March 29, 2018 | RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A Brazilian priest who risked his life campaigning for the landless has been arrested for sexual harassment and extortion but his lawyer said the charges are a ruse to stop his work.
Jose Amaro Lopes de Sousa, known as Padre Amaro, is regarded as the successor to American nun and environmental activist Dorothy Stang, who was murdered in 2005, an emblematic case for the many conflicts over land use in resource-rich Brazil.
A police statement said that Amaro was arrested on Tuesday in the city of Anapu in northern Para state, home to a vast Amazon rainforest reserve, following a court order and eight months of investigations.
“For us, there is no doubt that behind this investigation there is a ranchers’ conspiracy aiming to make Padre Amaro’s work unfeasible,” the priest’s lawyer, Jose Batista Afonso, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Wednesday.
“Padre Amaro personifies nun Dorothy’s work … He has been receiving death threats for a long time.”
Stang often criticized cattle ranchers for seizing land illegally and destroying the rainforest, highlighting tensions between farmers and environmentalists in the top global beef exporter. Local landowners were jailed for ordering her death.
The ranchers’ union in Anapu said they had nothing to do with Amaro’s arrest, adding that about 400 police reports, including videos and witness testimonies, support the charges.
“(Amaro) held meetings in the dead of night, encouraging people to invade land and then had an illegal trade in these invaded lands,” Silverio Albano Fernandes, head of Anapu’s ranchers union, said by phone.
“He was making profit from these sales as he kept a percentage. Everybody knows it here.”
London-based campaign group Global Witness said that Brazil was the world’s most dangerous nation for land rights activists in 2016, with about 50 people killed.
About a dozen land activists have been murdered since 2005 in Anapu, where Amaro is based, according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), set up by the Catholic Church to combat violence against the rural poor.
Amaro’s opponents could not kill him because of the international outcry following Stang’s shooting, and because some are still in jail, said Afonso, who works for CPT.
“Of course, the way chosen to try to nullify the priest’s work would be different,” he said.
Afonso said he will file for habeas corpus, which requires Amaro be brought to court and released unless lawful grounds can be shown for his detention.
“We hope the arrest will be revoked,” he said.
Reporting by Karla Mendes; Editing by Katy Migiro; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.
Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2018 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- A group of about 100 people–including Franciscan friars, religious sisters, and laity–gathered in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Building in Washington on Tuesday, and were led away in flex cuffs in a planned act of civil disobedience.
The protest was intended to pressure Congress to take action on “Dreamers,” or people who were brought to the United States illegally as children. It was organized as part of the Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers, an event planned by Catholic social advocacy groups.
One of those arrested was Sr. Tracy Kemme, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. Prior to her arrest, Kemme told CNA that she considered her actions to be worthwhile to help protect the immigrant community.
“Myself, two of my sisters, and one of our associates will be doing civil disobedience,” said Kemme. She continued, “It’s a moral moment of truth and it’s worth it to us to try to raise the consciousness of our legislators.”
Registered “Dreamers” are afforded renewable protection from deportation under an Obama-era policy called the “Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals” (DACA). President Donald Trump sought to end DACA in September of 2017 and gave Congress a six-month period to come up with a solution before the protections would expire on March 5.
Two federal courts have issued injunctions preventing the President from ending DACA.
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to consider the Administration’s expedited appeal of those injunctions, ensuring that the program will remain as-is until a final court decision is made later this year.
Congressional legislators have been unable to pass compromise bills that would have codified parts of DACA into law. On Monday, the USCCB urged Catholics to call their Congressmen as part of the “National Call-in Day for the Protection of Dreamers.”
The PICO National Network, along with Faith in Public Life and the DC Catholic Coalition, organized Tuesday’s “day of action.” The day featured a prayer rally and peaceful civil disobedience, culminating with the arrests.
Kemme told CNA that she hopes Congress is able to pass a DREAM Act unconnected to other proposed immigration reforms, and that her faith inspires her passion of working with the immigrant community.
“As a Catholic, my end goal would be comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship that keeps families together,” she said.
Kemme’s desires were echoed by Sr. Elise Garcia, O.P., from the Dominican sisters in Adrian, Michigan. Garcia said she was in D.C. on Tuesday to pray for the Dreamers as well as for elected leaders, and she too would like to see comprehensive immigration reform.
“Ideally, I would like to see an entire comprehensive package of immigration reform. That’s the ideal. Short of that, I’d like to see justice for Dreamers,” who have only known the United States as their home.
Before the Capitol Police attempted to disperse the protest, Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington, addressed the crowd. Once the crowd began loudly praying a decade of the rosary, the police started to make arrests.
A total of 40 people were arrested and charged with “Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding.”
COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE: LA SITUATION EN REPUBLIQUE DEMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO
Posted by José Luis Gutiérrez Aranda | Fév 13, 2018 | Afrique | 0
Le Réseau Afrique Europe Foi et Justice (AEFJN) est un réseau de plaidoyer des congrégations religieuses de l’Église catholique en Europe et en Afrique.
Nous notons, avec un cœur douloureux, le climat politique actuel, chargé et inutile, en République Démocratique du Congo. La tension a commencé à la suite du refus du président Joseph Kabila d’organiser des élections à la fin de son mandat en 2016. Il a mis de côté un accord conclu et signé le 31 décembre 2016 sous les auspices de la Conférence épiscopale nationale du Congo (CENCO) à la Saint-Sylvestre pour lui donner l’opportunité d’organiser des élections en 2017. En guise de suivi, le climat politique de la RD Congo et la condition socio-économique des citoyens ont été affectés négativement. Le refus du président Kabila d’organiser des élections en 2017, comme convenu en 2016, et de démissionner, est une violation flagrante du droit du peuple à choisir son chef. Nous considérons le prétendu calendrier des élections du 23 décembre 2018 comme un écran de fumée et un moyen de prolonger le règne du président Kabila.
Nous avons également noté avec une grande préoccupation les autres violations des droits humains RD Congo, contraires à la déclaration du gouvernement Kabila. Selon l’ONU, il y a eu 1176 exécutions extrajudiciaires en 2017; 30% de plus qu’en 2016. Le 31 décembre 2017, le gouvernement de Kabila a ordonné aux fournisseurs de télécommunications de couper les services Internet et SMS à travers le pays avant les manifestations antigouvernementales planifiées. Le 31 décembre 2017, au moins sept personnes ont perdu la vie. Les forces de sécurité ont tiré et blessé des douzaines d’autres alors qu’elles envoyaient des gaz lacrymogènes pour disperser des manifestations pacifiques organisées par l’Eglise catholique. Au moins 600 personnes sont en prison! Les enlèvements, les meurtres, la torture, le viol et le déplacement de personnes sont devenus une décimale récurrente, portant le nombre de personnes déplacées à 4,25 millions en 2017. La manifestation organisée par l’Eglise catholique le 21 janvier 2018 et soutenue par d’autres communautés chrétiennes et musulmanes dans différentes villes n’a pas eu lieu sans pertes. Rien qu’à Kinshasa, selon des rapports, six personnes ont été tuées par les forces de sécurité, une cinquantaine blessées et plusieurs autres arrêtées. L’histoire n’est pas différente à Goma et Bukavu où, selon des rapports, environ 50 personnes ont été blessées, arrêtées ou tuées. La liste s’allonge encore et encore, mais les attaques de plus en plus violentes contre les travailleurs humanitaires et les forces de maintien de la paix forcent les organisations humanitaires à retarder la livraison de l’aide ou à suspendre leurs activités.
Nous condamnons ces suppressions violentes des droits humains fondamentaux et appelons le président Kabila à faire preuve de retenue, à libérer inconditionnellement tous les prisonniers politiques qui ont été détenus alors qu’ils participaient à des manifestations pacifiques et à organiser immédiatement des élections libres et équitables. Nous affirmons que c’est sa responsabilité constitutionnelle de protéger les vies et les biens du peuple de la RD Congo. Nous recommandons fortement la reconstitution de la Commission électorale du Congo CENI pour inclure les acteurs de la société civile et de l’Église et les autres parties prenantes. Nous condamnons également en termes très forts le projet de loi présenté à l’Assemblée nationale congolaise pour réglementer les ONG et les défenseurs des droits humains. Nous appelons les honorables parlementaires à rejeter le projet de loi et à assumer leur responsabilité de protéger les droits du peuple.
Si nous nous abstenons d’un jugement hâtif sur le silence de l’Union Européenne et des États membres sur la situation au Congo, il n’en demeure pas moins très préoccupant. En conséquence, nous implorons l’UE, ses États membres et la communauté internationale de s’opposer à ce comportement insensé et de tenir le président Kabila pour responsable de ses violations des droits humains. Nous nous félicitons à cet égard de l’utilisation de sanctions ciblées par l’UE et de l’utilisation de moyens supplémentaires, comme le prévoient les lois internationales en vigueur, si les progrès vers une solution pacifique restent insaisissables.
L’UE dispose d’un immense espace pour démontrer son engagement ferme à soutenir la démocratie et la protection des droits humains dans la région. C’est une valeur qui constitue une véritable valeur ajoutée de la coopération européenne par rapport aux autres partenaires internationaux de la RD du Congo. En ce qui concerne le soutien technique au processus électoral, nous demandons à l’UE de réitérer sa volonté de collaborer avec des partenaires internationaux pour s’assurer qu’un plan clair et complet soit mis en place pour financer les élections congolaises et de communiquer largement ce plan. L’UE devrait également être convaincue qu’il existe un calendrier crédible et une volonté politique claire de tenir les élections. L’objectif est de voir qu’un manque de ressources ne fait pas dérailler les plans pour les élections.
Enfin, nous saluons avec beaucoup de gratitude la contribution de l’Union Européenne aux résolutions des conflits et impasses internationaux. Alors que nous attendons l’intervention de l’Union Européenne dans l’impasse qui fait rage dans la République Démocratique du Congo, AEFJN reste attaché à tous les efforts pour accorder à chaque personne humaine les droits inaliénables et continuera inlassablement à exposer les structures économiques et sociales injustes.
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Le Réseau Afrique Europe Foi et Justice (AEFJN) est un réseau de plaidoyer des congrégations religieuses de l’Église catholique en Europe et en Afrique. Nous travaillons pour la justice dans les relations économiques entre l’Europe et l’Afrique et notre Secrétariat international est au 174, rue Joseph II, à Bruxelles.
Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) is an advocacy network of Catholic Church Religious Congregations in Europe and Africa.
(Press Release – February 13, 2018) We note, with painful hearts, the present charged and unhelpful political climate in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The tension began as a result of President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to organise elections at the end of his mandate in 2016. He has set aside an agreement that was reached and signed on December 31, 2016 under the auspices of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) at Saint-Sylvester to give him an opportunity to organise elections in 2017. As a follow-up, the political climate of DR Congo and the socio-economic condition of the citizens have been adversely affected. The refusal of President Kabila to organise elections in 2017 as agreed in 2016 and to step down from office is a gross violation of the people’s right to choose their leader. We consider the purported scheduling of election on December 23, 2018 a smokescreen and a device to prolong President Kabila’s rule.
We have also noticed with great concern the other human rights violations in DR Congo contrary to the declaration of Kabila government. The UN has it on record that there were 1176 extrajudicial killings in 2017; 30% higher than the record of 2016. On December 31, 2017, the government of Kabila ordered telecommunications providers to cut off internet and SMS services across the country ahead of planned anti-government demonstrations. On December 31, 2017, at least seven people lost their lives. Security forces shot and wounded dozens of others as they fired tear gas to disperse peaceful demonstrations organised by the Catholic Church. At least 600 people are in prison! Kidnapping, killings, torture, rape and displacement of people have become a recurrent decimal, bringing the record of displaced people to 4.25 million in 2017. The protest called by the Catholic Church on January 21, 2018 and supported by other Christian and Muslim Communities in different towns did not take place without casualties. In Kinshasa alone, six people were reportedly killed by security forces, about 50 wounded and several others arrested. The story in not different in Goma and Bukavu where about 50 people were reported wounded or arrested or killed. The list goes on and on, but the height of it is the increasingly violent attacks against aid workers and peacekeeping forces thus forcing humanitarian organisations to delay the delivery of aid or suspend their activities.
We condemn such violent suppressions of Fundamental Human Rights and call on President Kabila to show restraint, release unconditionally all political prisoners who were detained while engaged in peaceful protests and organise free and fair elections immediately. We affirm that it is his constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and properties the people of DR Congo. We strongly recommend the reconstitution of the Congo Electoral Commission CENI to include the Civil Society and Church actors and the other stakeholders. We also condemn in very strong terms the draft law introduced in the Congolese National Assembly to regulate NGOs and Human Rights Defenders. We call on the honourable lawmakers to throw out the draft law and live up to their responsibility to protect the Rights of the people.
While we refrain from a hasty judgement about the silence of the European Union and Member states on the situation in Congo, it is nonetheless very worrisome. Accordingly, we implore the EU, its Member States and the international community to stand up against this senseless behaviour and hold President Kabila accountable for his Human Rights abuses. We welcome in this regard, the use of EU-targeted sanctions, and considerations of employing additional means, as provided by extant International laws if progress towards a peaceful solution remains elusive.
A huge space is available to EU to demonstrate its firm commitment to supporting democracy and the protection of human rights in the region. It is a value that constitutes a truly added value of European cooperation in comparison to the other international partners to Congo DR. Regarding technical support for the electoral process, we call on the EU to reiterate its willingness to collaborate with international partners to ensure that a clear and comprehensive plan is put in place to finance the Congolese elections and to communicate this plan widely. The EU should also be satisfied that there are a credible timeline and a clear political will to hold the elections. The aim is to see that a lack of resources does not derail the plans for the elections.
Finally, we commend with high regards the input of the European Union in the resolutions of international conflicts and impasses. While we await the intervention of the European Union in the raging standoff in the Congo DR, AEFJN remains committed to all efforts to accord every human person the due inalienable rights and will tirelessly continue to expose unjust economic and social structures.
Chika Onyejiuwa Executive Secretary Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network email@example.com http://aefjn.org/en/home/ Document in pdf Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) is an advocacy network of Catholic Church Religious Congregations in Europe and Africa. We work for justice in the economic relations between Europe and Africa and our International Secretariat is at 174, Rue Joseph II, Brussels.
Reporting by Rami Amichai and Mustafa Abu Ghaneyeh, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff
October 8, 2017
October 8, 2017: JORDAN RIVER, West Bank (Reuters) – Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women trekked through a biblical desert landscape on Sunday, converging on the shores of the Jordan River in a march for peace.
The women, many of them dressed in white, descended through the arid hills leading to the river, where they erected a “peace tent” named for Hagar and Sarah, scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of Muslims and Jews.
“We are women from the right, the left, Jews and Arabs, from the cities and the periphery and we have decided that we will stop the next war,” said Marilyn Smadja, one of the founders of the organizing group, Women Wage Peace.
The organization was established after the 50-day Gaza war of 2014 when more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.
Some 5,000 women participated in Sunday’s march, organizers said. It began last month at several locations across Israel and will culminate in a rally later in the day outside the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
RODELAS, Brazil, Sep 30 2017 (IPS) – The Tuxá indigenous people had lived for centuries in the north of the Brazilian state of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River. But in 1988 their territory was flooded by the Itaparica hydropower plant, and since then they have become landless. Their roots are now buried under the waters of the reservoir.
Dorinha Tuxá, one of the leaders of this native community, which currently has between 1,500 and 2,000 inhabitants, sings on the shore of what they still call “river”, although now it is an 828-sq-km reservoir, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, along the border with the state of Bahia, to the south.
While singing the song dedicated to their “sacred” river and smoking her “maraku”, a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, she looks dreamily at the waters where the “Widow’s Island” was submerged, one of several that sprinkled the lower course of the São Francisco River, and on which the members of her community used to live.
“This song is to ask our community for unity, because in this struggle we are asking for the strength of our ancestors to help us recover our territory. A landless indigenous person is a naked indigenous person. We are asking our ancestors to bless us in this battle and protect our warriors,” she told IPS.
The hydroelectric plant, with a capacity of 1,480 megawatts, is one of eight installed by the São Francisco Hydroelectric Company (CHESF), whose operations are centered on that river which runs across much of the Brazilian Northeast region: 2,914 km from its source in the center of the country to the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast.
After the flood, the Tuxá people were relocated to three municipalities. Some were settled in Nova Rodelas, a hamlet in the rural municipality of Rodelas, in the state of Bahia, where Dorinha Tuxá lives.
After a 19-year legal battle, the 442 relocated Tuxá families finally received compensation from the CHESF. But they are still waiting for the 4,000 hectares that were agreed upon when they were displaced, and which must be handed over to them by state agencies.
“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone,” Tuxá chief Manoel Jurum Afé told IPS.
The new village is very different from the community where they used to live on their island.
“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone.” — Manoel Jurum Afé
Only the soccer field, where children play, retains the shape of traditional indigenous Tuxá constructions.
But the elders strive to transmit their collective memory to the young, such as Luiza de Oliveira, who was baptized with the indigenous name of Aluna Flexia Tuxá.
She is studying law to continue her people’s struggle for land and rights. Her mother, like many other Tuxá women, also played an important role as chief, or community leader.
“It was as if they lived in a paradise. They had no need to beg the government like they have to do now. They used to plant everything, beans, cassava. They lived together in complete harmony. They talk about it with nostalgia. It was a paradise that came to an end when it was flooded,” she said.
On September 20, 2017 Archbishop Nicholas Djomo of the diocese of Tshumbe in the Kasai region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held a briefing for the Catholic Task Force for Africa and other groups at the office of the Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN). The event was live streamed which allowed other participants to join from different parts of the United States by phone and video conference.
In his remarks, Bishop Djomo called on Catholics and all people of good will to pray for Africa in general and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in particular. Bishop Djomo’s message highlighted the work of the Church as ambassador of Jesus Christ for peace and prosperity.
He explained how the DRC is facing a serious political, security and humanitarian crisis. In fact, on the political front, the National Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops was called on to mediate and help political actors and civil society representatives find a compromise on the question of elections which includes the elections of a new president. The church successfully brokered an agreement between political actors which was signed on December 31st, 2016. Unfortunately, because the political actors were not willing to compromise to work on a detailed implementation plan of the agreement, the bishops handed the remaining task over to the president so that they could keep on trying on their own to find a compromise. The disagreements on the way forward remain and the political crisis has deepened.
On the security front, in the eastern and the center of the country namely in the Kasai region, there are internally displaced people in the millions and hundreds of thousands as refugees in the neighboring nation of Angola. Also there are a good number of Congolese in Uganda as well. Given the number of people in need, the humanitarian aid to the displaced is not enough.
The Security Crisis
Here are some examples to prove the case of chronic insecurity in eastern DRC that was mentioned by Bishop Djomo. On September 16, 2017 in Rutshuru in North Kivu Province, a vehicle full of passengers was ambushed by members of a militia. One person was killed, three were kidnapped and many more were wounded. The night before in the same locality in a village called Ntamugenga, a Catholic priest named Jean de Dieu Kasereka Kanefu who was on holiday with his family was also kidnapped and taken to an unknown location. The kidnapers were asking for $20,000 in ransom, but no one knows exactly how much was paid for his release less than 24 hours later. Fr. Jean de Dieu is a member of the Catholic order of Caracholini priests.
On September 15, 2017, the director of the Mabalako Healthcare System, Doctor Mumbere Kamaliro Germain, was kidnapped after an ambush by armed men near Rwindi and Mabenga towns on the Goma-Butembo road. His kidnapers are asking $10,000. One person was killed during the ambush. The car Doctor Mumbere was in was part of a long convoy which was escorted by the army at the time of his kidnapping.
On the night of September 8, 2017, Father Waswandi, a Catholic priest from the Diocese of Butembo in North Kivu province escaped a kidnapping attempt. He jumped from a vehicle they had put him in and was treated for wounds from beatings with metallic bars.
On July 16, 2017, two Catholic Priests, Frs. Charles Kipasa and Jean-Pierre Akilimali of Paroisse Notre-Dame des Anges parish in Bunyuka in Butembo Diocese were kidnapped. The kidnapers were asking for $20,000 in ransom.
On April 14, 2017, the gynecologist of the referral hospital of Uvira, Doctor Gildo Byamungu was killed at his home during the night by armed men. They took his phone, computer, and documents. On January 29, 2016 Doctor Deo Chiza Rumesha, chief surgeon at the referral Hospital of Mweso in North Kivu was kidnapped and found the next morning dead.
On October 19, 2012 Frs. Edmond Kisughu, Anselme Wasukundi, and Jean-Pierre Ndulani, three Assumptionist priests, were kidnapped from their rectory in Mbau in the Diocese of Beni, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). To this day they have not returned home. An article published by the Assumptionist priests in 2014, citing the bimonthly paper Les Coulisses and Radio Kivu 1, stated that they are believed to have been killed by the Ugandan rebel group called the Allied Democratic Forces & the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) because they refused to convert to Islam. This combination of two rebel groups is known to force its hostages to convert to Islam, according to documents seized at one of their camps two years ago during a raid and destroyed by the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC.
On a daily basis, Congolese citizens from different corners of the nation live in fear for their lives. Men, women, school children are kidnapped, killed day in and day out, and their stories are known to just a few. Congolese politicians in the meantime are fighting over political posts which are an easy way to accumulate wealth in a very short time with little effort. The stories above are just a sample of what is going on in the DRC. Each day and night is full of uncertainty in villages, towns and cities.
These are examples of what Bishop Djomo referenced when he said that there is a security crisis in the DRC. He called on the faithful to pray for the victims; the youth to work for social transformation, and African diasporas, no matter where they are, to free themselves from partisanship from their home countries and embrace a vision that will help their homeland and Africa in general.