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Statement of 11 nations opposes ‘reproductive rights’ focus of Nairobi Summit

November 14, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Nairobi, Kenya, Nov 14, 2019 / 05:35 pm (CNA).- On the sidelines of the Nairobi Summit, the US and 10 other nations delivered a joint statement Thursday indicating their commitment to women’s health, and their concern over the summit’s process and content.

The statement echoes concerns that the international gathering is too focused on “reproductive rights”.

“We are … concerned about the content of some of the key priorities of this Summit,” read the Nov. 14 joint statement from the US, Brazil, Belarus, Egypt, Haiti, Hungary, Libya, Poland, Senegal, St. Lucia, and Uganda.

“We do not support references in international documents to ambiguous terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), which do not enjoy international consensus … In addition, the use of the term SRHR may be used to actively promote practices like abortion.”

The Nov. 12-14 Nairobi Summit is sponsored by the UN Population Fund and the governments of Kenya and Denmark, and it marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, which was held in Cairo.

Its program includes five themes, among which are “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of universal health coverage” and “Upholding the right to sexual and reproductive health care even in humanitarian and fragile contexts.”

The 11 nations opposed to the summit’s abortion focus recalled that the 1994 Cairo Conference “had as its stated objectives and actions to collectively address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development.”

In the past 25 years “many countries have made substantial progress in reducing death rates and increasing education and income levels, including by improving the educational and economic status of women. It is noteworthy that, as opposed to the population growth predictions included in the ICPD Program of Action, these predictions have not come to pass,” the joint statement noted.

“Indeed, in most regions of the world today, fertility is below population replacement rates. As a result, family planning should focus both on the voluntary achievement of pregnancy as well as the prevention of unwanted pregnancy.”

The 11 countries affirmed the “key foundational principles” of the Cairo Conference, saying, “We strongly support the holistic pursuit of the highest attainable outcomes of health, life, dignity, and well-being … this includes but is not limited to: reproductive concerns; maternal health; primary health care; voluntary and informed family planning; family strengthening; equal educational and economic opportunities for women and men.”

“We wish to emphasize that the agreement reached at Cairo remains a solid foundation for addressing new challenges within a consensus-driven process that gives each government equal opportunity to negotiate a broadly accepted document within the UN, reaffirming that health is a precondition for and an outcome and indicator of the realization of ICPD,” read the joint statement.

The nations said the Cairo Conference’s action program was “approved by consensus” because, in part, it “made clear that the conference did not create any new international human rights.”

The joint statement noted, “There is no international right to abortion; in fact, international law clearly states that ‘[e]veryone has the right to life’” and that the Cairo Conference said “that countries should ‘take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning’ (ICPD 7.24) and to ‘reduce the recourse to abortion’.”

The 11 countries added that they “cannot support a sex education that fails to adequately engage parents and which promotes abortion as a method of family planning.”

They indicated that “we would have appreciated more transparency and inclusiveness in the preparation of the Conference, including regarding criteria for civil society participation. While the Cairo ICPD Program of Action was negotiated and implemented with and by the entire UN General Assembly membership, only a small handful of governments were consulted on the planning and modalities of the 2019 Nairobi Summit. Therefore, outcomes from this summit are not intergovernmentally negotiated, nor are they the result of a consensus process. As a result, they should not be considered normative.”

The countries said the Nairobi Summit “is centered on only certain aspects of the ICPD Program of Action and does not fully reflect all views and positions of the Member States … unless negotiated and adopted by consensus of all Member States, within the process and structure of an international body such as the UN General Assembly, no ICPD follow-on document has consensual weight or standing amongst governments.”

“We call upon Member States to maintain the original and legitimate 1994 ICPD principles … that explicitly retain important government statements and reservations that permitted consensus, to reiterate their reservations to the ICPD Program of Action as reflected in the conference’s report, and to focus our efforts, resources, and determination to fulfill the unfinished work of attaining sustainable development for every nation so as to promote the dignity of the human person and human flourishing.”

The objections of the 11 countries represented by the joint statement echoed concerns from the Holy See and from bishops in Kenya.

The Holy See is not partipating in the summit, saying that the organizers chose “to focus the conference on a few controversial and divisive issues that do not enjoy international consensus and that do not reflect accurately the broader population and development agenda outlined by the ICPD.”

“The ICPD and its encompassing Programme of Action within the international community’s broad development agenda should not be reduced to so-called ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and ‘comprehensive sexuality education,’”, the Holy See stated.

Bishop Alfred Rotich, Bishop Emeritus of the Military Ordinariate of Kenya and chair of the Kenyan bishops’ family life office, told ACI Africa: “We find such a conference not good for us, (and) destroying the agenda for life.”

Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa described the summit’s agenda as “unacceptable according to our teaching of the Catholic Church.”

The US delivered a commitment statement at the summit Nov. 13, saying it is committed “to empowering women and girls to thrive, but this statement is only intended for the purposes of this reading and is not to be used as an endorsement of the commitments of this summit.”

The commitment statement added that the US “has been, and will be a prime advocate and will continue to invest in programs which empower women and girls to realize their full potential, reinforce their inherent dignity, promote and advance their equality, protect their inalienable rights, and support optimal health outcomes across their lifespans. Families, positive male figures, (including caring fathers), communities, and civil society, (including faith based organizations), play an important role in supporting women and girls to thrive.”

Dr. Frederick Wamalma, regional president of Pax Romana International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, told ACI Africa that the desire of many participants in the Nairobi Summit to have a decreasing rate of population growth in Africa is a fallacy.

“Africa needs to focus on population growth because we need to grow the population of working people, which is very important for us,” he said.

“If you go to some of the European countries, they don’t have the working age population. So, they have this larger population of old people who are no longer working. We don’t want to be caught up with what we’re seeing there,” Wamalma stated.

He added: “From a developing country point of view, population shouldn’t be a problem. What we need to be stressed with is being able to give these young people who are coming, joining the labour market the right skills to be able to be productive in the labour market.”

Wamalma stressed that African countries need clear “policies around education, policies around health, policies around labour market, policies around social protection.”

Rep. Chris Smith, a congressman from New Jersey, wrote in a Nov. 11 opinion piece at the Wall Street Journal that through the Nairobi Summit, “the governments of Kenya and Denmark and the United Nations Population Fund are attempting to hijack the U.N.’s global population and development work to support an extreme pro-abortion agenda.”

Smith, who attended the Cairo Conference, said the “conveners of the Nairobi Summit have blocked attendance by conservative organizations and excluded countries and stakeholders that disagree with their agenda from offering input on the substance and planning of the conference,” including the US.

He lamented that “key elements of the Cairo program are missing from the Nairobi Summit agenda,” noting that the ICPD recognized sex-selective abortion as a harmful practice.

“The Nairobi Summit isn’t a true reflection of ICPD but a gathering of like-minded individuals and organizations departing from the Cairo consensus as they promote a pro-abortion agenda while attempting to exploit Cairo’s name and reputation,” the congressman concluded.

To counter the agenda of the Nairobi Summit, the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, with the backing of Kenya’s bishops, has organized a parallel convention to be held Nov. 11-14.


Magdalene Kahiu contributed to this report.


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African bishops say UN Nairobi Summit will be destructive of pro-life agenda

November 6, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Nairobi, Kenya, Nov 6, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Bishops in Africa have raised concerns about the agenda of the Nairobi Summit, a United Nations gathering being held next week, saying the meeting will be destructive to humanity and the values around human life.

Sponsored by the UN Population Fund and the governments of Kenya and Denmark, the Nairobi Summit marks the 25th anniversary of the Cairo Conference on Population and Development. It will be held in Nairobi Nov. 12-14.

Its program includes five themes, among which are “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of universal health coverage” and “Upholding the right to sexual and reproductive health care even in humanitarian and fragile contexts.”

Bishop Alfred Rotich, Bishop Emeritus of the Military Ordinariate of Kenya and chair of the Kenyan bishops’ family life office, told ACI Africa: “We find such a conference not good for us, (and) destroying the agenda for life.”

“There will be about 10,000 people here and we know what they are for, they are not pro-life but they are 10,000 abortionists. They are practitioners of what is against life. Their coming here is to endorse a wrong policy,” Bishop Rotich stated.

The bishop described Kenya as a country “always open and ready and receptive to all manner of discussion and things,” and wondered why the Kenyan president has offered the country as a market where the pro-choice agenda can be be sold.

“We are looking at it from the African culture and we are asking the nation through the president, have we no values?” Bishop Rotich asked.

He continued: “What is the constitution saying about the respect of God? What is our interpretation, we as independent and sovereign nation? Are we aware of the enemy that is continually interfering with our tradition and culture of protecting life?”

He described the summit as an intrusion that is a “dragon against our agenda for life” and affirmed, “We must protect our borders, which (are) in this case the life of this country – now and in the future.”

Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa described the summit’s agenda as “unacceptable according to our teaching of the Catholic Church” and, like Bishop Rotich, he cautioned president Uhuru Kenyatta to be wary of the forum.

“Be warned Mr. President, these (ICPD25 agenda) are the issues you should watch out,” Archbishop Kivuva said, adding: “We need to say no, we cannot take this.”

Referring to the organizers of the summit, Archbishop Kivuva said that “It is not the first time they are doing this, and they have a hidden agenda.”

“Remember most of this is about population reduction and yet in Europe there is zero growth yet they tell us we are many,” Archbishop Kivuva said, adding that the foreign organizers of the summit “tell us we are poor because we are many. That is a lie! We are poor because they took and still take our resources. Look at DR Congo, with all the minerals it should be the richest country.”

Bishop Charles Kasonde of Solwezi, chairman of the  Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa, described Africa’s population as “doing good” and “moderate”.

“In terms of population, it is poverty that drags us down otherwise as the population for Africa we are sparsely populated,” Bishop Kasonde of Solwezi told ACI Africa.

To counter the agenda of the Nairobi Summit, the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, with the backing of Kenya’s bishops, has organized a parallel convention to be held Nov. 11-14.



A version of this story was initially reported by CNA’s sister agency, ACI Africa. It has been adapted by CNA.


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Moroccan king pardons woman who procured abortion, those who participated

October 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Rabat, Morocco, Oct 17, 2019 / 10:39 am (CNA).- Morocco’s king pardoned Wednesday a journalist, her fiance, and the medical team who last month were found guilty of procuring and performing an abortion. The country’s penal code bars abortion except in cases when the mother’s life is endangered.

Mohammed VI’s pardon was granted Oct. 16.

Hajar Raissouni, 28, had been sentenced Sept. 30 to a year imprisonment for procuring an abortion and for fornication. Her fiance, Rifaat al-Amin, was also given a years’ imprisonment, and her doctor, Mohammed Jamal Belkeziz, was given two years in prison and a two-year ban on practising medicine.

A nurse and an assistant at the Rabat obstetrics-gynecology clinic were given suspended sentences.

Th e pardon was communicted by a statement from the justice ministry saying the king’s act was “within a framework of royal compassion and clemency” and considered his concern “to preserve the future of the two fiances who intended to found a family in conformity with religious precepts and the law, despite the error they committed and which led to the legal proceedings.”

Raissouni writes for Akhbar Al-Yaoum, which is critical of the Moroccan government.

Prosecutors have said her arrest has “nothing to do with her profession as a journalist,” but some worried it was politically motivated.

Raissouni was arrested in August as she left the clinic.

Saad Sahli, a lawyer for Raissouni and al-Amin, said that Raissouni had been receiving treatment for internal bleeding at the clinic where she was arrested.

After her arrest, Raissouni was taken to hospital where she was given a gynecological exam.

Prosecutors say there were indications of pregnancy and that she had received a “late voluntary abortion.”

Rabat officials have also indicated the clinic where the five were arrested if being surveilled, after reports that abortions are regularly procured there.

Raissouni and al-Amin have been religiously, but not legally, married.

Sunni Islam is the established religion of Morocco. The country has strict rules on moral behavior and has criminalized debauchery and adultery.

According to a group that support abortion rights, most abortion-related arrests in the country involve medical officials, and only rarely do they include the women who procure abortions.

In 2018, Moroccan courts tried more than 14,500 people for debauchery; 3,048 for adultery; 170 for homosexuality; and 73 for abortions, AFP reported.


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Marathon man: The Catholic faith, and family, of Eliud Kipchoge

October 13, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Nairobi, Kenya, Oct 13, 2019 / 08:02 am (CNA).- On Saturday, Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge broke a finishing tape, and a barrier long-thought to be completely unbreakable. Kipchoge became the first person to run a marathon in less than two hours, finishing a 26.2 mile course in Vienna in 1 hour 59 minutes 40 seconds.



— Eliud Kipchoge (@EliudKipchoge) October 12, 2019


Sometime after the run was over, away from the spotlight, Kipchoge did what he is reported to do after every race: he knelt down, bent his forehead to the ground, and made the sign of the cross, in thanksgiving for a good run.

In his hometown, his friends and family say that Kipchoge’s extraordinary accomplishment might have something to do with his deep Catholic faith.

Kipchoge’s cousin, Fr. Kennedy Kipchumba, told ACI Africa Saturday that the runner’s accomplishment was “a moment of joy and jubilation, with a summary of: God fulfills His promise.”

“I was part of the close to 3,000 people who were following the race from a big screen and with all of them, we ended up bowing to God to thank him for this much he offered to us,” Fr. Kipchumba said.

After Kipchoge’s feat, his family, included several priests, celebrated Mass in thanksgiving.

“Everybody came to Church, to say thank you to God. We celebrated Mass to thank God. We celebrated as a community; we had the family, Fr. Benjamin Oroiyo who is also a family member, Fr. Benedict Rono and we were also joined by the Deputy Governor of Nandi County, area Member of Parliament, among other local leaders,” Fr. Kipchumba said.

The Mass was celebrated in a small village chapel, St. Peter’s Kapsisiwa, an “outstation” of St. Joseph’s Sangalo Parish in the Diocese of Eldoret.

Kipchoge, 34, was raised in the small village of Kapsisiwa, 200 miles from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The area around Kapsisiwa is a highland of rolling green hills, where Kipchoge began running as a child. The runner now lives with his wife in the west Kenyan city of Eldoret, close to his hometown.

“The main person in the family is the mother, whom we brought from her house” for the Mass, Kipchumba explained.

Kipchoge’s mother, Janeth Rotich, is seen as a moral and spiritual supporter of her son.

“I wake up at 3 a.m. every day to pray for Kipchoge. I pray the rosary,” she has told local reporters.

Kipchoge left Kenya on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Monday, Oct. 7 to attempt a sub-2 hour marathon in Vienna. But before he left, the parish he attends when in Nairobi offered Mass for him.

On the eve of his departure, special prayers were offered for him by the congregation of St. Paul’s University Catholic Church.
“Kipchoge is a friend of students’ choir at St. Paul’s University Chapel. Last Sunday we had Mass celebration for Eliud Kipchoge,” the chaplain of Nairobi University, Fr. Peter Kaigua told ACI Africa Saturday.

Kaigua described the historic marathoner, Kipchoge as “an inspiration to the youths, a mentor to the young people and a humble man; through him the young people get to know that their dreams can be met.”

“Before offering Mass for him last week, we used to talk about him in the university with students. We therefore opted to offer him Mass before going for the marathon race so that God can help him realize his dream,” Kaigua added.

“The day for Mass, young people had t-shirts printed in his name,” Kaigua told ACI Africa.

During the Mass, Kaigua said that Kipchoge’s run “will push his body and his mind to unknown levels and if he ever needed God, and Mother Mary and all the Saints, this is the time — that is why we are here, praying hard. As Eliud also famously said, ‘you cannot train alone and expect to make a fast time… 100 percent of me is nothing compared to one percent of the team.’ We are, therefore, going to be Eliud’s pacemakers in prayer.”

“The university acted as his ‘spiritual pacesetter.’ His winning is a sign that prayer for young people has been answered,” the priest told ACI Africa.

When Kipchoge crossed the finish line, he said that felt himself to be “the happiest man to run under two hours to inspire many people; to tell people that no human is limited, you can do it.”

“I am expecting more athletes from all over the world to run under two hours,” he added.

Priest, religious, and laity in his native Kenya have praised Kiphchoge as a man of great inspiration. Some interpreting his success in the context of the Church’s “Extraordinary Missionary Month,” whose theme is “Baptized and Sent.”

“Eliud Kipchoge, baptized and sent! I saw his mother with a white Rosary on her neck. This is just how faith is handed on in the family set up. The mother passes it on to the child,” Fr. Samuel Nyattaya of Kenya’s Kisumu Archdiocese told ACI Africa.

The priest said he felt “so happily surprised at the demonstration of his Catholic faith!”

“I believe that God is happy to see us putting efforts to maximize our potential. God must have been so happy to see this courageous Kenyan encouraging the entire world with his belief,” Sr. Sr. Margaret Mutiso, a member of the Daughters of Sacred Heart, told ACI Africa.

Kipchoge “is advocating for a peaceful world where all live together in harmony and we’re not limited to do that,” she added.

For his part, Kaigua said that the university parish in Nairobi is already “planning to celebrate another Mass for him in his presence immediately, as soon as he is back in the country.”

The priest, and the marathoner, surely have something to thank God for.



A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.