.

Sources close to ACN likewise confirmed that at least three priests have died in the country since the beginning of 2017 for lack of vital medical assistance, while a further 10 have been forced to leave the country, having no other possibility of receiving treatment for their chronic medical conditions, including cancer and diabetes.

 

 

This extremely grave situation faced by priests in Venezuela at the present time continues to be a major cause of concern for the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which has launched aid appeals in a number of different countries.

Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo

Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo

For his part, Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala of Maracaibo, who is also president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, also expressed his concern at the situation in the country during a recent address to the ordinary assembly of the conference given on Saturday 7 July. “Following the presidential elections, which have generated more doubts than certainties, and given the present situation of the country, the people are asking a number of questions, such as: What are we going to do now? What is the path to be followed? And even down to one of the most frequently repeated statements: We are living without hope in the face of an unjust situation that is suffocating us… Faced by this situation, the people are speaking out, are hurting, raising their voices each day. Our people are speaking out. The thousands of protests that are taking place every day, even if they are not being reported in the media, are testimony to the great discontent that they feel at being subjected to arbitrary measures which characterise the system and point to the irrationality and incompetence of those who have the duty to take decisions in public matters. These protests point to the failure of a model that the people have been denouncing loudly and for many years.”

The international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) calls for an urgent campaign of prayer and support for Venezuela.

 

Faced with the tragic situations of conflict in various parts of the world, the Holy Father Pope Francis has called upon faithful Catholics to join in a special day of prayer and fasting for peace, this week on Friday 23 February, Friday of the first week of Lent. The Pope has also invited non-Catholics and non-Christians to join together with this initiative in whatever manner they deem most appropriate.
In his appeal, the Holy Father underlined, in particular, his concern for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and for South Sudan. Two African bishops, Bishop Timothy Bodika Mansiyai of Kikwit in the DRC, and Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of the Archdiocese of Khartoum in Sudan, spoke recently to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the crisis their people are suffering.
“The Holy Father knows well the tragic situation that both countries are going through”, the Congolese bishop remarked. “The Pope has a great desire to visit both places”, stated Bishop Bodika, “but he was forced to cancel both trips”. But “although he was unable to be physically present in our countries, he nonetheless accompanies us spiritually”.
During his visit to ACN’s international headquarters, Bishop Bodika expressed great gratitude towards Pope Francis, “who continues to closely follow the tense situation that the DRC is undergoing and the repression and abuses of which the priests, religious and lay Catholic Christians are victims. God hears the tears of his people.”
And indeed, the DR Congo is wracked by different conflicts. The struggle for the country’s mineral wealth for more than a decade has sparked a ruthless war in eastern Congo, to which the conflict in the central Kasai region has been added since 2016. And as if this were not bad enough, the country is also afflicted by “the general crisis due to the political tensions in relation to the general elections”.
In recent months the situation has further escalated, with peaceful demonstrations violently repressed by government armed forces, resulting in deaths and numerous injuries. Some of these protests were initiated by the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa and were simply calling for the accords of December 31, 2016 (the so-called Saint Sylvester Accords) to be respected and for the constitutional rotation of offices in the political institutions of the state.
Prayer and fasting for conversion of hearts
“The special day of prayer and fasting is a call for the conversion of hearts, of all our hearts, but also those of our politicians and leaders”, said Bishop Bodika. “They have forgotten that their duty should be to be at the service of the nation, not merely of a handful of people, while the rest of the community remains in poverty.” The people of Congo were “crying out in pain”, said the bishop, yet “It is a cry that the international community is not hearing”. In his own diocese of Kikwit alone the number of uprooted people now in need of care, with food, accommodation, healthcare and schooling, has already reached 30,000. “The diocese of Kikwit does not have the financial means to cope with this humanitarian emergency. And so far our petitions to the authorities and political organizations to help manage this crisis have not met with success”, Bishop Bodika complained.
Terror reigns in South Sudan
For his part, Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum in Sudan, emphasized to ACN the terrible situation in South Sudan. “The war there has created mass displacements in many parts of the land, and destruction in relation to the community and the family, with loss of respect for human dignity.”
Explaining the situation in the country, Bishop Adwok deplored the fact that “Terror reigns in South Sudan, with warriors, government and politicians grappling for power, positions and not minding the fate of the ordinary Southern Sudanese. The fact that until today no one knows – the government itself does not know – how many people died in South Sudan since the start of the war in December 2013 is indicative of how the value of the human person has become of no worth in South Sudan.
“No one keeps count and it looks as if those who died of violence, some of hunger and other mistreatments were ‘unfortunate’ – [as if] they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Referring to attackers targeting vulnerable groups in society, he said: “I know of some elderly people who could not physically run away from their homes but still met their death in the same home killed by people carrying arms.”
In addition to calling for a cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and for the blessing of peace, Bishop Adwok requested that during the day of prayer and fasting on 23 February people should also pray for the refugees and displaced, and especially for the young.
“Most of them are jobless and cannot continue with their education, and at the same time they are left alone to fend for themselves and in many cases to take care of their young siblings and relatives as well. The numerous challenges they face leave them feeling lonely, seeking cheap consolations and in many cases being drawn into groups linked to violence”, he explained.
31 wars and armed conflicts in 2017
The Holy Father’s appeal to pray for peace is a concrete response to the silent cry of so many victims all over the world. There were a total of 31 wars and armed conflicts during 2017, according to research conducted by the Group for the Investigation into the Causes of War based at the University of Hamburg in Germany.
The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, which supported the African continent in the form of almost 2000 projects and a total of over 24 million Euros during 2017, is inviting all its benefactors and co-workers to join together in the day of prayer and fasting next Friday, 23 February 2018.

Faced with the tragic situations of conflict in various parts of the world, the Holy Father Pope Francis has called upon faithful Catholics to join in a special day of prayer and fasting for peace, this week on Friday 23 February, Friday of the first week of Lent. The Pope has also invited non-Catholics and non-Christians to join together with this initiative in whatever manner they deem most appropriate.
In his appeal, the Holy Father underlined, in particular, his concern for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and for South Sudan. Two African bishops, Bishop Timothy Bodika Mansiyai of Kikwit in the DRC, and Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of the Archdiocese of Khartoum in Sudan, spoke recently to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the crisis their people are suffering.
“The Holy Father knows well the tragic situation that both countries are going through”, the Congolese bishop remarked. “The Pope has a great desire to visit both places”, stated Bishop Bodika, “but he was forced to cancel both trips”. But “although he was unable to be physically present in our countries, he nonetheless accompanies us spiritually”.
During his visit to ACN’s international headquarters, Bishop Bodika expressed great gratitude towards Pope Francis, “who continues to closely follow the tense situation that the DRC is undergoing and the repression and abuses of which the priests, religious and lay Catholic Christians are victims. God hears the tears of his people.”
And indeed, the DR Congo is wracked by different conflicts. The struggle for the country’s mineral wealth for more than a decade has sparked a ruthless war in eastern Congo, to which the conflict in the central Kasai region has been added since 2016. And as if this were not bad enough, the country is also afflicted by “the general crisis due to the political tensions in relation to the general elections”.
In recent months the situation has further escalated, with peaceful demonstrations violently repressed by government armed forces, resulting in deaths and numerous injuries. Some of these protests were initiated by the Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa and were simply calling for the accords of December 31, 2016 (the so-called Saint Sylvester Accords) to be respected and for the constitutional rotation of offices in the political institutions of the state.
Prayer and fasting for conversion of hearts
“The special day of prayer and fasting is a call for the conversion of hearts, of all our hearts, but also those of our politicians and leaders”, said Bishop Bodika. “They have forgotten that their duty should be to be at the service of the nation, not merely of a handful of people, while the rest of the community remains in poverty.” The people of Congo were “crying out in pain”, said the bishop, yet “It is a cry that the international community is not hearing”. In his own diocese of Kikwit alone the number of uprooted people now in need of care, with food, accommodation, healthcare and schooling, has already reached 30,000. “The diocese of Kikwit does not have the financial means to cope with this humanitarian emergency. And so far our petitions to the authorities and political organizations to help manage this crisis have not met with success”, Bishop Bodika complained.
Terror reigns in South Sudan
For his part, Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum in Sudan, emphasized to ACN the terrible situation in South Sudan. “The war there has created mass displacements in many parts of the land, and destruction in relation to the community and the family, with loss of respect for human dignity.”
Explaining the situation in the country, Bishop Adwok deplored the fact that “Terror reigns in South Sudan, with warriors, government and politicians grappling for power, positions and not minding the fate of the ordinary Southern Sudanese. The fact that until today no one knows – the government itself does not know – how many people died in South Sudan since the start of the war in December 2013 is indicative of how the value of the human person has become of no worth in South Sudan.
“No one keeps count and it looks as if those who died of violence, some of hunger and other mistreatments were ‘unfortunate’ – [as if] they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Referring to attackers targeting vulnerable groups in society, he said: “I know of some elderly people who could not physically run away from their homes but still met their death in the same home killed by people carrying arms.”
In addition to calling for a cessation of hostilities in South Sudan and for the blessing of peace, Bishop Adwok requested that during the day of prayer and fasting on 23 February people should also pray for the refugees and displaced, and especially for the young.
“Most of them are jobless and cannot continue with their education, and at the same time they are left alone to fend for themselves and in many cases to take care of their young siblings and relatives as well. The numerous challenges they face leave them feeling lonely, seeking cheap consolations and in many cases being drawn into groups linked to violence”, he explained.
31 wars and armed conflicts in 2017
The Holy Father’s appeal to pray for peace is a concrete response to the silent cry of so many victims all over the world. There were a total of 31 wars and armed conflicts during 2017, according to research conducted by the Group for the Investigation into the Causes of War based at the University of Hamburg in Germany.
The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, which supported the African continent in the form of almost 2000 projects and a total of over 24 million Euros during 2017, is inviting all its benefactors and co-workers to join together in the day of prayer and fasting next Friday, 23 February 2018.

Lord and God,

Hear today the cry of your children, now scattered to the four winds and forced to seek shelter in foreign lands. Hear the prayers of your people on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, in the land of Abraham, who since the beginnings of Christianity have not ceased to praise and glorify your Name.

Throughout the centuries no day has passed there on which the Holy Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of your Son was not celebrated. Without interruption, the sound of the bells and the singing of their hymns have risen up to you, together with the smoke of the incense that was offered in your Name.

Yet now this sacrifice of praise has become for many a Way of the Cross on which for your Name’s sake they have been driven from their homes and robbed of their possessions and their happiness. For the sake of your Name many have even shed their blood. Their sacrifice has become one with the Sacrifice of your Son on Golgotha. The persecutors, with their guns and their their raging violence, seemed to have triumphed; death and mourning seemed to have had the last word. It seemed as though their end had come.

Yet today, Lord of history and Shepherd of your people, the hour of liberation has come. Those who desecrated your sanctuary, who destroyed the crosses and sacred images, who persecuted and expelled your faithful, are now gone.

Grant your people now the grace of returning to those places where the tree of their life is deeply rooted. Grant that this tree may bear fruits of peace and enable your people to restore the honour of your Name in those places you gave to them and to their ancestors, and preserve this land for future generations also, so that the praise of your Name may never cease in their churches and in their families.

We ask you this, O God, lover of mankind, through the intercession of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, of the martyrs of the Niniveh Plain and of all who have borne witness to you by their blood. Amen.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT Aid to the Church in Need, VISIT http://www.churchinneed.org
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ABOUT US

Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 5000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.