Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aASIA/SYRIA - The monastery of St. Tekla in Maalula reopens - The Orthodox monastery of St. Tekla, in the Syrian town of Maalula, will soon be open again to the visits of pilgrims and tourists. In fact, reconstruction work on the monastery is nearing completion. Maaloula was freed from militants in 2014, after which the restoration of the town and monastery began.<br />As reported by Fides an important contribution to the reconstruction of St. Tekla came from the Russian veterans organizations "Boevoe Bratstvo" . Russian media report that the nuns have already returned to the monastery, 90% of the reconstruction is already done, and that the reconstruction will be completed in the coming weeks.<br />Maalula, 55 km northeast of Damascus, known throughout the world as one of the places where Aramaic is still spoken, the language of Jesus, houses both the monastery of St. Tekla and the sanctuary dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus , which belongs to the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church. On December 3, 2013, 13 Greek Orthodox nuns from St. Tekla were kidnapped from the monastery, along with three of their collaborators. The kidnapping ended happily on Sunday, March 9, 2014, when the nuns and the three collaborators were freed in Lebanese territory. The liberation also occurred thanks to the mediation of the Lebanese and Qatar intelligence apparatus. <br />Fri, 10 Aug 2018 13:04:59 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN - A Catholic lay elected in the Provincial Assembly of Sindh - Catholic layman Anthony Naveed is the only Christian member elected in the Provincial Assembly of Sindh . Chosen by the Pakistan People Party , he will be present in the Provincial Assembly of Sindh in the period from 2018 to 2023. Other political parties have chosen candidates of Hindu religion for the other seats reserved for religious minorities in the same Assembly.<br />As Fides learns, addressing over 500 people gathered in the Catholic Church of Saint Peter's in Karachi, at the end of a specially celebrated Thanksgiving Mass to entrust God his service in politics, Naveed said: "I am grateful to God for having given me the opportunity to serve Pakistan and the Christian community, I am grateful to the President of the PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for entrusting me with this responsibility in the Provincial Assembly". And with tears in his eyes he added: "I am happy to was baptized and confirmed in this Church; I served this Church as a young man and today as a Catholic I am serving this Church as a member of the Provincial Assembly".<br />Anthony Naveed earned a degree in political science at the beginning of the 1990s, working as a member of the "People's student Federation" , student wing of the PPP in Karachi. He was also an active member of the diocesan Youth Commission in the Archdiocese of Karachi from 1998 to 2005 and represented the Archdiocese of Karachi in Toronto , during World Youth Day in 2002.<br />After a 15-year political militancy, he was elected Deputy Councilor in the city of Jamshed in 2005 and served until 2010, and in the same city. Thanks to his commitment, in 2016 the then head of the Cabinet of the Inter-religious harmony office in Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, appointed Anthony Naveed as his assistant.<br />Anthony Naveed, speaking to Fides, notes: "I am focusing on the implementation of the provision that provides for 5% of jobs in government offices to religious minorities. I will work to obtain 5 seats reserved for minority students in universities and I will commit myself to the development of religious minorities in Pakistan". And he adds: "I follow the vision of the deceased leader Benazir Bhutto to serve the poor and needy minorities, rejected and oppressed in Pakistan". Anthony notes that minorities in Pakistan face many challenges, such as the protection of their rights and discrimination. And he says: "I believe that the PPP is the only political party that really wants to protect the rights of minorities and works for the development of minorities".<br />Last April, the Christian Anwar Lal Din, also of the PPP, became the first Christian senator in the province of Sindh . <br />Fri, 10 Aug 2018 12:46:54 +0200ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Government anti-drug campaign: the Church's commitment to the rehabilitation of drug addicts - Father Luciano Airel Felloni, an Argentinian missionary who has lived in the Philippines for twenty years, has started a serious effort to rehabilitate drug addicts and lead them to live a meaningful and dignified life in his parish in the diocese of Novaliches, near Manila. This is the approach that the Church in the Philippines proposes in response to the "anti-drug" campaign launched by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte who, since his election in June 2016, has mobilized law enforcement agencies to solve the problem of drugs in the country in a violent way. The government's strategy, based on fear and the action of law enforcement, is highly criticized: since the beginning of his presidency, on average 33 people have been killed by the police , but there are another 23,500 extrajudicial killings, carried out by squadrons of "vigilantes". The vast majority of victims are poor, who cannot afford private rehabilitation programs.<br />Many priests and religious throughout the country, such as Fr. Felloni, have undertaken rehabilitation and recovery programs for drug addicts. Some communities are trying to fill the gaps due to the government's failures. In September 2016, Father Felloni, while the number of drug suspects killed in his community continued to rise, began working with local civil leaders, starting an outpatient recovery program in his parish.<br />"We asked ourselves what we could do in our small way to help a campaign against drugs, but working in the right way, in defense of the dignity of every person, and of the community", explains Fr. Felloni to Fides.<br />Initially, the project had to deal with the police’s hostility and the skepticism of drug addicts. Within a year, the enrollment of the persons under treatment increased to 40 and confidence began to increase.<br />Father Felloni's commitment is to reintegrate former drug addicts into society, helping them to "live a good life". <br />The Catholic Church in the Philippines has repeatedly urged the government to change its approach to the "war on drugs": instead of killing, the right path is rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration in the social fabric of people who have fallen into the trap of addiction, said the bishops. <br />Fri, 10 Aug 2018 11:46:44 +0200AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Release of political prisoners: an important step towards peace - On 6 August 2018, on the eve of Independence Day, the President of the Republic of the Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara decided to grant pardon to about 800 political prisoners including Simone Gbagbo, wife of the former President of the Republic, detained for war crimes.<br />"This is a political decision taken in a tense socio-political context in which almost all civil and political society insisted on the release of political prisoners in prison after the post-election violence of 2011 as a sign of genuine reconciliation", said to Fides Father Donald Zagore, Ivorian priest of the Society of African Missions.<br />"Since 1999, the Ivory Coast has experienced division and socio-political violence - continues Zagore - starting from the outbreak of a bloody and deadly armed revolt in 2002 to the post-electoral violence of 2011 that according to the international community caused almost 3,000 deaths".<br />"In the process of reconciliation initiated by the current power, justice was the fundamental principle on which to build this national reconciliation. Unfortunately, the Ivorian judiciary has remained in a logic of blatant impartiality, practicing the justice of winners, making it no longer an instrument of peace and reconciliation, but an instrument of injustice and division", the missionary comments.<br />"Peace was no longer possible in such a context. The only way out was an amnesty policy with the release of all political prisoners who favored an open dialogue for true reconciliation. The appeal was unanimous, social, political and religious groups intervened in favor of the release of political prisoners.<br />There was also the support of the Ivorian Church, which, through the voice of its bishops, has invested on this policy. Today, a great step has been taken towards a true and definitive reconciliation, even if the road still remains long. The truth is that all of us Ivorians are very thirsty for peace and reconciliation". <br /> <br /><br />Fri, 10 Aug 2018 11:23:21 +0200AFRICA/EGYPT - "St. Mary’s fast": Copts pray for the Patriarch and monasteries after the murder of Bishop Epiphanios - Coptic Orthodox Christians all over the world are experiencing the 15 days of "Holy Virgin Mary’s fast" praying with particular intentions for their Patriarch Tawadros II and for the monasteries in the Country, in the difficult moment the whole church is experiencing after the assassination of Anba Epiphanios, the bishop-abbot killed in the monastery of Saint Macarius on the morning of Sunday 29 July. The time of prayer and fasting will end on August 22, when the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. In the meantime, investigations continue to find the author and reason of the murder of Anba Epiphanios, without the arrest or incrimination of any suspect so far.<br />According to Egyptian media sources, in the last hours representatives of the Coptic Church have asked the judicial authorities to keep the partial results of the investigations confidential, avoiding indiscretions and leaks of news that end up fueling confusion. In recent days rumors - relaunched in the media, and then proved to be unfounded - of the alleged arrest of a collaborator of the monastery, who was also Anba Epiphanios’ chauffeur. Unverified rumors were also reported that surveillance cameras located in the monastery were not functioning. While there are rumors in the environments of the Copts diaspora in North America according to which the Egyptian security forces had tortured monks of Saint Macarius monastery to extort useful information for the investigation, violating also the most sacred areas of the monastery.<br />Meanwhile, in his last weekly sermon on Wednesday, Pope Tawadros used words of gratitude regarding the reality of Coptic monasticism, saying he was confident that the monastic communities will remain in the Egyptian deserts "until the end of the world", and will continue to offer future generations the riches of their spiritual gifts, which cannot be dispelled by weaknesses, errors, sins and crimes of individual persons. "The Christian faith" said among other things Pope Tawadros "is guarded by the Lord, and does not need other protectors". <br />Thu, 09 Aug 2018 13:16:34 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN - Cardinal Coutts: "A call to pray and serve my people and the universal Church" - "I am not chosen because I am the most capable". This is God's plan for me: serving him close to the Holy Father. It is a responsibility and a call to pray and serve more. My elevation to Cardinal is an honor for the Church and for Pakistan, so I urge all the faithful to support me with prayer, so that I can fulfill the responsibilities assigned to me": this is what Cardinal Joseph Coutts said on his return to Pakistan after the celebration at the Vatican on June 29, in which he was created Cardinal. Messages of congratulations continue to arrive from civil and religious leaders.<br />"For me, the creation to Cardinal will mean doing more for my people and for the universal Church", the Cardinal told Fides. Fr. Saleh Diego, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Karachi tells Fides that people, lay groups, political leaders, government officials and NGO personnel are still visiting the Cardinal to congratulate him. Cardinale Coutts plans to visit all the parishes of the diocese.<br />The Cardinal recalls the festive reception received: upon his arrival from Rome, an array of over 200 motorbikes escorted him from the airport to Saint Patrick Cathedral in Karachi and along the street the faithful dressed in their traditional clothes, garlands of flowers, bouquets of flowers and flower petals accompanied his journey.<br />"I am happy with the messages and visits I receive from all over the country not only from Christians, but from many non-Christian groups. It is a moment of joy but at the same time it is a great responsibility for me. I invite all the faithful to support me with prayer", Cardinal Coutts told a crowd of over 5,000 gathered in Saint Patrick Cathedral.<br />The Cardinal concelebrated the Mass of thanksgiving for his creation to Cardinal with all the Catholic Bishops in Pakistan. According to the pontifical decree, he will be the titular of the Church of Saint Bonaventura at the Palatine in Rome. <br /><br />Thu, 09 Aug 2018 11:05:11 +0200ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - Korean Youth Day is approaching - The Archdiocese of Seoul will host the fourth Korean Youth Day, which is celebrated from 11 to 15 August on the theme "It is me; do not be afraid" ). "The experience will see almost 2,000 young Catholics in Seoul, from the 16 Korean dioceses. Through the opportunity of sharing and exchanging their life experiences, all the participants will have the possibility of reconfirming their faith and responding to Christ's call", says a note sent to Fides by the Communications Office of the Diocese of Seoul, while preparations are underway at various levels.<br />The program includes: opening Mass , pilgrimage to the sacred places of Seoul , catecheses held by the diocesan bishops, a special "Festival of culture" in the cathedral of Myeongdong, several concerts and the evening prayer vigil with the community of Taizè , until the closing Mass on August 15th. The young participants will be hosted in local families, who have given their availability in the various parishes of the capital.<br />Following the philosophy of WYD, the Korean Church celebrates its fourth event after the first Korean Youth Day held in Jeju in 2007; the second in Uijeongbu in 2010; the third in Daejeon in 2014, in the presence of Pope Francis. On that occasion, the day coincided with the Asian Youth Day. <br />Wed, 08 Aug 2018 13:15:57 +0200AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - Churches burned and priests killed in the Somali region Ababa - Patriarch Matthias I and the Holy Synod of the Tewahedo Orthodox Church of Ethiopia have decided to offer 16 days of fasting and prayer that precede and follow the liturgical solemnity of the Dormition of St Mary Mother of God – , to invoke the gift of peace and reconciliation in Jijiga and in the Somali region, after ethnic violence, which in recent days, exploded in that part of Ethiopia, causing about 30 victims. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has paid a high price due to the spiral of violence: according to information by local media, at least seven Orthodox churches have been attacked and set on fire, and local sources speak of at least six priests and several faithful killed.<br />The clashes began at the end of last week, when armed men of the Liyu militia, of ethnic Somali and under the orders of Abdi Illey tried to interrupt a meeting between members of the regional parliament and representatives of the city of Dire Daua, with the intent of denouncing the violation of human rights in the region. The incidents of violence caused the intervention of the Ethiopian army, which deployed its troops also around the institutional headquarters, including the building of the regional parliament and the presidential palace of the same Abdi Illey. A massive intervention was followed by attacks against targets linked to minority ethnic groups, fomented by members of the Liyu militia. The spiral of violence also accentuated the contrasts between the regional administration and the government of Addis Ababa, also leading to the resignation of regional governor Abdi Illey, who in the last hours - as reported by local media - has also been arrested and placed in custody by the authorities of Addis Ababa.<br />The Somali region has been unstable for some time. Prime Minister, Abyi Ahmed, wanted to make his first visit to that area of the country after taking office at the beginning of last April.<br />At the moment - according to official sources of the Tewahedo Orthodox Church - more than 20,000 displaced Ethiopians are supported and assisted by the Orthodox parishes of Jijiga.<br />The Tewahedo Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, led by Abuna Matthias I, is the only autochthonous ecclesial group and of direct apostolic derivation in Sub-Saharan Africa. "The key to unity among the Churches", he told the Ethiopian Patriarch after meeting Pope Francis in Rome on February 29, 2016 "today lies in the ecumenism of the martyrs". <br />Wed, 08 Aug 2018 13:03:30 +0200AMERICA/BRAZIL - Threats to those assisting Venezuelan immigrants, while the border reopens Vista - From death threats to members of the Jesuit Refugees and Migrants Service , and to media attacks against members of the Catholic community, the Church responds with "a refusal to any incitement to violence and intolerance". As Fides learns, in recent days many messages of xenophobia and hatred have spread, with a virtual lynching to a lawyer of the SJMR and to a religious. The communiqué of the diocese of Roraima, co-signed by other ecclesial bodies, illustrates the facts: "In recent days a video has been released in social media in which a collaborator of our services informs a group of Venezuelan migrant families about the deportation proceedings from a building or land occupied. These families were living peacefully in an abandoned house", on the outskirts of the state capital, Boa Vista, "and had received information indicating the obligation to leave". "In Brazil, the action of the State is regulated by a series of formal procedures to safeguard the rights of people, and especially in situations of social vulnerability", the letter continues, "and this is what the collaborator was explaining".<br />However, "people in bad faith have recently released" the video, which reads: "NGOs supported by the PT" "are teaching Venezuelan immigrants to invade the homes of Brazilians". The local Church points out that "it is about political manipulation". Brazil is entering the electoral campaign, and there are repeated attacks on the Church and immigrants. The channel that released the video belongs to a political candidate of the Patriotic Party, which supports the candidacy to president of the Republic of Jair Bolsonaro.<br />At a press conference, the diocese of Roraima explained the incident to the public. Another 37 institutions signed the communiqué while the Brazilian Bishops' Conference expressed "solidarity and support for all Church actions aimed at guaranteeing a worthy life for refugees and migrants". The diocese appeals to the society of the State of Roraima, "composed of immigrants from many different places, a mosaic of different cultures and stories, to affirm that we are a welcoming and open society". And asks for "a responsible and mature use of social media, so that they are a vehicle for unity and solidarity and do not serve to support xenophobic and violent positions and discourses".<br />In the meantime, this Tuesday the Federal Court of Second Instance of Roraima annulled the provision of Judge Helder Girão Barreto, which had led to the temporary closing of the border from where Venezuelans were entering the state of Roraima until there is a "balance between the number" of immigrants coming into the state and the number of people heading towards other cities. For the court, "closing the border means not recognizing the Venezuelan immigrant as equal to a Brazilian citizen". <br />Wed, 08 Aug 2018 11:40:13 +0200ASIA/INDONESIA - A priest: "After the earthquake, the displaced are desperate: humanitarian aid is urgently needed" - "There is a need for humanitarian aid for the thousands of people affected by the recent earthquake on the tourist island of Lombok": says to Agenzia Fides Catholic Catholic priest Fr. Laurencius Maryono, parish priest of St. Mary Immaculate in Mataram, capital of western Nusa Tenggara province, highlighting that thousands of people are victims of the earthquake of 5 August which, according to government sources, has killed at least 105 people.<br />"People are suffering a lot, they need clothes, food, water, medicine... to survive", notes Fr. Maryono. "The displaced people sleep on the streets and are gripped by great anguish and sadness", he adds.<br />In the minds of the population there is still the memory of the devastating tsunami of 2004 which caused the death of 168,000 people in Indonesia. The earthquake has destroyed homes and lives in this vast archipelago, causing the displacement of more than 84,000 people, according to the spokesperson of the National Agency for Disaster Management, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. International humanitarian agencies and countries around the world have started sending aid for the survivors. "The challenge for relief work is enormous", notes the priest.<br />Caritas Indonesia and Catholic Relief Services have mobilized in soliciting international funds around the world and are contributing to the work of humanitarian aid, at various levels. Furthermore, "Catholic hospitals across the country have sent their medical staff to the affected area to provide service", says Sister Paulina of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit to Fides. <br />Wed, 08 Aug 2018 11:00:29 +0200ASIA/IRAQ - Four years after the jihadist invasion, Christians from Karamles celebrate the return home with a procession - Hundreds of Iraqi Christians took part, on the evening of Monday August 6th, in a procession that took place along the streets of Karamles, a town of the Nineveh Plain traditionally inhabited by Christians. With the community gesture, the Christians from Karamles wanted to commemorate the events that on the night between 6 and 7 August forced many tens of thousands of Christians to leave the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain, in front of the offensive of the jihadist militiamen of the self-proclaimed Islamic State .<br />The procession was preceded by a reflection on the pain and suffering that accompanied and followed that dramatic mass exodus, read in the light of the mystery of the cross. The Gospel passage in which Jesus promises that he will pray to the Father to ask him to send the Holy Spirit, the "Comforter" to his disciples was also read. Then the procession with the candles began, and along the way the participants recited Psalm 150, celebrating in this way also the "new beginning" represented in their lives by the return to their village and their homes, after the years of jihaidist domination.<br /> <br />Karamles, with the other villages and towns of the Nineveh Plain, represented the historical landmarks of the native Christian communities of ancient Mesopotamia. It is precisely around that Plain that the project of an "autonomous region" to be assigned to Christians began, in order to achieve at least in part the ancestral dream of a "national home" reserved for the Chaldean, Assyrian and Syrian communities.<br />On the night of 6 to 7 August 2014, tens of thousands of Christians fled in a hurry from Qaraqosh, Karamles, Talkief, Bartalla and other inhabited areas of the area, finding refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, after the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga Kurdish troops in the region had withdrawn before the jihadists. In recent years, there has been no initiative or declaration "in defense of Iraqi Christians" that did not refer to the need to guarantee and defend the return of baptized Chaldeans, Syrians and Assyrians in the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain.<br />After the definitive defeat of the jihadists of Daesh, information that is discordant and difficult to verify on the consistency of the return of the Christian inhabitants displaced from the Nineveh Plain to their villages circulates. In Karamles, the 300 Christian families that had already returned last December have already been able to celebrate together the last liturgical solemnities of Christmas and Easter. <br />Tue, 07 Aug 2018 13:28:47 +0200ASIA/INDIA - Ten years ago the greatest anti-Christian violence in the history of India - The anti-Christian massacre campaign in Orissa in 2008 is ten years old: it is the biggest wave of violence against believers in the history of the nation. Today the population of Kandhamal district, in the Indian state of Orissa, the scene of massacres, calls for justice.<br />"We hope you remember the genocide in Orissa in 2008. Just eight days after the celebration of Independence Day, India witnessed the biggest attack on a religious community in its history. Since 2009, people in Kandhamal celebrate a Memorial Day for Victims on 25th of August", says the "National Solidarity Forum" team, a network of over 70 Indian organizations, including activists, priests, religious, lawyers, Christian and Hindu faithful.<br />According to data reported to Fides by the "National Solidarity Forum", during that wave of violence, 393 churches and places of worship belonging to Adivasi Christians and Dalits were destroyed, about 6,500 houses were razed to the ground, over 100 people were killed, over 40 women were victims of rape, harassment and humiliation and several educational, social and health institutions were looted. Over 12,000 children lost the opportunity to get an education. More than 56,000 people were forced to flee from Kandhamal and take refuge in the forests. Several cases of forced conversion from Christianity to Hinduism by the Hindu extremist group "Sangh Parivar" were reported. The displaced people of Kandhamal today are scattered in different parts of the country. Many of them cannot go back to their villages of origin, and have been forced to make a living by finding a home and work outside their district of birth.<br />"It is important to note that people from Kandhamal never carried out or responded with violence: after ten years of violence and abuse, Kandhamal's survivors are still struggling for peace, justice and harmony", notes the Forum in a note sent to Fides.<br />As also reported by the Catholic Church in Orissa, the compensation provided by the government for the victims and survivors of Kandhamal was minimal. There were over 3,300 complaints, but only 820 cases were registered in court. Among these proceedings, 518 cases were recognized as admissible by the Court. And out of these 518 cases, 247 cases have been set aside, without recognizing any guilty, for various reasons, such as lack of evidence or witnesses. The rest of the cases are still pending in the courts of first instance, while many trials have already been resolved with an acquittal. If the original complaints presented are considered, then only 1% of the cases found a procedural conclusion.<br />On August 2, 2016, a Supreme Court ruling acknowledged that the quantum and extent of compensation were not satisfactory for the victims of Kandhamal. "Therefore, those who have been excluded from the compensation list must be immediately included, including compensation for the families of many who have been killed, compensation for the destruction of houses and property, compensation for buildings and churches, for institutions and NGOs", notes the Forum.<br />The High Court found the fact that 315 cases of community violence had been archived disturbing and asked the state government to re-examine these 315 cases. But this process has not yet been activated. To ensure justice for the survivors of the Kandhamal massacres, the "National Solidarity Forum" for the victims of Orissa today calls for: a task force to monitor cases and trials; the protection of witnesses against intimidation; a free and fair investigation to reopen the archived cases.<br />"Today, none of the criminals responsible for the violence are in prison: murderers, rapists, looters are on the loose, while seven innocent Christians are still in jail unjustly", accused for the murder of the Hindu leader.<br />In this context, the "National Solidarity Forum" and the Association of Kandhamal survivors launch an appeal "to those who believe in secularism, democracy, justice, peace and harmony, to observe a Day for the victims of Kandhamal on August 25, 2018" or in the days close to that date. The Day will be observed on August 28 in Kandhamal and on August 29 in Bhubaneshwar, in the presence of over 10,000 people.<br />It is also requested to establish a "Committee for Minorities of Orissa" to "avoid future tendentious decisions and to protect harmonious and participatory decision-making processes, towards citizens of any religious faith". <br />Tue, 07 Aug 2018 12:55:31 +0200AMERICA/PERU - New roads in the Amazon endanger the indigenous in voluntary isolation - "Without the consent of the indigenous peoples of the area and without even consulting them, the province of Purús is approving the construction of roads in the area", says to Fides Ismael Vega, director of the Amazon Center for Anthropology and Applied Practice , an association created in 1974 by the nine dioceses of the Peruvian forest as an institution at the service of the marginalized and excluded populations of the Amazon, in a special way for the indigenous. Vega points out that the construction of infrastructure is based on the "Law of 'carreteras'" approved by Parliament in January. "By approving the law that declares the national roads and the maintenance of dirt roads in the Ucayali region as a priority – he states - Parliament once again puts the life of the Amazonian indigenous peoples in serious danger and in particular those in voluntary isolation or in the initial phase of contact who live in that province".<br />Vega has already underlined in recent months that "this new threat against the indigenous peoples and the Amazon was officially published, while Pope Francis, in his speech in Puerto Maldonado, said that these people today are in danger because of megaprojects of infrastructure and also due to extraction". The "prior consent" provision, established by the International Labor Organization Convention 169, "was ratified by Peru in 2011. But concretely, this rule is not applied: the indigenous peoples are not consulted", says in a dialogue with Fides, Mónica Villanueva, Director of the Communications of the Dominican cultural center for indigenous rights "José Pío Aza" and former president of Signis Latin America and the Caribbean.<br />The law in question was approved by Congress on December 15 last year, it was not subject to observations or veto by the executive and, after the period established by the Constitution, was promulgated by Parliament. <br />The President of the Commission, Marco Arana, said that "the law is attentive to the rights of peoples in voluntary isolation, who live in conditions of extreme vulnerability". "The law directly involves three indigenous reserves, two territorial reserves, three national parks and one provincial one", he recalls. The Ministry of Culture, whose competences include the protection of indigenous peoples, had also shown firm rejection of the bill during the debate, for the same reason <br />Tue, 07 Aug 2018 12:09:21 +0200AFRICA/EGYPT - Over 400 people interrogated on the murder of Coptic Bishop Epiphanios - Over 400 people were interrogated by the Egyptian judicial authorities of the Wadi Natrun region, as part of the investigation into the murder of Coptic Orthodox bishop Epiphanius, abbot of Saint Macarius monastery, who was killed on Sunday 29 July. In addition to the monks, police detectives will also interrogate workers, farmers and people who habitually frequented the monastery. But so far - specify the official sources of the Coptic Orthodox Church, consulted by Agenzia Fides - no person at the moment is believed to be responsible for the heinous murder of Anba Epiphanios.<br />Meanwhile, on Sunday 5 August, with a provision approved by Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, the expulsion of the now ex-monk Isaiah el Makary from the monastery was decreed, who had to abandon his monastic condition and also the name that he had taken as a religious. The monk stripped of his clothes was asked to "repent" for the salvation of his soul, while the invitation to protect the purity of monastic life was addressed to everyone. But the measures taken against the former monk - Father Boulos Halim, spokesman of the Coptic Church specified - are not to be connected with the death of Anba Epiphanios, being the result of a canonical disciplinary process which began already at the beginning of 2018, and whose first punitive measure - the suspension for three years from monastic life - had been revoked after the monk's brothers had signed a petition in his defense.<br />The disciplinary strictness applied to former monk Isaiah al Makary is part of the rethinking of monastic life, which had already begun some time ago in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and which had an undoubted acceleration after the assassination of bishop Epiphanios in the monastery. On Friday, August 3, the Committee for the monasteries of the Orthodox Coptic Synod ordered 12 rules - ratified by Patriarch Tawadros II - to which all those who live the monastic condition in the Coptic Orthodox Church should abide by. The measures aim to preserve the monastic life as a condition that is isolated from the world, and marked by moments of prayer, work and silence. This is why monks and nuns were asked to close their personal accounts and any blogs on social media, considered with critical eyes as tools used above all to spread "confusing ideas". Pope Tawadros also ratified the order to suspend the acceptance of new candidates for monastic life for a year, and that of regulating in a more rigorous way visiting times and pilgrims to the monasteries. Among the 12 disciplinary measures there is also the prohibition for monks and nuns to receive donations from the faithful, who can only be collected by the abbot or abbess of the monastery. <br />Mon, 06 Aug 2018 13:52:43 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN - The hopes of religious minorities are growing with the next government of Imran Khan - Imran Khan, political leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf , winner of the recent general elections in Pakistan, has publicly announced that he wants to follow the legacy of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan: this legacy implies the vision for which all citizens of Pakistan - including those belonging to religious minorities - enjoy the same rights of freedom, equality and justice. "These are words of Imran Khan during his first speech, after the vote, which strengthen the hopes of religious minorities living in Pakistan", says to Agenzia Fides, Fr. Qaisar Feroz OFM Cap, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Communications Commission in the Catholic Episcopal Conference in Pakistan. Fr Feroz also states: "If Imran Khan manages to do it, there will be a big change in the history of Pakistan and it will be a success of his government". The Secretary of the Commission notes that the political leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf are genuinely well-educated and highly qualified politicians. "And if Imran Khan names the right people for government ministries, it will surely be a big step forward".<br />The general elections in Pakistan took place on 25 July 2018. According to the results announced by the Pakistan Electoral Commission, Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf , has totaled 116 seats in Parliament and can form the government. The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz is in second place with 64 seats and the Pakistan People Party won 43 seats and ended up in third place.<br />Together with the national government, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf will be able to form a government in the provinces of Khyber PukhtunKhwa and in Punjab, a province that welcomes the majority of Pakistani Christians, led by PML-N for three decades.<br />Kailash Sarhadi, a member of the Sikh community, Secretary of the Interreligious Commission for Harmony of Pakistan and Director of "Masterpeace Pakistan" speaking to Fides says: "Pakistani religious minorities are rather favorable to Imran Khan. The leader believes in Islamic teachings and wants to give rights, freedom and justice to minorities in a similar way to what happened in Arabia in the times of Prophet Muhammad". And he continues: "During his first speech as head of the main political party in the 2018 elections, Imran Khan has won the hearts of many. The speech that was in Urdu language addressed and embraced every person in the country without any difference of caste, creed, ethnicity and religion". Kailash notes that Imran Khan has set up a centralized education system in Kyber Pakhtun Khwa province, he has built two hospitals and a university that work according to international standards and serve both the rich and the poor. He adds: "I am confident about the improvement of the education system and the health system in the country".<br />During his first speech, Imran Khan announced he did not want to stay in the Prime Minister's residence in order to reduce expenses. He also asked mass media and the offices of the National Accountability Bureau to immediately report if any member of his political party is corrupt.<br />The losing political parties have said that the 2018 elections in Pakistan are "the worst in history". But the organization "Free and Fair Election Network" , an independent NGO that evaluates and promotes free and fair elections all over the world, declared the 2018 general elections in Pakistan better than the year 2013, calling them "free and transparent", despite complaints related to the process of counting votes.<br />Christian Haroon Imran Gill, member of the provincial assembly of the province of Punjab and winner of the seat reserved for minorities in the PTI speaking to Fides said: "I am pleased that Imran Khan won the elections: he is a very passionate leader in taking care of the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan. He is an international personality who will know how to work to improve the situation of religious and oppressed minorities in Pakistan". <br />Mon, 06 Aug 2018 12:55:13 +0200AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Mgr. Henao: to stop the killings of social leaders, we need to build "community leadership" - 311 social leaders murdered in two and a half years. This is the dramatic data released at the beginning of July by the Office of the People's Defender of Colombia, referring to the period from 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2018. In response to this emergency, Caritas, together with the General Public Prosecutor of the Republic, USAID , Indigenous National Organization of Colombia, National Association of Afro-Colombians Internal Refugees , with other civil society organizations, and with national mass media such as Caracol TV, Blu Radio and El Espectador, is promoting the "Lideramos la vida" campaign to make visible and protect social leaders across the country.<br />The physical elimination of these leaders has increased after the signing of the peace agreements with FARC, as the territories previously occupied by the guerrilla organization are now "no man's lands" at the mercy of the fight between criminal factions. "We are feeling the impact of the killing of our social leaders", said Mgr. Héctor Fabio Henao, president of Caritas Colombia and of the national committee of the Council of Peace in a live broadcast on social media with the participation of Agenzia Fides. "In a society that has suffered such a long conflict", the prelate continued, "the sense of humanity is reduced, the ability to come into contact with the suffering and the capacity for solidarity". This is why community leaders are "key persons who take on the concrete needs of the communities" with great generosity, because they feel a strong sense of belonging and identify with them".<br />They are also necessary for the cohesiveness of the social fabric: "I realize that there are no real communities where people communicate only in social media". "Society needs leaders, in all fields, and those who make a flag of social rights" such as access to water, land or communication routes "ensure a permanent dynamic of searching for an alternative to possible life for the most vulnerable people", said Mgr. Henao. The Prelate emphasized above all the need for "protecting communities", which identify "the weak points of exposure to risks" and establish protocols of personal and community self-protection as an antidote to violence. An even more effective solution is the construction of a "community leadership", the Bishop told Fides, so that "it is not a single person who pulls all the others, but is the collective to discuss the problems, to reflect, to look for solutions and to set goals".<br />In this the physical elimination of a person becomes useless, since there will be no solitary leaders. The contact with the authorities, which Caritas and the Peace Councils promote, is also fundamental, "because we have adopted measures and security measures that are not known". In this sense, Mgr. Henao calls for a "much greater" effort on the State to get the effectiveness of these rules at a local level. Faced with the resignation of many people, the answer is "the strong determination to exercise citizenship to rebuild the nation". To overcome the temptation of the absence of hope, the prelate cites "very interesting examples of communities that have firmly decided to make great transformations and have succeeded". "This gives light, and we must insist on creating trust between local actors and authorities, dialogue and building bridges". "There is a lot of fear in the communities", he notes, but there is also "so much tenacity", witnessed by the local Peace Councils, "by indigenous communities, Afro-Colombians and peasants, to build protector environments, solid communities" and serious proposals of peaceful cohabitation.<br />On the suspension of the peace talks between the government and the ELN guerrillas until the new Executive takes on responsibility, Mgr. Henao admitted that the news worries, above all for the non-fulfillment of a ceasefire, but does not abandon hope and indicates the need to "continue working to resolve the situation through dialogue". <br /><br />Mon, 06 Aug 2018 11:47:58 +0200ASIA/IRAQ - Stop to the settlement of 450 Sunni families in the Nineveh Plain, to protect the demographic balance - Nineveh provincial Council, with a resolution announced Tuesday, July 31, suspended the transfer of 450 Sunni Arab families in the areas of the Nineveh Plain, already authorized by the federal government, and requested that the family members in question are located in south and east areas of Mosul. The move was taken with the declared intention of preventing or at least restraining the process of alteration of the demographic balance in the Nineveh Plain, an area of traditional rooting of the Iraqi Christian communities and of religious minorities such as the Yazidis and the Shabaks. The stop to the transfer, claimed as a success of the Provincial Council by the local political exponent Ghazwan Hamid Hamid, is indicated as an expression of a new political sensibility aimed at putting pressure on the central government of Baghdad with the aim of avoiding someone taking advantage of the chaotic situation following the conflict with the so-called Islamic State to alter the demographic balance of that region, to the detriment of the traditionally established minority ethnic-religious communities.<br />In recent decades, the Sunni component in the north-Iraqi regions had increased following the demographic re-displacement policies pursued by the Ba'athist regime since the seventies. The current Iraqi Constitution has outlawed all policies implemented in a direct manner to alter the demographic composition of the different areas of the Country from an ethnic and religious point of view.<br />Local and national politicians from the Nineveh Plain have expressed their intention to implement all legal initiatives - including street demonstrations - to push the government of Baghdad to avoid measures that end up penalizing minority religious communities in areas of their traditional settlement, pushing them to emigrate.<br />There is a slow and not an easy return of many Christian families in the Nineveh province, who had left their homes and villages between June and August since 2014, before the advance of Daesh militiamen. Just over a year ago, as reported by Fides , the Chaldean Patriarchate had denounced the "attempt to put a hand on the towns of the Nineveh Plain, through public or concealed struggles", that "have a negative influence on the native people of this land". At that time, the Niniveh Plain also appeared as a kind of "controversial area", around which geopolitical games such as the possible, future proclamation of independence of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan are played. <br />Fri, 03 Aug 2018 11:31:20 +0200AFRICA/KENYA - The local Anglican Church supports the conservation of the forest - "The protection of the Mau Forest should not be exploited. We witness the strategies of politicians of some communities that use this heritage only for their profit. They should remember that the Mau Forest complex is the source of key rivers", said Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit of the Anglican Church of Kenya on July 29, addressing members of the congregation at the Cathedral of St. Stephen ACK, Kisumu, on the occasion of a celebration in honor of retired bishop Rev. Francis Mwanyi Abiero, of the diocese of Maseno Sud.<br />In the note sent to Fides we read that Ole Sapit further warned political leaders not to politicise Mau Forest eviction and added that the church supports the conservation of forests. The evictions are said to affect close to 40,000 people.<br />"We want to urge the president to support the conservation of Mau and other forests in this country because without the preservation of nature we will not have a future. The Mau Forest complex is very strategic", said the Archbishop.<br />It is a complex that consists of 16 blocks covering an area of over 300 thousand hectares in the Rift Valley in Kenya. Its importance at an environmental, economic and social level is immense, 130 million people in East Africa depend indirectly on this forest. It is the largest in East Africa, one of the few tropical rain forests in the region, as well as the most important water reservoir in Kenya. This ecosystem is of great importance, which is being endangered by illegal logging activity that has increased in recent decades despite the presence of laws that prohibit it. The pressures are very different from each other: tea monocultures, small peasant agriculture, pine and cypress plantations for commercial purposes, illegal deforestation and even a dam. All in a very complex context from an ethnic point of view, where the historically settled population, the Ogiek, has been progressively marginalized and is fighting to see their right to live in these areas recognized. <br /><br />Fri, 03 Aug 2018 11:17:23 +0200ASIA/TURKEY - US sanctions against two Turkish ministries for the "Brunson case" - The US Treasury Department will implement "targeted" sanctions against two senior Turkish ministries, that of Justice - led by Abdulhamit Gul - and that of Interior - led by Minister Suleyman Soylu - as a form of retaliation for the detention of American evangelical pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, on trial in Turkey on charges of espionage and participation and terrorist acts and anti-Turkish subversive plots. "We believe that he is he is a victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey", said White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders to reporters referring to Brunson, indicating that the ministerial bodies are about to be hit by US sanctions as direct responsibles for the arrest and detention of the pastor. "The unjust detention of Pastor Brunson and the continued prosecution by Turkish officials are simply unacceptable", said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, adding that President Donald Trump had unequivocally expressed the US expectations for the immediate release of Brunson by Turkey.<br />The case of evangelical pastor Brunson accentuates his profile of "casus belli" between the two countries already allied in NATO. Last week, as reported by Fides - Brunson after nearly two years in prison was able to return to his home in Izmir, under conditional freedom, waiting to know the sentence of the trial brought against him by the Turkish authorities, but the entry into force of the new measure concerning the defendant coincided with a new escalation of the clash between the US and Turkey around an affair that has long gone beyond the boundaries of an individual case, becoming a real geopolitical emergency.<br />The US President Donald Trump himself on Thursday 26 July, on his twitter account, defined Brunson "a great Christian, a family man and a wonderful human being" subjected to serious suffering, demanding his immediate release. "US Vice President Mike Pence also intervened on the case, repeating that Brunson is an innocent man, that there is no credible evidence against him, and threatening "significant sanctions against Turkey "if no concrete steps were taken to speed up the release. A few hours before the announcement of US sanctions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from Ankara, had declared to media operators that Turkey would not take into consideration the threatening language "of the American leaders, calling it an expression of "an evangelical and Zionist mentality".<br />Andrew Craig Brunson, at the head of the Evangelical Church of the Resurrection in Izmir , affiliated with the Presbyterian Evangelical Church of Orlando , had been summoned by the Turkish immigration office in October 2016, together with his wife, Lyn Norine . The couple was initially informed of the obligation to leave Turkey, justifying this measure with the vague accusation of having received funds from abroad to finance missionary initiatives and to have endangered the security of the Country with their activities. <br />Subsequently, the Turkish press reported that for the evangelical pastor the expulsion decree had turned into an arrest, after a secret witness had accused him of belonging to the so-called FETO -Turkish acronym of "Fethullahnista terrorist organization", definition with which pro-government Turkish organs indicate the Gulen network and indicated by the Turkish government as the mind behind the attempted coup of July 15, 2016.<br />On September 28, Erdogan himself had declared himself ready to release the US evangelical pastor only if in return the US authorities will hand over to Turkey Fethullah Gulen, who has been exiled to the USA since 1999. Over the course of time, the crimes attributed to Pastor Brunson by the Turkish judiciary authorities have terribly increased: secret and enigmatic witnesses taken into consideration by the court in Izmir have even accused him of supporting the emergence of a phantom "Christian Kurdish state" destined to occupy part of the Turkish territory.<br />The court in Izmir on Tuesday again rejected a petition filed by Brunson's lawyer to demand the release of his client. The next hearing is scheduled for October 12. <br />Thu, 02 Aug 2018 11:34:33 +0200AMERICA/BRAZIL - Juvencio Piratapuia: "school is the place where to spread the sense of community in the Amazon communities"ão Gabriel da Cachoeira - Education is one of the great challenges in the indigenous communities of the Amazon region. Juvencio Piratapuia is a professor in the community of Tabocal dos Pereira, municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in the Brazilian Amazon.<br />As reported to Agenzia Fides, life in these communities has always been marked by collective experience, which is materialized in community work, called ayurí, days in which common activities, including meals, are the general feature.<br />Little by little this dynamic is being lost, to the point that the indigenous professor emphasizes to Fides "lately we see a growth of individualism, a decline in collective activities, lack of collaboration, everyone wants things only for himself" .<br />The phenomenon also has repercussions on religiosity and is an aspect that is being highlighted during the Synod of the Amazon, which is already taking place in the region.<br />Piratapuia emphasizes the importance of the family in religious experience, because "every family could take on the responsibility for bringing religion into the home, with their children". Moreover, the professor continues, "the school is a place where the idea of community must be spread from childhood, school is a strong point in communities, it is there that we relate more".<br />One of the most worrying realities is when young people leave the communities, because of the "lack of initiatives by public authorities", which translates into a lack of support for basic needs, such as health and education. In this perspective there appears a series of threats, such as "alcoholism, often present in traditional feasts, in which many young people are involved, for several days", Juvencio told Fides.<br />It is surprising to take into account the fact that in theory access to alcoholic beverages in the indigenous areas is prohibited. But the reality is very different, because young people "do not want to know anything about that law". The most worrying thing, according to the professor, is that "often public forces themselves favor the entry of alcoholic beverages". <br /><br />Thu, 02 Aug 2018 10:18:12 +0200