, 03 January, 2020 / 8:02 PM
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.
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.”
Subscribe to our Free Daily ACI Africa Newsletter
At ACI Africa, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news from Africa, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church – so that you can grow in your Catholic faith and awareness about the people of God in Africa.
When you subscribe to the ACI Africa Updates, we will send you a daily email with links to the news you need.
Use the form below to tell us where we can send the ACI Africa Updates
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa