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13 April 2019 - Help and support to rebuild the future. The president Fr. Paul Karam was one of 200 delegates of the international conference on trafficking, promoted by the Dicastery for integral human development. Lebanon one of the main destinations in the Middle East. The Catholic NGO has opened six centers, which work in collaboration with the government and embassies. The schooling of children to promote integration.

 A “front line” commitment for victims of human trafficking, especially "women and children from Asia and Africa", which guarantees "material aid such as food and housing, psychological support and training" for rebuild an identity, Fr. Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon, tells AsiaNews.

For over seven years he has been active in welcoming Syrian families fleeing war and supporting, together with operators and volunteers of the Catholic NGO, the victims of human trafficking. The priest returned to the Land of the Cedars last night, after having participated in the international conference on trafficking that was held in recent days in the Vatican. "The event is fundamental to share experiences and to work in groups of different pastoral orientation".

 From 8 to 11 April the migrants and refugees section of the Dicastery for integral human development organized an international conference on trafficking in persons, which ended with a private audience with Pope Francis.

The event was attended by delegates from all over the world, including bishops, priests, men and women religious, project coordinators and pastoral agents, along with representatives of Catholic NGOs and trafficking experts. Addressing the over 200 participants, the pontiff condemned what he calls the "commodification of the human being" as a terrible "crime against humanity", warning that "much remains to be done" against a "profound plague".

 Lebanon is a major destination for human trafficking, especially of women. Victims are often used for domestic labor in conditions of slavery or end up in the hands of prostitution rings. These include women from Eastern European nations and neighboring Syria.

 Traffic also involves minors, also used in the sex market or for forced labor in the sectors of metallurgy, construction or agriculture. There are also several cases of women from Sri Lanka, the Philippines or Ethiopia who enter Lebanon with a regular permit, but who end up victims of forced labor with the seizure of their passport, travel restrictions, threats, physical and sexual violence. In this context, the government has not taken the necessary steps to meet the minimum standards of the fight against a phenomenon that involves hundreds of people every year.

 Fr. Paul explains "In LebanonCaritas has launched six centers dedicated to victims of trafficking in persons, victims of sexual abuse or slavery. They are places present in different parts of the country, but we prefer to keep their whereabouts confidential for reasons of safety and to protect the people themselves ”.

Inside these centres, "psychological and material" help and support are offered, with the aim of "providing a deadly and ethical cultural and professional background" and "encouraging return to the countries of origin, in conditions of full security: these are the ones that we call success stories ".

 He continues "It is important that people can regain full confidence and autonomy". Within the next two months, the six centers already active will be joined by a new center dedicated to the recovery of "street children, exploited by the Mafia for child labor or victims of sexual abuse".

 Psychologists and doctors, experts and educators operate in the structures as well as a team of lawyers, because “we follow the stories also from a procedural point of view. In these years - he underlines - we have won several cases, targeted the perpetrators of this violence and guaranteed compensation ".

The Caritas Lebanon president underlines that at the moment the centers "welcome about 250 people", and "operate in full agreement with the Lebanese security apparatus and the embassies of the nations of origin of the victims, from Africa to Asia, from Iraq to Syria, passing through the Philippines ”.

 Then there are children "born of women who came to us pregnant, to whom we guaranteed welcome and shelter". He concludes that they have started a schooling project for these young children which, to date, "allows at least 145 primary school children to be able to study and learn, starting from the study of the Arabic language which is the basis, the first step towards integration".

Asianews

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6 April 2019 - The UN representative for Central Africa praises the efforts of religious leaders for peace. « Je tenais particulièrement à remercier S.Em. le Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga et l'imam Layama Kobine pour l'excellent travail qu'ils abattent ensembles pour résoudre la crise en RCA, et dernièrement pour résoudre la crise à Bangassou, où de fortes initiatives sont en cours pour organiser une caravane de la paix » », a souligné le chef de la MINUSCA – Mission des Nations unies en République centrafricaine – en rencontrant S.Em. le Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archevêque de Bangui, et l'imam Layama Kobine, les deux principaux animateurs, avec le pasteur Nicolas Guerekoyame, de la plateforme des confessions religieuses pour la paix en Centrafrique.

Au cours de ces rencontres, Mankeur Ndiaye a affronté la situation sociopolitique et la sécurité globale du pays, en soulignant le besoin d’unir les efforts en vue de la progressive application de l’accord de paix et de réconciliation signé en février entre le gouvernement et les principaux groupes armés centrafricains.

A ses interlocuteurs, le Représentant spécial a tenu à réitérer le ferme engagement et la disponibilité des Nations Unies accompagner la RCA, aux côtés d’autres partenaires, en direction de la paix. Les rencontres de Mankeur Ndiaye servent également à la préparation de la réunion du Groupe International de Soutien à la Centrafrique qui aura lieu le 17 avril 2019 à Bangui, en présence d'une cinquantaine de pays et organisations, pour soutenir la mise œuvre de l'Accord politique de paix et de réconciliation. (L.M.) (Agence Fides 04/04/2019)

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15 January 2019 – Central African Bishops denounce. There are contingents of the Blue Helmets of the UN Mission in Central Africa (MINUSCA) who do not do their duty to protect civilians. This is the accusation launched by the Central African Bishops at the end of their Plenary Assembly. "We pay tribute to those contingents of MINUSCA that ensure the protection of civilians", reads the message sent to Agenzia Fides. "However, we deplore the duplicity of some contingents that leave the situation deteriorate under their eyes, that take advantage of the situation, particularly the Moroccans in the east, the Pakistanis in Batangafo and the Mauritanians in Alindao. Such behavior only aggravates the already critical situation of the Country".

The Bishops depict a dramatic picture of the conditions of the Country. "It is sad to note - they write - that beyond the capital and some cities, the State has a merely formal presence. Civil and military functions, even in areas where there are no armed groups, have no means to operate and their number is symbolic". Vast areas of Central Africa escape State control and are in the hands of armed groups who "repeatedly commit inhumane violence and serious human rights violations: rackets, arbitrary arrests, kidnapping, torture..." Rebel groups have come to the point of changing the demography of different locations (Kouango, Ippy, Bokolobo, Mbres, Botto, Batangafo, Alindao, Nzacko, Bakouma, Zémio, Mboki, Obo). The Bishops are wondering why there is massive concentration of armed groups in the east of the Country and why the populations of some areas have been forced to sign a document stating that they refuse the presence of the Central African armed forces.

To this is added the "porosity of borders to transhumance which increases instability in areas under the control of armed groups". The arrival of shepherds from across the border creates conflicts with farmers, while the porosity of the borders facilitates arms trafficking and the arrival of mercenaries, in particular from Chad, Sudan, Cameroon, Niger and Uganda. "We ask the governments of these countries to show humanity by helping the Central African Republic to emerge from anarchy for the good of all. In fact, a destabilized Country is an international problem", the Bishops say.

The Church, which has seen several of its priests and faithful killed, reaffirms its commitment to peace and continues to bring the Light of Christ the Savior of the World. "Christ came to liberate man not only from his sins, but also from the consequences of sin that crush him. "As Christians, Christ exhorts us to participate in his mission of the total liberation of man, beginning with the poorest and most marginalized". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 15/1/2019)

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7 January 2019 - Bangui: "On 5 January 2019, the Foyer Community of the Comboni Missionary Sisters in Bangui, in Central Africa, was attacked and robbed by a gang of about 8-9 people – said the Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries, Sister Luigia Coccia to Agenzia Fides -. There are three Sisters in the Community.

They had finished the prayer of vespers, around 7 pm, when they were attacked, immobilized and threatened for about three hours. The thieves searched everywhere and stole everything they could. The three sisters, in shock, left the mission temporarily and took refuge in the provincial house, also in Bangui".

"Central Africa seems to have become muddled in an inextricable tangle of foreign interference, defaults by the international community and the inability of the local government" wrote Fr. Federico Trinchero, Carmelite missionary of the Carmelo of Bangui, a short time ago to Agenzia Fides.

"The confessional element only makes the cocktail even more deadly" the missionary underlined.

There have been countless attacks on Catholic communities, parishes, camps hosting refugees, houses and churches burnt down, civilians brutally killed. Five priests were killed in the Central African Republic in 2018: Don Joseph Désiré Angbabata, of the diocese of Bambari, wounded during an assault on his parish and died shortly thereafter; Don Albert Toungoumale-Baba, killed in Notre Dame de Fatima parish, during a massacre perpetrated by an armed group that attacked the parish; Don Firmin Gbagoua, Vicar General of the Diocese of Bambari, killed by assassins; the Vicar General of the diocese of Alindao, Don Blaise Mada, and Don Celestine Ngoumbango, parish priest of Mingala, killed during the assault on the on the Bishops’ residence of Alindao, where they had taken refuge with other people. In the latter circumstance, the former Seleka rebels of the UPS (Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique) killed at least 60 people, the majority were displaced persons who were in a reception camp near the Cathedral. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 7/1/2019)

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16 dicembre 2018 - Continuano gli assalti ai siti di sfollati nei pressi di parrocchie cattoliche: "Gli uomini armati sono entrati nel campo e hanno iniziato a sparare a distanza ravvicinata. Con questo tipo di comportamento, come possiamo ancora credere nella coesione sociale? La popolazione è stanca di questi ripetuti attacchi " ha detto uno sfollato dalla città di Ippy, il giorno dopo l'attacco, avvenuto il 4 dicembre contro la locale parrocchia cattolica da parte di un gruppo armato.

Secondo le informazioni raccolte dalla popolazione, è stato il comandante dell'UPC (Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique) della città di Ippy, un certo Moussa Abakar, a dare l'ordine di attaccare il sito degli sfollati. L’attacco è stato confermato da Sua Ecc. Mons. Richard Appora Ngalanibé, Vescovo di Bambari.

L’UPC è lo stesso gruppo che ha massacrato 60 sfollati nel campo gestito dalla Chiesa cattolica ad Alindao il 15 novembre. Vladimir Monteiro, portavoce della MINUSCA (Missione ONU in Centrafrica), ha detto che l’attacco ad Ippy è stato causato da uno scontro tra gli anti-balaka e gli uomini dell'UPC: "C'è stato uno scontro tra gli uomini dell’UPC e gli anti-balaka. Ciò ha provocato il panico all'interno del sito degli sfollati” ha affermato.

Secondo una nota giunta all’Agenzia Fides della Piattaforma delle Confessioni Religiose per la Pace in Centrafrica, la versione del portavoce ONU non convince, e ci si chiede se con tale versione dei fatti non si voglia minimizzare la gravità dell’episodio. Tanto più che l’assalto alla parrocchia di Ippy avviene dopo i recenti attacchi a siti di sfollati ad Alindao e Batangafo.

“Si possono spiegare gli attacchi ripetuti ai siti di rifugiati nelle parrocchie cattoliche che li ospitano, come scontri tra UPC e anti-balaka?” si chiede la Piattaforma delle Confessioni Religiose. “Un tale argomento, privo di ogni fondamento, non è altro che un alibi che serve ai gruppi armati per distruggere la convivenza civile al fine di saccheggiare, derubare e devastare le proprietà di persone innocenti”.

L'attacco al sito degli sfollati di Ippy non solo ha traumatizzato le famiglie che erano lì, ma ha anche distrutto tutto il lavoro di sensibilizzazione alla pace che molte organizzazioni, compresa la piattaforma delle confessioni religiose, hanno fatto in questa parte del paese” conclude la nota. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 12/12/2018)

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2 December 2018 - “Despite efforts on the part of our local Church to promote peace and fraternal relations, despite our total solidarity with those in need regardless of beliefs or political conviction, we have been targeted” Fides was told by Mons Désiré Nongo Aziagbia of the Society for African Missions, bishop of Bossangoa.

“Priests killed, church buildings torched or desacralised, sacred objects stolen or destroyed. These actions can be interpreted as a method used by countless enemies to plunge us into a religious crisis”, Bishop Nongo continues in the report he sent after various episodes in his diocese in October and November.

The bishops speaks of serious facts involving military of the UN Peace Forces, who reportedly support and protect ex-Seleka Muslim militia attacking refugee camps and church structures offering shelter.

“Following the incidents which led to the destruction of camps for displaced persons, private homes in the districts of Tarabanda and Yabende as well as the Catholic presbytery in the parish of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Batangafo, from 12 to 16 November 2018, I went on a fact finding mission to assess the situation, assisted by the Joint Protection Team (JPT) of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), 8 members of which come from the Office of Bossangoa and 6 from headquarters in Bangui”, the bishop reported.

Mons. Nongo expressed his disappointment for the consequences of the incidents (against which the UN peace-keeping troops do nothing), for the humanitarian situation, deteriorated relations between Christians and Muslims, increasing insecurity and abuses against civilians, describing a path of reconciliation now fatally compromised. (NN/AP) (1/12/2018 Agenzia Fides)

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Sunday, 18 November 2018 16:48

World Day of the Poor: Order of Malta

18 November 2018 - Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus, the Pope said that, for the occasion, a “First Aid Station” will be set up in the Square, where those in need will be able to receive medical care.

“I hope” he added, “that this Day will encourage greater attention to the needs of the least and the marginalized”.

Amongst the many organizations making sure the Day does not pass unnoticed is the Sovereign Order of Malta, whose core mission is to uphold human dignity and care for people in need.

Prince Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, Grand Hospitaller of the Order of Malta, says each of us can find ways to celebrate the occasion by honouring the poor, the sick and the marginalized.

For over 900 years it has been the Order of Malta’s mission to reach out to people in need. The Grand Hospitaller pointed out that at the heart of the Order’s charism, through which members strive to grow spiritually, is the commitment to serve the poor.

In a world in which self-centeredness and selfishness often seem to be in the forefront, where the poor are increasingly neglected and deemed useless, Prince de La Rochefoucauld invites all men and women of goodwill to read Pope Francis’ Message for this second ‘World Day of the Poor’ in which, he says, “we are called to honour the poor and give them precedence, out of the conviction that they are a true presence of Jesus in our midst”.

Noting that Order of Malta members across the world have organized events and initiatives to celebrate this special day, he points out that the very foundation of the Order of Malta stems from the words of Jesus and on the actions of its members to take care for those in need, seeing Christ in each of them, and being grateful for the opportunity to follow His words that we know so well: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

By Linda Bordoni

Published in News
Monday, 22 October 2018 13:12

CHAD Synod young special auditor

21 October 2018 – At the Synod, one of the young people representing Africa, Gabin Djimtoloum Djenaroum is from the Republic of Chad.

With the Synod of Bishops happening at the Vatican, under the theme, “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” representatives from all over the world, many of them young persons, have joined Bishops and are attending the Synod as special auditors.

Auditors attend all sessions in the Synod Hall. They listen to all presentations and discussions by the Bishops. Auditors may also be given opportunity to briefly address Bishops notwithstanding the fact that the Synod is a forum specifically designed for Bishops.

In a way, the presence of so many young people in the Synod Hall is a kind of endorsement of what the Bishops are doing. Bishops can also confer with the young people during informal sessions such as tea breaks. 

In Chad young people welcome the role of the Church in their lives

Djimtoloum works, in his country, Chad, as an Executive Head of the Episcopal Commission for the Youth. In a country where Christians are in the minority, participation of young people in the life of the Church faces many challenges such as marginalisation. 

In spite of these challenges, Djimtolum, speaking in French, told Vatican News that young people in his country embrace and welcome the role of the Church in their lives.

"Young people in Chad actively participate in the life of the Church through involvement in lay movements and various Apostolic Associations,” Djimtolum said.

Other Auditors from Africa

Other auditors from the African continent to the Synod include Henriette Camara (Guinea), Berhanu Sinamo (ICYCW/Ethiopia), Rev. Kablan Hilaire Jean-Marie Kouaho (Ivory Coast), Desfortunées Kuissuk Feupeussi (Cameroon), Merveille Mantantu Vita (DRC) Sr. Lucy Muthoni Nderi (Kenya), Vincent Paul Nneji (Nigeria), Tahiry Malala Marion Sophie Rakotoroalahy (Madagascar), Prof. Matteo Severgnini (Uganda).

Published in News
Wednesday, 10 October 2018 20:27

CAR Briks to dream

9 October 2018 – A missionary in Bangui: "The first “customer” of our bricks was Pope Francis". "It is a small dream that we have been nurturing for years and that, thanks to some lucky coincidences, and the help of several people, we have finally managed to fulfill. If there is a Country to be built - we asked ourselves - why not try to make bricks? Real bricks, new bricks, strong bricks, stronger than the war", writes to Agenzia Fides Fr. Federico Trinchero, a Carmelite missionary in Bangui, presenting the small building site for the construction of bricks.

Fr. Frederick explains the meaning of the initiative initiated by the Carmelites. "After five years of war and many more of bad government, Central Africa is a Country to be rebuilt - or, more honestly, to be built for the first time - everyone says so. There are those who insist on continuing the war, destroying what little was built in almost sixty years of independence. Fortunately, there are also those who insist on believing that the Country is not condemned to war and that it is possible, discreetly and with determination, to build small construction sites of peace and hope".

"The purchase of machinery - and the start of production - was possible thanks to the contribution of the French association "Un P.A.S. avec les Frères Jaccard" (founded by two brother priests, one of whom recently died, ex-missionaries among the lepers of Cameroon) and a loan from the Italian Episcopal Conference, thanks to funds donated through the 8xmille to the Catholic Church", says Fr. Federico.

"Bricks are intended for the construction of our missions, but also for sale" explains the missionary who reveals: "Perhaps you will not believe it, but our first client was Pope Francis. For several months - following an explicit wish of the Pope, after his visit to Central Africa in 2015 - the construction of a center for malnourished people has been under way in Bangui. The works are followed by the Apostolic Nunciature and a small building was built with the bricks produced at Carmel"

Fr. Frederick emphasizes that "this activity has a double symbolic value for us. First of all a small but concrete contribution to the work of reconstruction of the Country, through the creation of places of formation just like the construction site of the bricks and the agricultural school. In addition, most of the workers who participated in the training - and now produce bricks or work on the building site - are former Carmel refugees".

"Then there is a second symbolic value. When the first French missionaries arrived in Central Africa, at the end of the 1800s, one of the first activities installed in the missions were brick kilns with which they built churches, houses, schools, dispensaries and cathedrals. After more than a century our community discreetly recovers this activity, symbolically linking us to these ancient missionaries", concludes Fr. Federico. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 9/10/2018)

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4 October 2018 - "After 125 years of evangelization, the Archdiocese of Bangui sends priests on missions. It is the sign of the vitality of our particular Church and of solidarity among the Churches", announced His Eminence Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, in the homily during the opening Mass of the Pastoral Year, held last Sunday, September 30th , in the Cathedral of the capital of the Central African Republic. The theme of the new Pastoral Year is "Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue in a Country at war: the case of the Central African Republic".

The Cardinal urged the faithful to live the slogan chosen by the Archdiocese "Christians of the Archdiocese of Bangui, in the name of Christ let us dialogue with our brothers".

During the homily the Cardinal denounced the presence of foreign mercenaries, invited by "some brothers for political, economic, ethnic and selfish reasons" in the country. The mercenaries - he underlined - "undermine coexistence and complicate dialogue". "Even today, armed groups and those who support them have the hegemony over the assets of our Country. The excessive and rapid enrichment of some to the detriment of others worries us", said the Cardinal.

"May the Lord pull us out from intolerance, discrimination, distrust, misery, rage, hatred, revenge. May he sow trust, tolerance, kindness into our hearts. May the Virgin, Mother of Oubangui, Queen of Peace, teach us how to dialogue with our brothers and sisters in love and truth", concluded Cardinal Nzapalainga. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 3/10/2018)

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