All posts by sndden

Fossil fuels fade, but pipeline protests persist

Pipeline projects spark protest not only at rural construction sites, but also among urban activists like this demonstrator in Los Angeles in 2017. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)
Pipeline projects spark protest not only at rural construction sites, but also among urban activists like this demonstrator in Los Angeles in 2017. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

Although more and more countries have committed to sharp cuts in carbon emissions in an effort to stem the rise in global temperatures, and even some oil companies admit that fossil fuels are in decline, the construction of oil pipelines continues to spark protests around the world.

Often, those pipelines follow routes that take them across or near Indigenous territories. Just a week ago, on Jan. 9, eight people were arrested when about 300 water protectors and Anishinaabe jingle dress dancers gathered at a pipeline construction site in Minnesota, according to the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The Indigenous demonstrators are protesting the expansion of Enbridge’s 1,097-mile Line 3, which pipes oil from Edmonton, Canada, across North Dakota and Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

Ojibwe writer and activist Winona LaDuke is among the protesters. She writes about their reasons for opposing the construction in a commentary originally published in The Nation, which we published today on EarthBeat as part of the Covering Climate Now consortium. Not only will the pipeline carry some of the world’s dirtiest crude oil, from Canada’s tar sands, she notes, but the worker camps also pose a particular health hazard during the coronavirus pandemic.

In November, Alleen Brown at The Intercept warned that the construction “has the potential to draw together thousands of temporary workers from across the U.S. and trigger a mass protest movement in a state that currently has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the nation.”

And in The New York Times, Chippewa novelist and poet Louise Erdrich writes that in the November general election, the “Native vote became a force that helped carry several key areas of the country and our state. On the heels of those victories, the granting of final permits to construct Enbridge’s Line 3, which will cross Anishinaabe treaty lands, was a breathtaking betrayal.”

Enbridge made more news this week, when it notified Michigan’s governor on Jan. 12 that it would defy a state order to stop pumping oil and natural gas liquids through a pipeline that crosses Lake Michigan. In November, the state rescinded an easement and ordered operations to stop by May. The company has taken the case to federal court, arguing that the state overstepped its authority.

This is the latest in a series of pipeline projects championed by the outgoing Trump administration, including the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, both of which have been targets of protests and court challenges. The issues they raise are not only political and environmental, but also cultural and spiritual.

The Trump administration eased pipeline regulations, but industry executives and environmentalists expect the incoming Biden administration to reinstate environmental controls.

Opposition to pipelines, especially those crossing territories of Indigenous peoples and other traditional communities, extends far beyond U.S. borders. In Canada, protests that began in British Colombia, in the territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation, spread across the country a year ago, shutting down rail transport in parts of the country.

And in East Africa, critics warn that a 900-mile pipeline from Lake Albert in Uganda to the Tanzanian coast — another new project ramping up even as analysts predict the decline of fossil fuels — will displace thousands of small farmers and threaten ecologically sensitive areas.

Here in Peru, where I live, I have covered a series of spills from an aging and poorly maintained pipeline operated by the state-run oil company, Petroperu, which carries oil from the country’s largest Amazonian oil fields across the Andes Mountains to the Pacific coast.

I’ve seen how even a small spill can have a devastating impact on Amazonian Indigenous communities that have no safe water supply and depend on rivers and streams for water for drinking, bathing, cooking and washing. Contaminated surface water is a constant health hazard, and oil spills also poison fish, robbing people of a key source of protein and an important part of their livelihood.

Occasionally there are bright spots — Peru’s Constitutional Court recently ruled that Petroperu must compensate four communities affected by a spill in 2014. It’s a landmark decision that could set an important precedent for other communities that have suffered spills.

But court cases take time, and people get tired of fighting. I’m reminded of a Kichwa woman I met at a three-month-long protest over oil spills in Peru’s Marañón River Valley in 2016. A marathon negotiating session with the government had ended at midnight with a 30-point agreement, which the participants were celebrating.

She didn’t stay for the party. Over the past couple of decades, she told me, she had seen many such pacts become empty promises. “How many months have we waited for these agreements to be signed?” she asked. “When I see things change, that’s when I’ll celebrate.”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/earthbeat-weekly-fossil-fuels-fade-pipeline-protests-persist

Migrant caravan: Mexico presses US to reform immigration policies

Guatemalan Police dissolves the caravan of thousands of people that blocked the road in Vado Hondo, Chiquimula, Guatemala, 18 January 2021
The caravan of migrants blocked a key road after being halted by police in Guatemala at the weekend

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has urged the US to make major reforms to its immigration policy as thousands of migrants were blocked by police in neighbouring Guatemala.

Mr Lopez Obrador said he was hopeful that President-elect Joe Biden would agree to work with Mexico and other countries on the issue.

About 7,000 migrants, mostly from Honduras, have entered Guatemala.

They hope to travel on to Mexico and eventually reach the US border.

Every year, tens of thousands of Central American migrants try to reach the US, often on foot, in groups known as “caravans”.

They say they are fleeing persecution, violence and poverty in their home countries. Conditions have been made worse by the devastation wrought by two huge hurricanes that battered Central America last November.

In remarks on Monday, Mr Lopez Obrador urged the US to reform its policies on immigration.

“I think the time has come for the commitment [to immigration reform] to be fulfilled, and that is what we hope,” he said.

“In Joe Biden’s campaign, he offered to finalise immigration reform and I hope that he is able to achieve this. That is what I hope.”

He said his government would try to dissuade migrants from crossing into Mexico but added that the rights of all migrants must be respected.

In Guatemala on Monday, security forces broke up a caravan of about 4,000 mostly Honduran migrants who had been camped out near the village of Vado Hondo.

Witnesses said officers, beating their batons against their shields, tried to force the group back in the direction of the Honduran border, about 50km (31 miles) away.

The migrants scattered but several threw stones at police who responded by firing tear gas.

The caravan had been held back in the area since Saturday and was blocking a key road, causing a long tail-back of traffic. Clashes broke out on Sunday as some of the migrants tried to force their way past police lines.

Speaking to reporters, Guatemalan foreign minister Pedro Brolo urged the Honduran government to help ensure “an orderly and safe passage home for those in this caravan”.

President Donald Trump has taken a hard line against illegal immigration, especially along the southern US border with Mexico. He has also put pressure on Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to crack down on northbound migrants.

Mr Biden has vowed to end the strict immigration policies of his predecessor but his administration, which will take office on Wednesday, has warned migrants not to make the journey because policies will not change overnight.

An administration official told NBC News that migrants trying to claim asylum in the US “need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately”.

The Biden administration will prioritise undocumented immigrants already living in the US, not those heading to the country now, the official said.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55714865

What do we owe immigrants? Love, says Archbishop Gomez

Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA
Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

CNA Staff, – During a webinar on human dignity this week, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles reflected on immigration and the Christian’s obligation to love.

Gomez, who is president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, spoke on Jan. 12 at the 21st annual Winter Conference for the Notre Dame de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture. He highlighted the dangers a secular society poses to a culture’s understanding of human dignity, especially toward immigrants. 

“As we know, the condition of migrants and refugees has been one of the key moral concerns of [Pope Francis’] pontificate. And it is true: forced migration, mass movements of populations, is one of the signs of our times. Not since World War II has the world faced this kind of refugee crisis,” he said. 

“We are all brothers and sisters, and we need to treat others as we want to be treated. As faithful citizens, we need to work to ensure that our nation is welcoming and generous, that we never close our hearts or turn our backs on people in need.”

The theme of the conference is “We Belong to Each Other,” which is taken from a quote by Saint Mother Teresa: “Today, if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” 

Taking place Jan. 12-14, the webinar includes speakers such as noted moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, Notre Dame law school dean Marcus Cole, and California State Poet Laureate Dana Gioia.

In his talk, Gomez reflected on the Christian obligation to welcome the stranger.

“As Christians, we worship a God who has revealed himself as Love. And as Christians, we know that human beings are made in the image of this God, in the image of Love,” he said.

“We are created out of love. And we are made to love. To love as Jesus loved, and as Mother Teresa and the saints love. Whenever I hear this story, I am reminded of that beautiful saying from St. Augustine, ‘If you see love, you see the Trinity.’ This is the truth about God, the truth about the human person.”

Gomez has advocated for immigrant and refugee rights for over 20 years. He noted that the United Nations estimates that 80 million people in the world have been forcibly displaced by war, persecution, social unrest, and economic distress – including about 40 million children. 

“They are living on the run; they are exploited by human smugglers and some of them are being sold into slavery,” he said. 

“Their living conditions have been made even more desperate now, because of the pandemic and the closing of borders,” he added. “But the global refugee crisis – like so many of the troubles in the world – is more than a failure of politics or diplomacy. It’s a failure of human fraternity and solidarity. It’s a failure of love.”

The archbishop pointed to Pope Francis’s latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti. He said the pope has issued this encyclical as a missionary appeal to share God’s love in a heavily secular culture. 

Catholics must respond to this calling by sharing the truth about God’s love and the Christian family, he said.

“Unless we know these truths, we cannot understand our Christian commitments – for immigrants and refugees, for the poor, the unborn, the imprisoned, the sick, the environment. Unless we know these truths, we cannot understand how to create a society that will be good for human beings. “

“To put our challenge in its simplest terms: unless we believe that we have a Father in heaven, there’s no necessary reason for us [to] treat one another as brothers and sisters on earth,” he said. 

During his many years advocating for immigration reform, the archbishop said he has repeatedly encountered the question – “What do we owe to the migrant?” Simply put, he said, Christians are obliged to show love, recognizing that an immigrant’s dignity is not qualified by his legal or social status. 

“Love means remembering that they are souls, not statistics. They are men and women and children with dreams and hopes, no different than you,” he explained.

“Every immigrant and refugee is a child of God, made in his image. Every one of them has rights and dignity that can never be denied,” he said. “And that’s true whether they are in this country legally or not; and that’s true whether they’re eligible for asylum under our laws or not.”

Amid an atmosphere of political tension and division, Gomez challenged Catholics to remember that God is the Father of all people and to bear witness to God’s love. 

“We need to tell our neighbors about the God who is love. We need to tell them the good news that we are all children of God, that there is a greatness to human life,” he said. “That every one of us is created in God’s image, endowed with God-given rights and responsibilities, and called to a transcendent destiny.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/what-do-we-owe-immigrants-love-says-archbishop-gomez

In Brazil’s Amazon, indigenous people fear surge in COVID-19 deaths

A gravedigger buries Joao Castro, 64, an indigenous man of the Satere Mawe ethnicity, after he passed away due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Parque Taruma cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, January 8, 2021. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

RIO DE JANEIRO, – With hospitals overflowing and oxygen supplies running low, indigenous leader Joilson Karapana fears a second wave of COVID-19 deaths in the Brazilian city of Manaus could prove even more devastating for his tribal community.

When the coronavirus pandemic swept the Amazon metropolis last year, several of Karapana’s close relatives and members of his 50-strong tribe died from the disease and more have recently fallen ill.

“I lost my brother, my father, my cousin, my aunts and other people I knew,” said Karapana, whose community lives in Parque das Tribos – an indigenous urban settlement of about 3,000 people in hard-hit Manaus, capital of Amazonas state.

“Now we have about five or six people short of breath, with pain all over their bodies. It’s a worrying situation,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Brazil’s Air Force flew oxygen cylinders into the jungle city last week as desperate relatives protested outside hospitals, saying patients had been taken off ventilators as oxygen supplies ran out.

Some of the sick were airlifted to other states as locals scrambled to buy oxygen on the black market to help their loved ones, according to media reports.

For the roughly 30,000 indigenous people who live in Manaus and rely on public healthcare, the situation is especially alarming, said Marcivana Satere-Mawe, head of the Coordination of Indigenous Peoples in Manaus and Surroundings (Copime).

“If we have to buy oxygen for our elders to survive, they will die. We have no income,” Marcivana said by phone.

The city’s government and the SESAI service, which provides health services in indigenous reservations, did not reply to a request for comment.

Amazonas’s government gave its first COVID-19 vaccine shot on Monday to an indigenous nurse in Parque das Tribos, saying frontline health workers and indigenous people in reservations would be the priority for vaccinations, a statement said.

‘MORE DIFFICULT EACH DAY’

Brazil has registered 210,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University, the second-highest toll after the United States.

The dead include 926 indigenous people, according to a tally by the indigenous umbrella organization APIB.

Grim headlines from Manaus mean some indigenous people living in reservations in the surrounding forest are unwilling to be taken to the city if they fall sick, preferring to take their chances with rudimentary local care.

“We had a case of an indigenous woman here with COVID, but she’s being treated here” said Maria Alice da Silva Paulino, an indigenous teacher at Yupiranga Village, near Manaus.

“She didn’t want to be transferred because of the deaths, the lack of oxygen.”

Sahu da Silva, a leader of the Sahu-Ape indigenous community near Manaus, said the only option was to treat people locally and hope for the best.

He said three members of his tribe were currently sick with COVID-19 symptoms.

“Whenever one gets better, another one falls ill,” he said. “We are in this fight, (but) it’s getting more difficult each day.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20210119160425-37e03/

Fire at Bangladesh Rohingya camp leaves thousands without shelter

A Rohingya man reacts after a fire burned houses of the Nayapara refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh [Mohammed Arakani/Reuters]
A Rohingya man reacts after a fire burned houses of the Nayapara refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh [Mohammed Arakani/Reuters]

A fire has swept through the Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, destroying homes belonging to thousands of people, according to the United Nations.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said more than 550 shelters – home to at least 3,500 people – were either totally or partially destroyed in the blaze on Thursday, as well as 150 shops and a facility belonging to a non-profit organisation.

Photographs and video provided to Reuters news agency by a Rohingya refugee in Nayapara Camp showed families, including children, sifting through charred corrugated iron sheets to see if they could salvage anything from their smouldering homes.

But little remained of the camp, which had stood for decades, aside from concrete poles and the husks of a few trees.

“E-block is completely burned down,” said the refugee, Mohammed Arakani. “There is nothing left. There was nothing saved. Everything is burned down.”

“Everyone is crying,” he added. “They lost all their belongings. They lost everything … all their goods.”

The UNHCR said it was providing shelter, materials, winter clothes, hot meals, and medical care for the refugees displaced by the calamity at the camp in Cox’s Bazar district, a sliver of land bordering Myanmar in southeastern Bangladesh.

“Security experts are liaising with the authorities to investigate on the cause of fire,” the agency said, adding that no casualties were reported.

Mohammed Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees, said the fire service spent two hours putting out the blaze but was hampered by the explosion of gas cylinders inside homes.

He said there had been no decision on whether shelters would be rebuilt or refugees moved elsewhere.

The Bangladesh government has moved several thousand Rohingya to a remote island in recent weeks, despite protests from human rights groups who say some of the relocations were forced, allegations denied by authorities.

More than a million Rohingya live in the mainland camps in southern Bangladesh, the vast majority having fled Myanmar in 2017 in a military-led crackdown the UN said was executed with genocidal intent – charges Myanmar denies.

The fire destroyed part of a camp inhabited by Rohingya who fled Myanmar after an earlier military campaign, according to refugees.

In a statement, Save the Children NGO said the fire was “another devastating blow for the Rohingya people who have endured unspeakable hardship for years”.

“Today’s devastating fire will have robbed many families of what little shelter and dignity left to them. It stands as another ghastly reminder that children stuck in the camps in Cox’s Bazar face a bleak future with little freedom of movement, inadequate access to education, poverty, serious protection risks and abuse including child marriage,” Save the Children’s country director in Bangladesh Onno van Manen said.

The NGO said the international community must find a “lasting and durable solution to the plight of the Rohingyas”.

“In addition, the international community must fully fund the humanitarian response for the Rohingya crisis, which is woefully under-funded. Without adequate funding, essential lifesaving services for the Rohingya will suffer,” it said.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/14/fire-leaves-at-least-3500-rohingya-without-shelter-in-bangladesh

Piped water boosts women’s health, happiness and income in rural Zambia

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks barefoot through a field in Chiyobola village, close to the town of Chikuni in the south of Zambia February 21, 2015. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

JOHANNESBURG, – From growing vegetables to spending more time with their children, women’s quality of life improved drastically after piped water was installed near their homes in rural Zambia, Stanford University researchers said on Thursday.

In a study involving 434 households in four Zambian villages, they found not having to walk to a communal water source saved each home about 200 hours per year on average – freeing up time for more productive activities.

“Women and girls benefit the most from alleviation of domestic chores and from food production for nutrition and income generation,” said Barbara van Koppen, emeritus scientist at research organisation the International Water Management Institute.

“This study brings further unique proof that better water supplies enable more domestic and productive uses,” van Koppen, who was not involved in the study, said in emailed comments.

Globally, about 844 million people live without easily accessible water used for cleaning, cooking, drinking and farming, according to the study published in academic journal Social Science & Medicine.

With just 12% of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa having water piped to their home, villagers – mainly women and girls – have to carry containers averaging 40 pounds (18 kg) from communal water sources, the study found.

The four villages included in the research lie in Zambia’s southern province, two of which received piped water to their yard halfway through the study, meaning water was accessible 15 metres (49 feet) away.

The research showed women and girls with piped water supplies spent 80% less time fetching water, or four hours less each week, allowing them to garden, care for the children or sell goods instead.

Their households were four times more likely to grow vegetables either to sell or for their own consumption, and they also reported feeling happier, healthier and less anxious when they spent less time carrying heavy water containers.

“Addressing this problem provides the time and water for women and girls to invest in their household’s health and economic development, in whatever way they see fit,” said study author and Stanford researcher James Winter in a statement.

Despite the fact that previous studies have shown that piped water improves mental health and decreases the risk of infectious diseases, these installations have increased by only 2% in sub-Saharan Africa since 2007, the study found.

https://news.trust.org/item/20210114093811-s25t5/

Holy Spirit sister who survived COVID-19 donates plasma to save others

Holy Spirit Sr. Sneha Joseph donates her plasma at the government-managed Nair Hospital in Mumbai, capital of the western Indian state Maharashtra. (Provided photo)
Holy Spirit Sr. Sneha Joseph donates her plasma at the government-managed Nair Hospital in Mumbai, capital of the western Indian state Maharashtra. (Provided photo

MUMBAI, INDIA — Though she is a hospital administrator and nurse in western India who once trained nurses in the South Sudan during ethnic fighting, a Catholic nun’s worst fear about getting COVID-19 was going on a ventilator.

“I was certain that once I was put on the ventilator I would not survive. I would visualize how I was going to die,” said Holy Spirit Sr. Sneha Joseph, remembering a harrowing incident waking up after her appendectomy years earlier, intubated and gasping for breath.

But when she caught the virus, she not only escaped the ventilator, she survived after 18 days of treatment and ended up donating convalescent plasma to try to save the lives of coronavirus patients. “There was an inner voice that urged me to donate plasma,” she said.

Joseph was honored Nov. 1, 2020, as a COVID-19 Warrior by the governor of Maharashtra state at his residence in Mumbai, the state capital.

“I am proud of you. Thank you for your selfless service to society,” Gov. Bhagat Singh Koshyari told Joseph while presenting the member of the Missionary Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit a letter recognizing her “exemplary service.”

The governor, who is the Indian president’s representative in the state, pointed out that Joseph has inspired many COVID-19 survivors to donate blood to treat other patients.

The Warrior award program was organized by Spandan (heartbeat) Arts, a local nongovernmental organization, along with Ashish Shelar, a legislator in the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

Joseph donated her blood for the fifth time Dec. 9, in what news reports called a first for a female donor. “I still want to donate [blood], however, doctors advised me to wait,” the 57-year-old nun told Global Sisters Report in November after her fourth donation.

Joseph, who has a master’s degree in nursing, is currently the chief executive officer of the Holy Spirit Hospital, a multispecialty tertiary care institution her congregation manages at Andheri, a suburb of Mumbai.

The nun donates plasma only to poor COVID-19 patients in Nair Hospital and Medical College, a government-managed institution in Mumbai.

Ramesh S. Waghmare, a doctor and associate professor of the blood bank at Nair Hospital who facilitated Joseph’s blood donation, defines plasma therapy as a medical procedure that uses the blood of a recovered patient to create antibodies in those infected.

As part of the procedure, plasma, the fluid part of blood containing antibodies, is separated and transfused into a COVID-19 patient’s body. “This procedure has not been officially approved as an effective measure to treat COVID-19 patients. But it has shown positive results in our hospital,” Waghmare told GSR over the phone.

The doctor said his hospital conducts “guided plasma therapy” on COVID-19 victims with convalescent plasma from recovered patients such as Joseph as part of a clinical trial.

“We transfuse two units of 200 milliliters [6.76 ounces] each on a patient in two successive days and our results so far have been successful,” Waghmare explained.

The doctor lauded Joseph for donating plasma multiple times when other survivors have been reluctant to support the trial even once.

The Catholic nun, he added, has expressed willingness to assist them in the trial by giving her plasma unconditionally. “We are all indebted to her,” he said.

Joseph, however, believes that it was God’s plan to let her contract the disease so that she could gain new insights into her religious life and her desire to serve impoverished people.

She had her fears when she became ill, as the disease is so new.

“When I knew that I had contracted the virus, I was scared and thought my end had come,” Joseph recalled.

The nun said she had mentally prepared to die, if that was God’s will. She battled for life in the hospital for 18 days in May. A week after recovery, she was back on duty.

“Now I realize that God had a special purpose in letting me contract COVID-19. Initially, I was disappointed, as people keep away from COVID-19 patients even after they are healed,” she said.

Ursulines of Mary Immaculate Sr. Beena Devassia Madhavath, who heads the Sister Doctors Forum in India, appreciates Joseph’s “courage and generosity.”

Many people have fears and misconceptions about donating plasma, but Joseph had no problem, says Madhavath, who is also the medical superintendent of Mumbai’s Holy Family Hospital. “It is really a humanitarian work,” she told GSR.

Madhavath points out that not everyone can donate plasma. “A woman is eligible only if she has not conceived. Pregnancy leads to cross-reactive antibodies that can cause harm,” she said. (Tests used in Western nations to determine antibody safety in women are largely unavailable in India.)

“It takes at least three hours for donating the blood, and it needs a lot of courage and commitment,” the doctor nun explained. What she admires about Joseph is that the Holy Spirit nun could “spare so much time from her hectic work schedule in her hospital where she does double jobs as an administrator and a nurse.”

Madhavath said all sisters in the country are “really proud that one of us has done a marvelous work for the humanity.”

Joseph credits her religious vocation for paving the way. “If I was not a nun, I would not have been able to donate my plasma. I believe my religious vocation has a special purpose,” she said.

Even though she had heard about plasma therapy, she had no idea how to go about it. One of her colleagues, Pravin Nair, encouraged her to donate.

Joseph fulfills all requirements of a plasma donor. “Generally, one needs an antibody [level] greater than three for donating plasma, but mine was greater than 10,” she said. “My serum protein level also was on the higher side, a good indication for donation.”

Nair hails Joseph as a self-driven person who is committed to helping the poor. “When I informed her about the opportunity and importance of donating plasma, she identified the government hospital and started donation,” said Nair, the head of the microbiology department and infection control at Holy Spirit Hospital.

He added that Joseph always maintains that her mission in life is to serve others, especially poor people in a time of pandemic. She ignored offers from private hospitals and chose the government hospital since poorer patients flock there, he explained.

Some studies say plasma therapy is not useful to treat COVID-19, Nair said, but “treating a virus with antibodies is an effective mechanism in medical science and we believe plasma therapy is useful to treat pandemic virus.”

Another admirer of Joseph is Auxiliary Bishop Allwyn D’Silva of Bombay. “She had a very bad attack and suffered a lot,” said the prelate, who shot a video of the sister donating plasma to encourage others to follow her example.

“It is very rare for a woman to take such a step, but she realized the pain and suffering of COVID-19 patents and that helped her walk the extra mile,” D’Silva told GSR.

The prelate said he has found Joseph to be “a very humble” person. “She does it not for any fame,” he said.

Many others work in Catholic hospitals, but Joseph has become an example not only for Christians but others, too, D’Silva said. “Her life gives us a clear message: What we get, we need to give back.”

Joseph, the youngest among six children in a Catholic family of Kerala, a southwestern Indian state, wonders why her donations have drawn so much attention.

“As a child I had a passion to serve the poor and I grabbed the opportunity to give my plasma for their treatment,” she said. “I want to help only the poor who will not be able to pay for the treatment.”

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/news/holy-spirit-sister-who-survived-covid-19-donates-plasma-save-others

Trailblazing woman mechanic changes wheels, oil and stereotypes in Egypt

Trailblazing woman mechanic changes wheels, oil and stereotypes in Egypt

ESNA, Egypt, – Lekaa El Kholy’s father used to rub a little blackened engine oil onto her face and tell her to wear overalls when they went to the Egyptian city of Luxor to buy supplies for his car repair workshop.

It was his way of showing people his daughter was a mechanic just like him, and of confronting deep-rooted beliefs about gender roles that keep all but a few women out of traditionally male professions in socially conservative Egypt.

Today, El Kholy, 24, has been fixing cars for more than a decade in the village of Esna and has captured national attention – with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi hailing her as the Upper Egypt region’s first female motor mechanic.

This month, she opened her own car maintenance centre in nearby Luxor and is also helping other aspiring female mechanics enter the male-dominated trade, especially those facing social or family pressures over their career choice.

“It’s not only about achieving my career dreams but also giving a helping hand to other women who are facing social challenges to become mechanics,” El Kholy said in her office, her late father’s portrait standing on a desk behind her.

She said she had been lucky because her father, who died in 2016, had supported her since she first showed a passion for the profession at the age of 11.

“I’m sure there are many other women out there who are passionate about the job but don’t find adequate support and help,” El Kholy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

According to the 2015 Global Gender Gap Index, Egypt ranks low in gender equity compared to other nations.

The Index, which measures disparities between men and women across countries, ranked Egypt 136th out of 145 nations and noted that only about a quarter of Egyptian women have paid jobs compared with nearly 80% of men. El Kholy has been organising training workshops for women interested in car maintenance in her hometown and in Tanta, a city north of Cairo where she used to work in a repair business.

So far, about 20 women have taken part and El Kholy said she planned to hire some of them at her new centre.

“From my training experience with men and women, I can confidently say that women are far better because they are more passionate about anything new they do,” she said.

One of El Kholy’s students, Nourhan Ahmed, 25, is already working at the car maintenance centre.

Ahmed said she had always loved cars and wanted to learn about vehicle maintenance – either for a possible job or for when she buys own car – but had never been able to find courses aimed at women.

Alongside her efforts to help other women enter the profession, El Kholy has ambitious plans for her business and hopes to open several branches in Egypt and even launch a brand that can be franchised abroad.

“This is a dream for me and I believe that I will achieve it one day,” she said.

https://news.trust.org/item/20210105100959-worhk/

In Nigeria, nun cares for abandoned children labeled as witches

Sr. Matilda Iyang poses outside at the Mother Charles Walker Children Home Oct. 7, at the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus convent in Uyo, Nigeria. (CNS/Valentine Iwenwanne)
Sr. Matilda Iyang poses outside at the Mother Charles Walker Children Home Oct. 7, at the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus convent in Uyo, Nigeria. Since opening the home in 2007, Iyang has cared for dozens of malnourished and homeless children from the streets of Uyo; many of them had family who believed they were witches. (CNS/Valentine Iwenwanne)

Uyo, Nigeria — Three years after taking in 2-year-old Inimffon Uwamobong and her younger brother, Sr. Matylda Iyang finally heard from the mother who had abandoned them.

“Their mother came back and told me that she (Inimffon) and her younger sibling are witches, asking me to throw them out of the convent,” said Iyang, who oversees the Mother Charles Walker Children Home at the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus convent.

Such an accusation is not new to Iyang.

Since opening the home in 2007, Iyang has cared for dozens of malnourished and homeless children from the streets of Uyo; many of them had family who believed they were witches.

The Uwamobong siblings became well and were able to enroll in school, but Iyang and other social service providers are faced with similar needs.

Health care and social workers say parents, guardians and religious leaders brand children as witches for different reasons. Children subject to such accusations are often abused, abandoned, trafficked or even murdered, according to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch.

Throughout Africa, a witch is culturally understood to be the epitome of evil and the cause of misfortune, disease and death. Consequently, the witch is the most hated person in African society and subject to punishment, torture and even death.

There have been reports of children — labeled as witches — having had nails driven into their heads and being forced to drink cement, set on fire, scarred by acid, poisoned and even buried alive.

In Nigeria, some Christian pastors have incorporated African witchcraft beliefs into their brand of Christianity, resulting in a campaign of violence against young people in some locales.

Residents of the state Akwa Ibom — including members of the Ibibio, Annang and the Oro ethnic groups — believe in the religious existence of spirits and witches.

Fr. Dominic Akpankpa, executive director of the Catholic Institute of Justice and Peace in the Diocese of Uyo, said the existence of witchcraft is a metaphysical phenomenon from those who do not know anything about theology.

“If you claim that somebody is a witch, you would have to prove it,” he said. He added that most of those accused of being witches could be suffering from psychological complications and “it is our duty to help these people with counseling to come out of that situation.”

Witch profiling and abandonment of children are common on the streets of Akwa Ibom.

If a man remarries, Iyang said, the new wife may be intolerant of the child’s attitude after being married to the widower, and as such, will throw the child out of the house.

“To achieve this, she would accuse him or her of being a witch,” Iyang said. “That’s why you’d find many children in the streets and when you ask them, they will say it’s their stepmother who drove them out of the house.”

She said poverty and teenage pregnancy also can force children into the street as well.

Nigeria’s criminal code prohibits accusing, or even threatening to accuse, someone of being a witch. The Child Rights Act of 2003 makes it a criminal offense to subject any child to physical or emotional torture or submit them to any inhuman or degrading treatment.

Akwa Ibom officials have incorporated the Child Rights Act in an attempt to reduce child abuse. In addition, the state adopted a law in 2008 that makes witch profiling punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years.

Akpankpa said criminalizing injustices toward children was a step in the right direction.

“A lot of children were labeled witches and victimized. We used to have baby factories where young women are kept; they give birth and their babies are taken and sold out for monetary gains,” he told CNS.

“Human trafficking was very alarming. A lot of baby factories were discovered, and the babies and their mothers were saved while the perpetrators were brought to justice,” he added.

At the Mother Charles Walker Children Home, where most of the children are sheltered and sent to school on scholarship, Iyang demonstrates the Catholic Church’s commitment to protecting child rights. She said most of the malnourished youngsters the order receives are those who lost their mother during childbirth “and their families bring them to us for care.”

For contact tracing and reunification, Iyang formed a partnership with Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare. The process begins with parental verification by gathering information about each child and their location prior to separation. With the information in hand, an investigator drives to the child’s home village to verify what has been learned.

The process involves community chiefs, elders and religious and traditional leaders to ensure that each child is properly integrated and accepted in the community. When that fails, a child will placed into the adoption protocol under government supervision.

Since opening the Mother Charles Walker Children Home in 2007, Iyang and the staff have cared for about 120 children. About 74 have been reunited with their families, she said.

“We have 46 now left with us,” she said, “hoping that their families will one day pick them up or they will have foster parents.”

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/news/nigeria-nun-cares-abandoned-children-labeled-witches

Faith groups have a key role to play in reducing climate-linked violence

People walk past damaged buildings at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria Dec. 2. (CNS/Reuters/Omar Sanadiki)
People walk past damaged buildings at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria Dec. 2. (CNS/Reuters/Omar Sanadiki)

Gore: Probably one of the main things to lift up is the migration that results when people can no longer feed their families and are so desperate that they need to leave. And that did of course happen in the 2010 drought in Syria, and it has happened also [in] Central America, in what’s known as the Dry Corridor, where a lot of migration is coming from.

The U.N. estimates around 200 million people migrating due to climate impacts by 2050. There was a World Bank study in 2018 that estimated 143 million by 2030 from Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa alone. The hottest parts of the world also have the fastest-growing populations, so we need to be able to anticipate what is coming.

Religious communities have, as James said, the skills and the relationships and the networks and the sensibilities to be able to mitigate this type of conflict, to be able to anticipate and to build the kind of resilience that is needed in this extraordinary time.

What role can religious communities play in helping to mitigate some of the violence related to climate change?

Gore: So many people in the world derive their values from their religious traditions and identity. … It is incredibly important that we recognize how powerful religion and faith are. And there are ways in which we’ve seen throughout the world it can be used for good.

Bishop [Desmond] Tutu said the scriptural teachings about every human being made in the image of God were key to ending apartheid [in South Africa]. We saw with Gandhi and satyagraha [non-violent action] and ahimsa [non-violence] were used against British imperial rule. And in this country we have the example of Martin Luther King Jr.

In the situation we’re in now, where there’s going to be increasing strain and pressure and tension because of climate impacts and also because of the kind of system that is extracting and exploiting so many people’s ecosystems … faith communities bring it into a place of moral discourse about right and wrong and also can lift up nonviolence. That is a really strong tradition within a lot of faith communities.

There’s also on the front end the level of cause. The fossil-fuel energy extraction system and how that operates, the way big multinational agricultural corporations are operating on local food systems — on that level, there’s also an opportunity for faith communities to be leading the way.

Pope Francis says this very well in Laudato Si’, that part of the problem is that there’s not enough contact with people who are excluded from decision making, and that includes diplomacy. And so one of the things that religion and diplomacy can do is to be with the people in the real values they’re living, and take the best of that to help forge a better way.

Are there examples of religious communities who are doing this right now?

Gore: Last year, I was working with a community in Virginia … that was objecting to the placement of a giant fracked gas compressor station of a pipeline in a historically African American community. And amazingly, given the odds, they won this fight.

And as I witnessed it, it was largely due to the level of commitment and the clarity and the grounding and the strength that came from the interfaith work between a Black Baptist community and a community called Yogaville, where Swami Dyananda was leading the way. There was a very concerted effort to have prayer and a ceremonial approach — taking meals together, setting your intention before a march, for example — in a way that I think qualitatively changed the nature of the resistance to that compressor station.

In any of these situations, where there is something destructive toward a community, there can be the impulse to finger point and blame and turn on each other. Or you can appeal to some higher sense of purpose that brings you together and clarifies what’s happening and brings people to a greater level of commitment. And so I saw that work in an interfaith way in Virginia.

I also was able to travel last year to Recife, Brazil, and participate in an interfaith ceremony, in the oldest synagogue in the Americas actually. People [came] together from not only the Abrahamic traditions — Christianity, Judaism, Islam — but also from indigenous traditions and the Candomblé tradition, which mixes African traditional religion.

To see an interfaith group that honors those indigenous traditions for their own spiritual sovereignty also helps you to see through a different lens how it feels to them to have the Amazon being destroyed in the way that it is, because it’s an issue also of religious freedom. So participating and witnessing that gave me also faith in the power of religion and diplomacy to be a force for good. Peacemaking with each other and also with the Earth, with the ecosystems we’re living in, to stop the trajectory of being against the laws of nature and instead live in balance and harmony.

Patton: There are extremisms running throughout lots of our communities around the world, and one of the great drivers of that is lack of opportunity and lack of the ability to support yourself and your family. It offers opportunities for people to identify with a group and to provide, either in this world or the next, for their needs.

We have been working in Yemen since before the war broke out. And one of the spaces in which we work was severely affected by drought, severely affected by the collapse of the government and their inability to provide infrastructure, and severely impacted by violent religious extremist organizations that were recruiting young people.

We talked to tribal and religious leaders about how to resolve conflict issues, and the thing they brought up specifically was that water was one of the great drivers of violence. There was very little water in the area, and different communities were fighting over it, and the extremist organizations were trying to gain control over it.

So we supported a water infrastructure program, which is not our usual kind of work. We usually work much more on dialogue and reconciliation And what that did is the religious actors went to the young people who were being recruited by al Qaeda and ISIS affiliates, and with a spiritual narrative and a community narrative they brought them into these programs so that they would commit their energies to actually helping develop necessary infrastructures, so the communities could be improved and have their basic needs met — in this case, water.

[These kids] helped build these piping infrastructure. And afterwards, they said, “We always thought the government needed to do this kind of stuff. And when the government disappeared, we turned to the extremist groups to help us because they were coming in and providing for basic needs.” Very little of their engagement with the community was around ideology. A lot of it was around basic needs. So they said in the end, “We don’t need them anymore. And we will reject them and we will find ways to do this together as community members and as members of this religious community.”

Not only did they do that project, but then they went out and they talked to surrounding communities, raised their own funds and did additional water infrastructure programs on their own with at-risk youth from these faith communities. So it can have incredible impacts when you address some of these drivers, not just on basic needs and some of the issues around how climate affects people’s water and food availability [but also] ancillary benefits that are associated with countering radicalization and countering extremism and countering conflict dynamics.

It’s incredibly important work, and I think that these examples of how faith leaders, spiritual leaders, can drive this work forward — bringing communities together around these principles of stewardship — are essential and should not be overlooked.

Where can religious communities and leaders being most effective in these climate-related conflict situations? Can they be proactive, before conflicts begin, or can they help lessen tensions once conflicts start to develop?

Patton: We think in terms of a conflict curve. There’s pre-conflict, there’s the period during the conflict, and then there’s a post-conflict period. And each of the interventions at those different spaces is going to be significantly different. To stop a conflict from erupting is a very different kind of approach and methodology and engagement than to get people to stop shooting each other once they’ve actively started. And then to recover itself is an entirely different approach.

Religious communities can play a role in all three of those spaces. We work with some faith leaders on deradicalization of extremists — people who are very much involved in violence or committed to violence. But we also work on the kind of interfaith work that Karenna’s talking about, where we break down identity divisions and prejudices that might lead to conflict but have not yet. … And of course, it’s critically important, after a community has been broken by violence, that faith leaders, spiritual leaders can step forward and help heal that community.

Gore: Forgiveness, redemption, changing your sense of belonging to include those who you considered to be the enemy or the other — that is a place where faith leaders obviously can play a very positive role.

In the case of climate and environmental issues, I think it’s very important to look at the trajectory that we’re on right now in the world. That although we know the urgency of shifting to another energy system, the world still gets 80% of our energy from fossil fuels, and half of the global warming emissions that are up in the atmosphere now have been put up there in the last 20 years, which is the time that we’ve known the most about this and have had the most available alternatives.

Because we know that climate disruptions will lead to migration and conflict, mitigating conflict for religious actors also means changing this trajectory. Questioning and telling the truth, which is also such a part of prophetic tradition and certainly in the Judeo-Christian heritage that Pope Francis has very wisely drawn on for his work in speaking out about climate. That we must look at the truth and we must tell the truth, no matter how difficult it is for people to hear.

The arguments that are made for continuing on this trajectory are often that we need economic growth to end poverty, no matter whether there’s a lot of pollution and depletion … and so we need to understand that in fact it’s a very counterproductive model that we have now.

The U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, explained in a report that actually climate change would undo the last 50 years of progress and drive over 100 million more people into poverty. … We need to be asking the deep, serious questions about what is development for? What is the meaning of life? How do you measure a good society?

For those things, we need to be very mindful and respectful of the spiritual and faith communities that have been thinking about these things for many generations. And they ought to be consulted about any development that affects their community. These are people who should have a seat at the table.

And the faith leaders can be part of the conversation, setting a conversation based around ethics so it’s not just about money, it’s about well-being. It’s about what we want to be handing down to the future generations that we are proud of and that is sustainable. This is a really big challenge. We know that it’s here, and we know that it’s coming with stronger force. And if faith communities can step up and do this in a good way, we can make the world better in the process.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/faith-groups-have-key-role-play-reducing-climate-linked-violence