INDIA: Increase in violent attacks against Christian minorities

Interview with Mons. Theodore Mascarenhas, 12.04.2019
by Maria Lozano

India has just begun its electoral process, which will take place in seven separate stages between 11 April and 19 May this year. Fears that this, the most populous democracy in the world, might end up becoming a theocratic Hindu nation have strengthened recently, in light of the fact that the Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata (BJP) and its president Narendra Modi are seeking a second mandate. During its present term in office there has been an increase in interreligious violence, according to the report on Religious Freedom Worldwide by the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International). The figures speak for themselves: in 2016 a total of 86 people were killed and 2371 injured in 703 separate incidents of sectarian (Hindu fundamentalist) violence; in 2017 the figures were 111 killed and 2384 wounded in 822 separate reported incidents.

The most recent attack - on March 26 - took place in Tamil Nadu against a Catholic school, the Little Flower Higher Secondary School in Chinnasalem, when a crowd of Hindu fundamentalists smashed up the school and even attempted to strangle the religious sisters who were running the school. ACN journalist Maria Lozano interviewed Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi and Secretary General of the Indian Bishops’ Conference and asked him about the elections and the gravity of this recent incident.

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A picture from The Night of Witnesses organized by ACN France (23-29 March) Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of INDIA (CBCI)  with Bishop Fridolin Ambongo, bishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the CONGO. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need. Photographer: François-Régis Salefran.

Burkina Faso: Trapped and forced to flee their convent

After their hasty departure from Kompienbiga, in the south-east of Burkina Faso, the sisters of the congregation, Sœurs des Campagnes took refuge with the brothers in the male branch of their same congregation, in Pama, back in January 2019 and just before the assassination of Father César Fernandez. Sister Thérèse, the Mother Superior, and Father Soubeiga, the parish priest  of Pama, spoke to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) about the increase in violence which has struck the country, despite the fact that it is generally considered more peaceful than its tumultuous neighbours Mali and Niger.

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Burkina Faso, February 2019 - Transfer of the body of Fr. Antonio César Fernández to the morgue. The Spanish Salesian missionary, was assassinated on Friday 15.02.2019 at 72 years of age in a jihadi attack close to the border of Burkina Faso. The Salesian group was returning to their community in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, after participating in a congregation meeting in Lomé, neighboring Togo.
Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

Nicaragua: A Church on the side of its people  

by Ines San Martin

“We are carrying a small corner of the cross of Christ. We cannot carry it all. It is He who is helping us.”

Nicaragua today is a country trapped between two identities: on the one side it is a nation led by a government that in many respects continues a long history of dictatorship, as typified by the Somoza dynasty, which governed the country for almost 6 decades during the 20th century.

But on the other hand it is also a country whose people have said “enough”. A people who have woken up from their stupor and now wish to move forward, with a Catholic Church led by ten bishops who do not fear to shepherd their flock and be a Church that goes out to the margins, as Pope Francis keeps asking, and which opens the doors of its cathedrals in order to be, quite literally, a field hospital.

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Extraordinary women: how the contemplative religious are like the “inner workings” of a clock

by Tatianna Porto &  Daniela Almeida

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“The Church is like a great clock.” This is an analogy drawn by Bishop Aguirre, a missionary bishop in Africa who was visiting a convent in Rio de Janeiro. According to his analogy, the hands of the clock, which we can all see in constant movement, are like the missionaries who travel throughout the world, tirelessly bringing the Word of God to the people. But behind these hands lie the inner workings, hidden within the watch case, who are likewise working uninterruptedly, ensuring that the watch functions correctly. These inner workings are the contemplative religious, who sustain the Church silently through their constant prayer, “sounding on their lips the praise of God and interceding for the salvation of the world”, as Mother Maria Aparecida puts it, recalling the words of their rite of consecration. ACN went to see her to learn her story.

Miriam, The voice of Aleppo

In Aleppo the number of Christians shrank fivefold during the war. Now the economic crisis and the lack of professional employment opportunities are a source of anguish, especially for the young.

The performers are a choir of 60 or so children and young people, supported by five musicians. It is Saturday 17 March in the late afternoon. The Orthodox Youth Movement is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its creation. In the packed hall, the audience applauds appreciatively. A simple concept, but something that has become rare in recent years in this city of Aleppo, which was once the economic capital of the country, before the war.

ACN 20190402 86223 Easy ResizeA recital in Syria organized by MJO (Mouvement de la Jeunesse Orthodoxe) Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.

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