Abuja, Nigeria, Jul 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Islamic militant group Boko Haram has taken control of the northeastern Nigeria town of Damboa in a July 18 attack that killed at least 40 people.
The vigilante force defending the town fled when it ran out of ammunition. Damboa is one of the biggest towns in Borno state and a significant trading center, the BBC reports.
Fighting around the town has damaged electricity stations, leaving the regional capital of Maiduguri without power for three weeks. The capital is about 53 miles from the captured area.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has led an insurgency with the goal of creating an Islamic state. It drew international attention earlier this year when it kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, many of whom are still prisoner.
Nigeria's government has faced heavy criticism for failing to rescue the girls and to end the insurgency.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan asked the country's National Assembly to borrow $1 billion to fund a military response, but the assembly broke for a two-month recess before approving the request.
Some Nigerian soldiers say they are outgunned by Boko Haram. Critics say that much of Nigeria's $6 billion military budget is lost to corruption. The military has come under criticism for abuses against civilians.
In June Bishop Matthew Kukah of northern Nigeria’s Diocese of Sokoto told CNA that Boko Haram has gained power due to the weakness of the local government and due to the loss of credibility of the local Muslim lawyer class.
He blamed “years of corruption” and “mismanagement of state resources” for consigning citizens to “misery and squalor.”
He said Boko Haram are “purely and simply criminals,” though they have some grievances similar to those of ordinary Nigerians opposed to corruption and poverty.
The Boko Haram uprising has been bloody. At least 2,053 civilians have been killed in an estimated 95 attacks in the first six months of 2014. Previously, about 3,600 civilians had died in the conflict.
The U.S. government only recognized Boko Haram as a terrorist group in 2013, after years of lobbying from Christian groups and other human rights advocates.
Denver, Colo., Jul 23, 2014 (CNA) -
The co-founder and executive director of an organization that fights pornography addiction among youth says he sees a need to continue raising awareness about the harmful effects of porn.
“We want to change the attitude and perception of young people on this topic so that we can help preserve relationships, love, intimacy, spirituality and inspire a new generation to pursue real love and avoid its counterfeit,” Clay Olsen told CNA.
Olsen helped found Fight the New Drug with the intention of helping to make a change in the culture after seeing the harmful effects of pornography on some of his loved ones.
“When it comes to drugs and other types of addictions, we have curriculum, billboards, and campaigns to raise awareness, but when it comes pornography, our culture acts as if it doesn’t exist,” he said.
The name for the organization was chosen specifically to portray the addictive nature of pornography.
One recent survey found that nearly one in five regular pornography watchers felt controlled by their own sexual desires. And a study out of Cambridge University last year found that individuals who are addicted to pornography demonstrate similar brain activity to alcoholics or drug addicts.
“The more research that comes out has shown us that pornography works like a drug when it comes to the brain,” Olsen explained. Learning more about the addictive nature of pornography has led to the discovery that “the brain is capable of healing and rewiring back to a healthy state.”
“We aim to help youth understand that not only does porn cause serious damage in their own lives, but also understand it as a social injustice that we need to collectively stand against.”
Fight the New Drug has created a free online program called Fortify to help youth fight pornography addiction.
The video-based program includes a personalized “battle strategy” and progress tracker, journal responses and encouragement emails. Utilizing the science of addiction, it offers tools, education, and resources to help young people succeed in their battle against pornography.
“We have worked for over three years with a team of therapists and psychologists and currently have over 5,000 users already who are getting the help they need to recover,” said Olsen, who added that the program is unique in what it does.
Fight The New Drug has given presentations at more than 300 school assemblies in both public and private schools across the U.S. as well as in parts of Canada.
The educational presentations involve offering information on pornography’s three main areas of impact: individuals, relationships and society, which Olsen described as “the brain, the heart, and the world.”
He emphasized the impact on relationships, noting that studies have found “that regular viewers of pornography often times prefer the fantasy to reality and prefer the computer screen to a human person.”
The correlation between sex trafficking and the porn industry is growing more than ever in recent studies, Olsen said. “Though it is not the case in every situation, more and more individuals are being forced, drugged, beaten and manipulated into participating in activities active in trafficking.”
Despite the grim reality of pornography in the modern world, Olsen offered a positive message to those who struggle with it.
“The number one thing I would say to youth is that there is hope to overcome this addiction; a life without porn is far more joyful and meaningful and we are here to help our youth get to that point.”
Vatican City, Jul 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
During his upcoming apostolic voyage to South Korea Pope Francis is slated to meet with 20 Asian youth during the 2014 Asia Youth Day, including Korean pop-star BoA.
According to the Korean Times, representatives from 17 Asian countries will attend a luncheon with the Roman Pontiff Aug. 15, following his visit to Daejeon’s World Cup Stadium, where he will celebrate Mass for the Solemnity of the Assumption, after which he will have an official lunch with the diocese’s seminarians.
Among the 17 different countries the youth will come from are India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Taiwan, Nepal, China, Japan and Mongolia.
K-pop sensation BoA will also join the banquet as an honorary ambassador for the sixth Asian Youth Day, being held in Daejeon. Taking place Aug. 13 – 17, the event is expected to draw some 2,000 youngsters from 22 Asian countries.
The Roman Pontiff will travel to the Somoe Shrine after the luncheon, and will meet with all participants of the AYD later that evening.
Announced by the Vatican in March, the Pope’s Aug. 13 – 18 trip follows an invitation from both the president of the Korean Republic, Park Geun-hye, and the bishops of Korea.
Following the motto “Rise Korea, clothe yourself in light, the Lord’s glory shines upon you,” the Pope’s visit officially begins with his departure from Rome the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 13. He will travel to Daejeon Friday.
Nazarius Yoo Heung-sik, the diocese’s bishop, told reporters at a July 14 press conference that “The Daejeon diocesan territory is home to many Korean martyrs and the AYD will inspire young devout Catholics in Asia to look up to the sacrifices of the martyrs,” the Korean Times reports.
“The pope's visit at the event will be a huge encouragement for them.”
Pope Francis will close the AYD event by celebrating Mass for the participants Aug. 17, and will conclude his trip the next day with a Mass in Seoul's Myeongdong Cathedral, where he is expected to give a message for peace to the Korean peninsula.
The Times also reports that the committee organizing the Pope's visit have invited former wartime “comfort women,” prostitutes, during the Japanese occupation of 1910-1945 to participate in the Mass, and have also sent invitations to Catholic organizations in North Korea and are waiting for their reply.
Pope Francis’ trip will mark the first time in 25 years that a pope has visited the Korean peninsula, the last occurring when St. John Paul II came in October 1989, following a 1984 trip where he canonized 103 Korean martyrs.
Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Surrounded by numerous violent conflicts throughout the world, the faithful should not forget the power of prayer, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“In the coming days and weeks I urge you to ask our Catholic people to pray for peace and to support diplomatic efforts aimed at dialogue and reconciliation,” Archbishop Kurtz said in a July 22 letter to the U.S. bishops. “As Jesus admonishes us: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’.”
The world’s violent conflicts “cry out for peace,” demanding both prayer and action, he said, encouraging prayers for peace both in personal devotion and during the prayers of the faithful at Mass.
“We should never underestimate the power of prayer; for it touches and opens us to the power of God among us,” the archbishop emphasized. “My prayer is that together we might help open our world to God’s gift of peace, a peace that the world cannot give.”
Archbishop Kurtz, who heads Kentucky’s Archdiocese of Louisville, noted Pope Francis’ recent attention to conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine.
The Pope has singled out the “terrible crisis” facing Christians in Iraq, saying on July 20, “Today our brothers are persecuted. They are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings!”
Archbishop Kurtz noted that the “alarming conflicts” of Iraq and Syria have driven millions from their homes.
He also referenced the “terrible conflict between Israel and Hamas,” saying it “terrorizes Israeli civilians” and has killed more than 500 Gazans, predominantly civilians.
“We are mindful of the violent conflict in Ukraine, of the thousands who are displaced, and the hundreds of innocent civilians whose lives were cut short when a passenger jet was shot down,” the archbishop added.
In addition, he mentioned the “often forgotten clashes” of Africa in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have killed thousands and displaced many more.
The archbishop also lamented the Central American violence driving unaccompanied children to seek refuge in the U.S.
He again cited Pope Francis, who said on Sunday, “May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace!”
Archbishop Kurtz urged the bishops to join their prayers and calls to action with Pope Francis’ words.
Sydney, Australia, Jul 23, 2014 (CNA) -
In the wake of the crash of flight MH17 over Ukraine, Australians have been mourning the loss of the 298 persons aboard the flight, particularly their 27 nationals, one of whom was a religious sister.
Sister Philomene Tiernan was an Australian member of the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart, and a teacher and boarding director at Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart, a girls' boarding school located in a Sydney suburb.
“We are devastated by the loss of such a wonderfully kind, wise, and compassionate woman, who was greatly loved by us all,” Hilary Johnston-Croke, principal of Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart, told CNA July 23.
She “contributed greatly to our community and she touched the lives of all of us in a very positive and meaningful way,” Johnston-Croke recounted.
Sr. Philomene, who died at the age of 77, had provided pastoral care to students both on campus and outside the school.
“We will continue to honor her wonderful legacy of love and care, of deeply influencing and touching so many of our lives and the lives of many over her long years of service,” Johnston-Croke said. “She truly lived the Cor Unum spirit.”
Kincoppal-Rose Bay, which also has a co-ed primary school, has opened counseling to its students, who have been deeply affected by this tragic loss of Sr. Philomene and the other passengers on the flight.
“Sr. Tiernan was a great soul, a supportive spiritual guide, and a friend to the students who especially felt lonely being away from home, coming from Asia-Pacific, Europe and America,” Rebecca Curran, communications manager at Kincoppal-Rose Bay, remarked to CNA.
Sr. Philomene was returning to Australia after attending a conference in Britain, a theology course in Ireland, and a retreat in France.
While in France, she had been able to visit the tomb of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of her order, at St. Francis Xavier parish in Paris.
Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and former Archbishop of Sydney, has written that "I certainly wish to pass on my thoughts and prayers and condolences to all the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, to the Kincoppal-Rose Bay School, and all the friends of Sr. Phil Tiernan tragically killed in the recent Malaysia Airlines disaster.”
"Sr. Phil will be remembered as a bright spirit and great inspiration to many not only in her school community but also throughout the Sydney Archdiocese. She will be greatly missed.”
"May the good Lord comfort truly all those who mourn this wonderful woman so dedicated in His service,” the cardinal concluded. “May she rest in peace."
Bishop Peter Comensoli, apostolic administrator of the Sydney archdiocese, said Mass July 20 in remembrance of the MH17 victims, and as a call for peace in Ukraine.
The Mass was attended by relatives and friends of the victims, as well as prime minister Tony Abbott, opposition leader Bill Shorten, and governor-general Peter Cosgrove.
Bishop Comensoli's homily reflected on the Gospel of Matthew's parable of the sower: “while everyone was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off.”
“The downing of MH17 was not an innocent accident; it was the outcome of a trail of human evil,” Bishop Comensoli preached.
He said that “in the targeting and destruction of flight MH17, and the loss of 298 innocent lives, the shocking effects of our fallen humanity have once again confronted the world.”
“It is a harrowing image to see fields of crops in Eastern Ukraine strewn with human remains and wreckage, and to think of fields of wheat strewn with darnel.”
Bishop Comensoli added that “the subversion of truth is also happening in other places in the world, wherever human dignity lies blanketed under violent hatreds, ancient and new.“
“Evil will try to hide, obfuscate, deny,” he reflected. “But by the light of day the true picture will be seen. And it is under the light of the Resurrected Day, that the Risen Lord calls all of us to walk.”
Bishop Comensoli urged that all “pray for the conversion of heart of the perpetrators of this terrible evil, that they and all who are tempted to hide under the darkness of human corruption, will now walk on a path that upholds the dignity of every person.”
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down July 17 over Ukraine near the Russian-Ukrainian border. An estimated 100 victims were HIV/AIDS delegates on their way to a conference in Melbourne.
The plane was flying over Ukraine's Donetsk region when it was shot down, and crashed. The region is home to the pro-Russian separatist organization the Donetsk People's Republic, which is rebelling against the Ukrainian government and army in the wake of earlier unrest in the region.
Fighting continues between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists; two aircraft were downed July 23 within 20 miles of the MH17 crash, according to officials in Kyiv.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine since April is believed to have led to more than 1,000 deaths.
Pittsburgh, Pa., Jul 23, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Answering the needs of refugee migrants is one component of a truly pro-life view, said a U.S. bishop, announcing a new initiative to aid children who have fled Central America for the United States.
“The Catholic Church responds to humanitarian crises here at home and all across the world because we are pro-life,” said Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh.
“Being pro-life requires we protect and care for vulnerable persons from conception to natural death,” he emphasized in a July 19 statement.
The bishop announced that Holy Family Institute, a ministry of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, in Emsworth, Pa., will be offering aid to young children fleeing Central America.
He explained that the diocese respects the law and right of nations to have secure borders and recognizes that “the root causes of why people are fleeing their homelands must be addressed by the international community.”
However, he said, the Church’s pro-life stance has implications for how the faithful are called to respond to the needy children in front of them.
“Whether they are traveling because of poverty, or violence, or with the hope of reuniting with relatives on the other side of the border, followers of Jesus are called to protect these children and help them because they are very vulnerable and defenseless against any abuse or misfortune,” Bishop Zubik said.
“You probably recall that Holy Family Institute performed a similar ministry for many Haitian children after the devastating earthquake in that country. This is exactly the same kind of humanitarian response.”
The bishop’s comments come amid heated public debate surrounding the treatment of unaccompanied child migrants to the U.S., whose numbers have doubled in the past year. Public officials disagree on how to respond to the children, many of whom are fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Sister Linda Yankoski, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, heads the Holy Family Institute. She explained to CNA that aiding the migrant children fits in with the sisters’ mission of charity and justice.
“We have agreed to take in the most vulnerable, the very young children under the age of 12 who make up about 20 percent of the migrating children,” she explained.
“Many of these children are fleeing violent situations and have endured a long and dangerous journey.”
The children will be provided with temporary food, clothing, housing, counseling, and recreation, Sr. Yankoski said. Eventually, they will be placed in the homes of relatives or sponsors throughout the country.
This aid will be provided for about 30 days, until the children receive a hearing date which will determine if they fit the criteria of refugees fleeing grave danger.
In light of the “humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children arriving at the US-Mexican border,” Holy Family Institute seeks to offer a response of “respect, care and compassion,” Sr. Yankoski said.
“It is a painful reality that poverty, greed, and selfishness often lead to injustices in the world that cause some to turn to isolationism,” she commented.
“Holy Family Institute hopes to humbly be among those looking for ways to build up the kingdom of God on earth.”