Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aASIA/PAKISTAN - Yet another Christian victim among sewer laborers – A Christian, Shehzad Mansha Masih was a resident in Korangi, Karachi. Like so many Pakistani Christians, he worked for the sewage line but was not provided any security measure for his safety as usual. During the cleaning of a well some toxic gas filled the line therefore Shehzad became unconscious after inhaling poisonous gas and died. Due to gas nobody could take Shehzad out of the sewage line and only after several minutes the boy was recovered and taken to the hospital, where he died.<br />Cleaners of public sewers such as Shehzad are often exposed to mephitic gases. Shehzad is not the first victim: such incidents continuously have been happening but relevant departments do not even bother to provide precautionary measures for saving the lives of workers, almost all Christians. In June 2017, thirty-year-old Christian Irfan Masih, also a public worker, inhaled toxic gases in the city of Umerkot in Sindh, and died in hospital because a Muslim doctor refused to treat him. In July 2017, other three Christian workers died in Lahore for breathing toxic fumes while they were cleaning up an obstructed sewer in a suburb of the city. They too had no adequate equipment and the operations did not meet any safety standards.<br />Workers are often ill-equipped and remain exposed to potentially lethal conditions. 90% of the workers involved in cleaning public places in Pakistan, including sewers, are Christians. These are jobs that Muslims refuse to do. It is a "double standard", says the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Pakistani Bishops and "a discriminatory treatment reserved for religious minorities".<br />"For non-Muslims, life in Pakistan is a further humiliation. They are not just second-class citizens for the simple fact that they are not Muslims - although the founder of the nation Ali Jinnah would never have shared this approach - but also because a large part of them belong to the lower castes, in a society where caste discrimination is still present", explains Yaqoob Khan Bangash, a Muslim professor at the University of Lahore, to Agenzia Fides.<br />The "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Conference of Major Superiors of Pakistan, in Multan, provides free legal assistance to hundreds of Christian workers involved in the cleaning service and contributed to founding associations to protect their rights. Waste management companies or cleaners of public places often hire them with daily wages, denying them the rights of a permanent contract. Wages are usually delayed. The law on social security would guarantee compensation for those who die "for service reasons", but this law is often not respected in cases of Christian victims.<br />The practice of reserving these jobs for non-Muslims is also promoted publicly in public employment announcements . Two NGOs, the "Human Rights Commission of Pakistan" and the "Child and Labor rights welfare organization" are carrying out a specific research on the discrimination of religious minorities in public workplaces in Pakistan . <br />Mon, 22 Jan 2018 13:32:08 +0100AFRICA/KENYA - The proto-Cathedral of Marsabit attacked - The proto-Cathedral of Our Lady of Consolata in Marsabit, a Catholic church in northern Kenya, on the border with Ethiopia, was sacked during violent demonstrations for the arrest of a Muslim preacher. The looting dates back to Saturday, January 13, when the special police team arrested Sheikh Guyo Gorsa, accusing him of having ties with the Somali Shabaabs.<br />The commotion attracted the attention of people nearby who came to learn of the arrest, at least 400 young people took to the streets of the city, trying to stop the police convoy where Sheikh was taken. This led to clashes with the police while the youth budged into the station and confronted the police demanding the release of their preacher.<br />The youth blocked roads and lit bonfires using tyres. From the Police station they turned their anger to a nearby Kenya Commercial Bank which is just a few meters from the Police station and vandalised the building. "When they were dispersed from there they went to the Catholic Church, forced their way in after beating up the watchman and completely destroying the gate. Once inside the compound they started breaking windows using stones. Fortunately, they did not gain entry into the Cathedral", said Fr. Ibrahim Racho, Vicar General of the diocese of Marsabit, also three cars belonging to the diocese parked inside the church complex were destroyed.<br />Fr. Racho reports that the police arrived in time and dispersed the rioters but unfortunately huge losses and serious damage to property, especially to shops, hotels and restaurants were not spared.<br />Three people were killed and several others were injured in the clashes. However, no one was injured in the proto-Cathedral complex except for the watchman who suffered minor injuries.<br />Fr. Racho explained that there was no religious tension between Christians and Muslims in Marsabit. "Before we were peacefully coexisting and this for me, I want to believe is not a religious animosity but just the anger of the Muslim youth over the Sheikh".<br />The judiciary has ruled that he will remain in custody for 30 days pending the completion of investigations. <br />Mon, 22 Jan 2018 12:58:37 +0100ASIA/ISRAEL - Catholic Bishops to Israeli authorities: expulsion exposes Eritrean and Sudanese refugees to dangers and wars - The Israeli authorities are imposing on Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to choose between prison or exodus in other Countries, and this political choice risks exposing "so many lives to danger and an uncertain future". This was stated by the Heads of Catholic Churches in the Holy Land, in a text published in recent days expressing perplexities regarding the recent provision put in place by the Israeli government.<br />On 1 January, the Israeli Population and immigration Authority published a policy announcement – highlight the Heads of Catholic Churches of the Holy Land - offering asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea a choice between one of two options: either departure or incarceration. To incentivize departures, those who leave Israel by the end of March 2018 will receive a sum of 3,500 Israeli shekels in addition to airfare. Those who remain in Israel beyond the 60 days will be incarcerated.<br />All refugees present in Israel and from Sudan and Eritrea - reads the provision of the Israeli authorities -, who come to renew their temporary residence permits, starting Feb 2nd 2018, will be informed that they have 60 days to leave Israel, either to their home country or to one of two African “third countries. The measure does not apply to women, children, parents of dependent children, and victims of slavery/forced labor/sex trade. "While recognizing the need to control the flow of asylum seekers in our Country, as elsewhere" the Catholic Bishops write, "we cannot remain indifferent to the plight of many refugees fleeing from dictatorship, war and other horrible conditions. "The well-being of Israeli society", the Bishops add "cannot be achieved at the expense of so many people rejected together and so many lives exposed to danger and a very uncertain future". In this regard, the Bishops also report a verse from Leviticus: "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God". "We hope" the Bishops conclude, "that the Administration take into consideration the anguish of asylum seekers present in Israel, and find more humane solutions to offer".<br />The document of the Heads of the Catholic Churches of the Holy Land is signed, among others, by Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and by Father Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land. <br /><br />Mon, 22 Jan 2018 12:33:14 +0100ASIA/BANGLADESH - Christians are discriminated against in society but play a valuable role - Christians in Bangladesh, a small minority in a country with a Muslim majority, often face discrimination: says to Agenzia Fides Catholic priest Fr. David Bipul Das, of the Church of Our Lady of Guidance in the diocese of Barisal. "Christians live among Muslim neighbors in many parts of the country. Prejudices towards Christians persist on the basis of socio-religious and economic lines", reports to Agenzia Fides Fr. David Bipul Das, who is a missionary of the Holy Cross .<br />Moreover, there are cases in which "Muslim extremists continue to harass Christians, with pretentious reasons, to foment a quarrel and to incite religious hatred in society", confirms Fr. Das to Fides. Another phenomenon to be highlighted is "land grabbing", which is the practice with which some Muslims steal the land of Christians with violence, through threats and intimidation. "This is a serious problem for Christians", he says.<br />Within the framework of these social challenges, the Church of Our Lady of Guidance "is committed to accompanying the lives of the faithful Catholics to maintain peace and harmony with Muslims in society", observes Fr. Das, who leads a parish with about 250 Catholic families, on a territory of about 10,000 inhabitants.<br />The Christian community in Bangladesh represents 0.2% in a country that has 162 million inhabitants. However, its positive impact goes beyond the numerical dimension. The Christian community, the priest points out, "is considered as a community that loves peace, and is bearer of a high sense of moral and spiritual values, very visible in the witness of life". The people of Bangladesh and its government appreciate this presence and have a generally positive attitude towards Christians.<br />The nation recognizes the contribution and sacrifices that Bangladeshi Christians have made especially during the period of the liberation struggle, in 1971 and, in the years following independence, for the reconstruction of the country. The contribution of the Catholic Church in the field of education, health, social development, charitable works, and the socio-economic growth of the population is still widely recognized and appreciated. The Christian community manages some of the country's best educational institutions that have generated highly competent and skilled citizens, many of whom now hold leadership roles in the country and in government offices. <br />The Catholic Church and other Christian communities point out and present some questions to the institutions: the need to grant visas to missionaries coming from abroad; the need to allow some exceptions to public regulations, for educational institutions run by Christians, as well as the provisions regulating donations from abroad; some cases of injustice and violence against religious minorities. <br /><br />Mon, 22 Jan 2018 12:11:04 +0100AMERICA/PERU - The Bishops’ spokesman: "Pope Francis enhanced local religious traditions" - An invitation to return to their cultural and family roots and to live faith with joy, as "grateful servants": this is, in short, the message that Pope Francis left to Peru. This is what Jesuit, Fr. Victor Hugo Mirando, spokesperson of the Episcopal Conference of Peru, says in an interview with Agenzia Fides. The intense apostolic visit ended with a mass with over a million faithful at an air base in Lima.<br />Tracing the three days of the apostolic visit, Fr. Miranda emphasizes to Fides the "very powerful message" constituted by the fact that "a leader like the Pope placed the tortured indigenous peoples in Puerto Maldonado among the important issues in the agenda of the country and the Church". The Church and the country, he adds, "if they want to be faithful to what the Holy Father said, they will have to change". To the nation, Francis said that it is not tolerable to continue exploiting them, and to the Church - always by their side, but only locally - asked for greater participation in their cause.<br />On the second day, in a Trujillo hit by the floods, Francis told them not to "lose hope, while he criticized the authorities' lack of attention towards the people's problems", said the spokesman. On Friday he had warned against corruption. To the clergy and to the religious world "he offered motivating words, as when he recommended to accompany the people closely, who know how to distinguish between officials and true pastors".<br />Finally, on Sunday, in Lima, in the shrine of the Lord of Miracles, Francis thanked the contemplative religious women for their lives, inviting them to pray for "the unity of the Peruvian Church". A request that Don Miranda interprets "in the light of the political division that also involves the Church". "The Pope - points out the Bishops’ spokesman - invites not to feel superior to others".<br />Popular religiosity was the object of attention in the Marian act carried out in De Armas Square. There the Pope blessed the sacred images with which the Mother of God of the north of the country is venerated, "affirming that God and Mary who - recalls Don Miranda - speak the dialect of the people and always look for ways to be close to each village, to each family". "This theme is present in Bergoglio’s formation", explains Fr. Miranda, who is also a Jesuit, "through the theology of the people". In Peru, sacred images are very important: "They are the object of patron celebrations where the priest appears only in the mass". <br />Through them, "the people feel that God walks by their side. The pontiff, then, gave recognition and enhanced these traditions", underlines Don Victor Hugo. To the religious and also to the children of "The Little Prince" orphanage, Francis recommended to go back to the roots from which everyone was born, to the young "he advised to trust God, because He has faith in you", he concludes. <br />Mon, 22 Jan 2018 11:40:23 +0100AMERICA/PERU - The Pope's embrace to the flood victims of the Niño Costero - "You had to face the brunt of ‘El Niño costero,’ whose painful consequences are still present in so many families, especially those who are not yet able to rebuild their homes. This is also why I wanted to be here and to pray with you". This is what Pope Francis said at the beach Mass celebrated on Saturday near the coastal city of Trujillo in northern Peru. He referred to the area which was badly hit by “El Niño costero”, a cyclical weather event in the Pacific Ocean that caused tremendous flooding and damage in December 2016 and May 2017, causing at least 141 deaths and material damage to over 600 thousand people. To overcome these and other harsh circumstances of life, the Holy Father suggested: "no better way exists than that of the Gospel: It is called Jesus Christ. Fill your lives always with the Gospel. I want to encourage you to be a community that lets itself be anointed by the Lord with the oil of the Spirit. He transforms, renews and strengthens everything". After the Mass, the Pope visited "Buenos Aires" neighborhood, one of the worst affected, where the local Caritas delivered 182 temporary prefabricated houses. This was possible thanks to the donations of "people of good will" and to the "hidden work" of the volunteers of the diocesan Caritas, as pointed out by Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos. The assistant director of Caritas Trujillo, Myrena Silva, told Agenzia Fides that as many as seven valleys in the area suffered violent muddy water on May 14th. On the coast of the Buenos Aires area, on the outskirts of the capital, a previous tsunami derived from the earthquake in Japan had erased the beach for good, and the banks built later to hold the sea actually caused the formation of a lake on the opposite side with the muddy liquid collapsed from the mountains, greatly aggravating the situation. "Many families have lost everything", says Silva. "The water dragged the furniture, clothes ... out of their house ... everything!" People quickly went out of their way to bring assistance: food and shelter to the victims, but this could not last forever, and so the Church, long before the State, intervened, especially in the most remote areas, "where no one had arrived". After "embracing" the flood victims, in Trujillo, the Holy Father visited the cathedral, he met priests, religious men and women and seminarians from the north of the Country and prayed to the beloved Madonna della Porta in de Armas square in the city centre. <br />Sat, 20 Jan 2018 09:31:22 +0100AMERICA/PERU - With Pope Francis' visit, the preparation of the Synod for the Amazon begins Maldonado - Pope Francis has made history: "The Pope had had close encounters with indigenous cultural identities, especially in his meetings with popular movements and in some of his travels", says to Agenzia Fides Mauricio López, Executive Secretary of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network . "But the meeting with about 3,000 leaders - men and women - of the Amazon peoples, which took place in Puerto Maldonado, has a capital magnitude". The Pope confirmed the full citizenship of the Amazonian indigenous peoples in the Church, sealing the alliance for the protection of their cultures, natural resources and their survival. "The recognition of these peoples - which can never be considered a minority, but authentic interlocutors", said Francis, "reminds us that we are not the absolute masters of creation. It is urgent to accept the essential contribution they offer to the whole society" because "their vision of the cosmos and their wisdom have much to teach us. All the efforts we make to improve their lives will always be few".<br />Lopez tells Fides: "Already as editor of the final document of the great assembly of the Latin American Bishops of Aparecida - where the theme of the Amazon appears with depth and clarity - Bergoglio had shown attention and closeness to these issues".<br />Since the signs in the indigenous cultures are very important, the distribution of space in the Puerto Maldonado sports hall showed plastically the value assigned by the Church to this instance, which on the other hand the Pope himself emphasized . "The Holy Father, as a representative of the Church - explains Lopez - was accompanied and surrounded by the wise elders of these peoples, members of the different Amazonian indigenous peoples and representatives of the Church and the government".<br />In Puerto Maldonado, the Church "made a meeting between the different spiritualities and identities of the Amazonian nationalities with the Christian faith possible", illustrates the ecclesial lay leader, who considers the message of "an extraordinary force". Francis again denounced "a model of economic development that produces death and 'rejected'", and addressed an "appeal for the recognition and affirmation of the original cultures" that constitute "a model of integral human development". For the Church, this commitment is not new, but it is sustained over time, often in solitude, against everyone and with numerous martyrs, since the arrival of the first missionaries.<br />In the evening, as announced publicly by the Pope, the first step was taken in the preparation of the special synod for the Amazon: a pre-synodal council of one and a half days, for which Cardinal Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, a member of the Vatican delegation, summoned the Bishops of the Amazon , representatives of Celam ), of the Latin American Conference of Religious and Caritas, to gather opinions in view of the Synod, which will take place in October 2019. <br />Sat, 20 Jan 2018 13:47:40 +0100AMERICA/PERU - "We hope that at least the Holy Father’s voice will be heard" hoping for repercussions in the political sphere after the Pope's visit to Peru - "The presence and the voice of the Pope are a consolation for all of us, and we fully agree when he says that the cry of the poor is the cry of Pachamama, Mother Earth. We Andeans think that the earth is a living being, that takes care of us and welcomes us until death. Since indigenous peoples are not listened to, NGOs and all those institutions that, despite many limitations, try to give voice to these peoples, we hope that at least the Holy Father’s voice will be heard", commented to Agenzia Fides Sister Patricia Ryan, of the association Human Rights and Environment , a non-governmental organism. This group - they themselves explain - finds inspiration in the word of God and is committed to the defense of human life and dignity, including the defense and rights of indigenous peoples and mother earth.<br /><br />"Informal mining activity, but also legal or formal, does not only cause environmental contamination, but contaminates the whole human being, contaminates people's intelligence, and is a real maltreatment", as happens in some of these areas where people's human rights are constantly violated. "Being a 12-year-old girl and being beautiful in these contexts - Sr. Patricia explains with pain - often means being kidnapped and to live as a slave. We are trying to bring our help, with the means we have, and the voice of the Holy Father is certainly an enormous help for this cry of our land, our peoples, because it will have repercussions in the political sphere". According to the religious, it is a priority to make the harsh reality that the Quechua and Aymara peoples of these regions are forced to live in known at an international level.<br /><br />"All of us belonging to the networks that are dedicated to these issues related to mining and rural communities have appealed to the Pope as the highest authority of the Church, we have brought our voice, our experience in the struggle for rights in this part of America, to update him of what happens in these places, for which we have great expectations compared to what will happen after the visit, and changes that can occur even at a political level", adds Sister Patricia, showing hope for the Pope's visit and his interest in these lands. "Even if he did not come to Puno - says Sister Patricia explaining that many of the inhabitants of the area, who are peasants and miners of very small and distant villages – the Pope has touched and is in our hearts because we are very thankful for his words and for Laudato Sì and all that he is doing in favor of the indigenous peoples and the mother earth". <br />Sat, 20 Jan 2018 13:31:35 +0100AMERICA/PERU - The Pope in Lima: corruption is the "social scourge" that devastates the Latin American continent - Corruption is the "social virus" that infects Latin American peoples and democracies. It spreads as "a form of environmental degradation that increasingly contaminates the whole system of life". And all "what can be done to fight against this social scourge deserves the maximum consideration and support", said the Pope on Friday 19 January in Lima, speaking outside Lima's Palacio del Gobierno to Kuczynski and hundreds of Peruvian legislators, judges and other public officials.<br />In his speech, the Bishop of Rome wanted to point out corruption as a social pathology that contaminates and weakens civil coexistence in Latin America. Referring to the specific Peruvian situation, the Pope drew the attention above all to the dilapidation of the earth "from natural resources, without which no form of life is possible", calling into question "a model of development now outdated but which continues to produce human, social and environmental degradation. "The devastation of the environment - remarked the Pope - unfortunately, is closely linked to the moral degradation of our communities. We cannot think of them as two separate issues". <br />As an example of the aggressions to the natural environment that are transformed into factors of human and social degradation, the Pope indicated the phenomenon of "irregular mining extractions" that "have become a danger that destroys people's lives; forests and rivers are devastated with all their wealth. This whole process of degradation implies and fuels organizations outside the legal structures that degrade so many of our brothers by subjecting them to trafficking - a new form of slavery - to irregular labor, to delinquency".<br /><br />To curb and combat these devastating processes - the Pope suggested in his speech - it is worthwhile "and this requires listening, recognizing and respecting local people and peoples as valid interlocutors" seen that they "preserve a direct link to the land, they know its times and ways, and so they know the catastrophic effects produced, in the name of development, by many projects".<br />Among the resources and reasons for hope for the future of Peru, the Pope also referred to the treasures of Christian holiness that enriched the historical story of the Peruvian people: "a historical fact" said the Successor of Peter "also makes me happy: to know that hope in this land has a face of holiness. Peru has generated saints who have opened paths of faith for the entire American continent; to name only one, Martino de Porres, who, son of two cultures, showed the strength and richness that is born in people when they put love at the center of their life". <br />Sat, 20 Jan 2018 13:16:20 +0100AMERICA/PERU - The Pope in Peruvian Amazon: perverse policies that defend nature forgetting man Maldonado - The indigenous Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present". The Amazon is a territory that is being disputed on many fronts. On the one hand, "pressure being exerted by great business interests seeking petroleum, gas, lumber, and gold and on the other, the threat against the territories also comes from the perversion of several policies that promote conservation without considering humans". This is what Pope Francis said to about 4 thousand representatives of the Amazonian peoples gathered in the Madre de Dios Coliseum, in Puerto Maldonado, the second stage of his apostolic visit to Peruvian land. The Pope highlighted the "movements that, in the name of forest conservation, take possession of large extensions of forests and negotiate on them generating situations of oppression for the indigenous peoples, for whom, in this way, the territory and the natural resources found there become inaccessible. These problems", added Pope Bergoglio, "strangle her peoples and provoke the migration of the young due to the lack of local alternatives. We have to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants".<br />The Bishop of Rome wanted to document that the defense of nature and earth "has no other purpose than the defense of life", and that this "primordial option for life" manifests itself in the preferential concern for the weaker sector of society, which in the Amazonian context - the Pope clarified - are the so-called indigenous Peoples of voluntary isolation : those who have withdrawn into the most inaccessible hideouts of the Amazon forest, in order to live in freedom. And now they must be defended as "the most vulnerable brothers". Their presence - Pope Francis insisted "reminds us that we cannot use goods meant for all as consumerist greed dictates". We need to recognize and welcome the essential contribution they offer to the whole of society, without "making their cultures an idealization of a natural state, or even a sort of museum of a past lifestyle".<br /><br />The indigenous peoples threatened by "cultural colonialism"<br />Among the attacks and violence suffered by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, Pope Francis recalled the suffering caused by "leaks of hydrocarbons that seriously threaten the life of your families and pollute your natural environment", and the trafficking of persons connected with the phenomenon of illegal mining, with enslaved labor and sexual abuse of women and adolescents. The Pope also called into question "new ideological colonialisms" that risk annihilating the traditions of the indigenous peoples, with an explicit reference to campaigns of demographic control through sterilizing methods that international organizations try to impose in the Amazon as well. "In times of crisis, in the face of different imperialisms", Pope Francis said, "the family of indigenous peoples was the best defense of life. We are asked to take special care not to allow ourselves to be captured by ideological colonialisms disguised as progress, which gradually enter and dilapidate cultural identities and establish a uniform, unique and weak thought".<br /><br />A Church with an indigenous face<br />The emergencies and threats that weigh on the life of the Amazonian populations - said Pope Francis - should push political authorities to "give life to institutional spaces of respect, recognition and dialogue with the indigenous peoples; assuming and redeeming culture, language, traditions, rights and spirituality that are theirs". The Bishop of Rome recalled the "initiatives of hope" of those who propose "that the indigenous peoples themselves and the communities are the guardians of the forests, and that the resources produced by their conservation return to the benefit of your families, to improve your conditions of life, health and the education of your communities". <br />In particular, school and the education of the indigenous peoples - the Pope said - should represent a field of priority commitment for political authorities, aimed at respecting and integrating their "ancestral wisdom" as an asset of the whole nation. And the Church too - suggested the Successor of Peter, offering a hint of the spirit that will animate the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon he convened for 2019 - is called to confirm and renew the preference for the indigenous peoples that marked his journey in Latin America, since the time of Franciscan Saint Toribio de Benavente Motolinia, quoted by Pope Francis: "How many missionaries" the Pope recalled "have engaged with your peoples and have defended your cultures! They did it inspired by the Gospel. Christ too incarnated himself in a culture, the Jewish one, and starting from that, he gave himself to us as a novelty for all peoples so that each one, starting from his own identity, feels self-affirmed in Him". It is necessary - added the Bishop of Rome "that the indigenous peoples culturally form the local Amazonian Churches. Help your Bishops and missionaries so they join you, and in this way, through dialogue with everyone, can shape a Church with an Amazonian face, a Church with an indigenous face". <br /><br /><br />Sat, 20 Jan 2018 12:47:19 +0100AMERICA/PERU - From the Peruvian martyrs new impulse to mission – On 9 August 1991 Fr. Michal Tomaszek and Fr. Zbigniew Strzalkowski, two young Polish conventual friars from Krakow, who had lived in the Peruvian Andes for a couple of years, bringing the Gospel to the people of Pariacoto, were kidnapped by a commando of about twenty guerrillas of the revolutionary Maoist "Sendero Luminoso" organization. They broke into the village and into their small convent, took them away and soon after were killed in the countryside not far away, in the place they had called "San Damiano" and where they retired in prayer. The guerrillas motivated the killing of the two friars with these words: "they deceive the people because they distribute food of Caritas, which is imperialism; with the recitation of the rosary, the worship of Saints, Mass and the reading of the Bible they preach peace and they therefore make people fall asleep".<br />A few days later, not too far from this place, in the same diocese of Chimbote, another missionary, Italian priest Don Alessandro Dordi, 60, in Peru for 11 years, who belonged to the Paradise Missionary Community, suffered the same fate, and fell victim of an ambush of Sendero Luminoso. After celebrating Mass in Vinzos, a village in the Valley of Santa River, his car was stopped by hooded men, the two catechists who accompanied him were sent away and Don Alessandro was killed. It was August 25, 1991.<br />The blood of two young Polish Franciscans, together with that of an Italian diocesan priest who came from other lands to proclaim Christ, is added to the tens of thousands of innocent victims of the internal conflict that since 1981 opposed the formations of Sendero Luminous of Maoist inspiration, to military operations of the army.<br />The three missionaries, united by martyrdom, considered the protomartyrs of Peru, were also united in the recognition of the Church, and were beatified on 5 December 2015 in Chimbote, in front of a crowd of thirty thousand faithful. In his message for the occasion, the Bishop of Chimbote, His Exc. Mgr. Angelo Francisco Simon Piorno, explained the expression chosen for the logo of the beatification: "Martyrs of faith and of charity, witnesses of hope". "Martyrs of faith, because this was what gave them the strength to face the imminent death and martyrs of charity, because their whole life was dedicated to rural communities, with people living in poverty and marginalization. For these reasons, they become not only for our diocese, but for the whole Church of Peru, witnesses of hope".<br />In his visit to Peru, Pope Francis will not be able to go to the place of martyrdom, however he knows the story well, and on 3 February 2015 he approved their martyrdom "in hatred of the faith". During World Youth Day celebrated in Krakow in July 2016, the Pope made a brief visit to the church of Saint Francis, where the relics of the two Franciscan martyrs are venerated, pronouncing in this place a prayer for peace: "made strong by the example of the blessed martyrs of Peru, Zbigniew and Michele, who you made valiant witnesses of the Gospel, to the point that they offered their blood, we ask for the gift of peace and to eliminate the scourge of terrorism".<br />"The two Franciscan missionaries can rightly be considered as models to be proposed to young people on their way towards the October Synod, dedicated to young people, to faith and to vocational discernment", says to Agenzia Fides Alberto Friso, a journalist who deepened the life, formation, vocational choice and violent death of the two Polish religious. "We are talking about two young people, just over thirty years of age, recently ordained priests, who founded the presence of Conventual Friars in Peru. Their radical choice, the desire to follow Christ, the meaning of a life spent for others can say a lot to young people today".<br />Friso captures another aspect of harmony with the teaching of Pope Francis with regards to the theme of the suburbs and poverty: "the Peruvian Andes were undoubtedly the periphery of the periphery of the world, and these missionaries chose to live poor among the poor, but always strong in faith and full of love". They dedicated themselves to the difficult task of taking care, from all points of view, of the population of different villages. Everywhere they left the memory of their humility, poverty, affability, ability to work for the common good, for community life, for peace and for the promotion of man, for the authentic hope that comes from the Gospel.<br />Even Don Alessandro, who with the help of the Spanish Caritas, opened a center for the promotion of women, organized an association for mothers, providing them with tools for small manual cutting and sewing jobs, but also emergency care, hygiene and health courses. From the careful analysis of the documentation that led to their beatification, it clearly emerged that they were killed because the Sendero Luminoso guerrillas considered pastoral work and faith an obstacle to their propaganda. Don Alessandro had repeatedly received death threats, but he did not abandon his mission. "A land that has been watered with the blood of martyrs, is called to generate new Christians under the example of the Gospel" said the Bishop of Chimbote, and that land continues to give the world new missionaries who continue the work of evangelization and for the promotion of man, today confirmed by the Successor of Peter. <br />Sat, 20 Jan 2018 09:34:25 +0100AFRICA/CAMEROON - A living Church that strives to be an element of national union - "The percentage of Catholics in the south of Cameroon is very high. There is a large number of well-organized parishes with good facilities. I saw brand new churches and others under construction. The south has a number of priests superior to its needs while in the north these are scarce", says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Fernando Domingues, a Comboni missionary, Secretary General of the Pontifical Society of Saint Peter the Apostle, who has just returned from a series of meetings with the local Church in Cameroon.<br />Father Domingues gave Fides the following interview.<br /><br />How can one manage such a high number of vocations concentrated in just one part of the country?<br /><br />I suggested they establish internal Fidei Donum, so that the dioceses with an abundance of priests can help those in the north.<br />In fact, in some dioceses of the south the parishes are full of priests, and a Vicar General told me he struggles to find a place for new priests, also because a parish can economically support one priest but struggles to support two or three.<br />The Church in Cameroon can also take the example of Baba Simon, alias Simon Mpeke , a priest from the south of Cameroon who at the end of the 50s of last century had asked to be sent to an area of evangelization in the north of Cameroon, in the diocese of Maroua-Mokolo. Baba Simon gave a magnificent testimony of both the missionary commitment of first evangelization and of life next to the local population; he went barefoot, having chosen to dress like the poor people who he evangelized. The diocese of Maroua-Mokolo has begun the process of beatification and the Bishops of Cameroon propose him as a model of diocesan priest full of missionary spirit lived in an almost heroic way.<br />The second indication that I offered to the Church of Cameroon is that given the abundance of seminarians, the Bishops together with the formators have the possibility to choose the best candidates for the priesthood, since the latter is not a right of the person but a service to the Church. The problem is to find the modalities for a process of personal accompaniment of each individual seminarian, so that there may be a discernment that helps candidates to understand if the Lord actually calls them to the priesthood or to another vocation.<br /><br /><br />In this situation are missionary congregations still present in Cameroon?<br /><br />Yes, but in the south they are specialized presences, above all they are spiritual directors or teachers in the seminaries, while there are very few parishes managed by the missionaries, given the abundance of local clergy. In the north, however, given the scarcity of local priests, there are still spaces for missionary activities of first evangelization and assistance to parishes.<br />As for the missionary activities of the Cameroonian priests, there is no organized movement of Fidei Donum to be sent abroad, but there are many initiatives on an individual basis to send local priests to other Countries outside Cameroon. There is still a strong presence of missionary congregations that have several local candidates that constitute a missionary force that operates both in Cameroon and in other Countries. It is a very important reality so much so that in Cameroon an African symposium on religious life was held in these days, with the participation of Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, followed by the Assembly of Men and Women Major Superiors <br /><br />The English-speaking regions of the Country have been in turmoil for some time and have even declared a symbolic independence. How does the Church live this situation?<br /><br />For historical reasons the vast majority of the Church is French-speaking. However, there are two areas in the north-west and south-west that are English-speaking and that from a social point of view have long felt the need for autonomy. At an Episcopal Conference level there is an effort to build ecclesial communion between the two linguistic components. For example, in the last Annual Seminar of the Bishops of Cameroon in which I participated, the commitment to ensure that everyone could understand everything was very clear, with the various documents written in French and English. Where it was necessary there was direct simultaneous translation. The Church strives to be an element of national union. Our National Director, who is a native English speaker, told me that when he is in the presence of French-speakers he always tries to speak French, and French speakers try to speak English with him. <br />Sat, 20 Jan 2018 12:54:09 +0100ASIA/INDONESIA - Catholics promote peace and non-violence against the exploitation of faith, - The Catholic community has an important role to play in Indonesia for the promotion of peace and harmony and to fight against any political manipulation of religion: says to Agenzia Fides Nat Widiasari, a communication professor at "Atma Jaya" Catholic University in Jakarta.<br />"In some parts of the country, there is religious harmony. In other parts, religious tensions between different communities are a latent condition, due to the presence of fundamentalist Muslim leaders, who wish to polarize society on a religious basis, for political reasons or for other interests", notes the professor, indicating the risk of exploitation of faith. <br />"The government, in collaboration with civil society groups, tries to defuse these unhealthy trends and emphasizes religious harmony as a prerequisite for working together for good and common development", explains Widiasari.<br />In Indonesia, the ethnic tradition is strongly present and "the rules of tradition are more important than religious rules", notes the professor. In a country with a Muslim majority, the Catholic community, he continues, "is an important part of religious minorities, and it contrinutes to guiding the baptized on issues concerning relations between communities, suggesting ways of commitment to peace, social justice, interreligious dialogue: its contribution is precious in the country, at an individual and collective level".<br />Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world: out of 243 million people , Christians represent about 10% of the population . <br />Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:58:38 +0100AMERICA/BRAZIL - A hundred Brazilian indigenous, with their Bishops, present in Puerto Maldonado Velho - Pope Francis’ visit to Puerto Maldonado, beyond national borders, is considered by the indigenous peoples and the Church of the region as "the presence of the Pope in the Amazon". In this sense, the arrival of indigenous peoples from various countries is expected, including a caravan of a hundred indigenous Brazilians, who according to Rose Padilha, coordinator of the Indigenous Missionary Council in Western Amazon, have been preparing themselves for a month.<br />The native Brazilian peoples will be accompanied by some Bishops, including Mgr. Roque Paloschi, Archbishop of Porto Velho, capital of the Amazonian state of Rondonia, and President of the Indigenous Missionary Council . The Brazilian prelate told Fides that "the Successor of Peter is coming only to meet the brothers and sisters of this region, and above all, because he wants to listen to the indigenous peoples", noting that the presence of Pope Francis can "help our particular Churches to enlarge our hearts towards this presence together with the first inhabitants of the Amerindian lands".<br />Also Mgr. Joaquín Pertiñez, Bishop of Rio Branco, told Fides: "we are very happy to welcome the Pope in our Amazonian reality and to listen to his great concern for our peoples, for our earth, for the Amazon, already expressed in the encyclical Laudato Sì, in the convocation of a Synod for the Amazon and in the choice of Puerto Maldonado as the center of the Amazon region for this meeting with the indigenous peoples of our region".<br />Together with the meeting of Puerto Maldonado, the President of CIMI emphasizes the importance of the Synod, which "will be a very special moment, as the Pope said, to find new ways of evangelization in this region, to have a qualified presence among the Amazonian peoples, so that the Church may increasingly be a Church that goes forth, a Samaritan Church, a welcoming and serving Church, a Church capable of respecting the seeds of the Word present in the cultures of this region".<br />Finally, the Archbishop of Porto Velho entrusts this moment and the future works of the Church of the Amazon to "Mary, the Mother of Jesus, venerated with so many titles in this great and enchanting Amazon region, to help us row in the rivers and streams in the hope of always being faithful to the One who is the Way, Truth and Life". <br />Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:50:23 +0100AFRICA/MALAWI - A priest died due to his injuries in an assault by street bandits - Father Tony Mukomba of the Archdiocese of Blantyre met his fate on Wednesday night ,17 January, and died at the private hospital in Mwaiwathu after being attacked by unknown bandits.<br />Last week, Fr. Mukomba’s car was blocked by some armed men in Nguludi on his way to Blantyre. The priest was blindfolded and dragged away by the bandits who beat him savagely to extort money from him.<br />The funeral of Fr. Mukomba will be held tomorrow, Saturday 20 January, in the cathedral of Limbe. The funeral ceremony will be presided by His Exc. Mgr. Thomas Luke Msusa, Archbishop of Blantyre. <br />Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:20:42 +0100ASIA/PAKISTAN - Death of Razia Joseph, Catholic human rights activist - The funeral of Razia Joseph, a Catholic woman and human rights activist, who died on January 17 in Faisalabad, will be held at 3 pm local time. The woman was founder and director of the "Woman shelter organization", a shelter for abandoned women, victims of mistreatment and abuse, forced to marriage or scarred with acid. "Her example is precious: she did a lot to protect Pakistani women who are victims of physical and moral violence: and we need this commitment in Pakistan, we thank God for giving her to us", said to Agenzia Fides Fr. Emmanuel Parvez, Catholic priest of Faisalabad, who collaborated with the woman.<br />As Fides learns, starting from 1997, in the structure created by Razia Joseph hundreds of women, Christians, Muslims and Hindus, who escaped violence were welcomed and where they received material, psychological, spiritual and legal support.<br />Razia Joseph, 60 years of which over 38 spent taking care of the poorest, especially women and children. She denounced crimes against the defenseless and worked to overcome discrimination. Despite numerous threats received over the years and her poor health, she never stepped back.<br />In December 2017, she had managed to plead her case in Brussels against a hundred European parliamentarians. Political commitment was not foreign to her, so much so that she had been elected in the Pakistani Parliament, where she had just stayed for a year, 2011, because - he explained - "there were no conditions to change things. I fought for women's rights, but without success". She then began developing new projects with her organization, where there is a team of educators, trainers and volunteers who will now continue her deserving work.<br />The "Woman shelter organization" founded by Razia Joseph ranges a lot as far as social interventions are concerned. For the children the association founded a small primary school that welcomes the poorest pupils in the area. The courses of schooling for working children are also significant, in particular the so-called "brick makers", producers of clay bricks. The initiative involved a thousand in four years.<br />For women, the most recent news are training programs for midwives, who since 2000 have provided basic obstetrics skills to about 500 young women. The projects in favor of the education of women also concern other professional sectors: embroidery and sewing courses... , and computer science. Approximately 4,500 women have benefited from it.<br />There are many who admired and supported her pastoral and social commitment in Pakistan but also in European countries. <br />Fri, 19 Jan 2018 12:23:06 +0100AMERICA/VENEZUELA - The Bishops on the murder of Oscar Pérez: "horrible massacre with extrajudicial executions" - The Episcopal Conference of Venezuela defined the police operation, on Monday 15 January, as a "massacre", during which 9 people were killed, including former police officer Oscar Pérez, who had rebelled against the government of Nicolás Maduro. CEV sent to Fides a public declaration in which it "denounces the horrible massacre with extrajudicial executions and the death of civilians in actions perpetrated by military forces".<br />"This act puts us in front of the degradation and lack of respect for dignity and human rights that concern any person", says the document of CEV, in which the authorities are asked to look into this operation. The Venezuelan Bishops dispute "the lack of a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the face of a request for surrender, the absence of prosecutors in the proceedings and the use of armed civilian groups" in the operation, defended by the executive.<br />The Bishops ask the Prosecutor "to ensure the delivery of the bodies to the relatives", which has not yet happened after 72 hours from the police operation, "thus avoiding the cremation, without their authorization, in order to determine the cause of death".<br />Oscar Pérez had rebelled against Maduro last June, when he flew over Caracas with a scientific police helicopter and fired on two public buildings without causing injuries or deaths. At that moment, young university students demonstrated on the streets of Caracas and there were many dead and wounded . Since then, in a clandestine manner, Pérez recorded several videos calling for a popular uprising against the government of Maduro. Last month he forcibly entered, together with his men, in a military base where he stole weapons and criticized the soldiers for their loyalty towards Maduro. Before being killed, the former 36-year-old agent broadcast several videos on social networks in order to save the lives of "innocent civilians".<br />Although last night the Supreme Court of Justice appointed by the National Assembly condemned the actions of the police and the military, the news of the execution of Perez has generated confusion in Venezuelan society and a strange sense of remorse. Amnesty International has also condemned the fact and, together with other bodies for the defense of human rights, have asked the government of Maduro for clarification.<br />If the government of Maduro thought it would send a powerful message to the country on the risks that the possible followers of Pérez are running, the videos that continue to be seen on social networks concerning Pérez's request for surrender are provoking a completely opposite reaction. <br />Fri, 19 Jan 2018 11:31:20 +0100NEWS ANALYSIS/OMNIS TERRA - Cardinal Hummes: "A model of development for the Amazon starting from the Gospel""The model of development that is being applied in the Amazon by governments, large public companies and private initiatives is damaging and devastating for the environment and for the indigenous peoples. The Church can and must participate in the debate on these issues, starting from the Gospel": this is what Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes - President of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network of the Latin American Church and of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference Commission for the Amazon - explains in an interview to Agenzia Fides how the local Churches are preparing themselves for the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops concerning them, while they face difficult missionary and social challenges every day.<br /><br />How is the Church in Brazil and throughout Latin America preparing herself for the Special Synod for the Amazon?<br /><br />Pope Francis’ decision to convene a special synod for the Amazon and his proclamation on October 15th in St. Peter's Square are a reason for much exultation and signs of gratitude on behalf of the Catholics in Brazil, especially those of the Amazon. This lively response on our behalf is the first step in the preparation of the synod. Then, the Brazilian Episcopal Conference has an Episcopal commission for the Amazon and Celam hosts the headquarters of the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network . Clearly these bodies, together with the dioceses and the other ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Amazon, are more directly entrusted with contributing to the preparation of the synod. There is already a great movement, in terms of meetings in the region. <br />Certainly, the Pope's visit to the Peruvian Amazon, in Puerto Maldonado, on 19 January, and his meeting there with hundreds of indigenous and with the Bishops representing the 9 countries of Pan-Amazon will be a strong initial impulse for this preparation. <br /><br/><strong>Link correlati</strong> :<a href="">Read the full interview in Omnis Terra</a>Fri, 19 Jan 2018 11:10:00 +0100AMERICA/CHILE - The Pope in Iquique: there is no Christian joy when when doors are closed to others - Openness towards immigrants and foreigners is a sign that Christ is working in our hearts, bringing to fulfillment his "miracle". On the contrary, "we know there is no Christian joy when doors are closed; there is no Christian joy when others are made to feel unwanted, when there is no room for them in our midst". This is what Pope Francis said in the homily of Mass on a beach in this city in Chile’s far north. Inspired by the Gospel episode of the Wedding of Cana, read during Mass, the Pope highlighted the prompt solicitude Mary shows in taking on the difficulties of the spouses.<br />That solicitude - the Pope wanted to suggest - is familiar to the peoples of northern Chile, which thanks to popular devotion almost conforms to the feelings and actions of the Mother of God: "You" said the Pope addressed to the faithful present " know how to celebrate by singing and dancing God’s "fatherhood, providence, constant and loving presence; this engenders interior attitudes rarely observed to the same degree elsewhere: patience, the sign of the cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others, devotion". The Virgin Mary - said the Pope "passes through our towns, our streets, our squares, our homes and our hospitals. Mary is the Virgin of la Tirana; the Virgin Ayquina in Calama; the Virgin of the Rocks in Arica. She notices all those problems that burden our hearts, then whispers into Jesus’ ear and says: Look, 'they have no wine' ".<br /><br />Iquique is a region of immigrants, accustomed to welcoming flows of migrants in search of a better life. The families who arrive there – especially those who had to leave their land for lack of life’s bare necessities – are an image of the "Holy Family", which had to cross deserts to keep on living". The Pope expressed the hope that the local populations will guard the attitude to hospitality that characterizes them, continuing to conform to the industrious solicitude of the Virgin Mary towards those who find themselves in need, and also continuing to "take advantage" of wisdom and of good things that migrants carry with them: "Like Mary at Cana", the Pope said, "let us not be afraid to raise our voices and say: 'They have no wine'. The cry of the people of God, the cry of the poor, is a kind of prayer; it opens our hearts and teaches us to be attentive. Let us be attentive, then, to all situations of injustice and to new forms of exploitation that risk making so many of our brothers and sisters miss the joy of the party. .<br />Let us be attentive to those who profit from the irregular status of many migrants who don’t know the language or who don’t have their papers "in order". Let us be attentive to the lack of shelter, land and employment experienced by so many families. And, like Mary, let us say: They have no wine, Lord".<br />The reception of foreigners, migrants and solicitude towards those in need, in the perspective of works of mercy, was outlined by the Pope not as a voluntary effort, but as the sign and effect of the change made in us by Christ: "Let us allow" the Pope said in conclusion of his homily "Jesus to complete the miracle by turning our communities and our hearts into living signs of his presence, which is joyful and festive because we have experienced that God is with us, because we have learned to make room for him within our hearts. A contagious joy and festivity that lead us to exclude no one from the proclamation of this Good News". <br />Thu, 18 Jan 2018 10:55:40 +0100AMERICA/CHILE - "The Pope supports the mission of the Catholic University for quality education" - "We will begin a sort of long exegesis, in various instances, of what the Holy Father told us" says to Agenzia Fides Professor Patricio Bernedo, Dean of History, Geography and Political Sciences of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile after Pope Francis' speech at the university headquarters. The Dean says he was surprised by the "long and straight forward message" that the Holy Father addressed to the world of culture and education. "I was especially touched by his recommendation for a search for knowledge that coherently combines reason, love and action , a very profound concept and a challenge". PUCC "was born with the need to strengthen the Catholic identity in the context of a State that approved liberal laws with which it claimed to marginalize Catholicism from the field of education", explains Bernedo. And he explains the reason for the Pope's gratitude to Rector Ignacio Sánchez for his "defense of the Catholic identity" of the institution: "During these 130 years, PUCC has always been confronted with this mission, which is present today in our classrooms. In society and in its relations with the State, PUCC promotes quality education for everyone, as asked by the students in the squares in 2006, in 2011 and which today we are discussing: free education and quality . And it is active in the public debate that studies how to achieve this goal. The Ministry of Education "listens but in the end boycotts private education", he complains. At present, he says, state schools are considerably below the educational level of private schools. "PUCC senses the students with the best scores, who are also those of the wealthiest families in the country", acknowledges the Dean, "but for some years has activated a system of scholarships for those who are less well-off with high performance". <br />Through programs of university pastoral care, praised yesterday by the Pope, the Catholic University contributes "to raising the educational level of the neediest a little, helps to building more worthy homes, to take care of their health to cite some examples". "It is an aspect that clearly emerges in the work of PUCC professors, students and officials", he concludes. <br />Thu, 18 Jan 2018 13:42:44 +0100