Turkey’s invasion of Syria strikes a blow against Christians

by Ed Clancy - Aid to the Chuch in Need USA

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S order to withdraw US troops from northeastern Syria effectively greenlit Turkey’s invasion of the region. With this shift in US policy, Turkey has been given an opening to reshape its borders and begin to carry out a multi-faceted strategy. As the crisis unfolds, one thing is clear: Christians and other minorities are again in the eye of the storm.

Northeastern Syria is home 30,000 to 40,000 Christians, Armenians, Chaldeans, Assyrians, as well as Syriac Catholics and Syriac Orthodox. Although suffering some restrictions, they have been living under the protection of the Kurds in an area that stretches 300 miles from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border. Kurds comprised the bulk of the Syrian Defense Forces that, alongside US troops, fought against ISIS.

In Pakistan, education holds the key for Christian advancement in society

Interview with Bishop Shukardin

by Joop Koopman

BISHOP SAMSON SHUKARDIN, OFM, heads the Diocese of Hyderabad, one of Pakistan’s seven dioceses. It is home to 60,000 Christians, half of whom are tribal people. The diocese operates 56 schools, accommodating more than 13,000 students. Christians and other minorities in Pakistan face a range of challenges from fundamentalist religious groups. Bishop Shukardin spoke with Aid to the Church in Need on a recent visit to the US.

 

 What has been the impact of the acquittal of Asia Bibi and her permission to subsequently leave the country?

The release of Asia Bibi is a big credit for the government. Pakistan’s Christians are very grateful to the present government. But there are a number of other cases like hers, but which do not draw the same publicity. This remains a big issue in the country. In the last 20-plus years, there have been more than 1500 cases of individuals charged under the blasphemy law, many of them from Muslim minority groups.

Bishop Shukardin, OFM Diocese of Hyderabad (Pakistan) and faithful. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need

“We are not going to give up the fight for equality, justice and fraternity”

by Matthias Böhnke  

“The circumstances are difficult for the Christians in our diocese – we often come up against restrictions in the practice of our faith,” Dr Stephen Antony explained. The 67-year-old bishop of the diocese of Tuticorin in southern India and 53 other Indian bishops recently met with Pope Francis during an ad limina visit to Rome. He then went on to visit the international headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)

According to the bishop, the government is working to transform the primarily Hindu country into a homogenous country with one language and one set of policies. A difficult to impossible undertaking in a heterogenous country with 29 federal states and the second most populous country in the world at 1.37 billion inhabitants. Some forecasts even predict that India may already overtake top-ranking China next year. The situation has worsened after this year’s parliamentary elections, which the nationalist governing party BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi won with a surprising majority. “Our situation at the moment isn’t very encouraging. The government makes a lot of rash decisions, which makes things unpredictable. Politics only benefits the wealthy part of the population. The poor are left with nothing,” Bishop Antony deplored.

Bishop Stephen Antony Pillai

Bishop Stephen Antony Pillai Bishop of Tuticorin (India)
Photographer: Daniele Piccini Copyright Aid to the Church in Need

Pakistani Archbishop raises alarm of kidnapping and forced conversions of under-age Christian girls

by Fionn Shiner

A surge in under-age Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan being kidnapped, raped and forced to marry and convert to Islam has been condemned by one of the country’s leading bishops. 

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In an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore confirmed reports of abductions involving girls as young as 14, acts he condemned as “a crime”. 

His comments come amid research in Pakistan’s Punjab Province stating that up to 700 girls had been abducted in one year. He said: “Yes, [abductions of under-age girls] are happening” and he added that “there have been many kidnappings recently.”

“Kidnapping is a crime. It has to be treated as one. This is the only way to stop it. The girls are usually 14, 15. The men often already have one wife. They can be 25 or older. They can be younger, more like 20.”

Image: Catholic women with Catechist Babu Ilyas Manga, Lahore, Pakistan. Photographer: Reinhard Backes. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

Pope Francis blesses 6,000 rosaries, gifts to console Syrian families (an ACN sponsored initiative)

by Tobias Lehner

ON THE FEAST of the Assumption, August 15, Pope Francis, during the Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square, blessed 6,000 rosaries destined for Syria. They will be given to Christians in Syria who have had relatives or family members abducted or murdered during the civil war. This is part of an ecumenical initiative by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in partnership with Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Syria.

“The rosaries, made at the initiative of ACN, are a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria,” Pope Francis said as part of his Angelus address, adding: “We continue to pray the Rosary for peace in the Middle East and around the world.” ACN arranged for the production of the rosaries in Bethlehem and Damascus.

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The Holy Father and Thomas Heine-Geldern, the Executive President of ACN International presenting the Pope the rosaries. © Servizio Fotografico - Vaticano

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