My 17-hour ‘spiritual’ flight with the humble Pope Francis



Pope Francis addresses journalists in the flight back to Rome after a six-day visit in Africa on November 30, 2015. Pope Francis travelled to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic. AFP | PHOTO 

It was a normal commercial flight, an Airbus A330 operated by Alitalia — Italy’s national airline.
Hardly a version of a papal one, for Pope Francis does not own a personal aircraft. Neither does the Vatican.

The Vatican had chartered the Airbus A330 for the entire African tour — Kenya, Uganda and Central Africa — which covered 12,580 kilometers.

Four of us, three from the Nation Media Group and one from Capital FM, were under strict instructions to ensure that we were at the Fiumicino International Airport in Rome at 4am on Wednesday, November 25.
How we got to the airport was none of the Vatican’s business, just like were the tickets to guarantee you a seat on the papal flight.

We arrived on time and were directed to the Alitalia counter, checked in and that’s when it finally dawned on us that this was no ordinary flight. Continue reading My 17-hour ‘spiritual’ flight with the humble Pope Francis

South Africa: Jesuit statement on removal of finance minister

Independent Catholic News


The Jesuit Institute South Africa has joined a chorus of voices from all sectors of South African society expressing serious concern over the removal of Nhlanha Nene as the country’s Minister of Finance. The institute says: “This move, announced by President Jacob Zuma, spells disaster for the stability of an embattled economy and raises questions about his ability to lead.

Moments after the announcement was made the local currency plummeted, hitting an all time low against the US dollar. Zuma offered no explanation for what seems to be a grossly irresponsible decision.

There seems to be no doubt that the President fired Nene because he would not allow Zuma and some of his cadres to spend money recklessly, for personal gain, and in so doing risk the integrity of the Treasury.

Nene insisted on tight fiscal discipline in the face of a growing deficit and a worrying economic forecast.

Nene did not bow to political pressure. He would not sanction the revision of a deal to buy new aircraft for South African Airways. The airline’s board chairperson, Dudu Myeni (who is also chair of the Jacob Zuma Foundation), was unhappy and appears to have used her personal relationship with the President to influence this decision. Continue reading South Africa: Jesuit statement on removal of finance minister

Peruvian Women Install Solar Panels and Light Up their Communities

InterPress Service

By Pilar Celi

Women from Candarave share their knowledge in solar panels installation. Credit: Alicia Condori

TACNA, PERU , Dec 9 2015 (IPS) – Five women from Candarave Province, located in Tacna (Peru), travelled to India to be trained and to learn how to install solar panels. The training has enabled 272 families to have electricity and improve their quality of life.

Solar panels mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases and allow to address climate change.
In 2011, Reina Isabel Humiri Mamani, 41, who has two children and two grandchildren, realized that, sometimes, to make a right decision, you have to break stereotypes, overcome fears and invest in knowledge. Although her mother, brothers, and some people in her community (Tacalaya) were against the idea, she accepted to take part in the Barefoot College programme, traveled to India for six months, and learned that electricity can be obtained by sunlight with the help of solar panels. Continue reading Peruvian Women Install Solar Panels and Light Up their Communities

(Gov.) Pence won’t block state aid to Syrian refugee family in Indianapolis


Robert King, Madeline Buckley and Vic Ryckaert

Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday he will not block a Syrian refugee family from receiving state aid such as food stamps and health care, even as he continues to oppose its relocation to Indiana.

Pence’s comments at an airport news conference came one day after the Archdiocese of Indianapolis settled a Syrian refugee family in the city despite the governor’s recent announcement that, due to security concerns, he was halting state support for such relocation efforts.

Earlier Tuesday, Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin announced that a family of four who had “fled the violence of terrorists” had arrived Monday night after undergoing two years of security checks. The family was resettled in Indianapolis because they already have family living here, said Greg Otolski, archdiocese spokesman. Continue reading (Gov.) Pence won’t block state aid to Syrian refugee family in Indianapolis

How cash is carried across Congo


A new system for paying civil servants puts banks through their paces


IMAGINE if, to collect your salary each month, you had to walk to the nearest town—perhaps tens of miles away—to congregate in a school or a football pitch or a church. There, you and your colleagues wait for a man to arrive from the capital—perhaps a thousand miles away—with a suitcase of cash. Most of the time, you do not receive as much money as you should. Sometimes the man does not arrive at all.

Until recently, that is how most government employees in the Democratic Republic of Congo were paid. But over the past three years the government has been trying to get civil servants to open bank accounts, to which their pay can be transferred directly. In the process, it is accelerating the spread of banking in an economy that, according to Michel Losembe, the bow-tied president of the Congolese Banking Association, is “not very far off barter”. Continue reading How cash is carried across Congo

Letter from Africa: Cutting Nigeria’s ‘big men’ down to size


President Muhammadu Buhari (C) promises to tackle corruption in Africa’s largest economy

In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani looks at the impact of new economising measures in Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to office in May, seems bent on making public office less and less attractive to the average Nigerian “big man.”

Beyond the unusually austere salary package for new members of his cabinet – in response to the country’s worst economic crisis in years – he has given an instruction that should drastically reduce the size of every serving minister’s entourage.

Few Nigerian big men walk alone: Such a typical highly esteemed and self-important person in Africa’s most populous country goes around accompanied by a multitude of men. Continue reading Letter from Africa: Cutting Nigeria’s ‘big men’ down to size

ICE, Peruvian authorities rescue 36 sex trafficking victims, including 11 minors


Victims as young as 4 years old

peru1LIMA, Peru – An international law enforcement operation culminated Saturday with the arrests of six individuals involved in sex trafficking and the rescue of 36 sex trafficking victims, including 11 minors.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Attaché Office covering the Andean region and the Peruvian National Police (PNP) conducted the bi national law enforcement operation leading up to the arrests.
Continue reading ICE, Peruvian authorities rescue 36 sex trafficking victims, including 11 minors

British couple jailed for keeping Nigerian as slave for 24 years


LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A British couple have been jailed for six years each for keeping a Nigerian immigrant as a slave for more than two decades, a London court clerk said.

Emmanuel Edet, 61, and Antan Edet, 58, were sentenced at Harrow Crown Court in northwest London late on Monday after being found guilty last month of child cruelty, slavery and assisting in illegal immigration.

The couple brought the man to Britain in 1989 when he was 14 years old, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

They told the teenager they would educate and pay him, but they forced him to work long hours for no pay and threatened him with deportation if he tried to escape, prosecutors said. Continue reading British couple jailed for keeping Nigerian as slave for 24 years

Soy, an Exotic Fruit in Brazil’s Amazon Jungle

InterPress Service

By Fabiana Frayssinet


Members of the São Raimundo do Fe em Deus cooperative in the rural municipality of Belterra in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest peel manioc, to make flour. The associations of small farmers help them defend themselves from the negative effects of the expansion of soy in this region on the banks of the Tapajós River. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPSEnter a caption

BELTERRA, Brazil, Dec 8 2015 (IPS) – In the northern Brazilian state of Pará, the construction of a port terminal for shipping soy out of the Amazon region has displaced thousands of small farmers from their land, which is now dedicated to mono-culture.

The BR-163 highway, along the 100-km route from Santarém, the capital of the municipality of that name, to Belterra runs through an endless stretch of plowed fields, with only a few isolated pockets of the lush rainforest that used to cover this entire area.

State-of-the-art tractors and other farm machinery, a far cry from the rudimentary tools used by the local small farmers in the surrounding fields, are plowing the soil this month, ahead of the planting of soy in January.

José de Souza, a small farmer who owns nine hectares in the rural municipality of Belterra, sighs.

“Soy benefits the big producers, but it hurts small farmers because the deforestation has brought drought,” he tells IPS. “The temperatures here were pleasant before, but now it’s so hot, you can’t stand it.” Continue reading Soy, an Exotic Fruit in Brazil’s Amazon Jungle

Activists say human rights, financing pose obstacles to climate accord

Catholic News Service
Human rights need to be part of the final text, to protect people from projects that could be considered clean energy, such as dams to produce hydroelectric power, but would encroach on their lands and homes.

By James Martone
Video of: Pope wants bold climate change action

PARIS (CNS) — Major hurdles stand in the way of a global accord on climate change, including over the questions of human rights and who pays the costs for poor countries to transition into using greener energy, said Catholic and other church activists on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference.

“We want human rights, indigenous rights, food security and gender equality in Article 2” of the accord’s text, said Bernd Nilles, head of CIDSE, an alliance of Catholic development agencies present at the conference site in Le Bourget on the outskirts of Paris. Continue reading Activists say human rights, financing pose obstacles to climate accord