Fides News English Agency Newsen-usAMERICA/COLOMBIA – Day of Protest against human trafficking: child soldiers still used by FARCà – "All this must be denounced since it is one part of the things we have to do, the other part is to fight against the problem, because there exists a sort of masked protection of these crimes, on the part of the very people who run nations: governments in one way or the other, put them at their side. Masked protection of illegal trafficking of human persons is difficult to reveal", this was said by Archbishop Augusto Castro Quiroga of Tunja also chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, <br />Archbishop Castro Quiroga was speaking yesterday30 July at a press conference against human trafficking in Colombia.<br />The Bishop also spoke of thesad situation in Colombia: "a realty: the recruitment of child soldiers by FARC. Although FARC as a group is conscious of the damage caused, they have yet to come to a convinced decision to say no to child soldiers in their guerrilla groups. This is a decision FARC must make, otherwise ever greater harm will be done ".<br /><br />In his intervention, Colombia’s vice interior minister Carlos Ferro Solanilla, reiterated the government’s responsibility and commitment to continue working to identify public policies able to reveal this problem at both national and regional levels.<br />Sr Vicentina Genoveva Nieto, in charge of initiatives to promote the prevention of human trafficking, recalled that the local Church has dedicated religious men and women working hard to assist the victims of abuse. The nun spoke of 22 national and continental networks present in 197 countries, "seriously committed to this work, to ensure that every time there is one less victim ".<br /> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 11:12:38 +0200AFRICA/DR CONGO - “Yes to dialogue, but with respect for the law”, local Catholic Church on political dialogue – "Dialogue is considered the founding principal of democracy and nation". This was said on Tuesday 28 July by the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo , Rev. Leonard Santedi. The priest was taking part in a debate organised by CENCO.<br />The participants, politicians belonging to the Presidential Majority MP, members of the opposition, members of civil society and a group of analysts, discussed goals of political dialogue in Democratic Republic of Congo , the upcoming elections and special session of Parliament.<br />For Rev. Leonard Santedi, the local Catholic Church is not opposed to the idea of dialogue, but insists on respect for the Constitution. "Yes to dialogue, but with respect for fundamental law ", he said.<br />Congo’s Constitution deals with the expiry date for the election of a President of the Republic and the number and duration of presidential mandates.<br />Present at the meeting political analyst professor Philippe Biyoya, affirmed that dialogue is the very principle of community life.<br />"Dialogue is seen as the active principle of every society. It is the principle which builds harmony in society", said, André Alain Atundu, governing Party spokesman.<br />However this opinion was not shared by Opposition member Franck Diongo, who considers dialogue "in the present context, deception and a trap".<br />The local Catholic Church reaffirmed her position regarding national dialogue promoted by President Joseph Kabila, which “must take place in absolute respect for the current constitutional and institutional framework”, in other words excluding any constitutional change which would enable the outgoing president to stand for election and a third mandate. <br /> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 09:26:50 +0200AFRICA/KENYA – Bishops call for general ‘boycot’ of upcoming vaccination campaign until vaccine is tested – The Catholic Bishops of Kenya have urged citizens to boycot a maAFRICA/KENYA – Bishops call for general ‘boycot’ of upcoming vaccination campaign until vaccine has been confirmed through scientific tests. The oral vaccination campaign, by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, is scheduled to begin in Kenya on Aug. 1. Ahead of the campaign’s launch, the bishops questioned the safety of the vaccines, saying the manufacturer failed to provide requested information and the government disregarded the bishops’ request for tests. The Bishops concern follows a recent unrelated incident in which about 30 children who received an injection of an anti-malarial drug in a dispensary in western Kenya appeared to be paralyzed. The drug, believed to be quinine for advanced cases, was found to contain the pain drug paracetamol, according to the bishops. In an immediate reply the Kenyan health ministry encouraged support for the vaccination from all sides including the local Catholic Church. Bishop Philip Anyolo, of the diocese of Homa Bay and chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Kenya, said at a recent press conference in a Nairobi: “We are not in conflict with the Ministry of Health, but we have an apostolic and moral duty to ensure Kenyans are getting safe vaccines”. Early this year, government and bishops came into conflict after the clerics claimed a mass neonatal tetanus vaccination campaign was a disguised form of population control. However both institutions reached an agreement for testing before, during and after vaccination campaigns. “We are not fighting anybody”, said cardinal John Njue, bishop of Nairobi, “we are only trying to prevent our people from suffering from external causes”. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:20:06 +0200ASIA/NEPAL – Months after the earthquake prime necessities still needed – Despite a slight improvement in the humanitarian situation in the past three months, hundreds of children are still without shelter, food, water, sanitation, schooling and protection. Many children still live in areas at high risk of floods and landslides. Following the first earthquake as many as 10,000 children developed acute malnourishment, one thousand in serious conditions. Hundreds have lost one or both of their parents or care-person, 900,00 homes and 32 school buildings are still damaged or destroyed. Some three million people, including one million minors, still depend on humanitarian aid. UNICEF humanitarian aid is assisting some 330,000 families, including 450,00 children, in 19 districts most affected by the earthquake. It has also supplied aid to thousands of families living in remote areas, supplying tents, hygiene kits, therapeutic foods, vaccinations and other life-saving medicines, medical kits, bed nets, newborn packages, and school-in-a-box and early childhood development kits. Aid has enabled 100,000 children to return to school, provided clean water for 650,000 people at home or in camps, reopened 100 maternity centres in more than 150 medical centres, saved women and children from being taken out of the country illegally. .Thu, 30 Jul 2015 11:43:01 +0200EUROPE/UKRAINE - Two religious murdered within days – Sr Alevtina of Florivsky Convent in Kiev was found dead in her apartment on 29 July, the Union of Christian Orthodox Brotherhoods of Ukraine told Interfax-Religion. <br />"We know that she went to her city apartment to wash and change before undergoing a surgical operation [there is no hot water in the convent at present]. However, later her nephew found the nun's body with her hands tied and traces of torture," a spokesman said.<br />Sister Alvetina was 62 years old. <br />Interfax was unable to obtain any more official information on the case from police in Kiev.<br />This is the second murder of a member of the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in a few days.<br />On July 29 morning a 40-year old priest of the Church of St. Tatiana in Kiev, Father Roman Nikolayev, died of gunshot wounds to the head inflicted last week.<br /> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:12:02 +0200AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Updated Spanish version of the New Testamentà – Spanish speaking Catholics in Latin American countries can now avail themselves of a new updated version of the New Testament. This was announced by the Council of Latin American Bishops , on Monday in Bogotá. <br />On occasion of the official presentation of the new edition of the New Testament, on Monday, a Castilian translation from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, the work of Latin American scholars of the CELAM Bible School, Archbishop Santiago Jaime Silva Retamales, military ordinary of Chile and director of the work, said: "Language is living and with the passing of time expressions change; at the same time Biblical knowledge increases thanks to studies. These changes, in language and in knowledge, must be translated in keeping with the changing needs of the Church".<br />One most important aspect of the new translation consists in the notes, quotations and commentaries which provide a fundamental contribution for the work of evangelisation in the local Churches. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 09:49:54 +0200AFRICA/ERITREA - United Nations investigates human trafficking - Eritreans with the Syrians, form the second largest group which risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean sea in an attempt to reach Europe. A recent report issued by the United Nations Organization denounced systematic and multiform violation of human rights on the part of Eritrea. This African country has asked the UN to investigate the despicable trafficking of human persons, exodus generally attributed to the violation of human rights. Since the beginning of this year, according to the World Migration Office, some 150,000 migrants have arrived in Europe via the sea. In these perilous journeys at least 1,900 people lost their lives. Wed, 29 Jul 2015 15:10:01 +0200AFRICA/CAMEROON – For women kamikaze detonators easier to hide – Suicide bombing attacks continue in the northern region of Cameroon and in the Nigerian state of Yobe. In both countries more recently it would appear that suicide bombers are mainly women, and of all ages. According to latest reports from the city of Maroua a girl of 12 and a middle aged woman were responsible for suicide bombings in a crowded public place leaving persons dead and wounded. Whereas although Boko Haram is suspected, no responsibility for the episode has been claimed. In Maroua only days earlier there had been several suicide attacks by young girls. Moreover two more women blew themselves up in the town Fotokol, in the north of Cameroon. The regional government has prohibited the use of the burka, often used by Boko Haram to mask its suicide bombers. In Nigeria, another woman, apparently mentally unstable, detonated her bomb in a crowded market place in Damaturu, other women had done the same a few weeks earlier in a prayer area in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. Since the month of June 2014, Boko Haram has used 35 women suicide bombers in Nigeria and Cameroon. The use of women makes it easier for Jihadists to organise suicide attacks since the explosives are more easily hidden in their ample clothing. Despite a military offensive coordinated by Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon targeting the ISWA stronghold in the region of Lake Chad, the jihadists have maintained rhythm in their attacks suicide and military. Wed, 29 Jul 2015 10:57:21 +0200AMERICA/UNITED STATES - Local Catholic Church applauds order to release detained Central American families – A sentence dated 24 July issued by Judge Dolly Gee of the Federal District Court of California ordering the Obama administration to release families fleeing violence in Central America and detained in the US, has been warmly welcomed by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary of Seattle and chairman of the Migration Commission of the USCCB, the United States Catholic Bishops Conference.<br />The administration had launched a policy of detention for such families as a means of discouraging other such families from emigrating to the United States.<br />"I warmly welcome the court decision and urge the Administration to act swiftly ", said Bishop Elizondo on 27 July. "I welcome the decision which will prevent the prolongation of a wrong and unjust policy treating vulnerable persons as criminals."<br />In the first months of this year Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio; Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, Texas; and Bishop Elizondo visited the families at the detention centre in Dilley, Texas, where and they requested the release of the detained families and the use of measures alternative to detention. .<br /> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 10:22:40 +0200AMERICA/BOLIVIA - Government and people commence dialogue for definitive solutionì - 27 July marked the beginning of dialogue between the civic committee of Potosi and various representatives of the government. Although there exists a willingness to end the situation of conflict which has lasted for more than twenty years , the sides have yet to agree on principal points to define as the first step in the meeting.<br />The local Catholic Church in the person of Mons. Ricardo Ernesto Centellas Guzmán, Bishop of the diocese of Potosì, has called once again for dialogue which must be sincere: "We are convinced that the only possible solution to reach an agreement with the people is to commence sincere and immediate dialogue and therefore I urge you for love of Bolivia and love of Potosì to heed the demand that promotes this encounter between government and people in the context of respect and freedom because the rule of law is always possible", the local Church statement sent to Fides concludes.<br /> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 08:57:21 +0200AMERICA/URUGUAY – State schools for children with disabilities – Following various appeals from civil society the Uruguayan Council For Basic Primary Education announced that the next budget will include a project for the creation of 60 state schools to include children with disabilities. The country already has 18 schools of this type and the aim is to have 78 such institutes by 2020. The project is based on the Mandela School Programme, a project which has functioned since 2013 with the goal to make the integration of persons with a disability a daily reality. According to data from the Fundación ProIntegra, which promotes the inclusion of disabled children, a 2011 censure in Uruguay revealed that of 50,000 children and adolescents with disabilities, only 12 per-cent regularly attended a centre of education. Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:51:43 +0200ASIA/INDIA - Tribal priestesses help preserve millet - Tribal priestesses help preserve millet <br />Niyamgiri – Until 60 years ago millet was grown in 40% of cereal producing land in India. Despite its enormous nutritive value of protein, vitamin B and minerals magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper, production of millet today has dropped to only 11% . According to data collected by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, production started to fall in recent decades with the country’s industrial development A country rich in mineral resources, relegated millet to ordinary grain, destined to serve as fodder for cattle and no longer a basic stable food for human beings. In the hills of Niyamgiri, Rayagada district in the east Indian state of Odissa, where undernourishment is widespread and hunger affects 83% of the population, women of the Dongria Kondh people, who live in the forests and who revere the surrounding mountains, and are firmly convinced of the benefits of millet grown on the slopes of the hills. The women perform ritual dances and songs for the god of the forest to have an abundant harvest. According to the ritual, the tribal priestesses, bejunis in the local dialect, start out from the village of Kadaraguma, at the foot of the Niyamgiri Hills, carrying earthenware jars on their heads, and in their hands a hen and a dove. They walk from door to door, from village to village encouraging and urging the people to return to millet their only heritage. On foot they visit people who grow the earliest varieties of millet, offering the hen and the dove to the local Bejuni and asking in exchange for quantities of seed to be shared equally among the five families of the village of the traveling priestesses. The millet is sown in the month of June. In exchange the priestesses offer the neighbours eight baskets of grain, double the amount of seeds received previously. Thanks to the rainfall, the harvest in the month of December is on average, 50 times the quantity of what was sown. The ritual has spread among other neighbouring communities, making it possible to protect two species of millet in danger of disappearing: khidi janh, similar to sorgo, in the village of Jangojodi, and kanga-arka, in the village Sagadi. India has one of the highest rates of hunger in the world. According to FAO, 195 million Indians are undernourished and the World Health Organization estimates that every year 1,300,000 of India’s children die for this reason. Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:48:57 +0200AMERICA/MEXICO - Mariachi Zombie: amusing animated television series discredits bad zombie myth – Mariachi zombie is the title of a new television cartoon series just launched in Mexico. Mariachi zombie is a programme of entertainment for children aged 7-11 comprising 52 episodes each 11 minutes long. The aim of each instalment, with the help of Mexican music and funny stories, is to integrate the best of Mariachi culture with zombie story cartoons. The hero is a colourful zombie, a mariachi whose music and peace are regularly interrupted by human neighbours intent on ridding themselves of this rather bewildered looking being. The programme is intended to break the stereotype that zombie stands for negative and in fact in these stories zombies are the good ones. This is the first time that a series of children’s programmes focuses on the zombie music world. Making zombies the main characters, at least once, offers new possibilities and sources of entertainment. Atomic Cartoons, a Canadian animation company has studios in Vancouver and Kelowna. Lunch Media, the Mexican company directing the new series, is based in Guadalajara and deals with cinema products, as well animated and audio-visual productions. Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:14:54 +0200ASIA/YEMEN - Almost 2 million children forced to abandon school - Almost 2 million children forced to abandon school <br />Sana’a – Warfare continues in Yemen and among many serious consequences, children, some 2 million, are forced to abandon school. So far 3,600 schools are closed, and pupils and families have been moved to safer places. Among the schools closed, 248 raised to the ground, another 270 used as shelters for displaced persons and the remaining 68 occupied by armed troops. For the school system in Yemen, according to UNICEF, the impact of the situation is devastating. At the moment the United Nations organization is working to provide scholastic support for more than 2,000 children, supplying exercise books, pencils and school bags. For its part Yemen’s education ministry is trying to mobilise the necessary teachers and organise temporary premises, such as tents, to serve as classrooms. The next school year is due to start September 5 but it all depends on security conditions in the country. Prior to the present conflict, the rate of school attendance in Yemen was 79%, despite 2 million children denied schooling because of poverty and discrimination and an extremely poor quality of education. Mon, 27 Jul 2015 11:09:53 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN – Young Christian woman abducted and forced into Islamic marriage – Fouzia, 25 year old Christian woman, married and mother of three children, was abducted on July 23 by Muhammad Nazir a Muslim aged 55, father of eight children. The man forced Fouzia to convert to Islam and become his wife. Fides was informed that the man is a land owner and that Fouzia and her poor farm-worker family, live and work on his land in the area of Pattoki, in Punjab.<br />At first the family was too afraid to report the abduction and waited for the return of their daughter. In reply to several requests for her return, the family was told by Nazir that Fouzia had become a Muslim and was now his wife. Nazir threatened that if Fouzia were to make any trouble there would be serious consequences. <br />Fouzia’s family, very poor, went to Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill for help. With help from the lawyer, the mother of the victim reported the event to the police.<br />Gill tells Fides: “Cases like this are common, but in this case the abductor is a married man and the abducted Christian woman is also married”, and this element could save her. <br />“Usually – he continued – episodes like this proceed in the following manner: the family of the victim presents a complaint. The abductor lodges a counter-complaint affirming that the woman made a voluntary decision. In most cases the victims are minors, young adolescent girls. They suffer sexual violence, forced prostitution, domestic abuse and even sold to human traffickers”. Only rarely, concludes Gill who will give free legal assistance to Fouzia’s family, such cases end with the return of the girls to their original families. Sat, 25 Jul 2015 17:32:12 +0200ASIA/PAKISTAN – Every year a thousand Christian and Hindu girls suffer forced conversion to Islam and abuse – In Pakistan every year at least a thousand girls, from local Christian and Hindu communities are forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. This was affirmed in a recent report produced by the NGO Aurat Foundation in Karachi. In a note sent to Fides, Mahnaz Rehman the directress of the Foundation, describes the difficult situation for women in Pakistan, specifically with regard to discrimination on a religious basis. The crime of forced conversion and marriage is common but receives little attention on the part of the local police or civil authorities, the note explains. <br />According to figures and documentation supplied by the report, every year in Pakistan an average number of 1000 girls are forced to become Muslim and marry Muslim men. The majority of the girls involved belong to Christian and Hindu communities. <br />The girls and the families receive threats and pressure. The practice is constant –Aurat Foundation affirms – the girls, often minors, are forced without their consent to marry their abductor or another man. If the family lodges a complaint, the abductor makes a counter complaint, accusing the family and stating that the girl converted of her own free will. When called to testify in court, the girl, under unspeakable threats and pressure, declares that her conversion and consent to marriage was voluntary. The case is then closed. “These cases are never investigated seriously to shed light on the phenomenon and mechanism of the crime”, says the Report. One factor would appear determinant: “From the time in which the complaint is filed and the controversy begins up to the time of the hearing in Court, the girls are held in custody by the abductors and suffer all kinds of abuse and violence”. One manner of pressure on these fragile and vulnerable adolescents, is to convince them that they have become “Muslims” to every effect and if they change their religion they would be apostates for which the punishment is death ”. The Report urges the police and civil authorities to unmask this practice and rescue the girls members of religious minority groups. The Aurat Foundation has also proposed a Bill to impede forced conversions. Sat, 25 Jul 2015 16:52:09 +0200AMERICA/PERU – 100 years of mission among indigenous women in the Amazon – 100 years of mission among indigenous women in the Amazon<br />Puerto Maldonado – One hundred years ago in 1915, Dominican Sisters arrived in Peru from Spain to dedicate themselves to providing pastoral and social assistance to indigenous women in the Amazon in the south of the country. At that time Dominican missionary Fathers were already present and engaged in active pastoral work and the women Religious began to work closely with the Fathers in the missionary project in Puerto Maldonado : “The sisters were courageous, simple hearted and strong, and with their broad vision soon understood the scope of the mission. I remember their arrival and still today their important cooperation helps us reflect and rediscover the mission of our Institute. Their presence helps us renew our charisma and promote the new era we are living as a Dominican Family”, the Institute writes in a message to Fides. “This event is a special grace which helps rekindle the fire of our faith and open new horizons, with a new vision of evangelising the people. We are always open to what is new”, the message continues. The centenary event was marked with a commemorative video presented and produced by the José Pío Aza Cultural Centre run by the Dominican Fathers. Sat, 25 Jul 2015 12:11:12 +0200AMERICA/BRAZIL – Franciscan Sister murdered – Franciscan Sister murdered<br />Guaratinguetá – Sister Irma Odete Francisca, aged 65, a member of the Institute of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen, was murdered yesterday 24 July at La Estrella Drug Rehabilitation Centre run by the Fazenda da Esperança, in the town of Guaratinguetá, in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo. Fides learned from the Pontifical Mission Societies in Brazil, that the sister, attacked by a man attempting a burglary, died of eight knife wounds to her back. <br />The Institute affirmed that the murdered happened in the morning of 24 July. The intruder broke into the house of the sisters. Sr Irma Odete Francisca, who had worked at the Centre for six years was brutally attacked and murdered. According to the local police, the thief, barefooted and with his face covered, entered the convent by force and ordered the sisters to give him money. La Estrella Centre in Guaratinguetá houses about 350 persons addicted to drugs undergoing rehabilitation treatment. Sat, 25 Jul 2015 11:46:06 +0200ASIA/THAILAND – Jesuits provide assistance for women refugees victims of violence and human trafficking –Women refugees from Asian and African countries such as Pakistan or Somalia, reach Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. They have experienced situations of war, sexual abuse and systematic oppression. They are forced to flee, forced to pay smugglers, and very often, robbed of their few belongings are abandoned. These are the women who receive help at the Jesuit Refugee Service centre in Bangkok, which runs a specific service of psychological and material assistance for women refugees. The project, Fides learned, provides support and counselling for unaccompanied Somali and Pakistani women and girls. <br />“Refugee women are extremely vulnerable and most suffer sexual abuse. We try to make them feel less alone” says Jennifer Martin, JRS psycho-social counsellor. “After such a terrifying experience we offer them the chance to talk through the trauma. This helps to build a sense of solidarity and sharing. The shock of being in a different culture can be overwhelming and a cause of tension, especially among older women. Moreover women and girls face the challenge of finding a way to make a living, for the country of arrival they are illegal immigrants ” Martin reminds Fides in her report. <br />The JRS aims to build a long-term protective factor, unity among the women, awareness that being exploited by human trafficking criminals is a shared experience. Juridical difficulties are hard to solve and it is not easy for the girls and women involved to adapt to the new environment says JRS, but gradually socialisation and human relations can restore dignity and confidence. Fri, 24 Jul 2015 09:21:48 +0200AMERICA/ DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - “Working at prevention” can put an end to violence, says Bishop Peña Rodríguez Domingo – The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Dominican Republic, Bishop Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez, has launched a proposal to focus on prevention in order to address the increasing state of criminality and violence in the area. The Bishop, who heads the diocese of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia en Higüey, acknowledges that the authorities have already worked at this aspect, but laments that they act only after facts have occurred. The Bishop also remarks that when there is prevention on the part of government authorities, with concrete involvement of police and army forces, criminality finds less space in which to act.<br />"If we succeed in articulating programmes and activities for the formation of our young people in schools, youth groups, in the families and in civil society in general, we can prevent this social scourge" the Bishop said during celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the ordination of Bishop Julio Cesar Amaro Corniel, Bishop of Puerto Plata<br />The voice of Bishop Peña Rodríguez joins other voices in the Dominican society calling for intervention by the authorities to halt spiralling violence and criminality in the Dominican Republic, activity which involves mainly young citizens.<br />A month ago, on June 26, the President of the Dominican Republic, participating at an international meeting of SICA , Central American Integration System, spoke of violence by organised criminal groups in central America and he urged the other countries of the region to "work together" to tackle the problem of violence and insecurity definitively.<br /> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:17:58 +0200