from issue no.10 - 2004

Letters from the missions

Californian court condemns Romero’s assassin

In September, a Californian civil court found the former captain of the Salvadorian armed forces Alvaro Rafael Saravia, right hand man of Roberto D’Aubuisson, the defunct leader of the “death squads” sadly notorious at the time of the military dictatorship, guilty of the murder of Oscar Arnulfo Romero. The judge, who at the time defined the assassination of Archbishop Romero as a «crime against humanity», condemned Saravia to pay 10 million dollars altogether in damages. The legal proceedings were initiated by the Center for Justice and Accountability of San Francisco, an association for the protection of human rights, thanks to a United States 18th century ruling. Monsignor Romero was assassinated on 24 March 1980 while celebrating mass.

Tension in Kerala: Sisters of Mother Teresa beaten up

Saturday 25 September three missionary sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa and two brothers of the same congregation were attacked as they distributed food to the poor in an area of Calcutta, fortunately suffering only minor injuries. Following the attack, Monsignor Joseph Kalathiparambil, Bishop of Calcutta, stated: «At this moment there is no fear in the local Christian community, because an attack against Christians is a very rare thing in our area, where up until now the various religious communities have lived in harmony». In the same State of Kerala, in Chalakudy, on 28 August Father Job Chittilappilly was assassinated, shortly before celebrating mass, by a fanatic who confessed to having carried out a human sacrifice as an offering for the reopening of a Hindu temple closed for twenty years. After the assassination of the priest, the Secretary of the Indian Episcopal Conference, Monsignor Percival Joseph Fernandez, observed: «The Christians in Kerala have lived in peace and harmony for centuries, and the murder of Father Job is an attempt to create tension between the communities on the part of people in bad faith».

The bishops: omit “Christian nation” from the new Constitution

On 14 October the bishops of Zambia sent an appeal to the 41 members of the Commission for the Revision of the Constitution (CRC), asking that the definition of the Country as a “Christian nation” not be included in the future constitutional Charter. The document was signed by the president of the Episcopal Conference, Archbishop of Lusaka Telesphore Mpundu, and by another eleven bishops. Specifically, the bishops noted that, if Christian roots were mentioned in the new Constitution, non-Christian citizens would be in danger of becoming «second-class citizens» and, conversely, it would risk creating tensions in the country, with the danger of stirring fundamentalism.

Darfur: Africa wants to resolve the conflict

Half way through October a summit on the humanitarian crisis gripping Darfur, a region of western Sudan tormented by the clashes between the rebel forces of the SLA (Sudan Liberation Army) and the JEM (Justice and Equality Movement) and the pro-government Janjaweed militias, was held in Libya. At the summit, along with the spokesmen of the host government, representatives of the governments of Nigeria (the state currently president of the African Union), Egypt, Chad, and Sudan were present. The deployment of 3,500 soldiers from various states of the African Union (AU) was decided, but it was not clarified whether these troops will have solely the role of observers or whether they can carry out peacekeeping functions. At the end of the summit the Sudanese Foreign Minister, Mustafà Osman Ismail, stated: «Africa wants to assume all responsibilities and reject foreign interventions». On 22 October, in Abuja (Nigeria), under the aegis of the AU, talks between representatives of the government and the rebels began, with the purpose of setting up a protocol between the parties to guarantee humanitarian assistance to the exhausted local population. According to the UN the crisis has caused between 30,000 and 50,000 dead (15% of which are due to the conflicts), while the evacuated and the refugees are now more than a million.

Episcopal Vicar killed on 18 September

On 18 September Father Gerard Nzeyimana, Episcopal Vicar of the diocese of Bururi was killed in Nyanza Lac (south of Burundi). The attack took place while the priest was traveling in the company of three sisters and a girl: his car was blocked by armed men who robbed him and his companions and then assassinated him. Monsignor Herménégilde Ndoricimpa, Vicar General of the diocese of Bururi, commented: «We can’t understand why he was killed: he gave everything that the assailants asked him for, and yet they killed him. He was always committed to the cause of peace, and nobody can explain why he was killed like that, without an apparent motive». According to Monsignor Joachim Ntahondereye, Bishop of Muyinga, it was a «targeted killing». The crime occurred in a country in which, despite the fact that a peace process has begun, the return to tranquility is still a long way off. Since 1993 the fighting between the opposing factions has caused more than 300,000 victims.

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