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It's three doctors and a river man at this year’s Asian Nobel Prize

Four champions of the poor in Asia have been selected for the 2022 Ramon Magsaysay Awards honoring their extraordinary contributions toward transforming human lives and societies.

Published: September 02, 2022 11:19 AM GMT

Updated: March 23, 2023 05:05 AM GMT

The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation named its four winners for 2022 on Wednesday. Cambodian psychiatrist Sotheara Chhim is a leading voice in tackling trauma syndrome, particularly for the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide. The 54-year-old Chhim is himself a survivor of the murderous regime and has devoted his life to helping people who suffered “baksbat” -- broken courage – a syndrome seen in Cambodia that is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Japanese ophthalmologist Tadashi Hattori has provided free eye treatment, trained doctors, and donated equipment and supplies to hospitals in Vietnam to battle cataract blindness which is widespread in the country amid a lack of specialists and treatment facilities.

Filipino doctor and child rights activist Bernadette J. Madrid runs a foundation that supports the training of child protection professionals and the development of women and child protection units in the Philippines.

Gary Bencheghib is an Indonesia-based French filmmaker and environmentalist. He has been selected for his efforts in saving the Citarum River, one of the most polluted rivers in the world. He and his brother made kayaks made of plastic bottles and bamboo to collect trash. The winners will receive the awards during a ceremony in Manila on November 30. 

he four winners of this year's Ramon Magsaysay awards are (left to right) Cambodian psychiatrist Sotheara Chim, Filipino child rights activist Bernadette J. Madrid, Japanese ophthalmologist Tadashi Hattori, and Indonesia-based French filmmaker and environmentalist Gary Bencheghib

The four winners of this year's Ramon Magsaysay awards are (left to right) Cambodian psychiatrist Sotheara Chim, Filipino child rights activist Bernadette J. Madrid, Japanese ophthalmologist Tadashi Hattori, and Indonesia-based French filmmaker and environmentalist Gary Bencheghib. (Photo: Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation)

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People in Catholic-majority Timor-Leste cheered as Pope Francis made Salesian Archbishop Dom Virgilio do Carmo da Silva the first cardinal of the country. The pope created 20 new cardinals including six from Asia along with the 54-year-old archbishop of Dili during a consistory in the Vatican on Saturday.

Cardinal da Silva said his elevation to the College of Cardinals is a moment of great joy, not only for himself but also for the Church and Timorese people.

Cardinal Virgilio do Carmo da Silva at the consistory ceremony on Aug. 26. (Photo: President Jose Ramos-Horta's Facebook page)

A Timorese delegation led by President Jose Ramos-Horta attended the consistory, while millions of Timorese watched the program on television in their homes while praying with their families.

Dili Archdiocese has invited Catholics from parishes and religious orders to join in the welcoming ceremony for the new cardinal on September 5 and a thanksgiving program at Tasi Tolu, about eight kilometers west of Dili where Saint John Paul II celebrated Mass when he visited in 1989. Pope Francis planned to visit Timor-Leste in 2020 but postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Catholic churches in two states of India came under attack this week amid a rising tide of violence against Christians in the Hindu-majority country.

In the northeastern state of Meghalaya, police are yet to arrest the culprits days after statues of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and Joseph were vandalized in a Church at Daram village in the North Garo Hills district, on Saturday. The Church is one of the oldest in the state and has about 100 Catholic families. About 83 percent of the state’s 3.2 million people are Christians.

Sikh devotees clean the gold plating of the Akal Takht Sahib at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, India, on Dec. 12, 2020. Media reports say a mob vandalized Pieta statue and a priest’s car on the day Akal Takht, the chief center of religious authority of Sikhism, issued a statement against forced conversions by Christian missionaries in Punjab. (Photo: AFP)

In another incident reported on Wednesday, a mob attacked Infant Jesus Catholic Church in Patti area of northern Sikh religion dominated Punjab state and vandalized a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus, and a car belonging to the parish priest who claimed the mob chanted Sikh separatists’ slogans.

Media reports said Sikh groups have accused that some "fake pastors" are misleading Sikhs and converting them to Christianity. About 10 percent of Punjab’s 20 million are Christians.

Catholics in Indonesia’s Christian-majority Papua province have called for a fair trial against six soldiers facing criminal charges for allegedly killing and mutilating four people.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Faizal Ramadhani, the director of Criminal Investigation of the Papua Police said the soldiers had pretended to sell weapons to lure the victims, who were allegedly affiliated with the pro-independence movement.

A murder-accused Indonesian soldier faces interrogation in Papua province. (Photo: Indonesia National Army)

The soldiers then killed them, mutilated their bodies, and dumped them into a river after putting the dismembered bodies in sacks.

Police also named four civilians who claimed the soldiers were directly involved in the killing, as possible suspects. Bloodshed in the restive Papua region is common as it has endured deadly conflicts between pro-independence separatists and the Indonesian military since the 1960s that claimed thousands of lives.

A senior leader of the Chinese Communist Party has warned the country’s Catholics about the dangers of “foreign infiltration.”

Wang Yang, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and head of the parliamentary advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, urged Catholic leaders that their faith needs to “better adapt itself into a socialist society.”

A painting by Osamu Giovanni Micico remembers the martyrs in the massacre of Catholics in Xiwanzi of China in the 19th and 20th centuries. (Photo: Bitter Winter)

He reportedly made the comments during a recent meeting with leaders of the state-sponsored Catholic Church. His warnings came as a tech company running – CathAssist – a helper app for Chinese Catholics announced it was stopping operations because of difficulties in obtaining a license. The app provided Catholic spiritual content every day including explanations of the Bible.

An observer alleged the crackdown is part of the party’s retaliation for the Catholic Church’s support for the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The developments came shortly after the state-backed Catholic Church in China held the 10th National Congress where they made vows to practice their faith in line with the socialist policies of the Communist Party.

Women’s rights activists have expressed concerns after a survey found about 87 percent women in Bangladesh face harassment including sexual abuse on public transport. The results of the online survey sponsored by UNDP Bangladesh were published last Friday. It analyzed responses from 5,187 women from across the country.

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The respondents cited a lack of respect for women, absence of legal protection, and overcrowding as major causes of the harassment.

Lack of respect for women, absence of legal protection, and overcrowding are blamed for the extremely high level of harassment of women in public transport in Bangladesh. (Photo: Shutterstock) 

About 36 percent said they were sexually harassed in public transport and about 57 percent said they find public transport “mostly unsafe” for women. From among the harassed women only one percent lodged complaints with the law enforcers, fearing more harassment and social humiliation.

In August, the NGO ‘Save the Road,’ published a report that recorded 4,601 incidents of violence against women on public transport, and other modes of transport, besides bus and train stations since 2017. The violence included 357 rapes and 27 murders of women.

At least six Rohingya Muslims were found dead on a boat floating on sea as persecution in conflict-torn Myanmar continues to trigger the exodus of the beleaguered minority group. The Coast Guard stopped and boarded the boat near an island off Myanmar coast on Monday following reports it had been drifting for several days on its way to Malaysia.

Local residents said there were 59 Rohingya survivors while three men and three women had died of starvation. A child from the boat later died and survivors were taken to a police station in Bogale township, about 100 kilometers from Yangon.

This photo taken on May 22 courtesy of an anonymous source shows officials looking at bodies washed up on a beach after a boat carrying 61 people that left from Rakhine state capsized, in Pathein district, about 200km west of Yangon. (Photo: Handout/AFP)

The incident comes three months after at least 17 Rohingya including children died in another boat tragedy. Last week, police arrested at least 53 Rohingya in Rakhine state while planning to flee by boat. Rohingya are denied citizenship and basic rights in Myanmar.

More than 750,000 fled to Bangladesh following a military crackdown in 2017. About 600,000 Rohingya still remain in Rakhine state and continue to face persecution and violence. Thousands have also fled to other countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

A Catholic youth group in the Philippines has slammed former President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs as a disastrous failure after police arrested a suspect with a large cache of drugs.

The police arrested 36-year-old Rodgene Umali from Quezon city of capital Manila this week with 25.5 kilograms of methamphetamine drugs worth 3.48 million US dollars. He was nabbed in a drug-buy bust operation carried out by the law enforcers.

An alleged drug dealer is handcuffed after a drug buy-bust operation conducted by policemen in Philippines capital Manila on May 12, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

The Youth’s Action for Christ in Manila said the bust shows that during the anti-drug war only poor drug users and peddlers were killed while the real drug lords who are rich and influential have been spared.

Since taking office in 2016, President Duterte carried out the ‘war on drugs’ that left as many as 30,000 drug suspects and peddlers killed in the Catholic-majority nation. The arbitrary and extrajudicial killings sparked global condemnation and rights groups called for the prosecution of Duterte for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court.

The security forces in Cambodia have locked down more than 20,000 people who fled to a remote farm after predictions by a self-proclaimed demigod that catastrophic global floods would wreak havoc on a biblical scale.

Government officials said the farm in Siem Reap province in western Cambodia was locked from midnight on Wednesday after followers of Khem Veasna, president of LDP or the League for Democracy Party, refused to leave. Veasna had prophesied doomsday floods would occur by August 31 but his followers have said they now intend to remain until the end of September.

People walk through floodwaters on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Oct 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

Prime Minister Hun Sen accused the LDP leader of raising fears by using his superstitious propaganda for political advantage. The party boycotted commune elections in June after Veasna declared himself a reincarnation of the Hindu god Brahma.

Last week, he began posting online doomsday predictions claiming only his farm would survive a pending apocalypse. On orders of Hun Sen, military trucks and ambulances have ring-fenced the farm and offered a way home for the inmates.

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