Fides News Englishhttp://fides.org/Fides Agency Newsen-usASIA/SYRIA - Anguish for Christians held hostage by jihadists; Syrian Catholic Archbishop Hindo: avoid unnecessary alarmhttp://fides.org/en/news/37366-ASIA_SYRIA_Anguish_for_Christians_held_hostage_by_jihadists_Syrian_Catholic_Archbishop_Hindo_avoid_unnecessary_alarmhttp://fides.org/en/news/37366-ASIA_SYRIA_Anguish_for_Christians_held_hostage_by_jihadists_Syrian_Catholic_Archbishop_Hindo_avoid_unnecessary_alarmHassaké - The number of Assyrian and Chaldean Christians of the villages on the river Khabur taken hostage and deported by the jihadists in their strongholds increases to more than three hundred. "If the first reports spoke of 90 seized - refers to Agenzia Fides Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo - "now we can say that the hostages in the hands of the jihadists are around 350".<br />According to what Samir Taji, a member of the Al-Nusra Front said to the Kurdish website ARA News, the militia of the Islamic State first held Assyrian prisoners - including women and children - in a detention center at Mount Abdulaziz, then dispersed them in areas and centers under their control, including their stronghold of Raqqa. Among the prisoners there are forty Kurdish soldiers and Assyrian militiamen of the Brigade of self-protection Sutoro.<br />Meanwhile, at the moment, the flow of displaced people to the cities of Hassaké and Qamishli and other urban centers has ended. Yesterday even fifty Arab Bedouins, fleeing from the offensive area of the jihadists, arrived in Hassaké.<br />In this uncertain context, Archbishop Hindo says it is important to avoid the spread of uncontrolled and unverifiable rumors. "The Christians who have fled from the villages of Khabur - the Syrian Catholic Archbishop explains to Fides - tell us that during the assault of the jihadists, four Assyrian militants, members of the self-defense militia known as the Assyrian Sutoro were killed. Another Christian must be added to the list, who was burned to death because his shop was set on fire by jihadists. Perhaps he was also armed and had tried to oppose those of the Islamic State. At the moment, there are is no confirmed news of more deaths".<br />Mgr. Hindo also renewed his criticism regarding the management of yet another humanitarian emergency on behalf of aid organizations: "Only yesterday - reports the Archbishop - Red Crescent distributed 125 food parcels, when thousands are available here in Hassaké. So far, the refugees had received aid only from the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate". Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/INDIA - New episodes of violence against Christian churcheshttp://fides.org/en/news/37365-ASIA_INDIA_New_episodes_of_violence_against_Christian_churcheshttp://fides.org/en/news/37365-ASIA_INDIA_New_episodes_of_violence_against_Christian_churchesNew Delhi - New episodes of violence against Christian communities and buildings in India have taken place. A case of vandalism in the church was reported in Goa, western India. Unidentified men hit and damaged a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in a parish in a village. The faithful are concerned about the desecration of the place.<br />In another Indian state, Kerala, south India, a Christian cemetery in the district of Pathanamthitta was vandalized, where graves and tombstones were destroyed for two consecutive days. Even the cemetery wall was defaced by graffiti.<br />In Mangalore, in the state of Karnataka, in central India, the windows of a Catholic prayer hall on the outskirts of the city were shattered. According to local Christians "some anti-social elements are trying to create panic and insecurity in society".<br />A forum of Christian NGOs said that "the attacks and the frequent acts of vandalism against Christian targets in different parts of the country are worrying: the civil authorities have a duty to stop the violence, ensure peace and harmony in society, protect the rule of law and religious freedom". Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/MEXICO - The number of child laborers, exploited and often unpaid continues to increasehttp://fides.org/en/news/37364-AMERICA_MEXICO_The_number_of_child_laborers_exploited_and_often_unpaid_continues_to_increasehttp://fides.org/en/news/37364-AMERICA_MEXICO_The_number_of_child_laborers_exploited_and_often_unpaid_continues_to_increaseMexico City - In 2013 about 2 million 500 thousand working children, between 5 and 17 years of age were registered in Mexico. They represent 8% of the total child population in this age group. Seven out of 10 live in places with less than 100 thousand inhabitants, 22% are subject to the economic conditions of the family, and 23% suffer constraints in order to study. This is the outcome of the findings in the latest report prepared by the Network for the Rights of Children in Mexico that highlights structural problems regarding the welfare and economic development of boys, girls and adolescents. The conditions of poverty and inequality of Mexican children force thousands of children to work, 15% of them work more than 48 hours per week and 40% do not receive any financial remuneration. The data shows that 36% of working children do not attend school, and 61% work and study. <br />9 out of 10 minors who work as domestic servants, are girls or teenagers. Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/BENIN - Service centers for more than 500 needy childrenhttp://fides.org/en/news/37363-AFRICA_BENIN_Service_centers_for_more_than_500_needy_childrenhttp://fides.org/en/news/37363-AFRICA_BENIN_Service_centers_for_more_than_500_needy_childrenPorto-Novo - There are many children who live in a state of poverty in Benin. To address this phenomenon, there are various initiatives. Among these is an ongoing project of the Spanish NGO Educo together with the local organization Foyer Don Bosco, to help more than 500 children from various cities of the southern African Country, Ouémé, Plateau and Littoral. Twice a week, educators go around the markets in search of children who live on the streets, to ensure their safety and provide assistance in the "shacks" that the organization has in these villages. These shacks are a kind of makeshift classrooms, where educators and experts assist children in recreational, cultural and sports activities, as well as providing basic education, especially literacy. Educators also try to meet the children’s parents to determine, through social studies, their condition and evaluate whether there is a chance for them to return to their families or at school. Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/MEXICO - 5 months after the death of the students of Ayotzinapa: a calm but critical attitudehttp://fides.org/en/news/37362-AMERICA_MEXICO_5_months_after_the_death_of_the_students_of_Ayotzinapa_a_calm_but_critical_attitudehttp://fides.org/en/news/37362-AMERICA_MEXICO_5_months_after_the_death_of_the_students_of_Ayotzinapa_a_calm_but_critical_attitudeZacatecas - Yesterday, February 26, five months after the disappearance of the 43 students of Iguala , the Bishop of the diocese of Zacatecas, His Exc. Mgr. Sigifredo Noriega Barceló, said that this fact represents a very sad reality that changes the vision and personality of the country. Mgr. Noriega expressed his confidence in the authorities and civil society. This means there is a calm, but always critical attitude, because it is the best way to find solutions. "We are not just talking about the students and their families, but here we have a very old problem that we have not been able to overcome; I hope this moment will help us to become better Mexicans with regards to reflection and criticism".<br />This is what Mgr. Noriega Barceló said during a meeting with students of the "Benemérita Escuela Normal Manuel Ávila Camacho" , in which he had been invited to propose a conference on Education regarding values.<br />The note sent to Fides by the diocese informs that, after describing the moral, ethical and religious values, the Bishop called on young people to carry out the synthesis of the transformation of Mexico starting from classrooms. He reiterated that "the educational model does not respond to the new times because the importance of values goes towards technology and science, but this is not enough". "Technique, knowledge and abilities are not able by themselves to restore the social fabric, an integral, non-exclusive, open and tolerant vision for a pluralistic society with a transcendent vision is needed" he concluded. Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/DR CONGO - A priest killed in the east of the Country; the Bishop of Goma denounces insecurity in the areahttp://fides.org/en/news/37361-AFRICA_DR_CONGO_A_priest_killed_in_the_east_of_the_Country_the_Bishop_of_Goma_denounces_insecurity_in_the_areahttp://fides.org/en/news/37361-AFRICA_DR_CONGO_A_priest_killed_in_the_east_of_the_Country_the_Bishop_of_Goma_denounces_insecurity_in_the_areaKinshasa - The treasurer of the parish of Mweso , Father Jean-Paul Kakule Kyalembera, was killed in an apparent robbery attempt on the evening of 25 February.<br />"It appears to be an act of banditry" says to Agenzia Fides His Exc. Mgr. Théophile Kaboy Ruboneka, Bishop of Goma. "The priest was closing the doors of the church when he discovered one or more gunmen who were hiding somewhere. The criminals fired without hesitation, hitting him in the abdomen and head. Fr. Kakule died immediately".<br />Mgr. Kaboy adds that "three suspects have been arrested and are being subjected to questioning. The body of Fr. Kakule was transported to Goma. The Mass and the funeral will be celebrated tomorrow".<br />The Bishop of Goma highlights that "in our diocese there are many gangs that terrorize the population and there are too many weapons in circulation. Nuns are among the victims of violence and extortion, who are threatened with death if they do not pay a ransom of $ 4,000. The situation remains very dangerous", concluded Mgr. Kyalembera.<br />According to information sent to Agenzia Fides, the pastor of the same church in which Fr. Kakule was killed, had escaped an murder attempt in November. <br />Also in North Kivu, there has been no news of the three Assumptionist priests kidnapped in their parish of Notre-Dame des Pauvres in Mbau, 22 km from Beni since October 19, 2012. A fact that was recalled in a note of the Congolese Bishops' Conference on the killing of Fr. Kakule, which concludes: "after the abduction of the three Assumptionist priests, the Church of the DRC is still mourning the killing of a priest whose reasons remains unclear". Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/VENEZUELA - The Bishops: "Stop murderous violence!"http://fides.org/en/news/37360-AMERICA_VENEZUELA_The_Bishops_Stop_murderous_violencehttp://fides.org/en/news/37360-AMERICA_VENEZUELA_The_Bishops_Stop_murderous_violenceSan Cristobal - The Bishops of Venezuela have asked Venezuelan authorities to stop violence and not to resort to "methods or weapons that are contrary to the law", making clear reference to the death of the 14-year-old Kluiverth Roa, who was killed by a policeman. "We urge civil authorities, military and police not to employ methods or weapons in contrast with the law and the dignity of human beings", said the statement signed yesterday, February 26, by His Exc. Mgr. Mario Moronta, Bishop of San Cristobal, the city where the boy was murdered , and sent to Fides.<br />Mgr. Moronta reminded the security forces that "it is their duty" to maintain order, be respectful of the law and human rights", at the same time reiterated that "to protest is a civil right", to be exercised within the law and must be "peaceful".<br />Also yesterday, February 26, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas, asked the government to "prohibit the use of lethal force to control demonstrations" and called for "the punishment of those who are guilty", both regarding the murder of Klievert Roa and other young students, victims of police officers.<br />In the note, also signed by the auxiliary Bishops of Caracas, sent to Agenzia Fides, Cardinal Urosa said: "We deplore the recent murders of several young people in Táchira, Zulia and Caracas; two of them by security officials of the State". At the same time, he expressed his condolences to the families.<br />"We must overcome attitudes such as the desire of easy wealth and corruption, political pride, arrogance and lust of power, selfishness, laziness, hatred and violence. And we have to save the principles of legality, legitimacy and morality that support the fabric of social life", said the Cardinal, who concludes with the sentence:"Stop murderous violence". Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/INDONESIA - Lenten Mission in the suburbs in Jakartahttp://fides.org/en/news/37359-ASIA_INDONESIA_Lenten_Mission_in_the_suburbs_in_Jakartahttp://fides.org/en/news/37359-ASIA_INDONESIA_Lenten_Mission_in_the_suburbs_in_JakartaJakarta - For the faithful in Jakarta Lent is a special time for mission in the suburbs. The communities of the archdiocese, from the biggest parishes to the smallest, from religious congregations to lay groups and associations, trying to respond to the appeal launched by Pope Francis, have launched a special pastoral commitment to reach and bring the Gospel in situations of hardship, poverty, marginalization.<br />The mission in the suburbs is the central theme of the pastoral Letter issued for Lent by the Archbishop of Jakarta, His Exc. Mgr. Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, and delivered to all local communities. <br />In the text, the Archbishop asks us to pray "so that each of us, families and our communities are grateful and caring" encouraging all the faithful to "embody the spirit of gratitude".<br />Lent is "a time of spiritual pilgrimage that will be more meaningful if it is marked by prayer", which allows you to "reap the fruits of redemption of the new life given to us by God", writes Mgr. Suharyo.<br />The Archbishop reflects on "the dynamics of the Eucharist" and proposes it as a model for every believer: every Christian is called to "become bread" offering himself for the lives of others. Im particular accompanying and taking care of "the lepers of our time", the marginalized of today, those who are rejected and abandoned, live in poverty, are victims of human trafficking or crime, and their human dignity is widely trampled. Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/LESOTHO - Elections: a delegation of Bishops of Southern Africa as observer in the national electionshttp://fides.org/en/news/37358-AFRICA_LESOTHO_Elections_a_delegation_of_Bishops_of_Southern_Africa_as_observer_in_the_national_electionshttp://fides.org/en/news/37358-AFRICA_LESOTHO_Elections_a_delegation_of_Bishops_of_Southern_Africa_as_observer_in_the_national_electionsMaseru - A delegation of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa is in Lesotho as observer in the national elections to be held on February 28th. In a note sent to Agenzia Fides, His Exc. Mgr. José Luis, Bishop of Manzini , recalls that IMBISA is a liaison and pastoral collaboration body among the Episcopal Conferences of Angola and Sao Tome ; Lesotho ; Mozambique ; Namibia ; Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland ; and Zimbabwe .<br />In 2012 on the occasion of the elections that were held in Zimbabwe, IMBISA decided to form a group of Bishops, one for each member Country, as an election observer.<br />Over the years, the IMBISA team was able to meet several southern African leaders, such as President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, and that of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, and has visited several Countries to learn from the experience of other election observers.<br />The group sent to Lesotho consists of the Bishops of Angola, Mozambique and Swaziland and two lay people from Mozambique and Zimbabwe, as well as Fr. Dos Reis who coordinates the IMBISA office for Justice and Peace.<br />Early elections in Lesotho are very important because they take place six months after a failed coup . Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Military offensive in Mindanao; the Bishop in Basilan: "For peace, sincerity is needed"http://fides.org/en/news/37357-ASIA_PHILIPPINES_Military_offensive_in_Mindanao_the_Bishop_in_Basilan_For_peace_sincerity_is_neededhttp://fides.org/en/news/37357-ASIA_PHILIPPINES_Military_offensive_in_Mindanao_the_Bishop_in_Basilan_For_peace_sincerity_is_neededBasilan - There is no peace in Mindanao. After the massacre in Mamapasano, on 25 January, in the southern Philippines, armed forces have launched a military offensive against fighters of the "Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters" , to "protect communities attacked by radical elements", as have informed the leaders of the military command of Western Mindanao. "There are at least 20,000 displaced people, victims of violent attacks by the BIFF in the hinterland villages. We will do our best to protect people and allow them to return to their homes", said a military spokesman.<br />In parallel, another military operation has been launched to hit the militants of the "Abu Sayyaf" terrorist group in the province of Sulu, small islands that connect Mindanao to Malaysian Borneo. At least 14 terrorists have been killed and 19 injured: this is the toll from clashes in which about 300 Islamic militants are engaged against the Rangers and Special Forces.<br />"Tension has increased after the episode in Mamapasano. There have been demonstrations of Islamist rebel groups. Now we have heard via radio of this military offensive that is worrying. But with these terrorist groups, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, one would reach military confrontation", says Mgr. Martin Jumoad, Bishop of the Prelature of Isabela, on the island of Basilan. <br />"For peace – he notes - an effort of sincerity is needed, especially by Islamic groups. One cannot speak of peace when weapons are used. The galaxy of Muslim groups is often indistinct: legal groups and recognized as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and illegal groups and terrorists tend to mix up. Muslim groups have to isolate the terrorists "notes the Bishop. On the "Bangsamoro Basic Law", which is before Parliament, the Bishop said: "The law must serve to draw an agreement that is respectful of the Constitution, a peace that guarantees the welfare of all, with an inclusive approach, considering Muslims, Christians and lumads . This is the path towards good, just and lasting peace in Mindanao". Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/HOLY LAND - Arson attack against the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Jerusalemhttp://fides.org/en/news/37356-ASIA_HOLY_LAND_Arson_attack_against_the_Orthodox_Theological_Seminary_in_Jerusalemhttp://fides.org/en/news/37356-ASIA_HOLY_LAND_Arson_attack_against_the_Orthodox_Theological_Seminary_in_JerusalemJerusalem - In the early hours of today, Thursday 26 February, an arson attack damaged the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate's Theological Seminary of Jerusalem, not far from the Old Town. The fire devastated a hall of the seminar and some annexes. The unknown attackers also wrote blasphemous sentences against Christ on the walls, written in Hebrew.<br />The act was immediately Condemned, with a statement sent to Agenzia Fides - by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.<br />The way in which the attack was carried out and the writings on the walls suggest that the attack against the Greek-Orthodox Seminary represents yet another episode in the long series of desecration and intimidation committed by groups of extremist Jewish settlers to the detriment of Christian monasteries, churches and cemeteries starting from February 2012. Since then, militant extremist groups close to the settler movement have also led attacks against mosques frequented by Palestinian Arabs of Muslim religion. Yesterday Jewish extremists burned a mosque in the city of Jabaa, southwest of Bethlehem. Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/SYRIA - The jihadists of the Islamic State deport Christian prisoners of the villages of Khaburhttp://fides.org/en/news/37355-ASIA_SYRIA_The_jihadists_of_the_Islamic_State_deport_Christian_prisoners_of_the_villages_of_Khaburhttp://fides.org/en/news/37355-ASIA_SYRIA_The_jihadists_of_the_Islamic_State_deport_Christian_prisoners_of_the_villages_of_KhaburHassaké - The number of Christians in the villages of the valley of Khabur captured by the jihadists of the Islamic State in the northeastern Syrian province of Jazira increases. According to updates by Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, ordinary of the Syrian Catholic Archieparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis, more than 250 Assyrian and Chaldean inhabitants of the villages appear to be in the hands of the jihadists, and were deported by them towards their strongholds in the Sheddadi area, 40 km south of Hassaké.<br />"From there - refers Archbishop Hindo - unconfirmed rumors say that the jihadis are celebrating. We are trying to open up channels of negotiation through Arab Muslim leaders in contact with some sheikh. We are concerned about the fate of the hostages, among whom there are many elderly people, many women and children".<br />The Archbishop does not confirm rumors concerning murders and rapes committed by jihadists against the Christian populations, and raises questions about the raids carried out by international contingents against the positions of the Islamic state in Syria. "Before - refers to Fides Mgr. Hindo - we heard the planes at about three in the morning. In the past four days air operations have been suspended. I wonder why". Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - A simple ambulance service can save the lives of hundreds of mothers and childrenhttp://fides.org/en/news/37354-AFRICA_SOUTH_SUDAN_A_simple_ambulance_service_can_save_the_lives_of_hundreds_of_mothers_and_childrenhttp://fides.org/en/news/37354-AFRICA_SOUTH_SUDAN_A_simple_ambulance_service_can_save_the_lives_of_hundreds_of_mothers_and_childrenJuba - In South Sudan, 90% of women give birth at home. In situations of complications related to childbirth, it is necessary to intervene with an emergency service. A network of mobile phones, an always active ambulance service, the continued availability of quality health services in the hospital by a committed staff, although extremely small, have allowed the hospital in Yirol, in the State Lakes, to increase the number of births - 100% in three years, from 2011 to 2014, reaching 1,461. This is thanks to the partnership between the Italian NGO, Doctors with Africa Cuamm and the Ministry of Health, with the support of the Health Pooled Fund , fund backed by the governments of Britain, Australia, Canada, Sweden and the European Union with special focus on maternal and child health in South Sudan. In the district of Yirol West, Lakes State, a note sent to Agenzia Fides by CUAMM highlights that potholed roads and floodings during the rainy season makes the simplest of movements towards the hospital in the county almost impossible. An ambulance service and a handful of committed staff beats bad roads and saves mothers’ lives. Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/NIGERIA - "Family threatened by materialism and selfishness", say the Bishopshttp://fides.org/en/news/37353-AFRICA_NIGERIA_Family_threatened_by_materialism_and_selfishness_say_the_Bishopshttp://fides.org/en/news/37353-AFRICA_NIGERIA_Family_threatened_by_materialism_and_selfishness_say_the_BishopsAbuja - The family "first school of virtue" is threatened by materialism and selfishness, say the Bishops of Nigeria in a statement issued at the end of their Plenary Assembly. In the document, sent to Agenzia Fides, it is stressed that the dominant culture, which poses more and more challenges to the family, is reinforced "by a movie industry and social media that promotes primacy of the erotic and marital infidelity; by pressure groups funded from within and without fighting to impose a redefinition of marriage".<br />"We cannot speak of challenges to the family without referring to the Boko Haram insurgency and the heightened tension occasioned by the coming general elections", add the Bishops. "The Boko Haram insurgency has not only led to loss of innocent lives, it has also led to separation of members of the same families. Our hearts go to children separated from their parents, especially our beloved daughters, the Chibok girls, and others who have been abducted by mindless terrorists".<br />The Bishops condemn the use of children for suicide bombings, saying they are "saddened by the use of young and innocent minds indoctrinated by Boko Haram and used as suicide bombers ". "We deplore the fact that young children are used to commit such crimes, and the fact that young Nigerians are used by politicians to intimidate and inflict violence on their political opponents is a disturbing symptom of breakdown of family values in our society", says the message.<br />The Bishops complain that the campaign "has to be devoid of issues of national interest, but full of threats of violence, falsehood, rumour mongering, mudslinging and suspicion". The statement concludes by calling for greater attention to the family, especially as regards to freedom of education of children. Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100EUROPE/SPAIN - Despite the crisis, the PMS in Spain has increased the support for missions by 20%http://fides.org/en/news/37352-EUROPE_SPAIN_Despite_the_crisis_the_PMS_in_Spain_has_increased_the_support_for_missions_by_20http://fides.org/en/news/37352-EUROPE_SPAIN_Despite_the_crisis_the_PMS_in_Spain_has_increased_the_support_for_missions_by_20Madrid - Despite the economic crisis that the country is experiencing, the Pontifical Mission Societies of Spain have managed to increase its support to missions by collecting 19.52% more than the previous year.<br />"We thank the generosity of the Spanish and all the volunteers, who with their work of animation and missionary cooperation have infected the Spanish with generosity - said the National Director of the PMS in Spain, Father Anastasio Gil García to Fides. The increase of 19.52% was made possible through donations, but also thanks to a significant increase of more than 50% of the contributions of the Spanish dioceses, the result of small offerings of the faithful".<br />Yesterday the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Spanish Bishops' Conference concluded, that reflected and prepared the draft document of pastoral guidance of the Church in Spain, on the theme "Iglesia servidora de los pobres" in preparation for the plenary Assembly to be held from April 20 to 24 2015. Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/EGYPT - Christian archaeological area risks demolition, Coptic monks lie down in front of bulldozershttp://fides.org/en/news/37351-AFRICA_EGYPT_Christian_archaeological_area_risks_demolition_Coptic_monks_lie_down_in_front_of_bulldozershttp://fides.org/en/news/37351-AFRICA_EGYPT_Christian_archaeological_area_risks_demolition_Coptic_monks_lie_down_in_front_of_bulldozersFayyum - The project to build a road that should unite the city of Fayoum to an oasis area crossing the territories around the Coptic monastery of St. Macarius, threatens an archaeological area that stretches around a church dating to the fourth century. The project also threatens the water supply of the monastery and some cultivated areas belonging to it. In recent days, the monks launched an initiative of non-violent resistance, lying in the path of bulldozers working on the project and led by workers who approached the monastery lands shouting "Allah Ackbar". The news is reported by Egyptian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides.<br />The incident between the monks and the workers is just the latest of a long dispute which arose around the road project. In the past, the monks submitted various alternative projects to the authorities that would allow to preserve the historical and natural heritage threatened by the route of the new road. The Coptic Church also established an ad hoc committee to encourage the search for alternative solutions, and in the past also the Ministry of Antiquities expressed its opposition to the project, recommending the full protection of the archaeological area. The Monastery of St. Macarius is located in Wadi el-Natrun, the ancient Scetes, 92 kilometers from Cairo. Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/BRAZIL - Mobilization for political Reform and transparent elections continueshttp://fides.org/en/news/37350-AMERICA_BRAZIL_Mobilization_for_political_Reform_and_transparent_elections_continueshttp://fides.org/en/news/37350-AMERICA_BRAZIL_Mobilization_for_political_Reform_and_transparent_elections_continuesBrasilia - The "Coalition for Political and Democratic Reform for Transparent Elections", promotes today, Wednesday, February 25, in Brasilia, three important events for the mobilization in support of the proposed Law of popular initiative and of defense of the Bill 6316/2013, pending before the Chamber of Deputies.<br />The first appointment, at 8:30 am, will be the meeting of the institutions that form the Coalition to discuss the dates of the mobilization plan, which includes actions across the country to raise awareness and collect signatures for the bill. The second initiative consists of the launch of the "Declaration for the defense of democracy", proposed and signed by the Archbishop of Aparecida and President of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops , Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, and the President of the Federal Council Order of Lawyers of Brazil, Marcus Vinicius Furtado Coelho. Finally, at 3 pm, a debate with parliamentarians in order to increase the parliamentary support to the initiative will be held. One of the main objectives of the initiative is to undertake a thorough policy reform, prohibiting the funding of election campaigns by companies. One and a half million signatures are needed by the end of February to submit the proposal to Congress . Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/INDIA - Release of kidnapped priest: the Church thanks the Prime Ministerhttp://fides.org/en/news/37349-ASIA_INDIA_Release_of_kidnapped_priest_the_Church_thanks_the_Prime_Ministerhttp://fides.org/en/news/37349-ASIA_INDIA_Release_of_kidnapped_priest_the_Church_thanks_the_Prime_MinisterNew Delhi - The Archbishop of Delhi, His Exc. Mgr. Anil Couto, has publicly thanked the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his commitment in the release of the Indian Jesuit Fr. Alexis Prem Kumar, who had been kidnapped in Afghanistan in June 2014. <br />The Archbishop met the Jesuit and some government officials saying: "We are very pleased that Fr. Prem Kumar is safe and sound. First of all we thank God. We appreciate and thank the role carried out by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian government in securing his release and his safety", adding praise to those who "worked day and night for his release".<br />Kumar, who comes from Tamil Nadu, was working for the "Jesuit Refugee Service" in Afghanistan.<br />The announcement of his release was given by the Prime Minister through the social network Twitter and then spread rapidly. According to observers this episode, added to Modi’s recent statements on the protection of minorities, can serve to a rapprochement between the Indian Christians and the government, in the past criticized for his inaction regarding violence against religious minorities in India. Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/MALAWI - Towards a more "human" prison systemhttp://fides.org/en/news/37348-AFRICA_MALAWI_Towards_a_more_human_prison_systemhttp://fides.org/en/news/37348-AFRICA_MALAWI_Towards_a_more_human_prison_systemLilongwe - "Definitely something is changing in the prison system in Malawi" says Fr. Piergiorgio Gamba, Monfortan missionary, commenting on the President's speech to the 731 new prison guards at the end of their training course. "Today you receive the mandate not to punish, but to rehabilitate and reform prisoners who can be of help to the socioeconomic development of the Country", said the President.<br />"Things are changing, not only because the President himself experienced a few days in jail where overcrowding is more than the maximum allowed" says Fr. Gamba. "The new prison rules are geared to the recovery of those who have transgressed the law", explained the missionary. "They include: recovery programs regarding the convicted, transforming him into a useful citizen to the Country; construction of new prisons and refurbishment of existing cells; the introduction of Community Services, that is to say, complete the sentence by carrying out a service to the community".<br />"Not everything will change immediately" adds Fr. Gamba. "The guards earn less than half of what a policeman earns, often forcing them to steal from the prisoners. But there is the desire to work on a more human prison system". Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/SYRIA - Christian villages attacked: more than 100 hostages in the hands of the jihadists; Archbishop Hindo denounces the "wretched" choices of the Westhttp://fides.org/en/news/37347-ASIA_SYRIA_Christian_villages_attacked_more_than_100_hostages_in_the_hands_of_the_jihadists_Archbishop_Hindo_denounces_the_wretched_choices_of_the_Westhttp://fides.org/en/news/37347-ASIA_SYRIA_Christian_villages_attacked_more_than_100_hostages_in_the_hands_of_the_jihadists_Archbishop_Hindo_denounces_the_wretched_choices_of_the_WestHassakè - There are between 120 and 140 Assyrian Christians held hostage by jiahdists of the Islamic State who in the night between Sunday 22 and Monday, February 23 launched a large-scale attack against the Christian villages scattered along the banks of the river Khabur, in the Syrian province in northeastern Jazeera. This was confirmed to Agenzia Fides by Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, ordinary of the Syrian Catholic Archieparchy in Hassaké-Nisibis. The hostages all belong to the villages of Tel Jazira, Tel Shamiram and Tel Gouram.<br />"The jihadists - refers Archbishop - have taken full control of the villages on the western shore of Khabur, while yesterday afternoon, February 24, all the inhabitants of 22 villages scattered along the eastern shore were evacuated and more than a thousand Christian Assyrian and Chaldean families fled to the major centers of Hassaké, Qamishli, Dirbesiye and Ras al-Ayn".<br />The offensive of the jihadists of the Islamic State has so far caused the death in combat of 4 Christians enrolled in the Assyrian militia - deployed with Kurdish battalions against the militia of Is - while at the moment, according to Assyrian sources, a young Christian Assyrian named Milad appears to be the only civilian victim of the Islamists.<br />According to the Syrian Catholic Archbishop, the jihadists have launched an offensive in the region of the Khabur to find new spaces and escape routes. According to Mgr. Hindo even countermoves proposed by some foreign Countries before the recent military strategies of the Islamic State confirms the serious responsibilities of the West in triggering conflicts that are destroying the Middle East.<br />"With their disastrous policies - the Archbishop explains to Fides - mainly the French and the US, with their regional allies, have favored in fact the Daesh escalation. <br />Now they persevere in error, commit strategic, grotesque mistakes such as the announcement of the 'spring campaign' to liberate Mosul and insist on interfering with irrelevant interventions, instead of recognizing that their guaranteed support to jihadist groups has led us to this chaos and has destroyed Syria, making us regress 200 years". Wed, 25 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0100