ASIA/INDONESIA - Floods in Eastern Indonesia: the campaign of compassion and solidarity is underway

Fides EN - - jeu, 08/04/2021 - 13:15
Jakarta - It is an Easter time marked by suffering and hardship that the Indonesian Christian communities is experiencing in the East Nusa Tenggara province in Indonesia, where there is a strong Christian presence, in some territories even a majority, with the island of Flores, called the "Catholic heart of Indonesia". Floods and landslides triggered by tropical cyclone Seroja struck Indonesia's province, affecting at least 12 surrounded areas. Since Holy Thursday many faithful were not able to participate in the Easter celebrations and lived an Easter as displaced persons, suffering for losing their loved ones or their homes and properties. Heavy rains "have caused numerous and serious floods, similar to tsunamis that have devastated much of the island", a Catholic source on the island of Flores told Agenzia Fides.
While the death toll is worsening and displaced people , civil institutions have organized the aid network while the Indonesian Church, with Caritas, has launched an appeal for solidarity that has already started fundraising to meet the needs of affected communities.
Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Archbishop of Jakarta and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia, in a video message invited Catholics to "show compassion for the victims of the floods" that hit the predominantly Catholic province of East Nusa Tenggara. Donations and aid can be sent to bishops' charities such as Caritas Indonesia and the Socio-Economic Development Commission. "Compassion is a materialization of our faith" and "can be a blessing for our brothers and sisters", he remarked.
Mgr. Aloysius Sudarso, Archbishop of Palembang, President of Caritas Indonesia, known locally as "Karuna", stresses that "the Catholic Church in Indonesia will not remain silent. Our care for all those who suffer is truly a concrete form of our faith. We have just celebrated Easter, proof of God's involvement, through Jesus, in human life", he said. Caritas has already received over one billion rupees which will be used in rehabilitation programs for refugees.
Special attention will be given to the approximately 100,000 children from three districts who have seen classes and school exams suspended due to the floods. Schools have been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic for over a year, with lectures and exams held online. Damage to infrastructure and private homes now make distance learning impossible. Educational programs are placed among the priorities to ensure that children and young people can continue to receive education.
Pope Francis, in the Angelus of Wednesday 7 April, expressed his closeness by saying: "I wish to assure my prayers for the victims of floods that in the past days have struck Indonesia and East Timor. May the Lord receive the dead, comfort their families, and sustain those who have lost their homes".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/MOZAMBIQUE - Mozambican Armed Forces take control of Palma Town

Fides EN - - jeu, 08/04/2021 - 12:45
Maputo - “A ghost town”. The Mozambican armed forces have taken full control of the town of Palma, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, driving out the remaining islamist terrorists who had attacked the town on 24 March . According to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, at least 11,000 people have fled the Palma area, and thousands more have been trapped inside the area.
Fr. António Chamboco, who has been parish priest in Palma for about a year, and who was not in the city when the attack began, said he was particularly worried about the lack of information on the whereabouts of his parishioners, also because telephone communications are still interrupted.
The Catholic diocese of Pemba has mobilized to help the displaced people of Palma who have found refuge in the area.
According to UNHCR, civilians fleeing Palma have arrived in Pemba, Nangade, Mueda and Montepuez on foot and by boat since March 24, the day after the attack. Humanitarian flights that initially contributed to the evacuation of hundreds have been suspended pending further authorization from the authorities.
The UN refugee agency also reports that it received information that at least 1,000 people fleeing Mozambique and trying to enter Tanzania were not allowed to cross the border to seek asylum. "We are seeking information on these reports. UNHCR calls on Mozambique's neighbors to provide access to their territory and initiate asylum procedures for those fleeing violence and seeking protection", reads a statement.
The past three years of violence in northern Mozambique have caused nearly 700,000 internally displaced people most in the past year. UNHCR officials warn that this number could exceed the one million mark by June this year if the ongoing violence does not stop.
The Mozambican army announced that it had regained control of the city and that part of the population would return to their homes, in what remains a militarized area.
Meanwhile, a meeting of southern African leaders in Mozambique's capital Maputo was announced in the coming days to try to come up with plans to counter the growing threat of terrorism across the region.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/VENEZUELA - The path of the second National Pastoral Assembly: "An outgoing missionary parish for the new times"

Fides EN - - jeu, 08/04/2021 - 12:33
Caracas - The Venezuelan Episcopal Conference has presented the path of the II National Pastoral Assembly in a program broadcast live through its Youtube channel. Several contributions outlined the phases that make up this synodal journey in which they will reflect on the theme of the Assembly: "An outgoing missionary parish for the new times". The first ANP took place in November 2015 and this second Assembly began in 2019, with the parish and diocesan assemblies.
According to the note from the CEV sent to Fides, the journey consists of a synodal journey, that seeks the participation of all the members of the Church in Venezuela, to reflect, dialogue and promote the commitment to be "an outgoing missionary parish for the new times", according to the chosen theme.
The first phase, "Accompany", is divided into two moments: Listening, in which the contributions of the parishes, archdioceses and dioceses are welcomed, and Dialogue, in which the common points of the previous moment are presented, inviting to reflect on them in the light of the four pastoral criteria: Kerigma, Koinonía, Liturgy and Diaconia.
In the second phase, "Fructify", they will reflect on the analysis developed in the first phase for four weeks. The first week, entitled "Let us walk in Assembly", will address the theme of the ANP taking inspiration from various documents of the Church that are added to the reflection. During the second week, "Let's not walk alone", the importance of communion and synodality for an outgoing Church will be reaffirmed. The third week, "Discerning what comes from God", will be a space to deepen the spirituality of the missionary parish, starting from the biblical quote of the Second ANP, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations" . In the fourth week "Motivational and healing spaces", where what must be left behind in order to continue walking towards the Church in communion and going out for the new times will be decided.
In the third phase, “Celebrate”, the conclusions of the ANP will be presented in an event that will be broadcast on the CEV Youtube television channel. Finally, the fourth phase, "Convert", will be the stage to pass "from reflection to action", that is, to spread the conclusions obtained and translate them into concrete actions that generate the pastoral change of the Church in Venezuela towards an outgoing missionary parish for the new times. "This is - underlined Mgr. Mariano Parra, Archbishop of Coro - a crucial phase in order not to remain in the analysis, but to generate the pastoral transformation that the Church dreams of and of which Pope Francis speaks, a Church that is a field hospital, which reaches everyone, even in the suburbs".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/TURKEY - Syrian Orthodox monk condemned as "supporter of terrorists" for giving water and food to PKK militiamen

Fides EN - - jeu, 08/04/2021 - 12:05
Mardin - The Mardin Criminal Court has handed down a 25-month prison sentence against the Syrian Orthodox monk Sefer Bileçen, finding him guilty of complicity with terrorist organizations and activities. The priest, a member of the Mor Yakup monastery in Nusaybin , had been arrested on January 9, 2020 along with two other people, accused of having offered help and cover to members of the People's Defense Forces , the military arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party , classified as a terrorist organization by the Ankara government.
The accusation, based mainly on images collected by drones used by the Turkish intelligence services to monitor the life of the monastery from above, attributes to the monk the responsibility of receiving HPG militiamen in the monastery for a few days at the end of September of 2018. On January 16, 2020, the monk had been authorized to leave prison pending trial, with the obligation not to leave his residence.
During the trial, as reported by Agenzia Fides, several testimonies had confirmed that the alleged "complicity" contested by the Turkish authorities to the Syrian Orthodox monk consisted in simply offering food and drink to people who said they were hungry and thirsty. An HPG militiaman arrested in September 2019 by Turkish security forces had also confessed to having visited the Mor Yakup Monastery several times just to eat, drink and refresh. The monk Sefer Bileçen himself, in the testimony made public through his lawyers, confirmed that he had given food and water to the militiamen as a pure sign of monastic hospitality, reserved for anyone in need, without imagining that the people welcomed were members of HPG. "I will give food and water to anyone who comes to my door", Father Sefer had said during his statement. "I have to do it" he added "because of my spiritual and philosophical beliefs. And I cannot lie, because I am a monk and a priest".
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/SUDAN - Schools closed in Sudan's Red Sea state amid third COVID-19 wave

Fides EN - - jeu, 08/04/2021 - 11:53
Port Sudan - "A steady increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths during the next three months is expected", said Sudanese Minister of Health Omar El Najeeb a few days ago. All primary and secondary schools in the localities of Port Sudan, Suakin, and Sinkat in the Red Sea state will be closed for a week as part of precautionary measures to reduce COVID-19 infections, the Red Sea state wali Abdallah Shangarai declared. The decision also called for increased social distancing in spaces such as mosques and churches, shortening the Friday sermon, and stressing the importance of precautionary health measures, such as masks.
At the same press conference in Khartoum, Doctor Montasir Osman, Deputy Director of Health Emergencies Committee, said that the total number of recorded COVID-19 infections rose to 30,211 so far while 2,079 patients died.
Member of the Sovereignty Council and Chairman of the Committee for Health Emergencies, Siddig Tawir, described the health situation as “alarming for everyone”. He explained that “there has been a significant number of deaths, and COVID-19 patients are filling-up available hospital beds”.
Sudan was the first country in the Middle East and North Africa region to receive vaccines via the COVAX Facility, a coalition co-led by the World Health Organization . .
More than a million doses of the vaccine have been provided by China and the World Health Organisation . Over 5,000 people have been vaccinated so far.
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA - Jesuit Refugee Service: Latin America and the Caribbean the areas most affected by the pandemic in the world

Fides EN - - jeu, 08/04/2021 - 11:10
Bogota - Latin America and the Caribbean is the region most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with 28% of deaths, despite the fact that its population represents 8.4% of the world population. This dramatic statement opens the latest regional report of the Jesuit Refugee Service of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The countries of the continent "face challenges in various aspects to control the pandemic" continues the note sent to Fides, which underlines how the spread of Covid and its economic and social effects have worsened due to the structural problems in the region, such as the high levels of inequality, informal work, lack of social protection, poverty and vulnerability.
Furthermore, health and social protection systems are weak and fragmented, and sprawling marginal urban settlements lack access to basic services. Added to this are "massive migratory flows and population displacements, as well as conflicts of various kinds and the consequences of the climate crisis".
The report specifically cites the Venezuelan exodus, which "is the largest in recent history and one of the largest global crises of forced displacement in the world, after Syria. Added to this are the hundreds of thousands of Central Americans who continue to flee their countries because of violence, human rights violations and the deterioration of security conditions". The number of forced displacements "has quadrupled in the last decade" and due to the humanitarian crisis generated by the pandemic, Venezuelan and Central American forced migrants and refugees have been doubly affected.
As for the vaccination plans implemented in various countries of the region, "the difference in the demand and availability of vaccines is evident according to the income levels of the countries, as well as in the planning and good use of resources". In general, the Covid-19 vaccination plans in the region exclude immigrants who are in an irregular situation, which should be reconsidered by including them on equal terms and without discrimination. "The first countries to implement vaccination plans have been, in order, Chile, Mexico and Argentina , followed by Ecuador , Venezuela and Colombia . The report below presents a summary of the vaccination situation in the countries where JRS offices are present: Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/MYANMAR - Comfort to victims of violence and aid to the displaced: the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 14:21
Mandalay - An Easter of solidarity, closeness and human and spiritual comfort is what the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition in Mandalay experienced. In recent days, the sisters went to visit and comfort the family of 18-year-old Ko Zaw Ko Latt, who lived in Sein Pan, near Mandalay, and who was killed during a protest on April 4. Invoking peace and justice for Myanmar, the sisters brought spiritual comfort and stopped to pray with the family. In a situation of serious social tension and widespread poverty, Catholic nuns continue to embody the evangelical message of proximity to those in need, to families in need, to people who have seen their loved ones killed in the wave of repression by the Burmese army.
The nuns also visited and brought comfort and material aid to 150 families who were victims of fires and affected in different ways by the generalized protest situation and the ongoing repression. By visiting the families, the sisters donated medicines, tarps and blankets, humanitarian aid received from donors who chose the sisters to do charity. In Mandalay, in fact, a serious and vast fire broke out, for unknown causes, on 1 April, at 5 am, destroyed 90 houses, affecting 150 families and leaving more than 500 people displaced, homeless. The displaced set up a temporary camp for the victims on the plain of the Buddhist monastery of Myatbayet, with makeshift tents. Many people of goodwill from Mandalay came and donated necessities to the victims.
As the nuns report, the military authorities have not prohibited or limited their charitable work and therefore their humanitarian and solidarity work can continue, assisting displaced families.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition are a female religious institute of pontifical right, founded in France by Emilia de Vialar . The sisters are dedicated to educational, health and pastoral works. In Asia they are present in Myanmar, Burma, the Philippines, India, Thailand.
Catégories: From the church

EUROPE/RUSSIA - Metropolitan Hilarion: the Russian Church will not change its way of establishing the date of Easter

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 14:11
Moscow - The possible introduction of a change of the liturgical calendar to allow all Christians in the world to celebrate Easter on the same day "is not on the agenda of the Orthodox Church, or at least it is not on the agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church", and in any case the Russian Orthodox have "no intention" of changing the traditional system with which the date for the Easter celebration is fixed in their Church. This was stated in a recent television interview by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. The declaration of the authoritative representative of the Moscow Patriarchate has nipped in the bud recent attempts to reopen the debate on an issue that continues to represent a painful emblem of historical lacerations and the lack of full sacramental communion between the Catholic Church and many Eastern Churches. In many areas of the world, starting with the Middle East, the spectacle of the "divided Easters", celebrated on different days by Christians, ends up being a veil to their common confession of the name of Christ. This year, the Easter celebration for the Eastern Churches that follow the so-called Julian Calendar is set for May 2nd.
The last to try to rekindle the hope of seeing sooner or later all Christians celebrate the Lord's resurrection on the same day was the Orthodox Archbishop Job of Telmessos, a member of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, co-President of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. In an editorial published in February 2021 issue of the Bulletin of the Permanent Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Ecumenical Council of Churches . Archbishop Job recalled the rule established at the Council of Nicaea according to which Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon of spring. In 2025, 1700 years will be celebrated since that Council of the undivided Church, and precisely in that year, by providential coincidence in the different methods of calculation, Christians all over the world will celebrate Easter on the same day.
"Perhaps" Job added in his text "the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea in 2025 could be a good opportunity to remind Christians of the need to reform the calendar to define a common Easter date and truly remain faithful to the provisions of the first ecumenical council. The fact that the eastern and western dates of Easter coincide in that year should be taken as an encouragement in that direction". The perspective suggested by Archbishop Job was welcomed and re-launched by Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, in some statements published by the online agency
Now, the intervention that puts the brake on all this, by the Russian Orthodox metropolitan Hilarion, took its cue from the declarations of Archbishop Job of Telmessios, revealing the unwillingness of the Russian Orthodox Church to change the method of calculating the date of Easter. Interviewed by a Russian television network, Metropolitan Hilarion recalled that the question of the different dates for celebrating Christian Easter periodically re-emerges in the ecumenical debate of recent decades. "But the question here is very simple: who should change their Paschal calendar? For example, we are not going to change it". Hilarion pointed out that the question of the date of celebration of Easter is linked to the need to adopt the so-called Gregorian calendar, instead of the so-called Julian calendar still used by the Church of Byzantine and Slavic Orthodoxy to determine the day of celebration of Easter.
"From time to time", Hilarion stressed, " some people say that we should bring our church calendar in line with the secular calendar. Such attempt was even made in the Russian Church in the 1920s, when Patriarch Tikhon issued an order to switch our calendar to the new style, and two weeks later this order had to be canceled, since the church people did not accept it".
In recent years there have been signs of agreement regarding the purpose of overcoming the "divided Easter" of Christians, especially in the Middle East and Arab countries, especially between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II expressed the urgency to unify the date of celebration of Easter already in a letter sent in May 2014 to Pope Francis, on the occasion of the first anniversary of his first meeting in the Vatican. In May 2015, during a visit he made to the Netherlands, the Primate of the Church added that the "working" hypothesis from which we must start is to set for all Christians the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ "on the third Sunday in April".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/BRAZIL - Two online courses on missionary formation: "Formation for the mission" and "Biblical sources for the Mission"

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 13:22
Brasilia - Registrations have been opened for two online courses organized by the Missionary Cultural Center of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil dedicated to formation for the Mission and biblical sources. According to the note sent to Fides, the courses will be held in April and are aimed at priests, deacons, men and women religious, seminarians and pastoral workers from all over Brazil.
As the Bishop of Chapecó and President of the Episcopal Pastoral Commission for Missionary Action and Inter-ecclesial Cooperation of the CNBB, Mgr. Odelie Magri, who is also Vice-President of the CCM, recalled, formation is among the priorities of the National Missionary Program, and therefore it is “urgent and necessary”. Until the beginning of 2020, the courses were in presence, but the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to look for other means of missionary formation to reach dioceses, parishes and the most distant communities. That is why the CCM organized online training courses.
The "Formation for Mission" course will be held from 19 to 22 April, which aims to offer participants a good knowledge of the 2019-2023 National Missionary Program and a reflection on its contents. This course is intended to promote the growth of missionary awareness, motivating participants to be active agents in the process of pastoral conversion and to carry out the Program in the environments in which they work. The second course on "Biblical Sources of Mission" is scheduled from 26 to 30 April, which aims to provide participants with a synthetic and global vision of the missionary figure in the Old and New Testaments.

Link correlati :For further information
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/SUDAN - The economic and social crisis is fueling discontent and poverty

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 12:56
Khartoum - Sudan is experiencing a delicate situation of transition. The economic situation is very difficult: subsidies on petrol and flour have been cut, prices are rising and the Sudanese pound is constantly losing value. People have a hard time getting by. There are also great uncertainties from a political and international point of view. This is the picture traced by missionary sources consulted by Agenzia Fides in Khartoum. “In November, one euro was worth 270 Egyptian pounds. Today it is worth 475 - the sources observe -. This has led to a surge in inflation. This, coupled with the abolition of subsidized fuel and bread prices, has created an explosive mixture. In recent weeks, people have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the high cost of living. Demonstrations t have been severely repressed, but the people are increasingly poor”.
After the fall of Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese hoped for a quick recovery of the economy and greater stability. But this did not happen. “Those who know the history and the Sudanese economic system - continue Fides sources - knew that an immediate recovery was impossible. Also because the government controls only 12% of national resources”.
The rest is in the hands of the armed forces. The Sudanese economic system is very similar to the Egyptian one. The military owns agricultural land, industries, service companies but the results of this management are not leading to growth. The profound economic crisis is part of a not simple national and international political context.
After years there have been new incidents in Darfur. The clashes, which rekindled over the Easter weekend, resulted in tens of deaths and thousands of refugees in neighboring states. Members of tribes of African ethnicity confront each other with others of Arab ethnicity. In the background, the struggle between nomadic herders and farmers for water and pastures. To this crisis is added that with Ethiopia due to ancient border disputes. “In the dispute with Ethiopia - the sources observe - different interests are intertwined. Yes, there is a question of borders, but there are also clashes related to the lack of agreement on the Great Millennium Dam built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile , there are interests for local resources . Then one wonders what role Egypt plays. Cairo has a vested interest in moving Khartoum forward to destabilize Ethiopia. But what are the advantages for Sudan? An open war is not conceivable, but a low intensity war is not impossible and, certainly, it is no less harmful and dangerous than a traditional conflict”.
The political and economic situation is delicate. There are those who fear a possible coup. “The situation could favor the rise of a strong man - conclude the sources -. Some political leaders have already made speeches bordering on constitutional legality. That said, civil society, especially students and representatives of the professions, have developed a strong democratic consciousness. I do not think they would welcome a coup d'état. Citizens continue to fight for a harmonious development of the country and for a policy that looks to the common good and not to the particular and personal interests of individual politicians”.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - New joint call to lay down arms and end violence in Tigray

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 12:49
Addis Ababa - "With immediate effect, the Ethiopian national defense forces will assume responsibility for border security": these are words espressed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the recent report released by the Europe External Program with Africa on March 26, regarding the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray. Abiy himself had stated that "the junta that we had eliminated in three weeks has now shifted to a guerrilla force, has mingled with the farmers and started to move from place to place".
In the document of the EEPA, a specialized center on issues relating to peace-building, refugee protection and resilience in the Horn of Africa, released on March 26, Abiy stated that Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its troops from Tigray following the protracted conflict between the federal government of Ethiopia and Tigray State led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front political party.
The note sent to Agenzia Fides shows that, according to the EEPA, both countries "have reached an agreement, based on a spirit of mutual trust, to continue to strengthen bilateral relations and increase economic cooperation where possible".
Since the start of hostilities on 4 November 2020, the Tigrinya population has experienced an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and "everyone, including Eritrean refugees, has run out of food, basic life-saving medicines, water, have no access to essential services" as the same Bishop of the Catholic eparchy of Adigrat, Msgr. Tesfassilasie Medhin, declared . According to local sources, the region is on the verge of famine, 50 to 100 people die of starvation and hunger every day, while the crisis and gun battles are also intensifying beyond the Tigrinya regional borders.
To date there are many countries and organizations, including the leadership of the Symposium of Bishops' Conferences in Africa and Madagascar , members of the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops' Conference , the Prelates of the Association of Bishops' Conferences members of East Africa , the Consolata Missionaries and Pax Christi International, who have called for a peaceful dialogue asking the parties involved in the war-torn region of northern Ethiopia to end the violence and lay down their arms.
Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/DR CONGO - Freeing children and young people from modern slavery: the Sisters of the Good Shepherd receive an award

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 12:32
Kinshasa - "Winning the Stop Slavery Hero Award, in addition to being an important recognition of our daily work in the mining communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to eliminate child labor - precisely in the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor – gives us the opportunity to shed light on human rights violations and forced labor in the cobalt industry", says Sister Jane Wainoi Kabui, director of the program, to Agenzia Fides, referring to the assignment of the Stop Slavery Hero Award 2021 to the "Bon Pasteur Kolwezi", the program supported by the Good Shepherd International Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 2008 by the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, present in 73 countries around the world, to support cooperation and development projects in Africa, Asia and America Latina.
The Stop Slavery Award is an annual recognition offered by the Thomson Reuters Foundation that initially recognized companies that promoted measures and practices to eliminate forced labor from their supply chains. Today it has extended its interest to all those NGOs and organizations that fight against the forms of modern slavery that affect 40 million people in the world. "Modern slavery - the nun continued - is real and widespread, even in the mining sector. In this period when slavery takes lesser known forms of hiding its claws and camouflaging itself under a new garment, it is children and women who need support more than ever, to break free from the chains that prevent them from accessing the most basic rights".
Bon Pasteur Kolwezi, with the support of the Good Shepherd International Foundation, has been working successfully since 2013 to eliminate the most serious forms of child labor affecting the artisanal cobalt mining communities in Lualaba province, Democratic Republic of Congo, integrating human rights and community development, to improve the living conditions of thousands of Congolese in Kolwezi.
Over the past eight years, Bon Pasteur Kolwezi and Good Shepherd International Foundation have achieved important results, through a multidimensional model that includes education and protection of children, alternative economic opportunities for the livelihood of families, social protection and defense of the rights of communities. Among them are 9,000 children from 8 artisanal mining communities in Kolwezi who have found a voice and dignity, more than 3,000 children rescued from the harsh life of the mines who now attend school, more than a thousand girls and women who have started an agricultural activity or obtained skills and abilities to access decent jobs.
Nicodème Kahilu, director of Bon Pasteur's monitoring and evaluation program adds: "Our mission to build hope, peace and justice in these communities in Congo continues. There is no future if children are forced to work to provide for their families affected by extreme poverty, when they are exploited in dangerous jobs in the cobalt mines simply because child labor is the cheapest labor and allows mining companies and companies in the electronics and automotive industries to make profits from this supply system. Seeing hundreds of children digging, crushing, washing, sorting, stacking, loading and transporting minerals for a few pennies challenges our very society and a model of development that is unable to protect them while depriving them of their childhood. We at Pasteur Kolwezi firmly believe that a change is still possible. The fight against modern slavery is effective when the long-term commitment of the mining industry and battery companies to support community development is combined with social programs that protect victims of exploitation and when law enforcement and regulations by the institutions and the government becomes the priority action to end child labor and reduce human rights violations in all supply chains".
Catégories: From the church

AMERICA/PERU - Peru’s Bishops call for respect of rules in upcoming elections

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 12:19
Lima - "In the past five years, Peruvian democracy has been seriously undermined by the succession of four Presidents and two Congresses, that has not allowed the country to pursue integral development, consolidate democratic institutions and deal effectively with the pandemic that is causing much suffering in the country". The bishops launched their appeal in a letter, dated 5 April 2021, in view of the elections to be held on Sunday, 11 April .
Quoting Pope Francis who stresses the need for "ethical politics", the bishops underscore how "politics must be orientated towards the common good", care for those most in need, engagement with the most vulnerable populations in the pursuit of dialogue, justice, reconciliation and service to others, in order to guarantee the fundamental rights of each person.
Looking ahead to a voting process that takes place within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the Bishops highlight the need for a serene climate in which to promote tolerance and respect among voters throughout the process, as well as when final results are officially released.
Finally, the Peruvian bishops appeal directly to all citizens to exercise their democratic right and duty with responsibility, because the "future is in their hands" and "the pandemic must not prevent the holding of free and fair, transparent and responsible elections".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA - Churches committed to protecting the right to drinking water and its link with human dignity

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 11:49
Chiang Mai - The Christian Churches in Asia, together with other religious organizations and civil society movements, play an important role in raising awareness of the global water crisis. As stated in the webinar "Decreased Access to Safe Water in Asia: Challenges to Human Security" recently organized by the Christian Conference of Asia , an interfaith network based in Thailand, Christian faithful in Asia, of all denominations, are aware of the need to defend the right to water for all. The panel of experts underlined the need for "genuine reform and democratic governance on the issue of water conservation and pollution", said Mathews George Chunakara, Secretary General of the CCA.
In Asia, water-related problems have become increasingly acute with worrying implications. The threats of climate change, rampant urbanisation, and unplanned development have placed great stress upon the regions water resources. In recent times, water scarcity has triggered reduced food production, supply chain blockages, loss of land and livelihoods, large-scale migrations, and even exacerbated economic and geopolitical tensions.
Chunakara said: "Water is the essence of life and safe water is indispensable to sustain life and health. The right to water cannot be interpreted in an abstract perspective but must be grounded in the framework of human security. Human security fundamentally is freedom from fear and freedom from want; and its interrelatedness with right to water is significant and obvious".
"The right of access to water, which entails sufficient, safe, accessible, affordable water for personal and domestic use, is a matter of increasing concern in the Asia region today", he added.
Evariste Kouassi-Komlan, Regional Advisor of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene at the UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, spoke of the specific challenges of rapid growth, urbanisation, and climate change in Asia and its impact on water, sanitation, and hygiene. Mr Kouassi-Komlan specifically mentioned the urban-rural gap in water access and explained, "Waste water management is a bottleneck in the sustainable development of the region, and this has huge impacts in terms of health. It is also a major challenge to ensuring higher quantity and quality of water in rural areas, as there are scant waste water systems available in remote areas". The UNICEF officer further share four specific perspectives to address water scarcity in the region. This included water governance as a revolutionary and interregional management system, innovation and financing to improve the efficiency of water use and reusability of water, capacity-building of the water sector, and increased data information availability and resource sharing.
Dr Ansye Sopacua, Technical Adviser of the Sustainable Development Goals for UNDP Indonesia, highlighted the specific issues hindering access to safe, sufficient, and affordable water in Asia. She broke down the right to water in three components and shared the regional challenges in attaining each. These three were that the individual need of water averaged 50–100 litres per day, that water sources needed to be within 1000 metres of one’s residence, and that the expenditure of a household on water should not be more than three percent of income. Lack of reliable infrastructure, lack of funding and finance, and issues of mismanagement contributed to decreased access to safe water. At times, water was available but either not safe or not affordable .
Dr Kongmeng Ly, Water Quality Officer from the Mekong River Commission , an intergovernmental agency in the Mekong sub-region of South East Asia, provided examples of trans-boundary cooperation over shared water resources. He said that the member countries of the lower Mekong basin jointly established many procedures on the use of water and the protection and conservation of the river’s resources, which included joint cooperation in the management and monitoring of water quality. Although the onus was on states to enforce the protocols, the MRC provided monthly assessments of water quality and quantity, which helped in assessing development projects across the basin.
David Das, Asia representative to the International Reference Group of the Ecumenical Water Network hosted by the World Council of Churches, emphasized: "Water has now become a complex trading commodity like gold and oil. Churches must prioritise urgent, relevant, and affordable programmes and be in partnership with various groups for a multi-pronged solution to the water crisis. It is up to faith groups to answer several pressing questions regarding the sustainability of our current lifestyles for the future".
The CCA has been educating, encouraging, and empowering its constituencies to work for the wellbeing and prosperity of all God’s creation in this world and to be engaged in a prophetic mission, loudly and boldly advocating for right to water. The CCA hopes that the deliberations of the webinar on World Water Day will continue to inform the prophetic witness of Asian churches in the ongoing struggle for equality and justice.
The panellists collectively proposed suggestions for actions of churches on the issue of equitable water access. This included speaking about decreased access to water from the pulpit, developing specific "Sunday School modules and curriculum on water and the care of creation", releasing publications on biblical-theological perspectives on the importance of water conservation. Given that churches had large grassroots networks, such networks could be leveraged to spread information on the importance of water and its links to human dignity.
Catégories: From the church

OCEANIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Appointment of bishop of Kundiawa

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 11:08
Vatican City - On April 3 the Holy Father appointed as bishop of the diocese of Kundiawa, Papua New Guinea, the Reverend Paul Sundu, of the clergy of the same see, until now parish priest of Koge and teacher at the Good Shepherd Seminary of Mount Hagen.
Msgr. Paul Sundu was born on 27 July 1973 in Womatne, Simbu Province, diocese of Kundiawa, in Papua New Guinea. He received his formation at Saint Fidelis Minor Seminary in Madang, at the Good Shepherd Seminary in Mount Hagen and at the Catholic Theological Institute of Port Moresby .
He was ordained a priest on 17 January 2006. He was awarded a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas - Angelicum .
Since ordination he has held the following offices: parish vicar in Mingende and in Kundiawa ; director of vocations and parish priest in Kundiawa ; vice-rector and rector of the Good Shepherd Seminary in Mount Hagen and again rector of the same seminary . From 2018 to the present he has served as a teacher at the Good Shepherd Seminary in Mount Hagen and parish priest in Koge.
Besides his mother tongue, Kuman, and Tok Pisin, he knows English and Italian.

Catégories: From the church

AFRICA/TANZANIA - Appointment of bishop of Bunda

Fides EN - - mer, 07/04/2021 - 11:04
Vatican City - The Holy Father has appointed as bishop of the diocese of Bunda, Tanzania, the Reverend Simon Chibuga Masondole of the clergy of the same see, until now parish administrator, director of the Saint Francis of Assisi Nursery and Primary School, and president of the Priests’ Union in Bunda.
Msgr. Simon Chibuga Masondole was born on 2 October 1972 in Bukiko-Ukerewe. He studied at the Our Lady of the Angels Major Seminary in Kibosho, diocese of Moshi , and at the Saint Charles Lwanga Major Seminary in Segerea, metropolitan archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam .
He was ordained a priest on 2 July 2006.
Since priestly ordination he has held the following offices: parish assistant in the Kahangala parish, Mwanza ; vice-director of the Diocesan Office for the Liturgy in Mwanza and parish assistant at the Nansio parish in Bunda . He studied liturgy at the Santa Giustina Institute of Pastoral Liturgy in Padua, Italy and was parish assistant in Conselve . He studied in Rome at the Pontifical Saint Anselm Athenaeum , and provided parish pastoral service in the diocese of Tortona-Italy . From 2018 to the present he has served as parish administrator, director of the Saint Francis of Assisi Nursery and Primary School, and president of the Priests’ Union in Bunda.
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AMERICA/COLOMBIA - CELAM: Closeness, solidarity and prayer to the Bishops of Colombia after acts of violence

Fides EN - - mer, 31/03/2021 - 13:42
Bogotà - The Latin American Episcopal Council expresses "closeness, solidarity and prayer" to the Episcopal Conference of Colombia , after the acts of violence and vandalism that took place on the night of March 29, "when a group of robbers broke into the headquarters of the CEC, causing serious damage to the infrastructure and stealing digital information and values destined for pastoral action and humanitarian aid in the country".
In their message the President and Secretary General of CELAM, Msgr. Oscar Urbina Ortega and Msgr. Elkin Fernando Alvarez, deplore these events, which took place at the very beginning of Holy Week, and the damage caused to the pastoral mission of the Colombian Church and its social commitment to the defense of life and human rights. "Brothers and sisters, we are with you! Thank you for being a 'Church that goes forth', which opts for the poorest. Thank you for your courage as artisans of peace and reconciliation", writes the President of CELAM, hoping that the investigations of the authorities will make it possible to clarify facts quickly.
At around 6 pm on Monday, March 29, a group of 10 men, wearing police uniforms, broke into the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia , informed Father Jaime Marenco, Director of Communications of the Episcopate. The criminals forced the entrance and some offices causing serious damage. "We trust in the mercy of God and in the effectiveness of the authorities to quickly clarify these facts that we deeply regret, but which do not obscure the celebration of these holy days which constitutes the center of the Christian faith", concludes the statement.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/IRAQ - Chaldean Patriarch Sako reveals: the Pope has donated 350 thousand dollars for the poor Iraqis

Fides EN - - mer, 31/03/2021 - 13:31
Baghdad - Pope Francis, in his recent apostolic pilgrimage to Iraq, together with the spiritual comfort and hopes of rebirth for all Iraqis, also left a substantial donation of 350 thousand dollars in the country, to be allocated to initiatives in support of families most affected by the consequences of conflicts, the economic crisis and the pandemic. This was revealed by Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, referring to the papal donation in the concluding part of a letter he sent to Pope Francis himself to express gratitude to the Pontiff for his visit to Iraq, also on behalf of the local Assembly of Catholic Bishops.
"The donation" Patriarch Sako reports to Agenzia Fides "is intended to be a sign of how real and concrete the Pope's love for all the Iraqi people is. Of the total sum", adds the Iraqi Cardinal, "250 thousand dollars will be managed by Baghdad, while 50 thousand dollars have been sent to the Chaldean archdiocese of Mosul and another 50 thousand to the Syrian Catholic archdiocese which includes Qaraqosh".
The use of the papal donation has already entered its operational phase: "We have already distributed 12 thousand food packages across the country" the Chaldean Patriarch reports to Fides, specifying that thousands of them have also been sent to Najaf, Basra, Kirkuk and Zakho, to be handed over to families who need it most, "Christian and Muslim families, and those belonging to all the other faith communities present in Iraq".
In the letter sent to Pope Francis, Patriarch Sako confides that he would have liked to reach Rome "to thank you for your historic visit to our country, but it is not possible due to the coronavirus pandemic and to travel complications". In the text sent to the Pope, and disseminated by the official communication channels of the Chaldean Patriarchate, the Patriarch reiterates that the papal visit touched the hearts of Iraqi citizens, Christians, Muslims and all other components of the population: "You sowed awareness of the importance of accepting and respecting diversity, behaving as different brothers, called to love each other and help each other to build situations in which every man lives with dignity, freedom and equal rights and duties. We hope" continues the Iraqi cardinal "that this line of conduct, as indicated in your speech in Baghdad, also inspires the intentions of the great world powers". The Patriarch recalls that the Pope's prayers "with us and for us, and your phrase: 'Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart' have left a profound echo that is indelibly impressed in our memory". The Primate of the Chaldean Church also adds that "for us, your Christian daughters and sons, your visit has fulfilled a great dream, and has given us strong support to stay, communicate with others, hope and build trust. We are immensely grateful for your phrase 'you are a living and strong Church', which encouraged us to hope and to move forward with enthusiasm". Concluding his letter, the Patriarch expresses to the Pope "a special gratitude for your gift of 350 thousand dollars in favor of the poor. It will be our joyful concern to help them on your behalf, regardless of differences in religion and ethnicity…".
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Evangelization in the millennium: the Jubilee of faith and the challenges of the future

Fides EN - - mer, 31/03/2021 - 13:21
Manila - A pastoral and missionary look at the future of the Church in the next five centuries: this is what the Bishops of the Philippines are proposing, starting with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Christian faith in the country . In the Pastoral Letter just published and disseminated in all Catholic communities, entitled "To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines", Archbishop Romulo G. Valles of Davao and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines , affirmed that the Church must look to the future and to the mission for the next 500 years.
In the Second Plenary Council of Bishops of 1991, the text of the Letter recalls, the Bishops' Conferences decided to start a nine-year preparation for the Jubilee Year dedicating each year to a particular theme: Year of Faith in 2013; Year of the laity in 2014; Year of the poor in 2015; Year of the Eucharist and of the Family in 2016; Year of the Parish as Communion of Communities in 2017; Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons in 2018; Year of Youth in 2019; Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples in 2020; Year of the mission in 2021.
The Bishops, in this decade, have commissioned a research, in collaboration with the Historical Research Center of the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas in Manila - the first Catholic university in Asia - in order to understand the current state of Catholicism in the Philippines. "We hope to be able to discuss the result of this extensive research work in our next Plenary Assembly, hoping that it will serve as a basis for deciding whether it is appropriate to convene a Third Plenary Council in the Philippines: this will serve to consider the missionary life of the local Church in the next 500 years", said Msgr. Valles presenting the pastoral Letter.
"We hope that this year will be a year of rethinking history, in which to remember the past, so that we can better understand who we are in the present as a community of disciples, and represents an opportunity to look forward to the next 500 years with the same missionary zeal that made it possible for us to receive the Christian faith. What we have received for free is what we give for free, the charity of Christ", said the President of the CBCP, recalling the theme chosen for the Jubilee: “Gifted to Give”.
The Bishops write: "We ask all our faithful to actively participate in the commemoration of the First Mass celebrated in our country on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. May it also be the occasion for the opening of a Jubilee Door in every cathedral in the entire the country, as well as in selected churches. Regarding the commemoration of the First Baptism, in addition to the national celebration of April 14, 2021, in Cebu, we ask all the Bishops of the Philippines to prepare specific commemorations locally, celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism, on April 14 or on the third Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2021".
The inaugural celebration of the Jubilee will be on Easter Sunday, April 4, with the opening of the "Holy Doors" of more than one hundred churches across the country. In connection with the 500 years of faith, the bishops will hold the International Mission Congress and the 2nd National Mission Congress in April 2022, when the Jubilee Year will close.
Catégories: From the church

ASIA/INDIA - New appeal for the release on bail of Jesuit Stan Swamy, in prison for sedition

Fides EN - - mer, 31/03/2021 - 13:11
Mumbai – More than 2,500 people from all over India and other countries in the world have signed an appeal request to the Mumbai Court, against the judge's decision not to grant bail to Jesuit Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old religious, in prison since 8 October 2020 on alleged charges of sedition. In the statement sent to Agenzia Fides it is asked to review the request for bail of Stan Swamy, renewing the appeal for immediate bail for health reasons. The statement also calls for the abrogation of the UAPA and a return to the rule that bail is the rule and not the exception. Among the signatories who have taken a stand in favor of the Jesuit there are well-known academics, activists, artists, directors, economists, religious, priests, Jesuits, journalists, lawyers, writers.
"We are shocked by the rejection to grant bail presented by Stan Swamy at the special court of the NIA on March 22, 2021", reads the text sent to Fides. "The 84-year-old Stan Swamy - continues the statement – suffers from Parkinson's desease with severe tremors in both hands. He has problems drinking from a glass, bathing and washing clothes by himself. He also has other health problems. Before his arrest, he spent most of his time in Bagaicha, near Ranchi. He cooperated fully in the investigation. The refusal of bail of an elderly and sick person, with limited mobility and unprecedented violence against others, is beyond any human understanding".
"We know Stan as an exceptionally kind, honest and selfless person. We have the utmost consideration for him and his work. He has spent decades in Jharkhand working for the rights of the adivasis and dispossessed. It is ironic that while public support for Stan Swamy continues to increase, the court rejected the request for bail in the interest of the community. Civil society, several leaders and political parties and the Prime Minister of Jharkhand himself condemned Stan's arrest and expressed support and solidarity" , argue the petitioners.
The appeal notes that a recent report revealed how fake documents were smuggled into the computers of the accused in the case involving Fr. Swamy, and he too denied some of the evidence allegedly extracted from his computer. "It is disturbing that the court has decided to ignore this report, rejecting the request for bail".
The text concludes: "Stan Swamy is a symbol of the plight of thousands of prisoners languishing in prison for years under charges often fabricated to frame those who defend the less privileged or oppose the government. We demand immediate bail for Stan Swamy and repeal of the "Unlawful Activities Prevention Act" .
Catégories: From the church