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  • 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.


    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.


    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.


    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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