Standing in solidarity as the body of Christ
By Catherine Sheehan
Praying for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ around the world should be a natural part of being Catholic, according to Glenorchy parishioner Mary-Anne Johnson.
“The Catholic Church is universal, a worldwide church, it’s not just Australian. It’s us, it’s everybody. And so, it’s part of our responsibility for our brothers and sisters in faith,” she said.
Mary-Anne has been visiting parishes across the Archdiocese in her role as a Diocesan Outreach Assistant for international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
In her presentations at the end of Sunday Mass she seeks to raise awareness of the work of ACN in its spiritual and pastoral outreach to Christians suffering persecution around the world.
“We’re all together, we’re all Christians, and how can we say ‘no’ when they’re suffering so much? Even if it’s just that solidarity. Even it it’s just a prayer, that’s going to be so powerful.”
According to ACN, 200 million Christians worldwide are currently not free to practice their faith, and in more than 40 countries Christians are persecuted, discriminated against or oppressed.
Mary-Anne encourages people to sign up for ACN’s newsletter The Mirror, which is supplied free of cost. When people sign up they receive as a gift rosary beads blessed by the Pope.
“Getting people to know what’s happening, that’s what it’s about… so you pray because you know what’s going on, and you pray with a specific focus,” Mary-Anne said.
Currently ACN is running a global campaign to support Christians in Nigeria who face fierce persecution from terrorist Islamist groups such as Boko Haram. According to ACN, Nigeria is currently “by far the most dangerous country on earth for Christians” with more than 7,600 Nigerian Christians murdered between January 2021 and June 2022.
One testimony published by ACN is from a young Christian woman named Maryamu Joseph who was kidnapped by Boko Haram when she was seven years old and held captive for nine years. She was forcibly converted to Islam and locked in a cage for a year after she refused to marry one of the terrorists. Her brother was brutally murdered in front of her eyes.
“I suffered so much at the hands of these heartless, ruthless people,” Maryamu said. “For nine years I saw the shedding of the innocent blood of my fellow Christians, killed by people who do not value life. Words cannot do justice to what I’ve gone through.”
Maryamu has been receiving support at a trauma centre run by ACN.
As Mary-Anne pointed out, such suffering is rarely reported in the mainstream media.
“There’s hundreds of thousands of people who are suffering… [we] can try and learn and share the stories that… you don’t hear as much in the media. They’re not seen as a priority.”
“To know what’s going on is so important… because you’re not going to just open up the Mercury or Facebook and see it.”
As a Pontifical Foundation, ACN raises $150 million each year, purely through donations, to fund 5,000 Catholic projects in 150 countries. It receives no government or Church funding.
Donations received go towards Mass offerings for poor priests, the formation of seminarians, existence help for religious sisters, emergency assistance for Christian refugees, distribution of bibles, education of catechists, and the constructions of churches.
Mary-Anne said she hoped to visit as many parishes as possible, to raise awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians and the vital work of ACN.
“We’re not just the Church in Tasmania. We’ve got to start thinking we are part of a big thing. We’re all one body. Jesus came for the whole world, not just Hobart,” she said.
“It’s our reciprocal role to support those in solidarity who are suffering. Because when one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.”
If you would like Mary-Anne to visit your parish write to her at email@example.com
For more information: https://aidtochurch.org/