Many Christians in Sri Lanka are still too scared to go to church – in spite of security put in place following the Easter Day bombings.
Returning from a fact-finding and project-assessment trip to the country, Veronique Vogel, head of Sri Lanka projects for the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said: “Many told me that they are afraid to enter a church or feel fear when they hear bells ringing.”
She described a sense of tension in the capital, Colombo, and elsewhere across Sri Lanka, where more than 250 people were killed and 300 injured on 21st April 2019 in attacks targeting churches and leading hotels.
Vogel said: “The security measures throughout Sri Lanka were very strict during our visit. Security forces and the military were everywhere.
“But fear persists, particularly among the Christian population.
“Everyone knows that somewhere out there extremely dangerous people are running around who could attack again at any time.”
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, an outspoken critic of the Sri Lankan government’s apparent failure to act on Indian government intelligence ahead of the Easter attacks, has demanded more security during church services in the aftermath of the violence.
Vogel said many Christians had felt encouraged by the response of the cardinal, who has refused special protection for himself.
She said the people’s faith had been strengthened by their suffering, especially those who lost loved ones or who had life-changing injuries.
Many, she added, were profoundly shocked by the attacks which had come after a period of relative calm and stability in the years following the civil war and other conflicts which date back to the 1970s.
Fr. Isaac Agubi, a priest who serves at the Holy Name church of Ikpeshi, 230 km away from Benin City, capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria was released by the police, Fides News Agency reported on June 19, 2019. The priest had been kidnapped on June 16 along the Auchi-Igarra road, around 5 pm, as he was returning home after having celebrated mass. The police forces, helped by some hunters in the area, managed to identify where the kidnappers were in the forest. During the release of the priest, one of the bandits was injured.
The kidnappers seem to belong to a group of Fulani, a nomadic shepherd ethnicity, who in Nigeria and other West African countries (where they are known as Peuls) have become protagonists of violent raids against other populations. In the last week in northern Nigeria, violence linked to the Fulani issue and others committed by Boko Haram, caused the death of over 150 people, while nine others were kidnapped.
In the State of Sokoto on June 15, 25 people lost their lives in raids, probably committed by the Fulani, in three villages. In a separate incident, a woman, and her stepson were kidnapped by a gang of shepherds on Airport Road, in the city of Osi, in the state of Ondo, on their way to Sunday mass.
On 12 June an officer and 20 soldiers in the State of Borno were killed in the attack on a military formation. The Islamic State of West Africa (ISWA), then claimed responsibility for the attack.
On June 14, at least 34 people were killed in an assault by an armed group that attacked three villages in the area of Shinkafi in the State of Zamfara. The bandits, who arrived on motorcycles, set fire to the houses and shot all those they encountered.
A few days ago His Exc. Mgr. Augustine Akubeze, Archbishop of Benin City and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, had denounced “the unprecedented level of insecurity” (see Fides, 6/6/2019) and the “complete impunity” of who sows chaos and destruction in the Country.
A catechist instructor was shot dead in the municipality of Acacoyagua, in a chapel in Chiapas state – another example of how the violence consuming Mexico is impacting the Catholic Church. The Bishop of the Diocese of Tapachula (Chiapas), Mgr. Jaime Calderón Calderón, in a video sent to Fides News Agengy, talks about the dynamics of the murder: “We were victims of the generalized violence that exists in the country. Yesterday (Saturday, June 15) at the end of catechists’ training course in the church of the Immaculate Conception, of San Marcos Evangelista parish, two young men entered and started shooting, one of the bullets injured Margeli Lang Antonio, who died almost immediately. We are close to her family. As a diocesan family, we cannot get used to these acts of violence that demonstrate a social and moral degradation of the human community.” Mgr. Calderón asked the authorities to find those responsible as soon as possible.
During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, June 16, the Bishop stressed that “social decomposition is due to a lack of integral health of communities. When there is no work, when there is injustice, when there is impunity, when there is an excessive ambition for money when people’s lives have a price, what is put at the center is money, then everything has a price and whoever has the money is the one who commands … When there are changes of the government there is a certain emptiness of authority and power … ”
On June 17, Fides received the statement of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico (CEM) on the meeting of the CEM Presidency with Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President of the Republic, in order “to begin a fraternal dialogue with the will to collaborate in the construction of a more just society”. The Bishops, the statement said, touched two fundamental themes: migration emergency and the construction of peace.
Regarding the first, “the Church continues to offer its resources: 95 dioceses, 10 thousand parishes, more than 130 hotels and thousands of pastoral workers throughout the Mexican territory engaged in the humanitarian mission and in the defense of human rights”. The Presidency of the CEM, therefore, stressed that “greater joint collaboration is needed to guarantee the safety of migrants”.
On the second issue, the Bishops intend to give their contribution to the reconstruction of the social fabric and the strengthening of the rule of law, through the Peace Building Plan, “which includes listening centers, centers for the defense of human rights, accompaniment of the victims and peace education workshops”. “The suffering of so many Mexican families for violence and insecurity urgently calls for our fraternal collaboration”, the text emphasizes.
The CEM statement concludes by recalling that other topics were also discussed at the meeting, and stressed that the Church intends to fulfill its mission by participating in the search for the common good, “in a line of positive secularism, in which the full exercise of religious freedom strengthens democracy”.
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“After nine months of Father Pierluigi Maccalli’s absence, there was the first common moment of prayer with the Muslim leaders of the capital,” said Father Mauro Armanino, priest of the Society for African Missions, to Fides News Agency. The missionary organized a prayer meeting in Niamey, Niger’s capital, on the occasion of the ninth month since the abduction of his confrere, on September 18, 2018.
“During the prayer meeting in Niamey, in the chapel of Sainte Monique de la Francophonie, yesterday, June 17, saw the presence of the bishop of Niamey, a pastor and other members of the intra and interreligious dialogue,” Fr. Armanino said. “It was possible for an hour, to imagine that peace, the ‘conviviality of differences’, as Father Gigi called it, could make its way through the wounds of all. Muslims and Christians united in the pain of families for the many, too many faithful who have been killed or have disappeared.
“There are heavy absences, creative absences, fruitful absences, absences like wounds in which a different future can be sown. Just two days ago they attacked some churches in the economic capital of the country, Maradi. We continue to pray and hope for Father Gigi.”
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On June 10, together with the Permanent Missions of Djibouti and Belarus and the Universal Peace Federation, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN co-sponsored a side event entitled “Good Parenting Builds Society: The Importance of Motherhood and Fatherhood” to honor the Global Day of Parents.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Mohamed Siad Doualeh, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Djibouti to the UN, pointed out that the family is the natural unit of society and plays an important role in the eradication of poverty, in the building of intergenerational solidarity and in the reduction of inequalities. He mentioned that every society requires families composed of a mother, father, and children and that good parenting is fundamental to boost a child’s confidence and openness to others.
Ambassador Valentin Rybakov of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus to the UN noted that observing the Global Day of Parents, normally celebrated on June 1, is a crucial reminder of the importance of roles of mothers and fathers. Protecting and supporting motherhood is a priority for Belarus, a country that is part of the Group of Friends of the Family, he said. He closed his intervention by reiterating that the family is the most important element for thriving society and for creating a better future.
Speaking on behalf of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN, Monsignor Tomasz Grysa stated that the family is not only essential for healthy children, but also for healthy societies.
“Growing up in a family with a mother and a father helps children achieve emotional maturity and learn how to recognize the beauty of the two sexes,” he said.
Some segments of our society, he said, “cannot adequately comprehend the real meaning of the gift of persons in marriage, responsible love at the service of fatherhood and motherhood, and the true grandeur of procreation and education.”
He also noted that parents have rights as the primary educators of their children and have the “grave duty to take responsibility for the well-rounded personal and social education of their children.” The loving relationship between parents and children is irreplaceable and “therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.”
Children also have “the right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s full and harmonious development and emotional maturity.”
Providing sexual education, he added, is likewise primarily the role of the parents, as children are faced “with a culture that, all too often, reduces the human sexuality to the level of entertainment.” He urged parents to “aim firmly at a training in the area of sex that is truly and fully personal: for sexuality is an enrichment of the whole person – body, emotions, and soul – and it manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love.”
There is an “urgent need,” he concluded, to promote a new alliance between parents, schools and society that can offer a positive education and that“respects the primary responsibility of parents in cooperation with the educational work of teachers.”
The panel of experts included Erica Komisar, a licensed social work, a parenting coach, psychoanalyst, and author of Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. She spoke about the scientific and neurological evidence that highlights the damaging consequences for children who experience a difficult family life. Among American children today, there are more cases of mental disorders due to parents’ absence during a child’s first three years of life than ever before.
Ms. Komisar’s research showed that the reassuring and nurturing presence of a mother is essential for “buffering young children from feelings of stress and to ensure their natural development. Children who have a mother present in their lives, particularly in the first three years, develop secure attachment relationships, whereas those that are separated from their mothers at an early age often experience stress and emotional difficulties particularly with attachment.”
The role of fathers is equally crucial in the lives of their children in providing secure places for them to develop mentally and emotionally, she said.
Komisar presented evidence from US social studies that indicated 1 in 5 children living in the US today have been diagnosed with a mental or emotional disorder, that there is a 400 percent increase in children taking anti-depressants and a 119 percent increase in eating disorders for children under 12.
While it may not always be possible for women to be present to their children in early childhood, she encouraged the young women in the audience hoping to balance career and family, saying that life has seasons and that women should not feel under pressure to choose family or work. “Work will always be there, but children will not.”
Grace Melton of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation spoke about some of the benefits of marriage for both children and society. “Children deserve both a mother and a father. Men and women are equal in dignity and worth, but they are not the same,” she said.
As married parents are important for children, the institution of marriage is important for society.
“Strong families are the best resource every society has for caring for and raising children into healthy and responsible adults”. Marriage, Ms. Melton said, encourages men and women to “commit permanently and exclusively to each other and to take responsibility for their children,” creating a more harmonious society.
Melton shared the findings of prominent social scientists in the U.S. and from national surveys and stated that all available data indicate that children who live in a stable family home with married mothers and fathers have better physical, emotional and mental health.
“It is easy to see the social and economic cost that communities shoulder as a result of family breakdown,” Melton said: 77.9 percent of children suffering in long term poverty come from broken or never-married families, while children living in a family with a mother and a father are 82 percent less likely to live in poverty,
The data also demonstrate a correlation between family life and violence, with “women and children less likely to experience domestic violence in intact married families than in other family norms.”
Melton expressed her hope that the UN and the European Court of Human Rights seek to protect children and families: “By safeguarding and harnessing the many social benefits that the family bestows, we will facilitate achievement of the UN’s [sustainable development goals], and leave a better world for our children.”
Jonathan Schweppe, Director of Policy and Government at the American Principles Project, described the family as “the most important natural institution in the history of the world,” but noted that the family has now arrived at a state of crisis thanks to the loss of fathers in the home. Children are paying the price for this social failure with one in four or 19.7 million American children living at home without a father, he said. These children face incredible obstacles and are more at risk for destructive behaviors.
With women often left to raise children on their own and parenthood clearly in crisis, the US should stop incentivizing family breakouts he said. Maternity and paternity leaves should be made an affordable option.
“We must do better, and I’m certain we can,” he said.
Following the presentation of the expert panel, the floor was opened for questions and comments. The delegate from Russia noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the family as the natural unit of society and called upon UN agencies and States to harness the potential of the family for development and harmony in society. A delegate from Comoros said that it is crucial to help young people recognize the importance of family.
Copyright © 2019 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.
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The leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Tawadros II, has participated today in the general audience, June 19, 2019, in the Plaza de San Pedro, and has warmly greeted Pope Francis at the end of the event.
Theodore II (or Tawadros II) is the 118th Patriarch of Alexandria and the Patriarch of Africa on the Holy Apostolic See of Saint Mark.
On the occasion of the day of friendship between Orthodox Copts and Catholics, the Holy Father Francis sent a message to his holiness, Tawadros II, on May 11, 2017. The day of friendship is a feast of fraternal love between both Churches, an idea proposed by Teodoro II (name in Spanish) to the Catholic pope, with the wish that this date was the first of a long series of encounters.
Welcome in Cairo
“After my visit to Egypt and the blessed meeting with His Holiness in Cairo , on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of our fraternal meeting in Rome on May 10, 2013, I take this opportunity to express my best wishes for peace and health, together with joy and gratitude for the spiritual ties that unite the See of Peter with the See of Mark, “said Francisco.
Similarly, on May 10, 2013, Tawadros II made his first trip as patriarch by visiting Pope Francis in the Vatican City. The meeting was an attempt at a reciprocal rapprochement “towards the full unity” of Christianity.
It is the second time that a Catholic and a Coptic Pope have met since the separation of both churches at the Council of Chalcedon and after the meeting of Popes Shenouda III and Paul VI.
The meeting between Francisco and Tawadros II thus marked a historical milestone, took place 40 years after Paul VI and Shenouda III, which united one and another, said Francisco, “in an embrace of peace and fraternity after centuries of reciprocal estrangement. “
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