ASIA/IRAQ - Prayers for peace among the ruins of the ancient church in the area of Karbala

Karbala - Prayers and Christian hymns along with the reading of verses from the Koran echoed among the ruins of the church of Al Aqiser, in the area of Karbala, the holy city of Shiite Islam. All this took place on Monday 17 June, and the initiative was implemented by a group of Chaldean Christians who came on pilgrimage to what remains of the church which dates back to the 5th century a.C., considered among the oldest Christian places of worship in the Middle East. With their prayers, the members of the group asked the Lord for the gift of peace, the end of conflicts and release from all sectarianism.
Located in the west of Karbala, the archaeological site certifies the presence in the region of flourishing Christian communities, dating back to pre-Islamic times. "The existence of this church is a clear sign of the coexistence among the peoples of this country, until today", declared Chaldean priest Maysar Behnam.
The ruins of the church have resurfaced from the desert thanks to archaeological excavations carried out in the seventies of the last century. In the past, Iraqi Christian groups used to go on pilgrimage during Christmas time.
In Karbala, every year, tens of millions of Muslim Shiite pilgrims flock to commemorate the killing of Husayn ibn Ali, Mohammad's grandson and considered by the Shiites the third legitimate imam, killed in Karbala in 680 a. C. together with 72 of his followers from the troops of the Umayyad caliph Yazid I.

AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - "For years we have been in the grip of terrorism", denounce the Bishops of Burkina Faso and Niger

Ouagadougou - "The Countries of our Bishops' Conference, Burkina Faso and Niger, are prey to terrorist attacks", denounce the Bishops of the two West African States, in the final message of their Plenary Assembly which was held in Ouagadougou from 5 to 15 June.
"Despite the commitment of the Defense and Security Forces, terrorist attacks are intensifying and have taken on a new religious dimension, through targeted kidnappings and homicides", the document said, sent to Agenzia Fides. The Bishops of Burkina Faso and Niger declare themselves disappointed with these "unjustifiable crimes".
After drawing up a long list of murders, kidnappings and assaults against priests, religious, laity and places of Catholic worship, starting from 17 September 2018, the Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, "ask people who love peace to remain united despite the resurgence of terrorist attacks; to cultivate the cohesion among the different components of our peoples to avoid falling into the traps of terrorists".
"The Bishops of Burkina Faso and Niger in particular ask Christians to intensify measures of prudence and vigilance at individual and community level in a climate of faith and hope and to remain disciples and witnesses of the One who obtained his victory not with violence, but with love; in other words, to conquer evil with good".

AFRICA/NIGERIA - Kidnapped priest released; over 150 violent deaths in a week

Abuja – Fr. Isaac Agubi, a priest who serves at the Holy Name church of Ikpeshi, 230 km away from Benin City, capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria was released by the police. The priest had been kidnapped on June 16th along the Auchi-Igarra road, around 5 pm, as he was returning home after having celebrated mass. The police forces, helped by some hunters in the area, managed to identify where the kidnappers were in the forest. During the release of the priest one of the bandits was injured.
The kidnappers seem to belong to a group of Fulani, a nomadic shepherd ethnicity, who in Nigeria and other West African countries have become protagonists of violent raids against other populations. In the last week in northern Nigeria, violence linked to the Fulani issue and others committed by Boko Haram, caused the death of over 150 people, while nine others were kidnapped.
In the State of Sokoto on June 15, 25 people lost their lives in raids, probably committed by the Fulani, in three villages. In a separate incident, a woman, and her stepson, were kidnapped by a gang of shepherds on Airport Road, in the city of Osi, in the state of Ondo, on their way to Sunday mass.
On 12 June an officer and 20 soldiers in the State of Borno were killed in the attack on a military formation. The Islamic State of West Africa , then claimed responsibility for the attack.
On June 14, at least 34 people were killed in an assault by an armed group that attacked three villages in the area of Shinkafi in the State of Zamfara. The bandits, who arrived on motorcycles, set fire to the houses and shot all those they encountered.
A few days ago His Exc. Mgr. Augustine Akubeze, Archbishop of Benin City and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, had denounced "the unprecedented level of insecurity" and the "complete impunity" of who sows chaos and destruction in the Country.

AMERICA/PERU - "Welcoming Christ in refugees": let us not be carried away by voices that encourage xenophobia, discrimination and fear

Lima - "Refugees are people who flee conflict and persecution, are protected by international law, because of their particular vulnerability, and should not be expelled or returned to situations where their lives and their freedom are at risk": this is how the message of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference for World Refugee Day, 20 June begins. "Welcoming Christ in refugees" is the title of the message, sent to Fides, which cites the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and recalls that there are 25.4 million refugees in the world and 3.1 million who ask to be recognized as such.
The Bishops present the Peruvian reality: "Our country, for many years, protects people with these requirements, guaranteeing them refugee status. We currently have refugees of different nationalities, including Venezuelans, Cubans, Colombians, Palestinians, Syrians, Bengalis, Sri Lankans and several African countries: People in need of shelter are exposed to multiple situations such as aggression, smuggling of migrants, fraud and other violations of their human rights, which is why the Catholic Church in Peru, faced with this challenge, paid particular attention to providing assistance and protection to these people. Even though the UN General Assembly on December 17, 2018 adopted the Global Refugee Pact, in order to strengthen cooperation and solidarity with the refugees and the host countries concerned by this phenomenon, much remains to be done in favor of refugees, in facing the globalization of indifference".
CEP, following the example of Jesus, invites concrete action towards those who find themselves in situations of vulnerability, following Pope Francis who proposed four verbs to apply to pastoral work with refugees: to welcome, protect, promote and integrate.
"On the occasion of World Refugee Day, the Peruvian Bishops' Conference wants to encourage the various States in the region, in particular ours, to strengthen the mechanisms for access to reception and to apply an adequate definition of refugee. At the same time we urge Peruvian society not to be carried away by the 'voices' that encourage xenophobia, discrimination and fear, but to build together the culture of encounter", the Bishops conclude.
The message sent to Fides is signed by the President of the Peruvian Bishops' Conference and CELAM, Mgr. Miguel Cabrejos, and by the person responsible for the pastoral care of human mobility, Mgr. Daniel Turley.

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