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IRAQ: Defeating IS with plaster and bricks

Aid to the Church in Need helps Christians rebuild their houses after they were destroyed by IS


Above: Engineer Sabah Zakari at the office of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee in Qaraqosh. He supervises the technical side of the reconstruction.

Slowly, house by house, the destruction that IS left behind after capturing Christian cities and villages in August of 2014 is becoming a memory. And at the very heart, directing the efforts to rebuild the Christian cities and villages on the Nineveh plains, is the Nineveh Reconstruction Center. Every day, those involved use plaster and bricks to celebrate small victories over the terror spread by IS. “When I first came back in March of 2017 after Qaraqosh was liberated, everything was either destroyed or damaged. That was very, very sad to see. But even then it was clear to me that the damage could be repaired,” Sabah Zakaria says. The 60-year-old engineer oversees the technical side of the reconstruction efforts. He is tackling this staggering task with a team of 70 engineers. The goal is nothing less than to restore the basis of life for Christians in Iraq. “Houses are not everything, but without houses to live in, everything is nothing,” Zakaria points out, without, however, minimizing the importance of such concerns as the lack of safety or jobs.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is doing a great deal to support the engineers’ reconstruction work. Zakaria’s own house was restored with the help of ACN. The engineer is convinced that the efforts put into reconstruction have not been in vain. “It is a huge joy to see our beautiful city come to life again,” he says. 

IVORY COAST: “Religion can bring about reconciliation”

The Ivory Coast, officially Republic of Côte d´Ivoire, is a country in transition: after years of civil war, the people that make up this heterogenous society are trying to lead lives of unity and reconciliation. This is true in both politics and religion. The first successes have been achieved: in contrast to other African countries, Christians and Muslims are managing to coexist largely without tension. The political situation is not as volatile and a growth in investments has ensured that the economy is slowly gathering momentum.

Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo bishop of Katiola Cote dIvoire during a visit at ACN Germany in Munich in July 2018

In an interview with ACN Germany, Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo talks to Tobias Lehner about interfaith reconciliation, places of worship  that build cultural identity and what he thinks is the best refugee policy. Bishop Dogbo oversees the diocese of Katiola in the northern part of the Ivory Coast and is president of the Episcopal Conference of Côte d’Ivoire.

Bishop Ignace Bessi Dogbo, bishop of Katiola (Cote d'Ivoire) during a visit at ACN Germany in Munich in July 2018. 

VENEZUELA: Priests in the frontier zone – instruments of spiritual comfort

“Many people arrive here weeping, with serious problems, anxious or saddened because they are leaving their country, because they have nothing to eat, or can’t get medicines, and our mission is to comfort them with the light of the Word of God and with prayer.” explained Father Esteban Galvis, parish priest of the church of Our Lady of Lourdes in the suburb of Aguas Calientes, in Ureña, Venezuela, on the border with Colombia. ACN 20180717 73959

Caring for migrants at the border, and at the same time for the people living in poverty in the frontier zone itself, means not only giving material help, despite the limitations, but above all providing pastoral and spiritual support.

(Left): Fr. Esteban Galvis is the parish priest in the town of Aguas Calientes © Aid to the Church in Need.

NICARAGUA: “The lies are almost as dangerous as the bullets, because they create a psychosis of war"

Sources close to the Catholic Church in Nicaragua are accusing the media in the country of a lack of neutrality. News reports about the grave crisis the country has been going through in recent months should be treated with caution. This applies especially in regard to the stories being posted on social media, many of which are false – for example the fake news spread last week about the murder of Bishop Abelardo Mata of the diocese of Estelí.

ACN 20180730 74523“The war that we are currently living through in our country is also a media war, where the major part of this conflict is being played out”, the same source, which prefers to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). At the same time they complained that “the lies, the confusion, the obscurantism that we are facing right now are almost as dangerous as the bullets being fired, because they are creating a psychosis of war, a psychosis of fear”.

IRAQ: “I will never forget what IS did to us”

ACN 20180719 74088 2After years of living as refugees, a Christian family has the courage to make a new beginning and Aid to the Church in Need is helping them. 

“I will never forget what IS did to us.” Musa is a peaceful, good-humoured man. However, the 63-year-old still gets angry about what his family and the Christians in Iraq suffered at the hands of the Islamist extremists. In August 2014, in the middle of the night, he, his wife and their six children were forced to flee Qaraqosh, which had up until that point been the largest Christian city in Iraq. When the relentless jihadist advance pressed ever closer, the family panicked. They left everything behind and sought refuge in Erbil. For the first few days, Musa and his family lived on the streets, sleeping on the ground. The influx of 120 000 refugee Christians in such a short space of time was simply too much for the city to cope with.

An ACN delegation visits Musa and his family at their house: With ACN’s help, Musa’s house has been made habitable again. © Aid to the Church in Need.

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