AFRICA/NIGERIA - Attacks in Kaduna: the testimony of the Bishop of Zaria to Fides Agency
Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - "I was preaching during the second morning Mass, when around 9, we heard a loud explosion. The car bomb created a crater 2 feet deep, all around there was broken glass, rubble and burning cars ": this is the dramatic attack to the Cathedral of Christ the King, reported to Fides by His Exc. Mgr. George Jonathan Dodo, Bishop of Zaria, a city in Kaduna State (northern Nigeria), where yesterday, Sunday, June 17, suicide bombers hit two Christian churches. In addition to the car bomb which exploded near the Catholic Cathedral (the bomber was stopped by the security service and was unable to get close to the place of worship), another bomb hit the Evangelical Church of the Good News.
The attackers hit another church in Kaduna, the capital of the State. This is the church of Shalom.
"I am in contact with the Governor and police authorities to see how to ensure the safety of the faithful. The maximum security authorities arrived on the site of the attack to calm tempers," said the Bishop. Mgr. Dodo does not have news of reprisals in Zaria against Muslims, but adds that he is aware of the fact that "in Kaduna there were reprisals against citizens of Muslim religion. Especially when the news of the attack against the Pentecostal church spread, young people responded with violence, destroying some properties." "In the past few weeks several Christian churches in northern Nigeria have been attacked, it is likely that the perpetrators of this violence are following a precise agenda," concludes Mgr. Dodo. In the attacks and subsequent reprisals, according to authorities, 45 people have died. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 18/6/2012)
AFRICA/SUDAN - Khartoum authorities have occupied 3 Catholic schools and tried to confiscate a church where the faithful staged a sit-in
Khartoum (Agenzia Fides) - Authorities in Khartoum have occupied three Catholic schools and tried to confiscate a church. This is what Catholic Radio Network (CRN) reported, which cites sources of the Sudanese Church. According to sources, the authorities occupied two schools in Mayo and another one in Omdurman. According to the CRN it is not clear whether the schools were being used or not. The attempt to confiscate the Catholic Church was foiled when the faithful staged a sit-in. According to the sources of the Catholic network, local authorities, faced with the lacking space for students, resorted to occupying Catholic schools that were used by students from South Sudan who are being expelled from Khartoum. The Church has appealed to court to recover the occupied buildings. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 18/6/2012)
Bhubaneswar (Agenzia Fides) - Nightmare for Christians in Orissa, eastern India is back. A Pastor and the entire community of a Christian village, about 12 families, were violently attacked and injured by an organized group of about 50 Hindu extremists. The local Churches remember with serious concern the incidents of mass violence that broke out in the Kandhamal district in 2008 and which resulted in a real anti-Christian massacres.
The violence this time took place in the district of Balasore. As reported to Fides by the "Global Council of Indian Christians" (GCIC), an ecumenical organization that monitors the condition of Christians in India, on June 15 the Christian Evangelist Pastor Baidhar, 50, leader of a community of prayer, was attacked and beaten for no reason, by a group of armed Hindu fanatics, while he was returning home from a prayer meeting at the residence of a believer in the village of Mitrapur Makhapada. The Pastor was left senseless on the ground, in the street, with many wounds that bled profusely. He would have died if some faithful had not found him and taken him to a nearby hospital. When the Hindu radicals learned that the Pastor had been saved by the faithful of the village, during the same evening, a group of about 50 Hindu extremists attacked the entire group of about 12 Christian families, causing injuries and serious injuries to about twenty faithful. The extremists also looted their homes and started to beat all the believers, the young and old, harassing some young women. After the assault, for fear of further violence, all the faithful fled and took refuge in the surrounding woods.
The GCIC, learned of the episode, contacted the local faithful and convinced Pastor Baidhar to file a complaint at the police station in Nilgiri. The police assured that they will take appropriate countermeasures and will find those responsible. According to investigators new violence is brewing in the state of Orissa, since only a few days ago, police in the district of Puri Brahmagiri discovered and seized an arsenal of more than 50 hand grenades and crates of dynamite in the village of Gambhari. According to Fides sources, the explosives were kept there, ready for another anti-Christian riot in Orissa, on the model of the one organized in 2008 in the district of Kandhamal. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 18/6/2012)
Damascus (Agenzia Fides) - "Save us, we are hungry": is the appeal launched by the families of Homs, seeking the intervention of humanitarian organizations. The situation for about 800 civilians (half Muslim Sunni, half Christians) trapped in the center of Homs is worsening dramatically: according to Fides sources in the Committee that is negotiating with the army and the rebels in order to ensure freedom and safety to civilians, "the families have no food, no supplies has been possible for days, there is no medicine, they risk dying of hunger. There are elderly people and critically ill children, we need humanitarian intervention." The rebels holed up in the city have said that they could allow the civilians to go out in the evening after 9pm. But at that hour, when darkness takes over, a curfew takes place and if civilians were to come out they would be easily killed in the crossfire, so no one moves.
While the UN observers have announced the temporary suspension of their intervention, the Negotiating Committee, composed of lay, religious and civil society leaders, call for at least a cease-fire of a few hours to allow the entry of humanitarian aid to Homs, but so far none of the two warring parties intend to grant it.
"We must also ensure that such aid, if granted, as we all hope, will truly reach needy families and are not kidnapped " remarks a source of Fides. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 18/6/2012)
ASIA/LEBANON - Conflict in Syria and appointment of the Bishop of Homs in the Synod of the Greek Melkite Church
Beirut (Agenzia Fides) - The conflict in Syria, the plight of the approximately 300 thousand greek-Melkite Catholic faithful in Syria, the appointment of the new Greek-Melkite Bishop of Homs: are among the topics on the agenda of the Greek Melkite Catholic Synod of the Church, which opened today in Beirut, in Lebanon. The meeting will be led by the Greek Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Gregory III Laham, who presides an assembly of about 30 Bishops from the Middle East but also from America, Australia and Europe. The Assembly will be asked to appoint the new Bishop of Homs (currently vacant), the city at the center of violent conflict between regular troops and Free Syrian Army rebels.
According to sources of Fides, the prelates of the Greek Melkite Synod are very concerned about the fate of the Catholics in Syria, in the center of the conflict. In the discussion of the Synod, what will be explored are ways of non-violent reconciliation, alternatives to the military force, which form the deep desire of Christians in Syria and throughout the Middle East. The Synod of Bishops and representatives have welcomed the appeal by Patriarch Laham (see Fides 09/06/2012) and are living, in the month of June, a period of fasting, abstinence and prayer for peace in Syria, until the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 18/6/2012)