Ramallah - “We are horrified at the barbarous attack on the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in which we lost the parish priest Jacques Hamel. On behalf of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian people, we condemn the vile and hateful terrorist attack and any justification anyone dare give in the name of religion for these crimes against humanity ”. These words were part of a letter of condolence sent by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to Pope Francis, the successor of Saint Peter following the heinous murder of the elderly priest whose throat was cut by two terrorists as he celebrated mass in the church of Saint Etienne du Rouvray, near Rouen. “We will stand always shoulder to shoulder” we read in the presidential missive sent to Fides, “to spread love, mercy and justice, overcome hatred and extremism and promote justice and peace for the whole of humanity”.The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land yesterday sent a message of condolence to the Church in France and to all the French people. “From the Holy Land which continues to suffer from violence and instability” says the message, made public by the official media of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, “we raise our voices, urging an end to the use of violence in the name of religion and instead, to use religion as the path to promote mutual respect and understanding among all nations.” The Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land continued “we believers, need to pray to the Almighty to keep all people united and together cooperate for an end to all kinds of terrorism and that world leaders be inspired to act wisely and decisively to uproot terrorism and its causes in all of the regions now suffering from this plague”. .
San José – Yesterday Costa Rica, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and International Organization for Migration , announced an agreement that the country will offer temporary shelter to Central American refugees since it is directly involved. The news was given during a press conference at the Presidential Palace by the Minister of Presidency Sergio Alfaro, the UNHCR representative in this country Carlos Maldonado, and the head of the local IOM mission, Roeland De Wilde."The convention applies to citizens of countries in the region who are considered to be in danger and have requested the status of refugee for a third country, other than Costa Rica" said Alfaro, according to the report sent to Fides. These persons have been previously indicated by UNHCR as candidates for being accepted here, minister Alfaro added, explaining that Costa Rica will open its borders only to these persons who will receive a temporary humanitarian visa .Carlos Maldonado UNHCR representative in Costa Rica said he was proud and honoured to sign this agreement of cooperation and described Costa Rica as a partner of reference for the protection of refugees, with model –programmes in the sector. The agreement does not include foreign illegal migrants present in Costa Rica, it is addressed to citizens of what is known as the Northern Triangle : Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The refugees will stay a maximum period of 6 months in Costa Rica, will number never more than 200, and will be accommodated mainly in ‘group homes’.
AMERICA/PERU – Independence Day: Bishops call for commitment to combat lawlessness, poverty and corruptionLima – On the occasion of Independence Day in Peru, tomorrow 28 July, the country’s Bishops’ Conference issued a Message addressed to the People of God which begins as follows: "The people of Peru place great hope in the country’s new President and new Congress, whom they expect to act promptly, wisely and efficiently to counter the evils which threaten our nation: lawlessness, poverty and corruption ".The Message, sent to Fides, continues: "the gift of the Christian faith, deeply rooted in our national identity, is a most powerful force to achieve change and transformation of every individual and every people ". "We should not forget on this national day that values such as respect for human life from conception to natural death, respect for the family, the foundations of society, matrimony between a man and a woman, justice and respect for the rights of the weaker citizens, honesty and protection of creation must be upheld by every individual Peruvian and for the authorities ".The message ends with a call to "national leaders and party members to work together in harmony for the good of Peru". The Bishops’ message acquires added importance this year because, according to the report sent to Fides by the Bishop’ Conference, as from this year, which is the 195th anniversary of the nation, in the next five years the local Church will prepare to celebrate Bicentenary of Nation’s independence .
AFRICA/EGYPT – The Coptic Church rejects foreign exploitation of sectarian attacks experienced Cairo – The Copt Orthodox Church does not want the sectarian attacks recently experienced by Egyptian Christians to become a pretext for exploitation and warns against any organisation abroad of public mobilisations and campaigns, which sound like attempts to “interfere” in Egyptian domestic vicissitudes on the part of organisations or groups. Fides learned this from sources close to the Coptic Church.The new series of violence against Copt Christians, registered particularly in the territory of Minya, provoked firm public interventions on the part of Copt Patriarch Tawadros II, the Grande Imam of al Azhar Ahmad al Tayyib and also Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al Sisi . As a political effect of this joint reaction, the presentation has been announced of a bill of law to pursue attacks of a sectarian nature committed against national unity. .
Baghdad – A Standing Committee for Dialogue between representatives of Shiite religious centres and the Chaldean Patriarchate to tackle together in friendly cooperation difficulties experienced by the local people. This concrete proposal emerged during a visit on Monday 25 July to Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Ist by four representatives of the Shiite academic institution of Najaf and Qom . The delegation was composed of Sheikh Aladdin Jazairi , Sheikh Jassim Mandalawi, and Sheikhs Hamid Reza and Hamid Albabai, leading members of the Centre for Dialogue in Qom, the Iranian city where the country’s most important academic institutions of Shiite Islam are found. The form of dialogue in construction would appear complementary to that already used by the Shiite academic realities and Vatican institutions. “We Christians of the East” Patriarch Louis Raphael I tells Fides “can and must be leading actors in dialogue with the realities of Islam. We live here, we speak the same language, we face the same difficulties and the same evils, we are familiar with things from the inside. Every occasion is right for creating channels of dialogue at the local level, which can help undo many knots encountered by Christian communities in these dramatic times”. The Primate of the Chaldean Church realises that at the moment “Sunni Muslims face many difficulties regarding the liberation of their towns from DAESH, but, in future, a committee of dialogue launched with the Shiites could possibly involve them too, and become a channel of dialogue between Christians and Muslims”. The Chaldean Patriarch also hypothesizes certain points on which dialogue could focus attention : “With friendly frankness I told the Shiites that there can be no future unless the language of religious preaching is updated. I outlined briefly for them the experience of Christians : in the long run, without this updating people start to lose interest in religion. Preaching and dialogue must be concrete, it must take into consideration the present moment in time and real difficulties: before strictly academic and theological questions, we can begin to discuss social issues, including those of justice and recognition of human rights. These are the fields in which we must begin to search for shared solutions”. .
Córdoba – "It is clear that the numbers of killings, kidnapping and torture continue to rise. A void has been created in action to guarantee the safety of all citizens. It would appear that those who commit such crimes feel free to do so": said Bishop Eduardo Porfirio Patiño Leal of Córdoba, speaking with representatives of the local press after Sunday Mass on July 24. According to a report sent to Fides, the Bishop urged the authorities to take swift action to counter the crimes committed recently against women and against journalists.Regarding the case of a journalist killed on 21 July in Veracruz, Bishop Patiño Leal demanded a serious investigation into the events especially since the journalist in question was thought to be under protection. "It would seem that either protocol fails to function with journalists, or there is simply something wrong. If any person is responsible for omission or negligence, we ask to know the truth, the whole truth" the Bishop said. He also said that the journalist and his family had been remembered in prayers offered to God for all victims of violence.Yesterday, 25 July, Mexico’s national institute of statistics and geography Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía , issued its annual report highlighting the areas of the country where the most homicides are registered . Guerrero is in first place, with 67 murders for every 100,000 people registered in 2015, followed by Chihuahua with 42 cases and Sinaloa with 36. According to INEGI there were 20.525 cases of homicide in the country last year, 17 cases for every 100.000 inhabitants at the national level, a figure similar to the one registered in 2014.
San Salvador – Discussion continues in El Salvador regarding the annulment by the High Court of Justice of the amnesty law. On 22 July the national Bishops’ Conference called for "redress justice" in favour of the victims of the past armed conflict. Although the statement does not call for those responsible to be put in prison, it does say that the victims deserve “to be listened to; to have their rights and dignity guaranteed; their forgiveness requested". In this context the Bishops call on the legislative authorities to create a juridical procedure to reinforce a “Justice of Transition” to make possible a “proper healing of the social fabric which has bled for years”.The report sent to Fides also highlights a comment on the part of Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of the capital San Salvador : that the amnesty promoted by president Alfredo Cristiani failed to implement fully the Peace Agreements which put an end to 12 years of war.In the meantime, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren announced that he has started talks with political parties represented in the legislature to approve a new law on national reconciliation, to be inserted in the present situation in El Salvador and "enable to families to learn the truth, while at the same time offer them the opportunity to show forgiveness " he told the press.
AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Wayuú children continue to die of hunger and thirst La Guajira – The Wayúu indigenous communities in Colombia report that more children are dying of hunger, undernourishment and lack of social care in La Guajira. For several months a humanitarian crisis has threatened the life of thousands living in this part of the country . What is more despite the serious situation, attempts to deviate water supplies to favour the extraction of coal continue. Representatives of the Wayuú people say that since the beginning of 2016 at least 40 children have died and that some were not even registered by the authorities . The Colombian Welfare Institute would seem unable to prevent children in La Guajira from dying of hunger.
Gulu – In just three weeks 30,000 refugees have entered Uganda where the camps are overcrowded to the limit. Recent fighting in South Sudan has put pressure on the already difficult situation. In early December 2015, Uganda had almost 511,000 refugees and asylum seekers, only Ethiopia and Kenya had more. Elegu camp on the border between South Sudan and Uganda, at present hosts 10,000 people, ten times its capacity. Heavy rains hamper assistance and healthcare. There is refuse everywhere. The latrines are insufficient and thousands have to defecate in the open. “The situation is alarming and frightening. The numbers are overwhelming and the humanitarian agencies relatively few ” we read in a statement sent to Fides by Caritas office in the archdiocese of Gulu. Children and women visibly exhausted and hungry, comprise 90% of the new wave of refugees. The situation is just as difficult in Nyumanzi camp, north west of Adjumani. Built in 2014 to accommodate 2000 people for no longer than two weeks, today Nyumanzi camp has 20,000. The refugee Camp at Kuluba made to hold 300 persons, has 1500.
Rouen – This morning an elderly priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, aged 84, had his throat cut while he was celebrating mass in the church of Saint Etienne du Rouvray, Normandy . Two men entered the church during the celebration, killed the priest and wounded three of the faithful present, leaving one in a serious condition. Two religious Sisters are among the hostages while a third managed to escape and call the police. The murderers have been killed by the police. From Krakow where he was to take part in the 31st World Youth Day, the Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, now on his way back to France, says in a statement: “The Catholic Church has no other weapons but prayer and brotherhood among all peoples. I leave here hundreds of young people who are the future of humanity. I beg them not to give up in the face of violence but to be apostles of the civilization of love ”. (Agenzia Fides 26/7/2016
Luanda - "Having come to the end of our meeting, we would like to address this message of hope and solidarity concerning the future of our families and communities, to the Church-Family of God in Africa and Madagascar as well as to all men and women of good will ”. These are the opening words of the Message launched by the participants at the end of 17th Plenary Assembly of SECAM/SCEAM, the Symposium of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Africa and Madagascar . At the close of the meeting which reflected on the theme “The Family in Africa, yesterday, today and tomorrow, in the light of the Gospel ”, the final Message sent to Fides, reaffirms “the importance of the family which constitutes the domestic Church and the foundations upon which every society is built ”.It highlights the main pastoral challenges facing the family in Africa, a theme discussed by the participants, included: precarious living conditions and poverty, social exclusion, impact of the new Information and communication technologies on family life, gender ideology, monoparental family, divorce-remarried couples, contraception, sterilization, abortion, polygamy, dowry, widowhood rites, migration consequences of war and conflict situations, internal family crises, belief in witchcraft and absence, at times of one of the couples due to studies and work.“These different challenges destabilize the life of couples and families, especially when there is no strong pastoral strategy in place. As pastors, we cannot but be committed to renewal of and to reinvigoration of our pastoral approaches for the families. We are convinced and believe that the Family cannot be subdued by the crises and situations that confront it. Therefore, in the proclamation of the Gospel of Family, we are to be the witnesses of hope”.The participants underline “the beauty of marriage”, which “ is not a burden, but a community of love, joy and enhancement of couples and the family:” and while congratulating all those who are faithful to their marriage, they “share the pains of those who live in difficult situations and those who are profoundly wounded in love. We pray and encourage them not to be discouraged nor despondent.”At the paragraph titled “The Family, “sanctuary of life””, the Message urges all African families “to be a place of deeper human and spiritual development so as to become communities of life, prayer, love as well as agents of transformation for our societies.” It encourages all the Christian associations and pastoral organizations for the family to “engage themselves more in accompanying couples before, during and after the celebration of the marriage”. “In the same vein – the Message continues - we urge all the member States of the African Union to resist all pressures from governments and organizations who want to impose anti-family policies on Africa. We are grateful to governments who, in the name of moral values and our culture have dared to oppose such policies. .. We appeal to our governments to promote policies that respect African cultural values, justice, fundamental rights of persons and families, including good management of the common good and to improve the life conditions of our people, especially the less favourable.”.The Message, signed by the President of SECAM, Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango, concludes reaffirming that “The Future of the Family is at the heart of our Mission…The family is a gift of the merciful love of God. It guarantees the future of our societies. We are to protect and defend it against all that could destroy its integrity” and the final call “African Christian families do not be afraid of making Christ the centre of your lives…Long live the family!”
Mexico City – The main disadvantages of being a member of an indigenous community in Mexico are being discriminated against, marginalised and condemned to a life of poverty, exclusion and illiteracy. This emerged from a nationwide survey regarding Indigenous peoples carried out by the National Independent University of Mexico , according to a report sent to Fides. Most Mexicans are aware that the living conditions of indigenous peoples are far worse than those of the rest of the population, however according to 21% of the people interviewed, the principal advantage of being indigenous consists in their traditions, rich variety and diversity of languages and linguistic derivations. There is a strong tendency among Mexicans to avoid giving jobs to indigenous citizens , considered by many as being lazy, passive, indifferent, helping in this way to perpetuate a stereotype vision of their world. In actual fact, the study reveals, not all Mexico’s indigenous citizens live rural areas, in poverty and in remote areas.
San Juan Chamula – Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, has called for dialogue to continue since, he says, it is the only means of obtaining social peace: "dialogue means sharing points of view with others, listening with the heart to what others have to say, being ready to renounce something in order to give first place to the common good".The Bishop’s statements, sent to Fides, were motivated by the murderous violence committed on Saturday 23 July at San Juan Chamula, where five people including the mayor were assassinated. "These acts of homicide - he said – demonstrate that violence is in every sector of society not only among the indigenous communities". Bishop Arizmendi Esquivel went on to warn that the absence of transparency and correct information regarding the spending of public resources generates diffidence towards the authorities, revenge, political strife and ambitions not foreseeable and difficult to stop. We cannot choose and accept leaders who base their power on the number of their supporters and the force of weapons to reach their goals. "Weapons are the weakness of reason" he said, emphasising that dialogue must continue, since it is "the only possible way " to build social peace.Mexico, since the elections held on 5 June, has to take into account the absence of a political majority in main provincial cities and other towns. At San Juan Chamula, during march of protest against the first citizen, masked criminals killed the mayor and 4 of his co-workers. The governor of Chiapas, an area which belongs to San Chamula, declared: "We must all work together for dialogue and peace in our community, in particular to respect the peace-making vocation indigenous peoples in San Juan Chamula".
Vatican City – The Holy Father, Pope Francis, on 25 July 2016, accepted the renunciation of the pastoral government of the archdiocese of Nampula, in Mozambique, presented by Mgr. Tomé Makhweliha, S.C.I., in conformity canon. 401§ 2 of the Code of Canon Law, and appointed Bishop Ernesto Maguengue, Titular Bishop of Fornos minore and Auxiliary of the same, Apostolic Administrator “sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis” of the archdiocese of Nampula.
Cairo – Copt Orthodox Patriach Tawadros II has announced that he has decided to suspend his weekly Wednesday afternoon public catechesis in Cairo due to growing tension following fresh attacks on Coptic communities in various parts of the country. The announcement and the motivation were made public by Papa Tawadros himself at the end of his last public catechesis, the Primate of the Copt Orthodox Church added that in the coming weeks he will devote his time mainly to offering prayers for the families affected the violence. This latest series of sectarian clashes has it epicentre in the territory of Minya, where during a fight on Sunday 17 July a Coptic Christian was killed by Muslim assailants. On Thursday, 21 July, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al Sisi appealed for religious harmony, promising that the perpetrators of the sectarian violence would be brought to justice. However, since the President’s appeal more sectarian attacks have been reported in the village of Beni Suef, where four Copt Christian homes were attacked by turbulent Muslims who accused the Copts of wanting to build a church without permission. In the past Patriarch Tawadros suspended his public weekly teachings for about ten weeks, in the Summer of 2013, marked with episodes of violence – including attacks on dozens of churches – which devastated the country following the removal of Islamist President Morsi. .
Tegucigalpa – "They are a visible sign of Christian solidarity " said Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Catholic archbishop of Tegucigalpa, during a Mass of thanksgiving for 25 years of commitment on the part of the Scalabrinian Missionary Sisters at the service of hundreds of migrants who reach and cross Honduras. Their tireless service received public acknowledgement by the local Church and the civil authorities during a ceremony held on Monday 18 July at the auditorium the Catholic University of Honduras .According to a report sent to Fides, when in 1987 Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga was elected secretary general of the Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America , one of his priorities was to promote Pastoral Care for Migrants all over Latin America. With the help of the Scalabrinian Missionaries he succeeded in launching Pastoral Care for Migrants in the continent’s 22 Bishops’ Conferences.In Honduras the initiative was led forward by Bishop Raúl Corriveau emeritus of Choluteca who worked with the very first Scalabrinian Sisters when they arrived in Honduras 25 years ago, laying the foundations for a service for migrants which continues today. In 1991 the Bishops’ Conference and the Missionary Scalabrianini Sisters signed an agreement regarding this activity. The Scalabrianini Sisters are a Catholic religious institute of brothers and priests founded by Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, Bishop of Piacenza in Italy, in 1887. Its mission is to "maintain Catholic faith and practice among Italian emigrants in the New World." Today, they and their sister organizations, the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo and Secular Institute of the Scalabrinian Missionary Women minister to migrants, refugees and displaced persons.
Juba – The food crisis in South Sudan has worsened with the new outbreak of civil war . For thousands of people fleeing their homes and the many who stay behind, food is the main priority. Since the civil war resumed two thousand children at St. Kizito school in a Juba, 600 families supported at a distance in Eastern Equatoria and 100 pupils at Bahrge technical school in the Lakes State, have no regular meals. AVSI, a Milan based NGO started in 1972 which has 107 development cooperation programmes in 30 different countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Asia, has launched a new campaign to acquire and supply cereals, flour, oil and clean water. For safety reasons AVSI had to suspend its activity in offices Juba and Eastern Equatoria, but it continues to guarantee food assistance to children adopted at a distance and local school children. An AVSI report sent to Fides, says that in Lakes State where the situation is less dangerous, they are doing all they can to keep the schools open until the end of term. St. Kizito primary school with more than 2,000 children in the Munuki district In Juba, one of the worst affected, has had to close.
EUROPE/UNITED KINGDOM – Growing cooperation between Caritas Westminster and Jewish Volunteering Network London – Growing cooperation between the volunteers of Caritas Westminster and Jewish Volunteering Network could open more paths for common action in the field of humanitarian emergencies, and become a valid channel for spreading a culture of encounter and service of the common good. This is the opinion of John Coleby, head of Caritas Westminster, and Ms Leonie Lewis, head of JVN, a body which brings together Jewish volunteering organisations active all over the British Isles and networking with similar organisations in other countries . Recently, in an intervention published by the Israeli media Mr Coleby and Ms Lewis illustrated the potential of interreligious cooperation in charity services, recalling that the two organisations, Caritas Westminster and JVN first combined September 2015, through their similar work dealing with the challenges of refugees in Calais. On that occasion it became clear that they could work together. Interreligious voluntary work – say Coleby and Lewis - can be a complex issue when it comes to faith-based values. The leading members of both bodies in their intervention, agree that the common Jewish-Christian tradition is a source of inspiration for voluntary charitable work in societies today and underline that cooperation and gradually extended shared programmes could be a way of defusing discriminatory and sectarian attitudes and tensions. They said they hoped this cooperation would lead to more faith link-ups in the future, particularly with the Muslim community, establishing the JVN proposition as the go-to volunteering model across all faiths.
Campo Grande – As part of the busy agenda of their meeting in Campo Grande held 18 to 22 July, the Executive secretaries of the 18 regions which comprise Brazil’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference , visited an indigenous community in the area of Miranda, diocese of Jardim. According to a CNBB report sent to Fides, on 20 July the Executive secretaries went to Miranda, diocese of Jardim to visit villages of indigenous people in Terena, who in the diocese of Jardim alone, number 10,000 , and many more in Mato Grosso do Sul. Accompanied by Fr Antonio Ferreira Catelan and the bishop of Jardim, Mons. João Gilberto Moura, the secretaries were welcomed by the people of Babaçu – at the Community of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, by Caciques , Shamans and the chiefs of twelve different villages, about sixty people in all. Three of them presented points of great importance for the present moment: efforts in villages to protect and preserve indigenous culture; consolidation of indigenous identity with the promotion of native languages, dances and rituals; initiatives to guarantee respect for institutional laws regarding land demarcation. Regarding the local Catholic Church, highly appreciated , the indigenous leaders requested a greater presence. As far as possible, they would like priests to visit families to be more familiar with their situation and with the indigenous culture. Difficulties identified included poor and scarce health care; abuse of alcohol and drugs. In view of the information shared, the secretaries launched dialogue to promote greater reciprocal understanding between the local Church and indigenous communities. At the end of the meeting Bishop João Gilberto Moura said it had been a history-making day. "Our Church is alive, we are a Church of communion. Much of what has been said this afternoon will serve to improve our work in the diocese of Jardim and in the local Churches in the rest of Brazil”. The Bishop said the meeting had been the most important ever organised between the local Catholic Church and the people of Terena.
Meki – “Since the Ethiopian government restricted access to the Internet it has become impossible for us to obtain scientific information on the web or discuss cases of serious illnesses which we are unable to manage”. This testimony, coming through VPN , since access to the Internet is still closed, comes from a Spanish paediatrician coordinator of a hospital for children in Meki, Oromia, Ethiopia. “Usually when we are in difficulty we use email or telephone to contact international specialists for an exchange of opinions. Thanks to new telemedicine techniques we are able to make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment and this improves the quality of life for many little patients. But the situation has changed. The Ethiopian government censure of the Internet and social networks is causing considerable damage of various nature”. So many Ethiopian boys and girls await diagnosis and treatment at the paediatric centre in Meki, and other centres, including Gambo, where young patients in serious conditions wait for care and treatment.