Page 4, 9th June 2000

9th June 2000
Page 4
Page 4, 9th June 2000 — Africa Amnesty blessed NIGERIAN church leaders hailed President Olusegun Obasanjo's

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Africa Amnesty blessed NIGERIAN church leaders hailed President Olusegun Obasanjo's

decision to pardon rebel leaders and soldiers for their role in the country's civil war more than 30 years ago.

In a nationwide broadcast May 29, Obasanjo pardoned the rebel leader of the former Biafra Republic, Lt Col Emeka Ojukwu, and thousands of other soldiers dismissed from service for their role during the war that left more than a million dead.

Fr John Ofei, secretary of the Nigerian bishops' conference Justice Development and Peace Commission, said: "The federal government must be commended fur that magnanimity by pardoning and restoring the ranks of those earlier dismissed for their roles in the civil war between 19671970.

"This is a challenge for true reconciliation."

Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960 and became a republic in 1963. In 1967, the Eastern Region seceded, declaring itself the Republic of Biafra, beginning the civil war that ended in 1970.

Many members of the lbo tribe were among the more than one million who died of starvation despite worldwide efforts to provide aid.

Bishops back anti-gun law

THE SOUTHERN African Catholic Bishops' Conference welcomed a new bill that aims to curb gun use and that would allow tough sentences for the unlicensed possession of firearms and ammunition.

South Africa's Firearms Control Bill would increase the maximum sentence for the illegal possession of firearms from five to 15 years. A sentence of 25 years could be imposed for the possession of prohibited firearms, such as automatic weapons.

Fr Peter-John Pearson, who heads the bishops' parliamentary liaison office, said politicians had incorporated many of the bishops' submissions into the Bill.

"One of the points in the existing law that we strongly opposed is that it does not prevent wives of criminals from owning guns and then lending them to their husbands who are barred from gun ownership? he said.

If passed when it comes before Parliament in Cape Town later this year, the new bill would stop this practice.

Quest for the lost children

A DIOCESE in eastern Sierra Leone has begun tracing its lost children.

"We thought it necessary to trace those children and reunite them with their families," said Fr Ambrose 7'uray, coordinator of the Kenema diocesan development office.

More than 1,400 displaced children have been traced, and "most of them had resorted to begging to get their living," he said. He added that 29 children have already been reunited with their families.

"Because of the ongoing war in other parts of the country, we are finding it difficult to trace the parents of the rest," he said.

"The diocese will not turn a blind eye to the issue of child soldiers. If we leave them to grow up in violence, they will become a menace to society in the future as they are now," Fr Turay said.


Mass offered for captors

A COLOMBIAN archbishop has celebrated Mass for 175 former hostages of Marxist rebels who took them exactly a year ago from their parish church.

Archbishop Isaias Duarte Caneino of Cali told the hostages of the National Liberation Army that the Mass was "not only a time for thanksgiving. it is also a time for forgiveness".

The Mass at the Church of La Maria was preceded by a minute of silence and prayer in memory of Yaslin Duran Cordoba, a bodyguard killed by the guerrillas when he tried to prevent his boss from being kidnapped.

Xenophobia condemned CARDINAL Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City called for an end to "xenophobic attitudes" in the United States that have led to recent violence

against Mexicans who have tried to cross the border illegally.

Speaking to reporters following a Mass on May 28, the cardinal was especially critical of ranchers in southern Arizona who have organised vigilante groups to capture undocumented workers.

"A fundamental human right is the right to work and I believe that the laws of countries and concrete attitudes must leave behind those xenophobic feelings and attitudes," he said.

"Just as the borders are open to merchandise, that is all the more reason that the borders should be open to the human being," said Cardinal Rivera.

Mexican authorities say that at least 62 people have died this year trying to enter California from Mexico. Many deaths result from dehydration, but some have drowned in canals near San Diego and Calexico, California.

Abuses cases break Oblates

ALMOST 10 years after the Oblate Conference of Canada apologised for abuses to aboriginal people, the provinces that ran residential schools for the federal government are being forced to the brink of bankruptcy by legal costs.

"We estimate the cost each year at over $2m just for organising our defence," said Fr Jacques Gagne, coordinator of the Oblates Residential Schools Working Group.

The claims "are so numerous now. The provinces are kind of overwhelmed by it all," he said.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate provinces are named in about half of the 7,000 lawsuits filed against the churches and religious orders that operated the residential schools. The Oblate provinces ran 57 of the schools, most of them in western Canada. Fewer than 900 Oblate priests and brothers live in Canada.

Like the Anglican Church of Canada, which says it may be forced to declare bankruptcy as early as next year as a result of residential school claims, some smaller Oblate provinces. such as the Mathtoba congregation, are not expected to survive the lengthy and costly claimssubstantiation process.


Bishop resists state control

A BISHOP in a western Indian state has said schools in his diocese will not give in to political interference.

Bishop Gregory Karotemprel of Rajkot said political parties have threatened church-run schools in his diocese, especially during admissions time and annual examinations.

The bishop said running schools has become "a major headache" in his diocese because of unjust demands and interference by politicians.

"The people who work overtime to plan attacks on Christians are the same who come here asking admissions for their children," Bishop Karotemprel said, adding that "such demands are only raised in missionary schools".

On May 11 Rajkot Diocese's St Mary's School was attacked by Hindu extremists after it dismissed some students who failed examinations.

Gujarat has seen more than 150 cases of violence against Christians since 1997, with the first case reported in Rajkot, where Hindu extremists burned copies of the Bible.

Bishop trial halted

THE JUDGE in the murder case of Bishop Benjamin de Jesus of lobo freed a suspect who had been jailed for nearly two years after the prosecution failed to produce a witness by the court's deadline.

The trial ended on June 1, leaving the Oblate congregation with a strong suspicion that "powerful local politicians" were behind their confrere's murder in the southern Philippines, a priest at the trial told UCA News.

Judge Teresa Soriaso of a Manila Regional Trial Court ordered the "provisional dismissal" of the case "without prejudice" when no witness appeared at the hearing at a Manila courtroom.

The ruling allows the case to be reopened if witnesses are found and a new arrest warrant could be issued for Mubin Madangan, the sole suspect who had been arrested, prosecutor Teodoro Villanueva said.

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