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Coptic Orthodox to dedicate church to New Martyrs of Libya

February 13, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Minya, Egypt, Feb 13, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Coptic Orthodox Church will dedicate on Thursday a new church to the 21 Martyrs of Libya, who were beheaded by the Islamic State, three years after their deaths.

 
The church will be opened Feb. 15, according to Fides News Agency. It is located in the village of al-Our in Egypt’s Minya Governorate. The village was home to 13 of the martyred men.

“Any way that the Church of today can honor her martyrs is a blessing. The story of these 21 brave men is worth telling. In way too many places Christians are under siege from the dark forces of extreme hatred, and their freedom is conditioned by this hatred,” Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Maronite Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn told CNA.

The church may someday house the 21 martyrs’ remains, which were identified in a mass grave on the Libyan coast in September.

The Coptic Orthodox Church recognized the 21 Coptic Christians as martyrs to be commemorated every Feb. 15 within only a week of their murder in 2015 along the Libyan coast, which was filmed by the Islamic State and released in an internet video.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is an Oriental Orthodox Church, meaning it rejected the 451 Council of Chalcedon, and its followers had historically been considered monophysites – those who believe Christ has only one nature – by Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox, though they are not considered so any longer.

Although Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi authorized the building of the new church, its construction in a village that is 70 percent Muslim has faced resistance.

“Some of the villagers protested and threw stones when construction started on the church. Churches are a sensitive subject throughout Egypt, even though about 10 percent of the population is Christian. It’s hard to get permits to build them,” Jane Arraf of NPR reported from al-Our.

Christians in Egypt face a constant threat of violence. Earlier this week, a man was found guilty of stabbing Coptic Orthodox priest, Samaan Shehata, to death last October.

On Palm Sunday last year, two Islamic State suicide bombings at Coptic churches in Egypt claimed the lives of 47 people.

“We pray for our Coptic brethren as they continue to witness to their beautiful faith and way of life in Christ Jesus. They live in the most terrifying of circumstances, never knowing the hour or the place of the next attack. May the prayers of the Mother of God be their comfort and strength,” said Bishop Mansour, who continued: “Egypt was the first place of refuge for the holy family and continues to be a place of refuge for God’s holy family, mystically present in his Coptic Christians.”

[…]

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Holy Land pilgrimages on the rise, despite political tensions

February 7, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., Feb 7, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- While the transition of the American embassy to Jerusalem has exacerbated regional tension in recent months, the number of Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land has increased.

Last month 770 registered pilgrimage groups, some 26,000 people, visited Jerusalem, while 529 groups visited in the same time period last year, and 390 visited in January 2016. The statistics were recently released by Israel’s Christian Information Center,

A priest who recently took a group of young adults to the Holy Land told CNA that the pilgrimage was peaceful, and seemed to be unaffected by political tensions.

“The experience for everyone was very peaceful. You don’t necessarily experience any conflict in the environment,” said Father Daniel Cardo, pastor of Holy Name Church in Englewood, CO.

Sobhy Makhoul, deacon of the Maronite Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told Asia News that the rise in pilgrims began at the end of 2017. “Between November and mid-December there were many pilgrims, so many that for the first time we had to house some of them in the city like Hebron, almost 30 km south of Bethlehem,” he said.

There has also been a notable increase in pilgrims from China, Russia, and Eastern Europe, among them are many pilgrims from Eastern Orthodox churches, Makhoul told Asia News.

Makhoul also said that a peaceful reaction in Palestine to the US Embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has reassured pilgrims that Israel is a safe place to travel.

He said that most people in the region want peace, and that most recognize the economic importance of pilgrimage trips.

Fr. Cardo told CNA that there is also a general respect in the region for the sacredness of pilgrimages to Holy Land, which he called the “father land” to many religions.

“People from the Holy Land, whether they are Christians or not, and actually a vast majority as we know aren’t Christians, recognize … the sacredness of the practice of pilgrimage,” he said.

“It is moving to me to see how many people, whether they are fully into the spiritual experience or not, are attracted to” sacred sites in the Holy Land, he said.

“The experience of going to Holy Sepulchre in particular … It’s just entering into a mystery, pointing to the place that reflects the mystery of God’s victory, but such a stark contrast, with the craziness of our humanity – the many languages [and] the noise of the place.”

Father Cardo encouraged more groups of Catholics to travel to the Holy Land. He said the experience allows pilgrims to envision the reality of  Scripture’s settings, and that pilgrimages help Christians in the Holy Land, who only make up a small fraction of the population.

“To visit Christian places and support local Christian businesses is a very important thing we have to do in order to maintain the life of the Church in those holy places,” he said.

 

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Reported message from kidnapped nun calls on Pope for help

January 30, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Bamako, Mali, Jan 30, 2018 / 04:59 pm (ACI Prensa).- A reported video message from a Colombian nun kidnapped almost a year ago in Mali appeals to Pope Francis for his help in securing her release.

The video was reportedly created by two local terrorist organizations that are linked to Al Qaeda.

According to the online edition of the Spanish newspaper El País, the video, which may have been recorded in December, would prove that Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti
is still alive. In the video, Sister Cecelia reportedly mentions Christmas and the pope’s trip to Chile and Peru that concluded a few days ago.

The Al Akhbar agency published the contents of the message, although it has not released the video itself. It says that the video lasts 4:44 minutes and that “the Colombian hostage pleads with the Pope of the Vatican to intervene to free her.”

Sister Cecelia was kidnapped Feb. 7, 2017 in southern Mali.

The Colombian National Police told RCN Radio earlier this month that they are collaborating with the Vatican police to obtain the 56-year-old nun’s release and met in Holland to exchange information.

 “The pope is aware of what Colombia is doing and to what point we’ve come to obtain her release,” said General Fernando Murillo of the Colombian National Police’s hostage and extortion unit. He said the Colombian police are in ongoing contact with the Catholic Church in Mali to expedite negotiations.

Murillo said that the kidnapping was done for ransom purposes and that the authorities do not know the specific amount being asked for the release of the religious, nor of any communication the terrorists may have had with relatives.

At the end of the video, the terrorists reportedly propose “to negotiate through independent charitable organizations outside the colonialist force.”

Sister Cecilia has served in Mali for 12 years. Her community administers a large health center in the country, as well as a home where they care for some 30 orphans between one and two years of age.

The children were all orphaned at birth, and the sisters pick them up and take care of them, along with some moms that work with them, Sister Noemi Quesada, the superior of Sister Cecelia’s order in Colombi, told Colombia La FM Radio last February.

In addition to their pastoral ministry, they teach literacy to some 700 Muslim women and are working on a barn project for times of food shortages, as many mothers in the region die from malnutrition.

 

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

[…]

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In Nigeria, brutal attacks and a story of survival

January 27, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Kaduna, Nigeria, Jan 27, 2018 / 06:01 am (Aid to the Church in Need).- It is common in Nigeria that nomadic herdsmen clash with farmers over the use of land. However, in the past year in particular, raids by Muslim Fulani herdsmen have become more violent and have targeted Christians.

Mysteriously, the herdsmen carry sophisticated weaponry, which has led to speculation that assaults are financed, planned and instigated by anti-Christian elements.

Fourteen-year-old Rejoice James, a Catholic student at St. Kizito’s primary and secondary school in Samaru Kataf, Kaduna State, tells the story of two such attacks:

“It was a Thursday morning, March 16, 2017 at exactly 1:30am; I heard people shouting ‘fire! fire!’ My mother and father and my two siblings rushed out of the house. Fulani herdsmen had come to our village, killing some people and setting houses on fire, including ours. It was burned to ashes. We couldn’t do anything to stop the fire; we lost everything. It felt like God was really silent and life was not fair. Still, we were unharmed.

“As we stood around, wondering what to do, God sent us a helper, a Muslim man who ran toward us and shouted: ‘run for your lives! You people were good to me and I decided to reciprocate. Run, I say, as fast as your legs can carry you – the Fulani herdsmen are already on their way to kill you.’ I came close to see who the man was and was shocked to discover it was my school’s security guard.

“So we ran. In the bush everyone was selfish; we ran as if there was a competition; we were exhausted and absolutely afraid, but we kept on running and later found ourselves in Samaru Kataf, which is almost 80 miles from where we lived. We seemed to have gotten there in a twinkle of an eye and I wondered how; it was a mystery that I can’t explain.

“We went to a Catholic church where we were fed and clothed for few days. Afterward, we moved into the home of my father’s cousin. My parents could no longer afford to send my siblings and me to Catholic school, so I began attending a state school.

“One early morning, May 9, 2017, my principal sent a message to my dad, telling him we should not come to school that day, that all was not well in the community. That afternoon, my dad took his bicycle to go to the marketplace; it was market day. A few hours later, I saw people screaming, shouting – some were crying – and running all over. Women ran to our house and yelled out: ‘we are doomed again.’

“We heard that Fulani herdsmen had come to the marketplace and killed three Christians, and badly wounded four others. The violence had been triggered by the killing of a Fulani taxi driver by some our youth, who were taking revenge for the attack on Fanda Kaje. I began to shiver, thinking of my dad who had gone to the marketplace; my mother was shaking, as we both wondered if my father would still be alive.

“My mother held my hand and we began to run toward the marketplace. We found chaos; tomatoes, peppers, onions and other food stuffs were scattered everywhere; some shops were burned down. I was very scared; we did not know where to look for my dad. Then we heard a voice: ‘if you move, I will shoot you.’ We ran away along with other people; my mother carried me in her arms and ran as fast as her legs could carry her; a woman pushed her and she tripped, injuring her leg. But the pain did not stop her.

“Just as we were about to get back into our house, there came cries of young people, screaming. We turned around and saw my dad on the ground, lifeless. The boys had carried his body from the marketplace. They rushed over to my mother, who had fainted; they poured water on her face and she regained consciousness; she began to shout and cry at the top of her voice. I could feel my mother’s pain as she held my siblings and me very tightly; we all cried our eyes out. I wondered why God remained silent.

“After my father’s burial, I helped my mother sell tomatoes for six months. Thanks to my uncle I am now attending a Catholic school again. I am happy because I made new friends and because my two sisters, my mother and I survived the attack.

“We finally are enjoying peace in the community; the army has stepped in to protect us. The hatred between Christians and the Fulani herdsmen is unbearable – but I still thank God there is a bit of sunshine after the rain in our community.”

 

Patience Nibile writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries.

[…]

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Crisis in Cameroon: Cardinal Tumi criticizes military violence

January 24, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Douala, Cameroon, Jan 24, 2018 / 04:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Cameroonian cardinal has spoken out against the recent use of military violence in the country’s Southwest Region against Anglophone separatists, saying local forces need to respect human life.

“You don’t bring peace by violence and violence begets violence,” said Cardinal Christian Tumi, Archbishop Emeritus of Douala, in a recent video, according to Journal du Cameroun.

“I have heard about those destructions and killings…and I think that has to be condemned. So my opinion is simple, we as Cameroonians should respect lives and the life of everybody,” he continued.

Military forces have been burning down villages in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, seeking separatist forces. Most recently, the town of Kwa Kwa, Matoh and the surrounding area was set on fire, which destroyed homes and the rectory of the local Catholic church.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Mass destruction in Kwakwa village Meme Division.Houses in ruins &amp; the area deserted. Locals say the structures were set ablaze by soldiers. <a href=”https://t.co/S2Ehhf3N9U”>pic.twitter.com/S2Ehhf3N9U</a></p>&mdash; Mimi237 (@Mimimefo237) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Mimimefo237/status/954262097608798208?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 19, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

The attacks also claimed the life of a 96-year old woman who died in one of the buildings set on fire by military forces. In addition to causing deaths, the political crisis within Cameroon has also pushed thousands of refugees into neighboring Nigeria.

The crisis is rooted in conflict between the English- and French-speaking areas of Cameroon. The area was a German colony in the late 19th century, but the territory was divided into British and French mandates after the German Empire’s defeat in World War I. The mandates were united in an independent Cameroon in 1961.

There is now a separatist movement in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, which were formerly the British Southern Cameroons.

Unrest in Cameroon has been ongoing since 2016, when the country’s Anglophone community began protests to demand the return of federalism. These protests have gone so care as to call for secession from the current government, run by President Paul Biya.

Secessionist militants in the English-speaking region of Cameroon have also sought violence against government forces and began attacking military troops in November 2017.

Biya, who is likely to seek re-election after 35 years in office, is not expected to seek negotiations with the secessionists since 2018 is an election year, which could prolong the political tensions within the country.

However, Cardinal Tumi suggested that Biya is unware of the most recent attacks against southwest locals.

“I am sure that if the President of the Republic knows what is happening, he will condemn it, but on the country, he congratulated the army to bring peace,” Tumi said.

The cardinal was born in what is now Northwest Cameroon, but has served as a bishop, since 1979, in Francophone regions of the country.

According to reports, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea told reporters that the Cameroon crisis could only be resolved through dialogue.

“Cameroon is a big nation whose crisis requires concern of all forces. There is no nation without its own crisis,” President Nguema said, according to Xinhua Net.

“What is required is to seek solution through dialogue and use it to find a common axis. Those seeking refuge in other lands need to sit down together and find solution through dialogue. It is only through that, they can find solution to the crisis.”

[…]

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Crisis in Cameroon: Cardinal Tumi criticizes military violence

January 24, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Douala, Cameroon, Jan 24, 2018 / 04:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Cameroonian cardinal has spoken out against the recent use of military violence in the country’s Southwest Region against Anglophone separatists, saying local forces need to respect human life.

“You don’t bring peace by violence and violence begets violence,” said Cardinal Christian Tumi, Archbishop Emeritus of Douala, in a recent video, according to Journal du Cameroun.

“I have heard about those destructions and killings…and I think that has to be condemned. So my opinion is simple, we as Cameroonians should respect lives and the life of everybody,” he continued.

Military forces have been burning down villages in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, seeking separatist forces. Most recently, the town of Kwa Kwa, Matoh and the surrounding area was set on fire, which destroyed homes and the rectory of the local Catholic church.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Mass destruction in Kwakwa village Meme Division.Houses in ruins &amp; the area deserted. Locals say the structures were set ablaze by soldiers. <a href=”https://t.co/S2Ehhf3N9U”>pic.twitter.com/S2Ehhf3N9U</a></p>&mdash; Mimi237 (@Mimimefo237) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Mimimefo237/status/954262097608798208?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 19, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

The attacks also claimed the life of a 96-year old woman who died in one of the buildings set on fire by military forces. In addition to causing deaths, the political crisis within Cameroon has also pushed thousands of refugees into neighboring Nigeria.

The crisis is rooted in conflict between the English- and French-speaking areas of Cameroon. The area was a German colony in the late 19th century, but the territory was divided into British and French mandates after the German Empire’s defeat in World War I. The mandates were united in an independent Cameroon in 1961.

There is now a separatist movement in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, which were formerly the British Southern Cameroons.

Unrest in Cameroon has been ongoing since 2016, when the country’s Anglophone community began protests to demand the return of federalism. These protests have gone so care as to call for secession from the current government, run by President Paul Biya.

Secessionist militants in the English-speaking region of Cameroon have also sought violence against government forces and began attacking military troops in November 2017.

Biya, who is likely to seek re-election after 35 years in office, is not expected to seek negotiations with the secessionists since 2018 is an election year, which could prolong the political tensions within the country.

However, Cardinal Tumi suggested that Biya is unware of the most recent attacks against southwest locals.

“I am sure that if the President of the Republic knows what is happening, he will condemn it, but on the country, he congratulated the army to bring peace,” Tumi said.

The cardinal was born in what is now Northwest Cameroon, but has served as a bishop, since 1979, in Francophone regions of the country.

According to reports, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea told reporters that the Cameroon crisis could only be resolved through dialogue.

“Cameroon is a big nation whose crisis requires concern of all forces. There is no nation without its own crisis,” President Nguema said, according to Xinhua Net.

“What is required is to seek solution through dialogue and use it to find a common axis. Those seeking refuge in other lands need to sit down together and find solution through dialogue. It is only through that, they can find solution to the crisis.”

[…]

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Iraqi newborn rescued from near death, aid group reports

January 24, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Mosul, Iraq, Jan 24, 2018 / 12:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A newborn baby was sentenced to death after Iraqi tribal leaders discovered it had been conceived in rape committed by an ISIS terrorist.  With the help of some Catholic sisters, the child’s mother was able to make a plan for the baby to be adopted.

The young woman’s story was recently shared by Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation supporting Catholic ministries in the Middle East.

ACN reported that the young woman, whose name was not released, had been kidnapped and raped by jihadists. During the ISIS occupation of northern Iraq, Christian and minority women were routinely kidnapped by ISIS, and often were treated as sex slaves for militants.

When tribal elders learned a teenager had become pregnant while in ISIS captivity, “they made the decision to kill the baby as soon as it was born.”  

“They could not live a baby conceived by ISIS. For them it was practically the devil,” ACN stated.

ACN reported that the woman was put in contact with a group of religious sisters, and that she gave birth to the child with their help. The mother asked that the child be placed in an orphanage run by the sisters. A month later it, was adopted by a Christian family.

The pontifical foundation stated that the child’s adoptive family “will surely educate their new son in love and forgiveness.  This is contribution of Christians in Iraq and the entire Middle East today. Evil never has the last word.”

The mother is under protective care to avoid any risk of retributive violence.

ACN reported that an anonymous witness told the group that saving the mother and child “could only have happened thanks to the presence of the Church” and that it is “an example of life and why our presence and culture of life are so important here.”

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

[…]

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Congolese cardinal denounces violent crackdown on protesters

January 24, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jan 24, 2018 / 11:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After security forces killed at least six people participating in Church-organized protests this weekend, the Archbishop of Kinshasa has likened his country to an “open prison”.

The protesters were calling for Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to step down. His two-term limit expired in December 2016, but he has refused to resign and has not allowed elections to be held.

“We were dispersed by tear gas, stun grenades and live bullets. We have again seen deaths, injuries, priests being arrested, and the theft of citizens’ property,” Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya said Jan. 23 at a church in the capital, Kinshasa.

“Christians were prevented from praying. Others were prevented from leaving by … police and military who were armed as if they had been on a battlefield,” he said.

“How can you kill men, women, children, youths and old people all chanting religious songs, carrying bibles, rosaries and crucifixes?” Cardinal Monsengwo asked. “Are we now living in an open prison?”

During Jan. 21 demonstrations against Kabila, six people were shot dead by security forces, and dozens more were wounded. Hundreds have been detained, including at least a dozen priests and nuns, The Guardian reports.

The protests were organized by the Lay Coordination Committee of the DRC, which has the backing of many clerics in the country.

Arrests were also reported in Mbuji-Mayi, Goma, and Lubumbashi.

The US Department of State said Jan. 23 that “We are appalled that the DRC government, including President Kabila, would employ repressive tactics and disproportionate use of lethal force against civilians – including religious leaders and children – exercising their democratic rights to call for credible and inclusive elections.”

“The use of lethal force against Congolese citizens, and the cutting of internet and SMS service, undermine the democratic process, obstruct implementation of the St. Sylvestre Accord and contravene international human rights norms,” added State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

The latest demonstrations and arrests follow a similar incident on Dec. 31, 2017. Then, several protestors were killed and more than 120 arrested, most of them in Kinshasa.

The bishops in the DRC have asked that Kabila not seek a third term as president. He has been in power since 2001. With about half the population identifying as Catholic, the Church in the DRC is one of the country’s most important institutions.

The Church played a crucial role as mediator in negotiations that led to an agreement reached at the end of 2016 that Kabila would step down following elections to be held in 2017. Those elections were not held, and have now been delayed until December.

The delay in elections has been attributed by the government to difficulties with voter registration.

[…]