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Catholic church in UAE to host fatherhood celebration for migrant workers

July 19, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Jul 19, 2018 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Catholic church in Dubai is hosting a celebration to honor the United Arab Emirates’ migrant workers – many of whom are fathers separated from their homes to provide for their families.   

It is a “day to honor some…fathers who are working here, separated from their families back home,” said Father Lennie Connully, OFM Cap., pastor of St Mary’s Catholic Church.

“They are here struggling for their families. We want to honor them, 500 of them,” he told CNA.

More than 500 men are expected to attend the July 20 event taking place at a labor camp for Khansaheb Investments in Dubai, more than 80 miles northeast of Abu Dhabi.

Organized by Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, the workers will enjoy games, dinner, dance, and gift baskets. The men will be given a combination of food and necessities, including items such as coffee, tea, sugar, detergents, razors, and phone cards. Father Connully said the calling cards will help connect the fathers and their families.

The fathers are “making a big sacrifice in being away from their families just to provide for them. So that is the reason why we thought of them,” he said. “It’s not on a very big scale, but it is something we can give at this moment.”

This is the third annual event that St Mary’s parish will host to provide aid and comfort to the people within the UAE. In 2017, the church celebrated the women who provide cleaning services.

This year, the event coincides with celebrations of the life of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding president of the UAE.

“There can be no better way to commemorate the Year of Zayed – founding father of the UAE – than by honouring lonely fathers on the occasion of International Father’s Day. Shaikh Zayed is a true symbol of humanitarianism. To honour his vision and memory, St. Mary’s Catholic Church has decided to bring fun and entertainment into the lives of more than 500 deserving workers from selected labour accommodations in Dubai,” Fr. Connully said, according to Gulf News.

Dubai has a large migrant-to-citizen ratio, with immigrants making up more than 80 percent of the population and 90 percent of the work force.

Father Connully told CNA that the labor camps, though imperfect, offer these men a chance to be employed.

“A labor accommodation is provided by the company which employs them,” he said. “We cannot say it is ideal, but then the company, of course, is by all means looking for profit with using as little as possible.”

In 2016, numerous reports came out about these labor camp’s low wages, undocumented workers, and poor living conditions. According to Khaleej Times, there are months when workers were not paid and visas where confiscated.

However, Father Connully said the conditions are comparatively good to situations these workers face in their home countries, and the wages are still an opportunity the men may not have otherwise.

“It is comparatively good because they all have single rooms and all that…they have air conditioning and other good[s] compared to” their home countries, he said. “They are able to spare something, send something back home.”

The Asian Migrant Centre found that the largest source of migrant workers in the UAE originate from India. There are also large numbers of guest workers who are Catholic from Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

There are also sizable minorities of Hindus and Buddhists among the guest workers.

The Father’s Day event will serve men of “any religion,” Fr. Connully said. “We have Hindus, Muslims, Christians, all sorts of people from all over the world.”

Because God is the provider, Father Connully said fatherhood plays an important role in the faith and is an honored position.

“In the Christian faith, [fatherhood is] a very, very important role…because we look to God as our Father. He is the provider of all mankind and the Father of the family. In the Christian family, the father has a big role to play and the father has an honored position in every family, especially in the East.”


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Central African bishops call for peace amid renewed violence

July 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Bangui, Central African Republic, Jul 17, 2018 / 11:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of the Central African Republic have urged Catholics not to give in to calls for revenge attacks on Muslims, following a surge in violence and the murder of a priest.

The CAR has suffered violence since December 2012, when several bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance, taking the name Seleka, and seized power.

In reaction to the Seleka’s attacks, some Central Africans formed self-defense groups called anti-balaka. Some of these groups, mainly composed of Christians, began attacking Muslims out of revenge, and the conflict took on a sectarian character.

A group calling itself the League of Defense of the Church issued a statement earlier this month saying it would defend the Church and avenge killed priests, charging that both the government and the Church hierarchy have failed to protect Christians.

The Central African Bishops’ Conference responded, saying, “The bishops of Central Africa were outraged by this communiqué from an organization called ‘The League of Defense of the Church’ in the Central African Republic of which they know nothing about.”

“The projects that this league claims to achieve are at odds with the gospel, the aspirations of the church and its mission in the Central African Republic,” continued Fr. Joseph Tanga Koti, general secretary of the bishops’ conference.

“The Bishops of the Central African Republic want Central Africans to be vigilant. There are always enemies of peace who want to create a conflict between Christians and Muslims to show that Christians and Muslims cannot live together in Central Africa,” the conference has said.

The CAR held a general election in 2015-16 which installed a new government, but militant groups continue to terrorize local populations. Thousands of people have been killed in the violence, and at least a million have been displaced. At least half of Central Africans depend on humanitarian aid, the U.N. reports.

Pope Francis visited the CAR during his trip to Africa in 2015, and urged the country’s leaders to work for peace and reconciliation.

Three priests have keen killed in the CAR this year.

Fr. Firmin Gbagoua, vicar general of the Diocese of Bambari, was shot June 29 while eating dinner by the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic, and ex-Seleka militia dominated by the Fulani ethnic group.

In May, an attack on Our Lady of Fatima parish in Bangui while Mass was being said left 15 dead, including Fr. Albert Toungoumale Baba.

And in April, Fr. Joseph Désiré Angbabata was killed together with some of his parishioners in an attack on his church in Seko, about 40 miles northeast of Bambari.


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Kenyan court considers guidelines for ‘safe abortion’

July 15, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Nairobi, Kenya, Jul 15, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Kenya’s high court is considering the state of health care in the country, as it hears a case brought on behalf of a young woman who died last month from complications which were related to a back-alley abortion she procured in 2014.

The girl, known by her initials JMM, was raped in 2014 at the age of 15. In December of that year, her guardian “received a call from a relative informing her that the former was vomiting and bleeding heavily at a local clinic where she had gone to seek treatment,” Akello Odenyo reported in The Standard, a Nairobi daily, May 28.

JMM had told clinic staff she had procured an unsafe abortion and that was sent to a variety of hospitals for post-abortive care.

In 2015, JMM’s mother, along with the Federation of Women Lawyers and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, filed a suit against the Ministry of Health claiming JMM was not provided with proper post-abortion care and calling on the government to provide access to safe abortions.

JMM developed kidney failure, and died June 10, 2018.

The 2010 Kenyan constitution made abortion legal in certain circumstances – in the cases of emergencies and when the woman’s health is in jeopardy.

Since then, Kenya’s health ministry “has withdrawn essential guidelines on conducting safe abortions and banned health workers from training on abortion,” according to Reuters.

The guidelines were removed in 2013 “after it emerged they were being used for unintended purposes,” according to the testimony of Dr. Joel Gondi, head of the Reproductive and Maternal Health Service Unit, The Star reported.

“The guidelines, amongst other things, provided clarity on who could perform abortions, safe-guarding against illegal practitioners,” reported Reuters. “The ban on training has meant fewer health professionals available to perform the procedure or after care.”

The suit filed on JMM’s behalf maintains that the poor care she received following her abortion was a result of the lack of safe abortion services. Petitioners seek the reinstatement of the abortion guidelines, and an end to the ban on training health workers on performing abortion.

The Ministry of Health reported in May that the country had spent 533 million Kenyan shillings ($5.29 million) treating complications from back-alley abortions.

Evelyne Opondo of the Centre for Reproductive Rights said that “While JMM was entitled to quality post abortion care irrespective of whether it was within the law or otherwise, she did not receive it from the point of first contact with the health system. Instead there were several delays and missed opportunities to mitigate the adverse effect of the unsafe abortion on her health and life.”

JMM’s mother said that her daughter’s death “was entirely preventable,” and maintained that “Kenya has to make abortion safe and accessible.”

The Kenyan high court heard three-day of testimony this week in the case. It has been adjourned until Sept. 18, and a verdict is expected before the end of the year.

Among the testimonies heard by the court was that of Dr. Wahome Ngari, who said that figures on the number of back-alley abortions procured, which are used to argue for the expansion of abortion rights, are wildly inflated.

Ngari said that a report by a reproductive health firm which had been cited in the court and which estimated 400,000 unsafe abortions in 2002 was inaccurage.

The physician said the correct figure was 140,000, The Standard reported.

Such inflation “was used in Malawi to push the Government to repeal their abortion law,” he told the court.

Ngari said the focus on health care for pregnant women in Kenya should begin with blood loss.

“The reason pregnant mothers die in the country is haemorrhage, followed by infections, hyperactive disorders, prolonged or obstructed labour and lastly abortion. Anyone who wants to offer a solution should follow that order.”


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Pakistan’s cardinal-elect warns of growing extremism in his country

June 27, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Karachi, Pakistan, Jun 27, 2018 / 01:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of tomorrow’s Vatican consistory, Pakistani Archbishop Joseph Coutts sees his upcoming elevation to the rank of cardinal as a sign of papal concern for a country coping with the heightened presence of extremist groups.

Archbishop Coutts of Karachi will become cardinal at a June 28 consistory at the Vatican, alongside 13 other prelates representing the global Church and a variety of Vatican offices.

In an interview with CNA ahead of the ceremony, Coutts warned that his country is facing the threat of growing extremism from those pushing for a strict Islamic state.

The general atmosphere of religious freedom encapsulated in the nation’s founding has been eroded and now faces new threats from more radical strains of Islamic thought seeping into the country, he said.

“Many of our imams are now going to Saudi Arabia to study theology, and are coming back preaching against music and dancing, which is forbidden in Wahhabi Islam.”

Wahhabism, a severe school of Islam founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and centered in Saudi Arabia, was identified by the European Parliament in 2013 as the primary source of global terrorism.

Even the increase in suicide attacks in Pakistan can be traced back to this influence, Coutts said, noting that suicide is forbidden in Islam generally.

“But they justify it in the name of religion,” he said. “If you say my religion is the best religion and all the other religions are not good, then I justify myself in using force or violence, whatever it is, to get rid of the other.”

The majority of Muslims in Pakistan are moderate, Coutts said, explaining that the extremists only make up about 5 percent or less of the total population.

“There are Muslims who say, ‘We have no problem with democracy, it does not clash with Islamic thinking, and that’s why we are a democracy’,” he said. But the extremists “don’t accept democracy, they don’t accept the international declaration of human rights, they say it’s not Islamic.”

“We’ve always had these kinds of people on the fringes, but they weren’t dominant,” he added. “Now they are becoming more assertive.”

Asked whether he believes Pakistan could become an Islamic state, Coutts said the possibility is real, but depends on several factors, including pressure from more radical Islamic nations such Saudi Arabia.

However, if the country, which is holding general elections July 26, begins to shift in that direction, “it means leading to a lot of clashes, because there are many who don’t want it to be that way,” Coutts said.

“If these guys keep pushing their agenda, you’ll reach a point of clash. Somebody will push back.”

The Catholic Church in Pakistan is a leading presence in works of charity and has long spoken out on behalf of minority rights, condemning persecution, specifically related to the country’s anti-blasphemy law, which Coutts said is very easily manipulated.

Ultimately, though, he said the Church’s role in the nation is limited by its size. “What role can you have when you’re two percent? There’s a saying that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers.”

Coutts, who has served as Archbishop of Karachi since 2012, will be Pakistan’s only cardinal after tomorrow’s consistory.

Being made a cardinal will not have much practical effect on the Church’s role in the country, he said. But what the red hat does signify is Pope Francis’ concern for Pakistan and the Christian presence in the nation.

“It’s an honor for the country,” he said, noting that Pakistani Muslims, who generally have a positive view of Francis, feel the same way, and have voiced their appreciation and asked when a papal visit might take place.

“It shows the respect for the Holy Father that people have. They consider him a very good, moral leader, a religious leader who is promoting peace and understanding. They have high respect for him.”



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At least 86 dead in clashes between farmers, herders in Nigeria

June 25, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Jos, Nigeria, Jun 25, 2018 / 06:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 80 people were killed over the weekend in clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria’s central Plateau State.

This series of clashes is the latest in a several-years’ conflict between nomadic Fulani herdsmen, most of whom are Muslim, and the largely Christian farmers of the region, over resources.

This weekend’s violence was reportedly begun by an attack of Berom farmers on Fulani herders June 21, AFP reports. The farmers attacked a group of five herdsmen travelling with their cattle in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, fewer than 30 miles south of Jos.

The following day two Berom children were killed in area villages in apparent reprisal attacks.

There were then clashes in Berom villages Saturday and Sunday. Plateau State officials have said 86 bodies had been found a search of the villages after the violence. 50 houses were burned, and well as vehicles.

Berom youths erected roadblocks on Sunday, attacking travellers who looked “Fulani and Muslim”, the AFP reported.

The state government has imposed a 6pm – 6am curfew in the Barkin Ladi, Riyom, and Jos South local government areas to “avert a breakdown of law and order”.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called the attacks “painful and regrettable,” and offered his “deepest condolences to the affected communities.”

“We will not rest until all murderers and criminal elements and their sponsors are incapacitated and brought to justice,” Buhari said on Twitter.

US Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), chair of the House Subcommittee on Africa, stated June 25 that “The increasing cycle of violence and impunity we have observed in Nigeria over the past few months warrants a firm response from Nigeria’s civil leaders, beginning with President Buhari. I implore Nigeria’s moral voices, especially the Sultan of Sokoto, to speak out against the Fulani extremists’ growing disregard for the life and property of Nigerian Christians.”

There was a separate incident between Fulani herdsmen and Bachama farmers in Adamawa state June 22. Farmers prevented the herders from grazing in a field outside their village, and in the ensuing violence both Fulani settlement and Bachama houses were burnt down. Six people were killed, and seven injured.

The recent violence comes in the wake of other deadly attacks involving Fulani herders, including an incident in April when herdsmen opened fire at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Benue State, leaving 19 dead.

The International Crisis Group found the conflict tallied around 2,500 deaths from 2011-2016, according to reports from NPR.

The clash between farmers and Fulani herdsmen has been ongoing for years, particularly hitting the states in the Middle Belt, such as Benue, Taraba and Plateau. In 2016, dozens were massacred in southeast Nigeria by armed militants believed to be Fulani herdsmen who were targeting Christians.

The conflict has escalated over the years, as climate issues have pushed herders into the southern region Nigeria, where their cattle have overtaken some farmed fields.

In May, Nigeria’s Catholic bishops encouraged dioceses around the nation to unite in prayer and  peaceful processions to honor the victims who have died at the hands of the herdsmen and for the end of violence.

Critical of the response of Buhari, who is himself Fulani and Muslim, the Catholic bishops in Nigeria have also called for his resignation, saying he “has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of Nigerian citizens.” However, it is expected that Buhari will run for re-election in February.

A group of bishops met with Buhari in February, urging him to step in and address the mounting conflict.

“Herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy, but this is never to be done at the expense of other people’s lives and means of livelihood,” the bishops told Buhari at their meeting.

“As the voice of the voiceless, we shall therefore continue to highlight the plight of our people.”