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  • East African Mormons Look Forward to a Nairobi Temple

    Religion News Service (RNS) || By Fredrick Nzwili || 18 April 2018

    toward a nairobi temple 2018The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will break ground for a temple in Nairobi to serve its growing number of East African followers.

    The church confirmed the plan this week during the visit of its president, Russell M. Nelson. The new leader — installed in January after the death of former President Thomas S. Monson — made Kenya his third stop on a global tour that church officials bill as an effort to connect with the faithful.

    The 16 million-member church’s growth is positive but slowing in the U.S., where it is headquartered in Salt Lake City. Growth is also slowing abroad but stands at about twice the U.S. rate. Construction of a temple — a setting for key Mormon blessings allowed nowhere else — is a sign that the church has established strong roots in a region.

    There are 159 Mormon temples worldwide, and the planned Nairobi temple is one of 30 more announced or under construction. Nelson referred to the church’s early prophets when he told a group of Mormons and guests Monday (April 16) in Nairobi:

    “You perhaps don’t think of yourself as pioneers, but you’re just as much pioneers here now as Brigham Young and his associates were following the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the 1800s,” Nelson said, according to the church. (Smith founded the faith in 1830 in New York state. Young led Mormons to the American West.)

    “Membership in the continent of Africa is about the same as it was for the whole church in the year I was a boy,” Nelson added during an address broadcast to Mormon congregations throughout Kenya.

    About 540,000 Mormons live in Africa, according to the church.

    The future temple in Kenya, home to more than 13,000 Mormons, will be the eighth in Africa. Three temples are already open on the continent: in Accra, Ghana; Aba State in Nigeria; and Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Another two temples —  in Kinshasa, Congo, and Durban, South Africa — are under construction. New temples have also been announced for Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Harare, Zimbabwe, where Nelson traveled to after he left Kenya.

    Elder Jeffrey Holland  — a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the top governing body of the church — accompanied Nelson on the trip and also addressed the gathering in Nairobi.

    “It will be awhile before it’s up, but plan to attend when you can; plan to make that a highlight of your life as often as circumstances and finances and transportation will allow. Nothing will bless you more,” he said.

    Mormon blessings or “ordinances” include the baptism of ancestors and the “sealing” of marriages and families, so they may — Mormons believe — live together after death. These ordinances can only happen in a temple.

    Now, East Africans who want to participate in these ordinances have to travel far to the nearest one, said Evelyn Jepkemei, the director of the church’s Coordinating Council of Public Affairs in Kenya and Tanzania.

    “Members have been traveling to South Africa … but not all can afford the cost. They want the temple to be part of their worship,” Jepkemei told reporters gathered for Nelson’s speech.

    Construction of the Nairobi temple is “part of the vision to ensure that all saints (members) have access to a temple,” she said.

    According to Ellis Mnyandu, the church’s international director of public affairs for the Africa Southeast Area, it takes three to four years build a temple. They are often grand, multistoried structures, and only LDS members may enter once temples are consecrated.

    He said that while a site for the Nairobi temple has been selected, its location has not been made public. “We can only project that the temple will be dedicated about 2021. It will be one of the smaller designs,” said Mnyandu.

    The LDS church, which is organized into wards (single congregations) and then stakes (usually five to 10 wards), has two stakes in Kenya and three in Uganda.

    Mormon missionaries first arrived in Kenya in the 1980s amid suspicion, and the faith group was shunned as a cult and anti-Christian. Mormons call themselves Christians but differ from other denominations in several ways, including that their Book of Mormon is, along with the New Testament, a sacred text, and that the head of the church is considered a prophet.

    But the group has gained acceptance in East Africa and registered with the Kenyan government in 1993. The church carries out humanitarian and disaster relief work, supporting health, clean water, immunization and food programs, among others.

    “The humanitarian capacity is endless. It is going on all the time,” said Sister Lillywhite, one of the church’s missionaries in Kenya.

    Source: Religion News Service…

  • Focus on Witchcraft at Exorcists’ Summit Signifies a Paradigm Shift

    Crux || By John L. Allen Jr. || 18 April 2018

    focus on witchcraft at exorcists summit 2018For most Americans and Europeans, the global north-south shift in the Church’s center of gravity over the last half-century truly comes home when they look around at priests and nuns these days, and see swelling numbers of Filipinos, Indians, Nigerians, Koreans, and multiple other nationalities.

    St. Pope John Paul II used to say that the global south is materially poor but rich in humanity, and all you have to do is look at who’s keeping the Church afloat in most parts of the world to confirm the point.

    However, the demographic transition that now sees two-thirds of a global Catholic population of almost 1.3 billion living in the southern hemisphere is also taking hold in other ways as well, including the Church’s perceived sense of pastoral and theological priorities. Oddly enough, a 13th annual course for exorcists being held this week at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum University offers one such sign of the times.

    Launched in 2004, the course is designed to offer resources to priests who practice the formal ministry of exorcism as well as laity who engage in the more amorphous practice of “prayers of liberation,” though organizers are always at pains to insist it’s not a “school for exorcists,” since ultimately only a bishop can actually commission a priest to perform the rite.

    Laying out this year’s edition on Monday, Professor Giuseppe Ferrari, who heads the “Group for Socio-Religious Research and Information” which sponsors the annual gathering, went over the history of the course and also what’s new in the 2018 edition.

    One novelty, Ferrari said, is that for the first time, the course will feature a section on witchcraft in Africa.

    “We will deal with the theme of the kidnapping and murder of children for ritual sacrifice, linked to witchcraft, in order to obtain favors for clients,” he said, calling it a “cruel and inhuman practice.”

    The strong practical appeal of witchcraft and magic across much of the developing world also became clear on the opening day, after 89-year-old Cardinal Ernest Simoni gave a heartfelt talk about his decades of experience performing exorcisms (always in Latin, and always according to the 1884 formula issued under Pope Leo XIII.)

    During the Q&A that followed, an Indian priest currently serving in Dubai rose to ask a question.

    “Many Muslims come to our place, even highly educated ones,” he said. “They say, ‘Father, someone has done black magic on me, can you pray over me and remove the devil?’”

    “What’s the best way,” the priest asked, “to help these people?” He added that “many come from Lebanon with similar problems.”

    In substance, Simoni replied that exorcism is for everyone, without distinctions of religion: “The grace of the Holy Spirit will redeem us all.”

    To say the least, these aren’t generally the topics that would have surfaced not so long ago in a typical priests’ meeting in the United States or Europe, but as Catholicism becomes increasingly a Church led by the developing world, it’s not just its face that’s changing, but also its voice.

    Among bishops and clergy of the global south, witchcraft long has been a burning pastoral concern.

    In August 2006, the Catholic bishops of Southern Africa, which includes South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana, issued a pastoral letter warning their priests not to moonlight as witch doctors and fortune tellers. Many in Southern Africa turn to sangomas, or traditional healers, to cure illness, ward off evil spirits and even improve their sex lives, and some priests apparently have grafted that role onto their other pastoral tasks.

    While Northerners may see magic and witchcraft in largely benign terms as a form of New Age spirituality, across the South the working assumption is that magic and witchcraft are real but demonic, so the proper response is spiritual combat. The famed Methodist Yoruba scholar Bolaji Idowu has written, “In Africa, it is idle to begin with the question whether witches exist or not…To Africans of every category, witchcraft is an urgent reality.”

    It’s also a matter of life and death. Secretive cults on Nigeria’s 100 university campuses, with names such as “Black Axes” and “Pyrates,” often practice juju, or black magic, to terrify their rivals, and violent struggles between these cults have left hundreds dead.  In 2007, a gang of villagers in Kenya beat an 81-year-old man to death, suspecting him of having murdered his three grandsons through witchcraft.

    In February 2007, the Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, held a three-day symposium on the pastoral challenge of witchcraft. Experts warned that witchcraft was “destroying” the Catholic Church in Africa, in part because skeptical, Western-educated clergy are not responding adequately to people’s spiritual needs.

    “It is important for the Church to understand the fears of the people, and not to attribute them to superstition,” said Michael Katola, a lecturer in pastoral theology. “Witchcraft is a reality; it is not a superstition. Many communities in Kenya know these powers exist.” Katola warned that inadequate pastoral responses are driving some Africans into Pentecostalism.

    “Many of our Christians seek deliverance, healing and exorcism from other denominations because priests do not realize they have redemptive powers,” he said. “If we don’t believe in the existence of witchcraft as Satanism, then we cannot deal with it.”

    Sister Bibiana Munini Ngundo said that the Catholic Church has not paid sufficient attention to “integral healing,” leading people to put their trust in diviners and magicians. Father Clement Majawa of Malawi listed 14 categories of witchcraft practiced in Africa, and argued that the Church’s denial “only escalates the problem.”

    “Since Christ in the gospels encountered the devil, it is proper for Christians to accept the reality of witchcraft,” Majawa said.

    I used to say that we’ll know the global south has arrived in terms of setting the tone in Catholicism when popes and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith give us documents on the pastoral approach to polygamy, not divorce, whenever marriage is in the air. Perhaps another test will be when we get texts on witchcraft rather than women’s ordination or some other hot-button Western issue.

    And that, in short, is what living through a paradigm shift feels like.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Catholics Hail 200 Years of Existence in Southern Africa

    IOL News || By Anna Cox || 18 April 2018

    catholics hail 200 years of existence in southern africaAbout 4 million southern African Catholics will celebrate the 200th anniversary of their freedom of religion in the country in June.

    The Archdiocese of Joburg will mark the occasion with a pilgrimage on Saturday to a new shrine which is under construction in the Magaliesberg. It is set to accommodate about 5000 people, the largest gathering space for Catholics in the country.

    Speaking at the launch of the event at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Doornfontein yesterday, the Archbishop for the Johannesburg diocese, Buti Tlhagale, said the event was being conducted to celebrate the work the church had done over the past 200 years.

    The Catholic Church had done a lot in the fight against apartheid, which included the opening of many schools and hospitals accommodating blacks, which was against the laws of the day, he said.

    The church had defied many government instructions to close them down and had fought hard to keep their doors open, Tlhagale said.

    The church had also been a strong proponent of equal rights.

    “Although, as the Catholics, we are a few steps behind in terms of equality between men and women, we have always fought for equality.”

    Tlhagale said it was difficult to estimate the number of Catholics in the country because the census no longer included the category of religion.

    “There are also thousands of Catholics from other African countries, but it is difficult to keep track of numbers, as people move around,” he said.

    The church had been dealing with the challenges of inter-culturalisation and was often criticised for being perceived as trying to instil Christianity above traditional religions.

    “We have not done enough in this regard. However, half of the Catholic priests in this country still maintain their culture of respect for the ancestors and actively practise their traditional rites. In fact, many priests are openly traditional healers,” Tlhagale said, joking that they were taking out “double insurance”.

    One of the main reasons the church existed today, added Tlhagale, was the instilling of values and morals and to change the lifestyle of people to “imbue virtues of honesty and service to those in need”.

    The Catholic Church started in South Africa in 1804 when Jacob Abraham de Mist, commissioner- general of the Cape Colony, decided that “all religious societies which for the furtherance of virtue and good morals worship an Almighty Being, are to enjoy in this Colony equal protection from the laws”.

    In June 1818, Pope Pius Vll established the Vicariate Apostolic of the Cape of Good Hope and adjacent territories. Subsequently the island of Mauritius was added, and so were New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land (effectively, modern day Australia).

    “While initially interested in serving the white settlers, the church started evangelising black people,” Tlhagale said.

    The church began openly opposing the apartheid regime in the second half of the last century. The ecclesiastical province of Johannesburg was created in 2007.

    Source: IOL News… 

  • Nigerian Bishops Fear Instability Ahead of 2019 Elections

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 17 April 2018

    instability feard in nigeria ahead of 2019 electionsAs Africa’s most populous nation heads to the polls in 2019, Nigerian Bishop Matthew Kukah said it would be “the greatest miracle” if the elections are successfully organized.

    The Bishop of Sokoto said every state in the country has tensions that could “boil over.”

    In a wide-ranging interview published in April’s The Africa Report, Kukah said “it would be difficult to talk about 2019 without a sense of foreboding.”

    He underscored the need for more to be done to “increase a sense of national cohesion,” and urged Nigeria’s electoral commission to do more to convince Nigerians that it is capable of organizing the general elections.

    “I have never felt this way. I prayerfully hope the government will wake up to appreciating how bitter people feel,” the bishop said.

    In September 2017, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria admonished President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to live up to his electoral promises.

    Buhari came to power in 2015 pledging to do away with corruption, eliminate the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, create needed jobs, and unite a country divided by religious and ethnic differences.

    “The reality on the ground and the verdict of most of our people across the nation - irrespective of religious affiliation, ethnic group or social status - point to the contrary. The inability of the government to address the inequitable situation in the country has provided breeding ground for violent reactions, protests and agitations, which exploit the grievances of different segments of the country,” the bishops said in their statement.

    In February, the bishops met with the president, telling him Nigeria “appears to be under siege.”

    “There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The nation is nervous,” the bishops told Buhari during their Feb. 8 meeting.

    “Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country,” their statement continued.

    “We are saddened that, repeatedly, innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed. Lives are wasted and property, worth billions of naira, including places of worship schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes,” they told the president.

    Kukah says such a balance sheet can’t allow for the organization of a peaceful election in Nigeria in 2019 unless “something is done.”

    Meanwhile, the Archbishop emeritus of Lagos, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie on Sunday told Vanguard, one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, that those calling on Buhari to seek re-election risk plunging Nigeria into an “unnecessary revolution.”

    The president’s spokesman announced last week the president would be seeking a second term.

    Okogie described Buhari’s record as “dismal,” and said the vast majority of Nigerians would not be comfortable with him continuing in office.

    “Let me tell here and now, if he gets there (re-election) by hook or crook, people will revolt. Mark my word! Even if he wins, people will revolt, and Nigeria will not be comfortable with him anymore,” the cardinal said. “Nigeria has changed. It’s no longer a country of yes, yes. No! Not anymore. There will be revolution. Even if he puts somebody they don’t like, they will not accept.”

    Yet as many in the country’s Christian-majority south call for Buhari to step aside, he still enjoys strong support in the Muslim-majority north.

    Kukah’s diocese is in Nigeria’s far north; in fact, Sokoto was once the seat of a Caliphate, and is still considered one of the most important Islamic centers in Nigeria.

    Christians only make up about 0.2 percent of the population of the area.

    Kukah predicted that should Buhari - a Muslim - run for re-election, he will be supported by northern voters, despite the fact they are doing worse than they were under the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian.

    The bishop said that the northern elites have failed to provide basic services, such as schools, hospitals, and clinics, but the northern voters think these elites will only be able to be tamed by Buhari, who has long supported the implementation of strict Sharia law in the Muslim areas of Nigeria.

    “It is a strange appeal but that is it. They believe their corrupt elite are above the law,” Kukah said. “They were seduced with Sharia because they believed it was going to help them punish their own elite, who they see as being above the law of Nigeria. These are the issues.”

    Source: Crux… 

  • Kenyan Bishops Urge Compensation for Victims of Post-election Violence

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Fredrick Nzwili || 13 April 2018

    kenyan bishops want compensation for 2017 victimsKenya's Catholic bishops urged compensation for deaths, injuries and loss of property in last year's extended election season, which divided the nation and harmed its economy.

    Disputed elections led to the deaths of about 100 people. Kenya's Supreme Court nullified an Aug. 8 poll, citing procedural irregularities, and President Uhuru Kenyatta won a repeat vote in October that opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted.

    Many people in the East African country "are still traumatized by what they went through and remain bitter, and hence are in need of healing and reconciliation," Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, said at an April 13 news conference in the capital, Nairobi.

    "For those who lost their property and those undergoing medical treatment ... there must be a way of compensation and some assistance" to enable them to "recover their lives and livelihoods," he said.

    The country's bishops welcomed March talks between Kenyatta and Odinga, Bishop Anyolo said, noting that "their coming together was and will continue to be good for the country." Odinga lost in a 2007 election, which was followed by violence fueled by ethnic tensions that killed more than 1,000 people.

    Bishop Anyolo said the bishops hope dialogue between the political leaders will bring a new era of peace, stability and prosperity.

    "We call on them to speed up the process of real, meaningful and lasting reconciliation," he said.

    "We have been praying for a united country, where every person's dignity is respected and where all have equal opportunities," he said.

    In a statement, the bishops called for a national conference that brings together all stakeholders to discuss contentious issues that emerged during last year's elections.

    Their statement, released at the meeting, addressed a range of concerns, including corruption, poverty, education and the family.

    High levels of corruption, extreme poverty, an unprofessional police force and poor service delivery are severe problems in Kenya, Bishop Anyolo said.

    Unless the gap between the poor and the rich is bridged, tensions and conflict will persist, he said.

    "We have to tackle poverty, which in most cases is a byproduct of corruption and looting of resources," he said, noting that corruption has permeated all sectors of society and become a way of life.

    Police need to shun all forms of corruption, including bribe-taking, Bishop John O. Owaa of Ngong, vice chairman of the bishops' conference, said at the news conference.

    The bishops strongly oppose attempts to legalize "gay unions and promote polygamy" in Kenya, Bishop Owaa said, noting that this "is against the will of God."

  • Catholic Leaders: Winnie Mandela was a Friend to South Africa's Poor

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Bronwen Dachs || 16 April 2018

    winnie mandela a friend of poor in south africaAnti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was always a friend to South Africa's poor, said church leaders who took part in a two-week mourning period that culminated in her burial as a national hero.

    "Victims of rape and all kinds of abuse always knew that they could call on Winnie, who would be there for them," said Bishop Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp.

    Often called the "Mother of the Nation" and "Mama Winnie," the ex-wife of the late South African President Nelson Mandela "mothered everybody," said Bishop Phalana.

    Madikizela-Mandela died April 2 at age 81. The April 14 funeral service in Soweto, a township outside Johannesburg, was attended by tens of thousands of people and was followed by a burial ceremony at a memorial park north of Johannesburg.

    Madikizela-Mandela "was (a) very committed woman in her faith," said Precious Blood Sister Hermenegild Makoro, secretary-general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.

    She attended the Wesley Methodist Church in Meadowlands and spent five hours at the Good Friday service there three days before her death, Sister Makoro told Catholic News Service April 12.

    Sister Makoro said she and the conference's associate secretary-general, Stigmatine Father Patrick Rakeketsi, visited the family before the funeral on behalf of South Africa's Catholic Church and "were well received" by Madikizela-Mandela's daughters and other family members.

    Madikizela-Mandela, who had a "complex history," was a "courageous leader," the bishops' conference said in a statement.

    "In her resistance to oppression and in her hatred of injustice, she inspired a whole country, galvanized the youth and inspired women," it said.

    Noting that Madikizela-Mandela had "a suffering and impetuous heart," the bishops said that witnessing the daily "deep humiliations" of her people and observing as a social worker the injustices and human rights abuses of apartheid "were bound to cloud the mind."

    Madikizela-Mandela, who was Johannesburg's first black female social worker, was routinely harassed by apartheid security forces, imprisoned and tortured during Nelson Mandela's 27-year incarceration for his fight against white minority rule.

    For Madikizela-Mandela, the anti-apartheid struggle involved separation from her husband and children, banishment and continuous surveillance, "while bearing the expectations of the oppressed millions," the bishops said.

    "Her life was played out against the background of world attention," they said.

    Madikizela-Mandela's reputation was tarnished when evidence emerged of the brutality of her bodyguards, known as the "Mandela United Football Club." In 1991, she was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault, but her six-year jail sentence was reduced on appeal to a fine and a two-year suspended sentence.

    "The majority of the poor never stopped loving her," said Bishop Phalana, who was among thousands of South Africans, including Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, at an April 11 memorial service in Soweto for Madikizela-Mandela.

    Her "positive attributes were so much more than her flaws," Bishop Phalana said in an April 12 telephone interview.

    "Winnie filled the role of mother for so many people who felt abandoned," he said, noting that she "shared their lives, their pains, their crying and suffering."

  • Inspiration from Salesians in Sierra Leone:  In New Film, Girls Rescued from Prostitution are ‘heroes of the story’

    Crux || By Claire Giangravè || 14 April 2018

    salesians inspire in sierra leone film on rescuing prostitutesWhile journalists often get bogged down in the failures and weaknesses of the Catholic Church, there are times when compelling examples of service, mission and faith should get the attention they deserve.

    What one Catholic religious order is doing to help underage girls working as prostitutes, “the most vulnerable among the vulnerable,” in the African nation of Sierra Leone, is precisely one of those cases.

    Aminata, identified only by her first name, had her first sexual experience at 13. Essentially an orphan, her grandmother was too old and sick to take care of her, leaving her no choice but to survive on her own. At a local dive called the Liberia Bar, two men offered to pay her $5 for sex. She accepted, beginning that day what she described as a “living hell.”

    “I always tell myself that I would not have wanted this life for myself, because in the end I will get sick and die,” she said in a documentary telling her story and that of many other girls like her.

    The film, “LOVE,” artfully directed by Goya prize winner Raúl de la Fuente, was presented in Rome a stone’s throw from the Vatican April 12. It captures the work of Salesian missionaries in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, in helping hundreds of girls forced into prostitution by poverty, misery or neglect.

    The Salesians of Don Bosco - officially the Society of St. Francis de Sales - were founded by Italian St. John Bosco in 1859 to help youth struggling in poverty. They are spread globally, and they’re the third largest Catholic men’s religious order in the world.

    Between 1991 and 2002, Sierra Leone went through a bloody civil war that resulted in over 200,000 deaths. Ebola decimated the country further in 2014, resulting in four thousand dead. One of the main results was an abundance of orphans, some having survived Ebola themselves and living with the stigma associated with it.

    Many of these youths, some as young as nine, have turned to prostitution as an easy way to make money.

    Answering Pope Francis’s call to be a “Church that goes out,” the Salesians decided to get on a bus and look for the girls on the streets where they lived, worked, and sometimes even died. Eventually they created a center, the Don Bosco “Fambul Girl Shelter,” to offer them food, medical assistance, refuge and even a chance to escape and have a better life.

    Salesian Father Jorge Crisafulli, director of the center, said that when he found the first girls and brought them back to the mission, he was surprised not only by their poverty and hunger but also by the fact that, despite all the things they had gone through, they were still just children.

    “We realized immediately when we contacted them, that they are children,” he told journalists at a press event in Rome. “They feel like children, think like children, behave like children, and so the streets and prostitution are definitely not for them.”

    Crisafulli described them as “the most vulnerable among the vulnerable,” and soon learned that they were in need of not just economic help, but also medical and psychological attention. He said that 100 percent of the girls carry STDs, since most of their clients refuse to use protection, and some even have the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.

    According to the priest, there’s a “cash and carry” policy at hospitals in Sierra Leone.

    “If you don’t have the money, you die like a dog,” he said, adding that the regard shown toward animals by far exceeds the care given to the young prostitutes of Freetown.

    “Nobody cares for me” was a constant refrain spoken by the young women in the documentary, who sell their bodies for as little as $1.50 a day. Nor can they rely on the police, which often employs brutality and violence to clear the streets. It’s also not uncommon for police officers to rape the girls they arrest.

    “What we can’t swallow is the fact that they punish the girls and bring them to the station, and they don’t punish the mafia behind it,” Crisafulli said, adding that the mission still tries to work with authorities as closely as possible.

    The Salesians offer the only refuge for the girls. According to Crisafulli, everyone knows that the shelter is “a lightning rod” in the community.

    “We are the face of the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone,” he said.

    Since the shelter was founded in September 2016, over 146 girls have been extracted from a life of prostitution and reunified with their families or adoptive ones. Many parents, upon hearing about the life led by their children, don’t want to welcome the girls back home. But Crisafulli said that grandparents “are amazing, and always welcome them with open arms.”

    That was the case for Aminata, who at the end of the documentary we see transformed, made anew, living with her grandmother and learning to become a hairdresser.

    There are only four Salesians working day in and day out in the poor quarters of town. They are assisted by about 110 staff members and three volunteers. They have already invested in a department with counselors and psychologists, costing over $678,000, which caters to the severe traumas many of these young women face.

    The money for the group comes mostly from missionary aid societies, especially a Salesian foundation in Madrid, Spain. They also receive individual donations, but nothing from international organizations or NGOs. The documentary, costing about $50,000, is a marketing attempt to raise funds and awareness to the important and difficult task of helping these young women.

    During a trip showcasing the film, Crisafulli and his team will attempt to persuade the European Union and the United Nations to support the initiative. In the short term, they hope to employ doctors and gynecologists to be on site to provide medical attention.

    Prostitution is not the only problem in Sierra Leone, and Crisafulli reported that over 110,000 youth are victims of human trafficking every year. In response, the Salesians have launched a phone number that anyone can call for free if they witness, suspect, or have information of instances of human trafficking.

    But in a Muslim majority country, where Catholics represent only 3 percent of the population, he said interreligious dialogue and cooperation is essential for creating lasting results.

    For Crisafulli, these young women “are the heroes of this story,” and he hopes for the project to expand and become a model to help save many other young people suffering from abuse and exploitation all over the world.

    If you have 30 minutes to spare, watch the documentary below with English subtitles.

    Source: Crux… 

  • African, European Bishops: Globalization Demands Vigilance from Church

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Bronwen Dachs || 16 April 2018

    african and european bishops for vigilance in face of globalizationWhile globalization at its best can enable the sharing of spiritual and material riches, it also can lead to huge destruction, the bishops of Europe and Africa said after a four-day meeting in Fatima, Portugal.

    Globalization is a dynamic process that "affects all areas of individual, family and social life, including economics, politics, culture and religion," said an April 16 statement by the Council of European Bishops' Conferences and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.

    Twenty-five bishops were among the more than 35 participants from the two continents who met April 12-15 to discuss the effects of globalization on the church and cultures in Europe and Africa. Cardinal Manuel Clemente, patriarch of Lisbon and president of the Portuguese bishops' conference, and Bishop Antonio Marto of Leiria-Fatima hosted the meeting.

    Participants discussed the impact of globalization on young people, on migration, and in the understanding of humanity and human ecology.

    Economic globalization has led to activities that "cause poverty and show a complete disregard for the poor," said Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, noting that land bought cheaply in African countries for mining or manufacturing activities often displaces people, breaks up families, and damages the environment.

    The world's powerful people and countries, particularly those linked to transnational corporations, "enjoy the fruits of globalization at the expense of the poor," the SECAM treasurer said in an April 14 telephone interview from Fatima.

    The bishops from Africa and Europe discussed the need to work together to address these and other common problems, he said.

    "It's our task as church leaders to help our countries to correct these excesses," he said.

    "Adequate legislation must be put in place to ensure that the vulnerable are not exploited," Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle told CNS, noting that increased human trafficking and internet-based criminal activities were among the "negative effects of globalization" that were discussed at the meeting.

    When misused, social media can "disorientate children and intrude in family life," he said.

    "When used sensibly," online activities, including social media, "can help communication and increase knowledge, but family members need to know that they must control this, and not allow this to control them," he said.

    The European and African bishops' joint statement said that, on one hand, globalization "can serve justice and peace" and "can spread noble and constructive ideas and values."

    Yet, globalization, "when marked by sin as is often the case today, tends to cause a profound gap between rich and poor, between powerful and weak; it strengthens the struggle for power, for growing profit and hedonism; it destroys the legacy of high culture, spirituality, and human dignity, triggering a deconstruction of the very foundations of existence," the statement said.

    "The negative aspects of globalization demand an active and courageous vigilance on the part of priests, consecrated persons, lay faithful, all believers, and people of good will," it said.

    Urging effective action in support of their educational work with families, the bishops noted that "the defense of the poor, sick, marginalized and weak is not optional but imperative."

    The bishops renewed "their dedication to their communities and their continents," and prayed for "the gift of peace for the world, especially for many areas where conflicts are prolonged or intensified," the statement said.

    Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, told participants in the meeting that, in some parts of Europe, it seems that Christianity is dying and faith is considered outdated.

    To different extents, secularism has reached all the countries of Europe, he said, noting that secularism causes society to become bureaucratic and soulless.

    For this reason, the European church's greatest challenge is to engender faith, said Cardinal Bagnasco, who is also president of the Italian bishops' conference.

    Faith, "with Jesus Christ at the center," needs to lead all areas of pastoral care, he said.

    Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango, Angola, president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, said for the African church to be a true "spiritual lung" for humanity, all of its people need to practice reconciliation, justice and peace.

    The two continental groupings have held joint meetings since 2004, Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said, noting that the regular discussions "of common concerns and how they affect the people in our different countries" has helped to "build better pastoral solidarity."

  • Pope Francis Awards Medal to Biographer of South African Archbishop Denis Hurley

    Spotlight.Africa || 11 April 2018

    medal for biographer of archbishop denis hurleyMr Paddy Kearney was awarded a special medal by Pope Francis, recognising his service to the Catholic Church over several decades. He wrote the first comprehensive biography of the great South African Archbishop, Denis Hurley, entitled "Guardian of the Light". Kearney was also instrumental in setting up the Denis Hurley Centre in Durban.

    At a mass celebrated on Sunday, 8 April at Emmanuel Cathedral, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, the Archbishop of Durban, presented Mr Paddy Kearney with the "Benemerenti Medal". The medal is awarded by the pope and was originally established 250 years ago when it was given as a military honour to soldiers in the papal army. However, for the past 100 years, it has been awarded to priests and laypeople in thanksgiving for their exemplary service to the Church.

    Kearney, who was born and educated in Kwazulu-Natal, worked very closely with the late Archbishop Denis Hurley and continues to work closely with Cardinal Wilfrid Napier. He helped to establish Diakonia Council of Churches, an ecumenical organisation that supports Christian churches in Durban in their joint work to promote justice and peace.

    In recent years he helped found and establish the Denis Hurley Centre of which he is now the chairperson. The centre, named in memory of the late archbishop, brings together people of different faiths to help serve the poor in the City of Durban.

    St Joseph's parishioner, Rose Morrow, praised Kearney on social media saying "If anyone deserves a papal medal it is Paddy." She went on to say that she was "very proud of him and of the Church for recognizing remarkable commitment".

    Kearney is the author of the first full biography of Archbishop Hurley: Guardian of the Light: Denis Hurley, Renewing the Church, Opposing Apartheid. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He was also the recipient of the Bonum Commune award from St Augustine College South Africa. At present, he is a consultant to the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council and is the chairperson of The Gandhi Development Trust.

    Upon receiving the medal Kearney said: “I am very grateful to the Parish Pastoral Council of Emmanuel Cathedral together with the Administrator, Fr Nkosinathi Ngcobo, for nominating me to receive this award and to Cardinal Napier for making all the necessary arrangements.”

    The current version of the Benemerenti medal was designed by Pope Paul VI. On it is a gold Greek Cross depicting Christ with his hand raised in the form of a blessing. On the left arm of the cross are the tiara and crossed keys - symbols of the papacy. On the right arm of the medal is Pope Francis' coat of arms. The medal is suspended from a yellow and white ribbon, the colours of the papacy.

    Source: Spotlight.Africa…

  • Ugandan Archbishop Meets with President after Accusing Government of Spying on Him

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

    uganda president reaches out to archbishop 2018President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda on Sunday held private talks with the Archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, in order to try and ease tensions between church and state in the East African country.

    The most recent flareup began on Good Friday, when Lwanga publicly accused the government of recruiting Church personnel to spy on the archbishop.

    “A few days ago, I got a telephone call… it was a private [number]; so, I didn’t know [who was calling] and this person had an accent from western Uganda and this is what he told me, ‘there are many lies being told to the president; that… they have recruited your priests, your sisters, your brothers even catechists and seminarians…and we give them a lot of money,” Lwanga said on March 30.

    “Some of the clergy that have been recruited are giving wrong information; terrible, terrible, terrible messages…This is the humble message I have for His Excellency and the government; you are recruiting wrong people…some of them we have dismissed and the people with that record are some of those who are shining as saints before you, talking about Archbishop [Stanley, the archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda] Ntagali, myself and others,” Lwanga said.

    Lwanga said another unidentified person “came at night at his gate and threw a letter. When I opened the letter, I saw a list of those who have been recruited to work for the security agencies.”

    The archbishop repeated his claims of state spies infiltrating the Church in an Easter Sunday Mass, and brought up the case of a priest who died recently under mysterious circumstances.

    Lwanga warned Museveni not to be guided by people who tell him “lies” such as “competing politicians, business people, and civil servants, members of the press, police officers and the security agencies.”

    “Mr. President, these people…are your enemies and they are going to make you fail, because your mind is poisoned, and you act on that information.”

    The Ugandan Minister in charge of security, Gen. Elly Tumwiine, added to the controversy when he told New Vision Tv that Lwanga had no reason to worry if he wasn’t doing anything sinister.

    But the spokesperson for the police, Emilian Kayima, said steps have been taken to investigate the archbishop’s allegations.

    “We will ensure that his security and safety are guaranteed,” he said.

    Meanwhile, a statement issued from State House on Easter Monday said: “President Yoweri Museveni and the Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, have today spoken over the phone and agreed on a way forward.”

    According to The Observer, the president let the archbishop know his displeasure.

    “The president said he had had a better working relationship with Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala because for him if he had any problem, he would seek audience with the president instead of going to the media like Lwanga does,” a government source told the newspaper.

    Lwanga said the president had “done well” in calling him, noting that he told the president exactly what he had told the congregation.

    Later, Lwanga accused the state of intervening in the governance of the Church.

    “It is the government interfering with the Church. If I went and recruited somebody from the army, I think I would be arrested. So, I call upon whoever is concerned in this saga to tell the truth. If it is true that [Ugandan security agencies] are recruiting from my priests, then they are the ones interfering with the administration of the Church,” he said Apr. 4 on the sidelines of the Inter Religious Council of Uganda.

    “We don’t ordain priests to be spies,” he said.

    Lwanga has been a vocal critic of Museveni, especially after the constitution was being amended at the end of last year to remove presidential term limits.

    At the time, Lwanga called on Ugandans to “resist the bad politics” that characterized Uganda.

    Museveni also got in his shots. During his New Year speech, the president said religious leaders are “full of arrogance.”

    According to a government press release, the April 8 meeting was meant to find a way forward “on ironing out the standing matters,” adding that “investigations are already underway by the relevant authorities.”

    Source: Crux…

  • Conference Honors Women Religious Who put their Lives at Risk to Serve

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 11 April 2018

    conference honors women religious on the frontlines 2018Today's women religious belong to "a long line of courageous women" whose faith in God and love for humanity led them to put their lives at risk, said Sister Patricia Murray, an Irish member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    In situations of war and conflict around the globe, women religious face the same dangers as the women they live and work with, including rape and murder, said Sister Yudith Pereira-Rico, a member of the Religious of Jesus and Mary and executive director of Solidarity with South Sudan.

    The two sisters and several others spoke April 11 at a symposium, "Women Religious on the Frontlines," sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, the International Union of Superiors General and Solidarity with South Sudan, an international project of women's and men's religious orders.

    Callista Gingrich, the U.S. ambassador, opened the conference saying women religious are "often the unsung heroes of the Catholic Church" and that their service to people and their contributions to peace and justice "should be emulated and celebrated."

    The ambassador used the occasion to introduce Sister Maria Elena Berini, a 73-year-old Italian member of the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Antide Thouret. On the recommendation of the embassy, Sister Berini, a missionary in the Central African Republic, was honored in March as one of the U.S. State Department's "International Women of Courage."

    Sister Murray, executive director of the International Union of Superiors General, told the gathering that for centuries women religious have been "leaving home and crossing seas, deserts, mountains and vast plains to reach those most in need and, particularly, those most abandoned."

    Throughout the conference, people mentioned women religious who, living among the poor and displaced, were victims of war and murder, particularly in Latin America and in Africa.

    Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, set aside his prepared text to speak of the women religious he met or heard stories about in his work as a Vatican diplomat, paying particular homage to three elderly Xaverian Missionary sisters brutally murdered in Burundi in September 2014.

    But from Libya where "the church was built around sisters" to the aboriginal communities of Australia where the sisters work on "the frontlines of people's despair," he said, there are "examples of religious women living on the frontlines, working on the frontlines, living out their faith in these places" and "giving enormous witness to the church and to us."

    The Rome conference focused especially on the work of women religious in combatting human trafficking and assisting survivors and on their steadfast commitment to communities, like in South Sudan and Syria, that are experiencing conflict and war.

    In panel discussions on both issues, the sisters emphasized the need for education: to warn people about the false promises traffickers make; to help women and girls gain the knowledge and skills they need to survive and thrive, and to participate actively in peace and reconciliation processes; and to educate men and boys to respect women and girls.

    Speaking particularly about trafficking victims forced into prostitution, panelists said a key part of prevention is eliminating demand by educating men about the slave conditions under which most prostitutes work and the fact that using a woman like that is a violation of her dignity.

    Dominican Sister Cecilia Espenilla, who coordinates the Philippine branch of the anti-trafficking organization Talitha Kum, said, "There is that mentality, culturally and socially, that women are second-class, that women are of less value or no value at all."

  • Africans Stand for Life in UN Battles Over Reproductive Health

    Catholic News Agency || By Courtney Grogan || 09 April 2018

    africans standing for life in un 2018 meetingAfrican Catholics remained concerned about a push from Western leaders to promote abortion and contraception in Africa in the name of economic development, especially as the United Nations Commission on Population and Development began its annual meeting Monday.

    Pope Francis has repeatedly warned against Western “ideological colonization” of developing countries in which aid money comes tied to contraceptives, abortion, sterilization, and gender ideologies.

    “‘Reproductive health’ is the phrase that is the battleground of every UN Commission meeting we attend,” said law professor Teresa Collett, who will be attending the 51st session of the UN Commission on Population and Development, from April 9 to 13.

    “Now ‘reproductive health’ as a phrase doesn’t sound that bad,” continued Collett, “The problem is that is diplomat speak for abortion on demand. It’s diplomat speak for contraception” Collett explained last week at a conference at the Catholic University of America marking the 50th anniversary of Humanae vitae.

    At last year’s UN population and development meeting in New York,  the debate over reproductive health was “so heated that we had no outcome document,” Collett explained. She partly accredits this to the fact that “African nations stood strong.”

    The UN preparatory document implicitly recommends policies to reduce the birth rates in Africa:

    “In much of Africa and parts of Asia, numbers of children and youth are rising rapidly. Policies ... to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services are critical to achieve further reductions in maternal and child mortality. Typically, such policies lead also to a reduction in the birth rate.”

    The document continued: “In countries where growth in the number of children and youth has slowed recently, there is an historic opportunity for more rapid economic growth. With a sustained reduction in the birth rate, the working-age population (ages 25-64) may continue to grow for a few more decades, temporarily raising the ratio of workers to dependents.”

    Underlying  these UN debates are ‘neocolonialist’ Western assumptions about what African women want, according to Nigerian Catholic Obianuju Ekeocha, the author of a new book, “Target Africa.”

    “For world leaders, the plan of action is very clear -- a dedicated effort in population control in developing countries. But in their single-minded obsession to reduce the fertility rate of women in sub-Saharan Africa, the one important consideration the experts have omitted is the desired fertility rate of the women in question,” Ekeocha wrote.

    Ekeocha cites a 2010 USAID report on the number of children desired by people in various parts of the world, which showed that “the desired number of children is highest among people in western and middle Africa, ranging from 4.8 in Ghana to 9.1 in Niger and 9.2 in Chad, with an average of 6.1 children for the region.”

    “Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae vitae. For these African women, in all humility have heard, understood, and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope,” Ekeocha wrote in a 2012 open letter to Melinda Gates.

    Despite widespread moral opposition to birth control in many African countries, 77,225,741 units of unspecified birth control pills were donated to African countries in 2014 by Western governments and organizations, according to Ekeocha’s research.

    “Populations-program donations to Africa used to be the lowest portion of social-sector foreign aid, much lower than aid for education, health, water, sanitation, and so on. But since 2009, population control funding has surged ahead of funding for everything else. In 2014, the United States and the United Kingdom targeted 31 percent and 43 percent respectively of their African aid to population control,” Ekeocha wrote.

    Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, affirmed those findings at last week’s Humanae vitae conference.  

    “In Africa, both Protestants and Catholics lean toward traditionalism in moral teaching … .It is in tradition-minded Africa that Christianity has grown explosively in the years since Humanae vitae,” Eberstadt said.

    “As the Pew Research Center put it a few years ago, Africans are among the most morally opposed to contraception. Substantial numbers of people in Kenya, Uganda, and other Sub-Saharan countries, Catholic and otherwise agree with the proposition that contraception is unacceptable. In Ghana and Nigeria, it is more than half of the population,” continued Eberstadt.

    In a paper presented at the same conference, Collet wrote that “during much of the past sixty years, Western intellectuals and philanthropists have aggressively promoted birth control as a moral response to a variety of real or perceived global problems. The West, and more particularly the United States, United Kingdom, and Scandinavian countries, have actively engaged in what might fairly be called “ideological colonization” through their worldwide promotion of a contraceptive mentality.”

    In 1968, the same year that Humanae vitae was promulugated, “USAID began purchasing contraceptives to distribute in developing countries” and “Robert McNamara, as president of World Bank, announces that population control will be an element of review of loans,” Collett reported.

    In the years that followed, governments began implementing mandatory population control policies, just as Pope Paul VI had predicted in his encyclical.

    In India, 10 million sterilizations were performed within 20 months of a National Population Policy that went into effect in 1976. “All public employees were told that there jobs would be cut or their salaries eliminated if they would not be sterilized,” said Collett.

    Two years later, China implemented its “Family Planning Policy,” better known as the “One Child Policy.”

    “This policy allowed (and incentivized) local government officials to monitor women’s menstrual periods and forcibly abort and sterilize women who were not compliant.  In 1983 the Chinese Ministry of Health reported 21 million births, 14.4 million abortions, 20.7 million (predominantly female) sterilizations, and 17.8 million IUD insertions were performed,” Collett explained.

    “Not withstanding these horrific practices permitted under the Indian and Chinese Policies, in 1984 the first UN Population Award was given to Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, and Qian Xinzhong, Minister-in-Charge of the State Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China.”

    At the next Population World Conference, President Ronald Reagan announced the Mexico City Policy, which states that the U.S. would not fund any international program involving coerced abortion, or abortion in general.

    “Under every Republican President we have made the determination, consistent with federal law that the United Nations FPA is involved in programs that involve coercive abortion and therefore we will not fund UNFPA. Every Democrat president has restored that funding. This is the topic in part of the UN Population Commission annual meeting ...next week,” Collett said at CUA on April 5.

    In 2017, President Donald Trump expanded the Mexico City Policy and directed money that would go to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to the Department of State Global Health Initiative to “assist in helping African nations … training helping birth attendants … to ensure healthy pregnancy deliveries, to ensure the availability of clean blood supplies and clean water supplies are available to women in labor,” she added.

    In “Target Africa,” Ekeocha wrote that “when President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy in 2017, a number of Western leaders scrambled to make up for the $600 million that America was going to withhold from pro-abortion organizations. They raised about $190 million through the She Decides campaign launched in Brussels, where Sweden, Finland, and Canada each pledged $20 million for abortion provider.”

    “An anonymous donor in the United States committed $50 million, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation promised $20 million, and hedge-fund manager and philanthropist Chris Hohn promised $10 million. On top of Canada’s commitment to She Decides, a few days after the Brussels fundraiser Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $650 million toward worldwide women’s reproductive health programs, including abortion services,” Ekeocha continued.

    Ekeocha’s research indicates that the countries most aggressively promoting worldwide abortion are the same countries facing low fertility rates. Canada, Finland, and Belgium all have fertility rates below the replacement rate.

    “Without exceptions, these nations are facing the real and imminent threat of a demographic winter, yet they join forces to ensure that the unborn babies of Africa can be aborted without any impediments,” she wrote.

    “In their attempts to legalize abortion across Africa, abortion advocates say that legalized abortion is a way to reduce high maternal mortality rates.”

    “There is no telling how many lives could be saved if even a fraction of the billions of dollars being spent by Western donors on contraception and abortion in Africa were directed toward improving the quality of obstetric care.”

    Source: Catholic News Agency… 

  • Conservative Faith Leaders Worry Kenya will Repeal Ban on Gay Sex

    Religion News Service (RNS) || By Fredrick Nzwili || 06 April 2018

    worry kenya will repeal ban on gay sexIn Kenya, where conservative Christian and Muslim leaders often preach passionately against gay relationships, a court could soon overturn the national ban on gay sex.

    “We are concerned about move to legalize the acts. We still believe in the Bible. The Bible is above our cultures and does not allow it. So we must stand for that truth,” said retired Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of the Mombasa Diocese.

    Kalu and many other faith leaders in Kenya, which is 83 percent Christian, fear their country could this year follow South Africa and become the second on the continent to decriminalize gay sex.

    Muslim leaders and other non-Christians in Kenya — and across most of Africa — also generally hold gay relationships in contempt. But the country’s increasingly vocal LGBT groups are hoping the High Court of Kenya will rule favorably on a 2016 petition that calls the criminalization of gay sex discriminatory. The court is due to pronounce a date for the ruling on April 26.

    Some religious leaders have lobbied against the law, which carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. They say repealing the ban — which they call a vestige of British colonialism — is a matter of protecting gay Kenyans’ health and dignity.

    While few are actually imprisoned under the law, it has been used as a justification for harassment, violence and discrimination against gay people — at the hands of police, but also relatives who believe a gay person shames a family.

    “It is particularly disturbing when religious values are used to justify persecution of selected groups,” said the Rev. Kennedy Mwita, district superintendent of the United Methodist Church in South Nyanza. “Christians proclaim that all people are God’s children and deserve protection of their human and civil rights.”

    Said the Rev. John Makokha, of the LGBT-welcoming Riruta Hope Community Church in Nairobi: “A repeal would give LGBT people their freedom, which many are yearning for.”

    The many religious and government leaders who want the ban to remain in place say it upholds not only biblical values and natural law, but separates African from Western societies they deem culturally debased in their acceptance of gay sex and marriage.

    “I think it’s a delicate matter of concern to the church. Our churches do not exist in isolation, but we fear the secular forces will always be against the church,” said Kalu, adding that he won’t be surprised if the ruling is in favor of repeal.

    Religious conservatives also fear the petition’s success in Kenya would spur other African nations to repeal their bans, and they are aware that LGBT advocates in Kenya have already had some success in the courts this year. Last month a court in Mombasa outlawed forced anal examinations in sex crime cases.

    Source: Religion News Service… 

  • Asylum Seekers in Israel Try to Weave a Safety Net as Deportation Looms

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Melanie Lidman || 05 April 2018

    weaving a safety net as deportation loomsSr. Azezet Kidane, a Comboni Missionary sister originally from Eritrea, thought the worst part of the trauma for the Eritrean asylum seekers she counsels in Israel was already behind her. Through Kidane's work with Physicians for Human Rights, she uncovered thousands of incidents of torture among asylum seekers who were kidnapped along their route from Africa.

    But the Eritreans in Tel Aviv, already struggling with poverty, isolation and discrimination, and some who were slowly healing from torture, now face yet another hurdle: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's aggressive and controversial plan to deport African asylum seekers. Deportation is set to begin within weeks.

    Netanyahu, buoyed by a conservative-led government, charges that the migrants came to Israel for economic reasons and they threaten Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

    On Monday, Netanyahu made the dramatic announcement that the state will work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to resettle half of the asylum seekers in third countries such as Canada and Sweden in exchange for permanent status for the remaining asylum seekers. But only hours later, he froze the deal and then outright canceled it after pushback from right-wing activists, throwing the asylum seeker community further into uncertainty.

    The deportation plans, originally slated to start during Passover, the Jewish holiday that marks the liberation from slavery in Egypt, have garnered widespread condemnation from diaspora Jews, Holocaust survivors and left-wing activists in Israel.

    "The people of Israel — a country built by those who fled Hitler's ovens and the oppression of Arab countries where they were treated as second-class citizens — understand the injustice of the government's policy in our bones," wrote Rabbi Susan Silverman in an op-ed in The New York Times.

    There are 38,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, according to the Israeli government. About 72 percent are Eritrean and 20 percent are Sudanese. The rest are from Nigeria, Côte D'Ivoire and other places.

    Eritrean asylum seekers came to Israel via Sudan and Egypt, fleeing a harsh dictator and compulsory military service that can last up to 40 years for men. Sudanese asylum seekers fled genocide in Darfur and fighting between Sudan and South Sudan. Both groups face danger and possible death if they are deported to their country of origin.

    The vast majority arrived in Israel between 2006 and 2012. In 2014, Israel completed construction of a 150-mile electronic fence along the border with Sinai, which brought the illegal immigration to a complete halt. Netanyahu boasted about its effectiveness on Twitter.

    About 7,000 asylum seekers passed through kidnappers' torture camps in the Sinai desert just a few miles from the Israeli border. In June 2012, Hilary Clinton, then U.S. secretary of state, honored Kidane with a Trafficking in Persons Report Hero Award for helping expose the existence of the Sinai camps by collecting 1,500 testimonies for Physicians for Human Rights.

    In the camps, victims were sometimes tortured while they were on the phone begging family members in Israel and Eritrea to pay ransom money.

    Read more at Global Sisters Report… 

  • South Africa Bishops Say Zuma’s Court Appearance Good for Democracy

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 09 April 2018

    zuma court appearence good for democracyFormer South African President Jacob Zuma must be accountable for his actions, according to the bishops of the country.

    Zuma appeared briefly in a courtroom in Durban on April 6 to face corruption charges less than two months after his resignation.

    The former leader faces sixteen charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering related to a 1990’s arms deal, when he was deputy president.

    The case fueled public anger against corruption in the country, and Zuma was forced to resign in February after being abandoned by the ruling African National Congress party.

    “One of the premises of a democracy and the rule of law is that no one is above the law and everyone is accountable for their actions,” said Father Peter-John Pearson, director of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference Parliamentary Liaison Office.

    “So even though there is a tradition of explicitly or implicitly covering up for the wrongdoings of people with political or corporate clout, the willingness to take former President Zuma to court is an important public step against an encroaching culture of impunity,” he told Crux.

    At the hearing, the judge said Zuma was free “on warning” and must return to court on June 8. He could face several years in prison. Zuma has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

    “Mr. Zuma has always claimed to be innocent and indeed the constitution of our country states that each citizen has the constitutional right to be innocent until proven guilty,” said Kimberly Bishop Abel Gabuza, who serves as the chair of the bishops’ conference justice and peace commission.

    “Mr. Zuma has stated in the past that he wishes to have his day in court. Now the ball is in his court to present himself in court in order to prove his innocence. He has to do this for the sake of his own integrity and for his family. Indeed, let him appear in court and if found not guilty he will go down as one who served his country with distinction,” the bishop told Crux.

    Gabuza said if Zuma is found guilty however, it “will be the final nail in the coffin” regarding the rumors about his acts of corruption.

    “He is alleged to have had so much dealing with corrupt individuals with the intention of enriching himself and his cronies. The allegations will have to be proved that they are false,” he told Crux.

    The bishop said Zuma’s court appearance is an example in accountability for Africa as a whole, where corrupt leaders had frequently escaped justice.

    “The acts of corruption by various leaders in Africa who escape with impunity should come to an end,” Gabuza said.

    He said there were many African leaders who “treat the treasury and the resources of their respective countries as their personal possessions,” and as they do that, basic services like healthcare and infrastructure development are neglected.

    “Leaders should be held accountable and never escape being brought to book so that they can account for the large monies in their personal accounts,” the bishop said.

    He praised new President Cyril Ramophosa - who had been a longtime ally of Zuma - for “making the right noises and saying the right things about corruption.”

    “He has appealed to citizens to work together and develop the country. He has called for corrupt individuals in both the civil service and corporate world to be named and shamed for the acts of corruption. He has reminded that corruption does not contribute to the growth of our country,” Gabuza said.

    Pearson added that since coming to power, Ramaphosa fired warning shots when he sacked ten members of Zuma’s cabinet who were alleged to have been either complicit in corrupt activities or weak in tackling corruption.

    “He has taken the issues of boards of public enterprises and tender processes in hand; he has suspended the South African Revenue Services boss. It is also significant that from the outset he has indicated that there would be no immunity for those charged with corruption irrespective of their status,” the priest said.

    “The case of former President Zuma seems to be proof of the seriousness with which President Ramaphosa is taking his responsibility. It is generally and widely acknowledged that he has gotten off to a good start and there are many signs that he has the political will to take this project forward,” he added.

    Pearson said such decisive actions have led to confidence from virtually every quarter that he is “moving in the right direction.”

    “Many see him in the mold of President Mandela,” he told Crux.

    Nelson Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning anti-apartheid activist, served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, after the country’s first multi-racial elections.

    Corruption in South Africa was “cancerous” in the apartheid era, Pearson said, but it has been worse over the past decade.

    “It is said that since 1994 South Africa lost [$59 billion] in corruption, about [$2.5 billion] a year, and roughly 20 percent of the country’s procurement budget,” he told Crux.

    “Figures are never accurate because by its nature and operation there is always a hidden cost involved in corruption,” the priest continued. “It is certain however that every act of corruption is an act of theft from the poor! And a moment of destabilization of democracy.”

    Pearson said any effective fight against corruption must be built on the foundation of strong institutions, and Zuma’s court appearance demonstrates that in South Africa, “the institutions of democracy and civil society remains strong.”

    “Civil society which did not allow this issue to off the boil or drop from the radar screen and kept up the pressure for it to happen, is also to be commended. Across the world - but certainly on our continent -  we need to ensure that our democratic institutions are not captured by powerful interests; that we invest in ensuring that they remain robust and that we take participation in the political culture, very seriously,” Pearson concluded.

    Gabuza noted, however, that it will certainly take time “for some individuals to unlearn the many acts of corruption that have become part of their way of doing things, almost a culture.” But the bishop insisted that acts of corruption must still be severely punished.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Gunmen Kill Parish Priest in Eastern Congo after Sunday Mass

    The Washington Post || By Associated Press || 08 April 2018

    priest killed in eastern congo after mass 2018A Catholic leader in Congo says gunmen have killed a parish priest after a Mass in Congo’s eastern region.

    The Rev. Emmanuel Kapitula in Kitchanga said armed men entered a room in Masisi where the priest, Etienne Nsengiunva, was eating with others on Sunday and shot him dead.

    Kapitula called on the government to protect people and to investigate Nsengiunva’s slaying.

    The killing comes a week after another priest was kidnapped after celebrating Easter Sunday Mass. He was released Thursday.

    Roman Catholic churches and activists have led nationwide demonstrations this year against Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s extended rule.

    The Catholic Church oversaw the signing of an accord a year ago that set a date for a new election in the mineral-rich country, but the election repeatedly has been postponed.

    Source: The Washington Post…

  • Archbishop Condemns Ritual Killing of Children in Senegal

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 05 April 2018

    ritual killings in senegal condemnedSenegal’s top Catholic cleric has condemned a series of ritualistic killings in the West African country.

    This year has seen a sharp rise in child killings in Senegal - a phenomenon blamed on politicians looking for wealth and power approaching witchdoctors to perform black magic rituals.

    Local media have counted at least six cases in Dakar, the capital, this year. The corpses of the victims are usually found days after they disappear-mutilated, certain parts like the genitals, the heart and the kidneys taken away.

    Dakar Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye said that “no amount of political ambition, or the taste for riches, or any other motive justifies the taking away of innocent lives or any threat to their dignity.”

    He was speaking to over 20,000 young people at the 33rd edition of diocesan World Youth Day.

    The archbishop referred to the Prophet Jeremiah’s warning - “do not shed innocent blood” - noting that that warning made in Old Testament times is still relevant today in view of what is happening with children in Senegal.

    “When I think about the abduction of children, at ritual killings, I have the impression that these prophetic words are addressed directly to us today,” Ndiaye said.

    “No one has the right to take another’s life,” the archbishop said. “If you can’t give life, why should you have the power to take it?”

    Over 90 percent of Senegal’s population professes to be Muslim, while only 5 percent are Christian, with the majority of Christians being Catholic. Despite this fact, many still practice animist rituals and almost all cities and villages have resident witch doctors.

    In March, a 14-year-old girl from Khombole College, east of Dakar, was taken by unknown assailants, but the girl was too old for whoever hired the kidnappers.

    “Fortunately for me, I did not meet the criteria,” the girl told Radio Futurs Médias. “The man wanted children aged between 2-4 years.”

    But two-year-old Fallou Diop wasn’t so lucky. His body was found on March 22 on a farm near his parents’ home in Rufisque - less than 20 miles east of Dakar.

    “He was playing with his twin sister when unknown people took him away,” the child’s mother told the newspaper Le Monde.

    The killings have created a climate of fear in Senegal and the government has promised to take action.

    President Macky Sall has promised to track down and bring the perpetrators to justice, saying he learned about the killings and abductions “with much pain.”

    “Senegal will do more than in the past to halt these terrible acts,” he told Radio Futurs Médias.

    Senegal’s Director of Public Security and Senior Superintendent of Police Abdoulaye Diop said he had set up a taskforce to fight the practice.

    “The general feeling of insecurity will be dissipated,” he told Le Monde. “That is why we have taken strong measures to reinforce national security.”

    The phenomenon is not specific to Senegal alone. Ritual killings have been reported in several other African countries, including Uganda, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and South Africa.

    Those who practice human sacrifice and ritual killings believe them to be acts of spiritual fortification.

    Witch doctors use human body parts for supposed medicinal purposes and for black magic rituals which aim to bring prosperity and protection.

    Many of the killings usually go unreported and uninvestigated, often because they involve those at the highest levels of power, both in government and business.

    Popular protests

    On Saturday, March 24, about 500,000 people gathered in Dakar to protest against ritual killings, many of them dressed in black in a symbol of mourning.

    They brandished slogans such as “Dafadoy” meaning “it’s enough!”

    “It’s a cry from the heart to call on parents and the government to take their responsibilities and protect our children,” said Anta Pierre Loum, one of the organizers of the march.

    “I am only a mother who has stood up to protest. The death of little Fallou was one more death too many. Senegal has never known a similar wave of assaults on children. The other day, my son woke up with a start - he just had a nightmare and was crying: ‘Don’t take me away!’ This has to stop.”

    With one year remaining until Senegal’s next presidential election, many observers are suggesting that the spike in killings is due to candidates seeking help from witch doctors.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Catholic Priest's Kidnap Illustrates Problems Congolese Church Faces

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Fredrick Nzwili || 05 April 2018

    challenges church in congo facing with priest kidnappingThe recent kidnapping of a Congolese priest illustrates some of the problems the Catholic Church has faced during the prolonged conflict.

    Father Celestin Ngango of St. Paul Karambi Parish in the Diocese of Goma was kidnapped by armed men April 1. He was leaving a parish after celebrating Easter Mass when the abductors pulled him out of a vehicle and ordered him to follow them into the bush.

    The Congolese bishops' conference "condemns the kidnapping ... and demands his immediate release," Father Donatien Nshole, conference general secretary, said in a statement April 3.

    "The conference recalls that priests are people of God consecrated to serve others," he said.

    Contacted for an update of the situation, the bishops' conference pointed to its April 3 statement.

    Initially, the kidnappers asked for "the absurd sum of $500,000," Bishop Theophile Kaboy Ruboneka of Goma told Fides, news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. "Now they are asking for $50,000, but where can we find such a sum? It is impossible."

    He said the area has kidnappings daily, but "usually the sums requested are much lower -- $500 to $2,000."

    "We are trying to talk to the kidnappers, but it is not easy. ... We have no way of contacting them," Bishop Kaboy Ruboneka told Fides.

    Father Ngango 's abduction brings to six the number of priests kidnapped since 2012 in eastern Congo. Last July, Fathers Jean-Pierre Akilimali and Charles Kipasa were abducted from their parish in North Kivu province. During the militia attack on the parish, several rooms were destroyed, and the local population was terrorized.

    In October 2012, three Assumptionists priests, Fathers Jean Pierre Ndulani, Edmond Kisughi and Anselme Wasukundi, were kidnapped from their parish in Mbau and have never been found.

    Bishop Kaboy Ruboneka said the latest kidnapping is one of the many daily incidents related to human trafficking in the region. An estimated 100 militias -- local and those armed by foreign powers -- are believed to operate in the region, which experienced violence and instability for nearly two decades.

    With the government failing to exercise any meaningful control in the region, civilians in Congo's North Kivu region, which borders Rwanda and Uganda, have been brutalized by militias, rebels and military units. Thousands of women have been raped by the armed groups.

    Priests fighting for human rights also have been killed. In March 2016, Father Vincent Machozi, a priest who had frequently denounced the illegal exploitation of resources in the region, was assassinated. Other priests murdered in the area include Fathers Romain Kahindo in 2002 and Christian Mbusa in 2010.

    Analysts say competition for mineral resources is the key factor fueling the violence, but recently succession politics added to the troubles.

    Challenging what they termed as an "illegal" third term for President Joseph Kabila and recently moving to broker a deal between the government and opposition parties, the Catholic Church has found itself targeted. Churches, convents and Catholic schools have been vandalized or looted by armed groups.

    In the April statement, Father Nshole called on authorities to ensure the protection of citizens and their property throughout the country, particularly in North and South Kivu.

  • Non-violence ‘at heart of Martin Luther King’s message’

    The Tablet || By James Roberts || 04 April 2018

    non violence at heart of martin luther kingTributes marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King on 4 April 1968 emphasised the civil rights leader’s advocacy of non-violent resistance in the fight against racism.

    The US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee issued a statement saying: “This anniversary gives us an important moment to draw inspiration from the way in which Dr King remained undeterred in his principle of non-violent resistance, even in the face of years of ridicule, threats and violence for the cause of justice.”

    The bishops recalled that Dr King came to Memphis – where he was shot while talking with friends on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel - to support underpaid and exploited African-American sanitation workers, and arrived on a plane that was under a bomb threat.

    “He felt God had called him to solidarity with his brothers and sisters in need. In his final speech on the night before he died, Dr King openly referenced the many threats against him, and made clear that he would love a long life. But more important to him, he said, was his desire to simply do the will of God.”

    “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends,” the bishops said, quoting John 15: 13.

    “Our faith urges us to be courageous, to risk something of ourselves, in defending the dignity of our neighbour who is made in the image of God,” the bishops concluded. “We can best honour Dr Martin Luther King and preserve his legacy by boldly asking God - today and always - to deepen our own commitment to follow his will wherever it leads in the cause of promoting justice.”

    Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, spoke to Vatican News about the similarities between Dr King and Pope Francis.

    He said the two men share a focus on the importance of non-violence and the need for global solidarity. “Every human development can be achieved only through non-violence. Violence represents new problems and new divisions,” Archbishop Jurkovic said.

    On the need for solidarity, the nuncio said the Church believes, and Martin Luther King Jr. believed, that “we all belong to one human family and we have to overcome every division, especially those based on racial or social differences.”

    “The perception is that Pope Francis is one of the few people really, consistently defending human rights … Striving for peace,” Archbishop Jurkovic said.

    Following Dr King’s death, Pope Paul VI at an Angelus address in St Peter’s Square expressed his sorrow for the killing “of a Christian prophet for racial integration”.

    Pope Francis, in his address to the US Congress on 24 September, 2015, said Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “dream” (of racial equality and integration) continues to inspire Christians around the world.

    Source: The Tablet… 

  • Catholic Church Extends Condolences to the Families of Mama Madikizela Mandela

    Spotlight.Africa || 03 April 2018

    catholic church extends condolences to winnie mandela familyArchbishop William Slattery, spokesperson for the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) has released the following statement extending the condolences of the Church to the family of Madikizela Mandela.

    The Roman Catholic Church extends sincere sympathies to the Madikizela and Mandela families on the passing of the matriarch, Nomzama Winnie Mandela. For over 50 years Winnie Mandela was a major figure in the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa. For her that struggle involved separation from her husband and children, banishment, continual surveillance while bearing the expectations of the oppressed millions. Her life was played out against the background of world attention.

    Winnie Mandela was a committed activist, she was a courageous leader. She was much more than just the wife of Nelson Mandela, she had many identities. In her resistance to oppression and in her hatred of injustice she inspired a whole country, galvanized the youth and inspired women. In the dark and oppressive years her resistance to apartheid was like a trumpet call to thousands not to fall but to arise and press on.

    She has a complex history. Mistakes were made arising from a suffering and impetuous heart. To witness the deep humiliations of one's people every day, to observe as a social worker the blanket inequality of access to welfare, health, schools, land and basic rights were bound to cloud the mind. One is inclined to remember Debora and some of the other great women of the Old Testament.

    Winnie Mandela was a world figure and this enabled her to speak where millions of other women could not. Yet, her courage, her thirst for justice for all, black and white, her inspired and persistent defiance towards an unjust system was historic and will inspire many in the future.

    On Good Friday two days before her death she spent 5 hours in Church, may she now meet and encounter her Lord face to face.

    May she rest in peace.

    Source: Spotlight.Africa… 


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Video: Kamba Peace Museum - Machakos


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