Bishops call for support of migrant caravan
BISHOPS from three Provinces in the Anglican Communion have called for “solidarity” from the Communion, the United Nations, and the authorities in Central America, Mexico, and the United States, with a caravan of more than 7000 migrants currently journeying from El Salvador to the US (News, 26 October). President Trump last week described the asylum-seekers as an “onslaught of illegal aliens”, and later stated on Twitter that he would “mobilise” the military to prevent entry into the US. In a joint letter, the Bishops of Honduras (from where many of the people fled poverty and crime), Guatemala, El Salvador, and Northern and South East Mexico called for compassion and a “Christian culture of hospitality”. Churches have fed the migrants, more than 7000, who are travelling north through the country, covering about 100km per day (News, 26 October). Huge amounts of cooked food, drinks, clothes, shoes, medical care, and medicine have been provided. Among the factors driving migration are climate change and drought, land-grabs, unsupportive agricultural policy for non-commercial agriculture, violence caused by organised crime, and the repression of civil society, including assassinations and disappearances. Sean Hawkey, who has been documenting the migrant caravan for the ACT Alliance and the Lutheran World Federation, says: “I walked with a man called William. His ten-year-old son was shot; his 15-year-old daughter was raped; he can’t afford to pay his bills; his crops fail because of the prolonged drought. Why wouldn’t he migrate? Who can tell him to go back to that?”
Conservation measure harms Lalibela cave churches
THE 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of the 13th-century “New Jerusalem” in Lalibela, a mountainous region in central Ethiopia, are being damaged by the EU-funded metal shelters that were installed to protect them from the elements, UNESCO has said. Instead of sheltering the churches, which are hewn from the rock, the metal shelters have dried out the structure, which is now crumbling, The Times reported on Saturday. Measures to preserve the churches were implemented in 2008, funded by the European Union.
‘Abhorrent’ conditions for migrants in Greece
THE Greek authorities must act quickly to address the “abhorrent” humanitarian situation for the 11,000 asylum-seekers and counting stranded on the islands of Samos and Lesvos as winter approaches, the UN refugee agency says. The Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Samos is currently trying to cope with six times its capacity of 650 people, the UNHCR reports. New arrivals have been forced to buy tents from local stores, and set up camp without electricity, running water, lavatories, and other basic services. Many of the facilities in place are broken, which has resulted in open sewage near the tents and a growing rat population. The UNHCR is urging the authorities to expedite transfers to the mainland of the 4000 people who are eligible. Arrivals continue to outpace departures.
Mauritius is warned off census distinctions
THE Bishop of Mauritius, the Rt Revd Ian Ernest, has warned that updating the ethnic and religious census of the country’s population, which has not been done for several decades, “would only aggravate those divides that already exist. For better or worse, because of our history, we are a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society and the way forward is to emphasise our common humanity.” The Creole ethnic group, for example, who make up about one quarter of the population, are said to face discrimination over education, jobs, and housing. The last census produced a religious and ethnic muddle, the Bishop says. “Tamils, Telegus, and Marathis may be of Indian origin but have their own identity. And what of a Christian who is of Indian origin? Some Sino-Mauritians are Christian and some Buddhist. . . There are different groupings amongst all the main religious communities.”
Arrests continue after Tanzanian rights statement
ARRESTS on homosexuality-related charges have been made in Zanzibar only days after the Tanzanian ministry of foreign affairs said that the anti-gay views of a regional commissioner were not a government position, Human Rights Watch reports. The NGO’s senior LGBT-rights researcher, Neela Ghoshal, said: “It is encouraging that the government of Tanzania has pledged to uphold its human-rights obligations, including with regard to sexual orientation, but the statement will provide cold comfort to LGBT people in Tanzania if the authorities continue to subject them to arbitrary arrests and discrimination.” Paul Makonda, regional commissioner for Dar es Salaam, the largest city, had urged citizens to report gay men to the police: “In Dar es Salaam, homosexuality is not a human right,” he said.