By Robin Gomes
The Catholic bishops of Indonesia’s easternmost Provinces of West Papua and Papua are urging a “better future” from the country’s authorities for their people in a territory torn by decades of struggle between Indonesian forces and separatist groups.
Representatives of the five dioceses of the two provinces recently came together for a 3-day meeting to discuss several problems affecting the Papuan people and their land, AsiaNews reported. Among the issues they focused on were the territory’s special autonomy law (UU Otsus), new job and development opportunities, and improving education, which now represents an emergency that must be tackled right away.
The Catholic Church in West Papua and Papua consists of the single ecclesiastical metropolitan province of Merauke, which includes the Archdiocese of Merauke and the suffragan dioceses of Jayapura, Agats, Timika and Manokwari-Sorong. The see of Timika is currently vacant.
In a press release on 25 Feb., at the end of their meeting, the Church leaders appealed to the country’s national and local leaders, urging them to focus on the common good of the people. According to them, peace can only be achieved through dialogue and an end to the armed struggle by separatist groups.
Indonesia’s military and security forces are pitted against local pro-independence armed groups who are pushing for “a referendum on self-determination”.
The bishops urged both sides to adopt “an approach based on love and non-violence”, inviting them to realize the “importance of peaceful dialogue”. Instead of discussing the further implementation of the special autonomy that has been in place for 20 years and which expires in 2021, they want to see the parties “get back to work together.”
Indigenous residents of West Papua and are Papua ethnically similar. The two provinces became part of Indonesia controversially in the 1960s, despite the former Dutch colony declaring independence in 1961. Since then, a separatist movement has been simmering in Papua, with sporadic violence. People have been complaining of discrimination and rights abuses at the hands of Indonesian authorities.
The prospects for peace are still conditioned by the armed struggle, which has led over the years to extrajudicial killings and violence on both sides. The civilians have suffered the most, forced to flee and seek refuge wherever they can, even inside churches.
The bishops of the two Papuan provinces are stressing the need for creating a future of hope for their people through opportunities for economic development through jobs and encouraging local businesses and enterprises.
The bishops complain that local businesses are owned by on-Papuan migrants from other provinces. “Regency officials,” they said, “should instead create opportunities for indigenous people, giving them the necessary skills and means.”
Another emergency, they said, is education which has been negatively impacted recently by the coronavirus pandemic.
With school absenteeism normally high, the pandemic has exacerbated the situation, making illiteracy a serious problem. “When the bases of primary education are inadequate, one cannot hope to achieve anything better from high school or universities,” the bishops said. (Source: AsiaNews)
By Vatican News staff reporter
It has been a year since the Pontifical Academy for Life, together with Microsoft, IBM, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Minister for Technological Innovation of the Italian government, signed the “Rome Call for Artificial Intelligence (AI) Ethics.”
The document, which has been endorsed by Pope Francis, “seeks a commitment towards developing AI technologies in ways that are transparent, inclusive, socially beneficial and accountable.”
Marking the anniversary this 28 February, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, reiterated that “Progress can make a better world possible if it goes together with the common good.”
The Archbishop noted in a statement that in 12 months “the family of signatories has grown”, and they are working to make the document more and more known, “in view of further accessions by strategic actors for an ethical approach to the themes of Artificial Intelligence.”
The Academy president also underlined that “a channel of dialogue with monotheistic religions is open, in order to converge on a common vision of technology at the service of all humanity.”
“A year after the Call, the Pontifical Academy for Life is increasingly convinced and determined on the importance of placing itself at the service of each person in his/her entirety and of all people, without discrimination or exclusion,” he said.
The Archbishop emphasized that “the complexity of the technological world requires a more articulated ethical reflection, to make our commitment truly incisive.”
He went on to say that what is needed is a ”new alliance between research, science and ethics, because we stand at a crucial crossroads, in order to build a world where technology is actually used for the development of peoples.”
“That is a request coming from faith and reason,” continued the Archbishop. “Without equitable and widespread development there will be no justice, there will be no peace, there will be no universal brotherhood.”
Recalling the signing of the document just a year ago, the President of Microsoft, Brad Smith, said, “As we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Rome Call will be even more important as we think more broadly and ethically about the future of technology.”
Meanwhile, Dario Gil, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research, commented that his company believes that “AI has the ability to transform and improve our lives and our society in many important ways. For all of us to benefit from AI, it requires a commitment to actively develop, deploy, and use it responsibly in order to prevent adverse outcomes.”
“By 2050, the world will have to feed about 10 billion people. This will only be possible with transformed agri-food systems that are inclusive, resilient and sustainable. Artificial Intelligence in Food and Agriculture plays a key role in this transformation and in achieving Food for All,” said FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu.
“It is essential,” underlined Archbishop Paglia, “that each of us understands that we are not an island. We are not “pulverized”, divided. We are one body, one family, for better or for worse. Let’s stick together.”
By Devin Watkins
The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development on Saturday revealed the Pope’s message for this year’s observance of the Catholic Church’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
In a communique, the Dicastery said the overarching theme of the Day, which will be held on Sunday, 26 September 2021, is divided into 6 sub-themes.
Pope Francis’ message will “stress the importance of being attentive to the entire human family through an inclusive Church that reaches out and is capable of creating communion in diversity.”
It will also give special attention to the care of our common home, “which translates into care of our common family, care of the ‘we’ that can, and must, become ever more open and welcoming.”
The statement went on to say the Migrants and Refugees Section will carry out a communications campaign to help Christians prepare for the Day.
The campaign will include “monthly multimedia aids, information material and reflections by theologians and experts that expand upon the theme and sub-themes chosen by the Holy Father.”
The Church marked the first celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 1914, to express support and concern for people who are forced to flee their homes.
Catholics around the world are invited to pray for refugees and migrants in their many difficulties, and to learn more about the benefits which migration offers.
By Vatican News staff writer
On the anniversary of his death on 27 February 1862, Pope Francis sent a letter marking one hundred years since the canonisation of Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Canonised by Pope Benedict XV, Saint Gabriel died at the young age of 24, at the island of Gran Sasso in Italy.
In his letter, addressed to Bishop Lorenzo Leuzzi of Teramo-Atri, Pope Francis wrote that “this event showed that his Christian witness was so extraordinary and singular that it can be held up as a model for the whole Church, especially for new generations.”
The Pope went on to express his solidarity by joining spiritually in commemorating the significant anniversary with “this Diocese, the Passionist Fathers, the Christian communities of Abruzzo and Molise, and all those who will take part in the beginning of the Jubilee with the opening of the Holy Door at the Shrine dedicated to the patron saint of youth.”
Pope Francis also described St. Gabriel as “a young man of his time, full of life and enthusiasm, animated by a desire for fullness.”
It was this same fullness, continued the Pope, that “impelled him beyond worldly and passing things to take refuge in Christ.” St. Gabriel, to this day, he said, “invites young people to recognise within themselves the desire for life and fulfillment.”
“May the example of this young Passionist religious, strong in faith, firm in hope and ardent in charity, guide the path of consecrated persons and of the lay faithful in the tension of love towards God and towards their neighbour.”
The Pope noted that, especially as we face the ongoing pandemic and the resulting economic and social fragility, “it is necessary that the Lord’s disciples become ever more instruments of communion and fraternity, extending to others the charity of Christ and radiating it with concrete attitudes of closeness, tenderness and dedication.”
Finally, Pope Francis addressed “all those who will take part in the various initiatives promoted to live this significant Jubilee Year in prayer and charity,” expressing his desire for them “to rediscover the Lord, seeing him in the face of every brother and sister to whom I offer consolation and hope.”
By Lisa Zengarini
Catholic social justice organisations have renewed their call for debt cancellation and financial support to poorest countries in the light of the current Covid-19 crisis.
In a statement published ahead of the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting, which took place Friday in a virtual format, the international Catholic network for development and solidarity (CIDSE) urged the world’s leading economies to respond to the crisis with global cooperation and solidarity.
They highlighted Pope Francis’ words that “it cannot be expected that the debts which have been contracted should be paid at the price of unbearable sacrifices.”
CIDSE notes that “as well as the tragic loss of life, Covid-19 has stretched healthcare systems in many poor countries beyond breaking point, left millions of people without jobs and livelihoods, and decimated economies.”
According to the Catholic network, the crisis has exacerbated existing inequalities “whereby more powerful countries can use their position and power to secure access to vaccines and support their own economic recovery.” It has also “compounded the challenges for many countries that were struggling with the impacts of climate change.”
The organizations pointed out that “the immediate priority for all countries is to save lives and support livelihoods, and debt cancellation is the quickest way to finance this.” They added that, in the long-term, “permanent debt restructuring and new finance is needed to rebuild societies and economies that put the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable people first, care for our common home, and tackle the climate crisis.”
“We need to act in global solidarity as one human family, moving from a myopic focus of what is politically, financially and technically feasible, to concentrate on what is necessary to save lives and protect our planet for current and future generations,” they say.
CIDSE therefore urges immediate action from the G-20, namely to “support a new and significant issuance of $3 trillion Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) by the IMF, that will enable all countries to respond to the current Covid crisis and support a just, sustainable recovery” and “to extend the debt moratorium through the DSSI (Debt Service Suspension Initiative) for longer (at least 4 years) and to more countries, including those climate vulnerable countries who were already struggling to respond to added pressures of climate change.”
The Catholic network also asks that private creditors – who are currently continuing to take debt payments from countries which are struggling to respond to the needs of their citizens – should be “compelled to participate in all debt restructuring and debt relief.”
Finally, CIDSE calls for “a permanent debt workout mechanism to deliver timely, comprehensive, and fair debt restructuring to all countries with a high and unsustainable debt burden, without conditionality.”
By James Blears
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin are sharing cyberspace on Friday in an attempt to tackle a worsening hemispheric problem. The aim is to work out a plan to halt the waves of Central American Caravans, mostly originating in Honduras from crossing over into neighbouring Guatemala and then on to Mexico, in the quest to reach US territory. One of the main ways in which this could be achieved is by creating home grown jobs, but it would need a major and sustained economic stimulus plus impetus from Washington.
The previous Trump Administration threatened loss of aid and sanctions against Nations within the Americas, who failed to significantly tighten up and clamp down against the Caravans, who`s numbers increase the more ground they cover.
Mexico, which had initially allowed them unhindered access and even provided temporary camps and shelters for them, especially in the Capital Mexico City, then changed tack, trying to hold them off at the border. Even prior to this, the Guatemalan Authorities attempted to impose their own buffers.
Many undocumented migrants have decided to flee their homelands due to a scarcity of job opportunities, but also because of threats to their children from street gangs plus other strands of organized crime. The young people are ordered to join these ranks or face death. The illicit narcotics trade and more recently the Covid 19 Pandemic has greatly worsened the dire plight of these poverty stricken people, who often trust the Church, but seldom have confidence in their own Governments.
Many would be migrants have been offered the opportunity to stay and settle in Mexico, which in turn, needs help from further North in order to maintain and extend this generous helping hand.
By Vatican News staff reporter
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who was created Cardinal by Pope Francis in the consistory of 28 November 2020, delivered his first sermon for Lent 2021 in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. The theme for this year’s Lenten reflections is “Who do you say that I am?”, taken from the Gospel of St Matthew.
For his introductory sermon, the Preacher to the Papal Household offered an overview of the season of Lent, focusing on the passage “Repent, and believe in the Gospel!”
Repentance, or conversion, said Cardinal Cantalamessa, is mentioned in “three different moments and contexts” in the New Testament, corresponding to different moments in our own lives.
The first is founded in the words spoken by Jesus at the beginning of His ministry: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel!” This does not have a primarily moral sense, according to Cardinal Cantalamessa, but instead consists first of all in having faith, in believing, in changing how we see our relationship with God.
The second New Testament call to conversion comes when Jesus invites His disciples to “turn and become like children.” Here, “Jesus puts forward a genuine revolution,” calling them – and us – “to shift the centre from yourself, and to re-centre yourself on Christ.” Becoming like children, said Cardinal Cantalamessa, means going back to the time we first truly encountered Jesus.
Finally, in the book of Revelation, Jesus calls those who are neither hot nor cold to “be earnest… and repent.” “The focus here,” said Cardinal Cantalamessa, is on conversion from being mediocre and lukewarm to being fervent. This is not our own work, he insisted, but rather the work of the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Cantalamessa recalled the experience of the disciples when they were filled with the Spirit at the first Pentecost. The Fathers of the Church described this experience with the image of “sober drunkenness” – the disciples were not drunk with wine, as the people imagined, but instead, having received the Holy Spirit, were spiritually inebriated.
“How can we take up this ideal of sober drunkenness and embody it in the present situation in history and in the Church?” Cardinal Cantalamessa asked. Beyond the ordinary means of Eucharist and the Scriptures, the Cardinal, citing Saint Ambrose, points to a third, “extraordinary” means, that is not institutional, but instead involves “reliving the experience of the apostles on the day of Pentecost.”
One way this occurs, he said, is in the “so-called ‘Baptism in the Spirit’,” which involves “a renewal with fresh awareness not only of Baptism and Confirmation, but also of the entire Christian life… the most important fruit is the discovery of what it means to have a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus risen and alive.”
Cardinal Cantalamessa emphasized the importance of “a true conversion from being lukewarm to being fervent, inviting his listeners to pray for Mary’s intercession for this grace.
You can read the full text of Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa’s Sermon on his website.
By Linda Bordoni
Unprecedented weather conditions driven by climate change continue to impact countries and communities highlighting the need for a new approach to natural resource management and conservation.
As the driest continent on the globe, Australia has been severely impacted by devastating bushfires that have wreaked death, destruction and economic loss.
But as Chiara Porro, the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See explained in an interview with Vatican Radio, Australia is also determined to take the lead in implementing new green technology infrastructure and techniques while making good use of the knowledge and techniques developed by its indigenous peoples in the course of centuries.
What’s more, Ms Porro explained, the Australian government is “on track to beat its 2030 Climate Change Goals” by reducing greenhouse gas emissions while investing hugely in renewable energy.
A year ago Australia was just coming to terms with the devastating effects of the worst bushfires, we’ve ever had in our history. Lives were lost, buildings were damaged, communities were severely affected and our wildlife was really badly damaged. As the driest continent in the world, Australia has always had to deal with extreme weather events and our indigenous population has, over the thousands of years, developed techniques to manage natural resources. However, the intensity and the frequency of what are experiencing at the moment is such that we have never seen before. I think climate change is the single greatest threat to our region at the moment. It’s clear that we need to invest in practical urgent action right now.
Observers have been quite critical regarding some of the decisions taken by the government. They say that your prime minister is walking a bit of a delicate tightrope between trying to achieve the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement and the nation’s powerful coal industry.
Regarding the question of emissions, I think that reducing emissions is of course important for the longer term. But also what is really needed now, is a strong focus and investment in adaptation.
Keeping with the question of emissions, Australia is on track to beat our 2030 target. We’ve reduced emissions by almost 17% since 2005 which is faster than many other advanced economies.
We are also investing hugely in renewable technology and renewable energy and we’re building capacity in wind and solar energy that is 10 times the global average. This means that we have the highest uptake in the world: one in four Australian homes now have solar power.
And regarding renewable energy, it will contribute to at least 50% of our electricity by 2030. That is to say, we realise the economy needs to change and this change is happening. We are also investing very heavily in hydrogen and in other renewable technologies that could potentially one day be exported to Southeast Asia, replacing more polluting energy exports.
Australia will participate in the next COP 26 due to take place in Glasgow in November. What do you think it will bring to the table?
That’s still being debated. But I think you know we’re working very closely with the UK as the Cop26 President, and we’ve already made several announcements and commitments, including adaptation. We have also increased our climate financing already by 50% to 1.5 billion dollars at least over the next period, and we are taking leadership on climate change in our region in the Pacific.
We’ve been working on disaster relief for two decades, and we have a number of initiatives, such as our infrastructure financing facility for the Pacific, which is 2 billion dollars focused on building climate-resilient infrastructure projects.
We are also supporting meteorological services in the Pacific for data gathering and early warning systems. There is a whole range of measures in place to ensure that we know what’s happening and what’s going on.
Meanwhile, the need to get to net-zero emissions for us is not in dispute and we are very committed to that; but we are trying to push the global community to focus on how important that is for us given the urgent need for our region to adapt and become more climate-resilient.
As Australian ambassador to the Holy See do you manage to get a voice in with your government regarding the Vatican’s stance on climate change?
I do. I think Pope Francis has been very forward-leaning and vocal and I think his recent participation at the virtual Climate Summit in December 2020 really demonstrated how even such a small state like the Vatican can lead, also by committing to promote education on integral ecology. I think that’s critical and fundamental and will have a real impact all around the world, given the Catholic education system that’s present in countries like Australia. I think it really will have an impact on pushing more of that “bottom-up” demand for a more climate-neutral economy and other policies.
How influent is Catholic education in your part of the world?
A recent census shows that one in five children in Australia are educated in a Catholic institution at some point during their schooling, so it’s very prevalent. This year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Catholic education in Australia, and it is very well regarded and has a key role in educating our youth. It extends from childcare up to higher education, and witnesses how powerful Catholic social teaching can be in terms of its outreach to youth.
By Vatican News staff writer
On Saturday, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See, is organizing a celebration, in Vatican City, to mark the first liturgical commemoration of Saint Gregory of Narek in the Latin rite.
The celebration comes following a decree of Pope Francis to inscribe 27 February as the liturgical commemoration of Saint Gregory of Narek, Abbot and Doctor of the Church, in the General Roman Calendar.
A statement from the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on Friday notes that Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, will celebrate Holy Mass for the feast in St. Peter’s Basilica at 10:30 am (local time) on Saturday.
The Pontifical Delegate for the Mekhitarist Congregation, Archbishop Lévon Bogos Zékyian of Istanbul for the Armenian Catholic faithful; as well as Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity will concelebrate with Cardinal Sandri.
The Mass will be followed by an Ecumenical Prayer at the statue of St. Gregory of Narek, which was blessed by Pope Francis in the Vatican Gardens in 2018.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, the Representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Rome, will preside at the ecumenical ceremony, in the presence of Cardinal Kurt Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Saint Gregory of Narek was a 10th-century Armenian monk, poet, and mystical writer and composer. His most well-known literary work is a book of prayers, known as the “Book of Lamentations”. It is considered a masterpiece of Armenian literature. St Gregory himself defined the work as an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations,” and hoped that it would provide guidance in prayer for people of all walks of life.
On 2 February, 2021, Pope Francis inscribed Saint Gregory of Narek, Abbot and Doctor of the Church on 27 February, as an Optional Memorial in the Roman Calendar.
St Gregory of Narek is recognized as a Saint in both the Catholic Church and in the Armenian Apostolic Church, being venerated in a particular way among Catholics of the Armenian Rite.
By Robin Gomes
The United Nations has expressed concern that the current crisis in Myanmar is hampering the efforts of humanitarian agencies for the vulnerable groups in the country, especially the internally displaced people (IDP) in the country’s conflict-ridden areas. The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which coordinates the UN’s global emergency response to save lives and protect people in humanitarian crises, expressed its concern in its weekly bulletin on Thursday.
OCHA said the UN and its partners have, for many years, been responding to humanitarian needs caused by conflict and natural disasters in Myanmar. They want to continue their work also under the current circumstances.
Three weeks after seizing power, the military junta has failed to stop the nation-wide daily protests and a civil disobedience movement, including a strike, calling for the reversal of the 2 February coup and the release of the nation’s elected leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
The crisis has resulted in the shutting down of businesses and services, including banks, interrupting payments and cash withdrawal systems. The price of essential commodities, such as food, construction materials and fuel, has reportedly increased in some areas. OCHA noted that changes in counterpart entities and interlocutors, as well as access issues, have also affected programmes. Many international and national humanitarian actors continue to strive to resume or are resuming their humanitarian and Covid-19-related programmes in camps, displacement sites and villages affected by conflicts.
According to Ola Almgren, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, relief agencies are working to resume activities that have been paused in some parts of the country.
According to OCHA, apart from the current crisis, about one million people, hit by conflict and natural disasters, are in need of support and protection. Of these, some 945,000 have been targeted for assistance through 2021, as outlined in a $276.5 million Humanitarian Response Plan, launched in January. However, only $693,000, which is less than 0.3 percent of the amount needed, has been raised.
As the protests continue, OCHA pointed out, thousands of people have been newly displaced with a surge in civilian casualties, following clashes between government forces and armed insurgent groups in northern Shan state.
OCHA said that even before the coup, humanitarian access was constrained, because of security concerns, administrative procedures and travel passes.
Access to parts of Shan and Kayin states and Bago region have been affected due to clashes, while at least a third of the displacement sites and half of the host communities in Rakhine state cannot be reached due to insecurity, the Office said. It reiterated its call for safe and unimpeded access to deliver a timely and principled humanitarian response.
By Vatican News staff reporter
Up to 300 schoolgirls from the Nigerian town of Jangebe in the north-western state of Zamfara were seized early on Friday morning by unidentified gunmen.
According to the state’s information commissioner “Unknown gunmen came shooting sporadically and took the girls away” in a midnight raid on the Jangebe Government Girls’ Secondary School.
It was the second such kidnapping in just over a week.
Last week, unidentified gunmen killed a student in an attack on a boarding school in the north-central state of Niger and kidnapped 42 people, including 27 students.
The hostages have yet to be released.
This list of kidnappings continues to lengthen: In December, gunmen abducted 344 schoolboys from the town of Kankara in northwest Katsina state. They were freed after six days although the government said no ransom had been paid.
As security forces continued to search for the girls on Friday, the UN Children’s Agency UNICEF deplored the abductions saying “We are angered and saddened by yet another brutal attack on schoolchildren in Nigeria.”
The most high profile in this spate of abductions took place in 2014 when militant group Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state.
Although many were found or rescued by the army or through negotiations between the government and Boko Haram, 100 are still missing.
Following this latest kidnapping, parents gathered at the school on Friday with witnesses saying that some had joined in the search for their missing children.
Vatican News staff writer
The United States has carried out airstrikes in Syria, targeting facilities used by Iranian-backed militia groups near the Iraqi border.
This is the first airstrike carried out by the United States since President Joe Biden took office in January. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson announced that the airstrikes were in retaliation to attacks earlier this month in Iraq that killed one civilian and wounded a member of the US service along with coalition troops.
In an attack earlier this month rockets hit the US military base housed at Erbil international airport in the Kurdish-run region of Iraq.
The site hit by the US strikes was not specifically tied to the rocket attacks but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he was “confident” in the target.
Syria war monitoring groups said the strikes hit trucks moving weapons to a base for Iranian-backed militias in Boukamal.
In the past, the US has targeted facilities in Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah, which it has blamed for numerous attacks targeting US personnel in Iraq. The Iraqi Kataeb is separate from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the war in Syria, said 22 fighters from the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an Iraqi umbrella group of mostly Shiite paramilitaries that includes Kataeb Hezbollah, were killed.
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has often renewed his appeal to the international community to protect the many people suffering in Syria. The Pope has reiteratedly appealed for a stop to the violence in the country and for the international community and all parties involved to “make use of diplomatic channels, dialogue, and negotiation” to end the conflict and “to safeguard the lives and welfare of civilians.”
Vatican News English Africa Services
In a sign of the total breakdown of security in the north of Africa’s most populous country, unidentified gunmen kidnapped a number of schoolgirls from the town of Jangebe in northwest Nigeria early on Friday, a Reuters report has said. A state spokesman confirmed the abductions, the second such kidnapping in little over a week.
Sulaiman Tanau Anka, the Information Commissioner for Zamfara state, told Reuters, that it was not immediately clear how many children had been seized, . Some reports say the number of abducted students might be as many as 300.
According to the Information Commissioner, the kidnapping took place about midnight.
“Unknown gunmen came shooting sporadically and took the girls away,” Anka said. “Information available to me said they came with vehicles and moved the students; they also moved some on foot,” Anka said.
Security forces have launched a search for the schoolgirls.
There has been an unprecedented surge in armed militancy in the northwest of Nigeria.
Last week, unidentified gunmen killed a student in an overnight attack on a boarding school in the north-central state of Niger and kidnapped 42 people, including 27 students. The hostages are yet to be released.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the north by criminal gangs carrying out robberies and kidnappings. The country is also struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast and communal violence over grazing rights in central states.
In the most notorious kidnapping in Nigeria in recent years, Boko Haram militants abducted 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state in April 2014. Some of the girls were eventually rescued by security forces or escaped. Others are still missing.
Anger against insecurity
There is growing public anger over the violence, prompting President Muhammadu Buhari to replace his long-standing military chiefs earlier this month amid worsening violence. The country’s armed forces are also continuing to fight to reclaim some northeastern towns overrun by insurgents.
By Vatican News staff writer
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič has underlined the important role of sincere dialogue as a tool for creating a positive impact on the world amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the sixth Interfaith Dialogue 2021 in Geneva on Wednesday, the Vatican official highlighted the common conviction that inspired the meeting, noting that the annual conference allows us “to share what is important to us, in a spirit of trust and fraternity, so that we can learn from each other, help each other and grow together in mutual respect.”
The event was themed, “The role of faith during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Archbishop Jurkovič remarked on the devastating effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. He noted that it is shocking to reflect that just over a year ago, this new and practically unknown disease would overturn the world as we know it.
Every aspect of our lives has been affected, he stated. “Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives, countless others are suffering from the severe health crisis; many businesses have been closed around the world, many of which will never be able to reopen their doors, national economies have been devastated; production was stopped in many places, education has been reduced to virtual learning or has ceased altogether and situations of poverty have been pushed to the breaking point.”
Particularly affected by the ongoing health emergency, the Archbishop noted, are “migrants, refugees, indigenous peoples, children and mothers.” He further noted that innumerable people who were in a state of dire poverty before the pandemic have since died from starvation. All these, just as much as those who have contracted the virus, must be counted among the victims of this bitter scourge,” he said.
Speaking further on the pandemic’s negative effects, the Archbishop pointed out that in addition to all the external consequences of the pandemic, perhaps the most unsettling ones are the more subtle, interior crises.
While emphasizing the importance of the health restrictions implemented around the world to ensure a safe environment for all, he noted, however, that “isolation at home, wearing of a mask, the loss of jobs, the impossibility to physically interact with family and friends” continue to have a profound psychological, emotional and spiritual impact on each of us.
From a Christian point of view, “God desires communion,” the Archbishop said. “The Almighty created us so that we can enter into a deep and meaningful relationship with our Creator and with one another. Only through this mutual and open sharing of ourselves we find true contentment and peace.”
However, he lamented, the covid pandemic has exacerbated some of the already existing tensions and increased the threats to unity between individuals, peoples, cultures and nations, and increased inequalities. He noted that “when resources and medical treatments are limited, it is understandable that each person and nation will seek to secure a stockpile for their loved ones but this “self-interested, myopic approach stands in direct contradiction to the unity and communion that truly brings fulfillment to the human heart.”
“The stockpiling of vaccines, the insistence on patent rights, the closing of borders and the general turning-in on oneself is an understandable reaction to the crisis,” the Archbishop said. However, “these responses, rather than helping us, really inflict upon us a much deeper plague than the Covid-19 pandemic…if left unchecked, it could separate us from what makes us truly human: our compassion and desire to live in fraternal communion.”
In the face of the current situation, our faith teaches us to look beyond ourselves and our immediate needs towards the common good, the Archbishop insisted. It is, therefore, no coincidence that the major faith traditions place a strong emphasis on selfless love, encouraging us all to take care of our brothers and sisters.
Archbishop Jurkovič went on to reaffirm the commitment of Pope Francis and the Holy See to ensuring that the pandemic does not lead to even more tragic consequences and a further deterioration of authentic human interaction. Thus, in this regard, an ad hoc Commission was set up within the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development with the aim of fostering authentic and holistic care for all those affected by the pandemic.
Pope Francis’ latest Encyclical Fratelli tutti also puts at its center, the importance of human fraternity and the role of religious traditions in its promotion. In the Encyclical, the Pope emphasizes that different religions, inspired by their respect for the human person as a creature called to be a daughter or son of God, are called to contribute significantly to building fraternity and defending justice in society.
Concluding, the Permanent Observer, reiterating the Holy Father’s words in his message to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, stressed that the pandemic which has forced us to endure months of isolation and loneliness has also brought out the need for human relationships. He added that all of us, strengthened by our traditions and religious beliefs, can testify to the value and importance of cultivating spiritual health, rooted in fraternity and love, as an effective way to heal the world around us.
By Lydia O’Kane
What does it take to be a good preacher? That’s what US online and cable TV programme, Sunday to Sunday aims to find out.
The Emmy award winning series identifies gifted preachers who pass along their ideas about the preaching ministry.
The programme was created and is hosted by Fr Mike Russo, retired professor of Communications Studies at Saint Mary’s College of California.
He spoke to Vatican Radio about how the series came about and his reaction to winning a coveted Emmy award last year.
Fr Russo began working on this TV project well over ten years ago, with the aim of finding “great preachers and how they affect the community.”
He also drew inspiration from another television programme called “Inside the Actors studio”, using the formula from that show to highlight exceptional preaching.
“The whole purpose of the Sunday to Sunday programme, while its meant for a general audience in part, is also meant to be a teaching tool in seminaries,” stresses the award winning producer.
Since its creation, at least 13 episodes have been produced, one of the latest of which looks at how preaching in the parish has had an effect on the lives of parishioners themselves.
Asked if priests have had to “up their game” with regard to how they preach a homily on a Sunday, Fr Russo says that certainly “preparation of the Sunday homily is a major part of what I would call the art and craft and spirituality of preaching. To be a good preacher also means to be an adequate writer.”
Referring to Pope Francis, Fr Russo notes that the Pope recognized right from the beginning that preaching needed to be looked upon as a ministry. “Really the whole Sunday to Sunday project was inspired by his preaching; his preaching to a particular congregation, knowing who they are and meeting the spiritual needs that are there.”
When one thinks about winning an Emmy award, it conjures up images of red carpets and stars of the small screen.
However, in June of last year that illustrious roll call of winners included Fr Mike Russo and his team.
So what is it like to win a coveted Emmy Award? According to the producer, it’s one thing to win it, but they also won it within three years of the start of the programme, “which is even more amazing,” he says.
“I always say to people if I told you three years ago that we’d win an Emmy you’d say I was delusional,” he laughs.
Despite the tough competition, Fr Russo says the judges obviously saw they had something of value with this programme.
“It was judged the very week of the George Floyd situation in the States and the judges may have heard something in that which was quite unique. Primarily because I began the interview with [Fr Chris Walsh who is a priest who ministers to a largely African American community in Philadelphia] with a quote from the author Toni Morrision and asked how we as preachers can bring about racial healing… and I think that resonated among the electorate and the voters who voted on our particular award.”
By Robin Gomes
The Catholic Church of Australia on Thursday released the working document for the Plenary Council, the first leg of which is scheduled for October this year.
Entitled, “Continuing the Journey”, the document, called ‘instrumentum laboris’ in Latin, draws heavily on the voices heard during the ‘Listening and Dialogue’ and ‘Listening and Discernment’ phases of the national Church event, but also from other key sources, according to a press release by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, president of the Plenary Council, said the role of a working document is “to offer an account of what the People of God have expressed as an invitation for ongoing discernment”. “This,” he said, “is an exciting step forward and we take it together, amidst a time of great change.”
The 5th Plenary Council, an important national ecclesial event representing every sector of the Church, is taking place in two phases. The First Assembly was originally slated to take place in Adelaide, October 2020, and the second in Sydney in July 2021. However, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they have been re-scheduled.
Assembly 1 will be now held in Adelaide from October 2 to 10, 2021 and Assembly 2 will be held in Sydney, July 4-9, 2022. Because of the pandemic, the October Assembly will be held through a mix of online and in-person events across Australia.
Archbishop Costelloe pointed out that more 220,000 people participated in the first stages of Listening and Dialogue, and “those voices can be heard clearly in the working document”. He said it provides a catalyst for the Church to renew the journey of prayer and discernment toward the First Assembly.
A Plenary Council is the highest formal gathering of all local churches in a country. The purpose of the Australian Church’s Plenary Council is to facilitate dialogue regarding the future of the Catholic Church in the country.
There are several reasons behind the Plenary Council of Australia’s Catholic Church. Pope Francis has invited the local Church to dialogue. Australia’s contemporary society has also changed significantly since the Church’s last Plenary Council held 80 years ago in 1937, 28 years before the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
But most importantly, the 2017 final report of the Royal Commission into the Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia has called for a deep consideration and response from the Church.
Explaining the content of the 76-page working document, Archbishop Costelloe said it draws “inspiration from Scripture, writings and teachings of the Church including the documents of the Second Vatican Council, encyclicals and papal exhortations, Australian bishops’ pastoral letters and more”.
He said a working document “seeks to offer an account of what the People of God have expressed as an invitation for ongoing discernment”. In this regard, the document highlights several issues, such as co-responsibility in mission and governance, a response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Church’s solidarity with First Australians and those on the margins of society and promoting an integral ecology of life for all our common home, the Earth.
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ACBC) formally announced the Plenary Council in May 2016, a decision which Pope Francis ratified in March 2018. However, the entire Australian Church had been preparing for the national ecclesial event even before that. Its journey of discernment which began with the Listening and Dialogue Phase was followed by the Listening and Discernment Phase.
By Vatican News Staff reporter
From new border controls in Europe, to good news on the single jab vaccine front: eradicating COVID-19 continues to be a priority for governments and pharmaceutical companies alike.
In order to contain a spike in Coronavirus infections, France on Thursday announced it was bringing in new COVID-19 restrictions for the area around its common border with Germany.
This means that cross-border workers, who had exemptions until now, will need to show negative PCR tests to get through if travelling for reasons unrelated to their jobs.
Both countries also said that joint police patrols could be stepped up.
While restrictions continue, so does the development of effective vaccines.
A review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published on Wednesday found the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine to be safe and effective, paving the way for emergency use.
The FDA’s panel of independent experts was due to meet on Friday to decide whether to approve the jab.
Meanwhile, the Bishops of Ireland are once again calling on people to join the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
In a statement, they reiterate that safe and effective vaccination is essential for prevention and should be done not only to protect oneself, “but also to protect the lives and health of the most vulnerable and for the common good of humanity.”
The Bishops write, “The development and provision of the vaccines is already providing reassurance for those who are most vulnerable to the virus and will help us to return to normality in terms of work, education, religious practice, and sporting and leisure activities as soon as possible.”
They also appeal to the Ministry of Health and health authorities to give priority to chaplains working in social-health facilities and to priests who have to celebrate funerals.
By Devin Watkins
Pro-military protesters armed with knives, clubs, and slingshots attacked coup opponents in downtown Yangon on Thursday.
Around 1,000 army supporters gathered before demonstrators turned up for a rally. They threatened photographers and journalists, with violence escalating quickly.
Groups were photographed beating individual protesters. Emergency workers assisted one man laying on the ground after being attacked by a man wielding a knife.
In another area of Yangon, police barred hundreds of students from exiting the main university campus in order to demonstrate.
The Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, seized power on 1 February in a coup, in which dozens of civilian leaders were detained.
International pressure continues to grow for a resolution to the crisis.
Facebook announced Thursday it had banned the military from using its Facebook and Instagram platforms with immediate effect.
In a blog post, Facebook said the escalating, deadly violence against protesters was the reason for the ban.
“We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” read the post, condemning the “exceptionally severe human rights abuses and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar.”
The ban covers the military, its subunits, army controlled-media, and the ministries of home affairs, defense, and border affairs.
Regional governments are also taking steps to end the impasse.
Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marusdi, visited Bangkok to meet with both Thailand’s and Myanmar’s foreign minister. The meeting was part of efforts to coordinate a regional response.
Ms. Marsudi said afterwards that all parties were asked to exercise restraint and avoid violence and bloodshed.
Separately, Japan is reportedly working on plans to stop new development aid to Myanmar.
The government denied preparing for sanctions but said a change in policy was possible.
Japan has long had close ties with Myanmar, and has held back from criticizing the military junta.
By Vatican News staff writer
Five US Bishop committee chairmen have expressed their opposition to the recent reintroduction of the Equality Act (H. R. 5), scheduled to be voted upon by the House of Representatives in coming days.
In a letter jointly signed by the chairs of the USCCB committees on Religious Liberty, Pro-Life, Marriage, Catholic Education and Domestic Justice, they highlight threats posed by the proposed law to both people of faith and of no faith, to the right of freedom of speech, as well as to faith-based charities and health-care workers with conscience objections, among others.
The Bishops warned that the Equality Act, while purporting to protect people experiencing same-sex attraction or gender discordance from discrimination, rather represents an imposition by Congress “of novel and divisive viewpoints regarding ‘gender’ on individuals and organizations;” including dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting “gender” as a social construct.
Re-echoing Pope Francis’ reflections on the issue, the Bishops noted that “biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.” Therefore, “it is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.”
In this regard, they lamented that this Act can be construed to include an abortion mandate, which is “a violation of precious rights to life and conscience.”
Furthermore, the Bishop chairmen pointed out that, rather than affirming human dignity in ways that exceed existing practical protections, the Equality Act risks inflicting numerous social and legal harms.
They noted that the Act, if passed, could punish faith-based charities, and consequently their beneficiaries, for their beliefs on marriage and sexuality; as well as force people and organizations to speak and act in support of ‘gender transitions’ even in instances when it is against their professional judgment. Likewise, people who insist on their beliefs on marriage and sexuality could be excluded from the careers and livelihoods that they love.
In addition, the Bishops warned that taxpayers could be mandated to pay for abortions, and health care workers forced to perform them, in spite of conscience objections and the consequent effect of ending more human lives.
The Bishops also highlighted that the Equality Act could force girls and women to compete against boys and men who “claim to identify as women” in sports, as well as share locker rooms and shower spaces with them. It could also expand the government’s definition of public places into numerous settings, including religious ones, forcing them to host functions that violate their beliefs.
The Bishop chairmen asserted that belief in human dignity is reflected in the Church’s charitable service to all, irrespective of race, religion or any other characteristic.
In this light, they continued, “we need to honor every person’s right to gainful employment free of unjust discrimination or harassment and to the basic goods that they need to live and thrive.” It also means that “people of differing beliefs and principles should be respected.”
Concluding their message, the Bishops underlined that the Catholic Church – the largest non-governmental provider of human services in the country – holds the same core beliefs that the human person is made with inherent dignity and in the image of God. These beliefs, the Bishops insist, “motivate both our positions on life, marriage, and sexuality, and also our call to serve the most vulnerable and the common good.”
From the Gospel according to Mark
Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
By Vatican News staff writer
Thousands of families have been left homeless in the western Amazon after torrential rains caused severe flooding across the Brazilian state of Acre. At an already critical time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, those most hard-hit are the poor who live on the banks of rivers. This is the case for the community of Sena Madureira, a town near the Iaco River. Located about 145 km from the capital Rio Branco, Sena is the third most populous municipality in Acre, after Rio Branco and Cruzeiro do Sul.
In Sena Madureira, the flood has affected 17 thousand people. Of these, 4 thousand are already housed in public reception facilities such as sports fields and schools. The Catholic Church has joined in the solidarity mobilisation and is welcoming families. Fr Moisés de Oliveira Coelho of the Order of the Servants of Mary, and parish priest of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Parish, spoke to Vatican News and explained “we have some chapels that are being used as temporary shelters, such as the Nossa Senhora Aparecida Chapel, the São Sebastião Chapel and the Santa Cruz Chapel. Other chapels are also occupied by the goods that families in need of help have managed to recover.
The Church is also working to collect donations for those who have lost everything. Fr Moisés explained that this is why the Ação Bom Samaritano (“Action of the Good Samaritan”) has been launched: a solidarity campaign promoted in collaboration with the local government. He said that the parish collects food, shoes, clothing, personal hygiene and cleaning products: “We receive donations from our faithful, from people of goodwill and we prepare food parcels and then distribute them to shelters.”
The solidarity of the local Church does not stop at the current emergency, but also looks to the aftermath, to when people will have to return home. For this reason Fr Moisés said that they are putting donation money aside: “We have opened an account so that, after the floods are over, we will be able to help families buy cleaning products, personal hygiene items and basic necessities. These are still small gestures compared to the magnitude of what is happening, but they are sufficient and necessary and will increase as donations grow. So, we depend on donations to be able to do these good deeds and that is why we always count on the help and collaboration of everyone at this time.”
The flooding of regional rivers in the State of Acre also created problems in the capital Rio Branco, in Cruzeiro do Sul and in the municipalities of Tarauacá, Feijó, Santa Rosa do Purus and Rodrigues Alves. To deal with the emergency, all public agencies are on high alert and are providing relief to the population at risk. State authorities have created 23 temporary shelters for displaced people and last weekend they distributed more than 500 food parcels to the population. In all, about 120,000 people are affected. More than 32 thousand families have been devastated by these extreme weather events. The health situation in Acre is also particularly critical due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the dengue epidemic and malaria. Both infections and hospitalisations are increasing, putting hospitals under great pressure.
By Vatican News staff writer
The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) has questioned some points of a resolution passed by the European Parliament on the so-called “right” to abortion in Poland in November 2020.
A letter issued by the Bishops on Monday and addressed to President of the European Parliament, David Maria Sassoli, stressed that the Catholic Church, which seeks to support women in life situations arising from difficult or unwanted pregnancies, “calls for the protection and care of all unborn life.”
“Every human person is called into being by God and needs protection, particularly when he or she is most vulnerable,” the Bishops said, adding that “special safeguard and care for the child, before and after birth is also expressed in international legal standards” including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
An October 2020 ruling by the Polish Constitutional court established a near-total ban on abortion in the country, permitting it only in cases of rape or incest, or when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.
The ban, which came into effect in January, sparked protests in the Polish capital, Warsaw, among groups divided among supporters and opponents of the move.
The October court ruling found that a 1993 law allowing abortion in cases of severe and irreversible foetal abnormalities was unconstitutional. It justified its ruling on the grounds that unborn children are human beings and therefore deserve protection under the Polish constitution, which ensures the right to life.
The November 2020 Resolution of the European Parliament called for EU institutions to do more to support “sexual and reproductive health rights,” including abortion, across member states and to support grassroots and civil society groups that foster the rule of law.
The Bishops highlighted in their letter, that neither the European Union legislation nor the European Convention on Human Rights provide for a right to abortion, leaving the matter consequently to the legal systems of the Member states.
In this regard, a fundamental principle of the EU is the principle of conferral under which the EU can only act based on limits of the competencies conferred on it by the member States in treaties signed with the goal of attaining the objectives of the said treaties.
Observing this principle, therefore, COMECE noted, is a “requirement of the rule of law” because, as the European Parliament’s resolution points out “respect for the rule of law is essential for the functioning of the Union.” The same rule of law, the Bishops emphasized, “also requires respect for the competences of the Member states and the choices made by them in the exercise of their exclusive competences.”
Another point of concern for the Bishops is that the Parliament’s resolution appears to question the fundamental right to conscientious objection, which is an emanation of the freedom of conscience referred to in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
This, the Bishops underscored, is particularly worrying and should not be promoted, as in many cases, conscientious objectors, especially in the healthcare sector, are subject to discrimination.
At the same time, the Bishops pointed out that in full respect to legal provisions of the Parliament’s referrals, in several passages of the Resolution, to the right to equal treatment and non-discrimination; they were concerned that the principle of non-discrimination could be used to blur the limits of the competences of the EU. They warned that this would go against article 51.2 of the EU Charter, which stipulates that the Charter “does not extend the field of application of Union law beyond the powers of the Union or establish any new power or task for the Union.”
COMECE went on to stress the necessity of considering fundamental rights like freedom of thought, conscience and religion in the light of their “universality, inviolability, inalienability, indivisibility and interdependence,” noting particularly that with regards to the right to conscientious objection, the EU Charter entail the need to respect national constitutional traditions and the development of national legislation.
The Bishops also expressed sadness at the lack of condemnation or expressions of solidarity in respect to the unacceptable attacks on Churches and places of worship in the context of the protests ensuing from the law in Poland.
Concluding the letter, which was signed by COMECE president Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, and four other Bishop Vice-presidents, the Bishops reaffirmed their availability to provide further clarifications on this crucial issue, which they warn might have a negative impact on the way the Union is perceived by Member States.
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Three weeks after Myanmar’s army effectively ended Myanmar’s ten-year-old fledgling democracy, protesters again gathered on Wednesday in Yangon. It is the 19th day people have gathered since the first large protest on 6 February.
Myanmar’s Bishops voiced their concern on Sunday, one day after a 16-year-old boy was killed in Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar. “The heart-rending scenes of youth dying in the streets wound the conscience of a nation… The sadness of parents burying their children has to stop. Mothers’ tears are never a blessing to any nation”. Healing can begin, they stressed, “with the release of detained leaders”.
The citizens of Myanmar are accompanied by women religious “fighting and protesting to end military dictatorship, to get justice and peace”. One of these Sisters, a Sister of St Joseph of the Apparition, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared her experience with Vatican News.
“On the first day of February, after our morning prayers, we came to know the sad news that our leaders were arrested. Some of us cried and we all were saddened. As soon as we finished our breakfast we start making adoration till midnight by turns.”
As the days unfolded, the Sisters began to understand their mission differently, but always in the paradigm of their charism.
“Our Congregation’s charism is ‘Love’. Our mission is to show Love in different works of charity. Our Constitutions says ‘…fighting in the spirit of the Gospel against destitution and every kind of injustice…’ ”.
At first the sisters began to provide “snacks, coffee, juice” to the people who were taking to the streets. She confesses they were having a hard time finding the financial resources to continue providing this service. “Some donors began to offer us some help when they saw on Facebook what we were doing”, Sister says. “Even our smile is great support for the protesters”.
The Sisters have also taken part in two demonstrations in Yangon, standing and walking side-by-side their fellow citizens. “We surely understand that without demonstrating, the military dictatorship will never end. That is why we support the protesters as much as we can”.
Sister describes the mood in the country in terms both positive and negative.
She writes that a positive aspect is that even though Generation Z had never directly experienced the military dictatorship, they are now coming to realize “they are the leaders now in this revolution. They are full of zeal and creative”, Sister writes. She tells us that the young people “are exhausted” but they will not stop until “the military give up their power, because Myanmar’s military power has been destroying our country for more than 60 years already”. However, Sister emphasizes, they are committed to the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM).
Writing about the negative aspect, Sister says, “We are scared, worried, insecure and sometimes hopeless. During the night we are scared because the police and soldiers attack the activists, protest leaders, CDM officers and influencers during the night. More than 20,000 prisoners were released and the army paid them and ask them to set fires in the quarters. People from the quarters choose night watch among them to catch different kinds of night time terrorists”.
The sisters are determined to continue offering support to the cause, even though there may be unforeseen consequences. “During the day there are police everywhere. Although they are not causing us any harm, we are watched and we are alert during the night. No supporter or activist is safe in this time. They catch and arrest people at night everywhere in the country”.
All photos, courtesy of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition Facebook page. Used with permission.
By Linda Bordoni
The Pope’s telegram came as the bodies of Ambassador Luca Attanasio and his bodyguard arrived back in Rome on Tuesday aboard a military aircraft, a day after they were shot dead following an ambush in eastern DRC.
The Ambassador, his bodyguard Vittorio Antonacci, and World Food Programme driver Mustapha Milambo, fell prey to an ambush by armed men as they travelled to visit a WFP school feeding project near Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu in DRC.
No rebel group has claimed responsibility for the attack but monitors say 122 armed groups are active in the four eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika, and the United Nations’ refugee agency says more than 2,000 civilians were killed in the region last year.
Congolese President, Felix Tshisekedi, dispatched his top diplomatic adviser to Goma to support an investigation by local authorities, and Italian police investigators have flown into Congo for a mission to liaise with police there.
But the scenario is complex and chronic violence persists in the DRC’s east despite a huge commitment by the UN.
With around 15,000 personnel and a budget close to a billion dollars, MONUSCO is the UN’s biggest peacekeeping mission.
The region is fertile and so rich in copper, gold, diamonds, cobalt, uranium, coltan and oil, it should be one of the world’s richest nations. However almost 60 years of Belgian dominion, followed by instability, political upheaval and corruption, have led to widespread poverty and youth unemployment, and ignited numerous conflicts. It is estimated that millions of civilians have lost their lives in the fight over raw materials.
In January 2019, President Tshisekedi took office pledging to make security in the east the cornerstone of his tenure.
But analysts say his promises to transfer the army’s headquarters, to improve understanding of tactics and strategy in the region, have not borne fruit, while his diplomatic attempts to weave together a regional solution, bringing in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, whose relations are historically tense, seem similarly to have come to a dead end.
Meanwhile, the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to pay the highest price as ethnic narratives fuel fear and distrust and the legacy of colonialism and its struggles over power and resources continue to stoke violent conflict.
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