By John Newton
With attacks on Christians rising across Africa, a leading Catholic charity has announced that the continent was the highest recipient of its aid over the course of 2019.
During a year in which more than 1,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria alone, according to reports, the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) prioritized essential aid for Africa.
Attacks on Nigeria’s Christians in 2019 culminated in a number of attacks on Christians around Christmas – including the killing of 11 men on Christmas Day by terrorist militia group Boko Haram.
Bishops also told ACN how in neighboring Cameroon, Boko Haram militants began an onslaught around the same time that left seven dead and saw 21 people taken captive by the Islamists.
Following Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon, Bishop Barthélemy Yaouda Hourgo of Yaouga told ACN: “My birthplace, the village of Blablim, no longer exists.
“The terrorists have murdered a young man of my family and totally devastated the entire village”.
Christians across the continent faced attacks throughout the year – and in April at least six people were killed when gunmen linked to Islamist extremists opened fire on a church in northern Burkina Faso.
At a time when Africa is facing high levels of persecution, ACN has prioritized support for the region, including the training of seminarians across Africa with 8,309 out of 16,206 – more than 50 percent – of those the charity is supporting being based in Africa.
Mass stipends provide a basic income for priests ministering to the beleaguered faithful.
Of more than 1.3 million Mass stipends sent to priests around the world in 2019, 38 percent went to help ministers on the continent.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of ACN (UK), underlined the importance of help for the continent’s Christians.
He said: “At a time when attacks from Islamist militant groups like Boko Haram and Al Shabab are casting a fearful shadow over the Church in countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, and Somalia, it is more important than ever to help our suffering brothers and sisters.”
Providing religious literature is key to helping Africa’s Christian communities thrive – and more than a quarter of the books issued by ACN went to Africa, including Bibles, catechisms, and religious books for children.
Kyrke-Smith added: “We thank the amazing benefactors of ACN who are keeping the plight of Africa’s Christians in their hearts and minds.
“May God bless them for their generous outpouring of love in response to the challenges facing our brothers and sisters around the world.”