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Nigeria’s bishops call for processions to honor those killed in church attack

May 16, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Abuja, Nigeria, May 16, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nigeria’s Catholic bishops have called on each of the nation’s dioceses to organize peaceful processions May 22 in solidarity with the funeral for two priests and 17 others killed in an attack by Fulani herdsmen on a parish church.

The herdsmen stormed a daily Mass at Saint Ignatius Church on the morning of April 24, killing Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, along with others in the congregation.

Last Sunday’s Mass announcements throughout Nigeria encouraged Catholics and all “men and women of goodwill” to join in these upcoming rosary processions and prayer rallies around the country.

The state governor of Benue, where the attack took place, has also declared May 22 as a work holiday to honor those who died, according to Nigeria’s PM News.

Last year, nomadic Fulani herdsmen killed more than 140 Christians in central Nigeria’s Benue state, a World Watch report by Open Doors found.

Nigeria’s bishops have been vocal critics of President Muhammadu Buhari’s response to the violent attacks by nomadic herdsmen.

In a statement issued in response to the April 24 attack, the Nigerian bishops’ conference called on Buhari to step down because “he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens.”

“How can the Federal Government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wails of helpless and armless citizens who remain sitting ducks in their homes, highway and now, even in their sacred places of worship?” the bishops continued.

The northern Fulani herdsmen have been moving south due to the desertification of the soil in northern Nigeria, and have violently clashed with the farmers in the region, as the cattle have overtaken some farmed fields.

Some, including the bishops, have asserted that terrorist groups are embedded among the nomadic herdsmen.

The bishops met with Buhari Feb. 8, urging him to address the deadly violence, as well as the kidnappings in Nigeria.

“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.

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

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Report promoting abortion in developing nations denounced as ‘grotesque’

May 14, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., May 14, 2018 / 02:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A report calling for access to contraception and abortion in the developing world is an example of ideological colonization and cultural arrogance, warned a family author and scholar.

“By what moral right do Westerners send the message that the world would be a better place with fewer Africans in it?” said Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute.

“Such campaigns are going to look as ugly in history’s rearview mirror as the twentieth-century eugenics movement does today,” she told CNA.

Eberstadt was responding to the newly-released Guttmacher-Lancet Commission report, which declared a need for universal access to contraception and birth control within the next 12 years, particularly in the developing world.

The Commission believes that these goals are “consistent with,” yet broader than, the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The findings were published last week in the medical journal The Lancet.

They discussed “sexual and reproductive health and rights” (SRHR), a term defined by the report to mean gender-based violence, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, abortion, contraception, infertility, reproductive cancers, and maternal and newborn health.

In addition to the developing world, populations that were identified as having “distinct needs” in this area included adolescents, sex workers, intravenous drug users, immigrants, and refugees.

Failure to embrace the goals outlined by the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission’s agenda have harmed women and put lives at risk, the report claims.

“There is compelling evidence that countries or governments that do not prioritise SRHR have disproportionately poor health indicators. For example, those countries with restrictive abortion laws contributed most to the global burden of 25 million unsafe abortions.”

There is an “urgent need to change the narrative” on these issues, said one of the included commentaries in the report, particularly highlighting the poorer parts of Africa and in southeast Asia.

The Commission found that the cost of promoting abortion and contraception to the developing world would come out to about nine dollars per person, per year, which they claim will “save lives.”

However, Eberstadt objected to the idea that Westerners have the moral standing to promote contraception and abortion in developing nations.

She warned that the rhetoric of the report will not age gracefully and will one day be likened to eugenics campaigns.

“The spectacle of pale elites from increasingly barren societies trying to reduce the fertility of darker people in other societies is intrinsically grotesque,” she said.

 

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Iraq gathering aimed to honor Mary, empower women

May 2, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Baghdad, Iraq, May 2, 2018 / 01:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Iraqi women rebuilding their lives after ISIS occupation were invited to a three-day gathering aimed, according to organizers, at empowering Christian women and offering them spiritual support.

Held April 27-29  in Qaraqosh ,the event drew inspiration from the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, added recently to the Church’s calendar by Pope Francis.
The event was meant to “rebuild women in the spiritual side, in the biblical side and in the psychological side,” Fr. Roni Momika told CNA April 30.

Momika, who was ordained a priest in a refugee camp after fleeing Qaraqosh when ISIS took over in 2014, leads a weekly women’s group at St. Ephraim church in Qaraqosh, which was burned and vandalized by ISIS but which has slowly started functioning as a normal parish again.

“This meeting is to empower women,” he said.

Catholics at St. Ephraim Church in Qaraqosh, Iraq.

In comments to CNA after a separate women’s event earlier this year, Momika said he has focused on supporting women “because they are the base of the community.”

“The situation here in Qaraqosh is still difficult because the houses are still burned and destroyed,” he said, adding that rebuilding is currently a slow process due to the extensive damage and a lack of funding.

“Everything is difficult here and we want to rebuild the woman before we rebuild the houses,” he said.

“If you rebuild the woman, you can rebuild the children, and when you rebuild the children, you can rebuild the family, and after that we can rebuild the community here in Qaraqosh,” he said.

In his comments April 30, Momika said the Church in Qaraqosh wants “to allow women to trust in themselves.”

Momika’s regular women’s group draws some 800 attendees weekly. He estimates that as many as 4,500 people, including children, attended some part of the larger April meeting.

Qaraqosh, formerly known as the Christian capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, had a population of nearly 50,000 before ISIS attacked in 2014, prompting the majority of inhabitants to flee in a single night. Most ended up living in crowded refugee camps in Erbil.

According to Momika, some 20,000 people have returned since the city was liberated in 2016, most of whom belong to the Syriac Catholic rite.

Many of these families are trying to establish a new normal in their lives, from the practical to the spiritual.

The decision to hold the recent meeting, Momika said, came after Pope Francis announced his decision to establish the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.

The program featured lectures, videos, Mass and community time.

A special icon of Mary was written for the occasion, which was done by a local artist who dressed the Virgin in the traditional clothes of women from Qaraqosh.

On the final day of the gathering, Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Kirkuk and Kurdistan, Youhanna Boutros Moshe, celebrated Mass and led attendees in a procession to the city’s cathedral, Iraq’s largest church and the principal church of the Syriac-Catholic rite.

Looking at pictures of the gathering, “all the women are laughing and they are happy because it is the first time we are doing this [meeting] in Qaraqosh” since the city’s liberation, Momika said.

“We want to send a message that ISIS burned the stone but they cannot burn the soul and they cannot burn Christianity and our faith,” he added. “Our faith is big [in] our Jesus Christ and his Mother, the Virgin Mary. This is the message.”

 

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In South Sudan, Catholic hospital to receive new surgical, maternity units

May 2, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Yambio, South Sudan, May 2, 2018 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Medical Mission Board is adding a new surgical unit and a blood bank to a hospital in South Sudan, offering better care to a country with one of the highest maternal mortality rates.

“We look to build the capacity of the hospital to make sure they are well equipped and well-staffed and well trained to the meet the needs of pregnant mothers and children coming in for services,” CMMB’s Director of Partnerships, Robert Wuillamey, told CNA.

“One of the initiatives we are undertaking is building and equipping the hospital with an operating theater. Currently, the hospital does not have the capacity to do even simple surgeries in a clean and an efficient way.”

Located in Nzara, fewer than 20 miles northwest of Yambio, St. Theresa Hospital is managed by the Comboni Missionary Sisters and owned by the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio. Specializing in maternal health, the clinic provides most of its medical aid to women and children. It serves some 300,000 people in southwestern South Sudan as well as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

The hospital will receive not only a surgical operating theater, but a maternity ward as well. Additionally, the hospital will be implanting a blood donation program for patients with malaria and anemia. A psychiatrics program has also been installed to aid the reintegration of child soldiers into civilian life.

In a 2015 estimate, South Sudan had a maternal mortality rate of 789 deaths per 100,000 live births, similar to several other sub-Saharan countries. Maternal mortality rates range from 1,360 in Sierra Leone, to 3 in Finland, Poland, Iceland, and Greece. The rate in the US is 14.

Serious discussions for the new facilities began around a year ago, shortly after the hospital received consistent sources for electricity and clean water. Having broken ground April 7, Wuillamey said the operating theater will hopefully be completed by October

After the facilities are completed, the clinic will be able to conduct such surgeries as caesarean sections. Currently, the hospital has doctors capable of minor surgeries, but an anesthesiologist and a doctor capable of more complicated surgeries will also be needed.

Last year, the hospital received between 21,000 and 28,000 out patients attendances and 7,000 admissions, but Wuillamey said the number is expected to rise as the new facilities become operational.

He noted that because of its civil war, South Sudan has poorly functioning government services, which will likely encourage people to seek out this private facility.

“The state has a hospital in Yambio, but due to the conflict and the poor resourcing by the government, the hospital has really reached a near collapsed state. So there are not a lot of functioning services at Yambio,” he said.

South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013. The war has is being fought between forces loyal to the country’s president and those loyal to its former vice president, and is largely drawn along ethnic lines. Peace agreements have been short-lived, with violence quickly resuming.

Wuillamey said South Sudan’s medical and educational systems have been greatly weakened because of the country’s conflicts. He also pointed to communities who live in fear as both rebels and government forces destroy villages and displace communities.

“On a conflict level, the conflict has really created a sense of fear and uncertainty in the communities. It has destabilized communities, in the sense that armed rebels, and even government forces, have come in and closed down entire communities.”

When asked about the safety issues, he agreed that there is a level of concern but said that CMMB has also conducted a risk assessment for this mission and has safeguards in place to minimize that risk.  

Regardless of the concerns, Wuillamey said the South Sudanese need health care and solidarity, noting it is the Christian faith which motivates people to accompany these communities.

“When I think about what we are doing with this hospital and with this operating theater, it’s part of a broader context of sharing solidarity with the people and creating a safe and healthy environment in which people can thrive.”

“We appreciate the need for organizations to remain committed to the work that they have undertaken. We, as an organization, go into risky situations, knowing that is where the need is greatest, where stability is critical to future of these countries, and these communities. Our faith drives us to walk that path with the people of South Sudan and the Western Equatoria State.”

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As bishops say he’s ‘failed,’ Nigeria’s president meets with Trump

May 1, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Washington D.C., May 1, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the White House Monday, President Donald Trump expressed his concern about recent attacks on Christians in Nigeria.

“We’ve had very serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed in Nigeria,” President Trump said during the meeting, “we can’t allow that to happen.”

The Nigerian leader’s visit to the White House came just days after an attack on a Catholic church killed at least 15 people, including two priests, during a morning Mass when nomadic herdsmen opened fire on the congregation.

In response to the attack, Nigeria’s Catholic bishops’ conference issued a statement April 26 calling President Buhari to step down because “he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens.”

The bishops continued: “How can the Federal Government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wails of helpless and armless citizens who remain sitting ducks in their homes, highway and now, even in their sacred places of worship?”

Nigerian bishops have frequently expressed criticism of Buhari’s response to violent attacks by nomadic Fulani herdsmen, which killed more than 140 Christians in central Nigeria’s Benue State in 2017. The bishops have said that Buhari is unwilling to act on the ongoing problem.

The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom labeled Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) in its April 2018 report. “Sectarian violence between predominantly Muslim herders and predominantly Christian farmers increased, and the Nigerian federal government failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold perpetrators accountable,” according to the USCIRF report.
The country’s Catholic bishops met with President Buhari on Feb. 8, urging him to address the deadly violence and kidnappings in Nigeria.

Several priests have been abducted in Nigeria in recent months. Most recently, a parish priest in Benin City, Fr. Omorogbe, was kidnapped by gunmen on April 18. He was released on April 22.

President Trump also asked the Nigerian leader about Boko Haram kidnapping of over 100 schoolgirls in February. Most of the girls were returned in March, however one girl remains in captive.

The Boko Haram have not released 15-year-old Leah Sharibu, a Christian, because she refused to renounce her faith and convert to Islam.

“We haven’t given up,” President Buhari told Trump on April 30, “We are trying to get everybody back to join their families and their schools.”

President Buhari’s three-day visit to Washington marked the first visit by an African president to the White House during Trump’s presidency.

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Nigerian herdsmen kill 19 in Catholic church attack

April 26, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Jos, Nigeria, Apr 26, 2018 / 03:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At least 19 people, including two priests, were killed on Tuesday when nomadic cattle farmers in central Nigeria opened fire at morning Mass in a Catholic parish.

Reports indicated that Fulani herdsmen attacked Saint Ignatius Church in Ayar-Mbalom, a town within Nigeria’s Benue State, on April 24. According to officials, the herdsmen killed 17 worshipers and two priests: Father Joseph Gor and Father Felix Tyolaha.

After the attack on the church, the herdsmen proceeded to shoot residents in the area and set fire to around 50 homes, according to survivor Peter Iorver, whose stepmother had been a victim.

“The herdsmen came and opened fire on the church while morning mass was going on,” Iorver told New Telegraph, a local newspaper. “After they attacked and killed those in the church, they left and started shooting sporadically, killing residents around the area.”

“They burnt over 50 houses and destroyed food and farm crops as they retreated to their base. My stepmother was one of the victims; she was at the mass when the attack happened.”

The attack took place near Nigeria’s middle belt, where the Muslim north meets the southern Christian area.

While none of the attackers have been arrested so far, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to find those responsible for the shooting.

“This latest assault on innocent persons is particularly despicable. Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting,” he tweeted. 

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>This latest assault on innocent persons is particularly despicable. Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting.</p>&mdash; Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) <a href=”https://twitter.com/MBuhari/status/988799479632596993?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>April 24, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), chair of the House Subcommittee on Africa, also decried the violence.

“Tuesday’s killing of priests and parishioners on the grounds of St Ignatius Catholic Church in the Makurdi Diocese signals that the religious violence in Nigeria is escalating,” he said. “It’s imperative that Nigerian authorities punish those who are culpable, lest violence worsen during the upcoming election cycle.”  

“Nigeria should explore justice system reforms that address grievances so that herdsman – the perpetrators of much of the recent violence – cease targeting farmers, exacerbating religious and ethnic tensions in the process,” Smith continued, adding that the creation of a religious equity commission would also be timely.

Violence between Fulani herdsmen and farmers has increased in recent years, as climate issues have pushed herders further south.

By mid-January this year, more than 100 deaths had been attributed to the herdsmen.

The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria voiced grave concern about the violence in a January statement. They recognized the challenges faced by the herdsman, but expressed the need for better alternatives to open grazing.

“Government should rather encourage cattle owners to establish ranches in line with international best practice,” the bishops said.

“Farmers and herdsmen have a lot to contribute to the socio economic prosperity of our nation. A more enduring strategy must be worked out for their peaceful co-existence and mutual respect.”

 

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Nigerian priest liberated after four days in captivity

April 23, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Benin City, Nigeria, Apr 23, 2018 / 12:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Edwin Omoregbe, who had been kidnapped last week in Nigeria’s Edo state, was released on Sunday.

“With great joy in our heart, we want to inform you all that our priest, Rev. Fr. Edwin Omorogbe has been released from the hands of kidnappers,” read an April 22 statement from the Archdiocese of Benin City, according to the Guardian of Lagos.

“We thank you all for your prayers and pray that God continue to grant all our heart desires,” the statement continued.

Fr. Omorogbe, a parish priest at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Benin City, was abducted April 18 by unidentified gunmen near Egba, on the way from Uromi to Benin City. He was released in the afternoon of April 22. The local Catholic community had been praying for his release.

Babatunde Kokumo, the Edo State commissioner of police, and others led a search and rescue campaign for Omorogbe in the bushes of the Uhumwonde Local Government Area after his kidnapping.

The motive behind the kidnapping and the parties responsible are unknown.

Fr. Omoregbe was ordained a priest in 2003, and has studied in Canada.

Several priests and religious have been abducted in southern Nigeria in recent months.

Six women religious were held for two months before they were released by a police operation in January. They had been taken from Iguoriakhi near Uromi, also in Edo state.

An Italian missionary priest, Fr. Maurizio Pallù, was kidnapped in Edo state for a week in October 2017.

In Imo state, Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo was kidnapped and killed in September of the same year.

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