The Bishops of Venezuela have released an exhortation regarding the political and economic crisis in their country. The statement has been issued after the illegitimate inauguration of Nicolás Maduro on 10 January 2019 as president for a second term of office.

Since Mr. Maduro first took office, violence and hunger have become emblematic, inflation has skyrocketed, and the migration of Venezuelans out of the country has reached unprecedented levels. Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s wealthiest nations.

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On 23rd December, 40 million Congolese citizens will go to the polls to elect a new president, 500 members of the national assembly and 715 members of provincial parliaments. The country’s people are anxiously awaiting the poll, which has already been postponed several times. 

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 On 13th December, 8,000 electronic voting machines, intended for polling stations in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, were destroyed following a fire in the depot where they were being kept. It has yet to be determined whether the fire was deliberate or accidental – but it provides an additional obstacle to the smooth running of the elections. At the end of November, the episcopal conference expressed its concerns over the delays in the polls – which were originally scheduled for November 2016.

Christians in northern Nigeria, in addition to suffering attacks by the terrorist Boko Haram group, are also facing a terrible situation as a result of the bloody attacks by Fulani herders against Christian villages in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt. 

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“This is a time bomb that threatens to ignite the whole region”, says Bishop William Amove Avenya of the diocese of Gboko. He was speaking to representatives of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). He described how in his diocese, located in Nigeria’s majority Christian Benue State, “Fulani tribesman, armed to the teeth, are murdering pregnant women and children and destroying our smallholdings”. Ever since 2010 the Christian villages have been the target of violent attacks by the nomadic, Muslim Fulani herdsman from the Sahel region, who have been armed with a wealth of modern weaponry. The result has been thousands killed and numerous communities forced to flee. “The Fulani have claimed far more victims during 2018 than Boko Haram, but no one is doing anything about it”, the bishop explained.

Image: Bishop William Amove Avenya of the diocese of Gboko pleading with the authorities to do something to stop the violence against the (mostly Christian) farmers. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need. 

How ACN is helping the local Church in Homs to distribute aid for fuel and heating

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Remond Ziade was 72 years old during the first year of the war in Homs, one of the cities most heavily involved in the fighting since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011. Widespread street protests were met with harsh repression and Homs became the seedbed of some of the first groups of rebel fighters, earning it the nickname the “capital of the revolution”. The main areas of fighting were in the City of Old Homs and the Al-Hamidiya district, an area with a significant Christian presence. By around 2012 life had become unbearable and almost all the inhabitants fled the area, leaving only a few elderly people behind.

As one of the leading exporters of crude oil, Venezuela was once the most affluent country in South America. Today, the country has reached up to one million per cent inflation and large parts of the population are becoming ever more destitute. During a visit to the German national office of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Manuel Felipe Díaz Sánchez (63) talked about how the church is working to support the people in need and to contribute to the unity of the country. Archbishop Sánchez has headed the Archdiocese of Calabozo since 2008; the diocese is located about 300 kilometres south of the capital city of Caracas. The interview was held by Tobias Lehner.

ACN 20181001 77357 Easy ResizeArchbishop Manuel Felipe Díaz Sánchez Archbishop of Calabozo (Venezuela):
“We could not survive without the solidarity of Christians worldwide.”

ACN: Venezuela was once one of the most affluent countries in South America. Today, Venezuela has reached up to one million per cent inflation and large parts of the population are becoming ever more destitute. How are the people affected by the crisis in concrete terms?

Archbishop Manuel Felipe Díaz Sánchez: Here is an example that can be seen on a daily basis: somebody goes into a store and asks how much a specific item of food costs. He leaves to go get the money and comes back one hour later – only to learn that the price has in the meantime gone up. There is a shortage of everything. A lot of people are only living from rice and beans. The situation in the hospitals is especially critical. Medicines are in short supply. In some cases, the patients have to procure them themselves and sell their last valuables in order to do so. Many people see emigration as the only solution.

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