Latest News from Fides News Agency

ASIA/PAKISTAN - The initiatives of Caritas: Do not forget the victims of the Easter massacre

Lahore - The families affected by the "Easter massacre" are still in difficulty: this is why Caritas in Lahore is doing its best to help them face daily life and to recover a form of daily sustenance to guarantee economic independence and dignity. As reported to Fides by Caritas in Lahore, among the recent initiatives, Caritas has distributed four "rickshaw" to the families of those involved in the massacre, while it continues to provide financial support for the medical assistance to injured people and those still in need of care.It was the Archbishop of Lahore Sebastian Francis Shaw who personally delivered the small means of transport that will allow families to start a basic economic activity. "With this small gesture, we want to show that the Catholic Church is close to the victims in this difficult period. We also express our gratitude to the federal and provincial governments, to civil society organizations, the Department of Health, that are continuing to help those still in hospital", said the Bishop. "Every citizen of this wonderful land has to contribute in promoting fraternity and peace", he concluded. Amjad Gulzar and Rojar Noor Alam , have extended their gratitude to all participants of during the delivery ceremony of the "rickshaw", encouraging them "to stay united in every difficult situation and to always trust in God's Providence".

ASIA/PAKISTAN - The initiatives of Caritas: Do not forget the victims of the Passover massacre

Lahore - The families affected by the "Passover massacre" are still in difficulty: this is why Caritas in Lahore is doing its best to help them face daily life and to recover a form of daily sustenance to guarantee economic independence and dignity. As reported to Fides by Caritas in Lahore, among the recent initiatives, Caritas has distributed four "rickshaw" to the families of those involved in the massacre, while it continues to provide financial support for the medical assistance to injured people and those still in need of care.It was the Archbishop of Lahore Sebastian Francis Shaw who personally delivered the small means of transport that will allow families to start a basic economic activity. "With this small gesture, we want to show that the Catholic Church is close to the victims in this difficult period. We also express our gratitude to the federal and provincial governments, to civil society organizations, the Department of Health, that are continuing to help those still in hospital", said the Bishop. "Every citizen of this wonderful land has to contribute in promoting fraternity and peace", he concluded. Amjad Gulzar and Rojar Noor Alam , have extended their gratitude to all participants of during the delivery ceremony of the "rickshaw", encouraging them "to stay united in every difficult situation and to always trust in God's Providence".

AFRICA/NIGERIA - Eight people die during an assault in the home of a man who had saved a student accused of blasphemy

Abuja - A mob has killed eight people by burning down the house of a Muslim man who intervened in the attempted lynching of a Christian student accused of blasphemy in the city of Zamfara, in northern Nigeria.The student, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, is accused of insulting the Islamic religion, and was severely beaten by some of his classmates, who believed him dead. A passerby, stepped in and drove the victim to hospital. When his attackers found out that he had been taken to hospital they tried to attack him again. Another person, however, had brought the student to a safe place.The mob then turned on the Muslim passerby, setting fire to his house which had eight people in it at the time. According to the police the man who rescued the student and his wife were not among the dead.

AFRICA/ZAMBIA - Suspended the licences of three private broadcasters of the opposition after the re-election of outgoing President

Lusaka - Zambia's broadcasting regulator suspended the licences of three private broadcasters linked to the opposition, saying they had posed a risk to peace and stability during this month's presidential and parliamentary elections on August 11, narrowly won by outgoing President Edgar Lungu.His opponent Hakainde Hichilema has filed court papers to challenge the result, claiming the vote was rigged.Muvi TV, the nation's largest private television station, Komboni Radio and Radio Itezhi Tezhi had before, during and after the election conducted themselves in an "unprofessional manner, the Independent Broadcasting Authority said in astatement and before the vote Mgr. Evans Chinyama Chinyemba, OMI, Bishop of Mongu had denounced the media controlled by the State for having carried out a campaign in favor of the ruling party .In their pastoral letter on the elections, the local Bishops had urged all citizens of Zambia "to understand that voting is one of their fundamental rights and duties. It is also a Christian duty. We pray that every citizen votes in a spirit of honesty, avoiding bribes and deception. Finally, we pray that all voters and leaders of political party have in their heart, the necessary passion and commitment to build peace and avoid all forms of violence".Zambia, whose main source of income are the exports of copper and manganese, is going through a severe economic crisis due to the fall in commodity prices, which resulted in the closure of mines, a rise in unemployment and in the price of food.

ASIA/INDIA - Mercy, beyond borders and barriers

Mumbai - To be merciful means going beyond borders and barriers: this is the meaning of the interfaith meeting organized in recent days in Wadala, one of the main areas in Mumbai, in the Indian state of Maharashtra. In the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows, speakers, intellectuals, experts, theologians of different religions gathered to reflect on "the wonderful theme of mercy that embraces the heart of every man and woman without distinction of any kind, religious, ethical, cultural", says to Fides Sr. Teresa Joseph FMA, Secretary of the Office for dialogue and ecumenism within the Bishops' Conference of India."The meeting started with the theme 'Merciful as the Father', which is the motto of this Holy Year", says Sr. Joseph, and found in Hinduism, as shown by Professor Harsha Badkar of Wilson College, how the faithful of that religion "must seek mercy and extend it to all". Professor Shilpa spoke instead of Jainism, highlighting how it unites "freedom and responsibility": "Everyone is encouraged to act with equanimity", and this is an aspect of mercy. Zuhair Nathani has the task of speaking of mercy in Islam, which "he relates to the love of the mother to a child", said Professor Rustom, speaking of Zoroastrianism, recalling that mercy in that worship "is an attribute of omniscient God. Mercy and justice are two sides of the same coin, remarked those present. "The mercy of God overcomes all boundaries", said Fr. Vivian D'Souza, parish priest at the Church of Sorrow, citing Pope Francis. "The name of God is mercy. Jesus is the incarnation of the Father’s love and mercy. Love and mercy invite all of us to be inclusive and not to break relationships with anyone"."Mercy goes beyond borders", said those present, noting that "the works of mercy are part of the lifestyle of believers of various religions".

AFRICA/MALAWI - "Malawi is slowly dying of starvation" writes a missionary

Lilongwe - "Now it is hard to keep count. It happens in all villages with more and more frequency. Funerals with long vigils in the night and the sad daily processions, the most obvious signs that slowly, Malawi is a Country that is dyimg", said Fr. Piergiorgio Gamba, Monfortan missionary, who sent Agenzia Fides a dramatic testimony on the plight of the Country, hit by the drought that has exacerbated the poor economic conditions due to mainly poor governance."Among the first to die are the elderly. Grandfathers and grandmothers who survive with difficulty in normal years, but they cannot win endemic diseases like malaria with which they have learned to coexist.The lack of food is the main cause of these funerals.The lack of food is however not the only cause of the deterioration of the elderly. Hospitals do not have much to offer and besides being terribly overcrowded they even lack minimal levels of care.The Universities in Malawi are experiencing one of the most difficult periods in their history. School fees have increased, over a thousand euro a year for a population that lives below one dollar a day. High school is now only for the rich. More than 50% of university students no longer attend courses. While the number of students in primary and middle schools is booming, despite the fact that compulsory education does not exist, the lack of textbooks has reached impressive levels and is the major cause of absenteeism and neglect on behalf of students.The lack of electricity has become a serious problem. The countries south of the Sahara consume 181 kWh per person per year, compared to 6,500 Kwh in Europe. The great evil that plagues Malawi, however, remains corruption. The last changes imposed by the government, the army chief, to local leaders, and the police who are becoming more and more violent have been carried out in preparation for the 2019 elections and not for the common good. Often the call of the President himself addressed to religious leaders stresses moral degradation "Why have we become corrupt people? Why are albinos killed? Why do we hate and envy one another?".These questions are appropriate, but it is the lack of leadership on behalf of the State that is leading the Country to becoming a "failed state" a country without present or future".

AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - The Bishops: "In this election, the people have spoken and are tired of corruption, maladministration"

Johannesburg - "This peaceful elections auger well for the future stability of our political system", say the South African Bishops in a message in which they rejoice at the successful holding of municipal elections on 3 August ."People of South Africa can take credit for the recent local elections who all agree were free and fair. Democracy itself was the victor", say the Bishops who praise the work of the Independent Electoral Commission and express their gratitude "to the Justice and Peace commission and to the many observers from our church who patriotically served the nation. We give thanks to God for the growing maturity of our democracy and we praise all political parties who have accepted the outcome"."The election result - write the Bishops - may herald in a new phase in the history of our democracy involving coalition government, realistic opposition politics and greater responsibility in the exercise of power".This is why they appeal "to the various political parties to avoid a winner-take-all mentality. Our Country faces huge problems of social trauma; unemployment, inequality, racism, violence, drugs abuse and family breakdown". Politicians are encouraged to take care of these wounds by recalling that "the quality of life of the nation is measured by the care given to the poor, to children of all ages and all the marginalised"."In this election our people have spoken, they demand change; they expect service and are tired of corruption, maladministration and being ignored. God will be with us if we create a future based on respect for human dignity", the Bishops conclude.

ASIA/MYANMAR - Peace Conference "inclusive of minority ethnic groups", asks Cardinal. Bo

Yangon - A long series of conflicts between the army and ethnic minority groups living in the country are among the issues to be addressed after half a century of military rule in Myanmar. "It is very important that the new government promotes lasting peace with these groups", says Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, in a statement sent to Fides. "The government is trying to solve the situation, but the building of peace will take time". Authentic peace "is built only by including all stakeholders involved and not by excluding them from the upcoming peace conference in Myanmar", he continued, urging everyone to "reiterate their willingness to work for reconciliation"."Leaders, armed groups, political parties: all have a moral obligation to pursue a path of peace", notes Cardinal Bo, urging to also involve organizations that have not signed the truce in the highly anticipated event of the "Panglong Conference of the XXI century" to be held on 31 August. The Conference will have the theme of peace talks that the government led by the League for Democracy is organizing with the army and all ethnic groups who for years fought for autonomy.It is a historic step, according to the Cardinal, because it is the first of this magnitude since February 12, 1947, the one that gave birth to Myanmar and which was signed by four ethnic groups: Bamar, Chin, Kachin and Shan.

ASIA/INDIA - Intolerance and violence against Pentecostal Christians

New Delhi - "There is growing intolerance and hostility toward small Pentecostal Christian communities, that are not allowed to do what is guaranteed by constitutional guarantees": says to Agenzia Fides Sajan K. George, president of the global Council of Indian Christians , recalling the recent episodes of violence suffered by Protestant Pentecostal Pastors.On August 20, Pastor Roy of the "Sharon Fellowship Church Town" was pelted with stones by extremists in Kodungallur, in the state of Kerala. Pastor Roy explained that, over the last five years, during the Sunday liturgies there have always been tension due to the presence of fanatical Hindus militants who want to stop the celebrations.In another recent incident, in Bangalore, Karnataka, on August 18, a 26-year-old evangelist Christian leader of the Thadou Christian Fellowship Church was attacked and punched by five men, after paying a visit to his friend to lead a prayer meeting.According to the Pentecostal communities, these attacks are on the rise. Speaking to Fides, Sajan K. George said: "Pastors are not doing anything illegal, or causing problems of public order or security. It is the militants who carry out gratuitous violence on innocent Christians. It is up to the state to give an institutional response, to stop the violence, ensure the rule of law".

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Peace talks with communist guerrillas: the Church hopes

Manila - The Catholic Church in the Philippines expresses "hope and confidence" for the upcoming peace talks between the Philippine government and the "National Democratic Front" which will be held from August 22 to 28 in Oslo, Norway. The NDF represents the political organizations and activists of the Communist rebellion in the country since its independence, and in the last 40 years has claimed many victims .In a note sent to Fides, the Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Antonio Ledesma, appreciates "that the two sides sit down to discuss peace and suspend combat operations. It would be contradictory to speak of peace, while the conflict continues. We need serious efforts to reach peace. To begin with, the parties should get to know each other and establish a sort of familiarity: peace begins with friendship", he added.The talks were preceded by encouraging steps: first of all a truce between the Philippine government and communist rebels. Newly elected president Rodrigo Duterte had announced a unilateral cease-fire of the army in his recent speech on the state of the nation, delivered in late July before Congress. The guerrillas confirmed the truce, in view of the negotiations, after the release of two important Communist leaders, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, who will participate in the negotiations. Two other communist leaders, Alfredo Mapano and Pedro Codaste, were released on bail and will act as "consultants" in the peace talks."The cease-fire will go on as long as necessary to ensure peace and the success of the negotiations", said the President of the Philippines’ counselor.The summit in Oslo will discuss the agreements signed earlier and define a road map for the ceasefire, the end of hostilities and the process of negotiations. An amnesty for the release of over 500 political prisoners and a joint statement on safety and guarantees of immunity will be discussed. There are also the socio-economic reforms on the agenda, on issues dear to the communist groups, operating mainly in the south of the archipelago.

AFRICA/KENYA - "Church calls on Government to hire chaplains in Schools to end arson"

Nairobi - "We have noted with concern and there seems to be evidence that most of students involved in burning of schools are vulnerable children some coming from dysfunctional families, others are orphans", said His Exc. Mgr. Maurice Muhatia Makumba, Bishop of Nakuru and Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops-Commission for Education and Religious Education who has called on the government to hire school chaplains to help end arson in schools which have recently occurred across the Country.Mgr. Makumba proposes the launching of programs to support families of children in need, "organized by the Ministry of Education in association with religious organizations. The latter should be facilitated in conducting training programs for students through the institutionalization of chaplains services in all schools".During the Conference The Minister of Education of Kenya, Fred O. Matiang'i said that "we are working on a new scheme of service that would enable the government to post chaplains from mainstream churches in secondary schools from the next financial year".

AFRICA/DR CONGO - The opposition rejects "national dialogue" and announces a day of protest

Kinshasa - The coalition of the Congolese opposition "Rassemblement" has announced that it will participate in the "national dialogue" convened on August 23 by the mediator of the African Union to facilitate the holding of peaceful elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.By qualifying the invitation of the mediator as "a provocation" the opposition has called a day of protest for August 23.The Catholic Church seeks on its behalf to invite all the parties to dialogue to prevent the political crisis from degenerating into violence."Small steps have been made and others can be done, hoping that through dialogue one can overcome misunderstandings" said the Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo Don Leonard Santedi, at the end of a meeting on 15 August between the Bishops and a delegation of the Independent National Electoral Commission , to try to relaunch inclusive national dialogue launched by President Joseph Kabila.The DRC is going through a serious political crisis due to the long delay in the preparation of the presidential, political and local elections. In particular the political and presidential elections should be held, according to the Constitution, by the end of the year, but INEC has not yet established the date of the consultation and has instead presented a timetable for the revision of the electoral lists for at least 11 months. In fact the elections have been postponed for about a year.Don Santedi called on the majority and opposition "to give priority to the interests of the nation and do everything to prevent chaos in the Country". "We need to hold on to this hope - he added, because if this fails, there will be a violent confrontation".The President of INEC, Corneille Naanga, assured the Bishops that within a week the program of the revision of the electoral rolls will be published and praised the contribution of the Church.

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - The border with Venezuela reopens

Cucuta - Five border crossings, of which the most important, Cucuta towards San Antonio del Tachira, will be reopened today, Saturday, August 13, according to the agreements by the presidents of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, and Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, in a meeting held in Puerto Ordaz on Thursday.According to agencies, the President of Colombia stated that the five main border crossing points will be open every day for fifteen hours. "It is a first step" added Maduro, arguing that "it is necessary to do everything possible for the success of this decision".President Maduro decided to close the border with Colombia about a year ago to counter smuggling and drug trafficking. Maduro blocked the borders and declared a state of emergency .

AFRICA/NIGERIA - Polio returns in Nigeria, two cases in the north

Lagos - Nigeria has reported its first two cases of polio after more than two years, in an area that was recently freed from Islamic extremists who attacked the volunteers because of vaccinations, announced the government and the World Health Organization last Thursday.Agencies report that Nigeria had been removed from the WHO list of polio-endemic countries last October and led to believe that the entire African continent was free from the crippling disease. Unfortunately, two children were paralyzed by polio, in the Borno province, in the northeast of the country, in two different local government areas that have been affected by the presence of the Islamist Boko Haram group, said Health Minister Isaac Adewole in a declaration on Thursday.Fides, already in 2010 had informed about the difficult situation that the country was facing in this regard. In fact, the strategy of the World Health Organization expects to reach as many children as possible while continuing to protect health professionals , to vaccinate 43 million children under five years of age, who are the most vulnerable to infection. In Jos, the goal is to vaccinate 215,000, as reported by official estimates, although the actual number is higher, after 300,000 were vaccinated in December 2009. Nigeria has become the epicenter of the epidemic in the region, after the one that occurred in the second half of 2008. After several rounds of vaccinations, in 2009 the number of reported cases in the country had decreased by almost half. .

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on the American continent

Bogotà - From 27 to 30 August the church all over the American continent will be present in Bogotà to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy for Latin America and the Caribbean. There will also be delegations of the US Catholic Church and Canada.The continental Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy was convoked and organized jointly by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Latin American Episcopal Council , in contact and collaboration with episcopates in the United States and Canada.The celebration proposes living this “year of grace” as a renewed impetus to the continental mission, especially in light of the Aparecida document and the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.Another major moment of the Celebration will be dedicated to the American saints, "witnesses of mercy" to gather up their legacy and consider the ways they edify the Church today and mark her mission.

AMERICA/PARAGUAY - "If there is still hunger, there is extreme poverty", Mgr. Medina denounces the situation of farmers

Misiones - The Bishop of the Diocese of San Juan Bautista de las Misiones , His Exc. Mgr. Mario Melanio Medina called on the Minister of Agriculture, Juan C. Baruja, to travel places in Misiones and Ñeembucú to see "the misery in the countryside" and suburbs.He said that there is hunger and farmers survive thanks to "omelets, because meat cannot be eaten". "We go to the countryside to see what one can eat and what farm families can put together for dinner", the Bishop said in response to the minister who had challenged the press to travel the country to see the presence of the State in the countryside."I admit that macroeconomics is growing, but people are still hungry", said Mgr. Medina in the statement sent to Fides."Even some politicians said that in Paraguay hunger must be overcome. And if there is hunger it means that the country is still mired in extreme poverty", the Bishop concluded.

AMERICA/CHILE - Mgr. Vargas: "the creation of a table for dialogue among the Mapuche mayors is positive"

Temuco - The Bishop of the Diocese of Temuco, His Exc. Mgr. Hector Vargas praised the creation of a table for dialogue to resolve the problem of violence in Araucania, led by the president of the Association of Municipalities with Mapuche Mayors, Juan Carlos Reinao, mayor of Renaico.The note sent to Fides highlights the positive attitude of the Bishop: "If on the occasion of the creation of the presidential table for dialogue various organizations in the region decide to create their own meeting spaces, to reflect and raise proposals to promote respect for our big challenges, always for the common good and of all its inhabitants, will be very positive", he said in an interview with Emol-Chile. "It is understandable that different groups or individuals, motivated by the desire to work for the common good, wanted to participate in the table for dialogue", the Bishop concluded.According to information sent to Fides, the creation of this new table for dialogue among the Mapuche mayors is motivated by the lack of trust that exists in Mapuche people in government politicians, or institutions that are managed directly by it.

AFRICA/DR CONGO - National dialogue begins, crucial for the future of the country

Kinshasa - National dialogue started yesterday, Wednesday, August 10. The first to meet the Bishops of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo was Edem Kodjo .On January 16, the President of the Commission of the African Union , Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, had designated Edem Kojo, former Prime Minister of Togo, as an envoy of the AU, appointed to conduct the necessary consultations to try and start "national political dialogue", announced by President Joseph Kabila in order to find solutions to certain financial, political, logistical problems in view of the organization of the upcoming elections ."The current problems are crucial for the future of the country. We must identify obstacles, barriers. This is why the Bishops are discussing with everyone, even with the international community. The Bishops met Tshisekedi and other politicians. The dialogue aims to be inclusive", said father Leonard Santedi in the statement sent to Fides.

AMERICA/ARGENTINA - Mama Antula and Cura Brochero, the Bishops prepare the celebrations

Buenos Aires - The meeting of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Conference of Argentina which since Tuesday, August 9 has been dealing with themes of social and pastoral realities of the country, concludes today.According to the note sent to Fides by CEA, the central points are bound to the subject of public education in the country and one of the proposals by Caritas to renew social agreements.Led by the president of CEA, his Exc. Mgr. José María Arancedo, Archbishop of Santa Fe, the meeting will also discuss the celebration of the beatification of Mama Antula in Santiago del Estero and the canonization of Blessed Cura Brochero in Rome in October.

ASIA/TURKEY - "Trojan Horse of the Crusaders", "Cardinal in pectore": the fanciful accusations of the Turkish press against Fethullah Gulen

Ankara - In recent days, the Turkish press highlighted the participation of prominent members of the local Christian communities in demonstrations "in defense of democracy", convened in the Country to condemn the failed coup of State of 15 July. According to reports sent to Agenzia Fides, the Turkish media gave ample space to official statements disseminated by Greek-Orthodox Christian, Armenian and Syrian leaders to underline its disapproval against the failed coup. Nikolaos Uzunoglu , President of the World Federation of Greek-Orthodox in Istanbul said: "I strongly condemn the attempted coup of State on July 15 against the government and the constitutional order in Turkey, .... I hope that the Country overcomes this difficult moment in the shortest time possible, and finds peace". Even Greek Orthodox Laki Vingas, representative of the Foundations of minorities, attended the commemoration of the "martyrs of democracy" convened in Istanbul in Taksim Square: "The attempt of coup d'etat, organized against the office of the Presidency of our Country, against Parliament and the Government", said among other things Vingas "will not be erased from our memory, because it is one of the blacks points of our recent history". The Turkish press also enhanced the statements of Armenian writer Artun Altiparmak, who commenting on the recent events in Turkish history said that he had never felt he belonged to a "minority", and shared the Country’s same feelings of condemnation against the coup attempt.At the same time, Turkish press campaigns continue against Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish Islamic preacher expatriated in the United States and indicated by Turkey as the instigator of the failed coup. Journalist Erhan Afyonku, indicated Gulen and his network as a "Trojan horse" with a "mentality of the Crusade" against the Turks. While journalist Mine Kirikkanat, of the Cumhuriyet newspaper of Sunday, August 7th, in an article inspired by the most imaginative conspiracy, recalled the meeting of Fethullah Gulen and John Paul II in February 1998, and insinuated that Fethullah Gulen could be cardinal created "in pectore" by the Polish Pope who died on April 2, 2005.