AFRICA/CONGO - Seven religious and spread of Islamic extremism: challenges for the Church's mission

Fides EN - - Sab, 17/03/2018 - 13:37
Brazzaville - "The Church in the Republic of Congo was founded 135 years ago by the French missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit who arrived in Brazzaville in 1880. Since then the Church has taken root all over the Country. Everywhere there are churches and parishes, and above all communities full of faithful": says in an interview with Agenzia Fides Fr. Armand Brice Ibombo, Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Congo .
"The challenges we face as a Church are manifold: firstly, there is the formation of the laity in understanding the doctrine of the Church and in explaining the hope of their faith, as St. Peter says. In this way the laity can deal with the so-called 'Churches of awakening', those of Pentecostal origin, and the real religious sects that proliferate throughout Congo and do not havea good opinion of the Catholic Church", explains Fr. Armand." These churches do everything to attract the faithful, with material goods, often financed from abroad, from the United States in particular; many of their Pastors come from outside our Country", underlines the Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference. There are Churches of local origin that draw resources from the population with the promise of future benefits, exploiting the credulity of the poor", he adds.
Fr. Ibombo says that "in addition to the evangelical and Pentecostal churches, the Islamic religion is spreading in the Republic of Congo, similar to the 'churches of awakening', through the collection of economic aid especially towards young people. Some offer the possibility of opening a business start-up, while others offer the opportunity to go and train in an Arab country". According to Fr. Armand, "for some time we have noticed a small increase of Congolese teenagers who have become Muslims and bear witness to their new faith by wearing Islamic clothes. At the moment there are no problems. But we also have the infiltration of extremists in our country. Congo borders with the Central African Republic where there are Islamist groups like Seleka. Central Africa borders with Cameroon where there are the Nigerian Islamists of Boko Haram"
"To face these challenges in addition to the formation of the laity, we need to focus on the education of young people", emphasizes the Secretary. "Our students need to be formed not only culturally but also spiritually, with Christian and human values, as the Social Doctrine of the Church urges us. If we want to have a future of peace in our Country, this also depends on our commitment to our young people".
The priest points out: "The Republic of Congo has been experiencing a special moment at a political level since the 1990s. This situation leads the Bishops, the clergy, the religious, the laity to commit themselves more to the pastoral level in the proclamation of the Gospel ". "Patience and a continuous prayer for peace is required. The Bishops, with their declarations on the political and social situation, remind the government to think primarily of the common good and of peace", concludes Fr. Armand.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/LEBANON - First monument dedicated to Pope Francis inaugurated in the Middle East

Fides EN - - Sab, 17/03/2018 - 13:31
Hadath - The first statue dedicated to Pope Francis in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East was inaugurated in Hadath, municipality of the district of Baabda, considered part of the southern suburbs of the capital Beirut.
The initiative, sponsored by mayor George Aoun, wants to be a sign to encourage local Christians on the importance and fruitfulness of the presence in the Middle East, in the sign of coexistence with the different religious communities and in the horizon of a common citizenship.
The inauguration of the statue - which was presented by the speakers as the first dedicated to Pope Francis throughout the Middle East - took place in the presence of political and religious authorities on Wednesday, March 14, the day following the fifth anniversary of the papal election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. During the event, those present were able to listen to some speeches proposed also by Maronite Archbishop Boulos Matar and by Msgr. Ivan Santus, secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Beirut.
Sheikh Khalil Rizk, responsible for the foreign relations of the Shiite Hezbollah party, also took part in the event.
Local sources, contacted by Agenzia Fides, point out that the aim of the event must be understood in the light of the problems that have recently put to the test social and inter-religious coexistence in the area of Hadath. In that area there is a growing real estate activism by members of the Shiite community, who aim to confiscate land and property belonging to Maronite Christian families. It is no coincidence - the sources contacted by Fides point out - the writing that appears near the statue of Pope Francis reports the words with which the reigning Pontiff invited Middle Eastern Christians to stay in the lands where they were born, to confess their faith in Christ and to offer in his name their contribution to peaceful coexistence throughout the Middle East.
Periodically, confessional clashes arise around the control of land and real estate in Lebanon. In autumn 2013, a pressing call to curb the improper use of land belonging to Christians to build houses for Muslims was launched by Talal al-Doueihy, leader of the Movement "Lebanese Land, our Land" . The appeal in particular denounced the case of Al- Qaa, a Christian village near Baalbek in the area where large tracts of land had been bought by Muslims - Shiites and Sunnis - as agricultural land, only to be allocated to the building of housing estates to be sold to Lebanese and Syrian refugees belonging to their own religious community.

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Resignation of the Apostolic Vicar of San Jose in Mindoro

Fides EN - - Sab, 17/03/2018 - 12:38
Vatican City - Today the Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose in Mindoro , presented by His Exc. Msgr. Antonio P. Palang, S.V.D.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Young people, hope of the Church in Pakistan: the key is education

Fides EN - - Sab, 17/03/2018 - 10:51
Vatican City - "Young people are 60% of the Pakistani population. This data is very important for us Catholics. For our young Catholics, the priority is to make sure that they can grow in faith in Christ and that they have access to quality education and continue to the highest level which is university: that is why we are very committed and we will continue our commitment: it is the key factor for their future": this is what the Archbishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Mgr. Joseph Arshad, President of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan said, who led a delegation of 5 Bishops from Pakistan on their ad limina apostolorum visit.
Mgr. Arshad said he shared this vitality of the Pakistani Church during the meeting with Pope Francis: "It was a very fruitful meeting, we felt welcomed in a sincere dialogue among brothers. We spoke about Pakistan, the Church and our young people, pointing out that there are so many vocations to priesthood and consecrated life. This encourages us and makes us hope for a rosy future for the Catholic Church in Pakistan. They are a seed of hope even in difficulties, which do not discourage us, but today strengthen our faith".
In view of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to young people, Arshad continues, "we have set up an hoc commission and the activities of youth pastoral are in full swing in the dioceses. In Faisalabad we organized the 'peregrinatio' of a Crucifix among the different parishes and in April we will have a youth gathering with over a thousand people from all over the territory".
From the meeting with Pope Francis and after this ad limina visit, concludes the Archbishop, "we have a certainty: the Pope loves us, loves his little flock of faithful in Pakistan and prays for us. We are close to him and support him in his ministry. If God wants, we told him that we would like to have him in our land one day.
We return to Pakistan encouraged, renewed, filled with new spiritual energies and new grace of God, to continue our service to the community of the baptized".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - Making waves: Radio Sahel, the Gospel reaches the poor and illiterate

Fides EN - - Sab, 17/03/2018 - 09:30
Ouagadougou - For many communities in Burkina Faso, radio broadcasts are often the only effective way to proclaim the Gospel. In a country where oral culture is still very strong and most of the people are illiterate, radio is the best means of communicating with the population, especially those who live in rural areas. For this reason, as Fides learns, the diocese of Ouahigouya, in the North of Burkina Faso, has decided to relaunch "Notre Dame du Sahel" radio. An effort that the diocese decided to carry out together with the Jesuits of West Africa.
"Notre Dame du Sahel" station was founded on 1 November 1997. Therefore the diocese decided to create a communication tool to announce the Gospel and help the faithful to grow spiritually and morally. "The radio - explains Fr. Victor Ouedrago, head of the Diocesan Center for Communication - is a powerful means of evangelization and religious education, and transmits Mass for those who do not have the opportunity to attend the Church every day. It teaches the Bible, the social doctrine of the Church, catechesis, prayer to Christians".
The radio is also a tool to weave relationships between people of different ethnic backgrounds and faiths. "Through the radio a link among the populations are also created and makes them members of the same family regardless of their religious or cultural affiliation.Thanks to it, we have gathered Catholics, Protestants, Muslims in the same group through the listening and dialogue club".
It is an important role in a region, which in recent years, has been shaken by jihadist terrorism that has damaged good relations among the different communities. "In our region - observes Fr. Victor Ouedrago - Muslims are about 80% of the population, Catholics are only 8%. Creating good relations is a natural fact. We also work for the awakening of citizens' conscience, the culture of democracy, the promotion and respect of human rights, especially for women and children, often victims of numerous abuses. We seek to create a culture of respect in a country that is trying to give itself a democratic structure after years of dictatorship".
15 people work for "Notre Dame du Sahel" today. They are Muslims, Christians , Animists. The radio at the moment does not cover the entire diocesan territory, but only half and the intention is to extend the signal to the whole territory, reaching and going beyond the border of Mali. For this reason, the diocese asked for the support of the West African Jesuits who have consolidated experience in media management. "In perspective - concludes the diocesan - in addition to the radio, we want to use other communication channels such as audiovisual, print, internet, social networks, to reach the greatest number of people. We aim at an integrated communication that uses all possible channels of communication for evangelization and awareness campaigns. Our ambition is to create a multimedia center capable of welcoming people for various formations".

Categorie: From the church

AMERICA - Transforming reality in the light of the Gospel: young people towards the Synod

Fides EN - - Sab, 17/03/2018 - 08:54
San Jose - "Young people are a treasure for our people, a wealth that generates joy, hope, the ability to dream, to show sensitivity and solidarity for those who suffer. In these difficult times, God calls each one by name, so that he may be the protagonist in the transformation of these realities, a transformation in the light of the Gospel and of the magisterium of the Church". This was stated in a note sent to Agenzia Fides by the leaders of the Latin American Youth Pastoral after having concluded the XIII Youth Pastoral Regional Meeting in Mexico-Central America in the city of San Jose, in Costa Rica.
Delegations from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama participated in the meeting with the aim of reflecting, in communion with the universal Church, on youth Pastoral in the region, in view of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to "Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment". "We are thrilled - the note continues - because the Church has set its sights on young people and promotes spaces for participation so that young people, with their dynamism, will know how to renew structures and pastoral action".
In launching an appeal to Bishops, priests, laity, educators and in particular to the families themselves, the delegates asked to "revitalize the accompaniment of vocational discernment and of the young". At the same time they invited "to prepare themselves for the next World Youth Day, a moment of grace that the Church gives to our region".
In view of this event, on March 15, the registration period was inaugurated for the great activities planned for World Youth Day, which will be held in Panama from 22 to 27 January 2019: the "Youth Festival" and the "Vocations expo". In the latter, movements, associations, communities and religious orders present the rich variety of charisms present in the Church and young people will have the opportunity to learn about different spiritualities and "religious families". The Youth Festival will seek to unite young people from around the world by sharing their artistic and religious talents and experiences of faith and life.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - "Despicable and inhuman" attack on a Catholic hospital, committed to the common good

Fides EN - - Ven, 16/03/2018 - 13:11
Ujjain - It was a "despicable and inhuman" attack: this is how the Indian Bishops define and condemn the violent acts against the Catholic hospital in Ujjain, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. As Agenzia Fides learns, a delegation of the Bishops visited the missionary hospital yesterday, March 15, noting the events that occurred. The structure, run by the diocese of Ujjain, offers 200 beds for the maternity ward, and for 44 years provides quality medical services to the population of Ujjain and the surrounding rural areas. Most patients come from disadvantaged, marginalized and poor social groups who cannot afford health care. Thousands of patients visit the hospital every day and are treated without distinction of class, ethnicity or religion.
On March 12, over 60 militants, armed with chains and sticks, entered the hospital compound by force. They blocked access to the hospital and the emergency room and blocked access to electric generators and the water supply system, thus putting the lives and safety of innocent and defenseless patients at risk. The crowd verbally assaulted the nuns and the staff on duty.
The diocese of Ujjain filed a police report and also contacted the relevant government authorities, denouncing such "atrocities and acts of bullying".
The Indian Bishops' Conference, the Regional Episcopal Council of Madhya Pradesh and the Syro-Malabar Catholic diocese of Ujjain express "deep suffering, anguish and concern", stating that "the attack clouds the image of the whole Indian state".
"We ask the State and the government of the Union to punish the guilty and to guarantee the rule of law", said Mgr. Leo Cornelio, Archbishop of Bhopal, inviting the institutions "not to allow any individual or group to be above the law".
According to Fides’ reconstruction of facts, the attack is motivated by a dispute over the ownership of the land on which the hospital stands. The Catholic Church has formally owned it since 1961. Some local political powers are contesting and today they are claiming the property. The dispute is now before a court.
In recent months there have been other similar incidents, in which violent crowds target Catholic institutions in areas with a small minority of baptized people. Last January, an attack took place against St. Mary college in Vidisha.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/SOMALIA - The director of Caritas Somalia: "To remain faithful to the Lord makes our life fuller"

Fides EN - - Ven, 16/03/2018 - 12:53
Djibouti - Maria Josè Alexander is a young Mexican Catholic, always attentive towards the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society. After collaborating in the humanitarian sector, between Mexico, Colombia and Lebanon, she is currently the director of Caritas Somalia. In an interview with Agenzia Fides, she says: "Love for God has taken me to the most remote and dangerous areas of the world, first in lay and government NGOs and then collaborating with the Church". She arrived in Somalia in August 2017 and ended up in Djibouti where she is responsible for coordinating the projects that Caritas brings to Somalia. These projects mainly concern education and emergency humanitarian aid.
"In Somaliland - she tells Fides - we have an ongoing educational funding project for 40 children living in camps for internally displaced people. We try to give them continuity in their studies and what they need to be able to live a more dignified life. In the south, in Baidoa, we built a school in a refugee camp, where education and nutrition are provided to 50 boys and 50 girls".
Born in Guadalajara, Maria deepened her studies on indigenous communities in Mexico and has been involved with some NGOs: "Mar Adentro", "Fundación León XII" and other independent research projects. After studies on International Development, she served in Colombia among the indigenous ethnic groups Misak. An experience in Lebanon, then, in the refugee camp of Shatila, in a totally Islamic context, first as a volunteer and English teacher to refugee women and then in projects for the promotion of women. "But in the meantime I felt the desire to commit myself to a Catholic NGO and to offer a service to the Church", she reports.
Now she is in Somalia: "Djibouti is a very difficult place to live in: many times I thought about going back home, but I trust God. The Lord is faithful and so I am convinced that remaining faithful to His love makes our life fuller. Thus, in times of despair and anguish, or when there is the temptation to take the easy way, one must remember how faithful the Lord is, and how great his love is. I feel blessed by God every day", concludes Maria.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/BOLIVIA - State-Church convention violated: Catholic education "in a state of emergency"

Fides EN - - Ven, 16/03/2018 - 12:32
Riberalta - The Bolivian Bishops raise their voices and with concern they address the parents of the pupils of the 1,523 Catholic educational institutions of the country: schools "cannot guarantee teaching, Christian education and integral quality education", is what is stated in the letter sent to Agenzia Fides, due to a recent provision of the Bolivian Ministry of Education.
The order issued, in fact, does not allow institutes and universities the competence regarding the choice of teachers, who will be designated by the ministry, in flagrant violation of the Church-State convention on cooperation in the educational field. This is what Agenzia Fides learns today from members of the Bolivian Church, which is even considering "the closure of all its educational institutes or a strike", warns Carmen Suárez, delegate of the Educational Commission of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pando.
The letter sent to parents bears the signature of Mgr. Jesús Juárez Parraga, Archbishop of Sucre and President of the Education Commission of the Episcopal Conference. The Bishops also sent a note to Minister Roberto Aguilar in which they declare Catholic education "in a state of emergency" and demand the exception or revocation of the contested ministerial ordinance, n. 083/2018.
Speaking to Agenzia Fides, Professor Suárez said she is convinced that the government "intends to eliminate the private education system in Bolivia, and aims especially at the Catholic one", which includes the vast majority of private educational institutions in Bolivia.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/NICARAGUA - The Church: "No" to the censorship of social media

Fides EN - - Ven, 16/03/2018 - 11:55
Managua - "The state should not control or censor social media because it would limit freedom of expression, nor should it stand as a moral arbiter of people": this is what Mgr. Silvio José Báez, auxiliary Bishop of Managua says to Agenzia Fides, pointing out the serious danger for Nicaraguan society.
The intervention of Mgr. Baéz, followed by that of other Bishops, was among the first public reactions after Rosario Murillo, vice president and wife of President Daniel Ortega, appeared on the national television network to announce that he talked with the president of the National Assembly to "review the use of social networks" in the Central American country. Murillo, who is a powerful Prime minister, said that social networks are "negatively affecting Nicaraguans" and even influencing the country's "family’s ability to coexist". According to observers, the government is studying ways to censor the criticisms that are being addressed through social media every day.
In the current situation, in a country where any demonstration against the current executive is stopped with violence by the police, where the critics are silenced and some journalists persecuted, Murillo's announcement was taken very seriously, generating a wave of indignation in social media that could become victims of censorship: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. "If this project is realized it will be the unequivocal sign of an autocracy that is more and more similar to a dictatorship".
Mgr. Rolando Álvarez, responsible for social communications of the Bishops' Conference of Nicaragua, believes that a law that limits the freedom of the population and freedom of expression, even on the web, is counterproductive: "One must not limit anyone’s freedom: in social networks, as in any street, people can write and express their opinion, of course one must stigmatize the lack of respect or offenses to the dignity of the person, but not for this we can limit the freedom of people", said the Bishop.
The position of the Catholic Church in this regard is very clear, and Mgr. Baéz recalled the Christian social doctrine quoting the document published by the then Pontifical Council for Social Communications "Ethics on the Internet" and stated: "We deplore the attempts of public authorities to block access to information, on the Internet or other social media, preventing legitimate freedom of expression and opinion".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/EGYPT - Coptic Orthodox Church clarifies: in the elections we do not give indications of vote in favor of individual candidates

Fides EN - - Ven, 16/03/2018 - 11:16
Cairo - The Coptic Orthodox Church invites its faithful and all Egyptian citizens to participate in the upcoming presidential elections, to be held in Egypt from 26 to 28 March, but does not express preferences and does not intend to direct the vote of Coptic Christians in favor of a single candidate. This is the message contained in a statement released by official sources of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate a few days before the opening of the presidential elections that will sanction the foregone victory of Abdel Fatah al Sisi, current Egyptian President running for the second mandate.
The statement most probably intends to represent a response to the critical voices of all those who consider the excessive stance of the Coptic Orthodox Church in support of President al Sisi. In recent days , the Coptic Orthodox Church had already issued an appeal in support of popular participation in the upcoming elections, also re-launched by the Egyptian media.
The presidential elections, according to the opinion of all observers, will represent a plebiscite for current President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, who has practically no rivals: there is only one other candidate, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a politician close to al Sisi, who delivered the documents and signatures to the electoral offices only a quarter of an hour before the time for the presentation of the candidates expired.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/CAMEROON - Youth from unemployed to entrepreneurs, thanks to the Jesuits

Fides EN - - Gio, 15/03/2018 - 12:21
Douala - "Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you will feed him for life". The Jesuits of West Africa have taken this ancient proverb to the letter. And, faced with the emergence of uneducated and unemployed youth in Cameroon, they thought of a project that would teach young people how to breed fish and sell it.
In Africa, school dropout is a significant problem. On the continent, over three million students fail to reach the minimum level of school education. In Cameroon, 70% of girls are illiterate. This phenomenon is particularly visible in the northern regions, where it affects over one million girls between the ages of 10 and 19, which represents 31.9% of all girls in the region.
The Jesuits have decided to respond to the problem through an entrepreneurial initiative. This is how fish breeding was born.
The preparation work was long. In 2017, we set up, on a seven-hectare land owned by the Society of Jesus, the necessary structures to start the initiative: tanks, solar panels to produce electricity... At the same time, the Jesuits selected 165 boys and girls among a group of unemployed young people from the most marginalized sections of the population
At the end of 2017 agronomists and fish farming experts held a series of meetings on fish farming. In addition to the technical-practical training, young people were taught the basic principles of marketing to deal with not only the problems of production, but also those of the sale of products. The operational phase started in January. The young put into practice the teachings and already at the end of February we saw the first results with the production of a first batch of freshwater fish.
"The project - the local Jesuits stress to Fides - wants to offer young people basic technical knowledge so that they can integrate into the social and professional context of the province of Douala.
This is a first contribution to overcome the drama of youth unemployment, an authentic national emergency, which is dictated by poor or no scholastic education, a project that bets on young people and their desire for redemption".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/KENYA - The Bishops: "We urge all leaders across the political divide to support the newly found collaboration so that it does not remain a public relation exercise"

Fides EN - - Gio, 15/03/2018 - 12:05
Nairobi - "We urge all leaders across the political divide to support this path so that it does not remain a public relation exercise or a show of two individuals", said the Bishops of Kenya at the press conference held yesterday, 14 March, during which the Church leaders have expressed their collective appreciation for the surprise meeting between the country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader, Raila Odinga. During their meeting, held on March 9, the two political leaders had launched an appeal to national unity, to overcome the divisions arising from the contested elections of 2017. The vote had been repeated in October after the Supreme Court had canceled the elections held in August. In both votes Kenyatta was the winner.
"We wish to acknowledge the gesture of our two leaders, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta and Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, in meeting and extending hands of reconciliation among themselves, and as a sign of their commitment in collaborating towards uniting the deeply divided and polarized Country", said His Exc. Mgr. Philip Anyolo, Bishop of Homabay and President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Kenya .
In their press statement also sent to Fides, the Kenyan Bishops applaud the decision by the two political leaders to come together following a protracted electioneering period and describe the leaders’ gesture as "an opening to a greater commitment towards seeking real solutions to a more just, democratic and prosperous Country where every Citizen has an opportunity to develop".
"The Catholic Bishops in Kenya want the dialogue to be all inclusive and participatory in nature and open to addressing all the issues that are of concern to this Country".
"We wish to remind Kenyans that as Bishops we have in the past called on all leaders and stakeholders to employ constructive dialogue as the only way of resolving conflict", stressed Bishop Anyolo.
Finally, the Bishops also called on the government not to forget their "primary mandate to protect its people", recalling the situation of insecurity in some parts of the Country, "particularly in Mount Elgon and in parts of Northern and Coastal regions"
"We thank all Kenyans for their continued prayers and maintaining peace even at critical moments of the recent past", the Bishops concluded.
Early in the week, various Christians in Kenya shared with Fides their joy over the unexpected meeting between the President and the Opposition leader, describing the meeting as an answer to their prayers and a Lenten miracle.

Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/BRAZIL - Youth in the Amazon: a daily journey to access basic education

Fides EN - - Gio, 15/03/2018 - 11:38
São Gabriel da Cachoeira - Living within the Amazon means facing the difficulty of accessing basic education. Education is usually carried out in the communities themselves, where schools, in most cases, do not have the most basic requirements to meet teaching standards. As the courses progress, teenagers and young people are concentrated in larger communities, where it is not always easy to arrive. For many years the male and female boarding schools were famous in the Rio Negro region, where Salesian religious helped a large number of indigenous to study, often with excellent results.
Layla Line Garrido Melgueiro is a young Catholic from the indigenous Baré group, who lives in the community of São Francisco, municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, Brazil. This community is situated on the banks of the Negro River, the only communication channel in the region.
Layla is 17, in her last year of high school, in the community of Tabocal dos Pereira, about 8 kilometers downstream. From Monday to Friday, the young girl moves in her little canoe, to take part in the lessons. As she says to Agenzia Fides, "it is not easy to study because we do not have a school in our community, and therefore we face a long journey every day.
We tolerate the rain, the strong waves, the canoe is small and we run the risk of sinking. It is very difficult to study like this". This is surprising if one takes into account the fact that, according to Brazilian laws, one of the conditions that must be guaranteed is the transportation of students to school.
As a consequence, as Layla says, "many people stop studying, because of the great difficulties, and do nothing". Faced with this reality, various problems arise, such as alcoholism, an increasingly worrisome situation in the indigenous world, especially for young people. The parish of São Sebastião de Cucui, in the diocese of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, together with the Nareirikury Baré indigenous school, is studying the possibility of building a permanent residence for students, so that young people can continue their studies, as this can contribute decisively to the future and development of the indigenous peoples of the region.
In view of the Synod of Bishops on Amazon, which will be celebrated in Rome in October 2019 and in which it is intended to seek new ways for the evangelization of the Church, it is necessary to reflect on the young people in the Amazon. Layla Melgueiro, who is also a member of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, tells Fides that "young people here are often far from the Church". Therefore, according to her, in relation to the youth of the Amazon, "the Church needs a more attentive and dynamic work of animation. It is necessary to find ways for young people to participate in the life of the Church", she concludes.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/SUDAN - An ecumenical coalition to cope with the cholera emergency in Darfur

Fides EN - - Gio, 15/03/2018 - 11:24
Nierteti - The threat of the spread of cholera which is now flooding the central and western areas of Darfur is particularly serious in the villages of Nierteti and Jebel Marra. Contagions continue to increase, while registered deaths vary from village to village. Faced with this emergency, a coalition of organisms representing Christian Churches is offering an effective contribution to countering the possible epidemic. Local sources told Fides that in the medical isolation centers of Kuweila, Mara, Nierteti and Korifal, people suffering from "acute watery diarrhea" continue to arrive every day, which according to the medical standards of the World Health Organization corresponds to cholera.
The commitment of Caritas Internationalis to face the ongoing emergency continues through initiatives promoted through the dioceses of El Obeid and Khartoum and other programs offered in the country.
The death toll in Nierteti this year amounts to at least 22 dead, 18 people in February, and so far four other people in this first part of March.
The most serious humanitarian crisis of the last decade has been recorded since the start of the war in 2003 in Darfur. At least 3.5 million people currently need humanitarian aid, including more than one million internally displaced people in camps who survive with food aid. Life in refugee camps is difficult, families receive health care, food, water and other basic necessities through Caritas and the ACT Alliance, a cooperative body that gathers over 140 Christian, Protestant and Orthodox churches and organizations. The goal of Caritas and ACT is to form an ecumenical coalition that offers basic services to communities and helps people to become increasingly self-sufficient. In Khartoum and Darfur over 600 thousand people can also count on the aid of Catholic Relief Services , Caritas based in the USA.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - Rewriting the history of India: a dangerous move for religious minorities

Fides EN - - Gio, 15/03/2018 - 11:15
New Delhi - The Hindu nationalist organizations are trying to rewrite the history of India: a dangerous move for religious minorities such as Christians and Muslims.
The ongoing effort is being promoted by the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and by well-known Hindu extremist groups Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Sangh Parivar. "This effort to 'saffronize history' is a blow to the secular and religious fabric of Indian society, and goes against the commitment of historians who have the noble task of presenting the truth without manipulation", notes in an interview with Agenzia Fides Verbite missionary Fr. Jesuraj Rayappan, SVD, professor of Church history at the "Khristo Jyoti Mohavidyaloyo" institute of Sambalpur in the Indian state of Orissa.
As reported by local sources, last week a team appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been working for six months to show that Hindus are the direct descendants of the first inhabitants of India and that the ancient Hindu scriptures are facts, not myths. The objective of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Hindu nationalist groups is "to shape national identity to satisfy their religious opinions, and to legitimize the assumption that India is a nation of Hindus and for Hindus", say the historians.
Catholic professor Rayappan adds: "The saffron colour groups want to show the world that they are a majority and are the winners: it is said that history is written from the winners point of view. The English had given a multicultural narrative to the collective memory of our nation and that is the right way to present the facts. We hope that historians of nationalist groups like Sangh Parivar respect the truth that is inclusive and multicultural. The responsibility of a historian is to present truth without prejudice or manipulation, to help people understand reality".
Another Jesuit professor, Father Jerry Rosario, tells Fides: "Any story is written according to a certain perspective, in other words, no history is completely 'without prejudices'. History can be continuously enriched by new elements and new inputs to make it ever more complete and all-inclusive". But, notes Rosario, a civil lawyer and professor of theology, "never ever can a story be rewritten according to a hidden agenda, and according to an ideology corroded by a nauseating sense of exclusivism". The very fact that Narendra Modi appointed such a committee about six months ago, to redesign the ancient history of India, requires a reflection on all the conscious and mature citizens of India: it is urgent to protest against such irresponsible effort". The professor says he is ready to raise a public debate and also present, with other historians and scholars, an appeal to the Supreme Court of India as "the government has the constitutional obligation to preserve, promote ethnic, religious and cultural pluralism".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - Turkey demands life sentence for the evangelical pastor accused of belonging to Gülen’s "network"

Fides EN - - Gio, 15/03/2018 - 10:57
Izmir - The Turkish Prosecutor of the Court of Izmir has formally demanded a life sentence for American evangelical pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, who was arrested in Turkey in autumn 2016. He is charged in the indictment with belonging to the leadership of the group of preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says masterminded the failed coup of July 15, 2016. On Tuesday, March 13, the Turkish prosecutor confirmed the accusations against Brunson, who on February 7th had rejected all the accusations in the harsh interrogation to which he had been subjected in Izmir. If the Court accepts the prosecutor’s request, the evangelical pastor will be put on trial and could be condemned for life in Turkish prisons.
The story of Pastor Brunson has become a battleground between Erdogan's Turkey and the current US administration .
Andrew Brunson, formerly responsible for the Evangelical Church of the Resurrection in Izmir , had been summoned by the Turkish immigration office in October 2016, along with his wife, Lyn Norine. The couple was initially informed of the obligation to leave Turkey, justifying this measure with the vague accusation of having received funds from abroad to finance missionary initiatives and to have endangered the security of the Country with their activities. Subsequently, the Turkish press reported that the expulsion decree for the evangelical pastor had turned into an arrest, after a secret witness had accused him of belonging to the so-called FETO . In prison, Brunson had received visits from senior US Embassy officials to Turkey, and US President Donald Trump had also requested the release of the evangelical pastor during the May 2017 meeting at the White House with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Last August, after Trump's intervention, Brunson had been accused of even more serious crimes, and had been transferred to a high-security prison where some defendants are held to be among the highest officials of the failed coup of 2016. Then, last September 28, Erdogan himself declared he was willing to release the US evangelical pastor only if in return the US authorities will hand over Fetullah Gulen to Turkey, who has been in the USA as an exile since 1999.
After a life sentence request, US State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson reiterated that the United States of America continues to ask Turkey to release pastor Andrew Brunson and other US citizens who we believe are unjustly detained".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/LIBERIA - A future of peace and prosperity for the country, also thanks to religious institutions

Fides EN - - Mer, 14/03/2018 - 13:52
Monrovia - The recent political transition in Liberia, which took place peacefully, is the harbinger of a new period of prosperity, freedom and prosperity. With the election of the President of the Republic, former football champion George M. Weah, elected on 22 January 2018, the path started by former president Ellen Sirleaf continues. The objective of President Sirleaf was to rebuild the infrastructures and civil institutions of the country and in the current state, it can be said that some progress has been made. This is how Fr. Firmin Kouassi, missionary of the Society of African Missions comments to Agenzia Fides: "One of the conquests attributed to the former Head of State is freedom of speech. Radio stations and new newspapers have been opened and currently share their opinions in the media and in other media such as the Internet, without fear of being threatened. Marches and demonstrations against the cost of living, the rate of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar, the Ebola crisis, the end of the UN program in the Country, were all themes taken to the streets without breaking the fragile peace".
According to the missionary, "the importance of the religious institutions and of the Catholic community in the process of promoting peace "has enormous importance". "The faithful - continues Fr. Kouassi - welcomed the invitation of the Church to fasting and prayers, the Episcopal Conference of Liberia, CABICOL, wrote pastoral letters spread in all the parishes to ask for a wise, calm and honest vote. Two years earlier, the proposal to make Liberia a Christian nation had encouraged many debates but was not supported by the Catholic leadership. The Council of Churches of Liberia opposed its implications for the security of the nation. The inter-religious Council of the Country, including the Muslim community, had warned public opinion about the risk of such a decision. This alert strategy was one of the characteristics of religious institutions from the beginning to the end of the electoral process. A great merit that must be recognized".
The transition period was characterized by rallies, meetings and demonstrations. There was no lack of hard comparisons and open discussions, but apart from some incidents in some counties, the overall situation remained peaceful. The main political parties, the Congress for Democratic Change, the Unity Party, the Freedom Party and the National Alternative Congress, showed respect for the election results. "The highest goal achieved was the recognition of the election results. In summary, - concludes Fr. Firmin - the peaceful political transition was reached through a long process, thanks to the commitment of civil society and religious institutions. It is right to mention the growing maturity of the political class, and to continue to hope and pray so that peace in Liberia, from now on, is preserved at all costs ".

Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/EGYPT - Coptic Orthodox Church calls the faithful to participate in the presidential elections

Fides EN - - Mer, 14/03/2018 - 13:20
Cairo - The Coptic Orthodox Church is increasing appeals and initiatives to remind its faithful of the "national duty" to participate in the upcoming Egyptian presidential elections, scheduled from 26 to 28 March. A message from the Coptic Orthodox Church in support of popular participation in the upcoming elections was also published by the Egyptian media, while in dioceses like that of Shubra al Khaymah "Citizenship Committees" organize political and social awareness meetings on the "challenges of Egypt".
Also the Bishops take part in meetings and conferences to underline the necessity and civic duty of not deserting the polls.
The presidential elections, according to the opinion of all observers, will represent a plebiscite for current President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, who is running for the second term. Al Sisi has practically no rivals: there is only one other candidate, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a politician close to al Sisi, who delivered the documents and signatures to the electoral offices only a quarter of an hour before the time for the presentation of the candidates expired. The Egyptian media also re-launched the statements on the electoral appointment released in a recent interview with Vatican Radio by Archbishop Bruno Musarò, Apostolic Nuncio to the Arab Republic of Egypt. "People - said the pontifical representative "certainly support the current President. People have great confidence, and were disappointed by the experience they had in 2013 with the government of the Muslim Brotherhood. Also on behalf of the Church", added Archbishop Musarò "both the Orthodox Copts and also the Catholics ... the Bishops do not directly say 'go and vote al Sisi', but they highlight what al Sisi is doing in favor of the people. This does not mean that there are also no complaints and poverty, but we must say that efforts are being made to try to create an environment of greater wellbeing for the population".

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - The Filipino government: divorce law before Easter

Fides EN - - Mer, 14/03/2018 - 11:32
Manila - The Government of the Philippines led by President Rodrigo Duterte intends to approve the bill of divorce in Parliament before Easter. As confirmed by Senate spokesperson Pantaleon Alvarez, a final version of the bill will be in parliament for the third and last reading on March 23.
The bill has the title "Act on the divorce and dissolution of marriage" and would complement the proposals presented in past months by several legislators in the lower House.The law aims to provide couples in crisis with a legal way to end marriage.
As Fides learns, parlamentarians Edcel Lagman, vice-president Pia Cayetano and Emmie de Jesus are among the supporters of the law and are pushing to promote the approval of the legislation. "Marriage, even if it is proclaimed by the Church as an inviolable institution can in some cases come to an end due to human weakness", said Lagman. "Some marriages are already irreparably shattered, even if the state strives to protect and preserve marriage", he said. According to a recent survey, 53% of respondents support a law that legalizes divorce, while 32% say they are against and 15% still undecided.
The Filipino Church, is showing strong opposition to the bill. Associations and lay Catholic movements have signed a joint letter in which it highlights that "the Philippine Constitution recognizes marriage as an inviolable social institution, which is the foundation of the family and must be protected by the State".
"In fact, the Philippine Constitution is universally presented as a pro-family Constitution", say to Agenzia Fides Oca Oblefias, Ansel Beluso and Xavier Padilla of the "Couples for Christ" association. "Marriage is a sacrament, which gives couples virtues and happiness. When there are trials and difficulties we accompany couples and families towards reconciliation and healing", they say, recalling that "in particular children deserve a home where love, fidelity and forgiveness reign". Guillermo and Zenaida Mallillin, a Catholic couple of the "Servants for Family Empowerment" association note: "Science and human experience tell us that marriage is good for society, which helps to create a better, compassionate, stable and dynamic society. The objective of the common good of our Constitution requires all this".
Categorie: From the church