ASIA/PAKISTAN - A ten-point resolution sent by religious minorities to the Prime Minister

Karachi : "We are faithful to our beloved homeland, Pakistan. We are not strangers: our Churches, religious institutions, hospitals and office buildings have a raised flag of Pakistan. We have lived in this land for centuries, well before the creation of Pakistan, and we are serving with honesty and dedication for the good of Pakistan". This is what Fr. Saleh Diego, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Karachi and diocesan director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace told Agenzia Fides, recalling the main issues and challenges faced by religious minorities in Pakistan. A specific Day, which is celebrated on 11 August, was established for them in 2010 by the then federal minister for religious minorities, the Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated on 2 March 2011.
Fr. Saleh Diego also stated: "Christianity has existed in this territory since the first century, when St. Thomas, one of Jesus' apostles, came to the Indian subcontinent. We are 100% sons and daughters of this land; we should not be treated as second-class citizens".
Catholic lawyer Tabbasum Yousaf, speaking to Fides, recalled: "We members of religious minorities are contributing strongly to the development of Pakistan. We intend to focus on issues related to our freedom, our fundamental human rights, prejudices and discrimination that exist in particular towards people of religious minorities and forced conversions of women of religious minorities".
The lawyer presented a joint ten-point resolution that was signed by leaders and representatives of various faiths and is addressed to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and other institutions. Among the requests contained in the text, the resolution points out that the minimum age for marriage of girls should be 18; calls for the establishment of a a federal ministry for religious minorities, and the application of a 5% quota for national and international educational scholarships given to minorities; the joint resolution urges protection of minorities' houses of worship from government seizure; designated minority worship areas in jails, hospitals, and state institutions; and the passage of legislation to prevent religious discrimination in employment, education, and society. Furthermore, the Memorandum calls for the elimination from books of material encouraging hatred. A specific request touches on the problem of abductions, sexual violence and forced conversions of women belonging to religious minorities, asking for legislation to counteract the phenomenon.
Commenting on the current situation, Majida Rizvi, first female judge of the High Court in Pakistan, and committed to the National Commission on the status of women, said: "At the time of the founding of Pakistan, Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah assured the equal rights, freedom and justice for religious minorities in Pakistan. Members of religious minorities contributed to the foundation and development of Pakistan; they have proven to be true citizens of Pakistan".
Sheema Kirmani, a well-known Muslim human rights activist, told Fides: "All Pakistani citizens are equal, the concept of considering a person on the basis of majority or minority criteria should be removed. We must also change the terminology and declare that Pakistan is a country with a people of various religions. There should be no religious divisions or discrimination".
Ghazala Shafiq, a Christian activist for women's rights, says: "In this country it is painful to note that the Constitution of Pakistan does not allow any non-Muslim to become president, prime minister, head of army personnel or any other top position". Moreover, "forced conversions of women belonging to minorities are on the rise: they should be stopped and severely punished".
EUROPE/POLAND - Cardinal Filoni at the shrine of Zakopane: "Mary is present and alive among us"

Zakopane - "One wonders: why so many Shrines in the world, why so much affection and devotion to Mary? In truth, from the moment Mary lost Jesus, she adopted, as Mother, the Church born of the blood of her Son, becoming herself a first and elected member, which means that, wherever there is a community of faith, like the first community of the Apostles, Mary is there, finds a home and family where to live. This also explains why Mary has never left us alone. Her apparitions, such as Fatima, Lourdes, and many others, her shrines such as Częstochowa, Zakopane, and many others scattered throughout the various continents, bear witness to her living presence among us". This was underlined by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, during the celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on August 15, at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Zakopane, a city of 28 thousand inhabitants located in southern Poland, in the region called "Little Poland".
As Cardinal Filoni recalled, Karol Wojtyla often came to Zakopane, as a boy, then as a priest, often accompanying students. He returned several times even after he was elected Pope. The Marian Shrine was built here as an ex-voto for the salvation of Pope John Paul II’s life, after the attack on May 13, 1981.
The Prefect of the Congregation of "Propaganda Fide" said: "With joy we celebrate the liturgical solemnity of Mary. Assumed into Heaven in this National Shrine of Zakopane, where a house was built for Mary. All Christian Poland today is spiritually united to the priests and bishops in Jasna Gόra, in Czestochowa, where Mary is crowned queen of Poland. In the affection and devotion to Mary, generations of Poles have been formed and have kept their faith alive even in dark times. Mary, Karol Wojtyla, son of this nation, tempered his character and consecrated himself totally to her, Totus tuus, to Christ and to the Church".
In the homily of the celebration for the Assumption, the Cardinal continued: "The Church does not forget Mary, remembering and celebrating her liturgically throughout the liturgical year. Today the Church celebrates her in her mystery of Assumed into Heaven, because it was not possible that her body suffered the corruption of death, having been preserved from original sin. In this sense, Mary becomes the firstborn of a new creation, the one saved by Jesus.
We, as a Christian community, that is, as a community redeemed by Christ, are happy today to be gathered here and almost embraced and kissed by her and to be able to say: Mary, my Mother, I love you! I love you! If I close my eyes for a moment let me smell your perfume of woman and mother. Hold me tight as you held Jesus, talk to me as you spoke to him, look at me with the same tenderness".
The Marian shrine in Zakopane was built in 1987-1992 and the church was consecrated by John Paul II himself on 7 June 1997, during his sixth pilgrimage to his homeland. The Shrine was erected next to a chapel where, since the 1950s, Mary was worshiped and where in 1961 the image of the Lady of Fatima was placed, given by the bishop of Fatima to Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, who he gave to the Pallotini Fathers, custodians of the chapel. It was the bishop of Krakow of that time, Karol Wojtyla, who consecrated both the image and the chapel. In the so-called "Fatima Park", in the vicinity of the Shrine, there are also two monuments dedicated to John Paul II and the altar on which Pope Wojtyla celebrated Mass in Zakopane on June 6, 1997.

AFRICA/IVORY COAST - Church calls for justice for Faustine Brou N’Guessan, parish secretary killed in her office

Abidjan - "Let there be full light on the murder of Faustine Brou N’Guessan. The Church is merciful, but mercy is carried out through justice", said Fr. Augustin Obrou, at the head of the social communications of the Archdiocese of Abidjan, in a statement on the murder of Mrs Faustine Brou N’Guessan, secretary of the parish of Sainte-Cécile du Vallon, stabbed to death in her parish office, on 10 August.
Speaking on behalf of His Eminence, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa, Archbishop of Abidjan, Fr. Obrou has asked the faithful to be vigilant. "Our parishes have security agents, but we invite the faithful to highlight anything strange regarding the people who come to our churches. It is true that churches are places of gathering, people will not be searched in order not to create alarm, but some behaviors force us to be more careful".
The killing of the secretary of the parish of Sainte-Cécile du Vallon was preceded by the desecration of some statues of the Virgin Mary and attacks against priests and laity engaged in parish services.
The agonizing body of Faustine Brou N’Guessan, was found in a pool of blood around 11 am on August 10th in her office in the Jean Pierre Cardinal Kutwa building of the parish. Taken to the nearest clinic, unfortunately, she died soon after. The sixty-year-old mother of a daughter and for thirty years secretary in the parish of Sainte-Cécile du Vallon, was going to retire this year.
AMERICA/MEXICO - The Catholic world calls for "authentic dialogue between government and society"

Mexico City - "We cannot resign ourselves, as individual citizens and even less as organized civil society, to having a government that unilaterally manages the major problems of this country": says Catholic magazine "Desde la fe" in its publication of August 18th. The Catholic magazine explains: "We are very surprised with the intention expressed recently in the Chamber of Deputies, whereby the majority force must have absolute control. In doing so a fundamental principle of every democratic Congress is forgotten: it is the space of representativeness of majorities and minorities to preserve the necessary social balance in every democracy".
The text sent to Agenzia Fides continues: "It is evident that, with these measures, one wants to transform the place of greater democratic dynamism of a country into a mirror of imminent totalitarianism that causes so much damage in every society".
"Dialogue means knowing how to listen. It is necessary to listen to farmers who have not received their subsidies. It is necessary to listen to working mothers who need professional support in the care of their children. It is necessary to listen to doctors who talk about the lack of medicines and the lack of maintenance of specialized equipment. It is necessary to listen to experts who analyze the feasibility of projects and environmental care. It is necessary to listen to the National Commission for Human Rights and other autonomous organizations. It is necessary to listen to the people involved in the education of children and young people. It is necessary to listen to investors in order to build trust. One must listen to the victims of extortion and violence of organized crime. The voluntary effort of a person is not enough, a country like Mexico requires greater responsibility and authentic social dialogue. For the good of all, let us learn to dialogue, government and society", concludes the text.
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