AFRICA/LIBERIA - Fr. Walter Maccalli: the pastoral activities of our churches are slowly resuming

Fides EN - - Lun, 20/07/2020 - 13:06
Foya - "In Liberia we are in the middle of the rainy season and our people are engaged in rural work. During this period, malaria makes itself felt as every year and affects everyone, men, women and especially children. Then this year, as everywhere in the world, we have to deal with the coronavirus", writes Fr. Walter Maccalli, priest of the Society for African Missions, from the parish of St John Vianney, in Foya. "Over the past few days, about ten cases of infected people have been registered here, including the principal pastor of the Pentecostal church . The central hospital of Boma, has been practically closed and some doctors and nurses, who have had contacts with those tested positive, have been placed in quarantine".
"We have been authorized to resume celebrations in our churches - the missionary continues -. In reality this is the moment of maximum danger for covid-19 and we all try to respect the indications so as not to create further outbreaks. Next Sunday we will have the first meeting with the parochial pastoral Council and then we will start again to visit the Christian communities of the villages and the secondary stations".
Fr. Maccalli still talks about the activities that are slowly resuming: "in the Christian community of the parish seat, in the city of Foya, we are carrying out pastoral work with the grassroots communities. Thanks to a contribution and the generosity of our people, next week we will be able to distribute 150 bags of rice to as many needy families. It is the first duty of every Christian community to be aware of who is making the most effort and to recognize in him/her the face of the risen Christ".
"Despite the many years of mission - he adds - I still cannot help being moved by human suffering and what we have discovered in recent days. We are talking about a semi-paralyzed young man who is cared for by his grandmother who, however, cannot feed him more than once a day, a sick girl imprisoned in a mud room for years, elderly people abandoned by their children and forced to beg, young mentally ill people who wander around the city without anyone taking care of them. I believe that this must be the engine that drives us to pray and act for the most abandoned: the restlessness, the compassion of Jesus for his dispersed people".
In his testimony, Fr. Walter thanked for the support of all the prayers for the release of his confrere Father Gigi kidnapped from the Bomoanga mission 22 months ago .
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/EGYPT - Rumors about an alleged contagion from Covid-19 for Coptic Patriarch Tawadros denied

Fides EN - - Lun, 20/07/2020 - 12:52
Cairo - No coronavirus infection for Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. It is the same Pope Tawadros who confirmed this, with a dry denial in which he defined "false rumors" the allegations spread through social networks that also gave the Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church among the illustrious victims of the coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday 18 July, Father Boutros Halim, spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, also issued a statement to reiterate that the Patriarch is in good health and takes charge of his pastoral commitments every day. Among other things, Patriarch Tawadros issued a statement on Saturday 18 July in which he asked the Egyptian and American civil authorities to no longer recognize Youssef Aziz Khalil as a priest of the Coptic Church, resigned from the clerical state after the proven accusations of pedophilia that emerged against him.
Campaigns launched on social networks to spread rumors about the health of Patriarch Tawadros are frequent . In July 2017 an official statement from the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria had to deny the allegations that had flooded the social media regarding an alleged, sudden worsening of Coptic Patriarch’s health condition. The allegations referred to an alleged, precipitous hospitalization of the Patriarch to undergo emergency surgery. In reality - reported the official statement of the Patriarchate - Pope Tawadros in these days was spending a time of spiritual retreat at the monastery of Anba Bishoy, and even then on his agenda surgery was scheduled to cure a herniated disc, which took place place a few months later, in November 2017. Agenzia Fides, 20/7/2020)
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Priests and religious: "It is time to resist against a dangerous and unjust law"

Fides EN - - Lun, 20/07/2020 - 10:59
Manila - "I was here, in these same streets with a crowd of people on February 24 and 25, 1986, 34 years ago, when I was still a young seminarian. Today I have returned here as a sign of protest. Despite the fears related to Covid-19, people are back on the street, demonstrating, shouting. I can hear again what I felt during the days of People Power: the emotion, the disgust, the anger, the dedication, the commitment of young people". Thus begins the story of the Vincentian priest, Fr. Daniel Franklin Pilario, CM, professor at the St. Vincent School of Theology and at Adamson University. In the message sent to Fides, the priest talks about reliving the political and social climate of 1986, when the population took to the streets, in the so-called "Rosary Revolution" in a vast popular movement that put an end to the dictatorship of Ferdinando Marcos. "The 'No' emerges from the depths of our humanity when our moral fiber is violated. We say that all of this is wrong and we mobilize in protest", says the Vincentian.
Fr. Pilario cites the case of the broadcaster ABS-CBN, which Parliament - where the party of President Duterte holds the majority - has not renewed the broadcasting concession, in what is called "a personal vendetta of the President", given the criticisms expressed by that media channel towards him. And he says: "How many times in this country will we see the law being armed to kill the poor. No, it has not destroyed the oligarchs in this country; it has killed the poor". The Vincentian religious remembers: "I joined small groups of 20-30 workers when I was a student. Today we are talking about 11,000 workers and many others without a future. There are many victims of this government who deserve our support. It is time to stand up and make our voices heard. In the face of evil, silence is a yes to the status quo. Neutrality means being complicit of power".
And he concludes, expressing the feeling of many Filipino priests and religious: "I too protest against this dangerous and unjust law. I cry for the extrajudicial killings that I see up close, for the widows and orphans. And I say 'No' to all the actions of this government that are against the human sensibility that my parents, my teachers and my spiritual guides have taught me in life. It is time to resist".

Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/ARGENTINA - The commitment of the Salesians in the fight against Covid-19: "To act from the heart, with transparency and sustained in faith"

Fides EN - - Sab, 18/07/2020 - 14:34
Buenos Aires - "The measures put in place by the Argentine government to stop the spread of coronavirus, if on the one hand have been effective in protecting the population, on the other have created enormous economic and social problems: there is a strong impact on popular sectors, on workers, on low-income families in the peripheral neighborhoods of big cities". This is what Fr. Ariel Fresia, Salesian coadjutor and director of the Argentine Mission Office "Por los Jóvenes-Don Bosco" said in an interview with Agenzia Fides.
The situation in the poorest areas of Buenos Aires is of concern. About a third of the cases in the city are concentrated in these areas, where, however, there is a much faster growth of the infection. The latest report from the Ministry of Health has revealed that, more than ten days after the end of the last lockdown, Argentina has exceeded 100,000 cases, with over 50,000 infected in the urban agglomeration of the capital alone.
In the context of the Covid-19 emergency, the Salesian Mission Offices are carrying out a coordinated response. "We Salesians here in Argentina - reports Fr. Freesia - started working to send food and items for personal and community hygiene". "Por los Jóvenes" is a social, educational and pastoral organization focused on the development of youth: "Through initiatives carried out with boys and girls across the country - explains the Director - we promote inclusion from a prevention point of view, according to the pedagogy developed by St. John Bosco and the transmission of Christian values, which are the pillars of our work. Although in this period our traditional activities have been affected due to the ongoing health emergency, we are continuing to work with individual benefactors, in synergy with institutions and companies, which continue to be generous, despite the difficulties. We have also launched a national campaign to coordinate national communication and donations for the most needy".
Regarding the reality of the Salesian youth movement in Argentina, Fr Fresia says that it is projected towards a "popular youth pastoral", as Pope Francis indicated in the apostolic exhortation "Christus vivit": "We need to make room - he underlines - for a more wide and flexible pastoral that stimulates in the different places where young people actually move. We hope that after this pandemic - concludes the Salesian - projects can be strengthened that accompany and direct young people to meet others, to generous service, in particular towards those who live in situations of poverty and vulnerability".

Link correlati :Watch the video interview with Fr. Fresia on Agenzia Fides Youtube channel
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/BRAZIL - National Day of Charity, "in harmony with the heart of God"

Fides EN - - Sab, 18/07/2020 - 14:25
Brasilia – Day of Charity is celebrated in Brazil on Sunday 19 July. "Charity, together with Bread, the Word and missionary Action, is one of the four pillars that constitute the life of the ecclesial missionary communities and the idea of the Church in Houses", is written in the note sent to Fides, which recalls the Guidelines for the Evangelizing Action of the Church in Brazil from 2019 to 2023, approved by the Brazilian Episcopate.
Speaking during a virtual meeting to the group of Executive Secretaries of the 18 regions in which the Bishops' Conference of Brazil is divided, the Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janeiro and Secretary General of the CNBB, Mgr. Joel Portella Amado, said that in the Church in Brazil it is necessary to strengthen charity, which has intensified in recent months in the face of the consequences of Covid-19. "I have the impression that charity has not been discouraged, on the contrary. This is beautiful. It is necessary to articulate charity to make it intelligent. Our mission is to help in the articulation, there is much to do, there is still much to articulate", underlined the Bishop.
The Archbishop of Belo Horizointe and President of the CNBB, Mgr. Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo, in his message for the Day of Charity stresses: "Charity cannot be an ephemeral practice, which seeks only to promote peace of conscience for those who they are willing to help. It must guide all dimensions of life and society, become a pillar on which everyone directs his conduct, becoming a servant of his neighbor, who is a brother. Those who dedicate themselves to charity are in harmony with the heart of God. They discover that serving is a remedy, because it allows us to see, with wealth, the true meaning of life, to help transform the reality of others. If solidarity were lived as a principle that guides society, the world would be different, more just, supportive and fraternal".
The Archbishop concludes by stressing that "the experience of the Day of Charity is a rich opportunity, because it calls all people, especially Christians, to recognize that serving has a transforming power".
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/MEXICO - The Bishops in the face of the current situation: "We are committed to life and human dignity"

Fides EN - - Sab, 18/07/2020 - 14:17
Mexico City - "We are aware that the year 2020 will leave a sign in the history of the world and Mexico due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused pain in countless homes and has seriously damaged the economy of famiglie. This year has also brought to Mexico another deadly plague: the violence and insecurity that have reached levels never seen before, for their quantity, frequency and cruelty, and we cannot remain indifferent": this is how the statement of the Bishops of Mexico published yesterday begins, sent to Fides.
"We observe the 'culture of death' which hits the Mexican people hard and repeatedly in the heart and which manifests itself, among other things, in increasingly numerous and bloody acts of violence. In considering the life of a child as if it were the right of an adult, in becoming insensitive to euthanasia, in efforts to legalize drugs, in spreading a bad and distorted view of sexuality, in corruption, in human trafficking for the purpose of sexual or occupational exploitation, in the indifference of some towards poverty, in the abuse and damage to nature by extreme consumerism. These signs are not intended to be an exhaustive diagnosis, but rather the display of some of the most visible manifestations of the challenges we face as a country, in relation to the dignity of the human person", reads the document.
"For this reason, as a Church, we are committed to life and human dignity", reiterate the Bishops.
After suggesting some ways to resolve these extreme situations urgently, the document calls for a change of attitude in the face of violence. "We Bishops try to illuminate consciences in the face of good and truth. In the exercise of our inalienable rights and of our ministry as Pastors, we will continue to preach the Gospel of life, both in public and in private, remembering that Jesus gave us a precise mandate: 'Go all over the world and preach the Gospel' . We announce that we will continue to collaborate with those and many others who are committed to promoting the dignity of every human person, from conception to natural death", concludes the text.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/GUINEA BISSAU - "Still too many infections" due to Covid-19, the Bishops postpone the opening of churches for worship

Fides EN - - Sab, 18/07/2020 - 14:11
Bissau - Last week the government of Guinea Bissau authorized the reopening of churches, mosques, places of worship and traditional rites, subject to compliance with a series of measures, including the mandatory and permanent use of masks, washing hands and disinfection of places. Several mosques have reopened their doors and received the faithful for traditional prayer. Evangelical and other confessional churches have also resumed their religious activities, but the doors of Catholic churches have remained closed.
The Bishops of the two dioceses, Bissau and Bafatá, published a statement on July 16 stating that it was desirable to resume the normalcy of religious activities. However, taking into account, on the one hand, the increase in the number of infected people, with the spread of the infection in all regions of the Country and, on the other, the need for a better preparation of the communities, they have decided to postpone the reopening of Catholic churches.
The Bishops express their gratitude to those who are engaged in the fight against coronavirus in the Country: "In this hour of pain for all humanity, we thank all the people involved in the fight against the coronavirus; let us remain united in prayer so that the Lord of life can preserve us from this disease and heal the sick. At the same time, we invite our communities to follow the decisions of the health authorities and the realities involved in defending the health of our people".
The Bishops concluded by asking "Our Lady, Patroness of our Dioceses, to come to our aid, giving strength to all the sick and those who are struggling to put an end to this scourge. May the Lord welcome our dead to his glory".
Guinea-Bissau has recorded 1,842 Covid-19 cases so far with 26 deaths. Over 80% of the Guinean population depends directly or indirectly on the marketing of cashews, which accounts for 11% of state revenues and 90% of the Country's total exports. The coronavirus pandemic has profoundly affected the cashew market world with heavy economic and social consequences for the African Country.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/ZIMBABWE - The Covid-19 crisis aggravated by the strike of nurses, exacerbated by low wages and corruption

Fides EN - - Sab, 18/07/2020 - 14:00
Harare - "We noted with concern that the current state of the health sector characterized by the failure by the government to amicably resolve the protracted strike by medical personnel, did not augur well with the desperate need to prepare for the spiraling cases of COVID-19. Coupled with this was the realization that the resources mobilized for the pandemic were not being handled in ways that instilled confidence to the public", said Christian religious leaders, associated in the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations , in their meeting with the representatives of 17 political parties. With over a thousand confirmed cases of Covid-19, 20 dead and less than 100 ventilators in a Country of 16 million inhabitants, the nurse strike hits Zimbabwe strongly during the global pandemic emergency.
The main claim of the strike is economic: the low wages whose purchasing power inflation of over 700% devalues day by day. In second place the precarious working conditions. The staff has no material to protect themselves from the coronavirus . The arrest for corruption of the Minister from Health, Obediah Moyo, has increased the anger of health workers and citizens.
The police heavily repressed the paramedics' demonstration on 6 July, organized in front of Sally Mugabe Central, one of the two main hospitals in the capital: the police chased nurses wearing their uniform with batons. Thirteen nurses were arrested and 11 accused of violating government containment rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Christian leaders highlighted the negative effects of the current economic collapse characterized by increasing corruption cases, most of which are not being resolved satisfactorily. "The informal economy which had become the source of livelihoods for the majority of citizens had been destroyed, not only due to the effects of COVID-19 but because of the economic policies in which citizens were not properly consulted. This level of poverty has further marginalized citizens especially women and children to be able to meaningfully participate in democratic processes".
Categorie: From the church

EUROPE/ITALY - "Each of us has a reason to continue to remain united with Fr. Gigi Maccalli"

Fides EN - - Sab, 18/07/2020 - 13:45
Padua - There are always many people who continue to pray and hope for the release of Father Gigi Maccalli, priest of the Society for African Missions, kidnapped in Niger on 17 September 2018. There are always testimonies of affection towards the missionary, among some of the testimonies on the occasion of the 22nd month since his kidnapping from the mission of Bomoanga, there is that of Silvia Sandon, consecrated to the Ordo Virginum of Feriole, in the province of Padua, who sent her experience of friendship with him to Fides. "From the day of the kidnapping of Fr. Gigi, - she writes – I often think about our last meeting which was at the end of July 2018, in Feriole. Gigi is the SMA father of my childhood, of the years of middle and high school, where some of the SMA retreat experiences were lived with the animators or the fathers were invited to the parish for their testimony. I always had the chance to see him when he passed through Feriole, many times they were unexpected surprises. I remember, with emotion now, some of our exchanged glances, that 'pulling' his beard as a sign of affection, smiles, prayers, hugs with a few tears when it was time to say goodbye, before his departure for Africa".
The consecrated woman stresses that "each of us has a reason for continuing to remain united to Fr. Gigi and nothing and nobody can take away this bond, the affection we have towards him and makes us hope, pray, believe that soon we will embrace it. In my heart I often dream of this moment, not as a thought that quickly fades, but with the certainty that God does wonders for his consecrated person and does not abandon any of his children. This is why I live Fr. Gigi in my daily life, with the conviction that he is alive and that every day he faces his captivity with strength, feeling all our closeness, knowing that he is not alone".
"Each of us continues to be united with him for a thousand reasons: dates and anniversaries, memories of lived experiences, offers of prayers in illness and suffering. This is what makes us brothers and sisters among Churches: with his mission land, among us who desire his release and who entrust ourselves to the infinite mercy of God the Father, asking that he intervenes in the heart of his captors.
'Courage and prayer' are the last two words that Fr. Gigi left me in July 2018 in a private message on facebook, and we offer these words to the Lord, on this occasion of the 22nd month of captivity. From that evening of 17 September 2018, prayer - Silvia concludes - unites us, gives us hope and strength".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/EGYPT - Grand Mufti Shawki Allam: "There is no objection to building churches with Muslim money"

Fides EN - - Sab, 18/07/2020 - 12:59
Cairo - Islamic law does not contain any legal objection to the possibility of building churches using money belonging to Muslims. This relevant observation, full of possible applications with respect to situations of potential sectarian conflict in many countries with a Muslim majority, also deserves attention for the authoritativeness of the source: this is what Sheikh Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, current Gran Mufti of Egypt, said during his speech on a television program conducted by the journalist Hamdi Rizk.
The Egyptian Grand Mufti, in his speech, indicated Egypt as the Country with a Muslim majority where more public resources are used in the construction of Christian places of worship, indicating this figure as a manifestation of strong national social cohesion. Shawki Allam referred to the teachings of Mohammad who, even when he justifies military self-defense campaigns, commands not to destroy places of worship and not to kill monks. The Egyptian Grand Mufti also intervened on the reconversion of the ancient Hagia Sofia Basilica in Istanbul ordered by Turkish authorities. In this regard, Sheikh Shawki Allam said it was illegal to convert a church into a mosque, declaring that in the history of Egypt no Christian place of worship has been transformed into a Muslim place of worship.
The office of the Grand Mufti of Egypt is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice. The holder of this position chairs the "House of Fatwa" , a legal advisory committee on Islamic legal issues. In June, as reported by Fides , the Egyptian "House of Fatwa" had gone so far as to define the same Ottoman conquest of Constantinople as an "occupation", marking as an unfortunate event the transformation of the Basilica of Haghia Sophia into a mosque. This pronouncement also confirmed the strong geopolitical dimension assumed by the event of the reopening of the monumental complex of Ayasofya to Islamic worship, strongly pursued by the current Turkish political leadership, also as a symbolic act to reaffirm its identity and its sovereignty, opposed by the Egyptian political and religious organisms, in the current historical situation marked by the strong clash taking place between Egypt and Turkey also on the Libyan scenario.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA - Abuses of human rights, xenophobia and religious intolerance in Asia: the denunciation of "Franciscan International"

Fides EN - - Sab, 18/07/2020 - 12:42
Bangkok - The situation of respect for human rights in East Asia and the Pacific area is precarious due to phenomena such as xenophobia, religious intolerance and the impact of climate change: these elements also represent the areas of action on which in 2019, Franciscan International , an NGO of the Franciscan family, accredited to the United Nations, operated most. This is what the Annual Report reports, sent to Fides by the Organization, which carries out advocacy activities at the United Nations, promoting respect for all human rights and environmental justice.
Among the various issues addressed and the requests presented to the UN assembly, there are the difficult relationship between West Papua and the Indonesian government and the abuses committed by the Philippine government. During 2019, FI reported "human rights violations in West Papua in a context of persistent conflict over independence issues, alleged discrimination against indigenous Papuans and the development of unsustainable agricultural megaprojects". The information reaches FI mainly thanks to the rooting of the Franciscan Family on the island, where several Franciscan communities reside, as "access to journalists and other international observers is still severely limited by the Indonesian authorities". In this context, however, representatives of Franciscan International were able to help organize an ecumenical visit to West Papua, sponsored by the World Council of Churches , the first allowed since 1969, the year in which the region was integrated into Indonesia. "During the year, Franciscan International exploited its access and presence in West Papua to bring to light these continuous violations, also through two events organized during the meetings of the Human Rights Council, talks with Indonesian diplomats and one series of urgent appeals to the UN", reads the note.
As for the Philippines, however, the organization has brought to the attention of the UN the continuous violations of human rights perpetrated by security forces as part of a government program of "war on drugs" which, according to the groups operating for the protection of human rights, could have caused about 27 thousand victims. In this regard, it is noted that "the Franciscan Family and the entire Catholic Church in the Philippines have manifested strenuous opposition to government actions, also providing rehabilitation for drug addicts and pastoral and financial support for the families of the victims". This commitment has provoked threats to Franciscan religious by government and police officials, including President Duterte himself, in an environment "increasingly hostile to the work of civil society groups and confessional organizations".
The other countries in the area involved in the work of Franciscan International are Kiribati, Japan, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu.
In addition to Asia, the Franciscan NGO is active in Africa and the Americas, involving over 30 countries with its work. As evidenced by the 2019 Report, there were a total of 50 advocacy interventions and presentations at the United Nations, also carried out thanks to the work of 28 local partners involved in reporting to the UN. Franciscans International's advocacy "is based on three pillars that have formed the foundations of Franciscan spirituality over the centuries: human dignity, peace and care for creation". Internationally, this vocation translates today into the belief that sustainable development, environmental protection and respect for human rights are inextricably linked.

Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDONESIA - The work issue in Sulawesi reopens the wound of discrimination against Chinese minorities

Fides EN - - Sab, 18/07/2020 - 12:25
Jakarta - Protests against Chinese workers employed by some companies in the south-east of the island are not abating in Sulawesi, Indonesia. The protests, which began in March, are tied to an atmosphere of poor respect for minorities which has an ancient history in the archipelago, but has recently been heightened by the Covid-19 emergency. The Chinese community, which represents an important part of the overseas diaspora in Asia, has often been at the center of marginalization and discrimination campaigns in the archipelago.
The dispute concerns the employment of 500 skilled workers to be sent from China to build smelters belonging to PT Gunbuster Nickel Industries , a subsidiary of PT Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry, in collaboration with PT Obsidian Stainless Steel. Of the 500 workers requested, however, only half of them arrived and the protests put at risk not only their work, but also that of the Indonesian workforce employed since, without skilled workers, the new jobs at the plant would not go ahead. In April and June demonstrations resumed and also in recent days at the airport of Kedari, near the area affected by the important industrial project. Due to the demonstrations governor Ali Mazi blocked the arrival of foreign workers in Southeast Sulawesi in April, then admitted in mid-June, now again at risk. In this uncertain situation, the VDNI company tried to respond by proposing the employment of 5 thousand new Indonesian workers if foreigners will be allowed to work on the project.
According to data in May, there are almost one hundred thousand foreigners employed in Indonesia, less than 0.1 percent of a total workforce of 124 million. The largest group of foreigners, almost 36 thousand people, comes from the People's Republic of China, which is also the second largest foreign investor in Indonesia. Last year, Chinese companies invested $ 4.7 billion in the archipelago. However, the grip of Covid-19 made the lives of many difficult in addition to the fear of unemployment and intolerance.
Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities is in fact always possible in a planet as vast and ethnically diverse as Indonesia. In particular, a sensitive key is that of mistrust towards minorities of Chinese origin, who historically have suffered hostility and violence. According to unofficial figures, there are more than 6 million people of Chinese origin in Indonesia. However, the 2000 census recognized only 1.2% of the population as Chinese, or about 1.9 million people. Among them, the Chinese born in China keep Chinese culture and traditions alive in Indonesia through domestic rites, celebrating Chinese holidays and teaching the Chinese language to their children.
In a scenario of fragile balance in the relations between the majority population and ethnic-religious minorities, Indonesian religious leaders of different faiths are always very active in promoting tolerance, respect, social and religious harmony, inclusion, coexistence, recalling the national motto "unity in diversity".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/IRAQ - Patriarch Sako to the government: a law on personal status is needed that respects the identity of Christians

Fides EN - - Ven, 17/07/2020 - 12:48
Baghdad - Christians in Iraq are not foreign guests from far away. The indigenous communities of the baptized have been rooted in the lands of Mesopotamia for millennia, and the Assyrian and Chaldean Christians are descendants of the populations of the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. For this reason too, the governments of modern Iraq must respect and protect the identity of Iraqi Christians, guaranteeing them to be able to settle matters relating to personal status - inheritance, matrimonial and family law, freedom of conscience - following laws in accordance with their own experience of faith. With this premise, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, urges the Iraqi political authorities to appropriately address and resolve the delicate issue of the personal legal status of Christians and members of all religious minorities in the Country.
In the current situation - underlines the Patriarch in a long speech, released by the official channels of the Patriarchate and presented as a real "project" to be submitted to the national government - legal questions relating to the status of the person are regulated for all Iraqi citizens by laws that draw on Islamic legal tradition, and refer directly or indirectly to the Sharia. This situation, in the Patriarch's judgment, also forces Christians to regulate legal questions relating to personal status according to criteria that do not conform to their identity and experience of faith.
In his long contribution, the Primate of the Chaldean Church exposes a series of concrete cases regulated by current Iraqi legislation with criteria that are in contrast with the dynamic of family and social relationships suggested by Christianity. Many of the aspects highlighted by the Patriarch concern marriage law. Christian marriage - Cardinal Sako points out - is a sacred contract based on mutual love between two adults, a man and a woman, who choose it without coercion, in complete freedom, with the commitment to respect it for life. For this reason, belonging to the Christian community is incompatible with polygamy, with divorce and also with the so-called "dowry", which is not an indispensable requirement of conjugal union, given that the Christian faith "considers woman equal to man, and therefore the marriage contract takes place between two equal subjects in rights and honor". For this reason, the man also does not acquire any right to have a bride by paying a sum to her family.
Patriarch Sako also dwells on the inconsistencies that still exist in inheritance matters, given that the Islamic legislation guarantees only half of the share of inheritance reserved to male children for girls.
To resolve all the contradictions and inconveniences experienced by Christians in matters of personal law, the Patriarch suggests the government to enact laws on the model of Lebanon, with civil laws valid for all and not inspired by religious juridical schools, then leaving to ecclesiastical or religious courts the possibility of issuing judgments regarding marriage, marriage nullity, custody of minors and hereditary succession that have binding value for the respective faith communities.
In his contribution, the Patriarch also touches on the theme of the laws against apostasy, which according to Islamic jurisdiction can be punished with the death penalty: "We believe that the time has come - writes the Iraqi Cardinal - to enact a law that respects freedom of conscience, that is, the right to change doctrine and religion without exerting any pressure, following the examples of Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco and Sudan, which has repealed the law of apostasy".
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/MADAGASCAR - Covid-19: concern over the increase in cases; for the Bishops "the health crisis reveals the importance of an efficient health structure"

Fides EN - - Ven, 17/07/2020 - 12:35
Antananarivo - In Antananarivo the number of coronavirus-related deaths is increasing with eight of the ten victims reported by the operational command center for the fight against coronavirus. Another case of death is reported in the Atsinanana region, whose capital, Toamasina, is experiencing a decrease in the number of positives. The majority of regions have coronavirus cases. 484 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported, of which 433 in the Analamanga region, where despite the confinement decreed in this region, the cases increase day by day. The total deaths are 53, of which 10 only in the last few days.
At the end of May the Bishops of Madagascar had thanked the health workers and the Defense and Security Forces for their efforts to contain the pandemic and to support the victims of Covid-19.
On this occasion, the Bishops’Conference of Madagascar stressed that "the health crisis reveals the importance of an efficient health structure , we believe the time has come to look for ways to improve public health as a whole", recommended CEM. All the more, as the Bishops remembered, the Country, in addition to the war against Covid-19, is facing dengue and malaria, which are causing more coronavirus victims. The Bishops finally criticized the spread of disinformation about the coronavirus that pushes the population to lower its guard.
Categorie: From the church

AFRICA/MALI - Religious leaders launch an appeal for peace after last week's violent demonstrations

Fides EN - - Ven, 17/07/2020 - 12:15
Bamako - "We are very concerned about the resumption of violence in Bamako. We take this opportunity to launch an appeal for peace, in light of all the damage caused. Mali does not deserve what is happening now", said Cardinal Jean Zerbo, Archbishop of Bamako, on Radio et Télévision Nationale du Mali, ORTM, on July 14th. "What happened last Friday, and which continues today in the capital Bamako, is cause for concern", continued Cardinal Zerbo. "Encouraging people to violence whose consequences we see today is unacceptable. We cannot do anything, but resort to God's mercy for all the atrocities committed during these demonstrations". At least eleven people died during the riots that broke out in the capital between Friday 10 and Sunday 12 July.
Cardinal Zerbo's voice joined that of Mali's other major religious leaders, who launched a common appeal for peace. In addition to Cardinal Zerbo, Ousmane Cherif Madani Haidara, president of the High Islamic Council of Mali Nouhou Ag InfaYattara, president of the Association and Mission Association of the Evangelical Protestant Church in Mali , invited Malians to calm and dialogue.
"I ask citizens to keep calm. Whatever difficulties there are, when you start a real dialogue, you can find a solution", said the President of the Islamic High Council of Mali , Cherif Ousmane Madani Hadaira, assuring the population that the religious leaders are doing their best to find solutions quickly.
The President of the Association of Ecclesial Groups and Protestant Evangelical Missions in Mali , Reverend Nouh Ag InfaYattara, declared that "no child, no girl can be indifferent to this situation".
In an interview with Fides, Cardinal Zerbo stressed that "in this difficult situation, we religious are left with only two behaviors: being sentinels and acting as mediators to encourage dialogue and a return to calm" .
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, known as IBK, first elected in 2013, was re-elected in 2018 in a vote marked by the kidnapping of his main opponent, Soumaïla Cissé, as well as some electoral agents and intimidation of voters. The protests began after the Constitutional Court in late April invalidated the election of 30 opposition MPs
In May, IBK opponents formed an unprecedented alliance around an influential and respected imam, Mahmoud Dicko. Together, they launched an appeal to take to the streets for the first time on June 5 and called themselves "M5-RFP" for "June 5 Movement - Patriotic Forces Rally". The M5-RFP calls for the dissolution of Parliament, the formation of a transitional government of which he would designate the Prime Minister, as well as the replacement of the nine members of the Constitutional Court, accused of collusion with the authorities.
Categorie: From the church

AMERICA/PARAGUAY - Bishop of Carapeguá denounces corruption and impunity in times of pandemic

Fides EN - - Ven, 17/07/2020 - 11:48
Carapeguá - The Bishop of Carapeguá, Mgr. Celestino Ocampo, is saddened by the fact that during the pandemic, crime and corruption did not stop, "they are inseparable allies of impunity". This is what he said during the Mass celebrated in honor of San Buenaventura, the spiritual patron of Yaguarón. Mass was held behind closed doors on July 15th. Then a procession of vehicles was formed which was driven by a cart on which the image of the Saint was transported, adorned with flowers.
During the homily of the mass, the Bishop of the diocese of Carapeguá, said that the pandemic revealed many shortcomings in almost all institutions, this is "a worrying fact", and added the regret of having to note that even during the crisis crime and corruption have not ceased. Mgr. Ocampo stressed that it is sad to know that instead of directing all state resources to alleviate urgent health needs, many people are planning to reap the benefits for personal or sectoral benefits. "They manipulate tenders, assign purchases to friends, shamelessly raise product prices", he complained.
The Prelate noted that there are very honest people who are responsible, who want to do well, but "sometimes the environment does not make things work". Then he warned: "if injustices and iniquities are not overcome and if corruption continues to go hand in hand with impunity, unfortunately the rich will become richer at the expense of the poor, who will become increasingly poor". "These evils are far more dangerous and deadly than coronavirus", he stressed.
In the face of these evils, the Christian cannot remain indifferent. "We must raise our prophetic voice by announcing the word of God and denounce the evils that afflict us, asking for justice for all", he concluded.
Categorie: From the church

VATICAN - Assistance from the PMS Fund for the Covid emergency sent to Niger, Gambia and Zambia

Fides EN - - Ven, 17/07/2020 - 11:35
Vatican City - Niger extends for a large part in the Sahara desert and despite the lack of rain, the agro-pastoral sector is the almost exclusive source of livelihood for its inhabitants, who live in a situation of poverty. The country, with a Muslim majority, is facing three crises today: that of security, linked to the action of terrorist groups, which has lasted for some years; food and health, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Church, which until 2000 had only one diocese, has always fought to improve people's living conditions, organizing schools in the most remote and abandoned places by the state, professional centers for young people, social and development projects intended for the rural population, which makes up 80% of the total population.
The isolation measures adopted by the government and the Church to combat the pandemic have had a negative impact on the lives of people and families, who usually survive thanks to small daily jobs. State support is insufficient to deal with the serious situation that has arisen.
With the help sent by the Emergency Fund established by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mission Societies to support the Churches of mission countries in the face of the Covid-19 emergency , the diocese of Maradi, which covers 2/3 of the territory of Niger, will be able to continue to assist poor families in the various parishes through the delivery of basic necessities. While in the archdiocese of Niamey it will be possible to support the St. Vincent reception foyer, managed by the Gethsemane nuns, which welcomes children aged 4 to 12, orphans or poor families. With isolation, in fact, the economic resources for its functioning, which mainly come from abroad, have become rare and the structure is in difficulty to continue its work of assistance to children.
The coronavirus pandemic has also affected Gambia, with the consequent restrictive prevention measures that has negative effects not only on the social and economic life of the country, but also on the ministry of priests, religious and catechists of the diocese of Banjul. With the suspension of masses with the participation of the faithful and all other pastoral and school activities, in fact, there are no offerings and other forms of support for pastoral workers. The most urgent problem for the diocese, which has asked for help from the PMS Fund, is to be able to ensure the maintenance of its structures, which are at the service of the population, and of the people who generously dedicate themselves to evangelization in parishes and in schools.
Other requests for help to deal with the consequences of the pandemic come from Africa, Zambia. The diocese of Chipata, with 36 parishes and 506,983 Catholic faithful, covers a very large territory in the eastern part of the country, where the population lives on agriculture. In fact, it needs support for the 190 catechists, fundamental in the evangelization and Christian formation of children and adults, and to keep the diocesan curia functioning.
The archdiocese of Kasama, which extends into a rural area in the north of the country, is also among the poorest areas in Zambia. After the closure of churches, the limited offerings of the faithful, priests who dedicate themselves with commitment to evangelization and pastoral work find themselves in serious difficulties even to pay the bills for ordinary consumption, as well as to provide for their minimum sustenance. A project of solidarity between parishes has been underway for some time, but the current situation due to isolation makes it inadequate to cover current extraordinary needs.
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Civil society to the government of Punjab: religious freedom in the educational system

Fides EN - - Ven, 17/07/2020 - 11:27
Lahore - "We ask the government of the Punjab province to review all the measures that are clearly in conflict with the right to freedom of religion, guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan pursuant to articles 20 and 25": this is what a group of Pakistani civil society organizations call for, expressing serious concerns about recent developments regarding the education system in the Punjab province.
In a joint statement, the "Commission for the Rights of Minorities of Peoples", the "Center for Social Justice , the "Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association
", the "Cecil and Iris Chaudhry" Foundation, the National Commission "Justice and Peace" of the Catholic Bishops of Pakistani and "Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi" deplore the notification to the Governor of the Punjab province that has made Qur'anic education compulsory in the universities of Punjab province .
Catholic Peter Jacob, president of the "Center for Social Justice" and the "Peoples' Commission for Minorities' Rights" , explains: "According to article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan, every citizen has the right and the freedom to profess, practice and propagate one's religion; Article 25 decrees the equality of every citizen of the country and the right to education, establishing no discrimination on the basis of gender".
The organizations ask for a single national curriculum agreed by federal and provincial governments, "but the government of Punjab has moved to change the teaching of religion in the education system in total contempt for religious freedom for the respect of religious diversity".
"For almost four decades - it is noted - all public schools and most private schools and colleges have taught Islamic studies as a compulsory subject in all classes", notes Jacob, adding that "the Nazra Quran is taught in primary education, while reading the Koran in secondary education classes has been made mandatory in the Province since 2018". Peter Jacob notes that "also in other subjects such as social studies, history and languages there are extensive references only to the majority religion", in clear violation of the Constitution.
A. H. Nayyar, a scholar and member of the working group on inclusive education, speaking with Fides, declares: "The inclusion of religious content has repercussions on the quantity and quality of the educational path. Another disturbing development is an amendment approved by the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, whereby all textbooks must be approved by the Ulema Council, rather than by education experts".
Baela Raza Jamil, a key member of the working group on inclusive education, explains: "These changes to the legislation, promoted without public debate, are deeply worrying and will be socially divisive; they undermine the freedom of learning and critical thinking in the educational system of Pakistan".
Categorie: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - The commitment of "Talitha Kum" nuns against human trafficking during the pandemic

Fides EN - - Ven, 17/07/2020 - 11:18
New Delhi - A group of Indian nuns is strongly committed to tackling the phenomenon of human trafficking during the Covid-19 pandemic. The "AMRAT - Talitha Kum India" movement, the Asian alliance of women religious against trafficking started in 2009, is particularly attentive and active in this phase, in which traffickers can take advantage of the contingent situation.
Human Trafficking is the second best organized criminal phenomenon in India, alongside trafficking in arms and drugs. Several governmental and non-governmental organizations are involved in facing this huge challenge. AMRAT - Talitha Kum India has developed some strategies, operating in the prevention, rescue, protection, rehabilitation, reintegration of victims.
"Many people are vulnerable to human trafficking during the Covid-19 pandemic: loss of work, difficulties returning to native villages and estreme poverty contribute to making them exposed to human trafficking", says to Fides Sister Jyoti Pinto, of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany, founder of AMRAT - Talitha Kum India. "A person can be sold several times; we are facing the harrowing reality of modern slavery, which is human trafficking", she notes.
Sr. Jyoti Pinto motivated not only her congregation, but also the other religious orders to join together to fight this heinous crime: thanks to Sr. Arpan, who lives in New Delhi, the capital of India and Sr. Prema, who resides in Guwahati, the capital of Assam state in northeastern India, the organization has reached thousands of women and children stranded in different parts of India from northeastern India during the long lockdown imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 since March 25. The nuns not only save women and girls from human trafficking, but help them survive by organizing sustenance and reintegration initiatives in society.
Many women from rural Indian communities move to other cities with the hope of a better life and job prospects. However, the process often becomes a trap. Traffickers choose vulnerable communities - such as those with few prospects of income or affected by wars or natural disasters - using the dream of a better life as bait. The girls find themselves working as prostitutes, domestic helpers, workers, beggars. Sometimes they are victims of forced marriages.
To counter the phenomenon, networking is essential: even if not directly members of AMRAT, there are about 100 thousand Catholic nuns who work silently in the apostolate, who go to villages, roads, refugee camps, schools, hospitals, tea plantations, prisons, slums, signaling potential situations of presence of human traffickers.
Thousands of trafficking cases are reported to the Indian authorities every year; between 2011 and 2018, 38,508 cases were reported, based on government data.
The Global Slavery Index estimates that 8 million people in India - including children and teenagers - live in forms of modern slavery, where violence, coercion and deception are used to exploit people.
Categorie: From the church

VATICAN - Economic crisis in the Middle East and international debt at the center of the Caritas Internationalis Annual Report

Fides EN - - Ven, 17/07/2020 - 10:59
Vatican City - "We are in a crucial moment of change. This event also takes place in a spirit of hope for the future, especially at a time when humanity is facing a serious health crisis that has affected everyone. Covid-19 has highlighted the fragility of our existence. As Pope Francis has repeated to us, we are faced with a new beginning and our world after Covid-19 cannot and must no longer be the same. Caritas Internationalis will continue to give voice to the voiceless and promote integral human development and ecology in line with Laudato Sì, the focal point of our action": with these words Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, President of Caritas Internationalis and Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, opened the presentation of the Caritas Internationalis Annual Report, entitled "Caritas voice of the voiceless, looking at the future in the post-COVID19 world". In a video conference held yesterday July 16, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and Secretary General Aloysius John focused in particular on two phenomena that require decisive intervention by the entire community: international debt and economic sanctions in the Middle Orient
"The pandemic has put our organization to the test - said President Tagle - which has faced an unprecedented situation that could have led to the interruption of many programs and even to the closure of some offices. Instead, each of the 162 Caritas organizations operating in about 200 countries and territories has been able to respond promptly to the emergency by increasing its programs and organizing to reach the most vulnerable, take care of them, inform them about the pandemic".
He continued: "Caritas invites everyone, especially leaders, to be ready to face the dramatic consequences of this pandemic not only in the area of health care, but also to intervene promptly in favor of millions of people who risk hunger. We cannot sit by and watch the deteriorating living conditions of people in Lebanon, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. The poorest are victims of economic sanctions and the threat of Covid-19 makes their difficult lives even more precarious. The international debt of the poorest countries in Africa, parts of Latin America and Asia has had important social and economic consequences".
"The situation in the Middle East has worsened dramatically in the past six months - echoed Secretary General Aloysius John - economic sanctions and the embargo on Syria have contributed. Prices have skyrocketed, people do not have the means to buy food, malnutrition is spreading and there is growing anger against the international community. The situation is worse for the most vulnerable, in particular children, women and the elderly, already deeply affected by wars, tensions, fundamentalism and now also by COVID-19. The sanctions against Syria - Aloysius highlighted - have also affected neighboring countries. In these days, we are looking with special concern towards Lebanon, that has always been a model of equilibrium for the whole Middle East. A country that has always been a 'message of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and West', as St. John Paul II said. Although sanctions and the embargo are not imposed directly on Lebanon, the indirect consequences for the country - which has close economic ties with Syria - are undeniable. Today in Lebanon, an estimated 75 percent of the total population needs humanitarian aid, the local currency has lost 80 percent of it value in recent months. In addition, the country has always been a launching point to help countries such as Syria and Iraq, so if the situation does not improve, the consequences for the region would be catastrophic".
Among the participants in the video conference, in addition to Father Michel Abboud, president of Caritas Lebanon, there was also Rita Rhayem, Director of Caritas Lebanon, who reiterated the criticality in which the country is raging. "Lebanon is facing the worst economic situation ever with an important number of unemployed people pushed below the poverty line. This economic crisis is the result of many factors and is aggravated by the effect of the spread of the Syrian crisis and sanctions. The country which hosts a large number of Syrian refugees and migrant workers is now on the verge of collapse with total silence from the international community. Aid is linked to reforms that are difficult to implement or take time", explains Rita Rhayem.
"In the meantime, the Lebanese are paying a high price; migrants and refugees are suffering. As Pope Francis said in the Angelus on June 28, 2020: "Lebanon is in a serious socio-political and economic crises that the COVID-19 pandemic has made even more difficult".
The director of the organism also pointed out that while the world is seeking treatment for Covid-19, the pandemic is not among the priorities mainly because, as the crisis progresses, hundreds of people have started looking for alternatives to earn money to eat. "Barter is back in Lebanon: People have started exchanging clothes and shoes for food".
The social department of Caritas Lebanon monitors the status of the most vulnerable to assess their situation and provide support to those most in need. However, it is noted, it is impossible to respond to all requests during emergencies due to limited economic and human resources. There is a high risk of closing some shelters and schools and firing employees. In the past 5 months, the local Caritas social department, in coordination with young people, has distributed 11, 293 food kits, 5,415 hot meals and 3,012 meal vouchers. In addition, Caritas Lebanon is collaborating with the "Maronite Foundation" which supplies food to be distributed in different regions of Lebanon. In June, the health department distributed 50,239 medicines to 11,425 beneficiaries across the country. The situation is changing dramatically from one day to another, we are witnessing scenes never seen in this country over the years".
Categorie: From the church