Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aASIA/LEBANON - The giant statue of Saint Charbel to be installed on the heights of Kesrouan - The giant statue of Saint Charbel, Lebanon’s Saint dear to the Maronite tradition has reached the heights of Kesrouan.<br />The statue was transferred Sunday morning from Haret Sakhr, north of Jounieh, to Faraya, on the heights of Kesrouan.<br />To allow the transportation of the sculpture, 27 meters high, 7 meters wide and weighs 40 tons, special traffic restrictions were imposed on the highway leading to Faraya.<br />The statue, the work of Lebanese artist Naef Alwan, is not yet complete; hands will be attached later. On September 14, which happens to be Feast of the Cross Day, a Mass will be held during which the statue will be sanctified. <br />Mon, 21 Aug 2017 13:36:24 +0200AMERICA/VENEZUELA - Mgr. Reyes denounces: "37 detainees massacred in a planned manner in Puerto Ayacucho" Ayacucho - "These people were massacred in a planned manner", said the Apostolic Vicar of Puerto Ayacucho , Mgr. Jonny Eduardo Reyes Sequera, S.D.B. on the massacre last Wednesday in the prison of Puerto Ayacucho where 37 people died.<br />"Here we are talking about a serious tragedy, because they are human lives, because when you pay armed groups to go to kill people, it is a planned thing", said Mgr. Reyes, to the local press on Sunday, August 20.<br />"We are not talking about chickens or cats, but people, and we do not even know if they are only 37", said Mgr. Reyes.<br />According to agencies, 37 prisoners died during an intervention of a Venezuelan police unit in the prison of Puerto Ayacucho, capital of the state of Amazonas, in the south of the country. The local press had informed that before the armed intervention, a group of detainees had taken control of the prison. <br />Mon, 21 Aug 2017 13:19:04 +0200AFRICA/KENYA - "To die for elections is unacceptable": condemnation of the Bishops regarding post-election violence - The Kenyan opposition has appealed to the Supreme Court for the victory of outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta in the August 8 presidential election against Raila Odinga. The latter contested the electoral outcome by denouncing fraud in the electronic voting . On August 11th, the Independent Electoral Commission declared Kenyatta's victory with 54.27% of votes against Odinga, who had obtained 44.74%.<br />In some areas of Kenya violence exploded which led to at least 28 deaths. "To die because of elections is unacceptable", said the Bishops of Kenya in a statement released on August 17. "One should not allow similar things to happen in a civil society like Kenya".<br />The anti-riot police units are also under accusation whose intervention in at least two cases killed a six and a ten-year-old girl.<br />The Bishops have condemned security officials who brutally dealt with demonstrators when it was their duty to protect them, a move that led to "painful loss of lives and destruction of property".<br />The Bishops also thanked the Kenyans who went to vote, demonstrating "sense of patriotism and love for our nation". <br /><br />Mon, 21 Aug 2017 12:59:37 +0200AMERICA/PARAGUAY - "There is no justice in Chaco" denounces the Apostolic Vicar Chaco – Mgr. Gabriel Narciso Escobar Ayala, S.D.B., Apostolic Vicar of Chaco Paraguayo has denounced the irresponsibility in the judicial management of public defenders who won the competition to work in the department of Alto Paraguay. Most of the winners of the competition, once they gain their position, thanks to political favors, avoid working in the area and go to other regions.<br />In a note sent to Agenzia Fides, Mgr. Escobar, recalls that the office of the public defender, set up in that department in 2015, involves four defenders. Since that date only one actually works in the area, the other three operate in other regions.<br />"The population is poor in this department, but its large extension, much wider than other regions of the country, makes it impossible for one person to provide assistance to all its inhabitants", said Mgr. Escobar.<br />"There are many humble people in the area, especially those who work in farms, or as workers, who are exploited by employers and do not receive the salary they deserve by law. These people, without legal assistance, turn to the Bishop because they cannot afford a private lawyer, but what I can give them is just spiritual assistance", concludes Mgr. Escobar. <br />Mon, 21 Aug 2017 12:41:51 +0200AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE -"Deforestation and illegal constructions at the origin of the Regent tragedy" says a missionary - "As always one wonders if something could have been avoided and if human wisdom could have saved so many lives and so many things built with hard work", writes Fr. Gerardo Caglioni to Agenzia Fides, a missionary with a long experience in Sierra Leone, commenting on the tragedy that took place between 13 and 14 August, when "Mount sugar loaf" as it is called, collapsed on the village of Regent causing at least 500 deaths. "This village is at the origin of the Creoles community of Sierra Leone and was one of the first centers where some slave groups had settled. The first Christian school of these communities was established, the "Christian Institution", which soon after became a University, the "Fourah Bay College". Freetown was known as the "Athens of Africa" as an homage to the college, emphasizes Caglioni. Here are his considerations on what happened:<br />"For those who lived, like me, for years in that land, what comes to my mind is the comparison of what it was like 40 years ago and what I saw during my last trip last year. There are no more green spaces. Years ago, we saw smokes of woodworking logs for the preparation of charcoal to cook. Now houses have been built without any town planning, without roads and sewers.<br />Where are the schools, clinics? Where do the people collect water for various needs, especially in the dry season? There are many unanswered questions, no plans for growth and development, no plans for moments of emergency.<br />Another aspect regards garbage. The streets of the city of Freetown are full of garbage mountains with every kind of plastic. In the dry season, there is a terrible "smell" of the material that decomposes due to the heat. During the rainy season, often, one can see the whole city, located on the slopes of a large promontory full of various things that block drainage pipes and flood essential parts of the means of communication.<br />Finally, it must be said, rulers must assume their responsibilities in administering this territory with its one and a half million inhabitants and is about to burst like a bomb prepared to explode. It is necessary to plan and restrict entry to new residents in order to provide a minimum of decent security and decent living for those who already reside there. One should not weep for incorrect mistakes when they can and should be avoided", he concludes. <br />Mon, 21 Aug 2017 12:20:42 +0200AMERICA/CHILE - Bishop of Villarrica demands immediate and definitive end to La Araucania violence – As every year on 15 August, thousands gathered all over the country to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, a much loved feast-day for Chilean Catholics. <br />In La Araucanía Catholics working in the fields, mainly young people, representing the Mapuche communities, made the 10 km march from Temuco to reach the Marian Shrine of Metrenco. There they were welcomed by Bishop Francisco Javier Stegmeier Schmidlin of the diocese of Villarrica . In his address the Bishop did not fail to mention the violence in the area: "It is necessary to talk with the minority groups, the few still in search of violence, to convince them to stop using those means and work instead to build healthy collaboration and dialogue with the authorities because it is time to restore to life its proper value ".<br />In Chile although the so-called Araucania Plan continues " , small groups unfortunately some continue to use violence to make their voices heard, as Fides said last month when we reported a church-burning attack at the end of July. .<br /> <br /><br />Fri, 18 Aug 2017 13:05:26 +0200ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Bishop voices firm condemnation of plan to use hostages as human bombs – A local Catholic bishop has deplored suspected plans by a group, of IS inspiration, known as Maute, to use civilian hostages as suicide bombers to attack security forces. <br />According to a report sent by the Philippines Catholic Bishops’ Conference to Fides, Bishop Edwin de la Peña y Angot, a member of the Mission Society of the Philippines M.S.P. and charged with the spiritual care of Marawi prelature said such "desperate" acts deserve nothing but strong condemnation.<br />"horrible…to be condemned! These terrorists are clearly desperate to even imagine something like this ", said Mons. de la Peña.<br />"These militants planning something tremendous, think the government will listen to them", he said.<br />Although clashes continue, the army says that less than 40 militants are still in the area three months after hundreds of armed men attempted to take the city .<br />Reportedly some 46 civilians are being held by terrorists, among them is Catholic priest Fr Teresito "Chito" Suganob, Vicar General of Marawi prelature.<br /> <br />Fri, 18 Aug 2017 13:04:44 +0200AMERICA/PARAGUAY - The Assumption, archbishop Valenzuela laments ‘indifference going global!’ – Crowds of faithful took part in festivities for the annual major holiday to mark the commemoration of the Assumption into Heaven of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Indeed Holy Mary the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, known and loved here with the title Virgin dell’Asuncion, is Paraguay’s patron saint. These traditional festivities start with a nautical sailing procession carrying the image of the ‘Virgin’ from Sajonia to Puerto de Asuncion. On the arrival of the boats a chosen group of local people take over, bearing the sacred Image to the Cathedral. As always the popular procession drew large crowds including throngs of joyous and noisy children and student pupils at local Catholic institutes.<br />In his homily, the archbishop di Asuncion Edmundo Ponziano Valenzuela Mellid, a Salesian father, expressed deep concern for the present wickedness, indifference and unequal distribution of wealth in that country where an estimated 850.000 people abandoned to their fate battle against extreme poverty. "The situation, the archbishop says, is aggravated by spreading indifference, fast becoming globalised!".<br />Paraguayans suffer deeply the loss of respect for human and Christian values, seeing the destruction of the family and life, and growing abuse of drugs and alcohol.<br />But once again the annual event was a great success attended by all sorts of people ranging from farm workers to university students, whole parish communities and even curious national and foreign tourists who happened to be in the capital.<br /> <br /><br />Thu, 17 Aug 2017 13:00:16 +0200ASIA/SRI LANKA - Commitment and generosity: Pontifical Mission Society Holy Childhood marks 30 years activity in Sri Lanka – Some 1,500 participants under the slogan "I called you by name to be my disciple" recently celebrated 30 years in Sri Lanka of Pontifical Mission Society Holy Childhood activity. Celebrations were held on 29 June 2017 at St Joseph’s College in Maradana, among those present, Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo.<br />All agreed that Holy Childhood mission society has proved to be a token and tool of Jesus’ love. Participants at the event included former co-workers, national and diocesan Holy Childhood Directors as well as animators past and present. Passionate testimony was given by former Holy Childhood coordinators, one today a priest and the other a consecrated Sister. Also among those present, local Holy Childhood staff members. The event was organised by the staff of PMS National Office in Sri Lanka under the guidance of National PMS director, fr Basil Rohan Fernando.<br /> <br />Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:59:36 +0200AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - Religious leaders: “declare legitimate Bangassou people request for withdrawal of Moroccan UN Peacekeepers - In Bangassou, a city in the south east of the Central African Republic the people are demanding the withdrawal of the Moroccan troops of the UN Peacekeeping Mission.<br />“The request is legitimate and confirms the request forwarded by Mons. Aguirre, the Catholic Bishop of Bangassou” says Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, leader of the platform of Religious Confessions in the Central African Republic who was part of a delegation sent from the capital Bangui to investigate regarding the situation in and around Bangassou. The delegation comprised representatives of local politics, state administration and the civil society. <br />In a report to Fides, Bishop Juan José Aguirre Muños of Bangassou, had precious;y denounced the troops of MINUSCA , deployed in area for being “trigger happy” : they react to ambushes with indiscriminate firing, hitting also innocent persons .<br />“The people are witnesses and victims of the activity in the city of the Moroccan contingent of the UN peacekeepers” said Imam Layama. “The people want the contingent to leave Bangassou because it has failed in its duty to protect civilians. These troops do little or nothing when the militiamen attack. Some say the Moroccan military are the cause of several cases of murder because they shoot civilians point blank calling them militia” continued the Imam.<br />Bangassou and surroundings are the scene of clashes between former Seleka rebels and Anti Balaka militia, following the withdrawal of Ugandan and US troops sent to the area to hunt for Joseph Koni, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army . For some months now Bangassou cathedral has sheltered some two thousand Muslim citizens threatened by the Anti Balaka militia . <br /> <br /><br />Fri, 11 Aug 2017 13:02:06 +0200UNITED STATES - Thanks to Catholic Bishop Mexican mother may remain in US to care for her daughter Paso – A Mexican women, mother of three who risked deportation has been given permission to remain in the United States for another six months, thanks to the intervention of Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas and other religious leaders.<br />María Elena De Loera, has been granted permission for " humanitarian motives" to care for her eight year old daughter Alia receiving treatment for cancer.<br />This is the third time that Mrs De Loera is given a temporary residence permit since 2014 when she first applied for asylum in the US. Her first application was motivated on the grounds that after her husband’s murder in Mexico she feared for the safety of her three children. A few months after Mrs De Loera’s first application for asylum, her youngest child was diagnosed with cancer. She was given a permit to remain in the US through 2015 while her daughter received cancer treatment, but the permit had to be renewed every year. This year the permit was to expire but thanks to the intervention of Bishop Seitz and other local religious leaders Mrs De Loera can stay on with her daughter . <br />Fri, 11 Aug 2017 13:01:20 +0200AFRICA/DR CONGO - Two emergency projects in provinces of former Katanga help cope with double the number of internally displaced persons Fides) Kalemie – According to a report issued by OCHA, in March this year there were about 450,000 internally displaced persons in the province of Tanganyika, the worst hit of the four provinces of what was formerly known as Katanga, by Luba-Pygmy conflict which has raged since 2016. In the main provincial town Kalemie, six out of every ten people are displaced. To help in this situation of emergency, NGO Italian blood donors association AVIS has launched two projects. One will assure school classes for 15,000 destitute children in Kalemie: providing basic school backup courses for schools near displaced persons camps and funding to include newcomers in the classes; training for teachers and school principals; school materials, balls and games and supplies of teachers’ kits. The second project RRMP, Rapid Response Popular Movements, will be a six month intervention in the most impervious and difficult to reach parts of the four provinces of former Katanga to offer assistance for people internally displaced for at least 3 months: basic necessities, schooling, healthcare and hygiene in cooperation with the International Rescue Committee . <br />Fri, 11 Aug 2017 13:00:34 +0200AFRICA/UGANDA - Mini cultural centre on wheels open for street children - Matatart is a project run jointly by a 30 year old architect, an Italian Aid Worker, and a young Ugandan woman. The project helps carry culture and art to street children in Kampala. Matatart comes from matatu, small vans which serve as multiple taxis . The organisation purchased an old matatu van in Japan turned it into a mini culture centre on wheels and now trundle it around among the street children in the outlying areas of the capital of Uganda. In Kawempe suburb, working with another organisation Matatart taught local children to repair and paint an empty house to serve as a home for abandoned children. Inside the small Matatart bus parked nearby the new home, the children are encouraged to borrow books, learn to paint, write and also listen to music. <br />According to UNICEF, in Uganda some 10,000 minors live and work on the streets.<br /> (11/8/2017 <br />Fri, 11 Aug 2017 12:58:43 +0200AFRICA/KENYA - “No to violence”: religious leaders appeal while waiting for official results “No to violence; legal paths must be taken to resolve disputes”. This is the sense of an appeal made by the religious leaders of Kenya, meeting at the Multi-Sectional Forum, awaiting the issue of the official results of political and presidential elections held 8 August . Results so far give victory to outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta, but his opponent Raila Odinga, denounces meddling and affirmed that Information Technology system was hacked to manipulate the election results . <br />European Observers said they found no trace of “manipulation central or local” in the voting process. “We have taken seriously the concerns expressed by Rt Hon Raila<br />Odinga, the presidential candidate of the National Super Alliance as well as the expressions made by the other candidates," said Canon Peter Karanja, <br />Secretary General of the National Council of Churches of Kenya on <br />their behalf. “It is important that we do not engage in acts of violence or other <br />destructive activities. We are confident that the IEBC and the main <br />political parties and formations are working to resolve the issues raised. <br />So let us as Kenyans be peaceful as we wait for this processes to be <br />concluded," he added.<br />In another statement the Kenyan religious leaders expressed appreciation for the work of the security agencies to guarantee a peaceful election. In a few isolated incidents in the west of the country, stronghold of the Opposition and in slums of Nairobi, 4 persons were killed. <br /><br />Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:55:07 +0200AMERICA/ARGENTINA - Bishops: “No nuclear power station in Rio Negro” – During a meeting chaired by Bishop emeritus Virginio Bressanelli diocesan Administrator of Neuquén, the highest Catholic authorities in Patagonia rejected a plan announced by the provincial government and the Mauricio Macri administration to build a nuclear power station in Rio Negro.<br />According to a report sent to Fides, the Bishops said "today the conditions for the execution of this project do not exist", while recognising "the country’s need to increase its production of electrical power, the job opportunities the power station would offer, they stress the urgency to generate other types of energy which do not give off gases responsible for climate change".<br />However the Bishops point out that a nuclear plant "produces dangerous refuse which remains radio-active for a long period of time and implicates a very high cost." They also said "the consequences of a failure or accident are extremely serious and irreparable ", expressing "little confidence in proper control ".<br />The Bishop say their intervention does not "intend to define scientific questions, or take the place of politics, but rather encourage honest and transparent dialogue ". <br />Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:54:26 +0200EUROPE/SPAIN - Integration, equality and respect: Ethiopian social circus changes the lives of the country’s children Coruña – Circus, education and social assistance are the values of the Fekat Circus, an Ethiopian group which aims at improving the lives of the children in that country . The initiative is for social change to eliminate the poverty and lack of resources affecting millions in Ethiopia. A group of 8 young Ethiopians aged 18 - 32 years, started this circus which promote values such as integration, equality and respect. Fekat Circus first opened 2004 in Addis Abeba, when this group of youngsters living on the streets decided to work together to improve their own lives and those of other children.<br />The spectacle is powerful and intense, enriched with typical African music, Ethiopian melodies in particular. With a good hour of entertainment Fekat Circus sends its audience away in good spirits<br /> <br /><br />Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:53:41 +0200AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - Massacre in Bangassou denounced by the Pope: local Bishop condemns ‘trigger-happy’ UN troops - “The massacre in Central Africa Republic in Gambo, a village 70 km from Bangassou, was even mentioned yesterday by the Holy Father” the local Bishop Juan José Aguirre of Muños, Bangassou, underlined in his report to Fides on the incident. Indeed at the end of his general Wednesday audience yesterday 9 Pope Francis said. “I was deeply saddened by the news of the slaughter perpetrated last Sunday in Nigeria, inside a church, where innocent people were killed” he was referring to the massacre inside St Philip’s Catholic church in Ozubulu . The Pope added “And regrettably we have just heard of homicidal violence in the Central African Republic against the local Christian community. I firmly desire the end of all forms of hatred and violence and that such shameful crimes, perpetrated in a place of worship where the faithful gather to pray, may never be repeated. Let us think of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and Central African Republic. Let us pray together for them a Hail Mary” the Pope then paused to pray with the people present for the Audience, due to great heat in Rome, being held inside the Paul VI Audience Hall.<br />“Several tens of people were shot dead in Gambo on 4 and 5 August ” Bishop Aguirre tells us. “It all began when Anti Balaka militia attacked Gambo, which for the past four years has been in the hands of so called ex-Seleka. More recently the Seleka increased attacks on the local people, women in particular, many abducted from their homes in front of their husbands and later raped. On 4 August Anti Balaka entered Gambo to oust the Seleka”. “From what I have been told – said the Bishop – as soon as the Anti Balaka arrived, troops of the MINUSCA UN Mission there immediately opened fire. Reportedly the Anti Balaka then opened fire on the UN military who in turn in an exaggerated reaction, fired wildly hitting civilians as well. The Anti Balaka were forced to take cover in the forest, while the Seleka, back in Gambo finding a Red Cross Team in the hospital holding a meeting, preceded to slit the throats of all present, men women and children”.<br />“So the massacre, by the Seleka, was triggered by the reaction out of all proportion of the MINUSCA UN troops who when attacked usually do have a violent reaction. They are trigger-happy” the Bishop denounced. “I know of a young seminarian and his father killed by stray bullets coming from MINUSCA mission soldiers. This is all deeply saddening”. “Then I ask myself why, once Gambo had been saved from the Anti Balaka, did the UN MINUSCA leavethe people in the hands of the Seleka?” Bishop Aguirre continued. “These so called Peace Keeping Troops whose job is to disarm all the factions in the country, did forcefully disarm the Anti Balaka but not the Seleka who appear more heavily armed than ever. Here is a sense of complicity which we fail to understand ” concludes the Bishop. <br />Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:53:04 +0200ASIA/PALESTINE - Itinerant theatre to alleviate trauma of Gaza’s children – A group of young people in Gaza has decided to take the only Itinerant theatre in Palestine to perform in orphanages, hospitals and day assistance centres, to alleviate the psychological stress and trauma of minors living in the Gaza Strip, suffering a situation of blockade and conflict. The group, known as the Palestinian Entertainment Theatre, comprises twelve young artists who volunteer to spend their time and even money to keep this, the only local itinerant theatre going. It was opened last year. One of the younger audiences favourite pieces consists of a narrator, wearing a red Turkish turban, a Tarbush, a traditional Palestinian head scarf the kufiya, sits in the centre of a circle of children and tells adventure stories . <br />The stories deal with delicate matters regarding the society in which the children live. The children are also given useful information such as never to touch the remains of Israeli missiles and to keep away from the border. These examples of open communication are not frequent in this impoverished enclave. According to the Palestine Central Statists Office there are 14 theatres in Palestine, 11 in West Bank and 3 in Gaza, but none of these are itinerant. One of the difficulties encountered by the organisers is the scarcity of young actresses because Palestinian tradition is against this type of activity for women and this means men have to play women’s roles too.<br /> <br /><br />Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:34:41 +0200AMERICA/GUATEMALA - More than 60 per cent of Guatemalans live in poverty de Guatemala - The scenario of inequality, racism, poverty and undernourishment in Guatemala is evident. Of the at least 16 million people living in this Latin American country, 60% suffer conditions of poverty and more than 23% lives in a state of extreme poverty. These are official figures issued by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. This information sets the country as 128th out of the 188 listed on the Human Development Index.<br /> <br /><br />Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:33:52 +0200AFRICA/KENYA - Outgoing President Kenyatta leads after elections yesterday but the Opposition denounces vote-rigging - Outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta leads in the partial count after yesterday’s 8 August vote for presidential and political elections in Kenya . The result however is rejected by Raila Odinga, leader of the opposition party National Super Alliance NASA, who says “hackers accessed the election system database” falsifying the results.<br />“You can’t deceive the people for very long” warned Odinga at a press conference. “These general elections 2017 are a fraud” he added.<br />The opposition says hackers entered the electoral system using the identity of the Independent Electoral Commission IT manager, Chris Msando, killed last month. His body, which showed signs of torture, was found on 30 July, only days before the election .<br />According to results made public by the IEBC, concerning counts in 90% of the country’s polling stations, Kenyatta leads with 54,41% followed by Odinga with 44.72%.<br />The contested elections in 2007 trigged a wave of violence in Kenya which left thousands dead and about one million internally displaced.<br />According to the media, clashes between the police and Opposition demonstrators broke out this morning in Kisumu, in the east of the country, one of the places most affected by violence ten years ago. The police used tear gas against the demonstrators who built barricades and torched tires. <br /><br />Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:33:03 +0200