In Pakistan, Catholic and Protestant churches have set up relief camps to help victims of devastating floods that killed more than 1,300 people, including 453 children.
In Lahore, the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus organize a fundraising camp outside St. Mary’s Church where students help them collect donations, groceries and clothes. At Liberty roundabout in Lahore, Reverend Amjad Niamat, chairman of the Ecumenism and Interfaith Harmony Commission of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, offers biblical literature as a remedy in his relief camp for the floods affected.
Reverend Amjad Niamat (right) with his younger brother at a flood relief camp at Liberty Roundabout in Lahore on September 5. (Photo: Kamran Chaudhry)
On Sunday, the Catholic Church announced donations for flooding in church-run schools. Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in the northern mountains triggered what is now believed to be the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history, affecting 33 million people.
The disaster was blamed on climate change. A government study indicates that Pakistan is among the 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change and ranks 14 out of 17 countries at “extremely high water risk”.
Rights and culture activists have lamented and demanded justice for the latest attack on the mystical ‘Baul’ singers and called their persecution a violation of religious freedom in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.
The Bauls are followers of Lalon Shah, a 19th century Bengali mystic, philosopher and social reformer. Originating in the 17th century, they constitute both a religious sect and a musical tradition. At the protest rally in the southwestern district of Narail on Sunday, activists condemned the attack on 70-year-old Baul singer Harez Fakir and his followers by a Muslim mob in the district last month.
A Baul singer performs at a festival in Bangladesh in 2016. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)
The mob attacked the mystical singers, destroyed their musical instruments and threatened to evict them from their ashram. Activists said religious minorities, including the Bauls, have faced increasing threats and attacks from extremist Muslims in recent years.
Islamic fundamentalists regard the Bauls as heretics and label their activities as un-Islamic. Since 2011, a series of Islamist attacks have targeted the Bauls with physical and verbal abuse, social humiliation and murder.
Timor-Leste’s first cardinal, Dom Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili, said Pope Francis had confirmed his visit to the small, predominantly Catholic country.
Speaking at a Thanksgiving Mass on Tuesday after returning from Rome, Cardinal da Silva said the pope spoke of his plans to visit the country in a private audience with him. Thousands of people attended the Thanksgiving Mass at Tasi Tolu, a historical monument where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass during his visit in 1989.
Dili’s Cardinal Dom Virgilio do Carmo da Silva (center) receives a traditional welcome ahead of Thanksgiving Mass for his investiture as the country’s first cardinal at historic Tasi Tolu on September 6. (Photo: Archdiocese of Dili)
The papal visit was seen as a huge boost to the state and the Church of Timor-Leste, as the people at the time were still fighting for independence from Indonesia.
Pope Francis was scheduled to visit Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in September 2020. However, his trip was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A rights watchdog has accused China’s communist regime under President Xi Jinping of arbitrarily and repeatedly cracking down on thousands of people, including rights activists and government critics, by putting them under house arrest by exploiting a draconian penal law.
Madrid-based Safeguard Defenders released a report titled “Home Becomes a Prison – China’s Growing Use of House Arrest Under Xi Jinping” on Tuesday. The report accuses Beijing of abusing criminal procedure law and violating human rights by crushing dissent through house arrest and other forms of abuse.
Thousands of people have been under house arrest in China since 2013. (Photo: Safeguard Defenders)
Chinese authorities have used rampant house arrests officially dubbed RS or “residential surveillance” to interdict communication and isolate victims in their homes.
Using government data, the group reported 5,549 cases of house arrest in the first year of President Xi Jinping’s reign in 2013 and it rose to 28,704 cases in the second year. In 2020, some 40,184 cases were recorded, an increase of around 13% from the 35,509 cases recorded in 2019.
Catholic students in Indonesia joined other groups to protest massive fuel price hikes and clashed with security forces who tried to disperse protesters. The government has raised the price of subsidized fuel by 30%, the highest in a decade.