It is a new record year for the international Catholic organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). In fact, thanks to 22 national offices established around the world, a little over 175 million dollars were collected in order to support 6,209 projects.
A majority pastoral - almost 600 more than in 2014; an exceptional year which also saw a multiplication of the world's crises.
"Of course, we are happy to observe the great generosity of ACN benefactors and their response to various requests with as much vigour," declares Marie-Claude Lalonde, the Canadian office's national director. "But in quite another sense, it is also difficult to observe that this increase comes - in part - from the urgency created by the never-ending conflicts like those in Syria and in Iraq."
In Canada alone, the Syrian refugee crisis allowed the Canadian office to collect $460,000, a significant amount for the Canadian office who finished their year with donations totaling close to three million dollars - also a record number. "Our role is to support local Catholic communities who themselves support people who are refugees or displaced, with urgent aid," says Mrs. Lalonde
"There are also other projects which have as a goal to help Christians of the Middle East remain and stop the exodus, a phenomenon which many Patriarchs have compared to a tsunami! Thus, we are supporting Msgr Jean-Clément Jeanbart in Aleppo, Syria, with a project called Building to Stay. As the name suggests, it's about rebuilding - in spite of the war! - homes for the Christian population, so they will once more have a roof over their heads.
Other hot spots: North Africa, China, India
In the Canadian Activities Report 2015 set for launch today (July 14), other hot spots are being watched closely. Such as in Africa, it is not so much the poverty which has drawn attention to this region. But the uprising of a more fundamentalist Islam in countries who have known for hundreds of years, a more moderate very integrated into society and living with Animists and Christians, Islam. At this stage, there is also much concern about Christian minorities in North Africa who are worried about the rise in terrorist groups particularly in Libya.
In China, Christians are again subject to new periods of more significant persecution - imprisonment, house arrest and a campaign of destruction of crosses and places of worship. This hasn't stopped the relatively high rate of conversions to Christianity. "The power of attraction of Catholic parishes is undeniable, especially among the young and educated," reads the text.
In the Indian sub-continent, the subject of religious freedom is deeply worrying. The ruling political party, the BJP, holds to the hope of the creation a 'pure nation', uniquely guided by the values of Hinduism. And if, in certain regions its influence is relative, in others it is marked by acts of violence, red tape and injustices. In 2015, two religious Sisters were raped in the state of Bengal. "And these are not isolated incidents," says Véronique Vogel, head of projects for India.
"Reading the Activities Report is essential to grasp the extent of this task," concludes Marie-Claude Lalonde. "And it is only an overview of the thousands of partnerships with those who allow for the local Churches to respond to the spiritual needs surrounding them, but also to the many material needs of the societies where they are evolving."
The annual Activities Report 2015 can be downloaded here