Category Archives: Advocacy

Death of Fr. Swamy, tribal rights defender, motivates India’s Catholic religious

People hold a banner during a July 6 prayer service for Jesuit Fr. Stan Swamy in Mumbai, India, the day after he died at a hospital.  (CNS/Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas)
People hold a banner during a July 6 prayer service for Jesuit Fr. Stan Swamy in Mumbai, India, the day after he died at a hospital. (CNS/Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas)

New Delhi, India — An octogenarian Jesuit human rights defender who died in July while in custody for alleged terrorist activities has emerged as the new icon for Catholic religious in India.

Fr. Stanislaus Lourduswamy, popularly called Stan Swamy, died July 5 in a Catholic hospital in Mumbai, western India, where he was brought 38 days beforehand from a jail for treatment of multiple illnesses, including COVID-19.

The 84-year-old Jesuit had “identified with the poor tribal and Dalit communities who were victims of structural injustice, says human rights activist Sr. Sujata Jena, who in 2016 attended a convention on Right to Food that Swamy organized at his base of Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India. “He worked relentlessly to ensure justice for them and died in judicial custody without getting justice for himself.”

Swamy “has challenged Catholic religious in India with his life and work. They can no more remain in their comfort zone after he sacrificed his life for the poor and marginalized,” states Jena, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who is based in Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern Indian state of Odisha.  

The “real tribute” the Catholic religious can offer Swamy is to recommit to serve the poor and oppressed, she told Global Sisters Report. “Many oppressed by the system are languishing in jails.” (Jena is a GSR columnist and panelist on The Life, a forum of sisters whose views are published monthly in GSR.)

Presentation Sr. Shalini Mulackal, a theology professor in New Delhi, says of Swamy, “He is the Indian version of St. Óscar Romero,” a bishop who was killed in 1980 for speaking out against social injustice and violence in El Salvador and canonized as a saint in 2018.

Mulackal had first met Swamy in 1978 as a novice while attending an exposure program he conducted at the Indian Social Institute in Bangalore (now Bengaluru).

Swamy’s “stand for justice and for the poor and the way he was ready to pay the price has inspired many, not only in India, but all over the world. His death was not in vain,” Mulackal told GSR.

Sr. Robancy A. Helen, an activist in Tamil Nadu, Swamy’s native state in southern India, says the Jesuit “has become an inspiration for all those who wish to live for others.”

Swamy was arrested Oct. 8, 2020, by the National Investigation Agency, India’s counterterrorist task force, at his residence in Ranchi for alleged terrorist activities, including a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was taken the same night to Mumbai, some 1,060 miles southwest, and a court there sent him to jail the next day.

Swamy was the oldest Indian arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, India’s primary counterterrorism law that many call draconian.

Swamy was the last of 16 writers, academics, lawyers, students and activists arrested by national agents in what is called the Bhima-Koregaon case. The police suspected them to be Maoists, a banned radical left-wing group that instigated the 2018 violence during a Dalit celebration at Bhima-Koregaon, a village near Pune town southeast of Mumbai in Maharashtra state. The 2018 event was the bicentennial of a battle seen as a historic victory by a British Army dominated by Dalits, the lowest level in India’s caste system.

A few days before his arrest, Swamy had released a video in which he narrated how detectives had questioned him for 15 hours over five days in July 2020. The interrogators had produced “some extracts” allegedly taken from his computer to prove his links with Maoists. Swamy dismissed them as “fabrications” that were “stealthily” put into his computer.

“Neither the police nor the agency that arrested Swamy could produce evidences to prove his alleged crimes,” says Helen, a member of the Religious Institute of Christ the Redeemer, Idente Missionaries.

She cites recent media reports that support Swamy’s suspicion. Arsenal Consulting, a United States-based computer forensics firm, has found that the computers of two accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case were hacked using malicious software to plant incriminating letters later used as primary evidence against them.

Swamy ended the video with some awareness about what might unfold in the dissent against India’s ruling party, saying, “I’m happy to be a part of this process because I’m not a silent spectator but I’m part of the game. I’m ready to pay the price, whatever be it.”

Swamy’s death spurred an unprecedented outpouring of grief and condemnation from across the globe, including from the United Nations.

Among those condemning Swamy’s death in custody was Mary Lawlor, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders, who on July 15 warned that the incident would tarnish India’s human rights record.

India’s External Affairs Ministry rebutted the criticisms and claimed Swamy was arrested “following due process under law.” A ministry spokesperson told reporters July 6 that the courts had rejected Swamy’s bail applications because of the specific nature of charges against him.

Swamy was exposed to tribal exploitation in 1965, when as a seminarian of Jamshedpur Jesuit Province he taught tribal students at St. Xavier’s High School in Lupungutu village near Chaibasa in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district, which is rich in iron ore. In a 2018 interview with online outlet The Wire, Swamy recalled helplessly watching the agents of outside lenders and businessmen as they swindled goods and land from the local tribal people, whose cultural practice has been to give back to nature, always leaving some fruit on the trees for the birds.

Since 1991, Swamy worked with the Jharkhand Organization for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization opposing displacement of tribal communities, also known as the Adivasis, because of development projects.

In 2000, he set up Bagaicha, a research institute near Ranchi. Swamy organized local youth and helped them understand their issues — land alienation and displacement caused by mining, dams and other development projects implemented without the people’s consent.

India’s mining lobby and corporate firms are accused of indiscriminate exploitation of Jharkhand, one of the richest mineral zones in the world. It accounts for 40% of the mineral and 29% of the coal reserves in India.

As local resistance grew, the administration jailed hundreds of young people in 2014 and 2015. Swamy formed the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee and planned counterstrategies with social and human rights activists and civic organizations. He filed a case in the Jharkhand High Court, seeking information on pretrial detainees, mostly tribals.

Such works are cited as a reason for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s defeat in the Jharkhand legislative assembly elections in 2019. The Bhima-Koregaon case then gave Swamy’s opponents an excuse to target him.

Mulackal holds the Indian government and the country’s judicial system responsible for Swamy’s death as a pretrial detainee. “Even though he was allowed to go to a hospital for treatment at the end, and died there, it was a custodial death,” the theologian told GSR.

While Helen says Swamy “was murdered for doing the will of God,” Holy Cross Sr. Manju Kulapuram, national secretary of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace who knew Swamy when she worked in Jharkhand, concludes that “vested interests” got rid of Swamy to grab the tribal lands without resistance and offer them to the corporations.

Kochurani Abraham, a laywoman theologian, says the “unholy” political-corporate nexus eliminated Swamy as his “integrity and prophetic voice” had threatened their “exclusive development plans,” just as “Jesus was eliminated by the tie-up between the religious and political powers of his times.”

Jesuit Fr. P.A. Chacko, a Swamy associate who has served the church in Jharkhand for the past five decades, says his elder confrere had “stuck his neck out to walk with the downtrodden” and paid the price with his life.

Chacko admits that no Jesuit in India has gone this far until now.

“Most of us looked at him from the sidelines with our own reservations. Some of us admired him from a safe distance. It was his lay friends and the many in the civil society who believed what he said and did,” Chacko said.

Some Catholic leaders want the church immediately to declare Swamy a martyr, a potentially speedier route to sainthood.

Mumbai-based Redemptorist Fr. Ivel Mendanha, who called for Swamy’s canonization during a Sunday sermon on July 11, says most Indians came to know about Swamy’s life and work after his arrest. “They felt for him, they prayed for him, and they were inspired by his unflinching commitment to living the Gospel,” Mendanha told GSR.

If Swamy “is not a saint, who is?” asks social activist Claretian Fr. George Kannanthanam, arguing that the Jesuit sacrificed his life for the causes for which Jesus lived and died.

However, Kulapuram pleads that the church not put Swamy on a pedestal. Instead, she urges it should follow “the spirituality of Jesus of Nazareth” that Swamy promoted to bring great changes among the marginalized.

Helen says Swamy’s courage to fight injustice until the end was “mind-blowing.” His prophetic voice, she predicts, will help many advocates for justice to rise from the oppressed communities.

Sr. Joel Urumpil, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth who works in Jharkhand, says her life changed totally after attending Swamy’s classes in Bangalore in the late 1980s. She describes herself until then as “a pious person” who was “bandaging wounds,” inculcated by the church’s rules and teachings that sanctified service without analysis and worshipped “a false Jesus who was meek, humble, obedient, and ready to die for the suffering humanity but never questioned [injustice].”

Swamy helped Urumpil’s class “escape age-old practices that prevented them from getting involved with marginalized people for systematic change.” She added that he was “embarrassingly open to letting the students question authority, rules and rubrics, and even the existence of God.”

Mulackal says Swamy’s training programs had “a transformative impact” on the participants. “They became very conscious and critical of the socioeconomic and political situation of our country. Some even left religious life or priesthood because of their strong conviction.”

Swamy encouraged those he trained to be proactive in the Indian church’s efforts to assist impoverished people, Mulackal says. “In the late ’70s and ’80s, many religious congregations opened houses in rural areas and city slums to work for and with the poor.”

“He could have been a professor or principal of a reputed Jesuit-run college,” says social worker Sr. Ekta Ekka, a tribal from Jharkhand and a Franciscan Sister of Our Lady of Graces based in the northern Indian Diocese of Meerut.

“Instead, he lived among Adivasis and fought for their constitutional rights for the past 50 years.”

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/news/death-fr-swamy-tribal-rights-defender-motivates-indias-catholic-religious

Feast day of St Josephine Bakhita/ International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking

“Loosen the chains . . . they are so heavy” – Saint Josephine Bakhita, above.

The Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita on the 8th of February each year.  Her life was a journey from slavery to freedom and faith.  The patron saint of Sudan, her life story inspires hope in the face of modern day indifference and exploitation.  As Pope Francis states:

‘She is charged with showing to all the path to conversion, which enables us to change the way we see our neighbours, to recognize in every other person a brother or sister in our human family, and to acknowledge his or her intrinsic dignity in truth and freedom. This can be clearly seen from the story of Josephine Bakhita, the saint originally from the Darfur region in Sudan who was kidnapped by slave-traffickers and sold to brutal masters when she was nine years old. Subsequently – as a result of painful experiences – she became a “free daughter of God” thanks to her faith, lived in religious consecration and in service to others, especially the most lowly and helpless. This saint, who lived at the turn of the twentieth century, is even today an exemplary witness of hope for the many victims of slavery; she can support the efforts of all those committed to fighting against this “open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ”.‘ (Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2015)

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI considered St Bakhita as an ‘exemplary witness of hope’, in his encyclical, Spe Salvi:

To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God. The example of a saint of our time can to some degree help us understand what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time. I am thinking of the African Josephine Bakhita, canonized by Pope John Paul II….She was born around 1869—she herself did not know the precise date—in Darfur in Sudan. At the age of nine, she was kidnapped by slave-traders, beaten till she bled, and sold five times in the slave-markets of Sudan. Eventually she found herself working as a slave for the mother and the wife of a general, and there she was flogged every day till she bled; as a result of this she bore 144 scars throughout her life. Finally, in 1882, she was bought by an Italian merchant for the Italian consul Callisto Legnani, who returned to Italy as the Mahdists advanced. Here, after the terrifying “masters” who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of “master”—in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name “paron” for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a “paron” above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme “Paron”, before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. What is more, this master had himself accepted the destiny of being flogged and now he was waiting for her “at the Father’s right hand”. Now she had “hope” —no longer simply the modest hope of finding masters who would be less cruel, but the great hope: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love. And so my life is good.” Through the knowledge of this hope she was “redeemed”, no longer a slave, but a free child of God.

The International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking is also held on 8 February each year in light of the example of St Josephine Bakhita, so that we might reflect on the circumstances of violence and injustice affecting millions of voiceless people.  We can do this by stopping for a few moments a saying a prayer to God.  We can also learn more about modern forms of slavery and trafficking and reflect on how our choices might be contributing to a system perpetuating this exploitation.  We can join together, pray and start conversations about this important issue.

‘Hey Bro’: New Zealand abusers turn activists to stop domestic violence

Matiu Brokenshire from ‘0800 Hey Bro’, a hotline in New Zealand aimed at helping abusive men, talks on the phone in his home in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo courtesy: Tanith Petersen/He Waka Tapu

WELLINGTON, Matiu Brokenshire once threw an axe at his partner in anger. Today, the 45-year-old works with a service credited with stopping hundreds of domestic violence cases in New Zealand, helping other men like him.

The 0800 Hey Bro hotline has provided advice to about 2,000 abusive men and linked them to other services to stop them harming their partners.

“I started the journey to uncover my own trauma,” said Brokenshire, who also works with New Zealand Police on tackling family violence.

“I grew up in a world where this was normal. My mother used to strap me when I was a child and hit me. I was a victim of domestic violence for years,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Brokenshire, who is indigenous Maori and has a son with his former partner, said he struggled with his violent behaviour and drug addictions – until he got help eight years ago.

“When I met my son’s mum, she was an angry, broken person and in the first three months, I had committed violence against her. Then it became weekly,” he added.

Since starting a new chapter, he has joined a growing number of men, some of them ex-abusers, working to stop domestic violence in New Zealand.

‘HORRIFIC’

New Zealand has long had a progressive reputation and was the first nation to give women the right to vote in 1893.

But women’s rights campaigners say sexism, drug and alcohol addictions, poverty and exposure to violence as a child have all contributed to a poor record on domestic violence.

Police investigated more than 133,000 family harm cases in 2018, the latest year for which data is available, and were called out to respond to a family violence incident every four minutes.

“Domestic violence is one of the biggest problems we have in New Zealand and we know it affects educational outcomes and creates mental health problems,” said Janet Fanslow, an expert on family violence.

“We haven’t got our heads around prevention,” said Fanslow, an associate professor at the University of Auckland who is working on a government-funded study of 3,000 men and women.

“All we have invested in this moment is response. We are still waiting for people to get hurt. We need to recognise the importance of engaging men as they are mostly the perpetrators.”

There were 230 family violence deaths between 2009 and 2017, official data shows, half of them caused by an intimate partner.

A government-commissioned report in April cited limited support and a lack of professionals to deal with abusive men as among the reasons why violence continues – a gap that some former abusers are now trying to fill.

“Nobody is working with perpetrators,” said Lua Maynard, 56, who runs anger management programmes for men who are ordered by the courts to undergo rehabilitation.

“When men perpetrate violence, they ask the men to get away, and support the victims. But men also need support.”

Maynard, who was previously charged for hitting his partner, called for efforts and solutions to uncover factors that could have led to a man’s violent behaviour, such as childhood trauma, abuse and unemployment.

“You can’t recover if you haven’t uncovered those issues,” he said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden had said New Zealand’s record of family violence is “horrific”, and her government has introduced a slew of measures to end the problem.

In May, it announced an allocation of NZ$200 million ($132 million) over the next four years for frontline services working on family violence issues.

In 2018, New Zealand joined a handful of nations that passed a law granting domestic violence survivors 10 days of paid leave to give them time to leave their partners, such as finding new homes or attending court hearings.

Women often lose their jobs when they flee domestic abuse, while many stay with abusive partners due to financial concerns, according to women’s rights campaigners.

‘BOYS DON’T CRY’

The April report studied nearly 100 cases of abuse by men in which one partner died. It found most had sought help previously, but support services missed warning signs and opportunities to stop the violence.

The study, by an independent committee that advises the government on reducing family violence, recommended greater support services for both women and men.

“We do feel it is important to reach out to men, and that there is work to be done in that space,” said spokeswoman Susan Barker at Women’s Refuge, a Wellington-based advocacy group that runs safe houses for women and their children.

“There are organisations that do this, perhaps not enough, and many of these could use further funding,” she added.

Others say it should all start from promoting gender equality and tackling male stereotypes, to stop domestic abuse.

The White Ribbon Campaign, a global group of men and boys seeking to end violence against women, launched a social media campaign recently, urging men to reject stereotypes such as ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘toughen up’.

“We flipped those ideas of masculinity on its head and ran campaigns that said, it’s ok to cry – open up or be the man you want to be,” said Rob McCann, New Zealand manager for White Ribbon.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200804231217-pw0t5/

Rape victims ‘denied justice’ in Ghana by costly medical fees

Actress Ama K. Abebrese poses for a portrait, undated. Credit Ama K. Abebrese

ACCRA, – Reporting rape is traumatic for anyone, but having to pay two months’ wages to complete the medical form prevents many in Ghana from seeking justice, said a leading actress whose campaign to waive fees has reached the presidential palace.

British-Ghanaian actress Ama K. Abebrese – who starred with Idris Elba in the award-winning 2015 drama “Beasts of No Nation” – started a petition after hearing about the prohibitive charges in the West African nation where rape convictions are rare.

The minimum doctor’s fee for filling out a police medical form is 300 cedis ($52) – twice the average monthly earnings of informal workers, said Abebrese, one of Ghana’s most influential TV hosts who started out as a teenager presenter in London.

“If you can’t afford it, it is almost like you are denied justice on the basis of money,” said Abebrese, whose petition has attracted more than 14,000 signatures in a month.

“If you don’t get that medical report, essentially, the case to prosecute dies right there and then.”

Rape, sexual assault and domestic violence are significantly underreported in Ghana and the police lack capacity to effectively investigate cases, which can take years to reach court, according to women’s rights groups.

Community leaders sometimes negotiate for rapists to pay compensation to victims’ families but they have come under fire in recent years for not taking the crime seriously enough.

Abebrese said she was hopeful that the government would scrap the medical fees after she met with Ghana’s first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who said the president had been made aware of the situation, and with gender minister Cynthia Morrison.

A gender ministry spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were “working on it”.

Police spokeswoman Sheilla Abayie-Buckman said many people could not afford to complete the medical form.

“It is quite expensive for an ordinary person. I guess not more than 50% are able to afford (it)” said Abayie-Buckman, who was unable to provide statistics on rape reports.

JUSTICE

Doctors charge 300 to 800 cedi to fill out police medical forms and 1,000 to 2,000 cedi for giving a medical opinion for legal purposes, according to a Ghana Medical Association (GMA) document seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Frank Ankobea, president of the GMA, which represents medics and sets the fees, said they were necessary to cover doctors’ transport and expenses if called to court.

“Professionals charge that and it is so with all other professions,” he said, adding, “the government can absorb (the cost) and make sure all these provisions are made.”

Since starting the campaign, Abebrese said she has received dozens of calls from victims of sexual assault who were unable to seek justice because of the cost.

“(For) so many people, their cases were never prosecuted, it has really opened my eyes,” she said.

“You think you have an idea but you have no idea the magnitude,” said Abebrese, who recently called for a relationship expert who said in an interview that “every rape victim enjoys the act” to be banned from Ghanaian television.

Most Ghanaians believe that women are to blame for rape if they wear revealing clothes, according to a government survey.

Rape victims also struggle to access justice in other African countries, said Jean-Paul Murunga, a Nairobi-based programme officer for the women’s rights group Equality Now.

He said that rape survivors in Kenya have to pay $10 to $15 for a medical report and free post-rape care is only available in centres run by charities in many countries.

Murunga called on African governments to live up to legally binding promises, made in a pan-African women’s rights pact known as the Maputo Protocol, to ensure access to justice.

“The protocol … obliges African states to provide budgetary and other resources for preventing and eradicating violence against women,” he said. “This is yet to be realised.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20200807081227-osrgp/

Advocates call attention to pandemic’s wrath on ‘essential’ farmworkers

Farm
Migrant workers clean fields near Salinas, California, March 30. (CNS/Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

WASHINGTON — As those working from home escalated their complaints or jokes on Twitter about Zoom meetings, the United Farm Workers of America offered a reality check March 20 in the form of tweet: “You can’t pick strawberries remotely.”

“The people who put food on our table do not get to telecommute,” the labor organization said in a mid-March statement calling attention to the plight of the country’s more than 2 million farmworkers.

There may be toilet paper shortages in U.S. supermarkets, but the country’s supply of fruit and vegetables and other staples such as meats and dairy produced by the labor of farmworkers — many of them migrants — remains steady thanks to those essential workers. Yet many of them toil without basic protections, their supporters say.

Even while facing lack of access to adequate health care or wages and immigration woes stemming from the H-2A visa program that allows some of them to work legally in the U.S., the largely unseen workers have kept, until now, the country’s food supply moving.

“The irony is that (now) they’re saying they are essential. They’ve always been essential,” said Carlos Marentes, founder and director of the Border Agricultural Workers Center in El Paso, Texas, in an April 14 interview with Catholic News Service.

They’re considered so essential that on April 15, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a temporary easing of immigration regulations to allow businesses to employ them faster and for longer periods of time than before — an unusual move for an administration that has sought to curtail immigration.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the temporary changes would help U.S. farmers who employ foreign farmworkers “avoid disruptions” in employment and “protect the nation’s food supply chain.”

No matter how important they are to the nation, however, there’s always been a “historical abandonment” of farmworkers, Marentes said, and this is a time to go beyond “sentimental blackmail” — offering praise for what farmworkers do, without also calling for protection for their rights.

Even though they’re considered essential workers, a looming threat some farmworkers are facing are efforts to lower their salaries at this critical time. Last year, the Trump administration proposed changes in how wages are calculated for those who use the H-2A visa program, essentially lowering their pay.

The H-2A program is a guest worker program, which allows agricultural employers to bring workers from other countries — primarily Mexico — to the U.S. to work on their farms, said Ashley Feasley, director of policy for Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The workers who produce our food are essential workers (roughly 2.5 million agricultural laborers total), and they have been declared so. Yet there are announcements from the White House about reducing the wages of guest workers,” she said in an April 14 email to CNS. “This is unjust to further exploit a population that is working to put food on people’s tables at this time.”

And many of them are scared, said Marentes.

As cities around the country — and the businesses that propelled them — began closing down abruptly in mid-March, farmworkers were told to continue toiling because they were important to keep the country moving. But because of stricter measures taken at border towns such as El Paso, Texas, those who worked in the U.S. but lived in Mexico could no longer cross at entry points as they had before to be with their families after their work shifts were over, Marentes said.

Organizations that work with the farmworker population, such as the Border Agricultural Worker Center, began mobilizing, writing letters for the farmworkers so they could carry documents with them saying who they were, where they worked, in case immigration or other authorities scrutinized them on their way to work, Marentes said. Community groups, like Marentes’ organization, also scrambled to secure some form of shelter and a place for them to bathe, find face masks and gloves, and give them a quick lesson on how to keep safe in the middle of a pandemic.

 

 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/advocates-call-attention-pandemics-wrath-essential-farmworkers

Florida bishops ask governor to stay planned execution

Plea
James Dailey. Credit: Florida Dept of Corrections.

.- The Catholic bishops of Florida have called on Governor Ron DeSantis to halt the scheduled execution of James Dailey, who is on death row for murder in a controversial case from nearly 35 years ago.

The bishops leading the seven dioceses of Florida signed a joint letter Oct. 21. While they noted their objections to any use of the death penalty in the state, they said Dailey’s case is “especially alarming” because of the evidence of innocence surrounding him.

“There is strong evidence that James Dailey’s death sentence was yet another failure of justice,” the bishops said. “Another man, Jack Pearcy, has signed a sworn affidavit that he, and he alone, was responsible for the tragic death of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio.”

Dailey, a 73-year-old veteran, is scheduled to be executed Nov. 7 for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio, whose body was found repeatedly stabbed and drowned near St. Petersburg.

There is no physical evidence or eyewitness testimony connecting Dailey to the murder, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Rather, Dailey’s housemate and co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, accused him of taking part in the crime. Pearcy is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.

Inmates at the prison where Dailey was being held were interviewed, initially yielding no results. A few days later, however, three inmates said they had heard Dailey make incriminating statements. The inmates received reduced charges in return for the information, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. One of the inmates was known as a prolific informant, giving testimony over the years that has sent four men to death row and being convicted himself of more than 20 crimes of deception.

Pearcy has acknowledged at least four times that Dailey was innocent of the crime, Dailey’s lawyers maintain, including in a 2017 affidavit, signed by Pearcy, which said, “James Dailey was not present when Shelly Boggio was killed. I alone am responsible for Shelly Boggio’s death.”

However, in January 2018, Pearcy took the witness stand and was questioned about the affidavit. He said some of the statements in it were untrue. When pressed further about which statements, he invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer.

Earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court rejected Dailey’s appeal, which argued that new evidence discrediting the jail informant testimony against Dailey should be permitted to be introduced. The court said Dailey should have raised this objection earlier. It ruled that all of his “newly discovered evidence claims were either correctly rejected as untimely or based on inadmissible evidence.”

The bishops of Florida voiced concern over the state’s high number of executions – and exonerations.

“Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations,” they noted. “Florida makes more mistakes than any other state in sentencing innocent people to death.”

Dailey would be the 100th execution in Florida since the state revived the death penalty in 1976.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/florida-bishops-ask-governor-to-stay-planned-execution-52181

Bishop objects to death sentence for Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia photoSaudi Arabia flag. Credit: Hugo Brizard/YouGoPhoto/Shutterstock.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, (CNA). A bishop in the Philippines is speaking out against the death penalty of a Filipino woman who has been condemned to death in Saudi Arabia.

“We turn to God in prayers that He may move the [Saudi] government to be merciful and grant clemency,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, head of the Filipino bishops’ Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, in a statement this week.

“She has to be helped and assisted. Let us try everything to save her,” he said, according to the Manila Bulletin.

On Feb. 28, the Saudi Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence of an unnamed Filipino woman, who was convicted in 2017 for killing her employer. The woman claimed to have acted in self-defense against an abusive employer.

Santos encouraged the Philippine government to do whatever it can to save the woman and conduct a “thorough investigation” behind the woman’s arrival in Saudi Arabia. Reports suggest that she arrived in the country as a minor.

“Placement agencies should be made accountable for whatever happens to [Filipino workers] sent to other countries,” the bishop said, according to the Manila Bulletin.

He stressed that agencies and recruiters should be held liable for abuse of the employees they place.

ABS-CBN News reported that the case has also been directed to the chair of the Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking, which is part of the Philippine Department of Justice.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday it would do all it could to save the woman, who has so far been assisted by Consul General Edgar Badajos.

The department released a statement saying it “will exhaust all diplomatic avenues and legal remedies to save a Filipina in Saudi Arabia after the Saudi Court of Appeals affirmed her death sentence on Thursday.”

The case followed an execution in January, when a 39-year-old maid from the Philippines received the death penalty for a murder that took place in 2015. Details about the case were not released.

About 500,000 Filipinos are believed to be working in Saudi Arabia, a country that has long been accused of poor work conditions and inadequate religious freedoms.

In 2016, Bishop Santos had encouraged the Philippine embassy in the country to protect Filipino workers. That year, a Filipino woman had died as result of the injuries she received from rape, allegedly at the hands of her employer.

That same year, a mass execution of 47 men was carried out in Saudi Arabia in January. One of the men was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shi’a cleric and long-time activist for Shi’a rights in the country.

Princeton Professor Robert George, then-chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the execution of Sheik al-Nimr raised religious freedom concerns and did not meet capital punishment standards set by the international human rights law.

 

 

 
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/bishop-objects-to-death-sentence-for-filipino-woman-in-saudi-arabia-53659

Catholic Nuns Express Worry Over Violation Of Children’s Rights In Enugu, Nigeria

nun photo

Catholic Church reverend sisters under the aegis of Africa Faith and Justice Network, Nigeria say they are worried by the continuous violation of the rights of children in Enugu State. The nuns said that their concern was heightened by the fact that the Child’s Right Act had been passed in the state. Rising from a four-day delegates workshop on Thursday in Enugu, the group undertook to raise awareness in rural communities of the state and across the country. The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Catholic nuns paid advocacy visits to the state Commissioner for Gender Affairs, Peace Nnaji.

The spokesperson for the group, Rev. Sr. Fidelia Alao, said it was sad that some children in the state were still exposed to all forms of dangers both at home and on the streets. Alao said that the passage of the law in the state was seen as a relief from some of the ills perpetrated against children.

Alao said: “We are, however, aware that in spite of this legislation, children are still exposed to all forms of danger, violence, abuse and exploitation in our homes and on the streets. “We continue to see children who should be in school hawking on the streets. “Children as young as 12 years and below are given into domestic servitude, an act that is against the law. “We see very young children carrying heavy loads to earn money, especially in Ogbete Market, Abakpa, Garki and many other locations in the state. “Our babies are treated as goods and sold to the highest bidder.”

Alao described such acts an aberration and inimical to the future of communities. She said: “As women and conscientious individuals, we know the important role holistic development of a person plays in the life of our communities and our country.” Alao appealed to the state government to institute measures to enlighten residents of the state on the Child’s Right Law.

She also called for a study of the conditions of rehabilitation centres within the state to ensure that inmates were not warehoused and abused. She said: “We want government to commission the inspection of government primary schools to evaluate the health environment and ensure that the necessary basic requirements are met.”

Alao urged the state government to initiate a statewide mechanism that would enable abused victims to seek help without fear of reprisals. Responding, Nnaji said that the state government had instituted measures to check the violation of children’s rights.

She said that state government had zero tolerance for child trafficking, adding that a committee responsible for child adoption was in place. Nnaji said that the government was doing its best to put in good shape the Rehabilitation Centre in Emene abandoned by the Federal Government.

The commissioner said that there were three Magistrates’ Courts and three state High Courts dedicated to handling cases related to child abuse. The commissioner thanked the group for its concern on the issue and collaboration in stamping out child abuse in the state. NAN further reports that reverend sisters and delegates of Catholic Women Organisation across the country participated in the workshop, facilitated by Africa Faith and Justice Network, Washington D.C.

 

 

https://theeagleonline.com.ng/catholic-nuns-express-worry-over-violation-of-childrens-rights-in-enugu/

Boochani: Asylum seeker on Manus wins Australian literature prize

Asylum photo                                Boochani has been held on Manus Island for more
                               than five years [Facebook]

A Kurdish asylum seeker has won one of the most important
Australian literature prizes, the Victorian Prize for
Literature.

However, Iranian Kurd Behrouz Boochani was unable to accept
the award personally in Melbourne because he is being kept on
Manus Island.

Boochani won the award, which comes with a monetary prize of
100,000 Australian dollars (approximately $73,000), for his
book No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison.
It was written in Farsi while he was held in the now-closed
detention centre on the island.

It comprises of text messages sent mostly through WhatsApp to
his translator.

The book also won the Non-Fiction Prize, worth 25,000
Australian dollars (approximately $18,000)

Boochani has been living on Manus Island since 2013 and, like
all detainees, is not allowed to leave.

“It’s a paradoxical feeling,” said Boochani.

“I don’t want to celebrate this achievement while I still see
many innocent people suffering around me,” he told The Age
daily. “Give us freedom. We have committed no crime, we are
only seeking asylum.”

He fled Iran as he was in danger of being arrested by
authorities over his journalism work.

Boochani attempted to reach Australia by boat from Indonesia
twice.

On the first attempt, the boat sank and Boochani was rescued
by Indonesian fishermen.

In July 2013, his boat, which held 75 asylum seekers, was
intercepted by the Australian Navy and he was transferred to
the Manus Island detention centre.

Manus is a territory belonging to Papua New Guinea but has
been used by Canberra since 2013 as a place to send asylum
seekers who try to reach Australia.

The practice has been denounced as contravening the human
rights of the refugees and migrants detained there.

Many congratulated Boochani on Twitter but also criticised
Australia’s “hypocrisy” and “cognitive dissonance”.

“I think it’s so great that Behrouz Boochani won the VPLA for
nonfiction tonight, but I’m also struggling with the cognitive
dissonance of a nation celebrating the story, the work, of a
man we’re still torturing,” author Omar Sakr wrote on Twitter.

“[He] is still imprisoned, and kept stateless by us. We must
free them.”

“Does anyone else see the jarring hypocrisy of a country that
is applauding a literary achievement with one hand and
torturing the author with the other?” another wrote.

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2019/01/boochani-
asylum-seeker-manus-wins-australian-literature-prize-
190131153103650.html

‘Give them freedom’ – PNG bishops denounce six-year refugee detention

freedom photoPapua New Guinea flag flies ahead of the Nov. 17-18 APEC
summit. Credit: James D. Morgan / Getty Images News.

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops
of Papua New Guinea have issued a renewed plea on behalf of
the nearly 500 refugees and asylum seekers being held in
indefinite detention in deteriorating conditions.

“These people have been away from their families for the sixth
Christmas… it was just another night of detention on Manus
Island,” said Fr. Ambrose Pereira, communication secretary for
the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the
Solomon Islands.

Facing conditions of trauma, overcrowding, and lack of food,
he said, “most of them survive thanks to medicines, mostly
anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, antipsychotics,” and many face
serious side effects from taking the medications long-term
without a prescription.

In a statement to Fides News Agency on Thursday, Pereira
called the refugees’ situation “abuse and neglect,” and said
it causes the Papua New Guinea bishops “great suffering.”

“This is not the way to treat human beings,” he said.

Australia has had a system of “third country processing” since
2012 for asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat without
a valid visa. The system transfers the asylum seekers to other
countries, where they are processed based on that country’s
laws.

Many of those seeking asylum in Australia come from
Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Iran, traveling by boat from
Indonesia. They are typically intercepted by the Australian
navy before reaching land, and are then sent to detention
camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, a small Micronesian
nation.

The government of Australia made an agreement with the
government of Papua New Guinea in 2013, providing that
migrants sent to Papua New Guinea from Australia would be
settled there if they are found to be refugees. Otherwise they
would be sent back to their country of origin or another
country where they have legal residence.

Ahead of the Nov. 17-18 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
summit in Port Moresby, the Papua New Guinea government sent
dozens of men who had been receiving specialized medical
attention back to Manus Island, citing security needs. These
men joined hundreds of other refugees and asylum seekers being
held on the island.

In November, a report from Amnesty International and the
Refugee Council of Australia documented serious declines in
mental and physical health among the refugees in detention on
Manus Island.

Three men had committed suicide, and many others had attempted
suicide, the report said.

It decried the “brutal and illegal policy of offshore
detention.” It pointed to a decrease in mental health
resources and professionals available to the refugees and
asylum seekers, as well as incidents of assault and robbery
against them.

“The obvious answer to almost all health problems is to give
them freedom and to reduce the damage caused by stress,
trauma, overcrowding and malnutrition during their detention,
as highlighted by numerous reports,” said Fr. Pereira in his
statement.

“Refugees are waiting for the day they are released, and we
hope that 2019 will bring good news for them.”

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/give-them-freedom—
png-bishops-denounce-six-year-refugee-detention-30434