Sisters in Philippines ‘go orange’ to protest violence against women

End violence photoSr. Regina Kuizon, Good Shepherd Philippines-Japan province leader leads the signing of pledge against violence against women. (Ma. Ceres Doyo)

By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Wearing orange on the 25th of every month is a practice followed by a number of sisters and staff of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, Province of the Philippines-Japan. But on Nov. 25, Good Shepherd-run institutions and centers in the Philippines were especially ablaze in orange to commemorate the start of the 18-day anti-violence against women campaign in keeping with the United Nations’ “Orange Day” campaign to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls.

Sr. Regina Kuizon, province leader, led the signing of the commitment to end violence against women. Among the signatories were the sisters and those who work with them in various apostolates.

Programs were held in three Good Shepherd-run schools as well as centers that cater to women and girls.

Began in 2013, the U.N. campaign picked the 25th of every month as “Orange Your Day” and Nov. 25 as the start of the 16-day campaign. Around the globe, demonstrators came out in support of the campaign. Tear gas was used against people gathered in Madrid, Spain, and Istanbul on Nov. 25. In Tel Aviv, 20,000 people rallied on Dec. 4, while a nationwide strike was observed with many employers allowing workers to participate.

In the Philippines, said Good Shepherd Sr. Añanita Borbon, the awareness campaign lasts for 18 days in keeping with the directive of the Philippine Commission on Women. The Philippine campaign will last from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12.

“One out of four women aged 15-49 [24.4 percent] has experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence committed by their husbands or partners according to the 2019 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority,” the commission said Nov. 24 in a statement.
Women’s groups, church women among them, have denounced the Philippines’ current President Rodrigo Duterte for continually exhibiting misogynist, anti-women tendencies with his pronouncements and actions.

These women groups continually show vigilance through statements and active protests and online presence.

Borbon, a provincial councilor of the Good Shepherd Sisters Philippines-Japan, heads the sisters’ Ministry Center located at their main compound in Quezon City, Metro Manila. In the compound besides the Good Shepherd Provincialate are other centers with services for women and girls, among them, the Ruhama Center for trafficked and prostituted women.

The Heart of Mary Villa helps expectant mothers, mostly either unwed or abused, in the adoption process as an option after giving birth or how to move on with their lives as single mothers. The Center for Overseas Workers gives seminars and counseling to foreign-bound overseas Filipino workers and returning ones who are in crisis.

In Cavite, south of Metro Manila, the sisters run Bukid Kabataan (Children’s Farm) for abused and former street children. In Davao City in Southern Philippines, the sisters help former women entertainers in Japan, many of whom performed in nightclubs, who had children with their Japanese partners but who returned home after they were abandoned or separated.

So the monthly “Orange Your Day” and the annual 18-day campaign against violence against women come naturally to the Good Shepherd Sisters in the Philippines. “We learned that similar anti-VAW events were held in Good Shepherd missions in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia-Singapore,” Borbon said. “We want to have bigger groups next time.”
The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, comprised of both men and women congregations, has an Office of Women and Gender Concerns that focuses mainly on raising gender awareness especially among religious formators. In May, a letter of support for Sr. Patricia Fox, the Australian missionary who had been the target of a deportation campaign by Duterte, was issued by the association on official letterhead. In that letter, the superiors also took issue with the tenor of violence against women by the Duterte administration, though not mentioning him by name.

“We again raise our voices in support of the missionary work of Sr. Patricia Fox and all religious who continue to work in the peripheries and all women who stand up against misogyny, chauvinism and the degradation of women,” the statement said. “We stand with women legislators speaking truth to power and yet dehumanized by men, we stand with women who oppose the creeping dictatorship in our midst, we stand with women who defend our democracy and the rule of law.”

Duterte has made anti-women statements, among them, ordering soldiers to shoot women rebels in their vaginas, saying he wished he had been first to rape an Australian missionary when he was mayor and, lately, threatening to slap International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda after he learned that she has started an investigation of the extrajudicial killings in the president’s bloody war against drugs.

Duterte said: “And that short lady there, the black, announcing investigation … if I see you I will slap you. Who are you to threaten me?”

Three women have been prominently in the news for Duterte’s open hostility toward them. Fox, of the Our Lady of Sion congregation, spent 27 years in the Philippines but was forced to leave; her visa was not renewed and she faced a deportation case against her. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Maria Lourdes Sereno was impeached in May, and former justice secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima is in prison for alleged drug trafficking.

Filipino women are making plans for Dec. 12, the end of the orange campaign.
https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/equality/sisters-philippines-go-orange-protest-violence-against-women-55683?utm_source=GSR+digest+12-6-18&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email

 

 

Scottish mall refuses to allow nativity scene amid Christmas display

Nativity photoGerard van Honthorst’s The Adoration of the Shepherds (1622)

Edinburgh, Scotland, Both Catholics and Protestants in Scotland are lamenting a shopping center’s decision not to include a nativity scene in its Christmas display.

Thistles Shopping Centre in Stirling, fewer than 40 miles northwest of Edinburgh, said it will it not include a nativity scene in its Christmas display this year, noting the mall “prides itself on being religious and politically neutral,” according to The Scotsman, an Edinburgh daily.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh said Dec. 5 that “At this time of year Christmas cribs grace many public squares all across the British Isles, bringing joy to nearly all who encounter them, regardless of their religion. And so it seems just a wee bit, well, Grinch-like for the Thistles Shopping Centre to ban the Christmas crib, and in the true spirit of Christmas, we would certainly ask them to reconsider their decision.”

The Church of Scotland also lamented the decision of the shopping center, with a spokeswoman saying, “We find it very disappointing that the true meaning of Christmas has been completely lost here. When a shopping centre can focus purely on commercialism to the exclusion of the reason for the celebration of Christmas it is a sad day for all of us.”

Stephen Kerr, member of parliament for Stirling, and the Legion of Mary have both requested that Thistles install a nativity scene.

“While we understand that no one wants religious or political evangelists in a shopping centre, the request was simply to have a nativity, which would be manned and anyone approaching could ask about it,” said the Legion on Facebook.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/scottish-mall-refuses-to-allow-nativity-scene-amid-christmas-display-38481

The Woman at the Heart of Sustainable Development

sustainable photo

Posted by Odile Ntakirutimana

“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”

All over the world, gender inequality makes and keeps women poor, depriving them of basic rights and opportunities for well-being.The root of this discrimination is in the way of considering women as nonexistent on their own as full human beings but as always attached to someone else: a daughter or a wife to someone.

In Africa, and in most patriarchal systems, women have been considered as entitled to no rights or to fewer rights than men. Popular beliefs in some cultures still consider them as having no right to own property in general and land in particular. If a woman hopes to someday inherit family property, the law may deprive her of an equal share, or social convention may simply favor her male relatives.

It is not uncommon in Africa to see a man take over a property of his deceased brother or uncle when the deceased has left descendants that are mainly or only girls. For many women therefore, access to land is not a guaranteed right and the consequences are even harsher for rural and unmarried or divorced women who cannot survive without land as it is their only source of income for themselves and their families.

Land is a very important natural resource and it is at the heart of human social activity in Africa. The inequalities in women’s rights to land affect their self-esteem and potential contribution to the welfare of the society; yet they are the primary producers of food, the ones in charge of working the earth, maintaining seed stores, harvesting fruit, obtaining water and safeguarding the harvest.

Many communities in African countries rely on subsistent farming as their source of livelihood. Women comprise on average of 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, and over 50 per cent in parts of Asia and Africa.Research from the International Food Policy Research Institute has found that equalizing women’s status would lower child malnutrition by 13 percent (13.4 million children) in South Asia and by 3 percent (1.7 million children) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Experimental work suggests that increasing resources controlled by women promotes increased agricultural productivity.It is therefore a paradox that only 20 per cent of landowners globally are women.

The majority of women in developing countries face situations of discrimination at the hand of the national authorities and the international community. The European Union recognizes “in words” that women’s equal access to land helps guarantee the respect of fundamental human rights, including the rights to adequate food, shelter, non-discrimination and equality; the right not to be evicted; and the right to effective remedy, etc.

However big companies from the same EU and other wealthy countries are responsible of various human rights violations affecting women particularly in depriving them from accessing and using their land. This happens in the conclusion of large-scale land deals for commercial agriculture. The main goal of investment in land becomes then about providing food and energy for wealthier countries using the land and water of the poor. It stands to reason therefore that large-scale land deals exacerbate poor conditions of women access to land and ownership or further limit poor rural women’s opportunities for income generation.

Women have a right to equal access to all avenues to end poverty. Gender justice is not only a matter of social equity, but is also central to poverty reduction. While it is an established fact that the socio-cultural context of Africa undermines women’s right and access to land for food production and livelihood; large scale land acquisitions that are promoted in the name of “rural development” are extinguishing a candle that was already weak.

In Africa, a woman is a string that binds the family together. Therefore, land deals that take resources away from women do not only reduce the welfare of women but also participate in the disruption of the entire family system. It becomes imperative for private and international investors in Africa, who conclude land deals with local governments to consider the right of women to the land as an integral and essential part of their social responsibility to the community.

Furthermore, if they are genuinely motivated by sustainable development of communities, the profits of their investments are shared with those who are deprived to make way for their investments. Finally, African national Governments urgently need to bridge gaps between their existing programs that target gender equality and how they are applied in reality. The end of poverty cannot be achieved without ending gender-based discrimination.

http://aefjn.org/en/the-woman-at-the-heart-of-sustainable-development/

SEPHOS in Koudiadiène: a Paradox of Development

AEFJN photo

Posted by José Luis Gutiérrez Aranda

The 12 km road from Thiès to the commune of Cherif Lo (Senegal) is well paved and adorned with little villages on both sides of the road. Quite noticeable as well on approaching Koudiadiène are the grooves and depressions on the asphalt left by the trucks of great tonnage that ply the road daily. The crossroad of he village of Koudidiène is full of large trucks, merchants on the side of the road, women who weave in groups, young people who cross the road from one side to another going and coming to the secondary school and people waiting for the arrival of public transport that takes them to the city of Thiès.

During our visit to Koudiadiène; either to the religious communities, the medical dispensary or private homes of families, we soon discovered a common element: the dust from the mining site of SEPHOS are found on the tables, chairs, shelves, kitchen utensils, windows, books, trees, cars… The Sisters who work in assured us that they clean the dust every day in the morning and that in the evening everything is covered again by a whitish layer of dust from the mines. The glassy eyes of our interlocutors, the continuous clearing of their voices and the irritation of the throat is common for all its inhabitants. Myself, after spending a few hours in the area I begin to feel the throat irritation. “It is the dust of the mine” my guide told me when I requested to go to a pharmacy … This throat sensation would be my lot during the week-long visit in Koudiadiène and immediately it disappeared the same day I left to Dakar.

The representatives of the mining company SEPHOS deny that the dust comes from the mine and rather attributed it to the desert that is more than 100 kilometers away. However, the company fails to explain why other populations in the same region are not invaded by dust.

In the agreement reached between the mining company SEPHOS (of Spanish capital) and the villagers of Koudiadiène, in May 2017, Mr. Nolasco on behalf of the SEPHOS committed to a non-written agreement to a set of commitments with the population of Koudiadiène. This commitment would be based on the obligation of foreign companies to compensate for the damage caused to local populations with part of their profits and not based on a charity grant. Given the alleged toxicity of the dust, such concessions would alleviate the damage caused by the dust from the mine to the people who live in the surrounding areas of the mine.

Among these commitments, there were three specific actions related to the health and welfare of the population. SEPHOS would undertake simple measures that would reduce the emission of dust caused by the extraction of the mineral, such as covering the mineral with tarpaulins during the drying process, installing dust retention screens in the process of screening the mineral, as well as watering and repairing the access road to the mine through which large trucks ply and children walk go to school every day. Mr. Nolasco also committed himself to certain concessions such as donations of medicines to the dispensary of Koudiadiène and letting the use of the ambulance of the mine in case of health emergencies.

The dispensary of Koudiadiène mainly serves the district of Cherif Lo and its doors are open to the people as they come. The dispensary keeps strict records of the cases it encounters. As the graph shows, there has been a progression of cases treated in relation to skin, cough and throat and eye infections in the recent years. This data confirm what we have been able to observe in the village.

Given the claim of the company that the dust that accumulates in the village comes from the desert, AEFJN and REDES decided to take a sample of the dust and analyze it in a laboratory to find out the probable source of the dust. This sample was taken following the precise instructions of a mining engineer who accompanied us on our trip. The dust followed the recommended chain of custody so that its composition was not altered and has been analyzed in the laboratory of a recognized Spanish public university.

Among the first conclusions we have obtained is that the minerals found in the sample are not part of the composition of the sand that is normally found in the desert. On the contrary, the minerals found in the analyzed sample of dust (Sodium, Magnesium, Aluminum, Silicon, Phosphorus, Sulfur, Potassium, Titanium, Chromium or Manganese) are more typical of a mining quarry than of desert sand. Moreover, five of these minerals are found in a high concentration that are considered harmful to health. These are Magnesium, Aluminum, Phosphorus, Potassium and Iron.

If the sample of dust analyzed determines that it is not desert dust; If the dust is found only in the villas that surround the mine; If the dust analysis confirm the harmful concentration of five minerals for human health; If there has been an increasing number of cases registered in the dispensary of Koudiadiène; If those diseases are the same suffered by the workers of the mine … Then we consider that the security measures carried out by the company are clearly insufficient. That the mining activity is causing the emission of dust that affects the people of Koudiadiène and that dust is harmful to health.

The compensatory measures for local communities affected by mining companies in Africa cannot be left to the good will of the companies. Compensations must obey mandatory measures that are effective, transparent and verifiable by civil society. Otherwise the compensations will be lost or will be mere gestures of beneficence, or truncated by corruption. The EU cannot remain passive by the behavior of its companies and must demand from them the same ethical and legal behavior when they operate abroad.

The case of Koudiadiène is the case of a small company that operates a non-relevant mineral in a region of an African country. It is a small but paradigmatic example of the behavior of European companies operating in developing countries, especially in Africa. The EU must commit itself to the sustainability of the planet and look for long-term solutions that do not only look for their economic benefits but also prioritize the sustainability of natural resources. The EU has the obligation to be more demanding in its Transparency Directives, in the respect of human rights and, of course, to seriously commit itself to the initiative of the binding treaty of United Nations Business and Human Rights.

http://aefjn.org/en/sephos-in-koudiadiene-a-bad-paradigmatic-example/

 

Suicide, drug overdose rates bring US life expectancy down

Lethal_injection

Credit: Oleksandr Lysenko/Shutterstock.

Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News).- The suicide rate in the United States is at its highest in at least 50 years, and is contributing to a decrease in the nation’s life expectancy, the federal government said Thursday.
Life expectancy for the U.S. population declined to 78.6 in 2017, down from 78.7 the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a new report.

“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” said CDC director Robert Redfield in a Nov. 29 statement.

The United States saw more than 47,000 suicides in 2017, an increase of more than 2,000 from the previous year.

In addition, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths last year, a 10 percent rise from 2016. Deaths from heroin and prescription opioids remained steady from the previous year, while fentanyl deaths drastically increased.

Other findings in the CDC report included an increase in gun deaths, totaling almost 40,000. Deaths from heart disease – the top killer in the U.S. – are no longer declining, while deaths from flu and pneumonia increased by 6 percent.

While U.S. life expectancy had been rising for decades, the country is now seeing its longest period of generally declining life expectancy since World War I, according to the Associated Press.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/suicide-drug-overdose-rates-bring-us-life-expectancy-down-52239

 

 

In new book on clergy and religious life, Pope Francis addresses homosexuality

Pope Francis 2

Pope Francis. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City:In a book-length interview to be published next week, Pope Francis addressed gifts and challenges for clerical and religious vocations, among them the challenge of homosexuality in the clergy.

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case. We have to be exacting. In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church,” the pope says in the book “The Strength of a Vocation,” set to be released Dec. 3 in ten languages.

In an excerpt from the book, released Friday by Religión Digital, the pope said he is concerned about the issue of evaluating and forming people with homosexual tendencies in the clergy and consecrated life.

“This is something I am concerned about, because perhaps at one time it did not receive much attention,” he said.
Francis said that with candidates for the priesthood or religious life “we have to take great care during formation in the human and affective maturity. We have to seriously discern, and listen to the voice of experience that the Church also has. When care is not taken in discerning all of this, problems increase. As I said before, it can happen that at the time perhaps they didn’t exhibit [that tendency], but later on it comes out.”

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case,” the pope reiterated.

Francis recalled that one time “I had a somewhat scandalized bishop here who told me that he had found out that in his diocese, a very large diocese, there were several homosexual priests and that he had to deal with all that, intervening, above all, in the formation process, to form a different group of clergy.”

“It’s a reality we can’t deny. There is no lack of cases in the consecrated life either. A religious told me that, on a canonical visit to one of the provinces in his congregation, he was surprised. He saw that there were good young students and even some already professed religious who were gay,” he related.

The pope said that the religious “wondered if it were an issue and asked me if there was something wrong with that. Francis said he was told by one religious superior that the issue was not “that serious, it’s just an expression of an affection.”

“That’s a mistake,” Francis warned. “It’s not just an expression of an affection. In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the Church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life. The ministry or the consecrated life is not his place.”
We “have to urge homosexual priests, and men and women religious to live celibacy with integrity, and above all, that they be impeccably responsible, trying to never scandalize either their communities or the faithful holy people of God by living a double life. It’s better for them to leave the ministry or the consecrated life rather than to live a double life.”

The pope was asked in the book if there are limits to what can be tolerated in formation.

“Of course. When there are candidates with neurosis, marked imbalances, difficult to channel not even with therapeutic help, they shouldn’t be accepted to either the priesthood or the religious life, They should be helped to take another direction (but they should not be abandoned. They should be guided, but they should not be admitted. Let us always bear in mind that they are persons who are going to live in the service of the Church, of the Christian community, of the people of God. Let’s not forget that perspective. We have to care for them so they are psychologically and affectively healthy,” the pope replied.

The book is the transcript of an interview conducted by Fr. Fernando Prado, director of the Claretian publishing house in Madrid.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/in-new-book-on-clergy-and-religious-life-pope-francis-addresses-homosexuality-27409

Pope Francis: Advent is a time of joy-filled waiting

Pope Francis

Pope Francis in the Paul VI Hall Dec. 6, 2017. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

By Hannah Brockhaus

As the Advent season begins, it is a good time to reflect on the Christian call to joyful expectancy, finding hope and consolation in waiting for Christ, Pope Francis said Saturday. “We Christians are called to safeguard and spread the joy of waiting: we await God who loves us infinitely and at the same time we are awaited by Him. In this way, life becomes a great betrothal,” the pope said Dec. 1.

“Tonight,” he continued, “begins a time of consolation and hope, the time of Advent: a new liturgical year begins, which brings with it the novelty of our God, who is the ‘God of all consolation.” “I wish you to experience Advent thus, as a time of consoling novelty and joyous waiting,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke about the start of Advent during an audience with a group of about 6,500 people from the Italian dioceses of Ugento-Santa Maria di Leuca and Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi in the Paul VI Hall.

Francis thanked the travelers for coming, recalling that he had visited their diocese in April on a daytrip. “But God,” he pointed out, “will visit you where I cannot come: in your homes, in your lives. God visits us and waits to stay with us forever.”

In his speech, the pope referenced Servant of God Fr. Tonino Bello, who was the bishop of the Diocese of Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi from 1982-1993.

Don Tonino once reflected, he said, on the fact that life is full of fear: “Fear of neighbor… fear of the other… fear of violence… fear of not making it. Fear of not being accepted… fear that it is useless to work hard. Fear, much, that we cannot change the world… Fear of not finding a job.”
Francis pointed out that Don Tonino would respond to this gloomy scenario by saying that “Advent responds with ‘the Gospel of anti-fear.” “If fear makes you lie on the ground, the Lord invites you to get up; if negativity pushes you to look down, Jesus invites us to turn our gaze to heaven, from where He will come. Because we are not children of fear, but children of God,” the pope said.

“Then we welcome the invitation of the Gospel, the invitation so often repeated by Don Tonino to stand up, to get up,” he continued. “From where? From the sofas of life: from the comfort that makes you lazy, from the mundanity that makes you sick inside, from the self-pity that darkens.” “Stand up, let us look up to the sky,” he instructed. “We would also advise of the need to open our hands to our neighbor. And the consolation that we can give will heal our fears.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-advent-is-a-time-of-joy-filled-waiting-31781