Bishop in Central African Republic: violence is not driven by Muslim-Christian conflict

Various media reports suggest that the ongoing crisis in Central African Republic (CAR) is caused by a Muslim-Christian conflict or even Islamist efforts to subdue Christians. That is not the case, said one of the country’s prominent Catholic leaders. The ongoing bloodshed, said Bishop Nestor Nongo-Aziagba of Bossangoa, president of the CAR bishops’ conference, is the result of economic exploitation—the pursuit by both state and non-state actors of the country’s rich diamond and gold deposits. “Let us not use religion to cover up exploitation,” he said speaking  with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) during a recent visit to Washington, D.C, where he attended the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom which brought together some 1,000 religious leaders  and representatives of government and non-governmental organizations, including ACN.

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Bishop Nestor Nongo-Aziagba of Bossangoa in CAR for priestly and diaconate ordinations in Ibadan, Nigeria (July 2014)
Photographer: Diocese of Bossangoa, CAR. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

CAMEROON: Women maimed as Boko Haram strikes terror

by Maria Lozano

On the night of July 29, members of the terrorist group Boko Haram attacked the town of Gagalari in the diocese of Yagoua in the Far North region of Cameroon.

According to information received from local sources by Aid to the Church in Need, the terrorists seem to have changed their strategy, now targeting the town's women. "They arrived during the night, entered the houses one by one and kidnapped the women. Only the women. They took them to the outskirts and amputated one ear of each of the victims. Then they released them threatening them and telling them that they would return, that this is the first touch intervention, but others will follow. It is terrifying. "

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Children in a village in Bauchi Diocese devastated by Boko Haram. Photographer: Corinne Zaugg. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

Courage and faith celebrated as cathedral re-opens
by Citra Abbott & Maria Lozano

The reopening of a bomb-blasted cathedral in the Philippines, six months on from terror attacks which killed 20 people, has been hailed as a testimony to the local Church’s faith and resilience despite the ongoing threat of Islamic extremism. Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need’s national director in the Philippines Jonathan Luciano described witnessing the local Christian community’s faith and courage at the re-dedication Mass of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo. Mr Luciano said: “Security was really tight – police and soldiers locked down an entire block of the city. “Yet the cathedral was packed. The dedication was attended by hundreds. It was inspiring to see the families of the victims and the survivors of the blasts there.”

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Syria: A Mother, her Son Killed in the War, Finds Strength in her Faith: ‘Our Roots must be Planted in God’

Yolla Ghandour, a Syrian-Armenian Catholic and mother of three, lives in Aleppo. She saw some of the worst fighting of the Syrian civil war. She talked to Aid to the Church in Need about the death of her 19-year-old son, Krikor, who died in the fighting.

“There were five of us: my husband, my two sons and daughter, and myself. Our financial circumstances worsened as a result of the war. My husband and Krikor lost their jobs because the area where they worked was dangerous; it was shelled by militants. To cover necessities, we relied on our savings. It was a difficult time.

“A week before he died [on April 16, 2014], Krikor came home to visit us because an uncle had passed away. While getting ready to leave again, he turned to his father and said, ‘I am going back to death.’

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Syria: Yolla Ghandour praying the rosary at the tomb of her son. She is Syrian-Armenian Catholic and mother of three, she lives in Aleppo, which saw some of the worst fighting of the Syrian civil war.
Her 19-year-old son, Krikor, who died in the fighting." Image: Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

"The whole country was baptised overnight"
Father Prasad Harshan supports the victims of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka with his “Faith Animation Team”

An interview by Stephan Baier / Aid to the Church in Need

Father Prasad, the terror attacks at Easter in three Christian churches in Sri Lanka have wounded the faithful not only physically and psychologically, but also in their faith. How does the Church support them?

Our Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith wanted to have missionaries on the street, going from parish to parish, from street to street, to listen to the people in their homes, to hear their stories and stand by them in all their struggles of faith. We already started this three years ago. Now, when we learned of this tragedy, it has become a blessing; a blessing for the Church and for the people. We are five priests who are working with the terror victims. We are particularly active in Negombo, where 115 people were murdered and more than 280 injured in a single parish. Everywhere we see black flags of mourning. The people are wounded, physically, mentally and spiritually. We see how the people have been wounded in their faith and in their religious life. In 30 years of civil war, we never had such bomb attacks in churches. The people are asking themselves, why did it happen? And why at Easter?

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Father Prasad Harshan has been supports the victims of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

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