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  • A Long Road to Rural Health Care: Sisters Serve Ghana's Remote Villages

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Dana Wachter || 15 February 2018

    a long road to rural health care in ghanaFour minutes to 4 p.m., Sr. Mary Nyarko stepped down from a large pickup truck, the most luxurious mode of transportation for her that day, which started at 7 a.m. It made the bumpy mud road from her pontoon ferry ride to the small village where her sisters run a rural health clinic a bit more bearable.

    The Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters' clinic isn't just far from Nyarko's home in Ghana's capital, Accra, it's far from everywhere. Even the patients who need care often walk two or three hours to reach the clinic, which means they may be too late for medical care to help them. With limited resources and staffing, the three sisters who run the facility have their hands full and days packed serving at least 1,000 patients a month.

    The clinic was established as part of the congregation's mission to "continue the healing ministry of Christ," the clinic's administrator, Sr. Mary Nkrumah said. Initially, sisters from Germany and the U.S. had come as missionaries to Ghana in 1946 and years later sought isolated areas to care for those far from established medical care.

    "Most of the people around here [were] dying of snake bites, some more dying when they deliver [babies], some also were having all kinds of other diseases. People were not really taken care of," said Nkrumah.

    There weren't even roads to get patients to health facilities, so Nkrumah said the sisters went to the people.

    After creating hospitals in towns like Nkrawkraw, the sisters first based their remote missions from a town called Donkor Krom, the district capital of Afram Plains. Small villages of a few homes apiece line muddy roads; they have small-scale crop farming and raise chickens, and in areas on Lake Volta, people catch and smoke fish. As a sister for 25 years, Nyarko spent time working at the health center in Nkrawkraw and knows the sisters who worked in the rural areas well. She described sisters taking daily outreach trips to secluded villages and finding it impossible for many of them to make the return trip the same day. They saw the area near Kwesi Fante was particularly neglected. In areas where there were no roads at all, Nyarko said the sisters spoke with local chiefs about getting accommodation for a few days at a time. Soon, the community built a small brick structure for accommodation and the clinic launched in the late 1990s.

    "At Donkor Krom, there's a hospital there, so at least they can manage," said Nyarko. "But this place, nothing. So that is how Kwesi Fante started."

    The long trek to the village

    Nyarko's trip from Accra to Kwesi Fante took about nine hours, mostly using public transportation. By private car, it would take around 5. Stopping in multiple towns via tro tro (passenger van), shared taxi and a ferry pontoon, Nyarko tries to go to the clinic every other month, or when the need to take care of administrative business arises. After 28 years in the congregation, 14 of which she lived in neighboring country, Togo, Nyarko now coordinates mission activities under the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters leadership in Ghana.

    "It's always better when you have your own car," Nyarko mentioned of the white Toyota Helix pickup truck that Nkrumah and their driver pulled up in at the pontoon port on Lake Volta. It was another 45 minutes before she arrived.

    Nyarko describes Kwesi Fante as a sub-district; about 61,000 people live there and in the surrounding villages, she says. It is a village so small it's not listed on online lists of Ghana's population. By contrast, Accra has nearly 1.6 million people.

    The clinic itself is separated by walls within the village; there is land for more buildings, but funding makes it difficult to expand accommodation or healthcare facilities. Without consistent internet and cell service, the Mother Josepha Convent runs with a water tank and solar power lights when electricity inevitably goes out. The clinic is a couple dozen meters from the convent, in the same gated compound. There may be assigned government-appointed medical staff, but it's hard to retain qualified workers after their mandatory national service is up.

    Arriving at the convent by 4 p.m., Nyarko dropped her small travel bag in her guest room and joined her colleagues for lunch. The others had already eaten, but they saved Palava sauce, made with kontumbre (a Ghanaian vegetable similar to collard greens), rice, boiled yam and plantain, for whenever she would arrive.

    Three sisters live at the convent now: Nkrumah, the administrator; Sr. Eunice Tamea who runs the pharmacy, and Sr. Petra Manalo who is a midwife. They work with nurses on site, some community health nurses who visit villages in the region, medical assistants, pharmacy assistants, one other midwife, and lab technicians.

    Life at the clinic

    Returning from checking on a mother in her maternity ward, Manalo joined Nyarko and the others at the dining table. She had been up all night, delivering the baby of a woman who has HIV.

    "We are only two [working in the ward]. So, most of us, we take a double shift. And you know, [we are] always ready when they call us to help them. Sometimes we don't have time for ourselves," Manalo said holding back tears.

    She faced a big learning curve getting used to this small community she joined just a few months earlier. She came to Ghana three years ago from her home in Indonesia, as a Holy Spirit Missionary Sister. Manalo first needed to study English, and then get re-certified in midwifery in her new country.

    Working without oxygen to help mothers delivering babies, Manalo says they try their best, but she struggles knowing that they often are not able to make it to the nearest hospital, which is at least two hours away on unpaved roads. She sees mothers who arrive with nothing, who can't afford the trip to the hospital anyway.

    Many patients can't afford to pay for services, though the sisters are patient in waiting for payment from those who can. Regardless of anyone's ability to pay, the sisters offer care. "We come here, [and try to] save the life. We have only faith, and we have mission and vision to save the life. Just that one," said Manalo.

    Through the window of the laboratory are thatched roofs of the villagers. Most live in huts made of mud, with straw and branches arranged on top.

    Nkrumah explained that villages like Kwesi Fante, consisting of 10 to 20 homes, typically lack electricity, internet or cell network services, decent roads, and even water. Because there are few amenities, she says, it's hard to find qualified staff willing to stay here.

    Recently, one medical assistant who said he was going to visit his family never returned. Nkrumah feels the need to build better accommodation for the clinic staff, to entice them to stay, but that takes funding that the sisters don't have.

    Challenges in the village

    "It's very difficult for somebody to be in the village for almost 18 years," said Amatus Arko, the clinic's microscopist.

    He knows he's unusual in that he's worked with the sisters for all these "good years," as he calls them. His family lives four or five hours away in the city of Kumasi, where he says his children can receive a better education. He travels to see them some weekends, and they stay with him in Kwesi Fante during school vacations. He admits that it's difficult but not unusual for fathers to live away from their families in Ghana.

    Originally from Sunyani, about a seven hours' drive away, Nkrumah moved to Kwesi Fante about a year ago. She joined the sisters in 1993, professing in 1997 before teaching in Ghana and eventually spent four years in social pastoral work on a South African mission. After working in a Holy Spirit Sisters' hospital a couple hours from Kwesi Fante and returning to school to study public health, Nkrumah arrived in Kwesi Fante about a year ago and realized how much the clinic needs her leadership.

    While their services are appreciated, Nkrumah knows if they could create more of a hospital atmosphere, with an accredited doctor, surgery theater, and proper outpatient department, their patients would be better served.

    "We have medical assistants; they have also their limits," said Nkrumah.

    Lab technician, Aboo Thomas arrived only a year earlier, too, from Ghana's Upper West region. He explains the manual blood cell counting processes used to diagnose malaria, sickle cell disease, and tuberculosis. One out of 10 patients here typically has malaria, so Thomas calls their area "endemic," yet his process is only an estimation since they don't have hematology analyzers to count specific cells.

    When the facility first opened, Nkrumah says they had fewer than 200 clients a month because people were afraid they would be referred elsewhere, meaning the long trip would be for naught. Now, she explained, they at least know they'll likely get drugs for their ailments, but her staff struggles to provide emergency care.

    "For instance, the road now, because of the rains, it is totally out of use. So, we take [patients] to Donkor Krom; [it takes] about three hours before we get there," Nkrumah described. And when we go to Nkrawkraw, you have to also only [wait] at the ferry, [often] for more than two hours, before we can cross."

    Since they can't perform transfusions or offer high-tech solutions, the sisters need to refer sick patients and pregnant women facing complications to a bigger health facility. Nkrumah knows even their ambulance isn't quick enough to help those referred patients.

    "If the case comes, and it's already in a bad state, before you get to the hospital, the person is gone," said Nkrumah.

    Knowing it's not always possible for positive outcomes, the sisters and their nurses work toward preventative care. They sustain outreach programs, making their way by truck through woods along unpaved roads to visit communities and offer vaccines or medical advice.

    Nkrumah, though, isn't deterred.

    "I'm happy to be here because the people need us," she said. "Sometimes you get there, there's no road — you have to create the road for yourself. …It's a kind of joy, you know."

    [Dana Wachter is a freelance journalist and digital storyteller based in London, Ontario.]

    Source: Global Sisters Report… 

  • After Zuma’s Exit, Catholics Help South Africa Move On

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 15 February 2018

    catholics help south africa move on after zumaEmbattled South African President Jacob Zuma resigned Wednesday night in a televised address to the nation, after his governing African National Congress party had threatened him with a vote of no confidence in the national parliament on Thursday over a corruption scandal.

    The move comes just days after the Catholic bishops of the country called on Zuma “to act as an elder statesman and to put the good of the country first.”

    On Wednesday, police raided the home of prominent business associates of Zuma who are accused of being at the center of corruption scandals that have infuriated the country, hurt the ANC’s popularity and weakened the economy. An elite police unit entered the compound of the Gupta family, which has been accused of using its connections to the president to influence Cabinet appointments and win state contracts. The Guptas deny any wrongdoing.

    As the Gupta-linked investigation proceeds, Zuma also could face corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago. South Africa’s chief prosecutor is expected to make a decision on whether to prosecute Zuma on the old charges, which were reinstated last year after being thrown out in 2009.

    In his televised address, Zuma said he disagreed with the way the ANC had acted towards him.

    “Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC,” Zuma said. “As I leave I will continue to serve the people of South Africa as well as the ANC, the organization I have served… all of my life.”

    On Feb. 5, the nation’s Catholic bishops issued a statement calling “on all engaged in political decisions regarding in particular the future role of President Zuma to exercise calm and patience,” and warning of “new and dangerous tensions” appearing as the ANC “storms through a period of transition.”

    “Already opposing groups are gathering on the streets, whole provinces are becoming agitated and if these tensions are not resolved with goodwill the political climate will be further poisoned for generations. Without a quick decision the new administration of the ruling party will be judged as disunited and vacillating,” the bishops’ statement read.

    “We call on President Zuma to act as an elder statesman and to put the good of the country first. The Catholic Bishops also appeal to all South Africans to pray for stability and justice. We pray that the ruling party find a quick solution to the present problem of transition of power for the sake of our people who struggle with poverty and unemployment,” the statement concluded.

    “South Africans have had enough of Zuma, they have had enough of his corrupt regime,” said Jesuit Father Russell Pollitt, the Director of the Jesuit Institute South Africa.

    “They want to see him gone and they want to see the economy of the country and all the other issues dealt with, issues that cannot be dealt with as long as Zuma is in power,” he told Vatican Radio on Feb. 6.

    Former Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, elected as the ANC’s new leader in December who now takes over from Zuma, has said the government will do more to fight the corruption that has damaged the ANC, which has led South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

    In a speech on Sunday, Ramaphosa said the government will wage a “relentless war against corruption and mismanagement of the resources of our country” and that the justice system will punish the guilty.

    Many people see the move against Zuma as an effort to strengthen the ANC’s position ahead of a 2019 general election. The constant corruption scandals have hurt the image of the party, which once could confidently win based on its role in ending apartheid. Recent opposition gains have party leaders worried.

    “We are determined to rebuild the confidence of our people in the public institutions of our country and to restore the credibility of those who are elected to serve in those institutions,” Ramaphosa said.

    Father Peter John Pearson, the head of the Parliamentary Liaison Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the current crisis is “a wake-up call that says that even if you had the moral high ground temporarily, the strength of a nation is in how quickly it sees the need and in how much political will it has to return to that ground and to rebuild the lost ground.”

    In a Feb. 9 interview with Vatican Radio he said Ramaphosa “is the one person in the country who has the cards that are necessary” to rule at the moment.

    “The middle class appreciate his skill, his mind for business, his fair play - he is seen as a friend of business,” Pearson said.

    Although Catholics only make up around 6 percent of the country, he said the bishops are heard by the South African government.

    “We know that our voice has resonance only to the degree that we work consistently at it, that we build up a reputation of having a broad spectrum of interests, and that we are able to produce very viable kinds of arguments… to that degree we are certainly appreciated,” the priest said.

    This article incorporated material from the Associated Press.

    Source: Crux… 

  • From “We can’t” to “Of course we can, absolutely”: Women Religious in Nigeria

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 15 February 2018

    women religioius in nigeria national prayer 2018Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018, from 10am to 12 noon, women religious in Nigeria held a National Day of Prayer and fasting across the country to uphold the sacredness of life.

    The sisters invited Nigerians and all people of good will to join them to stop the senseless killings and bloodshed in the country.

    They demanded that the Nigerian government and elected officials live up to their responsibility by working toward creating a safe environment for everyone living in the country, and that security agencies use the resources at their disposal to protect the lives of all people and not just very few.

    The gathering has been born out of Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN) women empowerment project. From January 20-21, 2018 AFJN Washington team, Fr. Aniedi Okure and Sr. Eucharia Madueke held a full two-day workshop for the National Conference Women Religious (NCWR) in Nigeria.

    The team facilitated the sisters’ reflection on religious vocation and justice ministry, focusing the discussion on structures of injustice in Nigeria, structure that create and promote human suffering and perpetuate poverty situations.

    The sisters also discussed ways they could give leadership in the fight against the structures of injustice beyond providing services to the victims of these structures.

    The sisters who represent the various religious congregations of women in Nigeria expressed great concern over increased violent communal clashes especially between farmers and pastoralists, the senseless killings and wanton destruction of human lives, incessant kidnappings, and violence against women and girls.

    They recalled just a few months before the workshop, when one of the participating major superior and her councilors were kidnapped for ransom and held in the kidnappers’ dungeon for weeks, and when six nuns from another community were kidnapped and held for months.

    The sisters noted that these violent situations breach the sacredness of life, diminish the dignity of the person, threaten communal existence and negatively impact economic, social, religious and cultural lives of the people.

    On their part, the AFJN team challenged the sisters to use their leadership position and collective moral voice to bring the situation in the country to the public square.

    Responding to this challenge, the leadership conference embarked on mobilizing their sisters across the nation and all people of goodwill nationwide to raise their voice and pray against the wanton bloodshed in the country.

    Their choice of Ash Wednesday draws attention to a day of prayer, fasting and repentance for wrongdoings, and echoes the response of the people of Nineveh to the warnings of the Prophet Jonah (Jonah 3).

    Initially, the sisters had felt overwhelmed by the situation. However, as they reflected and prayed, they mustered their inner strength and their God-given potential to mobilize their communities and all people of goodwill to tackle this menace.

    The women religious are moving from “we can’t” to “of course we can; absolutely,” full of energy that is almost palpable.

    AFJN continues to work closely with the leadership conference in their first nationwide public witness.

    The women religious in Nigeria and the AFJN team request prayers and support for the success of their initiatives.

    They pray: May the sisters’ boldness and courage to act on behalf of justice in the public forum bring change of hearts; move the government and elected officials to act for the common good and bring consolation to many who have lost their loved ones to violence in Nigeria.

  • South African Bishops: Zuma's Resignation was Long Overdue

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Bronwen Dachs || 15 February 2018

    bishops say zuma resignation long overdueJacob Zuma's resignation as president of South Africa is long overdue, the country's bishops said, noting that his scandal-plagued presidency fostered corruption and dereliction of duty at all levels of government.

    "The fact that Mr. Zuma has been allowed to hold on to the highest position in the land despite long-standing and overwhelming evidence of his unfitness for office has done immense harm to our country's international reputation, to its economy and, especially, to its poorest and most vulnerable citizens," said the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.

    Zuma, 75, resigned Feb. 14 after nine years in office. In a televised address to the nation, he said he disagreed with the way the ruling African National Congress had pushed him toward an early exit, but would accept its orders. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was confirmed as president until 2019 general elections.

    While for some Zuma's resignation "may be a painful event, we call on all to accept his decision as part of our democratic process," the bishops' conference said in a statement issued by its president, Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town.

    Noting that the Zuma presidency "degraded standards of morality and honor in our public life," the bishops urged the ruling party "to take careful note of the way in which it allowed this situation to develop" and to "commit itself to a thorough reassessment of its internal standards and mechanisms of accountability."

    Zuma could face corruption charges, including those connected to an arms deal two decades ago.

    "We pledge our prayerful support to the incoming administration and to all who hold public office in our country, that they may serve all the people of South Africa diligently, honestly, and with the integrity that the long-suffering people of this country deserve," the bishops said.

    Zuma's resignation is a great relief, South Africa's Jesuit Institute said in a Feb. 15 statement, noting that for nine years, post-apartheid South Africa's project of nation-building "got sidetracked into a morass of corruption, mismanagement of resources, cronyism and, ultimately, state capture."

    Those most harmed were the poor, "who became poorer as a result of nepotistic appointments of incompetents, asset stripping and diversion of public money from where it was most needed to the bank accounts of politicians," the institute said.

    Despite the tension South Africans experienced while awaiting resolution of the impasse between Zuma and his party, "we should not lose sight of the fact that the matter was resolved in an orderly, procedural and peaceful manner," Mike Pothier, manager of the bishops' parliamentary liaison office, said in a statement.

    Pothier urged people to give Zuma credit "for saying, and meaning it, 'No life should be lost in my name.'"

    Also, it should be remembered that Zuma's "already notorious record of corruption, dishonesty, cronyism, philandery and self-advancement did not bother" those in his party who put him in power and "thereby set in motion the disastrous decade that has sullied our reputation and set us back economically, institutionally and politically," Pothier said.

    On Feb. 14, police raided the homes of business associates of Zuma who are accused of using their connections to the president to influence Cabinet appointments and win state contracts.

  • Influx of Cameroon Refugees into Nigeria Worries Catholic Church

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 10 February 2018

    cameroon refugees into nigeria worries catholic churchThe Catholic Church in Nigeria is concerned about the escalating flow of Cameroonians into Nigeria, as violence in Cameroon continues to escalate.

    Thousands of predominantly English-speaking Cameroonians have been crossing the border into Nigeria following a military crackdown on Anglophone separatists. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that as many as 43,000 Cameroonians have fled into Nigeria.

    The National Director of Caritas Nigeria, Father Evaristus Bassey, said in a statement that there has been increased agitation for “self-actualization in Cameroon” and this has led to the destruction of life and destabilization of the civic institutions.

    He said the arrival of the refugees is compounding the poverty of the Nigerian people hosting them.

    Bassey said Caritas Nigeria has carried out assessments in Nigeria’s Cross River State where most refugees have arrived and is seeking more information from other areas of the state.

    The priest said the assessment showed that most refugees were living with relatives, in abandoned government quarters, unfinished buildings, or any available open space.

    Bassey said the refugees were sharing scarce resources with their impoverished hosts and depending on them “for food and clothing as most of them fled for their lives with only the clothes they had on.”

    In December, the Bishop Andrew Nkea of Mamfe - a major town of the South West region of Cameroon where most of the refugees originate -visited the refugees and came back with harrowing stories to tell about their conditions of living.

    “Some of their stories are pathetic and the conditions under which they live are appalling,” Nkea said.

    “They are scattered all over the place and sleeping on verandas and open spaces like people without a homeland. It was a great joy for shepherd and flock to be united again and the happiness of our visit almost moved us to tears,” he continued.

    The current unrest began in the autumn of 2016, when disgruntled lawyers and teachers began protesting the use of French in courts using the Anglo-Saxon common law tradition (practiced in the English parts of the country) and in Anglophone schools. The demonstrations soon spread to the general public, and the calls for outright secession started growing.

    The national government gave in to some of the lawyers’ and teachers’ demands, like creating a Common Law Bench at the country’s Supreme Court; transferring teachers and lawyers to areas where they would be most useful; and creating a National Commission to promote bilingualism and multiculturalism.

    But the concessions were seen as too little too late. What looked initially like corporate demands had morphed into the political realm, with large numbers of Anglophones taking to the streets on October 1, 2017 in a declaration of “independence.”

    They hoisted flags and sang the anthem of the putative Federal Republic of Ambazonia, which would be a homeland for the 20 percent of Cameroon which is English-speaking (the majority of Cameroonians speak French.)

    The government’s response was violent, and fighting continues between soldiers and fighters claiming allegiance to ‘Ambazonia.’ The running battles have forced thousands of people to leave their homes.

    The excessive use of force by government soldiers has been condemned by Cameroon’s bishops.

    Nkea pointed to the heavy-handed response of the military following the killing of four soldiers by separatists in the village of Kembong.

    “Kembong is actually the largest village in Central Ejagam with a population of about 5,000 people,” the bishop told L’Effort Camerounais, a Catholic weekly.

    “It is a place that is normally booming with life, but when I went there all the streets were empty and it was virtually a ghost village and looking like a place after a war. I went straight to the parish and the rectory was full of men, women, and the young and old,” he said.

    “There were about 30 people sitting on the veranda and parlor looking very destitute and I asked them what they were doing there. They told me the military had burned their houses and they had nowhere else to go, and that is why they rushed to the mission for protection,” Nkea recounted.

    “Four soldiers had been killed on Monday and when soldiers got there a few hours later they started burning houses, beating people up and sending them away from the village,” the bishop explained.

    “The government should find out who these assailants are, where they are from, track down and punish them according to the law. Soldiers have been killed in Mamfe, so should my house be burned down because I live in Mamfe? No, this is unacceptable,” Nkea said.

    Still, President Paul Biya has promised to do away with the “terrorists” - as he calls the seperatists - and vowed that no part of Cameroon will ever be allowed to secede.

    The government has reinforced its military presence in the Anglophone regions with the deployment of additional troops, imposed a curfew, and instituted travel restrictions on Anglophone Cameroonians.

    The United Nations refugee agency says the measures “continue to trigger population movements toward Nigeria in search of safety and international protection.”

    Bassey said Caritas Nigeria is appealing “for support for the mitigation of the humanitarian situation.”

    Source: Crux…

  • 4.5 Million Displaced in Congo 'struggling to survive,' Says Aid Worker

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Mark Pattison || 12 February 2018

    struggling to survive in dr congoJust as people are "struggling to survive" in Congo, aid agencies are struggling to meet their needs, said one aid worker.

    Political unrest in and around the capital, Kinshasa, is just the latest malady to afflict the Congolese citizens, said Chiara Nava, an adviser to the AVSI Foundation, an aid agency focusing on education and child protection and inspired by Catholic social teaching. She worked in the country for two-and-a-half years before taking on an advisory role.

    Still, the difference between the country she worked in and the country she visited in January is noticeable to Nava.

    "The political situation is not good at all," she told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 9 telephone interview from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina. "There are lots of public demonstrations, especially in the capital."

    Layered on top of the upheaval is ethnic fighting. Nava said there are 4.5 million internally displaced people in the country.

    "It's also difficult for humanitarian aid workers to follow these people. They're moving a lot," she said.

    Like other international aid agencies, the foundation has a "rapid response mechanism," a program intended to follow people fleeing from disasters and conflicts, "to help people moving inside a country," Nava said. "We manage to follow them and provide new humanitarian aid in the areas where they resettle."

    Many of those internally displaced people, she added, "have to flee (only) with anything in their hands, and they need help." The problem with families, Nava said, is "after two weeks, three weeks, they flee again."

    She told CNS, "We see the most vulnerable being in danger. People are struggling to survive."

    Another underlying reason for the conflict: gold and other minerals, and who lays claim to them.

    "In some areas, they (rebels) focus more on fighting with the regular army; in others they are interested in the natural resources where they are. In some cases, they are starving as well," Nava said. Some rebel militias "burn everything, they kill everything. There's some frustration among the poorest. Unfortunately, they act this way because they are armed and they have the tools to do that. We find they are not very well educated ... and half of them are child soldiers."

    It's a hit-or-miss situation in Congo.

    "Some areas are well-controlled. Local administration functions quite well," Nava said. "In other areas, they suffer from this ethnic conflict, and the position of the government for excavation of national resources is not very clear. There are not a lot of situations -- there are lots of different shapes of this main problem."

    Absent from Nava's equation is Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, which has been fighting in the north part of the country. The AVSI Foundation no longer has workers in that region.

    The safety of its aid workers, now mostly in the eastern part of the country, continues to be a concern.

    "We keep on going. So far, we are reviewing our contingency measures and contingency plans," Nava told CNS. "We want to work in fragile contexts and fragile situations."

    "We know it's not very safe," she added, "but we know where and when to go."

  • Bishop-elect in Zimbabwe Believes Poverty of Diocese A Strength, Not a Weakness

    CANAA || By Br. Alfonce Kugwa || 12 February 2018

    bishop elect raymond tapiwa mupandasekwa in zimbabweThe Bishop-elect of Chinhoyi diocese in Zimbabwe, Monsignor Raymond Tapiwa Mupandasekwa, has said the joy of his appointment lies in the different religious colours decorating the diocese. For him, different religious congregations and guilds in the diocese serve as a source of strength and hope to keep the diocese running and for this, he vowed to promote the good of each guild and religious institute for the good of the church.

    Monsignor Mupandasekwa believes that it is not all gloom and doom but joy lies ahead.

    Having been appointed by the Holy Father on 30 December 2017, the Bishop elect leaves his position as the Redemptorist Regional Superior to be the Shepherd of Chinhoyi Diocese where he hopes to break new grounds in relationships and evangelization.

    “It is always a joy to find a Diocese with many colours, congregations and guilds with a diverse number of spiritualities. This adds to the richness of the Church,” Monsignor Mupandasekwa said and added, “The many the different religious flowers and guilds in the diocese the richer we are and the more we are able to witness not only to the diversity in God but also through our common witness to the unity of the church and the Godhead.”

    He said that he expects to share this ministry with all priests, sisters of the various congregations and lay people already in Chinhoyi. For him, the vision of the diocese will be defined by the cooperation and participation of all, the old and young. But at the center of his heart lies the zeal to open new grounds by reaching out to the poorest.

    He went on to say, “I know they will teach me a lot and bring a new joy to my life. The vision of the diocese will be defined by not just myself but by all of us together. What I know as of now is that that vision will be guided by the greater vision of the Holy Father, of going to the peripheries in order to bring to the people of God the joy of the gospel.”

    While the Diocese of Chinhoyi is characteristically rural, there is joy in ministering to the local people who are full of love and faith. In as much as rural dioceses are seen as disadvantaged in terms of resources, Monsignor Mupandasekwa argued that this was not a weakness when people are willing to share what they have. He said priests and sisters of the diocese have experienced the many challenges the diocese and its people face.

    “This rural identity is not a weakness but a strength. The Holy Father has already spoken of the church of the poor and for the poor. The priests and sisters working in Chinhoyi will be called to share in the poverty of the Nazareth of Chinhoyi and through it experience the joy of the gospel.”

    “Most of our priests and religious sisters already share the same conditions as the poor as part and parcel of their mission and voluntary witness. In so doing, they affirm the dignity of the poor who often are treated as non-persons or people without dignity on account of their poverty. In doing so, the church through its ministers brings about an essential change of mindset which becomes inevitably the catalyst to change in the poor themselves as they are encouraged by this to appreciate their own worth. Again, this witness by church ministers challenges the ‘haves’ to value the ‘have nots’ as their equals created like them in the image and likeness of God,” said the Bishop Elect.

    Chinhoyi Diocese covers Mashonaland West and the province is a political landmine with political stalwarts coming from the area. The political situation in the diocese more often than not interferes with church business thereby affecting the mission of evangelization and sometimes threatening missionary work. In most cases Christians prefer to leave politics to politicians and have nothing whatsoever to do with it for fear of reprisals. But for Monsignor Mupandasekwa politics is life for everyone. He encouraged Christians to get involved in political affairs so as to influence democratic processes in the church and society.

    Monsignor Mupandasekwa said: “Socio-political or even economic sanity is always an achievement of a community than an individual. If everyone does his or her part and reach out to the other in gospel charity we will always be able to bridge our socio- economic, religious and political differences.”

    Monsignor Mupandasekwa, challenged the church in Zimbabwe to open up new ways of reaching out to the people in a missionary spirit of evangelization. He said evangelization was at the center of the church as stressed by various popes such as Pope Paul VI in Evangeli Nunciandi, Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio, Pope Benedict and recently Pope Francis in Evangeli Gaudium. According to Monsignor Mupandasekwa, evangelization defines the missionary mandate of the church as given in Matthew 28 by the Lord himself.

    “My wish, which has been the wish of bishops who came before me and of our Holy Father is that we renew our commitment to preaching the Gospel. With Saint Paul each one of us has to say ‘I am ruined if I do not preach the Gospel.’ The challenge before us is to find new ways of evangelization which are consistent with the signs of times. While we search for the new ways, we also have to appreciate our old ways of bringing the Gospel to others that have served us so well namely evangelization through our schools, hospitals and other church institutions. Perhaps our challenge will be to grow more of these church institutions and add forms of evangelization to them,” he said.

    He complimented the Bishops of Zimbabwe for their support of evangelization at all levels of the church and society. The Bishop Elect said the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference has worked tremendously well under very difficult circumstances as a beacon of hope for the nation and a star leading the people of God.

    “I go to the conference to learn from those who bear the wounds of battle,” said Monsignor Mupandasekwa.

  • Catholic Church in Tanzania Says President Magufuli is Endangering “national unity”

    AfricaNews || By AFP || 11 February 2018

    tanzania bishops criticize magufuli 2018The Catholic Church of Tanzania denounced the violations of democratic principles and freedom of expression by the government of President John Magufuli, accusing him of endangering “national unity” in a pastoral letter published on Sunday.

    “Political activities are prohibited by the instrumentalization of the police,” the letter by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Tanzania read. The Church has been accused in recent months by the opposition of remaining silent in the face of “the dictatorial drift” of President Magufuli.

    “The activities of political parties, such as public gatherings, demonstrations, marches, debates inside premises, which are the right of every citizen, are suspended until the next elections,” the bishops further bemoaned.

    “If we allow this climate to continue, let us not be surprised to find ourselves tomorrow in more serious conflicts that will destroy the foundations of peace and national unity.”

    Denouncing “violations of the Constitution and national laws”, the statement also stressed that “media are closed or temporarily suspended, thus restricting the right of citizens, to be informed, freedom of opinion and the right to privacy and expression”.

    The clergy also noted that the current political atmosphere bred “division and hatred that could endanger peace, security and the lives of citizens.”

    They also point to tensions that continue to mark by-elections at different levels. “These elections leave a feeling of anger, a thirst for revenge and a lack of interest in other elections,” they noted.

    “If we allow this climate to continue, let us not be surprised to find ourselves tomorrow in more serious conflicts that will destroy the foundations of peace and national unity,” warned the bishops.

    The Catholic Church was criticized for being silent after the alleged assassination attempt in September 2017 on Tanzanian MP Tundu Lissu, the opposition chief in parliament.

    Lissu, who is also president of the Bar Association, is currently being hospitalized in Brussels after months of intensive care in Kenya.

    Although the attack was carried out in broad daylight, in a residential area guarded by the police, no suspect has yet been arrested. The parliamentary party, Chadema, accuses the government of being behind the attack.

    Nicknamed “Tingatinga” (Bulldozer in Swahili), President Magufuli has made an impression since taking office at the end of 2015, being unyielding in the fight against corruption.

    But his unconventional and brutal style earned him the reputation of being autocratic and populist by his detractors, while freedom of expression is increasingly reduced in the country.

    Opposition party meetings banned, newspapers closed, and journalists and artists beaten or threatened with death for criticizing government.

    Source: AfricaNews… 

  • Bishop Encourages Ghanaian Catholics to Take Part in World Meeting of Families in Dublin

    CANAA || By Damian Avevor, Accra || 08 February 2018

    bishop encourages ghanaians for dublin family meetingThe Bishop in charge of Laity, Women and Youth at Ghana’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD, has encouraged Ghanaian Catholic families to make efforts to take part in the 2018 World Meeting of Families slated for August 21-26 in Dublin, Ireland.

    Bishop Fianu said that despite financial constraints for some who desire to be there, there is the need for Ghanaian Catholic families to make sacrifices and afford their time and finance to be at the meeting in person.

    “It is a good and opportune occasion for Catholic families – adults, youth and children – to gather in a universal forum to celebrate, pray and reflect on the family,” Bishop Fianu stated in an interview on February 2.

    “This will help us all to grow in faith and love as well as strengthen one another on our life journey as people of God,” he added.

    He noted that with the contemporary means of communication available, those who might not be able to be physically present in Ireland can also benefit from the conferences via Internet.

    The Meeting is expected to be attended by thousands of families and individuals from all over Ireland and the world.

    The five-day Meeting on the theme “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World” will be an interactive multimedia platform of catechetical resources, largely drawn from the Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (‘The Joy of Love’), published by Pope Francis in March 2016, following the Synods on the family held in 2014 and 2015.

    “It is special for Ghanaian families because it is a unique opportunity to meet and share their faith with Catholic families from other parts of the Catholic world,” Bishop Fianu noted and added, “The opportunity to share with others will strengthen our families in living out their Catholic faith in Ghana.”

    “As participants share their faith, they will come to discover how the joys and challenges of Catholic families all over the world do no differ one from the other. As they realise that together they can make a change in human society, they will go forth to announce the Gospel of Joy to all mankind.it is thus a preparation for further evangelization through the family,” said the Bishop.

    The theme of the 2017 Plenary Assembly of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference was “Integral Pastoral Care for the Family in the light of Amoris Laetitia.”

    “Looking at the event schedule proposed so far, I look forward to solid teaching on family life for Catholic families based on the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family - Amoris Laetitia,” Bishop Fianu stated in reference to the Dublin meeting of families from across the globe.

  • South African Bishops Urge Zuma to 'put good of the country first'

    The Tablet || By Rose Gamble || 07 February 2018

    putting good of country first in south africaZuma's tenure has been marred by a series of corruption scandals that have undermined the image of the ANC party

    As pressure mounts for South African President Jacob Zuma to resign, the country’s Catholic Bishops have called on him to “act as an Elder Statesman and put the good of the country first”.

    In an unprecedented move, the speaker of the South African Parliament announced on Tuesday that Zuma’s state of the nation address to parliament on Thursday, has been postponed.

    Senior leaders of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) met Zuma over the weekend to ask him to step down. Local media reported that the 75-year-old president, who is battling corruption allegations, refused.

    A meeting of party leaders scheduled for today (7 February) was cancelled after an evening meeting between Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected ANC leader in December and has been Zuma’s deputy since 2014.

    Accompanying their call for the embattled President to put the “good of the country first”, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) implored “all engaged in political decisions regarding the future role of President Zuma to exercise calm and patience.”

    “We pray that the ruling party find a quick solution to the present problem of transition of power for the sake of our people who struggle with poverty and unemployment,” continues the 5 February statement, signed by Archbishop William Slattery, SACBC spokesman.

    Zuma had led the ANC since 2007 and has been South Africa’s president since 2009. His tenure in both posts has been marred by a series of corruption scandals that have undermined the image of the party that led South Africans to freedom in 1994.

    The Nelson Mandela Foundation called on Tuesday for Zuma to be ousted.

    In a statement, the foundation said there was “overwhelming evidence that systematic looting by patronage networks linked to President Zuma have betrayed the country Nelson Mandela dreamed of”.

    Were Zuma to agree – or be forced - to step down, his premature departure (his second five-year term is due to expire in 2019) would mean Ramaphosa would become president, in accordance with the constitution.

    Supporters of Ramaphosa say it is essential that Zuma is sidelined as early as possible to allow the ANC to regroup before campaigning starts for elections in 2019.

    Source: The Tablet… 

  • South Sudan Bishop Wins Roosevelt Freedom Award for His Peace Village

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || 07 February 2018

    bishop taban wins roosevelt freedom award 2018A bishop in South Sudan has won an award that recognizes the peace village he founded as the visible embodiment of his peacemaking efforts.

    In May, Bishop Paride Taban, retired bishop of Torit, will receive the Freedom of Worship Award, one of the Four Freedoms Awards presented every other year by the Roosevelt Foundation in Middelburg, Netherlands.

    Bishop Taban is "a rare figure in a fractured country, someone who has excellent contact with leaders on all sides and is not afraid to call them to account," the Dutch peacebuilding organization PAX said in a Feb. 6 statement.

    The 82-year-old bishop set up the Kuron peace village in 2005 in Eastern Equatoria, a thinly populated area in the southeast of South Sudan. The village is a three-day journey by road from the capital, Juba.

    Since the 1960s, Bishop Taban "has worked as a peacemaker, drawing on seemingly bottomless reserves of patience, optimism and strategic insight," the Roosevelt Foundation said in a Feb. 6 statement announcing the award.

    The foundation said the award was made to Bishop Taban "for his lifelong and selfless dedication to the cause of bringing freedom and peace to the people of South Sudan."

    The bishop's "great wisdom and deep respect for different religions and cultures has enabled him to forge emotional bonds between otherwise battling groups," it said.

    He "continues to call for an end to the human suffering and for a peaceful solution of the conflict in South Sudan in local, national and international forums," the foundation said, noting that "through his life's work he is keeping the flame of hope for peace alive, not only by preaching the word of God but by living it."

    South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011. Civil war in the northeast African country erupted in late 2013 after President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of fomenting a coup. The conflict has put 1.5 million people on the brink of starvation. Tens of thousands of people have died, more than 2 million have fled to neighboring countries and almost 2 million more are internally displaced.

    "Much of the population has fled due to the fighting, agricultural land remains fallow, hunger and lawlessness prevail and scarce resources are manipulated," the PAX statement said.

    In the peace village set up by Bishop Taban, "young people and community leaders learn how to live peacefully together and acquire skills in how to resolve conflict," it said, noting that "they bring these skills with them when they return to their communities."

    Carpentry lessons, including how to make chairs and tables, are also offered in the village, and arithmetic, reading and writing are taught.

    In 2016, Bishop Taban told the Jieng Council of Elders in Juba that, for lasting peace to be achieved, South Sudanese needed to learn 20 words and eight phrases, according to Vatican Radio.

    "The words are love, joy, peace, patience, compassion, sympathy, kindness, truthfulness, gentleness, self-control, humility, poverty, forgiveness, mercy, friendship, trust, unity, purity, faith and hope. These are 20, and the eight phrases are: I love you, I miss you, thank you, I forgive, we forget, together, I am wrong, I am sorry," he said.

  • Transition Looms in African Catholic Powerhouse as Legend Readies to Go

    Crux || By John L. Allen Jr. || 07 February 2018

    transition looms in dr congo catholic churchA transition at the top is looming in one of the world’s powerhouse Catholic nations, as Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed a new coadjutor bishop in the Archdiocese of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, effectively laying the groundwork for the eventual departure of 78-year-old Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.

    A onetime de facto head of state in Congo, Monsengwo will be a hard act to follow - a high-profile prelate and papal confidante who’s more or less incarnated the African Catholic experience for a half-century, in which Catholic leaders often end up playing explicitly political roles that would seem odd to Western sensibilities about church/state separation, because the Church is sometimes the only institution that enjoys basic social trust.

    On Tuesday, Francis tapped Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, a Capuchin and the former head of the Archdiocese of Mbandka-Bikoro, as the “coadjutor” in Kinshasa, meaning that he has automatic right of succession when Monsengwo steps down.

    With a population of 80 million that’s estimated to be around 80-85 percent Christian, roughly half of that total Catholic, Congo is already one of the world’s largest Catholic nations and is destined to grow. Based on demographic projections, by 2050 Congo will be the largest Catholic nation in Africa and the fifth largest in the world, behind only Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines and the United States.

    The 58-year old Ambongo has a background in moral theology, having studied at the prestigious Alphonsian Academy in Rome, run by the Redemptorist order. He’s a former university professor and Capuchin superior, who was originally named the bishop of Bokungu-Ikela in 2005, at the age of 44, and then took over as the Archbishop of Mbandka-Bikoro two years ago in 2016.

    All things being equal, Francis, a Jesuit himself, seems to like bishops with a background in religious life, admiring in particular the penchant for collegiality and consensus religious orders tend to foster.

    Although it will be up to the pope when the time comes, Ambongo could inherit not only leadership of the Church in Congo but also Monsengwo’s spot as one of the pontiff’s nine cardinal advisers from around the world.

    Francis created a council of cardinals in April 2013, just a month after his election, and has used the body not only to discuss reform of the Roman Curia but virtually for every major governance decision he’s made.

    In any event, Ambongo will have some big shoes to fill attempting to follow Monsengwo, who’s been at the center of almost every social and political drama in his country since being named a bishop in 1980 by St. Pope John Paul II.

    Back in the early 1990s, what was then Zaire was feeling its way towards life without strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country from 1965 to 1997. A transitional “High Council of the Republic” needed someone with moral authority and a reputation for independence to lead the process of drafting a new constitution, acting as the de facto national leader during the fin de regime period.

    Nobody from the political class fit the bill, so the nation instead turned to the then-Auxiliary Bishop of Kisangani, a polished and urbane cleric named Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. He not only served as president of the council, but also as transitional speaker of the national parliament in 1994.

    Monsengwo gets mixed reviews for how he handled the role - in part because it wasn’t really his diplomacy that brought an end to Mobutu’s rule, but the First Congo War and the armies of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. When Monsengwo later spoke out against Kabila’s anti-democratic tendencies, charges that the archbishop had been “pro-Mobutu” became a staple of government rhetoric.

    Some Catholics agreed that Monsengwo had been overly soft, especially given the persecution they’d experienced at the hands of the Mobutu regime.

    At one point, Mobutu ordered all Christians in the country to adopt non-Christian names, and at another he ordered crucifixes and pictures of the pope to be taken down in Catholic schools and replaced with images of himself.

    For a time, Cardinal Joseph-Albert Malula of Kinshasa was forced into exile.

    Admirers, however, say Monsengwo was trying to find a third way between dictatorship and chaos, noting that it’s one thing to stand on the outside of the political process and toss bricks, quite another to remain within it and try to get something done.

    Born in Mongobele, in what is now the DRC, in 1939, Monsengwo belongs to the royal family of his Basakata tribe; his name actually means, “relative of the chief.” As a young man he was sent to Rome for studies, first at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, home to seminarians from the developing world, and then to the prestigious Pontifical Biblical Institute.

    He also put in a stint at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem, where one of his teachers was a promising Italian Jesuit named Father Carlo Maria Martini, who went on to become the cardinal of Milan and one of the leading intellectual lights of the Catholic Church. In Jerusalem, Monsengwo became the first African to earn a doctorate in Biblical studies from the institute.

    After doing pastoral work and teaching in the local seminary during the 1970s, Monsengwo became a bishop in 1980, at the tender age of 40. He was consecrated by Pope John Paul II himself during the pope’s May 1980 trip to Zaire, his first outing to Africa.

    Monsengwo was immediately elected the president of the Congolese bishops’ conference, a post he would hold again in 1992. He became the Archbishop of Kisangani in 1988, and the Archbishop of Kinshasa in 2007. Benedict XVI raised him to the rank of cardinal in November 2010.

    Not only did Benedict make him a cardinal, after a long stretch in which many people thought Monsengwo’s window of opportunity had closed, but in 2008 Benedict tapped Monsengwo as the relator, or general secretary, of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God. In February 2012, Benedict also invited the African prelate to deliver the Vatican’s annual Lenten retreat.

    (Remarkably, Monsengwo is said to be at least passable in fourteen languages, including the major European languages and a variety of tribal dialects.)

    Early signs are that Ambongo may be just as much a protagonist in Congolese affairs. During a recent controversy around Kabila’s delaying of elections that could lead to a transfer of power, Ambongo strongly defended Catholics who organized pro-democracy (and thus anti-government) demonstrations that drew a violent response from Congo’s police and security forces.

    A statement from the bishops’ conference signed by Ambongo and another prelate said they “deplored the attack on human life,” and offered condolences to the families of the “innocent victims.” They also called for a “serious and objective investigation” to determine who was responsible for the violence.

    In their statement, the bishops also condemned “the violation of freedom of worship guaranteed in any democratic state, the desecration of certain churches, and the physical aggression against the faithful, including Mass servers and priests.”

    In general, Ambongo has been a leader among bishops demanding that Kabila not see another term as president and permit free and fair elections to take place.

    One footnote about the succession in Kinshasa: If Ambongo were to take Monsengwo’s place on the council of cardinal advisors, he would become the second Capuchin - Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, another Capuchin, also serves on the council.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Church in Ghana Continues to Mark 125 Years of Catholicism

    CANAA || By Ernest Senanu Dovlo, Ghana || 05 February 2018

    accra marking 125 years of catholicismThe Catholic Archdiocese of Accra on January 31, held a Eucharistic celebration in Accra to mark the remembrance of the first ever Mass celebrated on the soils of the national capital by two Society of African Missions (SMA) Fathers.

    The Mass which forms part of activities marking the 125th anniversary of the mission in Accra, brought together thousands of Catholics including the laity, clergy, religious and well-wishers among others.

    Also present were the Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, Most Rev Charles Palmer Buckle and emeritus bishop of the Keta-Akatsi diocese, Most Rev. Anthony Kwami Adanuty.

    Speaking in his homily, first emeritus bishop of the Keta-Akatsi diocese, Most Rev. Anthony Kwami Adanuty called on Catholics and Christians at large to embrace the new evangelisation.

    He added that the new evangelisation as being propagated by the church, is not in any way a call to preach anything new but to find more appropriate ways to disseminate God's words unchanged, to a world that keeps revolving.

    Recounting the story in Luke 8: 22-25, Bishop Adanuty charged the congregation to rekindle their faith in God and renew their commitment to gaining salvation and the spirit of fellowship and communion. He said the symbol of the boat signifies the Church complying to the evangelisation mission of Christ and the storm is alerting christians to express their faith in their God always.

    He further noted, "It is an evil generation that only sees Jesus as a worker of spectacular miracles."

    The commemorative Mass was followed by adoration of the blessed sacrament and a candle light procession from the John Evans Attah Mills high street to the oldest Catholic Church in Accra, Sacred Heart Parish, Derby Avenue.

    Catholicism spread to Accra on January 31, 1893 when Rev. Fathers, Eugene Raess and Otto Hilberer of the Society of African Missions (SMA) were sent to Accra from Elmina to begin a new mission after the Elmina mission started in the year 1880.

    Background

    The 125th anniversary of the Catholic mission in Accra was launched on September 21,2017 at the Holy Spirit Cathedral, with a call on Catholics to actively participate in the celebration and evangelisation.

    The launch of the year-long celebration, which is on the theme: “125 years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing our commitment to evangelisation”, also saw the inauguration of the Planning Committee, under the chairmanship of the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese, the Very Rev. Fr Francis Adoboli.

    Recounting some of the major achievements of the church, Most Rev.Charles Palmer-Buckle said the Archdiocese, which started as a mission station, had grown in leaps and bounds to its current state, with a population of more than 400,000 Catholic faithful.

    He added that within the period, it had given birth to the Koforidua Diocese and the Apostolic Vicariate of Donkorkrom. As well as several educational and health care facilities among others

    “We cannot enumerate the number of churches and chapels, educational facilities, from first cycle through to secondary, vocational and technical to tertiary, hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities, as well as the many social service institutions,” he said.

    Carnival

    An anniversary carnival and display of culture was held on December 30, 2017 at the El Wak Sports Stadium in Accra to celebrate the cultural diversity and unity of the Church in Accra.

    The event saw performances from the various ethnic groups in the 10 regions of the country and from the St. Francis Nigerian Community in Ghana.

    Speaking in an interview, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, Most Reverend Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle said the carnival and cultural display was to demonstrate that the members of the Church were one people in spite of cultural diversity and called on them to emphasis unity in diversity.

    He said: ‘’very often people turn to want to play upon ethnic differences, ethnic differences should enrich us and not to divide us, they should bring us to put everything together and be culturally cosmopolitan.

    The anniversary has seen activities such as rosary pilgrimages, vespers, a focus on children as God’s gift to the Archdiocese.

    Activities of the anniversary are aimed at three goals indispensable to the mission of the new evangelization: the spiritual growth in Christ and the development of all Catholics; the correct knowledge and intellectual appreciation of the Catholic faith and doctrine; and the spirit of fellowship and communion among the church members, societies and parishes, as well as in the archdiocese.

  • Catholic Bishops in Kenya Urge Respect of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms after Shutdown of Four TV Stations

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 05 February 2018

    kenyan bishops on tvs shutdown 2018The Catholic Bishops in Kenya have called for the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms of Kenyans following last week’s events by both the opposition coalition and the government.

    Last Tuesday, January 30, the leader of the opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (NASA), Raila Odinga took an oath of office, pronouncing himself as the “People’s President” at a parked Uhuru Park grounds adjacent to Nairobi’s Central Business District.

    In reaction to the swearing-in event, the government of Kenya shut down four TV stations, namely, NTV, KTN News, Citizen TV and Inooro TV, and even later disobeyed a court order that broadcast be restored.

    “We wish to categorically state that shutting down of the media houses, does not augur well for the freedom of expression and press in the Country,” the Bishops’ press statement reads in part and continues, “This is in itself is retrogressive and deliberate effort toward eroding the positive steps the Country and her people have laid down in the Constitution as a social contract.”

    In a press statement dated February 2 and signed by the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Bishop Philip Anyolo, the Catholic Prelates want both opposition and the government to “desist from any acts that can incite the public and cause deeper divisions among the people of Kenya and the Country at large.”

    By Monday, February 5 evening, only KTN News and NTV has resumed broadcast.

    Below is the full text of the Bishops’ statement

    Press Statement: Call to Respect Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of Kenyans

    We, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, are saddened by the events that we are currently witnessing in our country. As a Church whose mandate is to promote justice and peace, we are categorically concerned with acts of both the government and the opposition that are unconstitutional and a bridge to law and order.

    We wish to categorically state that shutting down of the media houses, does not augur well for the freedom of expression and press in the Country. This is in itself is retrogressive and deliberate effort toward eroding the positive steps the Country and her people have laid down in the Constitution as a social contract.

    We therefore wish to state as follows:

    THAT the rights provided for in the Constitution and in the various International instruments ratified by the Kenyan Government guarantee responsible and press freedom.

    THAT the freedom and independence of electronic, print and all other types of media is guaranteed in the Constitution of Kenya Article 34.

    THAT journalists and media establishments have a duty to inform and educate the public and the public has a right to receive information in a secure environment which the state ought to provide.

    THAT Kenya has an Authority (Communications Authority of Kenya), established by law (Kenya Information and Communication Act No.2 of 1998) which, shall be independent and free of control by government, political or commercial interests in the exercise of its powers and

    THAT in fulfilling its mandate, the Authority shall be guided by the national values and principles of governance in Article 10 and the values and principles of public service in Article 232(1) of the Constitution.

    THAT both opposition and the government should desist from any acts that can incite the public and cause deeper divisions among the people of Kenya and the Country at large.

    THAT no state agency or individual is above the law and all should act within the law.

    We therefore, call upon all state agencies and all duty bearers to respect and adhere to the tenets and spirit of the Constitution, respect human rights and the fundamental freedoms.

    As Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, we are committed and ready with the process of national dialogue that can resolve the problems that our Country is facing today. We must realize that no development can take place without peace. We call upon all Kenyans to join us as we launch our 2018 Lenten Campaign on 10th February in Kisumu Archdiocese whose theme is ‘’Reconciliation for Peaceful Co-existence and National Integration… Justice for All’’

    May we dwell in Unity, Peace and Liberty, God bless Kenya.
     
    Signed By
     
    Rt. Rev. Philip Anyolo
    Chairman, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops
    Dated: February 2nd, 2018.

  • Praying for Change in DR Congo: The Catholic Church Takes on Kabila

    IRIN || By Issa Sikiti da Silva || 01 February 2018

    praying for change in dr congoThe Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is now a powerful voice of opposition to President Joseph Kabila’s continued unconstitutional stay in power, but the Church’s spiritual authority is yet to translate into political muscle.

    In December and January, along with a so-called secular coordination committee, the Church organised two separate protest events in the capital, Kinshasa. They were violently broken up by police using live rounds and tear gas, and at least 15 people were killed.

    But while protesters’ placards demanded “Kabila dégage” (Kabila out), some demonstrators also sang “Kabila, you are no longer our president, our new leader is Monsengwo” – a reference to Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, the Catholic archbishop of Kinshasa.

    Monsengwo, 79, is the de facto head of the Catholic Church in the DRC, one of the few effective nationwide institutions in the country, with 32 million followers out of a Congolese population of 80 million.

    In condemning the brutality of the police in suppressing the protests, Monsengwo drew a distinct line between a government many regard as illegitimate, and Congo’s long-oppressed citizenry.

    "It's time that truth won out over systematic lies, that mediocre figures stand down, and that peace and justice reign," the cardinal said, the sort of stand that has helped win him support beyond his Catholic congregation.

    Troublesome priest

    The comparison has been made between Monsengwo, and Étienne Tshisekedi, a veteran opposition leader who commanded a mass following before his death last year in Belgium.

    “We were like orphans because we haven’t had anyone to speak for us since he passed away,” said protester Edith Ekofo. “Now, God has sent us somebody who will liberate us from the slavery and dictatorship of Kabila and his yes-men.”

    Kabila has been in power since 2001, taking over from his father, a former rebel leader, when he was assassinated. Kabila was supposed to step down after his second and final constitutional term came to an end in 2016, but instead clung on.

    The Catholic Church negotiated a deal – known as the Saint Sylvester agreement – enabling Kabila to stay in power to organise elections in 2017. But the poll has now been pushed back to December 2018 – a date many Congolese fear will again be ignored.

    The Church has played a key mediation role in DRC’s complex history. It has proved to be a “potent actor – but also a prudent one”, said Hans Hoebeke, a senior analyst with International Crisis Group.

    Its 160 parishes in Kinshasa alone serve as a grassroots “barometer for social and political tension [which can] create a considerable level of pressure” on the clergy, he added.

    Kabila’s reneging on the Saint Sylvester agreement clearly angered the Church. “Somehow, they feel betrayed and humiliated by Kabila’s refusal to implement even one iota of it as agreed by all parties,” said political analyst Jean-Marie Kabamba.

    “By now they are truly convinced that this man is not to be trusted,” he told IRIN. “Besides, Kabila is surrounded by former dignitaries of the Mobutu regime [prior to Kabila’s father] who only have one thing on their mind – to stay in power as long as they can.”

    Third-term fears

    Kabila’s Mobutu-inspired strategy seems to be working. He has not ruled out seeking a third term, and there is widespread concern he may call a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to do just that.

    Kabila also has, so far, the loyalty of the security forces. In the December and January protests, the police showed no compunction in lobbing tear gas into churches, beating and robbing parishioners, and detaining priests.

    In the troubled east and southeast of the country, where rebellion has long simmered, the UN peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO has reported a surge in extrajudicial executions by “state agents”.

    According to MONUSCO’s annual human rights report, there were 1,176 recorded summary killings in 2017 – a two thirds increase on 2015.

    Monsengwo, a long-standing human rights campaigner, has not shirked from condemning what he describes as the “so-called security forces” for their excesses.

    “There is no greatness in the use of weapons to kill people,” he lectured. “’Let’s take care, my brothers and sisters, because whoever kills by the sword will perish by the sword.”

    It is that kind of language that has put the Church on a potential collision course with the authorities.

    Government spokesman Lambert Mende Omalanga has slammed Monsengwo for “insulting” the country’s leaders and the security forces – legally a punishable offence.

    Kabila also weighed in during a press conference on 26 January, his first in five years. "I don’t have my Bible right here with me... but nowhere in the Bible is it written that Jesus Christ presided over an electoral commission,” he said.

    “To Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” he warned. “We must not mix the two [religion and politics], because the results will be negative.”

    Weak opposition

    Kabila failed to allay concerns he will seek to remain in power beyond 2018, and instead complained that the cost of an election would be “exorbitant”. He also demonstrated no sympathy over the deaths of the protesters in January, even suggesting a new law was needed to “reframe” the legality around such demonstrations.

    The long-discredited political opposition seems powerless to derail any bid by Kabila to extend his stay in power.

    “As long as the regime has the army, the justice system, the intelligence services, and the police that it can use to put them behind bars, and money to poach them, the opposition will remain paralysed and divided, and therefore useless,” said Kabamba.

    ICG’s Hoebeke agreed. “The opposition is a problem. Its leadership lacks courage and vision, and it counts on others [the international community, the street, public opinion] to do the work for them… The entire political class lacks popular legitimacy.”

    More than 120 armed groups operate in the east and southeast of the country, a long way from Kinshasa. Their organising principles seems to revolve around the killing of civilians, sexual violence, and plundering resources. Absent of a political agenda, their activities have generated one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

    “Despite some attempts at regrouping, armed groups remain mostly fragmented,” said Hoebeke. “[But] it is not to be excluded that the longer this situation lasts a more consolidated group will appear… or that the security forces will be either further weakened or totally overstretched.”

    Defiant government

    The government has been largely defiant of the international community and hostile towards MONUSCO, which has repeatedly called on Kinshasa to respect human rights.

    “Further delays in the electoral process not only risk fuelling political tensions but also compounding an already fragile security situation,” peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the UN Security Council earlier this month.

    Kabila, who has ignored calls by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to investigate the killings of protesters, fired back. “We have to clarify our relations with MONUSCO in the coming days,” he said at the press conference, without elaborating.

    “This is not a government that is serious about delivering free and fair elections in an open and peaceful, safe environment in which all parties can express themselves without fear of sanction,” said Stephanie Wolters, head of the peace and security research programme at the Institute for Security Studies.

    “This electoral crisis is a key driver of growing instability in the DRC,” she told IRIN.

    The country is effectively in political stalemate, noted Hoebeke.

    “The regime wants to hold on to power, but does not have the legitimacy or the strength to push this through,” he said. “There is, however, no other source of power that has the strength, legitimacy, and determination to force the regime out.”

    Source: IRIN… 

  • Pope Announces Day of Prayer, Fasting for DR Congo and South Sudan

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 04 February 2018

    pope announces day of prayer for congo and south sudanOn Sunday Pope Francis announced that the first Friday of Lent would be a day of prayer and fasting for peace given the many ongoing conflicts throughout the world, particularly those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

    “Facing the tragic continuation of conflicts in different parts of the world, I invite all the faithful to a special day of prayer and fasting for peace Feb. 23, the Friday of the first week of Lent,” the Pope said Feb. 4.

    He asked that the day be offered specifically for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan and invited both non-Catholics and non-Christians to join “in the ways they deem most appropriate.”

    “Our heavenly Father always listens to his children who cry out to him in pain and anguish,” he said, and made a “heartfelt appeal” for each one of us to “hear this cry and, each one according to their own conscience, before God, ask ourselves: 'What can I do to make peace?'”

    While prayer is always an effective resolution, more can be done, Francis said, explaining that each person “can concretely say no to violence to the extent that it depends on him or herself. Because victories obtained with violence are false victories, while working for peace does good for all!”

    The Pope's appeal, which he made during his Sunday Angelus address, comes just two months after a Nov. 23 prayer vigil for peace in the two countries.

    With plans to visit South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year thwarted by ongoing conflict, Pope Francis organized the prayer vigil in order to pray for an end to war in the two countries and to ask for comfort for victims of the violence.

    He had planned to visit South Sudan last fall alongside Anglican Primate Archbishop Joseph Welby for an ecumenical trip aimed at promoting peace in the conflict-ridden country. However, due to safety concerns, the visit was postponed until the situation on the ground stabilizes.

    South Sudan has been in the middle of a brutal civil war for the past three-and-a-half years, which has divided the young country between those loyal to its President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former vice president Reik Machar. The conflict has also bred various divisions of militia and opposition groups.

    Since the beginning of the war, some 4 million citizens have left the violence-stricken country in hopes of finding peace, food and work. In August 2017 Uganda received the one-millionth South Sudanese refugee, highlighting the urgency of the crisis as the world's fastest growing refugee epidemic.

    For those who haven't fled the nation, many internally displaced persons (IDPs) have sought refuge in churches for protection from violence. Most IDPs are typically women, children and those who have lost their families in the war.  

    Many are too fearful to stay in their homes because they know they could be killed, tortured, raped or even forced to fight. And despite successful partnerships between the local Church, aid agencies and the government, refugees in many areas still need a proper supply of food.

    On Friday the U.S. banned the export of weapons sales in South Sudan and urged other nations to do the same over growing frustration at the country's inability to put an end to the conflict.

    In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, political unrest first erupted in 2015 after a bill was proposed which would potentially delay the presidential and parliamentary elections. The bill was widely seen by the opposition as a power grab on the part of Kabila.

    Relations between the government and the opposition deteriorated further when a Kasai chief was killed last August, after calling on the central government to quit meddling in the territory, insisting it be controlled by the local leaders.

    Catholic bishops in the country had helped to negotiate an agreement, which hoped to prevent a renewed civil war by securing an election this year for the successor of President Kabila. However, in January of this year, the bishops said the agreement was expected to fail unless both parties were willing to compromise. In March, the bishops withdrew from mediation talks.

    With a history of bloody ethnic rivalries and clashes over resources, fears have developed that the violence in Kasai, a hub for political tension, will spread to the rest of the nation and even lead to the involvement of neighboring countries.

    In the past year alone, more than 3,300 people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasai region. The death toll includes civilians caught in the crossfire of a brutal fight between the Congolese army and an opposing militia group.

    According to the Guardian, violence in the east of the country in recent weeks has increased to the extent that last week alone some 7,000 people fled to neighboring Burundi and another 1,200 into Tanzania.

    In terms of a humanitarian crisis, the Food and Agriculture Organization last week pointed to an “alarming food insecurity” in the country, due largely to the fact that violence has now spread into areas that were previously considered stable, such as the Kasai and Tanganyika provinces. In the past six months alone, the number of people experiencing extreme hunger has risen by 2 million, rising to about 7.7 million people, which is roughly 10% of the population.

    After reflecting on the day's Gospel reading from Mark and leading faithful in praying the Angelus, Pope Francis also offered his prayer and closeness to the people of Madagascar, who were recently hit by a massive cyclone which so far has left at least 51 people dead and has caused extensive damage.

    Francis assured of his prayer, and asked that the Lord would “comfort and sustain” all those who have died or who have been displaced.

    Source: Catholic News Agency…

Multimedia

Audio - Various



Video: Kamba Peace Museum - Machakos

 

African Continent

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