Africa: “Their Faith Is Our Hope”
• Strengthening Catholics to put an end to religiously motivated fundamentalism and to support pastoral care on the continent with the largest growing number of believers.
Africa is 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 Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) 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, ACN 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. This alarming news is being conveyed to ACN by missionaries and local clergy from various African countries.
Click HERE to watch a short video on the work of ACN in Africa
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, ACN 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. ACN 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.
(The good shepherd. A Turkana nomad teenager tending his flock in the Kakuma refugee camp area four, in Kenya, close to the border with South Sudan and Ethiopia © Ismael Martínez Sánchez/Aid to the Church in Need)
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.
(A Catholic priest anointing an elderly sick woman in the Lodwar diocese in Kenya © Ismael Martínez Sánchez/Aid to the Church in Need)
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 (Source http://www.unhcr.org/africa.html). 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.
(A religious sister comforting an elderly Turkana woman in the Lodwar diocese in Kenya © Ismael Martínez Sánchez/Aid to the Church in Need)
To learn more about the work of Aid to the Church in Need in Africa and to donate to help this cause please click HERE
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.
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