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Car bomb near church in Syria wounds several

July 12, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Qamishli, Syria, Jul 12, 2019 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- A car bomb exploded near a Syriac Orthodox church in Qamishli Thursday, injuring about 11 people. It is unclear who is responsible for the attack.

According to AFP, the July 11 bombing “slightly dented” the metal gate of the Church of the Virgin Mary located in the al-Wasta neighborhood of Qamishli, in Syria’s Al-Hasakah Governorate on the border with Turkey.

Sana, the Syrian state news agency, reported that the blast caused “material damage to parts of the church, shops and cars.”

Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, “condemned with the strongest terms this coward terrorist act, considering that the perpetrators of the explosion aim to create an atmosphere of worry and chaos among citizens and destabilize the situation in the region,” Sana reported.

Al-Wasta is held by the Syrian government; much of the rest of Qamishli is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed, Kurdish-dominated alliance.

Most media report that the attack has gone unclaimed, though The Defense Post reported that Islamic State took credit for the bombing.

Joan Garcia, a researcher with the Rojava Information Center (an organization in northeastern Syria assisting reporters and researchers), told The Defense Post that “this attack is the eleventh in eleven days in Hasakah province and the fourth in a month in Qamishlo – the de facto capital of North East Syria.”

North East Syria is a Kurdish name for Rojava, or Western Kurdistan, a de facto autonomous region of Syria under Kurdish control.

Garcia added that Qamishli “has for some years been secure from ISIS attacks.”

“As such, these attacks form part of a steady increase in ISIS-linked attacks in previously-secure, Kurdish-majority cities close to the border. This particular attack targeted worshippers leaving a church, part of the Christian minority which in Qamishlo exists peacefully alongside Arab and Kurdish communities,” Garcia said.

The Syrian civil war began in March 2011 with demonstrations against the nation’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The war has claimed the lives of more than 500,000 people, and forced 5.6 million to become refugees. Another 6.6 million Syrians are believed to have been internally displaced by the violence.

The civil war is being fought among the Syrian regime and a number of rebel groups. The rebels include moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army; Islamists such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State; and Kurdish separatists.

[…]

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Eritrean Catholic Church remains opposed to health facilities’ closure

July 9, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Asmara, Eritrea, Jul 9, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- As the Eritrean government continues to seize and close Catholic healthcare sites throughout the country, the Church has denounced the intimidation used during the nationalization.

The government’s action began in June, and by July 9 as many as 29 Catholic hospitals, health centers, and clinics had been shuttered.

Agenzia Fides reported that a group of nuns who ran a health facility in southern Eritrea were asked to leave their residence July 4, and that in Zager (Zaghir), about 20 miles north of Asmara, police forced nuns away from their health facility and sealed its doors July 5.

“Though the Catholic bishops have expressed their opposition to this measure, they have not yet received any response from the State authorities,” read a recent statement from the Eritrean Catholic Church.

“While in some locations actions of force were involved, in other centres the staff were ordered to ‘get out of the way,’ the premises were sealed, and the staff was placed in a position where they were unable to attend to patients … Threatening words and bullying were spoken in various (health) centres,” the Church continued.

Eritrea’s bishops framed the problem as one of religious liberty, saying: “It is our firm belief that, with the recent requisition of our clinics, a specific right of our religion has been violated, which prescribes, ‘to love others and to do good to them.’ Any measure that prevents us from fulfilling … the obligations that come to us from the supreme commandment of brotherly love is and remains a violation of the fundamental right of religious freedom.”

Papal charity Aid to the Church in Need was told by a source in the Eritrean Catholic Church that “the staff at some of the clinics refused to hand over the keys so the soldiers broke into them.”

Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of the Eritrean Archeparchy of Asmara has called for the Church’s faithful to observe the Apostles’ Fast, which lasts through July 11, in response to the nationalization of the health facilities.

A letter from the Church to the health ministry after the seizure said that “the government can say it doesn’t want the services of the Church, but asking for the property is not right.” It added that the Church’s social services cannot be characterized as opposition to the government.

Eritrea is a one-party state whose human rights record has frequently been deplored.

It is believed the seizures are retaliatory, after the Church in April called for reforms to reduce emigration. The bishops had also called for national reconciliation.

Government seizure of Church property is not new, however.

A 1995 decree restricting social and welfare projects to the state has been used intermittently since then to seize or close ecclesial services.

In July 2018, an Eritrean Catholic priest helping immigrants and refugees in Italy told EWTN that authorities had recently shut down eight free Catholic-run medical clinics. He said authorities claimed the clinics were unnecessary because of the presence of state clinics.

Christian and Muslim schools have also been closed under the 1995 decree, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2019 annual report.

Eritrea has been designated a Country of Particular Concern since 2004 for its religious freedom abuses by the US Department of State.

Many Eritreans, especially youth, emigrate, due to a military conscription, and a lack of opportunities, freedom, education, and health care.

A July 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ended a conflict over their mutual border, led to an open border which has allowed for easier emigration.

[…]

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Eritrean Catholics dedicate Apostles’ Fast to pray over clinics’ closure

June 26, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Asmara, Eritrea, Jun 26, 2019 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- The head of the Eritrean Catholic Church has called for the Church’s faithful to observe the current fasting season in response to the government’s seizure and closing of 22 Church-run health clinics earlier this month.

Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of the Eritrean Archeparchy of Asmara wrote in a June 22 letter that “only the Lord can console us and resolve our problems.”

The Eritrean Catholic Church observes the Apostles’ Fast – a fasting season between Pentecost and the feast of Saints Peter and Paul – this year from June 25 through July 11. The Church uses the Alexandrian rite and the Coptic calendar, on which the feast of Saints Peter and Paul is not celebrated until the Gregorian calendar’s July 12.

The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa has also condemned the clinics’ seizure.

Bishop Charles Kasonde of Solwezi, chair of AMECEA, wrote to the Eritrean bishops saying, “I hereby extend my heart-felt message of solidarity to you and the entire Catholic family in Eritrea over the confiscation of the health institutions owned by the Catholic Church.”

“May the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ nurture you with the hope and give you the necessary courage and stamina to stand strong in defence of the rights of the Church and God’s people in Eritrea,” he added.

In June, military forces arrived at the Church’s 22 clinics, telling patients to return to their homes, and subsequently guarding the buildings.

A letter from the Church to the health ministry after the seizure said that “the government can say it doesn’t want the services of the Church, but asking for the property is not right.” It added that the Church’s social services cannot be characterized as opposition to the government.

Eritrea is a one-party state whose human rights record has frequently been deplored.

According to the BBC, analysts believe the seizures were retaliatory, after the Church in April called for reforms to reduce emigration. The bishops had also called for national reconciliation.

Government seizure of Church property is not new, however.

A 1995 decree restricting social and welfare projects to the state has been used intermittently since then to seize or close ecclesial services.

In July 2018, an Eritrean Catholic priest helping immigrants and refugees in Italy told EWTN that authorities had recently shut down eight free Catholic-run medical clinics. He said authorities claimed the clinics were unnecessary because of the presence of state clinics.

Christian and Muslim schools have also been closed under the 1995 decree, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2019 annual report.

Eritrea has been designated a Country of Particular Concern since 2004 for its religious freedom abuses by the US Department of State.

Many Eritreans, especially youth, emigrate, due to a military conscription, and a lack of opportunities, freedom, education, and health care.

A July 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ended a conflict over their mutual border, led to an open border which has allowed for easier emigration.

[…]

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Eritrean Catholic Church denounces government seizure of health clinics

June 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Asmara, Eritrea, Jun 18, 2019 / 02:26 pm (CNA).- The Eritrean Catholic Church has criticized the government of the one-party state for seizing and closing its 22 health clinics throughout the country last week.

“The government can say it doesn’t want the services of the Church, but asking for the property is not right,” read a letter from the Church to the Eritrean health ministry, the BBC reported June 17.

The Church added that its social services cannot be characterized as opposition to the government.

In seizing the clinics, patients were told to return to their homes, and military are guarding the buildings.

Of the 22 Catholic clinics in Eritrea, eight are in the Eritrean Eparchy of Keren alone, where they serve an estimated 40,000 patients annually.

According to the BBC, analysts believe the seizures were retaliatory, after the Church in April called for reforms to reduce emigration. The bishops had also called for national reconciliation.

Government seizure of Church property is not new, however.

A 1995 decree restricting social and welfare projects to the state has been used intermittently since then to seize or close ecclesial services.

In July 2018, an Eritrean Catholic priest helping immigrants and refugees in Italy told EWTN that authorities had recently shut down eight free Catholic-run medical clinics. He said authorities claimed the clinics were unnecessary because of the presence of state clinics.

Christian and Muslim schools have also been closed under the 1995 decree, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2019 annual report.

Eritrea’s human rights record has frequently been deplored, and the nation has been designated a Country of Particular Concern for its religious freedom abuses by the US Department of State since 2004.

Many Eritreans, especially youth, emigrate, due to a military conscription, and a lack of opportunities, freedom, education, and health care.

A July 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ended a conflict over their mutual border, led to an open border which has allowed for easier emigration.

[…]

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Kenyan court rules that rape victims have right to abortion

June 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Nairobi, Kenya, Jun 15, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- Kenya’s High Court ruled Wednesday that rape victims whose pregnancy threatens their life or health have a right to procure abortion.

The June 12 ruling regarded a case brought on b ehalf of a young woman who died in June 2018 from complications related to a back-alley abortion she procured in 2014.

“Pregnancy resulting from rape or defilement, if in the opinion of a trained medical profession poses a danger to life or the health – that is physical, mental and social well-being of the mother – maybe terminated under … sections of the constitution,” said Justice Aggrey Muchelule, the Thompson Reuters Foundation reported.

The Standard, a Nairobi daily, reported that the judges ruled: “The apparent blanket prohibition of abortion in the penal code cannot stand while the Constitution gives the right to a woman to abort when their life and health are in danger.”

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

The girl at the center of the case, known by her initials JMM, was raped in 2014 at the age of 15. In December of that year, her guardian was told by a relative that JMM was vomiting and bleeding heavily at a clinic where she had gone for treatment.

JMM had told clinic staff she had procured an unsafe abortion and that she had been 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 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.

In its ruling, the court awarded JMM’s mother damage of 3 million Kenyan shillings ($29,500).

The court also ordered the health ministry to reinstate guidelines on conducting ‘safe’ abortions. In 2013 the ministry had withdrawn the guidelines, and banned health workers from training in the procedure, after it emerged they were being used to unintended purposes.

The court had heard three days of testimony in the case in July 2018. It had been expected to deliver a verdict before January 2019.

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, and that similar inflation was used to push the Malawian government to repeal its abortion law.

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.”

[…]