ASIA/INDONESIA - The election campaign kicks off: Widodo chooses a Muslim vice president

Jakarta - On September 23, Indonesian President Joko Widodo officially kicked off of the campaign period for next year's election in Jakarta. About 186 million voters in the world's largest Muslim-majority country are expected go to the polls on April 17, in an election which will also decide members of national and local parliaments. "Prudence and intelligence are needed: in the presidential elections in April 2019", says Catholic Yuli Nugrahani, writer and social worker, to Agenzia Fides, who works for the Justice and Peace Commission in the Diocese of Tanjungkarang and in the Indonesian Bishops Conference. "Young people need to look for accurate and verifiable information - social media can offer most of the data but not all data is true", he said.
According to the polls, Widodo is appreciated for his ambitious infrastructure projects that he started and promised to conclude in his second term. The election campaign will probably focus on economy, inequality, the politics of identity and increasing intolerance through the archipelago with over 260 million inhabitants.
Widodo, who is popularly known as "Jokowi", surprised many Indonesians by choosing to run alongside conservative Islamic cleric Ma'ruf Amin, who was appointed vice president. Amin, 75, is chairman of the country's top Islamic authority the Indonesian Ulema Council , which issues fatwas, and is known for his disparaging views towards certain minorities. About 90% of Indonesians traditionally follow a moderate form of Islam, but there are concerns that the historically secular nation is taking a sharp fundamentalist turn.
The pair will square off against Prabowo and former deputy Jakarta governor Sandiaga Uno, a businessman and private equity tycoon.
Prabowo, who lost to Widodo in 2014, was a top military figure in the chaotic months before dictator Suharto was toppled by student protests in 1998.
According to observers Widodo, who has hired billionaire Erick Thohir as his campaign manager, is most vulnerable when it comes to social economy and inequality: in fact, Indonesia's currency has slumped in recent weeks, falling to levels not seen since the country was embroiled in a region-wide financial crisis that sparked economic ruin and the street protests that led to the downfall of Suharto.
In Indonesia the Muslim population reaches 85%, while Christians are about 10% of the population and 5% belong to other religious minorities.
AMERICA/ARGENTINA - Food assistance: the Bishops of the province of Buenos Aires meet the Governor

Buenos Aires - Fourteen Argentine Bishops from the province of Buenos Aires met the Governor of Buenos Aires, Maria Eugenia Vidal, on September 21, at the headquarters of the provincial government, in the federal capital. The theme of the meeting was that of food assistance, especially in areas that have the greatest need. According to information published by the Episcopal Conference, sent to Agenzia Fides, the meeting was also attended by Santiago López Medrano, Minister of Social Development, and Gabriel Sánchez Zinny, Director General of Culture and Education, together with the Minister of Health and social development, Carolina Stanley.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Governor and the Minister expressed their decision to make best use of all resources for food assistance, particularly in the poorest areas of the province. The Governor has also pledged to support the continuity of the works that are underway and the Provincial Bank loan programs for small and average-sized businesses.
The Bishops present were the Ordinaries and Auxiliaries of the following ecclesiastical circumscriptions: San Isidro, Bahía Blanca, La Plata, Merlo-Moreno, Avellaneda-Lanús; Azul; Morón; San Justo; Gregorio de Laferrere; Nueve de Julio; San Martín.
The Bishops expressed their great concern for the socio-economic situation of the province and of the whole country, for the reduction of real wages and for the dismissal of workers from different sectors, expressing their commitment to accompany those who suffer in these situations. They then reiterated to the Governor and to the authorities present, their commitment to continue to work, through the diocesan Caritas, focusing on the work that takes place daily with those living in poverty. The Bishops also thanked the Governor for the invitation, in the context of a dialogue respectful of the autonomy of the Church and of the state, with the aim of fostering cooperation.
According to the latest report released by the Universidad Católica Argentina , in Argentina there are at least 13.5 million poor people, equal to 31.4% of the approximately 43 million inhabitants of the country. A few days ago, on 12 September, a major protest demonstration paralyzed Buenos Aires with thousands of people who took to the streets to ask the government to stop the increase in prices of basic household products and to declare food emergency. On Friday 7 September, a meeting was held at the initiative of the Minister of Health and Social Development with Caritas authorities to analyze the situation and evaluate possible collaborative initiatives.

AFRICA/NIGERIA - A Nigerian Catholic priest died four days after he escaped from his abductors’ den

Abuja - A Nigerian Catholic priest died four days after he escaped from his abductors’ den. Louis Odudu, died in a hospital in Warri, in the State of Delta , on September 19.
The immediate cause of his death could not be ascertained, it was gathered that the incident was not unconnected with his abduction.
The governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, expressed his condolences to His Exc. Mgr. John 'Oke Afareha, Bishop of Warri, for the tragic death of Fr. Odudu. The governor also reiterated his government's commitment "to ensure the safety of lives and property".
Fr. Odudu, who was ordained priest of the Catholic Diocese of Warri in 1987, had reportedly been in the United Kingdom for years. He was said to have returned to Nigeria about five months ago when he was abducted.
Fr. Odudu was currently the Chaplain of the Seat of Wisdom Catholic Chaplaincy of the Petroleum Training Institute. Previously, he was a former Assistant Secretary-General at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria.
Catholic priests in the state have been under attack in recent times, as no fewer than five priests had been abducted in 2018 alone.
AFRICA/NIGER - "Release Fr. Maccalli": appeal by the Muslim leaders of Niger

Genoa - The Muslim leaders of Niger express firm condemnation over the abduction of Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli and ask for his immediate release, as stated by an appeal relaunched by the Interreligious Committee of Niger in favor of the kidnapped missionary. This is what the Curia of the Society for African Missions in Genoa say to Agenzia Fides, talking about information that the SMA confreres received in Niger.
The appeal sent to Fides reports: "The National Committee for Inter-and Intra-religious Dialogue of Niger strongly condemns the unjust and criminal kidnapping of the Italian priest of Bomoanga. It has no other purpose than to obscure and ruin the climate of peace and peaceful coexistence that has always prevailed among the religions in our Nigerian society". The text continues: "Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli is a man of peace, a great man of God at the service of Niger for more than 10 years. He was kidnapped in his church by strangers between Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 September in Bomoanga, near the border between Niger and Burkina Faso. May God Almighty assist him in this terrible trial".
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