Do not let go of joy, Pope Francis urges youth in Mozambique

MozamiqueYouth perform a dance in the Maxaquene Pavilion in Maputo before the arrival of Pope Francis Sept. 5, 2019. Credit: Vatican Press Pool Photo.

.- Pope Francis encouraged young people of different faiths in Mozambique Thursday to not give up in the face of their country’s challenges, but to confront them with joy and hope.

“How do you make your dreams come true? How do you help to solve your country’s problems?” the pope asked Sept. 5, repeating questions asked him by Mozambican young people.

“My words to you are these. Do not let yourselves be robbed of joy. Keep singing and expressing yourselves in fidelity to all the goodness that you have learned from your traditions. Let no one rob you of your joy!”

Pope Francis arrived in Maputo, Mozambique in the evening Sept. 4, kicking off a Sept. 4-10 trip to three countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including the island nations of Madagascar and Mauritius.

The interreligious meeting with youth was held at the Maxaquene Pavilion. Maxaquene is a sports club based in Maputo.

Pope Francis entered the pavilion to joyful cheers, singing, and chants of “reconciliation.” The meeting opened up with a song, followed by musical and dance performances by groups of Christian, Mulim, Hindu, and Catholic youth. The pope’s speech was followed by a prayer.

During the encounter, Pope Francis told the estimated 4,500 young people present that “together, you are the beating heart of this people and all of you have a fundamental role to play in one great creative project: to write a new page of history, a page full of hope, peace and reconciliation.”

“I would like to ask you a question,” he added. “Do you want to write this page? When you were singing you sang the word reconciliation.”

He also told them “God loves you, and this is something on which all our religious traditions are agreed.”

“For him, you have worth; you are not insignificant. You are important to him, for you are the work of his hands and he loves you,” he said.

Quoting Christus vivit, his post-synodal exhortation to young people, Francis said “the love of the Lord has to do more with raising up than knocking down, with reconciling than forbidding, with offering new changes than condemning, the love of God has more to do with the future than the past.”

“I know that you believe in this love that makes reconciliation possible and I thank you.”

The pope warned against resignation and anxiety, which he said are two attitudes fatal to dreams and hope.

“These are great enemies of life, because they usually propel us along an easy but self-defeating path, and the toll they take is high indeed… We pay with our happiness and even with our lives,” he said.

It can be easy to give up when things are painful and difficult and everything seems to be falling apart, but that is not the solution, he continued.

He referenced popular Mozambican soccer player “the Black Panther” Eusébio da Silva.

“He began his athletic career in this city. The severe economic hardships of his family and the premature death of his father did not prevent him from dreaming,” the pope stated. “His passion for football [soccer] made him persevere, keep dreaming and moving forward.”

This led him to score 77 goals for his team, Maxaquene, “despite having plenty of reasons to give up…” Francis noted.

He said being part of a team was an important part of da Silva’s success. On a team, everyone has differences, different gifts, he stated, just like at the meeting today. “We come from different traditions and we may even speak different languages, but this has not stopped us from being here together as a group,” he said.

The pope argued that a lot of suffering is caused by people dividing and separating others, choosing those who can “play” and those who have to sit “on the bench.”

You can do something for your country by staying united, building friendships, and avoiding enmity, he said. He had the young people repeat that “social enmity, social division is destructive.”

“‘An old proverb says: “If you want to get somewhere in a hurry, walk alone; if you want to go far, walk with others.’ We need always to dream together, as you are doing today. Dream with others, never against others.”

“Keep dreaming the way you dreamed and prepared for this meeting: all together and without barriers. This is part of Mozambique’s ‘new page of history,’” he stated.

The pope also encouraged young people not to fear mistakes, but to persevere, and to not let worry make them abandon their dreams.

He used another Mozambican athlete as an example: Olympic champion runner Maria Mutola.

She did not win a gold medal in her first three Olympic Games, the pope noted, but on her fourth attempt, the 800-meter athlete won the gold medal in Sydney. And this did not make her self-absorbed. Despite her Olympic gold medal and her nine world titles, she did not forget her people or her roots, he said.

Pope Francis advised young people to listen to their elders and to stay rooted in their history and tradition, saying the older generations have much to offer.

“Sometimes we older people put you in difficulty, we frighten you. We can try to make you act, speak and live the same way we do. You will have to find your own way, but by listening to and appreciating those who have gone before you,” he said.

Noting the two cyclones which struck Mozambique earlier this year, Pope Francis said there is “a pressing challenge of protecting our common home.”

“Many of you were born at a time of peace, a hard-won peace that was not always easy to achieve and took time to build,” he said. “Peace is a process that you too are called to advance, by being ever ready to reach out to those experiencing hardship.”

“How important it is to learn to offer others a helping and outstretched hand! Try to grow in friendship with those who think differently than you, so that solidarity will increase among you and become the best weapon to change the course of history.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/do-not-let-go-of-joy-pope-francis-urges-youth-in-mozambique-73916

We scientists must rise up to prevent the climate crisis. Words aren’t enough

ScientistExtinction Rebellion protesters on Waterloo Bridge, London, April 2019. ‘This is what we have been waiting for, yet strangely the reaction within the scientific community has been muted.’ Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

As scientists, we tend to operate under an unspoken assumption – that our job is to provide the world with factual information, and if we do so our leaders will use it to make wise decisions. But what if that assumption is wrong? For decades, conservation scientists like us have been telling the world that species and ecosystems are disappearing, and that their loss will have devastating impacts on humanity. Meanwhile, climate scientists have been warning that the continued burning of fossil fuels and destruction of natural carbon sinks, such as forests and peatlands, will lead to catastrophic planetary heating.

We have collectively written tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, and shared our findings with policymakers and the public. And, on the face of it, we seem to have done a pretty good job: after all, we all know about the environmental and climate crises, don’t we?

But while we’re now well informed, we haven’t actually changed course. Biodiversity loss proceeds apace, to the extent that a million species face extinction in the coming decades, and we continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere at ever faster rates. We have emitted more greenhouse gases since 1990, in full awareness of its impacts, than we ever did in ignorance. It seems that knowledge alone cannot trigger the radical global changes we so urgently need.

It was this realisation that incited us both to embrace activism, and to take to the streets and engage in non-violent civil disobedience as members of Extinction Rebellion. The refusal to obey certain laws has a long and glorious history: from the suffragettes to Rosa Parks and Gandhi, many of the 20th century’s greatest heroes engaged in non-violent civil disobedience to win their rights.

Today, civil disobedience is again on the rise. And it is working. The protests that shut down four sites in London in April raised the climate crisis rapidly up the political agenda, and into the public consciousness. The environment is now the third most pressing issue for British voters, above the economy, crime and immigration: the UK parliament and half the country’s local councils have declared a climate emergency, and a zero-carbon target has been enshrined into law. We don’t know what policy change will follow, but it is an encouraging start.

Alongside this are the Greta Thunberg-inspired school strikes and our sister movements worldwide. This is what we have been waiting for. And yet, the reaction within the scientific community has been strangely muted. In conversation, our conservationist colleagues (and we imagine climate scientists, too) have long bemoaned the fact that environmental issues remain so marginal in the public consciousness. “If only conservation was mainstream,” we lament, “and if only people would take action to fight for our world.” Well, now they are, yet few of us seem to have joined them.

Young people have embraced the movement, and grandparents, too. So have doctors and lawyers, farmers and unemployed people. But not many scientists, which is odd given we probably know more about the severity of the problems we face than anybody. Perhaps it’s related to an unspoken assumption that if our job is to provide information, then adopting a position will weaken our authority. In fact, research shows it doesn’t.

Alternatively, scientists may be reluctant to rise up because there are “proper” channels for influencing policy: you can vote, you can write letters and sign petitions, and if things get really desperate you can walk from A to B on a sanctioned march. The trouble is, these avenues aren’t working, and lobbyists for fossil-fuel industries have far greater access to political decision-makers. In 2018, for example, oil and gas lobbyists alone spent more than $125m (£100m) lobbying politicians in just one country, the United States.

Worse, these lobbyists and the corporations they work for have invested heavily in an anti-science agenda, all with the aim of convincing the world that we can carry on as normal. They are endangering our very survival in pursuit of profit, and undermining the faith in truth, rationality and the scientific method that – surely – will be critical to surviving these crises. This is why we have taken a break from our usual areas of research to publish an article in the prestigious journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, urging our fellow scientists to rise up and embrace rebellion.

As scientists we have spent years telling policymakers that we must change course, but they haven’t taken action. They may be starting to now, but only because people have engaged in open rebellion, making it clear that we will no longer accept inaction. Surely scientists have a moral duty to join the masses, and rebel for life.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/06/scientists-climate-crisis-activism-extinction-rebellion

Millions await their fate as India plans to publish citizens list

CitizenshipHalimun Nessa stands with her children and displays a photograph of her husband Rahim Ali, who committed suicide [Anupam Nath/AP Photo]

On the day before his five children were due to appear in front of a tribunal in India’s northeast state of Assam to prove they were genuine citizens, Rahim Ali hanged himself outside their corrugated metal shack in the village of Banti Pur in Barpeta district, his wife said.

He was worried the children would be excluded from a government citizens list set to be published on Saturday, said Halimun Nessa, standing over Ali’s fresh grave. He had feared they would be sent to a detention camp.

“He was saying we don’t have any money to fight this case,” Nessa, 32, told Associated Press. “He was thinking that his children will be taken away. He went to the market, came back and did this,” said Nessa, adding that she does not know what she will do if her children’s names do not appear on the National Register of Citizens, or NRC.

The Supreme Court-monitored NRC process started in 2015 and a draft NRC list was published last year that excluded more than four million of Assam’s 32 million people.

Critics fear the final NRC list will leave off millions of people, rendering them stateless. And the Hindu nationalist-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which fully backs the citizenship project in Assam, promises to roll out a similar plan nationwide.

The government has assured that people left out from the final list will be given an opportunity to prove their citizenship. But the people who are anxiously waiting for the lsit to be released, are worried.

Habibur Rahman and his wife Aklima Khatun along with their sons Nur Alam and Faridul Alam were among the four million left out of last year’s draft list. Their two daughters, Samira Begum, 14, and Shahida Khatun, 11, however, were able to make it onto the list.

They have submitted documents again as part of the appeal process.

“I was never worried like this. This is the biggest test of my life. If our names are not featured in the final list, what do we do?” a concerned Rahman told Al Jazeera from Goroimari village in Kamrup district – over 66 kilometres from the state capital Guwahati.

Those suspected of being in the country without documents must prove their citizenship under what is seen as a messy, overly-bureaucratic system.

A section of people, mostly Muslims, complained of harassment from NRC officials as they were summoned at short notice and made to travel up to 400-500km from their homes for hearings.

“We did everything we were asked to do to prove we are Indians. We felt like it was the end of our world,” Bahatan Khanam, 35, said.

Those suspected of being in the country without documents must prove their citizenship under what is seen as a messy, overly-bureaucratic system.

A section of people, mostly Muslims, complained of harassment from NRC officials as they were summoned at short notice and made to travel up to 400-500km from their homes for hearings.

“We did everything we were asked to do to prove we are Indians. We felt like it was the end of our world,” Bahatan Khanam, 35, said.

Khanam from remote Dakhin Godhani village in Barpeta received the notice on August 5 and she was asked to attend the hearing on August 6 in Golaghat district, which is located some 400km away.

“Now, I just hope that my name appears in the list. That’s the ultimate dream anyone can have. We have been long waiting for this day. If the name appears, I hope to lead a dignified life as an Indian and if it doesn’t the struggle will continue,” Khanam told Al Jazeera.

Critics view the NRC process as an attempt to deport millions of minority Muslims, many of whom have entered India from neighbouring Bangladesh.

People like Rahman are worried. “I have submitted all the documents that were necessary. We have land papers in our father’s name that dated back to 1948. What else do we need to prove our citizenship?” asked Rahman.

India’s government sought to ease concerns ahead of the imminent “citizens register”.

“DO NOT BELIEVE RUMOURS ABOUT NRC,” a spokesperson for the Indian home ministry tweeted in capital letters.

Tens of thousands of paramilitary personnel and police have been deployed ahead of the publication of the citizens list.

Police said 60,000 state police and 19,000 paramilitary personnel will be on duty on Saturday, according to Reuters.

“All precautionary measures have been taken with security forces deployed in strength,” said Assam police chief Kuladhar Saikia.

But those who have been leading the fight for such a list say the project is meant to protect the cultural identity of Assam’s indigenous people, no matter what their faith is.

Those excluded are presumed to be foreigners unless they can prove otherwise at one of the hundreds of quasi-judicial bodies known as Foreign Tribunals presided over by people who are not judges.

They have 120 days to file appeals with the tribunals and can take their case to higher courts. If no appeal is filed, a district magistrate makes a referral to the tribunal to strip them of their citizenship.

It is unclear what will happen to those ultimately branded as foreigners because India has no treaty with Bangladesh to deport them.

Earlier this summer, India’s Supreme Court criticised the central government and that of Assam state, saying thousands of people who had been declared foreigners over the years had disappeared. About 1,000 others are being held in six detention centres located inside existing prisons.

For hundreds of years, the verdant, hilly state of Assam has drawn workers from neighbouring Bangladesh to its enormous colonial-era tea plantations.

But resentment of these immigrants runs deep. In 1983, a mob in Assam massacred more than 2,000 Bengali-origin Muslims. No one was ever prosecuted.

Modi’s home minister, Amit Shah, has called undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh “infiltrators” and “termites”.

Millions of people whose citizenship status is now unclear were born in India to parents also born in India. The year 1948 was decreed to be the official cutoff date for refugees from Pakistan, including East Pakistan – now Bangladesh. The date was later updated to 1951 when the first NRC was prepared.

According to a 1985 deal signed between the central government and Assam politicians running a campaign against undocumented immigrants, March 24, 1971, was set as the final cutoff date to be eligible to be granted Indian citizenship.

Hundreds of people with voting rights of diverse lineage, including Hindus and Assamese, have been arrested and held on suspicion of being undocumented migrants.

“I am very shocked that I served 30 years to the nation, now I am a beggar for citizenship,” said Army veteran Mohammad Sanaullah, who lives in Guwahati.

Shah, the home minister, has promised to expand Assam’s registry nationwide, using mandatory identification cards.

At the same time, Modi and Shah are pushing to amend citizenship law to grant citizenship to Bengali-origin Hindus who do not make it to the list.

The registry comes less than a month after the Modi government unilaterally stripped Indian-administered Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, of special constitutional protections that gave it political autonomy and exclusive land rights.

A team of United Nations experts, including the special rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief, said in July that the NRC could “exacerbate the xenophobic climate while fueling religious intolerance and discrimination in the country.”

Samujjal Bhattacharya, who has been part of a movement in Guwahati against undocumented immigrants for decades, said the idea that Muslims are being targeted is propaganda pushed by a pro-Bangladeshi conspiracy.

“They are propagating that human rights is violated here. We’d like to ask them, ‘who is violating human rights?’ In our own motherland, our rights are being violated by the illegal Bangladeshis.”

In 2010, the government selected Barpeta, one of Assam’s nine Muslim-majority districts, for a pilot NRC programme as part of a plan to verify voter rolls.

When protests erupted about the programme in the bucolic village of Khandakar Para, police gunfire killed four demonstrators, including 25-year-old Maidul Mullah. He is buried behind a mosque that dates to 1916, and his gravestone honours him for “sacrificing his life on streets of Barpeta for the cause of NRC”.

Another slain protester was Majam Ali, 55. His widow, Noor Begum, is illiterate, but a neighbour helped her submit documents dating back more than a half-century, including her grandfather’s listing on the original 1951 NRC and tax details, to no avail.

“My husband shed his blood for the NRC,” she said, “Everyone who should be on the list should be on it. Then only will (his) death be worth it.”

Manjuri Bhowmik, a 51-year-old Hindu, dreads what it will mean for her two sons if she is declared a foreigner.

Originally from the state of West Bengal, Bhowmik said she had lived in Assam since moving there to marry her husband in 1991. She recently received notice that she was a suspected “D-voter”, or “doubtful voter”, placing her status and that of her children at risk.

Despite submitting copies of ID cards, her degree from Calcutta University and a deposition from her brother, she sat outside a foreigner tribunal in Barpeta waiting for her chance to prove her citizenship.

“People are being harassed,” she said. “This causes great mental stress.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/millions-await-fate-india-plans-publish-citizens-list-190830091610747.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US, France, Britain may be complicit in Yemen war crimes: UN

UN YemenInvestigators have found potential crimes on the side of the Houthis and Saudi-led coalition, while also highlighting the role Western countries play as key backers of the Arab states [File: Hani Mohammed/AP]

The United States, United Kingdom and France may be complicit in war crimes in Yemen by arming and providing intelligence and logistics support to a Saudi-led coalition that starves civilians as a war tactic, the United Nations has said.

A UN panel announced on Tuesday that investigators compiled a secret list of possible international war crimes suspects, drawn from their latest report into violations during the four-year conflict between a coalition of Arab states and the Houthi movement that controls Yemen’s capital.

Investigators found potential crimes on both sides, while also highlighting the role Western countries have played as key backers of the Arab states and Iran has played in support of the Houthis.

The report accused the anti-Houthi coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of killing civilians in air raids and deliberately denying them food in a country facing famine. The Houthis for their part have shelled cities, deployed child soldiers and used “siege-like warfare”, it said.

The Houthis drove Yemen’s internationally-recognised government out of the capital Sanaa in 2014. The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Muslim states intervened the following year to restore the ousted government in a conflict that has since killed tens of thousands of people.

The prospect of famine has created what the UN describes as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

Secret list of suspected perpetrators

The UN report said its independent panel had sent a secret list to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, identifying “individuals who may be responsible for international crimes”.

Its appendix lists the names of more than 160 “main actors” among Saudi, Emirati and Yemeni top brass as well as the Houthi movement, although it did not specify whether any of these names also figured in its list of potential suspects.

“Individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, may have conducted air strikes in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, and may have used starvation as a method of warfare, acts that may amount to war crimes,” it said.

“The legality of arms transfers by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and other states remains questionable, and is the subject of various domestic court proceedings,” it added.

Commenting on the report, Noha Aboueldahab, a fellow at the foreign policy programme at the Brookings Institution told Al Jazeera that developing a list of perpetrators was within the UN’s mandate.

“It is part of the UN’s mandate to try to identify violations and humanitarian law crimes and, where possible, to identify those responsible for those violations. In terms of developing this list of potential perpetrators is within the UN’s mandate.

“Although it is difficult to say who is on the list, it would be interesting to see if there are any individuals on this list from the US, France and UK,” she added.

Failed accountability

The report also said that it found that a Joint Incidents Assessment Team set up by Saudi Arabia to review alleged coalition violations had failed to hold anyone accountable for any strike killing civilians, raising “concerns as to the impartiality of its investigations”.

The UN panel said it had received allegations that Emirati and affiliated forces had tortured, raped and killed suspected political opponents detained in secret facilities, while Houthi forces had planted land mines.

Air strikes by the Saudi-led military coalition in southwest Yemen hit a prison complex, killing scores of people, the Houthi movement and a Red Cross official said on Sunday.

Aboueldahab said that while justice could take time, the UN report was essential for building a case against suspected perpetrators.

“The statements coming out of the UN and multiple reports calling for accountability will probably not led to immediate prosecution, the information in these reports is absolutely crucial to build cases in the future.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/france-britain-complicit-yemen-war-crimes-190903103122355.html

Venezuelans stranded as Ecuador imposes new visa rules

colombiaEric Rafael Rodriguez expresses frustration over new visa rules at the Ecuador-Colombia border [Joshua Collins/Al Jazeera]

Rumichaca, Colombia – Eric Rafael Rodriguez had been on the road for 10 days, walking and hitchhiking from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, when he said he and his girlfriend were robbed at knife-point in Tangua, Colombia.

“They took everything we had – food, money, everything. We made it here before they closed the border, but now it doesn’t matter. We don’t even have IDs any more,” he said, wrapped in an old blanket to ward off the frigid temperature in the Colombian town of Rumichaca, which borders Ecuador. Rodriguez’s girlfriend, Deisy, wore sandals held together with duct tape.

They were part of a wave of migrants rushing to reach the border of Ecuador before the implementation of strict new visa requirements. Now, like hundreds of others here, they find themselves stranded. They plan to cross between official ports of entry and to continue on to Lima, Peru.

Ecuador on Monday joined Peru and Chile in restricting Venezuelan immigration. To enter the country, Venezuelans now need to provide a criminal record, apply for a visa before arrival and present a valid passport. As the deadline neared, many Venezuelans in Ecuador rushed home to retrieve family members. Thousands more rushed east from their homes in Venezuela, eager to start a life in Ecuador that would soon be much harder to achieve.

The last-minute wave sowed chaos for immigration officials on both sides of the Ecuador-Colombia border.

Migrants waited hours in bitterly cold temperatures as they navigated immigration processes. Temperatures dropped to six degrees Celsius and many slept huddled together in blankets as they queued, in some cases overnight.

Colombian migration officials did not know the exact number of Venezuelans who crossed before the border closed on Sunday, but a director at the Rumichaca office told Al Jazeera that more than 11,000 Venezuelans had crossed as of 6pm, well before the midnight deadline.

According to Colombian immigration officials on the Venezuelan border in Cucuta, there are still more on the way.

The land-race for Venezuelans wishing to make it to Ecuador before the deadline was visible on the border. The number of migrants swelled considerably on Saturday evening as many arrived by bus and on foot. By Sunday, the queue to cross into Ecuador stretched into the motor lanes of the highway, blocking traffic on both sides of the road.

Red Cross and Colombian health officials distributed water, food, hot chocolate and aluminium blankets to those waiting on the Colombian side.

The chaos was not limited just to Colombia as masses of migrants huddled in Ecuador as well, waiting to be processed.

Requirements beyond reach

Ronald Alarcon, 28, was crossing with his wife, two children and his mother early Sunday morning. He has been working in Ecuador for over a year and is one of few Venezuelans fortunate enough to have obtained a passport – the rest of his family carried only cedulas, Venezuelan national identification cards.

Passports can cost several months salary for most Venezuelans, though many migrants told Al Jazeera the actual price is much higher when one factors in necessary bribes of $100 to $300.

In a country where the monthly minimum wage has fallen to below $5, that is beyond the reach of most Venezuelans.

“I had to go back and get my family. When I heard about the changes in Ecuador I knew I couldn’t wait,” he said. “Only my grandmother now remains in Valencia.”

She refuses to leave Venezuela and survives off of the remittances he sends her from his salary in Ecuador.

“It doesn’t matter how bad it gets,” he said. “She will never leave. It’s all she knows.”

‘Hunger is more powerful than Ecuadorian law’

For those who missed the deadline, the next step seems uncertain.

A young family arrived at the border just after midnight, with three children in tow. Construction on the highway north of Rumichaca had delayed their arrival. They stared forlornly at the empty Colombian immigration office and the few remaining vendors on the closed frontier.

Luis Torres, a Venezuelan street merchant in the area approached them and offered help. He told them about a nearby refuge for migrants, gave them a bit of food and explained how to find the informal paths across the border.

Luis told Al Jazeera that the irregular paths are generally safe for migrants but police in nearby Ipiales worry about the days to come. They say that the tighter restrictions are likely to cause more migrants to cross informally, and as they do so they will be vulnerable to the criminal groups who control the smuggling paths.

“This new law might scare some people away in the long-term,” said Torres. “But desperate people will find a way. My country is in ruins. Look around, these people aren’t going anywhere. Hunger is more powerful than Ecuadorian law.”

The young family that he had been talking to wandered off into the darkness of the night towards refuge for the evening and an uncertain tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/venezuelans-stranded-ecuador-imposes-visa-rules-190826134509203.html

US: Tree planted to honour Elaine massacre victims cut down

TreeIn this June 15, 2019, photo, men work near a monument under construction honouring victims of the Elaine massacre that sits across from the Phillips County court in Helena, Arkansas [File: Noreen Nasir/AP]

Officials in Arkansas are investigating after someone cut down a willow tree that was planted to honour the victims of the 1919 Elaine massacre, one of the largest racial mass killings in United States history, US media reported this weekend.

The Elaine Legacy Center said the tree was chopped down at its base last week and a memorial tag was stolen. Memphis, Tennessee, television station WMC reported that police and state parks officials are investigating.

The tree was planted in April in remembrance of the victims of the massacre, which occurred during the summer of 1919, when hundreds of African Americans died at the hands of white mob violence during what became known as the “Red Summer”.

Events are planned for later next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre in Arkansas.

“Hacking down a tree is not graffiti. Graffiti is vandalism, okay? Hacking down a tree is a hateful act,” Arkansas judge and pastor Wendell Griffen told WMC. Griffen added that the incident warrants a hate crime investigation.

“They see us as having no value. Our feelings don’t matter. Our pain doesn’t matter. Our memories don’t matter. The folks that were massacred don’t matter and our families don’t matter,” Griffen told the local news station.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/tree-planted-honour-elaine-massacre-victims-cut-190826184017477.html

Amid efforts to rebuild, residents of Karala face another round of floods

flood
Flooding along the Ganges River Aug 21, 2019. Credit: Sanjay Kanojia / AFP / Getty Images.

.- Just a year after devastating floods swept through Kerala, India, the state is again facing devastating flooding.

Indian officials said that heavy rains this month have resulted in landslides and flash floods. According to ucanews, 100 people in Kerala have been killed and 1,115 homes have been destroyed.

According to the Indian Express, over 150,000 people have been relocated to one of the 1,221 relief camps in Kerala.

Father George Vettikattil, secretary of the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, said 300 church institutions are being used as relief camps for about 45,000 people. Like last year, he said, Catholic fishing communities are also using their boats for rescue missions.

“We have opened all our institutions to accommodate needy people in temporary and safe accommodation,” he told Vatican News.

Vettikattill told ucanews that “the destruction is less than last year.” In 2018, the monsoon season was the worst Kerala had seen in nearly a century. The natural disaster took over 400 lives and damaged 75,000 homes.

Families are still working to rebuild after last year’s floods.

Vettikattill said many people have offered money and volunteer work to help rebuilt the community. Caritas India alone has carried out $4 million worth of rebuilding efforts, including a loan program to help families buy goats, which can then be used to sell milk. In three years, the families are expected to repay the diocese with a baby lamb.

The loans help, but they are not enough, according to Kunjumol and Velayudhan, one couple participating in the program. They said the income from the goat’s milk will not be enough to rebuild their damaged home. They believe the government must do more to assist.

“The government has almost abandoned us,” he said, according to ucanews. “Some officials came and asked us questions but we got none of the benefits the government promised in the media.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/amid-efforts-to-rebuild-residents-of-karala-face-another-round-of-floods-53016