All posts by sndden

‘We failed to reach Europe – now our families disown us’

Mali

Most of the West African migrants who fail to reach Europe eventually return to their own countries, but it can be a bitter homecoming. In Sierra Leone, returnees are often rejected by relatives and friends. They’re seen as failures, and many stole from their families to pay for their journey.

Some readers will find this story disturbing

Fatmata breaks into sobs when she remembers the six months she spent in slavery as the “wife” of a Tuareg nomad who seized her in the Sahara desert.

“They call him Ahmed. He was so huge and so wicked,” she says. “He said, ‘You are a slave, you are black. You people are from hell.’ He told me when somebody has a slave, you can do whatever you want to do. Not only him. Sometimes he would tell his friend, ‘You can have a taste of anything inside my house.’ They tortured me every day.”

That was only the beginning of the horrors Fatmata, aged 28, from Freetown, Sierra Leone, experienced as she tried to cross West Africa to the Mediterranean. She eventually escaped from Ahmed, but was recaptured by traffickers who held her in their own private jail in Algeria.

After she and other migrants broke out, Fatmata, deeply traumatised, decided to abandon her dreams of a new life in Europe – and go back to where she started. She applied to an intergovernmental agency, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which pays the fares for migrants who want to return home.

Last December, she arrived back in Freetown, by bus from Mali – after nearly two years away. But there were no emotional reunions, no welcomes, no embraces. Nearly a year later, Fatmata hasn’t even seen her mother – or the daughter, now eight, she left behind.

“I was so happy to come back,” she says. “But I wish I had not.”

When she got back, she called her brother. But his reaction terrified her. “He told me, ‘You should not even have come home. You should just die where you went, because you didn’t bring anything back home.'”

After that, she says, “I didn’t have the heart to go and see my mother.”

But her family didn’t reject her just because she was a failure. It was also because of how she funded her journey.

She stole 25 million leones – about US $2,600 at today’s exchange rate, but then worth a lot more – from her aunt. It was money her aunt had given her to buy clothes, that could then be resold as part of her trading business. Her aunt regularly trusted her in that way.

“I was only thinking how to get the money and go,” Fatmata says, though she adds that she’s not a selfish person. “If I had succeeded in going to Europe, I decided that I would triple the money, I would take good care of my aunt and my mum.”

But Fatmata’s aunt’s business never recovered from the loss of the money. And – to make things even worse – the theft has caused a rift between the aunt and her sister, Fatmata’s mother, whom she falsely accuses of being in on Fatmata’s plan.

“I’m in pain, serious pain!” her mother says, when I visit her. “The day I set eyes on Fatmata, she will end up in the police station – and I will die.”

It’s a story that’s repeated in the families of many of the 3,000 or so Sierra Leoneans who have returned in the last two years after failing to reach Europe.

At one time, relatives often raised the money to send someone, but there’s less willingness to do that now that stories of imprisonment and death along the route have multiplied. Now, many would-be migrants keep their plans secret, and take whatever money they can, sometimes even selling the title deeds to the family land.

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-50391297

 

Catholic couple brings the love of family to young people with mental illness

Couple
Austin and Catherine Mardon meet Pope Francis Nov. 6. Credit: Vatican Media.

.- For Catholic couple Austin and Catherine Mardon, mental illness is personal.

Austin has schizophrenia, Catherine has PTSD, and together they foster children and young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Austin and Catherine have been married since 2003. Both are writers, and their experiences have led them to devote themselves to working on behalf of people with mental illnesses, many of whom, they said, end up without a family and living on the street.

The Mardons met Pope Francis after the general audience Nov. 6. They were inducted, in 2017, into the Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester, a papal Order of Knighthood, for their work on behalf of the disabled.

A native of Oklahoma, Catherine told CNA she has always remembered what one of her childhood teachers, a Carmelite nun, once said: “We don’t help people because they’re Catholic, we help people because we’re Catholic and we’re called to do it.”

“Look around,” she said. There are people in need of love and support all around, but “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid” to reach out.

Austin, a Canadian, is an assistant adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta.

A scientist by education, Austin was part of a NASA meteorite recovery expedition to the Antarctic in the 1980s at the age of 24. Unfortunately, the extreme difficulties of the expedition affected him mentally and physically.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-couple-brings-the-love-of-family-to-young-people-with-mental-illness-61780

Corpus Christi bishop donates bone marrow to save a mother’s life

Saved
Credit: drpnncpptak/Shutterstock.

.- This week, Bishop Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi reflected on bone marrow donations and the life of the mother whom he helped save.

Before he became a bishop, Michael Mulvey joined the Be the Match Registry, the world’s largest register for bone marrow transplants (BMT), which is run by the National Marrow Donor Program.

After the organization discovered a match, South Texas Catholic reported, Mulvey, 70, traveled to San Antonio to make a peripheral stem cell donation. He had matched with a mother who had been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer.

Although Mulvey has never met the woman, he said he was humbled by the experience and expressed gratitude to be able to contribute to the well-being of this mother and her family.

“Knowing that because of the life I have been given by God – I was able to give back and make a big difference in this person’s life, in the life of her children and her family is something I have thought of quite often,” he told South Texas Catholic Nov. 5.

Mulvey said he was introduced to Be the Match in 2004, while he was a priest of the Diocese of Austin. There, he had met Leticia Mondragon, a donor development and engagement specialist with GenCure who partners with Be the Match.

“When I was assigned in Austin years ago, one of our very charitable and active parishioners was signing up people for Be the Match,” said Bishop Mulvey, according to South Texas Catholic. “I appreciated her commitment and dedication to this cause, and after hearing more about the registry, I signed up.”

BMT replaces unhealthy bone marrow with healthy marrow from an outside source. The procedure is used to cure cancers in the blood as well as diseases in the bones and immune system. Among other illnesses, BMT has been used for leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease.

According to South Texas Catholic, Mondragon said the process to sign up is more convenient than in the past, noting that people may apply through their smartphone.

Unlike blood donations, a match for BMT does not focus on blood type, but ethnicity. Mondragon expressed hope that the new system will add more “people of all ethnic backgrounds” to the registry.

She stressed the importance of BMT donors, stating that life-threatening disorders are discovered every few minutes, and thanked the bishop for his contribution.

“Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a life-threatening blood cancer or blood disorder, such as leukemia or lymphoma,” said Mondragon, according to South Texas Catholic.

“We are thankful Bishop Mulvey wanted to share his story because it is so important that we have leaders like him promoting our global life-saving mission,” she further added.

Bishop Mulvey described the experience not only as an opportunity for charity but as a spiritual encounter.

“St. Matthew says what you have received as a gift, give as a gift,” said Bishop Mulvey, South Texas Catholic reported. “We must always remember that everyone’s life is a gift and true gratitude is expressed when you are willing to give back and share what you have.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/corpus-christi-bishop-donates-bone-marrow-to-saves-a-mothers-life-52562

Bangladeshi women recount stories of abuse in Saudi Arabia

94551B09-5E65-4CDB-88F7-8CB32E9D716DAccording to Bangladeshi authorities, nearly 50,000 female workers went to Saudi Arabia until the end of September this year [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Shirina Begum was no stranger to sleeping on an empty stomach. For days on end, she had to consume “bhater mar” (the starchy water poured off cooked rice) to quell her hunger after feeding her two children and ailing husband.

Growing up in the small Bangladeshi village of Namorikari in Lalmonirhat, which often faces seasonal famines, 29-year-old Begum struggled to make ends meet.

With no cultivable land at her disposal and living in a house made of straw, she seemed destined to live her life on subsistence.

Then one day, she heard that one of her neighbours was going to Saudi Arabiato work as a housemaid.

“I was told that she would make around 20,000 taka ($235) a month and only needed to spend 40,000 taka ($471) to go to Saudi Arabia,” she told Al Jazeera.

“I decided to borrow money from a local moneylender and go to Saudi Arabia to work there,” she said.

In May this year, she started her journey, leaving behind her family. Her agent told her that she would only need to cook for a family of four in the city of Al-Kharj.

She later found out that the family had six members and her duties also included cleaning, washing and other household chores.

“It was a tough job for $235 a month. I needed to work for 14-15 hours straight. It was hard for me to understand their language [Arabic]. I also couldn’t cook to their taste. I didn’t have any access to a phone, so I couldn’t talk to my family back home,” she said.

“They also beat me with a stick sometimes.”

Begum said she was also sexually assaulted by the eldest son of the family, which spurred her to run away.

“I was sleeping in the kitchen. Suddenly I realised someone was trying to get on the top of me. I screamed loud but he shut my mouth with his hand. Then he molested me. At one point, I applied all my force and he was compelled to leave me,” she said.

The next day, she mustered the courage and fled to the nearest police station. As she did not have proper immigration papers, she spent nearly four weeks in prison until she was able to return to Bangladesh with 20 others in late October with the help of Bangladeshi embassy in Saudi Arabia.

“I was treated like an animal inside the prison,” she said.

“I was able to work for only four months and I got salary of just two months. Now I am in debt as I can’t pay back to my loan sharks.”

Begum is among the nearly 50,000 women who went to the Gulf country for work until the end of September this year.

According to government figures, more than 300,000 female workers have travelled to Saudi Arabia since 1991, but many of them return with stories of abuse and exploitation.

In the last four years, at least 66 Bangladeshi female workers died in Saudi Arabia, 52 of them committing suicide.

Attempted suicide

The story of Dalia Akhter, another migrant who worked in Saudi Arabia, ended with a broken limb.

Akhter, a resident of Gendaria outside the capital Dhaka, was told she would be taking care of an elderly woman in the town Ad-Dilum in Saudi Arabia in exchange for $266 a month.

However, she woke up to the harsh reality when she reached there in July 2018. Long working hours, rude behaviour and physical abuse were everyday experiences.

“I had to work from 5am to 10pm every day without a break,” she said.

“The Malkin (her female employer) used to beat me with a stick when I could not understand her instructions. I felt helpless and trapped,” she said.

After she refused to continue working for the family, she was “sold” to another family, Akter says. Under the Saudi “kafala” – or visa sponsorship – system, a migrant worker’s residency permit is tied to the “sponsoring” employers whose written consent is required for the worker to change employers or leave the country under normal circumstances.

Akter’s working conditions got worse. The new family was even harsher on her than the previous one, she says. She jumped from the roof of the three-storey house in an attempted suicide and broke her leg, after which her employer left her with the Bangladeshi embassy in the capital, Riyadh.

After living in a safe house in Riyadh run by the Bangladeshi embassy for three weeks, Akhter was sent back to Bangladesh this September, her leg permanently incapable of healing.

“Before going to Saudi Arabia, I used to work in garment sector. Now with a broken leg, I have become a burden to my family,” said Akhter.

Bangladesh’s garment sector, the South Asian nation’s biggest export earner, employs millions of women.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/bangladeshi-women-recount-stories-abuse-saudi-arabia-191107111307106.html

30 years after Berlin Wall fell, Catholics seek to recognize heroic Eastern European sisters

2637D87F-E096-4914-9C4B-416EE7DAA5E2Zofia Luszczkiewicz, left, and Anna Abrikosova (Courtesy of the Sisters of Mercy, Krakow/Catholic Newmartyrs of Russia)

WARSAW, POLAND — When the Polish church filed a document with the Vatican this August, proposing the beatification of 16 members of the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Catherine the Virgin and Martyr, it was a vivid reminder of the hardships inflicted on religious sisters under communist rule in Eastern Europe.

The nuns, aged 27 to 65, all died martyrs’ deaths at the hands of Soviet soldiers in the northeastern Warmia region during the 1945 reinvasion of Poland, and were among over 100 killed from the St. Catherine order alone.

It was just one of numerous brutal episodes involving Catholic nuns that, three decades after communism’s collapse and the Nov. 9 felling of the Berlin Wall, many now hope will become better known. A full account is needed, some Catholics say, in the interests of historical accuracy, as well as to illustrate the virtues involved in acts of testimony and martyrdom, and to ensure that the courage and endurance of religious sisters are accorded proper recognition

Even today, however, the tight control exercised over media appearances means few religious order leaders are prepared to talk to journalists. Requests by GSR for comments on communist-era suffering from Poland’s Conference of Higher Superiors of Female Religious Orders received no reply.

“Certainly, the situation of nuns was different here than in neighboring countries — the worst sufferings were confined to the 1940s and 1950s, after which planned repressions were abandoned in the face of resistance,” Malgorzata Glabisz-Pniewska, a Catholic presenter and expert with Polish Radio, said in a late October interview with GSR.

“But the whole story has hardly been told, even now, and the sisters involved have remained in the shadows while attention focused on the persecution of priests. It should be an inspiration for younger members of religious orders, as well as for the church and wider society,” she said.

The assault on sisters

When Eastern Europe was overrun by Stalin’s Red Army at the end of World War II, the newly installed communist regimes moved quickly to neutralize the Catholic Church.

Historians concur that religious orders were seen as secretive organizations threatening the officially atheist Communist Party’s absolute power, so they became key targets for repression.

Hundreds of books have been published about the communist-era persecutions. A few used as sources for this story include a new Polish-language book by Agata Puścikowska, War Sisters; a two-volume book in Slovak, co-edited by František Mikloško, Gabriela Smolíková and Peter Smolík, Crimes of Communism in Slovakia 1948-1989; and a Romanian book by C. Vasile, Between the Vatican and the Kremlin.

In Romania, Catholic orders were banned outright in 1949, their houses closed and ransacked; and while most nuns were sent to labor camps, a smaller number, mostly elderly and infirm, were moved to “concentration cloisters.”

In Bulgaria, where orders with foreign headquarters had already been outlawed, the Eucharistic sisters saw their Sofia chapel turned into a sports hall, while over a dozen surviving Carmelite nuns were given heavy prison terms.

Up to 700 Catholic convents in what was then Czechoslovakia were seized in a coordinated action in 1950, leaving an estimated 10,000 nuns incarcerated in prison and detention centers.

Many had qualified as teachers, doctors and translators but were set to work as farm laborers, weavers and fruit pickers when they refused to renounce their vows. Others were sent to “centralized convents” such as Bilá Voda in Moravia, which became home to about 450 incarcerated sisters from 13 orders.

In places like this, the orders continued recruiting and training members in secret, putting them through novitiates under cover of regular jobs.

In other countries, habited orders were later grudgingly permitted, but only after their schools, clinics and care homes had been seized and many nuns killed or imprisoned.

In Hungary, the regime opted for quick overnight swoops like Czechoslovakia’s, trucking nuns to internment centers and withdrawing legal status from at least 60 orders.

A petition to the government deplored how nursing sisters had been peremptorily sacked and others offered bribes to abandon their communities. But Hungary’s Culture Ministry was adamant: The orders were “nests of anti-state agitation.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/world/ministry/news/30-years-after-berlin-wall-fell-catholics-seek-recognize-heroic-eastern

India air pollution at ‘unbearable levels’, Delhi minister says

10DE066D-AB22-4AF9-86B3-A76D33143735Worshippers braved the smog to enter the polluted River Yamuna as part of the Hindu religious festival of Chatth Puja

Air pollution in the north of India has “reached unbearable levels,” the capital Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvid Kejriwal says.

In many areas of Delhi air quality deteriorated into the “hazardous” category on Sunday with the potential to cause respiratory illnesses.

Authorities have urged people to stay inside to protect themselves.

Mr Kejriwal called on the central government to provide relief and tackle the toxic pollution.

  • How a food crisis led to Delhi’s foul smog

Schools have been closed, more than 30 flights diverted and construction work halted as the city sits in a thick blanket of smog.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain advised the city’s residents to “avoid outdoor physical activities, especially during morning and late evening hours”.

The advisory also said people should wear anti-pollution masks, avoid polluted areas and keep doors and windows closed.

How bad is the smog?

Levels of dangerous particles in the air – known as PM2.5 – are far higher than recommended and about seven times higher than in the Chinese capital Beijing.

An Indian health ministry official said the city’s pollution monitors did not have enough digits to accurately record pollution levels, which he called a “disaster”.

Five million masks were handed out in schools on Friday as officials declared a public health emergency and Mr Kejriwal likened the city to a “gas chamber”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.

“This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco,” the WHO says on its website.

How are people reacting?

Mr Kejriwal’s most recent comments are unlikely to please government officials, reports the BBC’s South Asia regional editor Jill McGivering. She said Indian politicians were blaming each other for the conditions.

On Sunday young people in Delhi came out to protest and demand action.

“You can obviously see how terrible it is and it’s actually scary you can’t see things in front of you,” said Jaivipra.

She said she wanted long-term and sustainable anti-pollution measures put in place.

“We are concerned about our futures and about our health but we are also fighting this on behalf of the children and the elderly who bear the biggest brunt of the problem here,” she said.

Some ministers have sparked controversy on social media by suggesting light-hearted measures to stay healthy.

Harsh Vardhan, the union minister for health and family welfare, urged people to eat carrots to protect against “night blindness” and “other pollution-related harm to health”.

Meanwhile, Prakash Javadekar, the minister of the environment, suggested that you should “start your day with music”, adding a link to a “scintillating thematic composition”.

“Is that the reason you have turned deaf ears to our plight on pollution?” one Twitter user responded. “Seems you are too busy hearing music that you are not able to hear us!”

What’s caused the pollution?

A major factor behind the high pollution levels at this time of year is farmers in neighbouring states burning crop stubble to clear their fields.

This creates a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide – all worsened by fireworks set off during the Hindu festival Diwali a week ago.

Vehicle fumes, construction and industrial emissions have also contributed to the smog.

Indians are hoping that scattered rainfall over the coming week will wash away the pollutants but this is not due until Thursday.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50280390

 

 

 

 

 

Migrants stuck at sea aboard rescue ship Ocean Viking for 11 days

strandedThe rescued group comprises people from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan [Stefan Dold/MSF]

More than 100 migrants and refugees are still stranded onboard a rescue ship in the central Mediterranean after being rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat 11 days ago.

On October 18, a group of 104 people, including 10 women – two of them pregnant – and 41 minors were rescued 50 nautical miles (93km) from Libya’s shores.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, the charities operating the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said they have requested permission to disembark in Malta or Italy but have not received any response despite a plan by some EU countries to resolve such cases quickly.

MSF staff onboard the Ocean Viking told Al Jazeera the Libyan Joint Rescue Coordination Center (LJRCC) assigned Tripoli as a place of safety for disembarkation.

Libya is a major departure point for African migrants trying to reach Europe. But figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in July showed at least 5,200 people are currently trapped in official detention centres, often in appalling conditions.

“A first medical assessment showed all survivors in a stable condition. A few were weak due to the exhaustion and being exposed to the sun, with no water to drink. Many were dehydrated but have recovered,” according to an MSF statement sent to Al Jazeera.

“Many were quite emotional, especially mothers with children, when they came onboard and started crying out of relief that they survived.” 

Thirty-one of the 41 minors rescued are unaccompanied, with six of those younger than 16 years. Two infants – aged two months and 11 months – were also rescued as part of the group.

The standoff comes despite a plan revealed by some EU countries earlier this month to resolve such cases quickly.

At a meeting of EU interior ministers in October, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal agreed to participate in the “fast-track” plan by Germany, France, Italy and Malta, which would screen migrants, relocate asylum seekers, and return people who do not apply or qualify for asylum, all within four weeks.

“This isn’t how you treat people who have been rescued from a boat in distress. This is adding to their anxiety, mental suffering and the mental trauma,” Jay Berger, MSF project coordinator onboard the Ocean Viking, told Al Jazeera.

“This, again, shows lack of care, lack of dignity that Europe puts on the people that are in need of rescue and care. They should be treated with dignity and respect they deserve.”