Harare - The violent repression of opposition demonstrations by Zimbabwean police has been criticized by several humanitarian organizations. On Friday, August 26 a protest demonstration organized by 18 opposition parties was held that had been authorized at the last moment by the Supreme Court. The police had started to attack the protesters who were demonstrating peacefully waiting for the Court's authorization .According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers Association for Human Rights , despite the approval of the Court, the police and military, attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and batons. Among those affected there were also women, including a pregnant woman, who according to ZLHR was arrested and no one knows the place of detention, and an elderly lady, surrounded and brutally threatened by 8 policemen in riot gear.Police arrested about seventy people, blamed for causing accidents. Among them is Promise Mkwananzi, leader of #Tajamuka movement, one of the protest movements that use social media to spread their ideas and launch protest actions against 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who despite his age, intends to run for the 2018 elections.
Cairo - The Egyptian Monastery of Anba Bishoy, founded by Saint Bishoy in the fourth century A.D. in Wadi al-Natrun , will make a film on Pope Shenouda III, the Patriarch who with his figure and his work marked the last decades of the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The film work - refer Coptic sources - will take advantage of the contribution of Bishops and monks who knew the Patriarch and collaborated extensively with him in the decades of his patriarchal ministry. The new film will be made with the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authorities. The announcement of the upcoming film production has been following for several months the intervention with which the Council of Coptic Orthodox lay congregations – influential body in the Coptic Orthodox Church, presided by the Patriarch himself – had cautioned producers of television series, films, and documentaries, from attempting without the approval of the Church any initiative to make a film on the life of pope Shenuda III . The historic vicissitudes of pope Shenuda – said a statement, re-launched by Egyptian sources consulted by Fides – "belong to the Church", and no film or other about the life of the Patriarch may be produced without the necessary permission of the competent Church authority, which will not hesitate to take legal action to safeguard its prerogative.Pope Shenuda III, elected Patriarch in 1971 died in March 2012 and with his 41 years of ministry as a patriarch greatly influenced the present day profile of the Copt Orthodox Church, led today by Pope Tawadros II.
Juba - "Heinous actions and unspeakable crimes". This is how Mgr. Erkolano Lodu Tombe, Bishop of Yei, in Southern Sudan, condemned the wave of killings against the inhabitants of the city and surrounding areas, committed by mixed groups of military and civilians, according to the testimonies of survivors. Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe statements followed last week’s slaughter of three members of the same family their bodies were thrown into Yei River. One of the family members is still missing according to authorities. The Catholic prelate says such incidents are fuelling fleeing of citizens for refuge in the neighbouring countries, in particular Uganda.Yei had remained relatively peaceful during the two years of civil war between the faction led by President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. After the recent clashes in the capital Juba, which are seriously undermining the peace process , Yei, which has always been under the control of government forces, has seen a wave of assaults committed by death squads, who attack using bladed weapons and firearms.According to the testimonies of the inhabitants, every night there are deadly assaults to homes.The rural areas around Yei and other nearby areas have become bases for rebels loyal to Machar, and according to some people the wave of deadly attacks against the civilian population is a retaliation for the attacks committed by the rebels against government troops.
Bhubaneswar - A thorough and independent investigation of the police and the judiciary; adequate compensation that include Churches and humanitarian organizations; prosecute government officials and police involved in violence; release of seven innocent Christians still in jail; appropriate actions against forces of religious fanaticism operating in the district of Kandhamal; implement a major program of protection of minorities; more focus on healthcare, education, communication, and address the issues of unemployment: as Fides learns, these are the main requests of the Churches and civil society forum in the state of Orissa, released on the "Day of the Martyrs", celebrated by the Catholic community in the state of Orissa, India, and, in memory of the anti-Christian massacres of 2008.The Church celebrates the "Day of the Martyrs" on August 30 each year to commemorate the sacrifice of more than 101 people who lost their lives during the massacres especially in Kandhamal district. The violence of 2008 also caused the destruction of 8,500 houses and 395 churches, while Christian refugees, expelled forever from their villages, were more than 56,000.The issue of justice for the victims is still open after eight years: in a massive demonstration held in Balliguda, in the district of Khandamal, attended by 15 thousand people, those present also asked to set up a Commission for Minorities at a state level. Among those present, Jugal Kishore Ranjit, activist for the rights of minorities, said that "the constitutional system has completely failed in Kandhamal", while Parliamentary Sri Jacob Pradhan, said that "the celebration of Independence Day is a farce if there are citizens who are not enjoying rights and freedoms", apostrophizing as "shameful that the government does not publish the results of a commission of inquiry on the massacre of Kandhamal".The protesters were united in asking to "defeat forces that divide the community on the basis of caste and religion", and the government of Orissa did not comply with the provision to grant plots of forest land to tribal displaced Christian families. Seeing Kandhamal after 8 years of violence, there have been a few changes and still no justice for the survivors. Civil and religious leaders in Balliguda signed a declaration and an appeal to the government to promote justice, peace and harmony.
Mexico City - Open a space for reflection and dialogue in order to unite the efforts that are being made at the service of indigenous peoples so that they become "subjects of the New Evangelization": this is the reason of the second Meeting of the diocesan Representatives of the Indigenous Pastoral to be held from September 19 to 22 at the national Centre for indigenous missions ."The challenges and commitments are many and diverse, so it is important to build a network with all those who have been entrusted by the dioceses the service to accompany the indigenous pastoral processes in place and live with these people the reality that touches them closely day by day", writes in the meeting invitation, sent to Fides, His Exc. Mgr. Jose de Jesus Gonzalez Hernandez, prelate Bishop of Jesus Maria de El Nayar, head of the indigenous Pastoral in the Episcopal Social Pastoral Commission.
Trabzon - The Turkish 26-year-old Oguzhan Ayudin, who was convicted in 2006 to 18 years and 10 months in prison for having killed Catholic Italian priest Andrea Santoro, was released a few days ago far ahead of the expiry of the prison sentence handed down to him. According to information reported by the Turkish press, Aydin is one of tens of thousands of prisoners who was prematurely released despite the gravity of their crimes to make space in prisons in a post-coup purge on July 15.Father Andrea Santoro was killed on February 5, 2006, while he was praying in the church of Trabzon where he carried out his pastoral service. The murderer, before killing him shouted "Allahu Akbar" . Four days later Aydin, at that time a minor, was arrested and confessed being the author of the murder. Right from the beginning, many observers expressed doubts and concerns about the hasty investigations with which "the case had been solved", with the arrest of a fifteen year old, who if convicted, because of his young age, would be sentenced to a lighter sentence than those provided in similar cases for adults.
Geneva - The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Pakistan to repeal the blasphemy law. In the periodic report on the country, released on August 26 and sent to Fides, the Commission based in Geneva "takes note of the state’s efforts to prevent the abuse of blasphemy laws", but also expressed concern about "efforts for the broad and vague definition of crimes against religion under articles of the law", which consists of some articles of the penal Code of Pakistan, and notes "the disproportionate use of those laws against individuals belonging to ethnic and religious minorities".The Commission regrets "the high number of blasphemy cases based on false accusations with no related investigations and prosecutions", while "the judges who judge cases of blasphemy face intimidation, death threats and murders".The Commission suggests Pakistan "to consider the repeal of the blasphemy law, which goes against freedom of expression and religion, established by the Constitution" and asks "to take all necessary measures to prosecute and punish those submitting false charges" and "to protect the judges".What is also requested, besides recommendations to stop discrimination and protect ethnic and religious minorities, is to strengthen the independence and effectiveness of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, established in the state in 2015, also by allocating sufficient resources and enhancing skills and powers, and investigating all cases of human rights violation.
Jundial - Since yesterday until Saturday, September 3, forty Scalabrinian Missionaries engaged in the reception of migrants and refugees in Brazil, gathered in Jundial to analyze their missionary activities in order to provide more effective responses in today’s world of mass migration. According to information sent to Agenzia Fides, during the meeting different topics will be discussed: "International Migration and Refugees: recent challenges", "Integration of migrants in host communities", "Incidence and networking for the defense of human rights", "the migrant, a theological place of the Scalabrinian mission".Sr. Janete Ferreira, one of the coordinators of the meeting, head of missionary animation in the province of Sao Paulo, said that "the Congregation of the Scalabrinian Missionaries has the main task to defend the cause of migrants and refugees, especially the poorest and in vulnerable situations". The evolution of the migration phenomenon has led the Scalabrinians to analyze and to rethink, for about 3 years, their action at a global level, for a general reorganization that better responds to questions today.Brazil, according to the information of the missionaries, was the arrival point for thousands of Haitians who left their country especially after the 2010 earthquake, and even of Syrians who fled the war, of Africans and Asians fleeing because of political and civilian conflicts. The Comité Nacional para os Refugiados estimated that in Brazil, in April 2016, 8,863 recognized refugees from 79 nations were present: Syria , Angola , Colombia , Democratic Republic of Congo and Palestine .The Scalabrinians also work in areas where there are conflicts caused by xenophobia, precarious living conditions, unemployment, human trafficking.
Mumbai – Put into practice mercy even in working with the media: in this spirit the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Mumbai lived a seminar in which they deepened some techniques and the use of certain computer software and shared competences in the field of communication . These are not disjoint from the fundamental approach of mercy that comes from the Gospel, which is the path for every Christian, emphasized the present. The speakers recalled, citing Pope Francis, that "mercy is the only way to communicate properly". In his message for the 50th World Communications Day, celebrated in May, Pope Francis speaks of "fruitful meeting" between communication and mercy, noting "the power of mercy to heal the torn relations and to restore peace and harmony among families and communities".The three-day seminar ended with a media Festival under the theme "Celebrating God's mercy", which was attended by many young people. Sister Teresa Joseph, of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, who works in the office for ecumenism of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, presented the figure of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who will be canonized next September 4, in the Year of Jubilee as an example of the person who gleaned mercy and carried out mercy in every word and deed.
Cairo - The Department of the Egyptian Council of State in charge of evaluating the legislative work has begun its review of the new draft law on the construction of churches, whose latest version was prepared by the government last Thursday, August 25. The audit of the State Council - report the Egyptian media - began on Saturday, August 27. After having passed the scrutiny of the Council of State, the draft law will be submitted for final approval by the Egyptian parliament.The Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church had expressed its consent to the proposed law only on Wednesday, August 24. An acceptance marked by many doubts . Within the Egyptian Christian community, many critical remarks are addressed mainly to Article 5 of the bill, which states that the construction of new churches is authorized by governors "with the necessary coordination of the authories concerned". Many fear that this indefinite term will allow local authorities and security forces to exercise more vetoes on the construction of new buildings of Christian worship, especially in the areas marked by sectarian conflicts.
Mar del Plata - The Missionary Sisters of Charity living in Mar del Plata, were attacked and beaten in their home. Criminals also desecrated the tabernacle of the chapel and managed to steal 50 pesos, all the cash the religious had. According to the news released by the diocese, the crime was committed on the evening of 25 August, and the nuns were intimidated and mistreated, also the robbers ransacked the few goods they had in the house. The nuns founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta have been in Mar del Plata for 20 years and do business by assisting the terminally ill AIDS patients and carrying out an intense work of human promotion and assistance in the vast neighborhood where their house is situated.
Cochabamba - "We, Bishops of Bolivia, raise our voice of pain, indignation and denunciation regarding the spiral of violence that engulfs our country in this period and has already caused the deaths of at least three Bolivian brothers, and many injured, including policemen and mining cooperative workers. In the name of God, stop! We cannot irresponsibly give in to the perverse logic of violence". It is a piece of the message of the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, entitled "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have offended us" , which once again condemns the violence of clashes between miners, who contest the reform of trade unions, and government forces."The death of every human being is a cry that rises to the sky. Even more so, when death is inevitable, but caused by clashes and violence among human beings", the Bishops write in the message sent to Fides. Renewing the invitation to dialogue, the text highlights the serious responsibility of the Judiciary administration, which must clarify deaths and attacks with transparency and objectivity, identifying the perpetrators."We raise our prayers, once again, to the Lord of Life, to ask forgiveness for the death and pain that has been caused, and to ask him to enlighten us, to be capable of reconciliation among all, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. 'Forgive us our debts', Lord, help us to forgive in this difficult moment".
Baghdad - The future political and administrative arrangement of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, after the eventual liberation of those areas still under the control of the self-proclaimed Islamic State jihadists , is an issue which is "still uncertain", and "it is not wise to talk about self-determination". This is what Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis I said during a meeting he had on Thursday, August 25, with US General Terry Wolff, deputy special envoy of the US President at the international military anti-Daesh coalition led by the United States. During the meeting, which was attended by some leaders of the Embassy in Iraq, the Primate of the Chaldean Church also noted that the US has a "moral responsibility to help Iraq get out of the serious situation in which it finds itself".The words of the Chaldean Patriarch come after a series of actions carried out by leaders and activists of local political forces on the political and administrative future which is still controlled by Daesh. In recent days, representatives of political parties guided by Christian activists, such as the national Parliamentary Imad Youkhana, requested that the area of Nineveh is recognized the autonomy guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution, allowing local components to manage areas such as security.Already in late July, Sunni politician Atheel al Nujaifi, former governor of Nineveh province and leader of the political party Al Hadba, had declared that the province of Nineveh, once freed from the jihadist Islamic State , will be transformed into an autonomous region, divided into provinces - six to eight - with also a certain degree of administrative autonomy. Such opinions were also addressed to the Christians who lived in the villages of the Nineveh Plain, and fled en masse before the conquest of the region by militants of Daesh. They still proposed once again the project of an "predominantly Christian autonomous province", to be set up in the Nineveh Plain to acknowledge the local Christian communities a role in the operation of the administrative institutions and in the field of protection and security.But the words of al Nujaifi also confirm that the "promises" aimed at Christians are becoming subject propaganda of projects of political management of the area that appear competing with each other. Previously , Kurdish leader Masud Barzani, President of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan, during a meeting with Christian politicians held in Erbil, had foreshadowed the creation of a "Christian state" in the Nineveh Plain, and the subsequent call for a referendum to allow the inhabitants of such an autonomous administrative entity to choose their own political framework under the rule of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan, rather than under the federal government based in Baghdad.
Ulaanbaatar - "I thank the Lord who has called me to serve him through priesthood. I am also grateful to all the people who helped me to answer this call. I hope there will soon be other vocations to priesthood and consecrated life among the youth in Mongolia": are the words of Father Joseph Enkh, still excited, during the celebration of his ordination held yesterday, August 28, in Ulaanbaatar . "It was an unforgettable day in the history of the Catholic Church in Mongolia", reports Fr. Prosper Mbumba, Congolese missionary who works in the Asian country, who describes the atmosphere of great joy and intense prayer lived by the local community. "The ordination of father Joseph Enkh makes us more aware of the grace of God that works in our young church in Mongolia" he said.Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, Apostolic Prefect in the country, who followed the spiritual growth of Joseph and the entire Church in Mongolia with perseverance, reborn 24 years ago, told Fides: "Having a young Mongolian ordained to priesthood for the local Church is like giving birth: she is a young mother who gives birth to her first child. Let us pray and trust that Father Joseph Enkh is faithful to his vocation, takes up his cross daily, and follows Christ always, in every circumstance of his life". In his homily, Bishop Wenceslao Padilla in fact focused on the Gospel passage chosen by Fr. Enkh for his ordination: "Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me" . He recalled that "the Lord has made possible what seemed to be impossible", inviting the assembly "to continue to trust in God".Over 40 concelebrants, while more than 1,500 people participated in the historic event, including officials, civilian and diplomatic authorities. Abbot Dambajav, of the Buddhist monastery of Dashi Lin Choi was also present, who addressed words of encouragement to the young priest, confirming that "Buddhists have good relations with Catholics. We learn from them, and they learn from us. We are happy that one of us Mongolians became a priest in this church. "The Buddhist leader then placed a blue silk stole around the newly ordained priest's neck, that, in the Buddhist tradition, symbolizes the sky and, therefore, signifies purity, good will, good omen and compassion: the gesture was applauded by all the participants.Fr. Joseph today celebrated his first Mass in the same Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Ulaanbaatar.
Durant - Two nuns, Sisters Margaret Held, of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth , and Sister Paula Merrill, of the School Sisters of St. Francis , were killed with knives in their home in Durant, in Mississippi, in an area where more than 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. It is believed from the first investigations that they were killed by a robber, who then fled with their car which was found abandoned nearby. Police have arrested a person. The two Sisters, both Americans, aged 68, were serving as nurses at the Lexington Medical Clinic, health center that assists, free of charge, families who cannot afford medical care. On August 25, not seeing them arrive on time as always, colleagues alerted the police, who found signs of forced entry in their home and found their bodies. They were loved and well-liked by everyone for their kindness, their availability in particular towards those in need.Sister Susan Gatz, President of SCN, asked that all "pray in gratitude for the precious lives of Sisters Paula and Margaret... they served the poor so well. Because we are gospel women, please also pray for the perpetrators". A joint statement of the two congregations ask that "we move forward together at this time in a prayerful and healing manner, focusing on the lives of Sisters Paula Merrill and Margaret Held, two compassionate, faith-filled women. We want to reiterate our beliefs as women of faith, that we value life. For years now the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the School Sisters of St. Francis have worked to abolish the death penalty, even as we seek justice and truth".Various celebrations for the repose of the two Sisters were held in different places this weekend.
Cairo - A long-debated draft law concerning the building and restoration of churches was approved in past days. The Cabinet's approval follows a prolonged back and forth between church representatives and the government over the draft. At the same time, within the Egyptian Christian community there continues to be resentment, so much so that Christian youth groups are mobilizing for a petition and ask for the text of the bill to be rejected and reformulated before being passed to Parliament for approval, expected in coming days. What seems to be causing doubts and disagreements are the added amendments to the text during the long and laborious preliminary stage, which end up complicating the legislative framework and leave the door open to the maneuvers of those who were determined to maintain the status quo and make in fact the building of new churches impossible. "The situation is still controversial" refers to Fides Anba Antonios Aziz Mina, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh. The bill, after more than ten drafts, appears full of gaps, and there are too many technical details, allowing anyone to use again pretexts to prevent the construction of new churches. Many Muslims are criticizing the law, and simply propose that the rules for the construction of mosques are also applied to the construction of Christian places of worship".The new legislation, in the expectations of the Egyptian Christians, should have led to total dismissal of the so-called "10 Rules" added in 1934 to the Ottoman legislation by the Ministry of the Interior, which prohibited, among other things, to build new churches near schools, channels, government buildings, railways and residential areas. In many cases, the strict application of those rules prevented to build churches in cities and villages inhabited by Christians, especially in rural areas of Upper Egypt.
New Delhi - Sunny Tyagi, who converted to Christianity and became a Protestant Pastor, was beaten by a mob of Hindu radicals who broke into a private house where a prayer meeting in the district of Gonda, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, was being held. This was reported to Fides by Sajan K. George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians .On August 26, 2016, around 8 am, Pastor Sunny Tyagi of the Church of the Assembly of believers was leading a liturgy in the house of a believer, when suddenly ten Hindu radical militants broke into the house and interrupted the meeting, threatening the faithful and started beating the pastor, accused of proselytizing."The Pastor - explains Sajan K. George - was not engaged in any criminal activity, and was not doing anything unconstitutional: he was beaten for no reason. It is an act of gratuitous violence and a violation of religious freedom guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. The Global Council of Indian Christians strongly condemned the incident and calls on the national Commission for human rights to investigate and do justice".
Faisalabad - The Christian area "Khushal Town" in Faisalabad was attacked in past days by a crowd of Muslims who caused injuries to some Christians, including women, four young people and a senior. Christians are locked up at home for fear. Three days after the incident, local Christians filed a complaint to the police and to the municipality.As Fides learns, the reason of the attack was a dispute which arose after a trivial road accident, which occurred on August 19, between a Christian and a Muslim. Hence the fight and desire for revenge. After a few days, the attempt of "collective punishment" on the Christian area, according to a pattern that has been repeated several times in Pakistan and in the past caused serious damage to people and property. The local police has assured protection and so far there have not been further negative consequences in Faisalabad.
Amman - On the occasion of the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 20, Christians of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan are called to exercise their right and duty to vote in a conscious way by choosing deputies to be elected for the nine seats reserved for Christians. This is the main content of the message which Bishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, has just released with the purpose of offering pastors and the faithful guidance criteria in the selection of candidates regarding the sixty seats in the next Parliamentary Assembly. "With regard to the last point" refers to Agenzia Fides Bishop Lahham "I suggested everyone to carefully study the curriculum of candidates for the nine seats reserved for Christians. And in particular, if those candidates were also part of the previous parliamentary assembly, it would be good to check their political conduct during the previous mandate, and if they spoke and worked for the good of the Church. Obviously, those who did not do it, or spoke against the Church, does not need our vote and cannot ask for support bringing up topics that have to do with the Christian presence in Jordan".
Johannesburg - "The Jesuit Institute South Africa is seriously concerned with, what appears to be, the continued harassment by the HAWKS of the Minister of Finance, Mr. Pravin Gordhan", said a statement sent to Agenzia Fides. The Hawks have an investigative department of the South African Police, specialized in organized crime and financial crimes.Gordhan was summoned by the Hawks for questioning in an investigation into alleged abuse by its intelligence unit of the Ministry of Finance to collect financial information on several politicians, including President Jacob Zuma.The Jesuits, after having recalled that the announcement of the convening of the Minister caused a fall of the South African credit rating , "with devastatimg consequences especially the poorest of the poor", claim "that in the latest developments the HAWKS have reinforced the impression that they are being used as political proxies by President Zuma and/or those connected to the President in their battle for unrestricted access to state funds, particularly in connection to the nuclear procurement deal and South African Airways".The Jesuits also point out that Zuma had fired the former Minister of Finance, Nhlanha Nene , "with heavy consequences on the economy". "Once again President Zuma’s government displays a leadership which is self-serving. It does not care about the common good. To step in now, Mr. President, and end this racket and put the country’s struggling economy first, may be your last opportunity to show that you are concerned about the common good", the statement concluded.