Latest News from Fides News Agency

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - The Bishop of Buenaventura: "Areas without water, the only hospital closed, please help us Mr. President!"

Buenaventura - His Exc. Mgr. Ettore Epalza Quintero, P.S.S., Bishop of the Diocese of Buenaventura, during the Eucharist celebrated on May 21 took advantage of the presence of President Santos and the delegation of four ministers in Buenaventura, to launch a cry of alarm. During his homily, the Bishop asked the President to work harder for Buenaventura, because despite the "Pacific Plan" led by the Minister of the Environment, "we do not have water 24 hours a day in most of our neighborhoods. Hidropacífico , whose slogan is 'water for life', seems it wants us to be thirsty. But right there where there is no service, the bill arrives on time to pay. In addition, the hospital is closed after two years of renovation. Dear President, help us! " concluded the Bishop.

ASIA/PAKISTAN - Christian lawyer’s family members almost risked being kidnapped

Lahore - Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill’s parents and sister almost risked being kidnapped in Lahore last May 22 by a stranger. The lawyer, who in the past had received threats for his legal commitment to the defense of discriminated Christians or innocent victims of blasphemy, had registered a complaint.The three were at a bus stop to reach the village of Kot Usad Ullah to express condolences to a relative. A stranger invited them to climb into a car, saying he had been sent by lawyer Gill, then headed in the opposite direction. Taking advantage of the traffic in a moment when the car had stopped, the two women got out of the car, while the man, threatened with a gun, remained in the hands of the kidnapper. The two women immediately alerted the police of the kidnapping. Hours later, the man was released. The lawyer's father reported that the kidnapper spoke explicitly of his son’s activity "of his defense of cases related to religion".Lawyer Gill and his family for months have been victims of threats and harassment. These days, the organization led by the lawyer, "LEAD" , is dealing with Christian girls victims of forced conversions and forced Islamic marriage. In May he saved two. "Despite this suffering and these attacks, I will continue in the work of the defense of victims of religious violence", Gill told Fides.

AFRICA/SUDAN - Release of Coptic monk kidnapped in Darfur

Nyala – Coptic Orthodox monk Gabriel, kidnapped on Thursday, April 14 in the city of Nyala, Sudan's state capital of South Darfur has been released. His confreres of the monastery of St. Anthony were able to embrace him after a seizure which lasted forty days. He was kidnapped, according to local sources consulted by Agenzia Fides, by a group of armed men who had moved away from the place of seizure aboard a jeep, after having tied and beaten two people who were with the monk. The priest was taken not far from the Refugee Camp of Atash.Sources of the Coptic Orthodox Church - reports Copts United Agency - stated that the monk was released without paying any ransom. Previously, local media reported rumors that Father Gabriel’s release would be possible after paying a ransom amounting to five million Sudanese pounds .

ASIA/INDONESIA - Emergency in the Country for the exploitation of children in tobacco plantations

Jakarta - The exploitation of child labor in tobacco plantations continues to be one of the most serious emergencies in Indonesia. The complaint comes from the recently published report by Human Rights Watch . Children, some as young as 8 years of age, are exposed to nicotine, and handle toxic chemicals or use dangerous tools under the scorching heat in the plantations. 132 children engaged in the plantations of four Indonesian provinces were interviewed. Half of the children reported symptoms associated with acute intoxication due to nicotine. Indonesia is the world's fifth largest tobacco producer, with over 500,000 plantations where, according to the data of the International Labor Organization, more than 1 million and a half children in the age group between 10 and 17 years work.

ASIA/ISRAEL - The Israeli government does not keep its promises, Christian schools at risk

Jerusalem - A few days before the end of a difficult school year, which started with a 27-day strike, 47 Christian schools operating in Israel are facing a financial emergency from the potentially devastating effects, because the Ministry of education has not honored their commitment to transfer 50 Million Shekels to the Christian Schools. The concern for the difficult situation is expressed in an appeal-document released by Christian schools, where they outline key steps and controversial aspects of a story that is creating anxiety for tens of thousands of teachers, school staff, students and families across the Country.The Office of Christian Schools announced this unprecedented strike after the government had been constantly cutting the budgets allocated to these schools to a level of 45% in the last 6 years. At the end September, some proposals to break the deadlock had been submitted by the Israeli Ministry of Education Office of Christian schools . The strike ended after the government and the Christian schools reached an agreement. It stated that the Christian schools would receive 50 million shekels by the 31st of March 2016 as compensation for the cuts in previous years. In addition, the agreement stated that a commission would be formed with the sole purpose of discussing recommendations to resolve the crisis.As of today, more than 50 days past the deadline, the government has not transferred the sum of 50 Million Shekels. The special commission was formed and headed by Dr. Shimshon Shoshani. It met 3 times. The conclusions included a recommendation to join the Public school system according to what will be agreed. It also included granting every Christian School 3 additional hours per class weekly to "strengthen and preserve the Christian identity and the special style of living in Christian schools"."It is clear - said the statement, signed by Father Abdel Masih Fahim, General Secretary of the Office - that these recommendations do not solve the financial crisis that has resulted from the Ministry of Education’s policy in recent years. And we regret the fact that the Ministry of Education is trying again to force our institutions to join the Public system". Before the financial collapse that threatens them, Christian schools, through their Coordination Office, demand that the Israeli Government honors its commitments as soon as possible, decides on a fixed sum to be paid annually to the Christian schools to compensate for the drastic cuts, or, alternatively, that a new legislation be brought forward that will create a new status for the Christian schools that will ensure sufficient funding and take into consideration their uniqueness and long service in the land.These 47 Christian Schools consist of 33,000 Christian, Muslim, Druze and Jewish students from all around the country.

AFRICA/DR CONGO - The Constitutional Court’s decision paves the way for Kabila to stay in power for a third term

Kinshasa - The Constitutional Court ruling of May 11 states that the constitution permits the president of the republic to remain in office until the installation of the new elected president.This is what is said in a note by Peace Network for Congo sent to Agenzia Fides. "With the judgment of 11 May, the Court responded to a request for interpretation of some articles of the Constitution presented by more than 250 deputies, in a moment when the possibility of organizing the presidential elections by the end of 2016 is far away", the statement said. "To consecrate the principle of continuity of the State stated in article 69 of the Constitution, Article 70, paragraph 2 of the Constitution allows the President of the Republic to remain in office until the effective installation of the new elected President", is what is said in the judgment read by the President of the Court, Benoît Luamba."The Constitutional Court limits itself to a simple statement of the second paragraph of Article 70, refraining from making allusions to the organization of the presidential elections within the time fixed by the Constitution" underlines the Network for Peace in Congo."Furthermore, by stating that the current President remains in office until the installation of the new elected President, the Court declares that the President will remain in office until the organization of future presidential elections of which, however, does not specify any deadline or date", the statement said. "In this situation, the risk is that a President of the Republic has the green light to decide to remain at the helm of the country for an indefinite period , bringing always new reasons to continually postponing the elections", the document concludes.

AMERICA/DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - The Bishops' statement: "The outcome of the elections must be accepted by all"

Santo Domingo - The Dominican Episcopal Conference has called on political leaders and all Dominican nationals to conclude the election process in a peaceful and respectful manner. In a statement dated May 23, and sent to Fides, the Bishops say: "May this final phase of the elections be a model of calm, civility and mutual respect, we are all responsible for building a nation based on permanent values of truth , love, hope and peace, and every Dominican must take on the challenge and the commitment to be coherent"."The outcome of the elections must be accepted by all", reads the text, which continues: "we congratulate the people for their civil and democratic participation. Political parties should observe this attitude of people as awareness of their responsibility towards democracy".Since the final results of the elections have not yet been published, the Bishops write: "It is the duty of the JCE to dispel all doubts regarding the basis of integrity, transparency, efficiency and accountability, so that the counting and publication of votes leaves no room for the slightest doubt about the clarity of the electoral process in this crucial final phase".According to local press, the delay in the vote count is due to the use, for the first time in the country, of sophisticated electronic methods, which in some parts of the country did not work correctly, thus forcing these places to resort to manual counting.

AMERICA/PERU - National Director of the PMS, Fr. Victor Livori Grech

Vatican City - On May 6, 2016 Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, confirmed Fr. Victor Livori Grech, of the Missionary Society of St Paul as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Peru for another five years .

AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - The arrival of the rains exacerbates the situation of more than 700,000 refugees

Yida - The emergency in the refugee camp in Yida, South Sudan continues. Strong winds and torrential rains have destroyed the tents and left thousands of people in dire straits. According to local sources, most of the camp residents, about 35,000, are facing the beginning of the rainy season in the open. They have received tents and plastic covers that humanitarian organizations should have distributed before the arrival of the rains. The muddy roads are a serious problem for the transport of relief supplies and are often swept away. Food rations have been reduced for the more than 700,000 refugees. Refugees have launched their cry for help by urging the delivery of plastic sheeting for fear that the situation may deteriorate further in coming days. Meanwhile, UNHCR is planning the movement of refugees to other camps. The rainy season lasts from May to November.

VATICAN - Cardinal Filoni in Puerto Leguízamo-Solano: geographically distant, but always in the heart of the Church

Puerto Leguízamo-Solano - "This Vicariate is a young Church, built on February 21, 2013, and therefore continues to grow, although it still accounts a reduced presence of missionary personnel . It is therefore essential to encourage our young people to vocation to priesthood and consecrated life. And, with the collaboration of all the faithful, it is necessary that the feeling of being a church which grows develops among you, becomes independent and therefore matures". This is the exhortation addressed by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to the faithful of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Leguízamo-Solano, gathered in the Cathedral dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Carmen, for the Mass he presided yesterday, May 24, as part of his pastoral visit to Colombia . "You are part of the Church of God - said the Cardinal -. The Holy Father, through my presence, wanted to be close to this Vicariate. Although it is located in an area that may seem geographically far away, it does not stop being in the heart of the Church". This is why he urged to intensify efforts to launch the family apostolate, "urging young people to a Christian life coherent with the principles of the gospel, forming them so that they create authentic Christian families", and to ensure catechists and lay people the opportunity to "have a solid Christian formation, to affirm one’s faith and face, through dialogue, the proselytism of sects".In the Apostolic Vicariate, which is in the Colombian Amazonia, the Prefect of the Congregation met the catechists of the indigenous communities, mainly Murui and Quichua, visited an indigenous community, and was able to converse with civil and military authorities, as well as with representatives of the ecclesial reality. In his homily, the Cardinal recalled that "the legal status of the vicariate is an intermediate step before becoming diocese". Link correlati :The full text of the Cardinal’s homily, in Spanish

AFRICA/EGYPT - Catholic Coptic Patriarch: the meeting between the Pope and al Tayyib is a 'new beginning'

Cairo - The return of the friendly relations between the Holy See and the Islamic University of al Azhar, sealed by the friendly encounter between Pope Francis and Imam Ahmed al Tayyib, "will give new vigor to the processes of collaboration and integration that Christian and Muslim Egyptian leaders already put in practice in many local situations, in daily life". This is the hope that the Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak confides to Agenzia Fides, commenting on the meeting held yesterday at the Vatican between Pope Bergoglio and the great Imam of the most authoritative theological and cultural institution of Sunni Islam.The interruption of relations between the Holy See and al Azhar date back to 2011, after the attack on the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Alexandria carried out on New Year's Eve. On that occasion, Pope Benedict XVI reprimanded the leaders of local authorities in the defense of Christians. Leaders of al Azhar, but also members of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate had reacted badly to the words expressed by the Pope. That, recalls Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac, "was a difficult moment due to a misunderstanding of Pope Benedict XVI’s words. Now, we have to wait patiently. Al Azhar is influential, and can have a positive role in Islam Sunni. But there are difficulties, resistances, divisions, before the re-thinking of 'religious talk' called for by many, and even by President al Sisi. Some people perceive all the judgments and opinions expressed in freedom, in legitimate pluralism a threat and an attack on Islam. We must respect this path within the Islamic world, favoring it with patience and sensitivity, encouraging our Muslim brothers, even as a local church, encouraging collaboration in social life, in front of real problems, without limiting ourselves to the discussion on strictly religious matters".Among the signs of hope, the Coptic Catholic Patriarch cites the joint efforts of imams and priests inspired by the 'House of the Egyptian Family' - the inter-religious liaison body created years ago by al Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch as a tool to prevent and mitigate sectarian conflicts - and also the programmatic document signed on May 9 by the Grand Imam and Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tavadros II in which it outlined their shared commitment to fight together all forms of violence and abuse against children . In the joint document, prepared with the support of UNICEF, scholars linked to the Islamic University and the Coptic community have helped shape the protection of children as a common priority, citing among the forms of violence to fight also genital mutilation and the phenomenon of early marriages.

AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - Today the funeral of Sister Veronika Teresia Rackova

Juba - Sister Veronika Teresia Rackova of the Congregation of the Sisters Servant of the Holy Spirit and Medical Director of St Bakhita Health Centre will be buried today Tuesday, May 24 in Nairobi, Kenya. The late Sister died on Friday in pain for the service of the poor in South Sudan as a martyr. A requiem mass for the soul of the late nun was celebrated on Monday, May 23 in Nairobi.Communication officers of World Sisters Servant of the Holy Spirit thanked all people for sharing in their grief in the past days at the tragic loss of Sister Veronika.Sister Veronika, a medical doctor at St Bakhita Health Centre in Yei, died of her wounds after being shot by SPLA soldiers last week.The 58-years-old Sister from Slovakia dedicated her life and services for the poor and the needy in South Sudan.

AMERICA/MEXICO - Michoacan is among the five States with the highest rate of child exploitation

Morelia - The state of Michoacan is among the five States of Mexico where there is the highest number of child exploitation. According to data collected by the Human Rights Commission, the violence suffered by these children are among the causes that lead to early school drop-out. The number of child abuse complaints tripled in the decade between 2001 and 2011. In addition, 2014 has been so far the most violent year for minors, regarding various kinds of abuse.

AMERICA/MEXICO - Kidnapping during the Mass, the Bishop denounces "things are getting worse and worse"

Cordoba - Before the wave of violence that continues to hit Veracruz, the Bishop of the diocese of Cordoba, His Exc. Mgr. Eduardo Patiño Leal, could not help but declare that "things are getting worse and worse". The Bishop, according to the note sent to Fides, referred to the kidnapping of a parishioner, a family man, during the celebration of the Eucharist, which took place in the church of Saint Rita of Cascia in the port of Veracruz, on Saturday, May 21, almost definitely for ransom.The Bishop condemned the fact, considering it an attack on the community and also a desecration of the holy place, an act against the dignity of every citizen, child or adult, because this fact damages their physical and psychological health."These things are not possible, churches therefore are no longer places of peace and communion?" said Mgr. Patiño Leal, who added: "things get worse, the facts speak for themselves, no one can deny it".The Bishop of Córdoba made these statements in a brief interview with the local press, on Sunday afternoon, May 22, during which he stressed: "As we have been saying for several years, month after month, we want peace! There is no security, because many criminals are free ... the entire population needs peace for work, for business, for school".

ASIA/ISRAEL - Rabbis launch campaign against religious hatred fueled by "Price Tag" gangs

Jerusalem - Israel-based Rabbis for Human Rights have announced that a new anti-'price tag' attack inter-party campaign will be launched in the Knesset this week. Tag Meir is a coalition of organisations committed to fighting hate-crimes in Israel and showing solidarity with their victims. 'Price Tag' attacks are hate crimes directed at Palestinians by extremist right-wing Israeli Jews. Tag Meir is a grass-roots organization founded in 2011 which works against racism in Israel and seeks to expose and counteract racism which has affected in various ways mosques or Christian places , signing their own acts of intimidation with the formula "price Tag" .The crimes committed by "Price tag" express racial hatred of the Jewish ultra-nationalist right, and often remain unpunished. A document released by Tag Meir, points out the names of some of the "dozens of Arabs who have been victims of hate crimes, solely for holding an Arab appearance and /or daring to speak Arabic. "These victims - says the Tag Meir document - are joined by hundreds of victims of so called 'price-tag' attacks in the West Bank and Israel, and include five inhabited houses torched in the past two years, 44 houses of worship torched and / or vandalized since December 2009, trees uprooted, hundreds of cars sabotaged. In addition there have been the grisly murders of the Dawabsheh family and Mohammed Abu-Hadir". The document also highlights the rise of the hate groups Lehava and La Familia, the arson at the Jerusalem bilingual school, countless books and articles that feed this incitement, the public following of celebs like the "shadow" and viral hate on social networks.

AFRICA/MALAWI - "Killings of persons with albinism on the rise" denounces Justice and Peace

Lilongwe - "Albinos are being abducted and killed for ritual purposes. Graves have been exhumed and some people have been caught by the police with bones and other albino body parts. We as a Justice and Peace arm of the Catholic Church are not happy with the development", said Acting National Coordinator for CCJP, Martin Chiphwanya, denouncing the rise in crimes against albinos.According to Chiphwanya the problem needs to be addressed with an integrated approach involving police, judiciary, religious and traditional leaders, members of civil society.Law enforcement officers should be trained to conduct investigations and prosecute cases in court in the strongest terms. Traditional leaders, the religious and civil society, should instead help to sensitize the population to treat albinos with dignity.Chiphwanya also underlined the importance of cooperation with neighboring countries facing similar problems. Recently, the police in Malawi in collaboration with that of Mozambique have arrested two people accused of murdering an albino boy in order to use the bones for alleged ritual purposes.Tanzania has launched a program to eradicate these criminal practices, based on superstitions, and the President of Malawi, Peter Mutharika has announced that he will send a government delegation to that Country to learn how to deal with the problem.

AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Children drop out of school to look for food

Caracas - The economic, food and political emergency within the Latin American Country continues. In past months, in order to survive and find something to eat, one Venezuelan child out of four was forced to leave school and look for food among garbage. Insecurity, hyperinflation, hunger, is the dramatic economic and social situation that in particular the most vulnerable segments of the population of Venezuela is experiencing. In the last half of 2015 and in 2016, child malnutrition has reached 30% of the population, according to a sample of 4000 children examined in different schools in the Country by Bengoa Foundation, engaged in nutritional issues for more than 50 years. Currently, 25% of children had to leave school because they have nothing to eat. The pediatrician, vice president of the Foundation, says that most of the families have no money to buy protein foods, fruits and vegetables and only eat pasta.

ASIA/INDONESIA - Church and civil society against new executions

Jakarta - An urgent appeal and a campaign to stop new executions scheduled by the Indonesian government and announced as imminent: is what Catholic organizations and groups of the Indonesian civil society are preparing. According to information from the Indonesian police, 15 inmates in the prison on the island of Nusakambangan, in front of the city of Cilacap , are ready to be executed: four Chinese, two from Zimbabwe, two Nigerians, a Senegalese, a Pakistani and five Indonesians, all sentenced to death for possession and drug trafficking.The Indonesian Church, which has repeatedly publicly disapproved the use of capital punishment will on Thursday, May 26 hold an emergency summit in Jakarta and will be attended by the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, of the Sant' Egidio-Indonesia Community and some of the largest Indonesian organizations working in defense of human rights such as Kontras, Imparsial, Elsam, LBH Masyarakat.Mgr. Ignazio Suharyo, Archbishop of Jakarta and President of the Indonesian episcopate, attended the seminar entitled "The death penalty in a democratic nation", organized on May 18 by the Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta. In view of the new executions, the Archbishop reiterated the Church's position, contrary to the death penalty in the name of dignity and the right to life of every person. "The laws are not perfect and judges cannot make mistakes. When you think that laws are perfect, this is the beginning of injustice", said Mgr. Suharyo.As reported in a note sent to Fides, the leader of the Sant'Egidio-Indonesia Community, Teguh Budiono, who will coordinate the meeting of May 26, thanked the Archbishop, confirming that the Church and civil society will demand a campaign of citizenship awareness, to stop the executions. Jakarta is among the 15 cities in Indonesia where in the past years the event "Cities for Life, Cities against the Death Penalty" was held, organized by Sant'Egidio in over two thousand municipalities in the five continents.In 2015 the Indonesian government, despite international pressure, executed 14 prisoners sentenced to death for drug offenses.

AMERICA/CHILE - "It seems that La Araucania does not exist for the government" said Mgr. Vargas before INDH

Temuco - The session of the National Institute of Human Rights , one of the institutions that aims to collect relevant testimony of La Araucania, regarding intercultural conflicts in this area, took place yesterday, Monday, May 23, in Temuco.The session was chaired by INDH director, Lorena Fries. One of the participants, the Bishop of the Diocese of Temuco, His Exc. Mgr. Hector Vargas, sharply criticized the actions of the government regarding the conflict that exists in the region, stressing that the conflict between the State and the Mapuche people has been going on for more than a century and gets worse and worse and much more needs to be done.Mgr. Vargas informed that the situation is deteriorating in the area, and the Church is trying all possible ways to a plan of action. "We feel a kind of local government and state indifference about what is happening to us here", said the Bishop. "It seems that La Araucania does not exist for the government", concluded Mgr. Vargas, in the note sent to Fides.The meeting was also attended by a representative of the local mayors, the president of the Association of victims of rural violence of La Araucanía and Jesuit priest Juan Eduardo Fuenzalida, of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation group.

VATICAN - Cardinal Filoni in Guapi: "It is necessary to develop a strong missionary conscience"

Guapi - "After so many years of suffering due to the evils of violence and corruption, now is the right time to eradicate all evil and forgive one another, establishing a culture of peace and giving rise among you to personal, family and community dynamics of reconciliation". This is the invitation that Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, addressed to the Colombian faithful of the Apostolic Vicariate of Guapi, on the Pacific coast, which he visited yesterday, 23 May.Before the Mass celebrated in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Cardinal met priests, men and women religious, seminarians and apostolic groups in the auditorium of San Jose College, and spent some time with them discussing the pastoral reality of the Vicariate and the major problems to address, such as peace, the refusal of armed conflict, commitment to social justice, development and the fight against poverty. He later met with the civil and military authorities, with the heads of state bodies.In the homily of the Mass celebrated at noon, the Prefect of the Missionary Congregation stressed that "Guapi is a growing Church", which has to establish the necessary structures and, above all, local clergy, this is why he appealed "to the collaboration of all, including economic and material collaboration". "It is necessary to develop a strong missionary conscience of the local Church. Even in poverty one can face the requirements of the Gospel and of the Church", said the Cardinal. Guapi is a young community, this is why the Cardinal urged to develop family pastoral "urging young people to a Christian life with the principles of the Gospel", so that they give life to authentic Christian families, based on the sacrament of marriage as desired by Jesus Christ, faithful and indissoluble."In order for the Word of God to be fulfilled in our lives, after being heard and meditated, it must be lived every day and wherever we are – he continued -. It prevents us from falling into a life contrary to the Christian life, prone to alcohol, drugs, gambling, materialism, and so on". Finally, the Cardinal turned to all pastoral workers, priests, religious and catechists, asking them for special attention towards the poor and the sick. Link correlati :The full text of the Cardinal’s homily, in Spanish