Königstein, 1 Feb. 2017. The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is concentrating on Africa with this year’s Lent and Easter campaign. Under the motto “Their Faith Is Our Hope”, the pontifical foundation would like to focus on a continent with about 1.112 billion inhabitants, 215 million of which are Catholics. The average age of the population is 19.
True to the charism of solidarity with the persecuted church, the foundation would like to draw attention to the suffering of Christians in several African countries that are directly affected by Islamic terrorism. These include Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad. At the same time, Aid to the Church in Need would like to highlight one of the most serious problems for the continent’s future: the hidden, but constant infiltration of Islamic fundamentalism into other African countries where, up until now, Christians and Muslims have been coexisting in peace and harmony. With this year’s campaign, the pastoral charity, which made persecuted Christians in the Middle East the focus of its efforts in 2015 and 2016, is reacting to the alarming news being conveyed by missionaries and local clergy from various African countries.
Each year, Aid to the Church in Need supports more than 1,800 projects in 45 African countries, including Tanzania, Kenya, Benin, Senegal and Uganda. Many of the project partners in these countries have confirmed the agenda of extremist Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran, which foster young, ambitious Africans through scholarships. They explained that the young Africans are then told to return to their respective countries and break apart the prevailing order of peaceful coexistence. They also talked about the pressure being exerted by Muslim groups. These groups give children and adolescents money or arrange work for them. In return, the youth are expected to convert to their religion and scorn those who remain Christian.
The peaceful coexistence of the religions in Sub-Saharan Africa lies in the balance. Without the reconciliation and forgiveness work the church carries out in countries such as Nigeria, the Central African Republic or Tanzania, the spiral of violence and hate would have had unthinkable, devastating consequences. For this reason, Aid to the Church in Need is supporting projects that focus on interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding. However, the pastoral charity believes that the Gospel itself still bears the most powerful message of peace. Aid to the Church in Need stands fully behind the campaign’s motto “Their Faith Is Our Hope”. To establish peace in Africa, the best investment is ensuring the unfaltering presence of Eucharist and Gospel through the work of well-educated priests and catechists.
However, it is important to recognise that the violence and suffering of the African people is not only rooted in Islamic fundamentalism. Corruption, oppressive regimes, ethnic conflicts and power struggles as well as natural catastrophes and climate change have time and again required that the Catholic church take on a fundamental, often heroic role in Sub-Saharan Africa.
One of the goals of the campaign is to draw attention to this heroism, which the media pays scant attention to. Proclaiming the Gospel and bearing witness to Christ among the needy in crisis regions or in city districts without law or order always carries the risk of being murdered, kidnapped or robbed. Aid to the Church in Need has witnessed the testimonies of lay people, missionaries and religious on site, those who, for example, take care of refugees in South Sudan, fight against wrongful land grabs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or care for those suffering from Ebola in Sierra Leone. Many of their fellow monks and sisters have lost their lives in this service, but they did so out of love for their brothers and sisters.
Despite all difficulties, the number of believers in the African church has quadrupled over the last 35 years, growing from 55 to 214 million. According to the latest statistics of the Catholic church, Africa ranks first in the world in terms of growth in the number of Catholics (46%). It is also a very young church. After all, the church only became established in many countries as recently as 200 years ago. Together with Asia, Africa is the only continent to report an annual growth in vocations to the priesthood.
Paradoxically, however, only 2% of the global economic output is allotted to Africa. With only one exception (Afghanistan), the 25 countries with the least human development are all located in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa provides shelter to 18 million refugees, 26% of all refugees worldwide. This data by itself would be enough to justify Aid to the Church in Need’s support. However, the pastoral charity considers its aid to be not just a mere humanitarian gesture, but that contributing to the pastoral care of a church that is the hope for the future is a natural consequence of Catholic responsibility. Because “Their Faith Is Our Hope”. The Lent and Easter campaign begins on Ash Wednesday, 1 March 2017.
Source: Maria Lozano, [email protected]