Nigeria: “The attacks on Christians are becoming more flagrant”

by Roman Kris (youth magazine f1rstlife) Nigeria

The turmoil continues in Nigeria. Reports of the defeat of the terrorist group “Boko Haram” contradict what the priest John Bakeni experiences every day. The priest is responsible for coordinating aid for survivors of terrorist attacks and displaced persons in his native diocese of Maiduguri in northern Nigeria. The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been working closely together with him for many years.

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Father John Bakeni - Photographer/Author: Johannes Klausa. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

While the threat of terrorist attacks is omnipresent in the north, in Central Nigeria, attacks on Christian farmers by the predominantly Muslim nomads from the tribe of the Fulani are becoming ever more frequent. According to the project partners of ACN, anti-religious sentiments can also be found behind disputes over land.

Roman Kris from the youth magazine “f1rstlife” talked with John Bakeni about the current situation.

A Message from National Director Mr Bernard Toutounji 

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Dear friends in Christ,

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It’s been only two months since our last Mirror mailing but so much has gone on in the Church and in the world. I feel that more than ever, the mission of Aid to the Church in Need, to uphold the faith when it is so often sidelined and persecuted, is more vital than ever. Of course our prayers have gone out to our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka, who on Easter morning were subject to bomb blasts in their own churches, killing over 250. To think, on the very day we celebrated Christ’s triumph over death, we were forced to so tearfully consider what that triumph really means. We know Christ did not guarantee his followers worldly peace, on the contrary, he warned that many of us will be hated for His sake, but it is still never easy.

We know that what he does offer to each of us, baptised into His death, is an eternal peace that brings hope amidst despair, and peace amidst conflict. As we come out of Easter, and look towards Pentecost, let’s pray that the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be renewed in us. In relation to those terrible bombings, you may have heard that we opened up a national appeal to upport the Catholic people in Sri Lanka. As you would appreciate, it’s not only about rebuilding churches  (which we will of course do), but it is about building, and rebuilding, the faith and the trust of our brothers and sisters. If you did want to support our special projects in Sri Lanka simply head to www.aidtochurch.org/srilanka

May the souls of those who died, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

Philippines: “The faith is what constitutes the Church, not the circumstances!” Safe and secure in God among the ruins of Islamist destruction

by Hannah Kohn

Father Teresito Soganub was held hostage by Islamist extremists in the Philippine city of Marawi for almost four months. However, even captivity and the certainty of his own death have not made him falter in his efforts to achieve peaceful coexistence between the religions. Two years after the ordeal ACN publishes Father Soganubs interview with Mark von Riedemann.

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It happened on the afternoon of 23 May 2017. The parishioners had come together in Mary Help of Christians Cathedral to pray for the patronal festival the following day. The congregation suddenly became aware of shots being fired in the city. Father Teresito Soganub, vicar general of the Territorial Prelature of Marawi, recalled how unusual this was, even for Marawi, where tensions are a normal part of daily life. As part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the city has an overwhelmingly Muslim majority and operates under a modified form of Sharia law. For him and five other members of the parish, this 23 May would become a critical turning point in their lives, the day on which the ISIS-linked rebels of the Maute group conquered their city and took them and more than 100 other residents of the city hostage as leverage against government forces. Over the next five months, more than 800 people would be killed, while hundreds of thousands of displaced persons fled the city. On 17 September, 116 days later, Father Soganub was finally rescued, while the fierce fighting over the city of Marawi continued to rage until 23 October 2017.

Jihadists in Burkina Faso murder Catholic priest – in a parish built with the help of ACN

by Maria Lozano

Staff at Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) were deeply shocked and saddened to hear the news of the murder of Father Simeon Yampa, parish priest of the parish of Dablo, in central northern Burkina Faso. His church was attacked on Sunday 12 May, just after the celebration of Holy Mass had begun, by a group of 20 or so armed men, who murdered the priest and five of his faithful.

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Image: Fr. Simeon Yampa (parish priest of Dablo since Sept. 2018). He was murdered in the sacristy of the parish church when 20 men arrived for a terroristic attack in the parish church of Dablo on the 12th May 2019 (Good Shepherd Sunday). He died trying to save the children serving the altar. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

According to local sources with whom ACN was able to speak, the attackers burst into the church, shooting, just as the congregation was singing the Gloria. Five members of the congregation were shot and killed. The chapel is very small, but, including those standing outside, there were around a hundred worshippers at the time. Three bullets struck the Tabernacle. Father Simeon tried to rescue the altar servers, by ushering them into the sacristy, but the terrorists went through the church and discovered him, shooting him dead on the spot.

Bulgaria: A heartfelt meeting of the religions

by Maria Lozano.

Father Martin Jílek on the motto of the papal visit “Peace on Earth”: “When peace becomes a matter of course for us, that is when we are most in danger of losing it.”

On Sunday morning, Pope Francis arrived in Bulgaria for his 29th trip abroad. During his two-day stay in Bulgaria, the Pope visited Sofia and Rakovski. The media was primarily interested in political and social issues such as migration or poverty; these were addressed. However, the leader of the Catholic Church is also a shepherd and travelled to Bulgaria to visit the common people and to strengthen the small flock of Catholics.

“In my opinion, our Catholics need to become more confident. It was a heartfelt meeting of the religions. I believe that it was also important for the Pope to see how strong our faith is,” explained Salesian Father Martin Jílek. The project partner of the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) had travelled the 230 kilometres from Stara Zagora to the capital city of Sofia to take part in the festivities.

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Image: Bulgaria, Stara Zagora 2012. Young candidates for baptism of the Sinti and Romanies in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria with Fr. Martin Jilek (right), Salesian priest from Czech Republic.

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