Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Somalia Reverses Its Decision to Ban Christmas and New Year's Celebrations

         Somalia government has officially dismissed the alleged ban on Christmas and New Years parties in Somalia, reversing its earlier decision which sparked speculations locally and internationally, officials said.
Religious affairs minister, Abdikadir Sheekh Ali Ibrahim, told Voice of America on Thursday that the ministry official earlier order to ban on the celebrations was only for security purpose and was not meant to restrict christian faithful in his country.
Citing Security concerns, Director general of religious affairs ministry announced a ban on Christmas or New Year's parties.
Religious affairs minister has stressed that while authorities reserve the right to cancel the party for security reasons, any Christians in Somalia, including African Union peacekeepers, diplomats and embassy officials, have the all right to celebrate the Christmas or New Year holidays.
"The troops or other Christians in Somalia are free to practice their religion on their own, because we Muslims do Eid festivals in non-Muslim countries freely," Ibrahim said. "Anyone can do a party that is not spreading another religion or ideology, and people can do the New Year celebrations." Last year Al-Shabab attacked a Christmas party at the African union based in Mogadishu, inflicting serious security concerns over such celebrations. (Source:

Monday, 14 December 2015

“Much of what Pope Francis said concerns the whole of Africa” Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban
 “What the Holy Father said in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic - reflects much of what we, as Africans, would have wanted him to say. For example, his call to promote peace, to care for the sick, the poor, the marginalized, reflects very much what we would like to see happening in our Southern African countries. If the Pope were to visit South Africa without a doubt this is what we would want him to do”.

“Another important aspect of the Visit - the Cardinal continued - was the Pope’s acknowledgment of the role of lay Catholics, especially our catechists. Most of them are men and catechists can be a positive model for youngsters and for young adults. This is most important in South Africa where young men have no good models to follow” the Cardinal underlined.
            South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of sexual violence and recently there have also been serious incidents of xenophobia against immigrants. In this regard Cardinal Napier remarks: “at the moment the situation has calmed down, but the problem of xenophobic violence has not been solved, it has only been swept under the carpet and is ready to re-explode. Some measures have been taken, but when the majority of people live in poverty there is always a temptation to take it out on the even more disadvantaged. We have not heard of attacks on immigrants from India or Pakistan, who run commercial businesses, but we have seen instead attacks on migrants from other African countries, usually the most helpless. However measures are being taken at all levels to prevent a repeat of such incidents”.
            Cardinal Napier concludes with this consideration: “Africa possesses enormous resources, and not least, human resources. Corruption which leads to the bad use of these resources has a damaging effect on the inhabitants of our continent. We must strive to make sure that our governors are people of moral integrity, honesty and above all persons with a sense of the duty to care about the poorest members of society. I think Christianity has an important message to promote”. (Source: Agenzia Fides, December 3, 2015)

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Somali Refugees
Nearly 5,000 Somali refugees from Kenya's Dadaab camps have returned home since December last year, the UN refugee agency has said. About 4,500 more have signed up to go back in the coming months, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said.
"They also receive a cash grant, food and basic domestic items such as sleeping mats, mosquito nets, solar lanterns, hygiene supplies and kitchen utensils to help them start a new life," UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told a press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday.
The agency said in an update, security and socio-economic conditions in many parts of Somalia are not right for large-scale returns of refugees. However, some are eager to leave life in exile behind and help rebuild their country, it said.

"To end one of the world's most complex refugee situations it is vital to make sure that the small number of returns can be successful and contribute to a more peaceful and stable Somalia," Edwards said. He added that more support and investment in the country's social and economic infrastructure is urgently needed. (Source:

Friday, 23 October 2015

Somali President Says His Govt Committed to Peaceful Democratic Transition in 2016

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has said his government is ready to pave way for peaceful democratic transition in 2016. Speaking during two day Somali leaders' consultation forum in the capital Mogadishu on Tuesday (October 20, 2015), Sheikh Mohamud said unity is vital in achieving historic democratic transitions.
"Three years ago, when my government was appointed, we created a vision for 2016 and we committed to a peaceful transition of political power in 2016, Three years later we are turning this vision into reality" he said.
President Mohamud however doubted the realization of one man one vote given the security situation, short period and the shortcomings from the incomplete constitution for electoral commission but showed confidence in the near future.
"We have not lost sight of our ultimate goal: that of one person, one vote. Direct elections are of course the most representative mechanism of democracy, and we will strive to make that achievable in 2020 but don't let people persuade you that we have somehow sold out for 2016," he said.
He added that the role of the ordinary Somali citizen is always significant in state building process in the recuperating state and neither him nor the PM have say without the go ahead from the people of Somalia and thus should take the responsibility.
"No one else can create a state but its people. Neither I, nor the Prime Minister, nor the international community can wish a state into being nor as Somalis do I believe this process falls on our shoulders." (Source: Dalsan Radio, Mogadishu, October 20, 2015)

Monday, 12 October 2015

Rape, Impunity and Human Rights Violations in Somalia

Sexual violence continues to increase in Somalia following the recent impeachment against the president, which caused political instability and a crackdown on IDPs around the capital city.
The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA Network) is strongly condemning the recent ruling of a Somali Court against a 15-year old rape victim which encourages a culture of impunity, especially in cases where government officials are involved.
The official, a presidential guard and a regular customer of the tea seller, lured the young girl to his house where he raped her. The young girl courageously reported the incident to her family who became subject to continuous threats by the perpetrator. Legal proceedings leading to the incarceration and investigation of the official by the Criminal Investigation Department were initiated. However, when the case went for trial, the court ruled in favor of the perpetrator. The official was acquitted based on fabricated witnesses who stated that the victim is his wife and they had so far kept their relationship from public.

SIHA (Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa) is deeply concerned about security threats against civil society organizations in Somalia, especially those defending the rights of vulnerable groups especially women and girls who were victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV). Sexual violence continues to increase in Somalia following the recent impeachment against the president, which caused political instability and a crackdown on IDPs around the capital city. The situation for civil society organizations has to date not been without challenges, however latest trends have shown that carrying out work as civil society actors is becoming increasingly difficult regarding the culture of impunity within the justice system of Somalia. Sources indicate that violations committed by government officials have been on the rise in recent months, but given their influence and political power, it is impossible to hold them accountable for the crimes committed. (Source:

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Children recruited have been freed from the armed forces and integrated into educational programs – Mogadishu

About 400 children recruited by armed groups in Somalia have been released and reintegrated into society through educational programs and professional training. Thanks to a project that the United Nations Fund launched 15 months ago in this Country of conflict in the Horn of Africa, 110 children have already enrolled in school. Many have been enrolled in professional training programs such as electronic engineering, administration, mechanics or carpentry. UNICEF estimates that currently about 5,000 children and young people can be exploited as fighters, porters or cooks for armed groups in Somalia. In 2012 the Government of Somalia had signed an action plan to end the recruitment and prevent the use of children in armed conflict. (Source: Agenzia Fides 18/09/2015)

Thursday, 24 September 2015

World Peace Day

The International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, is observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence.
In 2013, for the first time, the Day was dedicated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to peace education, the key preventive means to reduce war sustainably.
In Somalia, multiple Somali peace and reconciliation processes have produced many agreements but have never sufficiently addressed the real grievances that exist among Somali individuals and clans. At each round of talks and conferences the factions and international community members repeated the same mistakes made in previous processes and agreements.
It is a time that all that has been hindering peace in Somalia is addressed to create an environment whereby all stake holders are involved as a one collective entity in pursuit of a lasting peace for the welfare of the nation.
And to the Somali people, peace is the key to a successful nation that respects the right of all in disregard of clans, individualism and factions.
‘Centre for Community Awareness’ (CCA) which is non profit organization is committed to building peace and security in Somalia. As a result to this, the organization conducted wide range of activities, including sporting competition for young people, in an effort to foster peace and reconciliation, to mark this important day in the both Somali and global calendar.
The organizations slogan for this year is: "Be the change you wish to see in this world". We pray that next year there will be more peaceful areas in the country.

(Source: Dalsan Radio (Mogadishu), 22/09/2015) 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Year of Mercy and Indulgences: Papal letter addresses abortion, prisoners, sick and elderly

Pope Francis has issued a letter, describing some specifics on the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which will begin on December 8th, 2015. It will be a period of grace and forgiveness. 
In the letter, he states that since forgiveness cannot be denied to those who have repented, during the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope will allow diocesan priests the discretion to absolve the sin of abortion, for women who have had one and have repented for it. Usually priests can only absolve this sin, with the direct permission of their bishop.           
All faithful are called to make a pilgrimage, literally to the Holy Door, which will be open in every Cathedral or in parishes designated by the Diocesan Bishop. For those who will be traveling to Rome, the Holy Door in the city’s four Papal Basilicas will also be included. 
            The pilgrimage is meant to be a sign of true conversion for one’s past sins. In order to receive the indulgence, it must be linked to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. 
The elderly and sick who are limited in their mobility, can receive the indulgence by receiving Communion, attending Mass and community prayer. 
The letter also makes note of prisoners, who can obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of their prisons. The threshold of their cell, it reads, can symbolize the passage of the Holy Door. 
The purpose of the Jubilee Year of Mercy is to forgive the sins of those who have truly repented, so they can strengthen their faith and give testimony. (

Monday, 7 September 2015

UN Concerns About Influx of Refugees Back Into Somalia

The newly appointed United Nation's Deputy Special Representative for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, expressed concerns about the influx of returnees and Yemeni refugees into the country.
De Clercq said over 28,000 people have arrived in Somalia since April. "I am, however, encouraged by the positive spirit of cooperation on the ground between humanitarian organizations and the relevant authorities, and, so far, the mechanisms put in place appear to work well," said de Clercq.
The UN envoy has completed his first official visit to Puntland and Somaliland in northern Somalia, urging joint efforts to settle the arrivals to avert a humanitarian crisis.
De Clercq visited reception centers in the coastal cities of Berbera and Bosasso, where he said he saw the newly arrived being registered, provided with food, mattresses and blankets, and medical care. "While their conditions are under control due to a relatively good humanitarian response, limited resources, environmental factors and insecurity continue to pose significant challenges," he said, adding that an estimated 220,000 people are internally displaced in Puntland and Somaliland.
He said more than 60 humanitarian organizations were working in Puntland and Somaliland where thousands of vulnerable people "remain at the mercy of natural phenomena". (Source:

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

We Are Keen On Supporting Somalia to Confront Extremism - Al-Azhar Sheikh

Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb asserted on Monday (17/8/2015) Al-Azhar's keenness on supporting Somalia. He was speaking during a meeting with Somali Education Minister Khadra Bashir to discuss fostering bilateral relations in the education field.
Tayyeb said Al-Azhar is keen on increasing the number of scholarships to Somali students to study at Al-Azhar as well as preparing a training program for Somali preachers that aims to confront extremism.
Khadra Bashir hailed Al-Azhar's role in spreading moderate Islam, adding that her country is in need of Al-Azhar to confront extremism. (Source: Egypt State Information Service – Cairo)

Friday, 21 August 2015

The bicentenary of the birth of Saint John Bosco

Saint John Bosco, who is best known as Don Bosco, was born 200 years ago. The Italian saint's influence on education and charity is still felt throughout the world.
Don Bosco was born near Turin on August 16, 1815. At 25, he was ordained a priest. He immediately devoted himself to helping young people who hadn't benefited from the Industrial Revolution.
Education was the key to alleviating their poverty and hopelessness, he believed. The saint spent his days visiting prisons and on the streets with young people, working with them to better their lives. In 1864, he founded the Salesian Order; he died in 1888.

Today the Salesians of Don Bosco serve in 132 countries, where they continue to turn despair into hope and ignorance into knowledge. Don Bosco was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929 and was canonized by the same pontiff, five years later.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

By 2020, 20 Catholic radio stations will be created to cover the entire territory of Kenya

            By 2020 there will be 20 Catholic radio stations in Kenya. This is laid down in the 2016-2020 plan approved by the Commission for Social Communications/Waumini Communications of the Episcopal Conference of Kenya.
            According to a statement sent to Agenzia Fides the strategic plan includes the development of a "strong media community in the field of information technology and communications across the whole country".
The New Catholic radios will help the process to extend evangelization in Kenya by broadening the base of the 12 million Catholic Kenyans. "We want a social and spiritual transformation of the people, we want to see a transformation of the human person", said Mgr. Joseph Obanyi, Bishop of Kakamega and Chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications, when he addressed the leaders of the Catholic radio. Waumini Communications, the body responsible for social communications of the Episcopal Conference of Kenya, founded in 2012, reaches 5 million people largely through seven radios distributed in dioceses across the country. (Source: Agenzia Fides)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

"We are hated because we persist in wanting to exist as Christians", testimony of Mgr. Warda, Archbishop of Erbil (Iraq)

            For the Chaldean Church, and our sister churches of the East, the persecution is doubly painful and severe. We are personally affected by the need and by the reality that our vibrant church life is dissolving in front of our eyes. The massive migration that is now occurring, is leaving my church much weaker. This is a deeply sorrowful reality. We who are part of the church hierarchy are very often tempted to encourage our parishioners to stay – keep the presence of Christ alive in this special land. But truly I and my brother bishops and priests can do no more than to advise young mothers and fathers to take all the necessary considerations into account and to pray long and hard before taking such a momentous, and perhaps perilous, decision. The Church is unable to offer and guarantee the fundamental security that its members need to thrive. It is no secret that hatred of minorities has intensified in certain quarters over the past few years. It is difficult to understand this hate. We are hated because we persist in wanting to exist as Christians. In other words, we are hated because we persist in demanding a basic human right.
            There are then, two things that we, as a church can do: the first is to pray for all refugees around the world and in Iraq. The second is to use the relationships and networks we share in as part of the Church of Christ as a pulpit to raise awareness about the true risk to our survival as a people.
            I cannot repeat loudly enough that our well-being, as a historic community, is no longer in our hands. The future will come, in one way or the other, and for us this means waiting to see what sort of aid (military, relief aid) arrives.
            So far, more than 5000 families have left the country, since the summer of 2014. Some have been welcomed into Europe, the States, or Australia, but many of those families are now simply waiting for their number to be called. They are in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, and their future is on indefinite hold.
            Through support from benevolent people we have sought during this crisis to ease the needs of our IDP families and provide them with the basic needs for subsistence wherever we have happened to find them. We have made shelters in church gardens and halls, catechism classrooms, public schools, tents, incomplete building structures, and in rented houses where we have had to accommodate some 20-30 individuals per house.
            Realizing that the crisis is going to take a long time and as winter was approaching, we took quick steps to lease houses for refugees in different sections of the province of Erbil to accommodate 2000 families and to set up 1700 caravans. Now, all of our Christian IDP’s are in at least a semi-permanent dwelling. This is far from ideal, but certainly an improvement on the original tents and semi-completed buildings which had been the best we could do for many.
            We have also opened two medical centers to offer free medical services to the refugee community. The Sacred Heart Sisters from India are running St. Joseph’s clinic, assisted by 12 young doctors who are training as volunteers to offer medical services especially to those suffering from chronic disease. The clinic serves some 2000 patients by providing them with medication at a monthly cost of US$ 42,000.00.
            At present we are rehabilitating a building structure to serve as a maternity and child care hospital. We have also opened a trauma response center to respond to the needs of many who have been scarred deeply by the crisis.
Based on our conviction that illiteracy and ignorance are the most dangerous long-term enemy that we face here in the Middle East, and urged by a wish to heal the wounds in the hearts and souls of our faithful, we have been working to help our students pursue their studies. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Every year a thousand Christian and Hindu girls suffer forced conversion to Islam and abuse in Pakistan

            In Pakistan every year at least a thousand girls, from local Christian and Hindu communities are forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. This was affirmed in a recent report produced by the NGO Aurat Foundation in Karachi. In a note sent to Fides, Mahnaz Rehman, the directress of the Foundation describes the difficult situation for women in Pakistan, specifically with regard to discrimination on a religious basis. The crime of forced conversion and marriage is common but receives little attention on the part of the local police or civil authorities, the note explains.            
            According to figures and documentation supplied by the report, every year in Pakistan an average number of 1000 girls are forced to become Muslim and marry Muslim men. The majority of the girls involved belong to Christian and Hindu   communities.
            The girls and the families receive threats and pressure. The practice is constant –Aurat Foundation affirms – the girls, often minors, are forced without their consent to marry their abductor or another man. If the family lodges a complaint, the abductor makes a counter complaint, accusing the family and stating that the girl converted of her own free will. When called to testify in court, the girl, under unspeakable threats and pressure, declares that her conversion and consent to marriage was voluntary. The case is then closed.     
            “These cases are never investigated seriously to shed light on the phenomenon and mechanism of the crime”, says the Report. One factor would appear determinant: “From the time in which the complaint is filed and the controversy begins up to the time of the hearing in Court, the girls are held in custody by the abductors and suffer all kinds of abuse and violence”. One manner of pressure on these fragile and vulnerable adolescents - is to convince them that they have become “Muslims” to every effect and if they change their religion they would be apostates for which the punishment is death. The Report urges the police and civil authorities to unmask this practice and rescue the girls of religious minority groups. The Aurat Foundation has also proposed a Bill to impede forced conversions. (Source: Agenzia Fides 25/7/2015)

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

"Dialogue with Islam to change the blasphemy law"

            "Christians in Pakistan are suffering because of the abuse of the blasphemy law. Also, when a Christian is accused, the entire community suffers serious consequences", says to Fides Father James Channan, a Dominican, director of the "Peace Center" in Lahore, who constantly works for interreligious dialogue, broadening the reflection on the case of Asia Bibi and all other Pakistani citizens, Christians and Muslims, innocent victims of the blasphemy law.
            Fr. Channan explains: "Christian minorities, such as Hindus and members of other minority faiths in Pakistan are often subject to discrimination and persecution. Being a non-Muslim in Pakistan is sometimes dangerous, especially because of the blasphemy laws".
To counter this situation, Father Channan has worked for years to develop good relations with the most important imams in Lahore, such as Abdul Khadir Azad, the Imam of the royal Mosque in Lahore. Thanks to good relationship, the two leaders have been working together to resolve situations of tension, such as the attack on the Christian "Joseph Colony" area in the heart of Lahore, in March 2013 and, most recently, the attack against the Christian community in the district of Sanda, Lahore. Both cases were generated by charges of blasphemy against a Christian.
            Imam Azad "agrees on necessary changes to the blasphemy law to prevent its abuse as a means of settling private disputes" notes Fr. Channan. This is why the work of Islamic-Christian dialogue, he concludes, is invaluable and necessary to advance ideas and actions designed to enhance interreligious harmony and to build broad consensus to reform the blasphemy law".  (Source: Agenzia Fides 22/07/2015)

Saturday, 25 July 2015

As health needs rise in Somalia, funding hits new low, cutting off 1.5 million from care – UN

24 July 2015 – Somalia – a country where every two hours a mother dies due to pregnancy complications – is facing cuts in life-saving health services because of the lowest funding levels in seven years, according to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).
World Health Organization (WHO) official, Dr. Ahmed El Ganainy, checks the eyes of a little girl during a joint humanitarian assessment mission to Marka, Somalia, on 9 July 2014. UN Photo/David Mutua
“We cannot afford to let the country slide back into a humanitarian crisis,” WHO Representative for Somalia Dr. Ghulam Popal said. “Otherwise, we would undermine all gains made until today.”
UN health partners in Somalia are expressing concern that they will face difficulties in continuing to provide life-saving health services at the scale required as a result of declining humanitarian funding for 2015 and the forecast for 2016, WHO warned in a press release issued Thursday.
The lack of funding for UN’s humanitarian response plan in 2015 has left more than 1.5 million people cut off from primary or secondary health care services, according to the press release. As of July 2015, out of a required $71.5 million, only $6.1 million (8.5 per cent) has been received, the lowest since 2008, despite ongoing early warnings and appeals for adequate funding.
According to WHO, there are currently 3.2 million people in need of humanitarian aid in Somalia, where every 2 hours a mother dies due to pregnancy complications, every hour, 8 Somali children below the age of 5 die; one in 4 children suffers from chronic malnourishment; and only 1 in 3 Somalis have access to safe water.
“Over the past 3 months, at least 10 hospitals in Somalia have either been closed or have majorly curtailed their services across the country, and at least 3 other hospitals are at risk of closure in the near future,” the agency said. “Basic health posts and clinics are currently struggling to meet primary health needs, and many aid agencies have withdrawn health workers from high-need areas.”
This article from the UN News Centre highlights the sad effects on the Somali people due to lack of funding. The Catholic Church's charitable organization Caritas, which has a Somalia branch, offers many services and aid to the Somali people. If you wish to find out more, or to get involved in helping people, follow this link Caritas Somalia -RCMS

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Statement of the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (CELRA)

NICOSIA – From July 6 to July 9, 2015, Bishops from the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Djibouti and Somalia had their annual meeting. Below is the communiqué they released at the end of the meeting.
Declaration of the bishops belonging to the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (CELRA)
Our sixty-fifth meeting took place at the Franciscan convent of the Holy Cross in Nicosia (Cyprus), from July 6 to 9, 2015, with the participation of bishops coming from the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Djibouti and Somalia. We met Christian and Muslim religious leaders at the Maronite Archbishopric and sensed the ecumenical spirit among the various Christian Churches. We went on a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Saint Barnabas, apostle of Cyprus, and we prayed for an improvement in the relations between the Turkish and the Greek parts of the island. We paid a visit to the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostom II.
After a rich exchange about the pastoral situations in our respective countries, we studied four themes, which were proposed by the program: consecrated life, the future of the Christian community in the Middle East, the family and the Jubilee of Mercy.
  1. Consecrated life: The religious congregations, the new communities and the ecclesial movements present in our dioceses carry out much appreciated work, putting their evangelical charisma, composed of prayer, charity and communion, at the service of our Churches. While saluting these communities, which continue to work for peace and reconciliation in areas of conflict, we call on all religious communities to improve fluency in the local languages, enter into the culture of the people they want to serve and lovingly integrate even more fully into the local pastoral plan in order to provide even better service.
  2. The future of the Christian community: We, bishops, participate in the sufferings of our people in the areas where great political instability prevails. More than a year has passed since the Gaza war and the fall of Mosul as well as five months since the Arab coalition proclaimed war in Yemen, yet there is no sign or glimmer of hope. Despite the desperate situation of our communities in Syria and Iraq, we insist that our future depends on the quality of our faith. Furthermore, we are confident that interreligious dialogue can help to better coexistence with our Muslim brothers because there are many people of good will, who reject radicalism and intolerance and respect the freedom of conscience and religious pluralism.
Therefore, we reiterate what we wrote in our statement last year:
“No peace without justice as there is no justice without respect for human, social and religious rights. A true peace requires forgiveness and reconciliation. Otherwise, the same factors that produced the conflict will continue to generate more hatred and more wars.”
One cannot kill in the name of God, nor manipulate religion for political or economic interests, as every human being is entitled to respect regardless of his religious or ethnic affiliation or his minority status.
  1. In view of the forthcoming Synod on the family to be held in Rome during the month of October, we exchanged ideas about the beauty of the Christian family, willed by God according to the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth. We discussed the various challenges to the family in general, and especially those related to bio-ethics. We need to form couples to be open to life, the gift of God and the fruit of human love. We brought to mind those couples that are separated or in crisis. We expect much fruit from the upcoming Synod and invite our faithful to pray for the Synod Fathers so that the Lord might enlighten them in giving appropriate responses to the challenges and risks run by the institution of the family.
  2. We thank Pope Francis for having established a Year of Mercy in order to preach mercy to the whole world, inviting all urgently to conversion and reconciliation at all levels: individual, family, national and international. We will make a special effort to fully rediscover and enhance the beauty of the sacrament of reconciliation and the practice of corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The bishops of the CELRA
Nicosia, July 9, 2015.

Monday, 20 July 2015

"The project of the Shabaab to liberate the north-east from non-Somalis continues" said the coadjutor Bishop of Garissa

Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - "The goal of Shabaab is to 'liberate' the north-east of Kenya, inhabited by Kenyans of Somali origin, from the non-Muslims and non-Somalis", says to Agenzia Fides His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Alessandro, Coadjutor Bishop of Garissa, in north-eastern Kenya, bordering Somalia, where in the early hours of July 7, 14 people were killed and 11 wounded in an attack attributed to Shabaab Somalis.

"Just like the attacks that took place before, workers coming from other areas of Kenya, therefore non-Somalis and non-Muslims are being targeted. Unfortunately it seems that this strategy is having success", says the Bishop to Fides. "Already several non-local workers have fled from Mandera in recent months. The most affected sectors are health and education. Throughout the north-east education is in serious difficulty because of the lack of teachers, coming from other areas of the country, who refuse to go back to work there".

"We must say, however, that the Shabaab are also targeting several Muslim leaders who do not think like them and who support the government's action", added Mgr. Alessandro.

"If this project of 'ethnic and religious cleansing' were to be completed, the Shabaab will declare these territories as 'Islamic lands' and perhaps join the Caliphate. The government in Nairobi is trying to do everything possible so that Kenyans from other areas remain in the Northeast, because the whole area is likely to be destabilized", concluded Mgr. Alessandro.

In the area the Shabaab committed several attacks in November and December (see Fides 24/11/2014 and 02/12/2014), the bloodiest attack was committed in April at the university campus of Garissa, where 148 students were killed (see Fides 08/04/2015).

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

"Boko Haram wants to punish Muslims who rebel against their violence" - Nigeria

            The two recent attacks carried out by Boko Haram in the north eastern part of Nigeria killed 145 people of Muslim faith. "These terrible attacks against the Muslim community are signs of weakness and not of strength", says Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku, Director of Social Communications of the Archdiocese of Abuja, capital of Nigeria.
The fiercest attack occurred in the village of Kukawa, near Lake Chad. According to witnesses, about fifty men opened fire on the faithful gathered in prayer in a village mosque. 97 died, including women and children.
            "The new President, Muhammadu Buhari, a devout Muslim, wants to defeat Boko Haram. Buhari appears more decided than the previous President, who was a Christian, in the fight against Boko Haram", said Fr. Patrick.

"The measures taken by the Head of State have put in serious difficulties the Islamist sect. For example the transfer of the command of military operations against Boko Haram from the federal capital, Abuja, to Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, is seen by Boko Haram as a non-acceptable challenge".
"All this - continues the priest - is putting Boko Haram in difficulty, especially since the Muslim communities are denouncing the atrocities committed by Islamists".
            "Faced with the rebellion of Muslim communities, Boko Haram has decided to punish them, because in their ideology you are either with them or against them. But in the end this is a sign of weakness and not of strength", concludes Fr. Patrick. 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Christians organize the "banquet of unity" for Muslims on the occasion of Ramadan in Egypt

            Once again this year, according to custom, parishes and Christian families in Egypt organize spontaneously at the end of the day the so-called "banquet of unity", social occasions in particular offered to neighbors and fellow Muslims who in these weeks observe, from dawn to dusk, the fast prescribed in the holy month of Ramadan.
            In recent weeks, some representatives of the Coptic Orthodox Church had given the general guideline to use the resources allocated to banquets to finance social projects and assistance, beginning with those of the Fund "Long live Egypt", launched by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after his election. It does not seem, however, that the official solicitation was followed at a capillary level. The sites related to the Coptic community describe the special initiatives taken such as scout groups that distribute food and drinks to their Muslim neighbors.
            "The practice of organizing banquets and distributing snacks - explains Anba Antonios Aziz Mina, the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh - is just one of the ways of ‘how Christians show their participation during Ramadan’. During work, Christians too make fast, abstaining from food and water for respect and solidarity towards fellow Muslims".  (Source: Agenzia Fides)

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

One Year Later: Rising from the Ashes after Brutal Al-Shabaab Attack in Kenya

Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa
7/6/15 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) - Samuel Kang'ethe bears the scars of a gunshot wound to the abdomen that he sustained one year ago when Islamist al-Shabaab militants assaulted his home village of Malamande, Kenya, murdering all of the grown men present and torching the town. On the night of July 5, 2014, Kang'ethe dragged himself to the nearest bush to hide, fearing for his life, bleeding from his abdomen after being shot and witnessing his father's murder.

"The gang of about 15 men knocked at our door and my father opened. He was pushed back into his bed, tied up and shot 6 times at the head and 2 times at the back," he remembers.

"They ordered my mother to get out and sit down. They piled clothes on my father and set him on fire. I escaped through the window but unfortunately, the gunmen spotted me and I was shot on my stomach. I dragged myself in to the bushes and made a call for help to the nearest police post. We did not get immediate help until morning when I was taken to the hospital,"
he recounted. 
Remembering the Tragic Attack
Today, International Christian Concern (ICC) marks the tragic anniversary of al-Shabaab's attack on Malamade, a tiny village outside of Hindi town where militants murdered Christians who refused to convert to Islam.

At around 11 p.m., 15 gunmen started shooting throughout the village and killed 15 people, leaving nine widows and several children fatherless.  Their main target was adult men whom al-Shabaab executed by either tying them up before shooting them or slashing their throats.
Those who managed to escape hid in the bush until morning, only to wake up homeless, their houses, church, and school burned while many of their friends and neighbors lay dead, murdered because of their faithfulness to Jesus.

Altogether, 20 houses were razed during the attack. The scene told several stories of Christians murdered for Christ, like Kenya Kazungu, who was shot in the back four times and his Bible piled onto his corpse.
"They coerced me to convert to Islam or else they burn the house, school and the church," the town's pastor Elizabeth Odipo told ICC's Kenya representative. "When I declined, they ordered me to take my 2 granddaughters out of the house after which they set ablaze the house and left. They proceeded to the primary school and burnt all the stationary and desks. When they were done with the school they went to the village church, spent 1 hour playing the drums, and later burnt it to ashes," Odipo said.
Even a year later, the villagers still bear the burden of the attack. Life has proved especially difficult for mothers and children who lost their husbands and fathers.

Salome's husband Stephen was brutally murdered that night. "Life has not been easy after the attack especially staying in a rented house, staying without food and staying away from our friends and neigbours," she said.
Rebuilding Hope
The townspeople have persevered through fear, hunger, sickness, and trauma, but their faith is left unshaken.

ICC is working with local partners to rebuild hope through home reconstruction for 15 families whose houses were burned down. Brothers and sisters in Christ have discovered new joy looking forward to God's provision of shelter and are returning to their farming and business activities.
"Our hope to return to our homes has been rekindled and we thank God for using the ICC in such an incredible way," said Eunice Njeri whose house is being rebuilt. "This is a new day that the Lord has made and we are extremely happy about owning new houses."
Before the attack, Malamande was a vibrant village with bustling crop trade and several small businesses operating, but the assault on the town  changed that overnight. With Malamande rebuilt, the Christians there will be able to return to their farms and business and the local school will reopen.

"I am a happy man once again. I had lost hope in life after my house and shop were burnt down by al-Shabaab. But now I have a house and soon I will resume my retail shop," said Joseph Muchemi.
As we remember the attack one year later, the victims commemorate their deceased family members and friends and thank God for the help from brothers and sisters in Christ.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

"Do not lose hope"

The exhortation of Mgr. Pante to 600,000 refugees welcomed in Kenya

            "Every 15 minutes a person becomes displaced in the world", recalled His Exc. Mgr. Virgilio Pante, Bishop of Maralal and Vice President of the Commission for Refugees and Migrants of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, during his homily for the World Day of Migrants, which fell on June 20. The Mass was attended by refugees living in Kenya from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan.
            Mgr. Pante urged refugees not to lose hope despite the difficulties they face every day, and recalled: "Be strong in faith and believe in God. Remember that even Jesus Christ sought refuge in Africa". The Bishop also appealed to Kenyans to avoid tribalism and racism, and instead help refugees to have access to school and work.
            Mgr. Pante finally asked the Kenyan government to allow the voluntary repatriation of Somalis who wish to return home, but not to expel by force the Somalis who do not want to do it.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Kenya welcomes 600,000 refugees. Out of 50 million refugees in the world, Kenya is the fourth host country with regard to the total number of refugees, after Pakistan, Iran and Germany. (Source: Agenzia Fides June 23, 2015)