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  • The Church and the Arts: A Fading Relationship

    Spotlight.Africa || By Lawrence Mduduzi Ndlovu || 22 March 2018

    fading relationship of church and artsThe Catholic Church has shaped not only healthcare and education around the world, but has also had a profound impact on art, architecture and music. While the Church's role in society is changing, Lawrence Ndlovu looks at some of the reasons why art especially seems to be losing out from one of its most important historical patrons and asks whether more can't be done by the local Church in Africa. 

    One of the most unexpected partnerships, which to some degree went unnoticed when it was announced, is a recent partnership between The Vatican, Versace and Vogue Magazine. In February, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Culture, fashion designer Donatella Versace and Vogue editor Anna Wintour announced that they will be joining forces in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in New York. The exhibition titled “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” will open on 10 May 2018. On exhibition will be what the museum’s Costume Institute called its most extensive exhibition which includes items from the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel sacristy; jewelled mitres, papal tiaras, liturgical vestments and other precious items. Some of these precious items have never been on exhibition outside of the Vatican which makes this venture even more special. Alongside these items form the Vatican will be garments from different designers. This entire exhibition is under the overarching concept of bringing out the Met’s medieval and religious artwork. This event has in a very special way highlighted the role and the influence (inspiration) of the Church in society especially in and through the arts.

    Many in society decry the fact that the Church is slowly moving away from education and healthcare. It was the Church that erected outstanding schools and systems of education across the world - not just in mission territories. The history of formal universities can be traced back to the Church with the formation of cathedral schools. It was the early missionaries that founded schools that produced the bulk of the continent's finest leaders in politics and other industries. In South Africa many hospitals, which are now state-owned hospitals, were once Church-owned and Church-run. The contribution of the Church in the area of healthcare is virtually uncontested and even unsurpassed. Governments have over the years taken the duty of providing these services to communities as part of the primary responsibility for this reason and many other reasons (including the issue of funding) the Church is moving, albeit gradually and not completely, away from these social responsibilities. However, the other area which the Church championed and influenced greatly was that of the arts and it seems that even in this area the Church’s connection is weakening.

    Some of the finest historic artistic expressions have been conceptualised and commissioned by the Church for sacred use. It goes without saying that some of the most outstanding artistic works of the last millennia are found in churches around the world, be it in the high Renaissance frescos of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, or the Byzantine mosaics, or the iconography of the Eastern Churches, the architecture and so much more. It is interesting that to this very day much of the musical influences and the major compositions (which are still sung in concert halls across the world) are compositions that were put together as Mass settings. Very often when a new singer emerges, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, they have their musical roots in a church. However, over the years there is a disparity that is slowly emerging between the Church and the arts. It is a gap that is similar to the one that has been (is being) experienced between the Church and education or healthcare. It could be that this disparity is caused by the view that art has become an elitist activity. The expensive prices of artworks and the highbrow culture of the artistic world may also be contributing in entrenching the view that art is for the select few. For this reason, the ordinary person seems to be interested in survival more than anything else.

    Tied to this perception of a perceived elitism in the arts is the underlying argument that the Church should not be too interested in art because the majority of the faithful are poor people. There are also those who believe that the Church should also, through her artistic expression, lead the faithful to contemplate matters of the world beyond the one that they are currently in. With that said, it is disappointing that liturgy commissions and groups in parishes seem to think less about beauty and artistic expression.

    Many dioceses have very stringent procedures when it comes to authorising building work for churches, be it renovations or building new churches. The same strict measures are not in place when it comes to the interior of these new structures; many churches are vast barn-like buildings which show that there was no real plan for the interior. Music is also another area of great concern. New compositions and Mass settings are not coming out as they should. The organ and other instruments are slowly not being used. The state of vocal musicality is also deteriorating.

    Township parishes often have great musicality, but are weak in other areas like architecture and other art forms. This could be caused by a lack of financial resources. Suburban parishes often have good architecture and other artistic commissioned works, but are very weak in choral or vocal expressions. There is no reason why local artists, who are not very expensive, cannot be engaged and commissioned to paint or sculpt stations the Stations of the Cross, ambos, altars, statues and so on. This would not only contribute in the church, but also in the development of the arts in the community. There is no reason why a list of local artists cannot be formulated so that there is a database of authorised artists should the need for their services arise. The amount of artistic detail that is found in the homes of many of the faithful makes it very surprising and it is an indication that artistic taste is there in our people, but it does not filter also to the parish Church.

    The arts tell the story of a community. For this reason it is not entirely true that art is for the elite. The local Church should also, through its artistic forms, tell the story of local people. The words of Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar are important in understanding the necessity of beauty; “We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make if it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it… We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name, whether they admit it or not, can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”

    Source: Spotlight.Africa…

  • Catholic Charity Says World Cannot Forget Somalia Crisis

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 21 March 2018

    catholic charity on not to forget somalia crisis 2018The head of Caritas Somalia is calling on the international community not to forget the Horn of Africa country as other crises divert the world’s attention.

    “I believe it is urgent not to forget the Somali people,” María José Alexander told Crux in an e-mail interview.

    “We should advocate [our] home governments about humanitarian aid allocations and help the Somali government and institutions to become stronger. Somalia needs to become stronger and stop depending so much on international aid,” she said.

    She told Crux the situation in Somalia has been “fragile” since the fall of President Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991, which led to collapse of all government institutions and the rise of competing militias in the country.

    “The country has been facing civil war, calamity, and difficulties to solve ordinary state problems such as the provision of personal security, proper education, and food security. Added to this, extraordinary issues related to environmental matters and terrorism have now been a constant in the country,” Alexander said.

    Although the situation is more stable in the northern part of the country, the risk of famine has continued to threaten several parts of Somalia - a situation made worse by the fact that “many parts are controlled by Al-Shabaab and now in Puntland [in the north of the country] there is also presence of elements affiliated to ISIS.”

    Al-Shabaab - “The Youth” in Arabic - is an Islamic jihadist organization which once controlled the capital Mogadishu, and still exerts influence over large parts of the country. In 2012, the organization pledged its allegiance to al-Qaeda.

    At the end of 2017, the United Nations said some 6.2 million people were in need of humanitarian and protection assistance and more than half that number required urgent life-saving assistance.

    The world body also said 2017 saw the displacement of a further one million Somalis, taking the total across the country to more than two million.

    Since that time, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has fallen to 5.4 million, but Alexander said that is still a staggeringly high number.

    “Out of the 5.4 million people, 2.7 million are still in crisis and emergency and the other 2.7 in stress. In this sense, the number of people in the stress phase has reduced but not the number of people in crisis and emergency.”

    In all this, the government has remained too powerless to act.

    “If a government is unable to provide security, then there will never be a proper economic or social development. The humanitarian efforts are important, but we will never solve this crisis by ourselves: We need political will. Also, the on-going war between terrorist groups and the coalition led by the U.S. has caused deaths of civilians and terror among the society,” Alexander said.

    She said Caritas has been mainly working with the country’s over 2 million internally displaced persons.

    “[Caritas] opened a small office in Hargeisa, Somaliland, to provide both, education support to poor children, and food and nutritional assistance to drought affected people,” Alexander said.

    Somaliland is the northernmost portion of Somalia which is self-governing. Unlike the rest of Somalia, which was previously Italian-ruled, Somaliland was ruled by the British in the colonial era.

    It declared independence in 1991 after the fall of the Barre regime, but it remains unrecognized by the international community. Despite its quasi-legal status, it is the most stable and safest part of Somalia.

    Alexander said from this base, Caritas was carrying out projects such as offering emergency assistance for the drought and conflict-related emergencies, like the Oct. 14 bombing attack on Mogadishu by Al-Shabaab.

    “We also have an education project for selected children from two IDP camps in Hargeisa, where we pay for their education and logistic support to get them to school,” she said.

    “Furthermore, in the same area, we provide medical assistance for poor people in Daami that cannot afford to go to the hospital or pay for the treatment. Then, together with a local partner, BREC, we have a school in Baidoa for girls and boys living in Aboore IDP camp. And finally, a fishing school managed by Perigeo NGO in Puntland,” she explained.

    On March 6, the United Kingdom and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) convened an event in London to draw urgent attention to the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and the need for a swift and substantial response.

    “The importance of further strengthening links between relief, recovery and development efforts was highlighted as vital to building Somalia’s resilience to extreme shocks and breaking the link between drought and humanitarian crisis in Somalia,” said a report from the OCHA.

    They also agreed on the need to rebuild Somalia’s broken institutions by creating “stronger partnerships between international organizations and national NGOs,” crucial to developing better aid delivery.

    Alexander said the troubles in Somalia are enough to break even the most committed of those involved in humanitarian aid, but what keeps her going is her faith in God.

    “One must remember how faithful the Lord is, and how great his love is,” she said.

    Source: Crux…

  • Boko Haram Frees Most Schoolgirls Abducted Last Month

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || 21 March 2018

    boko haram frees most dapchi schoolgirls 2018On Wednesday, terrorist group Boko Haram returned at least 76 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped in a raid last month.

    More than 30 girls are still missing, some of whom are allegedly still being held, while others have reportedly died, possibly of thirst, according to reports from the New York Times.

    On Feb. 19th, Boko Haram raided a girls’ technical school in Dapchi, a small town in northeastern Nigeria. Witnesses said the militants stormed the school and herded 110 students into trucks and drove away.

    Father Maurice Kwairanga, who coordinates the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) for the Nigerian Diocese of Yola, told CNA last month that in the wake of the kidnapping, “deep sorrow has descended on the once sleepy…town” of Dapchi.

    Residents of Dapchi told the New York Times that they were “very, very happy” for the return of so many of the schoolgirls.

    They added that when the militants dropped off the girls, they gathered several residents around them to warn them that the girls should not be allowed to return to school.

    Of the girls still being held by the militants, sources told the New York Times that one of them, Leah Sherubu, is a Christian who has refused orders to convert to Islam.

    Boko Haram is a militant Islamist group based in northeastern Nigeria. The group launched an uprising in 2009 hoping to impose strict sharia law on the country. It has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, targeting security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, and moderate Muslims in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north. In 2015, the group pledged allegiance to ISIS.

    The group has carried out numerous attacks, suicide bombings, and kidnappings in recent years, including a 2014 raid during which militants abducted 276 schoolgirls. Of those girls, dozens have been freed, though more than 100 are still missing.

    Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari said on Twitter that the recent release of the Dapchi girls came as a result of “backchannel” negotiations and that no ransom was paid.

    The government has faced harsh criticism in the wake of the Dapchi kidnapping, and Fr. Kwairanga told CNA last month that while Buhari campaigned on a platform of eradicating terrorism, confidence in the government is “waning.”

    According to the New York Times, advocacy group Bring Back Our Girls expressed relief at the return of the Dapchi girls, but added that they want the negotiations surrounding their release investigated.

    The latest group of freed Chibok girls were released in May in exchange for as many as six suspected militants who were not identified, though some reports say the militants were high-ranking commanders in Boko Haram. There are also rumors of a large ransom paid, which critics fear could encourage more kidnappings.

    Pope Francis has assured Nigerians of his prayers and recently met with a Boko Haram abduction survivor in a private audience. Nigerian Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme has also urged the world to pray the rosary for an end to Boko Haram’s violence.

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • Pre-synod Meeting is a Chance to Change the World, Say Young Africans

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Junno Arocho Esteves || 21 March 2018

    presynod meeting a chance to change the world 2018If the Catholic Church at every level -- and governments, too -- would listen to young people and give them a voice in decision-making, they could unleash great potential, said two African young adults.

    Vincent Paul Nneji of Nigeria and Tinyiko Joan Ndaba from South Africa were among the 305 young adults participating in a weeklong meeting designed to allow young people -- involved Catholics and others -- to provide input for Pope Francis and the world's bishops, who will meet in a synod in October to discuss "young people, faith and vocational discernment."

    Nneji told Catholic News Service March 20 that the preparatory meeting offers a chance for young Catholics in his country who are considered "a minority voice" to speak out on important issues.

    "When the pope sent a letter on this meeting, we said, 'Finally, the church in Rome has decided to give us a platform; they decided to give us a listening ear,'" Nneji said.

    While struggles with "social injustice, bad leadership, poverty and financial insecurity" are just some of the difficulties facing young Nigerian men and women today, Nneji said, "the major challenge is trying to be a Catholic youth and a light for other people, even in the midst of the conflicts we face in Nigeria."

    African youths today, Nneji added, have "so many things in our hearts we want to express and want to say," yet they often feel disregarded. Too many, he said, then resort to violence in the hopes of provoking change.

    "Sometimes when you're not allowed to say these things, it's like a volcano and when it gets so big," it blows up, he said.

    Nneji told CNS he hopes that, through the pre-synod meeting, the whole world "may see a reason for allowing youths to be heard, for allowing (young people) to be part of decision-making, even in society."

    "If we were allowed to express ourselves, we would have less violence, we would have more peace in our society and in our world," he said.

    "And of course, in various parts of the world where youths are being exploited and used for various forms of violence, those things will reduce, those things will stop because this time around they will say, 'We have a platform where we can talk, so we don't need to carry guns, we don't need to carry machetes. We just have to go and dialogue,'" Nneji said.

    Ndaba told CNS, "I hope that young people can be given a chance to change society because I think we have so much potential."

    "But we can't do it on our own," she said. "We need support from the people who have been there before and who can give us direction where to go."

    Ndaba was chosen to attend the meeting by Talitha Kum, the anti-human trafficking organization where she works. The organization is an international network of consecrated men and women in 75 countries promoting initiatives against human trafficking.

    While the Catholic Church in South Africa is doing its best to prevent future cases of human trafficking, she said, the church also must warn young people of the harm inflicted by those who exploit women, especially when "the demand is coming from Catholics."

    During the opening session of the pre-synod meeting March 19, Blessing Okodion, a young Nigerian rescued from forced prostitution in Italy, asked Pope Francis what could be done to increase awareness of human trafficking.

    Pope Francis noted that since the vast majority of Italians are Catholic, the majority of men who use prostitutes in Italy also must be.

    "One who goes to a prostitute is a criminal, a criminal," Pope Francis told the young people. "This is not making love. This is torturing a woman. Let's not confuse the terms. This is criminal."

    As one of many men and women working a to prevent human trafficking in Africa, Ndaba told CNS she was happy to hear the pope speaking frankly about a "hidden crime" that is "not talked about so much."

    Human trafficking is an important topic for a youth gathering, she said, "because most victims of human trafficking are young people who are trying to find better jobs, a better life so they migrate and traffickers take advantage of that, most especially with young people.

  • Black Spiritual Traditions have Long History in Catholic Church

    Global Sisters Reporter (GSR) || By Dawn Araujo-Hawkins || 19 March 2018

    black spiritual traditions within catholic churchI got a crown up in-a that kingdom,
    Ain't-a that good news!
    I got a crown up in-a that kingdom,
    Ain't-a that good news!
    I'mma gonna lay down this world,
    Gonna to shoulder up-a my cross,
    Gonna to take it home-a to my Jesus,
    Ain't-a that good news!
    — "Ain't That Good News," a Negro spiritual

    It's been nearly 30 years since Sr. Thea Bowman famously declared to a gathering of the U.S. Catholic bishops that her "black self," with all the black songs, dances and traditions she'd imbibed while growing up in Canton, Mississippi, was a gift to the church.

    "That doesn't frighten you, does it?" she asked them, her eyebrows raised.

    By the time Bowman, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, took the stage in front of the bishops, she was already something of a celebrity. The dashiki-wearing, gospel-singing black nun had been preaching the legitimacy of black religious expression in the Catholic church since the early 1960s. For that work, she'd been featured on "60 Minutes" and "The 700 Club" and invited all over the country to speak. Bowman was black and proud. And authentically Catholic.

    The idea that black religious expression isn't truly Catholic was and is pervasive, said C. Vanessa White, an assistant professor at Catholic Theological Union who teaches black spirituality, including a course on Bowman's writings. Some white Catholics are quick to dismiss as non-Catholic anything — like Bowman's gospel songs and Negro spirituals — that seem too black.

    "People say, 'Oh, you're being Baptist; this is not Catholic,' " White said.

    But what those people fail to understand, and what Bowman sought to explain, White continued, is that spirituality — the ways believers exist and act — is inherently cultural.

    "If the leaders are all white, then that spirituality is going to be shaped by that cultural group," she said.

    European expressions of Catholicism aren't dominant in the United States today because they're the neutral standard; rather, they're dominant because for centuries, only men of European descent were allowed to lead parishes.

    Meanwhile, enslaved Africans and their descendants weren't waiting for white churches to accept them as fully functioning members of the body of Christ. Confronted with the truth of the cross, they instead developed their own ways of thinking about and worshipping the God of deliverance.

    "I got a Savior in-a that kingdom. Ain't-a that good news!"

    Black people, of course, are not a monolith. However, the shared experience of enduring the United States' systematic brutality against them has left a real and observable mark on how black communities across denominations experience God.

    "African American spirituality is the result of the encounter of a particular people with their God," writes Catholic womanist theologian Diana Hayes in Forged in the Fiery Furnace: African American Spirituality. "The spirituality of African Americans expresses a hands-on, down-to-earth belief that God saw them as human beings created in God's own image and likeness and intended them to be a free people."

    The so-called slave religion that developed in the United States syncretized the belief in a liberating Jehovah Jireh with the rituals and cosmologies carried over from the motherlands in West and Central Africa. However, because enslaved blacks were barred from institutional churches, this distinctly black expression of Christianity was cultivated in secret worship spaces known as hush harbors.

    The hush harbors are where we find the foundations of more contemporary articulations of black spirituality. It's where we find the roots of black gospel music, the black shouting tradition and black Christians' proclivity to "catch the Holy Ghost." In the hush harbors are the genesis of the black emphasis on communal worship and ministry, and — as Bowman explained in a 1984 interview with St. Anthony Messenger — the spirituality nurtured in the hush harbors laid the foundation for the eternal optimism of black eschatology and liberation theology.

    "Black people, in ages past, have traditional ways of teaching the children to rejoice in grief, in adversity, in oppression, in slavery," Bowman told the reporter at the time. "It's that kind of joy that helps a person keep going in faith."

    Some Africans were already Catholic when they were trafficked to the United States between 1619 and 1860. Others were outfitted with Catholicism when they became the property of Catholic slaveholders in Maryland and Louisiana. But the majority of black Catholic families in the United States became Catholic after the Great Migration that began in 1915.

    Forsaking the South, black people began moving en masse into the urban centers of the North, filling the vacancies in formerly white Catholic schools and churches created by white flight into the suburbs. And, as Hayes told Global Sisters Report, this period marked a change in black religious expression.

    Respectability politics — the belief that black people can gain white acceptance through respectable behavior — began taking hold in black communities. Many middle-class black Christians eschewed the religious expressions and denominations they'd grown up with, believing them to be too déclassé.

    "There used to be an idea — and I don't think it's still true — that some blacks, in an effort to gain respectability, kept climbing what they thought was the ladder to the whitest church, which would have been the Roman Catholic Church," Hayes said. "In other words, if you were a Baptist, you became a Methodist, you became an Episcopalian, you became a Catholic."

    Whether or not the Catholic Church was the whitest church in the country, it is certainly true that a European assimilation model carried the day within most 20th-century Catholic institutions. Even predominantly black parishes were led by white priests and prioritized European-born spiritualities that frowned upon parishioners dancing in the aisles or punctuating homilies with shouts of "Amen!"

    This was the state of affairs in the U.S. Catholic Church in 1953, when 15-year-old Bowman traveled the nearly 900 miles from Canton to La Crosse, Wisconsin, to become the first black Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, the community of sisters that had educated her.

    Although Bowman had converted to Catholicism six years earlier, up until that point, she'd always been surrounded by robustly black religious expression. She herself had dabbled in historically black Protestant denominations like the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Baptist Church before becoming Catholic. But there were no other black Christians in La Crosse, and, according to the authors of the 2009 Bowman biography, Thea's Song: The Life of Thea Bowman, the void of black spirituality was a shock to the young Bowman.

    "It was ... a challenge to refrain from whole-body, whole-spirit, whole-voice living," they write. "She learned it was not 'proper' to sashay, to sway, to prance, to dance, to break into song at the least provocation any time of day or night. She strove to please, and mostly she hid her cultural identity."

    "I got a robe up in-a that kingdom. Ain't-a that good news!"

    Two things happened in the 1960s that would electrify black spirituality in the Catholic Church.

    First, a swelling black-pride movement convinced many young black Catholics that being black was nothing to be ashamed of. Second, the Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes confirmed what some black Catholics had come to suspect: Black spirituality was just as valid an expression of Catholicism as the European-born spiritualities they'd been taught — that, in fact, they ought to reclaim black spirituality for themselves.

    As M. Shawn Copeland notes in the introduction to Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience, as black Catholics in the '60s sought more authentic expressions of their faith, there was a proliferation of black Catholic organizations, including the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and the National Black Sisters' Conference.

    Sister of St. Mary of Namur Roberta Fulton, current president of the National Black Sisters' Conference, said organizing in such a way was an important step in standing up for the dignity of black Catholics.

    "We came together to promote not only positive self-image among ourselves and our people, but to build up the spirituality," she said. "It was being able to say, 'Yes, African-American women can be vowed women religious and share our spirituality with the Catholic Church — and bring forth our gift of blackness where we are not just promoting ourselves, but we are always, always wanting to be about the business of our people.' "

    Bowman was one of the founding members of the National Black Sisters' Conference in 1968 and remained an active member until her death from bone cancer in 1990. In 1980, Bowman became a charter faculty member of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans, where she taught liturgical worship and preaching.

    Just before Bowman died, a group of students from the Institute for Black Catholic Studies visited her at her Canton home. White was among those students, and she recalls that although Bowman had, by that point, largely lost the ability to vocalize, at the end of the visit, she expressed a desire to sing one of her beloved gospel songs.

    "For me, that was a testament to the power of black spirituality as a source of healing," White said. "To heal not only wounds, but to help one cope through times of trouble and immense pain."

    In an interview with Extension magazine given in 1988, several years after she was first diagnosed with cancer, Bowman explained that black spirituality had "long tradition of joy in the face of death." The old church ladies, in particular, knew that death was nothing to fear because it meant going home to Jesus and to their loved ones.

    They'd say, "Soon we'll be done with the troubles of this world," Bowman said. "I'm going home to live with my God; I'm going to see my mother."

    [Dawn Araujo-Hawkins is a Global Sisters Report staff writer. Her email address is daraujo@ncronline.org. Follow her on Twitter: @dawn_cherie.]

    Source: Global Sisters Reporter…

  • Governor in Nigeria Urges Communication Directors to Uphold Integrity of Catholic Church

    Catholic News Service of Nigeria (CNSN) || 16 March 2018

    governor of anambra state sir willie obianoDiocesan/Religious directors of communication and other Catholic media communication professionals have been called upon to uphold the integrity of the Catholic Church, while carrying out their professional duties. The call was made by the Executive Governor of Anambra State, Sir Willie Obiano, while receiving the directors in his office in Awka, recently.

    The directors were in Anambra State for the first Plenary Meeting of their association for the year 2018, held at the Eziafakaego Garden Resort, Nnokwa, Anambra State. Taking the directors down memory lane on the significance of some Pilgrimage sites of the Church in different parts of the world including Malta, Governor Obiano, described these sites as inspirations of the Catholic faith. He urged the directors to take their apostolate very seriously, protect and defend the Catholic Church which he described as the best organization in the world because of her versatility.

    Governor Willie Obiano also used the occasion to brief the directors on the progressive developments of Anambra State premised on his vision to make life worth living for the people of the state. The governor disclosed that his mission is to make Anambra the hub of business premised on 12 enablers which include: education, health, infrastructure, infrastructure, electricity, environment and entrepreneurship; as well as four pillars: security, agriculture, oil and gas and industrialization.

    Describing Anambra State as the safest state in the country today, Governor Obiano told the directors of the successes achieved in this respect including containing the herdsmen/farmers issue. According to the governor, a special committee has been put in place on the herdsmen/farmers to ensure that both groups are protected and crises avoided while effort are being geared towards a permanent solution to the issue.

    He also spoke on the successful strides in the area of education with emphasis on girl child education and using necessary incentives to enhance education in the riverine areas. The governor also mentioned the collaborative assistance the government is rendering to other stakeholders in the state in the education and health sectors; adding that the happiness and joy of the people is the paramount concern of his administration

    Earlier in his address, the President of the association and the Director of Communication for Onitsha Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Pius Ukor thanked the governor for receiving the directors and supporting them in their apostolate; and for being a devoted Catholic worthy of emulation. He particularly noted the outstanding successes of the Willie Obanor administration in the areas of security, education, health and environmental sanitation and the industrialization programme for the state. He described the governor as a an administrator of impeccable character working for the common good of all Anambra people, with the intention of making the state a role model in the country.

    In his own speech, the National Director of Social Communications, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Rev. Chris Anyanwu commended Governor Obiano for his steadfastness in the Catholic faith and successes achieved in the administration of the state especially in the areas of security, education and provision of health facilities. He noted that the governors programmes are people oriented and signs of his commitment of making life worth living for the majority of the people are found not only in the state capital but also in all the towns and villages that make up the state.

    Source: Catholic News Service of Nigeria…

  • Bishops in Eastern Congo Question Causes of Ethnic Violence

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 16 March 2018

    bishops in congo question ethnic violence causesEthnic violence in an eastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has claimed dozens of lives in recent days.

    “We counted 49 bodies and there are other corpses still missing,” said Father Alfred Ndrabu, Caritas director in Bunia, the capital of Ituri Province.

    Fighting between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups has left at least 130 people dead since December. Tens of thousands have fled the violence, some of them into neighboring Uganda.

    The Lendu are herdsmen, and the Hema are farmers, and the two groups have been having a low intensity conflict for decades, killing thousands over that time.

    According to Caritas, the recent attacks started on March 1 in the locality of Maze. Lendu youth arrived in the afternoon and were forced away by police but returned in the early evening in greater numbers.

    “They burnt houses and killed people in Maze and two other villages,” Pilo Mulindo, a local Hema traditional leader, told the Catholic news portal Cath.ch.

    From March 1 to March 3 seven villages were attacked, according to the UN-backed Radio Okapi.

    According to UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac, more than 70 villages have been burned down and scores of people killed, a majority of them women and children.

    He said at least 90,000 children have been forced to flee their homes in the face of escalating conflict.

    The attacks have been condemned by the local Catholic Church. After the plenary assembly of the Kisangani episcopal province, the bishops spoke about the conflict.

    The bishops said groups of foreign armed migrants are moving into the area with large herds in search of arable land or pastures.

    “These migrants stop and their presence becomes a permanent threat to the local population,” the bishops said in a statement.

    The bishops said that local armed groups, foreign groups, such as the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army, “and others who are unidentified spread desolation among the population through theft, rape, looting and murder.”

    The bishops also pointed out that refugees from the Central African Republic and South Sudan now outnumber the local population, straining limited land resources.

    Noting that the Church cannot remain indifferent in the face of such concerns, the bishops still called on families and Christian communities to continue to express their solidarity towards the displaced and refugees.

    Bishop Dieudonné Uringi of Bunia, believes the warring people are being manipulated by those who want to benefit from the spoils.

    “The conflict between Hema and Lendu in Ituri is a manipulation,” the bishop told Radio France Internationale.

    “Here in Ituri, there is nothing like an ethnic or inter-ethnic war,” he said. “There is instrumentalization and manipulation,” he emphasized.

    Uringi justified his claim by pointing to the near perfect organizational ability of the attackers.

    “The youths who attack are nearly all equipped with means of communication. They have money, and they are well organized. Therefore, there are invisible hands who manipulate them,” he said.

    Ndrabu has denounced the inaction of the authorities, particularly the justice department.

    “It’s been one month today that the current conflict escalated. Suspects have been arrested on the battle field. Of course, those arrested are only involved in implementation. If the authorities listened to them, it would help uncover the real people behind the attacks,” the priest said.

    “The population wants them judged publicly, but up to now, one has the feeling that the judiciary is not doing its work. Maybe they don’t want the truth unveiled? The assailants gave some names that could perhaps be disturbing. Are they some highly-placed personalities?” he asked.

    In their statement, the bishops said outside forces want to exploit the mineral wealth of the region.

    “Ethnic clashes are being fueled to force the inhabitants to flee and free spaces in order to exploit the riches of the territory with impunity,” they said.

    The governor of Ituri, Abdallah Pene Mbaka, has countered the bishops’ allegations, saying that the authorities were doing their best, not only to bring the culprits to justice but also to stop further attacks.

    “We will work step by step to discourage such attacks. Arrests have been made, and all those guilty will not go unpunished. A commission is already working to document their actions in view of making them appear in court. Mobile tribunals shall be organized so that these criminals answer for their crimes,” he told RFI.

    He said the authorities were depending on the collaboration of the population so that the criminals could be flushed out of their hideouts to face justice.

    The conflict is just one of many in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where earlier this month, the body of a Catholic priest, Josephite Father Florent Mbulanthie Tulantshiedi was found on a boat on the banks of the Kasai River, near the village of Biyenge in the center-west of the country.

    The country is currently experiencing a political crisis, after the breakdown of an accord overseen by the nation’s bishops to usher in new elections, which were due to take place last year.

    Church groups have sponsored several protests calling for the removal of President Joseph Kabila, causing tensions between the Catholic hierarchy and the government.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Pope by Numbers: Vatican Releases Statistics of Francis' Pontificate

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Carol Glatz || 19 March 2018

    pope francis by numbers 2018In just five years as leader of the universal church, Pope Francis has made 22 international trips, traveling 154,906 miles -- the equivalent of six times around the world.

    He also has declared 880 new saints, which includes the martyrdom of an estimated 800 Italian laymen killed by Ottoman soldiers in the 15th century.

    Those numbers and more were released by the Vatican, detailing the many papal events, documents, travels and accomplishments the past five years. The numbers, released March 17, cover the period from March 19, 2013 -- the solemnity of St. Joseph, the day officially inaugurating the start of his pontificate -- to March 19, 2018.

    According to the Vatican statistics, the 81-year-old pope has:

    -- Created 61 new cardinals.

    -- Led 219 general audiences, with catechetical series that include reflections on the sacraments, the church, the family, mercy and the Mass.

    -- Issued 41 major documents, including the encyclicals "Lumen fidei" and "Laudato Si'" and the apostolic exhortations, "Evangelii Gaudium" and "Amoris Laetitia."

    -- Prayed the Angelus and "Regina Coeli" with visitors 286 times.

    -- Completed 22 trips abroad, 18 pastoral visits within Italy and 16 visits to parishes in Rome -- the diocese of the pope as bishop of Rome.

    -- Made nine other visits to churches for special events and places of worship in Rome, including the city's synagogue and Rome's German Evangelical Lutheran Church, Anglican church and the Ukrainian Catholic Basilica of Santa Sophia.

    -- Called four synods of bishops: two on the family, this year's synod on young people and a synod on the Amazon in 2019.

    -- Declared two special years: on consecrated life and the extraordinary Year of Mercy.

    -- Established or proclaimed seven special days, including World Day of the Poor, 24 Hours for the Lord and a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, South Sudan and Congo.

    -- Attended or announced three World Youth Days (Brazil, Poland and Panama for 2019).

  • Cameroon Cardinal Accuses Military of Abuses in Fight against Anglophone Separatists

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 14 March 2018

    cameroon cardinal accuses military of abuses 2018Cardinal Christian Tumi, the Archbishop emeritus of Douala, has accused the Cameroon military of excessive use of force against unarmed civilians in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions.

    The two English-speaking regions, that constitute 20 percent of Cameroon’s over 24 million people, have been in turmoil for over a year now over perceived marginalization and an assimilation drive by the predominantly French-speaking administration of long-serving President Paul Biya.

    The current “Anglophone crisis” began in late 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.

    In a strongly-worded statement released on October 6, 2017, the Anglophone bishops condemned “the barbarism and the irresponsible use of firearms against unarmed civilians by the Forces of Law and Order” and called on Biya to stop “the bloodbath and genocide that has skillfully been initiated in the North West and South West Regions.”

    In the absence of a dialogue initiative from the government, many English-speakers are now calling for secession, and the formation of a new state called Ambazonia.

    The country’s president has promised to “eliminate the secessionists.”

    Biya has deployed the military to the two regions, but their actions on the ground have met with severe criticism by Tumi.

    During a visit to the country’s North West Region, the cardinal gathered harrowing tales of torture, destruction and killings.

    “I was in Mbim village on 28 February and the military had visited the same village a day earlier,” Tumi told Crux.

    “I saw and listened to people in their depression…I saw houses that had been reduced to ruins, to dust and ashes. I saw the house of a man who had fled with his wife and six children, reduced to dust and ashes,” the cardinal said.

    Tumi described various signs of destruction in the village, including a destroyed water project, and a vandalized cooperative union.

    He also said the military harassed the population and committed crimes against the people.

    “I saw the house of an old man ramshackled and I was told that the army had made away with two generators of the family. I saw a man looking completely depressed from whom the military had made away with $1500,” the cardinal said. “I saw the bar of a young man running a small business from where hundreds of bottles of beer had been taken away by the army, and what could not be taken was broken to bits and pieces.”

    He said security forces also burned the villagers’ crops, destroying the year’s harvest.

    Tumi told Crux he was struck by the question an old man in Mbim asked him: “Cardinal, just what crime have we committed, that the army should be sent to treat us this way, as if we were foreigners who had come to ransack the village?”

    Tumi said the lives of the “simple, innocent people” had been shattered by the actions of the military.

    “If they are looking for a criminal, let them look for the criminal in all patience. They should not draw the conclusion that since the criminal was in this village, everybody in the village becomes a criminal. It’s not a logical conclusion,” the cardinal said.

    Similar scenes of destruction are visible in many parts of Cameroon’s South West Region, where “Ambazonian” fighters have been engaged in hit-and-run attacks on security forces.

    The attacks in both regions have so far left at least 24 members of the security forces dead. It is difficult to estimate civilian deaths, but UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has noted that “allegations of summary executions of civilians by members of the security forces have been reported, and are generating widespread resentment.”

    The military action has been hard and decisive, with entire villages being burned to the ground, and several people being killed extrajudicially.

    “An old woman who couldn’t flee was burnt to death in the South West,” Tumi said.

    Bishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Mamfe - in the South West Region - said the destruction in Kembong village, where four soldiers had been killed by secessionists, looked like “a horror movie.”

    “I saw more than 20 houses burnt down by soldiers and one dead body still lying there, being fed on by dogs and chicken,” said Nkea.

    “Of the village’s 5,000 or so residents, only 30 remained, all huddled in the house of the area’s priest because they had nowhere else to go,” he said.

    Tumi also claimed that the crisis could be serving to enrich some top-ranking people in the military.

    “We are told that some high-ranking military people use the crisis to enrich themselves, because the state spends on these military operations, and the account on how the money is spent is not given,” he told Crux.

    The cardinal blamed Biya for choosing a military solution for a purely political problem.

    “The presence of the army is no solution. With a human being, you reason: You don’t use violence as if you are treating a beast. That is why the world is calling for dialogue. Nothing can be done without our meeting to talk about the problems. Many have called for what is called inclusive dialogue. The government should dialogue with everybody,” Tumi said.

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

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

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

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

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

    As the current crisis worsens, several Anglophones have fled to Nigeria, causing a refugee crisis in Cameroon’s neighbor.

    The United Nations has expressed “great concern” over Nigeria returning dozens of asylum seekers to Cameroon.

    “We also urge the Government of Cameroon to ensure that the group is treated in accordance with human rights law and standards,” the UN refugee agency said in a statement.

    Source: Crux…

  • Bishops in Kenya: "We urge all leaders across the political divide to support the newly found collaboration so that it does not remain a public relation exercise”

    Agenzia Fides || By DBO and L.M. || 15 March 2018

    kenyan bishops caution against pr on raila uhuru meeting 2018"We urge all leaders across the political divide to support this path so that it does not remain a public relation exercise or a show of two individuals", said the Bishops of Kenya at the press conference held yesterday, 14 March, during which the Church leaders have expressed their collective appreciation for the surprise meeting between the country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader, Raila Odinga.

    During their meeting, held on March 9, the two political leaders had launched an appeal to national unity, to overcome the divisions arising from the contested elections of 2017. The vote had been repeated in October after the Supreme Court had canceled the elections held in August. In both votes Kenyatta was the winner.

    "We wish to acknowledge the gesture of our two leaders, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta and Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, in meeting and extending hands of reconciliation among themselves, and as a sign of their commitment in collaborating towards uniting the deeply divided and polarized Country", said His Exc. Mgr. Philip Anyolo, Bishop of Homabay and President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Kenya (KCCB).

    In their press statement also sent to Fides, the Kenyan Bishops applaud the decision by the two political leaders to come together following a protracted electioneering period and describe the leaders’ gesture as "an opening to a greater commitment towards seeking real solutions to a more just, democratic and prosperous Country where every Citizen has an opportunity to develop".

    "The Catholic Bishops in Kenya want the dialogue to be all inclusive and participatory in nature and open to addressing all the issues that are of concern to this Country".

    "We wish to remind Kenyans that as Bishops we have in the past called on all leaders and stakeholders to employ constructive dialogue as the only way of resolving conflict", stressed Bishop Anyolo.

    Finally, the Bishops also called on the government not to forget their "primary mandate to protect its people", recalling the situation of insecurity in some parts of the Country, "particularly in Mount Elgon and in parts of Northern and Coastal regions."

    "We thank all Kenyans for their continued prayers and maintaining peace even at critical moments of the recent past", the Bishops concluded.

    Early in the week, various Christians in Kenya shared with Fides their joy over the unexpected meeting between the President and the Opposition leader, describing the meeting as an answer to their prayers and a Lenten miracle.

    Source: Agenzia Fides…

  • Nigerian Nuns take Action against Violent Conflict within Country

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || 12 March 2018

    nigerian nuns act against violent conflict 2018With widespread violence plaguing Nigeria, Catholic religious sisters in the country have united in the name of peace to counter the mounting conflicts.

    “The news of murders, massacres, kidnappings, lootings, trafficking in human beings and the actions of Boko Haram are staggeringly frequent and have even increased in recent times,” said Sister Bibiana Emenaha, coordinator for the Committee for Women’s Dignity Support, according to Vatican Insider.

    “That’s why NCWR [National Conference of Religious Women] decided to take to the streets and, in addition to asking God for support, to gather women and men of good will to stop this worrying state of things,” Sister Emenaha continued.

    On Feb. 14, the Nigerian religious sisters hosted a national day of prayer and fasting, where hundreds across the country united to pray for peace. This event was hosted by the Nigeria Conference of Women Religious and the African Faith & Justice Network.

    This prayer and fasting imitative was only the beginning. The sisters additionally began to actively urge the government to create programs that would combat violence and work towards building bridges of peace within the communities.

    “We are asking for greater security and protection of life and property,” said Sister Emenaha, noting that they are particularly requesting ways that the government could “stop the bloodshed as soon as possible.”

    The sisters, who are members of the NCWR, have also jumpstarted a number of initiatives to aid the victims of violence within Nigeria, including a rehab shelter for survivors of human trafficking. This facility, located in Benin City, offers legal, psychological, spiritual and material support to women and girls who have been affected by trafficking and human slavery.

    The program also offers educational campaigns on trafficking to schools, churches, media, and local communities. The sisters have so far seen tremendous support for their efforts and have been able to reintegrate around 380 individuals.

    Additionally, the sisters have created an inter-religious program which unites people of all faiths to combat the staggering violence within the country.

    “Throughout the year, we organize seminars, meetings and conferences attended by women of other faiths and confessions, and their presence is an added value in achieving our goals,” Emenaha said.

    The violence within Nigeria stems from a number of different sources, including clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

    This particular conflict has been mounting over the years, and involves primarily the Fulani and Tiv ethnic groups, although a number of other groups have been affected by its reach.

    The fight for the land has also escalated with the growing drought, which has claimed the lives of over 3,000 people and caused more than 65,000 to leave their homes.

    Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group, is another source of terrorism within the nation, and which has been responsible for a number of the kidnappings and bloodshed that has recently taken place in Nigeria.

    Emenaha noted that the nuns’ prayers and actions have been the result of “concern for the increased violent clashes between communities, particularly among herdsmen and farmers, for the senseless killings and unbridled destruction of human lives, for the incessant kidnappings and violence against women and girls.”

    It is their hope that through prayer and action, they may help bring an end to the destruction and restore a respect for human dignity within Nigeria.

    “We are convinced that God listens to the cry of his children who turn to him desperately.”

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • U.S. Maryknoller Works to Help Young Catholic Africans Make Voices Heard

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Francis Njuguna || 15 March 2018

    maryknoller working for young african voices to be heardYoung people in the church need to have their voices heard, said an American Maryknoll missionary who helps to get Pope Francis' words discussed by African youth.

    "I am, in a way, responding to Pope Francis' appeal to assist young people in the Catholic faith to realize their spiritual meaning and more" through using online communications, said Father Joseph G. Healey, who has worked in Africa for 40 years and lives in Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

    A Facebook page for small Christian communities (www.facebook.com/www.smallchristiancommunities.org) is among his social media efforts to engage young people.

    Noting that he looks for messages from Pope Francis to youth and shares these with young African audiences, Father Healey said he spends a lot of time responding to text and other messages from young Catholics with various concerns around the continent.

    "I enjoy doing this as I aim to assist the church, and the Holy Father in particular, succeed in this youth mission," he told Catholic News Service in an interview at the Maryknoll House in Nairobi.

    The theme chosen by the pope for the October Synod of Bishops is: "Young people, faith and vocational discernment."

    As well as being very active in building small Christian communities, especially among youth, Father Healey lectures at Tangaza University College in Nairobi and also works at St. Kizito, a vocational training institute of the Archdiocese of Nairobi.

    Noting the outcome of a survey conducted by members of the Small Christian Community collaborative website, Father Healey said young people want spaces of their own where they can freely discuss among themselves issues that affect them.

    "The youth are saying something, and they must be listened to by the church," he said.

    Cornelius Opollo, 28, chairman of the National Catholic Youth group in Kenya, was expected to attend the March 19-24 pre-synod meeting to which selected young delegates were invited. However, he told Catholic News Service March 15 that he was having difficulties with his flight booking and visa dates.

    As the only representative of Catholic youth in the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa region with plans to attend the March meeting in Rome, "it will be very disappointing if I can't go," Opollo said.

    At a February Mass to launch the synod's theme, Bishop John Oballa Owaa of Ngong, vice chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, "We are taking this year seriously, our young people, because we take you very seriously."

    AMECEA Online News reported the bishop said that at every Mass in his diocese throughout the year, a hymn, "Simama imara katika imani, usiogope" (Swahili for "Stand strong in faith, do not be afraid") will be sung.

    "Whether it is Bible study, liturgy, active participation in the small Christian community activities or a pilgrimage to holy places -- use these to help you listen more attentively to what God is telling you," the bishop said.

  • Papal Envoy Calls for a ‘new springtime’ for Troubled Nigerian Diocese

    Crux || By Ines San Martin || 12 March 2018

    new springtime for troubled nigerian diocese 2018After a crisis that began in late 2012 in the African diocese of Ahiara, which has been without a resident bishop ever since, life is slowly but steadily returning to normal after Pope Francis decided in mid-February to accept the resignation of a shepherd who, for years, was rejected by angry activists among his flock.

    “I wish to state that a new time has dawned for the Church in Ahiara Diocese,” said Bishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of the diocese of Umuahia, recently appointed by Francis as Apostolic Administrator until a new permanent bishop is named.

    “It is a new springtime, the time to restore this diocese to its past glory,” he told hundreds of Catholics who gathered on Saturday at the local cathedral for his first Mass since being tapped by the pontiff on Feb. 19, after the resignation of Bishop Peter Okpaleke.

    Okpaleke had been appointed by then-Pope Benedict XVI in Dec. 2012, but he was never able to set foot in the diocese. In June 2017 Francis demanded every priest in the diocese write a letter of apology to him promising “total obedience.”

    Most clergy complied, but according to a statement from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the letters often expressed a “psychological difficulty in collaborating with the bishop after years of conflict.”

    “Taking into account their repentance,” Francis decided not to proceed with any canonical sanctions such as suspension from priestly ministry and eventually chose to accept Okpaleke’s resignation.

    Priests and lay activists who opposed the appointment did so on grounds that Okpaleke is not from the majority linguistic and cultural group in the area, and many members of that group took the appointment as a deliberate slight.

    In order to return to glory, Ugorji said on Saturday, “we should fervently strive to deepen, purify and strengthen our faith in line with the authentic teachings of the Church.”

    “We should also strive to overcome our differences, heal the wounds of division and unite once more for our common mission of evangelization,” he said. “Past animosities and misunderstanding should be over and a new communion and friendship among you begun for the sake of the Gospel.”

    Though fundamentally hopeful, the homily is not free of scolding of the local clergy and faithful. As one of the people who were present on Saturday told Crux, it’s “to the point, poignant and honest.”

    Some 3,000-words long, the homily was sent in full to Crux on the day it was read, and is currently being distributed across the diocese as a pastoral message.

    Ugorji began by thanking the Irish missionaries who first brought the Catholic faith to Ahiara, and highlighting the contributions of the indigenous clerics, leading to the creation of the diocese in Nov. 1987, with Bishop Victor Chikwe, “a dynamic and loyal pastor,” leading the flock.

    Okpaleke was supposed to replace Chikwe, but that didn’t happen: “It’s unfortunate that the process of appointing his successor snowballed into a very destructive crisis that seems to eclipse the noteworthy progress and achievements of the Church in Ahiara Diocese over the years,” Ugorji said.

    The “horrible crisis” shook the local church to its “very foundation like an earthquake,” inflicting deep wounds of division throughout the church in Igbo land, and damaging the image of the Church in Nigeria and beyond.

    “Intra-ethnic and clannish cleavages that underpinned the crisis have left their ugly marks on the face of the Church,” he said. “The noble institution of the Catholic priesthood, known and respected for discipline, has been discredited and ridiculed by some unseemly behavior and utterances of the clergy.”

    The pulpit, Ugorji said, has been profaned in some parishes and misused “for the dissemination of falsehood, distortions and half-truths by people meant to be God’s oracles.”

    According to the prelate, who was received with a welcoming attitude by both the detractors and defenders of Okpaleke, the damage caused during the crisis is “beyond scale and measure,” with innocent people being hurt “through calumny, detraction and slander.”

    In his homily, Ugorji thanked several people who through the years tried to resolve the crisis, including Cardinal John Onaiyekan, of Abuja, and himself apostolic administrator of the diocese for some years, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who was sent to Ahiara twice, as papal representative in an attempt to diffuse the tensions.

    Yet above all, he thanked Okpaleke, for his voluntary resignation, “because he did not see how his ministry in Ahiara Diocese could be effective amidst stiff opposition and rejection by a large segment of the clergy and lay faithful.”

    His decision to resign, Ugorji said, “has been widely acclaimed as wise, noble and courageous. He deserves our respect and gratitude.”

    Speaking about Francis, the prelate said the pope was “deeply saddened” by the crisis, yet chose to take “the benign path of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

    “The clergy of Ahiara Diocese are requested by the Holy See to reflect on the grave damage inflicted on the Church by the crisis and never, ever oppose a bishop legitimately appointed by the Holy Father,” he said.

    Reminding those present that the crisis is far from over, Ugorji issued a reminder that could be seen as a warning: Pope Francis reserves to himself the right to evaluate the spiritual and ecclesiastical progress in this diocese before he makes any other decision regarding governance.

    Local clergy and faithful, he said, need to reaffirm their allegiance to the pope, who “as the Pastor of the entire Church, possesses supreme, full and universal power over the whole Church,” reminding Ahiara of St Augustine’s famous Latin dictum: Roma locuta est, causa finita (“Rome has spoken, the matter is decided.”)

    Ugorji said that reconciliation will also require for the people of Ahiara to remember that they’re members of “one, Catholic, and apostolic Church,” and for priests to keep in mind that they’re united by a sacramental brotherhood that “transcends the divisions created by ethnicity, clan and tongue. By accepting and treating every priest as our brother, no matter his color, status or place of origin.”

    “We live out the sacramental brotherhood of the priesthood and challenge our society that is often torn apart by inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic tensions and conflicts,”Ugorji said. “By our priestly fraternal communion that knows no boundaries, we also witness to the Church’s mission of uniting all things in Christ.”

    Source: Crux… 

  • Essay on Development and Challenges of Small Christian Communities in Africa to be Part of a Resource Book for Use Globally

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 12 March 2018

    essay on challenges and development of sccs in africa 2018An essay focusing on the histories, themes, development, and challenges of a model of being Church in Africa that takes the form of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) is to be part of a resource book, which could be used in institutions of higher learning across the globe.

    The author of the essay, Nairobi-based Father Joseph Graham Healey of the Maryknoll Society, is a specialist in SCCs.

    “The essay summarizes much of the SCC material that we have discussed and used in the past few years. I refer to 25 countries in Africa,” Father Healey told CANAA in an email and added, “The Bibliography includes 10 women including eight African women (five religious sisters and three lay women) and two expatriate women.”

    In a voicemail interview with CANAA Monday, March 12, Father Healey shared about the motivations of writing the essay, its uniqueness and significance, and how the essay might be accessed and used worldwide.

    Father Healey’s essay on SCCs is expected to be one of the 40 essays in the “Handbook of African Catholicism” being edited by Father Stan Chu Ilo.

    The essay is available HERE.

    Below is the full text of with 79-year-old Father Healey, who founded the Social Communications Department of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in 1968.

    CANAA: What has been your main motivation in writing this essay?

    Father Healey: There are many conferences going on around the world. Last July (2017), DePaul University in the US, the largest University in the US according to population, held a symposium on African Catholicism. Nigerian theologian, Father Stan Chu Ilo, is coming up with a book, which is to be published in the US this year as the “Handbook of African Catholicism” by Notre Dame Press.

    I am, without any offence, the most knowledgeable person on SCCs in East Africa – perhaps the only one left with institutional memory from the 1960s, having been at the meeting in 1973 when Catholic Bishops in Eastern Africa established SCCs as a pastoral priority. It was against this background that (Father) Stan asked me to put in writing the current state of the growth of Small Christian Communities in Africa.

    Father Stan specifically asked me to write on four topics on Small Christian Communities in Africa, which are in the title: the history of SCCs in Africa; themes (I was able identify seven); developments of SCCs; and then challenges.

    CANAA: Having published considerable content on SCCs in Africa, what is unique in this essay, that might not have been captured in your previous writings?

    Father Healey: This is a significant question. Under the category of challenges in my essay, the last section deals with challenges to African theologians, in which we express the need for an African theologian of the new generation to write about the SCC model of Church in Africa. This is a new suggestion, being presented for the first time.

    This is the first time such a challenge is being proposed because the African theologians writing about SCCs received their training oversees. The new generation of African theologians being challenged to write are those being trained now, many of them in Africa. That is why we need an African theologian of the new generation.

    The second novelty in this essay is the presentation of new realities and new responses to life challenges through the help of SCCs. For instance, it has been very hard to get facts about SCCs in West Africa. Yet now, the Ghanaian Bishops’ conference has made SCCs a pastoral priority in the Church in Ghana. This is a new initiative in an ecclesial territory where the model of church in has been devotional groups, also called pious associations.

    The essay also presents new developments in SCCs, mentioning Lagos Archdiocese in Nigeria where leaders have reported about 60 parishes with SCCs. This is new.

    In addition, content on SCCs is given in two examples of new developments demonstrating how SCCs are responding to signs of our time. For example, I report about how SCCs can respond to child protection in their neighborhoods in view of addressing physical, emotional, and sexual abuses. We seem to have something new in Africa, namely, SCCs ‘in the neighborhood’, something not in the US; it is a different model of Church. We need SCC to begin getting involved in child protection, because it is in the neighborhood.

    Next month (April 2018), AMECEA has been invited to Uganda to a refugee camp (1.4million have crossed to northern Uganda in the last year) – Gulu Archdiocese and Arua diocese. It has been suggested that the best way to network the people in the refugee camp is through SCCs – setting up communities ‘in the neighbourhood’ within the camp.

    The way of dealing with child protection and networking refugees in their camps through SCCs are two new ways of responding to problems with the help of SCCs.

    CANAA: Who is your target audience in this essay?

    Father Healey: Stan wanted the handbook to get into the hands of professors and lecturers as an academic book. So, the first target audience could be the academic community. When uploaded online (on SCC website), the essay will reach a diverse audience, beyond the academic audience. This is because the Internet creates a new market, with multiplication effect of communication – it reaches a wider group of people. The actual print edition will have small sales, because while institutions of higher learning might procure some copies, many individuals cannot afford to purchase the handbook.

    CANAA: How do you want this essay to be used?

    Father Healey: The essay is going to be part of the 40 articles that will make up the “Handbook of African Catholicism”. The handbook could be used in courses on African culture, African theology, and anything to do with Christianity in Africa. Hence, it will be used in universities around the world and research institutes around the globe as a resource book. In this regard, it could be used as a textbook of a course, or be on the reading list of a course.

  • Priest’s Murder Cause Fear for Clergy’s Safety in Congo

    Crux || by Ngala Killian Chimtom || 12 March 2018

    clergy safety a concern after priest murderA murder of a priest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is raising tensions between the government and the Catholic Church, which has led efforts to get President Joseph Kabila not to seek another term as president of the central African country.

    On March 2, the body of a Catholic priest, Josephite Father Florent Mbulanthie Tulantshiedi was found on a boat on the banks of the Kasai River, near the village of Biyenge in the center-west of the country.

    According to L’Observatoire de la Christianophobie, the priest was probably strangled to death.

    Tulantshiedi went missing a few days before he was discovered, and this was reported by seminarians at the school at which he was teaching.

    “That Friday, we were notified that a body had been discovered on the banks of River Kasai. It was mutilated. You couldn’t recognize him. When I was given his belongings - the clothes he wore; the sandals he was putting on; the trousers, the rosary on the neck, his wristwatch - I said it’s him, bring him,” said Josephite Father Georges Minga.

    There have been no suspects identified in the case, and the police do not know what motive his killer or killers might have had.

    However, the mysterious death of the 46-year-old priest has reignited fears of state reprisals against the Catholic Church after its role in the protests calling on Kabila to leave office, although others point out clergy have also been the target of the many different armed militias active in the country.

    According to Il Sismografo - a Rome-based website following international Church issues - the following Church workers were killed in 2017 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Father Vincent Machozi, March 20; an accountant of Caritas Basankusu, August 11; and Father Joseph Mulimbi Nguli, October 21.

    Catholic lay organizations - often with clerical support - have been leading protests against the government since a 2016 Church-organized accord between the government and opposition collapsed in 2017.

    Kabila has been in office for over 15 years, taking over from his father, Laurent-Desire Kabila, who was assassinated in 2001. In 2006, an election confirmed him in his post. He was re-elected for a second mandate in 2011.

    After Kabila’s failure to step down after the end of his second term in December 2016, as mandated by the constitution, protests left dozens of people dead.

    An agreement overseen by the Catholic hierarchy called for power sharing between Kabila’s party and opposition parties in the buildup to a presidential election at the end of December 2017, in which Kabila would not be a candidate.

    The elections never took place, and Kabila continues in office.

    In the absence of any credible opposition and a free press, the Catholic Church is emerging as the only credible voice that can speak up for the people of the Congo in the face of Kabila’s regime.

    Catholics make up nearly half of Congo’s 80 million people, and the nation’s bishops are held in high esteem.

    On Dec. 31, 2017, 8 people were killed, and 120 others arrested in lay Catholic-organized protests calling on the president to step down. Several more were killed during protests on Jan 21 and Feb. 25.

    According to Aid to the Church in Need - which gives help to persecuted Churches around the world - Catholic clergy have now become targets for attacks.

    Church leaders have accused security forces of carrying out attacks on 134 churches and chapels in 2018, with soldiers even accused of firing live ammunition at people leaving Mass on Jan. 1.

    The Archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, has said the Church was being attacked to undermine its mission of peace and reconciliation.

    “We call on all of us to show wisdom, restraint and democratic spirit,” said Monsengwo. “Poverty is only increasing and we must guarantee fundamental freedoms and human dignity.”

    The Church in the Congo operates much of the educational, medical, and social welfare infrastructure in the country, which has been plagued by conflicts for decades.

    Nearly 6 million people were killed in a 1997-2003 civil war which drew in armies from several surrounding nations battling over the country’s vast mineral resources.

    The central government has only tenuous control over the nation’s outlying regions, which are plagued by battling militias.

    According to the United Nations, due to violence that has been carried out by armed groups in the Congo in the latter part of 2017, there has been a spike in the number of the displaced, to more than 4.5 million people.

    Source: Crux…

  • “Our prayers have been answered!”: Local Christians Rejoice over Unexpected Meeting between President and Leader of Opposition in Kenya

    Agenzia Fides || By DBO and LM || 12 March 2018

    prayers in kenya answered with uhuru raila pact 2018"The meeting between President Uhuru and the leader of National Super Alliance (NASA), Raila Odinga, comes in answer to our prayers. Catholics and other Christians have prayed with faith for peace in our country. Not by chance this is happening during the season of Lent; I believe that President Uhuru and Raila can be symbolic figures of a new healing for our nation”, Fides learned from Mercy Lanya, a Catholic lay woman belonging to Assumption of Mary parish in Umoja, Nairobi.

    Her reaction was echoed by Eveline Shitabule, from All Holy Angels parish Lutonyi, diocese of Kakamega western Kenya, who told Fides: “This is the most recent miracle that has happened in Kenya! We’ve been praying for peace in our country and God does answer prayers.”

    On March 9, the President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta held in Nairobi a surprise meeting with his political rival, Raila Odinga leader of the National Super Alliance (NASA). The two leaders in a joint address to the nation promised to work together to bring healing and reconciliation among Kenyans.

    This is an important turning point after the contested elections in 2017, which were repeated in October after the Supreme Court declared void the vote held in August. In both votes Kenyatta was proclaimed the winner.

    In a joint address President Kenyatta and the Opposition leader said they had accepted the programme to "build a strong and united Kenya”.

    “I am happy with the gesture and there is certainly going to be a reasonable degree of peace and reconciliation among the followers of the two leaders. It is a fact that each of them has a huge following, a sizeable constituency that each of them commands. Their meeting and promise to work together has the potentiality of contributing to the healing of the nation,” says to Fides Kenyan Sr. Margaret Mutiso belonging to the religious congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart.

    “President Uhuru needs Raila to be able to move the nation forward and leave behind a legacy as he ends his second term as Kenya’s president; Raila needs President Uhuru to pursue his agenda of reforms more effectively,” Sr. Mutiso continues, referring to the leaders with their Christian names.

    On 30 January Odinga proclaimed himself “President of the people” challenging Kenyatta, with a move move that resulted in a political stalemate.

    “When two bulls fight, it’s the grass that suffers, when they stop the fight even if one is defeated, the grass begins to grow,” Sr. Jecinter Okoth, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Anne in Nairobi, tells Fides reflecting about the antagonism that has persisted between opposition leader Raila and President Uhuru.

    “Raila and President Uhuru have made the best move, coming together at a time when every Kenyan citizen with sound mind was waiting for a better move in Kenya. Life was getting difficult day by day for the “mwananchi” (ordinary citizen),” Fides was told by Sylvester Omondi of Subukia Parish in Nakuru diocese.

    Meanwhile, Kenyan London-based Christine Akello regretted that the two leaders had taken too long to come together and tells Fides, “Although their coming together is a good move, I feel disappointed because this was to be done right after elections before so many people lost their lives.”

    Source: Agenzia Fides…

  • Bishop Asks Nigerian Government to Work for Rescue of Kidnapped Girls

    Crux || By Peter Ajayi Dada || 06 March 2018

    bishop wants dapchi kidnapped girls releasedBishop Hilary Dachelem of Bauchi has appealed to the Nigerian government and security agencies to work for the rescue of the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in February.

    The bishop said the government should not play partisan politics with the issue but bring smiles to the faces of the parents of the abducted girls by rescuing them and reuniting them with their loved ones.

    “My call is for the government to leave politics aside and retrieve these girls; leave politics and protect lives. You do not politicize life, for Christ’s sake,” Dachelem said March 3.

    “I do not need to know who you are, political affiliation or religious beliefs, but all I know is that life is sacred and must be protected and respected by everybody.”

    The girls were abducted Feb. 19 in Dapchi, in Yobe state, which borders Bauchi.

    This abduction happened four years after Boko Haram invaded a female school in Chibok, Borno state, and abducted 276 girls. To date, 195 of the young women are still with the kidnappers, despite repeated promises by the government to ensure their release.

    On March 4, Gloria Shoda, president of the National Council for Women Societies, also urged the federal government to do everything within its powers to rescue the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls.

    In an appeal from Abuja, Shoda said the kidnappings were a national embarrassment, and she advised President Muhammadu Buhari to act quickly to avoid a repeat of the 2014 Chibok saga.

    “We are pained as mothers to see another group of our children being abducted by the sect. It is most unfortunate that it is happening again after the Chibok experience,” Shoda said.

    “We are yet to overcome the Chibok abduction, and having another is a very sad happening in our lives as mothers.”

    “How long are we going to continue to live in fear of our children being abducted by the sect?” Shoda asked. “We will not fold our hands to watch the sect destroy the lives of our daughters.”

    She also called on Nigerian women to pray for the safe return of the girls.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Interfaith Film Misses Oscar, but Raises Hope in Africa

    Religion News Service (RNS) || By Fredrick Nzwili || 05 March 2018

    interfaith film raises hope in africaIt didn’t bring home an Oscar this week, but a film nominated for one is helping to spread a message that many Africans said is too rarely heard: that people from different religious groups on the continent can be each other’s heroes.

    “Watu Wote” (“all of us” in Swahili), nominated for the best short film (live action), tells the true story of a 2015 attack on a bus in Mandera, in northeastern Kenya, in which Muslim passengers saved Christian passengers from death.

    Al-Shabab gunmen had hijacked the bus and asked the Muslims to separate themselves from the Christians. But the Muslim riders refused and announced that if the extremists wanted to kill the Christians, the gunmen would have to kill everyone.

    Though the 22-minute film was made by German graduate students, “Watu Wote” was filmed in Kenya with an all-Kenyan cast of both Muslims and Christians. And much pre- and post-production work occurred in Kenya.

    The Academy Award nomination was a cause for celebration throughout the country. President Uhuru Kenyatta tweeted after the 90th Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday (March 4):  “You have won our hearts as a nation … Keep telling our stories through your camera and you will win next time.”

    The award for best short film went to “The Silent Child,” which chronicles the life of a deaf 4-year-old girl in rural England. But “Wote Watu” has won 40 awards across the world since its release, including its category at the Student Academy Awards.

    Many in Kenya credit the the heroes of the bus incident — which came on the heels of a series of horrific al-Shabab attacks on churches, shopping centers and other public places — with quelling Muslim-Christian animosity in Kenya, which is about 85 percent Christian and 10 percent Muslim.

    “I think the film will have a lot of impact on the Christian-Muslim relations in Kenya and elsewhere,” said Julius Kalu, the retired Anglican bishop of Mombasa. “Those Muslims who attack Christians or vice versa do it from a point of ignorance, since there are many similarities among the two faiths.”

    In the actual incident, the gunmen had sprayed the bus with bullets, killing two passengers. Salah Farah, a Muslim teacher who was shot as he shielded the Christians, died weeks later of the injuries. He was eulogized by both Christians and Muslims.

    “Such good gestures exist among the faiths, but are never highlighted. It’s good a movie has explored these,” said Sheikh Abdullahi Salat, chairman of the Garissa Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.

    Source: Religion News Service…

  • These Christian Monasteries are the Oldest in the World

    Aleteia || By Philip Kosloski || 07 March 2018

    oldest christian monasteries globallyAnd one of them has been continuously inhabited by monks since its foundation.

    The history of Catholic consecrated life dates to the earliest centuries after the death of Jesus Christ. Initially there were many unrecorded men and women who imitated the example of Jesus Christ and lived in isolation as hermits in the wilderness, dedicating their entire life to prayer and good words.

    The first recorded Christian hermit is St. Paul of Thebes, who was born in 227 in Egypt. He initially went to the desert to escape persecution, but then remained there as he drew closer to God. His example inspired St. Anthony the Great to embrace a similar life of solitary prayer in the desert around the year 270.

    St. Anthony is generally regarded as the “Father of Monasticism” or “Father of All  Monks,” as he attracted many followers who lived near him and learned his ways of Christian perfection. However, he did not establish any physical monastery, as his community created their own private cells around his, using nearby caves or small huts. It is believed that some of his initial followers established a monastery on the site of his burial in the 4th century.

    This monastery is now known as the “Monastery of St. Anthony” and is located in about 200 miles southeast of Cairo. At first it was simply a group of hermits living in close proximity with each other, but over time the monastery became more formalized and grew into a community.

    One of St. Anthony’s closest disciples, St. Macarius, also founded a monastery in the Egyptian desert that continues to be in use today, called the “The Monastery of St. Macarius at Scetis.”

    Macarius lived from about 300-391 and was influenced by St. Anthony to dedicate his life to prayer. His example of holiness attracted many and Macarius assembled his followers into an “eremitical” or “semi-hermit” type of monastic living. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The monks were not bound by any fixed rule; their cells were close together, and they met for divine worship only on Saturdays or Sundays. The principle which held them together was one of mutual helpfulness, and the authority of the elders was recognized not as that of monastic superiors in the strict sense of the word but rather as that of guides and models of perfection.”

    Monks have lived in this way since it was founded in 360. Today the Coptic monks who live there carry on the traditions of their founder in the type of life they lead, as is detailed on their website.

    We have no very precise timetable; each monk arranges most of his own time under the guidance of the spiritual father. But a bell wakes us at three in the morning for private devotions, each monk in his own cell saying the midnight office, making prostrations and saying personal prayers … After matins each monk takes up the task assigned to him by the spiritual father, which usually corresponds with the profession he followed in the world, while his spirit is uplifted by the atmosphere of worship in which he has spent the first few hours of the day in church. In this way the monks begin to experience the mysterious unity that can exist between work and the worship of God … At about mid-day we gather in the refectory to sing the ninth hour with its twelve psalms, and this is followed by the only meal of the day taken together … Following the tradition of the desert fathers, we celebrate the eucharistic liturgy only once a week, on Sunday morning.

    This type of monastic tradition is the oldest in Christianity and was particularly popular in places like Ireland, where they created similar hermit-type monasteries that featured private cells huddled around a central church or gathering area. Skellig Michael is one of the most famous monasteries in this line of monasticism.

    Source: Aleteia…

  • Church Network on Immigration Reveals Strong Contrasts by Country: from Bangladesh to Uganda

    Crux || By Claire Giangravè || 07 March 2018

    immigration reveals strong contrasts by countryFor centuries, Catholicism’s sprawling worldwide network of priests, nuns, missionaries, and lay activists - meaning people who are in the trenches, and in the know, almost everywhere on the planet - has represented a unique resource in taking the pulse of current events.

    When it comes to immigration especially, from Bangladesh to Uganda, Catholics are intimately involved in facing migration flows, resource supply issues and sometimes even hostile governments.

    A sampling of those religious and lay experts on immigration met Tuesday for the annual plenary meeting of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) taking place March 6-8 at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rome.

    Today, immigration is on the agenda of every meeting with authorities that takes place at the Vatican’s Secretary of State, according to the pope’s most senior aide, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who spoke during the opening remarks at the meeting.

    “Migration is seen today only as an emergency or a danger, even though it has become a characteristic of our societies,” he said, adding that “this delicate time calls for unhesitant guidance” by the Church.

    One point to emerge clearly from the Rome gathering is that situations concerning migrants and refugees differ from one country to another.

    While clergy working in countries such as Uganda and Thailand reported harmonious collaboration between the state and the Church, and a positive overall mindset toward immigrants in their communities, other countries, such as Bangladesh and Kenya, must address issues such as depletion of resources, xenophobia and religious and social conflicts.

    Youth, Families and Church come together in Uganda and Thailand

    When South Sudan became riddled by civil war and famine, entire families moved to nearby Uganda in seek of refuge and a better life. During the past twelve months, the United Nations estimates that roughly one million South Sudanese have flooded across the border.

    According to Father Francis Ndamira, the director of Caritas Uganda, who attended the conference, the Church collaborates with the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other international groups to offer resources and to care for the incoming immigrants.

    Many households and communities from South Sudan settled into the northern part of Uganda, particularly since June of last year. Nearly 24,000 of these have been helped by Caritas, which has provided food and education, while local authorities have given land to the families.

    “The government of Uganda has been extraordinary, and is being recognized all over the world, including by the United Nations, for its very hospitable policies,” Ndamira said. “Ugandans as a whole feel that way … this isn’t the first time this has happened, people have been coming in and out since the 1960s, and in general, Ugandans receive them.”

    The Church has brought in experts in agriculture and microfinance, the priest added, so that families could start working on the land.

    “Fortunately, the weather is very good,” he added jokingly.

    The remaining number of people escaping South Sudan have been cared for by other international and non-profit organizations, and the UNHCR has brought in maize, flour and beans.

    “There is no real question of hunger … they’re able to work and to produce their own food on this small piece of land, which at the same time is supplemented by what they get from the UNHCR,” Ndamira said.

    He added that while it’s not likely that South Sudanese will return soon to their own country, “at least they’re hopeful in that they have people looking after them.”

    The fear of diminishing resources, in Uganda’s case especially water and firewood, remains relevant and the government responded by deploying 30 percent of the refugee budget to the communities that welcome them, which are invested in agriculture and market projects.

    “The government itself has a law and a policy of accepting refugees, who can now be found all over Uganda from so many countries. Automatically, that creates good will,” Ndamira said.

    Moving the magnifying glass to Thailand, a country with over 100,000 immigrants and refugees from bordering Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar, a local Catholic leader said Tuesday the goal remains building “unity and peaceful coexistence in the country.”

    In the view of Bishop Joseph Pibul Visitnondachai of Thailand, where Catholics are a minority, the message of the Church on immigration has successfully reached the population.

    “The social teaching of the pope is being read and taking effect, so that it’s a guiding principle that we can follow, especially to help the migrants and refugees in the country,” he said.

    The Thai government estimates that between two and three million immigrants from Myanmar, many of them of the Muslim Rohingya minority, are currently living in Thailand, fleeing persecution and in search of work opportunities.

    Visitnondachai said that the Church has been cooperating with a network of bishops from neighboring countries and Aid to the Church in Need in Germany to provide for their needs.

    In the bishop’s opinion, the problem regarding the large numbers of Rohingya refugees in the country has been diminishing throughout the years, as they have begun working in small businesses or have migrated to other places.

    “Concerning the Rohingyas, in this country there is no problem, but some two three years ago because of the lack of collaboration between the Rohingya and police there was human trafficking,” he said.

    “Now, those involved in human trafficking have been caught and put in jail.”

    Visitnondachai also pointed to a “culture change” in younger generations, who are strongly opposed to the persecution of minorities, including Christians, and are open to a more multicultural and dynamic society.

    Immigration: Between Church and State

    While Rohingya refugees may no longer be a problem in Thailand, Bangladesh is currently in the middle of a crisis, with over one million Rohingya settled in its southeastern region.

    “They are in a bad situation, even though they are given small shelters and food supply is good enough, I would say, they are in a bad place,” Bishop Gervas Rozario of the Rajshahi diocese told Crux in an interview.

    With its already dense population, Bangladesh has been operating under the assumption that ultimately the Rohingya will be retuning to their country, something that is easier said than done, the bishop said.

    “The Bangladeshi government, as well as [the Church], want them to go back home. We want that they go back and live in their own homes in peace and with dignity and other rights of the citizens,” Rozario said.

    But the military, which holds the power in Myanmar, has set out to keep the Rohingya out of the country and the bishop also condemned the “ethnic cleansing” perpetrated against the Muslim minority. He added that not long ago, Myanmar military forces on the country’s border bared arms to “to create fear, panic among the Rohingyas so they do not dare to go back.”

    “The situation is really bad because of the numbers and small concentration space. They are in concentration camps! and the [Myanmar] government does not allow them to come in to the country,” Rozario said.

    Since August 25, 2017 when a large wave of Rohingya escaped across the border into Bangladesh, the Church has been active in caring and providing for them and one third of all refugees are under the Caritas umbrella.

    “The Catholic Church is very small [in Bangladesh], only 400,000 people in a population of 160 million, not even two percent! Still our help was the very first one,” the bishop said.

    Though some Muslim public figures in Bangladesh have accused the Church of having a secret agenda of conversion, Rozario said that the aim of Catholics is to “go there for humanity” and provide love, care and charity.

    Interreligious tensions in Bangladesh are not rare, and the bishop stated that indigenous, tribal and Christian minorities are often victims of persecution.

    “We have our own Rohingya,” Rozario said. “We don’t talk about it because the government directly does not do it, but there are powerful forces, evil forces there who [persecute] religious minorities.”

    In a different way, a sense of insecurity also plays into the immigration experience of Kenya, where the flux of people coming into the country has increased fears of letting in religious extremists.

    “They’re slipping in, entering through the back-door and around the corner ways. Most are men coming from Somalia. That raises the question of the danger of attacks, of these people coming here to do al-Shabab business,” said Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya.

    The government in Kenya has taken steps to force people to re-enter their country of origin in an effort to fight illegal immigration, the cardinal said adding that though “it seemed like a very heavy step for some,” it was nevertheless “necessary.”

    Njue said that Kenyan authorities are concerned over any illegal or violent actions that might occur if immigrants do not go through the normal regularization process. “Welcoming is a kind of generosity, out of respect for the dignity of the human person. But when this welcome, this respect, turns into a destruction of the harmony of the society, then it doesn’t make sense,” he said.

    Source: Crux…

  • Tanzania Church Backs School Ban for Pregnant Students

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 03 March 2018

    tanzania church backs pregnant students banTanzania’s controversial policy of keeping pregnant girls and young mothers out of school is getting support from the country’s Catholic Church.

    Last year, President John Magufuli announced that schoolgirls who get pregnant will not be allowed to go back to school after giving birth.

    “As long as I am president … no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school … After getting pregnant, you are done,” the president said.

    Magufuli said pregnant girls would be too distracted to concentrate on their studies.

    “After calculating some little mathematics she’d be asking the teacher in the classroom ‘let me go out and breastfeed my crying baby,'” he said.

    The president said the father of the pregnancy would face a 30-year jail term, so that he could put the energy he used in romancing the girl on a jail farm.

    His announcement was met with outrage by several international NGOs and human rights groups, but received support from the Archbishop of of Songea, Damian Denis Dallu.

    He said allowing young mothers in school “is not part of African culture,” the archbishop said.

    “It’s a foreign idea that wants us to defy our culture,” Dallu said. “What kind of schools will we have if we allow students to be mothers?”

    Faiza Jama Mohamed, Africa Office director of Equality Now told The Guardian, “We have to ensure girls are going to school. It’s a right. Even if it means we have to lodge a case in the courts to declare it unconstitutional, that’s a route that we’re considering.”

    Equality Now said the president was violating Tanzania’s constitutionally-guaranteed right to education for all children.

    “The rights and protections offered to children, including the right to education, therefore must be available to all those under this age, regardless of parental status. The law is unequivocal on this issue,” the organization said in a statement.

    The president dismissed the concerns of Equality Now and other NGOs and said he would not change the policy.

    “These NGOs should go out and open schools for parents,” he said.

    “I’m giving out free education for students who have really decided to go and study, and now you want me to educate the parents?” Magufuli said.

    A Human Rights Watch report in 2017 stated that at least 8,000 girls drop out of school every year in Tanzania, due largely to pregnancy or forced marriages.

    The country’s health ministry estimates 27 percent of girls in the country get pregnant before they are 18.

    In the Katavi region, located in the west of the country, the rate is 45 percent, and at a recent public meeting on the president’s policy a Catholic priest suggested an even more draconian policy to combat the problem.

    Father Leonard Kasimila, a priest of the Diocese of Mpanda, said the pregnant girls and their parents should be arrested along with the fathers.

    “The Marriage Act ought to be reviewed so that both parents and girls who get pregnant at a tender age are arrested and prosecuted contrary to the current situation whereby only men who impregnate teenage girls are arrested and arraigned into court,” the priest said at the Feb. 23 meeting.

    The priest said the men were responsible for only 80 percent of the pregnancies, and the girls were responsible for the other 20 percent.

    Earlier this year, five pregnant schoolgirls were arrested together with their parents in southern Tanzania, although they were later released on bail. Police said the girls and their families were taken into custody so that the fathers of the unborn children could be identified.

    The options for girls without an education in Tanzania can often be bleak.

    In a 2016 story by the Global Sisters Report, student Martha Louis Ntumbala described the situation for her friends who had children.

    “Some of the girls just stay at home and take care of their families. Some girls are involved in immoral acts like prostitution, robbery and drug abuse. Some do small businesses like selling little buns or rice at the market. Others work as house girls for other families. Others do child labor; they’re looking for jobs in industries like sweeping and cleaning, moving things. Some of them walk around the streets and pick up bottles for recycling,” she said.

    Dallu said a major problem is that the schools are far away from villages, meaning young girls are often exploited by men while they travel to and from school.

    The archbishop proposed building dormitories for girls at the school to resolve the issue. However, the government has not provided promised funds for boarding schools for girls.

    Source: Crux…

  • South Africa Loses a Great Theologian

    Spotlight Africa || By Susan Rakoczy, IHM || 02 March 2018

    professor brian gaybba of sa rip 2018Prominent Catholic theologian, Professor Brian Gaybba, died last week. He studied theology in Rome during the watershed Second Vatican Council and has influenced generations of theologians in Southern Africa. Susan Rakoczy remembers Gaybba in this obituary. 

    Catholic theologian Brian Patrick Gaybba died on 25 February in Grahamstown at the age of 78. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for a number of years.

    Born in Woodstock, Cape Town in 1939, he attended St Catherine’s Convent, Claremont and St Joseph’s College, Rondebosch. After matriculating he worked as a bank clerk for a year and then began studies for the Catholic priesthood at St John Vianney Seminary, Pretoria. Ordained in 1962 at 22, he did parish ministry but then was sent to Rome where he earned a licentiate and then a doctorate in theology at the Urban University. He was in Rome during the Second Vatican Council and had many stories of observing the changes in the Church as they happened. One of his favourite anecdotes of those years concerned his encounter with Karl Rahner, SJ, the leading theologian at the Council. While in Germany he made contact with Rahner who had to catch a train. Brian went along on the trip; they struggled to find a common language and settled on Latin for their theological discussion.

    When he returned to South Africa after studies he continued in parish ministry, taught at St Francis Xavier Seminary and was the Catholic chaplain at the University of Cape Town. He was a theological advisor to the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference and a member of the Anglican-Catholic Unity Commission.

    But then his life path changed dramatically; in 1977 he was dispensed from his priestly vows and married Monika Gaertner. They had two children, Jennifer and Richard.

    He now began many years as an academic, first at the Theology by Extension College (TEEC) for a brief period and then ten years at the University of South Africa, the first Catholic on the theological faculty (1978-1988).  During the early 1980s he became a founding member of the Catholic Theological Society of South Africa. In 1989 he moved to Rhodes University in Grahamstown where he was Professor of Theology in the Divinity Department, the first South African to hold that position. Among his publications are Spirit of Love: Theology of the Holy Spirit and God is a Community.

    He retired in 2002. In his retirement years he continued to write and was involved in the local Grahamstown community through Rotary; he established the Grahamstown Feeding Scheme and also assisted in the Capuchin formation programme through teaching a course on basic Catholic theology.

    In an interview he answered the question “Who am I?” by responding, “Someone whose memories grow more and more wonderful and fulfilling as time passes.” Former students at Rhodes reacted to the news of his death with warm appreciation of the impact he had made on them: “I am forever shaped by his systematic thinking and his reflections on God as Community” and “he shaped my entire theology; I can’t tell you how many times I have preached on what he taught us.”

    Brian’s funeral was celebrated on Thursday, 1 March at St Patrick’s Church in Grahamstown. He is survived by his wife Monika, his daughter Jennifer and her husband David Stevens and their sons Joshua and Luke, and his son Richard. May he rest in peace. SA.

    Source: Spotlight Africa… 

  • Missing Catholic Priest found ‘mutilated’ in DR Congo

    ZNBC || 05 March 2018

    body of catholic priest in drc found mutilatedThe body of a Catholic priest who went missing last week has been found mutilated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), according to local media.

    Florent Mbulanthie was discovered on the banks of the Kasai River, near Ilebo, in the west of the country, Radio Okapi reported.

    His colleague Father Gorges Menga told the radio station the priest’s face was so damaged, he could not be recognised.

    He added: “But when [the police] told me about the trouser, and clergymen shirt he wore, the sandals, the watch and rosary on his neck, I said it is him, bring him please.”

    Father Florent, 46, was in charge of training priests, but was known for being outspoken within his community.

    A community member who knew him, but refused to be named, told Actualite.cd [in French]: “He openly exhorted the people of Ilebo to take charge of the bad governance of the city.”

    A local teacher told the news site the body bore “signs of violence” and he had markings around his neck.

    Radio Okapi, however, says cause of death is unknown.

    Source: ZNBC…

  • Pope Adds Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church to Universal Calendar

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 05 March 2018

    feast of mary mother of the church addedPope Francis has decreed that Latin-rite Catholics around the world will mark the feast of "the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church" on the Monday after Pentecost each year.

    The Gospel reading for the feast, which technically is called a "memorial," is John 19:25-31, which recounts how from the cross Jesus entrusted Mary to his disciples as their mother and entrusted his disciples to Mary as her children.

    The decree announcing the addition to the church calendar was released March 3 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

    Pope Francis approved the decree after "having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety," the decree said.

    Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the congregation, noted in a brief commentary published the same day, that Blessed Paul VI in 1964 had formally bestowed the title of "mother of the church" on Mary, but that recognition of her maternal care for the church and for believers had already spanned centuries.

    "The feeling of Christian people through two millennia of history has cultivated the filial bond which inseparably binds the disciples of Christ to his Blessed Mother in various ways," the cardinal said.

    The church calendars of Poland, Argentina, St. Peter's Basilica and some religious orders already set aside the Monday after Pentecost as the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.

    Honoring Mary as mother of the church on the day after Pentecost also highlights for Catholics that Mary was present with the disciples on Pentecost, praying with them as the Holy Spirit descended. Cardinal Sarah said that Mary, "from the awaiting of the Spirit at Pentecost, has never ceased to take motherly care of the pilgrim church on earth."

    Along with the decree and his comments, Cardinal Sarah also published in Latin the specific liturgical texts for use on the memorial at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours.

    Bishops' conferences "will approve the translation of the texts they need and, after receiving their confirmation, will publish them in the liturgical books for their jurisdiction," the cardinal said.

  • Church “on the side of the suffering” in Chad

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 27 February 2018

    chad church on the side of the sufferingReligious leaders in Chad can’t accept failure as the country faces a political crisis, according to the country’s top Catholic bishop.

    The central African country has faced protests over rising prices and an austerity drive that has slashed the salaries of civil servants by a third.

    The government of President Idriss Déby said the salary cuts at the beginning of the year were necessary to enable it to comply with a wage ceiling agreed to under a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.

    The austerity measures were provoked in large part by falling oil prices that have crippled the country’s economy, which was already suffering from a mountain of debt.

    The archbishop of the capital N’Djamena and president of the country’s bishops’ conference, Archbishop Goetbé Edmond Djitangar, has condemned the austerity measures for affecting the poorest of Chad’s already impoverished population.

    “The larger number of our fellow citizens have sunk deeper into misery as a result of the crisis,” the archbishop told Radio France Internationale.

    He said the lack of dialogue was making things even more difficult.

    “We notice that instead of sincere dialogue as a way of getting out of the crisis that should be for everyone’s benefit, we are witnessing threats and indifference,” Djitangar said.

    On Feb. 8, teachers gathered at the headquarters of the Federation of Chadian Trade Unions to protest the cuts.

    “Teachers have given everything, right down to the bottom of our knowledge, teachers have given everything. President Déby - he’s the result of a teacher, Minister Saber - he’s the result of a teacher,” they chanted.

    Opposition leader, Saleh Kebzabo says the crisis goes beyond the fall in oil prices, accusing president Déby, in power since 1990 of bad governance, and for using “brute force” to silence dissent.

    Chad has been a nation in conflict for over 50 years. The country’s first civil war took place from 1965-1979 and was immediately followed by the 1979-1985 Second Chadian civil war. The most recent Chadian civil war took place from 2005-2010.

    Like many nations along Africa’s Sahel region, Chad is predominantly Arab Muslim in the north, and Christian sub-Saharan African in the south, creating hard-to-resolve tensions. Muslims slightly outnumber Christians in the country, and neighboring nations - especially Libya - have often tried to interfere in its internal affairs.

    In recent years, the country has also suffered attacks from the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, and has also had a stream of refugees entering the country trying to escape the escalating conflict in the neighboring Central African Republic.

    In efforts to resolve the current political crisis, religious authorities in Chad have used the ‘Plateforme Interconfessionnelle’ (Interfaith Platform) to mediate between the government and labor unions.

    Chad is estimated to be 53 percent Muslim, 20 percent Catholic, and 14 percent Protestant.

    On February 8, Catholic, Muslim and Evangelical leaders met with trade union leaders to find a way forward.

    “The government and the trade unions need to exercise restraint and go for dialogue,” said the president of the Higher Council for Islamic Affairs of Chad, Cheick Abdouldaim Abdoulaye Ousmane.

    There has already been some good news. The Anglo-Swiss mining company Glencore last week agreed to structure a loan to Chad worth more than $1 billion, which will allow the country to borrow more money from the IMF.

    The company made the cash-for-crude deal in 2014, but cash in the old price meant Chad could not keep up with the payments.

    But the deal has not led the government to cancel its belt-tightening program.

    “We first met the prime minister and head of government. We listened to him. Then we met with trade union leaders as well as civil society actors. In all these meetings, we called on the government and trade unions to dialogue in order to find a way out of this crisis. The government and social partners are all agreed on the need for dialogue,” Djitangar said.

    The archbishop added that the two parties were called upon to “make concessions,” noting that no agreement can be reached without real dialogue.

    “If no agreement is reached, that means there is a breakdown in dialogue. As religious leaders, we can’t accept failure as long as there is life and hope,” Djitangar said.

    He said the religious authorities will ensure that the strike is called off, and that dialogue becomes a permanent feature in the search for solutions.

    Djitangar said the Church will always “be on the side of the suffering.”

    Source: Crux…

  • Cardinal Sarah: High-ranking Prelates Trying to Change Christian Morality

    Catholic Herald || By Staff Reporter || 28 February 2018

    prelates trying to change christian moralityThe cardinal also said the West was ‘committing suicide’ by losing its Christian faith

    Senior churchmen are undermining Church teaching on life, marriage and the family, Cardinal Robert Sarah has said.

    In a speech in Belgium, the cardinal accused high-ranking prelates from “opulent nations” of trying to modify Christian morality, and attacked pressure groups that “with powerful financial means and ties to the media, attack the natural purpose of marriage and commit themselves to destroying the family unit.”

    Cardinal Sarah made the remarks – reported in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino – in front of several senior Belgian churchmen, including Cardinal Josef De Kesel, the apostolic nuncio and Abbot Philippe Mawet.

    Abbot Mawet had criticised Cardinal Sarah just days earlier in an article for Libre Belgique.

    The cardinal said:

    Some high-ranking prelates, above all those coming from opulent nations, are working to cause modifications to Christian morality with regard to the absolute respect for life from conception until natural death, the question of the divorced and civilly remarried, and other problematic family situations. These ‘guardians of the faith’ however ought not to lose sight of the fact that the problem posed by the fragmentation of the ends of marriage is a problem of natural morality.

    He continued:

    The great derivations became manifest when some prelates or Catholic intellectuals began to say or write ‘a green light for abortion,’ ‘a green light for euthanasia.’ Now, from the moment that Catholics abandon the teaching of Jesus and the Magisterium of the Church, they contribute to the destruction of the natural institution of marriage as well as the family and it is now the entire human family which finds itself fractured by this new betrayal on the part of priests.

    During his visit to Belgium, Cardinal Sarah also gave an interview with Catholic media outlet Cathobel in which he repeated his criticism of fellow clergy.

    “Faith has become lacking, not only on the level of the people of God but also among those responsible for the Church,” he said. “Sometimes we can ask ourselves if we really have faith.”

    This lack of faith is also affecting the wider culture, he added:

    “Not only is the West losing its soul, but it is committing suicide, because a tree without roots is condemned to death. I think that the West cannot renounce its roots, which created its culture and its values.”

    The cardinal said “chilling things” were happening in the West, and Western nations were exporting those things to the developing world.

    “I think that a parliament which authorizes the death of an innocent baby, without defence, is committing a grave act of violence against the human person.

    “When abortion is imposed, especially on nations in the developing world, saying that if they do not accept it they will no longer receive aid, it is an act of violence. And it is no surprise.

    “When God is abandoned, man is also abandoned; there is no longer a clear vision of who man is. This is a great anthropological crisis in the West. And it leads to people being treated like objects.”

    Source: Catholic Herald…

  • Nigerian Christian Community Mourns Boko Haram Kidnapping

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Courtney Grogan || 28 February 2018

    christian community mourns boko haram dapchi kidnappingWith 110 girls still missing after terrorist group Boko Haram attacked a technical college in Nigeria last week, a priest in the region says “deep sorrow has descended on the once sleepy…town.”

    On Feb. 19th, Boko Haram raided a girls’ technical school in Dapchi, a small town in northeastern Nigeria. Witnesses said militants stormed the school and herded students into trucks.

    “Boko Haram militants have ravaged Northeast Nigeria and other strategic targets in the country in their bid to implant an Islamic state,” said Father Maurice Kwairanga, who coordinates the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) for the Nigerian Diocese of Yola.

    Corresponding with Catholic Relief Services, the priest said that this has left “many in this community...frustrated with no one to offer any support or explanations” in the wake of the most recent attack.

    Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group whose name means “Western education is sinful,” has carried out numerous attacks, suicide bombings, and kidnappings in recent years.

    Based in northeastern Nigeria, Boko Haram launched an uprising in 2009 hoping to impose strict sharia law on Nigeria. It has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, targeting security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, and moderate Muslims in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north. In 2015, the group pledged allegiance to ISIS.

    A national search for the Dapchi students is currently underway. “The Nigeria security forces have now launched aerial surveillance and deployed special forces to help locate the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls,” explained Fr. Kwairanga.

    However, confidence in the government is “waning,” the priest said. He noted that many of the girls kidnapped from Chibok Government Secondary School in 2014 remain missing, despite the #Bring Back Our Girls campaign that garnered the world’s attention.

    Boko Haram militants abducted 276 girls in that attack, and more than 100 are still missing.

    Kwairanga said that many Nigerians have been disappointed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s response to the Boko Haram. The president took office in 2015, pledging to eradicate the terrorist group.

    “Nigeria has a long way to go in ending insurgency,” continued Kwairanga. “The insurgents might have been kicked out of their base in the dreaded Sambisa Forest but they have employed new tactics like suicide bombings, kidnappings and violent abductions on soft targets.”

    The group’s violence has expanded beyond Nigeria. Catholic Relief Services’ Nigeria representative, Rebecca Hallam, told CNA, “Although Nigeria is bearing the brunt of the crisis, Boko Haram has been launching violent attacks in Niger, Chad and Cameroon too — CRS is working in all four countries, where attacks have displaced millions of people.”

    “In northeast Nigeria, Catholic Relief Services is helping meet the basic needs of those who have been forced to flee violence, and we’re supporting people so they can rebuild their lives and livelihoods. We’re providing vulnerable families with vouchers so they can purchase local food and household items, and we’re also providing shelters and improved sanitation and hygiene services,” Hallam continued.

    Despite the tragedy Father Kwairanga’s community in Northeastern Nigeria has faced, the priest remains hopeful. “It is our prayer and hope that the Dapchi schoolgirls and the Chibok girls still in the hands of Boko Haram will one day return to the loving arms of their parents and loved ones.”

    Pope Francis has assured Nigerians of his prayers. Earlier this week, the pope met with a Boko Haram abduction survivor in a private audience.

    Nigerian Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme has urged the world to pray the rosary to end the Boko Haram’s violence after saying he had a vision of Christ following the previous abduction of Chibok schoolgirls.

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • Church in Kenya Loses Dedicated Nun, Don Who Shaped Gender Perspectives

    Daily Nation || By Father Lawrence Njoroge || 27 February 2018

    church in kenya loses dedicated nun 2018The death of Sr Anne Nasimiyu-Wasike last week, after a short illness, has robbed both the Catholic Church and country of one of the finest educationists of our time.

    She served at Kenyatta University for 24 years, rising through the academic ranks from lecturer to full professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, during which she taught and mentored thousands of students.

    Besides being a university don, she was a dedicated nun who was elected for two terms, each of six years, as the Superior General of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis with their headquarters in Nkokonjeru, Uganda.

    This is the most senior position in her religious congregation comprising of over 770 members who serve mainly in schools and hospitals in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

    PROLIFIC AUTHOR

    A prolific author of books and articles on education, ethics and the empowerment of the poor, she was also a well-known editor of several publications.

    These included Acton, founded by Prof J N K Mugambi of the University of Nairobi in 1992 to promote African scholarship not only in theology but also in other disciplines.

    In partnership with Prof Mary Getui of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Sr Nasimiyu-Wasike, the scholar injected a strong gender perspective in the editorial content of Acton publications.

    Apart from writing, she was an invited speaker at numerous national and international conferences.

    When debate on the review of the Kenya Constitution kicked off with the introduction of multi-party politics, she made a major input on the gender dimension in the crafting of laws.

    UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY

    A powerful orator, she addressed the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in 2001 on the plight of women and the girl-child in Africa in the age of HIV/AIDS. She was a founder member of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians.

    Trained as a teacher, she received her Master of Arts degree in Religious Education at Gannon University, Pennsylvania, USA, and her PhD in Systematic Theology from Duquesne University in the same state.

    The official website of the Department of Theology at Duquesne states that Sr Nasimiyu-Wasike was the first African woman to obtain a degree in Catholic theology from that university in 1986.

    The same source adds that she was a highly respected budding scholar during her graduate studies in Duquesne.

    On returning to Kenya, she joined Kenyatta University as a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. Soon her responsibilities went beyond instructing students to forming persons of character.

    She was appointed the Director of Student Affairs. Here she was a mentor who had a great passion for the success of her graduate and undergraduate students.

    PLIGHT OF POOR

    The nun was immensely concerned with the plight of the poor and always sought ways and means of improving their lot and well-being.

    It was in this context that she gave an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2003 on the subject of poverty and the rising rate of abortions in Kenya.

    Some interpreters of her statements understood her position to be at variance with the official stance of the Catholic Church, igniting a major controversy. In subsequent discussions with Church authorities both in Kenya and at the Vatican, she clarified her position to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.

    Rev Sr Prof Anne Nasimiyu-Wasike was a good organiser and administrator who worked hard for the empowerment of others, equipping them to serve.

    Thanks to her efforts, scores of nuns in her congregation accessed university training, especially as teachers, and are now running highly successful schools such as St Mary Mount Molo and Mount St Mary’s College Namagunga, Lugazi, Uganda.

    Her predecessor as superior general, Sr Irimina Nungari, and the current head of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis, Sr Cecilia Njeri, credit her for championing the organization of the archives of their congregation as well as drawing solid development plans.

    Fr Lawrence Njoroge teaches Development Studies and Ethics at JKUAT where he is Catholic Chaplain

    Source: Daily Nation…

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