Cardinal speaks out for fisheries workers
HUMAN-RIGHTS violations suffered by those working in the fishing industry have been condemned by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, in the Vatican. A Vatican News report, summarising his remarks in advance of World Fisheries Day last Sunday, said that workers “experience threats and intimidation by the skipper and officers. They are forced to work endless shifts day and night to catch as much fish as possible in any kind of weather, conditions that lead to fatigue and occupational accidents.” There are more than 24,000 deaths annually in the industry. The Cardinal urged the chaplains and volunteers of the Church’s Stella Maris seaport ministry to “continue their compassioned mission to welcome the fishers and see in their faces the face of the suffering Jesus Christ and provide them with spiritual and material support”.
Twenty-five on trial over Sri Lankan Easter bombings
THE trial began on Tuesday, in Colombo High Court, of 25 men accused of orchestrating the bombings that killed 267 in Sri Lanka on Easter Day in 2019, (News, 26 April 2019). Police have filed more than 23,000 charges against the suspects (News, 20 August), including conspiring to murder, aiding and abetting the attacks, and collecting arms and ammunition. Lawyers representing the suspects said that the case could take as long as a decade to conclude, Reuters reports. The bombings, carried out by Islamists, targeted churches and hotels. Among those on trial is the father of two of the suicide bombers, Inshaf and Ilham Ibrahim. The RC Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, has expressed concern that guilty parties will escape justice.
Trial of orphanages founder adjourned again
THE High Court in Kano state, Nigeria, has again adjourned the trial of Professor Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa, co-founder of the Du Merci orphanages, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported this month. Earlier this year, he was acquitted of abducting 19 children from the legal guardians and confining them in an unregistered orphanage (News, 2 July), but he remains accused of forging a certificate of registration. He has produced a bank statement that shows a payment to a director in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for the certificate. The delay is after the prosecuting lawyer filed his case only one day before the hearing, leaving insufficient time for the presiding judge to examine it.
Jehovah’s Witnesses among most frequently banned groups
FORTY-ONE countries banned at least one religion-related group in 2019, according to analysis of laws and policies in effect in 198 countries conducted by Pew Research Centre. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baha’is were among the most frequently banned groups. Of the countries, more than half (55 per cent) in the Middle East and North Africa had bans, 34 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and seven per cent in Europe (Belarus, Georgia, and Russia). The Centre’s report notes that, in 2019, hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia faced detention, travel restrictions, investigation, and raids on their homes.
RNS reports ‘debaptisms’ registered in Italy
MORE than 100,000 people have formally abandoned the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, a process described by some as “debaptism”, according to estimates by the Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR), Religion News Service (RNS) reported last week. UAAR was the driving force behind a process that enables people to renounce the Church and have their decision registered by the church authorities. The 100,000 figure comes from partial data from dioceses and “debaptisms” registered on the UAAR’s own website. The vice-chancellor of the diocese of Brescia, the Revd Daniele Mombelli, told RNS that it was not possible to “erase the baptism, because it’s a fact that historically happened, and was therefore registered. . . What the procedure does is formalize the person’s abandonment of the Church.” This constituted the “crime of apostasy” in canon law, she said.