Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Highest death toll in Philippines’ war on drugs ‎

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless war on drugs reached a new high with 60 people alone killed by police this week, a war that a leading human rights group described as new depths of barbarity.   

Deadliest period

Authorities said on Thursday, 28 were killed by police in an overnight crackdown in the capital Manila.  This followed 32 killed earlier on Monday night in Bulacan province, bordering the capital, the highest figure in a single day.  Together, they mark the deadliest period of a drugs-focused crackdown that has killed thousands of Filipinos, and caused international alarm, since Duterte took office over a year ago. 

"New depts of barbarity"

"These shocking deaths are a reminder that President Duterte's lawless 'war on drugs' continues unabated and actually appears to be plumbing new depths of barbarity, with police routinely gunning down suspects, violating the key right to life and completely flouting due process,” Amnesty International said on Aug. 16, reacting to Monday’s death toll.  

Immunity against crime

Duterte came to power on June 30, following an election campaign in which he promised to use deadly force to wipe out crime and drugs.  Following Monday’s killings, Duterte said it was good that 32 criminals had been killed in Bulacan, then added: "Let's kill another 32 every day. Maybe we can reduce what ails this country."  On Thursday, he brazenly said he would not just pardon police officers who killed drug offenders during the anti-narcotics campaign, but also promote them.

“Using the highest office in the country, Duterte has explicitly approved and encouraged violence that has involved thousands of extrajudicial executions in the government’s anti-drug campaign,” Amnesty said.  The London-based rights watchdog said, “This shows clearly that there should be no further delay in establishing an internationally led investigation into the ‘war on drugs’ and the carnage currently taking place in the Philippines on a daily basis.”

Chito Gascon, the chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, said Duterte's comments emboldened police "to do their worst."  "The police are essentially free to do what they will because they are almost guaranteed that they will not be investigated or charged," Gascon said.

Activists as targets

Duterte hit out against human rights groups on Wednesday for obstructing his anti-drugs campaign and said police should shoot them if they obstructed justice, a remark the New York-based Human Rights Watch said puts activists "in grave danger".  (Source: Reuters/...)

Catholic humanitarian worker on rewards of his job

(Vatican Radio) Michael O’Riordan, a Catholic humanitarian official, spoke about the ongoing severe food and hunger crisis in South Sudan and about the challenges and rewards of his job. O’Riordan is the Emergency Programme Manager in South Sudan for CAFOD, the Catholic Church’s aid agency for England and Wales and its Irish counterpart, Trocaire. His remarks coincided with World Humanitarian Day celebrated each year on August 19th and which pays tribute to aid workers who often risk their own lives to bring help to millions of needy people across the globe. The celebration is also to rally support for people affected by crises around the world. O’Riordan was interviewed by Susy Hodges.

Listen to the interview with Michael O’Riordan who works for the Catholic aid agencies, CAFOD and Trocaire:  

O’Riordan has been based in South Sudan since earlier this year when the first news of a famine in the war-torn country emerged. He said that although the famine since then has been largely pushed back thanks to humanitarian aid, the people there are still facing starvation and hunger and the threat of a new famine has not receded.

“Very thin and emaciated”

O’Riordan described how everywhere they went they saw people who are “malnourished, very thin and even emaciated” in some of the remoter areas. Among the children the health situation was worse with “very very high” rates of acute malnutrition, he said.

“Utterly reliant" on food aid

The humanitarian official said these are people who are “utterly reliant on food” coming from aid agencies to get by and the problem is made worse by an “ongoing cholera outbreak.”

Another problem cited by O’Riordan was what he described as an “apathy” towards those who are suffering  …. a lessening  of sympathy towards the plight of others” by many people in the richer nations who are not so generous with aid donations as in the past.

Humanitarian aid "gives hope"

Asked about the rewards of his job, O’Riordan said it was “the simple gratitude” shown by those they are helping.  He described humanitarian aid as not just giving food or other relief supplies to the needy but more importantly “giving hope” to those who might otherwise feel they have been “forgotten or abandoned.”

Photo by David Mutua of CAFOD. 

USCCB President denounces racism, calls for unity and prayer

(Vatican Radio) Catholic leaders in the United States have spoken out forcefully against racism in the wake of violent protests that erupted last weekend in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia.

A planned rally by the so-called “alt-right” that included white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups was met by large counter-protests; as fights broke out between the two groups, police attempted to disperse the crowds. Dozens of people were injured, and one person was killed when a car was driven into a group of counter-protesters.

The Bishops of the United States spoke out immediately to denounce the violence. The President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, issued a statement on behalf of all the Bisops condemning the violence and hatred seen in Charlottesville. “The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action.”

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal DiNardo was even more emphatic. “We see it as an attack on the unity of our nation, as a massive evil thing,” he said. Racism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism and similar evils, he said, “have raised their voices in acts of deplorable violence. And we want to raise our voices against them.”

At the same time, he said, Catholics “also want to pray for the victims of violence,” including Heather Heyer, the young woman killed in the car attack, and others wounded in Saturday’s fighting. “Our point is to pray,” Cardinal DiNardo said, “to call on Catholics and all peoples of good will, to pray for healing, and then to start working anew for unity and peace in this time of tension and division.”

Cardinal DiNardo emphasized the importance of speaking out against racism and other forms of intolerance: “Part of the problem of any kind of evil getting a foothold is when the really good people don’t say anything. So those kinds of issues are important – that we speak, that we act together.”

Listen to Vatican Radio's full interview with Vatican Radio:

Indonesia marks Independence Day urging pluralism

Indonesia on Thursday celebrated its 72nd Independence Day with a flag hoisting ceremony and a ‎cultural parade in the capital Jakarta.  President Joko Widodo in traditional clothes led the flag-raising ‎ceremony at the presidential palace.  The event was attended by former presidents, BJ Habibie, ‎Megawati Soekarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and a large number of state officials, clerics, ‎indigenous people and diplomats.‎

On Wednesday, the eve of Independence Day, the president said that the world's most populous Muslim-majority country ‎needed to pull together to meet the threat of extremism and safeguard a constitution that enshrines ‎religious freedom and pluralism. In a state address to parliament, Widodo peppered his speech with references to the need to address inequality in ‎Southeast Asia's biggest economy and tackle the threat of radicalism.‎

Threat of Islamist extremism

Indonesia has been roiled in religious tension since late last year after Islamist-led rallies saw Jakarta's ‎then governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, a minority ethnic Chinese and Christian, ‎put on trial during city elections over claims he insulted the Koran.   Ahok, an ally of Widodo, ‎lost the bitterly fought ‎city election to a Muslim rival in April and was later jailed for blasphemy,  a sentence ‎rights groups and international bodies condemned as unfair and politicized.‎

Pancasila - unity in diversity

‎"We want to work together not only in creating an equitable economy, but also in ideological, political, ‎social and cultural development," said Widodo.  "In the field of ideology, we have to strengthen our ‎national consensus in safeguarding the Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, the unity of the Republic of ‎Indonesia and “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (unity in diversity)," he said.  ‎

Pancasila, or 5 ‎principles, namely belief in one God, a just and civilized society, ‎unity of the ‎country, ‎democracy and ‎social ‎justice, forms the philosophical and political ideology of the Indonesian ‎state, ensuring religious diversity in an officially secular system.‎

Intolerance and inequality

But there are worries about growing intolerance undermining a tradition of moderate Islam in a country ‎where Muslims form about 85 percent of the population, alongside substantial Buddhist, Christian, ‎Hindu and other minorities.  ‎

‎"The challenges we face now and will face in the future are not easy,” Widodo said.  “We are ‎still confronted with poverty and injustice; we are still facing global economic uncertainty, and we are ‎also facing movements of extremism, radicalism and terrorism,"‎  Widodo added.

Church - Pancasila

The Catholic Church in Indonesia has been supporting the Pancasila for a prosperous and peaceful nation. The Commission for the Laity of the Indonesian Catholic Bishops' Conference (KWI), organized a meeting at Atma Jaya Catholic University in South Jakarta on August 12, that aimed at raising national social consciousness to reflect on their commitment as Indonesian citizens in the framework of citizenship and nationalism.   A few government ministers and retired generals as well as members of several Catholic organizations, participated in the Jakarta meet.  A written statement issued before the meeting expressed the firm commitment of Indonesia’s Catholics to safeguard and foster the Pancasila.   (Source: Reuters/...)

Caritas Vietnam helps flood victims

A six member team of  Caritas Vietnam visited flood victims in Mu Cang Chai district of Yen Bai Province on Aug 17, to provide emergency aid to flood victims.  

Bishop Joseph Nguyen Van Yen, vice president of Caritas Vietnam, led the six member delegation to the remote northwestern provinces of Vietnam where activities by Catholics are restricted by the communist government. 

"Local Catholics have not been recognized by government authorities, so we try to pay quick, quiet visits to victims, console them and give them money so that they can deal with their situation," Bishop Yen just before the visit.

The prelate said victims badly need financial assistance to help repair houses, buy basic foods and seeds to cultivate crops. Village children also require books and clothes for the new school year starting early September.

Bishop Yen said the delegation would explore the situation faced by local people to make plans to help them in the future.

Father Joseph Nguyen Trong Duong, who oversees Mu Cang Chai district, said the houses, cattle and crops of the  local people are washed away.  The district has a population of 50,000 people, 90 percent of them are Hmong ethnic villagers.

Flooding in the four mountainous provinces of Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Son La and Yen Bai was caused by heavy rains on Aug. 1-6. According to a government statement the floods claimed 26 lives and 15 people remain missing The floods have also destroyed 230 houses, 340 hectares of crops and 145 irrigation systems. (UCAN)

Philippine Church welcomes pro-poor bill

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, welcomed the approval by the House of Representatives of a proposed bill that seeks to uplift the lives of the poor and marginalized.   

He said the “Magna Carta of the Poor” is a necessary measure to give attention to the plight of the poor  and hoped it becomes a law.   

The lower House passed the bill August 9, giving it another chance at becoming a law after it was vetoed in the previous administration. Now the funding for the implementation of the proposed law will come from the budgets of different government agencies and ministries. Under the measure, the government is mandated to prioritize programs for the poor that are concerned with the provision of food, shelter, livelihood, education and healthcare.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, said the bill will also provide the needed policy support for the Church’s programs for the poor. “But it will not lessen the work,” he said.

“This is long overdue and the government should go beyond legislative approval. It should be implemented to really make a dent in alleviating dismal poverty in the country,” Fr. Gariguez said. (CBCPNews)

International Jesuit group learns about Islam in Indonesia

An international group of Jesuits recently gathered in Indonesia to learn more about Islam, diversity ‎and interreligious tolerance in the country with the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.  Twelve ‎Jesuit priests from Germany, France, Nigeria, Turkey, India, Spain, Italy and Indonesia held a series of ‎session on Aug. 10 at Tebuireng Islamic Boarding School in Jombang, East Java.  ‎
‎"The gathering is part of regular meetings among priest who join the Jesuits Among Muslims (JAM) ‎programme and this year Indonesia is the host," said the group leader Father Franz Magnis Suseno, a ‎Dutch-born Indonesian Jesuit who teaches philosophy and is noted for his initiatives in inter-religious ‎dialogue. ‎

Interacting with students

Abdul Ghofar, the boarding school secretary said the Jesuits talked with students at the school to learn ‎more about their life experiences and what their faith means to them.   When asked whether a non-‎Muslim could be enrolled at the school, Gofar said they do have non-Muslims studying there.  ‎
Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono, one of the group members, said that through this encounter, ‎participants also learned about Nahdlatul Ulema, Indonesia’s largest moderate Islamic organization.  ‎‎"We study about how Nahdlatul Ulema goes about living in harmony with others who are non-‎believers," he told UCANEWS.‎
The Tebuireng Islamic School, that today has more than 7,000 students, was founded in 1899 by ‎Hasyim Asya’ri, a moderate Muslim leader belonging to the Nahdlatul Ulema.  ‎
After the visit, the priests visited the grave of Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur, Indonesia’s fourth ‎president, and a former NU leader.‎  (Source: UCANEWS)

Nigeria: Catholic doctors emphasise the sanctity of life

Catholic doctors have reaffirmed the need for the NIgerian Government to hold as sacred the right to life by all Nigerian citizens, including the unborn child.

The doctors made the call in a communiqué issued at the end of the 12th Scientific Conference of the Association of Catholic Medical Doctors, held recently at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.

The communiqué contained many recommendations on how to improve the health of Nigerians, in conformity with the guidelines of the Catholic Church. The Statement was jointly signed by Dr Emmanuel Okechukwu of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) and Dr Margaret Mezie-Okoye who is President of the Doctors' Association and Chairperson of the local organising committee respectively.

The Conference, among other things, “called on the government to re-commit to working for all Nigerians and to truly develop a national consciousness on shared values; to lead Nigerians to possess, take ownership and protect this nation morally, socially, politically, and economically in a truly independent and progressive manner. The protection of lives of everyone, including the unborn Nigerians is a sacred duty for all, especially those in authority,” the communique reads.

The just-ended conference also called on the government to adequately train health services personnel, equip and fund national agencies mandated to protect the health and lives of Nigerians; legislate and strictly regulate and monitor the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs); as well as provide adequate funding for research in this respect.

The association reiterated its commitment to the promotion of the sanctity of human life, marriage between a man and a woman, natural family planning and NaPro Technology in pursuit of family health and national development.

The Conference observed that, “A society is measured by how well it cares for its vulnerable members particularly women, children, the disabled and the aged. The deaths and destructions currently being endured by Nigerians in different parts of the country are unacceptable, and we urge the government to step up efforts in order to reassure citizens of its capacity to protect lives and properties," the doctors said.

The Conference, which started with an opening Eucharistic celebration, featured presentations on several aspects of health and medical services by experts from different parts of the country. It was attended by 77 delegates from 16 states of Nigeria. 




Sierra Leone: Aid agencies voice concern over mudslide disease threat

(Vatican Radio) Sierra Leone has begun burying hundreds of victims of a mudslide that swept away homes on the edge of the capital Freetown. As the burials took place aid workers warned of an impending health crisis caused by about 400 corpses left out in the warm climate.

Meanwhile, food aid is reaching thousands who survived the disaster.

The United Nations World Food Programme is distributing two-week rations of rice, grains,

oil and salt to at least 7,500 people.

More than 3,000 people have been left homeless and in urgent need of food, shelter and healthcare, while another 600 are missing.

Laura Purvis is an Emergency Response Officer with the UK based Catholic relief agency CAFOD, a member of the Caritas Network. She spoke to Lydia O’Kane about the needs on the ground and the threat of disease.


The rainy season in Sierra Leone has been unprecedented, she said,  adding that “Freetown has already received triple the usual amount of rain it receives on an average year.”

Purvis also said the immediate needs for the people affected by the disaster are “shelter and protection from the elements, non-food items to help them to be able to recover in the very first stages of the emergency.”

Threat of disease

One of the major concerns for aid agencies on the ground is the threat of diseases such as Cholera. The CAFOD Emergency Response Officer noted that “with the flooding potentially contaminating water sources, potentially that water is going to be dangerous for people. There are concerns about the spread of water borne diseases such as cholera…which will again exacerbate the situation…”

President Ernest Bai Koroma has declared seven days of mourning in the country and appealed for urgent help. 

Venezuela is bracing itself for another week of rule by the Constituent Assembly

(Vatican Radio) Venezuela is bracing itself for another week of rule by the all powerful Constituent Assembly as the re-writing of the Constitution is now an Agenda priority.

Listen to James Blears report:

The South American trading bloc Mercosur, which has just indefinitely suspended Venezuela`s membership, is none the less,  criticizing US President Donald Trump`s hint of possible military action against the Administration of President Nicolas Maduro, arguing that dialogue is the is the only way to find a lasting solution.

Now that the Constituent Assembly, has snuffed out the power of the Opposition controlled Congress,  it`s  created an Economic Commission, taking on the daunting task of diversifying the oil driven economy, and more significantly creating a new law to regulate the price of basic commodities.

It also aims to re-write the 19 year old Constitution to set the official seal on power.

The other day while criticising the Media,  an irate President Maduro wondered aloud, whatever would his friend the Queen of England think about all of this?  Any view she might express would of course be subject to the scrutiny of the Constituent Assembly`s so called Truth Commission.