Aleppo keynote speaker at launch of ACN report to visit Gozo
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Aleppo Franciscan priest Fr Firas Lutfi, is in Malta today where he is the keynote speaker at the launch of Persecuted and Forgotten? report 2015-17, produced by international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Following the report launch, Fr Lutfi will head for Gozo on Saturday where he will visit Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary and meet with the rector, Fr Gerard Buhagiar in the afternoon.
Later that day, Fr Lutfi has been invited by Mons Carmel Refalo to celebrate Mass at Xag?ra Basilica at 6.30pm. Everyone in Gozo is invited to attend and meet Fr Lutfi who will speak about his experience of providing humanitarian and pastoral care in war-torn Aleppo.
The report warns that persecution of Christians in the worst regions has reached record historic levels, with increasing attacks on the faithful by governments and fundamentalist groups including ISIS and Boko Haram. The report describes Christianity as “the world’s most oppressed faith community.”
Fr Lutfi, is one of the Franciscan friars who chose to remain in the city of Aleppo to care for its inhabitants during the most gruelling years of the war, and is best known for his work with children and families.
During those difficult times, he was the Franciscan superior of the Terre Sainte College, which was hit by jihadist missiles on 21 May 2016, killing two and injuring several people.
He is also in charge of Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Saint Francis Roman rite parish in Aleppo, which holds week-long religious education events during the summer for 350 children aged 3 to 15 from both Catholic and Orthodox families.
Fr Lutfi said the school was set up to serve as “a light for a martyr city of the Syrian civil war” and children are taught to pray for their country and for the conversion of the jihadists.
Currently, Fr Lutfi is serving in Aleppo as Head of the monastery of St. Anthony of Padua and as Lecturer and director at the Centre of Profound Theological Studies.
Aid to the Church in Need’s Persecuted and Forgotten? 2015-17 report can be seen here.