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)