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  • South Sudanese Priest Tells Story of His Family as Refugees

    Vatican Radio || By Father Paul Samsumo and Father Joseph Luger || 13 October 2017

    father alex lodyong eyobo on familyFr. Alex Lodyong Eyobo is a student of Biblical Theology at one of Rome’s Pontifical Universities. He is a priest from Yei Diocese in South Sudan.

    “Practically, all my family members are in northern Uganda in a refugee camp since January 2017. If I have to see my family, I go to the refugee camp. I was last there in April, this year, during our Easter holiday. It means; therefore, I am also a refugee though technically not registered as one in Uganda,” said Fr. Eyobo.

    His family’s exodus from South Sudan’s Kajokeji county happened early this year when a conflict between one of South Sudan’s many rebel groups and government forces spiralled out of control engulfing the whole town. Everyone fled with whatever little they could carry.

    “There is nobody left in Kajokeji. If there are any civilians still there, they are probably hiding in the bushes. Within the town areas, there is nobody. There are only soldiers and maybe the Police,” Fr. Eyobo said.

    Once Fr. Eyobo’s family crossed into Uganda, they were eventually offered space in one of Uganda’s many refugee camps. Their new home was a tiny piece of land with a tree as the only shelter against the elements.

    “The general situation of people in Uganda’s refugee camps is dire. When my family members reached the refugee camp, they were shown a forest for them to prepare and settle in. In the first days, they lived under a tree. After some time, they were given some tents so that they would have some cover over their heads. When I was there in April, and even today, the food rations were never enough because of the large number of people in the camps. Each family eats once a day – a ration of beans and some cereal such as Maize meal. Health facilities are non-existent. There are no schools for children,” Fr. Eyobo said.

    According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of South Sudan refugees in Uganda alone now stands at over one One million persons at 1 September 2017.  The significant number of refugees in Uganda is taking a toll on the locals, but up to now, they have nonetheless been welcoming.

    Fr. Eyobo’s family are grateful for the generosity of Ugandans, the various Church organisations and aid agencies trying to alleviate suffering in the camps and offer some kind of service and food.

    The story of Fr. Eyobo’s family is not unique. They are simply part of a larger drama and conflict that started in December 2013 when the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir fell out with his then Vice President, Riek Machar leading to an unprecedented power struggle and armed conflict between two armed groups loyal to Salva Kir or Riek Machar. Ordinary people have borne the brunt of this conflict. Several thousand have died; many are internally displaced while others have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries, especially to Uganda.

    Asked what word he would have for South Sudan’s Riek Machar and Salva Kiir, Fr. Eyobo has only one message: "Stop the war because people are suffering.”

    He then adds, “Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Macha should sit down to together and have a meaningful discussion for the sake of peace in the country. People will go back to their country when there is peace. There is no need for counter-blame. Mr. Kiir and Dr. Machar should feel the suffering of the people. If they did feel that,  I believe they would stop the war,” Fr. Eyobo emphasised.

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • Stop Circle of Killings, Archbishop in Nigeria Appeals to Local Government

    Press Release || By Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama, Jos, Nigeria || 17 October 2017

    archbishop kaigama on stop circle of killingsFor over two years now, Plateau State has enjoyed happy and peaceful coexistence, giving birth to greater confidence and trust to its citizens and visitors alike that only the best will henceforth happen in the State. This peace has unfortunately been rudely interrupted by the outburst of recent killings in Bassa Local Government between the Fulani and the Irigwe. The attacks come on the heels of a national spiritual gathering of Catholics all over Nigeria in Benin City to re-consecrate our dear country to the Blessed Virgin Mother and pray for peace, unity and reconciliation among Nigerians. The occasion marked the conclusion of the centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother in Fatima in 1917, when the world was experiencing the terrible effects of the First World War. While the attacks are perhaps, as a result of bottled-up anger, unresolved social issues or ethnic chauvinism which have led to utter disrespect for the sacredness of human lives, we Nigerians must find better ways of venting our anger.

    An attempt by the Governor of Plateau State Barr. Simon Bako Lalong, to inspire reconciliation and mutual forgiveness was not successfully implemented by the parties concerned. It is however still not too late. It is better late than never.

    It is a fact that many Fulani speak the Irigwe language and many Irigwe speak the Fulani language which goes to show the long period of peaceful coexistence, but the events of the past week indicate that the peaceful, harmonious and fraternal coexistence has been severely wounded. The two tribes offering the olive branch to each other is what can restore normalcy, healing, trust and confidence. The burial on Monday 16th October in Nkiedonwhro of 29 persons shows that a lot more needs to be done by both tribes to face their collective future with greater optimism.

    Our thoughts go to all those affected, with fervent prayers that God will grant them all the needed consolation and the ability to say “never again” to the destruction of human lives, animal lives, farm produce, houses and all others means of livelihood. May the dead rest in peace.

    I pray that the long and intense security meetings by the Governor, security officials and stakeholders will bear the necessary fruits of peace. It is so worrisome that despite the presence of security agents people could still be killed in a primary school where they took refuge, even during the hours of a curfew imposed on the Local Government! How much of this is politics or how much is influenced by internal or external sponsors or complicity of certain individuals who should help but keep fanning the flame of violence needs to be investigated. The Presidency must show more concern and active interest in investigating the unfolding events and to intervene effectively. The evil doers should not go unpunished and necessary security lapses should be rectified.

    To our dear brothers and sisters the Irigwe and the Fulani, please give peace a chance. Your losses may be enormous, but once there is life, there is hope.

    Signed: 

    +I.A.Kaigama,

    Catholic Archdiocese of Jos,
    20 J.D. Gomwalk Road,
    P.O.Box 494,
    Jos 930001,
    Plateau State, Nigeria

  • Security Situation for Christians in Mali Gets Worse

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 18 October 2017

    security for christians in mali gets worseMonsignor Edmond Dembélé, the secretary general of the bishops' conference of Mali, says "there are so many armed groups now, all trying to prove themselves” in the country. The Central African nation's small Christian minority is feeling the brunt of the violence, as Islamist groups destroy Christian places of worship, and drive Christians out of their homes.

    Christians in Mali have come under systematic attacks by extremist Muslims, and the Catholic bishops say they are “deeply worried” about the lack of a government response to the crisis.

    Mali is 90 percent Muslim, and Christians make up just 2 percent of the population. It is estimated there are 200,000 Catholics in the country, and around 100,000 people belonging to other Christian communities.

    Jihadists who used to operate mostly in the north of the country are now launching incursions on the center of the country.

    Monsignor Edmond Dembélé, the secretary general of the bishops’ conference, told Jeune Afrique Christian places of worship are a frequent target of attack.

    He recalled a recent attack in the village of Dobara, about 500 miles north of the capital Bamako, where armed men stormed the local church, taking the crucifix, altar furnishings, and the statue of the Virgin Mary. They burned the church material right at the church door.

    In September in the locality of Bodwal, Christians were chased away from their church with the threat that if they kept worshiping, they would be killed.

    Over the next few weeks, several churches were burned in Mali’s central Mopti region, forcing parishioners to flee.

    Dembélé lamented the fact the government was not providing more adequate security, making it hard for Christians to continue worshiping in what the government insists is a “lay state in which all religions have a right to co-exist.”

    “We have no security program of our own and we rely on the authorities to provide protection and find solutions,” Dembélé said. “On previous occasions, the government has deployed military units in our parishes. But this still hasn’t been done against these new attacks.”

    Human Rights Watch published a disturbing report in September that documented “serious abuses by Islamist armed groups in central Mali … including summary executions of civilians and Malian army soldiers, destruction of schools, and recruitment and use of children as soldiers. Increasing intercommunal violence near Koro, in Mopti region, has raised concerns of more widespread abuses.”

    But the report also accused the Malian army of similar crimes, noting that “Malian forces have committed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrests against men accused of supporting Islamist armed groups.”

    The rights group says such actions by the authorities further escalate the violence.

    “The skewed logic of torturing, killing, and ‘disappearing’ people in the name of security only fuels Mali’s growing cycle of violence and abuse,” said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch.

    Understanding the Attacks on Churches

    To understand what is happening to the Catholic Church in Mali, it is essential to understand the history of the current insecurity in the country.

    In January 2012, members of Mali’s Tuareg ethnic group, who had been fighting to defend the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi returned home after the fall of his regime. When they returned, they still had heavy weapons from the Libyan conflict.

    With this armory, they became the fighting arm of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (known by the French acronym MNLA), and quickly overran most of the north of Mali, taking over the three largest cities of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu.

    They then declared the north an independent state named Azawad, an act that received no international recognition, and was opposed by several Islamist groups active in the region, Ansar Dine, Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

    These groups chased the MNLA out of the major cities, and proclaimed that their strict version of Sharia - the Islamic law system - was in effect. This meant things such as alcohol, cigarettes, and western music were banned.

    Christians were particularly targeted in these areas, and many of them fled the country to Niger and Burkina Faso.

    In 2013, French troops were sent into Mali to oust the Islamists, and supported by both the Malian army and the MNLA.

    In 2015, a peace deal was signed, allowing for the integration of rebel fighters into the regular army, but it soon collapsed.

    Into this vacuum a myriad of armed forces continue to operate: The army, the MNLA and other Tuareg groups, and Islamists.

    One of the major incidents was an August 2015 Islamist attack on a hotel in Sévaré, located in the central Mopti region, in which 13 people were killed.

    “There are so many armed groups now, all trying to prove themselves,” Dembélé said.

    He worries that even when the crisis comes to an end, Christians returning home will face destroyed houses and damaged property.

    “There will be a lot of rebuilding to be done,” he said.

    Pope Francis showed his solidarity with the people of Mali when he made Archbishop Jean Zerbo a cardinal on June 28, 2017. The archbishop of the Malian capital Bamako, Zerbo is the first cardinal from the country.

    The pope said the appointment was an effort to highlight “those neglected areas and complex situations of war and poverty, while it reaffirms the interest of the Catholic Church.”

    Source: Crux… 

  • Church in Africa and Europe to Jointly Speak about Youth Issues at Next AU-EU Summit

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 19 October 2017

    africa and european bishops to africa and europe summit 2017As the global Catholic Church looks forward to the 15th Ordinary General Assembly Synod of Bishops in October 2018, the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences in the European Union (COMECE) and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) have planned be part of fifth summit of the African Union and the European Union, where they would speak about the youth.

    COMECE and SECAM Bishops issued a joint statement sent to CANAA Wednesday, October 18 in which they express their resolve “to make their voices to be heard together and jointly” taking advantage of the summit that will be presenting “the political leaders of both continents with the unique opportunity to initiate an authentic mutual partnership.”

    The African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) summit has been scheduled to take place in the capital city of Ivory Coast, Abidjan next month from 28 - 29 November 2017.

    The October 2018 Synod of Bishops will be convened under the theme: “Youth, faith and vocational discernment,” a theme described as “an expression of the pastoral care of the Church for the young” and “consistent with the results of the recent Synod assemblies on the family and with the content of the post-Synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.”

    In their joint statement, COMECE and SECAM Bishops highlight and discuss the common ground between Africa and Europe.

    “Africa and Europe share common roots, which originate in the earliest days of human history,” the Bishops state and also address the geographical connectedness between the two continents, how Africa and Europe “are destined for a common future” and the fact that “Africa and Europe are united in prayer.”

    “We hope and pray that - with the wisdom of our elders, the energy of our youth and the help of God - Europe and Africa may learn to work as one for the youth of our continents,” the Bishops conclude.

    The Bishops of COMECE and SECAM have the common mission of promoting a continental vision within the Church and of accompanying political institutions and organisations on their respective continents.

    Below is the full text of the joint statement by COMECE and SECAM Bishops

    AFRICA AND EUROPE: COMMON CONCERN FOR THE YOUTH

    Joint Statement of COMECE and SECAM ahead of the AU – EU summit in November 2017 in Abidjan

    The fifth summit of the African Union and the European Union is due to take place in Abidjan on 28 – 29 November 2017. The Commission of Bishops’ Conferences in the European Union (COMECE) and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the mission of which is to promote a continental vision within the Church and to accompany political institutions and organisations on their respective continents, welcome this event and the decision to focus on ‘Youth’ as its central theme. Youth is also the theme of the next general assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church scheduled next year for Rome. At this particular moment in the history of the long standing relations between Africa and Europe, the summit presents the political leaders of both continents with the unique opportunity to initiate an authentic mutual partnership. For this reason the bishops of COMECE and SECAM want to make their voices to be heard together and jointly issue the following statement:

    Africa and Europe have common roots

    Africa and Europe share common roots, which originate in the earliest days of human history. Long standing relations bind us. A genuine and long-term partnership, which also induces the correction of economic and social imbalances, summons us into the future. We therefore call for a strong partnership agreement as an appropriate tool for a joint development on the basis of a shared interest. It should include a major and intercontinental « human dignity initiative » to support those who are concerned and engaged for the respect of the dignity of the poorest, and especially of migrants in need.  Such an agreement could also become an instrument for promoting the global common good. By working together more closely, African and European countries could increase their influence and better achieve their objectives in global organizations like the United Nations.

    We acknowledge the past and present conflicts and injustices. Inter and intra-continental healing of memories and reconciliation through joint research programs and regular conferences are necessary. They should bring to light different forms of disillusionment, especially among the youth, and identify ways of addressing them in a spirit of mutual respect for persons and for different cultures. We further acknowledge the challenges faced by the youth today, in the context of the modern ubiquitous media. Coherent answers must be provided for the youth as they face new, wayward ideologies regarding culture, the sanctity of human life, marriage and the family, and loss of spirituality in a world where a materialistic culture is dominant.

    Africa and Europe are geographically connected

    With Africa and Europe geography also matters. Urbanisation changes the face of both of our continents. The geographical closeness of Africa and Europe, however, may provide economic opportunities for both. It can favour the creation of jobs, especially for young people, who many times deserve our admiration in their use of new technologies for astonishing development projects. Nevertheless, in order to make use of opportunities, education and training for all - for boys and for girls - need to be strengthened and redesigned in view of newly needed communication and technology skills. Public policy should also allow private investment to flourish and major infrastructure projects need intercontinental or at least continental planning and coordination. We call for justice and equity in trade in goods and services, but especially with regard to natural resources, which are taken each year from Africa. New local industries and sustainable development of agriculture may furthermore help to reduce the stress which forces young people to leave their homeland and diminish the phenomenon generally known as  ‘brain drain’.

    With regard to migration we observe very different narratives on both continents. It is considered a solution or a burden. Indeed, looked at from different perspectives, it is either one or the other or both at the same time. Notwithstanding, migration has always been a constant feature of human coexistence in society. It will not go away. In particular, young people will continue to choose to migrate out of professional reasons.  It is the responsibility of the political leadership to make sure that migrants are treated with dignity and protected against criminal exploitation. We therefore hope for a strong statement by the participants of the AU - EU summit on migration and especially the fight against human trafficking. Furthermore, we would expect the EU to reinforce its commitment for sustainable development programmes on the occasion of the summit.

    Africa and Europe are destined for a common future

    Africa and Europe are destined for a common future but we also note that many of our youth are lacking trust in current political and private institutions in both Africa and Europe. To gain or restore trust, participation and a sense of belonging are key. Effective participation demands transparency and accountability from all parties. At the Abidjan summit, opportunity should be given to young Africans and Europeans to share their hopes and expectations about an adequate environment for sustainable development. Conflicts, corruption and climate change are challenges for people living north and south of the Mediterranean Sea. We therefore affirm that peace, justice and care of creation are the guiding principles for long-term policies and strategies designed to prepare our common future.  

    Africa and Europe are united in prayer

    The Christian faith has developed over the centuries through theologians, martyrs, saints and simple believers from Africa and from Europe. Thus, Christianity has become an essential part of Europe’s and Africa’s religious heritage. Europe, as a matter of fact, was built on Christian traditions. The Catholic Church is deeply rooted in both continents and as bishops we wish to address the spiritual expectations of people, and especially the youth. It may be more than a pure coincidence that the theme of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops 2018 in Rome has also chosen ‘Youth’ as the central theme. It is also, for this reason that we are looking with high expectations to the outcome of the AU-EU summit. It may help us to address the pressing question of the evangelisation of the youth in both continents. Finally, we acknowledge our responsibility for inter-religious dialogue and we recall that freedom of religion is a fundamental right and a basic principle of public policy, especially in view of current threats of radical religious and political extremism.

    Our political leaders will soon gather for the fifth summit of the African Union and European Union in the capital of Ivory Coast. Legend has it that the name, “Abidjan” is the result of a misunderstanding between an African and a European. May the summit be an occasion for a clearer understanding of each other’s concerns, lead to concrete and helpful decisions, and thus, become an important step towards an authentic partnership between our continents. We pray for this and we also make the commitment to solve perceived injustices in the name of our collective and common liberating faith. In the preparation of future EU-AU summits, we propose to set up a dialogue between political and religious leaders. As COMECE and SECAM, we would be happy to participate in such an open and transparent dialogue. 

    Finally, we hope and pray that - with the wisdom of our elders, the energy of our youth and the help of God - Europe and Africa may learn to work as one for the youth of our continents.

  • Southern African Bishops Say an Anti-Corruption Court Should Be Considered

    The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) || 16 October 2017

    bishops in southern africa for anti corruption courtWe have taken note of the judgement of the Supreme Court of Appeal on the matter involving the President, the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) and the Democratic Alliance.

    The court battle on the spy gate and the corresponding corruption allegations against the president have been going on for more than eight years. If the National Prosecutions Authority decides to reinstate corruption charges against the president, the matter will likely continue for another four years.

    When allegations of corruption hang over the head of a seating president for this long, something gives way. In our case, the moral fibre of our nation has suffered massive damage as a result of people losing confidence in the office of the president and its ability to fight corruption at all the levels of government.

    For eight years, we have not had a president who leads credibly from the front in the fight against corruption.

    As Church leaders, we are not experts in constitutional law. However, considering the damage that protracted corruption cases are inflicting on the moral fibre of our nation, we urge constitutional experts and the law reform commission to guide the nation on the feasibility of establishing an anti-corruption court, with specialized prosecutors, that would ensure speedy and efficient disposal of corruption cases and financial crimes. Several countries in the world are already operating such courts.

    We would also like to challenge Mr. Ramaphosa, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma and other ANC presidential candidates to publicly declare that they will push for the establishment of specialised anti-corruption court if they are elected ANC president.

    This will signal to us their seriousness in the fight against political corruption.

    For further information, kindly contact:

    Bishop Abel Gabuza.

    Phone number: 053 831 1861 or 053 831 1862 or 0825494324

    Email: dagabuza@gmail.com

  • Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Launch Education Policy

    CANAA || By Br. Alfonce Kugwa, Zimbabwe || 16 October 2017

    zimbabwe bishops launch education policy 2017The Education Commission of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference recently launched the Education policy and Catholic Ethos booklet in Harare. The launch was officiated by Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of the Diocese of Gokwe in the company of Mutare Diocese Bishop, Paul Horan. Bishop Nyandoro is also the Bishop-in-charge of the Conference’s Education Commission.

    The event was held at the country’s Catholic University, (last) week. Diocesan Coordinators of Education, Catholic schools’ administrators, Ministry of Education officials and students thronged the Catholic University complex to celebrate the launch of the policy booklets that will guide Catholic education in the country. 

    Addressing the gathering, the Bishop-in-charge of the Education Commission, Rudolf Nyandoro pointed out that Catholic education was centred on Jesus Christ who is the best teacher.

    He said: “At the heart of Catholic education is Jesus Christ and everything that happens in Catholic institutions of education is aimed at holistically developing faculties of the body, the mind, and soul. Thus, all learners who pass through Catholic institutions are equipped with skills that enable them to contribute to society.”

    Bishop Nyandoro further stressed the need to emphasise spiritual and moral values in education as they form the backbone of individual behaviour.

    “The Catholic church educates for life and not only for academic success. The thrust of our institutions is to groom good and God-fearing leaders and citizens who contribute to the development of sustainable livelihoods. The success of any nation rests upon the quality of education and moral formation of its members. Hence, the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe tries to foster this fundamental value in its education system,” stressed Bishop Nyandoro.

    Bishop Nyandoro congratulated the Education Commission led by Sr. Theresa Nyadombo, HLMC for putting together the Education Policy and the Catholic Ethos booklets. He said the booklets will go a long way in guiding Christian education and instilling Catholic Ethos in all Church-run institutions.

     In a homily before the launch, Fr. Fanuel Magwidi said Catholic ethos and the manner in which the Catholic Church present Jesus Christ to the people encourages responsible parents to send their children to the church’s institutions of education.

    “Parents would not bring children to Catholic institutions only for academic excellence but to have them formed socially, morally and spiritually to be citizens of repute. The idea is that parents want their children to be near Christ,” said Fr. Magwidi quoting Aristotle who observed that ‘educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.’

    The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe proudly owns 112 primary schools, 110 secondary schools and 18 tertiary and skills training centres that are distributed around the country’s eight dioceses.

  • Ghana Religious Leaders Join Efforts to End Child Marriage

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 16 October 2017

    religious in ghana join effort to end child marriageChurch leaders are liaising with traditional tribal leaders, NGOs and the relevant government departments to end the practice of child marriage in Ghana. According to UNICEF, the UN's children’s agency, 39 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before 18, and 12 percent are married before the age of 15.

    Ghana religious leaders are joining efforts to end the practice of child marriage in the west African country.

    The Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Christ Apostolic Church International, and the Muslim community in August promised to use their sermons to discourage the practice.

    Religious officials said sustainable marriages can only be made if the couples are happy, and that can only happen with the two parties freely consenting to get married. They added it was morally wrong for parents to force their kids into marriage.

    Ghana already has one of the lowest rates of children who get married before they turn 18 in the region, but 21 percent of all marriages still involve an underage bride. The statistics are worse in northern Ghana, where 34 percent of girls are married before 18.

    Church leaders are liaising with traditional tribal leaders, NGOs and the relevant government departments to end the practice.

    The commitment comes within the framework of a two-year UNESCO-sponsored campaign implemented by Action Aid Ghana (AAG) that seeks to end child marriage in 12 districts and 120 communities in Ghana.

    According to the coordinator of the project, Abena Anem-Adjei, the organization will be working with all community stakeholders to do away with the socio-cultural practices that encourage child marriages.

    “We have also been sensitizing traditional, religious, and opinion leaders to use their authority to abolish and modernize some of the cultural and religious practices that expose girls to early marriages and to strongly declare their stand against child marriage,” she said.

    On May 23, 2017, the Ghanaian Minister for Gender, Children, and Social Protection, Otiko Afisa Djaba, launched a national strategy showing how the government would tackle child marriages between 2017 and 2026.

    The strategy aims to “empower girls and boys to be better able to prevent and respond to child marriage; influence positive change in communities’ beliefs, attitudes and social norms; accelerate access to quality education, sexual and reproductive health information and services; ensure the legal and policy frameworks related to ending child marriage are in place, effectively enforced and implemented; and increase the quality and amount of data and evidence available to inform policy and programming.”

    “[This strategy] is the beginning of the journey to truly end child marriage,” Djaba said.

    “Children below 18 should be learning and playing, not getting married or being mothers,” she added.

    Foster Adzraku of the Child Marriage Unit in the Ministry described the strategy as “a huge step towards ending child marriage,” and said the unit will work to “get the buy-in and commitments of all partners to ensure an effective roll-out of the strategy across Ghana.”

    Adzrake added the unit will also lead an effort to “identify strategies that are being implemented to find out what works and what is not working.”

    Ghana has long led efforts in the region to end child marriage.

    Africa accounts for 17 of the 20 countries around the world with the highest rates of child marriage.

    According to UNICEF, the UN’s children’s agency, 39 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before 18, and 12 percent are married before the age of 15.

    Ghana’s numbers are nearly half that, in part due to the fact the Children’s Acts of 1998 criminalizes child marriages, and the government has sponsored several media awareness campaigns.

    But Cornelius Williams, UNICEF’s associate director for child protection, says laws alone cannot stop the practice in Ghana, and called for the effective implementation of best practices as the “best antidotes to the issue.”

    Poverty, limited education, as well as early pregnancies are some of the primary causes of child marriage, according to Dr. Adelaide Kastner, the chairperson of the advisory council for World Vision International Ghana.

    “Sometimes girls themselves choose to be in a union because they perceive it to be what is expected of them, maybe to gain some status and recognition in the community, to escape from poverty or non-supportive family environment, or only because they have dropped out of school and don’t have any other viable alternative,” she said.

    Kastner called on “faith based leaders, traditional leaders, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations and the media to build community awareness of existing child marriage laws and formal prevention mechanisms and the impact of child marriage.”

    While Ghana seems to have taken the lead, the problem is being acknowledged across the continent.

    UNICEF says that 76 percent of girls in Niger, and close to 70 percent of girls in Central African Republic and Chad marry before they turn 18.

    President Edgar Chagwa Lungu of Zambia who said that 20 out of the 30 countries in Africa with the highest prevalence rates are implementing an African Union initiative to end child marriage by 2030.

    “Zambia continues to place importance on keeping girls in school as a key to ending child marriage. Even those who have fallen pregnant have been given the opportunity to go back to school through our re-entry policy,” Lungu told the African Union in July.

    “This is a strategy which we should all adopt as it will result in the empowerment of the larger African population and ultimately lead to sustainable development for the continent.”

    Source: Crux… 

  • Pope Francis Calls on International Community Not to Forget South Sudan

    Vatican Radio || By Father Paul Samasumo, Vatican || 15 October 2017

    father daniel moschetti book preface by pope francis 2017Pope Francis has called on the international community not to forget South Sudan and in particular the serious humanitarian emergency unfolding there.

    The Pope made the call on South Sudan in a Preface he wrote to a new book on South Sudan. The book, published in Italian, is authored by Comboni Missionary, Father Daniele Moschetti. It was launched over the weekend, in Italy, Rome.

    “Usually Missionaries are the ones to tell (the world) about lives lived on the periphery on behalf of the poor. So too is this testimony of Father Daniele Moschetti, a Comboni missionary, who offers a compelling account of the generous and passionate commitment of so many missionaries living side by side with those in need and, above all, of those who suffer because of ongoing conflicts that cause death and destruction,” Pope Francis wrote in the Preface.

    Pope Francis has implored the international community, and everyone who believes in the Gospel not to give-up on South Sudan because to do so would be to betray the lesson of the Gospel.

    “I feel the importance and need of raising this kind of awareness in the international community on a silent drama, which requires everyone's commitment to a solution that would end the ongoing conflict. To distance one’ self from the problems of humanity, especially in a context such as that which afflicts South Sudan, would be to "forget the lesson from the Gospel about the love of neighbour suffering and in need," the Holy Father emphasised.

    The book, “South Sudan: The Long and Sorrowful Path towards Peace, Justice, and Dignity,” published in Italian as “Sud Sudan: Il lungo e sofferto cammino verso pace, giustizia e dignità” is a collection of Moschetti’s personal experiences of a land in which he lived and one to which he is still attached. It is part diary; part missionary chronicle and commentary. The book is a rich account of information which tackles a very complicated conflict while avoiding a patronising or know-it-all attitude.

    Moschetti provides much-needed context often lacking in the usual 140 twitter character headline. More importantly, the book is an attempt to break through, in a personal way, and draw attention to a forgotten but real humanitarian emergency taking place right under our averted gaze. Moschetti is concerned that, in mainstream Western media, migration and African conflicts are often portrayed in a distorted or simplistic manner.

    An Italian Comboni Missionary priest, Fr. Moschetti studied Theology in Nairobi and worked for 11 years, as a missionary, in the Kenyan slums of Kibera and Korogocho. Between 2009 to 2016 Fr. Moschetti was assigned to South Sudan.

    During Moschetti’s book launch, at Radio Vatican, another Comboni Missionary and renowned journalist, Fr. Giulio Albanese described South Sudan as a forgotten nation. His hope is that one day Pope Francis visits South Sudan and perhaps help focus the world’s attention on this troubled country –just as he did for the Central African Republic in 2015. In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis launched the Jubilee Year of Mercy in Bangui, Central African Republic, in November 2015.

    Notwithstanding the odds in South Sudan, Fr. Albanese spoke of a civil society that actually exists there is trying to make a difference. He said civil society activists there need the support of the international community.

    Present at the book launch was Ethiopian national, Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, the Superior General of Comboni Missionaries.

    During the Wednesday Papal audience of 11 October, in Saint Peter's Square, Moschetti gave Pope Francis a copy of his book. The Pope told Moschetti: “I really would like to go to this country (South Sudan). I would like to go there as soon as it is possible.”

    “Sud Sudan: Il lungo e sofferto cammino verso pace, giustizia e dignità,” 250 pp., 14 Euro, is published by Dissensi. In the meantime, Fr. Moschetti has taken up an advocacy appointment in New York and Washington.

    Source: Vatican Radio

  • Bishop Says Decline of Faith in West Hurts Nigerian Church

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || 12 October 2017

    decline of faith in west hurts nigerian churchA Nigerian bishop said the Catholic Church in his country is beginning to lose its public influence partly because of the decline of religious faith in the West.

    Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto accused European and American politicians and diplomats of publicly "pandering" to Islam at the expense of Christianity.

    The result, he said, was the ascendancy of Islam and evangelical Christianity in Nigeria and the decline of Catholicism.

    He told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 10 interview in Liverpool that the widespread loss of Christian faith in the West was "absolutely" among the causes of the diminishing influence of the Catholic Church in his own country.

    "From my own experience, I find that the British high commissioner, the ambassadors from European countries, the American ambassador -- they are pandering more to Islam than to Christianity, because most of them have turned their backs on Christianity," Bishop Kukah said.

    "The Arab world is pouring money into Nigeria and the Pentecostal pastors in America are doing the same, and the Catholic Church is now becoming the weakest in terms of access to resources," he said.

    "For me, as a bishop of the Catholic Church, I can see very clearly that our influence in the public space is gradually reducing, and that is largely because of our capacity to mobilize resources," he said.

    It had become no longer possible, he said, for the bishops to appeal to historically Catholic nations for financial help with church projects.

    "We can't go to the Irish ambassador or the Spanish ambassador and say, 'This is (needed) for the Catholic Church,'" Bishop Kukah said. "People are not interested."

    "In Ramadan, the ambassadors of Islamic countries are very keen to come to the Muslim celebrations in a way and manner that the Irish or any of these ambassadors are not likely to do for (Christmas) midnight Mass or the Easter celebrations."

    He said that, in his experience, most Catholic ambassadors would prefer to be seen publicly at a Muslim celebration than attending a Christian ceremony.

    "Before our election, John Kerry came to Nigeria," he said. "John Kerry, when he was secretary of state, left the U.S. and came straight to see the sultan of Sokoto. It was a visit that nobody could explain.

    "John Kerry claims to be a Catholic. This is the perfect example. He landed in Abuja. The American Embassy is in Abuja. There is a cardinal in Abuja, and a very visible cardinal for that matter, but it doesn't cross the mind of John Kerry to even see out of courtesy the cardinal. He takes another plane to Sokoto and goes to the palace of the sultan, the head of the Muslims," he said.

    "The reaction of the Nigerian Christian community was very interesting. They thought Kerry was pushing the Islamic agenda," Bishop Kukah said. "This was ahead of the elections, and they thought he was giving the Muslim candidate a leg up."

    "In a country like Nigeria, influence is peddled, and we are not there at the table," the bishop continued, adding: "We have not trained our people for roles in public life ... we are still very shy of the public space, and we are not aware of how much things have moved on."

    Bishop Kukah, chairman of the interfaith dialogue committees of both the Nigerian bishops' conference and the regional conference of West African bishops, was in England on a speaking tour.

    On the same day, two bishops in Nigeria encouraged the Association of Diocesan/Religious Directors of Social Communication to strive to better publicize the good works of the church in the public domain.

    Bishop Albert Ayinde Fasina of Ijebu Ode said enhanced training of Catholics for work in the media would help to maintain a presence for the church in the public square.

    "In the spirit of the new evangelization, you are required to put your creativity to work ... by engaging the media tools for catechesis," he said in a speech on the first day of a three-day meeting. "The church needs to be concerned for, and be present in the world of communications, in order to dialogue with people today and help them encounter Christ."

    Bishop Godfrey Igwebuike Onah of Nsukka said that Catholic professionals must also be ready to correct inaccurate reports about the church.

    "'If we do not blow our trumpet, no one will blow it for us," he said. "'We need a kind of media that can serve as a watchdog of the society as well as be the gadfly that can bring us to our toes when we go wrong."

  • Catholic Bishops, Government Clash over “genocide” Claims in Cameroon

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 12 October 2017

    bishops and government in cameroon class over genocide claimsThe bishops of the English-speaking areas of Cameroon have accused government forces of using live ammunition against unarmed protesters, and complained that when the government spokesperson referred to secessionists as “terrorists,” it was a “subtle call” for ethnic cleansing.

    Cameroonian bishops of the Bamenda province have voiced concerns that the Cameroon government could be perpetrating “genocide” against English-speaking Cameroonians.

    The bishops’ remarks came in the wake of demonstrations in Cameroon’s predominantly English-speaking northwest and southwest regions demanding independence from the rest of Cameroon, which is majority French-speaking.

    Media reports claim over 20 people have been killed by security forces since October 1, although the leader of the independence movement is claiming that over 100 people died.

    The current unrest began last year, when disgruntled lawyers and teachers began protesting the use of French in courts using the Anglo-Saxon common law tradition (practiced in the English parts of the country) and in Anglophone schools. The demonstrations soon spread to the general public, and the calls for outright secession started growing.

    In a strongly-worded statement released on October 6, the bishops condemned “the barbarism and the irresponsible use of firearms against unarmed civilians by the Forces of Law and Order” and called on President Paul Biya to stop “the bloodbath and genocide that has skillfully been initiated in the North West and South West Regions.”

    The Bamenda ecclesiastical province covers these Anglophone areas of Cameroon.

    The statement accused government forces of using live ammunition against unarmed protesters, and complained that the government spokesperson and Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, referred to secessionists as “terrorists,” which the bishops said was a “subtle call” for ethnic cleansing.

    “All Anglophones are now considered as ‘terrorists’ and as such they qualify for elimination, just because they are Anglophones,” the bishops wrote.

    “We need to stop the imminent genocide! We, as a nation, need a change of orientation to forestall any further deterioration of the situation in the North West and South West Regions,” the statement said.

    The bishops have said genocide begins with “the killing of one man - not for what he has done - but for who he is.”

    On Oct. 9, Tchiroma Bakary said the bishops could be considered as “objective allies of secessionists.”

    The government minister said the bishops had endorsed “the dangerous and wild imaginations of the secessionists” and denounced the bishops for “championing those who deliberately chose to breach the constitution and laws of the republic to incite people to question their citizenship.”

    Former Cameroonian presidential candidate Bernard Acho Muna - who served as Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda from 1997-2002 and investigated the situation in Central African Republic for the UN in 2013 - said the evidence in the Anglophone region of Cameroon was disturbing.

    “Genocide is not only about killings. … The elimination of a people may be their culture and so on is part of genocide,” he said.

    In March, Muna, an Anglophone from Bamenda, said that a group of lawyers are currently compiling a dossier to be deposited at an international tribunal to sue the perpetrators of “genocidal” crimes in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.

    (He said the lawyers were considering which court to lodge their complaint with: either the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Court of Justice, or the United Nations directly.)

    “What I am saying is that as a Cameroonian and somebody who has prosecuted people committing genocide in Rwanda, I am aware of the gravity of genocide. And as a Cameroonian, it has not been easy for me to handle such a situation. And so, what I decided to do, in view of the evidence that we have, is to call upon the assistance of legal advisers who were Barristers in London and some of them I worked with in Rwanda,” Muna told reporters at the time.

    Meanwhile, Tchiroma Bakary said the Anglophone secessionist leaders were at fault.

    He accused them of recruiting “hundreds of mercenaries” and importing assault weapons with the aim of carrying out mass killings in the two regions, and blaming the government for the atrocities.

    Cameroon’s bilingual and bi-cultural status derived from its colonial heritage. Initially administered as a German Protectorate in 1884, Cameroon would later be shared with France and Britain as League of Nations Mandates after Germany was defeated in the First World War.

    The end of the Second World War and the establishment of the United Nations saw the two parts of Cameroon transition from mandated territories to UN Trust Territories.

    In 1960, the northern part of Cameroon administered by France gained its independence. The southern part administered by Britain as part of Nigeria was in 1961 subject to a plebiscite in which they were offered independence by reuniting with their francophone Cameroonian “brothers” or by remaining part of Nigeria.

    The results showed an overwhelming desire by English-speaking Cameroonians to reunite with the French-speaking part of Cameroon.

    The “marriage” was guaranteed by a Federal Constitution that was meant to preserve and protect the minority Anglophones and their colonial heritage. But in 1972 then-President Ahmadou Ahidjo organized a referendum that dissolved the federation in favor of a united republic, thereby removing the protections Anglophones enjoyed.

    Currently, Anglophones make up around 20 percent of the population.

    In their statement, the Bamenda bishops said the government has “persistently failed to address [the Anglophone crisis] adequately,” accusing officials of only offering “cosmetic changes.”

    The bishops are calling for what they call frank and sincere dialogue with “the right people to determine the nature and form of the state,” which by their reckoning forms the basis of the current crisis.

    The bishops have declared Oct. 14 a day of mourning for the ecclesiastical province, and said requiem Masses would be said in all churches for those who have been killed in the violence.

    Source: Crux…

  • Bad Governance Harms Human Dignity: Bishop in Nigeria

    CANAA || By Father Eze Matthew, Nsukka Diocese || 12 October 2017

    bishop onah on bad governance harms human dignityBishop Godfrey Igwebuike Onah of Nsukka Diocese in Nigeria recently noted that bad governance harms human dignity and that those who have pledged to promote the dignity of the human person should resist the temptation to be hired as mercenaries in the enemy’s army.

    He was speaking during the Fifty-Seventh Founders’ Day Lecture of the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) which took place on Thursday, 5 October 2017 under the theme: “To Restore the Dignity of Man – Why and How?”

    According to the Prelate, dictators and bad governments are the worst enemies of the truth that university seeks and teaches. He reminded all and sundry that modern universities owe their origins to the desire within the Church to cultivate in a group of people the search for truth as a profession; truth about God, about man and about the world.

    Tracing the historical origin and foundation of University, Bishop Onah amongst other things discussed the guild of students (universitas scholarium) in Bologna and the guild of teachers and students (universitas magistrorum et scholarium) in Paris in the 12th century, from which the University took its name.

    “Contrary to what many think, universitas had nothing to do with a presumed universality of the knowledge that a University offers but rather with the association of people with common pursuits who wanted to protect their interests and safeguard themselves against external interference and distractions. Foremost on the minds of the members of the guilds was the unhindered pursuit of truth (veritas),” he said.

    He lamented the tragic irony in Nigeria where the guild of teachers and students sometimes hinders the pursuit of truth and emphasized that anytime the university interrupts its normal programme in protest against the government, the university by that very act makes itself an ally of its oppressor.

    Concerning some of the roles a university should play he said, “People often see the University as a place where young persons acquire more knowledge and better skills that will prepare them for specific tasks in the society of adults. And they are right”.

    He further observed that human action and inaction are capable of lowering human dignity in oneself and in others.

    Given that freedom is the foremost expression of the imago Dei and the misuse of freedom or sin disfigures it, Bishop Onah said, it then follows that the misuse of human freedom or sin lowers human dignity.

    Truth, in his view, “is the link between the University and human dignity and to restore the dignity of man entails therefore leading man to know who he really is – the image of God – and helping him to make that image shine brightly for everyone to see.”

  • National Prayer Day for Peace 2017 in Kenya Emphasized Peace through Dialogue

    CANAA || By Sr. Michelle Njeri, Nakuru Diocese || 12 October 2017

    national prayer day for peace 2017 in kenyaThe annual National Prayer for Peace 2017 in Kenya, which took place last Saturday, October 7, emphasized the need to nurture the fragile peace in the country by having the key political leaders reach out to each other in dialogue and family members embracing peace in the example of the Holy Family.

    “As you may be aware, the aftermath of the General Elections has threatened and affected the peace and harmony of our Nation,” the Chairman of Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homabay diocese told the gathering of thousands, appealing to Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta who was present at the event, to reach “out to the Opposition and other Political Leaders” in dialogue for peace.

    Bishop Anyolo revealed what informed the theme of the day saying, “In our earlier deliberations as a Conference we had proposed a theme based on thanksgiving after the General Elections of 8th August 2017. In view of what happened after the Elections and what are going through as a Country, our theme this time is: Peace in the family, peace in our country and hope for our youth.”

    The main celebrant during Holy Mass, Archbishop Zachaeus Okoth of Kisumu emphasized the theme: “Standing on this Holy Ground of our National Marian Shrine, we pray for our families and young people, so that, like the family of Nazareth where Jesus grew up, they too may be the cradle where peace is brewed and served to all the members.”

    Located in Subukia, some 43 kilometres from Nakuru town, the Marian National Shrine belongs to the conference of Bishops, with the Conventual Franciscan Frairs as the caretakers.

    The Eucharistic celebration was animated by a 500-member choir from the eight dioceses under Kisumu Metropolitan, namely, Kakamega, Bungoma, Kisii, Kitale, Lodwar, Homabay, Eldoret, and Kisumu.

    Hundreds of clergy and religious and thousands of lay faithful from all the 25 dioceses in Kenya took part in the daylong event.

  • Justice and Peace Commission in Cameroon Calls for Dialogue

    Vatican Radio || 04 October 2017

    cameroon justice and peace commission for dialogue 2017Cameroon’s Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace has called upon "protagonists of the country’ secessionist protests, to seek a peaceful solution through dialogue in the light of the truth." This is according a statement issued by the Commission and made available to Agenzia Fides.

    Reuters reports that a separatist movement in Cameroon's Anglophone regions is gaining ground after a year of state repression that has undermined moderate voices and raised concerns the majority French-speaking nation may face a prolonged period of violence.

    Soldiers shot dead at least eight people and wounded others in the two English-speaking regions on Sunday, the anniversary of Anglophone Cameroon's independence from Britain. Amnesty International said Monday at least 17 people had died in the clashes.

    Calling for more decentralisation in the English speaking regions, the Justice and Peace Commission criticised the government for failing to handle the crisis and for isolating moderate voices.

    The growing influence of the separatists, who include armed radical elements, is one of the most serious threats to stability in the central African oil producer since President Paul Biya took power 35 years ago.

    Like many moderates who say they are marginalised by Biya's Francophone-dominated government, Tapang Ivo Tanku, an Anglophone activist based in the United States, has campaigned for a peaceful solution: a two-state federation - one French-speaking, the other Anglophone - under one president.

    "I am in the minority now," he told Reuters from New York. The strife began in November (2016), when English-speaking teachers and lawyers in the Northwest and Southwest regions, frustrated with having to work in French, took to the streets calling for reforms and greater autonomy.

    Six people were killed in those protests, and in the months that followed, the government deployed thousands of police and elite soldiers, implemented a blanket internet blackout and arrested dozens of activists, dubbing them "terrorists."

    The thousands who protested on Sunday around the country were no longer calling for reform, but for a separate state for Cameroon's nearly five million English speakers.

    "We told them our problems. They responded with force, killing us," said a young student in Bamenda, one of the largest Anglophone cities. "We need our own country."

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • Catholics and Methodists Talks in Nigeria Lauded

    Catholic News Service of Nigeria (CNSN) || 06 October 2017

    catholic and methodist talks in nigeria 2017 laudedNigeria’s Archbishop of Kaduna, Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso has described the dialogue between Catholics and Methodists as a step towards the truth for the realisation of the call of our Lord Jesus Christ that “they all may be one.” The Archbishop’s observation was contained in his opening address to the inaugural meeting of the representatives of the two Churches saddled with the responsibility of forging mutual understanding and relationship between the Methodist and Catholic Church. The ceremony took place recently at the Methodist Cathedral of Unity, Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

     “The ecumenical movement is essentially a movement towards the truth and towards each other. The extent to which we have moved away from the truth and from each other is the extent to which we are challenged to move back or return.” He added, “Above all, we should and must realise that unity is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, namely, the credibility of the Gospel message that we all proclaim. And this is the meaning of the priestly prayer of Jesus: ‘May they be one so that the world may know that you have sent me,” said Archbishop Ndagoso,

    Archbishop Ndagoso traced the genesis of the meeting to the initiative towards dialogue with the Catholic Church, taken by the World Methodist Council in London in August 1967; as a follow up to the decision of the Second Vatican Council’s decree on Ecumenism, aimed at ensuring the promotion of Christian unity.  Describing the meeting as a continuation of the first meeting between the two churches at the international level held in 1967, Archbishop Ndagoso expressed the hope that delegates of the two churches take advantage of the cordiality between the two ecclesial bodies to ensure a fruitful outcome.

    He declared, “The one advantage that the Methodist-Roman Catholic dialogue has in its favour is the absence of historic acrimony or the direct bitterness of schism between the two ecclesial communities;” adding that, “Consequently, Methodists and Catholics have more solid grounds for the affinity between them.”

    Archbishop Ndagoso noted that the meeting is not to break new grounds on doctrinal and theological issues.

    “Our task will be the facilitation of knowing, understanding and reception” of the documents of the two churches at the local level. The Archbishop added, “Ecumenical dialogue is propelled and sustained by the realization of the fact that continued divisions among Christians continue to damage the truth and the integrity of the Christian faith that we are all charged by the Lord Jesus Christ,” said the Archbishop of Kaduna.

    In his own address, the prelate of the Methodist Church, Nigeria; Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche, described the occasion as a very significant and epochal gathering aimed at ensuring constant truth and unity among the two ecclesial bodies. The Methodist prelate traced the genesis of the Methodist Church and its spiritual and pastoral services to humanity. He stressed the importance of the dialogue.

     “It means that the emphasis of the engagement should be that each party should strive to apprehend and appreciate any divergences in position, approaches, and traditions with a view to ensuring that both parties are mutually benefited by the ‘handshake in Nigeria’; and for the better and greater benefit of expanding and extending the Body of Christ,” said the Methodist prelate.

    The dialogue between the two churches is not a new initiative.

     “There is no better time to engage in the ‘handshake' than now in order to promote harmony between our churches and to better confront the issues and challenges of Evangelism in Nigeria and the Nigerian Question,” Dr. Samuel Kanu Uche added.

    Source: Catholic News Service of Nigeria… 

  • Partnerships Strengthen Sisters' Clean Water Projects Worldwide: Focus on Africa

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Soli Salgado || 09 October 2017

    clean water projects worldwide of sisters in partnerships….

    Global Sisters Report took a closer look at a couple of collaborative projects among women religious, both of which empower local leaders to clean up the water in their region, giving them the proper tools to be self-reliant.

    Partnerships eliminate waterborne diseases in Cameroon

    One organization born in Cameroon has relied on partnerships, nurturing local leaders who run the project long after the sisters leave.

    Congregation of Notre Dame Sr. Cathy Molloy went to Cameroon from New York City in the early 2000s, initially to establish a new Notre Dame community. While there, she also wrote stories for her community's publication, Dialogue.

    "I was seeing all kinds of things I had never seen before and hearing all kinds of stories I had never heard before," particularly as they related to water, she said.

    Throughout the region of Kumbo, located in the highlands, children sometimes have to miss school to take buckets to the local, often polluted stream to fetch water, Molloy said.

    "We've lost children who went down with their buckets at the end of a rainy season and got pulled into the streams and drowned."

    Around the same time Molloy was sending articles back to the congregation in Ottawa, Ontario, Sr. Norma McCoy, also of the Congregation of Notre Dame, was working on water issues in Ottawa,* and working to expand her ministry to include more outreach.

    Molloy's articles helped raise money for 17 women who were members of a local support group for widows and single mothers in Kumbo. The money was used to provide those women with access to clean spring water by installing public faucets, but the sisters were just getting started.

    News that help had come "spread like wildfire," Molloy said, with other villages approaching her about bringing water systems to them. Eventually, Molloy and McCoy founded OK (Ottawa-Kumbo) Clean Water Project in 2003.

    The committee eventually got involved in 53 villages, and its success is rooted in its various partnerships:

    Village water management committees that oversee the processes and include Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit that partners with developing communities worldwide to help meet basic human needs;

    Sisters from congregations in Cameroon who introduce the project to their villages;

    The congregation's schools in Canada, the United States and Japan that hold fundraisers that contribute a third of the project's annual income;

    Connections between local Muslim and Christian communities, which Molloy noted are especially harmonious, with the country's northern region being predominantly Muslim and the southern part, Christian.

    Where OK Clean Water has worked — whether introducing, expanding or renovating existing water systems — cases of waterborne diseases have been eliminated, Molloy said. Since its founding, the project has directly served more than 80,000 people.

    To receive help, locals must file an application to OK Clean Water and meet a few criteria. The village must locate an accessible source of spring water within a certain distance. Once the source has been located, the engineer runs tests to ensure there would be enough water in both rainy and dry seasons. The village must also agree to a partnership, providing the unskilled labor and materials for construction while OK Clean Water provides skilled labor and helps with the piping.

    Once an application is approved, villagers build a catchment, typically carrying materials uphill on their heads and backs. They then dig a trench and build a storage tank, and later go farther down the hill to build taps.

    That Kumbo is located in the highlands, Molloy said, is a reason the project could be so successful with a gravity-fed system: The catchment at the top of the hill "catches" the stream water and feeds it into the storage tank below, which can hold around 15,000 liters. Having access to stream water also keeps them from needing filters.

    While the first 10 years of the program were mainly spent raising money to install the systems, now the focus is on education for sustainability so the work can be handed over to locals. This includes training leaders, working with committees and caretakers, and getting young people involved.

    Edwin Visi, a local water engineer, is the country director of the program and is poised to step in to lead the project.

    "It's about instilling leadership so that when one team leaves, it doesn't just fall apart, which can and has happened," Molloy said. "It's now a local project in local hands."

    "The resources are too limited and the need is too great to see projects not work. The people need to have ownership. It has to belong to them, and they have to be empowered. Otherwise, it's part of the whole African story about people coming in and doing," she said.

    "This was not a handout; it was a hand-up."

    Read more… Global Sisters Report… 

  • For Asia and Africa, Poverty can Lead to Online Exploitation

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || Elise Harris || 08 October 2017

    poverty leading to online exploitation in africa and asiaWhile the challenge of protecting children online is one faced throughout the world, Church leaders from Asia and Africa said that the developing world faces the compounding problem of poverty.

    “Online sexual income is one of the many faces and one of the many consequences of poverty,” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said in an Oct. 5 keynote speech at a conference on protecting children online.

    “Dehumanizing poverty, addressing the problem of dehumanizing poverty in a humanizing way, deserves the attention of all sectors of each country in Asia,” he said, explaining that in some cases, parents from poor families choose to exploit their children online “to earn money,” believing, whether out of ignorance or willful denial, that there is no harm done.

    “What a shame, what a scandal, to see the poor dehumanized many times over, now turning to dehumanizing ways to gain a bit of humanity,” he said.

    Businesses and industries ought “to be disturbed by economic growth or wealth generation that excludes the greater part of the population of the world,” he said, noting that “while business enterprises increase their profits though online shopping and online transactions, the lives of poor children are destroyed by online exploitation. Can we please think about that?”

    Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, Cardinal Tagle was a keynote speaker during an Oct. 3-6 conference titled “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” focusing on protecting children in an increasingly global and connected world.

    The conference is organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection (CCP) in collaboration with the UK-based global alliance WePROTECT and the organization “Telefono Azzurro,” which is the first Italian helpline for children at risk.

    Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin opened the conference on day one, and other participants include social scientists, civic leaders, and religious representatives. Discussion points include prevention of abuse, pornography, the responsibility of internet providers and the media, and ethical governance.

    Beside Cardinal Tagle on the panel Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop Nairobi, Kenya, both of whom spoke on safeguarding minors in the developing world, offering the specific perspectives of Asia and Africa, respectively.

    Asia

    In his speech, Tagle began by noting that while the conference focuses on the digital world, in Asia child exploitation “does not happen only online,” and pointed to the various forms of exploitation that children, who are “the most vulnerable,” endure due to ethnic and religious conflicts, poverty and migration.

    Citing information gathered on the Philippines from the International Justice Mission in Manila, Tagle said “it is wise not to equate online sexual exploitation of children with other forms of trafficking in human persons.”

    While the two were at one time included under the same general heading, there was a slow realization that “online sexual exploitation of children deserves its own heading, because it has its unique configuration.”

    In the Philippines specifically, he said, the main perpetrators of online child exploitation are sadly the parents, or other adults who know them, such as family members or neighbors.

    Generally speaking, Tagle said the main victims of online sexual exploitation in the Philippines are younger than those of human trafficking, ranging in age from 10 months to 15-years old, with more boys being victimized online than in physical human trafficking.

    He also pointed to the cooperation of other parties, including Western Union and PayPal, which he said both collect international payments for exploitation.

    Complicating the situation, he said, is increasing access to the internet and anonymity of contacts, as well as a basic lack of knowledge about the lasting effects of this type of abuse on the victims.

    While some laws do exist regarding such crimes, Cardinal Tagle said that more work must be done in educating the public about these laws and enforcing them, as well as to coordinate efforts of police, local government, families, schools, and faith-based groups.

    Offering some points for reflection, Tagle said he believes there is a need in Asia specifically, and likely other regions, for “a serious anthropological, philosophical and, for us, theological study on the humanity of the child.”

    He explained that in some cultures, “a child is considered a possession of the adults, therefore an object that can be disposed of by the adults according to their whims and desires.”

    “Of course this is camouflaged by some acceptable cultural norms like obedience to elders, elders just exercising their responsibility over the children, the responsibility of children to augment the income of their family,” and so forth, he said, so a “holistic view of the child” is needed.

    In comments to CNA after his talk, Tagle said he has a “nagging feeling” that while people throughout the world speak about “the dignity of the child,” many might still have a misunderstood vision of the child that is deeply rooted in cultural practices and norms.

    “There might be a conflict between the slogans. I don't want the dignity of children to be just a slogan,” he said. “So can we unearth, can we be honest, especially in our different cultures and in our different religious traditions: What is a child? … Can we be frank? What is our compelling vision?”

    There is no universally accepted standard for what constitutes abuse, he said, so in order to eventually arrive at a consensus, “you have to go through cultures,” which is why an anthropological and philosophical study might be necessary.

    There might be some cultures that justify abuse through accepted norms, “so how do you confront that culture?” he asked, adding that beyond legislation, “there is a deeper law that people have been following for centuries which is their culture, so you have to address that.”

    In his talk, Tagle further reflected on this point. “We need an auto-critique: how does my culture affect my view of children and my behavior toward them?” he said, noting that in some cultures it is accepted that a young girl may be raped in order to restore honor to her family.

    The cardinal said he was “aghast” to hear about this, but “it is embedded in the culture,” and this shows the need for dialogue and self-critique, not only for government officials and academics, but for parents, educators, and families as well.  

    He also said, based on his personal experience in the Philippines, that there is a need for a “serious study on the relation between the virtual, the digital and the real.”

    This, he said, is because “some parents say they allow their children to be used online since 'it is only virtual.' There is no 'real' contact.” This could easily be an excuse, he said, but noted that it could also come from a genuine lack of knowledge “about what the virtual reality is.”

    “So we need to hear the stories of children who have been asked to do sexual acts before cameras for viewing, for them to be able to bring across the reality of what is happening through virtual reality.”

    Africa

    Offering the perspective on the safeguarding of minors in Africa was Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi, which Pope Francis visited in 2015 as part of his first tour of the African continent.

    In his speech, Njue painted a general picture of a continent that in many ways is still digitally illiterate, and where issues related to sex are largely taboo, but which also falls prey to the same sorts of abuses and exploitation experienced in other parts of the world, including online.

    “The digital world, being a new phenomenon, has found a gray ground of abuse in Africa, where the majority of older generations expected to protect minors are not computer literate, leaving their children exposed to cyber-abuse of all kinds,” he said.

    Naming just a few of the online dangers that have affected African youth, Njue cited cyber-bullying, 'sexting,' online grooming and gambling for money, as well as a number of suicides that have taken place as a result of the online “Blue Whale Challenge,” in which youth are encouraged to join the game and carry out a number of different challenges, the final one being suicide.

    Njue said that according to statistics from communications representatives in Kenya, mobile access among citizens increased to 88.1 percent in 2016, with 37.8 million subscribers to online mobile services.

    Other gains were seen in the general internet data market, which spiked to 31.9 million people going digital. However, “telecommunications offices remain largely unregulated, and children remain vulnerable,” he said. 

    Generally speaking, Njue said that as far as Africa goes, “safeguarding of minors has been neglected in our society.”

    In many ways it is a “culture of silence,” he said, explaining that even for parents to bring up human sexuality with their children “is a taboo subject in most of our communities in Kenya, and Africa at large.”

    Needed infrastructure is also lacking in many African countries, he said, explaining that law enforcement officers “are not adequately trained and equipped” to deal with cyber-abuse, while the majority of adults “are not computer literate, and therefore are at a disadvantage in knowing what their children are doing with their computers and mobile phones.”

    Some have taken advantage of this lack of awareness to promote inappropriate sexual content even through cartoons, with children watching the shows in front of their parents, who are often unconcerned “out of ignorance.”

    Poverty, he said, is also a key cause of exploitation, and children are often left alone, as parents are frequently out of the house all day for work.

    “This exposes the vulnerable children to all kinds of abuses with no one to protect them from the perpetrators,” Njue said, adding that political strife on the African continent such as the conflicts in Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic compound the problem, leaving women and children “in danger of all forms of abuse.”

    There is also a lack of advocacy and a lack of funds for awareness-raising, he said, because many people are afraid to speak out in a society “which views issues of sexual abuse as taboo, not to be discussed in the open.”

    As far as what can be done, Njue echoed Pope Francis' frequent call for greater training of Church personnel and the enactment of laws “to ensure that these sins have no place in their Church. This is why we are here.”

    Laws ought to be more stringent, he said, and the faithful, particularly in schools and educational institutes, must also be educated on the dangers involved in internet activities to so that children do not fall victim to abuse or bullying online.

    When in 2011 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requested that all bishops' conferences issue guidelines for safeguarding minors, Kenya responded by issuing a document titled “Safeguarding children, policies and procedures,” Njue said.

    However, he said that due to “a lack of data and expertise,” the Kenyan bishops’ conference, as well as others in Africa, “are not able to do much in safeguarding children from cyber-bullying. This is where the conference needs help.”

    In terms of action points that could be implemented, Njue said governments must set up a “singular body” that monitors the internet, as was done in the UK, and which takes down websites found to publish and disseminate child pornography.

    Parents must also be more pro-active in monitoring what their children do online, he said. And laws must be implemented to handle cases where the child is both the “victim and the perpetrator of cyber-crime” by 'sexting' lewd images of themselves on apps like WhatsApp or Snapchat, he said, and again pointed to models already existing in the UK.

    Elders, chiefs and local administration in various villages also ought to be informed of digital risks, and educational institutions ought to push media channels to ensure that television companies are offering appropriate content at times when families might be watching, he said.

    As far as the Church goes, Njue said she must first of all accompany children by giving them a solid education in Christian values, “thus empowering and creating a good foundation of morals in them.”

    The Church should also take advantage of the various groups, associations, movements and educational institutions she runs in order to educate children on cyber-bullying and sexual abuse to ensure their protection. Similarly, clergy and religious should also be given adequate information on risks and prevention.

    Njue also called for heavy investment for counseling and rescue services for victims, and for greater cooperation with the state and with law enforcement to ensure proper training and that all cases “are followed to the end.”

    “The safeguarding of minors is a multi-faceted social problem that requires the synergy of all disciplines to bring about prevention,” Njue said, stressing that regional and international collaboration are necessary throughout Africa “if we are to respond to the challenges of child online abuse in a digitally, culturally diverse world.”

    Sexual abuse is a problem “across all borders,” he said. “From the poorest remote village in Africa, Asia and Latin America, to the richest countries in the developed world, there is no exclusion.”

    Because of this, “it is our cardinal duty and obligation to see to it that children are protected from all forms of sexual abuses, including cyber-bullying and pornographic movies, and to fully implement the laws and regulations to the letter,” Njue said.

    He insisted that the Church, and society as a whole, “should advertise zero-tolerance to any form of abuse of minors,” and voiced his hope that the conference would “be the beginning of a new journey.”

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • Commuting to Nairobi, the Train Becomes a Church

    Religion News Service (RNS) || By Fredrick Nzwili || 02 October 2017

    train become church commuting to nairobiThis commuter train takes its passengers to work, but the preacher aboard hopes it will also take them to God.

    Starting in the suburb of Ruiru, about 19 miles north of Nairobi, the train for the past five years has informally hosted a growing number of self-styled pastors and a makeshift, moving congregation eager to hear the gospel.

    At least two coaches turn into “churches” each day, with Christians singing, dancing and clapping as they prepare for a short sermon during the one-hour journey.

    Jane Wanjiru, who frequently joins in the worship and occasionally preaches on the train, said many of her fellow passengers may otherwise not find time to pray or attend church.

    “In this case, the train fellowship becomes a good alternative,” she said.

    As the train picks up passengers in both middle-class neighborhoods and slums, the congregation swells. And by the time it stops at the capital’s Central Railway Station, scores have been touched by Christ or healed, the train preachers say.

    Nine pastors minister to the moving flock, many of whom are out of work and looking for employment. Other passengers work as civil servants, traders or casual laborers. The pastors — who hold down other jobs, and for whom the train ministry is an unpaid calling — carefully choose sermons that relate to the struggles of many of their passengers, who suffer poverty, exhaustion and stress, and often have trouble paying the 40-cent fare.

    “You must differentiate between true sacrifice and what is not. God wants us to make true sacrifices,” said Pastor Benjamin Mutungi, 34, preaching on a recent train ride. Some of the commuters open their own Bibles to read along with him, as others find the passage on their mobile phones.

    He and the other pastors try to schedule their preaching so that they’re not all preaching on the same train at the same time, to reach the maximum number of commuters.

    “Many have been helped to manage their problems. We have prayed for the sick. We have also prayed for the unemployed. Some returned to say they have seen a breakthrough,” said Pastor Michael Mbogo, 41, who started preaching on the train  five years ago.

    The train preachers decided that they would not have an offering aboard so as not to further burden the many commuters already struggling to earn a living wage.

    Benson Ndolo, an accountant who has preached frequently on the train, said his Christian life has been transformed on the tracks. “It has opened doors for me and I am a better person here and at work,” he said.

    Julius Dzolo, an office clerk, said the sermons help him cope with stress. “The preaching helps me relax,” he said. “If I had picked a grudge at work, after the sermon, I am able to forgive much easier.”

    When Mbogo preaches on the train, he said he is paying God back for saving his life. Five years ago, an accident left him in a coma for two weeks and a wheelchair for six months.

    “I made a decision that I will serve him through preaching,” said Mbogo, who, with his fellow preachers has also taken the ministry beyond the train, bringing food and other supplies to a children’s home three times a year.

    Before the accident, Mbogo often used the train to get to his work at a Nairobi hotel, where he is a photographer. He had then seen poor commuters riding on the train roof to avoid paying the fare, and then die or suffer serious injuries after falling from their dangerous seats.

    “I believed my preaching on the coach would help these people,” he said. “At first, I feared the authorities would kick me out, but when people started joining the worship, they also accepted it.”

    Source: Religion News Service… 

  • Ethnic Minorities in South Sudan's Camps Face Insecurity in Warring Nation: Testimonies from Missionaries

    Global Sisters Reporter (GSR) || By Chris Herlinger || 05 October 2017

    south sudan ethnic minorities in camps insecureSouth Sudan's future is bound up with fear, something on vivid and visceral display at the large United Nations camps outside of the capital of Juba.

    At the Protection of Civilians, or POC, Camp #3, nearly 40,000 people are congested into an area that is only a quarter-square mile. As people violently uprooted from their homes, they are trapped, afraid to leave the compound.

    People in the camps fear not only ongoing attacks just outside the camp, but also what lurks beyond the camp's perimeters. They believe that the capital of Juba is hostile to them because they are not Dinkas, the largest single ethnic group in South Sudan and the group that dominates the national government and its military.

    They are Nuers, mainly, but also other non-Dinka ethnic groups, including Shilluks, Mundaris, Baris, Murles, Anyuaks, and Jurchols.

    As non-Dinkas, they feel the government and its supporters are targeting them — a charge the South Sudanese government denies, saying it is fighting an anti-government insurgency trying to topple the regime.

    The first U.N. camps were created following the onset of civil war in South Sudan in late 2013, intended to protect civilians fleeing violence. The United National Mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, hosts about 218,000 in seven camps in South Sudan, two of them in Juba.

    The people in these camps are united by dread. If South Sudan is to move forward toward a better future, such fear will have to end, observers say. But that seems like a very distant hope.

    In an editorial published in late July, the Kenya-based East African said, "South Sudan is heading into the political abyss. The country is disintegrating before our eyes as it sinks into unstructured fighting in various states."

    Noting that the world "appears to have forgotten South Sudan," the editorial said "regional states are too divided to come up with a workable solution to end a civil war that has gone on for almost four years, claimed over 60,000 lives and left over four million displaced — two million are displaced within the country and another two million have fled to neighbouring Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan."

    In short, any sense of normality in the country, which became independent from Sudan in 2011, has disappeared.

    "People's minds are always on this distress," said Sr. Soosai Pashal, who coordinates the work at the camp by the Society of Daughters of Mary Immaculate, or DMI sisters, an India-based congregation.

    Stress is a constant. People are eager to resume some sense of normality in what is an abnormal situation, with only emergency food rations to live on, waiting for some signal that the political situation will improve.

    "I've been here in this camp myself for four years. I know how difficult it is," said Stephen Chieng Keak Luak, a Neur who works with the Society of Daughters of Mary Immaculate sisters as an assistant head teacher at a sister-run school at the camp. "But I can't tell you when the problems will end. The solution is in the hands of the politicians, but they never take care of the situation," he said, echoing a common belief that politicians exploit ethnic differences for political gain.

    Luak paused. "If real peace comes, I will be the first to leave."

    But he acknowledges that is likely to take quite some time. The Protection of Civilians camps were intended as a short-term response to the widespread violence. But it now appears the camps are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

    The East African editorial noted that "ethnic militias are emerging to fight each other and use rape as a weapon of war," citing an Amnesty International report chronicling acts of horrific sexual violence by government soldiers against civilians.

    The editorial said differences between political rivals President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his former vice president, Riek Machar, a Neur, have "now morphed into a free-for-all war of survival in the face of a collapsed economy, high unemployment among the youth, and famine caused by many years of war."

    Read more: Global Sisters Reporter… 

  • One of the Oldest Known Prayers to a Guardian Angel is from Egypt

    Aleteia || By Philip Kosloski || 05 October 2017

    oldest guardian angel prayer from egyptThe ancient prayer dates to the 4th century and originated with a Desert Father.

    While the “Angel of God” prayer is one of the most popular prayers to the angels, it is not the oldest. There exists a prayer composed by St. Macarius of Egypt that is one of the oldest known prayers to a Guardian Angel.

    St. Macarius was born around the year 300 and at first pursued the vocation of marriage. However, his wife died shortly after the wedding, and her death was followed by that of his parents. Feeling the call of Christ to give up everything on this earth, Macarius distributed his goods to the poor and embraced the ascetic life. He dedicated his life to prayer and was eventually ordained a priest.

    After being falsely accused of fathering an illegitimate child, Macarius fled to the desert of Egypt and encountered St. Anthony the Great. Macarius stayed to learn from him the ways of the monastic life and then moved to the desert of Scetes and built a monastery. Thousands of monks came to learn from the wisdom of Macarius, and he is regarded as one of the great Desert Fathers. He died in 391 after spending decades in the desert, leading a devout life of prayer, fasting and asceticism.

    Here is the prayer that he composed to his Guardian Angel.

    Holy angel, to whose care this poor soul and wretched body of mine have been given, do not cast me off because I am a sinner, do not hold aloof from me because I am not clean. Do not yield your place to the Spirit of Evil; guide me by your influence on my mortal body. Take my limp hand and bring me to the path that leads to salvation.

    Yes, holy angel, God has given you charge of my miserable little soul and body. Forgive every deed of mine that has ever offended you at any time in my life; forgive the sins I have committed today. Protect me during the coming night and keep me safe from the machinations and contrivances of the Enemy, that I may not sin and arouse God’s anger.

    Intercede for me with the Lord; ask him to make me fear him more and more, and to enable me to give him the service his goodness deserves. Amen.

    Source: Aleteia… 

  • Southern Africa’s Mini World Youth Day Extends Registration

    Vatican Radio || English Africa Service || 05 October 2017

    mini world youth day registration extended in s africaOrganisers of Southern Africa’s Mini World Youth Day (MWYD), have extended registration until the end of October. Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC )’s Information Officer; Father  Paul Tatu CSS has informed Radio Vatican that the Mini World Youth Day registration has been extended until the end of this month. This is to enable more youth, especially those from the host country, South Africa, to increase the number of its young people at the MWYD. 

    “If you were late to register this is the last opportunity the SACBC is giving you. Young people, please register. No more extension after this. Liaise with your diocese to make sure that you register.  South Africa is really low in numbers.  Neighbouring countries are doing well and have already registered more people than us,” Fr. Tatu said.  

    The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference consists of dioceses in South Africa. Dioceses of Botswana and Swaziland are also members of the SACBC.

    The MWYD is scheduled for the Durban Exhibition Centre from 6 to 10 December. It promises young people unprecedented access to their Bishops through interaction such as in Catechetical sessions which will be moments for them to gather around a Bishop and learn from his experience of faith. It would also be an opportunity for young people to learn from peers and other teachers of the faith.  

    Recalling the words of Pope Saint John Paul II, who first instituted World Youth Day in 1985, the organisers of Southern Africa’s MWYD say John Paul II told the youth of the world: “You can be young and modern and at the same time profoundly Christian.” Part of the MWYD activities will feature and showcase a Youth Cultural Festival that is planned for the evening of 7 December. 

    Other activities and events include Holy Mass, a night vigil, human rosary, stations of the cross, reconciliation and a session of ‘Catholics have talent.’ 

    Parents and guardians have been assured of the safety of their children and charges.

    Source: Vatican Radio…

  • In Cameroon, Religious Leaders Worry about Secession, Rise of ‘Ambazonia’

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 01 October 2017

    religious in cameroon concerned with ambazonia rise 2017After Kurdistan and Catalonia, a restless region in Cameroon is moving towards secession -- in this case, the English-speaking minority concentrated in the west of the majority French-speaking African nation of Cameroon. Catholics and leaders of other religious groups are appealing for calm, while both sides seem to be preparing for conflict.

    In the wake of controversial independence votes in both Kurdistan and Catalonia, religious leaders in Cameroon are expressing concerns that similar calls for secession by some English-speakers could degenerate into violence that would shake the very foundations of the country’s much-hyped peace.

    The secessionists have said that October 1 will be the day the Southern Cameroons will regain their independence from what’s officially known, in French, as the La République du Cameroun (“The Republic of Cameroon”.)

    The Southern Cameroons is the part of the country initially administered as a UN Trust territory before independence in 1961. It reunited with French-speaking Cameroon that same year, following a UN-brokered plebiscite. The two parts formed a Federal Republic which was, however, scraped in 1972 after a controversial referendum that gave rise to a United Republic.

    Even that formula was abolished in 1974 with the establishment of a Republic of Cameroon.

    These mutations have been seen by many Anglophone Cameroonians as a calculated attempt to destroy everything they brought into the union, including their educational and legal systems.

    Those feelings boiled over last October, when teachers and lawyers took to the streets in protest over the use of French in Anglophone schools and courts. But what started as simple strike actions soon coalesced into popular demands for the independence of “Ambazonia” - the putative name given to what could potentially be Africa’s newest country.

    On September 22, 2017, tens of thousands of “Ambazonians” took to the streets in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon in peaceful demonstrations. Armed with green leaves, they chanted freedom songs and what they have crafted as their National Anthem - an anthem that “Hails this land of Glory” to which “We the Ambazonians pledge our loyalty.”

    At least eight people were killed that day. But the secessionists have said they will brave police brutality and declare their independence October 1. The chairman of the governing Council of Ambazonia, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, has issued a timetable for the independence celebration.

    “From Sunday, Oct.1, to Tuesday, Oct. 3, we will celebrate the restoration of our statehood,” he said in a YouTube message.

    He said the Southern Cameroons was on “the last bend to home. Buea is calling, and we are going to get to Buea.”

    Buea (pronounced “boy-ah”) was the capital of the then British Southern Cameroons-the part of Cameroon administered as a UN Trust Territory under Britain. The secessionists say it is going to be the capital of Ambazonia.

    “They have fought us, they have threatened us, but like one person, we have stood firm, because we are going to win,” Tabe declared.

    “We have come too far and there is no turning back. The only place where we will end this struggle is in Buea.”

    Tabe said if President Paul Biya doesn’t start solving the problems between “Ambazonia” and The Republic of Cameroon, he will be forced to have a “very hostile relationship with the new nation. The choice is his today, the choice tomorrow will be ours.”

    Describing the military forces that have been deployed to the two regions as a force of occupation, he said such use of force will not deter Southern Cameroonians from “reclaiming what is rightfully theirs.”

    He said the right to self-defense is a basic human right, and Southern Cameroonians will have to use it to good effect.

    The threat to carry out its independence declaration despite the enormous military deployment in the two English-speaking regions is raising concerns amongst the clergy that Cameroon’s legendary peace could at last be shattered.

    “From the start of this Crisis, we in the Catholic Church said the best option was dialogue,” the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, Archbishop Samuel Kleda told Crux.

    “Let the parties come together on the dialogue table. Let them clearly identify the problems and seek solutions to those problems.”

    The cleric said the problems in Cameroon are a result of injustice that’s not limited to the English-speaking parts of the country.

    “Our first enemy is injustice,” Kleda said. “That is why we demanded that the decentralization process for the development of our regions be really applied. If decentralization was really applied, the Anglophone problem wouldn’t have cropped up.”

    Rev. Dimitri Téné, the Vicar General of the Orthodox Church, said it’s foolhardy to try to divide a country that has been reunited for over 50 years today, while Imam Adamou Mana of a Yaounde-based mosque said, “Cameroon is stronger as a united people.”

    Even as he advocates peace, the emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Douala, Cardinal Christian Tumi, said the over-concentration of power at the center in Cameroon forms the heart of the problem.

    Taking a swipe at the decision to scrap the Federal Republic in favor of a united republic in 1972, Tumi said that with federalism, “Cameroon was well-managed, development was on. There was a prime minister in the two parts of the country.”

    As the two sides continue to bicker, the United Nations Secretary General has expressed concerns “about the situation in Cameroon, including with regard to the recent security incidents in Bamenda and in Douala, and mounting tensions in the South-West and North-West regions related to planned events on 1 October.”

    Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General has expressed concerns about what is going on in Cameroon, and has called on the government to tackle “the root causes” of the crisis.

    He said the UN upholds “the unity and territorial integrity of Cameroon and urges all parties to refrain from acts that could lead to an escalation of tension and violence.”

    He called for dialogue between the government and the communities in the South-West and North-West regions as the best way of preserving peace in Cameroon.

    But the Governing Council of the Southern Cameroons now say they have gone past the level of dialogue, and the only thing left is “the restoration of the statehood of the Southern Cameroons.”

    Source: Crux…

  • Bishop in Ghana Encourages Laity to Openly Profess Faith

    CANAA || By Damian Avevor, Ghana || 02 October 2017

    laity in ghana urged to openly express faithThe Bishop Chair for the Commission of Laity, Women and Youth in Ghana, Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD, has said that if all Catholic faithful in Ghana would not be ashamed of their faith but profess that they know the one in whom they have put their trust, then Ghana can be transformed into a better country.

    “The witness of life and word demands that we march our words with our life so that what we say corresponds to what we do,” Bishop Fianu said in his address at the maiden Bishops Essuah/Sam/Darko Memorial Lectures at Star of the Sea Cathedral at Takoradi, Ghana.

    His topic was: Living Our Vocation as Catholic Faithful.

    “Our world today does not want teachers but models; people who take the lead and invite others to follow them instead of sitting in their comfort zones and pointing out the way to others without they themselves ever taking that way,” the Bishop continued.

    Held on September 29 and 30, the lectures aimed at extolling the legacies of the first three Bishops of the Sekondi-Takoradi Diocese, Bishop Joseph Amihere Essuah, Bishop Charles Kweku Sam and Bishop John Martin Darko.

    Bishop Essuah shepherded the Diocese from November 20, 1969 to October 7, 1980; Bishop Sam from September 30, 1981 to January 13, 1998 and Bishop Darko from June 27, 1998 to December 14, 2011.

    Bishop Fianu, who is also the Local Ordinary of Ho Diocese in the Volta Region, urged Priests to empower the laity to take up their rightful place in the Christian Community or Parish since their activities in Ecclesial Communities or Parishes was important that Priests cannot be fully effective without them.

    “The Church desperately needs the laity to carry out role with the authority, creativity, and power that the Holy Spirit has given them in Baptism,” he said.

    He said because of Baptism and Confirmation, the laity have the right and duty to preach the Gospel to all. They are to do this either individually or grouped in associations, he added.

    “Today, in Ghana, we see some people who stand at street corners, in buses, lorry parks, and other places to preach to others. There are some who occupy the airwaves for long hours. They do so because that is how they understand the command of Christ to preach the Gospel to all nations,” he noted.

    Bishop Fianu, who is the Bishop of Ho, observed that many Catholics in Ghana today were interested in reading and studying the Bible, which according to him was reassuring to note the importance the Church in Ghana gives to the Bible Apostolate.

  • Once Abandoned Himself, Kenyan Man Now Shelters Thousands of Kids

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Mark Pattison || 02 October 2017

    Charles Mully has had an incredible life story. And he's not finished yet.

    film on founder of mully children family in kenya 2017The Kenyan-born Mully, 68, was abandoned by his family when he was 6 years old. For a decade, he scratched out a living for himself. At age 16, he encountered Christ in a personal way and later became a successful businessman, but he ditched it all to establish the Mully Children's Family, a home to shelter kids who had been abandoned like he once had been.

    A film about his life, "Mully," will be shown at about 750 U.S. theaters, but for only a three-day window, Oct. 3-5.

    "I was born in a very poor family" in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, Mully said in a Sept. 29 telephone interview with Catholic News Service from Detroit, where he was to speak to supporters before catching a plane to Dallas later that day. "My father was addicted to alcohol. At the same time, he created violence. My mother, myself and my younger brother (were affected). One day I woke up and found out that they had gone. That was disaster on my side of life as a young child."

    After eking out an existence for 10 years, "I was completely hopeless. I felt I was rejected by society. I needed something better. But I felt wanting to commit suicide, wanting to take my life away," Mully recalled. But "through a man who invited me to his church, I heard the word of God and through the spirit of God and through the Lord Jesus Christ, it changed completely my life."

    Mully said he knocked on doors until one opened for him. The "very nice young lady" gave him food and shelter in exchange for cleaning the house and weeding the garden. A half-year later, the woman's husband put Mully to work on his farm outside the city. There, he earned enough money to buy a car, which he used as a taxi. "Through prayer, through hard work and through determination, my business grew," he added. A series of wise investments made him wealthy.

    But Mully chucked it all to assume the mantle of Kenya's "Father to the Fatherless."

    From the time he opened his first home in 1989, by his account, "with my wife and I, we have rescued over 12,000; that's about when this movie was made (in 2015). Since that time there was more -- about 3,000."

    That number, Mully added, is only those who have completed "the program." "They have become self-reliant in their future life," he said. "We give them the best of health care, clothing and shelter, love, fatherly and motherly love. We help them spiritually to grow, give them spiritual nourishment as well as prayer," he said, as well as education from kindergarten and grade school to high school and vocational training in such fields as construction, electrical, fabrication, roofing and woodwork.

    The number of success stories "I cannot even count," Mully told CNS. But he can count about 30 former wards who have returned to work at the Mully Children's Family homes, which are now spread throughout the country and help each one of Kenya's 42 tribal peoples.

    He said the Kenyan government backs his work, and that he also gets some help from the European Union. "They are coming to us, glad to see the work that we are doing," Mully said. "It does not stop there. We export beans and vegetables to Europe, Germany, the Netherlands. It gives opportunities to over 1,300 members of our communities."

    Mully's model could be spreading. He said he's fielded inquiries from interested persons in Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania, but also from Europe, the United States and Canada.

    "My prayer, my desire is also to talk to the people around the globe and also in America that we may stake a step of faith and move forward to help our people in our countries to help these children who need to be adopted," Mully said. "Equal justice for future generations, as God created everything for each one of us."

  • Ugandan Archbishop Apologizes to CAR and DR Congo Citizens

    Vatican Radio || By Father Paul Samasumo and Maria Dulce Araujo || 01 October 2017

    archbishop odama apologizes to car and drcUganda’s Archbishop of Gulu and President of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, John-Baptist Odama has apologised to the people of Central African Republic and the those of the Democratic Republic of Congo for the suffering and atrocities caused by fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

    Archbishop Odama’s apology was proferred at a recent continental conference of African Bishops who attended a Caritas Africa meeting in Dakar, Senegal. Archbishop Odama explained reasons for the apology to Vatican Radio’s Africa Service.

    “The people in the Central African Republic (CAR) are suffering from (the atrocities of) the LRA. Where did the LRA come from? I think Uganda has something to apologise for and we need to reconcile with the people of CAR and with the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as with those in South Sudan. For that reason it is important to accept -yes the fault has been made, and we have to say sorry for this,” Archbishop Odama said.

    He said the activities of the LRA rebels in CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo had fractured human relationships of neighbouring communities that once lived as brothers and sisters. He referred to Pope Francis’ visit to CAR in 2015 as a reminder to the people of Africa to “feel together” in solidarity with those suffering the ravages of war.

    The Archbishop has called on the government of Uganda to join efforts with countries where LRA rebels are now operating.

    The crises and instability facing countries of Central Africa are political, but they are also the result of poverty, exploitation, governance challenges intertwined with ethnic and cultural challenges, Archbishop Odama said. He believes that the current impasse is the result of politicians only looking for a political solution. He has called for a comprehensive approach that is composed of a synergy of political, cultural and even spiritual solutions.

    “Let me give you an example of why this is complicated and why it needs a comprehensive approach. There is a man at the ICC (International Criminal Court), Dominic Ongwen. Depending on how you look at it, he is both a victim because he was abducted and a perpetrator having committed crimes against humanity,” Archbishop Odama said.

    Archbishop John Baptist Odama, a recipient of several peace awards, is a long-term advocate for peace in northern Uganda.

    Source: Vatican Radio…

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