BY Ryan McDougall | November 8 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Aid to the Church in Need bring news from the frontline to Glasgow meeting

An international organisation highlighted the plight of persecuted Christians around the world at an annual Glasgow event.

Hundreds gathered in Hampden Park’s auditorium on Tuesday October 29 to hear Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) speakers discuss projects in Syria and the plight of persecuted Christians, including the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka.

Speaking at the event was Fr Nishantha Cooray, a Franciscan priest from Sri Lanka, who gave a first-hand account of ministering to the wounded and dying at the Easter 2019 bombings in which churches across the country were targeted.

Almost 260 people were killed and over 500 were injured in the bombings on Easter Sunday, which has been referred to as the worst day of Christian persecution in modern times.

 

Consolation

Within just minutes of the attack, Fr Cooray was identifying dead bodies sent to a hospital mortuary. He said: “The only thing that we could do was be with the people and console them with our prayers.

“We were so helpless in answering their emotional questions. We provided a listening ear. We also realised our own emotions with many tears since many of those who died were very well known to us.”

Sr Annie Demerjian, a member of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Syria, gave an account of ministering to the old and sick as conflict raged across the country.

She worked with volunteers in Aleppo providing food, medicine, fuel and electricity to those living near conflict zones.

 

Unshaken Faith

Sr Demerjian, a key project partner of ACN in Syria, spoke of how Faith has remained unshaken despite the persecution.

She said: “On the whole, we find, in the faithful, a deep-rooted Faith and trust in God. Despite the fear, despite the danger, they have taken the risk to go to church, to pray and refresh their souls with the God who consoles them. Anytime we ask them how they are coping, their answer is: ‘Nushkuruallah’—‘Thanks be to God.’

“This is a sign of the hope and trust they have in the Lord who is crucified with us and will not abandon us.”

The Glasgow event discussed ACN’s latest report, Persecuted and Forgotten?, which highlights the struggles of Christians around the world who are oppressed because of their Faith.

The report highlights that there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003 but by mid 2019, there were less than 150,000 in the country, and the figure now may well be under 120,000.

 

Diminishing numbers

It warns that Christianity may vanish entirely in the country, and 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.”

Speaking at the Glasgow event, John Pontifex, head of press and information for ACN, summarised the findings of the report to the audience.

Mr Pontifex said the situation in Syria is similar to Iraq, stating that in a decade there has been a two-thirds decline in Christianity in the country.

 

Rising persecution

He said persecution of Christians has increased in South and East Asia, notably in India and China, describing the region as ‘a new hotspot for Christian persecution.’

He praised Anglican Bishop Philip Mountstephen of Truro’s independent review of the Foreign Office’s support for persecuted Christians launched earlier this year, stating it was part of a new era of government engagement with the issue.

However, he added that more still needs to be done to help improve conditions for Christians living in countries where they are persecuted for their Faith.

He concluded: “Statements of intent need to be translated into policies of action.”

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