Bishop Bejoy N. D’Cruze of the diocese of Sylhet, in the north of Bangladesh, is pursuing his mission among the poor tea plantation workers and tribal groups, in a Muslim country.
ACN: Bishop Bejoy is small of stature but has a huge heart. His smile never fades, not even when he is telling about the difficult situations he faces in his life and mission. He recently visited the Spanish national office of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and shared his experiences of the first few years of his episcopate in Sylhet, a diocese founded just seven years ago in the north of Bangladesh. This is an overwhelmingly Muslim country with Hindu and Buddhist minorities. Christians make up less than 1% of the population. His diocese lies in an area of great poverty, dominated by vast tea plantations, and where the majority of the population live on less than one euro a day.

Tobias Rosen, producer of Watu Wote and director Katja Benrath during filming © Aid to the Church in Need
“Aid to the Church in Need made this dream possible,” producer Tobias Rosen confirms.  

The film “Watu Wote: All of us” has been nominated for an Oscar in the category “Best Short Film (Live Action)”. The 22-minute film is based on a true story and tells what happened to passengers on a bus trip to Mandera, a small town at the border to Somalia in northeastern Kenya, in December 2015. The bus was attacked by members of the terrorist organisation al-Shabab. They tried to use the same methods that had worked for them one year before (in November 2014). At that time, Christian passengers were first separated from the Muslims and then killed. The massacre cost the lives of 28 people. This time, however, the Muslim passengers refused to comply with the demands of the attackers and identify the Christians among them. This saved the lives of the Christians.  

In an interview with the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), one of the sponsors of the film, producer Tobias Rosen explained that the idea for the screenplay came from a “short newspaper article, a marginal piece published next to the headline news.” Out of this, “screenwriter Julia Drache developed an incredible story that shows how solidarity between people and the actions of each individual can change the course of history.”  

In many parts of this world and in particular Africa, violent and radical Islamist groups are trying to foment distrust between Muslims and Christians. Kenya still bears deep scars from the massacre carried out by the jihadist group al-Shabab at the Catholic Garissa University College, which resulted in the deaths of more than 150 students, or the attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi. The short film portrays the climate of distrust and fear “that is such an integral part of their lives”; the main character is a young Christian woman who has already lost her husband and a child during a jihadist attack.

Ecumenical Meeting of Carinal Kurt Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Metropolitan HIlarion (Alfeev), head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, at Vienna in occasion of the second anniversary oft he historical meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian-Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havanna on 12th February 2018 © Aid to the Church in Need

On the second anniversary (Monday, February 12) of the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, met in Vienna. A delegation from the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, which has been promoting the dialogue between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches for 25 years, also attended the meeting and presented a documentary work of the extent of the damage and sacrifice of Christians in Syria that was the outcome of a collaborative effort between Catholics and Orthodox.

Trip to Iraq of Fr. Andrzej Halemba and John Pontifex September 2017 Families with olive trees outside St George’s Church, Bartela © Aid to the Church in Need

Until now 35 per cent of the Christian inhabitants of Iraq have returned to their hometowns, as the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) informs after its latest trip to the region. But only 18 per cent of their houses on the Nineveh Plains have been rebuilt, Father Andrzej Halemba from ACN reported, “some only makeshift.” This is the reason why internally and externally displaced Iraqis are currently returning at a slower rate than in the previous months, the head of the Middle East section of the international foundation ACN explained. Since 2017, ACN has channelled its funding to the campaign promoting their return. In view of the current situation, the international Catholic pastoral charity has now approved another five million US dollars in immediate aid for the reconstruction. “If we do not do everything in our power to support this first third of returning Christians, they will leave their towns again and perhaps even the country for good,” Baron Johannes von Heereman, executive president of the ACN, gave voice to his concerns.  

Fr Artemio Vitores with a group of pilgrims in the grotto of the Nativity Church © Aid to the Church in Need

By Maria Lozano 

The guardian of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem was recently interviewed by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We have to see the Child Jesus in each individual person whom we help. Above all at Christmas time we need to pay very special attention to those in need”, he told ACN. “If we do not see the Child in those who are suffering, then what kind of Christmas is that?” 

Back to top