February 8, 2016

KENYA: President Bows to Pressure, Rejects Proposed Religious Societies Rules


NAIROBI JANUARY 29, 2016(CISA)-President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday January 28 ordered the immediate withdrawal of the proposed Religious Societies Rules 2015.

“This will pave way for a process driven by the religious stakeholders with the participation of the government and the general public in structured consultation,” a statement from State House said.

President Kenyatta reached the decision following a meeting with religious leaders on the proposed regulations that had met protest and condemnation from a cross section of religious leaders.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) had in early January decried the proposed Societies (religious societies) rules 2015 saying if implemented they will have “direct and negative impact on the evangelization mission.”

Speaking during a press conference at Waumini House – Westlands Bishop Philip Anyolo Chairman KCCB, said the proposed new rules are a clear violation of the constitution which draws a clear line between the Church and state. “The same constitution is also explicitly clear on the freedom of worship… how then, we ask, does the government purport to regulate how Kenyans worship?” posed Bishop Anyolo of the Catholic Diocese of Homa Bay. The bishop termed the laws which demand that all faiths keep records of followers as “logistically unrealistic and untenable” and that this will only serve to convert churches into mere registration centres. “To demand that Churches keep records of their followers will effectively reduce Christianity into a game of numbers, and water down the mission of the Church which is evangelization and assisting people to become better persons,” said Bishop Anyolo.

The bishop further faulted the government for not engaging in wide consultations with all religious leaders in the country in the formulations of laws and said “the new laws are therefore an attempt to micromanage worship and should be dropped.”



ETHIOPIA: Hunger Looms as Drought Hits Country


ADDIS ABABA January 29, 2016(CISA)- Millions of people in Ethiopia are facing intense food shortage after UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a warning on January 14, 2016 of a break in food aid deliveries.

“Without additional resources the food sector projects a full-pipeline break in a couple of months,” said a report from OCHA.

According to Vatican Radio, the situation especially in Ethiopia has been made worse by the El Nino weather phenomenon which creates a cycle of drought and flooding.

According to Michel Roy, the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, the drought in Ethiopia and resulting food shortages means that the nation could slide into a famine situation later this year unless prompt action is taken to tackle this shortfall.

“We must act now to prevent further tragedies,” he said in an interview with Vatican Radio.

Climatologists also say that the condition is made more intense by frequent climate change which takes a toll on the agriculture based societies and economies of the region consequently affecting their livelihoods.

Neil Marsland, a senior technical officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) emergency and rehabilitation division said his organization needs help to carry out its mission of helping vulnerable people predict, prepare and protect themselves against such intense phenomena and preserve their way of life.

“These weather patterns are creating huge challenges for the agricultural systems. What we need to do as international, national and local communities is to make these vulnerable communities more resilient to the effects of extreme climate,” Marsland said. He also explained a four pillared program of prediction, preparation, insulation and relief which will be spearheaded by FAO in partnership with the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) and other civil society actors.

FAO has recently launched an appeal for $50 million to implement a plan to help protect the lives and livelihood of Ethiopian farmers and livestock keepers. The appeal comes at a time when international donor funds are already under considerable stress from the broad array of major crises around the world.

According to the UN the current drought threatens food supplies for 10.2 million people in Ethiopia.



MORROCO: Muslim Leaders Adopt Report Supporting Minority Rights

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MARRAKESH, JANUARY 29, 2016(CISA)-Muslim leaders from around the world have adopted a declaration to defend the rights of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries.

Hundreds of both Sunni and Shiite scholars from 120 countries gathered in Marrakesh to consider the plight of non-Muslim minorities in largely Muslim nations.

Speaking during the conference, King Mohammed VI of Morocco said that the kingdom would never tolerate violation of the rights of religious minorities.

“We in the Kingdom of Morocco will not tolerate the violation of the rights of religious minorities in the name of Islam,” King Mohammed VI stated at the January 25-27 conference.

“I am enabling Christians and Jews to practice their faith and not just as minorities. They even serve in the government,” he added.

The declaration said “conditions in various parts of the Muslim world have deteriorated dangerously due to the use of violence and armed struggle as a tool for settling conflicts and imposing one’s point of view which has enabled criminal groups to issue edicts that “alarmingly distort “ Islam’s “fundamental principles and goals.”

Participants said the Marrakesh Declaration, developed during a January 25-27, 2016, conference was based on the Medina Charter, a constitutional contract between the Prophet Muhammad and the people of Medina.

The declaration said the charter, instituted 1,400 years ago, guaranteed the religious liberty of all, regardless of faith.

The reports also stated that politicians and leaders need to take necessary steps to legally “fortify relations and understanding among the various religious groups in the Muslim world.”

The declaration said cooperation must be based on “A Common Word,” a statement issued in 2007 and originally signed by 138 Muslim scholars and endorsed later by dozens of other Muslim leaders.

Addressed to then-Pope Benedict XVI and the heads of other Christian churches, the statement called for new efforts at Christian-Muslim dialogue based on the shared belief in the existence of one God, in God’s love for humanity and in people’s obligation to love one another.

With such a large percentage of the world’s population belonging to the Christian or Muslim faith, the Common Word scholars insisted “the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Emeritus Archbishop of Washington has welcomed the recently signed declaration to protect religious minorities in the world.

Cardinal McCarrick said that document would help ensure all religions take care and protect one another in their undertakings.

“It is truly a great document, one that will influence our times and our history,” the prelate said, according to a Catholic News Service report.

“It is a document that our world has been waiting for and a tribute to the Muslim scholars who prepared it. As one of the People of the Book, I thank you for this document and I thank the Lord God who has provided his followers the courage to prepare this document,” added Cardinal McCarrick soon after the declaration was adopted in Morrocco.

The 50 non-Muslim religious leaders at the Marrakesh conference shared concerns over violence in the name of religion, limitations of citizenship, restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, and xenophobia, especially Islamophobia by members of their religions; reaffirmed values shared with Muslims; and asked forgiveness for past and current injuries for which their communities are complicit.



VATICAN: Pope Meets Togo President, Calls for Peace and Security

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VATICAN CITY JANUARY 29, 2016(CISA)-Pope Francis on January 28 met the president of the Republic of Togo, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé

During the meeting, reported Vatican Information Service, Pope Francis acknowledged the good existing relations between the Holy See and Togo, and the prospects for their further consolidation and stressed on “the need for joint commitment to the promotion of security and peace in the region.”

President Gnassingbé lauded the contribution of the Catholic Church to the development of the country and the integral progress of the Togolese population, especially in the field of education.

During the meeting, Pope Francis gave the President copies of the Encyclical Laudato si’ and the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

President Gnassingbé gave the Holy Father a framed work of abstract art, created by an artist of Togo.

Later, the Togolese President met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.



PHILIPINES: It is wrong to spiritualize Poverty, says Cardinal Onaiyekan


CEBU JANUARY 29, 2016(CISA) – Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja has said that it is wrong “to spiritualize poverty.”

In his address to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), currently taking place in Cebu, Philippines, on the theme “The Eucharist and the Dialogue with the Poor and Suffering,” Cardinal Onaiyekan said that “poverty mean many things” and therefore must never be spiritualized.

“Actually, in the Church poverty can be a virtue. We speak of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience. The word poverty itself could be positive,” he told Vatican Radio.

“We cannot spiritualize poverty as if it is a good thing,” said Cardinal Onaiyekan. “It can never be a good thing.”

However, he said there is a different kind of poverty – “misery” – which cannot be welcomed.

“A material poverty that ends up in misery, in deprivation of the main essentials of life, and there are many people in the world of our days that are suffering that kind of poverty,” he said.

In his address to the IEC, the Cardinal spoke about the meaning of the Cross for Christians.

“Since [Jesus] died on the cross, what had been until then a symbol of a shameful death has become a great symbol of the glory of Christ in His glorious crucifixion,” Cardinal Onaiyekan told the Congress.

He then spoke about the ongoing campaign of terror against Christians and other religious minorities of the so-called Islamic State in different countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

“Today, we hear Muslim terrorists crucifying Christians as a way of inflicting the greatest pain and degradation on their victims,” he said. “But the cross still remains the symbol of the victory of the Lord Jesus.”

At the end of his speech, Cardinal Onaiyekan was surprised with a birthday cake by the Archbishop of Cebu, Jose S. Palma. The Cardinal turned 72 on today.