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Monthly archives: July, 2016

France church attack: Muslims attend Mass

Muslims across France have attended Catholic Mass in a gesture of solidarity after the murder of a priest on Tuesday.

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A Catholic monk welcomed Muslim worshippers at a church in Nice

Fr Jacques Hamel was killed in his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen by two men who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

France’s Muslim council, the CFCM, urged Muslims to show “solidarity and compassion” over the murder.

“We are all Catholics of France,” said Anouar Kbibech, the head of the CFCM.

Services were held in Rouen as well as in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral.

“We’re very touched,” the Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, told BFMTV.

“It’s an important gesture of fraternity. They’ve told us, and I think they’re sincere, that it’s not Islam which killed Jacques Hamel.”

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Close to 2,000 reportedly attended Mass at Rouen Cathedral

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Imam Sami Salem (L) and Imam Mohammed ben Mohammed stand before Mass in Rome

“For me, it is very important to be here today,” Mohammed Karabila, President of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray Mosque, said in Rouen.

“It should be shown physically, because until now the Muslim community did a lot of things that were not seen.

“Today we wanted to show physically, by kissing the family of Jacques Hamel, by kissing His Grace Lebrun in front of everybody, so they know that the two communities are united.”

Some 50 Muslims had already joined 350 Catholics at a vigil in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray’s second church on Saturday night.

A service was also held at the Saint-Pierre-de-l’Ariane church in a mainly immigrant area of Nice. Earlier in July, 84 people died in an IS-inspired attack in Nice, when a lorry was driven into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day.

Muslims in Italy also attended Mass on Sunday. Three imams sat in the front row at Santa Maria Trastevere church in Rome.

“Mosques are not a place in which fanatics become radicalised,” said Mohammed ben Mohammed, a member of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy. “Mosques do the opposite of terrorism: they diffuse peace and dialogue.”

During Tuesday’s attack Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean cut the throat of Fr Hamel, 86, and held other churchgoers hostage. They were later shot dead by police outside the church.

SOURCE: BBC NEWS



Modern slavery: Theresa May vows to defeat ‘evil’

Britain will lead the fight against modern slavery, Theresa May has said, vowing to make it her mission to help rid the world of the “barbaric evil”.

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Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the prime minister called it “the great human rights issue of our time”.

She said a new UK cabinet taskforce would tackle the “sickening and inhuman crimes” while £33m from the aid budget would fund initiatives overseas.

Labour said the police needed better funding if they were to tackle slavery.

The most recent Home Office estimates suggest there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK, with 45 million estimated victims across the world.

‘Locked up, abused’

Victims are said to include women forced into prostitution, “imprisoned” domestic staff and workers in fields, factories and fishing boats.

Mrs May said: “From nail bars and car washes to sheds and rundown caravans, people are enduring experiences that are simply horrifying in their inhumanity.

“Vulnerable people who have travelled long distances, believing they were heading for legitimate jobs, are finding they have been duped, forced into hard labour, and then locked up and abused.

“Innocent individuals are being tricked into prostitution, often by people they thought they could trust. Children are being made to pick-pocket on the streets and steal from cash machines.”

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Modern slaves in the UK, often said to be hiding in plain sight, are working in our nail bars, on construction sites, in brothels, on cannabis farms and in agriculture.

Traffickers are using the internet to lure their victims with hollow promises of jobs, education and even love.

Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Poland are the most likely countries of origin, but some victims are from the UK itself. In 2013, 90 were UK nationals.

There is no typical victim. They can be men, women or children of all ages but it is normally more prevalent among the most vulnerable, minorities or socially-excluded groups.

Many believe they are escaping poverty, limited opportunities at home, a lack of education, unstable social and political conditions or war. But their slave masters are usually out to make financial gain.

Sexual exploitation is the most common form of modern slavery reported in the UK, followed by labour exploitation, forced criminal exploitation and domestic servitude.

In 2014, the Home Office estimated there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims in the UK – just 2,340 of those were officially reported and recorded.

Sources: Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Strategic Plan 2015-2017 and Modernslavery.co.uk

Mrs May said a review to mark the first anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act, which she drew up as home secretary, found there had been 289 modern slavery offences prosecuted in 2015 – and a 40% rise in the number of victims identified.

But barrister Caroline Haughey, who carried out the review, said she found that police and criminal justice agencies lacked consistency in dealing with the issue.

Mrs May said the first government taskforce on modern slavery would see ministers “get a real grip of this issue right across Whitehall and co-ordinate and drive further progress in the battle against this cruel exploitation”.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary will also be asked to carry out an investigation to make sure that all police forces in England and Wales “treat this crime with the priority it deserves”.

“[The government] must work collaboratively with law enforcement agencies across the world, to track and stop these pernicious gangs who operate across borders and jurisdictions,” Mrs May said.

She added: “These crimes must be stopped and the victims of modern slavery must go free…

“Just as it was Britain that took an historic stand to ban slavery two centuries ago, so Britain will once again lead the way in defeating modern slavery and preserving the freedoms and values that have defined our country for generations.”

‘Not optimistic’

Sarah Champion, Labour’s shadow minister for preventing abuse, said government cuts to police forces and local authorities had left professionals without the resources to stamp out slavery.

“We must be doing more to prevent this horrendous crime but, looking at her [Theresa May’s] track record as home secretary, I’m not optimistic,” she said.

She cited figures that last year 982 children were identified as victims of modern slavery and taken into local authority care, but within days, 60% had gone missing, presumed to be back with their traffickers.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 states an offence is committed if someone holds another in slavery or servitude or requires them to perform forced or compulsory labour.

The legislation increased the maximum jail term for people traffickers from 14 years to life, and gave courts in England and Wales powers to impose orders to restrict the activities of suspected traffickers.

It was aimed at consolidating offences used to prosecute those who enslave others into a single act.

Source: BBC News



International Day of Friendship. Forces that divide no match for friendship

Confronting the causes of poverty and other global challenges must be done through promoting “a shared spirit of human solidarity,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said.

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Portrait of friends at a textile store in Gao, Mali. UN File Photo/Marco Dormino

The suggestion is part of his message for the International Day of Friendship, observed this Saturday, 30 July.

Dianne Penn reports.

Mr Ban said major problems such as poverty, violence and human rights abuses stem from a lack of respect for fundamental values developed over millennia.

They betray human heritage and put our future well-being in peril, he added.

But “forces of division” which work to undermine peace, security and social harmony are no match for friendship, according to the Secretary-General.

He described friendship as “a joy in itself” which can contribute to the fundamental shifts needed to achieve lasting stability.

As understanding and awareness grow, people can build compassion and generate passion for a better world where all are united for the greater good, he said.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 46″



Now hunger threatens Nigerian Christians who’ve fled Boko Haram

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Internally displaced people queuing for relief materials in Maiduguri, Borno State. Oct. 2014 World Watch Monitor

”I met a child today who came to our clinic, looking very thin and definitely showing signs of hunger. His parents don’t live in our camp, but they brought him here for health checks…”
Father Maurice Kweirang, in charge of St. Theresa Catholic Church’s IDP camp in Yola, in Nigeria’s north-east Adamawa State, talking to World Watch Monitor.

‘‘…There are many of them in such a situation. They live in host communities but are facing malnutrition, mostly unnoticed. Nobody takes care of them even though they are here in large numbers. They refuse to go back to their homes and villages, because those who went back are starving now’’.

Almost a quarter of a million children in parts of Nigeria’s Borno state, formerly controlled by Boko Haram, suffer from severe malnutrition, UNICEF says; tens of thousands will die if treatment does not reach them soon, it warns.

The seven year rebellion by the Islamist group has left 20,000 people dead and more than two million displaced. The crisis is particularly acute in Borno State, but other neighbouring states like Adamawa and Yobe are also affected by the crisis.

Recent Nigerian Army military operations, which led to the recovery of territories previously under Boko Haram’s control, have revealed the scale of the humanitarian needs of civilians living in the three states. In many areas where Boko Haram militants had been in control, UNICEF found people without water, food or sanitation.

Last month, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) said as many as six people were dying daily from disease and malnutrition at a displaced people’s camp in Bama, in Borno.

Borno is most affected: 4.5 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and 4.1 million are ‘food insecure’. In Yobe 3.2 million people are estimated to be in need, including 2.3 million ‘food insecure’, while in Adamawa 900,000 people are ‘food insecure’.

IDPs (Internally Displaced People) within host communities or informal camps have the highest needs, followed by those in formal (government-run) camps. However, many IDPs face discrimination because of their religious background. This is particularly true in Borno State where IDPs are put in camps according to their geographical origins, regardless of religion. That’s why many of the Christians have moved on to Yola, points out Fr. Kweirang.

But while in Yola, many refused to go to government-run camps like the Maikohi camp. Some of them said they even saw militants near that camp. But despite their complaints, government officials refused to listen or to take the appropriate measures. (However later, there was a bomb blast which claimed seven lives in the camp).

The St.Theresa camp has about a thousand people, originally from Gwoza, in areas called Bayan Dutsi (“behind the Gwoza hills” in Hausa). Gwoza used to be a Boko Haram headquarters. Despite recent military campaigns and territorial gains by the government, Boko Haram militants still parade in that area freely, which makes it difficult for IDPs to go back to their villages and communities. “Actually more and more IDPs are coming from southern Borno to our camp, but we’ve reached our hosting capacities” says the priest.

Mismanagement

Since it is the most affected by the insurgency, Borno State has received a lots of support from all over the world. ”Unfortunately the authorities are not well organised and they are not able to take that aid down to the local people in need”, says Fr. Kweirang.

Politicians and government staff have also diverted relief material for themselves, claims the cleric.

”This crisis is a result of a deliberate act of mismanagement by officials. Foods and other non-food items destined for IDPs have been diverted. They are selling them in open market in Maiduguri [Borno’s main city] and elsewhere’’.

International NGOS are not doing enough as well, he claims – because they are working under the state Emergency Management Agency which, he said, is ineffective.

Lack of support

For now, he says, the IDPs in his camp are not facing hunger, but the church’s resources are over-stretched.

”For more than a year we haven’t received any external support. Basically the church is trying on its own to take care of this population.

”Some weeks ago, I sent a request/letter to NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency), asking for food aid and non-food items. But they said they cannot assist us, claiming that they don’t have enough resources to assist anybody.

‘‘I also contacted international organisations like Oxfam, International Rescue Committee (IRC) but I haven’t heard from them. I am still waiting – while people are still there in the camp and we have to find food to feed them’’.

As a result of the pressures, the diocese of Yola, in charge of the camp, was not able to embark on other programmes which are usually done, because all its resources are now going into feeding these people.

“So far we are able to provide three sparse (daily) meals and other things to them, but the church has reached its limits and we may probably run out of food in the next four months, warns Fr. Kweirang: ‘‘If help does not come, we will not be able to feed these people.”

Source: World Watch Monitor



Egyptian Government Turns Blind Eye to Brutal Attacks on Christians

As attacks against the Coptic Orthodox Church escalate in Egypt, human rights advocates say that country’s government has not done enough to protect the Christian minority.

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Christians have been stabbed, shot, and seen their houses and churches set on fire. Since May there have been at least one dozen attacks reported.

On June 30, a Coptic priest was shot in Al Arish, North Sinai. The Islamic State took credit for the attack and accused the priest of “waging war against Islam.”

Most attacks are happening the region around Minya, in the south.Because of a rumor about her son having a relationship with a Muslim woman, an elderly Coptic woman was stripped, beaten, and paraded through the streets in her hometown of Minya. She later forgave her attackers in a public video.

Despite her forgiveness, witnesses say the police were late and inefficient in responding to the situation.

“It is escalating in a very short time,” said Mina Thabet, with the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms, in response to attacks in Minya.

Thabet said that radical Islamists have a deeply rooted presence in local government and schools. Add a close to 40 percent illiteracy rate and 30 percent of the poorest villages are located there, people are easily manipulated.

“They are all factors,” Thabet said. “You can’t separate the economic and social factors from the equation. It’s a complicated equation.”

Coptic Bishop Makarious of al-Minya, the city with the highest concentration of Christians in Egypt, holds the government responsible for the continuous attacks on the Coptic Christians of Minya.

The bishop derided how the media refers to the attacks as “clashes” as if two parties were fighting one another. Instead, he says the attacks are only one side.

“Within minutes [of the start of one of the attacks], 100 Muslims instantly appeared, fully armed, as if ready for war,” he said.

He also said there are no consequences for attackers and they know it.

“As long as the attackers are never punished, and the armed forces are portrayed as doing their duty, this will encourage others to continue the attacks, since, even if they are arrested, they will be quickly released,” he said.

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Local authorities also traditionally make Christians attend “reconciliation sessions,” where two parties negotiate a settlement out of court. But Christians are often forced to surrender their rights and leave their homes as a result.

“Some of the authorities always smile at what is happening.” Bishop Makarious said. “Of course I don’t assume that all authorities have the interest of the nation at heart and are sincere, because if they did, these attacks would not happen time and again, at a rate now of every two or three days.”

Ishak Ibrahim, researcher of religious freedoms at EIPR, told Egyptain newspaper Mada Masr said the effect sends a message of no equality under the law.

“No matter what you do and how you break the law, you will not be punished,” he said.

“What happened in Minya is nothing but a natural result of not enforcing the law in previous sectarian attacks against the Copts, and forcing the Copts to go through reconciliation meetings and obey illegal solutions that are demeaning,” Ibrahim said.

Activists say that the first step towards justice would be removing restrictions on building churches, however without rule of law that step cannot be made.

Source: CBN News