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JRS: a true Christian must ‘welcome, protect, promote and integrate’ the other

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JRS Advocacy and Communication Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa reflects on the duty of Christians to put into practice Pope Francis’ recommendations that we welcome, protect, promote and integrate our brothers and sisters who are fleeing war and poverty.

By Linda Bordoni

As thousands of forced migrants continue to flee conflict and poverty in the countries, an increasing number of governments are implementing new migration plans and policies aimed at turning people back and discouraging them from setting out in their journeys of hope.

Italy, one of the main gateways into Europe for mostly African and Middle Eastern migrants, has just approved a controversial plan on immigration and asylum.

Its priority is to send home as many “illegal” migrants as possible, which would imply an increase and acceleration of forced returns, especially through bilateral agreements with the migrants’ home and transit countries, even those where the government is a dictatorship, or whose systematic violations of human rights are well known.

Jesuit Fr. Cedric Prakash, who is wrapping up a three year experience as Regional Advocacy and Communications Advisor for Jesuit Refugee Service Middle East and North Africa (JRS MENA), has been living and working side-to-side with refugees from war-torn Syria and from Iraq, from whom he says, he has learnt a lot and gained new perspectives.

Listen to Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ

“I’ve grown, I’ve learnt so much, especially to listen to the cries, to the pains and suffering of refugees and displaced persons” Father Prakash said, reminding us that Pope Francis constantly urges all men and women of good will “to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate”.

He really believes, Fr. Prakash says, that it is incumbent on every one of us who claims to be a disciple of Jesus to reach out to and welcome refugees and displaced persons, who whom there are millions.


Political
scenario at odds with Christian values

In a political scenario that increasingly rejects migrants and seems only to be concerned about protecting national borders and turning people back, Father Prakash reflects on how any person who calls him or herself a Christian has the duty to ask some crucial questions.

“Europe has known war, has known violence and a lot of Europeans have fled their own native lands and sought refuge in other countries” he points out, “so when the ‘Aquarius’ rescue ship is not allowed to dock in Italy or in Malta” there are some serious considerations to be made.

Fr. Prakash says “it’s not about whether the person (the migrant in question) merits asylum or not, but can we be humane? Can we allow the boat to dock? Can we provide these people with the possibility of having a bath and some food?”

He points out that even as the government goes ahead with its current policies to turn people away, there are many local organizations who are doing good work for the displaced and for refugees.

“But what we need, now, are good government policies,” he says.

Fr Prakash notes that his own government in India has stopped allowing the Rohingyas to come in: “I think this is a criminal act”.

He remarks on the fact that there are a series of UN Directives, Mandates and Protocols already in place that aim to safeguard the dignity of the person involved and that most countries have agreed upon and also that the Global Compact on Migration is shortly to be signed, a document that “Pope Francis has been talking about”.

Fr. Prakash also reflects on the fact that there are some people who purport to be “good Catholics” but do not refrain from expressing their belief that migrants are “invading their countries”.

“And this good Catholic takes me to church and goes and kisses Mary, the Mother of Jesus…” “So what is the meaning of faith?”  He says. “How do we understand faith today?”

Perhaps people should be encouraged, he continues, to ask themselves why they are angry towards their neighbour for no reason and go beyond the surface to find out who is fuelling violence in this world and who controls and derives profit from the sale of arms and

ammunitions
.

So-called Christian countries profiting from the sales of arms and

ammunitions

Suggesting we visit the website, for example, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, it is easy, Fr. Prakash says, “to find out that the top manufacturers of arms and

ammunitions
are all based in Christian countries”.

“How do we deal with this? And the fact that an enormous amount of violence is taking place in so-called Christian countries? And the many instances of violence perpetrated against our neighbour? It’s mind-boggling” he says.

No religion advocates violence and intolerance

Commenting on the fact that people are labelled according to their religion while no religion advocates violence, Fr Cedric Prakash notes there are people who “misuse or misinterpret” religion to legitimize their own acts of evil. This, he says, “cannot be accepted”.

“Let’s accept a human being with compassion, with mercy, with love, in the framework of justice” he concludes “so we can truly make of our world a better place”.

 

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CATHOLIC WORLD

Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes

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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

The Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has urged the clergy, religious and lay faithful to be trustworthy, transparent, selfless and generous stewards in the discharge of their duties in the Church, following the way of Jesus.

Archbishop Filipazzi made the call during the opening ceremony of the maiden General Assembly of the Abuja Archdiocese, which was held on at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Friday September 4.

The General Assembly, with the theme “Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja: Together in Evangelization,” saw Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and the laity gathered together to discuss means of strengthening the faith of God’s people amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.

Addressing participants, Archbishop Filipazzi said that “an administrator is neither a master nor a slave who cannot decide anything, but one who is given a responsibility by the Master.” In this light, the faithful are called to be “true administrators of divine mystery” entrusted to them by Our Lord, according to their varying roles in the Church.

The Apostolic Nuncio also said “differences must not lead to division,” as everyone, though different, must strive for unity since there is no room for divisions in the body of Christ.

Archbishop Filipazzi, speaking on the upsurge in violence in northern Nigeria in a Vatican News interview on 29 August, had also called for shunning divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

Rather, he appealed for “general respect of the law and general intervention of the government” in the violent attacks which have claimed many lives and caused massive material damage.

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St Joseph’s Hall of Faith”

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St. Joseph's Hall of Faith”

The Catholic Men Organization, CMO, Maria Assumpta Cathedral Parish Owerri, joined their counterparts in the Archdiocese to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, August 30.

The celebration earlier scheduled for May 10 this year was differed because of Covid-19 pandemic.

The occasion began with a Pontifical Mass presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri cum Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish.

In his homily, Archbishop Obinna called on Christians to live a life of witnessing to Christ at all times. He said that the zeal to preach the word of God is like a fire that burns inside the heart of a Christian and will not abate until one bears witness to Christ. This, he said, must be done in the course of our daily lives, in our places of work, in our families, among our friends, through living life that is Christ-like.

He congratulated the Christian fathers on the occasion and appealed for support to enable them complete their building project in no distant time. His Grace also appreciated the performance of the CMO choir during the Mass.

The theme for the parish celebration is: “Catholic Men As Spiritual Heads of the Domestic Church: Implications in the Family.”

The parish CMO used the celebration to raise fund for the roofing of their building project named: “St. Joseph’s Hall of Faith.”

In his brief remark at the occasion, the Parish CMO President, Arc. Anthony Emeka Ozoude said, “We have been able to complete the block work,” adding that, “the task before us now is to put a roof on the building.”

He therefore made a passionate appeal for generous donations from members and well wishers, assuring donors that every kobo donated will be prudently applied for the purpose.

Arc. Ozoude recalled that early this year, the parish CMO executive identified a three-prong programme of focus, namely: Membership revalidation, Debt recovery and Fund raising for the roofing.

He advised members not to sit on the fence anymore as there is so much to gain spiritually, morally and even intellectually from participating in the CMO activities both at the parish, stations and prayer groups levels.

“The committed members who attend our programmes regularly have discovered this and have remained resolute in their participation,” he said.

Activities marking this year’s celebration included Retreat, visit to ailing members in their homes, thanksgiving Mass blessing of the mini altars for the 5 prayer groups of CMO etc.

Arc. Ozoude thanked in a special way, Archbishop Obinna, the Cathedral Administrator and priests working in the Cathedral for their support. He also commended the various stations and prayer groups for their cooperation.

The CMO president acknowledged the good work and sacrifice of the Planning Committee, headed by Dr. Uche Ukozor and thanked them for a job well done.

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