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24 November 2019 - "Thai Catholics have a profound religious sense, they live faith very intensely and sometimes travel more than 50 kilometers to attend mass. Sometimes, however, here in Indochina, sacredness can become rituality, also due to the influences of the Chinese and Indian worlds. The Pope's visit today is an appeal and an encouragement to the faithful to embody the Word of God in life, not reducing faith only to worship: being ‘missionary disciples’ means passing from the Gospel to life and from life to the Gospel.
This is what Fr. Claudio Bertuccio, 54, Italian missionary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, for 26 years on a mission in Thailand, says to Agenzia Fides, on the occasion of Pope Francis' trip to Thailand, where today he is Superior of the Oblate delegation for Thailand and Laos.
Father Bertuccio expressed himself on the missionary work carried out by the Oblates in Thailand, in parishes, but also next to indigenous peoples such as the hmong: "Let us help build the ecclesial community, promoting the sense of belonging of different groups to the Church, in a society characterized by an individualistic culture, also linked to Buddhist spirituality that emphasizes the inner dimension of the person.
Our presence consists in living with people, meeting families, creating human relationships". The mission in that land where Catholics are a small minority, in a 95% Buddhist context, explains Father Bertuccio consists "in giving evangelical witness with the apostolate of charity, offering attention to needy and vulnerable people, allowing each person, especially if poor and suffering, feel the love of Christ. In this way, one witnesses one's faith with the Christian announcement, which passes through the works of mercy".
Father Bertuccio recalls that "going on a mission means responding to the vocation of going forth, of announcing the Gospel ad gentes. But also to that of 'being', to really enter the culture and mentality of a people, learning its language, sharing joys and sorrows, building authentic human relationships and living the evangelical works of mercy with simplicity. With the awareness of being useless servants".
The Pope's visit to Thailand, on the occasion of the celebrations for the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Vicariate of Siam, "reminds the nation that the Catholic Church has been present for over three centuries and represents a boost to the missionary commitment of all the baptized. The Thai faithful - he explains - do not feel very involved in the mission of the Church and often limit themselves to attending the liturgies. In this framework, the apostolic journey of the Pope has a strong missionary imprint when he talks about evangilization".
With over a thousand Catholic schools of every order and degree, and 500,000 students, the vast majority of whom are non-Christian, "the Church's commitment to education was born precisely for the purpose of evangelization. This is another of the aspects to be rediscovered today for the Thai Catholic community", he concludes. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 22/11/2019)
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7 July 2019 - There are more than 295,000 Central African refugees in Cameroon who will be able to voluntarily return to their Country on the basis of an agreement signed by the governments of Cameroon and the Central African Republic together with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The agreement was signed in Bangui on June 29 and represents the "legal framework that establishes the methods for the voluntary return of Central African refugees to their Country, in safety and dignity", said the UNHCR.

"The situation has definitely stabilized in Central Africa. Measures were taken to accompany them and reintegrate them" said the UNHCR representative in Bangui.

"Today more than 450,000 Central African refugees are situated between Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite the peaceful elections in February 2016, there are more than 450,000 internally displaced persons", said the official of the organization UN.

Cameroon's Minister of the Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Njia, said that "Cameroon has opened its doors to more than 400,000 Central African refugees who mainly live in the camps", and thanks the UNHCR for the help offered to its country in supporting refugees, and the refugees themselves for having maintained their dignity despite the difficulties they experienced, Cameroon welcomes Nigerian, Chadian and other refugees as well as those from Central Africa (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides)

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25 June 2019 - The Church in India welcomes and is close to migrants and refugees, trying to remember and put into practice the message of Pope Francis who said: “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ.” This is what Bishop Alex Vadakkumthala, Chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) Office for Labour explained to Agenzia Fides.

“India has also been a home to refugees: Tibetans, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankan Tamils and many others. India is second to Bangladesh as the largest refugee-receiving country in South Asia. Since the Independence in 1947, India has received significant numbers of refugees fleeing conflict or persecution, not only from some of its neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Tibet, but also distant countries like the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda. Despite no provision in domestic law for refugees, the government of India has nevertheless put in place positive administrative frameworks and judicial decisions supporting refugee protection practices,” said Bishop Vadakkumthala. Issues of migration and refugees in India have to be addressed with a human rights perspective and the Gospel. (...)Attachment to the article

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Friday, 24 May 2019 21:06

Sister Elvira Testimonial UISG

Sister Elvira, temporarily returning from the Central African Republic, shared her experience as a sower of prophetic hope at the UISG assembly (Rome, May 2019) through her project Kizito in Berberati. Attached in full is the testimony: at the end of this article.

Sister Elvira has been in RCA for 18 years. The UISG assembly was attended by 850 of the 1900 Superiors General, from more than 100 countries, representing 450,000 religious in the world.

Through the direct words of the ex-soldier boys and girls, the Kizito project seeks to help regain the lost dignity, Sister Elvira wanted to send out the cry of suffering of a people that after 60 years from the proclamation of independence has not yet roads, drinking water, schools, hospitals worthy of the name.

icon Testimonial-sr-Elvira UISG

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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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