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Film shows Salesians’ work to rescue girls from prostitution in Sierra Leone

April 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Freetown, Sierra Leone, Apr 17, 2018 / 04:23 pm (ACI Prensa).- In Sierra Leone, Salesian missionaries are working to extract girls working as prostitutes from their lifestyle, providing them with shelter and helping them to be reunited with family members or placed in adoptive homes.

In 2016, Salesian missionaries working in Freetown realized there was a large number of girls who were selling their bodies to get food.

“The youngest was 9 years old, and the oldest 17. Then the idea came up of creating a shelter as an alternative environment for them to help them get out of prostitution. They sell their bodies to earn $1.80 to $2.50 a day to pay for school because a lot of them go to school just like any other child,” Fr. Jorge Mario Crisafulli explained.

The Salesian priest is the director of their Don Bosco Fambul Center for the Protection of Minors. He recently visited several European cities to present “Love,” a short Spanish language documentary which shows the suffering of girls forced to prostitute themselves and who are rescued from the streets.

The priest has spent 23 years in Africa, and has been in Sierra Leone for three years.

“We have nine programs to help boys and girls living in difficult or emergency situations. Programs for those who have been abused, for Ebola orphans, and even a telephone hotline to take calls from children in a crisis. We are also present in the main prison in Freetown.” The Salesians also have “a bus used to reach out to children who live on the street and prostitute themselves,” he told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency during his brief visit to Rome.

Thanks to their tireless work they have already succeeded in getting 146 girls out of prostitution, although “to just save one, all the effort would be worth it.”

There are many orphans in Sierra Leone, owing to the country’s 1991-2002 civil war as well as a 2014 Ebola outbreak, and many have turned to prostitution as a way to support themselves.

Fr. Crisafulli said that  they have already reached out to more than 900 girls who live in this type of slavery.

“I always tell all the the social workers and the Salesians that they mustn’t forget that we are a Salesian community, that we are the Church and we are living out  the Salesian charism, which is to help the most vulnerable … Sierra Leone is a country that has suffered a lot, and our mission goes beyond what an NGO does; we are convinced that we are a religious community, doing a mission confided by the Holy Spirit to Don Bosco,” he said.

“I also tell the girls to not think they are trash or bad, as many people tell them, but that they are children of God. We absorb the pain, we travel the streets, and give that pain over to Jesus.”

“The love that we offer is that of transforming the pain of the cross into redemption,” he said.

That is what is shown in “Love,” a short documentary that tells the story of Aminata, one of those underage girls who succeeded in getting out of prostitution and has turned her life around.

The documentary seeks to make that reality known and to show how reintegration into society  is possible for these minors.  

“You don’t need prostitute yourself to eat, you don’t need to prostitute yourself to get an education, what you need to do is to look for a merciful hand which has no other interest than to do good and help,” Fr. Crisafulli emphasized.

“The social workers do a great job of listening,” he said, “so the girls are able to tell what they have gone through on the streets and why they are prostituting themselves and that is already liberating.”

“Then you have to heal the profound traumas that each one of them has. But it is also a spiritual work. Many of them have told me, ‘God had forgotten me’ or ‘God doesn’t love me.’ Our work also consists in telling them that that’s not true, that God still loves them,”  Fr. Crisafulli said.

It is important “to invite them to dream and find something to motivate them to get out of prostitution: going back to school, finishing high school, having a small business, or returning to their families,” he explained.

“It’s true these are not all success stories, because six of them have gone back to the streets, but we don’t throw in the towel. Our intention is never to give up, until we see them out of prostitution.”


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As war looms in Syria, Francis calls for peace

April 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Apr 12, 2018 / 12:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As President Trump considers airstrikes in Syria in response to a chemical attack that killed dozens of people, including women and children, Pope Francis has called for peace in the region.

President Trump has said that he will consider initiating military action against Syria within days. The president has sent several tweets hinting at iminent military action, but on Thursday he walked these back with a tweet saying he “never said” when the United States would be attacking.

“Could be very soon or not so soon at all,” said Trump, noting that the United States has done a “great job” at removing Islamic State militants from the country.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”</p>&mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href=””>April 12, 2018</a></blockquote>
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On Tuesday, Russia vetoed a US-sponsored proposal in the United Nations, which would have launched an independent investigation into the April 7 chemical attack. The veto garnered broad condemnation from US allies.

Russia has also said that its military will retaliate for any airstrikes against Syria, meaning that US-military action could prompt a large global conflict.

Since March of 2011, Syria has been engaged in a bloody civil war, with rebel groups engaged in conflict against the Syrian army. Syria, led by President Bashar al-Assad, is allied with Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia.

The situation on the ground in Syria has been disastrous for the country’s tiny Christian population. Prior to the start of the war, Christians made up about 11 percent of the population. Since then, many have been forced from their homes, particularly when the Islamic State was active in the region, and many of the country’s churches have been destroyed in the war. An estimated one-third of the country’s Christian population has fled.

However, many Christians in the country find themselves supporting Assad’s regime. In a March 2016 interview, Aleppo’s Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo said that he believed a full “80 percent” of the country’s Christians would support Assad in an election. Furthermore, the bishop said that the Syrian government was not actively persecuting Christians, and that Christians and Muslims had for years lived together peacefully prior to the start of the war.

The rebel groups fighting Assad are mostly Islamic-based and have attacked Christian villages.

There have been at least 200 reported chemical attacks in Syria, the medical care group UOSSM has reported. In April 2017, at least 70 people, including children, were reportedly killed in Syria by a deadly gas attack, reportedly perpetrated by Assad’s forces.

“The chemical attack in Syria on April 4, [2017], shocks the soul. The many innocent lives targeted by these terrible tools of war cry out for humanity’s protection,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said last year in response to that attack.
During his April 1 Urbi et Orbi message, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Syria.

“We implore fruits of peace upon the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria, whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war. This Easter, may the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course,” the pontiff said.

The pope condemned the recent chemical attack during Mass April 8 in St. Peter’s Square, saying that “nothing can justify” the use of chemical weapons on “defenseless people and populations.”

“There is no such thing as a good war and a bad war,” he said.


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Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Oran this year

April 11, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Orange, Calif., Apr 11, 2018 / 03:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Algerian government has approved the holding of a beatification Mass in Oran for seven French Trappist monks who were martyred in the country in 1996, AFP reports.

“The beatification will take place in a few months, in the coming weeks, in Oran,” Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Abdelkader Messahel, told France 24 television April 10.

In January Pope Francis had authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to recognize the martyrdom of Pierre Claverie and his 18 companions, men and women religious, who were killed in hatred of the faith in Algeria between 1994 and 1996.

Claverie was a French Algerian and the Bishop of Oran from 1981 until his Aug. 1, 1996 martyrdom. He and his companions were killed during the Algerian Civil War by Islamists.

The best known of Claverie’s companions are the seven monks of Tibhirine, who were kidnapped from their Trappist priory in March 1996. They were kept as a bartering chip to procure the release of several imprisoned members of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, and were killed in May. Their story was dramatized in the 2010 French film Of Gods and Men, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.

The prior, Christian de Chergé, sought peaceful dialogue with the Muslim population of the area and provided employment, medical attention, and education to the locals.

Dom Christian accepted that the current political tensions and violent militias were a threat to his life. According to the Trappist order, he wrote a letter to his community and family, citing the peace felt giving his life to God.  

“If it should happen one day – and it could be today – that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was given to God and to this country,” he said.


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As Palestinian Christians flee Gaza, priest expresses grave concern

April 9, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Gaza City, Apr 10, 2018 / 12:02 am (ACI Prensa).- In the past six years the number of Christians in the Gaza Strip has plummeted from 4,500 to just 1,000, due to the harsh conditions under which they are living, according to the pastor of the territory’s sole Catholic church.

Gazans “live like it’s an open air prison since we can’t leave. We can’t visit relatives, look for work, medicine or good hospitals on the outside,” Fr. Mario da Silva told ACI Prensa.

The Gaza Strip is a 141 square mile area, part of Palestine, located to the west of Israel and home to 1.8 million persons. Since 2007, it has been ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

Since Hamas came to power there, Israel and Egypt have conducted an economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, restricting the flow of persons and goods in an effort to limit rocket attacks on Israel launched from the territory.

Fr. da Silva, a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, recalled that when he arrived in Gaza in 2012 “the situation was already very difficult. Over time, you would hope the situation would get better, but it’s only gotten worse.”

He related that inhabitants have only three hours of electricity a day, and there is a shortage of drinking water.

Most Gazans are unemployed, he said, and those who do work live on “about $150-200 a month.”

“It’s really a prison. People don’t have any money and the situation is terrible. There is widespread poverty.”

The harsh conditions imposed on Gaza has led to the exodus of Palestinian Christians.

“Every year Christians have one permit to leave and visit the holy places on Easter and Christmas,” and a many of them never return, explained Fr. da Silva.

In order to stem the tide, the priest’s Holy Family parish is working with 12 religious sisters, of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, the Missionaries of Charity, and the Sisters of the Rosary congregations.

“We’re doing two things: first, preaching Christ and the importance of Christians in the Holy Land; preaching the importance of forgiveness and of carrying the cross is what we most try to do.”

The second form of aid is material assistance projects, he said: “For example, with the help of institutions such as the Pontifical Mission or the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Church tries to give work to more that 30 young people so they won’t leave, because they are mainly the ones who leave.”

He noted that the parish also cares for adherents of other religions: “The Christian community is very small and there are 2 million Muslims. They are also in great need. We have always opened the doors of our schools or our church during times of war to take in those seeking refuge.”

“There is not a very great persecution of Christians,” the priest said. “Though there is now a lot of fear with the news that the Islamic State has arrived, coming from the Sinai Peninsula, in Egypt … There have already been threats. There is also fear of the Salafist groups who are coming in from the south,” he said.

“In fact, when we have problems with Muslims who want to do something against the church, we’ve asked the government to protect us and they have done so,” he added.

The joy of Easter was tinged this year by a decrease in the permits given by Israel for Palestinian Christians to visit holy places in its territory, Fr. da Silva said.

“It was also very sad because Israel always gives permission for Christians so they can visit the holy places for Christmas and Easter,” but this year they only gave 300 permits instead of the 700 they usually grant. These permits were “for children and the elderly, who are really the people who can’t go out by themselves. Very few people actually went,” he lamented.

Nevertheless, “there was joy because Christ has risen and because our salvation comes from that, which is much more important than our material life; but on the human level it was a very sad Easter,” he said.

“Pray much for this, which is what we mainly ask for, because only God can change the situation we’re going through in these countries here in the Middle East,” he concluded.


This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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Priest killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, another freed

April 9, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Apr 9, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Armed men burst into a church meeting room in the North Kivu region April 8 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and killed 38-year-old Fr. Étienne Sengiyumva, the parish pastor.

Bishop Théophile Kaboy Ruboneka of Goma, in North Kivu Province announced the news to the Vatican’s Fides News Agency

“After celebrating the Mass at Kyahemba, a district in his parish, around 3pm, Fr. Étienne was meeting with his parish staff, when an armed man, accompanied by others, entered the meeting room and shot the priest point blank in the head, killing him instantly, ” the bishop recounted.

“The murder happened so quickly that those present couldn’t take note of how many people had entered the room to kill Fr. Étienne,” he lamented.

The bishop also told Fides that ”it’s hard to know who is responsible. Our region is infested with armed groups, at least 15, that fail to be dismantled despite the constant presence of the army and the blue-helmeted UN soldiers.”

Bishop Ruboneka explained that “Fr. Étienne  is the third priest killed in the region” and that “the investigations to find those responsible for these deaths go nowhere. On our part, we are doing everything we can to identify Fr.  Étienne’s killers, even though we have no illusions.”

“In these cases the witnesses fear for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones and it would be hard for them to offer any information useful for the investigation,” he pointed out.

The bishop also stated that Fr. Célestin Ngango was kidnapped from the diocese after celebrating Easter Mass. He was later released, blindfolded, at around 3 am following heavy pressure from the local inhabitants. The Congolese bishops’ conference told Fides “the freed priest was not mistreated and he appears to be in good health. However, he will undergo a medical examination.”

Bishop Ruboneka does not think there is any connection between the two incidents.

“I repeat, in our region there are so many armed groups that it is hard to know who committed this act or another. Here in North Kivu we are living in total chaos,” Bishop Ruboneka said.

In conclusion the prelate stressed that “the situation of the Diocese of Goma, as well as Butembo-Beni, is unbelievable. We are completely abandoned by everyone and we live thanks to the grace of Providence. I ask the faithful of the Universal Church to pray for our region so we can again find peace.”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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Africans stand for life in UN battles over reproductive health

April 9, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., Apr 9, 2018 / 04:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- African 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.”