In Aleppo, Syria, a teenager drew on his faith to make it through the darkest days of the civil war

Piter Essa, 17, graduated from High School in Aleppo, Syria, this spring. Piter, who is Syriac Orthodox, recounts to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) some of his painful experiences of the fighting of the past eight years:

“I’ve survived this awful war, and I live my life like I used to. My school didn’t close at all, so I was able to continue with my studies; I graduated from High School this year.

“I was separated from many friends who were forced to flee. I personally experienced violence in the forms of mortars and missiles, which did physical and psychological damage. I tried to remain strong for my loved ones: I had their backs, and I told them that everything would be okay, but I didn’t fully believe that myself.

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Piter Essa, 17, graduated from High School in Aleppo, Syria, this spring.
Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

August 22: First UN World Day for Victims of Religious Persecution

Aid to the Church in Need estimates that one in five Christians in the world live in countries where there is persecution or religious discrimination.

On August 22 the UN, for the first time, will dedicate this day in remembrance for the victims of religiously motivated violence.

The resolution was passed on May 28 after the proposal of Poland, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

This initiative is widely applauded by organizations that are aware of the anguish suffered by religious minorities in intolerant countries.  

Pope Francis blesses 6,000 rosaries for Syria

As part of a spiritual initiative by ACN to comfort the grieving.

On 15 August, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis, during the Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square, blessed 6,000 rosaries destined for Syria. They will be given to people in Syria who have had relatives or family members abducted or murdered during the civil war. This is part of an ecumenical initiative of the international Catholic charity and pontifical foundation "Aid to the Church in Need" (ACN) together with Catholic and Orthodox churches in the country. "The rosaries, made on the initiative of ACN, are a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria," Pope Francis said. "We continue to pray the Rosary for peace in the Middle East and around the world."

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Executive President of Aid to the Church in Need Thomas Heine-Geldern showing Pope Francis a pair of rosary beads that will be sent to Syria to comfort the Christians there who have lost loved ones due to the civil war.
Credit: Servizio Fotographico - Vatican Media

A Message from National Director Mr Bernard Toutounji

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In some parts of the world going to Sunday Mass requires great faith – as it can cost you your life.

For Catherine Ibrahim from northern Nigeria, one trip to the church resulted in tragedy for her family. The Islamist militants Boko Haram attacked her village during Sunday Mass, killing dozens of people and torching houses and the church. Her husband was brutally murdered in front of her and her children captured. Thankfully, she survived and was eventually reunited with her children. Shockingly, this is becoming the norm for so many Christians living in the region. The violence has left more than 15,000 orphans, 5,000 widows and 2 million internal refugees.

Hundreds march in Solidarity for Bishops amidst Sedition Complaint

On July 31, the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan organized a Mass and a candle-lighting ceremony to express solidarity for the faithful leaders accused of inciting sedition, cyber libel, libel, and obstruction of justice. Involved in the sedition charge are the Vice President of the Philippines and 35 others, including four bishops and several priests. The bishops cited include Archbishop Socrates Villegas, President of ACN Philippines and Member of the Supervisory Board of the International Foundation and retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani,  Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao and Bishop Pablo David of Caloocan.

Held at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Dagupan, hundreds of people marched in prayer after Mass on Wednesday in support of Archbishop Villegas and the other three bishops innocently charged.

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Solidarity march for the Filipino bishops charged with sedition complaints by the Philippine national police:
Archbishop Socrates Villegas (ACN Philippines President) with people during the march. They are demanding "Justice for Father Soc!"
Photographer: ACN Philippines. 
Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need

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