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2 February 2015  - New Report by Human Rights Watch. Pakistan’s government should ensure the security of the country’s religious minorities from judicial injustice and attacks by militants: is what is written in the new international Report of the NGO "Human Rights Watch" (HRW). According to the Report, violent attacks on religious minorities rose significantly in 2014 as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government’s failed to ensure protection for religious freedoms.

"Pakistan’s government did little in 2014 to stop the rising toll of killings and repression by extremists groups that target religious minorities", said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government is failing at the most basic duty of government to protect the safety of its citizens and enforce rule of law", he added.

According to the data contained in the text, sectarian violence in 2014 in Karachi caused at least 750 targeted killings. Abuses against women and girls – including rape, murder through so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage – remained common in 2014. In July, religious extremists committed a series of acid attacks on women in the Balochistan province. 
"Every year – says the Report - at least 1,000 girls belonging to the Christian and Hindu community are forced to marry Muslim men".
(PA) (Agenzia Fides)

Published in News
Sunday, 04 January 2015 21:33

SYRIA Death toll more than double in 2014

2 January 2015 -  More than 90,000 people were killed last year: more than 76,000 in Syria and 15,000 in Iraq. However, activists say the actual figure is likely much higher because of the lack of verifiable statistics from areas under the control of the Islamic State. Data from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Iraqi government indicate that 2014 was particularly deadly year with more than 90,000 people killed, more twice the number of 2013.

In Syria, where just under half of the 76,021 people killed were civilians, the 2014 death toll was more than double that of 2013, which stood at 33,278.

In August, the United Nations estimated the total number of people killed since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011 at 191,000. However, local sources say the actual figure is much higher.

In Iraq, the Interior Ministry reported on Thursday that figures compiled by the country's Health, Interior and Defence ministries put the number of people killed in Iraq in 2014 at 15,538. This figure is double the 6,522 people reported killed in 2013.

In both Syria and Iraq, the real death toll is likely far higher, particularly given the lack of verifiable statistics coming out of areas under ISIS's control (Asianews).

Published in News
Monday, 01 December 2014 15:38

SYRIA The loss of a generation of children

1 December 2014 - There are 5 million children who are in urgent need of aid and humanitarian assistance in Syria, out of a total of over 12 million people in the same condition. Because of civil war, the country has 7 million and 600 thousand displaced people and over 3 million refugees in neighboring countries.  According to the UN, since 2011 the economy of Syria has suffered a decline of 40%.

There is an unemployment rate of 54% in the Country, three quarters of the population lives in poverty and school attendance has dropped over 50%. The number of deaths and injuries among the Syrians continues to increase and children are those who suffer most from this violence. Every day more and more people die. With the approval on behalf of the Security Council of the UN Resolution, which provides access to humanitarian aid in the most affected areas, hundreds of thousands of people have received supplies, but the besieged areas still remain a great challenge. Since the conflict, 150 000 dead and more than 680,000 people injured have been registered. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 01/12/2014)

Published in News
Thursday, 30 October 2014 20:57

SYRIA “Stop sending us weapons”

30 October 2014  - The Catholic Syrian Bishops: if the world wants to help us, stop sending us weapons! A severe reminder to the international community so that it puts an end to the arms trade that fuels war and an appeal to the consciences of Christians, so they resist the idea of escaping from their land. These are the strong messages that the Catholic Bishops of Syria wanted to address to the world and to the faithful, in a statement issued at the end of their autumn Assembly. The meeting was held in Damascus on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 October and was attended by the Patriarch of Antioch of the Greek-Melkite, Grégoire III, and 11 Catholic bishops of 6 different rites, along with the Apostolic Nuncio Mario Zenari and Mgr. Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso, Secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. 

"The presence of Mgr. Dal Toso gave us comfort", says to Agenzia Fides Bishop Georges Abou Khazen OFM, Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo for the Catholics of the Latin rite. "In the meeting - adds Bishop Abou Khazen - each participant highlighted the situation and problems of their own diocese. For all, the most important thing to do is stay close to our faithful, encourage them, console them. 
We walk in the dark we do not see a way out, and only Christ can provide hope in their hearts. The powers of the world must know that it certainly does not help peace if they continue to send weapons here. Then we invite all not to run away, not to leave their land. As Pastors we see exactly how our poor people are suffering. And you cannot force anyone to stay in this situation where there is no work, misery increases every day and even one’s own life and that of their loved ones is always in danger".
(GV) (Agenzia Fides 30/10/2014)

Published in News

1 October 2014 - The President of Caritas Lebanon: "The effects of uncontrolled influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon open a disturbing scenario. The concern has reached the warning level. Among the local population hostility towards refugees continues to grow, after arms were found in refugee camps. Everyone now sees refugees at the disposal of regional powers who want to destabilize Lebanon or dominate it, preventing it from having an independent policy". This is how the Maronite priest Paul Karam, President of Caritas Lebanon, describes to Fides Agency the climate that the Country of the Cedars is facing after what happened in the area of Arsal, where in recent days the army destroyed a refugee camp and arrested hundreds of people. 

The operation, according to widespread reports by humanitarian organizations, was marred by violations and violent behavior of the army against refugees and also caused some victims. 
During the initial stages of the operation, hundreds of men in the camp had staged a protest chanting slogans of support to the jihadists of the Islamic State.
The border between Syria and Lebanon was repeatedly crossed by the incursions of jihadist groups such as al-Nusra, that threaten to execute nine policemen and Lebanese soldiers held hostage in retaliation for the pro-Assad involvement of the Lebanese Shiite militia of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict. Throughout the Bekaa Valley there is a growing climate of sectarian conflict.

"In some refugee camps - recalls Fr. Karam - weapons were found. Refugees are more than one million and one hundred thousand. Obviously the Church warns against the criminalization of refugees as such, but we record that this sentiment is growing among the population, we cannot deny it and we are not able to appease it. We are criticized for the help we give to refugees. It is natural to raise questions: why are Syrian refugees not checked at the entrance and during their stay like what happens in Jordan or Turkey? Why have Arabia and Qatar so far not received even a Syrian refugee?". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 01/10/2014)

Published in News

26 June 2014 - The director of Caritas: we give them a future. Little Aisha, born on May 27, is the thousandth among infants born in the clinic in the Zaatari refugee camp, 80 kilometers northeast of Amman, where there are at least 85 thousand Syrian refugees. According to UN bodies that keep track of new births in Zaatari, after Aisha, in the same refugee camp, another 30 children have already been born, and since the beginning of the year 37 pregnancies were brought to term by girls under the age of 18. "It is a fact that strikes us" says to Fides the Director of Caritas Jordan, Wael Suleiman, "especially if one takes into account that it is referred only to the population in Zaatari.

Throughout Jordan now there are a million and 400 thousand Syrian refugees, and among them thousands and thousands of children are born. Many women flee from Syria just because they are pregnant and want to give birth in a place that ensures minimum health care, while in the towns and villages from which they fled hospitals and clinics have been destroyed by the conflict or are used only to treat the wounded. "Of course", added Suleiman "these young are born in refugee camps as signs of hope in a situation that seems to have no hope, where also cases of violence occur, and that challenges the international community in their efforts to ensure a decent future".

On June 18 Wael Suleiman was awarded the "Caritas Prix 2014" in Lucerne by Caritas Switzerland for the work supported by Caritas Jordan in favor of Syrian refugees. "Refugees" Suleiman told Fides, "are tired of the war, they have come and continue to come to Jordan to live in peace. Yesterday 570 arrived. They do not want to create problems and in this sense, in my opinion, their presence does not in any way contribute to the risk that Jordan is plagued by conflicts that surround us". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 24/06/2014)

Published in News
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 20:57

SYRIA “Humanitarian catastrophe”

22 April 2014 - The refugee camp of Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus, is “on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe”, denounce UN agencies who have been impeded access to the populatio of the camp, mainly Palestinians. According to the aid workers, 30 people have recently died at the camp from hunger, bringing the death toll since the start of the Syrian army seige around a year ago to over 100.

Since a fragile accord between the sides fell through last month, aid workers have only had sporadic access to the camp, where 20,000 are in urgent need of aid for survival.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) denounces that it is the 12th consecutive day that food assistance has not been distributed in Yarmouk. According to the opposers of the regime of President Bashar al Assad, civilians are trapped by the army siege also in surrounding areas, totalling over 50,000. The government in turn accuses the rebel al Nusra Front of failing to respect the accords and infiltrating in the camp, where consequentially hundreds of Jihadist combatants are allegedly holed up with their weapons.

A representative of the Revolutionary Coordination Committees, Ismail al Darani, told the Asharq al Awsat news agency that many residents of the camp have begun growing vegetables, herbs and roots on their roofs and balconies, while the land the camp sits on is without sufficient arable land to confront the crisis. The few goods that are contrabanded are sold on the black market at exorbitant prices, to the detriment of the camp’s residents and especially the children. [AdL/BO] © 2014 MISNA

Published in News
Tuesday, 08 April 2014 21:02

SYRIA "Difficult times will come"

8 April 2014 - After the assassination of Father Van der Lugt, Christians continue to pray and reflect on martyrdom: " In Aleppo, we have put at the center of our pastoral care the condition in which we find ourselves. We are experiencing every day what it means to go through times of suffering. Now also father Frans Van der Lugt will help us with his example, he who testified his love for Christ and the Syrian people". This is what the Armenian Catholic priest Joseph Bazuzu, responsible for the monthly meetings of priests and pastoral workers in the battered Syrian metropolis reported to Fides. "For more than a year" Fr Joseph explains to Fides "we have suggested that the ordinary pastoral should be orientated on the words and thoughts that can support the people of God in the condition in which we live. We started from the words of Jesus in the Gospel. To help us live these days, during homilies and catechesis meetings, we focus our reflection on some passages of the New Testament that describe this condition, in which only the help of Christ can sustain us".

The brutal assassination of Father Van der Lugt has shaken not only Christians. The 72 year-old Dutch Jesuit, for forty years in Syria, had valuable channels of communication with Muslims thanks to his work as a psychotherapist. He chose to remain in Homs, struggling with the daily bombings and the lack of food in the neighborhood of Bustan al-Diwan under rebel control. He had decided to remain in his residence after the evacuation of the civilian population which took place in Homs under the aegis of the UN, with the consent of the warring parties.

We do not know who committed the crime, but the State media attributes the killing to unspecified "terrorists", a term with which the Syrian government defines all the formations and militias of the opposition.
(GV) (Agenzia Fides 08/04/2014)

Published in News
Monday, 07 April 2014 17:41

SYRIA Dutch Jesuit priest killed in Homs

7 April 2014 - Frans van der Lugt, 75, who had been living in Syria since the early 1970s, was a man of great courage who had refused to leave the city despite the danger there, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said. "Father Frans was killed in the garden of our monastery," Rev. Ziad Hillal, another Jesuit who lived there with the Dutch priest, told Vatican Radio. "They shot him in the head. It was a premeditated act."

The Jesuit order in the Netherlands said the priest was taken from the monastery in the morning and shot twice in the head.

Lombardi praised van der Lugt as a man of great courage who "despite an extremely difficult and risky situation, wanted to remain faithful to the Syrian people to whom he had dedicated his life and his spiritual service."

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans wrote on his Facebook page that van der Lugt "only brought good to Homs, was a Syrian among Syrians, (who) refused to abandon them even when it meant risking his own life."

Christians made up about 10 percent of Syria's population before protests in 2011 led to a wider civil war. The minority traditionally supported President Bashar al-Assad for protecting them and has been attacked by his opponents for that stand.

Published in News
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 23:34

SYRIA Syrian bishops gather in Lebanon

On Wednesday, March 12th the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Syria will meet in Raboueh, Lebanon, at the seat of the Greek-Melkite Patriarchate. This is confirmed to Fides Agency by the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo Boutros Marayati. The bishops’ meeting, under the presidency of Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, will be dedicated in particular to the initiatives undertaken by Caritas to meet the many tragedies and sufferings that afflict the Syrian population in the Country ravaged by armed conflict. The Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo Antoine Audo, president of Caritas Syria, will provide an overview of the ongoing interventions. "In the Assembly" explains to Fides Archbishop Marayati "all the bishops of the Catholic Churches of different ritual rooted in Syria are summoned. On paper we should be twenty, but we do not know yet how many will be able to get out of Syria to be present in Raboueh". The meeting takes place three days after the release of the Greek-Orthodox nuns of Maalula that sparked joy in all the Christian communities in the Middle East . "Now", said Archbishop Marayati "it is to be hoped that the channels used for the liberation of the nuns of Maalula also work to address and resolve the cases of bishops, priests and religious abducted in Syria during the conflict". In the negotiations to release the nuns, the Lebanese security services played a prominent role. In addition to the Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo Boulos al-Yazigi (Greek-Orthodox) and Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim (Syrian Orthodox), among the kidnapped in Syria there is also the Jesuit Paolo Dall'Oglio, the Armenian Catholic priest Michel Kayyal, and the Greek Orthodox priest Maher Mahfouz. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 11/03/2014)

Published in News
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