A message of peace from Mgr. Antonio Javellana Ledesma, Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines

A message of peace from Mgr. Antonio Javellana Ledesma, Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines

Two bombs exploded during Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Philippines. According to local police, 20 people were killed, and dozens more were wounded. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack that happened within a week of a referendum in which the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao voted for greater autonomy. Since 2000, there have been at least ten attacks on or near the cathedral. The Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro Mgr. Antonio Javellana Ledesma spoke to ACN: “I am concerned about the incident, because it may disturb the peace process that started with the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro.”

Iraq: A Muslim gesture of reconciliation

In Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city in the North, the Christmas bells rang out again this year for the first time in four years. During the preceding years this once so familiar sound had no longer been heard. Now, for the first time since the war, the Christians were able to celebrate Holy Mass at Christmas in the church of Mar Boulus (Saint Paul) in the Al-Mundshen suburb of Mosul. However, even as recently as just before Christmas it had been near impossible for the Christians to clean their church in Mosul. But then a group of young Muslims took the initiative, even re-erecting the Cross and, in a sign of reconciliation, inviting all Christians to celebrate Christmas in Mosul.

High-ranking representatives of the Christian Church in the region celebrated Christmas mass in Mosul especially for 400 displaced Christian families. The service was led by Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako and the Bishop of Babylon, Shlemun Warduni (both Chaldeans), the Syriac Catholic Archbishop Youhanna Moutros Moshe from Mosul, and the Syriac Orthodox Bishop Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf. Also among the guests of honor were the presidents of the universities of Mosul und Niniveh.

While most displaced Christians are still living in the Erbil refugee camp, the first 60 families have recently decided to return to Mosul, according to Patriarch Sako. “The efforts of the churches to recreate a stable and peaceful environment for the local population have borne further fruit,” stated Andrzej Halemba, desk officer for the Middle East at Aid to the Church in Need.

“Let us hope that the light of Jesus may shine in their hearts and bring light to our wounded world,” said the Dominican Father Najeeb Michaeel, who referred to this special Christmas service as one of the highlights in recent months.

In 2003 around 1.3 million Christians were living in Iraq, accounting for approximately 8% of the total population. Today their number has fallen to only around 250,000, representing less than 1% of the population, according to ACN. Until recently there were no Christians left in Mosul, since they were all forced to flee from the advancing terrorists of the so-called Islamic State and seek refuge in the town of Erbil in the autonomous Kurdish region of northeastern Iraq.

ACN is currently working to encourage the return of the Christians to their former homes in Iraq. With its appeal for a “return to the roots”, ACN is closely involved in an extensive program to rebuild the homes and churches of the uprooted Christians from the Nineveh plains region, not far from the city of Mosul. And indeed with some success – for already around a third of the Christian exiles have now returned to their homes on the Nineveh plains. ACN is continuing to call for donations to support the Iraqi Christians in returning to their homeland.


Philippines: To rebuild inter-faith relations

A Bishop in the Philippines, whose cathedral and home were destroyed by extremists, has stated that his top priority is to rebuild inter-faith relations and bring healing to his traumatised people. Bishop Edwin de la Peña said reconciliation is vital in Marawi, the city in southern Philippines which was devastated by a five-month siege mounted by Islamist extremists affiliated with Daesh (ISIS).

Speaking barely six weeks on from the Philippines government declaring victory over the terrorists, Bishop de la Peña of Marawi said his task now was to train teenage Muslims in the city to become “peace catalysts” by immunising them against what he called “the persuasive tentacles of extremism”. The bishop said that – rather than rebuilding his burnt-out cathedral and bishop’s house – his immediate priority is a series of initiatives including drama-based healing sessions for young children and a counselling centre for people traumatised by war.

In his interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop de la Peña said: “The raison d’etre of the prelature [area of episcopal oversight] has always been to establish dialogue between Muslims and Christians. Marawi has always been the showcase of inter-religious harmony here in the Philippines.”

Relations – strained by economic and political disputes – suddenly deteriorated last May when Daesh-affiliated jihadists attacked Marawi in what became the longest urban battle in the modern history of the Philippines. Up to 20 people were killed, including eight Christians who refused to convert to Islam and a further 240 were reportedly kidnapped, including Catholic priest Father Teresito Soganub, who was subsequently released. The jihadists filmed themselves bursting into Marawi’s St Mary’s Cathedral. They stamped on a picture of Pope Francis and smashed statues and crosses, before setting fire to the building.

Bishop de la Peña said the response of Muslims to the conflict was divided with some Muslims defying the extremists by sheltering Christians targeted by the militants. But he also said that the local Muslim community resented the Philippine forces which they said was responsible for doing the most damage to Marawi by carrying out airstrikes over the city.

He said terrorist groups which survived the war had realised that the best way to prolong any conflict with the government was to take as many hostages as possible – especially Catholic priests and nuns.

Asked about the implications of this threat, the bishop told ACN: “We cannot afford security escorts. We just have to be very careful.” ACN Secretary General Philipp Ozores, who visited Marawi this month, underlined the importance of Bishop de la Peña’s peace work, saying: The perception of young Muslims is changing through the bishop’s work. We would very much like to keep supporting the mission of the prelature.”

In September 2017, ACN gave an initial €20,000 for emergency supplies for displaced people in Marawi. In November, #RedWednesday, ACN’s international campaign promoting religious freedom, attracted huge support in the Philippines with more than 75 cathedrals and other major churches floodlighting red for the occasion.


Iraq: First Church rebuilt in Nineveh

For Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, who attended the ceremony in Telleskuf on Friday, December 8th 2017, the re-consecration of the church of St George was a symbol of hope and victory. “It is a message of hope and victory”, he said. “Daesh wanted to eliminate the Christian presence here, but IS is gone and the Christians of Telleskuf are back.”

The Chaldean Church in Telleskuf was severely damaged during the invasion by ISIS and was also ransacked and desecrated afterwards. The main structure of the church was not affected, but the repair work needed was nonetheless expensive. As the Archbishop explained to the Aid to the Church in Need, “The opening of the church of St George in Telleskuf will be a powerful incentive to the other Christian towns and villages.”

“I am moved by the fact that the church of St George has not only been reopened, but has done so still more beautiful and glorious than before”, he added. “That is the way God’s Providence works”, he commented to ACN, minutes after the ceremony.

Thanks to the outside support it received, the Chaldean patriarchate has been able to invest in the rebuilding of the village of Telleskuf, which numbered around 1,500 families before the invasion by so-called Islamic State. According to Archbishop Warda, “two thirds of the population have already returned, and so it was necessary to send out a clear signal that the Church too would be resuming her normal activities.” ACN helped with a contribution of €100,000 for the rebuilding of the church of St. George. And the charity is hoping to be able to support the repair and renovation of two other churches on the Nineveh Plains, one a Syriac Catholic church and the other an Orthodox one.

Archbishop Warda wanted to reiterate his thanks to the benefactors of ACN for their generosity. “A huge thank you to all who have made it possible for us to celebrate the ‘victory of our return’. IS thought they could eliminate us, and yet it is IS who have disappeared and we have returned to Telleskuf. The reopening of this church is and will be a powerful symbol to all the other villages and reinforces us in our determination to rebuild them. Thanks to you, we can once more praise God here and the Christian presence can be preserved in this place”, he concluded.

According to the latest information, the total number of Christian families who have returned to the Nineveh Plains has now risen to 6,330 families, which represents 33% of those who were forced to flee in 2014 when their villages were overrun by so-called Islamic State. During the month of November 1,147 families returned to their villages, over half of them (771 families) to Quaraqosh (Bakhdeda). However, of all the Christian villages, Telleskuf is the one to which the highest percentage (67%) have now returned to their homes.


Iraq: Santa's workshop for Nineveh children

Aid to the Church in Need is committed to ensuring that the Iraqi children from the Nineveh plains will not be without Christmas presents this year.

It is a large warehouse with white and grey walls. Dozens of boxes are piled up on the floor. It might seem to be a somewhat gloomy-looking building, but in fact it is a warehouse of dreams. Beneath the concrete beams and among the wooden pallets, dozens of pairs of hands work industriously and happy faces smile. In the last few days O’Neal, Santa, Reben and many other volunteers from the Chaldean Catholic parish of Erbil in Iraq have become Santa’s little helpers here in the warehouse.

Christmas is coming of course, and the Iraqi children of the Nineveh plains – like children all over the world – are looking forward with excitement and expectation to these very special days. For many of them this Christmas will be different, because it will be the first one they have celebrated in their own homes. For they had to spend the last three Christmases homeless, as refugees in their own country, following the invasion of their homes by the Islamist fighters of IS in August 2014. Just like the Child Jesus himself, who was born in a stable and had no place to call his home, the children of the Christian villages and towns of Nineveh spent the last few Christmases in refugee camps or in other accommodation rented with support from the diocese of Ankawa.

After immense effort on their part and thanks to the financial support of friends and benefactors from all over the world, over 6,330 families have now been able to return to the various different Christian towns and villages in this area and start to try and rebuild their lives. Many other families are still waiting their opportunity, however.

Christmas is the great gift of God to mankind and for this reason it is a message of hope for them all. ACN is committed to ensuring that the Iraqi children from the Nineveh plains – not only those who have been able to return to those homes but also those who are still waiting to be able to do so – will not be without Christmas presents this year. And as a result, the warehouse in Ankawa has been transformed into a sort of “Santa’s workshop” and the 20 or so young people who are helping the Chaldean religious sisters of the community of the Daughters of Mary are like those little helpers working furiously to bring joy and hope to the children. They are aiming to wrap up a total of 15,000 Christmas parcels which will then be distributed to the children of the different Christian rites in Qaraqosh, Karamless, Bartella and Bashiqua, and likewise to the large number of children who are still living as refugees in Ankawa, which is the Christian quarter of Erbil.

In their Christmas wish lists and letters to Santa, these children often say that their first wish is to have a stable place where they can live in peace. A second wish is to be able to continue attending school, and their third wish to have a place where they can play. Wishes like these are not so easy to parcel up and give them, as these young volunteers well know. But they are in no doubt that the children will also be absolutely delighted with these “material gifts which carry with them the Good News of the presence of God among us and are stamped with the love of God the Father”, as Sister Ni’am puts it. She is the project coordinator. The parcels will include “an anorak – something very necessary, because winter in this part of Iraq can be very cold and the temperatures often fall below zero – plus chocolates and, in order not to overlook the profoundly religious meaning of this feast, a Bible or another spiritual book in every parcel, depending on the age of the child concerned”.

The helpers here in “Santa’s workshop” in Ankawa are profoundly grateful to ACN for having sponsored and funded this initiative of “love and solidarity with the Christians of Iraq”.

“It will be a joyful and a painful celebration at the same time: Joyful because of their return to their birthplaces and houses; and painful because of the state of the villages: destroyed, burned and looted houses; stolen, burned and destroyed churches; neglected streets, almost non-existent services, friends who left the country”, Sister Ni’am explains.

A Christmas very close to that first Christmas in Bethlehem, where joy and suffering were mingled together in the lives of Mary and Joseph as they prepared for the birth of the God Child.

According to ACN the cost of each gift parcel is 20 Euros, so that the total cost of the whole project is 300,000 Euros. Similarly, ACN is also supporting a Christmas parcel project for the children of Aleppo (75,000 Euros) and another for the Syrian refugee families in Armenia (20,000 Euros).


Syria: "But for you, we would disappear"

His Beatitude Ignatius Younan III, Patriarch of the Syriac Catholics worldwide, addressed a group of 30 representatives of European NGOs gathered to hear about the situation of Christians in Syria and Iraq after the departure of Daesh.

Having closely followed the EU policy toward Syria, he expressed hope to soon see an end to the sanctions causing such suffering to the Syrian citizens who, at the moment, completely depend on Catholic charitable organizations for their every need.

In the meeting co-hosted by Aid to the Church in Need and the Commission of European Bishops’ Conferences (COMECE), Patriarch Younan asked the participants, all witnesses to close to six years of war in Syria, to help his people “to be free of the three Ps: paternalism, pandering and profiteering” as he believes Syriac Catholics have been victimized for a long time by external forces. “We have been a loyal community serving the country where we were born, fully endowed citizens. We are the indigenous population”, said His Beatitude, “but because we do not have our own militias or territorial ambitions everyone thinks we agree with everything or we are easy to overrun. For us it is a matter of survival.  If it was not for the Church organizations such as Aid to the Church in Need we would be about to disappear”.

It comes after reports that up to two-thirds of Syria’s pre-2011 Christian population had fled within five years – down to 500,000 – with governments and parliaments accusing ISIS of genocide against Church communities and Yazidis. 

Patriarch Younan was accompanied by Archbishop Antoine Chahda of Aleppo, who described the situation in the city these days. “No more missiles, and it is quiet, but that does not mean the war is over. I mean that the signs of the destruction of the entire life of Aleppo are visible and painful, such as the empty factories where the rebels and their supporters stole all the machinery. We need the industrial leaders to come back and produce, to give a solid base to the reconstruction”.

Both Church leaders insisted for an end to the  economic sanctions, and asked the help of the NGOs present to remind the EU authorities that the high-level politicians do not suffer the consequences, but the thousands of orphans and widows that this war has left do.

Syria is a priority country for ACN aid with pastoral help and emergency support being rolled out in cities and towns al over the country. In Aleppo, thousands of people are receiving emergency food, shelter (rental costs), hot water (electricity subsidy) and up to 2,200 Christian families in the city are receiving medical aid.

This Christmas the charity is providing gifts for 1,500 Christian children in Aleppo including a hat, socks, trousers, a shirt and a pair of winter shoes. In azizieh, a mainly Christian district of Aleppo, ACN is helping with running costs for Our Lady’s secondary School which was bombed several times, and the Lord’s Care Orphanage, as well as repairs to the Al-Yarmouk Sports Centre, damaged by shells. ACN is also providing shelter for 340 families in towns and villages in southern Syria.


Iraq: A "Bethlehem" for Iraqi Christians

Aid to the Church in Need begins Advent campaign “Back to the Roots”

Advent is a “time of expectation”. For thousands of Iraqi Christians, the wait after they were driven out by the terrorist organisation IS has stretched out to an indefinite period. Since 2014, many of them have had to leave their homes. They now want to go back to the places where their ancestors have lived since the beginnings of Christianity. However, since they were driven away, their houses have been destroyed, damaged and looted. ACN is bringing Christian refugees back home.

Aid to the Church in Need wants to enable around 8,000 families to return to their homes in Iraq. In order to do so, 5,000 houses have to be built on the northeastern Nineveh Plains. Two families often share a house. Only €2,000 are needed per house to replace roofs, doors, windows and sanitary facilities. In addition, 15,000 children and adolescents will be given a Christmas parcel containing coats and sweets – the gifts will be put together by religious sisters and catechists in the diocese of Erbil.

For this reason, Aid to the Church in Need is calling for more donations before Christmas so that the displaced persons can go “back to their roots”. This is the motto of the campaign. Father Andrzej Halemba associates it with the Advent season. “Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’. We want to make sure that the Christians on the Nineveh Plains can once more have a ‘Bethlehem’, a dwelling that actually exists,” the head of the Middle East section of ACN explained.

According to the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, only 27 per cent of the families have returned to their neighbourhoods in northeastern Iraq. The situation there remains tense. More than 10,000 houses have to be renovated or rebuilt for those returning home. The reconstruction zone encompasses nine towns, among them Qaraqosh (Bakhdida), Bartella and Teleskuf. The total costs for the reconstruction, including infrastructure and the region’s more than 360 church buildings, are estimated to be €230 million. The Aid to the Church in Need campaign “Back to the Roots” is calling for people all over the world to contribute to this mammoth task.

Thanks to benefactors from all over the world, ACN has been able to help thousands of Iraqi Christians return to their towns. “We first funded emergency aid projects and set up containers so that the displaced persons had a roof over their heads and their children could go to school,” Baron Johannes Heereman explained. “Fortunately, in the meantime many have been able to move into shared houses,” the executive president of Aid to the Church in Need added. The charity also contributed rent subsidies, food parcels and subsistence aid to displaced priests and sisters and helped rebuild chapels.

Over a period of almost three years, ACN has collected more than €35 million to help Iraqi Christians return home. “However, we still have a lot of work ahead of us,” Baron Heereman emphasised. Donations and prayers are equally important for these Christians who have suffered so deeply. Aid to the Church in Need wants to use this campaign to make the hope of a personal “Bethlehem” more obtainable for Iraqi refugees. “Their homeland is still deeply scarred from the war. However, in spite of everything, they want to return to their roots. That is brave,” the president emphasised and urged, “We cannot desert the Christian minority after the exodus.”


Iraq: A Lambroghini to support those in Nineveh!

A brand-new, special edition Lamborghini Huracan presented to Pope Francis will be auctioned off and the proceeds donated to charity.  Part of the funds raised from the Sotheby’s auction will go to the “Return to the Roots” project run by Aid to the Church in Need . This project helps displaced Christians go back to their original villages and recover their dignity after the devastation caused by the Islamic State group.

“We have thanked the Holy Father and assured him that we will use his gift well – by bringing thousands more Christians back to Nineveh,” said Alfredo Mantovano and Alessandro Monteduro, president and director of ACN Italy, who were present on the  morning of  November 15th,  at the delivery of the sleek, white car with yellow-gold markings to Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.

It is not the first time that Pope Francis has supported persecuted Christians in Iraq through ACN. In 2016, he donated €100,000 to the Saint Joseph Hospital in Erbil, where thousands of refugees are being treated.

The Pope´s words of encouragement for the ambitious ACN plan for the reconstruction of the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plains were also transmitted in September 2017 through the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He took part in ACN’s international conference on the so-called “Marshall Plan” to help Iraq’s Christians.

“During today’s meeting we showed Pope Francis the first achievements of our project and the photos of the first families to come home,” Mantovano and Monteduro said. “We also want to stress, together with the Holy Father, that our plan is the result of a significant process of reconciliation and forgiveness, and the result of an agreement between local Churches, whose priests and religious collaborate actively, and work together to practically assist Iraq’s Christians”. ACN also thanked the sports-car maker Lamborghini. The president and director of ACN Italy said: “The gift to the Pope by the car manufacturer is a good example of how big companies can actually help Christians who suffer.”


Syria: The needy helping the neediest

The Orthodox Youth Movement, which is helping 2,200 Christian families each month in the Syrian city of Aleppo, is being supported by Aid to the Church in Need. Over 100 young people have gathered in a small building opposite the Greek Orthodox Church of Mar Elias in northern Aleppo. They are all wearing dark red polo shirts with the image of Christ Pantocrator and the logo of the Orthodox Youth Movement. Most of these young people are university students working as volunteers, and the movement is a charity which is helping around 2,200 Christian families in Aleppo who have been plunged into poverty as a result of the war.

“We are also helping 1,700 Muslim families, providing them with clothing, food, medicines and accommodation for those who have lost their homes in the bombings”, explains Elias Faraj, a retired civil engineer who is coordinating the aid programme. Aleppo is the city that has suffered most of all as a result of the civil war. After five years of warfare and despite the fact that the bombs finally stopped falling last December, the city is still without electricity most of the time and the water supply is still very limited. “Our future is still very uncertain, and the crisis will continue for a long time yet, I fear”, Faraj confesses.

The group of volunteers were visited by Father Andrzej Halemba, a Catholic priest and the head of the CAN projects section for the Middle East. Father Halemba was delighted to be able to talk to the young people and encourage them in their work and daily life. “You are the hope of Syria, you are the light in the midst of so much darkness”, he told them. Deep emotion shone in the eyes of these young men and women. At the end they all stood and together recited a prayer in Arabic.

“ACN helped us back in 2015 for the cost of a project for providing medical supplies. At the same time it is supporting 700 families each month, with a total of 30,000 Euros”, Elias Faraj tells us. “We are extremely grateful for this aid, and grateful for this visit by Father Andrzej, because it gives us hope and courage to continue working here. This crisis has made us still more united and encouraged us to collaborate more closely together between our different Churches, for we are the same Body of Christ”.

These young people, leaders and volunteers of the Orthodox Youth Movement have also suffered the consequences of the war. Yet despite this, they continue their work of helping those in still greater need. Elias Faraj himself is an example of this. He has been responsible for the social aid section of the organisation since 2011, when the civil war first broke out in Syria and before the conflict extended to Aleppo. Soon after he was abducted for three days and his family were forced to pay a ransom and were lucky to get him back alive. One of his sisters was shot in the leg while walking in the street and came close to losing her leg. “But I have forgiven them. There are some who think that I am stupid for having done so, but I do forgive them. This is the true freedom that God gives us.”

For Joseph Abdo, a third-year medical student at the University of Aleppo, his reason for joining the organisation was the fact that “they are helping people in different ways. It has been a good experience for me because it is teaching me to give to others what I myself have received.” Speaking about the future of his country, he says, “I am longing for peace, first of all. Our generation is the one that is going to have to rebuild the country. I believe that it is our goal to work together to rebuild our community.” Standing beside him is a young woman, Gadan Naflek, another of the youth volunteers. “I am helping with the schooling of young children aged 3 and 4. It makes me really happy to be able to help other people, and I am learning to love and to give to others what I myself have received.” And these young people do not forget to thank us for the aid provided by ACN. “All the aid we are given, no matter how small, is doing a great deal of good and is very necessary”, adds George Juri, aged 24, who has recently graduated in civil engineering.

These young people have seen the horror of war from close up. The exploding bombs and the din of combat have been the soundtrack of their lives for over five years. Rosa Iwas, a university student in her second year of studying English literature at the University of Aleppo, tells us, “When I go to church, I pray to God for peace and for the needs of all the people living round about me. Without our faith it would be very difficult to continue here.”


Worldwide: Ignoring the worsening persecution

The persecution of Christians is worse than at any time in history – but it is being largely ignored by the UN and the international community, according to reports.

The new Persecuted and Forgotten? report, launched at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament on October 12, 2017, concludes that the persecution of Christians reached a high water mark in 2015-17 – with growing attacks on the faithful by Daesh (ISIS), Boko Haram, and other fundamentalist groups. According to the report produced by the Aid to the Church in Need UK office, the international community has failed to adequately respond to the needs of Christians attacked by militant extremists.

Persecuted and Forgotten? states: “Governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway. If Christian organisations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

The report also identified growing problems in certain majority Islamic countries and authoritarian states such as Eritrea and North Korea. Report editor John Pontifex said: “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

Although the report found in the countries under examination that many faith communities have suffered at the hands of extremists and authoritarian regimes, it concluded Christians have experienced the most hostility and violence. The report supports this claim with a series of examples showing the extent of the problems facing Christians in each of the 13 core countries it assesses in depth – as well as providing an overview of the state of religious freedom for the country’s various denominations.

Persecuted and Forgotten? found that members of China’s 127 million-strong Christian population have suffered increased persecution following new attempts to bring Christianity in line with Communist ideals. More than 2,000 churches and crosses have been pulled down in China’s coastal Province of Zhejiang – and clergy are still being routinely detained by authorities. During the campaign of genocide by Daesh and other Islamist militant groups in the Middle East, Christians were disproportionately affected by the extremists.

In Iraq, more than half of the country’s Christian population became internal refugees and Syria’s second city of Aleppo, which until 2011 was home to the largest Christian community, saw numbers dropping from 150,000 to barely 35,000 by spring 2017 – a fall of more than 75 percent.  Despite national governments and international organisations having determined that a genocide has taken place, local Church leaders in the Middle East have repeatedly said that they feel forgotten by the international community. A number of bishops in the region have accused the UN of overlooking the needs of displaced Christians, despite pledging to deliver aid “neutrally and impartially”.

Extremism has been a growing problem in Africa – particularly in Nigeria where Daesh affiliates Boko Haram have displaced more than 1.8 million. In one diocese alone – Kafanchan – within five years, 988 people had been killed, and 71 Christian-majority villages had been destroyed, as well as 2,712 homes and 20 churches. At the launch in the House of Lords, chaired by Lord Alton, Archbishop John Darwish – who has overseen the care of Syrian Christian refugees denied UN aid – gave a first-hand report about the crisis that has faced Christians and ACN’s John Pontifex presented the findings of Persecuted and Forgotten?

Bishop Matthew Kukah from northern Nigeria spoke about Christians living with violence from Boko Haram and other extremist militants. Work resettling displaced Christians in the towns and villages they were driven out of by Daesh in northern Iraq was described by Father Salar Kajo, who helps oversee the programme returning displaced families to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.