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Pittsburgh’s ‘darkest hour’: Thousands gather for synagogue shooting memorial – National

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Some 2,500 people gathered on Sunday at a memorial service for the 11 Jewish worshipers slain in their Pittsburgh synagogue during Sabbath prayers, a mass murder the mayor called the city’s “darkest hour” while exhorting mourners to “defeat hate with love.”


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Several speakers addressing an overflow crowd at the University of Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors Hall sounded themes of inclusion and unity, in counterpoint to the rise of toxic political discourse widely seen as creating an atmosphere conducive to violence.

“What happened yesterday will not break us. It will not ruin us. We will continue to thrive and sing and worship and learn together and continue our historic legacy in the city with the friendliest people that I know,” Rabbi Jonathan Perlman told the interfaith audience.

Three members of his congregation were among those killed when a man armed with an assault rifle and three handguns on Saturday stormed the Tree of Life temple in the city’s heavily Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood yelling “All Jews must die” as he opened fire on worshipers.

WATCH: Pittsburgh mayor vows to drive evil back ‘into the basement’ where it belongs






In addition to the 11 mostly elderly victims who were killed, six people, including four police officers, were wounded before the suspect was arrested. Two of the surviving victims remained hospitalized in critical condition.

The massacre marked the deadliest attack ever on America’s Jewish community, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Robert Bowers, 46, who has a history of posting anti-Semitic messages online, has been charged under federal hate crime statutes, and could face the death penalty if convicted.


READ MORE:
Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims included 97-year-old woman, couple in their 80s

‘Defeat hate with love’

“This is the darkest hour in our city’s history,” Mayor Bill Peduto declared during Sunday’s service. “But here’s another thing about Pittsburgh. We are resilient. We will work together as one. We will defeat hate with love. We will be a city of compassion and we will be welcoming to all people,” he said to cheers.

The auditorium of the Soldiers and Sailors Hall, a venue that seats more than 2,300, was filled to capacity with hundreds more people gathered outside the building.

WATCH: ‘This is our people’: Toronto rabbi speaks out about Pittsburgh synagogue shooting






The names of the dead were released hours earlier. They included David Rosenthal, 54; his brother Cecil Rosenthal, 59; Sylvan Simon, 86, and his wife Bernice Simon, 84; Joyce Fienberg, 75; Richard Gottfried, 65; Jerry Rabinowitz, 66; Daniel Stein, 71; Melvin Wax, 88; and Irving Younger, 69. The eldest victim was Rose Mallinger, 97.

She was among five of the slain who lived in Squirrel Hill, a quiet, leafy district with a large Jewish population. The community also was home to the late Fred Rogers, whose long-running children’s television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood featured lessons on friendship and kindness.

The remaining victims were from other parts of Pittsburgh, the second-largest city in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia.


READ MORE:
Jewish communities across Canada hold vigils to remember Pittsburgh shooting victims

The mass shooting sparked security alerts at houses of worship around the country and condemnation from politicians and religious leaders.

Some complained that the confrontational, nationalistic rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump has encouraged right-wing extremists and fed a surge in activity by hate groups.

Trump, who quickly branded Saturday’s shooting an act of pure evil and called on Americans to rise above hatred, was already facing similar criticism ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional elections following a spate of pipe bombs mailed last week to some of his most prominent critics. The targets, mostly Democrats, included former U.S. President Barack Obama.

WATCH: Suspect in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting could face the death penalty






“Honestly I think this president’s whole modus operandi is to divide us. He gets up in the morning with new and inventive ways to divide us,” U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who is Jewish, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” broadcast on Sunday.

Trump told reporters the killings might have been prevented if there had been an armed guard. Synagogue officials said police would only normally have been present for security on high holidays.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Fox News Sunday that federal officials visited the Pittsburgh synagogue in March to provide training on active-shooter responses.


READ MORE:
11 dead, 6 injured in shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh

The mayor said on Sunday that keeping guns out of the hands of irrational people was a better way to prevent violence.

FBI Special Agent Robert Jones told a news conference he did not know why Bowers had targeted the Tree of Life synagogue.

Authorities believe the suspect entered the synagogue, opened fire on worshipers and was fleeing when he encountered a police officer, Jones said. The two exchanged gunfire, he said, and Bowers reentered the building before a police tactical squad arrived.

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Bowers surrendered and was taken to a hospital where he was listed in fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds.

Federal prosecutors charged Bowers late on Saturday with 29 criminal counts including violating U.S. civil rights laws.

Bowers’ virulent anti-Semitic views were evident in prolific online postings. In one, early on Saturday, he wrote that a Jewish refugee group, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

He is due to make his first court appearance on Monday afternoon before a federal judge in Pittsburgh.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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