Posts Tagged ‘catholic church’

Mexican bishop Raul Vera ‘s continues his dangerous battle against organized crime

August 3, 2017

La Croix International carried a story on the work of bishop Raul Vera: “A Mexican bishop’s dangerous battle against organized crime“. Samuel Lieven described on 14 July, 2017 the priest as “an indefatigable defender of human rights in one of the most violent countries on earth,..[who] … has for thirty years denounced collusion between the Mexican government and the drug cartels. He has stood up to drug lords, traffickers and paramilitaries despite narrowly escaping death several times.” Bishop Vera, a Dominican who was awarded the Rafto Prize for human rights in 2010, has often taken risks in denouncing endemic corruption in Mexico, where the violence has reached record levels. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/11/mexico-activists-convene-first-peoples-constitutional-assembly/]
Archbishop Raul Vera arrives at the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 26, 2016. / Alfredo Estrella / Afp

At a press conference on Tuesday, 11 July, Bishop Raul Vera of Saltillo in Coahuila province in northern Mexico directly accused the Mexican government of complicity in organized crime by facilitating the crimes committed by the drug cartels “by terror”. Bishop Vera’s statement accompanied a complaint lodged on July 6 with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for crimes committed by Mexican security forces in collaboration with the powerful Las Zetas cartel. For Bishop Vera, this violence, particularly the violence that has spread in Coahuila province, “is not due to chance”.

In order to establish his complaint with the ICC, Bishop Vera drew on the work of more than 100 civil society organizations as well as reports prepared by the Legal Clinic of the University of Texas. He made particular reference to prosecutions under way against “members of organized crime in American courts which illustrated close collaboration with the government of Coahuila”. In addition, there were dozens of testimonies from victims of crimes committed by Mexican forces between 2009 and 2012 as well as by armed groups of Las Zetas. Overall, 32 recorded cases illustrated the links between the authorities and the cartel with a total of 562 victims involved.

A longstanding and indefatigable defender of indigenous people, prostitutes, homosexuals, prisoners and all oppressed minorities in his own country, Bishop Raul Vera is no beginner in the field of denouncing injustice. In testimony published in 2014, he highlighted the difficulties faced by a bishop standing up to the daily pressure and death threats from local drug lords, paramilitaries or traffickers who respect neither law or religion… Bishop Vera has narrowly escaped death several times….. In the space of ten years, more than forty have been killed. Priests, seminarians, deacons and religious have all become targets. According to an observatory established by the Mexican bishops, violence against the clergy increased by 275% between 1990 and 2015. Mexico also figures along with India, Pakistan or Turkey among the countries where religious freedom is most regularly violated.

Source: A Mexican bishop’s dangerous battle against organized crime – La Croix International

The killing of Oscar Romero – El Salvador’s ‘turbulent priest’ – written up after 36 years

January 18, 2017

Tom Sandborn wrote in the Vancouver Sun of 7 January 2017 review  of the book “Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Oscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice“, by Matt Eisenbrandt, published by University of California Press.

Sainthood and civil torts
Book cover: Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Oscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice

It took a single bullet to kill Oscar Romero, but his legacy has outlived many who plotted his murder and he may soon be officially named a saint by the Catholic Church. Assassination of a Saint is an exciting, dramatically paced account of his murder by a right wing death squad and the painstaking and eventually successful efforts to expose some of the men behind the Archbishop’s death.

In El Salvador in 1980, Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, had been elevated to his position in part because the cabal of land owners and politicians that controlled the tortured Central American state saw him as unlikely to pose uncomfortable moral challenges to their power. But Romero was fast becoming a problem for the elites…. he was condemning the war of right wing terror being waged against the Salvadoran people by the army, police and paramilitary death squads, all of whom took orders and funding from the country’s ruling class and inspiration from a particularly bloody minded brand of Cold War anti-Communism….

During the three years he spent as Archbishop, Romero was gradually radicalized by the suffering inflicted on the poor of his country by the official and unofficial death squads. In the end, he condemned the state and ruling class sponsored murders and called on soldiers and policemen to refuse the orders to turn their guns on Salvadorans standing up for their freedom. “No soldier,” he thundered from the altar, “is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God.” That call for conscientious disobedience was the last straw. The decision was made that the “turbulent priest” must die.

On March 24, 1980, a sniper in a van parked outside the church fired a rifle once, striking Romero in the chest as he said mass and killing him. The assassination made the Archbishop a beloved martyr among the poor, and kicked off a new round of civil war and bloodshed. For decades, no one was held to account for the public murder.

The Assassination of a Saint is the compelling story of how a rag-tag band of idealistic lawyers collaborated with Salvadoran exiles to identify one of the killers, Alvaro Saravia. Because the assassin was found to be living in the United States, the legal team, working out of the San Francisco offices of the Center for Justice and Accountability, was able to file a civil suit against him under an obscure American law, the Alien Torts Act, for damages incurred by Romero’s killing. In the course of that effort, they brought to light much of the hidden history of the Romero murder, meeting with witnesses and accomplices in the crime and uncovering much more about the archbishop’s death than had been known before.

Matt Eisenbrandt was a member of the legal team, and he has written a fast paced, informative and dramatic account. …Before they were successful in that effort in 2004, the crusading lawyers experienced a series of dramatic meetings with perpetrators and potential witnesses, tense moments, mysterious phone calls, frightening visits to El Salvador and years of exhaustive research. Their win was a triumph for human rights defenders, and this book is a powerful account of how that victory was won. 

Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He has been involved in human rights activism for over five decades. He welcomes feedback and story tips at tos65@telus.net.

Source: Sainthood and civil torts

Filipino nun wins Weimar human rights award 2015 for fight against mining excesses

August 11, 2015

<p>Sister Stella Matutina explains the threats of large-scale mining in Mindanao during a conference in Manila in early August. (Photo by Leon Dulce)</p>

Sister Stella Matutina explains the threats of large-scale mining in Mindanao during a conference in early August (Photo by Leon Dulce)

A Benedictine nun, Stella Matutina, is the recipient of Germany’s “Weimar Award for Human Rights” 2015 for her anti-mining advocacy in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

Sister Stella Matutina has been recognized for “[engaging] herself extraordinarily for the rights of the native population, despite being exposed to permanent threats to her safety due to her engagements”. “This highlights the situation of Mindanao and the Philippines in general where the poor, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the human rights activists and defenders of the environment endure harassment and face risks and death,” the 47-year-old nun told ucanews.com (Jefry Tupas, 7 August 2015) . More than a personal recognition, Matutina said the award acknowledges the “collective sacrifices” of freedom and environment defenders in the face of a “systematic effort to limit democratic space and security threats”.

Matutina has been a vocal opponent of attempts to convert the farmlands in Mindanao to plantation crops like palm oil, pineapples, and bananas. She has also led a campaign against the entry of large-scale mining companies in tribal communities in Mindanao. In 2012, the Philippine military labeled Matutina a “fake nun” and accused her of being a communist New People’s Army guerrilla. In 2009, soldiers detained Matutina and two other anti-mining activists in the town of Cateel in Mindanao for giving a lecture on environmental awareness to residents of an upland village. Early this year, authorities charged Matutina, other Church leaders and human rights activists with kidnapping, human trafficking, and illegal detention for taking care of displaced tribal people in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.

These are proof that helping the oppressed, the poor, the abused comes with great risks,” said Matutina, chairwoman of the Sisters Association of Mindanao and secretary-general of the environment protection group Panalipdan.

Since 1995, the Weimar Award has honored individuals or groups engaged in the fight for freedom and equality, the prevention and condemnation of genocide, the right to free speech, and the respect and preservation of political, ethnic, cultural and religious rights of minorities, among others. The award comes with a 2500,00 Euro stipend.

The same Weimar Human Rights Award went in 2000 to Father Shay Cullen of the Peoples Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance (PREDA) Foundation for his work defending the rights of children and women, victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation in the Philippines.

via Filipino nun wins German human rights award ucanews.com.

worth noticing also is the language of Radio Vatican used in its own announcement:

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/08/07/philippine_nun_honoured_with_german_human_rights_award/1163662

Bishop Oscar Romero from El Salvador: now a saintly human right defender

May 23, 2015

Whether one believes in sainthood or not, it is not difficult to rejoice with Pax Christi International about the 23 May beatification of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero who became known for his persistent search for truth, justice and reconciliation in the late seventies in conflict-torn El Salvador. He was shot dead while celebrating mass on 24 March 1980. The assassin has never been identified, but it is widely believed that the assassins were members of a death squad led by former Major Roberto D’Aubuisson.  Read the rest of this entry »

Easter cards to christian human rights defenders

March 17, 2015

Fra Angelico

This blog does not often carry religious paintings. This time it is to illustrate the action by Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, who is encouraging to contact Christian prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders with a message of hope this Easter. For the first time, Action by Christians Against Torture has published an Easter greetings list containing details of Christians including a teacher imprisoned on political charges in Indonesia, a priest facing threats because of his human rights advocacy in Cuba and an MP risking her safety by speaking out on behalf of religious minorities in Pakistan.

Bishop Declan stated: “Pope Francis has called on us to support Christians facing persecution wherever they are in the world. Sending an Easter message to Christian prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders is a practical yet powerful way to give hope and encouragement. Showing that they are not forgotten can also lead to better treatment by the authorities. I strongly welcome the work of Action by Christians Against Torture, and hope that Catholics throughout England and Wales will join me in sending a message of solidarity this Easter.

The Action by Christians Against Torture Easter greetings list is available at: www.acatuk.org.uk/EastercardList2015.pdf

Bishop endorses campaign to send Easter cards to persecuted Christians – Independent Catholic News.

Example of harassment from Cameroon reads like a film scenario

April 1, 2014

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedOn 28 March 2014, human rights defender Mr Musa Usman Ndamba, a defender of the rights of the Mbororo community in Cameroon, appeared before the Bamenda Court of First Instance, and the trial was once again adjourned to the 23rd of May 2014. The trial of 28 March 2014 was the eighth such hearing in an ongoing trial against Musa Usman Ndamba led by a local wealthy landowner, Baba Ahmadou Danpullo, who has never attended any of the hearings. Meanwhile, two other defenders of the rights of the Mbororo, Messrs Abdulkarim Shehu and Mallam Yunusa are in detention whilst an arrest warrant has been issued for human rights defender Mr Fon Christopher Achobang. Musa Usman Ndamba is the Vice-President of Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA). Abdulkarim Shehu is a male nurse and social development worker, as well as founder and co-ordinator of the Angel of Hope Foundation, a health centre that caters for people with disabilities. Mallam Yunusa is an organiser of the Mbororo community of Banjah. Fon Christopher Achobang is a land rights campaigner and journalist sympathetic to the plight of the Mbororo.

Members of the community and their defenders have long been facing severe judicial and other harassment owing to disputes over their land.  ……On 19 March 2014, authorities of the Catholic Church, led by a representative of the Archbishop of the Bamenda Archdiocese, directed a group of hired militias with a bulldozer to demolish the homes of the Mbororo in the Ndzah village. The community mobilised and stopped the demolition from taking place. However, during the stand-off both the representative of the Archbishop and Fon Christopher Achobang were injured. After the incident, at which he was not present, Abdulkarim Shehu reportedly took members of the police to the site to show them what had happened. Fon Christopher Achobang was forced to go into hiding after threats on his life following the incident. According to lawyers for the Mbororo Banjah community, the invasion took place in spite of a court case pending in the Bamenda Administrative Court with a Stay of Execution of the Order on the now disputed land, as a contested eviction notice had been issued the week before. Additionally, despite having been alerted to the impending invasion, government officials did nothing to stop it from going ahead, in complete violation of the law and the legal rights of the Mbororo community.

Front Line Defenders issued a previous urgent appeal regarding the ongoing judicial harassment against MBOSCUDA and Musa Usman Ndamba on 14 May 2013 http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/22662, while  the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders also sent a communication https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/24th/public_-_AL_Cameroon_04.09.13_%284.2013%29.pdf to the Cameroonian government regarding the same.

Philippines nun speaks strongly against arrest of church worker Yadao

September 13, 2013

I remember from my visit to the Philippines in the early 80s that the nuns were extraordinarily active in the area of human rights (that was under Marcos). I was reminded of this when I saw the Bulalat report of 13 September that a long-time lay worker of a Catholic-run organization was arrested by elements of the Philippine Army on 8 September and the fierce reaction by Sister Somogod.

Joel Yadao (in gray shirt) attends an activity of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region in June 2012. (Photo courtesy of RMP-NMR)

(Joel Yadao (in gray shirt) in June 2012. Photo courtesy of RMP-NMR) Read the rest of this entry »