By Sr Kathy Kettle and Jamie O’Brien
Perth has last month been host to special guests from Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Emeritus of Karachi, Pakistan Cardinal Joseph Coutts and Head of International Projects ACN International Regina Lynch.
The event, on Saturday 19 November at the Newman Sienna Centre, was an occasion for ACN National Director, Bernard Toutounji to introduce Cardinal Coutts and Ms Lynch to benefactors and supporters, while also thanking them for their support and discussing current projects.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is a Pontifical Foundation dedicated to the persecuted and suffering Church.
Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organisation for war refugees, ACN is the only international Catholic organisation today that focuses on the pastoral and spiritual support of suffering Christians.
Through the contributions of more than 350,000 benefactors worldwide, ACN supports some 5,000 projects across 140 countries each year.
ACN Australia began in 1965 and is one of 23 national offices which seeks to raise awareness and financial support for this work.
Ms Lynch has worked for ACN for 40 years and is responsible for the disbursement of more than $200m in projects.
Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Joseph Coutts has firsthand experience of religious fanaticism in Pakistan and currently serves on the Vatican Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue.
In sharing her experience, Regina Lynch spoke about the overarching works of ACN and shared a more detailed account on the reality in Syria and Iraq.
Attention was drawn to the key findings from the recent report “Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their faith 2020-22”.
The biennial report claims that 75 per cent of countries surveyed noted an increase in oppression and persecution of Christians; particularly in the regions of Africa, the Middle East and Asia over the past two years.
ACN Engagement Coordinator for Western Australia, Sr Kathy Kettle recalled to The Record how guests heard that these regions have experienced a sharp increase in genocidal violence from militant groups like jihadists.
“As a result, the continuing migration has deepened the crisis threatening the survival of three of the world’s oldest and most important Christian communities located in Iraq, Syria and Palestine,” Sr Kathy said.
“In Asia, state-authoritarianism has been the critical factor causing an upsurge in oppression against Christians in Myanmar, China, Vietnam and elsewhere as the impact of oppression erodes Freedom of religion and conscience which is becoming more evident in the region,” she said.
“What made the accounts from the reports more tangible was the personal encounters shared by Regina,” Sr Kathy highlighted.
Cardinal Coutts Emeritus shared personal stories from a cultural perspective that identified simple similarities between the religions of Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.
He expressed the importance that dialogue must play a significant role in living out our shared humanity.
All religions, Cardinal Coutts explained, have much to offer and an appreciation of what is positive and good ought to be placed at the heart of any discussion.
Long time and new benefactors from the Perth Archdiocese were treated to a few hours of inspirational accounts on what the organisation is currently doing, thanks to the support that the benefactors provide.
The event concluded with a spirited appreciation, casual conversations and a light lunch.