ACN Christmas campaign for displaced Christians in Africa and Middle East
By Lisa Zengarini
In the runup to Christmas, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has launched a new campaign to support Christian refugees and internally displaced people in Africa and the Middle East.
One of the countries where the international Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians operates is Burkina Faso, where the number of internally displaced people has increased to 1.4 million due to escalating attacks by jihadi insurgents.
ACN and its local partners are trying to assure pastoral care, meals and religious education for children. Growing insecurity has made it extremely difficult for priests, nuns and catechists to reach many parishes to celebrate Mass and teach catechism. In fact, most pastoral activities have been suspended. In this context the radio has become the main means of communication especially in rural areas.
Father Victor Ouedraogo, director of the Communication center of Notre Dame du Sahel in the Diocese of Ouahigouya, has highlighted to ACN the crucial role played by radio programmes in promoting social cohesion and in reconcilling communities amid growing tensions. This is why the production of local radio programmes is one of the projects ACN has decided to support with its Christmas campaign. “These programmes will allow Christians and the local population to hear appeals for tolerance and peaceful coexistence by our religious leaders. Catholics will also be able hear the Gospel and the teachings of the Church despite this difficult context, Fr Ouedraogo said.
Mozambique is another African country facing islamist insurgence, notably in the northern Province of Cabo Delgado from which over 800.000 people have been displaced. Violence broke out in late 2017, when a local jihadi group who has declared its allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, launched an insurgence, and has escalated over the past two years.
The province is one of the poorest in Mozambique, but is very rich in gas and rubies which have attracted many foreign corporations, but also the jihadi militias, who want to introduce the Islamic law and create a caliphate. The militias have attacked villages, churches, killed civilians and soldiers to take over strategic infrastructures and extractive mines. The attacks have become more and more violent and target both Christians and Muslims.
Many displaced people from Cabo Delgado have taken refuge in parishes in Pemba. The collections of the ACN Christmas campaign will be used to further support these people.
The campaign will also help support ACN’s ongoing relief work for Syrian Christians. Since the outbreak of the war in 2011 millions of people have fled Syria and there are about 7 million displaced people living in the country. After suffering the war and atrocities by the ISIS, Syrians are now bearing the brunt of the economic crisis and of international sanctions and 13,5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Many Syrians have fled to Lebanon, where local parishes are providing pastoral care, shelter and healthcare with the support of ACN.
According to Father Hugo Fabian Alaniz, an Argentinian priest working with displaced people in Aleppo, it is a moral duty for the Church to support Christians in the Middle East ,since it was them who first spread the Gospel in the world.