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  • From College to University: The Audacity of African Jesuits

    Spotlight Africa || By Ricardo da Silva, SJ || 26 February 2018

    audacity of african jesuits 2018On Saturday, 24 February 2018, the Jesuits in Africa opened their second university on the continent in Harare, Zimbabwe. For 24 years Arrupe College has been the English-medium philosophate for Jesuits in Africa. The college has now become a university. Ricardo da Silva was at the inauguration and offers an eye-witness account of the events as well as the road that the fledgeling university has travelled to get where it is today. 

    It is not every day that one witnesses the inauguration of a university; let alone in Africa where higher education is still very much for the privileged few and seems to be under assault at each turn: from fees crises and serious mismanagement of funds to fraudulent awards of degrees. This did not deter the Jesuits – who did precisely that – when, this past Saturday, they launched their second university on the continent, Arrupe Jesuit University (AJU). They showed themselves courageous enough to swim upstream heeding the call given to them by Dominican Master General, Fr Bruno Cadoré, when he addressed the Jesuits at the last General Congregation in October 2016 in Rome. Cadoré told the Society of Jesus to "dare the audacity of the improbable". Later, at the same gathering of Jesuit representatives from all over the world, Pope Francis added to this by calling his brother Jesuits to "prophetic audacity".

    What is now known as AJU started life in very humble beginnings 24 years ago, operating from a disused wing in St Anne’s hospital, run by the Little Company of Mary, a congregation of Catholic Religious sisters. Arrupe College (AC), as it was known, afforded young African Jesuits the opportunity to do studies in philosophy and the humanities (literature, history, education and African studies) on the continent. From St Anne’s AC managed to secure a large plot of land in Mount Pleasant, Harare, where it is located today. Although the primary group of students have been Jesuits, the college was open to all from its inception. Men and women, religious and lay, were admitted without discrimination.

    The college awarded degrees as an associate college of the Gregorian University in Rome. In 1998 it was recognised as an associate college of the historically well-respected University of Zimbabwe under the guidance, mentorship and rigorous inspections of the Faculty of Religious Studies, Classics and Philosophy (RSCP). Over the years the college led by its trustees, the Society of Jesus, has given thought to and had discussions that would open the way to the institution’s autonomy. It was, however, only in the past few years, that this seemed feasible. Given the ever-changing and demanding nature of the higher education landscape, it became clear that AC had both a need and a real opportunity to apply for this new status.

    Following its application to the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE), and after a rigorous inspection and vetting process - at times most ‘unfriendly’, as the CEO of ZIMCHE, Prof Emmanuel Ngara related in his address at the inauguration - AJU was born when a letter arrived on 7 December 2017, confirming its upgraded to ‘university’ status. The registration was awarded provisionally for one year after which the university will be assessed again to confirm its status as an autonomous degree awarding institution of higher learning.

    AJU will open its doors with a humble offering: initially maintaining a single Faculty of Arts in which they will faithfully and proudly keep to their legacy of excellence in the study of philosophy and the humanities. AJU will offer 4-year honours degrees in philosophy, literature, and in the new training for transformation programme which is done in partnership with The Grail Centre in Kleinmond, South Africa.

    AJU has already announced its desire to lead with its imminent expansion into the realm of information and communications technology (ICT) education.  It will open applications for an honours degree in the sciences with its BSc (Hons) ICT soon. This will be done in collaboration with The ICT University in Louisiana, USA.

    In addition, postgraduate students can register for master’s degrees in literature, philosophy, education, theology, university administration and early childhood development. AJU already has its first intake of doctoral students in philosophy.

    The University is led by an all Jesuit African team. The Chancellor is the president of the conference of Jesuit Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (JESAM), Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, who has delegated the day to day running of AJU to Vice Chancellor, Fr Kizito Kiyimba, a Ugandan by birth, and graduate of the doctoral programme in philosophy of science from the world-renowned London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). On the executive team are two Pro-Vice Chancellors: Tanzanian, Fr Gilbert Mardai, who is responsible for administration, finance and development; and Nigerian, Fr Evaristus Ekwueme, who is in charge of academics.

    The Jesuits will now have to prove their mettle and roll up their sleeves to ensure the continuing status of AJU so that they reach their mission objective: to become serious players in the higher education space in Africa and to uphold the widely acclaimed standard of Jesuit higher education the world over.

    Writing in AJU’s souvenir publication, Chancellor, Fr Orobator, made it clear that though the university will pursue academic excellence in all spheres, it does this with a clear mission to seriously contribute to Africa’s development agenda.

    Orobator said at the inauguration:

    I thank and congratulate you all. But this is not a time for complacency. The hard work of securing a new status has ended; now begins the harder work of making Arrupe Jesuit University a reality. 

    To be a university is not merely a thing of pride; it comes with a weighty responsibility. AJU takes its place on a continent where 17 million of 128 million school-aged children will never see the inside walls of a school, and 12 million youth enter the job market annually to compete for 3 million jobs, while half of the 10 million students who graduate annually are unemployed (Source: African Development Bank and International Labour Organization). 

    For a continent of 1.2 billion people and 54 countries, the contribution of AJU would seem a negligible fraction. Yet it is important to make a difference in the context of our existence as a higher education institution to the lives of women and men. To achieve this objective every member of the AJU family must aspire in excellence to leadership in conscience, compassion, competence and commitment. 

    Considering the privileged nature of access to higher education, a university – besides discovering, producing and imparting knowledge and understanding – must necessarily be concerned about serving the needs of the poor. The painful and disturbing reality of widespread poverty is both a catalyst for and a challenge to the development of higher education in Africa. As members of the AJU family, we are tasked with devising creative and innovative approaches to this challenge, including the education of a society that values fairness, equity and justice; and undertaking a mission to create just and equitable socio-economic and political conditions for the marginalized and underprivileged to flourish in freedom and dignity. 

    As pioneers of AJU, it is everyone’s duty to make AJU a catalyst for integral human development and social transformation in Africa and beyond. One hundred years from now, posterity will judge us on how well we assumed and discharged this noble task. Congratulations and God bless!” SA.

    Source: Spotlight Africa…

  • Congo's Bishops: Two Killed During Protests against 'dictatorship'

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || 26 February 2018

    two in dr congo protesting dictatorship 2018Congo's bishops said a young Catholic was killed at point-blank range and another was shot dead while trying to return home from anti-government protests.

    The protests, organized by the church's Lay Coordination Committee, were designed to be peaceful marches "to say no to dictatorship," said a statement on the bishops' website Feb. 26, the day after the marches. They said police used tear gas and live bullets.

    The bishops said Rossy Tshimanga was shot outside Kinshasa's St. Benedict Church. After a second youth was shot, young people set fire to police buildings, the bishops said.

    The confrontation was the third in two months to occur after Sunday Masses. Clashes Dec. 31 and Jan. 21 left 15 people dead, 70 injured and 115 arrested, including a dozen clergy, according to church and United Nations data.

    "Human rights defenders are denouncing the brutality shown by police in scattering these peaceful demonstrators," the bishops said. "But if we believe the city of Kinshasa's police commissioner, no such slip-ups took place."

    A police spokesman said no one was killed as police broke up the protests.

    The bishops said others were injured and detained around the country as more than 3 million protesters rallied nationwide, demanding President Joseph Kabila step down. A 2016 church-brokered accord required Kabila to resign after his second five-year term, with elections by late 2017. The country's elections currently are scheduled for December.

    "The Congolese national police suppressed peaceful marches in several Kinshasa parishes, notably at St. Francis de Sales, where riot police were deployed in the road facing the church and fired warning shots after Mass," the bishops said.

    "At Our Lady of Fatima Parish, the demonstrators were also restrained by police after scuffles, while those at Holy Trinity Parish marched along back roads before encountering the security forces."

    In a Feb. 26 statement, Leila Zerrougui, head of the U.N. stabilization mission in Congo, demanded an inquiry and said she regretted more deaths had occurred, "despite orders given to security forces to show greatest restraint in handling the demonstrations."

    On Feb. 25, Father Donatien Nshole, secretary-general of the Congolese bishops' conference, praised the behavior of the police officers in some areas of Kinshasa and called on the population to remain vigilant.

    Agence France-Presse reported that security forces had been "massively deployed before all Catholic churches" in Congo's second-largest city, Lubumbashi, where "any attempt to gather" had been "systematically dispersed" with tear gas and live bullets. It reported that several Catholics were badly wounded when trying to sing Congo's national anthem outside Kinsangani's cathedral, while at least three priests had been driven away in a police jeep at the city's St. Peter Parish.

    AFP reported the government had accused church leaders of "partisan political activism" and "inciting the population to revolt" during a Feb. 24 government meeting.

    Several thousand youth supporters of the governing party occupied the square in front of the Kinshasa cathedral Feb. 24; a spokesman told AFP the aim was to "recall the church to its role of neutrality."

  • This Couple Gave Up Everything to Help Sudanese Refugees in Uganda

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 24 February 2018

    couple that gave up everythingSelling everything and moving to Uganda to work with refugees is not likely on many people's to-do list. In fact, it's probably the last thing most would consider, especially young couples hoping to start a family.

    But it's exactly what Rachel and Rich Mastrogiacomo did last year.

    Their story began when a series of devastating events and realizations would lead the couple to the edge of a war zone in the heart of east Africa, bring them face to face with abject poverty and eventually lead them to the recent adoption of their new daughter.

    Though seeds were planted in both of their lives much earlier, the story began when the two got married in 2014. Like any other couple, they were excited about their new life together and eager to start a family.

    However, their initial enthusiasm was quickly replaced by pangs of sadness and disappointment as the couple slowly began to realize, after months of trying to become pregnant, that they were facing infertility.

    This pain was sharpened in 2017, when three foster children living with the couple were unexpectedly returned to their birth mother.

    It was after this that Rachel and Rich began to feel an inkling that they were being called to something specific – something they would discover through a process of prayer and radical openness to God's will and the signs that he provided along the way.

    Shortly after their foster children were reunited with their biological mother, Rachel and Rich attended a healing Mass. At the end, as Rachel was praying, a woman tapped her on shoulder, and told her, “I heard Jesus say, 'She will be a mother to many.' You're healed.”

    Around the same time, Rich – who says he never has dreams – said he had a very vivid dream of his wife standing on brownish-reddish dirt with trees all around. In the dream, Rich said Rachel was holding a baby and was surrounded by children, and as he looked at her, she smiled at him with a peaceful expression.

    After the dream, Rich began to research South Sudan, and came across multiple articles detailing the horrors of the country's ongoing conflict and the millions who, having fled war and famine in their homeland, are now living as refugees in neighboring countries. Uganda in particular has been one of the main refugee destinations.

    Rich began emailing bishops in the area, and immediately got a response from Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki of Arua, in northern Uganda, saying Rich's email was an “answer to prayer,” as he had more than a million Sudanese refugees in his diocese and had been praying for lay missionaries to come from America.

    The contact with Bishop Odoki – whose diocese sits closely along borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan – was seen as providential by Rachel and Rich, because ever since she was 10-years-old, Rachel had a special love for Sudan – she told CNA that her father put an image of starving Sudanese children her age on the refrigerator in hopes of fostering a sense of gratitude in her.

    The image stuck with Rachel and was in many ways the spark of her desire to be a missionary, and when they got married, both Rachel and Rich felt a strong call to live a missionary life.

    When Bishop Odoki said he wanted them to come and serve for a month-long “trial run,” the choice was obvious. The couple sold everything and went to Arua in the spring of 2017 with the Family Missions Company.

    “There are no words to describe the intense human suffering that we saw among the refugees,” Rachel told CNA Feb. 22.

    “It was unlike anything we’ve ever seen, unlike slum poverty. Never have we seen such a vast amount of people living in such poor conditions,” she continued.

    South Sudan has been split by a brutal civil war for the past three-and-a-half years. The conflict has so far prompted some 4 million citizens to flee the country in search of peace, food and work. In August 2017, shortly before Rachel and Rich traveled to Uganda, the African nation had taken in their one-millionth refugee, and the number has continued to climb.

    Roughly 85 percent of the refugee settlements Rachel and Rich served are made up of women and children, they said, and while many humanitarian organizations on the ground try to help meet basic needs, “the overall need is absolutely overwhelming.”

    They specifically visited the Palorinya refugee settlement in Uganda's Moyo region, which is the second biggest camp in northern Uganda and as of November 2017 housed some 185,000 refugees, according to Reuters.

    While in Arua, Rachel and Rich were able to tour the diocese and participate in the centenary celebration of Moyo Catholic parish, which is the first parish of the diocese of Arua. They also spent time visiting orphans, schoolchildren and youth in prison, and distributed both gifts and donations.

    “[We] just loved on the kids,” Rachel said, and recalled what she said is one of her favorite memories of the trip. As they were visiting a school, Rachel and Rich entered one classroom and the children immediately began singing: “The Lord is calling you. You are welcome to lead us all into His kingdom.”

    The song “touched our hearts deeply,” she said, explaining that throughout the entire month “we experienced the joy of the Gospel in a fresh and new way. The faith of the people is vibrant; God is their treasure.”

    While the basic needs of those living in the camps are many, Rachel said that spiritually speaking, “the greatest need we found was the need to be heard.”

    “Pope Francis speaks about a ministry of listening, and this concept came alive for us while we were in the refugee camps,” she said, explaining that when they eventually return to Uganda, they plan to help with spiritual formation, since general catechesis and sacramental preparation are often lacking.

    “The people are hungry for more than just food; they truly are hungry for God,” she said.

    As the month drew to a close, Rachel said she, her husband and Bishop Odoki all experienced an “overwhelming confirmation” that God was inviting the couple to serve there as full time lay missionaries and live as spiritual parents to the many children and orphans in need.

    So while they already see Uganda as their new home, Rachel and Rich headed back to the United States to get things in order. But the story doesn't end there.

    Just three days after returning to the U.S., Rich got a phone call from a lawyer who helps facilitate private adoption, saying a woman had selected him and Rachel to adopt her baby.

    “The phone call came out of left field, when we least expected it! Truly, it was wild,” Rachel said.

    Rich and Rachel had been in touch with the lawyer several years before, but hadn't spoken to her since.

    However, she had saved their profile, and as the mother was looking through the stack of possible adoptive parents for her unborn child, she was “moved” when she saw Rachel and Rich's profile and wanted to know more about them.

    According to Rachel, when it was explained to the mother that the couple were missionaries living in Uganda, “it struck a deep chord,” as the woman herself was an orphan who had been adopted from Guatemala.

    The mother had initially scheduled an abortion during the time that Rachel and Rich were in Uganda, but decided against it and reached out to a crisis pregnancy center. When she heard about Rachel and Rich, she wanted her unborn daughter to be with them, as she had fond memories of the Catholic nuns who raised her until she was adopted.

    “We always felt open to adoption, but trusted that God would make it happen in His time,” Rachel said. “It’s a blessing to have received this unbelievable gift when we least expected it; God’s fingerprints are all over it.”

    The little girl, who Rachel and Rich named Chiara Maria de Guadalupe Mastrogiacomo, was born Feb. 18.

    Both Rachel and Rich were present when their daughter was born. “We wept tears of joy and continue to do so. She has taken our breath away,” Rachel said, adding, “truly, God has turned our mourning into dancing!”

    Once the adoption is finalized and little Chiara Maria gets her passport, Rachel and Rich will return to Uganda with their new daughter and continue to serve as lay missionaries in the Arua diocese under the guidance of Bishop Odoki.

    While they will wait for Odoki to give them instructions when they arrive, Rachel said she believes they will travel to the refugee settlements in order to provide catechesis, sacramental preparation and trauma counseling.

    Rachel, who graduated from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, holds degrees in theology and religious education, while Rich holds a graduate degree in theology.

    Overall, Rachel said she sees their role as a “funnel of resources” from the U.S. to help this particular group and to raise awareness and funds to address the current humanitarian crisis in the area, which is “one of the most serious in the world right now.”

    Pope Francis himself recently put a spotlight on the crisis by declaring Feb. 23, the Friday of the first full week of Lent, as a day of prayer and fasting for the DRC, South Sudan and Syria, all three of which have been ravaged by internal conflict for years.

    Though they can cease being missionaries at any time, Rachel said she and Rich feel that their call to be missionaries is a “lifelong vocation,” and don't see themselves leaving it.

    “Pope Francis dreams of a poor Church for the poor and a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything; this has become our dream,” she said. “We want to give everything for Christ in the disguise of the poor and marginalized of society. We want to be on the margins, with the marginalized.”

    “That is where Jesus is,” she said, adding, “we cannot wait to return and see see how the Lord will work.” 

    Source: Catholic News Agency…

  • Voter Registration, Ahiara Bishop’s Resignation, Killings among Matters Discussed by Catholic Bishops in Nigeria

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 26 February 2018

    voter registration in nigeria worries bishops 2018The process leading to the general elections in Nigeria next year, the resignation of the Bishop of Ahiara diocese, and the killings of innocent people were among the issues the Catholic Bishops in Nigeria reflected about during their first Plenary Assembly for this year.

    “Reports reaching us from all over the nation indicate that in many places facilities for registration are not available, thus depriving many people of the right to register for voting,” the Bishops have stated in a communique issued at the conclusion of their plenary assembly held in Abuja from February 17-23.

    The Bishops lamented the targeted exclusion of certain groups, the registration of underage persons, and the intention to use young people “as canon fodders in electoral malpractices.”

    The general elections that will see Nigerians elect the President and members of the National Assembly have been scheduled for February 16, 2019.

    The Bishops have also welcomed Pope Francis’ decision to accept the resignation of Bishop Peter Okpaleke of Ahiara diocese and lauded the Bishop “for his outstanding faith and courage in the face of his unfortunate non-acceptance as the Bishop of Ahiara by a large sector of the clergy and laity of the diocese.”

    “We pray for repentance and reconciliation among the Christ faithful of Ahiara,” the Bishops added.

    Meanwhile, the Bishops have expressed their “grave concern and worry” about the lack of respect for human life stating, “The wave of political assassinations, killing for ritual purposes, frequent mass murder of harmless, innocent and defenceless citizens are instances.”

    “In recognition of our divine mandate, may we remind all of the sacredness and inviolability of human life,” the Bishops state in their communique, identifying young people as “the victims and agents of this wastage of human life.”

    They have urged for “a stronger collaboration between the government, the security agencies, and the entire population, for a more efficient protection of human life and property.”

    Below is the full text of the Bishops’ communique

    “...THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE LIFE AND HAVE IT MORE ABUNDANTLY” (JOHN 10:10)

    A Communiqué issued at the End of the First Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Durumi, Abuja, 17-23 February 2018

    1.     PREAMBLE

    We, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, have held our First Plenary Meeting of the year at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Durumi, Abuja, from 17 to 23 February 2018. Having prayerfully reflected on the ways in which we, as a Church and a Nation, can fully enjoy the fullness of life promised us by our Lord Jesus Christ, we now issue this Communiqué.

    2.     PROMOTING THE CULTURE OF LIFE

    Jesus Christ the eternal Word of the Father, through whom all was made, became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) so that through him we might share in the life of the Blessed Trinity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16). At a high point during his ministry on earth Jesus declared: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The seed of this abundant life was sown in us at creation and is brought to its fullness in and through Christ. Life is, therefore, sacred, a gift, a mystery and a challenge.

    However, recent happenings in Nigeria give cause for grave concern and worry. The wave of political assassinations, killing for ritual purposes, frequent mass murder of harmless, innocent and defenceless citizens are instances. Very often our young people, the very symbols of life and vigour, are the victims and agents of this wastage of human life. In recognition of our divine mandate, may we remind all of the sacredness and inviolability of human life. No person, authority or institution has the right to terminate human life. We say NO to these senseless killings, and urge everybody to respect the sanctity of human life and end the flow of innocent blood in our land. We advocate a stronger collaboration between the government, the security agencies, and the entire population, for a more efficient protection of human life and property. We appeal to the consciences of every member of the Nigerian society to respect the eternal commandment of God: “Thou shall not kill” (Ex 20:13). May God grant eternal rest to all those who have lost their lives in all these unfortunate incidents.

    Whereas we acknowledge some legitimate rights due to women and the need to promote them, we, nevertheless, condemn the provisions of the “Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill,” which could provide an avenue for the legalization of many anti-human life and anti-family activities. We therefore demand that such provisions be expunged from the Bill. Similarly, we condemn in unmistakable terms the indiscrete distribution of condoms and contraceptive pills in our schools, youth service orientation camps and private/government health institutions.

    We call on the young people to be responsible and remain vigilant. They are to resist any attempt to lure them into idolizing sexual pleasure, using contraceptives, procuring abortion, abusing drugs, and other such vices. Parents have the primary responsibility of educating and supporting their children in this regard. We commend the pro-life and pro-family movements for their concerted efforts in promoting human life. As the Church prepares to mark the golden jubilee of Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical on human life, Humanae Vitae, we call on all families to embrace and cultivate the culture of life, a culture marked by faith and solidarity (Evangelii Gaudium, 68). As custodians of Catholic faith and morals, we earnestly urge all health practitioners and care givers to be pro-life and pro-family in their conduct, shunning all activities that might lessen the value of human life. In the same vein, we admonish our artistes and media practitioners to promote the culture of life in their professions.

    3.     THE CHURCH AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

    “By the labour of your hands you shall eat” (Psalm 128: 2). When God created man, he commissioned him to till the earth in order to provide for himself (cf. Genesis 1:28-29). There seem to be too many idle people in our country. Many young people have no job and equally many public servants retire early and thereafter remain unproductive. These idle persons, especially the young ones, are easily available to be recruited for crime and other anti-social activities. There is therefore the need to promote entrepreneurship as a means of engaging our many capable minds and hands in positive skills and so contribute collectively to nation building. In this regard, we continually encourage the faithful and indeed the entire citizenry to discover and exploit opportunities, and assemble resources in order to create value and wealth. This, no doubt, would make it possible for us to build an economy that is truly at the service of humankind. We equally urge the business community to invest not just for profit but also to offer some services to and make positive impact on the society, especially the poor and vulnerable groups. As a Church, we continue to render social services and provide job opportunities for many through the schools, hospitals, and other enterprises. Our Justice, Development and Peace Commission and the Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria, to say the least, perform the role of ensuring justice, peace and progress in our society. We also enjoin all Church organs and institutions to enlarge their engagement in entrepreneurial actions such as setting up more resource centres that will bring about skill acquisition and self-reliance. We encourage all to actively engage in ventures that will add value to human life such as agriculture.

    4.     YOUNG PEOPLE AND PRODUCTIVITY

    In a special way, our young people will benefit from entrepreneurship. Young people form a great proportion of our nation’s population. The youthful age is a period of creativity, vitality, enthusiasm and bold aspiration. We regret that many of the youths in our country have no genuine means of livelihood. In a prostrate economy where governments cannot provide all the jobs, we ask young people to rise to the occasion and utilize their resourcefulness to create legitimate job opportunities for themselves. We urge them to recognize the dignity of labour, the value of hard work and sacrifice, shun the culture of extravagance, and practise the virtue of thrift.

    5.     ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT

    In our recent visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, we expressed our concerns on the state of the nation. While we thank him for giving us a listening ear, we expect him to urgently address the issues raised, as he promised he would. We re-affirm that government has an indispensable role to play in supporting genuine initiatives to improve our people’s standard of living. In the words of Pope St John Paul II, the state has the duty to “sustain business activities by creating conditions which will ensure job opportunities, by stimulating those activities where they are lacking or by supporting them in moments of crisis” (Centesimus Annus, 48). We therefore call on government to provide adequate social amenities, infrastructure, functional education, right policies, and good governance, that will bring about the enabling environment required for entrepreneurship to thrive.

    6.     ONGOING VOTER REGISTRATION: URGENCY AND CONCERNS

    Elections are around the corner, a God given opportunity for citizens to democratically choose their leaders in a free and fair contest. Such elections depend not only on what happens on the morning of the elections but the entire process before, during and after the casting of votes. This process begins with the registration of voters, an exercise that has already started nationwide. Reports reaching us from all over the nation indicate that in many places facilities for registration are not available, thus depriving many people of the right to register for voting. It is equally reported that such difficulty in registration often target certain segments of the community. Furthermore, we hear of the registration of under aged persons. It is quite unfortunate that our young people allow themselves to be used as canon fodders in electoral malpractices. Government and especially Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), should address these serious lapses with utmost urgency and without discrimination and bias.  

    7.     EVENTS IN THE CHURCH

    Celebrations

    Some appointments and celebrations took place recently in our Church. We congratulate the Most Rev Hyacinth EGBEBO MSP, the clergy, religious and lay faithful of Bomadi for the elevation of the Vicariate to the status of a diocese. We also congratulate Most Rev Oliver DOEME, Bishop of Maiduguri Diocese, clergy, religious and lay faithful on the Golden Jubilee of the diocese. We inform you that from 14 April to 5 May 2018, we shall make our Ad Limina Visit to Rome, to interact with the Holy Father and his immediate collaborators on the state of the Church in Nigeria. We ask you to please accompany us with your prayers. As you perhaps know already, the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Youth with the theme: “Young People, and Vocational Discernment” will take place in Rome from 3 to 28 October 2018. We equally invite you to pray for its success.

    The Diocese of Ahiara

    The Holy Father Pope Francis, as Pastor of the universal Church, has accepted the resignation of Most Rev Peter OKPALEKE as Bishop of Ahiara and subsequently appointed Most Rev. Lucius UGORJI, Bishop of UMUAHIA, as Apostolic Administrator of the vacant See of Ahiara. We fully accept the Pope’s decision and urge all Catholic faithful to do the same.  We commend our brother, Most Rev. Peter OKPALEKE for his outstanding faith and courage in the face of his unfortunate non-acceptance as the Bishop of Ahiara by a large sector of the clergy and laity of the diocese. We pray for repentance and reconciliation among the Christ faithful of Ahiara.

    New Officers for CBCN

    To the glory of God we announce to you the newly elected principal officers of our Conference. They are: President, Most Rev. Augustine Obiora AKUBEZE, Archbishop of Benin City; Vice President, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru UGORJI, Bishop of UMUAHIA; Secretary, Most Rev Camillus Raymond UMOH, Bishop of IKOT-EKPENE, Assistant Secretary, Most Rev. Charles Michael Hammawa, Bishop of JALINGO. We pray for God’s wisdom and guidance in the discharge of their responsibilities. We are immensely grateful to Most Rev. Ignatius Ayau KAIGAMA and his team for the selfless service they rendered to the Conference. We thank God for guarding and directing them during their successful tenure and ask him to continue to bless them.

    8.     CONCLUSION: CALL TO RECONCILIATION AND PEACE

    In this holy season of Lent, we invite all Nigerians to a radical change of heart and mind, especially in the way they think, in the things that they do and in their entire attitude to life in themselves and in their relations with their neighbours.  As we restrain our bodies through prayer, penance and almsgiving, let us continue to work for the things that make for peace in our hearts, families, and in our political life as a nation. We seek and pray for that peace fashioned by efforts directed day after day towards the establishment of the ordered universe, willed by God, with a more perfect justice among men and women (Evangelii Gaudium 219). 

    May our Lady Queen of Nigeria, intercede for us, now and forever Amen.

     

    Most Rev. Ignatius Ayau KAIGAMA                Most Rev. Camillus Raymond UMOH

    President (CBCN)                                                Assistant Secretary, (CBCN)

    Archbishop of Jos                                                 Bishop of Ikot-Ekpene

  • Togo Bishops Call for Prayers for National Dialogue, Insist on Term Limits

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 20 February 2018

    to bishops for national dialogueA “last chance” political dialogue began on Monday in Togo, as the government sat down with the opposition to resolve a deepening political crisis surrounding the prospect of President Faure Gnassingbé seeking another term.

    With the discussions ongoing, Archbishop Philippe Fanoko Kossi Kpodzro, the former head of the Lomé archdiocese, said there is only one solution: Gnassingbé must step down when his mandate expires by 2020.

    “The Head of State should be allowed to completely terminate his mandate in dignity, but obstinacy not to leave power is diabolic,” the archbishop said in a Feb. 14 statement.

    Kpodzro is in a position to speak on the topic, having headed a similar political dialogue in the 1990s which led to a new constitution for the West African country.

    Gnassingbé has been president since 2005, following the death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadema. Eyadema had ruled Togo for 38 years, ever since he overthrew the country’s second president, Nicolas Grunitzky, in a coup d’état in 1967.

    Eyadema introduced term limits in 1992, after a series of political protests led to the Kpodzro-moderated national dialogue, but ended them 10 years later, with the hopes of running for re-election in 2008.

    After his death in 2005, the military made sure his son succeeded him.

    A coalition of opposition parties began organizing regular street demonstrations against his rule in August 2017, which the government has often violently opposed.

    In September, a government-backed bill to restore a two-term presidency, while allowing Gnassingbe to run again in 2020 and 2025, was rejected by Togo’s 14-party opposition coalition. The opposition parties subsequently declined international mediation Oct. 10, demanding instead the president’s immediate resignation.

    The bishops have supported the re-introduction of term limits and warned the political conflict could take on religious and tribal overtones, in a country that is 30 percent Christian, 20 percent Muslim, and 50 percent of the population practice indigenous religions.

    The bishops have also called for “frank and sincere dialogue” between the government and the opposition “on the key question that sparked the conflict in the first place,” in order to come up with a “durable, consensual solution,” adding the 1992 constitutional settlement should be the basis of political talks.

    Kpodzro called for the “rehabilitation of the 1992 Constitution in its entirety, with all its legal implications, and enriching amendments if necessary.”

    “Our constitution on this issue states that at no time should a head of state be allowed to serve more than two mandates. Let’s pray that that should come to pass, so that our country should be truly free and democratic, working for progress and the integral development of all its children,” the archbishop said.

    But because the opposition’s initial demands for a return to the 1992 constitution have now shifted to calls on Faure to immediately step down, some observers do not see how the talks will result in a solution.

    Togolese human rights activist Farida Nabourema told Al-Jazeera that “no one believes in these talks. We have had over 20 of these in Togo since 1991. No one believes in this, especially not the opposition.”

    She told the television network the opposition is “not naive enough to expect a dictatorship to negotiate its own dismissal.”

    Still, for the country’s bishops, dialogue remains the only possible way out of the crisis. They called for a week of prayer Feb. 16-23.

    Bishop Benoît Alowonou, the president of the bishops’ conference, called it “a time of intense prayer for Togo, which, for several months, has been going through a deep socio-political crisis.”

    “Let us beg God to rid us of all the obstacles that hinder our living together and compromise our unity,” Alowonou said. “Let us implore his light and wisdom be upon the participants of the announced dialogue so that it creates serious prospects for an end to this crisis.”

    The latest talks are being moderated by Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and Guinea’s President Alpha Conde.

    “The peace, the freedom and the stability of the Togolese people is something which is just not negotiable,” Akufo-Addo said on Monday, according to AFP.

    “It’s important that it is this dialogue that will determine the future of this country and… that it is the Togolese themselves… that will determine the future of your country,” the Ghanaian president said.

    Kpodzro said this means giving precedence to “honoring the common good, instead of the partisan spirits of ‘me or nothing’.”

    The retired archbishop said the latter spirits “have demonstrated to us until now the proof of devils, spirits of evil, skilled at dividing and conquering.”

    Source: Crux… 

  • Catholic Priest in Ghana Calls for Amendment of Education Curriculum

    CANAA || By Ernest Senanu Dovlo & Damian Avevor, Ghana || 22 February 2018

    priest in ghana calls for amendment of education curriculumActing President of the Catholic Institute of Business and Technology in Accra, Very Rev. Fr. John Louis says that poverty would drastically be reduced in Ghana if amends are made to the current education curriculum to focus on entrepreneurial skill development of students.

    He called on the Church in Ghana to begin negotiations with government to draw the attention of industry players to relook Ghana's formal education system as far as subject content and methods are concerned.

    This he said is a factor accounting for increase of social vices among the youth in the country.

    "While the Church is doing well in providing bright future for many of the youth through its many schools, it needs to start looking at the course contents and teaching methods employed,” Father Louis said.

    He added, “These need to be changed and replaced with those which equip students with entrepreneurial skills, so that the majority of those who graduate from her schools would have the capacity of self-employment. The Church needs to team up with the state to work this out."

    He made the call recently at a public lecture put together by the Accra Archdiocesan Youth Council in collaboration with the Accra Provincial Youth Council on the topic, The role of the church and family life in curbing social vices amongst the youth, in Accra.

    Fr. Louis bemoaned the spate of social vices among the youth. He added that modern ways of sanctioning such as imprisonment and fines sometimes erode the social controls and, in the process, make the youth preys to social vices.

    He further stated that "the family, the church and the state, have the responsibility individually and collectively to safeguard and enhance social controls against the contemporary social changes".

    Some of these, he said include families striving to eliminate causes of social vices that are within their control. Thus, broken homes, lack of parental care and supervision and parental negligence among others.

    He said "Families should strive to minimize the effects of the causes of social vices. For instance, when families socialize children very well they could withstand the effect of peer pressure".

    He advised that social media and the internet be used as a tool to harness potentials.

    "Families should endeavour to make ICT, especially the social media, a tool for holistic development. That is, they should teach their children to harness the merits of ICT while overcoming its demerits," he said.

    He called for the effective socialisation of children at home to enable them imbibe the norms and customs of good behaviour as well as rehabilitate those who need it.

    Touching on how the Church can help prevent social vices among the youth, Fr. Louis enumerated evangelisation, the establishment of rehabilitation centres, and impressing upon state institutions to enforce appropriate formal social controls among others as what the Church can do to prevent social vices among the youth.

    He however added that though families, the Church and other institutions have roles to play in curbing social vices among the youth, young people have their part to play and should seek social virtues and be determined to achieve them.

    Mr. Kenneth Ashigbey, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, who chaired the function, urged parents to be interested in the education of their wards. He said most Catholic Parents show no interest in Catholic Schools and for that matter Catholic education.

    This, he said, has contributed to the rise of social vices among the youth and called on the Church to do all it could to have all its Schools back to ensure holistic Catholic education and the formation of the youth.

    He called on parents to strive to be abreast with current technology to be able to implement the necessary controls to prevent their wards from being exposed to unwholesome information and pornographic materials. He said our era is an era of technology and it is expedient that all take it serious.

    "Technology has evolved and the Church has evolved with technology. What we need to do is to learn these technologies. It will get to a time even collection will be done via mobile money. Yes, there will be no physical cash because technology has evolved and the Church has evolved with it. It is important that we learn and use technology. The Church has many documents on ICT but how are we using it," he quizzed.

  • Global Response to Pope’s Call to Pray for South Sudan and DR Congo

    Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) || 19 February 2018

    global response to pope prayer for congo and ssudanAnglican provinces around the world have responded positively to Pope Francis’ call for an ecumenical day of prayer and fasting for peace, with a particular focus on South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Pope made his call during his traditional Angelus address to crowds in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Sunday 4 February. The call was endorsed that week by a number of senior Anglicans, including the acting primate of the Anglican Church of South Sudan, chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, and the deputy director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

    In the days that followed, a number of other senior Anglicans around the world responded to the Pope’s call, including Archbishop Masimango Katanda Zacharie, the Primate of Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo – the Anglican Church of Congo. Archbishop Masimango – expressed his happiness at the Pope’s initiative and told the Anglican Communion News Service that the bishops in the province would be encouraging their churches to take part.

    The Revd Bernard Bisoke, provincial youth co-ordinator, is involved in peace-building efforts in the region. He said that there had been an increase in tensions in the Ituri province over the past three weeks, particularly in the Bunia area; and explained that the disputes are based on long-running tensions between the Hema and Lendu peoples. “The Lendu is the people who love to cultivate and the Hema is the pastoral people who love to keep cattle,” he said.

    The disputes centre around the competing needs: Hema want to use open land to graze their cattle; while the Lendu want to use more land to grow crops.

    “Since 1999 up to 2003, we had tribal fighting between Hema and Lendu which was the worse one and which even brought some foreign soldiers to help from each side. . . Even now people are still live with trauma because of that war.

    “When we hear that 60 people are killed in Blukwa by the Lendu , many people remember what happened [during the war], raising more trauma among God’s people. Many people have run away from their villages to look for the peaceful place like here in Bunia and Uganda.

    “Here in Bunia, we have people who do not have relatives, they are there in the hospital, they are sleeping in the veranda, without any mattress or blanket; and they are sleeping on the ground.

    “Imagine some of the children who are there without blanket then they are sleeping down. They do not have water.”

    More than 32,000 displaced people have arrived in Bunia seeking shelter – some 13,000 of them are seeking refuge in the hospital.

    Bisoke said that the needs of the internally displaced people include the need for water, fire wood, blankets and mattresses, clothes for children, food and a place to stay.

    In his call for Friday to be set aside as a day of prayer and fasting, Pope Francis said: “As on other similar occasions, I also invite non-Catholic and non-Christian brothers and sisters to participate in this initiative in the ways they consider most appropriate, but all together.”

    Supporting the call, the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Primate of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba, said: “After Sudan became independent in 1956, it suffered decades of civil war. Just over six years ago, South Sudan broke away from the north amid great hopes that at last it would find peace. But a little over two years later, South Sudan suffered a new outbreak of civil war and it has not known true peace since.

    “Under pressure from their neighbours, the opposing sides began new peace talks earlier this month, but at present they stand adjourned for an undetermined period.

    “The Democratic Republic of Congo has also not known permanent peace, in their case for the past 20 years. Armed rebel groups proliferate in the east. More than four million people are displaced from their homes. The President has served his two terms but has delayed a new election for two years. A former United Nations humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, said a few days ago that right now the country faces one of the worst crises on earth, yet no one seems to care.”

    He has written a prayer (see foot of this article) which he is urging Anglicans in Southern Africa to use on Friday and during services on Sunday.

    In New Zealand, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wellington, Cardinal John Dew, joined with one of the Primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Archbishop Philip Richardson, in a joint message urging people to pray.

    “We strongly encourage Catholics and Anglicans throughout Aotearoa New Zealand to join with others around the world in this growing movement of concern,” they said. “There are so many needs across God’s world that it is easy to become overwhelmed or to become immune to the cries of the suffering.

    “To draw our own focus and the attention of the world to two places of great need is worthy of our time and our solidarity.”

    The Anglican Primate of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, said he was “whole-heartedly” joining the growing number of church leaders responding to the Pope’s call. “Moved by the Holy Father’s invitation, I looked ahead to the texts appointed for reading at the eucharist that day [Ezekiel 34:21-28, Psalm 130 and Matthew 5:20-26]”, he said.

    “The prophet Ezekiel speaks of God’s desire that we turn from the wickedness of the ways in which humans commit such abominable crimes against one another. He calls us to re-set our hearts toward doing what is right and just in the sight of God. The psalmist sings of his trust in the Lord’s plenteous redemption, and kindness. In the gospel of the day, we hear Jesus teaching on reconciliation and how we go about that work, however hard it may be however long it may take.

    “The peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan have suffered through the horrors of war for so many years. They know so much death and are acquainted with so much grief. Communities have been destroyed and family life shattered. So many of their children know nothing but war. So many, in fact are orphaned by its carnage.”

    He called on people to fast “as an act of solidarity with those who suffer so much deprivation through war and those whose poverty is incomprehensible” and said: “let us pray for those who work for reconciliation and peace – that their ranks be swelled and their strategies embraced. May the peoples for whom they labour finally know a peace that is just and lasting, a peace in which they and their children can live in hope of better times, in full accord with the will of God.”

    A prayer by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

    Loving God, Prince of Peace, we pray today for our sisters and brothers in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo;

    We pray for the victims and survivors of violence in those nations,
    We pray for refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries, and for the millions of people crowded into camps for displaced people,
    We pray for their politicians, that they will learn how to become servant leaders, dedicated to the interests of their people.

    Lord Jesus, you are our hope,
    Our faith in you grounds us in hope,
    It gives us certainty that peace can be made,
    It strengthens our resolve that peace must be made,
    And hope helps us to triumph over all.

    We pray that the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan,
    Will focus on the hope that you inspire,
    Hold one another’s hands,
    Look upon one another, eyeball to eyeball,
    And resolve to build united, peaceful nations.

    This we pray in your precious name,

    Amen

    Source: Anglican Communion News Service… 

  • Nairobi-based Catholic University’s Moral Theology Department Realizes International Conference on Ecology

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 22 February 2018

    tangaza conference on integrity of creationAn international conference seeking to deliberate on ways theology could help resolve ecological challenges in view of contributing to a sustainable ecological future has been realized in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

    The three-day conference, which kicked off Wednesday, February 21, has been spearheaded by the Moral Theology Department of Nairobi-based Tangaza University College, a constituent college of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).

    Scholars of international repute drawn from various institutions have been making presentations to dozens of participants made up of students, faculty, and members of the public, with all continents represented.

    Wednesday morning sessions focused on scientific approaches to ecological crisis, with two speakers providing input, one from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Kenya and another from the Kenya’s National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).

    The afternoon sessions were devoted to theological responses to ecological crisis, with input on Islam and the ecological crisis, rediscovering the human vocation in creation, and the biblical calling to environmental stewardship,

    Thursday sessions focused on the African perspective of the ecological challenge, the inter-religious dimension of environmental care, and the role of law in socio-economic and political regulations.

    Bishop Emmanuel Kofi Fiani of the diocese of Ho in Ghana has graced the conference, having presided over the opening of the conference with prayer. On Thursday, Bishop Fianu made a presentation on the response of the Church in Ghana to Laudato Si’, focusing on “God as mother and the human person as co-creator – biblical hermeneutical reflections on the role of the human person as agent of the integrity of creation.”

    The various presentations scheduled for the last day of the conference on Friday are expected to guide participants in deliberating on ways of responding to the ecological challenge in an effective and practical manner.

    Titled “International Theological Conference on Integrity of Creation,” the overall theme of the conference is, “Ecological Crises: The Sin of Our Times – A Quest for Global, Theologico-Ecological Response.”

  • Kenya’s Bishops Urge Reconciliation Amid Disputed Presidency

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 19 February 2018

    kenya bishops urge reconciliation amid disputed presidencyAfter a tumultuous and divisive election year that saw Kenya inaugurate two presidents, the Catholic bishops in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies are now using the Lenten period to drum up the case for national reconciliation.

    They’ve found an unlikely ally: Kisumu County Deputy Governor, Dr. Mathew Owili. As a special guest on the occasion of the launch of the 2018 Lenten season that took place February 10 in Kisumu County, the deputy governor, representing Governor Prof. Anyang Nyong’o, charged the clergy, particularly the Catholic bishops, to bring President Uhuru Kenyatta to the dialogue table.

    “The bungled election of 2017 has seen the country end up with two presidents: Raila Amolo Odinga, whom we recognize as our people’s President, and Uhuru Kenyatta,” Owili said.

    Kenyatta won a new presidential election in October last year, which was boycotted by Odinga on charges that the political process remained unfair even after the first round of voting in August had been declared invalid by the country’s Supreme Court. The opposition figure then decided to swear himself in as “the people’s president,” leaving the nation in a political impasse.

    Owili said only meaningful dialogue could salvage the situation, insisting that whether it happens will depend on how fast faith leaders act.

    “The onus is on the faith leaders to stand in the gap for Kenyans just like the biblical prophets did in the Old Testament, even if it meant causing fatal harm to their lives,” he said.

    That call for dialogue seems to be finding fertile ground among the country’s Catholic bishops.

    The National Lenten season, under the theme “Reconciliation for Peaceful Coexistence and National Integration, Justice for All,” emphasizes the desire of the clergy to see Kenya emerge stronger from its current political and ethnic divides.

    “The nation is bleeding, and we should work hard to bring it back to shape during this time of Lent,” said Archbishop Zaccheaus Okoth of the Archdiocese of Kisumu.

    “We must sincerely admit that Kenya, our motherland, is bleeding. During this holy season of Lent, God is calling on all Kenyans to come back to Him. In every aspect we should offer our respect to the love of God,” he said.

    Okoth said a sense of patriotism is gradually diminishing in Kenyans, as a result of rising injustice.

    “Because of the increase of inequity and judicial injustice in our country, the love of many Kenyans for our country is growing cold. There is disenchantment and disillusionment among Kenyans. Indeed, half of our county is being left behind,” he said.

    He said, “This Lenten time is the time for Kenyans to stop and ask themselves three questions: Where are we going as a country? What are we doing to each other? Why are we doing what we are doing?”

    The weekly focus of the Kenya Lenten period seems to answer those basic questions. The first week deals with good governance and how to address incompetence and corruption in counties and the country as a whole, a recognition of the fact that these vices have eaten deep into the Kenyan society and need to be addressed.

    Aside from charges of election-rigging and a stacked political deck, observers also charge widespread corruption and extortion in business life and other sectors of Kenyan society.

    “Kenya’s competitiveness is held back by high corruption levels that penetrate every sector of the economy,” says the most recent country analysis prepared by the GAN business compliance firm. “A weak judicial system and frequent demands for bribes by public officials lead to increased business costs for foreign investors.”

    The second week of Lent will deal with the theme of reconciliation. Coming at a time when the controversial presidential election of 2017 and now the spectacle of rival claims to the presidency, the theme seems apt.

    “As a Church, we see there is a solution that needs to be facilitated in the form of a conversation, leading to a dialogue. The Church has already placed a theme that entails reconciliation, peaceful coexistence and national integration,” said Bishop Alfred Kipkoech Arap Rotich, the country’s emeritus military bishop.

    Kipkoech said such a national conversation should involve persons “who are accepted by both sides, and who put all their skills and energy into the key issues raised and tabled.”

    For Bishop Martin Kivuva Musonde, the Archbishop of Mombasa, the theme of reconciliation also stresses the fact that children must be raised in a reconciled environment within their families and communities.

    The third week of the Lenten season calls for empowerment of the youth, insisting that opportunities must be created. According to the 2017 Global Talent Competitiveness Index, one in every six young Kenyans is unemployed, meaning roughly 17 percent. More than 1.4 million young people joined the labor market last year, competing for relatively few employment opportunities.

    The fourth week of Lent will examine how security can be enhanced in Kenya, and the last week will examine how to protect the fundamental rights of children.

    Most observers believe that the odds of making progress on any of those fronts will depend on how fast the country’s reconciliation process goes, and many say the Catholic bishops stand in as strong a position as anyone to make that happen in a country where roughly 35 percent of the population of 50 million is Catholic.

    Last year, the bishops were at the forefront in finding solutions for an Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Electoral Laws. With such expertise, Owili believes the clerics can pull off something impressive in finding a middle ground amid the political turmoil rocking Kenya today.

    The bishops themselves seem to agree.

    “Our role will be to consolidate the agenda both from the opposition and government and lay it out for discussion,” said Kipkoech. “All stakeholders should be invited to present their issues on an open forum that is well facilitated and favorable to all parties.”

    He proposed that members of the clergy and the business community “should form a committee that will lead in bringing together all stakeholders at a discussion table,” but added that politicians must eventually be included in such a committee, because their contributions would also be key to resolving the nation’s problems.

    A note from the Bishops of East Africa to the Catholic news agency Fides, however, emphasizes that ultimately, it’s up to the country’s people to resolve the present impasse.

    “As Kenyans of different backgrounds, communities and cultures, we must recognize that we have similarities and differences caused by numerous factors,” the note said. “However, if we focus on our differences, we will be condemned.”

    Source: Crux… 

  • Church of Scotland Moderator Joins Pope Francis in Call to Prayer for Peace in DR Congo and South Sudan

    Ekklesia || By Agency Reporter || 19 February 2018

    church of scotland moderator joins pope 2018The Moderator of the Church of Scotland will join Pope Francis to call for a day of prayer for peace, on Friday 23 February 2018, when Christians and people of all faith traditions will seek to end conflict in war torn parts of the world, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

    The Right Rev Dr Derek Browning was invited to join the ecumenical day of prayer and fasting by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Anglican leaders and other Christian denominations around the world will also take part in the day of prayer.

    Noting that 23 February comes during the first full week of Lent, the Moderator said: "In many parts of the world tension and strife are strongly present. When one part of the human family hurts, all parts of the family hurt.

    “I am extending this invitation to all parts of the Church of Scotland to spend some time in quiet prayer and reflection for all people living through conflict at this time, and particularly those in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in South Sudan.

    “We might pray for the gift of peace not only to be given but to be received, not only to be hoped for but to be worked towards and to be sustained – in these places, and everywhere.”

    The Church of Scotland has been working closely with partners in South Sudan, to seek an end to the decades-long conflict.

    On 5 March, the Church is welcoming peacebuilders from South Sudan, including Santino Odong, Principal of the Nile Theological College and Orozu Lokine Peace Desk secretary for Pibor Presbytery. During their two-week visit the group will take part in mediation training, trauma counselling and a retreat. They will also visit congregations in Edinburgh, Argyll, Hamilton, Forfar, Perth and Cupar.

    The Right Rev Peter Gai, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, and chair of the South Sudan Council of Churches, will be joining the Church at the General Assembly in May.

    The visit continues peacebuilding efforts started in 2014, when Peter Gai attended the CofS GA and invited The Very Rev Dr John Chalmers to visit South Sudan during his Moderatorial Year.

    Dr Chalmers accepted and travelled to South Sudan in early 2015 where he delivered a workshop on peace and reconciliation within the church. Since then the Church has continued to support church leaders with training in mediation and peacebuilding.

    Dr Chalmers said, "This has been a life changing experience for me and I sincerely believe that the seeds of hope that we are planting in the church leaders of South Sudan will one day contribute to the flourishing of peace in this new and fragile nation."

    Despite some significant progress—300 child soldiers including 87 girls were released by armed groups last week, largely due to the efforts of religious leaders—the situation in South Sudan remains precarious.

    In February 2017, the UN declared a famine, attributed to the war and a widespread drought. The crisis was eased by a ceasefire in May and by a tremendous humanitarian response. Nevertheless, the United Nations estimates that 4.8 million people in the country are still severely short of food.

    Source: Ekklesia… 

  • Catholic Social Teaching's Judgement on South Africa President Ramaphosa

    Sportlight.Africa || By Peter-John Pearson || 19 February 2018

    catholic social teaching on president ramaphosaA number of people have anaylsed and responded to President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address. Fr Peter-John Pearson reflects on the speech in the light of Catholic Social Teaching. He explains why he thinks that Ramphosa's address does echo poignant issues outlined in Catholic Social Teaching.  

    No leader is ever entirely virtuous and history is strewn with copious examples of leaders who begin with integrity and end up on the refuse heaps of history. One can only really get the measure of any leader in the light of particular moments. Pope Pius XII in his Christmas message of 1944 pointed to the public’s expectations of those who hold public office especially in moments of transition or turbulence. “Those who in times of political confusion understand their obligation to give help to the state and to the people with their sound experience, perfect kindness, equitable justice, determined will towards national unity and peace in a sincere desire of brotherhood: perseverance in the good enterprise." [1]

    Pius XII’s understanding of the political leadership was contextualised for contemporary society some decades later when Cardinal Hume spoke of a “vision which included the recognition of a common humanity, the need to act together and the belief in the possibility of change”. He went on to stress the importance of restoring and building civic relationships thus strengthening civil society. In Catholic Social Teaching (CST) strength in a society rests very fundamentally on strong relationships of trust.[2]

    A close reading of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Speech (SONA) reveals a powerful echo of the cardinal’s understanding of leadership. It also offers us a document alongside which to measure his policies against the values of freedom, participation and equality which the International Theological Commission in 1985 underlined as the benchmarks for assessing CST.  The speech is the only indication we have of his ‘presidential’ priorities and the values on which he bases his public priorities.

    From a CST point of view, two points are significant. Ramaphosa called for the reestablishment of communities of trust in the face of diminishing trust in public institutions and weakened confidence in leaders. He underlined that it is everyone’s task to create a common destiny. John Paul II reminded us that “everyone should put their hand to the work which falls to his share and that at once and straightway, lest the evil that is already so great, become through delay, absolutely beyond remedy”. [3] His commitment to undoing past injustices and present inequalities is key to establishing the common good. His further commitment to the free basic services which supports 3.5 million indigent households and continuing the payment of 17 million grants to the poorest of the poor, resonates with the fundamental option for the poor as does his promise to deal effectively with those who have plundered the resources of the nation and those who have established a culture of cronyism and corruption. Every corrupt act is a theft from the poor and every act of turning the tide of those pathologies puts resources at the disposal of those eliminating the scourge of poverty. Without basic economic and social justice there can be neither a sustainable future nor peace.  Pope Paul VI in addressing the UN reminded the world that “if you want peace work for justice”.

    A second point of interest was the number of times he promised to hold summits on a variety of important and often contested issues ranging from investment to jobs. While some decried this emphasis as an entrenchment of a culture of talking at the risk of it diminishing action: from a CST perspective it undergirds the importance of dialogue as a powerful way of ensuring the inclusion of usually excluded voices in the process of developing public policy. In addition it enhances the important habit of relating publically with each other. Iverleigh points out that “the habit of relating publically to each other builds up relationships of trust…. the ‘social capital’ so praised by Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate 32.” [4] By its very nature, summits open spaces for the participation of civil society. After a time when civil society necessarily had to spend its energies on contestation and criticism of the previous political leadership, the calling of summits holds the potential for engaging civil society in constructive engagement around critical issues, knowing full well that that engagement will also strengthen the hand of civil society in holding government accountable.

    In a country plagued with a history of identity politics and a growing exclusion of the poor from any meaningful decision making about their own futures, creating spaces for dialogue and thus building incrementally those communities of trust, is critical for any sustainable life together.

    This brings me to a final point: some commentators have said that the SONA was just more of the same. That misses an important point. It might well be more of the same, but it is more of the same in a significantly different environment. For the first time, at least since the firing of former Finance Minister Nene in 2015, there seems to be a spirit of hope in South Africa. That, given our recent political history, is no small feat. A solid indication of pursuing the quest for justice, enhancing a dialogical culture together with appropriate processes that implement such dialogues, and the generation of hope, are indeed the benchmarks of CST and a sign of the times in South Africa. SA.

    [1] Christmas Message. Radio Broadcast 23.12.1944, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Year 37, pp 10-23
    [2] Iverleigh, Austin. Faithful Citizens. DLT. London 2010 p7
    [3] CA 56
    [4] Iverleigh supra p. 60

    Source: Sportlight.Africa… 

  • Pope Accepts Resignation of “disputed” Bishop of Ahiara Diocese, Nigeria

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Cindy Wooden || 19 February 2018

    resignation of bishop of ahiara acceptedEight months after ordering priests in a Nigerian diocese to pledge their obedience to the pope and accept the bishop that now-retired Pope Benedict XVI had named for them, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the disputed bishop.

    Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who since 2012 has been prevented from exercising his ministry as bishop of Ahiara because most of the priests in the diocese refused to accept him, said in a statement, "I am convinced in conscience that my remaining the bishop of Ahiara Diocese is no longer beneficial to the church."

    Bishop Okpaleke's appointment was met by protests and petitions calling for the appointment of a bishop from among the local clergy. Ahiara is in Mbaise, a predominantly Catholic region of Imo state in southern Nigeria. Bishop Okpaleke is from Anambra state, which borders Imo to the north.

    The Vatican announced Feb. 19 that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Bishop Okpaleke, who will turn 55 March 1. The pope named as apostolic administrator of the diocese Bishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Umuahia.

    "Exercising the ministry in a diocese where priests who are supposed to be my immediate and closest collaborators, brothers, friends and sons are at war with one another, with the laity and with me as their chief shepherd would be disastrous and a threat to the salvation of souls -- including my own soul," Bishop Okpaleke wrote to members of the Nigerian bishops' conference in a letter dated Feb. 14.

    "I do not think that my apostolate in a diocese where some of the priests and lay faithful are ill disposed to have me in their midst would be effective," the bishop wrote in a letter to the diocese also Feb. 14, according to Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

    Pope Francis in June had given each priest of the diocese, both those resident in Ahiara and those working outside the diocese, 30 days to write him a letter promising obedience to him and accepting the duly-appointed bishop or face suspension.

    According to a statement from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the pope "received 200 letters from individual priests of the Diocese of Ahiara in which they manifested to him obedience and fidelity."

    "Some priests, however, pointed out their psychological difficulty in collaborating with the bishop after years of conflict," said the congregation's statement Feb. 19.

    Therefore, the statement continued, "taking into account their repentance, the Holy Father decided not to proceed with the canonical sanctions and instructed the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to respond to each of them. In this line, the congregation has urged every priest to reflect on the grave damage inflicted on the Church of Christ and expressed hope that in the future they will never again repeat such unreasonable actions opposing a bishop legitimately appointed by the supreme pontiff."

    Bishop Okpaleke, in his letter Feb. 14 to Catholics of his diocese, said his resignation was necessary to facilitate the "re-evangelization of the faithful and, most importantly and urgently, the priests of Ahiara Diocese, especially now that the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia can already decipher priests who affirmed their loyalty to the Holy Father and those who decided to bow out of the Catholic Church in disobedience."

    He urged dissident priests "to re-examine their initial motivations for becoming priests in the Catholic Church. Repentance and reconciliation are urgent."

  • A Long Road to Rural Health Care: Sisters Serve Ghana's Remote Villages

    Global Sisters Report (GSR) || By Dana Wachter || 15 February 2018

    a long road to rural health care in ghanaFour minutes to 4 p.m., Sr. Mary Nyarko stepped down from a large pickup truck, the most luxurious mode of transportation for her that day, which started at 7 a.m. It made the bumpy mud road from her pontoon ferry ride to the small village where her sisters run a rural health clinic a bit more bearable.

    The Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters' clinic isn't just far from Nyarko's home in Ghana's capital, Accra, it's far from everywhere. Even the patients who need care often walk two or three hours to reach the clinic, which means they may be too late for medical care to help them. With limited resources and staffing, the three sisters who run the facility have their hands full and days packed serving at least 1,000 patients a month.

    The clinic was established as part of the congregation's mission to "continue the healing ministry of Christ," the clinic's administrator, Sr. Mary Nkrumah said. Initially, sisters from Germany and the U.S. had come as missionaries to Ghana in 1946 and years later sought isolated areas to care for those far from established medical care.

    "Most of the people around here [were] dying of snake bites, some more dying when they deliver [babies], some also were having all kinds of other diseases. People were not really taken care of," said Nkrumah.

    There weren't even roads to get patients to health facilities, so Nkrumah said the sisters went to the people.

    After creating hospitals in towns like Nkrawkraw, the sisters first based their remote missions from a town called Donkor Krom, the district capital of Afram Plains. Small villages of a few homes apiece line muddy roads; they have small-scale crop farming and raise chickens, and in areas on Lake Volta, people catch and smoke fish. As a sister for 25 years, Nyarko spent time working at the health center in Nkrawkraw and knows the sisters who worked in the rural areas well. She described sisters taking daily outreach trips to secluded villages and finding it impossible for many of them to make the return trip the same day. They saw the area near Kwesi Fante was particularly neglected. In areas where there were no roads at all, Nyarko said the sisters spoke with local chiefs about getting accommodation for a few days at a time. Soon, the community built a small brick structure for accommodation and the clinic launched in the late 1990s.

    "At Donkor Krom, there's a hospital there, so at least they can manage," said Nyarko. "But this place, nothing. So that is how Kwesi Fante started."

    The long trek to the village

    Nyarko's trip from Accra to Kwesi Fante took about nine hours, mostly using public transportation. By private car, it would take around 5. Stopping in multiple towns via tro tro (passenger van), shared taxi and a ferry pontoon, Nyarko tries to go to the clinic every other month, or when the need to take care of administrative business arises. After 28 years in the congregation, 14 of which she lived in neighboring country, Togo, Nyarko now coordinates mission activities under the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters leadership in Ghana.

    "It's always better when you have your own car," Nyarko mentioned of the white Toyota Helix pickup truck that Nkrumah and their driver pulled up in at the pontoon port on Lake Volta. It was another 45 minutes before she arrived.

    Nyarko describes Kwesi Fante as a sub-district; about 61,000 people live there and in the surrounding villages, she says. It is a village so small it's not listed on online lists of Ghana's population. By contrast, Accra has nearly 1.6 million people.

    The clinic itself is separated by walls within the village; there is land for more buildings, but funding makes it difficult to expand accommodation or healthcare facilities. Without consistent internet and cell service, the Mother Josepha Convent runs with a water tank and solar power lights when electricity inevitably goes out. The clinic is a couple dozen meters from the convent, in the same gated compound. There may be assigned government-appointed medical staff, but it's hard to retain qualified workers after their mandatory national service is up.

    Arriving at the convent by 4 p.m., Nyarko dropped her small travel bag in her guest room and joined her colleagues for lunch. The others had already eaten, but they saved Palava sauce, made with kontumbre (a Ghanaian vegetable similar to collard greens), rice, boiled yam and plantain, for whenever she would arrive.

    Three sisters live at the convent now: Nkrumah, the administrator; Sr. Eunice Tamea who runs the pharmacy, and Sr. Petra Manalo who is a midwife. They work with nurses on site, some community health nurses who visit villages in the region, medical assistants, pharmacy assistants, one other midwife, and lab technicians.

    Life at the clinic

    Returning from checking on a mother in her maternity ward, Manalo joined Nyarko and the others at the dining table. She had been up all night, delivering the baby of a woman who has HIV.

    "We are only two [working in the ward]. So, most of us, we take a double shift. And you know, [we are] always ready when they call us to help them. Sometimes we don't have time for ourselves," Manalo said holding back tears.

    She faced a big learning curve getting used to this small community she joined just a few months earlier. She came to Ghana three years ago from her home in Indonesia, as a Holy Spirit Missionary Sister. Manalo first needed to study English, and then get re-certified in midwifery in her new country.

    Working without oxygen to help mothers delivering babies, Manalo says they try their best, but she struggles knowing that they often are not able to make it to the nearest hospital, which is at least two hours away on unpaved roads. She sees mothers who arrive with nothing, who can't afford the trip to the hospital anyway.

    Many patients can't afford to pay for services, though the sisters are patient in waiting for payment from those who can. Regardless of anyone's ability to pay, the sisters offer care. "We come here, [and try to] save the life. We have only faith, and we have mission and vision to save the life. Just that one," said Manalo.

    Through the window of the laboratory are thatched roofs of the villagers. Most live in huts made of mud, with straw and branches arranged on top.

    Nkrumah explained that villages like Kwesi Fante, consisting of 10 to 20 homes, typically lack electricity, internet or cell network services, decent roads, and even water. Because there are few amenities, she says, it's hard to find qualified staff willing to stay here.

    Recently, one medical assistant who said he was going to visit his family never returned. Nkrumah feels the need to build better accommodation for the clinic staff, to entice them to stay, but that takes funding that the sisters don't have.

    Challenges in the village

    "It's very difficult for somebody to be in the village for almost 18 years," said Amatus Arko, the clinic's microscopist.

    He knows he's unusual in that he's worked with the sisters for all these "good years," as he calls them. His family lives four or five hours away in the city of Kumasi, where he says his children can receive a better education. He travels to see them some weekends, and they stay with him in Kwesi Fante during school vacations. He admits that it's difficult but not unusual for fathers to live away from their families in Ghana.

    Originally from Sunyani, about a seven hours' drive away, Nkrumah moved to Kwesi Fante about a year ago. She joined the sisters in 1993, professing in 1997 before teaching in Ghana and eventually spent four years in social pastoral work on a South African mission. After working in a Holy Spirit Sisters' hospital a couple hours from Kwesi Fante and returning to school to study public health, Nkrumah arrived in Kwesi Fante about a year ago and realized how much the clinic needs her leadership.

    While their services are appreciated, Nkrumah knows if they could create more of a hospital atmosphere, with an accredited doctor, surgery theater, and proper outpatient department, their patients would be better served.

    "We have medical assistants; they have also their limits," said Nkrumah.

    Lab technician, Aboo Thomas arrived only a year earlier, too, from Ghana's Upper West region. He explains the manual blood cell counting processes used to diagnose malaria, sickle cell disease, and tuberculosis. One out of 10 patients here typically has malaria, so Thomas calls their area "endemic," yet his process is only an estimation since they don't have hematology analyzers to count specific cells.

    When the facility first opened, Nkrumah says they had fewer than 200 clients a month because people were afraid they would be referred elsewhere, meaning the long trip would be for naught. Now, she explained, they at least know they'll likely get drugs for their ailments, but her staff struggles to provide emergency care.

    "For instance, the road now, because of the rains, it is totally out of use. So, we take [patients] to Donkor Krom; [it takes] about three hours before we get there," Nkrumah described. And when we go to Nkrawkraw, you have to also only [wait] at the ferry, [often] for more than two hours, before we can cross."

    Since they can't perform transfusions or offer high-tech solutions, the sisters need to refer sick patients and pregnant women facing complications to a bigger health facility. Nkrumah knows even their ambulance isn't quick enough to help those referred patients.

    "If the case comes, and it's already in a bad state, before you get to the hospital, the person is gone," said Nkrumah.

    Knowing it's not always possible for positive outcomes, the sisters and their nurses work toward preventative care. They sustain outreach programs, making their way by truck through woods along unpaved roads to visit communities and offer vaccines or medical advice.

    Nkrumah, though, isn't deterred.

    "I'm happy to be here because the people need us," she said. "Sometimes you get there, there's no road — you have to create the road for yourself. …It's a kind of joy, you know."

    [Dana Wachter is a freelance journalist and digital storyteller based in London, Ontario.]

    Source: Global Sisters Report… 

  • After Zuma’s Exit, Catholics Help South Africa Move On

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 15 February 2018

    catholics help south africa move on after zumaEmbattled South African President Jacob Zuma resigned Wednesday night in a televised address to the nation, after his governing African National Congress party had threatened him with a vote of no confidence in the national parliament on Thursday over a corruption scandal.

    The move comes just days after the Catholic bishops of the country called on Zuma “to act as an elder statesman and to put the good of the country first.”

    On Wednesday, police raided the home of prominent business associates of Zuma who are accused of being at the center of corruption scandals that have infuriated the country, hurt the ANC’s popularity and weakened the economy. An elite police unit entered the compound of the Gupta family, which has been accused of using its connections to the president to influence Cabinet appointments and win state contracts. The Guptas deny any wrongdoing.

    As the Gupta-linked investigation proceeds, Zuma also could face corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago. South Africa’s chief prosecutor is expected to make a decision on whether to prosecute Zuma on the old charges, which were reinstated last year after being thrown out in 2009.

    In his televised address, Zuma said he disagreed with the way the ANC had acted towards him.

    “Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC,” Zuma said. “As I leave I will continue to serve the people of South Africa as well as the ANC, the organization I have served… all of my life.”

    On Feb. 5, the nation’s Catholic bishops issued a statement calling “on all engaged in political decisions regarding in particular the future role of President Zuma to exercise calm and patience,” and warning of “new and dangerous tensions” appearing as the ANC “storms through a period of transition.”

    “Already opposing groups are gathering on the streets, whole provinces are becoming agitated and if these tensions are not resolved with goodwill the political climate will be further poisoned for generations. Without a quick decision the new administration of the ruling party will be judged as disunited and vacillating,” the bishops’ statement read.

    “We call on President Zuma to act as an elder statesman and to put the good of the country first. The Catholic Bishops also appeal to all South Africans to pray for stability and justice. We pray that the ruling party find a quick solution to the present problem of transition of power for the sake of our people who struggle with poverty and unemployment,” the statement concluded.

    “South Africans have had enough of Zuma, they have had enough of his corrupt regime,” said Jesuit Father Russell Pollitt, the Director of the Jesuit Institute South Africa.

    “They want to see him gone and they want to see the economy of the country and all the other issues dealt with, issues that cannot be dealt with as long as Zuma is in power,” he told Vatican Radio on Feb. 6.

    Former Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, elected as the ANC’s new leader in December who now takes over from Zuma, has said the government will do more to fight the corruption that has damaged the ANC, which has led South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

    In a speech on Sunday, Ramaphosa said the government will wage a “relentless war against corruption and mismanagement of the resources of our country” and that the justice system will punish the guilty.

    Many people see the move against Zuma as an effort to strengthen the ANC’s position ahead of a 2019 general election. The constant corruption scandals have hurt the image of the party, which once could confidently win based on its role in ending apartheid. Recent opposition gains have party leaders worried.

    “We are determined to rebuild the confidence of our people in the public institutions of our country and to restore the credibility of those who are elected to serve in those institutions,” Ramaphosa said.

    Father Peter John Pearson, the head of the Parliamentary Liaison Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the current crisis is “a wake-up call that says that even if you had the moral high ground temporarily, the strength of a nation is in how quickly it sees the need and in how much political will it has to return to that ground and to rebuild the lost ground.”

    In a Feb. 9 interview with Vatican Radio he said Ramaphosa “is the one person in the country who has the cards that are necessary” to rule at the moment.

    “The middle class appreciate his skill, his mind for business, his fair play - he is seen as a friend of business,” Pearson said.

    Although Catholics only make up around 6 percent of the country, he said the bishops are heard by the South African government.

    “We know that our voice has resonance only to the degree that we work consistently at it, that we build up a reputation of having a broad spectrum of interests, and that we are able to produce very viable kinds of arguments… to that degree we are certainly appreciated,” the priest said.

    This article incorporated material from the Associated Press.

    Source: Crux… 

  • From “We can’t” to “Of course we can, absolutely”: Women Religious in Nigeria

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 15 February 2018

    women religioius in nigeria national prayer 2018Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018, from 10am to 12 noon, women religious in Nigeria held a National Day of Prayer and fasting across the country to uphold the sacredness of life.

    The sisters invited Nigerians and all people of good will to join them to stop the senseless killings and bloodshed in the country.

    They demanded that the Nigerian government and elected officials live up to their responsibility by working toward creating a safe environment for everyone living in the country, and that security agencies use the resources at their disposal to protect the lives of all people and not just very few.

    The gathering has been born out of Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN) women empowerment project. From January 20-21, 2018 AFJN Washington team, Fr. Aniedi Okure and Sr. Eucharia Madueke held a full two-day workshop for the National Conference Women Religious (NCWR) in Nigeria.

    The team facilitated the sisters’ reflection on religious vocation and justice ministry, focusing the discussion on structures of injustice in Nigeria, structure that create and promote human suffering and perpetuate poverty situations.

    The sisters also discussed ways they could give leadership in the fight against the structures of injustice beyond providing services to the victims of these structures.

    The sisters who represent the various religious congregations of women in Nigeria expressed great concern over increased violent communal clashes especially between farmers and pastoralists, the senseless killings and wanton destruction of human lives, incessant kidnappings, and violence against women and girls.

    They recalled just a few months before the workshop, when one of the participating major superior and her councilors were kidnapped for ransom and held in the kidnappers’ dungeon for weeks, and when six nuns from another community were kidnapped and held for months.

    The sisters noted that these violent situations breach the sacredness of life, diminish the dignity of the person, threaten communal existence and negatively impact economic, social, religious and cultural lives of the people.

    On their part, the AFJN team challenged the sisters to use their leadership position and collective moral voice to bring the situation in the country to the public square.

    Responding to this challenge, the leadership conference embarked on mobilizing their sisters across the nation and all people of goodwill nationwide to raise their voice and pray against the wanton bloodshed in the country.

    Their choice of Ash Wednesday draws attention to a day of prayer, fasting and repentance for wrongdoings, and echoes the response of the people of Nineveh to the warnings of the Prophet Jonah (Jonah 3).

    Initially, the sisters had felt overwhelmed by the situation. However, as they reflected and prayed, they mustered their inner strength and their God-given potential to mobilize their communities and all people of goodwill to tackle this menace.

    The women religious are moving from “we can’t” to “of course we can; absolutely,” full of energy that is almost palpable.

    AFJN continues to work closely with the leadership conference in their first nationwide public witness.

    The women religious in Nigeria and the AFJN team request prayers and support for the success of their initiatives.

    They pray: May the sisters’ boldness and courage to act on behalf of justice in the public forum bring change of hearts; move the government and elected officials to act for the common good and bring consolation to many who have lost their loved ones to violence in Nigeria.

  • South African Bishops: Zuma's Resignation was Long Overdue

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Bronwen Dachs || 15 February 2018

    bishops say zuma resignation long overdueJacob Zuma's resignation as president of South Africa is long overdue, the country's bishops said, noting that his scandal-plagued presidency fostered corruption and dereliction of duty at all levels of government.

    "The fact that Mr. Zuma has been allowed to hold on to the highest position in the land despite long-standing and overwhelming evidence of his unfitness for office has done immense harm to our country's international reputation, to its economy and, especially, to its poorest and most vulnerable citizens," said the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.

    Zuma, 75, resigned Feb. 14 after nine years in office. In a televised address to the nation, he said he disagreed with the way the ruling African National Congress had pushed him toward an early exit, but would accept its orders. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was confirmed as president until 2019 general elections.

    While for some Zuma's resignation "may be a painful event, we call on all to accept his decision as part of our democratic process," the bishops' conference said in a statement issued by its president, Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town.

    Noting that the Zuma presidency "degraded standards of morality and honor in our public life," the bishops urged the ruling party "to take careful note of the way in which it allowed this situation to develop" and to "commit itself to a thorough reassessment of its internal standards and mechanisms of accountability."

    Zuma could face corruption charges, including those connected to an arms deal two decades ago.

    "We pledge our prayerful support to the incoming administration and to all who hold public office in our country, that they may serve all the people of South Africa diligently, honestly, and with the integrity that the long-suffering people of this country deserve," the bishops said.

    Zuma's resignation is a great relief, South Africa's Jesuit Institute said in a Feb. 15 statement, noting that for nine years, post-apartheid South Africa's project of nation-building "got sidetracked into a morass of corruption, mismanagement of resources, cronyism and, ultimately, state capture."

    Those most harmed were the poor, "who became poorer as a result of nepotistic appointments of incompetents, asset stripping and diversion of public money from where it was most needed to the bank accounts of politicians," the institute said.

    Despite the tension South Africans experienced while awaiting resolution of the impasse between Zuma and his party, "we should not lose sight of the fact that the matter was resolved in an orderly, procedural and peaceful manner," Mike Pothier, manager of the bishops' parliamentary liaison office, said in a statement.

    Pothier urged people to give Zuma credit "for saying, and meaning it, 'No life should be lost in my name.'"

    Also, it should be remembered that Zuma's "already notorious record of corruption, dishonesty, cronyism, philandery and self-advancement did not bother" those in his party who put him in power and "thereby set in motion the disastrous decade that has sullied our reputation and set us back economically, institutionally and politically," Pothier said.

    On Feb. 14, police raided the homes of business associates of Zuma who are accused of using their connections to the president to influence Cabinet appointments and win state contracts.

  • Influx of Cameroon Refugees into Nigeria Worries Catholic Church

    Crux || By Ngala Killian Chimtom || 10 February 2018

    cameroon refugees into nigeria worries catholic churchThe Catholic Church in Nigeria is concerned about the escalating flow of Cameroonians into Nigeria, as violence in Cameroon continues to escalate.

    Thousands of predominantly English-speaking Cameroonians have been crossing the border into Nigeria following a military crackdown on Anglophone separatists. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that as many as 43,000 Cameroonians have fled into Nigeria.

    The National Director of Caritas Nigeria, Father Evaristus Bassey, said in a statement that there has been increased agitation for “self-actualization in Cameroon” and this has led to the destruction of life and destabilization of the civic institutions.

    He said the arrival of the refugees is compounding the poverty of the Nigerian people hosting them.

    Bassey said Caritas Nigeria has carried out assessments in Nigeria’s Cross River State where most refugees have arrived and is seeking more information from other areas of the state.

    The priest said the assessment showed that most refugees were living with relatives, in abandoned government quarters, unfinished buildings, or any available open space.

    Bassey said the refugees were sharing scarce resources with their impoverished hosts and depending on them “for food and clothing as most of them fled for their lives with only the clothes they had on.”

    In December, the Bishop Andrew Nkea of Mamfe - a major town of the South West region of Cameroon where most of the refugees originate -visited the refugees and came back with harrowing stories to tell about their conditions of living.

    “Some of their stories are pathetic and the conditions under which they live are appalling,” Nkea said.

    “They are scattered all over the place and sleeping on verandas and open spaces like people without a homeland. It was a great joy for shepherd and flock to be united again and the happiness of our visit almost moved us to tears,” he continued.

    The current unrest began in the autumn of 2016, when disgruntled lawyers and teachers began protesting the use of French in courts using the Anglo-Saxon common law tradition (practiced in the English parts of the country) and in Anglophone schools. The demonstrations soon spread to the general public, and the calls for outright secession started growing.

    The national government gave in to some of the lawyers’ and teachers’ demands, like creating a Common Law Bench at the country’s Supreme Court; transferring teachers and lawyers to areas where they would be most useful; and creating a National Commission to promote bilingualism and multiculturalism.

    But the concessions were seen as too little too late. What looked initially like corporate demands had morphed into the political realm, with large numbers of Anglophones taking to the streets on October 1, 2017 in a declaration of “independence.”

    They hoisted flags and sang the anthem of the putative Federal Republic of Ambazonia, which would be a homeland for the 20 percent of Cameroon which is English-speaking (the majority of Cameroonians speak French.)

    The government’s response was violent, and fighting continues between soldiers and fighters claiming allegiance to ‘Ambazonia.’ The running battles have forced thousands of people to leave their homes.

    The excessive use of force by government soldiers has been condemned by Cameroon’s bishops.

    Nkea pointed to the heavy-handed response of the military following the killing of four soldiers by separatists in the village of Kembong.

    “Kembong is actually the largest village in Central Ejagam with a population of about 5,000 people,” the bishop told L’Effort Camerounais, a Catholic weekly.

    “It is a place that is normally booming with life, but when I went there all the streets were empty and it was virtually a ghost village and looking like a place after a war. I went straight to the parish and the rectory was full of men, women, and the young and old,” he said.

    “There were about 30 people sitting on the veranda and parlor looking very destitute and I asked them what they were doing there. They told me the military had burned their houses and they had nowhere else to go, and that is why they rushed to the mission for protection,” Nkea recounted.

    “Four soldiers had been killed on Monday and when soldiers got there a few hours later they started burning houses, beating people up and sending them away from the village,” the bishop explained.

    “The government should find out who these assailants are, where they are from, track down and punish them according to the law. Soldiers have been killed in Mamfe, so should my house be burned down because I live in Mamfe? No, this is unacceptable,” Nkea said.

    Still, President Paul Biya has promised to do away with the “terrorists” - as he calls the seperatists - and vowed that no part of Cameroon will ever be allowed to secede.

    The government has reinforced its military presence in the Anglophone regions with the deployment of additional troops, imposed a curfew, and instituted travel restrictions on Anglophone Cameroonians.

    The United Nations refugee agency says the measures “continue to trigger population movements toward Nigeria in search of safety and international protection.”

    Bassey said Caritas Nigeria is appealing “for support for the mitigation of the humanitarian situation.”

    Source: Crux…

  • 4.5 Million Displaced in Congo 'struggling to survive,' Says Aid Worker

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || By Mark Pattison || 12 February 2018

    struggling to survive in dr congoJust as people are "struggling to survive" in Congo, aid agencies are struggling to meet their needs, said one aid worker.

    Political unrest in and around the capital, Kinshasa, is just the latest malady to afflict the Congolese citizens, said Chiara Nava, an adviser to the AVSI Foundation, an aid agency focusing on education and child protection and inspired by Catholic social teaching. She worked in the country for two-and-a-half years before taking on an advisory role.

    Still, the difference between the country she worked in and the country she visited in January is noticeable to Nava.

    "The political situation is not good at all," she told Catholic News Service in a Feb. 9 telephone interview from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina. "There are lots of public demonstrations, especially in the capital."

    Layered on top of the upheaval is ethnic fighting. Nava said there are 4.5 million internally displaced people in the country.

    "It's also difficult for humanitarian aid workers to follow these people. They're moving a lot," she said.

    Like other international aid agencies, the foundation has a "rapid response mechanism," a program intended to follow people fleeing from disasters and conflicts, "to help people moving inside a country," Nava said. "We manage to follow them and provide new humanitarian aid in the areas where they resettle."

    Many of those internally displaced people, she added, "have to flee (only) with anything in their hands, and they need help." The problem with families, Nava said, is "after two weeks, three weeks, they flee again."

    She told CNS, "We see the most vulnerable being in danger. People are struggling to survive."

    Another underlying reason for the conflict: gold and other minerals, and who lays claim to them.

    "In some areas, they (rebels) focus more on fighting with the regular army; in others they are interested in the natural resources where they are. In some cases, they are starving as well," Nava said. Some rebel militias "burn everything, they kill everything. There's some frustration among the poorest. Unfortunately, they act this way because they are armed and they have the tools to do that. We find they are not very well educated ... and half of them are child soldiers."

    It's a hit-or-miss situation in Congo.

    "Some areas are well-controlled. Local administration functions quite well," Nava said. "In other areas, they suffer from this ethnic conflict, and the position of the government for excavation of national resources is not very clear. There are not a lot of situations -- there are lots of different shapes of this main problem."

    Absent from Nava's equation is Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, which has been fighting in the north part of the country. The AVSI Foundation no longer has workers in that region.

    The safety of its aid workers, now mostly in the eastern part of the country, continues to be a concern.

    "We keep on going. So far, we are reviewing our contingency measures and contingency plans," Nava told CNS. "We want to work in fragile contexts and fragile situations."

    "We know it's not very safe," she added, "but we know where and when to go."

  • Bishop-elect in Zimbabwe Believes Poverty of Diocese A Strength, Not a Weakness

    CANAA || By Br. Alfonce Kugwa || 12 February 2018

    bishop elect raymond tapiwa mupandasekwa in zimbabweThe Bishop-elect of Chinhoyi diocese in Zimbabwe, Monsignor Raymond Tapiwa Mupandasekwa, has said the joy of his appointment lies in the different religious colours decorating the diocese. For him, different religious congregations and guilds in the diocese serve as a source of strength and hope to keep the diocese running and for this, he vowed to promote the good of each guild and religious institute for the good of the church.

    Monsignor Mupandasekwa believes that it is not all gloom and doom but joy lies ahead.

    Having been appointed by the Holy Father on 30 December 2017, the Bishop elect leaves his position as the Redemptorist Regional Superior to be the Shepherd of Chinhoyi Diocese where he hopes to break new grounds in relationships and evangelization.

    “It is always a joy to find a Diocese with many colours, congregations and guilds with a diverse number of spiritualities. This adds to the richness of the Church,” Monsignor Mupandasekwa said and added, “The many the different religious flowers and guilds in the diocese the richer we are and the more we are able to witness not only to the diversity in God but also through our common witness to the unity of the church and the Godhead.”

    He said that he expects to share this ministry with all priests, sisters of the various congregations and lay people already in Chinhoyi. For him, the vision of the diocese will be defined by the cooperation and participation of all, the old and young. But at the center of his heart lies the zeal to open new grounds by reaching out to the poorest.

    He went on to say, “I know they will teach me a lot and bring a new joy to my life. The vision of the diocese will be defined by not just myself but by all of us together. What I know as of now is that that vision will be guided by the greater vision of the Holy Father, of going to the peripheries in order to bring to the people of God the joy of the gospel.”

    While the Diocese of Chinhoyi is characteristically rural, there is joy in ministering to the local people who are full of love and faith. In as much as rural dioceses are seen as disadvantaged in terms of resources, Monsignor Mupandasekwa argued that this was not a weakness when people are willing to share what they have. He said priests and sisters of the diocese have experienced the many challenges the diocese and its people face.

    “This rural identity is not a weakness but a strength. The Holy Father has already spoken of the church of the poor and for the poor. The priests and sisters working in Chinhoyi will be called to share in the poverty of the Nazareth of Chinhoyi and through it experience the joy of the gospel.”

    “Most of our priests and religious sisters already share the same conditions as the poor as part and parcel of their mission and voluntary witness. In so doing, they affirm the dignity of the poor who often are treated as non-persons or people without dignity on account of their poverty. In doing so, the church through its ministers brings about an essential change of mindset which becomes inevitably the catalyst to change in the poor themselves as they are encouraged by this to appreciate their own worth. Again, this witness by church ministers challenges the ‘haves’ to value the ‘have nots’ as their equals created like them in the image and likeness of God,” said the Bishop Elect.

    Chinhoyi Diocese covers Mashonaland West and the province is a political landmine with political stalwarts coming from the area. The political situation in the diocese more often than not interferes with church business thereby affecting the mission of evangelization and sometimes threatening missionary work. In most cases Christians prefer to leave politics to politicians and have nothing whatsoever to do with it for fear of reprisals. But for Monsignor Mupandasekwa politics is life for everyone. He encouraged Christians to get involved in political affairs so as to influence democratic processes in the church and society.

    Monsignor Mupandasekwa said: “Socio-political or even economic sanity is always an achievement of a community than an individual. If everyone does his or her part and reach out to the other in gospel charity we will always be able to bridge our socio- economic, religious and political differences.”

    Monsignor Mupandasekwa, challenged the church in Zimbabwe to open up new ways of reaching out to the people in a missionary spirit of evangelization. He said evangelization was at the center of the church as stressed by various popes such as Pope Paul VI in Evangeli Nunciandi, Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio, Pope Benedict and recently Pope Francis in Evangeli Gaudium. According to Monsignor Mupandasekwa, evangelization defines the missionary mandate of the church as given in Matthew 28 by the Lord himself.

    “My wish, which has been the wish of bishops who came before me and of our Holy Father is that we renew our commitment to preaching the Gospel. With Saint Paul each one of us has to say ‘I am ruined if I do not preach the Gospel.’ The challenge before us is to find new ways of evangelization which are consistent with the signs of times. While we search for the new ways, we also have to appreciate our old ways of bringing the Gospel to others that have served us so well namely evangelization through our schools, hospitals and other church institutions. Perhaps our challenge will be to grow more of these church institutions and add forms of evangelization to them,” he said.

    He complimented the Bishops of Zimbabwe for their support of evangelization at all levels of the church and society. The Bishop Elect said the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference has worked tremendously well under very difficult circumstances as a beacon of hope for the nation and a star leading the people of God.

    “I go to the conference to learn from those who bear the wounds of battle,” said Monsignor Mupandasekwa.

  • Catholic Church in Tanzania Says President Magufuli is Endangering “national unity”

    AfricaNews || By AFP || 11 February 2018

    tanzania bishops criticize magufuli 2018The Catholic Church of Tanzania denounced the violations of democratic principles and freedom of expression by the government of President John Magufuli, accusing him of endangering “national unity” in a pastoral letter published on Sunday.

    “Political activities are prohibited by the instrumentalization of the police,” the letter by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Tanzania read. The Church has been accused in recent months by the opposition of remaining silent in the face of “the dictatorial drift” of President Magufuli.

    “The activities of political parties, such as public gatherings, demonstrations, marches, debates inside premises, which are the right of every citizen, are suspended until the next elections,” the bishops further bemoaned.

    “If we allow this climate to continue, let us not be surprised to find ourselves tomorrow in more serious conflicts that will destroy the foundations of peace and national unity.”

    Denouncing “violations of the Constitution and national laws”, the statement also stressed that “media are closed or temporarily suspended, thus restricting the right of citizens, to be informed, freedom of opinion and the right to privacy and expression”.

    The clergy also noted that the current political atmosphere bred “division and hatred that could endanger peace, security and the lives of citizens.”

    They also point to tensions that continue to mark by-elections at different levels. “These elections leave a feeling of anger, a thirst for revenge and a lack of interest in other elections,” they noted.

    “If we allow this climate to continue, let us not be surprised to find ourselves tomorrow in more serious conflicts that will destroy the foundations of peace and national unity,” warned the bishops.

    The Catholic Church was criticized for being silent after the alleged assassination attempt in September 2017 on Tanzanian MP Tundu Lissu, the opposition chief in parliament.

    Lissu, who is also president of the Bar Association, is currently being hospitalized in Brussels after months of intensive care in Kenya.

    Although the attack was carried out in broad daylight, in a residential area guarded by the police, no suspect has yet been arrested. The parliamentary party, Chadema, accuses the government of being behind the attack.

    Nicknamed “Tingatinga” (Bulldozer in Swahili), President Magufuli has made an impression since taking office at the end of 2015, being unyielding in the fight against corruption.

    But his unconventional and brutal style earned him the reputation of being autocratic and populist by his detractors, while freedom of expression is increasingly reduced in the country.

    Opposition party meetings banned, newspapers closed, and journalists and artists beaten or threatened with death for criticizing government.

    Source: AfricaNews… 

  • Bishop Encourages Ghanaian Catholics to Take Part in World Meeting of Families in Dublin

    CANAA || By Damian Avevor, Accra || 08 February 2018

    bishop encourages ghanaians for dublin family meetingThe Bishop in charge of Laity, Women and Youth at Ghana’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Emmanuel Kofi Fianu, SVD, has encouraged Ghanaian Catholic families to make efforts to take part in the 2018 World Meeting of Families slated for August 21-26 in Dublin, Ireland.

    Bishop Fianu said that despite financial constraints for some who desire to be there, there is the need for Ghanaian Catholic families to make sacrifices and afford their time and finance to be at the meeting in person.

    “It is a good and opportune occasion for Catholic families – adults, youth and children – to gather in a universal forum to celebrate, pray and reflect on the family,” Bishop Fianu stated in an interview on February 2.

    “This will help us all to grow in faith and love as well as strengthen one another on our life journey as people of God,” he added.

    He noted that with the contemporary means of communication available, those who might not be able to be physically present in Ireland can also benefit from the conferences via Internet.

    The Meeting is expected to be attended by thousands of families and individuals from all over Ireland and the world.

    The five-day Meeting on the theme “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World” will be an interactive multimedia platform of catechetical resources, largely drawn from the Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (‘The Joy of Love’), published by Pope Francis in March 2016, following the Synods on the family held in 2014 and 2015.

    “It is special for Ghanaian families because it is a unique opportunity to meet and share their faith with Catholic families from other parts of the Catholic world,” Bishop Fianu noted and added, “The opportunity to share with others will strengthen our families in living out their Catholic faith in Ghana.”

    “As participants share their faith, they will come to discover how the joys and challenges of Catholic families all over the world do no differ one from the other. As they realise that together they can make a change in human society, they will go forth to announce the Gospel of Joy to all mankind.it is thus a preparation for further evangelization through the family,” said the Bishop.

    The theme of the 2017 Plenary Assembly of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference was “Integral Pastoral Care for the Family in the light of Amoris Laetitia.”

    “Looking at the event schedule proposed so far, I look forward to solid teaching on family life for Catholic families based on the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family - Amoris Laetitia,” Bishop Fianu stated in reference to the Dublin meeting of families from across the globe.

  • South African Bishops Urge Zuma to 'put good of the country first'

    The Tablet || By Rose Gamble || 07 February 2018

    putting good of country first in south africaZuma's tenure has been marred by a series of corruption scandals that have undermined the image of the ANC party

    As pressure mounts for South African President Jacob Zuma to resign, the country’s Catholic Bishops have called on him to “act as an Elder Statesman and put the good of the country first”.

    In an unprecedented move, the speaker of the South African Parliament announced on Tuesday that Zuma’s state of the nation address to parliament on Thursday, has been postponed.

    Senior leaders of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) met Zuma over the weekend to ask him to step down. Local media reported that the 75-year-old president, who is battling corruption allegations, refused.

    A meeting of party leaders scheduled for today (7 February) was cancelled after an evening meeting between Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected ANC leader in December and has been Zuma’s deputy since 2014.

    Accompanying their call for the embattled President to put the “good of the country first”, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) implored “all engaged in political decisions regarding the future role of President Zuma to exercise calm and patience.”

    “We pray that the ruling party find a quick solution to the present problem of transition of power for the sake of our people who struggle with poverty and unemployment,” continues the 5 February statement, signed by Archbishop William Slattery, SACBC spokesman.

    Zuma had led the ANC since 2007 and has been South Africa’s president since 2009. His tenure in both posts has been marred by a series of corruption scandals that have undermined the image of the party that led South Africans to freedom in 1994.

    The Nelson Mandela Foundation called on Tuesday for Zuma to be ousted.

    In a statement, the foundation said there was “overwhelming evidence that systematic looting by patronage networks linked to President Zuma have betrayed the country Nelson Mandela dreamed of”.

    Were Zuma to agree – or be forced - to step down, his premature departure (his second five-year term is due to expire in 2019) would mean Ramaphosa would become president, in accordance with the constitution.

    Supporters of Ramaphosa say it is essential that Zuma is sidelined as early as possible to allow the ANC to regroup before campaigning starts for elections in 2019.

    Source: The Tablet… 

  • South Sudan Bishop Wins Roosevelt Freedom Award for His Peace Village

    Catholic News Service (CNS) || 07 February 2018

    bishop taban wins roosevelt freedom award 2018A bishop in South Sudan has won an award that recognizes the peace village he founded as the visible embodiment of his peacemaking efforts.

    In May, Bishop Paride Taban, retired bishop of Torit, will receive the Freedom of Worship Award, one of the Four Freedoms Awards presented every other year by the Roosevelt Foundation in Middelburg, Netherlands.

    Bishop Taban is "a rare figure in a fractured country, someone who has excellent contact with leaders on all sides and is not afraid to call them to account," the Dutch peacebuilding organization PAX said in a Feb. 6 statement.

    The 82-year-old bishop set up the Kuron peace village in 2005 in Eastern Equatoria, a thinly populated area in the southeast of South Sudan. The village is a three-day journey by road from the capital, Juba.

    Since the 1960s, Bishop Taban "has worked as a peacemaker, drawing on seemingly bottomless reserves of patience, optimism and strategic insight," the Roosevelt Foundation said in a Feb. 6 statement announcing the award.

    The foundation said the award was made to Bishop Taban "for his lifelong and selfless dedication to the cause of bringing freedom and peace to the people of South Sudan."

    The bishop's "great wisdom and deep respect for different religions and cultures has enabled him to forge emotional bonds between otherwise battling groups," it said.

    He "continues to call for an end to the human suffering and for a peaceful solution of the conflict in South Sudan in local, national and international forums," the foundation said, noting that "through his life's work he is keeping the flame of hope for peace alive, not only by preaching the word of God but by living it."

    South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011. Civil war in the northeast African country erupted in late 2013 after President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of fomenting a coup. The conflict has put 1.5 million people on the brink of starvation. Tens of thousands of people have died, more than 2 million have fled to neighboring countries and almost 2 million more are internally displaced.

    "Much of the population has fled due to the fighting, agricultural land remains fallow, hunger and lawlessness prevail and scarce resources are manipulated," the PAX statement said.

    In the peace village set up by Bishop Taban, "young people and community leaders learn how to live peacefully together and acquire skills in how to resolve conflict," it said, noting that "they bring these skills with them when they return to their communities."

    Carpentry lessons, including how to make chairs and tables, are also offered in the village, and arithmetic, reading and writing are taught.

    In 2016, Bishop Taban told the Jieng Council of Elders in Juba that, for lasting peace to be achieved, South Sudanese needed to learn 20 words and eight phrases, according to Vatican Radio.

    "The words are love, joy, peace, patience, compassion, sympathy, kindness, truthfulness, gentleness, self-control, humility, poverty, forgiveness, mercy, friendship, trust, unity, purity, faith and hope. These are 20, and the eight phrases are: I love you, I miss you, thank you, I forgive, we forget, together, I am wrong, I am sorry," he said.

  • Transition Looms in African Catholic Powerhouse as Legend Readies to Go

    Crux || By John L. Allen Jr. || 07 February 2018

    transition looms in dr congo catholic churchA transition at the top is looming in one of the world’s powerhouse Catholic nations, as Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed a new coadjutor bishop in the Archdiocese of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, effectively laying the groundwork for the eventual departure of 78-year-old Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.

    A onetime de facto head of state in Congo, Monsengwo will be a hard act to follow - a high-profile prelate and papal confidante who’s more or less incarnated the African Catholic experience for a half-century, in which Catholic leaders often end up playing explicitly political roles that would seem odd to Western sensibilities about church/state separation, because the Church is sometimes the only institution that enjoys basic social trust.

    On Tuesday, Francis tapped Archbishop Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, a Capuchin and the former head of the Archdiocese of Mbandka-Bikoro, as the “coadjutor” in Kinshasa, meaning that he has automatic right of succession when Monsengwo steps down.

    With a population of 80 million that’s estimated to be around 80-85 percent Christian, roughly half of that total Catholic, Congo is already one of the world’s largest Catholic nations and is destined to grow. Based on demographic projections, by 2050 Congo will be the largest Catholic nation in Africa and the fifth largest in the world, behind only Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines and the United States.

    The 58-year old Ambongo has a background in moral theology, having studied at the prestigious Alphonsian Academy in Rome, run by the Redemptorist order. He’s a former university professor and Capuchin superior, who was originally named the bishop of Bokungu-Ikela in 2005, at the age of 44, and then took over as the Archbishop of Mbandka-Bikoro two years ago in 2016.

    All things being equal, Francis, a Jesuit himself, seems to like bishops with a background in religious life, admiring in particular the penchant for collegiality and consensus religious orders tend to foster.

    Although it will be up to the pope when the time comes, Ambongo could inherit not only leadership of the Church in Congo but also Monsengwo’s spot as one of the pontiff’s nine cardinal advisers from around the world.

    Francis created a council of cardinals in April 2013, just a month after his election, and has used the body not only to discuss reform of the Roman Curia but virtually for every major governance decision he’s made.

    In any event, Ambongo will have some big shoes to fill attempting to follow Monsengwo, who’s been at the center of almost every social and political drama in his country since being named a bishop in 1980 by St. Pope John Paul II.

    Back in the early 1990s, what was then Zaire was feeling its way towards life without strongman Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country from 1965 to 1997. A transitional “High Council of the Republic” needed someone with moral authority and a reputation for independence to lead the process of drafting a new constitution, acting as the de facto national leader during the fin de regime period.

    Nobody from the political class fit the bill, so the nation instead turned to the then-Auxiliary Bishop of Kisangani, a polished and urbane cleric named Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. He not only served as president of the council, but also as transitional speaker of the national parliament in 1994.

    Monsengwo gets mixed reviews for how he handled the role - in part because it wasn’t really his diplomacy that brought an end to Mobutu’s rule, but the First Congo War and the armies of Laurent-Désiré Kabila. When Monsengwo later spoke out against Kabila’s anti-democratic tendencies, charges that the archbishop had been “pro-Mobutu” became a staple of government rhetoric.

    Some Catholics agreed that Monsengwo had been overly soft, especially given the persecution they’d experienced at the hands of the Mobutu regime.

    At one point, Mobutu ordered all Christians in the country to adopt non-Christian names, and at another he ordered crucifixes and pictures of the pope to be taken down in Catholic schools and replaced with images of himself.

    For a time, Cardinal Joseph-Albert Malula of Kinshasa was forced into exile.

    Admirers, however, say Monsengwo was trying to find a third way between dictatorship and chaos, noting that it’s one thing to stand on the outside of the political process and toss bricks, quite another to remain within it and try to get something done.

    Born in Mongobele, in what is now the DRC, in 1939, Monsengwo belongs to the royal family of his Basakata tribe; his name actually means, “relative of the chief.” As a young man he was sent to Rome for studies, first at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, home to seminarians from the developing world, and then to the prestigious Pontifical Biblical Institute.

    He also put in a stint at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem, where one of his teachers was a promising Italian Jesuit named Father Carlo Maria Martini, who went on to become the cardinal of Milan and one of the leading intellectual lights of the Catholic Church. In Jerusalem, Monsengwo became the first African to earn a doctorate in Biblical studies from the institute.

    After doing pastoral work and teaching in the local seminary during the 1970s, Monsengwo became a bishop in 1980, at the tender age of 40. He was consecrated by Pope John Paul II himself during the pope’s May 1980 trip to Zaire, his first outing to Africa.

    Monsengwo was immediately elected the president of the Congolese bishops’ conference, a post he would hold again in 1992. He became the Archbishop of Kisangani in 1988, and the Archbishop of Kinshasa in 2007. Benedict XVI raised him to the rank of cardinal in November 2010.

    Not only did Benedict make him a cardinal, after a long stretch in which many people thought Monsengwo’s window of opportunity had closed, but in 2008 Benedict tapped Monsengwo as the relator, or general secretary, of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God. In February 2012, Benedict also invited the African prelate to deliver the Vatican’s annual Lenten retreat.

    (Remarkably, Monsengwo is said to be at least passable in fourteen languages, including the major European languages and a variety of tribal dialects.)

    Early signs are that Ambongo may be just as much a protagonist in Congolese affairs. During a recent controversy around Kabila’s delaying of elections that could lead to a transfer of power, Ambongo strongly defended Catholics who organized pro-democracy (and thus anti-government) demonstrations that drew a violent response from Congo’s police and security forces.

    A statement from the bishops’ conference signed by Ambongo and another prelate said they “deplored the attack on human life,” and offered condolences to the families of the “innocent victims.” They also called for a “serious and objective investigation” to determine who was responsible for the violence.

    In their statement, the bishops also condemned “the violation of freedom of worship guaranteed in any democratic state, the desecration of certain churches, and the physical aggression against the faithful, including Mass servers and priests.”

    In general, Ambongo has been a leader among bishops demanding that Kabila not see another term as president and permit free and fair elections to take place.

    One footnote about the succession in Kinshasa: If Ambongo were to take Monsengwo’s place on the council of cardinal advisors, he would become the second Capuchin - Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, another Capuchin, also serves on the council.

    Source: Crux… 

  • Church in Ghana Continues to Mark 125 Years of Catholicism

    CANAA || By Ernest Senanu Dovlo, Ghana || 05 February 2018

    accra marking 125 years of catholicismThe Catholic Archdiocese of Accra on January 31, held a Eucharistic celebration in Accra to mark the remembrance of the first ever Mass celebrated on the soils of the national capital by two Society of African Missions (SMA) Fathers.

    The Mass which forms part of activities marking the 125th anniversary of the mission in Accra, brought together thousands of Catholics including the laity, clergy, religious and well-wishers among others.

    Also present were the Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, Most Rev Charles Palmer Buckle and emeritus bishop of the Keta-Akatsi diocese, Most Rev. Anthony Kwami Adanuty.

    Speaking in his homily, first emeritus bishop of the Keta-Akatsi diocese, Most Rev. Anthony Kwami Adanuty called on Catholics and Christians at large to embrace the new evangelisation.

    He added that the new evangelisation as being propagated by the church, is not in any way a call to preach anything new but to find more appropriate ways to disseminate God's words unchanged, to a world that keeps revolving.

    Recounting the story in Luke 8: 22-25, Bishop Adanuty charged the congregation to rekindle their faith in God and renew their commitment to gaining salvation and the spirit of fellowship and communion. He said the symbol of the boat signifies the Church complying to the evangelisation mission of Christ and the storm is alerting christians to express their faith in their God always.

    He further noted, "It is an evil generation that only sees Jesus as a worker of spectacular miracles."

    The commemorative Mass was followed by adoration of the blessed sacrament and a candle light procession from the John Evans Attah Mills high street to the oldest Catholic Church in Accra, Sacred Heart Parish, Derby Avenue.

    Catholicism spread to Accra on January 31, 1893 when Rev. Fathers, Eugene Raess and Otto Hilberer of the Society of African Missions (SMA) were sent to Accra from Elmina to begin a new mission after the Elmina mission started in the year 1880.

    Background

    The 125th anniversary of the Catholic mission in Accra was launched on September 21,2017 at the Holy Spirit Cathedral, with a call on Catholics to actively participate in the celebration and evangelisation.

    The launch of the year-long celebration, which is on the theme: “125 years of Catholic Mission in Accra: Renewing our commitment to evangelisation”, also saw the inauguration of the Planning Committee, under the chairmanship of the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese, the Very Rev. Fr Francis Adoboli.

    Recounting some of the major achievements of the church, Most Rev.Charles Palmer-Buckle said the Archdiocese, which started as a mission station, had grown in leaps and bounds to its current state, with a population of more than 400,000 Catholic faithful.

    He added that within the period, it had given birth to the Koforidua Diocese and the Apostolic Vicariate of Donkorkrom. As well as several educational and health care facilities among others

    “We cannot enumerate the number of churches and chapels, educational facilities, from first cycle through to secondary, vocational and technical to tertiary, hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities, as well as the many social service institutions,” he said.

    Carnival

    An anniversary carnival and display of culture was held on December 30, 2017 at the El Wak Sports Stadium in Accra to celebrate the cultural diversity and unity of the Church in Accra.

    The event saw performances from the various ethnic groups in the 10 regions of the country and from the St. Francis Nigerian Community in Ghana.

    Speaking in an interview, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Accra, Most Reverend Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle said the carnival and cultural display was to demonstrate that the members of the Church were one people in spite of cultural diversity and called on them to emphasis unity in diversity.

    He said: ‘’very often people turn to want to play upon ethnic differences, ethnic differences should enrich us and not to divide us, they should bring us to put everything together and be culturally cosmopolitan.

    The anniversary has seen activities such as rosary pilgrimages, vespers, a focus on children as God’s gift to the Archdiocese.

    Activities of the anniversary are aimed at three goals indispensable to the mission of the new evangelization: the spiritual growth in Christ and the development of all Catholics; the correct knowledge and intellectual appreciation of the Catholic faith and doctrine; and the spirit of fellowship and communion among the church members, societies and parishes, as well as in the archdiocese.

  • Catholic Bishops in Kenya Urge Respect of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms after Shutdown of Four TV Stations

    CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 05 February 2018

    kenyan bishops on tvs shutdown 2018The Catholic Bishops in Kenya have called for the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms of Kenyans following last week’s events by both the opposition coalition and the government.

    Last Tuesday, January 30, the leader of the opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (NASA), Raila Odinga took an oath of office, pronouncing himself as the “People’s President” at a parked Uhuru Park grounds adjacent to Nairobi’s Central Business District.

    In reaction to the swearing-in event, the government of Kenya shut down four TV stations, namely, NTV, KTN News, Citizen TV and Inooro TV, and even later disobeyed a court order that broadcast be restored.

    “We wish to categorically state that shutting down of the media houses, does not augur well for the freedom of expression and press in the Country,” the Bishops’ press statement reads in part and continues, “This is in itself is retrogressive and deliberate effort toward eroding the positive steps the Country and her people have laid down in the Constitution as a social contract.”

    In a press statement dated February 2 and signed by the Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Bishop Philip Anyolo, the Catholic Prelates want both opposition and the government to “desist from any acts that can incite the public and cause deeper divisions among the people of Kenya and the Country at large.”

    By Monday, February 5 evening, only KTN News and NTV has resumed broadcast.

    Below is the full text of the Bishops’ statement

    Press Statement: Call to Respect Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of Kenyans

    We, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, are saddened by the events that we are currently witnessing in our country. As a Church whose mandate is to promote justice and peace, we are categorically concerned with acts of both the government and the opposition that are unconstitutional and a bridge to law and order.

    We wish to categorically state that shutting down of the media houses, does not augur well for the freedom of expression and press in the Country. This is in itself is retrogressive and deliberate effort toward eroding the positive steps the Country and her people have laid down in the Constitution as a social contract.

    We therefore wish to state as follows:

    THAT the rights provided for in the Constitution and in the various International instruments ratified by the Kenyan Government guarantee responsible and press freedom.

    THAT the freedom and independence of electronic, print and all other types of media is guaranteed in the Constitution of Kenya Article 34.

    THAT journalists and media establishments have a duty to inform and educate the public and the public has a right to receive information in a secure environment which the state ought to provide.

    THAT Kenya has an Authority (Communications Authority of Kenya), established by law (Kenya Information and Communication Act No.2 of 1998) which, shall be independent and free of control by government, political or commercial interests in the exercise of its powers and

    THAT in fulfilling its mandate, the Authority shall be guided by the national values and principles of governance in Article 10 and the values and principles of public service in Article 232(1) of the Constitution.

    THAT both opposition and the government should desist from any acts that can incite the public and cause deeper divisions among the people of Kenya and the Country at large.

    THAT no state agency or individual is above the law and all should act within the law.

    We therefore, call upon all state agencies and all duty bearers to respect and adhere to the tenets and spirit of the Constitution, respect human rights and the fundamental freedoms.

    As Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, we are committed and ready with the process of national dialogue that can resolve the problems that our Country is facing today. We must realize that no development can take place without peace. We call upon all Kenyans to join us as we launch our 2018 Lenten Campaign on 10th February in Kisumu Archdiocese whose theme is ‘’Reconciliation for Peaceful Co-existence and National Integration… Justice for All’’

    May we dwell in Unity, Peace and Liberty, God bless Kenya.
     
    Signed By
     
    Rt. Rev. Philip Anyolo
    Chairman, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops
    Dated: February 2nd, 2018.

  • Praying for Change in DR Congo: The Catholic Church Takes on Kabila

    IRIN || By Issa Sikiti da Silva || 01 February 2018

    praying for change in dr congoThe Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is now a powerful voice of opposition to President Joseph Kabila’s continued unconstitutional stay in power, but the Church’s spiritual authority is yet to translate into political muscle.

    In December and January, along with a so-called secular coordination committee, the Church organised two separate protest events in the capital, Kinshasa. They were violently broken up by police using live rounds and tear gas, and at least 15 people were killed.

    But while protesters’ placards demanded “Kabila dégage” (Kabila out), some demonstrators also sang “Kabila, you are no longer our president, our new leader is Monsengwo” – a reference to Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, the Catholic archbishop of Kinshasa.

    Monsengwo, 79, is the de facto head of the Catholic Church in the DRC, one of the few effective nationwide institutions in the country, with 32 million followers out of a Congolese population of 80 million.

    In condemning the brutality of the police in suppressing the protests, Monsengwo drew a distinct line between a government many regard as illegitimate, and Congo’s long-oppressed citizenry.

    "It's time that truth won out over systematic lies, that mediocre figures stand down, and that peace and justice reign," the cardinal said, the sort of stand that has helped win him support beyond his Catholic congregation.

    Troublesome priest

    The comparison has been made between Monsengwo, and Étienne Tshisekedi, a veteran opposition leader who commanded a mass following before his death last year in Belgium.

    “We were like orphans because we haven’t had anyone to speak for us since he passed away,” said protester Edith Ekofo. “Now, God has sent us somebody who will liberate us from the slavery and dictatorship of Kabila and his yes-men.”

    Kabila has been in power since 2001, taking over from his father, a former rebel leader, when he was assassinated. Kabila was supposed to step down after his second and final constitutional term came to an end in 2016, but instead clung on.

    The Catholic Church negotiated a deal – known as the Saint Sylvester agreement – enabling Kabila to stay in power to organise elections in 2017. But the poll has now been pushed back to December 2018 – a date many Congolese fear will again be ignored.

    The Church has played a key mediation role in DRC’s complex history. It has proved to be a “potent actor – but also a prudent one”, said Hans Hoebeke, a senior analyst with International Crisis Group.

    Its 160 parishes in Kinshasa alone serve as a grassroots “barometer for social and political tension [which can] create a considerable level of pressure” on the clergy, he added.

    Kabila’s reneging on the Saint Sylvester agreement clearly angered the Church. “Somehow, they feel betrayed and humiliated by Kabila’s refusal to implement even one iota of it as agreed by all parties,” said political analyst Jean-Marie Kabamba.

    “By now they are truly convinced that this man is not to be trusted,” he told IRIN. “Besides, Kabila is surrounded by former dignitaries of the Mobutu regime [prior to Kabila’s father] who only have one thing on their mind – to stay in power as long as they can.”

    Third-term fears

    Kabila’s Mobutu-inspired strategy seems to be working. He has not ruled out seeking a third term, and there is widespread concern he may call a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to do just that.

    Kabila also has, so far, the loyalty of the security forces. In the December and January protests, the police showed no compunction in lobbing tear gas into churches, beating and robbing parishioners, and detaining priests.

    In the troubled east and southeast of the country, where rebellion has long simmered, the UN peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO has reported a surge in extrajudicial executions by “state agents”.

    According to MONUSCO’s annual human rights report, there were 1,176 recorded summary killings in 2017 – a two thirds increase on 2015.

    Monsengwo, a long-standing human rights campaigner, has not shirked from condemning what he describes as the “so-called security forces” for their excesses.

    “There is no greatness in the use of weapons to kill people,” he lectured. “’Let’s take care, my brothers and sisters, because whoever kills by the sword will perish by the sword.”

    It is that kind of language that has put the Church on a potential collision course with the authorities.

    Government spokesman Lambert Mende Omalanga has slammed Monsengwo for “insulting” the country’s leaders and the security forces – legally a punishable offence.

    Kabila also weighed in during a press conference on 26 January, his first in five years. "I don’t have my Bible right here with me... but nowhere in the Bible is it written that Jesus Christ presided over an electoral commission,” he said.

    “To Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” he warned. “We must not mix the two [religion and politics], because the results will be negative.”

    Weak opposition

    Kabila failed to allay concerns he will seek to remain in power beyond 2018, and instead complained that the cost of an election would be “exorbitant”. He also demonstrated no sympathy over the deaths of the protesters in January, even suggesting a new law was needed to “reframe” the legality around such demonstrations.

    The long-discredited political opposition seems powerless to derail any bid by Kabila to extend his stay in power.

    “As long as the regime has the army, the justice system, the intelligence services, and the police that it can use to put them behind bars, and money to poach them, the opposition will remain paralysed and divided, and therefore useless,” said Kabamba.

    ICG’s Hoebeke agreed. “The opposition is a problem. Its leadership lacks courage and vision, and it counts on others [the international community, the street, public opinion] to do the work for them… The entire political class lacks popular legitimacy.”

    More than 120 armed groups operate in the east and southeast of the country, a long way from Kinshasa. Their organising principles seems to revolve around the killing of civilians, sexual violence, and plundering resources. Absent of a political agenda, their activities have generated one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

    “Despite some attempts at regrouping, armed groups remain mostly fragmented,” said Hoebeke. “[But] it is not to be excluded that the longer this situation lasts a more consolidated group will appear… or that the security forces will be either further weakened or totally overstretched.”

    Defiant government

    The government has been largely defiant of the international community and hostile towards MONUSCO, which has repeatedly called on Kinshasa to respect human rights.

    “Further delays in the electoral process not only risk fuelling political tensions but also compounding an already fragile security situation,” peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the UN Security Council earlier this month.

    Kabila, who has ignored calls by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to investigate the killings of protesters, fired back. “We have to clarify our relations with MONUSCO in the coming days,” he said at the press conference, without elaborating.

    “This is not a government that is serious about delivering free and fair elections in an open and peaceful, safe environment in which all parties can express themselves without fear of sanction,” said Stephanie Wolters, head of the peace and security research programme at the Institute for Security Studies.

    “This electoral crisis is a key driver of growing instability in the DRC,” she told IRIN.

    The country is effectively in political stalemate, noted Hoebeke.

    “The regime wants to hold on to power, but does not have the legitimacy or the strength to push this through,” he said. “There is, however, no other source of power that has the strength, legitimacy, and determination to force the regime out.”

    Source: IRIN… 

  • Pope Announces Day of Prayer, Fasting for DR Congo and South Sudan

    Catholic News Agency (CNA) || By Elise Harris || 04 February 2018

    pope announces day of prayer for congo and south sudanOn Sunday Pope Francis announced that the first Friday of Lent would be a day of prayer and fasting for peace given the many ongoing conflicts throughout the world, particularly those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

    “Facing the tragic continuation of conflicts in different parts of the world, I invite all the faithful to a special day of prayer and fasting for peace Feb. 23, the Friday of the first week of Lent,” the Pope said Feb. 4.

    He asked that the day be offered specifically for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan and invited both non-Catholics and non-Christians to join “in the ways they deem most appropriate.”

    “Our heavenly Father always listens to his children who cry out to him in pain and anguish,” he said, and made a “heartfelt appeal” for each one of us to “hear this cry and, each one according to their own conscience, before God, ask ourselves: 'What can I do to make peace?'”

    While prayer is always an effective resolution, more can be done, Francis said, explaining that each person “can concretely say no to violence to the extent that it depends on him or herself. Because victories obtained with violence are false victories, while working for peace does good for all!”

    The Pope's appeal, which he made during his Sunday Angelus address, comes just two months after a Nov. 23 prayer vigil for peace in the two countries.

    With plans to visit South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year thwarted by ongoing conflict, Pope Francis organized the prayer vigil in order to pray for an end to war in the two countries and to ask for comfort for victims of the violence.

    He had planned to visit South Sudan last fall alongside Anglican Primate Archbishop Joseph Welby for an ecumenical trip aimed at promoting peace in the conflict-ridden country. However, due to safety concerns, the visit was postponed until the situation on the ground stabilizes.

    South Sudan has been in the middle of a brutal civil war for the past three-and-a-half years, which has divided the young country between those loyal to its President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former vice president Reik Machar. The conflict has also bred various divisions of militia and opposition groups.

    Since the beginning of the war, some 4 million citizens have left the violence-stricken country in hopes of finding peace, food and work. In August 2017 Uganda received the one-millionth South Sudanese refugee, highlighting the urgency of the crisis as the world's fastest growing refugee epidemic.

    For those who haven't fled the nation, many internally displaced persons (IDPs) have sought refuge in churches for protection from violence. Most IDPs are typically women, children and those who have lost their families in the war.  

    Many are too fearful to stay in their homes because they know they could be killed, tortured, raped or even forced to fight. And despite successful partnerships between the local Church, aid agencies and the government, refugees in many areas still need a proper supply of food.

    On Friday the U.S. banned the export of weapons sales in South Sudan and urged other nations to do the same over growing frustration at the country's inability to put an end to the conflict.

    In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, political unrest first erupted in 2015 after a bill was proposed which would potentially delay the presidential and parliamentary elections. The bill was widely seen by the opposition as a power grab on the part of Kabila.

    Relations between the government and the opposition deteriorated further when a Kasai chief was killed last August, after calling on the central government to quit meddling in the territory, insisting it be controlled by the local leaders.

    Catholic bishops in the country had helped to negotiate an agreement, which hoped to prevent a renewed civil war by securing an election this year for the successor of President Kabila. However, in January of this year, the bishops said the agreement was expected to fail unless both parties were willing to compromise. In March, the bishops withdrew from mediation talks.

    With a history of bloody ethnic rivalries and clashes over resources, fears have developed that the violence in Kasai, a hub for political tension, will spread to the rest of the nation and even lead to the involvement of neighboring countries.

    In the past year alone, more than 3,300 people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasai region. The death toll includes civilians caught in the crossfire of a brutal fight between the Congolese army and an opposing militia group.

    According to the Guardian, violence in the east of the country in recent weeks has increased to the extent that last week alone some 7,000 people fled to neighboring Burundi and another 1,200 into Tanzania.

    In terms of a humanitarian crisis, the Food and Agriculture Organization last week pointed to an “alarming food insecurity” in the country, due largely to the fact that violence has now spread into areas that were previously considered stable, such as the Kasai and Tanganyika provinces. In the past six months alone, the number of people experiencing extreme hunger has risen by 2 million, rising to about 7.7 million people, which is roughly 10% of the population.

    After reflecting on the day's Gospel reading from Mark and leading faithful in praying the Angelus, Pope Francis also offered his prayer and closeness to the people of Madagascar, who were recently hit by a massive cyclone which so far has left at least 51 people dead and has caused extensive damage.

    Francis assured of his prayer, and asked that the Lord would “comfort and sustain” all those who have died or who have been displaced.

    Source: Catholic News Agency…

Multimedia

Audio - Various



Video: Kamba Peace Museum - Machakos

 

African Continent

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