Fides News Englishhttp://www.fides.org/Fides Agency Newsen-usASIA/HOLY LAND - Patriarch Twal visits Gaza: "today for many refugee children it would be a luxury to live in the grotto where Jesus was born"http://www.fides.org/en/news/37014-ASIA_HOLY_LAND_Patriarch_Twal_visits_Gaza_today_for_many_refugee_children_it_would_be_a_luxury_to_live_in_the_grotto_where_Jesus_was_bornhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37014-ASIA_HOLY_LAND_Patriarch_Twal_visits_Gaza_today_for_many_refugee_children_it_would_be_a_luxury_to_live_in_the_grotto_where_Jesus_was_bornGaza - 700 Christians in Gaza this year have received permission from Israel to reach Bethlehem and celebrate the Solemnity of Christmas in the place where Jesus was born. But not many will actually be able to reach the cities of the West Bank, given the daily difficulties shared by Christians in Gaza at the end of a year marked by the Israeli military intervention in the Gaza Strip that has caused thousands of deaths. This was reported to Agenzia Fides by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, who on Sunday, December 21 made a pastoral visit to Gaza and celebrated Mass in the parish of the Holy Family.<br />"I found our Church united" said the Patriarch to Fides "with our faithful who live a strong communion with Orthodox Christians. There is a small group of souls marked by difficult and painful circumstances, who place their hope in Jesus. This is the image of the true Christmas".<br />Starting with what he saw in Gaza, His Beatitude Twal widens his gaze to the trials experienced by people throughout the Middle East: "We have always been moved to read in the Gospels that Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn, and that baby Jesus was born in a grotto. Today, among the millions of refugees, there are many children who desire to be able to sleep in a grotto like the one in which the Saviour is born. For them it would be a luxury". Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/RWANDA - A fish farm to support the orphanage in Muhurahttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37013-AFRICA_RWANDA_A_fish_farm_to_support_the_orphanage_in_Muhurahttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37013-AFRICA_RWANDA_A_fish_farm_to_support_the_orphanage_in_MuhuraMuhura - The St. Joseph Orphanage in Muhura, renamed "Casa San Giuseppe", was built in the early 90s by an elderly Italian midwife. Today the center is run by the Angelic Sisters of St. Paul and since 2009 the Movement Fighting World Hunger has been working with them. The NGO is responsible for the support of children and young people who are welcomed in the orphanage. The team consists of animators and entirely Rwandan staff, coordinated by Sister Odile.<br />In order to make the Center more self-sufficient, the NGO proposes a new project for the construction of a fish farm. The fish-farming plant will be built in an area inside the area of the village high schools in Muko. Objective of the project is mainly to improve the food quality of the 100 children housed in Casa San Giuseppe. The excess fish will in fact be sold at the local market in Muhura. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/MEXICO - The Apostolic Nuncio celebrates Mass for the families of the students who have disappeared from Ayotzinapahttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37012-AMERICA_MEXICO_The_Apostolic_Nuncio_celebrates_Mass_for_the_families_of_the_students_who_have_disappeared_from_Ayotzinapahttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37012-AMERICA_MEXICO_The_Apostolic_Nuncio_celebrates_Mass_for_the_families_of_the_students_who_have_disappeared_from_AyotzinapaChilpancingo - "With the desire to continue to be close to the parents of the students who disappeared in Iguala , Monday, on December 22, the Apostolic Nuncio in Mexico, His Exc. Mgr. Christophe Pierre; the Archbishop of Acapulco, His Exc. Mgr. Carlos Garfias Merlos, and the Bishop of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, His Exc. Mgr. Alejo Zavala Castro, will celebrate a Mass in Ayotzinapa at 9 am, to pray God for the students who disappeared, for their families, and for justice, reconciliation and peace in Mexico". This is the text of the statement sent to Fides by the Mexican Episcopal Conference, which once again emphasizes the closeness of the Church to the families of the 43 students of the Rurale School of Ayotzinapa, kidnapped on September 26 by members of the local police and suspected criminal groups . To date, their fate is still unknown. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/PAKISTAN - Christmas: solidarity with the victims of the massacre in Peshawarhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37011-ASIA_PAKISTAN_Christmas_solidarity_with_the_victims_of_the_massacre_in_Peshawarhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37011-ASIA_PAKISTAN_Christmas_solidarity_with_the_victims_of_the_massacre_in_PeshawarLahore - For Christians in Pakistan, Christmas 2014 will be marked by prayers and moments of solidarity for the victims of the massacre in Peshawar, where the Taliban killed more than 130 children in an army school. Many churches have set up altars with images of victims and lighted candles. Archbishop Joseph Coutts, President of the Episcopal Conference, has launched an appeal so that the Christian community reflects on the message of hope and peace that Christmas brings.<br />In a message sent to Fides, Peter Jacob, a Catholic activist for human rights, reports that 11 parishes and several churches in the city of Lahore have decided to cancel or postpone until after January 1, some programs and events that were planned to celebrate Christmas.<br />According to deacon Shahid Mehraj, of the Cathedral of Lahore, "there is pain and concern" over what is seen as "an attack on the future of Pakistan".<br />At Christmas, he informs "we will dedicate a special candle lighting ceremony to those who lost their lives in the attack". "Christmas brings a message of hope to the world. The birth of Christ was also marked by a massacre of innocent children by King Herod. In the context of this bloodshed, Christ was born as a symbol of hope", he says, pointing out the similarities with the Pakistani context today. For this, he concludes, "now is a time to spread the message of love and brotherhood in Pakistan".<br />Christians remember that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was born on December 25, also for this reason the country should reflect on his vision and the country that Jinnah dreamed: a united, open, tolerant, peaceful nation, free from hatred and violence. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Even from pain comes the hope of peace, the process continueshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37010-AMERICA_COLOMBIA_Even_from_pain_comes_the_hope_of_peace_the_process_continueshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37010-AMERICA_COLOMBIA_Even_from_pain_comes_the_hope_of_peace_the_process_continuesBogotà - The President of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, His Exc. Mgr. Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, Archbishop of Tunja, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides by the Episcopal Conference states that the Archbishop, during a meeting with the main collaborators of his diocese said: "The process leads to the conclusion that we know only 10% of the victims’ pain". He also pointed out that, thanks to the testimonies of victims, it was possible to highlight the damage caused, and the responsibility of the authors of the crimes has been recognized.<br />Referring to the indefinite ceasefire on behalf of FARC, the President of the Episcopal Conference has definied the gesture as "a sign of peace", and added: "I very much welcome the fact that FARC have suspended hostilities. This is a sign that progress in the negotiations is being made". Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/DR CONGO - North Kivu: the conclusions of the meeting of the "wise men" to end the war in the Territory of Benihttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37009-AFRICA_DR_CONGO_North_Kivu_the_conclusions_of_the_meeting_of_the_wise_men_to_end_the_war_in_the_Territory_of_Benihttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37009-AFRICA_DR_CONGO_North_Kivu_the_conclusions_of_the_meeting_of_the_wise_men_to_end_the_war_in_the_Territory_of_BeniKinshasa - The threat to the civilian population in the Territory of Beni, part of the province of North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is "hybrid". This was stated in the final document of the three-day meeting organized by the Coordination of the Local Civil Society .<br />The document, sent to Agenzia Fides, says that the recent massacres of civilians is the work carried out by the ADF-NALU, an armed group of Ugandan origin, "who have been in the province for two decades". The relationship, between the ADF-NALU and some local groups, is described as "a military and socio-economic order, through a network of information and mafia cross-border transaction".<br />"The armed group is helped by some politicians, mobsters and traditional authorities and neighboring countries".<br />An analysis that confirms what has already been highlighted by Peace in Congo Network , which notes the presence, alongside the ADF-NALU, of other armed groups that spread death and destruction in the area. The document recommends greater cohesion among politicians and local military to "get out of the grip of terror".<br />A commission to monitor the commitments, recommendations and resolutions adopted during this meeting, and disseminate the results of the social dialogue at a local, national and international level is recommended. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/MOROCCO - One hundred thousand children cannot attend school because of the floodshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37008-AFRICA_MOROCCO_One_hundred_thousand_children_cannot_attend_school_because_of_the_floodshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37008-AFRICA_MOROCCO_One_hundred_thousand_children_cannot_attend_school_because_of_the_floodsRabat - One hundred thousand Moroccan children have not been attending school since November due to severe floods and heavy rains that have hit southern Morocco, severely damaging bridges, roads and infrastructure. This situation has forced the closure of 622 schools in the provinces of the south of the chain of the Atlas, desert areas that are not used to so much water. In total 1,853 schools have been severely damaged, including 1,172 primary schools. Between November 20 and December 1, 47 deaths were registered and an unknown number of people have disappeared because of the collapses that occurred. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/LEBANON - Appeal of the Chaldean Bishop of Beirut for displaced Iraqi Christianshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37007-ASIA_LEBANON_Appeal_of_the_Chaldean_Bishop_of_Beirut_for_displaced_Iraqi_Christianshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37007-ASIA_LEBANON_Appeal_of_the_Chaldean_Bishop_of_Beirut_for_displaced_Iraqi_ChristiansBeirut – There are more than eight hundred Christian families who have fled Mosul and Nineveh Plain and have found refuge in Iraq. Their condition is that of the "newcomers" in a Country already destabilized by the arrival of more than a million Syrian refugees. Most of them are in Beirut and have found support only from the local Chaldean Eparchy. Mgr. Michel Kassarji, Bishop of Beirut of the Chaldeans, has just issued a statement to solicit aid in favor of the Christian victims of religious extremism that has forced them to flee their homes and villages.<br />The Iraqi Christian refugees who have arrived in Lebanon - reports the Chaldean Bishop – do not have the status of asylum seekers, and live in the hope of obtaining permission to emigrate to Western Countries. They cannot find work, they are exploited by those who take advantage of their condition and they are without any help from civil institutions and international Organizations. "The impression – says Maronite priest Paul Karam, Director of Caritas Lebanon to Agenzia Fides - is that the whole system of international aid for Syrian and Iraqis refugees is on the brink of collapse. There are no more resources, and humanitarian organizations are no longer able to cope with such an emergency". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/EGYPT - Islamist threats against the Christmas celebration; Muslim leaders: we defend the churches together with Christianshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37006-AFRICA_EGYPT_Islamist_threats_against_the_Christmas_celebration_Muslim_leaders_we_defend_the_churches_together_with_Christianshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37006-AFRICA_EGYPT_Islamist_threats_against_the_Christmas_celebration_Muslim_leaders_we_defend_the_churches_together_with_ChristiansCairo - In Egypt even this year, as in the past, as the Christmas celebration approaches the Internet becomes a vehicle for attacks and threats against local Christian communities. Islamist sites warn Muslims to refrain from any form of participation, even indirectly, with regards to the Christian celebrations, attacking Muslims who give their best wishes to their Christian neighbors at Christmas. In the Islamist blogosphere there are also death threats and incitement to organize attacks against churches during the busy Christmas liturgical celebrations, with particular reference to the Christian communities in the governorates of Minya, Alexandria and Fayyum, where Islamist groups linked to Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood are stronger.<br />The seriousness of the threats this time has pushed authoritative and recognized Muslim academics to denounce and condemn the threats and diktat against Christians. Among others, even Amna Nosseir, professor of religion and philosophy and already dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at the al-Azhar University, has strongly advocated that anti-Christian slogans and anti-Christian intimidations relaunched in view of Christmas represent a betrayal of authentic Islam, and called on "Christians and Muslims" to protect the churches together from any threat, so that Egyptian Christians can celebrate their liturgical solemnities in peace.<br />Even Fawzi al-Zafzaf, former president of the Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for dialogue with the Holy See, repeated that incitement to religious hatred comes from "enemies of the Fatherland" who deny the true Islam, and asks for appropriate protection measures and serious investigations to identify the perpetrators of such intimidation.<br />"Threats and insults have been going on for years", explains Anba Antonios Aziz Mina, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh to Agenzia Fides, "but we try to live the days that separate us from Christmas with serenity. We do not feel intimidated. Also because the evil and fanatic attacks give way to many sincere Muslims to react. This, paradoxically, is a positive result of the threats. The fanatic currents have taken advantage of the liability and the silence of others for many years". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/INDIA - Education, food and protection for orphaned girlshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37005-ASIA_INDIA_Education_food_and_protection_for_orphaned_girlshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37005-ASIA_INDIA_Education_food_and_protection_for_orphaned_girlsVisakhapatnam - The Sisters of St. Louis began their work in the Indian diocese of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, in 1986. After arriving in the isolated village of Yellamanchilli they realized after some time that it was important to open an orphanage that would give the girls the opportunity of receiving education, food and protection. Most of them are orphans, the few who have a family are absolutely not able to be to give them food or an education. The nuns also have a primary and secondary school and ensure the needs of girls up to 15 years of age.<br />The head of the Centre, Sister Pushpa Rani, Indian, of the order of St. Louis, graduated in Medicine and specialized in gynecology in Turin, describes the situation to Father Adolfo Porro and the difficulties experienced.<br />"Our job is to welcome them, feed them, protect them from the many dangers that Indian orphan girls suffer, and not only that, we give them an education - writes the religious in the letter sent to Agenzia Fides -. There are many students who have finished their studies and now they work or are continuing their studies in high schools in the region. Unfortunately resources are beginning to lack in order to feed them. Two nuns work in a school in the area, as well as in ours, and I work in hospital, but with our modest salary we no longer are able to sustain the community and guests". Sister Pushpa concludes hoping that the generosity of people can help them and, most importantly, can help those she calls "our girls". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/LIBYA – Foreign staff on the run from a looted hospital; health care system collapsinghttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37004-AFRICA_LIBYA_Foreign_staff_on_the_run_from_a_looted_hospital_health_care_system_collapsinghttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37004-AFRICA_LIBYA_Foreign_staff_on_the_run_from_a_looted_hospital_health_care_system_collapsingBenghazi - The clashes in Benghazi, capital of Cyrenaica, between Islamist militiamen and soldiers loyal to General Khalifa Haftar are causing serious damage to the local health system. The Libyan press reports that the hospital in Hawari has been abandoned and its expensive medical equipment have been stolen. The Indian government has ordered the repatriation, via Tunisia, of 38 nurses of Indian nationality who worked in the hospitals in Benghazi. In the capital of Cyrenaica the only hospitals still open are the Benghazi Medical Centre and the Jalaa Hospital.<br />Among nurses, both in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, there is a strong presence of Catholics and until the beginning of 2013 even Catholic nuns. His Exc. Mgr. Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Tripoli told Agenzia Fides that most of the religious congregations were forced to leave Cyrenaica because of strong pressures and threats received .<br />Meanwhile the clash between the two governments, one in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk, involves the different militiamen present in all areas of Libya. Yesterday, December 18, military sources of the government in Tobruk announced that 30 pro-Islamic militiamen of Fajr Libya were killed and 270 wounded in the clashes around the oil-rich area between Sirte and Benghazi. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/ARGENTINA – The Bishops: "Working together to build a more fraternal Country"http://www.fides.org/en/news/37003-AMERICA_ARGENTINA_The_Bishops_Working_together_to_build_a_more_fraternal_Countryhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37003-AMERICA_ARGENTINA_The_Bishops_Working_together_to_build_a_more_fraternal_CountryBuenos Aires - In a message published on the occasion of Christmas, titled "Peace on earth to men", the Argentine Bishops' Conference urges the entire national community to "build a more fraternal Country" and to renew the commitment to peace, remembering that this gift is "always a challenge and a responsibility for all men and women of good will".<br />The Bishops therefore highlight: "what threatens peace is rooted in the human heart wounded by sin" and its consequences are seen "in the economic and social imbalances, in the contempt of life, which is the fundamental right of the individual; in the crime of drug and human trafficking".<br />"Christmas is the 'yes' of God to man to accompany him to create a more humane, more just and fraternal world" they underline. The message is announced at the end of n.169 session of the Permanent Commission of Bishops .<br />In the Latin American nation, social indifference is facilitating the spread of drugs, and the Church has long been committed to combatting this scourge and that of violence . Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/PANAMA - Even Cuba will attend the Summit of the Americas: a dream come truehttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37002-AMERICA_PANAMA_Even_Cuba_will_attend_the_Summit_of_the_Americas_a_dream_come_truehttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37002-AMERICA_PANAMA_Even_Cuba_will_attend_the_Summit_of_the_Americas_a_dream_come_truePanama - Several statements have been sent to Agenzia Fides to comment the historic decision of the Governments of the United States and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations . Among these, a note from Panama reports that the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, welcomes the "new era" of relations between the United States and Cuba and stressed that this will allow to fulfill "the dream" of having a "united region" on the occasion of the seventh meeting "Cumbre de las Americas", which will be hosted by his country in April 2015.<br />The Panamanian Foreign Ministry reiterated, on December 18, that "the invitation was sent to the Heads of State and Government of the region, so that, during the meeting, constructive dialogue can be created with the participation of all countries". According to the note sent to Fides, Cuba has already confirmed its participation in the summit, but did not specify who it will be represented by. President Obama has announced he will be present on 10 and 11 April. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/INDIA - Christian leaders: "Christmas with a heavy heart because of the violence against Churches"http://www.fides.org/en/news/37001-ASIA_INDIA_Christian_leaders_Christmas_with_a_heavy_heart_because_of_the_violence_against_Churcheshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37001-ASIA_INDIA_Christian_leaders_Christmas_with_a_heavy_heart_because_of_the_violence_against_ChurchesNew Delhi - "In view of Christmas we have a heavy heart because of the violence against our Churches in various parts of the country, especially in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and now in the territory of the capital city Delhi. The demolition of San Sebastiano church in Delhi, as well as other incidents of targeted violence, show contempt not only towards the religious feelings of our community, but also for the protection guaranteed in the Constitution of India". This is what Bishops and Christian leaders of all denominations said in a statement issued in Delhi and sent to Agenzia Fides. The statement was signed, among others, by His Exc. Mgr. Anil Couto, Archbishop of Delhi, by other Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant Bishops, and civil society leaders.<br />"These acts of violence – they explain - are not isolated incidents. They are part of a series of interconnected actions by various non-state actors. Many politicians have called for national laws against conversion, measures that affect the Christian and Muslim communities, although not mentioned".<br />In addition, the text continues, "the well organized campaign, also by senior members of Parliament belonging to the ruling party, is a threat to peace and national harmony and calls into question the identity and patriotism of different religious minorities in India", discrediting and exposing them to further violence.<br />The statement explains: "While the government won the election by presenting a platform of 'development and good governance', radical groups see their program of hatred and religious nationalism approved. It is a blatant attempt to sabotage the Indian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of every Indian citizen to profess, practice and propagate their religion".<br />The leaders note that the measures, paradoxically called "Laws for religious freedom", in force in several Indian states, have been in fact limited and "have been used against minorities, giving police the power to disrupt, arrest and punish priests, religious and church operators".<br />The Bishops have sent a memorandum to the government that lists various "representative episodes of hostility and discrimination suffered by Christians throughout India". They report cases of "social boycott" ; physical aggression ; desecration of religious buildings.<br />The text sent to Fides concludes: "India is a land where different religious faiths have always lived together. The founders are committed to ensure that the rights of all are protected regardless of religion, gender or caste. We hope and pray that this discrimination and targeted violence are stopped thanks to a strong political will of civil and political institutions". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100EUROPE/GERMANY - The Star Singers want to "ensure healthy nutrition for children in the Philippines and around the world"http://www.fides.org/en/news/37000-EUROPE_GERMANY_The_Star_Singers_want_to_ensure_healthy_nutrition_for_children_in_the_Philippines_and_around_the_worldhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/37000-EUROPE_GERMANY_The_Star_Singers_want_to_ensure_healthy_nutrition_for_children_in_the_Philippines_and_around_the_worldAachen - For the 57th time, in the days leading up to January 6th 2015, the "Star Singers" of the Holy Childhood Association in Germany, will be on the country’s street-corners singing Christmas carols. "Bringing the blessing, to be a blessing. Healthy nutrition for children in the Philippines and around the world!" Is the motto for this year’s campaign, according to information sent to Agenzia Fides.<br />About 842 million people worldwide suffer from hunger or do not have enough food to lead a healthy life; 2.6 million boys and girls under five years of age die every year from the consequences of malnutrition. More than 162 million children are too small for their age and 50 million weigh too little for their height: both signs of malnutrition.<br />But the commitment of Holy Childhood Association in Germany is not only destined for malnourished children. Street children, orphans, children who cannot attend school or do not have access to clean water - in more than 100 countries around the world - receive help from the funds raised through the Campaign of the Star Singers.<br />Dressed in their costumes of Magi, with their Star and their songs during Christmas time and in the early days of the new year the "Star Singers" go around visiting German homes. About half a million children from Catholic parishes in Germany will carry the "C+M+B" blessing to the families, collecting donations for other children their age who suffer throughout the world. The "Star Singers" collection in Germany has become the largest solidarity initiative in the world, allowing children to help other people their age who are in need. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/PAKISTAN - False accusations of blasphemy towards 11 Christianshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/36999-ASIA_PAKISTAN_False_accusations_of_blasphemy_towards_11_Christianshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/36999-ASIA_PAKISTAN_False_accusations_of_blasphemy_towards_11_ChristiansIslamabad - Eleven Christians in Islamabad, including a Protestant Pastor, have been accused of blasphemy by a woman, Naseem Bibi, for revenge after a private dispute. The woman in fact had been denounced and reacted by accusing Christians of alleged blasphemy. As reported to Fides by Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, the woman, in the past Christian, converted to Islam about 20 years ago and married a Muslim man and had three children.<br />The woman told the police that Pastor Karamat Masih and 50 other Christians had raided her home and threatened her. Four of the accused were also arrested and are in police custody.<br />Lawyer Gill told Fides: "There are always more and more frequent cases where the blasphemy law is used to target religious minorities or to settle cases of disputes and private rivalries, or simply as an instrument of blackmail. The State must arrest and condemn those who formula false accusations". Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/UNITED STATES - Bishops: not only diplomatic relations with Cuba, but also cooperation in various fieldshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/36998-AMERICA_UNITED_STATES_Bishops_not_only_diplomatic_relations_with_Cuba_but_also_cooperation_in_various_fieldshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/36998-AMERICA_UNITED_STATES_Bishops_not_only_diplomatic_relations_with_Cuba_but_also_cooperation_in_various_fieldsNew Mexico - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops , in a statement signed by His Exc. Mgr. Oscar Cantù, Bishop of Las Cruces and President of the Episcopal Commission "Justice and Peace", expressed his joy at the announcement of diplomatic relations with Cuba, for the release of the American Alan Gross and the other prisoners accused of spying.<br />"We are also encouraged - is what is written in the note sent to Agency Fides – by the announcement made by the administration regarding important actions that promote dialogue, reconciliation, trade, cooperation and contact between our respective nations and citizens".<br />"We believe it is time for the United States to establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba", said Mgr. Cantù. Among the desirable actions he indicated the removal of all restrictions on travel to Cuba, the abandonment of the term "terrorist" used to refer to all the realities of Cuba, the promotion of trade and the anulment of restrictions on business and finance.<br />The Bishops also seek to facilitate cooperation in the fields of environmental protection, control of drug and human trafficking, and in the scientific field. "Participation is the way to support change in Cuba and support the Cuban people in their quest for democracy, human rights and religious freedom", concluded Mgr. Cantù. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AFRICA/KENYA - Clashes among MPs on anti-terrorism law could put fundamental freedoms at riskhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/36997-AFRICA_KENYA_Clashes_among_MPs_on_anti_terrorism_law_could_put_fundamental_freedoms_at_riskhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/36997-AFRICA_KENYA_Clashes_among_MPs_on_anti_terrorism_law_could_put_fundamental_freedoms_at_riskNairobi - Clashes among MPs of the majority and the opposition in Parliament in Nairobi occurred during the vote on the controversial anti-terrorism law that would weaken, according to several members human rights organizations, the respect for fundamental freedoms . The seat of Parliament is manned by the police in anticipation of protests by opposition parties.<br />The amendment of the anti-terrorism law, says the government, was necessary in order to address the threat of Somali militants of Al Shabaab who have recently committed massacres of innocent civilians in northern Kenya .<br />To reinforce the fears of the opposition and civil society on the fact that the new anti-terrorist measures conceal the government's desire to impose a restriction of civil freedoms, is the authorities' decision to dissolve 510 NGOs, some of them accused of financing Al Shabaab.<br />In a joint statement, the Ambassadors in Nairobi of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, France, Sweden, Canada, say that it is important that the new legislation "while strengthening security, respects the rights of man and international commitments" undertaken by Kenya. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100ASIA/HOLY LAND - Christmas Message of His Beatitude Patriarch Twal: tragedies and hopes of a difficult yearhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/36996-ASIA_HOLY_LAND_Christmas_Message_of_His_Beatitude_Patriarch_Twal_tragedies_and_hopes_of_a_difficult_yearhttp://www.fides.org/en/news/36996-ASIA_HOLY_LAND_Christmas_Message_of_His_Beatitude_Patriarch_Twal_tragedies_and_hopes_of_a_difficult_yearJerusalem - The Holy City of Jerusalem "is under blood and tears" and religious antagonism jeopardizes its mission of "city of peace and inter-religious coexistence". The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, takes the opportunity of the traditional Christmas message to reconsider with eyes of faith the events that recently marked the lives of the peoples in Holy Land. An account in which pain and hope, despair and consolation intertwine, in a time marked by the visit of Pope Francis, the new Gaza war and the attacks against places of worship.<br />In his message, released by the media of the Patriarchate and sent to Agenzia Fides, the Patriarch describes "the pilgrimage of the Holy Father to the Holy Land successful on the pastoral and ecumenical level. His visit was followed by the beautiful prayer meeting in the Vatican gardens with President Abbas, former President Peres and Patriarch Bartolomew. Even though we did not obtain any concrete result from that meeting, however, every prayer is valid and the fruits may come much later, like the olive tree, planted on that occasion and which may produce fruits many years ahead". Then, the Head of the Church of the Latin rite of the Holy Land focuses on the violence and tragedies that have marked the last few months, from the devastating Gaza war to the facts of violence or revenge against innocent people, like the killing of people who pray in a synagogue, and attacks against mosques. "In one week", recalls the Patriarch in his message, "the Christian leaders of the Holy Land visited Har Nof synagogue to condemn the inhuman act that took place there, and at the same time visited Al Aksa Mosque to ask for the old Statu Quo to be respected".<br />The patriarchal message calls into question the "responsibility of political leaders - Israelis and Palestinians - to find and facilitate a solution. Great too is the responsibility of the international community to help these two parties to help themselves". Regarding the jihadist violence that disrupts the entire Middle East, Patriarch Twal highlights the "clear condemnation" of radical religious ideologies, expressed by "Arab and Muslim leaders".<br />In his Christmas message, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem also focuses on the issue of family reunification - that prevents many couples to live together, when the spouse of a Palestinian does not have Israeli citizenship. "We hope," writes the Patriarch, "that the Israeli High court will keep the 300 hectares of Cremisan Valley, as well as the two Salesian monasteries on the Palestinian side. Today we are anxious because the last developments of the recent hearing are giving a different signal. We are afraid that the Court might decide that the land belonging to 58 Palestinian Christian families, might be separated from Beit Jala. Such a decision will harm our community and we hope that the judges be inspired by ethical principles and not to submit to political pressure". Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100AMERICA/COLOMBIA - For Mgr. Falla Robles: "The unilateral cease-fire should take place without any conditions"http://www.fides.org/en/news/36995-AMERICA_COLOMBIA_For_Mgr_Falla_Robles_The_unilateral_cease_fire_should_take_place_without_any_conditionshttp://www.fides.org/en/news/36995-AMERICA_COLOMBIA_For_Mgr_Falla_Robles_The_unilateral_cease_fire_should_take_place_without_any_conditionsBogota - "The unilateral cease-fire should take place without conditions", said the Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, His Exc. Mgr José Daniel Falla Robles, Auxiliary of Cali, upon hearing the announcement by the group of FARC guerrillas regarding a unilateral ceasefire, starting from 20 December.<br />"It must be a unilateral cease-fire in every sense of the word, that is, without posing any conditions to the government, since the State must continue to work to defend the sovereignty of the nation" highlighted the Bishop, according to information sent to Agenzia Fides. "If FARC are committed to this, it is necessary that this is accompanied with the end of seizures, illicit crop growing and other things like that, so the government is not forced to take action against them", said the Archbishop.<br />Mgr. Falla Robles stated that this action indicates the seriousness with which the FARC armed group is taking the peace process with the government. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0100