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.

In Pakistan, government-run schools are a harsh environment for Christians
by Tabassum Yousaf.

NOMAN is a young Catholic living in Karachi, Pakistan. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need he talks about the discrimination and mistreatment he experienced at school because of his Christian faith. Here is Noman’s story:

“I am a first-year student of business. My hobbies include cricket and soccer. I am a Christian.

No one in my family has been kidnapped or victimized by violence, but I have faced discrimination from classmates and teachers because of my religion.

ACN 20190509 87571 Easy ResizeImage: Noman a young Catholic living in Karachi, Pakistan. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

“When I reported a Muslim classmate for cheating, the teacher said: ‘He doesn’t cheat. You did it.’ The classmate called me ‘bhangie’, which means ‘street sweeper’ or ‘gutter cleaner’; he made fun of me and used words that were disrespectful of my faith. But I could not respond in kind. If I had done so, I could’ve been charged with blasphemy, and my family would have suffered. So I stayed silent.

Asia Bibi has left Pakistan Arriving in Canada

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian women who spent more than a decade on death row after being unjustly convicted of blasphemy, has left Pakistan and flown to Canada, according to reports.

Father Emmanuel Yousaf, National Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace in Pakistan has spoken to ACN and confirmed the reports saying:

"Congratulations to ACN for all the hard work and prayers that have helped to make this day possible. We thank God that justice has prevailed and wish all the best for the family. We also thank God that the family is now being reunited at long last. We pray to God that they will have a better future and can put behind them nearly 10 years of suffering. There are so many who deserve our congratulations for all that they have done for Asia in her struggle to regain her freedom.”

The comments come amid breaking news that the Christian woman, formerly on death row for blasphemy, has finally left her native Pakistan and travelled to Canada, where her two daughters, Eisham and Esha, are now living.

ACN 20160121 34830 Easy ResizeImage: Asia Bibi before her imprisonment. © British Pakistani Christian Association.

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