Aid to the Church in Need focuses on Africa with Lent & Easter campaign
Boosting Church's pastoral strength, fighting Islamist extremism
By ACN staff
AIMING to strengthen Catholics in the face of a rise in religiously motivated fundamentalism and to support pastoral care on the continent with the largest growing number of believers, international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is putting the spotlight on Africa with its 2017 Lent and Easter campaign.
Under the motto “Their Faith Is Our Hope,” proceeds from the campaign will benefit an African Church with 215 million faithful, in a population of more than 1.1 billion people whose average age is just 19. ACN already supports more than 1,800 projects each year in 45 African nations.
The campaign will draw attention to the suffering of Christians in several African countries that are directly affected by Islamic terrorism, Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad.
Projects funded will also reflect the hidden, but constant infiltration of Islamic fundamentalism into other African countries where, up until recently, Christians and Muslims have been living side-by-side in peace and harmony. Countries targeted include Tanzania, Kenya, Benin, Senegal and Uganda.
Local bishops have confirmed the agenda of extremist Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran, which recruit young, ambitious Africans through scholarships. Following their studies, these young people are then sent home with a mission to break apart the prevailing order of peaceful Christian-Muslim coexistence.
In other instances, extremist Muslim groups give children and adolescents money or arrange work for them. In return, the youth are expected to convert to Islam and scorn those who remain Christian.
In order to strengthen local Churches as agents of forgiveness and reconciliation, ACN will support projects that focus on interfaith dialogue and peace-building. Ultimately, ACN officials believe that the best way to establish peace in Africa is ensuring the unfaltering presence of the Eucharist and Gospel through the work of well-educated priests and catechists.
In addition to the impact of Islamic fundamentalism, widespread corruption, oppressive regimes, ethnic conflicts and power struggles—as well as natural catastrophes and climate change—have time and again called on the Catholic Church take on a fundamental, often heroic role in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a story seldom told in the international secular media.
One of the goals of the campaign is to draw attention to the courage and readiness of priests, as well as men and women religious, to give their all to help and protect the faithful—risking injury and death taking care of refugees in South Sudan, fighting unlawful land grabs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or providing for those stricken with the Ebola virus Sierra Leone.
What’s more, the 25 countries with the lowest rate human development are all located in Africa. In addition, Sub-Saharan Africa provides shelter to 18 million refugees, more than a quarter of all refugees worldwide.
Despite all difficulties, the number of Catholics has quadrupled over the last 35 years, growing from 55 to 214 million. Besides Asia, Africa—the fastest-growing Church in the world—is the only other continent to report an annual growth in vocations to the priesthood.
The campaign formally launched on Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017. For more information, please click here.
Turkana shepherd in Kenya; ACN photo/IsmaelMartinezSanchez