Catholic News in Africa – Middle East

Freetown, Sierra Leone, Aug 16, 2017 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A massive mudslide in Sierra Leone’s capital city has left hundreds dead and thousands homeless, with relief agencies hurrying to respond.

“There are people whose entire families have gone missing. There is a real sense of despair. Right now, people are in a complete state of shock,” said Idalia Amaya, deputy head of programs and emergency response coordinator for Catholic Relief Services.

“The devastation is like nothing we’ve seen before. Entire neighborhoods have been washed away,” she added.

More than 600 people are missing and at least 300 are dead after a massive mudslide early Monday morning in Freetown. Some bodies were swept into the sea. The death toll has overwhelmed some mortuaries.

Thousands more people have lost their homes, as well as family members.

“I ran away from the house, leaving behind my family,” a grieving survivor, Fatmata Kamara told The Associated Press. “I am the only one that has survived, as my house and dozens of others were covered with mud and boulders.”

Heavy rains appeared to have triggered the disaster on the hillside.

Rescuers dug in the thick mud with their bare hands to try to find survivors.

An estimated 9,000 people were affected.

Abdul Nasir, program coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, described the disaster: “A river of mud came out of nowhere and swallowed entire communities, just wiped them away.”

“We are racing against time, more flooding and the risk of disease to help these affected communities survive and cope with their loss,” he warned.

To provide immediate aid, Catholic Relief Services will give food, water, and mattresses to survivors. The agency will support the government and religious leaders by providing dignified burials for the deceased, including burial teams and grave diggers.

The teams’ members took part in Catholic Relief Services’ Ebola response in 2014.

Amaya, the CRS emergency response coordinator, reflected on the situation in the country.

“People here have already experienced so much trauma having lived through war and then Ebola, and now this,” she said. “But at the same time, people from Sierra Leone are incredibly resilient and I know that with the proper support they will overcome this latest tragedy.”

Posted: August 16, 2017, 5:08 pm

Lilongwe, Malawi, Aug 12, 2017 / 04:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Divorce rates in Malawi have increased in the past few years, leading the local Catholic Church to emphasize the importance of family life and marriage preparation.

“The family is under attack by many influences which the church must take seriously and address them,” said Bishop Peter Musikuwa of Chikwawa, in an interview with The Nation at the first National Family Conference.

“These days, there is an increase in the number of divorce cases because our youth are getting married before they are fully prepared.”

The Nation found that 722 divorce petitions were filed at the Senior Resident Magistrate and the Chief Resident Magistrate in the capital city of Lilongwe from January-October in 2015.

These months averaged 72 divorces per month, compared to just under 40 monthly divorce petitions in early 2014.

At the conference, the bishops said the threats to marriage are a concern for the Malawi Church, noting pressures like new technologies, poverty, a lack of respect for the Church’s view on marriage, and especially a lack of adequate marriage preparation.

“What happens at the end is that they think divorce is the solution when they encounter challenges…we are happy that for the first time ever, we have had this conference on families because some solutions to the challenges will be found.”

With the theme “Love is our Mission,” the Episcopal Conference of Malawi held the country’s first National Family Conference August 4-6. Including Mass and discussions on a healthy family life, the conference was able to address common challenges in married life with a spiritual emphasis.

 

Posted: August 12, 2017, 10:23 am

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Aug 11, 2017 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A deadly cholera outbreak in Yemen could continue indefinitely without an end to the civil war, says a bishop in the region who has pleaded for the faithful to pray and for an end to arms sales to the parties.

“As I believe in the power of prayer, I can only ask the faithful around the world, to keep in mind the suffering people in Yemen – Muslims as well as the few remaining Christians, including the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa.” Bishop Paul Hinder told CNA Aug. 8.

Bishop Hinder heads the Abu Dhabi-based Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, which serves Catholics in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen.

The Church in Yemen is “a tiny group without any structure” that can do little in the face of the situation, he said.

A cholera outbreak provoked by the war has infected a suspected 350,000 people, with over 1,800 people dying from the disease. Over 600,000 could be infected by the end of the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross has said.

The latest outbreak began in April. Within a few hours of infection, the disease causes vomiting and diarrhea, leading to severe dehydration that can be deadly without rapid intervention. At the same time, most cases can be treated with simple rehydration treatments.

Even simple treatments are hard to come by.

 

#Yemen #Cholera update: 474K suspected cases & 1'953 deaths. For the 1st time in 2 months, weekly cases dipped below the 40K mark. Good news

— Robert Mardini (@RMardiniICRC) August 9, 2017  

More than 3 million people have been displaced since the conflict began in March 2015. Over 20 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.

Revenue shortfalls mean 1 million civil servants, including 30,000 medical staffers, have gone unpaid since September. About 45 percent of the country’s hospitals are operating, and only 30 percent of the needed medical supplies can reach the country.

Bishop Hinder stressed the difficulties the war is causing.

“We all should know that the blockade of the country hinders the reconstruction of the destroyed sanitary system in the country,” he said. “As long as the minimal infrastructure in many parts of the country is not functioning, we cannot expect that the cholera can be stopped, other sick people get the proper treatment, and the starving people be fed properly.”

“Whatever help is possible through the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and other reliable channels remains limited as long as sufficient security is not guaranteed,” he added.

The Yemeni civil war involves the internationally recognized government, and its Saudi-led coalition allies, fighting Shiite Houthi rebels.

“We have to keep in mind that in the Yemen conflict there are no pure angels on one side and pure devils on the other,” Bishop Hinder continued. “Without bringing people again around the table and getting to a cease-fire, there will be only killing and destruction with disastrous consequences for the civilian population and the country as a whole.”

“I think that the people in the so-called West should be aware that their powers are not innocent in what is going on in Yemen,” he said. “The deal of the present U.S. administration with Saudi Arabia regarding weapons will not help to make peace.”

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, similarly stressed that countering the outbreak depends on peace.

“The great tragedy is that this cholera outbreak is a preventable, man-made humanitarian catastrophe. It is a direct consequence of a conflict that has devastated civilian infrastructure and brought the whole health system to its knees,” Maurer said July 23. "Further deaths can be prevented, but warring parties must ease restrictions and allow the import of medicines, food and essential supplies and they must show restraint in the way they conduct warfare.”

U.N. agencies were caught by surprise at how fast the disease spread, George Khoury, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen, told the Associated Press. After an initial mild outbreak in October appeared to have ended, funds had been cut and health monitors put their attention elsewhere.

“It’s a cholera paradise,” Khoury said. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

In March 2016 an attack on a Missionaries of Charity house in Aden left four sisters dead. The attackers kidnapped Indian-born Salesian priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil. The priest’s whereabouts are not known, and no groups have claimed responsibility for his capture. An unauthenticated video posted to YouTube in May of this year showed him with a sign dated April 15, 2017. He appeared thin, with overgrown hair and a beard.

The priest appealed for his release and claimed his health was rapidly deteriorating.

Posted: August 11, 2017, 10:42 pm

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 11, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Syrian city of Aleppo lost over half its Christian population during the conflict among government forces and various rebel groups, its Melkite archbishop is determined to rebuild from the ashes.
 

“Dear friends, I am determined now, more than ever – and like I have never done before – to apply myself and to act in order to restore the Christian prestige of our ancestral city, Aleppo, pearl of the East and the West, cradle of the civilizations and Christianity, the birthplace of cultures,” Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo said at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention Aug. 2.

“I am determined more than ever to stand by our young people in that devastated place to help them rebuild what was destroyed and recover what was lost,” he said.

Archbishop Jeanbart addressed Knights from all over the world at the organization’s 135th Supreme Convention in St. Louis. The see of his archdiocese has been decimated in the more than six year-long Syrian civil war, culminating in the final push of pro-government forces to take back the city from rebel forces, which they successfully did in December.

However, the conflict resulted in horrific civilian casualties, with reports of atrocities like the bombing of hospitals and chemical gas attacks. Over half the Christians have left Aleppo because of the fighting, Archbishop Jeanbart said, and he expects only around one-quarter of those to return.

Civilians who remained in the city were at risk of starvation, and a UN humanitarian convoy was bombed by pro-government aircraft in September in the Aleppo area. Rebel groups also reportedly hid stockpiles of food while other civilians suffered from want of food.

“The game of the nations in that part of the world and the tough confrontations of many powerful countries, induced us in a terrible turmoil and has transformed our peaceful region into a battlefield, where mercy and pity have nothing to offer at all,” Archbishop Jeanbart said.

“When you go to my place and look around, you do not see but demolitions, human tragedies, tears and sorrow.”

The Syrian government has gained hold of around 75 percent of the country, the archbishop told CNA in an interview after his address. Large cities like Aleppo have been “freed” from infiltration of terror groups like the Islamic State, a relief to Christians who were targeted by Islamic State for genocide.

On May 13, the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Aleppo was consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima in a Mass said in St. Francis of Assisi Roman Rite Cathedral, concelebrated by bishops and priests of the city.

After the conflict ends and Syria is rebuilt, Christians must be considered full citizens and entitled to all the rights that are entailed therein, the archbishop said.

“What we want is to be considered as citizens, that we may have all the rights, give us what all the human rights give us,” he said. “We want to have full citizenship, with all the duties, but also all the rights.”

The fundamentalism and fanaticism that could threaten this freedom of religion must be extinguished, he said in his address to the Knights. Good education for the youth and the rebuilding of homes and hospitals must also be accomplished to ensure a sound future for Syria, he said.

More than 330,000 have perished in the Syrian civil war, 5 million refugees have fled the country, and over 6 million are displaced within the country. In addition, more than 4million people are in “besieged or hard to reach areas,” the UN has reported.

Yet amid the death and destruction in Aleppo, Archbishop Jeanbart still has hope for the rebuilding of Syria.

“Yes I think that it will be possible if we say ‘No’ to despair, to nonchalance and indifference,” he said.

“Many reasons permit us to say that we have great hope and that success is possible. We have proven in the past that we are determined citizens and capable workers and in these last years we have shown that we are able to surmount obstacles and face adversity with courage.”

In addition, past examples of groups like the Knights of Columbus coming to the aid of the Syrian people give hope that the country can be rebuilt, he said. The “Build to Stay” project has already produced good results, he said, and 580 apartments have been restored and over 100 long-term interest-free loans have been issued for men to start small businesses.

“This has given comfort to many faithful, employment to some hundred people and a new sense of confidence to a good number of Christians living in the city,” he said.

The archbishop has also publicized the motto “Aleppo is waiting for you,” for Christians who have left and are weighing return.

For those who have inquired about returning, “if this trend continues and gets stronger, we can hope that the bloodletting – and the exodus of so many Christians – that has been threatening us can stop, so that we can help people live in their beloved country,” he said.

“We will continue to work hard on this, with the help of God and the support of those like the Knights of Columbus who wish us well and want us to  stay where we are, were we belong, where the long history of the Church began!”

Posted: August 11, 2017, 6:03 am

Erbil, Iraq, Aug 9, 2017 / 04:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After three years in exile from Iraq's Nineveh Plain while it was occupied by the Islamic State, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena are returning to their homeland to face the daunting challenge of rebuilding their destroyed communities.

“Three years ago, we left our homes at night to the unknown. We started a journey of displacement, exile and questioning,” stated an Aug. 6 open letter from the Dominican Sisters in Erbil.

“Despite everything, we always dreamed of going back and finding our houses safe and sound, just as we left them. We strongly wished that we would return and kindle our candles for prayers, harvest our grapes, and read our books,” the letter continued.

In 2014, the Nineveh Plain was overtaken by the Islamic State, forcing tens of thousands into exile and displacement. The Nineveh Plain territory lies between the city of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, and Iraqi Kurdistan.

In the fall of 2016, two years after the Islamic State claimed the Nineveh territory, Iraqi forces made significant military gains and liberated the Nineveh Plain. Many scattered families were able to return to their towns with hope for the future.

“God showered us with His graces as our towns were liberated, one after the other; ISIS was defeated and the Plain of Nineveh seems to have been liberated,” the Dominican Sisters wrote.

While the territory is now seemingly safe from Islamic State forces, the Sisters said that it “does not mean that the Plain of Nineveh is entirely cleansed from that mentality.”

Upon returning to their homes, many found graffiti on the walls in their towns that read “we’re going to break your crosses,” and “you have no place with us.” Some churches were found to have battle instructions etched on the walls, with piles of deadly chemicals in the corners.

In addition, the physical damage left behind is overwhelming. Upwards of 6,000 homes are in need of repair or complete rebuilding just in the city of Bakhdida, also known as Qaraqosh. The families who still have standing houses are few and far between.

“We were so much stunned by the damage we saw. It was badly painful to see all that overwhelming destruction,” the sisters said.

“We immediately realized that it was not military forces or smart weapons that caused all the damage, but hate,” the sisters wrote, saying “hate leaves both oppressed and oppressor deeply winded.”

Some towns, such as Batnaya, were left 90 percent destroyed and the process of cleaning up has only begun. Another town, Bakhdida, was only 30 percent destroyed, but the NGOs who are helping with its repairs “are not enough compared to the destruction.”

Volunteers and locals hope to rebuild or repair as many homes as they can by September, which would be the beginning of the school year. However, the sisters noted that only the Church and some NGOs are actively involved in the long and expensive rebuilding process.

Many families have decided not to return to their communities due to the overwhelming loss of their homes. Others don’t return because they can no longer trust their neighbors. The sisters said that “we knew that it was our neighbors who betrayed us and did us harm, even before ISIS did.”

“It is not easy to decide whether to go back,” the Sisters continued, saying that their own convent in Bakhdida was also partially destroyed.

However, the sisters have decided to return to the Nineveh Plain, and they will be living in a family home in Telskuf until their convent has been repaired. The sisters also need to rebuild the orphanage which had been burnt down, and hope to start a kindergarten by the fall.

Although the aftermath of Islamic State's occupation of the Nineveh Plain is significant, the sisters are hopeful for the future. Some families have been able to return to their homes, and the sisters are grateful that some of the rebuilding process that has already begun.

“Today, we see the marvelous work of God,” the sisters reflected.

“God is with us and will not leave us. We thank you for all the support you have shown us. Please pray for us as we start this new phase of our lives.”

Posted: August 9, 2017, 10:32 pm

Nairobi, Kenya, Aug 4, 2017 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- With Kenya’s elections fast approaching, the country’s Catholic bishops are asking voters to choose wisely and encouraging all Kenyans to pray for peace.

“We are calling upon all Kenyans to seize this opportunity to exercise our constitutional right and give ourselves leaders of integrity,” Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay, chairman of the Kenyan bishops' conference, said on behalf of Kenya’s bishops July 28.

“We need to create a peaceful environment, to demonstrate our patriotism for our wonderful country, and ensure that all parts of Kenya are in peace,” he added.

The bishops’ letter ahead of the Aug. 8 elections takes its title from Jeremiah 29:7, “Seek Peace and Prosperity.” They called on all Kenyans to join in prayer for their country, and a novena for peaceful elections will take place July 30-Aug. 7.

“Peace, Peace, Peace,” the bishops repeated.

Voicing appreciation for the relatively peaceful manner of the political campaigns, the bishops urged candidates to continue to conduct themselves “with decorum and sobriety” in the interests of national unity.

Kenya’s 2007 elections resulted in nationwide ethnic violence that killed 1,300 people and displaced 700,000.

The bishops appealed to young people “to restrain themselves from violence and instead be the agents of peace.”

“We exhort them to uphold to the culture of peace and engage in activities of peace-building,” they said.

The bishops pledged to work closely with election observers, state agencies, and non-state actors involved in the election.

The bishops praised the achievements of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and encouraged it to secure just, fair, credible and peaceful elections.

The run-up to the election has been marred by the apparent torture and killing of Chris Msando, a systems development manager at the elections commission, the Catholic News Agency for Africa reports. He had been scheduled to test the technology involved in voting and tallying the election results on July 31. His body was found on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The killing was denounced as “barbaric” by the bishops.
“Life is sacred and only God who gives it freely should take it away when He so desires,” they said.

The bishops also addressed the media, calling them a “very crucial actor” in the electoral process, and encouraging the media to show continued professionalism and commitment to fulfilling its duties.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is seeking re-election.

In his 2013 race for the presidency, he and his deputy William Ruto had been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. His campaign prompted warnings from the U.S. and U.K. governments if he were elected, BBC News reports.

However, the warnings did not have much consequence. He mobilized many African leaders to pressure the international court. Both cases were dropped due to a lack of evidence, with the International Criminal Court saying prosecution witnesses were intimidated and the cases could resume.

Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, has portrayed his 72-year-old opponent Raila Odinga as an agent of foreign governments who works to serve former colonial powers. He has also portrayed Odinga as an “analog generation” of politicians who must make way for the younger “digital generation.” His family owns a TV channel, a newspaper, and a number of radio stations, among many other business interests.

Odinga, a son of Kenya’s first vice-president, is making his fourth bid for the presidency. He has had different policies alliances in his career and is now running under the National Super Alliance, a coalition of Kenya’s main opposition groups. He aims to win drawing from his ethnic community, the Luo, as well as the Luhya, Kalenjin and Kamba groups.

Odinga studied to be a mechanical engineer in former East Germany, and was MP for Africa’s biggest slum, Kibera. He was imprisoned for attempting to stage a coup in 1982 against a one-party dictatorship. Though he initially denied the claim, he admitted his central role in a 2006 book. He was imprisoned from 1982-1988 and 1989-1991.

He has promised to serve only one term in office and has convinced many potential rivals to back his candidacy instead.

Posted: August 4, 2017, 11:04 pm

Karonga, Malawi, Aug 3, 2017 / 10:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Mawali's information, communication and technology ministry praised the country's Catholic media this week for their evangelization efforts as part of the 51st Communications Sunday.

Information Minister Nicholas Dausi, a Catholic, extended this support to the Church after touring the offices of Tuntufye FM, the Diocese of Karonga's radio station.

Later in the day, he addressed Catholic media outlets at St. Mary’s parish in Karonga. In doing so, he challenged them to not be brought down by negativity in their coverage.

“We should not thrive on bad news or something that is defamatory to our colleagues. Using Church media is crucial for the evangelization drive,” he said.

He praised the groups and affirmed the government’s support.

“I am impressed with the way Tuntufye FM of Karonga diocese is doing. They are doing fine, and we will support them,” he said.

Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga then said Mass, and both issued a challenge and stated his gratitude to those gathered.

“I would like to challenge our media houses and those working in these (media) houses to be more professional. We thank God for the gift of all communication tools. However, we are challenging ourselves to use them effectively. We can do much better than what we are doing with our television stations, radio stations and newspapers,” said Bishop Mtumbuka.

“Let us offer the message of faith for the glory of God and the development of this nation. We are the ones to champion this, and this can be done based on the way we do things. Let’s do things in a coordinated manner and be innovative,” he added.

At the same celebration, Bishop George Tambala of Zomba, the Malawian bishops' social communications chair, reflected on Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day.

“Pope Francis challenges us all to break the various circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear that results from a constant focus on bad news such as war, terrorism, scandals and all sorts of human failure,” said Bishop Tambala.

He also noted that Francis’ message challenges that “all media practitioners should search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glorify evil but instead to concentrate on solutions and inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipient.”

Malawi's Catholic media outlets include the bishops' social communications commission; Radio Maria Malawi; Radio Alinafe; Tigabane Radio; Tuntufye FM; Luntha Television, Montfort and Likuni Press.

Posted: August 3, 2017, 4:03 pm

Khartoum, Sudan, Aug 1, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA).- Dust and mud brick houses everywhere – as far as the eye can see. The houses are indistinguishable in color from the ground on which they stand. Trees are few and far between.

The road leading northwards from the Sudanese capital of Khartoum shimmers in the burning heat. The temperature tops 110 degrees. At a certain point the car turns off into an unpaved road with deep potholes, entering a residential suburb.

“Welcome to the St. Kizito School of Dar es Salaam,” says our host, Father Daniele, as we stand in the courtyard of the school, which is named after the youngest of the Ugandan martyrs. This Italian priest is a member of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Khartoum. His fluent Arabic enables him to communicate with the people of his parish in their own language.

“I belong to the Neo-Catechumenal Way and I studied at our seminary in Beirut. I've been living in Sudan now for more than 10 years” – a move he has never regretted, he tells his visitor from international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“But it is an extremely difficult pastoral challenge for priests here,” he adds. This has to do more than anything with the life circumstances of his parishioners.

Fr. Daniele explains: “They are totally uprooted people. The parishioners here are for the most part come from the Nuba mountains in the south of Sudan. Their lives there were marked by the customs and traditions of their villages. But here, far from their homeland, they are completely lost.”

Many of the people many years ago came to the Khartoum area, in search of work or in order to escape the fighting in their homeland. But most of them can only survive as day laborers, and this eats away at the men‘s sense of self-worth.

“Many of them simply drift around idly when they don‘t have any work,” says Fr. Daniele, and many have no work at all. “In their traditional view of themselves, they are herders and warriors. But since there is no fighting no herding to be done here, all the work falls on the shoulders of the women.”

Unlike 90 percent of the Sudanese people, who are Sunni Muslims, the people of the Nuba mountains are Christians. There are often syncretic tendencies, with belief in magic rubbing shoulders with the Christian faith. For this reason Fr. Daniele attaches great importance to helping people grow in their faith. He says: “I want to show people above all that, despite their poverty, God loves them – and each of them individually.”

This is not always easy to understand for people imbued with a tribal way of thinking, he explains. But at least he has no concerns about church attendance. “The people come in large numbers to church. On Sundays our church is full,” he tells us.

“It is extremely important that the church be a beautiful and worthy place,” Fr. Daniele stresses, “as it is undoubtedly the most beautiful place in the lives of these people, who otherwise know only their own poverty-stricken huts and homes.“

Fr. Daniele has a particular concern for the children, and the parish school is his most important resource in this respect.

“Many of the children would spend the whole day roaming around the streets if they didn‘t come to us in school,” he explained. “Their parents show little concern for them. Attention, and even tenderness, is something most of them have never experienced, and above all not from their fathers.”
 
Fr. Daniele works hard to convey to the children a sense of their own self-worth. He says: “We want to show them that they are respected, precious people, loved by God. We do so by listening to each one of them and showing them respect.”

Precisely because the circumstances of the children are so difficult and their families so large and so poor – eight children or more is by no means unusual – the priest places great hope in the schools, saying that “however modest our means are here, without education the children will have no chance of a better life.”

Indeed, the Catholic school system is one of the pillars of the small Church in Sudan. For one Church official, who requested that his name not be used, the Church educational system is crucially important.

The official explains: “Our schools gain us acceptance among the majority Muslim community, and above all with the state. The state is strongly Islamic, but – because of the rapid population growth, the number of people moving into cities and limited public resources – its budget is overstretched and insufficient to provide enough schools. Hence, the government is happy to see the Church involved. As a Church we maintain almost 20 public schools in the city of Khartoum alone, and permission to build schools, unlike permission to construct churches, is something that is always granted to us.”

The schools are attended both by Christians and by Muslims. The Church official acknowledges that the quality of the schools is not the best. He says: “after all, we hardly have money for teachers and books, and nor do our students.”

But no pupil is refused admittance, even if he or she cannot afford the school fees. “For the children of the poorest families the school is the only possibility of bringing a little order into their lives,” the official stresses.

ACN is committed to support the Catholic schools in Sudan.

“The Church in Sudan has asked us for help,” says Christine du Coudray-Wiehe, who oversees ACN-funded projects in Sudan.

“It is an urgent necessity to respond, as the majority of the pupils are from Catholic families from southern Sudan,” she added. “It is vital for these families that are children be able to attend a Christian school – for this is the only way we can prevent them from being Catholics at home and Muslims at school.”

 

Oliver Maksan writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA);www.acnuk.org (UK);www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL);www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)

Posted: August 1, 2017, 12:01 pm

Lusaka, Zambia, Jul 28, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Zambia concluded a year of celebration marking 125 years since the Church was established in the country, its bishops have said that while it was once a missionary Church, it is now a Church on mission.   

“Share your faith with other people, members of your extended families, and with other Zambians. Faith that is not shared remains small and is infantile. Faith shared is multiplied,” Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu of Lusaka said at a July 14-15 ceremony in the nation's capital.

“Since the Church in Zambia has grown, it is now time to send missionaries to the world,” agreed the Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia, Archbishop Julio Murat, noting it was time to be a witness to Western countries.

The two-day celebration included a focus on youth and on the variety of Catholic acitivities, highlighting the differences among the 11 Zambian dioceses.

Fr. Stanley Lubungo, superior general of the Missionaries of Africa, or 'White Fathers', said that “today should also be about keeping alive the memory of our ancestors in the faith by imitating them. But we will not do that simply through symposiums, workshops or even grandiose liturgies … if we do not continue to look for ways in which the flame of the passion of our ancestors in the faith can empower us to lead the kind of committed lives they led at the service of the needy.”

“It is in that way that our Catholic faith will become a beacon of hope as we strive to reach out to those that society casts to the peripheries,” he added.

The event also attended by the Zambian vice president, Inonge Wina, who praised the Church for its work in education and social support, saying the “the Catholic Church has continued to be a strong and reliable partner with government in not only the delivery of social services but also in advocating for integral development.”

She recognized that although the Zambian government and the Church haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, both parties have similar goals. In a January collaboration, the government and the Church emphasized the need for more communication between the government and the Church as well as the need to combat tribalism.

Zambia was colonized by European nations in the 19th century, and missionaries were among the early European contacts with the natives. Jesuits and Franciscans established missions in the country's south, while the White Fathers were based in the north, starting in 1891.

Posted: July 28, 2017, 6:08 am

Jerusalem, Jul 25, 2017 / 11:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As conflict has erupted once again between Israelis and Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchal Vicar said that the Catholic Church has a unique role to play in bringing about justice and peace.

“When two religious communities lay claim to the same area, we have a recipe for disaster, particular when members of the two communities are also involved in a political, territorial and historical conflict,” Fr. David M. Neuhaus told CNA July 24.

“The Church has a very special vocation in Israel/Palestine. Without power of any kind, the Church is free from playing political games and can be a voice that speaks out for truth, justice and peace.”

The Church has important assets “to contribute to building a reality of justice and peace instead of the war and violence that dominate,” he said.

The site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, where the al-Aqsa Mosque is located, was the scene of another round of violence last week when Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at the entrances of the mosque.

Palestinian objection to the metal detectors manifested in mass protests and escalated to include the killing of three Israelis at a Jewish settlement July 21. Four Palestinians were killed in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The controversial metal detectors were removed by Israeli security forces early Tuesday morning.

Fr. Neuhaus said that it can be very difficult to discern what is true and false in the conflict because each side has its own vision of what is happening.

“Why is it so difficult to find a solution to this conflict? Perhaps one part of the difficulty is that each one of the two sides believes in the total justice of its cause and is unwilling to listen with empathy to the other side,” he said.

In the face of these clashes, the Church’s political neutrality has an important role to play, stemming from two important assets, he emphasized.

“One is the Church's way of speaking, formulating words carefully, words that are built on truth, that teach respect and that promote justice and peace. This language is not diplomatic but rather language that works for reconciliation in the respect of truth.”

The second comes from the Church’s “vast network” of institutions, including schools, universities, hospitals, and homes for the elderly, orphans, the handicapped, and more, he said.

“In these institutions, the discourse of the Church is incarnated as the institutions serve one and all with no discrimination, showing that coexistence in mutual respect is not only possible but is the way forward that can open up the future, offering hope for the next generation.”

In the current controversy, Israel maintains it installed the metal detectors as a safety measure after three Arab Israeli gunmen smuggled homemade machine guns into the al-Aqsa Mosque July 14, shooting and killing two Israeli policemen.

Palestinians claim the metal detectors were a way for Israel to enact more control over access to the site, which is governed by a status quo arrangement which Israel has said it will maintain.

East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel since its victory in 1967's Six-Day War.

Israelis seem to live in perpetual fear and Palestinians in unrelenting anger, Fr. Neuhaus said. “Unfortunately, those who speak the language of reason and understanding are unable to garner the support of the masses, who buy into the simplistic slogans of the dominant political elites.”

The political authority in Israel “repeats that it is not changing the status quo and insists on this particularly in front of the international community,” Fr. Neuhaus said.

But at the same time, there are radicals in Israel “who explicitly endorse a change in the status quo” and have been supported in instances by government ministries.

“The central problem is not restricting access to Al-Aqsa but rather the fear that the Israelis seek to replace Al-Aqsa with a Jewish Temple.”

“Any change to the status quo, however minor, is perceived as preparation for a hidden master plan that Palestinians (and the entire Muslim world) formulate as their worst nightmare. The Israelis are fully aware that this is the case as every threat to the status quo has erupted in similar violence in the past.”

Though the status quo for Christians and their holy places (like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) is less threatened, the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis only serves to worsen the political divide already present among Christians – split between those who are Arabs and thus form one with their Muslim brothers and sisters, and those integrated with the Jewish side.

“Nonetheless, Jewish extremists have manifested their refusal to coexist with Christians in the Holy Land through attacks on churches and other Christian holy sites,” Fr. Neuhaus explained.

Because Christians only make up 2-3 percent of the overall population, they are particularly vulnerable under the ongoing instability and violence, he continued, but “Christians are determined to struggle for full integration in their society, whether Palestinian or Israeli, demanding equal rights and mutual respect.”

“In times of conflict, the Christians are even more insistent in their prayers for peace.”

 

Miguel Perez Pichel contributed to this report.

Posted: July 25, 2017, 5:35 pm

Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jul 19, 2017 / 12:01 am (CNA).- Gunmen have abducted two Catholic priests in the Democratic Republic of Congo, prompting the country’s bishops to plead that the captives not be harmed.

“Priests are men of God who devote their lives to the good of the population without a political agenda. To hurt them is to harm the community they serve,” said the National Episcopal Conference of Congo.

The bishops called on security forces to do everything they could to free the two priests.

Fathers Charles Kipasa and Jean-Pierre Akilimali were abducted at Our Lady of the Angels parish in Bunyuka just before 10 p.m. Sunday, Reuters reports. About 10 assailants were involved in their abduction.

Bunyuka is in North Kivu province in the country's east, fewer than 10 miles northeast of Butembo and near the border with Uganda.

The Congolese bishops’ statement noted that three other priests abducted in the same area in October 2012 still have not been released.

The border region, whose lands are rich in minerals, suffers from ethnic tensions and has been the site of wars and rebellions for two decades.

The nearby city of Beni has suffered major violence in the last two years. A series of nighttime massacres took place there beginning in October 2014. Unidentified attackers, mostly using hatchets and machetes, have killed hundreds in the city of 230,000 people.

In June an attack on Beni’s prison killed 11 people and freed over 930 prisoners. Another 12 people were killed in a raid on the city center by the Mai Mai militia coalition.

In December 2016, a nun in Bukavu, in neighboring South Kivu province, was murdered in an apparent robbery.

And that March, Fr. Vincent Machozi Karunzu was murdered by armed militants in North Kivu. He had documented human rights abuses in the country.

Posted: July 19, 2017, 6:01 am

, Jul 9, 2017 / 04:02 pm (CNA).- In the Old City of Jerusalem it's hard to escape the ancient history that's still alive within its walls.

A simple smartphone search can send you on a walk to a centuries-old shop, bring you to the steps of a millennium-old Church, or lead you past the 3,000 year-old Temple Mount – all bursting with people and energy.

But it's only within the stone walls of Razzouk Ink that the modern pilgrim can have that history etched onto his or her body for the rest of their lives.

And Christian pilgrims have come to the tattoo artists of the Razzouk family since the Crusades to receive ancient signs of Christian identity and pilgrimage.

Even today, as the family uses up-to-date procedures and incorporates contemporary trends into some of their artwork, the Razzouk family still draws upon the history and skills passed down through the generations for nearly three-quarters of a millennium. They also incorporate instruments and designs dating back several hundred years, carrying on one of the world's oldest tattoo traditions.

A family legacy, written in ink

Wassim Razzouk, 43, is a tattoo artist descending from a centuries-long line in the trade: 700 years to be exact.

“We are Copts, we come from Egypt, and in Egypt there is a tradition of tattooing Christians, and my great, great ancestors were some of those tattooing the Christian Copts,” he told me.

The first evidence of a Christian tattoo tradition traces back to the Holy Land and Egypt as early as the 6th or 7th Century. From there, the tradition spread throughout Eastern Christian communities such as the Ethiopian, Armenian, Syriac and Maronite Churches. To this day, many Coptic Churches require a tattoo of a cross or other proof of Christian faith to enter a church. (Tattoo traditions among groups such as Celtic and Croatian Catholics emerged separately and at a later date.)

With the advent of the Crusades beginning in 1095, the existing practice of tattooing pilgrims to the Holy Land expanded to the European visitors. Numerous accounts dating back to the 1600s describe Christian pilgrims taking part in already long-existing customs of receiving a tattoo upon completing a visit to the Holy City – a custom that survives to this day.

While in the tattoo parlor, I witnessed the Razzouk family help a Roman Catholic bishop from Europe plan a tattoo he hopes to receive once he completes a personal pilgrimage later this year. Only weeks prior, Theophilos, the Coptic Bishop of the Red Sea, came to the Razzouk Family receive a pilgrimage tattoo. Other patrons of the Razzouk family have included Christian leaders of Ethiopia, persecuted Christians, and Christian pilgrims of all denominations from around the globe.

The Razzouk family themselves placed their roots in Jerusalem as pilgrims. After many pilgrimages and several generations of tattooing pilgrims and Christians of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the Razzouk family relocated permanently to the Holy City around 1750.

“A lot of them decided to come to the Holy Land as pilgrims themselves and decided to stay,” Wassim said. “For the past 500 years, we’ve been tattooing pilgrims in the Holy Land, and it’s been passed down from father to son.”

Artifacts and application

The walls of the shop bear witness to this family legacy. Alongside framed newspaper clippings highlighting the work of Wassim and his father, Anton, are shadow boxes with pictures of the Razzouk tattoo artists that preceded them: Wassim’s grandfather, Yacoub, and great-grandfather, Jirius. And artifacts like an early tattoo machine and a traditional hand tool for manually applying tattoo ink are preserved behind glass.

Historically, Christian tattoo artists created their own inks and used stamps to apply images to the skin, before tracing over them with the tattoo implements. While Wassim does not use the old family ink recipe of soot and wine – using instead sterile inks produced specifically for tattoo application – many of the family's 168 historic wooden stamps are still in use today.

In ages past, the tattooist would use the carved wooden stamp directly upon the pilgrim’s skin, and then use it as a guide for the traditional tattoo instruments. Today, Wassim stamps the design onto transfer paper, which is then applied to the skin for tracing, similar to the process for more contemporary design transfers.



Over the course of my interview with Wassim, nearly every customer used one of these ancient artifacts as part of their tattoo design. Two women from western Armenia – lands now controlled by eastern Turkey – came in and explained that they had just completed their pilgrimage to the Holy Land and wanted to get a traditional pilgrim’s tattoo with no alterations.

They both picked a stamp of the traditional Armenian Cross, a small crucifix that incorporates delicate floral design elements. Razzouk’s work was finished by adding the year “2017” underneath the image of the cross to commemorate the year of their pilgrimage.  If they ever return, Wassim explained, the year of each additional pilgrimage will be added underneath.

After the women left, I was shown a drawer filled with dozens of the carved wooden stamps, each holding a unique design. Several stamps were based upon the Jerusalem cross: a cross with arms of equal lengths, with smaller crosses in each of its quarters. Others offered representations of the Virgin Mary, St. Michael the Archangel, the Resurrection, lambs, roses, or the star of Bethlehem. Each of them held deep Christian symbolism and a story behind its meaning.

Most of these wooden blocks, carved from olive and cedar wood, are believed to date back to the 17th century, before the Razzouk family relocated permanently to Jerusalem. However, since only two of the stamps have confirmed dates of carving – from 1749 and 1912 – it’s difficult to say for sure. However, Wassim’s mother, Hilda, told me that it’s believed many of the blocks may date back at least 500, maybe 600 years, to the Razzouk family’s early days of tattooing in the Holy Land.

Saving a centuries-old tradition

Despite the deep roots of this ancient art form and rite of passage for Christians coming to the Holy Land, traditions of Christian tattooing in Jerusalem have come close to extinction on several occasions.

In the 1947 War for Israeli Independence, many of the Palestinians who practiced tattooing fled from Jerusalem for their safety, including the Razzouk family. After the war, the Razzouk family returned, but they were nearly alone in doing so: few other Christian tattoo artists decided to return, leaving Razzouk Ink as the last ancient Christian tattoo parlor.

The Razzouk family tradition came under threat again a little more than ten years ago, when Wassim and his siblings decided to pursue other professions.

“I didn’t really want to do this,” Wassim told me. “I wasn’t into tattooing and since this was sort of a responsibility, I didn’t want to do it.”



Instead, Wassim studied hospitality and pursued other interests.

“One day I was reading something online, an old article where my father was being interviewed,” Wassim recalled.

“He was saying he was really sad: he thought this tradition and this heritage of our family was going to end because I didn’t want to do it.”

Until a decade ago, Wassim’s father, Anton, was the primary tattooist of the Razzouk family, but none of his children had followed him into the ancient profession. The article and the realization of what it would mean to lose his family’s heritage weighed heavy on Wassim.

“I didn’t want to be that guy whose name was written somewhere in history as the guy who discontinued this – the guy who killed it.”

Wassim began to apprentice under his father as well as contemporary tattoo artists, and made some changes to the business, modernizing its health, safety and sterility procedures and business model. He also moved the shop from its location deep in the alleys of the city’s Christian Quarter to its current place in on ancient St. George’s Street, near the busy Jaffa gate. Today, Wassim and his wife Gabrielle work together at the parlor and have begun to train their children in the craft, though they are careful not to place too much pressure on them to take over the family business.

Visitors to the shop are happy that the Razzouk family legacy has endured. “I don’t think there’s any way that you could better commemorate a pilgrimage than at this shop,” Matt Gates, a pilgrim from Daphne, Alabama told me after he received a tattoo of a Jerusalem Cross.

After a spiritually engaging experience in the Holy Land, Matt said that his new tattoo will hold a particularly special meaning. “That’s just such a cool heritage to come into for me getting tattooed with a 500-year-old stencil,” he said. “I’ve got a ton of tattoos, but this one will mean so much more.”



All photos credit: Razzouk Tattoo in Old City Jerusalem, Israel. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

Posted: July 9, 2017, 10:02 pm

Bamako, Mali, Jun 27, 2017 / 03:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Among those bishops who will be created cardinals at the June consistory is Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, a man who has already been called the “cardinal of peace.”

In announcing the June 28 consistory at the Regina Coeli on May 21, Pope Francis expressed the desire to choose men who represent the “catholicity” of the Church. His selection of Archbishop Zerbo is particularly noteworthy in this regard, as he will be the first cardinal to hail from Mali.

Born Dec. 27, 1943 in Ségou, Archbishop Zerbo was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ségou July 10, 1971. He earned his licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Ponifical Biblical Institute in Rome, studying there from 1977 to 1981. Upon returning to Mali in the early 1980s, he taught at the major seminary in Bamako, Mali's capital, and served as a pastor in Markala.

In June 1988, St. John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Bamako. In 1994, he was appointed Bishop of Mopti, and in 1998 was made Archbishop of Bamako.

Archbishop Zerbo represents Pope Francis’ frequent calls to focus on areas where the Church is persecuted: Mali is a majority-Muslim nation that often sees harsh application of sharia as well as extremist violence against Christians.

Speaking to Cuore Amico in January this year, Archbishop Zerbo described the situation of Christians in the country as “a test comparable to that of the early disciples.”

Mali has recently been ravaged by a civil war, which exploded in 2012 with various rebel forces seizing control of parts of the country, and a subsequent coup. Although it officially ceased in 2015, fighting has continued throughout the country.

The war is largely driven by several factions of Islamist militants seeking to impose sharia, as well as by ethnic separatists. These militant groups occupy much of the northern part of the country.

During his ministry, Archbishop Zerbo has participated actively in peace talks in Mali’s civil conflict. His appointment to the College of Cardinals therefore sends a powerful message in favor of peace in the country, and a red hat will give added weight to the new cardinal’s contributions to talks.

He has also called for humanitarian aid for those suffering from hunger, thirst, and disease due to war in the country. In 2013, he told Fides that “[A] new period of suffering is beginning for the people of Mali. We would welcome support so that we can help the increasing number of displaced and refugees.”

He has stressed the need for conversion, on the part of both Christians and Muslims, saying that “peace can only be achieved through the conversion of the hearts regardless of faith. We Christians are always called to an effort of reconciliation.”

The Church in Mali has recently been accused of embezzlement of funds related to the Swiss Leaks investigation. The Malian bishops' conference said in a May 31 statement that it “takes issue with the allegations that certain bishops have misappropriated funds from the Catholic faithful” and that it “functions in full transparency.”

The bishops' conference also asked if “the authors of the tendentious article are aiming at another unavowed objective, rather than bringing constructive information to public opinion? Does this act made at the moment that this Church has just been honored with the nomination of its first cardinal aim at dirtying its image and at destabilizing it? God who sees all and who knows all will one day restore the truth.”

Posted: June 27, 2017, 9:33 pm

Lusaka, Zambia, Jun 26, 2017 / 02:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The leaders of three major Christian groups in Zambia have issued a strongly worded letter on the political state of the country, calling on Zambians to “examine our conscience, seek the truth, and work towards bringing back hope to our people.”

It also accuses the current administration of being a “dictatorship.”

The June 16 letter was penned by Archbishop Telesphore George Mpundu of Lusaka, president of the Zambian bishops' conference; Alfred Kalembo of the Council of Churches in Zambia; and Paul Mususu of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia.

“If these are not signs of dictatorship, what are they signs of?” the letter said. “Certainly not of a democratic dispensation!”

The letter comes as a response to the arrest of Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the opposition party, the UPND.

The current president, Edgar Lungu, has been accused of rigging last year's presidential election. He has been in office since January 2015.

Hichilema was arrested April 10 on charges of treason after his convoy failed to allow the presidential motorcade to pass as both headed to a ceremony in the Western Province. And on June 13, 48 members of the Zambian Parliament were suspended when they boycotted Lungu’s state of the nation address, the BBC reported.

These events mark an abrupt jump by Zambia onto the international scene, a nation that normally has a reputation for peace and stability. Zambia ranked 87 out of 176 in Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, in the company of Mongolia and Panama.

The country's Catholic bishops had voiced their opposition to Lungu's administration previously.

In their letter, the Zambian Christian leaders lamented Hichilema’s arrest and said, “With the current state of affairs, it is difficult to see how the UPND can easily recognize the legitimacy of Lungu’s re-election in August 2016.”

“Leadership, particularly at the national level, requires integrity, truthfulness, honesty and sincerity. We believe that the political leadership has failed on this score.”

“Institutional violence is a fundamental measure of a dictatorship,” they said. They lamented the use of dogs in Hichilema’s arrest, noting that canine forces were a frequent characteristic of the British occupation in Zambia.

“The State Police brought along dogs of the German shepherd breed that defecated in the vehicle meant to carry Hakainde Hichilema.”

Hichilema was allegedly subject to torture and kept in inhumane conditions before even receiving a guilty verdict, the leaders said. They also offered their thoughts and prayers for a number of other political prisoners being held by the government.

They also noted that outrage over the arrest had been expressed in many countries, including the US, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and in the EU. They also committed their communities within Zambia to fighting “on the side of good.”

“We are fully aware,” they stated, “that more often than not, the fight for Justice is not a path filled with many pilgrims, but is a lonely journey by courageous leaders and a small number of followers.”

The letter at multiple points quotes John 8:32, “The Truth will set you free.” Freedom of the press, according to the letter, is under assault in the country. They noted the closing or “fixing” of various major news outlets in the country, and “maintain that the presence of 80 radio stations, online newspapers and independent television stations in Zambia does not mean press and media freedom.”

They also defended their charge that the arrest shows dictatorial qualities in the government.

“It is not the numbers of the afflicted victims that count. It is the principle,” they said.

“The dictum that God knows how to count only up to one when it comes to his children is the truth that makes us realize just how each one of us is important in God’s eyes.”

At the close of the letter, the Christian leaders' tone became outright mournful.

“Indeed, what has happened to us as a nation?” the bishops lamented. “Where are our values as human beings and as Christians? Is this what it means to be a ‘Christian Nation’?”

In concluding, the Christian leaders made a number of demands of the government, including that “we expect H.E. Mr. Edgar C. Lungu, to act as Republican President whose aim is not only to protect the good of the members of his party (the PF), but also and more importantly, be the guardian of ALL ZAMBIANS, regardless of their political affiliation.”

“We firmly believe that this nation can overcome all our current political differences through genuine dialogue aimed at true reconciliation and nation building.”

Posted: June 26, 2017, 8:53 pm

Aleppo, Syria, Jun 23, 2017 / 10:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians who fled Aleppo because of the four year battle for the city are now returning, and in the face of such challenges as poverty, destruction, and a shortages of basic goods, they persevere with the help of the local Church.

Fr. Ibrahim Alsabagh, a Franciscan priest in the city, told CNA that between January and June, 18 Catholic families have returned to Aleppo from places like Armenia, France, Germany, and Venezuela. In addition, 400 Christian families of the Armenian community returned to the area.

He said these families have decided to return because in their host countries “they live in poverty and feel like foreigners. Also because they miss the warmth of the Christian community that welcomes, heals, and accompanies each family with all its needs.”

“When they see they aid that we give to the Christians in Aleppo, they say, ‘Why don’t we return home, to our culture, to our society when the bombings have ceased?’” he said.

Syria's largest city before the country's civil war began in 2011, control of Aleppo was divided among government and several rebel groups from July 2012 until the Syrian government recaptured the metropolis in December 2016.

The Franciscan said that while rebels have been expelled from the city, unfortunately "living conditions have not improved in Aleppo. The only thing that has improved is that there are no more bombings, thank God, but there is still insecurity."

In addition, “it is difficult to work because there are few hours in which there is electricity. There is also a small labor force because many young people are gone.There is food, but high prices,” he added.

He explained that the economic situation in Aleppo is so difficult that "even if the both parents work, it is impossible to get ahead without the help of the Church. There are many needy people and we trust in divine providence."

On the other hand, he indicated that only a third of the Christians have stayed in the city. He stated that the Christians who remained were the poorest. There are also some families who had the firm conviction that "what the Lord wants them there because they must fulfill the mission of being a bridge of reconciliation and of bearing witness to Jesus Christ in this land.”

Fr. Ibrahim stressed that in the midst of this difficult situation "the key is the community that comes out to give people a sign of hope and remains a beacon. They are a very strong support to the family, especially when people feel alone and have left everything to return to their country. "

He commented that the Franciscans have developed a project to help Christians rebuild their homes. Since 2016 the order has rebuilt some 470 homes, and this year they have created an office where nine engineers evaluate the cases of families whose houses were damaged in the war.

Fr. Ibrahim added that there are several families who, despite having their homes destroyed, are still required to pay the mortgage on their home to the bank. The church also helps them.

The priest said that the money with which he supports the families comes from "many of the people and the families around the world who pray for us and send donations. Even if they are modest, it shows how the Lord works miracles with them."

"As St. Francis of Assisi said, we depend on the generosity, the divine providence from which our aid comes. Every day we see this miracle and we thank those who help us with our whole heart.”

In addition, the priest said that there are 30 couples who will get married soon, and said that this aid is also for them.

"This is a great joy for us, to see that young people get married and say yes to the gift of life. This gives us great consolation,” he said. “It means that there is a future in Aleppo and a desire for life to conquer death.”

Posted: June 23, 2017, 4:06 pm
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