On Wednesday, May 22 the Path to Peace Foundation called attention to the plight of persecuted Christians throughout the world by honoring Aid to the Church in Need at the 2019 Path to Peace Gala, which took place at the Pierre Hotel in New York.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See Mission to the UN and President of the Path to Peace Foundation, welcomed 535 guests to the Gala. The Path to Peace Foundation bestowed the Path to Peace Award on Aid to the Church in Need for its outstanding service in promoting peace, for shining a powerful spotlight on the suffering of Christians around the world and for providing help to those enduring persecution simply because of their Christian faith.
For 72 years, Aid to the Church in Need has worked to protect Christians and to advance the right of religious freedom. Described as "a voice crying in the wilderness, echoing the voices of Christians crying for help," Archbishop Auza, invited Executive President of Aid to the Church in Need, Mr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, to receive the award.
At a time when 75 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world take place against Christians, the mission of Aid to the Church in Need is to serve the many Christians suffering persecution. In 2018 alone, Aid to the Church in Need has funded more than 5,000 projects in more than 140 countries.
Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern accepted the award on behalf those “who just because of their faith, are persecuted, oppressed, discriminated or silenced,” he said. “Tonight, in lending them my voice, my hope is that their martyrdom is a little less silent.”
In his remarks, Archbishop Auza thanked Aid to the Church in Need not only for the important work they do for Christians around the world, but also shared his personal experience as a beneficiary of their generosity. Whilst a young priest, he was able to study in Rome thanks to the full scholarship provided by the organization, which continues to support thousands of young priests and seminarians to receive their priestly training.
“Only God knows whether I would be here tonight were it not for the kindness of Aid to the Church in Need 35 years ago!” he said.
Dr. Heine-Geldern highlighted some of the personal stories and unimaginable situations faced by persecuted Christians. The first was Rebecca, who had been a prisoner of Boko Haram, the Islamist terror group in Africa, and who survived two years of horrific torture whilst been imprisoned in a Boko Haram training camp. She was imprisoned because of her Christian faith, and in spite of the threats and violations against her dignity, in her faith, she never faltered.
As they work throughout the world, Aid to the Church in Need tailors each program to address the specific needs of the communities affected by persecution through both long- and short-term projects. Besides pastoral support, it provides emergency humanitarian aid, trauma counselling and interfaith dialogue, stating the necessity of a holistic response to the current humanitarian crisis caused by persecution.
“Today, as Pope Francis encourages all of use to become ‘artisans for peace’ Christians must bear in mind that the ‘path to peace’ does not mean only a path to a war-less environment,” Mr. Heine-Geldern said. “True peace, as proclaimed by our Lord, includes mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Archbishop Auza stated, “A big step forward happened on April 2 when the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution condemning 'all terrorist attacks against places of worship that are motivated by religious hatred, including Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Christianophobia.' It was the first time that the term Christianophobia appeared to denounce the hatred behind anti-Christian attacks.”
Because of its vast reach, Aid to the Church in Need publishes bi-annual reports on the current situation for Christians worldwide in its 'Persecuted and Forgotten' report and covers the situation of attacks against religious believers in general in its 'Religious Freedom in the World Report,' which provide a current analysis of the situation on the ground for Christians globally.
Dr. Heine-Geldern concluded his remarks with the words of Mother Teresa who said "the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace," while also thanking the Holy See Mission to the UN for its commitment to reminding the international community constantly of its obligation to defend and safeguard the human rights of persecuted Christian and other minorities.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America, gave the opening invocation.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, gave the closing Benediction.
The Gala was chaired by Her Excellency Vicki Downey, Eastern Lieutenant of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
To see more photos from the event, please click here.