Category Archives: Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The assault on sisters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mining Resources in Africa: Curse and Opportunity

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Mining operations and global consumption of natural resources continue to increase annually[1]. However, while developed countries and regions such as the European Union protect their natural resources with sustainable development policies and high social and labor standards to protect the environment, the economies of developing countries are increasingly becoming dependent on export of its natural resources. The developed countries import and transform these natural resources for the benefit of their increasingly digital and clean (green) societies; the developing countries see their wealth plundered with the destruction and contamination of their environments.[2]

Africa has found in the boom of mining and the exploitation of natural resources an economic model that provides great benefits without an investment effort of its own. The majority of the mining companies installed in Africa are foreign investments to which the local governments demand only a small share in the profits that varies according to the countries. Despite national mining codes and United Nations guidelines on business and human rights, these companies systematically breach their obligations of established international standards. In addition, government officials have a lax attitude towards the behavior of these companies in their territories.

The European Union, together with other economically powerful countries, have taken advantage of these circumstances to access mining resources in Africa without an environmental and social cost to their member states. EU citizens live in digital societies and we are not worried about the origin of these natural resources we consume that are present in our daily life, such as car batteries, mobile phones, computers, tablets, microwaves, glass-ceramics, aircrafts, phosphates, etc. Most of these electronic devices need an endless number of minerals that, because of their scarcity or because of the high social and environmental cost, are not produced in the European Union. The need to have access to these minerals triggered the campaigns of the European Union of public private investment in which the companies of the Member States struggle to monopolize the extraction of natural resources in Africa.[3]

This model of development would be legitimate under certain premises that are currently not met, such as respect for human rights (workers’ social and labor rights, child exploitation, social protection, health, etc.), care for the environment, payment of fair taxes by companies, the restoration of damage caused to the environment and fair compensation to the affected local communities that are the legitimate owners of the land.[4]

By contrast, countries in Africa rich in minerals suffer the so-called curse of natural resources.[5] Lack of arable land in Senegal, hairless children with respiratory diseases in Zambia, contaminated water wells in South Africa, child exploitation in DRC, human rights violations in Madagascar, environmental pollution in Nigeria, financing of armed groups in Rwanda … the list it is innumerable and in many cases those violations of international treaties are simultaneous in the countries of Africa with the implicit consent of the new colonizers.[6]

Mineral wealth in African countries should be an opportunity to create job opportunities, increase revenues, promote sustainable development and fight against extreme poverty. But this requires firmness on the part of the African governments in the respect to the law, the prevention of corruption as well as the ethical commitment of the companies, preventing illegal financial outflows through the tax evasion of profits by companies and their managers.

AEFJN calls on governments both in Africa and Europe to ensure that extractive companies respect human rights and the environment in their operations, meet standards of transparency and are held to account when they do not respect National and international legislations. The responsibility and supervision of the extractive industries necessarily falls on their governments, but we, the citizens of those countries, also have the responsibility to make rational use of the consumables that promote mining operations.

The next European elections are once again an opportunity to choose our leaders and those sustainable policies that are in solidarity with the developing countries and respectful of the environment. To be interested in its political programs of political parties, to raise questions to MEPs candidates about their initiatives and to know the intentions of political parties to search for a new Cotonou agreement that will truly benefit the two continents should be the criteria to be taken into account when casting our vote.[7]

 

 

 

http://aefjn.org/en/mining-resources-in-africa-curse-and-opportunity/

Mining in Africa, an Object of Desire

AEFJN

Among all the natural resources that Africa possesses, minerals are the most coveted by developed countries including the European Union (EU). In fact, in 2017 the European Commission published a Communication[1] updating the list of certain minerals that are essential for maintaining economic growth in Europe. The number of critical raw materials has been growing over the years and the EU has been rewriting the list of these minerals in the last decade. The criteria for considering minerals as critical are economic importance and scarcity. These minerals include rare earths, magnesium, tungsten, antimony, gallium and germanium.

The Communication of the European Union including the list of critical raw materials is part of The Raw Materials Initiative of 2008 in which the EU established a strategy to access those minerals that are essential for both the industry and jobs.[2]

Europe needs Africa and its minerals, but Africa also needs Europe as an investor for its economic development. This relationship between Africa and the European Union is established in the Cotonou Agreement, which is based on three negotiation pillars: Development cooperation, Political cooperation and Economic and trade cooperation. This Agreement is in the process of renewal without having reached any agreement so far despite the new rhetoric (equals, neighbours, partners) to old concepts (Economic Partnership Agreements-EPAs, migration control and critical raw materials) employed by the new President-elect of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen.[3]

The difficulty of access to minerals to the EU is of threefold. Firstly, many of the minerals found in Africa are not found in Europe. Ensuring access to these natural resources is therefore crucial for an EU that is dependent on imports of these minerals. These coveted minerals are essential for the development of sectors such as construction, chemicals, automotive, aerospace, machinery and equipment. The second lies in the competitiveness of the minerals market itself. Extraction costs, low taxes and the price of labour make Africa an attractive place for mining companies. They squeeze out the continent’s subsoil at low prices, move the minerals for processing in third countries and take advantage of the supply chain to locate their headquarters in tax havens. In addition, the royalties paid by extractive companies to African governments barely exceed 10% at best as set out in the new Democratic Republic of Congo mining code.[4] [5]

The third drive for sourcing minerals outside the shores of the EU is the stringent environmental regulation that exists in Europe. While in Africa there is a certain passivity in the face of environmental crimes, in Europe they are highly prosecuted. This is why mining companies use countries with looser environmental protection standards to process minerals. Taking advantage of Africa’s weak democratic institutions makes mining profitable despite the transport costs along the entire production chain.

Mining is an important source of income for countries in the African continent. However, Africa does not take advantage of the potential of these minerals as engine of economic development despite the importance of these minerals in technological development at global level. Most of the minerals extracted from the subsoil of the African continent are exported immediately outside their borders to be transformed in other countries such as China as an intermediate step in the production chain. Perhaps this is why Africa’s technological and business development is seen as a threat to developed countries as it would increase the economic value of these minerals if they are transformed in Africa and become more expensive for Europe.

Dependence on minerals has become a double threat to Africa, but also to Europe. Many countries in Africa are economically dependent on the profits from these mineral extractions, as well as on oil as is the case in Nigeria. Raw material crises directly affect the economic well-being of those countries that lack the investment needed for a first transformation. Moreover, dependence on critical natural resources extends to Europe, which needs to secure the import of these minerals at a reasonable price. In addition, Europe’s dependence has been increased under the pressure of climate change that forces the EU to access minerals that allow the transition to a low-carbon economy.[6]

 

 

 

 

 

http://aefjn.org/en/mining-in-africa-an-object-of-desire/

Nun Emerges as Spanish Leader in Fight Against Austerity

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Wearing her nun’s black habit, Forcades spoke with AFP about austerity, religion and revolution. (Photo: AFP)

Common Dreams

Sister Teresa Forcades: “The current economic model, institutional and political order has failed.”

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer
From the peaks of Monserrat, a new and unlikely leader has emerged in Spain’s rising “indignado” protest movement, leading the charge against the excesses of capitalism.

Sister Teresa Forcades—a Harvard-educated Catalan nun who resides at the convent Sant Benet—along with economist and “indignant” leader, Arcadi Oliveres, has launched a political manifesto that’s amassed nearly 17,000 signatures in just two days.
Continue reading Nun Emerges as Spanish Leader in Fight Against Austerity

Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network celebrates 25th anniversary

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Some of the singers & dancers

Independent Catholic News

By: Ellen Teague

“Love for the people of Africa has inspired the Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network”, reflected Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald at Saturday’s Jubilee Mass in London to celebrate the Network’s 25th anniversary. The Missionary of Africa and former head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, with experience of working in Egypt, Uganda and Sudan, complimented the missionary congregations who formed the Network in 1988, saying they were inspired by seeing Africans suffering because of unfair trade, debt and the activity of multinational companies. “They realised the former colonial powers had particular responsibilities in relation to Africa” he said, “and greater awareness of issues affecting Africa had to be created amongst decision-makers”.
Continue reading Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network celebrates 25th anniversary

CHALLENGES FACING AFRICA IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF EPAs

AEFJN

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http://www.thaifta.com/

The European Union is currently pressing African governments to proceed with interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPAs). However, there is resistance from African countries because they consider there are still some contentious issues to be re-addressed like reciprocity, trade in services, tariffs and agricultural subsidies. The EU is interested in maintaining the unbalanced trade relationship in which Africa supplies raw material and natural resources, and the EU exports manufactured products to African Countries.[1]

Despite all these contentious negotiations, the EU is insisting on going ahead with iEPAs whilst African countries face many challenges before iEPAs can be implemented. If iEPAs are designed to promote integral development and to reduce poverty, then we wonder why the EU does not respect this rhythm or African economic policies.[2]
Continue reading CHALLENGES FACING AFRICA IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF EPAs