Latest News from Fides News Agency

AMERICA/MEXICO - Thousands of Haitians at the border with the USA: more support is needed from the Mexican government

Tijuana – In 2016, 7,800 Haitians have arrived in Mexico from Guatemala in their attempt to reach the United States, informs the Mexican immigration authorities. The National Institute of Migration says that 1,701 people come from African countries and 3,753 from Asian countries, according to an entry stamp at the immigration Center of the city of Tapachula, on the border with Guatemala.As migrants cannot be repatriated, Mexico grants them a 20-day temporary visa to cross the country and reach the United States, their final destination. However, last week the US government intensified its efforts to expell thousands of Haitians who arrived in recent months via the border crossings in California with Mexico.Several warnings were sent to Fides on the difficult situation. In Tijuana, a Mexican city near the US border, Haitians must wait up to three weeks to get an appointment to present their case to the authorities of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection of the United States. In the meantime, many are forced to look for a place where to stay and eat in this Mexican city.Father Patrick Murphy, of the Scalabrini Missionaries , General Coordinator of the network of migrant homes, who runs the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, has already welcomed thousands of Haitians waiting for an appointment with the authorities, but, believes greater support is needed from the Mexican government, "not only because it is necessary, but because this situation is just the beginning", he said. In these days steps are being taken to coordinate the Catholic Church with members of other Christian churches to help the Haitians from the US, especially in the Baja California area.

AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - The Bishops: "Government subsidies to enable the poor to have access to higher education"

Johannesburg - "We hope for a realistic plan of making it possible for the poor and working class families to have access to higher education after the year 2017", say the Catholic Bishops of South Africa, after the Minister of Education BE Nzimande announced that universities and colleges should not increase their fees by no more than 8% in 2017. The Minister also said that there would be no increase for students with loans from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and that the government will subsidise those students from poor families.In the statement, sent to Agenzia Fides, the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference states that "whilst the interim measures by government provide no lasting solution to the funding model for our education system", the Bishops call for "special attention to be given to poor students who are unable or struggling to even pay for their fees presently", invoking the granting of government subsidies to the poor so that they can fully cover the payment of school fees.The Bishops finally launched an appeal for calm and peaceful discussion: "We acknowledge that the interim measures by government will not be welcomed by everyone and call for open and honest dialogue amongst all stakeholders to find a way forward"."We condemn the escalation of campus violence and vandalism which is destroying the assets invested to educate future leaders for the whole nation. The violence we are witnessing will bring more harm to our nation than good. We call for greater ethical leadership from all stakeholders, including those dealing with law and order", they conclude.

ASIA/HOLY LAND - Bishop Shomali: "Peres man of peace. In Israel there is a need for men like him"

Jerusalem - "We have lost a great man. A man of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. A man of peace. Let us pray because in Israel, especially now, there is a need for men like him". This is how Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, commented the death of former Israeli President Shimon Peres to Agenzia Fides, who died today, 28 September, at the age of 93. A few days ago the old leader had been hospitalized at the Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv after a major stroke.Shimon Peres was a leading member of the Israeli Labor Party, led by him without interruption from 1977 to 1992 and subsequently several times until 2005. Before becoming President of Israel – from 2007 to 2014 – he had held various senior government positions: Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs . In 1994, Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for their efforts in the peace process in the Middle East, which culminated in the Oslo Accords.In his long political career, Peres met three Popes: John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. His last meeting with the current Bishop of Rome had taken place at the Vatican on 20 June. In October 2010, interviewed by 30Giorni magazine about relations between Israel and the Holy See, the then Israeli President said: "Relations are at their best possible from 2000 years to this day. From the time of Jesus to today we have never had better relations".

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Farc's child soldiers start new life after peace deal

Bogota – As part of a deal to end Colombia’s 52-year civil war, the Farc freed 13 child soldiers from their ranks, turning them over to the International Committee of the Red Cross . In a statement sent to Fides, the ICRC said that the minors were in good health and were being transported to a temporary shelter under the supervision of the United Nations Children’s Fund. The ICRC did not identify the children released, saying that discretion was a priority to protect the minors’ rights.The Farc has long been accused of forced recruitment of minors, though the exact number of underage fighters is unknown. The guerrilla group said earlier this year that they had only 21 members under the age of 15; the Defence Ministry said in May it calculated there were some 170 members under 18. Since 1999, Colombia’s family welfare agency has taken in at least 6,000 child soldiers who either were captured from illegal armed groups or deserted. Sixty per cent had belonged to the Farc, according to official figures. In addition, forced recruitment has been one of the primary drivers of internal displacement, with families fleeing from rural areas to protect their children from being forced or lured into the rebel ranks.

EUROPE/ENGLAND AND WALES - Appointment of National Director of the PMS, Fr. Anthony Chantry MHM

Vatican City - On March 17, 2016 Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, appointed rev. Fr. Anthony Chantry, of the Mill Hill Missionaries - St. Joseph’s Missionary Society as National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in England and Wales for a five-year period .The new National Director was born on September 23 1954. In the period 1975/78 he was a student at the seminary in the Netherlands. After a year of pastoral experience in Kenya, in the period 1979/1981 he completed his theological studies at the MHM College in London. From 1981 to 1990, he carried out his pastoral service in the Archdiocese of Kisumu, Kenya. In the period 1990/1992 he obtained a Master in Theology in Chicago . From 1992 to 1994 he was Pastoral Director, and from 1994 to 2000 Rector of the MHM College in London. In 2001 he spent a year studying in Jerusalem. From 2001 to 2005 he was parish priest in the diocese in Kroonstad, in South Africa, and obtained a Masters in Management Conflict at the University of Port Elizabeth . In 2005 he was elected Superior General of the MHM, and re-elected in 2010. In 2015 he spent a sabbatical year at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago .

AMERICA/NICARAGUA - "Nica Act" for Cardinal Brenes "the poor will be severly affected"

Managua - At the beginning of last week, the US House of Representatives passed a bill, the "Nicaraguan Investment conditionality act", renamed "Nica Act", calling for economic sanctions against Daniel Ortega’s government. The law looks to stop Ortega from accessing international funds. The Government of Nicaragua, in a press release, rejected the "Nica Act", calling it a serious violation of international law and the United Nations charter.The Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, said: "There is no doubt that this initiative will have an economic impact, both for individuals and for the poor population. Many programs implemented in the country through aid will be "compromised. "Our government should look for a plan B because it is responsible for the progress and development of the Nicaraguan people", said the Cardinal, who concluded: "this plan B should in particular consider the poorest people, so that they are not harshly affected"According to data collected by Fides, this proposed US law intends to put pressure so that the upcoming elections on 6 November in Nicaragua are held in a free manner and monitored by international observers.

EUROPE/ITALY - Mgr. Mazzolari, a missionary in Sudan for 30 years

Concesio - The missionary commitment and service of Mgr. Cesare Mazzolari , who spent 30 years of his life in sub- Saharan Africa, in Sudan, will be remembered thanks to a biographical exhibition which will open on September 30 at the Paul VI Institute Study Center, in Concesio , as informs the note sent to Fides. The exhibition, entitled "Person for others", will trace the main stages of the life of the missionary in Africa, through eleven large display panels, and will open with a meeting-encounter with some operators in the humanitarian sector in South Sudan who knew or collaborated with him and continue to do so today through the Onlus CESAR Foundation in Concesio. The exhibition will remain open until 15 October.Mgr. Mazzolari was born in Brescia on February 9, 1937, he joined the Comboni Missionaries and was ordained a priest on 17 March 1962. After a first missionary experience in the United States among the African Americans and Mexicans, in 1981 he arrived in Sudan, where he worked in the diocese of Tombura-Yambio, then the Archdiocese of Juba, finally in the diocese of Rumbek . He was ordained a Bishop on 6 January 1999 by Pope John Paul II. He died on July 16, 2011 after suffering a seizure during the celebration of morning Mass, a few days after the celebration of the independence of South Sudan which he had attended. As Fides reports, the Lake States declared three days of national mourning for his death. In order to allow the entry into the church of the huge number of men and women, Catholics but also Muslims and animists, who came from every corner of the country to pay tribute to Mgr. Mazzolari, the doors of Rumbek Cathedral remained open day and night. According to his wish, the Bishop was buried in the Cathedral.

AFRICA/ZAMBIA - "No to the creation of the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs" say Catholics and Protestants

Lusaka - The Catholics and Protestants in Zambia have opposed the establishment of a new government Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs. "In view of the various financial and economic challenges our Country is currently facing, we neither see the creation of the said ministry as a top priority nor a prudent decision. After all, we believe that Zambians want their Country to be a democracy rather than a theocracy", said a joint statement of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Council of Churches in Zambia - the protestant churches’ body."We believe that as churches and other faith communities, we have this far been able to exercise our God-given mandate and meaningfully contribute towards national development without having such a ministry. Therefore, both CCZ and ZCCB stand opposed to the creation of the above mentioned ministry", concluded the statement sent to Fides.The party of President Edgar Lungu Chagwa, the Patriotic Front , who promoted the initiative said that the creation of the religious Ministry would help to regulate the church mother bodies in the Country and that a number of mushrooming churches in Zambia have taken advantage of the vulnerable people in the communities.The President appointed Reverand Godfridah Sumaili, a Pentecostal pastor as the new head of the ministry of religious affairs. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia , which groups the Pentecostal Churches, praised the initiative of President Lungu because it "promotes Christian values and give more meaning to the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation".

ASIA/LEBANON - Among Lebanese young people under 25, only 25% are Christians

Beirut - Today, Christians account for 34% of the Lebanese population registered in the civil Status register. But if the focus is placed on the Lebanese population up to 25 years of age, the percentage of Christians drops to 25%. This is the most eloquent demographic data on the current number of Christians in Lebanon, released by the vice president of the Maronite League Hiam Boustany at the Conference convened yesterday by the Movement for the Earth at the convent of Mar Yacoub, in the village of Karm Saddeh and dedicated to the sale of land belonging to Christian owners.The study meeting - refer the Lebanese media - focused the attention on the changes in ownership of land once owned by Christians to Muslim owners, confirming that this phenomenon is directly related to the weakening of the Christian presence in the vast rural areas of the Country of Cedars, and also in coastal areas of Zgharta and Kura. The Conference launched the new alarm on the necessity to avoid abuses and illegal real estate transactions that jeopardize the demographic balance on which the fragile Lebanese institutional system is also founded.

ASIA/LAOS - Three new priests ordained: a historic step for the Church

Luang Prabang - "First of all let us thank the Lord for his great gift: we are very happy for the three new priests who will work full time in the small Catholic Church in Laos. All three will dedicate themselves, in particular, to the pastoral work in the Vicariate of Luang Prabang: for me it will be a great help": this is how Mgr. Tito Banchong Thopanhong, Apostolic Administrator of Luang Prabang, expresses his joy to Agenzia Fides for the ordination of three new Laotian priests: Don Paolo Lattana Sunthon, Don Agostino Saegna Sii Bunti, Don Michael Kanthak Vilae Luong Di, all belonging to the Apostolic Vicariate of Luang Prabang, who were ordained in a solemn celebration held on 16 September in Savannakhet, where the Major interdiocesan Seminary that provides the formation of Laotian seminarians is situated.At the ordination Mass, presided by His Exc. Mgr. Prida Inthirath, Apostolic Vicar of Savannakhet, the other two Laotian Bishops were present as well as two other Bishops , 54 priests from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, numerous religious women and over a thousand Catholic faithful who came from all over the country.Mgr. Tito Banchong told Fides: "It was a moment of intense prayer and of great hope for us. A historic moment, in which we received a special effusion of God's grace. Everything was done in the best way, in an atmosphere of great serenity. Civil authorities from the town of Savannakhet were also present. It was a very happy moment for all of us".In 2005 in Vientiane, thirty years after the last ordination in 1975, Sophone Vilavongsy was ordained priest, Laotian and missionary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate . In December 2006 Pierre Wilaiphorn Phonasa and Luke Sukpaphorn Duangchansai were ordained priests. In 2009 in Savannakhet it was the turn of Fr. Matthieu Somdet Kaluan. In 2011 another new priest: Fr. Pierre Buntha Silaphet.Of about 6 million people, mostly Buddhists, about 1% are Christians in Laos among whom about 45 thousand Catholics. Besides the three Apostolic Vicars, the number of diocesan priests in the country with the three newly ordained priests goes up to 20, while 11 are religious priests.The church in Laos is now preparing to celebrate the beatification of 17 Laotian martyrs, to be held in Vientiane on 11 December. In 2015 the Holy See recognized the martyrdom of Father Mario Borzaga, a young missionary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and the Laotian catechist Paul. There was also the successful outcome of a second cause of beatification regarding 15 other martyrs, including missionaries and lay Laotians.

AFRICA/DR CONGO - "Risk of an imminent crisis" warns the UN

Kinshasa - The Democratic Republic of Congo, whose President Joseph Kabila, yesterday September 26, was received in audience by Pope Francis, remains on the brink of the precipice, after the incident between police and demonstrators in recent days.During the talks between the Holy Father and the Head of the Congolese State "particular attention was paid to the serious challenges posed by the current political situation and the recent fighting in the capital", said the Vatican Press Office. "The importance of collaboration between the political actors and representatives of civil society and religious communities was stressed, in favor of the common good, through respectful and inclusive dialogue for the stability and peace in the Country".The international community is increasingly concerned about the situation in the DRC. "The large number of civilian victims, the burning of the headquarters of various political parties and the increasingly tense situation are a clear warning that a major crisis could break out very soon", warns the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.While in the capital, Kinshasa, the victims of the clashes are being commemorated, the negotiating situation remains blocked. National dialogue, which should set a date for the presidential elections, is suspended.Meanwhile the situation in the provinces threatens to degenerate. Not only those from the East, such as North Kivu, for decades at the mercy of various armed gangs and guerrilla movements, not all Congolese, but also in Kasai-Central, in whose capital, Kananga, there was a battle for the control of the airport . The local governor said that the dead in the clashes between soldiers and militiamen of traditional late chief Kamwena Nsapu, are 49, including 27 militants, 16 soldiers and policemen, and six civilians.

AMERICA/CHILE - Chilean Religious in defense of the Carmelite nuns who see their cloistered life threatened

Maipo - Since 2012, there has been a legal battle in Chile between the hydroelectric company, Coyanco, and the Carmelite cloistered nuns of Cajon del Maipo. Coyanco is trying to steal part of the monastery grounds to allow the waters that feed the hydroelectric plant under construction to flow, which is part of a series of other plants located on the south bank of the Maipo River.The building was approved by a Commission of Ministers of the central government without considering the environmental damage, the invasion and confiscation of part of the monastery’s land, which would be cut in two by the river, and the destruction of a cave dedicated to the Madonna that is on the route in question and that is part of the local popular devotion.The Conference of Religious of Chile issued a letter of support to the nuns, sent to Fides, in which it "publicly expresses its support in this critical moment that the communities of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Merciful and the Virgin del Carmen of Cajon del Maipo are going through"."The approval of the project, decided unilaterally by a Committee of Ministers, violates the very nature of the cloistered life", the letter continues, recalling a very important detail: "The Chilean law recognizes the canon law and the rules of all properties owned by the Church. "As religious in Chile we want to express our firm support and our prayers for the nuns of the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites and we will remain close to them in everything that happens" the letter concludes.

ASIA/INDIA - Former street child opens a "coffee-library" for homeless minors

Mumbai - A coffee-library for poor street children was recently opened in India's financial capital called Bombay to Barcelona - and was born from the dream of a former street child, now an adult, who with courage and commitment decided to fulfill his project. The coffee shop opened in mid-August 2016, and welcomes all kinds of people and affordable for everyone. For example, a cup of tea costs only 10 rupees. The coffee shop is frequented by many former street children of Mumbai Snehasadan orphanage. Some also work there. According to a census of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the organization of volunteers Action Aid India, there are 37,059 children living on the street in Mumbai. Two out of five have suffered physical, sexual or verbal abuse or have suffered famine.

ASIA/THAILAND - With the nightmare of the "Buddhist blasphemy", the Church prepares missionary October

Bangkok - "In this phase, under military power, society and especially young people complain about the lack of freedom and pluralism: one cannot criticize the government. But our pastoral activities are not disturbed or modified": says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Peter Watchasin, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Thailand, talking about how the Church is preparing to live "World Mission Day" next October 23.According to some observers, the new Constitution of Thailand, approved last month, threatens to undermine religious harmony in the country because of a provision that imposes the state to promote Theravada Buddhism, the religion of the majority in the nation. The possible application of "blasphemy" causes concern in particular among Christian and Muslim religious minorities.The new Charter, in fact, provides in Article 67 that "the state shall establish measures and mechanisms to prevent the desecration of Buddhism in any form and encourages the participation of all Buddhists in the application of these measures and mechanisms". Consequently, any action taken as a "threat" or "insult" to Buddhism can be subject to intervention and repression by the state.To avoid potential problems caused by a rather strict interpretation of this provision, Prime Minister Chan-o-cha Prayut, in an order issued on August 22, confirmed that the state "protects all recognized religions" and supports "all faiths contributing to the development of the nation", without violating the law and the principles of national unity.The government intends to prevent the emergence of religious conflicts in society. In this situation "the Catholic community - said Fr. Watchasin - does not enter in political issues but continues with its activities: we are preparing missionary October. As Catholics, we are looking for new ways to incarnate the Gospel in the country and live it in society, economy, politics, in order to contribute to the common good of the nation".

ASIA/IRAQ - Iraq's parliament: no to changes in the status of Nineveh Province to reserve "protected areas" to religious minorities

Baghdad - The Iraqi Parliament voted yesterday, Monday, September 26, a motion to close the door to any possibility of changing the legal status of the northern province of Nineveh. The motion, presented by the Sunni parliamentarian Ahmed Jarba, received broad support by the Parliamentary Assembly, gathering the support of the Shiite forces and many Sunni parliamentarians. The Iraqi people - said Jarba after the vote - rejects any prior assumptions regarding the distribution and legal reconfiguration of the Nineveh Plain. According to the proponents of the motion, any change of the current administrative and legal status of the province at the moment would be a violation of the Iraqi Constitution. In their view - report local sources consulted by Agenzia Fides -, issues regarding the future of the institutional structure of the area will be dealt with only if and when the full liberation of those lands from the dominion of the jihadist of the Islamic State will be carried out. And in any case, projects to reconfigure the area on ethnic or sectarian basis represent as many attempts - promoted by external forces - to influence future political scenarios in the region "under the pretext of aid to religious minorities".The pronouncement of the Iraqi Parliament is a deliberate halt over all hypotheses - both inside and outside of Iraq - to split the province of Nineveh and obtain "protected areas" to be reserved for religious and ethnic minority groups, with wide political and administrative autonomy. In recent times , political campaigns and initiatives launched especially in the US had reproposed the projects to turn the Nineveh Plain in an autonomous area, reserved for the Chaldean Christian, sire and Assyrian populations. On September 9, twelve members of the US House of Representatives - 9 elected in the Republican Party, and 3 elected in the Democratic Party - presented a resolution to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House to ask the US Congress and the international community to promote the recognition by the Iraqi government of a Province corresponding to the Plain of Nineveh and organized according to legal criteria in line with the "self-determination by indigenous peoples".The resolution, presented by Republican Jeff Fortenberry on behalf of his colleagues, introduces and argues the request with a list of 16 considerations, many of which refer to the campaigns carried out in recent months to push the US government and other Western political institutions to apply the definition of "genocide" to the various forms of brutality and oppression carried out by militants of the Islamic Caliphate on Christians and other minority groups.

AMERICA/PERU - Nine out of ten children in the Amazon do not complete their studies

Lima - Nine out of ten children in the Amazon do not complete their studies. Poverty and lack of education are causing serious problems to the development of thousands of young people in the most precarious areas of the Country. The warning is launched by Care Peru humanitarian organization, dedicated to eradicating poverty, according to which the lack of education also increases rates of violence against women. "These girls are doomed to having no future, no education, subjected to violence", said the statement sent to Fides. "Among the women with no education about 65% accepts violence. While, only 5% are among those who receive education".Absence and school dropout in the regions of Huancavelica, or Loreto, are due to several factors. Extreme poverty is one. Families prefer to send their sons to school rather than girls. Distance is also a problem. Sometimes, in fact, there are no schools in rural areas. Also mothers who did not receive school education do not always understand the importance that this could have for their daughters. Among young women with no education, the adolescent maternity rate is 4 times higher than their peers attending school. Currently Care Peru is starting a pilot program to help needy children and give them support to prevent them from leaving their studies. According to the organization, there are at least 700,000 poor children and adolescents in the Country with no possibility of development.The National Statistics Institute certifies that the 21.8% of Peruvians live in poverty. In rural areas, 45.2% are poor, compared to 14.5% in urban areas. However, over the last 5 years, 2 million 285 thousand people have overcome their poverty.

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - "Justice embraces peace": the signing of the peace agreements at the tomb of St. Peter Claver

Cartagena - All dressed in white, together with Heads of State, Presidents and Secretaries of international organizations, foreign Ministers, authorities invited to the final signing of the peace between the Colombian government and FARC, took part in the liturgy led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of state, which was held yesterday, 26 September, in Cartagena.The celebration was prepared in an inter-religious spirit, to unite all in a common prayer for reconciliation and for the unity of the country. The first to intervene was President Juan Manuel Santos, who prayed: "O God, Father, Lord of Colombia, grant us to always be in your hands and fight together to become a single family, in which nobody feels alone and excluded".The liturgy was held in the main church of Cartagena, at the tomb of St. Peter Claver , the Spanish missionary, who dedicated himself to the assistance of slaves from Africa, and fought for their rights, while all the present repeated the slogan "Justice embraces peace". Cardinal Parolin reiterated the support of Pope Francis to the cause of peace, stressing that the final decision will be up to Colombians. "The Holy Father followed the efforts, the search for harmony and reconciliation of recent years with great attention. Several times he encouraged these efforts without participating in the concrete solutions that were negotiated and on which citizens will decide in a free, informed and aware manner", said the Cardinal.After the liturgy, there was the ceremony of the signing of the peace agreements. A speech of Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri head of FARC up to a few hours before, caused surprise and emotion, who said: "My apologies to the Colombians for all the pain we have caused. No one should doubt: we are walking towards politics without weapons. Let us all prepare ourselves to disarm minds and hearts". Now the deal must still be ratified in an October 2 referendum.

ASIA/SYRIA - Children will pray to implore the end of massacres of children

Aleppo - Hundreds of boys and girls in Aleppo, Christians and Muslims, will meet on October 6, to pray so that the spiral of death unleashed in recent days especially on their defenceless children stops in the battered city they live in, and throughout Syria. This is what Archbishop Boutros Marayati, at the head of Armenian Catholic archieparchy in Aleppo reports to Agenzia Fides. The initiative will primarily involve school children. They will also put their signatures and their fingerprints on an appeal to ask world rulers to put an end to the massacres especially towards children, who in all wars are the most vulnerable. "But above all, they will pray. They will pray for all of their peers. And we trust in the fact that children's prayer is more powerful than ours", added Archbishop Marayati.The bombings and massacres of civilians in Aleppo have expressed, in a devastating manner, the fragile and partial truce declared less than two weeks ago. In this regard, Archbishop Marayati is able to provide first-hand information on what is happening in the Syrian metropolis: "On Wednesday - reports the Armenian Catholic Archbishop - the representatives of the government and the Syrian army convened a meeting to explain that soon an appeal would be spread to the civilian population settled in the neighborhoods under rebel control. The appeal warned that gates would be left open to allow the population to leave those areas, and head for areas considered safe, without fear of incurring in retaliation. In fact, many civilian families left those neighborhoods and were welcomed in areas controlled by the government army, confirming that the appeal had somehow arrived at its destination. For groups arriving, housing facilities were set up for the reception. But it was not a mass evacuation. Perhaps many cannot leave. And the appeal also contained an expiration date, and the ultimatum expires in coming days. New blood will be shed if the powers behind the two warring parties do not decide to really put an end to this dirty war".

ASIA/JORDAN - Elections, Archbishop Lahham: all Christian candidates in Islamist lists rejected

Amman - Among the 130 members of the new Jordanian Parliament in the political elections held on September 20, only 9 are of Christian faith, equal to the minimum "guaranteed" to the Christian minority from the electoral quota system. "But among them" – says to Agenzia Fides Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem "there is not one of the Christian candidates who had presented themselves with lists of Islamist groups".The quota system - explains Archbishop Maroun to Fides - provides that in each list - including those of Islamic origin, inspired by groups close to the Muslim Brotherhood – there has to be at least one woman among the candidates, a Christian and a member of the Circassian and Chechen minority. This is why some Christian candidates, such as Amman and Madaba, agreed to run for election in Islamist lists. "But then the Islamist orientation voters concentrated their votes on their candidates, leaving out of Parliament all Christians who were candidates in those lists".The election results confirm that the bloc led by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, is back in Parliament, obtaining 15 seats out of 130, after the Islamist forces had boycotted the legislative elections in 2010 and 2013. This is the most compact and organized political bloc, since the other candidates elected are mostly representatives of clan or tribal groups joined together only by the shared loyalty to the Hashemite monarchy. "In any case", highlighted "Archbishop Lahham "this does not mean that Islamist MPs will arise in a position of frontal opposition towards the current political system in Jordan: the most fanatical elements were not elected, and those among them who entered Parliament represent the most competent political wing, able to deal with other parliamentarians and with the government according to the logic of their political dialectic".In addition to the quota destined to Christians, the Jordanian law reserves 15 seats for women and three to Circassians and Chechens. Only 56 members of the previous Parliament were re-elected. And even among Christian parliamentarians there was a significant change: "Of the 9 baptized elected" confirms to Fides Archbishop Lahham "only three were already part of the previous Parliamentary Assembly. The other six are "freshers".

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Archbishop Castro: "For Colombia a date with history"

Bogotà – Heads of State and high political authorities from world countries will be gathering in Cartagena on September 26 to attend the solemn signing of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels. It is an official act, as established by the agreements reached after the peace talks in Havana.Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, President of the Colombian Bishops' Conference, commented this important event to the local press: "We are very close to achieving peace", said the Archbishop of Tunja. "Or rather, we are very close to the end of this war. The event is reason for much joy. It is a great blessing. There is one last step to reach the final goal: the referendum of October 2. Colombia has a historic opportunity, a watershed separating the period before and after peace. The Country can finally usher in a new course entailing the resolution to its problems".The document, entitled "Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera", will be signed in front of a large group of diplomatic delegations. Even Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, representing the Holy Father will also be present.

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