Fides News - English Agency NewsenContent on this site is licensed under aASIA/HOLY LAND - Bethlehem: Christians and Muslims together against Mohammed cartoons - "Bethlehem deplores the cartoons which in France offend Mohammed and Islam". This is what a group of Christians and Muslims from the Holy Land wrote on their placards and banners, gathered yesterday, Wednesday, April 28th. October, in Bethlehem in the square in front of the Church of the Nativity. The gathering was intended to expess their disapproval of the cartoons that denigrate the Islamic religion and were republished in France by the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, sparking a massive wave of anti-French protests in many Muslim-majority countries.<br />Atallah Hanna, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia, of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, also took part in the demonstration in Bethlehem. The participants condemned insulting figures and symbols from various religious traditions on posters and in their speeches.<br />On Tuesday 27 October, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, also condemned all forms of violence against people with different religious opinions or beliefs, expressing concern about the increasing polarization following the "unfortunate sequence of events in France". In doing so, he recalled the importance of dialogue: "The only appropriate way to deal with the intellectual distances between the various religious and ideological affiliations". <br />Thu, 29 Oct 2020 14:27:18 +0100AFRICA/ZAMBIA - Jesuit study center: "We are worried about the rapid deterioration of the economy" - "We are deeply concerned about the rapid weakening of the economy in our country, which is jeopardizing the economic and social life of ordinary citizens, in particular the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable", says the Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection in Zambia, in a statement published on the occasion of Independence Day on 24 October.<br />The Jesuit Research Center points out that Zambia's external debt is equal to gross domestic product : "The total external debt of Zambia is now $ 27 billion, which is literally equal to its GDP. The national debt was $ 11.97 billion in June 2020". "The fiscal deficit, the inflation rate and the devaluation of the currency are on the rise", warns the Jesuit study center. <br />"It is not the first time that Zambia has found itself in a debt crisis. The government has to learn from these experiences and find a lasting solution to avoid being constantly in this situation", warns the JCTR, according to which "the government ha sto put in place a transparent debt reduction mechanism and solid and functional debt management. and develop a sustainability strategy", say JCTR officials. The Jesuits underline that "the maturity of our independence and democracy will be measured by the real will of our leaders to think of the common good of the citizens and not just of their own enrichment".<br />Zambia, one of the world's leading producers of copper, has found itself in a debt crisis after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country's economy badly and national debt proved unsustainable.<br />Zambia's inflation rose for the second consecutive year in October. Consumer prices increased by 16% over the previous year. <br />Thu, 29 Oct 2020 14:14:07 +0100AFRICA/IVORY COAST - "Women peacemakers": African Union initiative in view of the presidential elections - "We wanted this great gathering to demonstrate that women are a force and that they can become peacemakers. Everyone can be messengers of peace in their environment", said Joséphine Charlotte Mayuma Kala, special representative of the president of the African Union Commission in Ivory Coast, in her speech at the "Women in mediation talks" meeting.<br />In view of the presidential elections in Ivory Coast on Saturday 31 October, actions in favor of peace are increasing in the country, and women do not want to stay on the sidelines in the search for this ideal. They responded favorably to the appeal of the African Union and UNESCO for a day of mobilization and awareness of peace which was held on 27 October.<br />The participants were urged by various messages to take an active part in the peace process in Ivory Coast, also by the association of women mediators of the African Union who shared the experiences of their respective countries.<br />"We have come alongside the women of Ivory Coast to show them our support, our solidarity, our encouragement and tell them that now is the time to stand up; the country, the nation needs them. Women represent love, they are bearers of life, they are everywhere in society and it is their task to stand up today and say no to violence", said Marie Louise Baricako of Burundi, member of Femwise Africa.<br />The meeting was one of the strong moments of communion and fraternity experienced between women of all political, ethnic and religious backgrounds of Ivory Coast, who came in large numbers . Another important moment that marked the meeting was the start of the caravan of peace that will cross the city of Abidjan for three days. <br />Thu, 29 Oct 2020 14:01:53 +0100ASIA/PAKISTAN - A court approves the kidnapping of the Catholic minor: vibrant protests by the Church and civil society - "We call on the authorities of the Sindh government, police officers and the judiciary for justice and a fair trial, as well as severe measures to be taken to stop the growing wave of kidnappings and forced conversions and marriages of young girls belonging to religious minorities in Pakistan. <br />At the moment, minority citizens do not feel safe and do not feel they have equal rights". This is what Cardinal Joseph Coutts, Archbishop of Karachi said in a message sent to Agenzia Fides, speaking about the case of the young Catholic girl Arzoo Raja, kidnapped, converted to Islam and forced to marry a Muslim man, in Karachi <br />Father Saleh Diego, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Karachi and also at the head of the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, led a demonstration of more than 300 people including Christians, Hindus and Muslims at the entrance of Saint Patrick's Cathedral, yesterday 28 October. Fr. Diego said: "We ask for justice for the minor Arzoo Raja, who is only 13 years old. The court order that in fact legitimizes the kidnapping has saddened the Christian community in Pakistan. According to the order, the girl will have to live with her kidnapper and the police will guarantee their protection". Fr Diego informs: "The kidnapped girl has already been with her kidnapper for two weeks and the court ruled in favor of the kidnapper, which is terrible. To do it justice we will make all possible effort".<br />Arzoo Raja was kidnapped on 13 October 2020 by a Muslim man named Ali Azhar, who lived in the vicinity of the young Christian's home. On the day of the kidnapping, the young girl converted to Islam and married him.<br />The court order, issued on October 27, mentioned that Arzoo Fatima was initially a Catholic however, over time, she understood that Islam is a universal religion and asked her parents and other family members to embrace Islam, but they categorically refused. Arzoo subsequently accepted Islam out of her own free will and contracted a marriage with a Muslim man, Ali Azhar, her kidnapper.<br />The same order invites the police not to make any arrests in connection with the First Information Report registered under Article 364-A of the Pakistani Penal Code . Indeed, the police are required to provide protection to the newly married girl.<br />Shema Kirmani, a Muslim and human rights activist, told Fides: "We strongly condemn such acts that are carried out in the name of religion. No religion allows anyone to be forced to convert and marry their kidnapper. This is kidnapping and rape". She adds: "According to the Child Marriage Act of the Sindh province, no one can be allowed to marry under the age of 18, the authorities must arrest and punish the culprits".<br />Ghazala Shafiq, Christian activist for human and women's rights, speaking to Fides remarks: "This court order accepts the forced conversion of Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old girl. The judge did not even ask for her birth certificate to prove her age, and they did not allow her to meet her parents. This is an unfair order, in which priority is not given to the documents presented by the parents that prove the correct age of the girl". <br />Thu, 29 Oct 2020 13:27:58 +0100AMERICA/BOLIVIA - All Saints' Day: Eucharistic Adoration and Concert "for a missionary Church" Cruz - The youth Pastoral care and vocational support of the Franciscan Angeline Sisters in Santa Cruz has been inviting young Catholics to the "CristoWin" initiative on October 31 for more than six years. The young people take part in a prayer vigil from October 31st until dawn on November 1st to make them experience the authentic meaning of All Saints' Day. They are inspired by what Saint Paul says : "For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness". Every year about 450 young people from different parishes, groups and youth movements of the diocese of Santa Cruz participate.<br />This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this initiative cannot take place in the usual form, but in preparation for "CristoWin", a week of Eucharistic Adoration will take place in various parishes and chapels, in collaboration with the Archdiocesan Youth Ministry.<br />Adoration is guided every day by a theme, animated by a different Vicariate together with a movement or community that adheres to it. The conclusion will be on 31 October, at the Uboldi college, from 8 pm to 11.30 pm, with a very small group of young people, taking into account all the biosecurity measures.<br />Anyone wishing to participate can follow the initiative on the Franciscan Sisters' Facebook page and YouTube channel under Franciscanas Angelinas.<br />Also on 31 October, the eve of All Saints' Day and the conclusion of the Missionary Month, the Youth Ministry and the Commission for the Missions of the Archdiocese of Sucre invite the music groups of all parishes to take part in the big "virtual concert for a Missionary Church", which will be broadcast on the Facebook page of the Archdiocese of Sucre and by Católica Tv, from 6 to 9 pm. Under the slogan" Here I am Lord send me ... Take my voice and my heart", the goal is to arouse in the baptized their awareness of being Church and to collaborate in the mission of the Archdiocese of Sucre through the music and the testimony of those who are engaged in this ministry. <br />Thu, 29 Oct 2020 12:51:07 +0100AMERICA/NICARAGUA - Parishes in a critical economic situation, but they do not stop aid to the poorest - Due to the pandemic, the economic situation in Nicaragua has become increasingly serious for many families and especially for the poorest, but also for parishes that live from the offerings of the faithful. <br />Archbishop of Managua, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, confirmed in an interview with the newspaper "La Prensa": "For our 115 parishes in the Archdiocese of Managua it is becoming more and more difficult to meet the obligations for basic services and maintenance of the parish infrastructure. "I spoke with the priests", said the Cardinal, "and they told me that parishes cannot pay their electricity and water bills even if they give up their salary, and that this is only possible with the help of the faithful. And we know that despite everything, the cost of services has increased".<br />Despite this, "many parishes continue to try to distribute food to the poorest, who are most affected by this pandemic", stressed Cardinal Brenes.<br />The Vicar General of the Archdiocese, Mgr Carlos Aviles, also complained to the press that the cost of services have increased and are excessive and that donations could not be collected due to the closure of churches, which is why the situation of the parishes is often critical.<br />In these days, the Minister of Public Credit presented the national budget to the National Assembly, highlighting that the country is experiencing a severe economic crisis. The specialized press reported that this economic crisis dates back to April 2018, after the government's violent repression of popular protests forced many companies to close and removed foreign investment from the country. Now due to the pandemic, the crisis has worsened further. <br />Thu, 29 Oct 2020 12:30:20 +0100VATICAN - Martyrdom of two Lebanese Capuchin missionaries recognized City - The Holy Father has authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the Decrees concerning the martyrdom of the Servants of God Leonardo Melki and Tommaso Saleh, of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, killed in hatred of the faith in Turkey in 1915 and in 1917.<br />The two Capuchin missionaries from Baabdat, a Lebanese town in the district of al-Matn on Mount Lebanon, 22 kilometers from Beirut, were arrested, tortured and killed in Turkey during the 1915 genocide. Fr. Léonard Melki refused the apostasy, after hiding the Blessed Sacrament upon the arrival of the police. He was taken to the desert, where he was executed on 11 June 1915 with the Armenian Bishop, Blessed Ignace Maloyan, and 415 men from Mardin.<br />After giving hospitality to an Armenian priest during the genocide, Fr. Thomas Saleh was arrested and sentenced to death and deported in the middle of winter under the escort of a platoon of soldiers. He died on January 18, 1917 repeating with courage: "I have full trust in God, I am not afraid of death". <br />Thu, 29 Oct 2020 12:11:05 +0100VATICAN - Pope recalls violence in Cameroon: "May the guns fall silent and the safety of all be guaranteed" City - At the end of today's general audience, Pope Francis recalled the recent violence in Cameroon . "I participate in the suffering of the families of the young students barbarically killed last Saturday in Kumba, in Cameroon. I feel great bewilderment at such a cruel and senseless act, which tore the young innocents from life while they were attending lessons at school. May God enlighten hearts, so that similar gestures may never be repeated again and so that the tormented regions of the northwest and southwest of the country may finally find peace. I hope that the weapons will remain silent and that the safety of all and the right of every young person to education and the future can be guaranteed. I express my affection to families, to the city of Kumba and to the whole of Cameroon and I invoke the comfort that only God can give". <br />Wed, 28 Oct 2020 15:26:57 +0100ASIA/IRAQ - In Mosul, young Muslims restore the church of Mar Toma. But the "return" of Christians remains weak - Young volunteers, who mostly belong to the Muslim community in Mosul, have been supporting the cleaning and restoration work of the Syrian Catholic church of Mar Toma over the past few days. The initiative, carried out by the non-governmental organization "Sawaed Mosuliya", made it possible to clear the rubble that was still inside and around the church after the devastation in the years when Mosul was under the control of jihadist militias of the self-styled Islamic State .<br />Mosul, which was freed from the control of the jihadist militias in September 2017, is at the center of several redevelopment projects that have also been sponsored by international bodies - including the UN and the European Union - and above all the aim of the reconstruction of damaged monuments and places of worship to try to revitalize the pluralistic, multi-ethnic and multi-religious identity of the northern Iraqi urban entity. <br />After the years of the jihadist occupation of Mosul, and more than a year and a half after its liberation, a "Mass for Peace" was celebrated by Syrian Catholic Archbishop Boutros Moshi in the church of St. Thomas. <br />The reconstruction of the Christian place of worship, severely damaged, but not destroyed during the jihadist occupation, was part of the redevelopment program of monuments, churches and mosques initiated by UNESCO, and financed mainly thanks to a contribution of 50 million dollars promised by the United Arab Emirates.<br />In an interview with A24 news agency, the Syrian Catholic priest, Raed Adel, praised the generosity of the young Muslims who work side by side to give the city new impetus and also convince Christians who fled during the period of occupation to return to their homes.<br />In recent years, the return of displaced Christians to Mosul and traditional Christian populated areas in the Nineveh Plain has always been a priority by Iraqi authorities at both national and local levels. <br />Nevertheless, various studies on the processes of return even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic have unanimously shown that only a small number of Christian refugees have returned to their homes in Mosul and in the province of Nineveh after the end of the jihadist occupation. <br />Wed, 28 Oct 2020 15:15:49 +0100AFRICA/CONGO - Celebrations for the 80th anniversary of the Brazzaville Manifesto - On October 26, the Basilica of Sant'Anna in Congo hosted the Mass for the launch of the celebrations for the 80th anniversary of the "Declaration of Brazzaville-Capital of Free France". The Mass, for peace in the Congo and in Africa, was celebrated by His Exc. Mgr Anatole Milandou, Archbishop of Brazzaville and concelebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio, His Exc. Archbishop Francisco Gerardo Escalante Molina, by H. Em. Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, Archbishop of Kinshasa, accompanied by H. Em. Cardinal Laurent Mossengwo, Archbishop Emeritus of the same city, as well as by Archbishops and Bishops of the Congo and those who came from the ACERAC sub-region . Various administrative, political-military authorities and lay faithful, for the most part responsible for apostolate movements, fraternities, prayer groups, participated in this Mass.<br />In his homily, Mgr. Victor Abagna-Mossa, Archbishop of Owando said that "celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Declaration of Brazzaville-Capital of Free France, consists in recalling the exceptional place that the capital of Congo had at the time when France threatened in its existence united for its freedom. It also comes down to Brazzaville’s desire to show that the breath of freedom that originated in Africa is a universal good".<br />Archbishop Abagna-Mossa then continued: "since the 1960s, we have become independent, free. What do these terms of freedom and independence mean to us! Has Brazzaville la Verte, the capital of free France, remained free? For me, African countries are not independent, at least Congo. Indeed, in a country that has wood, oil, iron, manganese, gold and more, why don't we use all these riches for the benefit of every citizen? And sometimes we are the evil: our selfishness, our thirst for enrichment", concluded the Archbishop, inviting every Congolese to work for the good of the country.<br />For his part, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo invited Africans not to lose the spirit of the Brazzaville manifesto, because it signifies the rejection of any humiliation or enslavement by individuals or groups of other countries.<br />After the Nazi invasion of France, General Charles De Gaulle, on 24 October 1940, arrived in Brazzaville making it the capital of Free French Africa and of all Free France. On 27 October 1940, General de Gaulle published the Brazzaville Manifesto in which he reaffirmed the will of Free France to continue fighting Nazism by resorting to the resources of French Equatorial Africa. Subsequently, from Brazzaville, the authorities of Free France, recognizing the contribution of African troops to the war against Nazism, will lay the foundations for the decolonization of their African colonies. <br />Wed, 28 Oct 2020 14:58:32 +0100AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Faith-based media united to launch appeals for peace in view of the October 31 elections - "After praying for peace on Wednesday, October 14, side by side, we are initiating common broadcasts to arouse in the members of different faith communities and in all Ivorians, liberating energies of peace to save the Ivory Coast", explained Fr. Eric Norbert Abekan, initiator of "Initiatives for peace". A project that he shares with Fr. Arsène Brice Bado, political scientist, professor-researcher at the Center for Research and Action for Peace . A commendable initiative since the electoral campaign for the presidential elections on 31 October is marked by tensions and violence.<br />For two days, on 27 and 28 October, "Peace Initiatives" offered peace-related programs broadcast live by the country's religious media from the CERAP headquarters in Abidjan Cocody.<br />On the first day, the topics on how to reject media manipulation and calls for violence, and how to avoid electoral conflicts were touched. Themes led respectively by Fathers Eric Norbert Abekan and Arsène Brice Bado and Vincent Toh Bi-Irié, layman, specialist in electoral process and conflict management.<br />Speaking on the inaugural communication "good politics is at the service of peace ", Fr Abekan indicates that: "we know that violence exists, of course, but at the heart of this violence there are men and women bearers of hope and therefore we must be aware of it and create conditions that promote a climate of peace".<br />Addressing politicians, Fr. Abekan invited them to create a framework for exchanges "today all religious confessions come together to pray, reflect, launch messages of peace so they too can meet politicians to say, let's see, do we really love our country and what is needed in dialogue to create conditions of peace". <br />The specialist in electoral processes and conflict management, Vincent Toh Bi, for his part, advised to avoid conflicts, to take into account different aspects of human life: the individual aspect which consists in the fact that everyone can refrain from committing acts of violence, from hate speech, and from rejecting and not accepting the other. Another aspect is that ethnic communities and non-national groups must continue to cohabit. Finally, the educational aspect, which consists in instilling values of peace in the youngest.<br />According to Fr. Arsène Brice Bado stressed the need to have a good concept of elections. "The election is not a war" but a method of peaceful selection of leaders on the basis of their electoral programs", he recalled. <br />Wed, 28 Oct 2020 14:24:11 +0100AMERICA/ARGENTINA - A parish priest in Vicuña Mackenna killed, probably for theftórdoba - "Dear brothers: I wish to communicate that, following a robbery, Father Coqui Vaudagna was killed. Let us pray for his eternal rest, so that God may console his family": thus Msgr. Adolfo Uriona, FDP, Bishop of Villa de la Concepcion del Rio Cuarto, informed via twitter of the priest's tragic death.<br />Father Jorge Vaudagna, also known as “Father Coqui”, parish priest of Vicuña Mackenna, a town in the department of Río Cuarto, province of Córdoba, Argentina, 58, was found dead yesterday evening, Tuesday 27 October.<br />According to local news, he was shot and killed in a probable theft attempt in his parish in the city centre. For the moment no other details are known and an investigation is underway.<br />Through social media, Fides received the video testimony of Father Jorge Luis Basso, a friend of “Father Coqui” and former parish priest of Vicuña Mackenna, which underlines Father Jorge Vaudagna's availability and qualities as a man of God. <br />Wed, 28 Oct 2020 13:56:15 +0100AMERICA/PERU - Reopening of the churches from November 2: the Bishops recall that Mass "is not a simple meeting" - The Bishops of Peru informed the national community about the "gradual opening of churches to gradually return to the normality of liturgical and sacramental life" in November. After 7 months of closure, the Bishops remind the authorities that "they must understand that the Eucharist, even on Sunday, cannot be catalogued as a simple meeting, nor compared to other social, commercial or recreational activities".<br />"In reality, all the sacraments, like other acts of liturgy and piety, are part of worship and religious freedom, a fundamental human right guaranteed by article 2 of the political constitution of our nation ... It would therefore not be reasonable to impose restrictions on the latter or demand even greater constraints in relation to other aforementioned activities", underlines the text of the Bishops' Conference.<br />The declaration of the Bishops follows the government decree authorizing the reopening of the churches as of November 2, knowing however that the latter will only be able to accommodate a third of the faithful and with strict security protocols. The Bishops' text states: "For these reasons, each Bishop has the power, within his own particular Church, to determine from November 2 next - date indicated in the Supreme Decree 170-2020 PCM - the start of the daily and Sunday celebration of Mass and the other Sacraments, guaranteeing not only the respect of liturgical norms, but also the faithful observance of the protocol relating to the activities of the Church in times of pandemic approved by the Episcopal Conference of Peru".<br />Finally, the Bishops' Conference emphasizes that "if there is any institution which always and at all times deals with the integral good of the human person, it is indeed the Catholic Church. She thus assisted throughout this pandemic through her effective action and spiritual care for the benefit of the infected and their families, multiplying the works of charity, social assistance, and by distributing medical oxygen in particular to the weakest". <br />Wed, 28 Oct 2020 13:43:35 +0100ASIA/PHILIPPINES - The Servants of the Poor: restoring dignity to the destitute who "hide out of shame" - "In San Pedro, where our house was built, there was a mountain of garbage, but around the landfill there were the houses where the poor who work with garbage live. They are the 'scavengers', the diggers. They are all people who work with garbage: men, women and children who rummage through the waste to find materials to resell in order to survive. The living conditions in this area are very bad: malnourished children, appalling hygienic conditions. This is where our mission was born": this is what Fr. Ronald Diaz Ignacio, of the Missionary "Servants of the Poor", also known as "Morsel of the Poor", a male religious institute whose members are popularly called Cusmanians, after their founder, Blessed Giacomo Cusmano Italian priest.<br />In an interview with Fides, the religious continues: "When I arrived in the Philippines in 1998, we began to follow the orphans and set up the "Blessed J. Cusmano formation house" the future Missionary Servants of the Poor, in San Pedro, south of Mereo Manila. <br />While living in that area, we became aware of the existence of these needy people and we understood that around San Pedro, the Lord had put us in front of a mission site. This is how the village called 'The village of happiness' was born, where we tried to improve the living conditions of those poor people, the last of the last, the forgotten by everything and everyone".<br />"They are poor people who hide, We must discover them. They are even ashamed to go to Mass because of their condition of poverty. It is a joy to share their poverty, it is a joy to know them, and it is a joy to do something to alleviate their suffering", he adds.<br />It is one of the works that the Servants of the Poor who in the Philippines follow their charism by dedicating themselves to works of charity towards the poorest and most vulnerable, carrying out their apostolate in centres for beggars, in orphanages and hospitals.<br />Besides being present in Italy, the Servants of the Poor are also present in Africa , in the Americas and in Asia . <br />The Congregation of Missionary Servants of the Poor was founded in Palermo in 1887 by Father Giacomo Cusmano, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983.<br />In 2017 the Cusmanians celebrated one hundred and fifty years since the establishment of the "Morsel of the Poor", a practice founded by Blessed Giacomo Cusmano in 1867, which consisted in sharing a part of the daily meal from the plate of many people and families, in order to give food to the poorest. <br />Today the Cusmanian Family includes nuns, missionaries and friars "Servants of the Poor", but also members of the "Giacomo Cusmano" Italia Onlus Association, thousands of volunteers, former students. Their motto, for 150 years, has always been the same: sharing. <br /><br/><strong>Link correlati</strong> :<a href="">Watch the interview on the mission of the Servants of the Poor in the Philippines on Agenzia Fides Youtube channel</a>Wed, 28 Oct 2020 13:13:35 +0100ASIA/TAJIKISTAN - "New" mandate for a President in power for about thirty years and without opposition - "Following the Tajik presidential elections on 11 October, President Emomali Rahmon was elected for the sixth time with more than 90% of the votes, which means that in this Central Asian country power has been in the hands of the same person for 28 years and that, if he were to end his mandate, this period would increase to 35 years". This is what Davide Cancarini, a researcher for the international geopolitical journal "Limes", and a Central Asian scholar, reports to Agenzia Fides, referring to the socio-political context that characterized the last presidential elections in Tajikistan.<br />"The president of Tajikistan - observes the researcher - had perhaps toyed with the idea of inaugurating a dynastic succession in 2020. Four years ago, in fact, the government had approved a constitutional reform which lowered the minimum age of presidential candidates from 35 to 30 years. This operation seemed made ad hoc for one of Rahmon's sons, Rustam Emomali, now 32 years old, protagonist of a brilliant political career. He is currently Mayor of the capital and Speaker of Parliament. From this perspective, the 2020 presidential elections could have marked a passing of the baton from father to son. But this was not the case. Some argue that disagreements in the Rahmon clan had blocked the initiative; others believe that it was even Russia that oppossed this succession. The Tajik president considered the moment unsuitable, because it would have been risky to put a 32-year-old in power at a time of crisis and such great economic uncertainty".<br />Thanks to his umpteenth electoral victory, Emomali Rahmon has become the longest-serving President of the former Soviet Union: "This exorbitant figure is the result of a long work in the nineties. Rahmon's power was not so strong, but over the years he was able to remove all forms of opposition and outlaw parties that he believed should not operate in the country", explains Cancarini.<br />According to the researcher, "to date, Tajikistan is, along with Turkmenistan, the most authoritarian country in Central Asia. This is why no one would think of taking to the streets to demonstrate against the government as was the case in neighboring Kyrgyzstan".<br />The authoritarian characteristic of the political situation is confirmed by the data collected by NGOs on social life and in particular by the latest report on press freedom last April from the NGO Reporters Without Borders. Out of a total of 180 countries in the world taken into consideration in this framework, Tajikistan is in 161st place and it is also very poorly classified in the framework of the classification of perceived corruption established by the NGO "Transparency International", occupying the 153rd place. The worsening of the repression of civil and political rights by the Tajik government constitutes, according to NGOs such as "Human Rights Watch" and "Amnesty international", a continual general degradation of respect for human rights, which was also highlighted in the process of approaching presidential elections.<br />Lights and shadows characterize the theme of religious freedom. The Constitution of Tajikistan, approved in 1994 and revised in 2003, recognizes the right to freedom of conscience, giving each citizen the right to independently determine his relationship with religion and to profess any creed, individually or in community. However, the "law on religion", which entered into force in 2009, has limitations, including, for example, the obligation to register groups of the faithful and the prohibition of private religious education. In this context, the Catholic Church in the country constitutes a small community within a 98% Muslim social context. The faithful are currently about one hundred, distributed between the two parishes of Dushambe and Qurǧonteppa. The Catholic presence in Tajikistan has exsisted since the 1970s: the first faithful were mostly Germans from Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania, deported to the country at the time of the Soviet Union. Due to the Communist regime, the communities of Tajikistan were completely isolated from the universal Church for years. Pope John Paul II structured the local Catholic presence, establishing the Missio sui iuris on 29 September 1997. <br />Wed, 28 Oct 2020 12:43:20 +0100AMERICA/ECUADOR - Testimony of a missionary, "True happiness is found only in God" - "Her overflowing joy has led many souls, especially young people, to discover that true happiness is found only in God. The coherence of her life and her total dedication to the various apostolates carried out in Spain, the United States and Ecuador succeeded in effectively transmitting the message that only God can satisfy the heart of man when one gives himself completely to Him, without denying him anything". These are the fundamental features of the testimony of Sr. Clare Crockett, of the Siervas del Hogar de la Madre , a young Irish missionary, who had been in Ecuador for 15 years, when a violent earthquake hit the coast of the country on the night of April 16, 2016. The earthquake caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injured. Among the victims there was Sister Clare and five postulants from her community of Playa Prieta, where the nuns ran a school that was completely destroyed .<br />On 8 September, the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, Sister Clare would have celebrated the tenth anniversary of her perpetual vows. For the occasion, the EUK Mamie Foundation published its first biography book in English, later presented also in Spanish, entitled: "Sister Clare Crockett: Alone with Christ Alone", "Hna. Clare Crockett: Sola con el Solo" and was written by Sister Kristen Gardner, SHM.<br />Young Clare Crockett, whose highest aspiration was - no more, no less - to walk the red carpet in Hollywood, put all her dreams aside on Good Friday after a lonely encounter with the Crucified Christ. At 17, the Lord transformed her soul and wanted nothing more than to have Christ as her only love. This desire of her soul to belong only to the Lord, to live alone with "the Alone", led her to dedicate herself in the Siervas del Hogar de la Madre, a vocation to which she gave herself with total generosity. Sister Kristen Gardner points out in the introduction: "This book is far from being a complete biography. Only four years have passed since the death of Sister Clare and there are still many, many testimonies to be collected. However, I hope this book will enable allwho have heard of her death and seen the documentary 'All or Nothing' to get to know her better. Those who knew her personally will learn a lot about Sister Clare". The book can be purchased on Amazon. <br />Wed, 28 Oct 2020 11:41:45 +0100AFRICA/GUINEA - At least 21 dead in post-election clashes - According to official figures, a total of 21 people died in clashes that took place in the Republic of Guinea on October 18, following the announcement of the preliminary results of the presidential election, by the Electoral Commission , which sees the re-election of t outgoing President, Alpha Condé, with 59, 5% of the vote against 33.5% for the opposition candidate, Cellou Dalein Diallo, The opposition leader, who declared himself the winner, confirmed yesterday, October 26, his intention to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the result of the election, flawed, according to him, by massive fraud. In addition to the capital Conakry, the clashes have spread to the major cities in the country. Shops remain closed for fears of riots and looting. UN envoys, the African Union and the Community of West African States continue their mediation efforts and meeting talks with various Ministers, the Electoral Commission and the diplomatic corps.<br />Amnesty International has denounced the actions of the Guinean security forces who reportedly fired deadly ammunition at demonstrators during the post-election riots, based on testimony statements and video analysis of the clashes. The NGO for the defense of human rights also condemned the blocking of the Internet and telephone communications during the riots.<br />Even before the election, Condé's candidacy for a third term was strongly contested by the opposition because it was seen as a violation of the Constitution, which provides for two consecutive terms for the Presidency of the Republic <br />Condé became Guinea's first democratically elected leader in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015. However, human rights groups, accuse him of sliding towards authoritarianism. Guinea is the only French-speaking African country to have refused to join the Franco-African Community proposed by De Gaulle in 1958. The country proclaimed independence under a socialist regime that Ahmed Sékou Touré ruled with an iron fist for a quarter of a century. After his death in 1984, Lansana Conté, a soldier, took power with a coup. He was elected president in 1990, he was elected twice, but these were neither free nor transparent ballots. <br />In December 2008, Lansana Conté died after a long illness. A junta led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara takes power without bloodshed.<br />But on September 28, 2009, the army violently suppressed a gathering of thousands of opposition supporters who rejected his candidacy in Conakry Stadium in the run-up to the presidential election: According to the United Nations, 157 people were killed and 109 women were raped. After Camara himself was seriously injured, he resigned power and paved the way for the first democratic elections on November 7, 2010, which Alpha Condé won.<br />Guinea's immense mineral wealth have often been at the center of heated international legal disputes. <br />Tue, 27 Oct 2020 15:42:19 +0100ASIA/IRAQ - Chaldean Patriarchate denies rumors of the Pope's “opening” to marriage for homosexual couples - It is completely false to say that Pope Francis expressed his approval for same-sex marriage, modifying the doctrine of the Catholic Church. The Chaldean Patriarchate, led by the Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, clearly underlines this in an official statement released by the Chaldean Patriarchate. The Patriarchate's press release refers to misleading reports that are also circulating in Iraq and refer to some passages in the documentary "Francesco", by Russian-born US citizen and director Evgeny Afineewsky, which was shown at the Rome Film Festival on 21 October.<br />The Catholic Church and other Churches - the statement reads - recognize that only natural marriage between male and female "is according to divine plan", and thus in the eyes of the Church only the marriage between a man and a woman respects the law of God and can be raised to the dignity of a sacrament. In Western countries - the Patriarchate adds - Churches are separate from the State, and civil governments also enact laws that do not conform to the Church's doctrine, such as those that decriminalize or legalize abortion.<br />Also in the documentary, which serves as a pretext for the supposed opening of the Pope to so-called "homosexual marriages", the statement of the Chaldean Patriarchate of the points out that in reality, even in the extracts taken from an old interview, Pope Francis "does not use the term" 'marriage' in reference to homosexuals. The Pope invites civil society and families to embrace love and protect homosexuals, and he is not saying that they have the right to form a family ".<br />In conclusion, the declaration of the Chaldean Patriarchate emphasizes once again that the Pope "never spoke of a possible integration of homosexuals into a natural marriage recognized by the Church" and repeatedly emphasizes what the Catholic Church teaches in this regard, as marriage only recognizes "permanent union between a man and a woman". <br />Tue, 27 Oct 2020 15:19:29 +0100AMERICA/CHILE - After the referendum: the Bishops call for dialogue in view of the drafting of the new Constitution - After the majority of the citizens in the referendum last Sunday, October 25th, approved the proposal to amend the constitution, the Standing Committee of the Bishops' Conference of Chile also expressed its opinion and described the referendum as a "great sign of civilization and participation". In this new path "the role of citizens will be of fundamental importance", say the Bishops, who urge them to continue the path of dialogue in view of the elections of the delegates in April 2021, who will have to draw up the proposal of a new Constitution for Chile. <br />With a turnout of 87%, 78.2% of the participants voted in favor of the constitutional amendment, compared with 21.8% who expressed the desire not to change it. Therefore the path to a new Constitution will begin with its drafting, which will be entrusted to a "Constituent Convention", which was also confirmed as a body in the referendum. It consists exclusively of democratically elected citizens, in equal parts men and women, who will be elected in an election on April 11, 2021. Thereafter the elected will have nine months to submit the constitutional proposal, even if they could ask for an extension of three months. Finally, a new referendum will have to approve or reject the proposal, at least 60 days after it is presented, and it will be with compulsory voting.<br />In the declaration, the Bishops recall that "the role of citizens will be of fundamental importance. We encourage people, citizens and political organizations to continue the path of dialogue, listening to ideas, proposals and values that are fundamental for the decision that the electorate must take to elect the delegates in April 2021 who will have to build together the proposal for a new Constitution for Chile".<br />The text ends with an appeal: "We call on the various political parties to conclude the agreements, which are the responsibility of Congress, in order to facilitate this process, so that it is truly representative of the plurality of Chile". <br />Tue, 27 Oct 2020 14:48:09 +0100ASIA/MYANMAR - Violence and tensions in Chin and Rakhine States: food emergency and elections at risk – More than 60,000 civilians in the Burmese State of Chin are currently facing a severe food shortage due to the ongoing fighting between the national army and the Arakan Army rebels. This is what the fundamental rights organization Khumi Affairs Coordination Council denounced in recent days according to which 246 villages in the Paletwa area are in desperate need of rice and food because of the situation created by the war between the Burmese army and the armed separatist group operating between Chin and Rakhine States in northern Myanmar.<br />The seriousness of the situation is confirmed to Agenzia Fides by the Caritas headquarters in the Burmese diocese of Pyay. F Fr. Nereus Tun Min, Director of Karuna Mission Social Solidarity explains: "Last week we organized, also thanks to the help of the government, a large food expedition to Paletwa. We transferred 1,700 bags of rice to the area. However, Caritas is also active in the field of Covid-19 prevention", he adds, in a country that has seen an exponential growth of the pandemic in the last month with more than 40 thousand cases and more than a thousand dead. The distribution in Paletwa is ensured by lay and religious personnel "as in the case of Father Thomas, parish priest - Fr. Nereus - who lives with many displaced people gathered in a complex of his church". The situation is difficult in Chin State, in an area subject to constant bombing and fighting, but it is also difficult in the Rakhine State, along a porous border where, for months now, more weapons and fighters have passed than goods and people.<br />On the eve of the elections scheduled for November, the tension and violence in the Chin and Rakhine States continue to disturb the promises of peace and democracy proposed by the various political forces. The Union Election Commission - UEC has ruled that voting will not take place in nine of the 17 townships of Rakhine State . The news not only offended local political organizations but was greeted with skepticism also after the Commission rejected the postponement of the election date given that the Covid emergency - or a second wave of pandemic - was mainly located in this State of the Union.<br />This coastal area in northwest Myanmar remains a place of great suffering. A recent report by the NGO Human Rights Watch underlines the serious situation in which people live in the Rakhine camps for internally displaced persons, called "open-air prisons" by the HRW organization: these are about 130 thousand Rohingya citizens, members of the Muslim minority victim of violence in 2012 and 2017, which generated about one million refugees who moved to neighboring Bangladesh. <br />Tue, 27 Oct 2020 14:25:16 +0100