“2019 one of the bloodiest for Christians in history”: Head of Global Catholic Charity

Thomas Heine-Beldern, President of Aid to the Church in Need

The President of the international Catholic pastoral charitable organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Thomas Heine-Beldern, has described the just ended year, 2019, as a year with a significantly high record of attacks targeting Christians across the globe, including Africa where Christians have been murdered in West Africa.

“2019 was a year of martyrs, one of the bloodiest for Christians in history,” ACN President Heine-Beldern observed in his initial assessment about last year shared with ACI Africa Thursday, January 2.

Reviewing the situation of Africa in 2019, the head of ACN, also a pontifical foundation, took note of the West African countries of Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

“On Christmas Eve, Kwarangulum, a village in the state of Borno that is inhabited by Christians, was attacked by jihadists,” Heine-Beldern stated and added in reference to Nigeria’s Borno state, “Seven people were shot dead, a young woman was kidnapped and the houses and the church were burned down.”

Expressing his deep concerns following the Christmas Day murder of 11 in Nigeria, the Executive President remarked, “A faction of IS released a video that they claimed showed the execution of ten Christians and a Muslim in north-eastern Nigeria. We are deeply distressed by this. We are celebrating while others are in mourning and live in fear.”


Turning his attention to Burkina Faso where Christians have also been targeted, the German native cited reports from the West African country.

“Our sources have reported at least seven attacks on Catholic and Protestant communities that have led to the deaths of 34 Christians – among them two priests and two pastors,” Heine-Beldern who has headed ACN since 2018 stated.

Referencing partners of his organization who are based in Burkina, 67-year-old Heine-Beldern disclosed, “Our project partners talk about attempts to destabilise the country, foment religious conflict and stir up violence.”

The gradual and continual pushing of Burkinabe Christians out of their country and the closure of schools and chapels were also noted as characteristic of “a disastrous year for Christians in Burkina Faso,” the report shared with ACI Africa detailed.

The reactions of members of the international community regarding attacks targeting Christians around the world was also a focus of the head of ACN that provides financial support to over 5,000 pastoral projects globally.

More in Africa

In particular, President Heine-Geldern described as positive the fact that “politicians and opinion leaders in Western Europe are talking about religious freedom much more frequently now.”

The ACN leader who is fluent in English, French as well as his native German expressed his encouragement of the video message by Prince Charles for Christmas sent to ACN in which the British heir apparent made reference to the growing suffering and persecution of Christians in various countries of the world and called for solidarity.

Security concerns in West Africa characterized with attacks by jihadist groups that took a heavy toll on human life pre-occupied Church leaders in the African Sahel region who, in November 2019, convened the first-ever Inter-Conferences Workshop bringing together Catholic Prelates and clerics to discuss ways of ending the violence on Christians.

The Sahel region, which encompasses Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and  Eritrea has faced rampant violence facilitated by political crisis in the countries thereby offering a fertile ground for the proliferation of extremist groups.

In their communique that identified those carrying out the attacks among stakeholders to be engaged in efforts to address the challenge, the delegation stated, “We, Archbishops and Bishops, priests, and secular delegates of Episcopal Conferences Burkina-Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Ghana, make an urgent appeal to the perpetrators of attacks and massacres, to put an end in the name of the respect of life that is a sacred gift of God that no one can dispose of, whatever his ambition, his ethnic, cultural, political, or religious belonging.”


Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla is ACI Africa’s founding Editor-in-Chief. He was formed in the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), and later incardinated in Rumbek Diocese, South Sudan. He has a PhD in Media Studies from Daystar University in Kenya, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Marist College, New York, USA.