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Pope’s special envoy attends Taiwan presidential inauguration

Taiwan held the inauguration of its pro-democracy president William Lai Ching-te in presence of dignitaries including Vatican envoy Archbishop Charles Brown

Published: May 24, 2024 11:08 AM GMT

Updated: May 24, 2024 11:08 AM GMT

Vatican envoy Archbishop Charles Brown was among the top dignitaries present for the inauguration ceremony of Taiwan’s new president William Lai Ching-te on Monday.

Brown, the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, attended the program as part of his three-day trip to the island. 64 year old Lai is a member of the ruling nationalist Democratic Progressive Party and was elected 8th president of Taiwan during the January 13 election.

His party won the third consecutive election despite mounting threats from China, which attempted to influence the polls on the island. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and threatens to annex it militarily.

Brown visited Taiwan as a special envoy of Pope Francis and joined several events including the state banquet of former President Tsai Ing-wen and met with President Lai. The new president called on China to stop intimidating Taiwan and said that the future of Taiwan will be decided by its 23 million people.

Taiwan's President Lai Ching-te (center), incoming First Lady Wu Mei-ju (left), and Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim (right) react after his inaugural speech after being sworn into office during the inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei on May 20.

Taiwan's President Lai Ching-te (center), incoming First Lady Wu Mei-ju (left), and Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim (right) react after his inaugural speech after being sworn into office during the inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei on May 20. (Photo: AFP)

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Indian Church group, All-Manipur Christian Organization, has mediated the first meeting for peace between tribal Christians and Meitei Hindus from Manipur state of northeast India. It came after a year of continuing violence that claimed over 200 lives, injured hundreds, and displaced more than 50,000.

Seven representatives from both the communities attended the meeting in neighboring Assam state last Friday. The peace talks were held at a facility run by the Salesian congregation in state capital Guwahati.

A child takes a nap inside a relief camp in India's Manipur on July 25, 2023. There is no end in sight to the one-year-old violence in the northeastern state bordering Myanmar. (Photo: AFP)

A Church official associated with the meeting said both groups agreed to reach out to their people “with a positive mind.” The ethnic violence erupted in Manipur on May 3 last year after tribal groups protested a demand for tribal status for Meitei Hindus, who make up the majority.

The ruling governments in the state and the center faced widespread criticism for failing to diffuse division and violence in Manipur. 

Children in Tibet have resorted to a unique form of protest to denounce China’s repressive rule. The Chinese Communist Party has been encouraging domestic Chinese and international tourists to visit renowned Buddhist temples and take photographs with monks.

This prompted Tibetan children and youth in Nagku of Northern Tibet to use the traditional “urduo” ropes or whips made of yak or goat hair as a form of protest.

A young Tibetan girl uses an 'urduo' rope in this undated image. (Photo: Bitter Winter via Weibo)

The ropes are used by herdsmen to drive cattle and to throw stones to scare away wild animals. The children use the “urduo” when trains with tourists pass their area and whip the passing trains or throw small stones, which they say are not intended to hurt anyone.

Beijing annexed Tibet in the 1950s and brutally crushed all forms of dissent. Beijing is also accused of attempts to systematically destroy Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism to assert more control over the region.

Filipino advocacy groups have urged the government to immediately drop terror charges against 27 activists, including two Catholic priests, who are accused of financing communist insurgents in Negros Island by the military.

The activists are associated with the Community Empowerment Resource Network based in Cebu City in the central Philippines. They are charged with funding a front of the NPA or New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Members of the communists' armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), walk past a hammer and sickle flag displayed in a village as they mark the 46th anniversary of its founding, on the southern island of Mindanao, on Dec. 26, 2014. (Photo: AFP)

Designated as a terrorist group by the government, the NPA has been involved in communist insurgency for over five decades. Following the indictment, Cebu City’s regional court issued arrest warrants against the accused, but they managed to secure bail.

Rights groups allege that successive governments have exploited anti-terror laws to brand activists and critics as communist sympathizers to muzzle dissent for years.

Police in Indonesia’s Christian-majority East Nusa Tenggara province named a Catholic politician as a suspect in a human trafficking case that triggered protests from rights activists and Church groups.

Yuvinus Solo, an elected member of the local legislative council in Catholic-majority Flores Island, which is part of the province, was named as a suspect last Friday. This came after protests in Flores over a recent case that involved dozens of local workers who were sent to work in an oil palm plantation illegally.

Catholic students hold a protest in Sikka Regency in Indonesia's Christian-majority East Nusa Tenggara province on May 13 to demand a quick handling of a human trafficking case. (Photo supplied)

Their employer was reportedly abusive which led to the death of a worker, sparking uproar in Flores. If convicted, Solo faces 3-15 years in jail and a maximum fine equivalent of 37000 US Dollars.

Impoverished East Nusa Tenggara Province tops the list of Indonesian provinces with a high rate of human trafficking. The province reported 185 cases of trafficking last year.

Sixty Indians rescued from scam compounds in the southern Cambodian city of Sihanoukville will return home following protests from more than 300 of their compatriots. The victims were allegedly duped into accepting false job offers at the Jinbei-4 compound — a casino complex that has been tied to human trafficking.

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The Indians have been ferried to the capital Phnom Penh and are waiting for repatriation to their homeland. Around 150 people of the 300 are from Visakhapatnam, on India’s central east coast, and nearby areas and have been stranded in Cambodia for more than a year.

Chinese police escort suspects as they prepare to board a plane at Phnom Penh international airport in this Oct 12, 2017 file photo. Cambodia deported 74 Chinese national suspected of running a telecoms scam to extort money from victims in their home country. (Photo: AFP)

Indian police said the trafficked victims alleged they were coerced by Chinese handlers into committing cybercrime after accepting jobs as data entry operators.

Sihanoukville emerged as a hub for human traffickers during the Covid-19 pandemic that targeted people from China as well as from Southeast and South Asian nations. 

A government-sponsored report on South Korea’s democracy uprising of 1980 triggered criticism from civil society groups, victims, and a top Catholic leader. They questioned the “distortion of facts” in the report during the 44th anniversary of Gwangju Uprising last Friday.

During the memorial Mass at the Namdong Cathedral Archbishop Simon Ok Hyun-jjn of Gwangju said many people have problems with the report, which only accommodated views of the perpetrators of the atrocities. The civil society groups and victims pointed to the lack of public hearings and proper investigations.

Archbishop Simon Ok Hyun-jin officiates the Mass to commemorate the 44th anniversary of the May 18 democracy movement at the May 18 Memorial Cathedral in Namdong, Gwangju on May 17. (Photo courtesy of Gwangju Archdiocese Public Relations Office)

The Gwangju Uprising was a pro-democracy public uprising against the military dictatorship of the army general Chun Doo-hwan who ruled South Korea from 1980 to 1988.

The protesters faced heavy crackdowns from the government forces, leaving many killed, injured or raped. A popular uprising, which was backed by the Church, forced Chun’s ouster and the return of democracy in the country.

Thailand has ratified the United Nations Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, becoming one of 74 member states that are signatories to the convention. The authorities made the decision public on Monday.

Rights groups say they are wary about Thailand’s commitment to enforce the convention as the country has recently been roundly criticized for trading exiled dissidents. Human Rights Watch Asia director Elaine Pearson pointed out that Thailand has increasingly engaged in a ‘swap mart’ with neighboring governments to unlawfully exchange each other’s dissidents.

Foreign detainees are seen at an immigration detention center in Bangkok in this Jan. 21, 2019 photo. Thai authorities are accused of running a 'swap mart’ with neighboring governments to unlawfully exchange each other’s dissidents. (Photo: AFP)

Last week, Human Rights Watch released a report that detailed an upsurge in the repression of foreign nationals seeking refugee protection in Thailand, making it increasingly unsafe for those fleeing persecution.

The report analyzed 25 cases in Thailand between 2014 and 2023 and conducted 18 interviews including with victims, their family members and witnesses of abuses.

Catholics from a parish Church in Vietnam are opposing a government plan to build a new school on land that belongs to the Church.

Protesters say the land of Thanh Hai Church under Phan Thiet Diocese in Binh Thuan province was ‘loaned’ out to the government in 1975 following the communist takeover and reunification of Vietnam.

Thanh Hai parishioners protest against the local authorities' plan to build schools on land borrowed from Thanh Hai church, on May 8. (Photo: rfa.org)

Some protesters who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was painful to see the government attempting to take Church land that holds memories of their parents and grandparents who put a lot of effort and hard work into it.

The parish had lent two school buildings that were included in a one and a half acre plot to the government for functioning as public schools. In early May, hundreds of Catholics gathered in the parish compound and stopped the authorities from measuring and bifurcating the land based on this claim.

Myanmar’s embattled military junta’s aerial bombings have left a Catholic Church and a Baptist Church damaged in Christian-majority Chin state in the second week of May.

Vatican’s Fides news agency reported that the churches in the village of Lungtak were hit as the military launched an offensive to flush out ethnic rebels from the area.

A Myanmar junta air strike destroyed this Baptist church in Ramthlo, Falam township, Chin state on Aug. 12, 2023. Aerial bombings on May 11-12 left a Catholic Church and a Baptist Church damaged. (Photo: RFA/Citizen Journalist)

The attack also destroyed five houses, prompting terrified villagers to flee their homes.

The affected Catholic Church is under Kalay Diocese and the local parish priest Titus En Za Khan managed to flee to nearby forests with local Catholics to escape bombings.

In Chin state, which shares borders with India and Bangladesh, the military has been engaged in a deadly battle to regain control of the territories from several ethnic armed rebel groups including the Chin National Army and the Zomi Revolutionary Army.

The ongoing fighting has triggered a humanitarian crisis with many displaced people having no or little access to basic amenities like food, water and medicines. 

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