Latest News from Fides News Agency

AAMERICA/MEXICO - Does being indigenous mean being discriminated against, experiencing marginalisation and poverty ?

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.

AMERICA/MEXICO - "Weapons are the weakness of reason": Bishop Arizmendi refers to the assassination of the local mayor

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".

AFRICA/MOZAMBIQUE - Resignation of Archbishop of Nampula and appointment of apostolic administrator

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.

AAFRICA/EGYPT- Copt Orthodox Patriach Tawadros suspends his weekly Wednesday public catechesis because of sectarian violence

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. .

AMERICA/HONDURAS - Scalabrinian Missionaries: 25 years at the service of migrants in Honduras

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.

AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN -Food crisis heightens following fresh outbreak of civil war

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 (JVN)

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.

AMERICA/BRAZIL - Executive regional secretaries of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference visit indigenous communities in Terena

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.

AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - Restrictions to the use of the Internet endanger the health of many little patients

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.

ASIA/LEBANON - An estimated 250,000 Syrian children refugees in Lebanon are unable to attend school

Beirut – More than half the 500,000 school-age refugee children from Syria, registered in Lebanon cannot attend school because of limited availabilityof resources and strict Lebanese government residence policies. This was reported by Human Rights Watch in a recent survey. The same report also highlighted positive steps towards giving access to free schooling for Syrian children refugees. In a report sent to Fides, the NGO underlines that education is crucial for helping children overcome the trauma of war and homelessness besides having a positive role in the future rebuilding Syria. Lebanon organised a series of evening classes in 238 schools to meet the needs growing numbers of school age children for the school year 2015-2016. Syrian schools are offering more places for Syrian refugees despite scarce economic resources . A reported 70% of Syrian families are unable to pay for school material and fees. Besides the question of limited funds other elements which impede school attendance include abuse and maltreatment, little knowledge of the local language and norms for requesting places at school. Middle school-age children and those over 15 have difficulty regarding residence permits. Lebanon last year opened 200,000 spaces for Syrian refugees in public schools, but only 158,000 children enrolled, and 10,000 fewer actually attended. In Lebanon at present there are 1.1 million legally registered Syrians half of them minors, although the authorities claim the numbers are higher.

ASIA/CHINA - “The wedding couple in Cana”: some non-Christian couples at Spiritual Camp on Marriage

Xian Xian – To feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a married couple and experience the beauty and happiness of Christian marriage: these were the intentions of some 35 married couples, Christian and non-Christian from the diocese of Xian Xian, He Bei Province in mainland China , who recently attended a Spiritual Camp on Marriage titled “The wedding couple in Cana”, organised by the diocesan Commission for pastoral care of marriage and the family, held 12 to 18 July. According to a report sent to Fides, diocesan Vicar don Zhou, presided the opening Mass. In his homily the priest underlined the importance of marriage for the Church and for society, encouraging married couples to consolidate their faith, the basis for healthy and lasting marriage and family : “when we distance ourselves from the Lord, the love which unites us weakens, the family breaks and the couple falls apart”. Speaking about situations which may lead to divorce the don Zhou said: “the couple must face these difficulties together , drawing strength from their faith and from the spirituality of marriage, turning also to others for help - priests, sisters, catechists – seeing the numerous challenges posed by society today”. The participants found the experience very helpful, and especially the non-Christian couples were visibly touched.

AFRICA/ANGOLA - SECAM Assembly : too little investment in media programmes for evangelization in Africa.

Luanda - "“The Church must absolutely be more present on the digital media in a deliberate and informed manner,” said the Nigerian Bishop Badejo, of Oyo, who was facilitating a workshop titled “The Influence of modern media and new ideologies on the family in Africa today”", as part of the 17th Plenary Assembly of SECAM/SCEAM, being held in Luanda .The Bishop stressed the need to reflect on the fact that “billions of people today turn to the social media for their source of information yet there is too little investment in media programmes for evangelization in Africa.” According to information sent to Fides by the African News Service Canaa, the Bishop of Oyo went on to urge the Bishops of the Church in Africa to “create new apostles, make allies of young people themselves who are natives of the digital world and entrust them with the gospel values.”Referring in particular to the theme of the Assembly, “The Family in Africa, yesterday, today and tomorrow: in the light of the Gospel”, the Bishop of Oyo highlighted the necessity to educate families to use the media, and especially to inform them of the “benefits and also the dangers of the new media", because “Parents who are not familiar with how the Internet works are more likely to ignore the dangers,” he noted and added, “This is truer in Africa.”He encouraged the organization of diocesan and parish seminars that target parents and children, seminars which need to be facilitated by experts in the modern media field. He also challenged “Church leaders ” to become familiar “with the knowledge of current social, moral and religious issues in order to provide informed answers to people's questions.” Acknowledging the negative use of modern digital media in some situations, Bishop Badejo , chairman of the Pan African Committee of Bishops for Social Communications , emphasized that the Church must “keep believing that the benefits of the new media far outweigh their demerits even with respect to pastoral possibilities and spiritual engagement.”

AMERICA/CHILE - Table for Dialogue to discuss Mapuche areas: indigenous representatives invitedi

Temuco – On Wednesday 20 July, Temuco hosted the second session of a Table for Dialogue for Araucania at which Bishop Hector Vargas took part as dialogue facilitator. At the end of the meeting Bishop Vargas informed the local press about the participation of the representatives of CAM , the main Mapuche representative group.According to information sent to Fides, the prelate, who is Bishop of Temuco, illustrated his conversation with Héctor Llaitul, a leading member of CAM: "I explained to him the importance and aim of this table of dialogue and suggested they prepare and present their own interesting and reasonable proposal, in view of gradually overcoming conflicting opinions as has been obtained with the other institutions ". Llaitul replied that these matters must be tackled with calm and the involvement of all the other leading CAM members.The participants at the Table of Dialogue met again yesterday 21 July to discuss difficulties regarding the indigenous peoples and the Mapuche areas. The meeting took place at the Universidad de la Frontera de Temuco, 16 of the 21 members were present.In Chile’s Araucanía area what is known as the “Mapuche conflict” is a 90 year long dispute between the largest and most important ethnic group and farmers and entrepreneurs concerning areas of land which the Mapuche regard as their own ancestral heritage. In recent months several episodes of violent clashes between the indigenous Mapuche people and members of certain local farming communities were reported , involving the torching of church buildings to give voice in a violent manner to the “Mapuche cause”, now the table of dialogue appears to be a means for the parties to tackle the situation together. .

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - In sight possible agreement to end 45 day truck driver strike

AMERICA/COLOMBIA – In sight possible agreement to end 45 day truck driver strike Duitama – An appeal to the government and to transporters to come to an agreement and end a month and a half long strike which has caused serious difficulties for the whole country, has been launched by Bishop Misael Vacca Ramirez, of the diocese of Duitama-Sogamoso. The Bishop urges the parties to "put aside radicalism and come to a solution which is just and which is urgent ", because the situation has led to a scarcity of prime necessities triggering public disorder in certain regions of Colombia. Bishop Vacca, in a report sent to Fides, denounces “radicalism which prevents dialogue, necessary for the good of Colombia", and he deplores episodes of violence which happened in the department of Boyaca a few days ago.The Bishop’s appeal comes at the same time as reports of a possible final agreement between the parties involved. The strike was launched by the Truck Drivers General Union to demand better working conditions on the trucks, lower fuel prices and less taxes on the truck owners . The 45 day strike has caused serious losses for private companies as well as government distributors, some areas are without fuel, a prime necessity for factories, and building activity has also stopped for lack of material. All this in addition to clashes between police and demonstrators who arrived in Bogotà to stage a protest without the necessary permission.

ASIA/HOLY LAND - "We long for your peace ". Almost 700 young people from the Holy Land in Krakow for World Youth Day

Jerusalem – Over the past few days some 700 young people from the Holy Land have been making their way to Poland to take part in World Youth Day WYD 2016, the culminating events of which will take place in Krakow from 27 to 31 July . At the previous edition of WYD held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 2013 only 30 young people from Israel, Palestine and Jordan were able to attend. This time the group includes 100 Jordanians, almost 200 Palestinians, .

AFRICA/EGYPT - President al Sisi says about sectarian clashes: anyone attempting to put a wedge between Christians and Muslims will be brought before the law

Cairo – The law in Egypt guarantees equal rights and duties for its Muslim and Christian citizens and the government should be on the lookout for “any attempt to insert a wedge between the two communities”. It follows that all perpetrators of sectarian violence or attacks will be prosecuted and punished according to the law because “Egypt has a rule of law ”. This is how Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, voiced his position concerning recent sectarian clashes especially in the territory of Minya, where during a brawl last Sunday a Coptic Christian was killed by Muslim assailants. Speaking during a military certificate awarding ceremony, the President, a former general, appealed for religious harmony and reaffirmed his intention to prosecute anyone involved in sectarian violence.In his address during the ceremony Al-Sisi urged all Egyptians to practice and to promote national unity, reaffirming that Egyptian law recognises Christian and Muslim citizens as equal. Following this intervention, Copt Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, after a brief meeting with President al Sisi, addressed the national press urging all citizens not to offer pretexts to persons aiming to take advantage of similar events to the detriment of a nation with a population of 90 million serious economic difficulties and scarcity of financial resources, “because their intention is to destroy our country”. These statements by President al Sisi and Patriarch Tawadros follow similar words by Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyib, al Azhar Grande Imam, who issued a public statement calling all the populations of the region to opt for the path of reason in order to stem the spread of sectarian sedition . The organisation ‘Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights’ has identified at least 77 episodes more and less serious of sectarian violence in the region di Minya since the so-called ‘revolution’ on 26 January 2011. At present, on many occasions penal measures to identify and punish those responsible for violence, have been replaced with what are termed “reconciliation meetings”, organised by the local authorities to bring together members of the different religious communities following clashes and convince them to make public acts of peace building. A practice considered by many ineffective which very often results in guaranteeing immunity for intimidators and perpetrators of violence . .

AFRICA/SUDAN - Floods cause casualties and destruction

Khartoum – In recent weeks several lives were lost in severe flooding following widespread heavy rainfall . Moreover some 2200 dwellings in Naivasha camp for displaced persons, Shangil Tobaya, northern Darfur, were destroyed leaving dozens of displaced families without shelter. Overflowing rivers during the annual rain season in Sudan is the principal cause of such floods. Areas most affected include El Fasher and Karary in Omdurman, the village of El Laota, in the state of El Gezira, where several casualties were reported, and Khartoum where homes were destroyed. The Famine Early Warning Systems FEWS network , says that while increased rainfall could mean better harvests, it could also lead to local flooding in areas at risk.

AFRICA/EGYPT - New sectarian clashes in Minya. The Grand Imam of al Azhar: Let us all return to reason

Minya - Four Christian Copts and five Muslims were injured in sectarian clashes which broke out in recent days in the village of Edmo, located in the governorate of Minya in Upper Egypt. After the clashes, the police have increased the level of control in the village, with the intent to prevent new clashes.That of the village of Edmo is the latest episode of the escalation of sectarian conflict that is affecting in particular the governorate of Minya. The same Sheikh Ahmed al Tayyib, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, intervened with a public announcement, calling on people in the region to choose the path of reason, to prevent the spread of sectarian sedition. The "Egyptian Initiative" Organization has counted more or less 77 episodes of sectarian violence which occurred in the region of Minya after the so-called revolution of 26 January 2011. The governing bodies of the Egyptian Family House have decided to send some operators in some of the villages in the area where there have been more recent incidents, to contribute to social peace. But some organizations - including "Egyptian Initiative" - challenge the effectiveness of the so-called "reconciliation meetings", because they guarantee impunity to those responsible for violent and intimidating acts.

EUROPE/ITALY - Comboni Missionaries: 2017 dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the foundation

Rome - Daniele Comboni founded the Institute for the Missions of Nigrizia in 1867, which then became "Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus". After a first unforgettable missionary experience in Africa, which led him to develop, in 1864, his famous "Plan for the Regeneration of Africa", he planned a missionary project in the motto "Save Africa with Africa". According to information gathered by Fides, the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Institute, which was founded on 1 June 1867, will cover the entire year of 2017. The celebrations will begin with a letter from the General Council, while the main event will be a Symposium on the mission to be held from May 25 to June 2, addressed to the whole Comboni family spread in the world, and a closing celebration in Rome. Even the districts in which they are present will program the Comboni celebrations and local events throughout the year. The Comboni missionaries, religious institution exclusively dedicated to the mission ad gentes, are now about 1,700 in 300 communities in thirty countries on four continents.

AMERICA/MEXICO - The creation of a new educational model cannot only be left only to specialists

Chiapas - "We are convinced that an integral educational reform is necessary" reiterated the Bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas, His Exc. Mgr. Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, highlighting that this involves, among other aspects, "analyzing the content of text books; enhancing those matters that have been underestimated, such as civic education that leads to forming good citizens; revising sex education, so that it is not only genital information and incitement to debauchery; reviewing the responsibilities of parents, teachers and other social protagonists; taking into account the different cultures that make up the country, in particular the indigenous ways of educating. Within this revision, it is necessary to take into account the pedagogy, methodology, school infrastructure, the rights and duties of workers, etc".Intervening in tortuous negotiations on Educational Reform approved by the Federal Congress , the Bishop recalls the Mexican Episcopate document of the year 2012, entitled "To educate for a New Society" where a serious analysis of education in Mexico and the criteria to improve it was presented. It cites, among other parts of the document, num. 18: "If education does not form honest people, who love the good, beauty, truth and justice, everything else is based on fragile ground".The Bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas concluded his speech, sent to Fides, with an invitation to parents, teachers, civil society, to do their best to reach a new educational model: "Let us not leave this task only to specialists convened by the authorities, some of whom have an ideology contrary to our culture. Our country depends on education. We have to make proposals".