Northern Syria: Between War Planes and Coronavirus

Interview with Mgrs. Nidal Thomas by Maria Lozano: “We are not afraid, but we don’t know what the future holds for us.” 

Before the war more than 20,000 Christian families lived in the Al-Jazeera region, on the border with Turkey in east-northern Syria. Many of them are the descendants of those who came seeking refuge fleeing the genocide of the Armenians in 1915 or Kurdish attacks in the neighboring Iraqi area of ​​Duhok in 1933. Today, although it is difficult to give figures because a census has not been conducted, an estimated 7,000 - 8,000 families remain.

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Icon peregrination with Our Lady of Sorrows “Consoler of the Syrian people" in Syria
Jesus the King Chaldean Church in Al-Hassakeh on March 15th, 2020. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

SRI LANKA: Betrayal of the victims
This article was written by John Pontifex.

On the first anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Easter Day attacks, a priest who ministered to the wounded and dying that day has warned that more innocent people could be killed by suicide bombers and that the government is to blame for not doing enough to bring the culprits to justice.

Speaking exactly 12 months on from the blasts, which killed more than 250 people and injured at least 500 others, Father Nishantha Cooray said Sri Lanka’s new government does not want to bring the culprits to trial for fear of upsetting Muslim politicians in the country.

Sri Lanka bombings – one year on: Christians have forgiven but pardon does not exclude justice.

On 21 April 2020 Sri Lanka, still under lockdown, will mark the first anniversary of last year’s Easter bombings, which killed over 250 people and left around 500 injured. 

This article was written by Amelie de la Hougue.

“An event still very much on the minds of Christians”, says Father Jude Fernando, parish priest of one of the churches so gravely affected by the attack. He was speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN. “Last year some misguided young people attacked us. As human beings, we could have responded in a human and self-centred manner”, said Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, in a moving homily during the televised Easter Mass on 12 April this year. It was almost a year since the attacks of 21 April 2019 which altogether claimed the lives of at least 259 people and left over 500 injured in various towns and cities of the country. 

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Holy Mass at St. Sebastian's Church three months after the bomb attack. Locals reach out to touch the statue of Christ which was splattered with the blood of the dead and injured.
Photographer: Bartek Zytkowiak.

Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

A priest has died in Burkina Faso due to COVID-19 and ACN has received several messages from the Church in need

Fr Abbe Justin Saw died from complications due to the coronavirus on April 16th. He was a 67-year-old retired priest and was the spiritual director of the Saints Peter and Paul inter-diocesan philosophical seminary in Ouagadougou. 

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Rest in Peace, Fr Abbe Justin Saw.
Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

Now the seminarians are in hard quarantine. Let us pray for them. The Bishop of Ouahigoya, Mgr Justin Kientenga is going to Ouagadougou for the funeral, the funeral Mass will only have three people in attendance due to social distancing regulations."

Aid to the Church in Need supports the seminarians at St Peter and Paul seminary.

Madagascar: “I was in prison and you visited me”

On the Sunday after Easter, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Divine Mercy, a message that has become the life’s work of Father Henryk Sawarski. A native Pole, the missionary has been working on the island of Madagascar for more than 40 years. He has been a pastoral worker at the prison of Port-Bergé since 2015. Time and again, he has witnessed God touch the souls of the inmates and help them to begin a new life. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) donated AUD $33,700 to set up a chapel and a small library to carry out pastoral care at the prison.

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Portrait Fr. Henryk Sawarski. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

Father Henryk Sawarski had never set foot in a prison before starting to work there as a pastoral worker. “When I drove by a prison, I saw the prison walls topped by barbed wire, or heard people talking about it,” the Polish missionary explained to the pastoral charity. Father Henryk was transferred to the diocese of Port-Bergé in the year that was declared an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by Pope Francis. “The Pope issued a call for corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. When I found out that the prison didn’t have any clergy, I suddenly realized that this was the place where I could best spread the mercy of God. Today I know that I myself was given this epiphany by the Merciful Jesus.”

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