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Abused altar boys win justice in Indonesia

Compensation brought some consolation for two sexually abused altar boys in Indonesia this week as Christians and other groups ramped up their battle against injustice and discrimination.

Published: December 03, 2021 11:39 AM GMT

Updated: December 07, 2021 03:53 AM GMT

Authorities in Vietnam are planning strict measures to deal with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 while Church officials have called on Catholics to serve the rising number of patients in hospitals.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh asked the Health Ministry on Tuesday to quickly gear up with vaccines, medical treatment and prevention steps as the new variant spread fear across the world. The prime minister also urged Ho Chi Minh City, the country's Covid-19 epicenter, and southern provinces to increase measures against the outbreak and speed up vaccinations.

Church officials in Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese have called for more volunteers as hospitals made appeals to the local Church to send religious volunteers to serve patients. Vietnam has registered 14,000 Covid cases on average daily recently.

The country has recorded a total of 1.25 million cases and more than 25,000 deaths so far. World over the new variant has created a fear leading to panic reactions from governments.

Abused altar boys win justice in Indonesia

An elementary school in Khanh Hoa province has been closed to contain the Covid outbreak. (Photo: UCA News)

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In Indonesia, two Catholic altar boys who were sexually abused by a church worker have received compensation payments.

The district attorney’s office in Depok handed over the payments to the parents of the boys in the presence of their lawyer and the parish priest of their church on Tuesday.

Parents of two child sexual abuse victims receive payment of compensation from Sri Kuncoro (right), head of Depok District Attorney’s Office, in the presence of Azas Tigor Nainggolan (left), the victims' lawyer, in West Java province, Indonesia, on Nov. 29. (Photo supplied)

The compensation came after Depok district court sentenced Syahril Marbun, a former liturgical coordinator of St. Herkulanus Church of Bogor Diocese, to 15 years in jail for sexually abusing two boys aged 14 and 15. During the verdict on January 6, the court also asked him to pay a fine of a fine of 200 million rupiahs which is close to 15 thousand US dollars and to compensate the victims with 6.5 million and 11.5 million rupiahs respectively.

Marbun was arrested in June last year after a parent of one of the victims lodged a sex abuse complaint with the church in March.

An evangelical Christian pastor in Nepal was sentenced to two years in jail and fined the equivalent of 166 US dollars for violating the Himalayan country’s repressive anti-conversion law.

The court in Dolpa district in Pokhara region sentenced Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya from the Abundant Harvest Church on Tuesday, about a week after judges found him guilty of proselytization.

Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 20,000 rupees (US$166) for violating Nepal's anti-conversion law. (Photo: Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

The pastor was first arrested on March 23 after a YouTube video of him went viral on social media. In the video he said that Covid-19 could be healed through Christian prayer. He was released on bail about a month later. However, he was rearrested immediately and charged under the anti-conversion law.

The case is the latest in a series of charges against Christian pastors and activists in the Hindu-majority nation since it amended its century-old Penal Code in 2018. It makes conversion from Hinduism to other faiths a serious criminal offense.

India’s Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church continues to be embroiled in a five-decade-long internal liturgical dispute. The discord once again came to light when the church implemented a new form of celebrating Mass starting from last Sunday.

Three out of 35 dioceses decided not to adapt the new form following opposition from their priests. Recently, clergy and laypeople marched on the streets against the uniform liturgy in the church.

A priest of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church celebrates Mass in the new format facing the altar. (Photo supplied)

The Synod of Bishops, the church’s top decision-making body, adopted the uniform liturgy in 1999, but it was implemented only in some dioceses. In July, Pope Francis issued a letter asking the church to end liturgical division.

In 1999, the bishops agreed to the priests facing people during the start and concluding part of Mass but facing the altar during the Eucharistic prayer. Groups of priests and laypeople demand that the entire Mass be celebrated with the celebrant facing the people, a reform initiated with the Second Vatican Council.

Nazrul Islam Ritu, a 43-year-old transgender has made history by winning the post of chairperson of a local government body in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. Ritu bagged 9,557 votes to win the post of chairperson of a Union Council in Jhenaidah district of southern Bangladesh on Tuesday.

The victory made Ritu a media sensation in a largely conservative country where transgender people face widespread social stigma and discrimination.

Nazrul Islam Ritu defeated a ruling party candidate and became the first tansgender Union Council chairperson in Bangladesh. (Photo: Facebook) 

Officially, there are about 10,000 transgender people in Bangladesh, but activists say their number is at least 10 times higher as many hide their identity due to social stigma.

In 2012, the government introduced a project to provide socioeconomic support to transgender people, and in 2013 a law recognized them as the third or separate gender, allowing them to get national identity cards, vote in elections and receive state allowances.

Another Catholic church in Myanmar was destroyed in military attacks this week as the junta continues to target churches in predominantly Christian regions.

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Despite appeals by the Catholic Church and world leaders, the military burned down St. Nicholas Church in Thantlang town in Chin state on Monday. The Chin Human Rights Organization said the soldiers set fire to many houses in the deserted town on November 26 and continued arson attacks for three straight days.

Smoke and fire rises from Thantlang town in western Myanmar's Chin state on Oct. 29 as more than 160 buildings were destroyed by shelling from the military, according to local media. (Photo by AFP)

The latest attack on the church came only days after at least 49 buildings including Thantlang Centenary Baptist Church were burned to the ground. At least 22 churches and more than 350 civilian houses have been burned or destroyed by the military since August.

Churches in Christian-majority states like Kayah, Chin and Kachin have experienced deadly violence since the February military coup. About a dozen Catholic churches were damaged in bombing and artillery shelling.

Catholics in South Korea have joined a fundraising campaign to renovate church-run social welfare facilities including elderly care homes.

The Catholic Social Welfare Society in Seoul Archdiocese has initiated the month-long fundraising campaign amid concerns about the rising aged population in the country. The society runs 27 facilities for vulnerable groups including orphans, the disabled, single-parent families, women and elderly people with funding from the church and the government.

An elderly woman receives a Covid-19 vaccine in Seoul on April 1. South Korea is grappling with a low fertility rate and increasing aged population. (Photo: AFP)

A recent survey found structural and functional defects in most of the facilities as they were built more than 30 years ago. Korean churches started Catholic senior academies and towns to help elderly people cope. Latest census data shows South Korea’s population has fallen for the first time in history due to its low birth rate.

About 24 percent of South Koreans are aged 60 and above, among the highest rates in the world.

In an unprecedented move, police in Thailand have launched an investigation against the country office of global rights watchdog Amnesty International. The probe aims to determine whether the agency poses a threat to national security because of its support for pro-democracy activists.

The move comes following a petition from ultra-royalists calling for expulsion of the prominent rights group from Thailand. Amnesty drew the ire of ultra-royalists last month after it slammed a decision by the Constitutional Court that calls for monarchy reform amount to treason, a crime punishable by death in Thailand.

A royalist supporter holds a sign during a demonstration in Bangkok on Nov. 25calling for the human rights organisation Amnesty International to stop operations in Thailand over their support for detained political activists held on royal defamation charges. (Photo: AFP)

This week, a group of supporters of the monarchy marched in capital Bangkok to demand Amnesty leave the country.

Thailand’s pro-royalist regime has been under pressure from the youth-led pro-democracy movement with protesters demanding reform of the monarchy and political system. In response, at least 155 Thais, mostly young students have been charged with defaming the royal family.

The sex abuse trial of former priest Richard Daschbach has entered the final stage in Catholic-majority Timor-Leste.

A district court has completed a series of hearings in the first-ever clergy sex abuse case in the country. Prosecutor Matias Soares said the trial ended on November 25 and the verdict will be read on December 21.

A screengrab of Richard Daschbach arriving at Oecusse District Court on Feb. 22. (Photo: YouTube)

The trial against 84-year-old Daschbach, a US citizen and former member of the Society of the Divine Word, began in February at Oecussi District Court, 200 kilometers west of capital Dili.

He is charged with molesting young girls and possessing child pornography, besides domestic violence, at Topu Honis, a shelter he founded in 1993. He faces up to 20 years in prison. The Vatican dismissed him from the priesthood in 2018 after he confessed to his crimes during church investigations.

Ahead of the Philippines’ presidential election next year, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte has become the head of the national bishops’ conference.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan began his two-year term as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Wednesday. The 62-year-old bishop is known as a strong detractor of President Duterte’s controversial policies and actions including human rights violations, deadly war on drugs and foul mouthing.

Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, an outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, greets churchgoers. (Photo supplied)

Duterte has responded by calling Bishop David a drug addict and son of a whore. As Philippines law bars the re-election of a president, Duterte has decided to run for vice president.

He is also backing frontrunner and longtime ally Ferdinand Marcos Junior, son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Duterte also faces an international probe into crimes against humanity for ordering extrajudicial executions during the drug war.  

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