Fides News English Agency Newsen-usASIA/HOLY LAND - The Society of St. Yves is organizing a study day on the confiscation of land in the West Bank - The Society of St. Yves, an organization committed to the defense of human rights linked with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, puts the spotlight on the sensitive issue of the confiscation of land belonging to Palestinians by the Government of Israel in the West Bank. The leaders of the organization – say official media of the Latin Patriarchate - have decided to dedicate a guided tour to this issue on Wednesday, May 27 to celebrate the patron St. Ivo . On that occasion, some consultants of the Society of St. Yves, experts in international law, will hold itinerant conferences to illustrate the practice and the legal justifications and policies adopted by the Israeli authorities in recent cases of confiscation of Palestinian land in the so-called "Area C" in the West Bank, in violation of international law.<br />The day will be organized around the visit on the lands belonging to Palestinian owners who have used the services of legal protection offered by the Society in the Palestinian village of Battir and in the area of Al Makhrour, near Beit Jala. They will recount their experiences on attempts of confiscation suffered on behalf of the Israeli government. The visit will also include a stop in the Cremisan Valley, where members of the Society of St. Yves will exhibit the effects and implications of the recent ruling of the High Court of Israel which has effectively blocked the construction of the section of the separation wall designed in that area. Mon, 25 May 2015 13:37:49 +0200AFRICA/MALI - Despite the latest violence, one hopes in the talks in Algiers in order to reach peace - "The people of Mali had placed great hope in the peace agreement signed on 15 May, but unfortunately violence continues in the northern regions", says to Fides Fr. Edmond Dembele, Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Mali .<br />"For about three weeks there have almost been daily clashes between the Malian army, some pro-government militias and the Coordination of Movements of Azawad in the north of our Country. This situation is a major concern for local populations, who do not know when they will find peace", reports Fr. Dembele.<br />One of the problems to be solved to find peace is the split that originated within Toureg groups. "In fact - explains the priest - two groups of the Coordination presented themselves on May 15 in Bamako to sign peace agreements. But the main groups of the Coordination, such as the MNLA , have so far refused to accede to the Agreement of 15 May and asked to continue negotiations in order to obtain more concessions".<br />Today, May 25, new talks should be held in Algiers to find solutions that allow to adjust some details of the Agreement of 15 May, which however will not be the subject of negotiations as such, because the Government of Mali said that it will not change it. "Despite the upsurge of violence in recent weeks, there are high hopes that agreements are found to restore peace. After all, we have no alternative", concluded Fr. Dembele. Mon, 25 May 2015 13:25:10 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN - Accusation of blasphemy: violence in a Christian area in Lahore, but "no alarmism" - The Christian area of Sanda, in the oldest area of Lahore, was the scene of new violence, yesterday afternoon, 24 May, following a case of blasphemy. "The police intervened promptly, and managed to avoid mass violence. Today the rangers patrol the area and the situation is completely under control", refers to Agenzia Fides Shane Cecil Chaudhry, Executive Director of the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Bishops of Pakistan , minimizing the incident, after alarming and exaggerated reports were spread by some mass media. "There were no deaths or injuries. No church was burned. Some protesters threw stones and tried to enter and plunder the Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph, but they did not succeed thanks to the prompt intervention of the police who stopped and also indicted some attackers. Some private homes of faithful Christians in the district were slightly damaged", explains the Director, asking not to give in to alarmism. "There are people and groups that tend to increase incidents and violence against Christians, for their personal interests or for economic reasons. It is necessary to be very careful when news is spread, which is often manipulated at the origin", notes Chaudhry.<br />The incident was sparked by an alleged case of blasphemy. Yesterday, the police received a warning, and arrested a man for having allegedly desecrated pages of the Koran. The Christian Humayun Faisal Masih was accused and a blasphemy case under Article 295-b of the Criminal Code was registered. The man, mentally disabled, was accused by some Muslims of having burned pages of the holy book of Islam. Some passers-by denounced it. After the arrest, a group of people began to gather at the police station, carrying out acts of violence, but agents dispersed the crowd. The protesters then tried to turn their anger toward the Christian area, but the police controlled the situation.<br />Fr. James Channan, Dominican, Director of the "Peace Center" in Lahore, told Fides: "It is a cliché that is repeated: accusations of blasphemy, to be verified, followed by mass violence. It has already happened in the past. Christians are terrified because they can suddenly be attacked. According to the blasphemy law, there is a procedure to be respected and no one must be allowed to take the law into his hands. Institutions and the police must ensure security and justice. On the other hand we can work to combat the culture of hatred that extremist groups spread in society, working for dialogue and harmony". Mon, 25 May 2015 13:13:02 +0200AMERICA/EL SALVADOR - Archbishop Romero beatified: "symbol of peace, harmony and brotherhood" Salvador - If the persecutors of Mgr. Romero "disappeared into the shadows of oblivion and death, the memory of Romero instead continues to be alive and to give comfort to all the underprivileged and marginalized people of the earth": said Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who presided a solemn celebration for the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez on Saturday, May 23 in San Salvador, killed "in odium fidei" on March 24, 1980 .<br />In his homily Cardinal Amato pointed out that Romero's option for the poor "was not ideological but evangelical. His charity was also towards the persecutors to whom he preached conversion to the good and to whom he assured forgiveness, in spite of everything". Mgr. Romero did not appear deterred by threats of death or by the criticism he received daily, this is why, stressed the Cardinal, he is not a "symbol of division, but of peace, harmony, brotherhood".<br />The Episcopal Conference of El Salvador, in the message released for the Beatification of Mgr. Romero titled "Come share your Master’s joy" , recalls that "Mgr. Romero’s death moved the world", and in these thirty-five years since then "the path has not been easy ... the greatest difficulty was the manipulation of the figure and the words of the future blessed". This is why the Bishops point out in their message, that Romero "was a man of God", a man of profound communion, totally abandoned to the will of God. He was also a "man of the Church", according to his episcopal motto "Sentire cum Ecclesia", to which he dedicated the four pastoral letters written during his ministry as Archbishop. In one of these, "he explained extensively that the Church exists to proclaim and make present the mystery of Christ" and illustrated how the Church he wanted to build in El Salvador had to be "in harmony with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council".<br />Mgr. Romero is known for "his love for the poor and his complete dedication to the promotion and defense of their dignity as persons and as children of God". The last aspect that the Bishops focus on is Mgr. Romero witness of faith to the shedding of his blood". "Mgr. Romero was assassinated because he loved the poor, following the example of his Master, Jesus of Nazareth – they write -. He devoted his life to them".<br />"This is the man of God that as of May 23 we venerate as Blessed - the Bishops conclude -. May his testimony stimulate us to live our baptismal commitment. May his word enlighten our path of Christian life. May his intercession open paths of reconciliation among us and help us to overcome all forms of violence in order to establish justice, truth, love and peace". <br/><strong>Link correlati</strong> :<a href="">The full text of the Message of the Episcopal Conference (in Spanish)</a>Mon, 25 May 2015 12:59:19 +0200AFRICA/MOROCCO - Child marriage exacerbated by poverty and ignorance htnee s e steme t e - Child marriage affects 15 million girls worldwide every year. It is a growing phenomenon, aggravated by poverty, ignorance and fear. This is what participants in a recent forum held in Morocco denounced. <br />The NGO Girls not brides, which has 450 organizations in 70 Countries has organized a three-day forum in Casablanca and highlights the fact that about 10% of women around the world get married before the age of 18. It is believed that by 2050 approximately 1,200 million girls will be forced into marriage. In developing Countries one girl out of three get married before 18 years of age and one out of nine before 15. Among the most affected by this phenomenon is Bangladesh, India and Niger, where every year 244,000 girls get married before eighteen . These are girls who do not attend school. In India 40% of child marriage is recorded worldwide.<br />At the end of 2014, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution for the first time urging governments to prohibit juvenile marriages. <br />The African Union, meanwhile, launched a two-year campaign to end child marriage, and various South Asian governments adopted a regional action plan. However, the phenomenon is not limited to Countries in the developing world, it is also a tradition among immigrant communities. On the occasion of a public awareness campaign, the Ytto Foundation denounced that the practice is also implemented in the Moroccan community in Spain and France. In Morocco, the marriage of minors continues to create concern and, despite the family code adopted in 2004 prohibits it, the judge has the authority to register them. In 2013, over 35 thousand were registered, compared to 18,000 in the last ten years. Mon, 25 May 2015 12:29:23 +0200ASIA/MYANMAR – Cardinal Bo to the Burmese Government: "Compassion and mercy towards the boat people" - "An agony of immense poignancy unfolds on the seas of South East Asia: a new wave of boat people, ejected by excruciating poverty and conflict from both Myanmar and Bangladesh are adrift in the seas. Exploited by unscruplous human traffickers, men, women and children are huddled in<br />unhealthy, sqaulor ships, often sent to die in the seas. A new wound opens up. Let mercy and compassion flow like a river in the land of Buddha": is the appeal launched by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, while the emergence of Rohingya refugees, seeking asylum in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia continues.<br />In a message sent to Fides, the Cardinal recalls the boat people of Vietnam and says: "The boat people from Myanmar and Bangladesh are fleeing for dignity and security. In a great gesture of humanity, Malaysia, Phillippines and Indonesia have opened their doors. Myanmar government, has rescued two boats that were adrift with refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh. This gesture, coming from a nation worshipping the Lord of Compassion, Buddha is highly commendable". But, he adds, in recent times democracy has "brought in hatred, denial of rights to sections of the people" in the country, referring to violence perpetrated by Buddhist fringes against Rohingya Muslims and the hostility shown by the Burmese government.<br />Mgr. Bo remarks: "we strongly urge the government not to allow discourses of hatred to subvert its glorious tradition of compassion. Myanmar citizens have a moral obligation to protect and promote the dignity of all human persons. A community cannot be demonised and denied its basic rights to name, citizenship and right to community".<br />Citing great Buddhist monks who are "beacon of compassion to the world", the Archbishop recalls that "this religion mainstreams compassion as the noblest virtue" addressed to all living things, animated and inanimated. Compassion and mercy are two eyes of this nation, which allow a vision of peace and dignity. Let mercy and compassion flow like a river in our country", concluded Cardinal. Bo. Mon, 25 May 2015 12:12:30 +0200VATICAN - The Pope's Message for World Mission Day 2015 City - We publish the full text of the Holy Father’s Message for World Mission Day 2015, which will be celebrated on Sunday 18 October.<br /><br />Dear Brothers and Sisters,<br />The 2015 World Mission Sunday 2015 takes place in the context of the Year of Consecrated Life, which provides a further stimulus for prayer and reflection. For if every baptized person is called to bear witness to the Lord Jesus by proclaiming the faith received as a gift, this is especially so for each consecrated man and woman. There is a clear connection between consecrated life and mission.<br />The desire to follow Jesus closely, which led to the emergence of consecrated life in the Church, responds to his call to take up the cross and follow him, to imitate his dedication to the Father and his service and love, to lose our life so as to gain it. Since Christ’s entire existence had a missionary character, so too, all those who follow him closely must possess this missionary quality.<br />The missionary dimension, which belongs to the very nature of the Church, is also intrinsic to all forms of consecrated life, and cannot be neglected without detracting from and disfiguring its charism. Being a missionary is not about proselytizing or mere strategy; mission is part of the “grammar” of faith, something essential for those who listen to the voice of the Spirit who whispers “Come” and “Go forth”. Those who follow Christ cannot fail to be missionaries, for they know that Jesus “walks with them, speaks to them, breathes with them. They sense Jesus alive with them in the midst of the missionary enterprise” .<br />Mission is a passion for Jesus and at the same time a passion for his people. When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love which gives us dignity and sustains us. At the same time, we realize that the love flowing from Jesus’ pierced heart expands to embrace the People of God and all humanity. We realize once more that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people and all those who seek him with a sincere heart. In Jesus’ command to “go forth”, we see the scenarios and ever-present new challenges of the Church’s evangelizing mission. All her members are called to proclaim the Gospel by their witness of life; the witness of life; in a particular way, consecrated men and women are asked to listen to the voice of the Spirit who calls them to go to the peripheries, to those to whom the Gospel has not yet been proclaimed.<br />The fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree Ad Gentes is an invitation to all of us to reread this document and to reflect on its contents. The Decree called for a powerful missionary impulse in Institutes of Consecrated Life. For contemplative communities, Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, Patroness of the Missions, appears in a new light; she speaks with renewed eloquence and inspires reflection upon the deep connection between contemplative life and mission. For many active religious communities, the missionary impulse which emerged from the Council was met with an extraordinary openness to the mission ad gentes, often accompanied by an openness to brothers and sisters from the lands and cultures encountered in evangelization, to the point that today one can speak of a widespread “interculturalism” in the consecrated life. Hence there is an urgent need to reaffirm that the central ideal of mission is Jesus Christ, and that this ideal demands the total gift of oneself to the proclamation of the Gospel. On this point there can be no compromise: those who by God’s grace accept the mission, are called to live the mission. For them, the proclamation of Christ in the many peripheries of the world becomes their way of following him, one which more than repays them for the many difficulties and sacrifices they make. Any tendency to deviate from this vocation, even if motivated by noble reasons due to countless pastoral, ecclesial or humanitarian needs, is not consistent with the Lord’s call to be personally at the service of the Gospel. In Missionary Institutes, formators are called to indicate clearly and frankly this plan of life and action, and to discern authentic missionary vocations. I appeal in particular to young people, who are capable of courageous witness and generous deeds, even when these are countercultural: Do not allow others to rob you of the ideal of a true mission, of following Jesus through the total gift of yourself. In the depths of your conscience, ask yourself why you chose the religious missionary life and take stock of your readiness to accept it for what it is: a gift of love at the service of the proclamation of the Gospel. Remember that, even before being necessary for those who have not yet heard it, the proclamation of the Gospel is a necessity for those who love the Master.<br />Today, the Church’s mission is faced by the challenge of meeting the needs of all people to return to their roots and to protect the values of their respective cultures. This means knowing and respecting other traditions and philosophical systems, and realizing that all peoples and cultures have the right to be helped from within their own traditions to enter into the mystery of God’s wisdom and to accept the Gospel of Jesus, who is light and transforming strength for all cultures.<br />Within this complex dynamic, we ask ourselves: “Who are the first to whom the Gospel message must be proclaimed?” The answer, found so often throughout the Gospel, is clear: it is the poor, the little ones and the sick, those who are often looked down upon or forgotten, those who cannot repay us . Evangelization directed preferentially to the least among us is a sign of the Kingdom that Jesus came to bring: “There is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them” . This must be clear above all to those who embrace the consecrated missionary life: by the vow of poverty, they choose to follow Christ in his preference for the poor, not ideologically, but in the same way that he identified himself with the poor: by living like them amid the uncertainties of everyday life and renouncing all claims to power, and in this way to become brothers and sisters of the poor, bringing them the witness of the joy of the Gospel and a sign of God’s love.<br />Living as Christian witnesses and as signs of the Father’s love among the poor and underprivileged, consecrated persons are called to promote the presence of the lay faithful in the service of Church’s mission. As the Second Vatican Council stated: “The laity should cooperate in the Church's work of evangelization; as witnesses and at the same time as living instruments, they share in her saving mission” . Consecrated missionaries need to generously welcome those who are willing to work with them, even for a limited period of time, for an experience in the field. They are brothers and sisters who want to share the missionary vocation inherent in Baptism. The houses and structures of the missions are natural places to welcome them and to provide for their human, spiritual and apostolic support.<br />The Church’s Institutes and Missionary Congregations are completely at the service of those who do not know the Gospel of Jesus. This means that they need to count on the charisms and missionary commitment of their consecrated members. But consecrated men and women also need a structure of service, an expression of the concern of the Bishop of Rome, in order to ensure koinonia, for cooperation and synergy are an integral part of the missionary witness. Jesus made the unity of his disciples a condition so that the world may believe . This convergence is not the same as legalism or institutionalism, much less a stifling of the creativity of the Spirit, who inspires diversity. It is about giving a greater fruitfulness to the Gospel message and promoting that unity of purpose which is also the fruit of the Spirit.<br />The Missionary Societies of the Successor of Peter have a universal apostolic horizon. This is why they also need the many charisms of consecrated life, to address the vast horizons of evangelization and to be able to ensure adequate presence in whatever lands they are sent.<br />Dear brothers and sisters, a true missionary is passionate for the Gospel. Saint Paul said: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” . The Gospel is the source of joy, liberation and salvation for all men and women. The Church is aware of this gift, and therefore she ceaselessly proclaims to everyone “what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes” . The mission of the servants of the Word – bishops, priests, religious and laity – is to allow everyone, without exception, to enter into a personal relationship with Christ. In the full range of the Church’s missionary activity, all the faithful are called to live their baptismal commitment to the fullest, in accordance with the personal situation of each. A generous response to this universal vocation can be offered by consecrated men and women through an intense life of prayer and union with the Lord and his redeeming sacrifice.<br />To Mary, Mother of the Church and model of missionary outreach, I entrust all men and women who, in every state of life work to proclaim the Gospel, ad gentes or in their own lands. To all missionaries of the Gospel I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.<br />From the Vatican, 24 May 2015<br />Solemnity of Pentecost<br />FRANCIS<br />Mon, 25 May 2015 11:53:09 +0200ASIA/NEPAL - UNICEF’s psychosocial counselling on air - UNICEF has provided two medical tents in front of the Dhading Hospital in Dhadingbesi, to meet the demands of the increased number of patients visiting the hospital, especially with injuries related to the earthquake. Among the initiatives the NGO launched the radio program Bhandai Sundai, which in the afternoon focuses on the psychosocial counselling for earthquake-affected children and is conducted by psychologists and specialists who give tips on how to keep the kids busy in games or group activities. The programme has been well received by Nepalese not only in the earthquake-affected districts but elsewhere also. Nepalese from all over the world have called in during the live programming to show support for people affected by the earthquake. Actors, athletes, personalities of Nepal and other public figures have asked to take part in the program to lift the spirits of millions of earthquake-affected children in Nepal. Fri, 22 May 2015 13:17:44 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN - 106 indicted for the murder of two Christians burned alive: "A step towards justice" - "It is a step towards justice. We hope that justice is done in a case that shocked the Christian community in Pakistan": is how father Waseem Walter, Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Pakistan, commented to Fides the news that an anti-terrorism court has officially indicted 106 people for the murder of a Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama Masih, lynched and burned alive after being accused of blasphemy in November 2014 in the city of Kot Radha Kishan, in Punjab.<br />They had four children and Shama was pregnant. They were segregated, beaten and burned in a brick oven by a Muslim mob who accused them of having burned pages of the Koran. The incident provoked international outrage.<br />According to the reconstruction based on some evidence obtained by the court, three religious leaders of local mosques are accused of inciting a mob of about 400 Muslims who lynched the couple, after having found some burned pages of the Koran in the vicinity of their home. The crowd asked Masih and his wife to convert to Islam. The two refused. They were seized, locked up for a night and were then killed by the crowd.<br />The 106 people charged yesterday were conducted before the court of Lahore. It is believed that 32 other suspects are still at large. The court confirmed the indictment for the murder. Not all pleaded guilty. According to police, in addition to the three imam Mohammad Hussain, Arshad Baloch and Noorul Hassan, also Yousaf Gujjar, the owner of the brick kiln, incited the crowd.<br />As Fides learns, Christian lawyers believe this process is a key step to show that justice in Pakistan is the same for everyone and does not discriminate when the victims belong to religious minorities. Fri, 22 May 2015 12:59:59 +0200AFRICA/EGYPT - Patriarch Tawadros speaks at the conference on the "Coptic Diaspora" - "We have to take care of all the questions and demands that come from our people". This is the message that Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II wanted to launch on Thursday, May 21 during the first Conference which he convened to address all issues related to the development of the Coptic community in diaspora.<br />The program of the conference - held in the Monastery of St. Paul the Hermit, not far from the Red Sea - intends to outline some guidelines for the development of Coptic communities around the world for the next 25 years. In his speech, Pope Tawadros stressed the need to work so that the canonical and ecclesiastical structures are always placed at the service of the dynamics at work in the ecclesial life, wherever it is present. Fri, 22 May 2015 12:50:27 +0200ASIA/INDONESIA - It is no longer compulsory to indicate one's religion on identity cards - It is no longer compulsory to indicate one's religion on identity cards in Indonesia. Indonesians, under the heading "religion", can leave a blank or indicate a faith outside of the six officially recognized by the state. This was announced by Interior Minister Tjahjo Kumolo. According to the Indonesian Constitution, only six religions are officially recognized by the government: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. So far, Indonesians had to indicate one of these six cults on their identity card, regardless of their actual beliefs . <br />Tjahjo, executive member of President Joko Widodo, said that one of the main reasons for the change of the rule is to have the exact information of the funeral rites to be observed in case of the death of a person.<br />"We should not force people, for example, to choose Islam if their faith resembles Islamic teachings but is not the same", said Tjahjo, explaining that his ministry has considered recommendations and input from several leaders, forums and Religious bodies, such as Indonesian Ulema Council and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, before reaching this decision.<br />Although presented as an "administrative move", this is a big step forward in the name of religious freedom for the Indonesians of all faiths. Standard bearer of this change was Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Christian politician, governor of the district of the capital Jakarta. Among other things noted by some scholars, the obligation to choose among the six recognized religions has led millions of Indonesian citizens to define themselves officially "Muslim", when instead they practice traditional indigenous religions. This change could redefine the religious face of the Indonesian nation today. Fri, 22 May 2015 12:42:30 +0200AFRICA/DR CONGO - Civil society denounces the ambiguous role of the army in the massacres in the territory of Beni - "In the territory of Beni, in North Kivu people continue to be victims of massacres and thefts" says a note sent to Agenzia Fides by the Peace Network for Congo. From 8 to 13 May, in just 5 days, as many as 35 people were murdered. Generally, the victims are killed in the late afternoon, when they return from work in the fields, or during the night. The attacks have intensified in recent weeks, and are attributed to an armed group originally from Uganda, the Allied Democratic Forces .<br />Often, however, these massacres take place in areas "controlled" by the national army, and near military bases. An ADF rebel who was arrested revealed the existence of a network of support to the ADF led by a senior officer of the FARDC . The last massacre, in Mapiki and Sabu, on May 13, was carried out less than 24 hours after the visit of the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Evariste Boshab, in Beni, on a mission to assess the situation of insecurity in the region .<br />Following these findings, the local population feels abandoned by the central State, casts doubt on the effectiveness of the army that proves to be incapable of ensuring its security and suspect some military leaders of complicity with the ADF.<br />This is why the population asks the replacement of the military command of the Sokola 1 operation conducted against the ADF; the intensification of military operations against the ADF; strengthening of the police presence in the area; the strengthening of intelligence services; the opening of inquiries into possible complicity with the military and ADF civilian; the resumption of military cooperation with the forces of MONUSCO . Fri, 22 May 2015 12:04:46 +0200AMERICA/BRAZIL - More than 630,000 signatures for political Reform and transparent elections - On the national Day of mobilization against the constitutionalization of corruption, over two thousand people participated in the march in favor of democratic political reform. The demonstration, organized by the Coalition for democratic political reform and transparent elections, took place on Wednesday, May 20, in Brasilia. <br />The march started from the Cathedral to the headquarters of the National Congress, for the delivery of the signatures collected in favor of democratic political reform. In all 630,089 signatures were delivered . The collection continues with the objective of reaching 1 million and a half signatures.<br />"Never lose hope" urged the auxiliary Bishop of Belo Horizonte and President of the Committee for monitoring the policy reform of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops , His Exc. Mgr. Joaquim Mol. <br />"Brazilian democracy is the only way forward if firms are permanently deleted from politics" said Mgr. Mol . One of the main objectives of the initiative is to undertake a thorough policy reform prohibiting the financing of election campaigns by companies. Fri, 22 May 2015 11:53:30 +0200AMERICA/COLOMBIA - In the tragedy a light of life: the funeral of 33 of the 84 deaths due to the landslide in Salgar - The town of Salgar, devastated between 18 and 19 May by a huge landslide caused by a flood, yesterday celebrated the funerals of 33 victims. On Monday, May 18 the flood razed the village of Las Margaritas and hit three districts in the urban perimeter of Salgar, department of Antioquia . Salgar is located 265 km northwest of Bogota.<br />The funeral was held in the main square of the town of Salgar by the Bishop of Jerico, His Exc. Mgr. Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago, C.SS.R., with the participation of thousands of people, who lost friends and relatives. The governor of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo; former president and senator Alvaro Uribe, and the police chief, Gen. Rodolfo Palomino were among those present at the funeral.<br />Amid the tragedy there was a light of life, a symbol of life, said Mgr. Londoño during the homily, because an 11-month-old child survived the disaster. He was found surrounded by mud, sticks and stones, five kilometers from where his house was.<br />The Administrative Department of Disaster Prevention of Antioquia announced an initial assessment of the tragedy: 84 dead, 57 wounded, an undefined number of people missing, hundreds of homeless. Aid agencies are working to find the missing, but there is little chance of finding someone alive. Through the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis expressed solidarity with Colombia and to the victims of Salgar and offered "prayers to the Lord for the eternal rest of the dead". Fri, 22 May 2015 11:44:12 +0200AFRICA/MALAWI - "Justice and Peace": "The state budget has to give priority to flood victims" - " We encourage you, our honourable parliamentarians to consider the plight of those affected by floods and droughts. Through this forthcoming budget deliberation currently in progress, the affected ones need to be strengthened hence resuscitating their livelihoods. Their food situation needs also to be strengthened by deliberately putting in resources that would support their winter cropping, as an example", said Acting Secretary General, Fr. Emmanuel Chimombo of the Episcopal Commission "Justice and Peace" of Malawi during a meeting with Catholic lawmakers.<br />According to information sent to Agenzia Fides, the meeting was held at a time when the Parliament of Malawi is discussing the 2015/2016 national budget. "Justice and Peace" took the opportunity to highlight that one of the priorities of the State must be the help to people affected by floods in January, when two weeks of heavy rains caused 275 deaths and forced the displacement of more than 230,000 people in 15 of the 28 districts of the Country . Because of the floods, more than 64,000 hectares of farmland were devastated in a Country where agriculture accounts for 30% of GDP. In the following months drought destroyed crops to the point that 30% of the food is lacking .<br />The Episcopal Commission "Justice and Peace" has prepared an analysis that points out that the state budget must be finalized to implement medium and long term recovery plans, which thus goes beyond the stage of immediate response to the emergency. Fri, 22 May 2015 11:32:58 +0200AFRICA/MALAWI - The Sun Village: center of assistance and support for children in need - Malawi is a strip of land in East Africa inhabited by about 15 million people where food, water, medical facilities is lacking and where AIDS is rampant among the young and old. Among the many charities working to bring aid to this devastated population, there is a group of volunteer "S.O.S. Childhood Denied ", born in 2004 and since 2008 involved in development projects in the African country, especially in the Diocese of Dedza. Don Alfonso Raimo, president of the association told Agenzia Fides how they decided to intervene in Malawi. "What attracted our attention was the deplorable condition of children in what is considered one of the poorest Countries in the world. We decided to create 'Malawi Project' that in Dedza tended to deal with health and education emergency. <br />The situation of the small African Country is dramatic, the percentage of children affected by AIDS is terrifying", adds Father Raimo.<br />"The Project - continues the priest - was conceived as a collaboration at the Diocesan Commission for Health of the Diocese of Dedza, and provided support to various initiatives in favor of the poor and sick children assisted in medical diocesan centers. Due to the rapid spread of the virus, many parents die leaving children alone, with no one to care for them, and whose fragile existence has to also deal with the lack of food, drinking water, malaria, cholera and other endemic diseases. The Diocese of Dedza guarantees health care through some health centers spread over a vast territory", says Don Raimo. "We have a project this year that includes the construction of the 'Sun Village' that will will take care of the neediest children aged from 2 to 5/6. It will be a service center, with the possibility of offering needy children, health care, nutrition and education, without uprooting them from the contexts of origin", concludes the priest. Fri, 22 May 2015 11:13:04 +0200ASIA/SYRIA – Fr. Jacques Murad kidnapped; he belonged to the same community of Father Paolo Dall'Oglio - Priest Jacques Murad, Prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian, was abducted by two kidnappers at the Monastery under the threat of arms. According to some local sources, contacted by Agenzia Fides, the seizure most probably took place on Monday, May 18, while other sources claim that the priest was kidnapped on Thursday May, 21. The news was confirmed today by the Syrian Catholic Archdiocese of Homs, that asked all the faithful to invoke the Lord in prayer so that father Jacques is released and can return to his life of prayer, to serve his brothers and all Syrians. <br />According to some local sources, it is believed that also deacon Boutros Hanna was kidnapped, too. But this rumor has not been confirmed by the Syrian Catholic archdiocese of Homs.<br />According to preliminary reports, the kidnapping was carried out by two armed men on motorbikes who arrived at the Monastery of Mar Elian. The abductors forced father Jacques to get in his car and, under the threat of weapons, forced him to go to an unknown destination.<br />Local sources consulted by Fides speculate that behind the kidnapping there are Salafi groups in the area, who felt strengthened by the recent success of the jihadists of al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Syrian territory.<br />Father Jacques Murad is the Prior of the Monastery of Mar Elian and pastor of the community in Qaryatayn, 60 km southeast of Homs. <br />The monastic settlement, located on the outskirts of Quaryatayn, is a branch of the Monastery of Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi, refounded by the Italian Jesuit Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, who was also kidnapped on July 29, 2013 while he was in Raqqa, the Syrian capital for years under the control of the jihadist of the Islamic State.<br />In the years of conflict, the city of Qaryatayn was repeatedly conquered by anti-Assad militias and bombed by the Syrian army. It was father Jacques, along with a Sunni lawyer, who acted as mediators to ensure that the urban center of 35 thousand inhabitants was spared for long periods by armed clashes.<br />The Monastery hosted hundreds of refugees, including more than a hundred children under ten years of age. Father Jacques and his friends provided to find the bare necessities for their survival even by seeking the help of Muslim donors. Fri, 22 May 2015 10:49:25 +0200AFRICA - Rubber and leather shoes that "stretch" for African children - In the world there are hundreds of millions of children who cannot afford to have a pair of shoes. A young American has invented a pair of rubber and leather sandals, made with a system of clamps that stretch up to five extra numbers. The aim of this initiative is to help the 300 million children worldwide who are forced to walk barefoot, risking serious diseases. With the help of a former manager of a sports brand, the young man was able to make the 'magic shoes' that can be widened and lengthened. Thu, 21 May 2015 13:09:19 +0200ASIA/NEPAL - The work of solidarity of the Catholic Church to earthquake victims continues - "The work of solidarity of the Catholic Church continues, especially in the more remote districts. In recent days we had a coordination meeting with all the priests, nuns, religious involved in the rescue of victims, with representatives of Caritas and with the Bishop. We have developed a joint action plan to help people affected by the earthquake with short-term and long-term measures. One starts thinking about reconstruction. The Vicariate has planned interventions to help as many families as possible and our goal is to meet the needs of about 2,000 families". This is what Fr. Silas Bogati, pro-Vicar Apostolic of Nepal says to Agenzia Fides.<br />"I have just returned from Gorkha district to monitor the situation" refers Fr. Bogati to Fides. "There, there are the Salesian Fathers who are assisting the homeless. We have provided relief supplies to 2,235 families in the villages of Mucchok and Sourpani. The Catholic personnel, priests, religious and lay faithful, are working hard: many are also coming from India to help us".<br />The priest concluded: "Caritas, thanks to international aid, is providing aid in many villages. People thank us and have expressed deep gratitude. Christian witness in Nepal today passes through the works of mercy and compassion for people who have lost their loved ones, who have lost their homes and all their properties. They have to start from scratch".<br />The death toll of the earthquake on April 25 in Nepal has reached 8,631 victims, with 21,838 injured. This was announced today by the Interior Ministry in Kathmandu. The Nepalese police have reported that the search continues for 346 missing people, including 106 foreigners. As for the damage to housing, the main quake and hundreds of replicas have damaged 462,646 houses, half in the central region of the country. Thu, 21 May 2015 13:04:10 +0200AFRICA/NIGER - Civil society denounces: serious human rights violations in the east of the Country - Security forces in Niger are committing human rights violations in the region of Diffa, in the east of the Country, where in February a state of emergency was declared because of the raids carried out by Boko Haram, from neighboring Nigeria. This was denounced, in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, by the Nigerian Collective of Associations of Civil Society, according to which "hundreds of thousands of our compatriots were forcibly expelled from the islands and from the lake villages, leaving behind not only their history but also their possessions at the mercy of Boko Haram". In addition to expulsions, other coercive measures are added, such as the prohibition of the sale of fish and chili in the region. Thu, 21 May 2015 12:51:00 +0200