11 November 2019, The Tablet

News Briefing: Church in the World

The Catholic Bishops of Australia have announced a National Prayer Campaign during November, to pray for rain

News Briefing: Church in the World

The Sydney Opera House is seen as smoke haze from bushfires drifts over in Sydney, Tuesday, November 12,

There has been a recent surge of religious violence in Ethiopia in spite of calls by the country's Nobel Peace Prize winning prime minister for unity. Ethnic and religious tensions are increasing in the country. Accounts include attacks on Christians and Muslims, with churches and mosques destroyed. There are reports of a “feeling of siege” by members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Christian, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month for his "efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation", particularly with Eritrea.

A Colombian bishop has told a Latin American summit on clerical sexual abuse that while “gringos” to the north have taken important steps to combat the problem, his own region’s response is inadequate. Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera, auxiliary in Bogota and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said it still seems like “in some places and spaces of our Church, nothing is happening”. He was speaking at a conference in Mexico City last week attended by 450 bishops, priests, religious and laypeople from around Latin America.

The Brazilian bishops' Indigenous Missionary Council is holding the Brazilian government responsible for the assassination of indigenous leader Paulo Paulino Guajajara on 1 November in the state of Maranhão. "Recurring speeches by the president of the republic against the demarcation and regularisation of territories …  have been the main vector for invasions and violence against indigenous peoples," it said. Guajajara, 26, a “forest guardian”, was shot by armed loggers invading an indigenous reserve.

The Catholic Bishops of Australia have announced a National Prayer Campaign during November, to pray for rain and for people affected by crippling drought. New South Wales and Queensland also face a bushfire crisis.


Colombia’s Defence Minister Guillermo Botero stepped down on Wednesday last week, after news broke that eight children had been killed in a military bombing in August. On Tuesday, opposition Senator Roy Barreras revealed that there were civilian deaths in the operation, which the military had called a success. Botero’s resignation marks a low point for President Ivan Duque’s administration, as he struggles to control armed groups and dissident FARC members. The bombing had targeted the camp of a former FARC rebel, Gildardo Cucho, who had taken up arms again. In August, the Defence Ministry claimed the bombing was a success. The eight children who died were between 12 and 17 years old and may have been forcibly recruited. 

The Colombian clergy have spoken out against ongoing violence following the 2016 Peace Accords, and the disproportionate impact on rural communities that are indigenous or Afro-Colombian.


Government plans to increase the salaries of politicians instead of allocating money to strengthen health, education and housing programmes for the most vulnerable sectors of the population are "immoral", according to the Archbishop of Asunción, Paraguay. “We demand that good public money is well used in programmes that promote the development of family farming, education and health", Archbishop Edmundo Valenzuela said during a plenary of the bishops’ conference on 5 November.


Muslim militants have demolished a Catholic church in the Pakistani Punjab, while being observed by local police. The official reason for the destruction on 4 November was that the Christian community lacked necessary permits, but a church catechist said, "Muslims do not want the church in the village because they have bad feelings towards Christians". There are around 70 Catholic families among a population of 4,000 in the village of Waqya Chak.

Child labour in Philippines must be tackled by the government, Church and society, a Filipino bishop said. “When families and societies cannot provide a safe environment and basic necessities, to which all children have a right, kids in poor families are forced into dangerous situations”, said Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose who is chairman of the bishops’ Commission on Catechism and Catholic Education. The country has more than two million child labourers according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.


Catholics in Thailand and Japan have released songs ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to their countries later this month. In Thailand, the official music video is called, “Let Love Be the Bridge” and shows artists praying and singing in Bangkok’s Assumption Cathedral. Pope Francis is scheduled to meet young people in the Cathedral, and also visit King Vajiralongkorn. In Japan, the song “Protect All Life” is based on a prayer at the end of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’.



On Friday, protesters looted a Catholic church in Santiago, Chile. They removed pews, statues and other iconography from La Asunción church to use for a nearby barricade. Protests have continued for more than three weeks in Chile, even as President Sebastián Piñera has announced a series of reforms, including an increase in the minimum wage.

A demonstration on Friday in Santiago’s Plaza Italia drew an estimated 75,000 people. At least 20 people have died during the protests and hundreds more have been injured.

Four bishops of the Permanent Committee of the Episcopate released a statement denouncing the looting. “The mistreatment of people, the constant looting and violence pains us, no matter from where it comes. The attack on temples and places of worship pains us, for the lack of respect for God and those of us who believe in him,” said the statement signed by Bishop Santiago Silva, president of the bishops’ conference. 



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