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  • Young People in Tanzania Learn about Selves as They Help Elderly

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Bronwen Dachs || 26 July 2017

    young people reaching out to elderly in tzIn helping abandoned elderly people in Tanzanian villages, young people have learned to care for themselves, too, said a nun who oversees the project that she began with Catholic friends in the U.S.

    Sixteen people aged 16-30 build beds and repair houses among other caregiving activities for the 69 elderly people served by the Village Angels of Tanzania project in two villages in the rural Ngara District in northwestern Tanzania.

    "For some elderly people, this is the first time in their lives that they have slept in a bed," said Sister Dativa Mukebita, a Franciscan Sister of St. Bernadette who set up the project in her hometown two years ago, on her return from studying in the U.S.

    Ngara District, a remote area in this East African country that borders on Rwanda, was host to hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled Rwanda's 1994 genocide and suffered huge environmental and social damage when the camps were disbanded, Sister Mukebita said in a July 12 telephone interview from the town of Ngara.

    With a tradition of families caring for their own, Tanzania has no nursing homes or pensions to support elderly citizens, and many find themselves abandoned and alone, she said. There is a "missing middle-generation" in Ngara District caused by people moving away in search of work opportunities as well as deaths from AIDS-related illnesses, she said.

    At the same time, the area is home to young people with little education, few skills and "no hope of finding a job," Sister Mukebita said.

    In bringing the young and elderly together "in this work of love," the project benefits both groups, she said, noting that "our whole society is happy about this."

    The youths receive a stipend for providing support and companionship to the elderly. They plant and harvest crops that they take to the elderly and sell the surplus at local markets to boost the project's funds.

    "We ensure that, as well as bringing them food, the young people have plenty of time to hold conversations and provide companionship," Sister Mukebita said of the weekly visits. "It's been amazing to observe how these young people have learned how to take care of themselves through this project."

    "With his stipend, one boy was able to buy chickens and a goat, while another bought a sewing machine," she said, noting that "they are learning all the time."

    As part of the project, the youth are taught handicrafts, including basket weaving, as well as skills such as sewing and beekeeping. They have built 70 beds and taken them to the elderly, along with mattresses, pillows and sheets.

    This elderly in the region "no longer live in heartbreaking isolation and poverty," Sister Mukebita said.

    The story of an old woman who died after lying where she had fallen for three days without food or water led to the determination of Sister Mukebita, a New Jersey family and a retired priest to get this project up and running.

    While studying in New Jersey, Sister Mukebita met Johanna Burani in a computer class. Sister Mukebita planned and prayed with Burani and Burani's husband and sister, as well as Father Martin Rauscher, retired pastor of Assumption Parish, Morristown, New Jersey. The result was the establishment of the Village Angels as a nonprofit charitable organization with a board of trustees.

    After garage sales, cake drives and other fundraising efforts, when Sister Mukebita returned to Tanzania there was enough money to start sending young people on weekly visits to the elderly with food and other basic supplies.

    "As well as benefiting economically from the project, the young people also have grown dramatically in self-esteem," Sister Mukebita said.

    Jenfrida Felix, 17, "was so shy when she joined the program that she couldn't look people in the eye when they spoke to her," the nun said. "Now she is an outgoing girl who chats away and dances when she visits the elderly."

    There also have been opportunities for advancement. For instance, Sister Mukebita said Faustine Kisuka, 30, has become a supervisor and is learning English. Despite having only elementary school education, Kisuka "is outstanding in his ability to interact with people and to take responsibility," she said.

  • Vatican Applauds Church in Malawi for Generosity

    Vatican Radio || By Prince Henderson, Episcopal Conference of Malawi || 27 July 2017

    vatican applauds malawi church for generosityFrom Rome, Italy, the President of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, on behalf of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has commended the Catholic Church in Malawi for its generosity in contributing to the Universal Solidarity Fund and its continued work of evangelization.

    In a letter addressed to Fr. Vincent Mwakhwawa, National Director of PMS in Malawi, Archbishop Rugambwa said the 2017 General Assembly of the Superior Council of PMS was very grateful for Malawi’s financial contribution and participation in the different activities of PMS carried out in 2016.

    Archbishop Rugambwa said the scope of the general assembly was to reflect on the identity and the evangelizing activities and methods of collaboration in union with and at the service of the universal mission of the Church.

    “I am grateful to you personally and to all the National Directors who have duly submitted to our International Secretariat the financial report of the activities carried out and the offerings collected in favour of all the PMS for the year 2016,” said Archbishop Rugambwa.

    He said he is especially thankful for the zeal and mission commitment manifested by the different activities of missionary animation and formation that have been organised and carried out in the spirit of the universality of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Malawi.

    “I thank all the Catholic faithful of Malawi for their generosity in contributing to the Universal Solidarity Fund and for their continued support to the work of evangelization,” He said.

    According to Fr. Mwakhwawa, Malawi contributed a total of MK 25,697,276.61, which was collected in 2016’s on Mission Sunday, Holy Childhood and Vocation Sundays respectively, in comparison with the 2015 collection of MK 18,471,559.00. This represents a rise of 39.12%.

    Reacting to the gesture of Archbishop Rugambwa, Fr. Mwakhwawa appreciated the Catholic lay faithful of Malawi who contribute generously and make great spiritual and material sacrifice for the salvation of many souls in the world.

    “I also appreciate the parish priests who teach people and remind them about the Christian obligation to preach the Gospel to the whole world through their prayers and financial sacrifice. Above all, it is a blessing to the people of Malawi who are able to change people’s lives and build faith communities within and outside Malawi by their contributions. Through such offerings, many people will be served holistically,” he said. 

    He said the contribution from the Catholic Church in Malawi is a sign of catholicity and solidarity with the Universal Church in preaching the Gospel to the whole world. 

    “Moreover, such an offering signifies the maturity levels of our Catholic faith (in Malawi). A Christian, called by Jesus Christ, has to be concerned with the salvation of the whole world. So, our Catholics in making such a contribution are demonstrating that they are mature Christians who understand their universal mission. In praying and contributing money to the universal missionary solidarity fund, it means the Catholic faithful understand their Christian faith,” said Fr. Mwakhwawa. 

    Fr. Mwakhwawa has since encouraged the Church in Malawi to continue to be generous with their spiritual and financial gifts, regardless of the economic challenges facing the country.

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • State Governor Calls on Ahiara Clergy and Faithful to Resolve Diocesan Crisis Amicably

    Catholic News Service of Nigeria (CNSN) || 19 July 2017

    imo governor for peace in ahiara dioceseOwelle Rochas Okorocha, the Governor of Imo State, has called on priests and Catholic lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese to make Mbaise a land and symbol of peace for other people to emulate.

    The governor gave the admonition during a meeting with representatives of priests and the lay faithful of the Diocese, held recently at the Mater Dei Cathedral, Ahiara, Imo State.

    According to Governor Okorocha peace is very expensive.

    “Pursue peace and walk towards peace because peace is a very, very expensive commodity, but there can be no peace without justice.” He said that his meeting with priests had been about how to resolve the crisis in the Diocese amicably.

    Governor Okorocha, a Catholic, told priests and the lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese that the decision of the Pope was binding on them and regretted that priests were at the forefront of the agitation.

    He added that the Church would become an object of mockery if the crisis were to end the way priests and laity in the Diocese want it to end.  

    Expressing the need for the faithful of the Diocese to embrace peace, the state governor remarked, “We are talking about Ahiara Diocese, IPOB, Boko Haram, Kidnappings, Niger Delta, etc. The one (crisis) that touches me so much is the crisis of Ahiara Diocese because this touches the fabric of our faith. First, we are Christians, and you must understand that Christianity is a very difficult religion because Christianity doesn’t preach comfort for us rather, (our) ability to accept persecution. Today, we have a challenge that whatever has made Ahiara the centre of crisis, we must change it for better,” the local government leader admonished.

    He decried the “Declaration of Biafran War, killing of a steward, Ahiara Now' and the Diocesan agitation spanning six years and attracting global focus. We must change the story of Ahiara. I want to state here categorically that since this crisis, I have been listening patiently and watching. But I had wished that my advice was taken ab-initio and ipso-facto,” said Governor Okorocha

    Governor Okorocha added, “If Mbaise must be in the news, it must be in the news for the right reasons. This is because Mbaise is the largest single ethnic group in the South-East (of Nigeria) and there is no place you will go to in this world, without having a Mbaise person, doing (very) well in that region. Mbaise contributes substantially to what makes Imo (state) tick,” he said. 

    At the end of the meeting, Rev. Fr Dr Joseph Ezeji gave a vote of thanks, pledging allegiance to the papacy; to abide by the decision of the Pope and confirming that all Mbaise priests had written their letters of apology to the Pope. He closed by stating the concerns of Ahiara Diocese.

    Since 2012, the clergy and laity of the Diocese of Ahiara have refused to accept Bishop Peter Okpalaeke appointed as their Ordinary by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

    Source: Catholic News Service of Nigeria… 

  • Bishops in English-speaking Cameroon Reject Government’s Bilingual Commission

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 25 July 2017

    anglophone bishops in cameroon resist commissionCatholic bishops in the English-speaking parts of Cameroon have dismissed a new commission looking at bilingualism in the country as a missed opportunity. The minority Anglophone population says it has seen its educational and legal system systematically chipped away by the Francophone majority.

    Bishops from Cameroon’s English-speaking regions have said a new government commission to look at the rights of the country’s English-speaking minority is not adequate to resolve what has come to be known as “the Anglophone problem.”

    The National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multi-culturalism was set up earlier in the year as part of government measures to resolve the long-standing problem of perceived marginalization of the minority Anglophones (who constitute 20% of the population) by the francophone-dominated administration.

    But the bishops are saying the commission is simply fruitless.

    “A Commission on bilingualism and multi-culturalism cannot resolve the Anglophone Problem,” said the Bishop of Kumbo and Vice President of the National Episcopal Conference, Bishop George Nkuo.

    “It should have been a commission on Bilingualism and Bi-Culturalism,” he said, noting that such a commission would help protect and preserve Cameroon’s bi-cultural heritage.

    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 ostensibly 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.

    “That marked the start of the ‘Anglophone Problem’,” said Professor Verkijika Fanso of the University of Yaoundé.

    He said the absence of protective guarantees meant that “the values that English-speaking Cameroonians brought into the union were eroded.”

    Fanso said the minority Anglophones have seen their educational and legal systems systematically chipped away by the Francophone majority.

    This has recently led to popular uprisings in the two English-speaking regions. The uprisings were initially sparked by disgruntled lawyers and teachers 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, and it soon boiled over to the general public, with many Anglophones calling for outright secession.

    Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda (their jurisdiction is mostly in the English-speaking parts of Cameroon) have said the problem is a result of the government’s inflexibility.

    In a strongly-worded letter addressed to the President of the Republic in December, the Bamenda bishops said that the Anglophone Problem was a result of “the failure of successive governments of Cameroon, since 1961, to respect and implement the articles of the Constitution that uphold and safeguard what British Southern Cameroons brought along to the Union in 1961.”

    They also condemned what they called “the deliberate and systematic erosion of the West Cameroon cultural identity which the 1961 Constitution sought to preserve and protect by providing for a bi-cultural federation.”

    Resolving the Crisis

    In attempts to resolve the crisis, President Paul Biya has set up a Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism.

    The text creating the Commission states that the Commission shall “be responsible for submitting reports and recommendations on issues relating to the protection of bilingualism and multiculturalism to the President of the Republic and the government, monitoring the implementation of constitutional provisions establishing English and French as two official languages of equal status …, preparing and submitting to the President of the Republic draft instruments on bilingualism and multiculturalism and togetherness, receiving petitions against discriminations arising from non-compliance with the constitutional provisions on bilingualism, multiculturalism, and reporting … to the President of the Republic.”

    But the Catholic bishops have dismissed the commission as a missed opportunity.

    “Why Common Law lawyers were striking is that their legal system was being eroded. It is the same thing with teachers, who saw the Anglo-Saxon educational system they inherited from Britain being eroded. So, the problem is not a problem of multi-cultures, because Cameroonians in their cultural and linguistic diversity have always lived together,” said Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of Bamenda.

    In their December letter, the bishops said:

    “Anglophone Cameroonians are slowly being asphyxiated as every element of their culture is systematically targeted and absorbed into the Francophone Cameroon culture and way of doing things. These include the language, the educational system, the system of administration and governance, the legal system, and a transparent democratic process where elected leaders are answerable to the electorate who put them there in the first place.”

    The bishops are now calling for genuine dialogue between the government and Anglophone Cameroonians as the only way forward.

    But the call comes at a time when thousands of Anglophone Cameroonians are already calling for a return to a federal system of government, or even secession.

    Source: Crux… 

  • 'Sisterhood' Features Women Religious in Seven Congregations around the World Including Africa

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Gail DeGeorge || 21 July 2017

    sisterhood feature on 7 congregations globallyThe mission and ministry of women religious from Vietnam, Tanzania, the United States and elsewhere are featured in "Sisterhood," a seven-part documentary series that recently finished airing on Salt and Light Television in Canada but is available for viewing on its website.

    The project, a partnership between Salt and Light and Loyola University New Orleans, focuses on seven congregations of women religious around the world and their mission, ministry, communities and charisms. Each 30-minute video includes interviews with sisters and those they serve, information about the history of the order, and the sense of community and bonds among the sisters. A study guide is available that features each congregation and questions for reflection.

    Filming lasted 18 months and took the production team to several continents, said Basilian Fr. Tom Rosica, chief executive officer of Salt and Light Media. The finished project, he said, presents "the lives of some remarkable women in some of the most remote places of the world doing very significant things."

    The videos "are really a tremendous tribute to women religious who are on the front lines, who are running the field hospitals of our time," he said.

    The series is part of the culmination of a larger project at Loyola University New Orleans to build leadership capacity and social media knowledge among women religious, said Thomas Ryan, professor and director of Loyola Institute for Ministry.

    The main three goals of that project were to increase vocations, increase the number of benefactors and "get the word out about the good work that they are doing," Ryan said. "The videos are important for all of those — by getting word out about what they're doing, that should increase vocations and the number of benefactors."

    For the past two and a half years, 42 sisters from around the world have been taking online courses from Loyola University New Orleans in leadership and communication, with a grounding in the theological foundation of communication. The final course, completed in May, was to develop a communications plan to achieve the three goals.

    The seven communities featured in "Sisterhood" have sisters participating in the program at Loyola. The sisters were interviewed and worked with the video team on filming and editing. After the videos appeared on Salt and Light, the videos were given to the communities.

    "In communicating today, images are just as important as words, and we need to be sophisticated in our use of images, so video is very important in communication," Ryan said. "We wanted our students to understand that and deploy them."

    The videos feature the religious communities of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph; Society of the Sacred Heart, Uganda/Kenya Province; the Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Kilimanjaro; Sisters of the Holy Family; Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Benin City, Nigeria; and the Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Chí Hòa, based in Vietnam.

    While Salt and Light has done previous feature documentaries about women religious, the scope and international breadth of this project was far more extensive, Rosica said.

    "There were some wonderful moments in the process [of making the videos] because none of the sisters we dealt with were media-savvy, nor were they self-proclaimed stars in any way, but the more that they told their stories, they're really the heroes of the church," Rosica said.

    Ryan and Rosica said there will be future collaboration between the university and Salt and Light on a project involving women religious, though the academic program and videos produced won't be exactly replicated.

    "Some would say this is a vocational promotion project. It is that, but it is much more," Rosica said. "In some parts of the world, the West, it might be thought that religious life might be dying. This presents religious life as thriving. Anyone who says, 'Religious life is dead, there are no more nuns,' watch 'Sisterhood.' "

    [Gail DeGeorge is editor of Global Sisters Report. Her email address is gdegeorge@ncronline.org. Follow her on Twitter: @GailDeGeorge.]

    Source: Global Sisters Report…

  • Christians Re-examine Safety of River Baptisms after Two Drown in Tanzania

    Religion News Service || By Fredrick Nzwili || 19 July 2017

    river baptisms in tanzania after two drownIt’s a rite that dates to the time of Jesus, who was dunked in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. But Christians in East Africa are now taking stock of their faith’s central rite after one such ritual turned tragic in northern Tanzania.

    Two Christian farmers, aged 30 and 47, died as their pastors attempted to baptize them in the fast-moving current of the Ungwasi River in Rombo District in the Kilimanjaro region.

    The ritual was organized by Shalom Church, a charismatic group in the country.

    “Following the incident, we have agreed on some measures that will ensure the safety of our followers during baptism in the rivers,” Samuel Kamigwa, a pastor at the Victory Christian Center, a Pentecostal church in Tanzania, said in telephone interview.

    Kamigwa said churches were considering increasing the number of ministers at one baptism event. They would also baptize one person at a time, while others are kept at a safe distance, and will choose a time when the water is calm enough for the ritual.

    “As churches, we have to be careful. Baptism is one of the core rites in our faith and it has to continue,” he said.

    Drowning during baptism is not uncommon in Africa, and Tanzanian police detained a pastor in connection with the deaths of the two. Local news reports say Kilimanjaro Regional Police Commander Hamis Selemani has warned against using the rivers for such activities unless the safety is confirmed.

    In Africa, river baptism is popular, particularly among Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

    Immersion is viewed as a way of cleansing one’s sins and being reborn into a new life. Affusion, where water is poured over the head, and aspersion, where water is sprinkled on the head, are more common in mainline churches.

    The Rev. Wilybard Lagho, vicar general of the Mombasa Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Kenya, said pastors need to be prudent: “If they choose the river, they must take a careful review to avoid endangering lives.”

    Last year, six children died in Zimbabwe’s eastern province of Mashonaland during an early morning baptism in a stream by a self-styled prophetess.

    And in January 2015, two elderly Pentecostal church pastors drowned in Mutshedzi River in Limpopo Province of South Africa, where they had gone to baptize four junior church members.

    (Fredrick Nzwili is a Nairobi-based correspondent)

    Source: Religion News Service…

  • Kivu Residents in DR Congo Stage Silent Protest against Abduction of Two Catholic Priests

    Vatican Radio || By Fr. Paul Samasumo || 24 July 2017

    silent protests in kivu over priests abductionResidents of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo have staged a week-long silent protest intended to send a message to the kidnappers of two Catholic priests kidnapped Sunday 16 July from a parish of Bunyuka. Activity in the area came to a complete standstill as residents shunned farms and public spaces. Silence marked entire villages. It was the least they could do in the face of all manner of gunmen.

    Bishop Sikuli Paluku Melchisédech of Butembo-Beni, who confirmed the silent protest to Vatican Radio said that Fathers Charles Kipasa and Jean-Pierre Akilimali, parish priest and assistant respectively, were abducted on the night of Sunday 16 July from their parish house of Marie Reine des Anges de Bunyuka by “men in uniform.”

    “It is with great sadness that we inform you that Fathers Charles Kipasa and Jean-Pierre Akilimali, respectively parish priest and vicar of Marie Reine des Anges de Bunyuka were abducted on Sunday around 9 pm by a group of ‘men in uniform,’” Bishop  Melchisédech said in a statement.

    The kidnap was accompanied by the looting of two parish vehicles, two motorcycles and several goods of the parish. The vehicles were later found dumped in the forest along the Karuruma road. The motorcycles are thought to have been used to spirit away the two priests.

    Soon after the abduction of Fathers Kipasa and Akilimali, some parishioners rang the Church bell, and the faithful who rushed to the parish house started a silent protest against extreme insecurity in the area. All of last week since the abduction, both Catholics and ordinary residents simply stayed at home and did not go to their fields.

    Catholic Bishops under DRC’s Conférence Episcopale Nationale du Congo (CENCO) have appealed for the immediate release of the priests. Bishop Melchisédech of Butembo-Beni urged the faithful to persevere in prayer for peace and security.

     “We strongly condemn this kidnapping of priests and ask that they be released immediately without delay so that they can fulfil their pastoral mission. We ask all the faithful of the diocese and people of good will to remain vigilant and to persevere in prayer for the peace and security of all in our Province of North Kivu,” said Bishop Melchisédech.

    According to the local publication, BeniLubero Online, which documents in very graphic terms, atrocities in the area, the abduction of the priests recalls another case of the kind that occurred in October 2012 in Mbau.  Three Assumptionist Catholic priests abducted at the time have never been found.

    Founder of the Online publication, BeniLubero Online, Fr. Vincent Machozi was killed in Bukavu by gunmen in March 2016. In December 2016, a Franciscan religious sister, Sr. Marie-Claire Kahambu of South Kivu was stabbed several times and killed, during the day, as she worked in her office at a girls’ training centre.

    It is not just priests and the religious that are victims of the violence in Congo’s Kivu area. The local civilian population bears the brunt of most of the violence as BeniLubero attests. Workers of Faith Based and humanitarian organisations such as Caritas have also not been spared.

    Source: Vatican Radio…

  • Pope Begins Answering Priests from Troubled Ahiara Diocese

    Crux || By Ines San Martin || 22 July 2017

    answering ahiara priests individuallyLast June, Pope Francis threatened the priests of the Ahiara diocese in Nigeria with suspension unless they wrote a letter addressed to him, apologizing for refusing to accept their bishop, appointed by Benedict XVI in 2012. Days after the deadline, letters from Rome responding to each priest individually began to arrive in the diocese.

    Days after time ran out for the priests of an entire Nigerian diocese to write and apologize for having refused to accept their bishop for the past five years, Pope Francis, through some of his closest advisers, has begun to respond to each of them.

    “The pope promised he would write back, and he’s doing so,” said Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria.

    The prelate, who’s been the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Ahiara, also said that the letters “are not passing though me,” so he doesn’t know their content, and added that he probably won’t until the process of delivering the letters is over.

    Speaking to Crux over the phone on Friday, Onaiyekan also said that he hopes Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who was appointed to the southern Nigerian diocese of Ahiara by Benedict XVI in 2012, is accepted by the time the process is over.

    “I hope that my brothers will recognize him,” he said. “I’m waiting and praying, hoping that this long crisis will come to an end.”

    The letters from the Vatican, which address each priest by name, are slowly beginning to arrive, through the Vatican embassy in Nigeria- technically called a nunciature. The new papal representative, Italian Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, arrived in Nigeria a few days ago.

    Several attempts made by Crux to reach the nunciature to confirm if the letters that have already been delivered had been brought into the country by Filipazzi went unanswered.

    The situation in Ahiara is a complex one, with some members of both the priesthood and the laity refusing to accept Okpaleke, and many others supporting him. The diocese has produced many vocations to the priesthood, and locals argue that it’s time one of them is appointed as bishop.

    When appointing the current bishop, who hasn’t been allowed in Ahiara for the past five years, the Vatican followed a long-standing tradition of choosing people from another city to lead any given diocese, particularly in Africa. Historically, this is done in an attempt to show that the universality of the Church overcomes tribal and ethnic differences.

    On June 8, Pope Francis issued a seemingly unprecedented threat, giving the priests of the diocese a 30-day deadline: Either write to him promising “total obedience,” or face suspension. The request had already been made by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which oversees missionary territories. His request was sent in a letter dated June 24, 2014.

    However, the two requests garnered different responses, fueled perhaps by the threat of suspension hanging over the priests who refused to comply.

    When Francis announced that he expected them to write a letter apologizing for their behavior and promising loyalty to the pontiff, including in the matter of episcopal appointments, the priests who were rebelling originally responded saying that the request was false.

    The papal text in English was originally posted June 9 on the blog of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference. Soon after, the Vatican released the text too, crushing any doubts over its authenticity.

    In his strong message, Francis minced no words: “Whoever was opposed to Bishop Okpaleke taking possession of the Diocese wants to destroy the Church. This is forbidden.”

    From that day on, most of the priests in the diocese complied with the pope’s request: They sent a letter to the Vatican, addressed to Francis, apologizing. However, based on conversations in recent days with some of the priests, not all of the apologies were honest, as they carried a threat.

    Though a majority of the people in Ahiara want to see the crisis resolved peacefully, and are praying for each other in this troubled time and have accepted that it’s in their best interest to embrace what Francis asks of them, both sides - those who support Okpaleke and those who want another bishop - don’t hesitate in making ad hominem attacks.

    Most of it cannot be re-printed, but one person claimed that the priests who reject the prelate have “inhaled the smoke of Satan.” On the other side, most accuse the bishop and those who support him - from Francis to the laity - of wrong doing and criminal activity.

    The priests who, to this point, have received the letters from the Vatican, have refused to share their content, arguing that they are private. However, Crux has received confirmation from Nigeria that the letters address the priests by name, and at least one of them is “quite personal,” and was signed mid-July.

    Signed by both the Vatican’s Secretary of State Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Filoni, an “apostolic blessing” is extended on behalf of Pope Francis.

    The Mbaise Catholic Forum speculates that the content of each of the letters expected might vary, depending on what each priest wrote in their apology letter. Some, they write, could “receive letters suspending their priestly faculties.”

    The pro-Okpaleke website, created by people based in Ahiara, has a list of 201 priests incardinated in the diocese, of whom 157 have allegedly written to Francis. The first number, however, differs from the one given in the 2017 edition of the Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican book of statistics, that says there are 114 secular priests in the diocese, and 14 belonging to religious orders.

    Source: Crux…

  • The Church in Zambia is on Mission: Lusaka Archbishop

    Vatican Radio || Fr. Clifford Mulasikwanda, Sesheke in Zambia || 19 July 2017

    church in zambia on missionArchbishop Telesphore-George Mpundu, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lusaka and President of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), over the weekend, congratulated the Zambian Church on the occasion marking the celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the arrival of Catholic Christianity in Zambia.

    Addressing a huge outdoor Mass in the Zambian capital of Lusaka held at the city’s Showgrounds, Archbishop Mpundu noted that after 125 years of her existence, the Zambian Catholic Church is no longer missionary but has grown to be a Church on mission. As such, the Archbishop encouraged the vibrant, mature and dynamic Church to soldier on in her faith, especially by sharing it with others.

    “Share your faith with other people, members of your extended families, and with other Zambians. Faith that is not shared remains small and is infantile. Faith shared is multiplied,” stated the Archbishop.

    Reflecting further on the 125 years existence of the Catholic Church in Zambia, Archbishop Mpundu paid glowing tribute to the many roles played by women in the Zambian Catholic Church.

    Women, the Archbishop said, are “the heartbeat of our parishes, without them, the Church would be dead,” Archbishop Mpundu said. He implored particularly the Catholic women professionals, in the country, to take an even more active role in the affairs of the Church; to utilise their talents and to add value to the Church of Zambia.

    Archbishop Julio Murat, the Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia echoing the homily of the Archbishop of Lusaka, encouraged the Zambian Church to send missionaries to the Western world. The Holy Father’s representative in Zambia then imparted, to the people of Zambia, the Holy Father Pope Francis’ Apostolic blessing.

    “During the Jubilee year, we have to thank God, ask Him for forgiveness and pledge to do better with God. Since the Church in Zambia has grown, it is now time to send missionaries to the world,” Archbishop Julio Murat said.

    The year 1891 is associated with the arrival of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) in Zambia when they successfully established a mission in the northern part of the country.

    The Fr. Stanislaus Lubungo, the current Superior General of the ‘White Fathers’ also attended the closing celebrations. He paid tribute to every person who had contributed to the growth of the Church in Zambia. He challenged the Zambian Church not to lose focus in her practice of authentic faith.

    “I believe that today should also be about keeping alive the memory of our ancestors in the faith by imitating them. But we will not do that simply through symposiums, workshops or even grandiose liturgies….. if we do not continue to look for ways in which the flame of the passion of our ancestors in the faith can empower us to lead the kind of committed lives they led -at the service of the needy. It is in that way that our Catholic faith will become a beacon of hope as we strive to reach out to those that society casts to the peripheries,” said Fr. Lubungo.

    The country’s Vice President; government, civil and traditional leaders attended the event. Many Christians from other denominations together with their leaders participated in the celebrations.   Also present at the colourful Mass were several Catholic Bishops, the faithful from all corners of Zambia, priests and the religious.

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • Catholic Cathedral in CAR Shelters 2,000 Muslims as Violence Flares

    Catholic Herald || By Associated Press || 20 July 2017

    car cathedral hosting 2000 muslimsFamilies took refuge there two months ago after attacks by the anti-Balaka militia

    Bullet-riddled roofs line the “boulevard of death” in Central African Republic’s southeastern town of Bangassou, where almost everyone who enters is seen as an enemy.

    The city, spared sectarian bloodshed until May, now has more than 2,000 Muslim residents forced to take refuge at St Peter Claver cathedral after attacks by the mostly Christian anti-Balaka militia.

    More than 300 people have been killed and 100,000 displaced since May as violence that began in 2013 moves into the impoverished country’s central and southeastern regions, prompting warnings of a national conflict roaring back to life.

    In Bangassou alone, more than 150 people have died in fighting between militias and UN peacekeeping forces.

    “We were driven out by force. We have lost our parents, our homes and all of our belongings,” said Djamal Haddine Mahamat-Salle, secretary-general of the organisation representing the town’s displaced Muslims. “It’s been two and a half months since we’ve been here, blocked without the ability to even go beyond 100 metres.”

    Many said their departure from the cathedral could mean death.

    “The anti-Balaka are everywhere. And as soon as you risk leaving, they will demand ransom,” said Zarah Mahamat. She said she tried to go to the market one day to buy vegetables for her children, who no longer have even rice to eat, and was stopped.

    “I had to contact my parents in Bangui and they sent me the money to pay the ransom,” she said, still wearing the same clothes she had when she fled in May.

    Another resident, Jean-Claude Gbienza, blamed the UN peacekeeping mission for provoking some of the violence. He said the forces arrived in May and started shooting, causing the local defence groups that are also part of the anti-Balaka to retaliate by burning homes and fighting.

    Yvette Siolo said her hand was pierced by a bullet when the UN forces came in shooting. She said the rest of her family has fled to neighbouring Congo, on the other side of the river.

    On a visit to Bangassou this week, UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien insisted that the UN was there to help, and he warned of growing violence.

    “We see the Muslim community who became the victims of attacks and this is an alarming situation. This cycle of violence must stop,” he said, calling for more support from the international community.

    “If we do not act now and keep the faith, we will see increasing need and even greater vulnerability of already weakened people,” O’Brien said on Tuesday.

    The humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic, requiring some $497 million, is only 24 per cent funded, the UN says. The world body says nearly 2.4 million people are in need of aid to survive.

    During O’Brien’s visit, children who haven’t been to school for months held up signs that read “No to this open prison” and “I have a right to life and education.”

    Central African Republic has faced fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital, Bangui. Anti-Balaka militias, mostly Christians, fought back, resulting in thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

    Attempts at peace deals, the latest signed in June by more than a dozen armed groups, have failed.

    The head of the UN peacekeeping force of 12,000 troops has acknowledged that the mission is not enough to protect civilians around the country.

    The UN refugee agency says more than 60,000 people have fled into remote northern Congo since May, the majority women and children, with some sleeping in the open and “desperately” in need of food.

    Source: Catholic Herald… 

  • Cameroon Bishops take Legal Action Over Prelate's Suspicious Death

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || 19 July 2017

    cameroon bishops taking legal actionThe bishops' conference of Cameroon launched a private lawsuit over the alleged murder of Bishop Jean-Marie Benoit Bala of Bafia, whose body was found floating in a river in June.

    Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala, conference president, said the bishops were "not satisfied" with investigators' findings that Bishop Bala drowned after he disappeared overnight May 31, three days before his body was found miles downstream from his abandoned vehicle.

    The lawsuit was filed to "ensure truth is established," Archbishop Kleda told Radio France Internationale July 18.

    "If he'd died from drowning, there would have been water in his body, but there was nothing. Instead, it was clear there were many marks of violence," the archbishop said as preparations were underway in Bafia for the Aug. 2 funeral for the 58-year-old bishop, whose remains were returned to the church July 17.

    He said the bishops' conference also would file a complaint against unspecified officials for mishandling the case and would hand its file of evidence to lawyers acting on its behalf.

    Bishop Bala's body was discovered by fishermen June 2 in the Sanaga River, four miles from a bridge where an apparent suicide note was found in his abandoned SUV.

    The French-language African News Agency said media reports that he had committed suicide were rejected by church colleagues and questioned by police and justice officials.

    The bishops' conference said in a June 13 statement that it was certain that Bishop Bala had been "brutally murdered," and it demanded his killers be "identified by name and brought to justice."

    However, Cameroon's attorney general said July 4 no "traces of violence" had been found when the bishop's remains were re-examined in late June by German forensic pathologists in an Interpol-commissioned autopsy, which had concluded drowning was the "most probable cause" of his death.

    Church sources told Radio France Internationale the Interpol claim contradicted two earlier local autopsies, June 2 and June 22, which had found "multiple fractures and wounds," as well as signs of electrocution.

  • Bishops Plea for Two Priests Abducted in DR Congo

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || 19 July 2017

    dr congo bishops on two abducted priestsGunmen have abducted two Catholic priests in the Democratic Republic of Congo, prompting the country’s bishops to plead that the captives not be harmed.

    “Priests are men of God who devote their lives to the good of the population without a political agenda. To hurt them is to harm the community they serve,” said the National Episcopal Conference of Congo.

    The bishops called on security forces to do everything they could to free the two priests.

    Fathers Charles Kipasa and Jean-Pierre Akilimali were abducted at Our Lady of the Angels parish in Bunyuka just before 10 p.m. Sunday, Reuters reports. About 10 assailants were involved in their abduction.

    Bunyuka is in North Kivu province in the country's east, fewer than 10 miles northeast of Butembo and near the border with Uganda.

    The Congolese bishops’ statement noted that three other priests abducted in the same area in October 2012 still have not been released.

    The border region, whose lands are rich in minerals, suffers from ethnic tensions and has been the site of wars and rebellions for two decades.

    The nearby city of Beni has suffered major violence in the last two years. A series of nighttime massacres took place there beginning in October 2014. Unidentified attackers, mostly using hatchets and machetes, have killed hundreds in the city of 230,000 people.

    In June an attack on Beni’s prison killed 11 people and freed over 930 prisoners. Another 12 people were killed in a raid on the city center by the Mai Mai militia coalition.

    In December 2016, a nun in Bukavu, in neighboring South Kivu province, was murdered in an apparent robbery.

    And that March, Fr. Vincent Machozi Karunzu was murdered by armed militants in North Kivu. He had documented human rights abuses in the country.

    Source: Catholic News Agency…

  • Central African Bishops Appeal for Peace and Reconciliation

    Vatican Radio || 17 July 2017

    central african bishops for peace 2017Church leaders from the central African region have concluded a meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon, with an urgent appeal for peace and reconciliation in the war-torn region.

    In a concluding document for their XI plenary assembly, the bishops of the Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo-Brazzaville expressed solidarity and prayers for all those most affected by violence in the region. They also appealed to “all who sow terror and death to stop the bloodshed and work for peace, dialogue and reconciliation”.

    During the July 8th to 16th meeting, the Church leaders voiced their concerns over the death of Bishop Jean Marie Benoit Bala, whose body was found in a river in Cameroon on June 2nd. Local authorities have described the death as a suicide, but the bishops believe their brother was murdered two days earlier and claim the killing is part of a series of mysterious deaths and disappearances of Catholic leaders in Cameroon. They have appealed for further investigations to bring to light the truth of this latest tragedy.

    Ecumenism and interfaith dialogue

    The theme of the plenary assembly was focused on ecumenism and interreligious dialogue in the central African region. In these countries, the bishops say, dialogue depends upon positive and constructive relationships with people of different faith communities, in order to promote a reciprocal enrichment, while respecting the truth and religious liberty of all.

    In the context of widespread religious pluralism, the bishops add, such a dialogue remains difficult but not impossible. They say they will be publishing a document dedicated to this delicate issue in the near future.

    They also announced that their next plenary assembly will take place in 2020 in Equatorial Guinea.

    Source: Vatican Radio…

  • Caritas Uganda Empowers over 100 South Sudanese Refugees with Livelihood Skills

    AMECEA Online News || By Jacinta W. Odongo, Uganda Episcopal Conference || 14 July 2017

    caritas uganda supports south sudanese 2017Caritas Uganda’s acknowledgement of South Sudanese refugees’ socio-economic challenges deepens as it continues to commit itself to empower the refugees and their host communities by focusing on food security and livelihood skills, health, nutrition, hygiene and environmental awareness.

    In a bid to equip the refugees and the host communities with requisite skills in food production and non-agricultural income generating, Caritas Uganda has trained about 124 young persons from the refugee and host communities living in Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in Yumbe District.

    According to Caritas Uganda Project Coordinator for the Refugee Emergency Response in Bidi Bidi, Godfrey Onentho, they have been empowering refugee farmers to grow crops to supplement the food that they usually receive from the World Food Programme.

    “As an agency, our main functions are in areas of social services, development and advocacy with the main goal of providing emergency relief and rehabilitation, poverty eradication and improving community livelihood among others. Hence, we are providing basic training in agronomic practices such as dry planting, seed management, paste and disease management and seed multiplication to farmers in both the refugee and host communities,” he said adding that it is the policy of the Uganda Government that whatever support is given to the refugees 25 percent of it must go to the host communities.

    Onentho also said that they are offering different vocational skills such as carpentry, building and construction, tailoring, mechanics and metal fabrication to the youth from both the refugee and host communities.

    He revealed that they have also been providing women and girls in both communities with reusable sanitary pads, mosquito nets, basins, tree seedlings for fruit and timber as well as seedlings and tools for growing cash crops.

    “We have so far provided seeds and tools to about 5500 households and they have all done tremendous job in farming. They have grown vegetables which they consume in their homes to supplement their diet and nutrition while others sell as a source of income.” He said

    Caritas Uganda, which is a department of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, rolled out these livelihoods training program in October 2016 for a one-year period in Bidi Bidi as one of the practical solutions to help them become self-reliant in the long run. This was after receiving donor aid from its confederation members and other partners towards the project in the refugee camps. They committed to assist 3000 newly arrived South Sudanese refugees and the host community that they are living in and around Bidi Bidi.

    Source: AMECEA Online News… 

  • Nigeria’s Ahiara Diocese: A Theological Appeal for a Time to Heal

    Catholic News Service of Nigeria (CNSN) || By Father Stan Chu Ilo || 12 July 2017

    roots of pope ultimatum in nigeria in 2014 letters“But in what sense is the Church holy if we see that the historical Church, on her long journey through the centuries, has had so many difficulties, problems, dark moments? How can a Church consisting of human beings, of sinners, be holy? Sinful men, sinful women, sinful priests, sinful sisters, sinful bishops, sinful cardinals, a sinful pope be holy?.....The Church is holy because she comes from God, who is holy; he is faithful to her and does not abandon her to the power of death and evil (see Matt 16:18). She is holy because Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God (cf. Mark 1: 24), is indissolubly united to her (see Matt. 28: 20). She is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit who purifies, transforms, and renews.” (Pope Francis, General Audience 2 October, 2013).

    “The Spirit did not come simply in order to animate an institution that was already fully determined in all its structures. In fact, the Spirit is really ‘the co-instituting principle’ of the church. Accountability to Christ and his Spirit requires both a fidelity to the Apostolic tradition and openness to the witness of the Spirit in the church today, including the spirit-breathed witness of all God’s people reflected in the exercise of the sensus fidei. Faithful obedience to Christ will be manifested in practices of communal discernment that listen for the voice of the spirit speaking through a faith-filled people. When all in the church come to discover the dignity and demands of their baptism and the concrete shape of discipleship in service of the Spirit’s promptings, accountability becomes simply another word for koinonia, our ‘shared communion’ in Christ.” (Richard, Gaillardetz commenting on Yves Congar’s essay on power, authority and obedience in the church, A Church with Open Doors, 110).

    Preliminary Considerations

    “Fr Stan, what is happening in the Catholic Church in your country?” This is the question many people have been posing to me through phone calls, emails and face to face encounter here at DePaul University, Chicago, where I teach, and in the two parishes where I minister on Sundays. The entire global Catholic family has now heard about the situation in Ahiara diocese and everyone is asking the question: ‘What is going on?’ ‘Why is the gentle and merciful Pope Francis taking such a harsh and hard disciplinary measure to suspend any priest of Ahiara diocese who does not apologize to him and pledge obedience to him before July 9, 2017?”

    This Pope is slow to use authoritarian practices or threats in order to enlist obedience. This is a Pope who rarely appeals to papal authority, prerogatives and power in order to build communion and co-operation in the church. He is a Pope of mercy and dialogue, who has proposed that the church adopt pastoral discernment, the logic of integration and the logic of mercy in order to accompany (walk with) God’s people into a deeper communion with God, the church, the world and nature.

    Sources at the Vatican noted that Pope Francis was visibly sad, deeply troubled and perplexed by the failure of the delegates he invited from Ahiara to honor his invitation. This is especially painful because the Pope himself had to shelve his other appointments for that day, cutting down his time with Venezuelan bishops—whose country is going through a very difficult political crisis—in order to spend time with the delegates from Ahiara. The Pope had no other option than to invoke the law of the church in order to protect and preserve the treasures which God has given to the church, and the unity of faith and communion.

    There has been a ‘sacred silence’ among the theological community in Nigeria and Africa on this extraordinary papal decree and its bigger implications for the church in Nigeria. I wish to break this theological silence in my own humble effort in his discourse. This is because I believe that theology must give account of the faith of the church, the actual faith of the people and how these come together in shaping the daily choices of the people with regard to realizing the will of God in history. This accountability is the mediating role which theology plays in judging how faith and culture interact in making manifest or blurring the footprints of God in history.

    This short theological reflection is, therefore, my humble and imperfect effort to give a theological account of what I consider the key issues in this situation, how the Holy Father’s wishes for Ahiara diocese could be realized, and finally a Marian spiritual reflection which could guide the renewal of the priestly and episcopal ministries in Nigeria. I have organized this theological discourse into five broad sections, namely: (i) Lord, why did you allow this to Happen? (ii) Why did this happen? (iii) A Time to Cry; (iv) A Time to Pray; (v) A Time to Heal.

    1. Lord, why did you allow this to Happen?

    Many of our people today see the Christian faith in our country as a kind of battle with God; questioning God, lamenting to God, and crying to God. When you hear our people pray and sometimes in my own spiritual life, prayer is a kind of struggle with God, questing for God on one hand, and getting upset with God and asking God, ‘why?’ I am sure that if you have been hit like me with deaths, disappointments and despair sometimes in your life, you may have fought with God like Jacob did in the desert (Gen 32: 22-32). This is a time to battle with God in Nigeria. Our people are stretched to the limit. As my mentor, Bishop Kukah said recently, Nigerians are unhinged, and I will add that many people are fighting with God internally asking the simple question: Lord, why is this (x..y..z) happening to us? The Gospel message tells us that the best way to find answers to our battles or questions with God is to allow God to be God in our lives; to leave a little crack or opening for the gentle breeze of God to come in to make us whole. God can touch us with God’s tender mercy and grace in the most intimate and fragile zones of our lives where we are in need of a divine touch and transcendence. The truth is that God alone can make us go beyond ourselves, our problems, our selfish or joyous attachment to who we are, our culture, clan, ethnicity, nation, race etc. All Christian battles, carried out in faith, will normally end with the victory of God if we adopt the spiritual disposition of saying at all times like the Lord Jesus Christ: Lord, may thy will be done. Not what I want but your will O Lord.

    The context of this reflection is the ‘fight with God’ in Nigeria in a metaphoric sense typified in the current fight in Ahiara diocese. There are so many fights going on in Nigeria. Though we see fights in many other parts of the world, the last few years in Nigeria has seen many fights in the country because we do not understand why the situation in our land is so desperate and dark. I am sure too that many of us including the victors and victims; the saints and sinners in the present situation in Ahiara diocese may be asking the same question of God: Why is this happening? What is this all about? God, why did this happen? Why are we fighting each other? What ultimately do we want in this fight which will lead to the realization of God’s will and salvation for all?

    Read more… 

  • Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Aspires to Collaborate with Catholic University’s Leaders Guild

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 17 July 2017

    tlg and eacc to collaborate aThe Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) of Kenya wishes to collaborate with The Leaders Guild (TLG) of Tangaza University, a constituent College of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).

    The aspiration for collaboration was stated by the Chairman of EACC, retired Archbishop Eliud Wabukala last Friday, July 14, when he was presiding over the opening of TLG’s second conference under the theme, Leading change: The challenge.

    “We are encouraged by initiatives such as this which seek to impact people at various leadership levels in our society, and we look forward to collaborate in future,” EACC Chairman told the over two hundred participants who turned up for the second TLG conference at Tangaza University College in Nairobi.

    Established three years ago, TLG is an alumni association of De Paul University’s School for New Learning and Tangaza University College’s Centre for Leadership and Management. Conrad Hilton Foundation supports TLG’s activities.

    EACC Chairman enumerated his Commission’s responsibilities, among them, investigating corruption and economic crimes, the recovery of assets obtained through corrupt processes, preventing corruption through systems reviews and advisories, creating public awareness about corruption and most importantly, promoting ethics and integrity in Kenya.

    The retired Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) emphasized the value of collaborative efforts in fighting the menace of corruption and faulted those who think that “is the sole responsibility of the EACC, particularly the Chairman to fight corruption in this Country.”

    “From a more realistic perspective, every person has full responsibility to guard his moral behaviour and promote ethical values,” the retired Anglican Prelate said, adding, “It is against this backdrop that we appeal to the hearts and minds of every individual to join hands with us and together we restore the glory of this our beloved nation.”

    tlg and eacc to collaborate b“So far, we have sought and obtained partnerships with various stakeholders including the Faith Based Organizations, the Civil Society and the private sector,” the EACC Chair said.

    He lamented the menace of corruption in Kenya, describing it as being “deeply entrenched in our society.”

    Corruption, in his considered view, “has gained credibility to the point that those who engage in corrupt deals are now famous and accorded high status in society instead of being condemned and castigated.”

    “Some are elected to various political posts in the country and others are appointed to high offices in government,” the Archbishop decried, adding, “Others are even celebrated leaders in our places of worship. Worse still, is the fact that those who engage in this vice may not even be aware that it is wrong.”

    Speaking to the theme of TLG’s conference within the context of Kenya’s general elections due in just three weeks, EACC Chairman said, “The word change has become a common term especially during this campaign season with each political aspirant wanting the voters to believe that he (or she) can bring the change that is so desired in our society today.”

    “Change is dreaded by many people because it brings with it the fear of the unknown,” he said, challenging the conference participants to become agents of change by overcoming the fear of the unknown and “by constantly keeping in mind the great benefits of integrity to society.”

    “Finally, I would like to challenge you to be ambassadors of peace during this period of campaign in the run up to the August 2017 General elections to ensure that Kenyans hold peaceful and ethical elections and also elect leaders of integrity.”

    Meanwhile, Ms. Shamsia Ramadhan who works as a peace-builder and peace practitioner urged the participants to become sources of inspiration and encouragement if they want to make and lead change.

    “As a leader, before you change the world, you need to change yourself and believe in yourself,” Ms. Shamsia said and cautioned, “While preparing yourself to be leaders and influencers, it is important not to confuse leadership with high positions and titles.”

    She emphasized the need to cultivate the virtue of teamwork and quoted Mother Teresa as having said, “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.”

    tlg and eacc to collaborate cSr. Agnes-Lucy Lando, an Associate Professor at Nairobi’s Daystar University who spoke about intrapersonal communication as an effective tool for leading change encouraged the participants to discern what adds value to their overall mission, urging them to embrace perseverance, patience, dedication, self-reflection and self-awareness as well as humility

    “As we lead change, we need to prepare others to take over from us so that we don't leave a gap and have a leadership crisis when we are not there,” Sr. Lando said, describing change as a challenge and oftentimes a painful process.

    On his part, Dr. Luis Franceschi, Dean of Strathmore University’s School of Law and Board Member of Transparency International-Kenya outlined values and virtues proper to leadership, among them, prudence that is about making right decisions, courage that involves staying on course and resisting pressure, self-control, which has to do with subordinating passions to the profit and fulfilment of the mission at hand, loyalty, sincerity and justice, which is being fair to all and having a big heart like Nelson Mandela.

    He further appealed for competence and piety and also advocated for humility, giving the example Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.

    TLG’s activities are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with emphasis on goal 16: peace, justice and strong institutions, which is “dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.”

    Sr. Margaret Mutiso of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart is the current TLG Coordinator. The next conference has been slated for September 2018 under the theme Authentic Leadership.

    Catherine Muteithia contributed to this story.

  • Missionaries of Charity Copyright Blue and White Sari

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 11 July 2017

    missionaries of charity copyright sariThe Missionaries of Charity have patented the white and blue sari designed by Saint Teresa of Calcutta, obtaining a legal copyright recognizing the pattern as the intellectual property of the order.

    Although it was never officially announced, the copyright had been granted the same day as Mother Teresa's Sept. 4, 2016 canonization as the culmination of a three-year legal process.

    According to the Press Trust of India, intellectual property attorney Biswajit Sarkar said that “the blue-designed border on the sari worn by nuns of Missionaries of Charity was recognized as Intellectual Property for the organization on September four, 2016, the day the Mother was canonized.”

    “The Missionaries of Charity does not believe in publicity and as such it was not publicized,” he said, while stressing that “we are witnessing unscrupulous and unfair usage of the design across the globe” and so are trying “to spread awareness among people about the trademark.”

    The sari, which is the habit of the Missionaries of Charity sisters, was designed by Mother Teresa when she went to the streets in 1948 to serve the poor. It is white with three blue stripes, the outer stripe being larger than the inner two.

    Mother Teresa's blue border pattern “is a distinctive symbolic identity of (the) Missionaries of Charity under the concept of color trade mark protection,” Sarkar said.

    The sisters sent their application to the Trade Marks Registry of the Indian government in December 2013, and after a three-year “stringent test of legal proceedings” the copyright registration was granted to coincide with the same day as Mother Teresa's canonization, despite the fact that it was a Sunday.

    According to Sarkar, the copyright of the pattern of the saris worn by the Missionaries of Charity is unique, and marks the first time a uniform has been protected under intellectual property rights.

    In an explanation of the meaning of the saris on the Missionaries of Charity website, Sr. Gertrude, the second nun to join the Missionaries of Charity after their foundation and who is since deceased, reflected on the symbolism of the design and how it came about.

    She wrote that when she joined Mother Teresa April 26, 1949, “it was then that for the very first time in my life I saw her in her white sari with three blue borders.”

    “And what a shock it was for me – Mother Teresa, a Loreto nun, my Headmistress was now dressed like a poor Bengali woman in a simple white cotton sari with three blue borders!” she said.

    The shops where the nuns bought their first habits sold the white sari with either red, green or blue borders, and “Mother selected the blue border, for we associate the color blue with Mother Mary. It stands for purity.”

    “Also in those days women who swept the streets used to wear a similar kind of a sari,” she said. “So Mother adopted a religious dress that was both symbolic and practical – it not only helped to identify ourselves with the poor, but was also suitable to Calcutta's searing climate.”

    The sisters initially paid about 2.50 rupees ($0.04) for their saris, but once the order began to grow, it became hard to get them in large numbers.

    Because of this, when the sisters in 1958 started the Gandhiji Prem Niwas project for leprosy patients, they noticed that many were out of work, and so bought looms and began paying the lepers to weave the saris for the order.

    Since leprosy can't survive outside of human flesh, there was no danger of the nuns getting infected. The patients continue to work under strict medical supervision, and are paid by the sisters, who provide them with food, clothing, and medical care.

    Regarding the significance of the colors chosen for the sari, the white stands for truth and purity, while the three blue stripes on the border signify the vows that the nuns take: the first represents poverty, the second obedience, and the third, broader band, represents the vows of chastity and wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor.

    The cross sewn onto the left shoulder of the habit is symbolic of the fact that for the Missionaries of Charity, Christ on the Cross is the key to the heart.

    Novices who join the order wear plain white saris with no stripes. Only after four years of formation, when they are ready to take their vows, do they receive the sari with the blue stripes. Each sister has only three saris.

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • West’s Imposition of Abortion is ‘cultural supremacy’, Says Nigerian Activist

    Catholic Herald || By Simon Caldwell || 12 July 2017

    nigerian activist on abortion imposition by west'By ignoring the will of the people, this is spitting in the face of the very type of democracy we are supposed to have in African countries,' Obianuju Ekeocha said

    Western governments are “spitting in the face” of African democracy by trying to impose legal abortion against the wishes of most of the people in such countries, a Nigerian-born pro-life campaigner has said.

    Obianuju Ekeocha, the founder of Culture of Life Africa, a U.K.-based pro-life group, said wealthy nations pumping money into the promotion and funding of abortions in Africa were behaving like “old colonial masters”.

    “None of these countries has asked for this ‘aid’ money,” she told CNS.

    “In all my work with African countries, I don’t know of any which is screaming, ‘Come and help us, we have this abortion crisis,'” said Ekeocha, a Catholic who has dual citizenship in Britain and Nigeria. “But a lot of Western countries, in this spirit of cultural supremacy, are still trying to impose abortion in this way.”

    Her views were echoed by Dr Anthony Cole, chairman of the Medical Ethics Alliance, an umbrella group for British medical organisations that uphold Hippocratic medicine.

    “The real need of women and their babies is for safer obstetrics, especially in developing countries,” said Cole, in an email to CNS. “The constant call for more contraception and, where that fails, abortion … makes no significant contribution to providing safe care during pregnancy and delivery.

    “The real need worldwide is for trained birth attendants supported by midwives and obstetricians,” he said.

    Ekeocha, a biomedical scientist who has lived in Worcester, England, since 2006, said Africans are using Western funds “to bribe politicians”.

    Abortion “is against the will of the people,” she said. “The polls show overwhelmingly that Africans hate abortion, abhor abortion, both women and men.

    “By ignoring the will of the people, this is spitting in the face of the very type of democracy we are supposed to have in African countries,” she said.

    Ekeocha spoke as the British government co-hosted an international Family Planning Summit in London with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.N. Population Fund.

    The U.K. Department for International Development said the July 11 summit aimed to boost global commitment to “ensuring women and girls have access to family planning services.”

    Priti Patel, the U.K. secretary of state for international development, announced July 11 that Britain would increase spending on overseas family planning services, including “safe abortions,” by $1.4 billion in the next five years.

    Melinda Gates told the summit that birth control empowered women, and she was “deeply troubled” by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw funding for family planning overseas.

    Canada has increased spending to $650 million in an attempt to partially offset the annual loss of $600 million of U.S. funding.

    But Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland was criticised by the Canadian bishops for equating women’s rights with a right to abortion and claiming these rights “are at the core of Canadian foreign policy.”

    Ekeocha told CNS that since Trump withdrew U.S. funding, Canada was now at the forefront of exporting abortions overseas.

    “Canada has taken that position as the No. 1 cultural colonial master in the world,” she said.

    “They need to go back to the integral care of the person, where they were thinking of the Africans not as people who they can colonise culturally and impose their new views and values on them, but as a people who have their own views and values,” she said. “What Africans want more than anything is for women to give birth safely … in a lot of these countries they can’t even get the most basic health care.”

    Source: Catholic Herald… 

  • Millions Facing Starvation in East Africa: CAFOD Appeals for Support

    Vatican Radio || By Linda Bordoni || 11 July 2017

    millions starving in each africa cafod pleadsAcross East Africa, millions of families face starvation because of drought, lack of food, and civil war. The UN has described this as the largest humanitarian crisis in more than 70 years. 
     
    The Disasters Emergency Committee, of which the Catholic Development Charity CAFOD is a member, has launched an appeal to provide urgent supplies to the 16 million people facing severe hunger in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.  

    The CAFOD East Africa Crisis Appeal also aims to target more than 800,000 children under five who are severely malnourished.

    Nana Anto-Awuakye, head of world news at CAFOD UK, told Linda Bordoni of her recent visit to Northern Kenya to monitor the work done by CAFOD’s Church partners in response to the devastating drought that is affecting around 2.7 million people there.

    Nana Anto-Awuakye says that the figure itself may seem quite meaningless to many, however when one is in the field and meeting community members that tell the story of their survival it is really dramatic.

    “In Isiolo we saw how our Church partners – Caritas Isiolo – are responding to that need by distributing food vouchers; we met the women that told me that they had literally given their children a cup of water for the day – no food – and we spoke to a headmaster who told of a little girl who fainted in class because she hadn’t eaten for two days” she said.

    The people of the area, she said, are faced every day with the terrible question of how they are going to feed their children and keep them alive.

    Anto-Awuakye says that in particular the women were expressing their gratitude and saying: “Caritas didn’t forget us; we are not near the road, we are not near the town, we are far away, but Caritas didn’t forget us…”

    She said the impact of the food voucher scheme was visible and explained it works because the vulnerable members of the community are identified by their own community and then they receive a food voucher which means they can access food within the local community and most important, it all stays with the community and they can “simply feed their families”.

    During her visit to the region, Anto-Awuakye says she saw on her twitter feed Pope Francis’ commitment to give money to support the East Africa crisis and in particular the situation in South Sudan and Somalia.

    I saw two distinct faces of solidarity: “I saw the solidarity of CAFOD supporters across England and Wales who donated for the East Africa Crisis Appeal raising, to date, almost 4 million pounds; and on the other side I saw the solidarity of the community itself and its committment to take care of each other and also of the Church partners doing all they can to get vital aid to people in need”.

    Anto-Awuakye also speaks of the importance of raising awareness ‘back home’ and says the team travelled with a celebrity ambassador – Emma Rigby – a young actress. 

    “Having her with us in the field, to see for herself the work of our Caritas aid workers on the ground was really impactful because she could see for herself how CAFOD – through CAFOD supporters giving to the appeal were making it possible – she could also see the difference that was being made and in her position as a well-known actress she could get the message out by being interviewed by local and national media.

    She points out that this is ever more urgent as the story, that was very prevalent in February and March, has dropped off the media agenda: “but whether we are 3 or 6 months on from when that news of the crisis was broken, it is still very much ongoing and so is the need for continuing support.

    Anto-Awuakye said there is much we too can do to support the people of the stricken region, starting with prayers: “continue to pray for them as the effects of the drought continue to hit”.

    “The community there – she said - gets together to pray and you can see from their faces and from the look in their eyes, that their hope and their faith are very much alive”.

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • Loreto Girls Mark South Sudan’s 6th Independence Anniversary with a Peace Pilgrimage

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 13 July 2017

    loreto girls mark sixth independence anniversary 2017The fourth year students and staff at Loreto Girls Secondary School of the Catholic diocese of Rumbek, South Sudan, marked the sixth anniversary of the country’s independence by taking part in a pilgrimage of peace.

    The walk of peace, which took place last Friday, July 7, saw the pilgrims walk in groups to Cueibet, a town located some 45km northwest of Rumbek.

    South Sudan President, Salva Kiir decided to cancel official celebrations at the level of states, the third year in a row, because of the financial challenges the country seems to be facing occasioned by the ongoing protracted civil strife.

    According to a report sent to CANAA, the Loreto pilgrims were split into three groups of about 15 people – fourth year students, teachers and administrators.

    The pilgrimage began at 6:20 a.m. with a word of prayer from School Principal, Sr. Orla Treacy. She prayed for a safe journey and that the pilgrims have some quality time for reflection.

    Sr. Orla then explained that a pilgrimage was an opportunity to meet people, for conversations and silences and encouraged the pilgrims to use the opportunity to pray for places where there is violence. She also asked them to think about the areas of their lives in which they need to seek peace.

    Pilgrims were also encouraged to reflect on how they can bring peace to their lives and to the lives of others in their community.

    The entire journey of 45km was split into nine legs, each team walking for 5km before passing on the baton to the next group, for a total of 15km. As one group walked, the others followed behind by car, handing out bottles of water and encouraging their friends to continue the peace pilgrimage.

    As the pilgrims walked, they were met by curious children who laughingly joined in the “fun.”

    Residents from the villages they passed through also encouraged and cheered the pilgrims.

    In Cueibet town, the pilgrims were welcomed by the Korean Fidei Donum Priests who invited them for prayer in their newly built Church. There, they prayed together for South Sudan, reciting the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis to complete their pilgrimage.

    “Peace, love, harmony. That is all [that I want],” one Senior 4 student, Jackie Nyankueth said prayerfully.

    Before embarking on the drive back to Rumbek, the pilgrims visited the teacher training college and a clinic.

    According to Sr. Orla, these visits were important to expose the fourth year students to options for work and training that would be available to them after graduation.

    The administrative capacity builder at the Loreto school, Benjamin Sprunger, has told CANAA, “This sixth independence anniversary of South Sudan is a significant benchmark for the people and leaders of this country who are seeking peace in their homes, communities and the country at large.”

    Explaining the value of the school to education of girls in South Sudan, Mr. Sprunger has said, “The Loreto Girls Secondary School has transformed to meet the growing needs and increased challenges of the young girls attempting to earn their education as a foundation for a bright future.”

    “As part of the School's comprehensive education program, the girls are provided with peace building skills and trauma healing strategies to help build resilience in conflict settings,” Mr. Sprunger went on to explain and added, “The girls themselves have become agents of peace and regularly facilitate outreach activities focused on peacemaking.”

    “Upon graduating, Loreto students are empowered to serve their communities as this young country strives for development and peace,” Mr. Sprunger concluded.

    The Loreto Girls Secondary School, which will mark its tenth anniversary in April 2018, started as a mission for girl child education in an extremely challenging local context rife with poverty, inequality, hunger, and conflict.

    Candacia Greeman, one of the teachers at Loreto Girls School contributed to this story.

  • Church’s Micro Finance Institute Extends to South Ethiopia

    CANAA || By Makeda Yohannes, Ethiopia || 10 July 2017

    metemamen micro finance in ethiopia extending operationsCatholic Church owned Metemamen Micro Finance Institute has opened its 17th branch office in the Apostolic Vicariate of Soddo, in the capital of Wolayta Zone Soddo town.

    The new extension was officially inaugurated on July 3 by Bishop Tsgaye Keneni, Apostolic Vicar of Soddo in the presence of Zonal and district officials and ECS Secretary General Fr. Hagos Hayish, as well as other board members of the institution.

    Speaking on the occasion, Bishop Tsegaye said that Metemamen is an institution established by the Catholic Church to give an opportunity to people with good entrepreneurial skills and ideas but lack financial capacity to manifest and develop through loans and other financial schemes.

    “With Metemamen the Church does not give the society financial donation but an opportunity to the poor to bring their God given talents out onto the table and work with it. Many skills and innovative ideas remain hidden under the carpet because of low financial capacities and because poor people are not able to get loans due to their low financial status; thus the poor are forced to remain poor in spite of being born with the same capacity as any other human being that has been able to grow their ideas into big business,” the Apostolic Vicar said.

    He explained that by working together both Metemamen and the people in the Apostolic Vicariate of Soddo can grow tremendously saying “it is only if we take a leap together that we can all benefit from this Micro Finance Institution that was established by the Catholic Church with the intention of bringing the poor on the same level as those with financial capacity, Metemamen will need the support of government offices and other stakeholders in order to reach its goals.”

    The Bishop also recalled that Metemamen MF was established by the Catholic Church with the support of CRS while he was still serving as the secretary General of ECS and he is pleased to see it reach this stage and finally come to his Vicariate.

    Speaking for his part Mr. Ufo Bonga, head of Wolayta Zone Finance and Economy Bureau, he appreciated all the initiatives the Catholic Church takes in the Zone to ensure integral development of the people, he particularly praised the skills and supports the Church provides the youth and women in rural areas by encouraging saving and alternative means of income. He added that now that the Church has come to the Zone with a Micro Finance institute he is hopeful that it will also be a good opportunity for his office to ensure sustainability of some of the projects of the government and other organizations.

    According to Mrs. Wogayehu Asrat, General Manager of the Micro Finance Institute, it has entered in the Wolayta Zone with one branch in Soddo but plans to expand towards the districts to ensure their accessibility to the people in the rural areas. She expressed her hope that all Dioceses, Catholic Church Religious Congregations and Catholic Church Institutions will continue to support Metemanen Micro Finance Institute and help it grow to a level of a bank that works for the development of the people.

  • Bring Christian Values to Politics

    Vatican Radio || Jesuits Zimbabwe – Mozambique || 06 July 2017

    archbishop of harare robert ndlovuBring Christian values to politics; don’t lose your saltiness, Zimbabwe’s Archbishop of Harare, Robert Ndlovu says.

    As Zimbabwe approaches general elections scheduled for 2018, the Archbishop of Harare, Robert Ndlovu has challenged Catholics to be active in politics and to bring the mind of Christ to the process.

    Recently addressing congregants at St Canisius Parish, Marlborough in Harare during his pastoral visit, the prelate said Catholics should set precedence in being peace ambassadors and avoid all shameful acts.

    “As Christians we shouldn’t be seen, talking or conducting acts that put the Church or the name of God into disrepute,” he said.

     He said Christians, led by the Holy Spirit, should promote the act of love on the political scene since Christians sit together and eat from the same plate.

    Archbishop Ndlovu encouraged parishioners that being active in politics is everyone’s right and duty. He went on to say that lay Catholics can actively participate in politics.

    “If it is about being active in politics, get into it. I encourage you, be part of politics. That is your role … it is your duty. It is your right.” The Archbishop added, “But when you choose to be in it, don’t lose your saltiness as a Christian, don’t lose your light. Bring the mind of Christ and take your Christian values with you.”

    The Archbishop, who is also a signatory to the recent Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference (ZCBC) Pastoral Letter on elections, spurned political violence and equated Christians who condone it to people who supported the crucifixion of Christ.

    Archbishop Ndlovu emphasised: “Your vote is your vote, take your pen and make your choice but don’t make noise as Christians, be the peacemakers.”

    Recently, about ten Christian organisations including the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace convened in Harare to launch a Christian vote campaign. The campaign shuns political violence during elections.

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • Bishops in Sierra Leone Urge Pastoral Agents to Promote Peace ahead of 2018 General Elections

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 10 July 2017

    sierra leone bishop toward 2018 electionsThe Catholic Bishops of Sierra Leone have appealed to all agents of the evangelizing mission of the Church to actively foster a spirit of peaceful co-existence as the country prepares for the general elections slated for March 7, 2018.

    The plea is contained in the Bishops’ pastoral letter sent to CANAA on Friday, July 7 titled, “Journeying towards peaceful and credible elections.”

    “We strongly enjoin our priests, religious and lay faithful to promote a spirit of unity, reconciliation, tolerance and peace in their sermons, homilies, conferences and pastoral engagements,” the Bishops state in their letter dated June 4, 2017.

    “We, the Catholic Church, make a commitment to uphold, teach and preach all the tenets contained in this pastoral letter,” the Bishops have said and called “on all Sierra Leoneans, especially those who are of voting age, to strongly reject all acts of violence, unnecessary provocations, various forms of fraud that distort results, as well as anything that can lead to destabilization and disorder.”

    They have also encouraged all political parties and their supporters to accept the outcome of the elections, “should the latter be declared free and fair by the competent authority.”

    Below is the full text of the Bishops’ pastoral letter ahead of the parliamentary, local and presidential Elections scheduled to take place on 7th March 2018.

    JOURNEYING TOWARDS PEACEFUL AND CREDIBLE ELECTIONS

    A Pastoral Letter on the Elections in March 2018

    Introduction

    We greet you in the name of the Risen Lord; and pray that we may all pass over from death to life and that raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might, live a new life (cf. Rom. 6:4).

    We, the Catholic Bishops in Sierra Leone, upon prayerful reflection, issue this pastoral letter in view of the parliamentary, local and presidential Elections scheduled to take place on 7th March 2018.

    As your Bishops, we have a responsibility to lead souls to greener pastures. It is our duty to engage in the dialogue over our country’s future and the Sierra Leone we want for all. Pope Paul VI reminds us that “It is up to Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country, to shed on it the light of the Gospel’s unalterable words and to draw principles of reflection, norms of judgment and directives for action from the social teachings of the Church.” (Octogesima Adveniens no. 4).

    Sentiments of Gratitude

    We express our sincere gratitude to the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, for announcing in good time the date for elections, thereby allaying all fears that the elections might be unduly delayed or even postponed. This, in our view, is a major support to the promotion of peace and stability and a boost to our young democracy.

    We also appreciate the support given by the International Community to this country and its people, especially in moments of dire need.

    In a special way we acknowledge the tremendous efforts and sacrifices of Sierra Leoneans both at home and abroad in ensuring that progress is made in our nation that has suffered for far too long. Our nation was brought to her heels as a result of the Ebola epidemic that claimed thousands of valuable lives. Our resilience as a people and a nation was tested severely. However, it was at that very difficult moment when the nation united to fight a common enemy. The words of St. Paul to the Corinthians were a great consolation during our desperation: “We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered…we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down but never killed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). We therefore encourage all those who stood by us during those challenging moments to accompany us again towards free, fair and credible elections.

    The Risen Christ Our Light and Strength

    The Risen Christ remains our light and guides us to a new and better life; he leads us to a new way of seeing, judging and making decisions. This light shines in the dark and the darkness cannot overpower it. The Risen Christ calls us to die to sin and live for God. You too must consider yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 6:3-11).

    We can only build better families, communities and our country when Christ leads us with his light and when he becomes the propelling force of our decisions and actions. And so we ask for forgiveness for the many times we have allowed our darkness to overcome the Light that has been given to us. The darkness of our sins – our pride, our selfishness, tribalism, nepotism, corruption, greed – has tried to put out the Light in us. We pray that the light of Christ rising in glory may dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.

    Dead to Sin and Living in the Newness of Christ

    We are dead to sin when our old self was crucified with Christ. We died to sin when Sierra Leoneans were able to overcome their differences and negotiated peaceful resolution to the ten years of civil war. So many innocent lives were lost. The terrible war was as a result of the many wrong decisions made without the guidance of God and the common good of our brothers and sisters. “Usually war is a funeral procession of violated human rights” (Catholic Bishops of Angola 1993). Greed, corruption, moral decadence, indifference to the common good took over us. And there was darkness all over the land. To use the words of our predecessors during the civil war: ‘while war spells misery and untold sufferings for thousands of people, for others it seems to be ‘good business’ (Sierra Leone Bishops Lenten Message 1993).

    The outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) showed the best and worst in us as a nation. On one hand, it revealed quite shockingly the poor state of our medical services. On the other hand, patriotic medical practitioners and other health workers endeavoured to fill in the gaps by making immense sacrifices and some paid the ultimate price with their lives to defeat the virus. The Ebola epidemic is remembered as one of the darkest moments in our history. The twin tragedies in our nation, the civil war and the Ebola epidemic, brought Sierra Leoneans together from all walks of life to fight for a common purpose. Our ethnic, cultural and religious differences were put aside in order to achieve a higher good. Such desirable attitudes that we manifested so clearly at critical moments in our history should be shown again as we move towards the national elections in 2018 that will define the next phase of our country’s history.

    Work for the Common Good

    We appeal to all Sierra Leoneans to work for the common good. We have to assume responsibility for our own development and not to wait for others to do it. Our progress must be borne on our shoulders and then others will follow us. When adversity affects us we all suffer. Ebola, civil war and conflict did not have a party colour. All Sierra Leoneans suffered. Our commitment brought an end to the civil war and the Ebola epidemic; it renewed our democracy and peace and brought infrastructural growth. We need this same dedication and commitment to address poverty, illiteracy, food insecurity and corruption. Let us put communities at the heart of development and then our country will experience true prosperity that benefits everyone.

    The Present Political and Economic Landscape

    We note with deep regret that the present political landscape does not promote unity among us. Politically we are divided into North-West and South-East. We have promoted a politics of regionalism. In 2007, we breathed a sigh of relief for the peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections and the emergence of the then opposition party, All Peoples Congress (APC) as the victor. Ten years on we have not attained the united and peaceful Sierra Leone we all dreamt of. Many citizens continue to stomach grievances and on many occasions peaceful demonstrators have been treated with heavy hands and some brutally killed. How fast our hopes and aspirations have diminished!

    We are aware that significant gains were made in economic growth, especially between 2012 and 2014. Our nation was rated as one of the fastest growing economies in sub-Sahara Africa. But we were told that the twin shocks of Ebola and the fall in iron ore prizes worldwide led to austerity measures. But is it austerity only for a few; the poor, helpless and vulnerable?

    Expressing Unity as a People and Freedom to Exercise Electoral Franchise

    As a Church we should not afford to shy away from political participation but our involvement cannot be partisan. In no way can we as a Church champion the cause of any political party. Our cause is a noble one; namely to defend our country and its citizens from political manipulators and to educate all citizens to vote wisely and responsibly. Ours is therefore an advocacy role. We inform, instruct and educate our youth and indeed all citizens to stay away from violence and anything else that might cloud the election process.

    We call our leaders to attention about the dangers of youth unemployment. We challenge them to make genuine efforts to stamp out corruption and put an end to impunity. We call on the political class and especially political parties to be responsible in shaping the political culture of our nation. Divisiveness, political bickering and infighting do not augur well for the consolidation of our young democracy. After many years of independence, our political parties should have, by now, institutionalized tolerance, ethnic diversity, respect for the rule of law and the rules of the game leading to trust and confidence by the general populace in the democratic process. We call on the Government to resist the temptation of political manipulation and to do everything possible to create a level playing ground for all political parties. No attempt should be made by anyone to change the will of the electorate. All Sierra Leoneans who have reached the required age have a right and a duty to register and vote. Do not turn your back to the political process.

    Recommendations and Conclusion

    In the light of the foregoing considerations:

    1. We call on all Sierra Leoneans, especially those who are of voting age, to strongly reject all acts of violence, unnecessary provocations, various forms of fraud that distort results, as well as anything that can lead to destabilization and disorder.

    2. We encourage all political parties and their supporters to accept the results or outcome of the elections, should the latter be declared free and fair by the competent authority.

    3. We urge the Law Enforcement officers to safeguard honour and loyalty to this country and its institutions, the protection of lives and property, and to maintain political neutrality in the execution of their duties.

    4. We persuade political parties and presidential candidates to respect the electoral process, to preserve peace, to uphold the interest of the Sierra Leonean people and to see themselves in this pluralistic election as competitors, not adversaries. In fact, Pope John Paul II said, “an authentic democracy, which respects pluralism, is one of the principal routes which the Church travels together with the people. Being engaged in the democratic struggle according to the Spirit of the Gospel is a sign of a Church which participates in the promotion of the rule of law everywhere in Africa” (Ecclesia in Africa no. 112).

    5. We, the Catholic Church, make a commitment to uphold, teach and preach all the tenets contained in this pastoral letter. We strongly enjoin our priests, religious and lay faithful to promote a spirit of unity, reconciliation, tolerance and peace in their sermons, homilies, conferences and pastoral engagements.

    In conclusion, we pray that Mary, the Queen of Peace, continue to intercede for us so that her Son may grant us the grace and the strength to follow the light and walk to newness of life in Christ.

    Given in Freetown, on the fourth day of June in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Seventeen; the Solemnity of Pentecost.

     

    Bishop Charles A. M. Campbell, Catholic Diocese of Bo and President of Conference

    Archbishop Edward T. Charles, Archdiocese of Freetown

    Bishop Patrick D. Koroma, Diocese of Kenema

    Bishop Henry Aruna (Auxiliary), Diocese of Kenema

    Bishop Natale Paganelli, SX., Diocese of Makeni

  • Declaration of National Bankruptcy Part of South Sudan’s Way to Recovery, Senior Prelate Proposes

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 10 July 2017

    declare south sudan bankrupt 2017A senior Catholic Prelate in South Sudan is proposing that the country’s leadership declares bankruptcy as a way toward economic recovery as the war-torn nation marks six years since it gained independence from the Sudan on July 9, 2011.

    “It will be a courageous stand by the government at this most crucial time to declare that there is no money in South Sudan,” the President of Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference (SCBC), Bishop Barani Eduardo Hiiboro has proposed.

    In his message on the occasion of the country’s sixth anniversary of independence, Bishop Barani has explained that such a declaration “done with love and determination” would have the positive impact of allowing for adequate measures that would result in reforms toward building the country’s economy.

    Bishop Barani’s proposal could be informed by the government’s decision to cancel this year’s official independence celebrations, the cancellation being announced for the third year in a row.

    In a country where "It's difficult for many people to afford even one meal per day," President Kiir said during his address to the nation on Sunday, July 9, that his government did not consider it appropriate spending the meagre funds at its disposal on celebrations.

    South Sudan has been plagued by a civil war since December 2013.

    Despite signed peace agreements, the civil war has continued with extreme food insecurity, deaths, displacements, and a ravaged economy being some of the unfortunate consequences.

    The world’s youngest nation has borne the negative label of experiencing one of the present-day worst man-made humanitarian crisis.

    Last Friday, July 7, Pope Francis urged world leaders who were gathering for the G20 summit in Germany’s city of Hamburg to give “absolute priority” to efforts to end wars, making “a heartfelt appeal for the tragic situation in South Sudan, the Lake Chad basin, the Horn of Africa and Yemen.”

    Meanwhile, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Juba, Santo Laku Pio, on Sunday described the national dialogue, which President Kiir announced, as a “waste of time” and explained, “The problem is political and it has to be solved by the political leaders. Riek Machar, Salva Kiir, Lam Akol and whoever has taken up arms, so they are the ones to discuss and bring peace.”

    “The ordinary citizens have not yet created any problem, that’s why our faithful citizens are able to stay for three months without salaries and they don’t even demonstrate. They still go to work, you will never see this in any country in the world,” Bishop Santo said during his Sunday homily.

    Apart from declaring national bankruptcy, Bishop Barani called for a comprehensive ceasefire, a national dialogue characterized by “an inclusive networking for peace in the country” as well as sustained prayers for peace.

    Below is the full text of Bishop Barani’s message on the occasion of South Sudan’s sixth independence anniversary

    Hope for Peace!

    Message of Caution on the 06th Years South Sudan Independence July 9th 2017

    Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio & President of Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference

    Ref. NO MONEY! NO PEACE! NO CELEBRATION OF SOUTH SUDAN 06TH INDEPENDENCE DAY

    This fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary time, in our Catholic Liturgical Calendar coincides with the sixth year of independence of the Republic of South Sudan. How do I speak or talk and which message can come forth from my mouth?

    For me a tension continues. I must confess that any time the life of prayer, worship and Scripture are aligned too closely with national desire I get nervous. I find that performances of the flag of the Republic of South Sudan shown about especially troublesome. Such approaches too often cross the line into nationalism, an idolatry that blurs the distinction of the sovereignty of God and national purpose as if one is equal to the other. Deuteronomy 10:20 appointed for today says, “…him alone shall you worship.”

    Indeed, six years after liberation, South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis is worse than ever, with grave violations of human rights and a lingering brutal civil war. South Sudan’s 2011 independence was won when more than 98% of its people voted to break away from Sudan. This followed two periods of prolonged armed struggle that began in the mid-1950s and ultimately killed about 2.5 million and displaced over 4 million.

    Please do not misunderstand. I am a patriot and am grateful that I am a citizen of the Republic of South Sudan. There is a proper place for grateful hearts for the sacrifices made to secure our land from tyranny and oppression. When at our best, we have been an example of liberation from enslavement.

    I deeply love being born a South Sudanese, and I give thanks to God for giving me birth in this beautiful place. I proudly see South Sudan grow clocking the age of Six Years since her birth on July 9th 2011.

    After visiting many places around the world I still conserve my love for this country, I don’t know how and why. The only answer I can give is that God meant me to be a South Sudanese and that I am one in every drop of blood in my veins.

    As we stand on the threshold of the 6th Independence Day right inside deep abase of civil wars, I am intensifying my prayers for my beloved Mother South Sudan. As I also get older and South Sudan though young yet again in senseless war, I keep asking: are we drifting completely away from the path, the dreams, the hopes and desires for this beloved nation of ours?

    My first thoughts on Independence Day go to South Sudan’s Freedom Movement, Anya-nya One, Sudan Liberation Arms (SPLA). Those heroes and martyrs of 1820-2005 and others, like the King Gbudue, William Deng, Clement Mboro, John Garang, etc., fill me with a sense of pride because my Christian faith also talks about the misery of “enslavement.” The first books of the Bible tell us how God wanted the enslaved people of Israel to be freed. Freedom is God’s first gift to them.

    South Sudan’s independence helped me understand the message of God - freedom from sin, freedom from Satan, freedom from a life estranged from God.

    Now I cannot believe – No Money, No Peace and No Celebration of the 6th years Independence of South Sudan Independence??? My Mother South Sudan is wounded by all these ailments. I am sad, but not without hope.

    I want to keep on working for unity of my country. I want to spend my life for lasting peace, peace which has been robbed by some. There are many, many like me, of all religions, who have not given up hope.

    I believe that the present state of the country is only a passing phase. The sooner her sons and daughters realize the urgency to stand by the perennial values of our Mother South Sudan, the quicker South Sudan will once again remain faithful to her original divine vocation.

    Freedom is God’s gift. Peace is God’s gift. God’s gifts are meant for His children. Independence is not a once-and-for-all achievement, but it is forged daily, achieved daily. Independence is not an external reality, but an inner force which comes only from above.

    My prayer: Let us Lord, each South Sudan, build her/himself from within. Teach us that building a beautiful, strong and stable South Sudan is not to start from external reality, but to start from within.

    Does this sound idealistic, Lord? But you have already taught us and continue to teach us where to begin. I want to be the first one to do that, Lord.

    I deeply love being born a South Sudanese, and I give thanks to God for giving me birth in this beautiful place. Seeing South Sudan growing up and discovering herself she makes to maturity of stability and peace.

    After visiting many places around the world I still conserve my love for this country, I don’t know how and why. The only answer I can give is that God meant me to be South Sudanese and that I am one in every drop of blood in my veins.

    Yet we also need to hear faithful and prophetic critique when what we do as a nation is in conflict with the Gospel, and be willing to confess our sin when we are the source of oppression. As disciples of Christ and yet citizens of a nation, what does loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and loving the stranger in our midst (Deuteronomy 10:19) look like in national policy? These are not small questions.

    My messages of peace, courage and confidence for National Day such as this is that South Sudan Independence, as we painfully now see it for the third time not being celebrated nationwide, hence, it is the beginning of a quest for an ever-changing understanding of freedom.

    Our early national struggles for political autonomy soon have led to the continuing struggle for economic freedom! As a matter of fact, freedom today includes human rights, minority rights, refugee rights and workers´ rights. Thus dialogue must be undertaken, as Jesus did and taught, across our cultures as well as within our respective cultures.

    The 6th Independent Celebration of our nation can be strongly honored and made to bear lasting fruits must include the below areas among others:

    1. Comprehensive ceasefire: The country is loaded with violence and war by all the fighting forces or people holding arms. All of them must for the love of this beautiful nation South Sudan lay down their weapons of wars. This must be followed by an inclusive all entities in struggle in sort of roundtable peace negotiation.

    2. The National Dialogue: The national dialogue launched by the president has to be in all forms an inclusive networking for peace in the country. This must be support by all means and it should remain neutral for the sake of truth. At this juncture since the National Dialogue has been launched, relative in some parts of the country is being lived and harmony is developing, let us all resolve to rally round together, shedding all differences to achieve advancement in the economy, sustainable peace culture and the reconciled life of the

    3. Declaration of National Bankruptcy in South Sudan is necessary: It will be a courageous stand by the government at this most crucial time to declare that there is no money in South Sudan. Such declaration done with love and determination will generate quick fix plus gradual reform to building the economy of SouthI know that it cannot be absolute that a nation such as South Sudan is without money. Surely, sovereigns will always have the ability to meet debt obligations. Simple because our assets should always exceed our liabilities, which surely must be the technical reason for bankruptcy.

    But I feel strongly that where we are now as nation, with no greater reservation it has become very necessary, for South Sudan to declare itself bankrupt. It must in principle still be possible for South Sudan to go bankrupt.

    First foremost, to justify my claim, my calculation is simple; it is important to understand how public (government) debts work.  When a country can no longer pay the interest on its debt or convince anyone to lend it money, it has reached bankruptcy. The most obvious cause of this spotted state of bankruptcy of our beloved South Sudan includes civil war or financial mismanagement by the government!

    Secondly, another biting sign of bankruptcy is that there is massive inflation for consumers and businesses. Stock prices have plummet, along with the value of our nation’s currency. As the value of money falls, bank runs may result as terrified citizens rush to withdraw cash from their accounts. Last week in Yambio the only Kenya foreign bank we had closed down, the manager said one of the reasons they have closed services is that citizens withdraw their money, and they never bring more money into that in return.  

    Thirdly, area suggesting winning cases for bankruptcy is that there is high rate of social and political unrest. No services being provided including descent salaries to the working classes, etc.

    But! But! But! There is hope and there is way out of this! To avert bankruptcy or to cope with its effects, our insolvent government has to take courage to look abroad for a bailout. Some countries have done it in past and have survived! Nations in recent memory includes Ukraine, Argentina and Greece. In fact when the Greece economy crashed in 2009, they went to the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, who collectively, issued the first of two international bailouts for Greece.

    4. Praying continually for Peace: Beloved people of South Sudan we must pray hard for peace! to inspire the hearts of people with love and trust for each other, irrespective of the ethnicities or community they belong to, thus making life in South Sudan more meaningful and joyful. In plan B we have to go FARMING – this is indeed sustainable! 

    It is important for people to learn from their respective faith or social backgrounds how to live in this new nation, South Sudan as peaceful human beings and not to create difficulties for our fellow human beings. It is also equally important, to learn how to resolve differences of opinion and arrive amicably at solutions which would satisfy the cross-sections of people living in our country.

    The gift of the Christian faith, deeply rooted in our national identity, is a most powerful force to achieve change and transformation of every individual and every people. We should not forget on this national day that values such as respect for human life from conception to natural death, respect for the family, the foundations of society, Family and Life, justice and respect for the rights of the weaker citizens, honesty and protection of creation must be upheld by every individual South Sudanese and for the authorities.

    Let us continue to pray for South Sudan for stable peace, Amen!

    God bless you and God bless South Sudan!

     

    Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala

    Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio &

    President of Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference

  • The Peace Builders of Northern Kenya: Model Spreading to Other African Nations

    EurekAlert || Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation || 02 July 2017

    peace builders of northern kenya model spreadingFounded in aftermath of 2007-08's national post-election violence, Kenya's Shalom Centre pioneers successful, research-led formula for preventing conflict between rival groups

    An innovative research-led model for building peace has been pioneered by an Irish Catholic priest and his Shalom Centre colleagues working in areas of Northern Kenya where assault rifles are as common in households as cooking pots.

    Lawlessness is prevalent in the isolated areas of Kenya bordering Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, and family possessions include, on average, 1.6 AK-47s, the weapon of choice also of organized cattle-rustling gangs.

    Weak institutions, porous borders and climate change, meanwhile, combine to make conditions harsher, nurturing historic, sometimes violent competition over scarce resources between the 11 ethnic communities of Northern Kenya with which the Centre works.

    More recently, conflicts over official positions and new administrative boundaries driven by politics have become commonplace. Of immediate concern to the peace makers: the Aug. 8 Kenya general elections. In 2007-08, post-election violence nationwide, fuelled by political in-fighting, retaliation and power struggles, left roughly 1,300 Kenyans dead, 60,000 maimed and 600,000 displaced.

    The Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, founded by Fr. Patrick Devine in 2009, which works as well in the slums of Nairobi, has cultivated a unique approach to conflict resolution, its success recognized and celebrated with a host of international awards.

    And the model is expanding into other parts of Africa, starting with Côte d'Ivoire, Tanzania and the Central African Republic, with further plans to establish centres as well in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    The model's success is founded on extensive research into areas of complaint and issues that drive conflict then working with key community opinion-shapers -- elders, women, youth and influential chiefs -- to reach a common understanding of both the history and current definition of a conflict's source, while building trust and co-operation to reach solutions.

    Through workshops, Shalom is creating a legacy of conflict resolution, training to date more than 9,600 community leaders as peacemakers.

    Strategies also include sustainable human development in conflicted communities through projects. Lasting results include the building of solar-powered inter-ethnic and inter-religious schools, medical centres and water projects.

    The philosophy of Fr. Devine, a 29-year veteran of African ministry: Conflicts are created by unmet human needs and the inability of weak institutions to help people actualize their potential. Shalom's peaceful coexistence goal is simple: "To help the people become the architects of their own future."

    Shalom's grassroots-based methodology, he says, embraces prevention and transformation -- "delving deep into the social, economic, historical, cultural and religious factors that contribute to extremist behaviours that cause significant destruction and trauma to individuals and communities. Conjecture and speculation are no basis for policy making."

    Conflict in the region can be linked to several primary causes: scarcity and mismanagement of core environmental resources, infrastructure insecurity, weak institutions and the political economy of governance, historic tribal land and cultural conflict, all contributing to an unhelpful proliferation of illegal small arms.

    "Every conflict has a memory," says Fr. Devine, honoured in 2013 with the International Caring Award, and recently nominated for Ireland's prestigious Tipperary International Peace Prize. "When the causes of conflict are not only identified, but also agreed upon by those involved, peace-building techniques create a way to look forward to a constructive future."

    Nairobi-based Shalom Centre's international research and field staff are expert in conflict management theory and practice. All have at least a masters' level education. "And I have never met a group with the persistence, commitment and consistency of Shalom staff," says Fr. Devine.

    The goal is not what he calls "negative peace," or just an end to fighting but rather "positive peace," where both sides in a conflict see the benefits of protecting the others' security and wellbeing.

    "There's more than enough in the environment for everyone's need," he says, "but not enough for everyone's greed."

    Fr. Devine explains why he founded Shalom: "I didn't want to spend another 25 years just dealing with the symptoms of conflict and poverty, nor just putting money through a sieve without substantial endurable results."

    "Our centre helps people in this region emerge from patterns of ongoing conflict, an environment in which people are persistently killed, maimed and displaced, preventing social and religious values, such as truth, justice, peace, mercy and reconciliation, from taking deep root. Nor can development be sustained if schools, hospitals, programs, and religious centres are regularly made inoperable due to conflict."

    Fr. Devine underlines the non-sectarian nature of the centre's work. "Shalom should not be owned by any one religious tradition," he says. "If we can bring about peace in the world, we can all find our path to God."

    At a May EU meeting in Brussels to address the humanitarian situation in Africa, Yemen and Syria, Joe McHugh, Ireland's Minister of State for the Diaspora and Overseas Development, noted the impossibility of sustainable development without peace.

    He singled out Shalom's "great work" and lauded the centre for making inroads in "interethnic conflict reconciliation where, for the first time in a particular region even with drought and massive challenges, the peace is holding."

    "If there are examples working we should look to them and support them."

    Dr. Laura Basell, a professor at Queen's University, Belfast, and an archaeologist in Africa for 20 years, praises Shalom's diverse, highly qualified international team.

    "What particularly impresses me is Shalom's theoretical underpinning focused on education, empowerment, and transcending ethnic and religious boundaries in order to address the root causes of conflict," she says.

    "Rev. Dr. Devine has demonstrated that Shalom is an institution that speaks not only through the verbal articulation of its guiding principles but predominantly through its deeds. While much remains to be done, their work is clearly making a difference from individuals to entire communities - a wonderful achievement."

    Says Dr. Michael Comerford, a South Sudan-based board director of Shalom:

    "From the beginning, I was struck by the Shalom Centre's methodology to resolve conflict and promote peace, which avoided quick fixes to problems that had existed for years, if not generations. There was something about 'taking time to work with people' that struck me as new. The approach involved working directly with local communities and their leaders, taking time to build relationships between communities, taking time to build peace."

    The Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation is supported by partner organizations and a network of visionary donors, primarily from the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland.

    With a budget of less than $1M US per year and low (7%) overhead costs, Shalom leverages the donations of its supporters to maximize its work on the ground in tribal areas, particularly in the semi-arid terrains, and in the largest slum settlements in urban centres of Eastern Africa.

    The Center focuses on the root cause of violence in the tribal lands of eastern Africa. It was created in 2009 in the wake of persistent widespread violence and dislocation across Northern Kenya, and in the aftermath of the disputed Kenyan elections. Shalom has made a major impact on peace initiatives in this vital strategic area of Africa.

    The Centre's work is strictly non-sectarian and closely aligned with civil society organisations. Fr. Patrick Devine serves as the organization's executive director, leading an international team of conflict resolution experts from various religious backgrounds and disciplines who are based in Kenya and neighboring countries.

    Shalom's approach to peace-building:

    Deliver quality conflict management training consistently to local communities.

    Conduct research among local communities into the causes of violence.

    Work with local leaders and influential opinion shapers to ensure they are part of the long-term solution to preventing conflict; engaging them in problem-solving workshops.

    Promote the construction and development of projects that benefit multiple groups in a community, including those on opposite sides of a conflict.

    Conduct peace education in primary and secondary schools and with groups of influential opinion shapers in conflict environments, aimed at delegitimizing the use of force in solving conflicts.

    Shalom benefits from Memoranda of Understanding with the governments of eastern Africa that comprise the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The Centre also partners with international and regional colleges and universities on peace-building courses, as well as religious association and councils in Africa.

    Shalom makes its findings available to partners, relevant governments, ethnic representatives and United Nation and regional organizations.

    High-profile speaking engagements help raise awareness of this successful peace-development model so it can be implemented in other conflict environments. Last year, Fr. Patrick lectured at Harvard Law School, and in January gave a presentation to a group of Washington D.C. diplomats, academics and peace practitioners on preventing radicalization and extremism.

    Source: EurekAlert… 

  • 7 U.S. Organizations Urge Government to Prioritize Religious Freedom and Persecution of Religious Minorities in Sudan

    Enough Project || By Enough Team || 29 June 2017

    seven us organizations for religious freedom in sudanIn a joint letter, seven U.S. organizations have urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to consider issues relating to religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities in Sudan as part of any strategic review relating to U.S. policy.

    The signatories, which include faith-based and human rights groups, warn that religious and ethnic minority groups and faith-based charitable organizations in Sudan face discrimination, detention, violence, and the destruction of churches by the regime in Khartoum. Those living in areas of conflict such as South Kordofan and Blue Nile are particularly vulnerable to religious-based persecution, which is used as a mechanism to divide communities and exert state control, the groups warn.

    Signatories include: Enough Project; Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Foundation for Defense of Democracies; National Association of Evangelicals; Samaritan’s Purse; Sudan Relief Fund; and Sudanese Human Rights Initiative.

    Read the full letter below

    June 29, 2017

    The Honorable Rex Wayne Tillerson
    Secretary of State
    U.S. Department of State
    2201 C Street NW
    Washington, DC 20520

    Dear Secretary Tillerson,

    As the State Department is currently focused on analyzing the actions of the Government of Sudan and the future of U.S. policy, we urge you to consider issues relating to religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities in Sudan as part of any strategic review relating to U.S. policy.

    A substantial minority of Sudanese do not follow the state-endorsed school of Islam. This group includes Shia Muslims, Qu’rans Muslims, various denominations of Christians, and followers of traditional religions in the Nuba Mountain districts of Kordofan and the southernmost parts of the Blue Nile. Sudan’s discriminatory laws restrict the freedoms of minority groups and deprives them of their constitutional rights.

    Sudan’s constitution guarantees the freedom to worship and establish and maintain places of worship. However, the reality is that members of religious and ethnic minority groups face discrimination and harassment. In particular, those living in conflict areas mainly in South Kordofan and Blue Nile are particularly vulnerable to religious based discrimination as a mechanism to create fragmentation between groups and thus exert state control.

    Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommending that Sudan remain on the list in its 2016 review. This critical issue of religious freedom must be addressed in U.S. policy, and we urge the State Department both to be cognizant of this issue in relation to its current reporting as well as create a new track engagement with the Sudanese Government that is centered on issues of peace and human rights that fully addresses the conduct of the Sudanese Government in relation to religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities.

    We have highlighted a number of areas of concern related to religious freedom and persecution as well as actions we believe the Sudanese Government must take:

    Freedom of worship

    In February 2017, the Sudanese government issued an administrative decree for the demolition or seizure of 27 churches in the State of Khartoum. The decree was justified on the ground of ‘construction irregularities.’ However, it follows a trend of state-endorsed destruction of Christian places of worship and the harassment of church leaders. A joint case was brought by those churches scheduled for demolition, yet the demolition of churches began even before the verdict had been formally delivered and an appeal could be lodged.

    On April 4, 2017, a church elder, Mr. Yonan Abdullah, was killed after being stabbed during a raid on the Sudanese Evangelical Church School, one of the churches that had been identified for demolition. Members of the congregation had been holding a peaceful gathering in protest against attempts to evict them, following an earlier raid where members of the police had beaten the congregation with water pipes and arrested 26 people.

    Many of the churches cited for demolition in the decree are well established and have been in use for up to 30 years. There is no possibility of the demolished churches being replaced since in July 2014, Sudan’s Minister for Religious Guidance and Endowments announced that the government would no longer issue permits for the building of new churches, stating that existing churches were sufficient for the Christian population living in Sudan following the secession of South Sudan in 2011. Since it is also illegal to assemble in public without permission from the government, the restrictions have the effect of preventing Sudanese Christians from congregating to worship.

    Apostasy

    Article 126 of the Sudanese Criminal Code specifies that any Muslim who declares publicly that she or he adopts any religion other than Islam is guilty of apostasy, a crime punishable by death. In 2014, Meriam Ibrahim was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death by hanging for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. Ms. Ibrahim was only released under extensive international pressure, after giving birth in prison without access to proper medical treatment.

    Even after so much international attention on this case, the Sudanese authorities have continued to charge individuals with apostasy, often using it as a means of intimidation and control. For example, Mohamed Salih, a secular political activist, made a request to the Civil Registry to have his stated religion removed from his identification papers. On May 8, 2017, Mr. Salih was arrested for apostasy, facing a potential death sentence. He was held for 3 days and after substantial coverage of his arrest in Sudan he was announced mentally unfit and released, a decision that was made without a full and independent health assessment.

    Despite repeated recommendations from members of the international community for the abolition of the apostasy law, in February 2015 the Sudanese parliament broadened the definition of apostasy under Article 126. A charge of apostasy can now be brought against Muslims whose beliefs and practices are not in line with the government interpretation of Islam.

    Detention and harassment

    Individuals who have criticized the government’s destruction of places of worship have been subjected to harassment. For example, the head of Sudan’s Council of Churches, Reverend Mubarak Hamad, called on Sudanese authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish churches during a press conference on February 11, 2017. He was subsequently summoned to report to the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) offices from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on a daily basis until the order was lifted on February 26, 2017. Reverend Hamad has been ordered not to speak in public about the church demolitions or the imprisonment of church leaders without authorization.

    Arrests and forced detentions are often used to silence criticism of the Sudanese government’s treatment of religious minority groups. In January 2017, Hydier Alsfai, Secretary General of the Republican Party, and his wife Huda Kambal, Head of the Republican Party’s Women’s Committee, were ordered to report to NISS daily, where they were subjected to up to 11 hours of interrogation about their religious beliefs and affiliations to the Republican Movement – a banned religious group. Their detention coincided with the anniversary of the movement’s founder Mohammed Taha, who was sentenced to death by hanging and executed for apostasy on January 18, 1985. Members of the Republican Movement have historically commemorated this date with peaceful protest, but nonetheless face legal harassment and reprisals every year.

    Charitable and humanitarian institutions with religious affiliations

    The NGO Act controls and restricts NGO activity resulting in excessive executive control over the work of NGOs.  All funding must be approved by the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) and foreign funding must be approved by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. This constitutes an unreasonable interference in the activities of religiously affiliated NGOs and donors by the Executive. It is also practically unworkable.

    While using legal restrictions to stifle charitable organization that are not affiliated with the version of Islam endorsed by the regime, the government goes to exceptional length to grant special privileges and protections to charitable organizations that are affiliated with the ruling Islamist movement.  The Islamic Daawa Organization Act (1990) allows the Islamic Daawa Organization immunities and privileges which are not granted to other non-Muslim bodies, including preventing anyone from entering its headquarters unless they have previously obtained written permission from the organization’s executive director or his designee. In addition, the organization’s buildings and real estate are not subject to nationalization, seizure or search, except with its consent and the organization’s archives, correspondence, and parcels are immune from being searched, opened or confiscated except with the permission of the organization.

    Due process

    Defendants in cases related to freedom of religion are usually tried by public order courts where due process is not adhered to, including the right to a lawyer and a fair trial. These courts do not meet Sudanese or international fair trial standards. Defendants are often tried immediately or within a few days of being arrested. Judges issue summary rulings and defendants are often flogged on the spot and are frequently denied the right to appeal the decision. Defendants have limited access to defense counsel. In many cases contact with friends or relatives is prevented. Judges also do not inform the accused about the appeals process.

    Moving forward

    International pressure can be successfully deployed to address religious freedom and persecution in Sudan. In March 2017, a European Union envoy for freedom of religion and belief visited Sudan. During this time, the envoy met with Petr Jezek, a Czech Priest who had recently been released from prison following a presidential pardon. Rev. Jezek had been arrested along with Rev. Hasan Abd Al-Rahim and Mr Abd Al-Mawla in December 2015 and January 2016. They were convicted on charges of ‘inciting hatred between sects’ and ‘propagating false news’, after they provided funds for medical treatment to a Darfuri student who had been seriously injured during student protests in 2013. During its visit, the European envoy joined international calls for the release of Rev. Hasan Abd Al-Rahim and Mr. Abd Al-Mawla, and both were subsequently pardoned in May 2017.

    A new policy track between the U.S. and Sudan should be created related to peace and human rights that could help ensure that fundamental rights are being addressed. Targeted network sanctions, focused on those officials most responsible for religious discrimination plus their businesses and collaborators, should be deployed in support of this track. Furthermore, no decision should be reached on permanently lifting sanctions on Sudan until the Sudan government takes the following actions:

    Amend Sudan’s laws, including the Public Order Law, Personal Status Law and Criminal Law, so that they comply with Article 27 a, b and c of the Constitution, and with Sudan’s international human rights obligations.

    Repeal Article 126 of the Sudanese Criminal Law, on apostasy, to bring it in line with international law regarding the freedom to change one’s religion.

    Guarantee freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression for all Sudanese citizens and residents, and to take measures to actively protect those rights for minority groups, in accordance with international human rights law.

    Cease and investigate the widespread practices of intimidation and harassment of non-Muslims, and recognize in law the right to freely express one’s religion privately and in public.

    Cease the demolition of churches and provide adequate protection where they are in danger of being subject to violence. Also abolish limitations placed on the construction of new places of worship.

    Remove travel restrictions placed on Sudanese and foreign religious officials.

    Revise the Organization of Prisoners and Treatment of Inmates Act (1992), so that any early release is not applied in a discriminatory manner.

    We are hopeful that the State Department will consider the actions of the Sudanese Government related to religious freedom as it currently focuses on determining U.S. policy toward Sudan and ensures that until these issues are fully addressed that the United States is using all the tools at its disposal to press for fundamental change in the regime’s practices.

    Sincerely,

    Enough Project

    Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

    Foundation for Defense of Democracies

    National Association of Evangelicals

    Samaritan’s Purse

    Sudan Relief Fund

    Sudanese Human Rights Initiative

    Source: Enough Project...

  • We are the Missionaries of Today: Bishop in Zambia Says

    Vatican Radio || By Mwenya Mukuka, Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops || 06 July 2017

    bishop patrick chisanga on missionaries of todayZambia’s Bishop of Mansa, Patrick Chisanga, OFM Conv., says the role of women in the accomplishment of the divine will for the Salvation of Humankind cannot be overemphasised.

    Writing in the Mansa Diocesan newsletter, the Bishop calls upon women to be primary missionaries.

    “Ba Minshioni ba lelo nifwe,” the Bishop said in the local Bemba language meaning: “We are the Missionaries of Today.” Bishop Chisanga paid special tribute to ‘our mothers’ for their unique calling of being real primary missionaries.

    The Mansa Diocese prelate explained that the women reach out with the first touch of God’s love and nurturance upon humankind's entry into this world.

    He has since appealed to women in the Diocese of Mansa not to neglect the honour God has bestowed upon them as they emulate the Blessed Mother of the Saviour and the first women disciples.

    “You (women) are naturally the first Catechisers who communicate faith and morals to us from the earliest stages of our life. Do not neglect this singular honour God has bestowed upon you, especially through the Blessed Mother of our Saviour as well as those first witnesses of the empty tomb and missionaries of the Good News,” he said.

    “The Church and society, in general, will continue to look up to you for joyful tidings that rekindle hope, especially in these troubled times of economic hardships, general moral degeneration, injustice and violence – religious, ethnic, political and gender-based, “he added.

    The Mansa Diocese Ordinary also emphasises that the missionary mandate to “go quickly” and tell his disciples, as recorded in Mathew 28:10 is not limited to women alone.  He said that the Good News of the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and life over death in the Risen Lord is such a dynamic reality that every recipient of it is moved to reach out and share with another immediately.

    “If today you hear his voice do not harden your heart” (Ps 94:8) and selfishly bury it within yourself. Move promptly and, in great haste, joyfully share it with others. It is time to flood our conversations and the whole media with the news that gives hope and life,” Bishop Chisanga said.

    The Bishop says the world is tired of negative and depressing news.

     “There is no reason why ‘bad news’ should continue to take centre stage and to spread everywhere at lightning speed while ‘the Good News’ is relegated to the background or is never heard at all. It is our responsibility as ‘Missionaries of Today’ to champion with enthusiasm the dissemination of the Good News of the victory of truth over lies, love over hatred, forgiveness over vengeance, humility over pride, unity over division, and peace over war,” said the Mansa Bishop.

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • New Bishop for Hossana in Ethiopia Ordained

    CANAA || By Makeda Yohannes, Ethiopia || 06 July 2017

    bishop seyoum fransua of hasanna ordainedThe new Bishop for the Apostolic Vicariate of Hassana in Ethiopia, Seyoum Fransua, was ordained last Sunday, July 2, at the Holy Trinity Catholic Parish, Hossana town.

    Bishop Seyoum who will be turning 47 on August 20 has succeeded Bishop Woldeghiorghis Mathewos, 75.

    The jurisdiction of the Apostolic Vicariate of Hossana includes the zones of Kembata Tembaro, Hadiya, and Silte in Southern Nations, and parts of Alaba special district as well as Nationalities and Peoples Regional State.

    The ordination ceremony began on July 1 with the people from the various parts of the jurisdiction parading to receive the Bishop-elect from the town of Beresa.

    The Bishop-elect was accompanied to Hassana by various Church dignitaries, among them, Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphiel of Addis Ababa, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ethiopia, Archbishop Luigi Bianco, all the Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia, the Secretary General and the entire staff of ECS, his family and friends among many laity and other guests.  

    As he arrived to the Vicariate the people on horses, motor cycles and countless cars lead him to the center of Hossana town where thousands of people accompanied by a brass band were waiting to welcome him.

    The climax of the ceremony was on Sunday, July 2, when the consecration ceremony presided over by Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphiel took place.

    Speaking on the occasion, the deputy president of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State H.Ex. Mr. Melese Alemu said that attending the consecration ceremony gave him a great spiritual satisfaction and ensured that the regional administration office is as ready as ever to collaborate with the Apostolic Vicariate of Hossana in all its endeavors.

    He also thanked the Catholic Church for her contributions in the development efforts of the region and particularly in the Kembata Tembaro and Hadiya Zones. He added that for ages the Church has been with the people giving not just spiritual support but also providing social services to ensure integral development.

    At the same time, Zonal Administrators of Kembata Tembaro Zone and Hadiya Zone Mr. Anteneh Fekadu and Mr. Sintayehu W/michael respectively testified that it is because of the Catholic Church and her ministry of educating people that many people from both zones can be found in higher level positions in different sectors of services both in the country and outside. They also gave their assurances of continued collaboration to Bishop Seyoum and the Apostolic Vicariate of Hossana.

    On his part, Bishop Seyoum thanked all the Bishops especially the late Apostolic Vicar of Meki, Bishop Yohannes and his successor, Bishop Abraham, his mother Mrs. Banchiyirga Belew and his late Father Mr. Fransua Noel, all his colleagues and teachers as well as the clergy, religious men and women and the faithful in Hossana for according him a warm reception.

    He also pleaded with all to pray for him saying, “Since it was announced that the Holy Father has elected me to be the Bishop of the Catholic Vicariate of Hossana I have continued to ask myself a question that no one has been able to help me answer adequately – WHY ME? I never dreamt that one day I will be called to shepherd the faithful in the Vicariate of Hossana.”

    “The shock of election prevails and I continue to say that I accepted this election in obedience to the Holy Father, Pope Francis,” Bishop Seyoum continued, adding, “Having vowed obedience to God and to the Church, I accept this ministry as a missionary of the Church and I thank the Holy Father for the honor done to me, an unworthy servant of the Church. For the rest of my life I remain saying, Thy Will Be Done.”

    “Through the intersession of Our Lady and St. Josef and your prayers I shall serve Our Lord and His people in our Vicariate as per His will, for this I ask you all to remain united with me in prayer,” He prayed.

    Bishop Seyoum hails from the Apostolic Vicariate of Meki. Responding to his call to priesthood, he joined the Franciscan Capuchin Institute of Philosophy and Theology to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Theology. Bishop Seyoum went on to join the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome to study missiology making him the only Ethiopian Catholic Priest to hold a doctoral degree in Missiology.

    He served as a rector of the minor seminary in the Apostolic Vicariate of Meki, assistant Parish priest of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Cathedral in Meki town, Deputy Secretary General of Meki Catholic Secretariat until he went to Rome for further studies.

    Upon completion of his Doctorate degree he joined the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat in Addis Ababa in 2012 at the same time continuing to serve the Apostolic Vicariate of Meki as Vicar General.

    Pope emeritus Benedict XVI erected the Apostolic Vicariate of Hossana January 20, 2010.

  • Laity in Ghana Urged to Intensify Active Participation in Church Activities

    CANAA || By Damian Avevor, Ghana || 03 July 2017

    active church participation for laity in ghanaRev. Fr. Dr. Simon Kofi Appiah, a Lecturer at the University of Cape Coast, has called on the laity in Ghana to refocus their activities on the pastoral care in their Parishes, Chaplaincies and Rectorates.

    He said the laity could begin to intensify their involvement in the Pastoral activities of the Church by assisting Priests to provide spiritual and emotional support to Christ’s faithful and all persons who needed such assistance.

    Speaking at the 2017 Accra Archdiocesan Laity Easter Seminar recently for about 400 participants from all Parishes in the Archdiocese at the Our Lady of Assumption (OLA) Catholic Church at New Achimota, Accra, Fr. Appiah, who is the Author of the 2017 Laity Week Study Programme (Booklet), said the laity could explore various ways to use their resources and time to promote positive feelings of Christian duty and self-worth in their communities.

    He noted that Pastoral Care Ministry could reach many Christians if the laity participated with more commitment in the Ministry of the Priest. The laity, he said, must look out for one another and inform members of their Pastoral Councils and the Priests about the needs of the weak, the sick, lonely and those who lead their lives on the fringe of societies.

    Taking the participants through the Study Programme, Fr. Appiah advised the laity especially the executives in Parishes, Deaneries in the Archdiocese to endeavour to understand the importance of their roles in the pastoral Ministry of the Church.

    He called on Catholics to allow themselves to be formed and also make the effort to read and learn about the teachings and positions of the Church on doctrinal and social issues.

    He entreated the lay faithful in Ghana to participate fully in Laity Week programmes to enhance their faith, lamenting that many Catholics fail to attend such programmes.

    The Seminar organised to officially launch the Archdiocesan Laity Week, was on the theme: Do This in Memory of Me: The Eucharist as the Foundation for the Participation of the Laity in the Pastoral care Ministry of the Church.

    It was attended by Very Rev. Fr. Andrew Quaye -Foli, Archdiocesan Laity Chaplain; Very Rev. Fr. Edmund Donkor-Baine, dean of the Kaneshie Deanery; Major J.R.K. Tandoh (Rtd.), Acting Chairman of the Accra Archdiocesan Laity Council; Mr. Augustine Acheampong Otoo, a Parishioner of St. Martha’s Church at Kasoa in the Cape Coast Archdiocese, who was the Guest Speaker and Mr. George Afetor, former PPC Chairman of OLA, who chaired the programme.

    Mr. Otoo called on the laity to actively participate in the reception of the Eucharist. He appealed to the laity to love one another and take care of the needy in the Church and society at large to bring joy to many and collaborate with the Clergy and not to replace them.

    He called for a unity of purpose between the Church hierarchy and the lay faithful as well as respect for one another.

    Major Tandoh said the annual Seminar was relevant in the life and the mission of the Church, stating that “Our identity as members of Christ’s faithful is incorporated in Christ Jesus through our Baptismal consecration, sharing His Priestly, Prophetic and Kingly Office.”

    He reminded the Laity that they were called to make wholehearted effort to lead a holy life for the growth and sanctification of the Church.

  • Diocese in Zambia Launches Catholic Bible in Local Languages

    Vatican Radio || By Wilbroad Musonda, Solwezi, Zambia || 01 July 2017

    bible in local languages launched in zambia dioceseZambia’s Diocese of Solwezi Bishop, Charles Kasonde, (last) week presided over Holy Mass to launch and commission the locally translated Catholic Bible in three local languages namely, Kaonde, Lunda and Luvale. The three languages are widely spoken in the Diocese of Solwezi.

    Speaking in a homily at St. Daniel’s Cathedral Parish, Bishop Kasonde said that Christians need to deepen their knowledge and assimilation of the Word of God by making it the basis of their Christian lives. 

    Before delivering the homily, the Bishop presented Bibles to six senior citizens present in the congregation (three men and three women). He then gave Bibles to two of the youngest babies who were in the Cathedral. This was a symbolic gesture of the Word of God passing from one one generation to another. 

    “Before the homily, I would want to perform a ritual of two generations as we receive the Word of God,” Bishop Kasonde said. “I want to connect the two generations of people who helped to plant Ekklesia (the Church) and the younger generation who are growing and who are going to continue to carry out the work of planting Ekklesia...all these I am going to give a Bible each,” explained the Bishop amid applause from the congregation. Bishop Kasonde pointed out that since 1959, the Church in Solwezi has been using the Protestant Bible for its pastoral and liturgical needs. 

    Earlier in the week, the Bishop had witnessed the offloading of the Bibles from a truck driven by a Muslim man who drove over 2,000 Kilometres to make the delivery.

    The Bishop, in particular, expressed appreciation to the Overseas Bible Outreach; the people of South Korea and the Bible Society of Zambia for their invaluable assistance. The translations were carried out by the Solwezi Diocese Pastoral and Liturgical Commissions. The Bishop thanked members of these Commissions for the long hours they put into the work of translation.

    “Worth mentioning also is the magnanimous cooperation of the Bible Society of Zambia who allowed us to use their text for the realisation of the Catholic translation of the Word of God,” the Solwezi Bishop said in his acknowledgement note. 

    Bishop Kasonde said there was the need to be grateful to God and the Korean people for enabling the Diocese reach the stage of having the Word of God translated into the local languages.

    “I would like to express and pay tribute of thanks to the Overseas Bible Outreach for funding the printing cost of these Bibles. We will commit ourselves to pray for the success of its apostolate. I am particularly grateful to the Archbishop of Seoul, His Eminence Andrew Cardinal Yeom Soo Jung, Rev. Fr. Francis Lee and the Catholic Publishing House of South Korea for their contribution to facilitate the printing of these Bibles in Kaonde, Lunda and Luvale. May God bless and reward you for the work you are doing: Bringing the Word of God closer to the people,“ the Solwezi Ordinary said.

    The Catholic Bible contains additional books and some additions. It has a total of 73 books, 46 in the Old Testament while the Protestant Bible has 39 books in the Old Testament. Both the Catholic and Protestant Bible have 27 books in the New Testament. 

    The additional books in the Catholic Bible are known as the Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha books. These are Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch. The Catholic Bible also includes additions to the books of Esther and Daniel.

    Source: Vatican Radio… 

  • Nigeria’s Association of Concerned Mothers Petitions Government, Bishop Supports Move

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 03 July 2017

    association of concerned mothers in nigeriaThe Association of Concerned Mothers (ASCOM) in Nigeria has petitioned the government expressing concerns about the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) program being undertaken by the ministry of education and translated the program’s initials to stand for “Condoms and Sex Everywhere.”

    The Association of Concerned Mothers (ASCOM) is a registered NGO promoting family values and creating awareness of the rights and duties of parents in Nigeria. The Association also carries out activities focusing on the family and the moral education of children.

    ASCOM petition was contained in a letter addressed to “The Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Education” in which the association’s chairperson and secretary criticize the CSE program approach, describing it as “unwholesome and dangerous ideology.”

    “Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) guidelines focus on children seeking “sexual pleasure” instead of teaching children the hazards of premarital sex and otherwise respecting the customs, laws and culture of our nation,” the letter dated May 22 states, and continues, “This is not education. CSE simply stands for Condoms and Sex Everywhere.”

    The leadership of the Association of Concerned Mothers is concerned about CSE’s guidelines, which states, “Contraceptives and condoms give children the opportunity to enjoy their sexuality without unintended consequences.”

    The leadership highlights “statistics of condom failure rates and an active HIV/AIDS epidemic” and term the guideline “unconscionable.”

    Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo Diocese has provided to CANAA the background of the petition, expressing solidarity with the Association of Concerned Mothers.

    “For some time some organizations and individuals linked to the United Nations, through United Nations Populations Fund Agency UNFPA have been pushing for the increased so-called Comprehensive Sexuality Education CSE in Nigerian Schools,” Bishop Badejo told CANAA on Monday, July 3.

    “The content of CSE has often been found to be immoral, sexual permissive and demeaning of traditional and cultural values,” Bishop Badejo said.

    He regretted that the current top leadership at the national Ministry of education was championing the promotion of CSE program with the support of UNFPA.

    “While the Church and some other organizations have spoken out against this injustice which takes the right to give sexuality to children out of the hands of the parents and guardians, many parents have only just woken up to the challenge with the emergence of many textbooks which in a subtle ways undermine long held moral standards and values regarding human sexuality in the education of children,” Bishop Badejo told CANAA.

    “Last week the Minister for Education appeared on Nigerian national television channels to celebrate an MOU signed by the Federal government to allow UNFPA to freely distribute contraceptives all over the country for the next 4 years,” Bishop Badejo went on to lament, adding, “These are real issues of concern which generated the petition and makes it actual and relevant.”

    “We would like to call attention to the unwholesome and dangerous ideology called Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) which is being promoted by multiple United Nations representatives and government bodies in Nigeria,” the leadership of the Association of Concerned Mothers have stated in their petition adding, “Research has clearly shown that CSE is one of the most insidious attacks on the safety, health and innocence of our children.”

    Below is the full text of letter from the leadership of the Association of Concerned Mothers in Nigeria to the Minister, Federal Ministry of Education.

    ASSOCIATION OF CONCERNED MOTHERS

    53 James Robertson Street, P. O. Box 6341, Surulere, Lagos

    Phone: 080333033638, 08037227160, 08033598109

    Email: concernedmothersassociation@gmail.com

    22 May 2017

    The Honourable Minister

    Federal Ministry of Education

    Federal Secretariat Complex

    Shehu Shagari Way

    Central Area, Garki

    Abuja.

    Dear Honourable Minister

    PETITION AGAINST COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION (CSE) AND GENDER EDUCATION

    Association of Concerned Mothers (ASCOM) is a registered non- profit and non - governmental organisation promoting family values and family enrichment programmes. We create awareness of the rights and duties of parents towards their children and family through activities focusing on family values and the intellectual and moral education of children.

    The family is the most suitable place to initiate children in the practice of good character, values, life skills and wholesome sexual behaviour. While teachers may cooperate in educating the children in the way of good character formation, parents are however the first and best educators. We therefore work with governments to improve school systems, educational policies and practices that foster family values.

    We would like to call attention to the unwholesome and dangerous ideology called Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) which is being promoted by multiple United Nations representatives and government bodies in Nigeria. Research has clearly shown that CSE is one of the most insidious attacks on the safety, health and innocence of our children. CSE claims to have an “evidence informed approach to effective sex, relationships and HIV/STI education. However, this ideology, which is already in use in government schools and some private schools in our country, promotes such things as abortion, homosexuality, masturbation and other controversial sexual ideologies to our children as young as eight years.

    In a Nigerian Social Studies textbook for JSS1 authored by S. O. Omotuyole (page 50), children are taught ways to give and receive sexual pleasure and develop closeness without sexual intercourse such as kissing, mutual masturbation, among other lewd words. A parent reported that she found the following in her daughter’s English note book, were she was asked to define blow job, hanky-panky, pillow talk and the host of others that she is too dumbstruck to mention. The Basic Science textbooks, bear it all for our children on different techniques of sexual perverseness like erections, ejaculation, and sexual intercourse, methods of contraception, withdrawal methods and ways of doing abortion. They demonstrate with mannequins of genital organs how they can enjoy sex without any hitches. This is a gradual process of turning our children into animals and de-civilization of their generation.

    Teaching our young children that they can obtain sexual pleasure through mutual masturbation, blow job, etc. is an outrage. There are many who would claim this constitutes child abuse. It is also agreed by many experts that masturbation can and indeed contributes to sexual addiction, while mutual masturbation is nothing but homosexual and lesbian practices. More of such unwholesome words can be found in literature books like Tears of a Bride by Oyekunle Oyedeji, Precious Little Darlings by Olafosu Ayodeji, The Precious Child by Queen Okweshiene and many more. These books are sexualizing our children without parental consent.

    One of the guidelines or teacher’s manuals states “Contraceptives and condoms give children the opportunity to enjoy their sexuality without unintended consequences.” In light of statistics of condom failure rates and an active HIV/AIDS epidemic, this statement is unconscionable. Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) guidelines focus on children seeking “sexual pleasure” instead of teaching children the hazards of premarital sex and otherwise respecting the customs, laws and culture of our nation. This is not education. CSE simply stands for Condoms and Sex Everywhere.

    Research has proven that school-based sex education does not reduce teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or any other social problem it may claim to tackle. Rather they are on the increase and the social dysfunctions multiply. Countries who have fully integrated sex education also have legalized abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, etc. Is this what Nigerians want or need? If CSE is not repudiated by your Ministry, commissioners of education will bring disrepute upon the entire education system, as more and more parents across the nation learn about and become outraged by CSE guidelines.

    We urgently request you also use your good office to address Gender education in the curriculum of our children. Men and women are of equal dignity but are not the same. The differences between the sexes are scientifically proven on physical, mental and affective levels. Gender roles are part of the fabric of our society and many are good and wholesome, based on the truth of differences between the sexes. To discriminate is to make choices based on differences. Consequently there is positive as well as negative discrimination.

    While a good many negative stereotypes do cause harm and violence to women, we soundly denounce attempts to introduce a blanket social ban on all gender stereotyping. This has been introduced into our children’s school books as well as the noxious idea the gender is a social construct. It is such fluid definitions of gender that promote homosexuality, lesbianism.

    Our honourable Minister, history will judge us parents if we fail to restore our lost values. Let us give our children virtues so they can make the right choices and they will be happier for it. We hope you will join us in this worthy effort to protect our children from receiving inappropriate, dangerous, ideologically driven sex and gender education. God will give the grace for this task, do not fail Him!

    Yours faithfully

    Ngozi Agu                           

                         

                   Chinelo Ujubuoñu

    Chairperson                   

                              

                       Secretary    

    Cc:     House of Assembly

    All States Commissioners of Women Affairs

  • Mali's First Cardinal, Archbishop Jean Zerbo

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || 27 June 2017

    first cardinal in maliAmong those bishops who will be created cardinals at the June consistory is Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, a man who has already been called the “cardinal of peace.”

    In announcing the June 28 consistory at the Regina Coeli on May 21, Pope Francis expressed the desire to choose men who represent the “catholicity” of the Church. His selection of Archbishop Zerbo is particularly noteworthy in this regard, as he will be the first cardinal to hail from Mali.

    Born Dec. 27, 1943 in Ségou, Archbishop Zerbo was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ségou July 10, 1971. He earned his licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Ponifical Biblical Institute in Rome, studying there from 1977 to 1981. Upon returning to Mali in the early 1980s, he taught at the major seminary in Bamako, Mali's capital, and served as a pastor in Markala.

    In June 1988, St. John Paul II named him auxiliary bishop of Bamako. In 1994, he was appointed Bishop of Mopti, and in 1998 was made Archbishop of Bamako.

    Archbishop Zerbo represents Pope Francis’ frequent calls to focus on areas where the Church is persecuted: Mali is a majority-Muslim nation that often sees harsh application of sharia as well as extremist violence against Christians.

    Speaking to Cuore Amico in January this year, Archbishop Zerbo described the situation of Christians in the country as “a test comparable to that of the early disciples.”

    Mali has recently been ravaged by a civil war, which exploded in 2012 with various rebel forces seizing control of parts of the country, and a subsequent coup. Although it officially ceased in 2015, fighting has continued throughout the country.

    The war is largely driven by several factions of Islamist militants seeking to impose sharia, as well as by ethnic separatists. These militant groups occupy much of the northern part of the country.

    During his ministry, Archbishop Zerbo has participated actively in peace talks in Mali’s civil conflict. His appointment to the College of Cardinals therefore sends a powerful message in favor of peace in the country, and a red hat will give added weight to the new cardinal’s contributions to talks.

    He has also called for humanitarian aid for those suffering from hunger, thirst, and disease due to war in the country. In 2013, he told Fides that “[A] new period of suffering is beginning for the people of Mali. We would welcome support so that we can help the increasing number of displaced and refugees.”

    He has stressed the need for conversion, on the part of both Christians and Muslims, saying that “peace can only be achieved through the conversion of the hearts regardless of faith. We Christians are always called to an effort of reconciliation.”

    The Church in Mali has recently been accused of embezzlement of funds related to the Swiss Leaks investigation. The Malian bishops' conference said in a May 31 statement that it “takes issue with the allegations that certain bishops have misappropriated funds from the Catholic faithful” and that it “functions in full transparency.”

    The bishops' conference also asked if “the authors of the tendentious article are aiming at another unavowed objective, rather than bringing constructive information to public opinion? Does this act made at the moment that this Church has just been honored with the nomination of its first cardinal aim at dirtying its image and at destabilizing it? God who sees all and who knows all will one day restore the truth.”

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

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