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Priests, activists welcome justice for long-suffering Papuans

A former soldier was sentenced to a life term for allegedly killing four civilians in Indonesia’s restive, Christian-majority Papua region, a verdict hailed by rights activists advocating justice and peace.

Published: January 27, 2023 11:09 AM GMT

Updated: January 27, 2023 11:10 AM GMT

Rights activists in Indonesia’s restive, Christian-majority Papua province have hailed life-term imprisonment for an ex-soldier accused of killing four Papuans. The sentence is the toughest against a member of the security forces long accused of gross human rights violations in the conflict-torn region.

Catholic priest and rights campaigner Father John Djonga said the verdict "signals that there are efforts to take firm action against state apparatus who are perpetrators of crimes in Papua.” The crimes committed were barbaric and the sentence offers a bit of relief for people who long for justice and protection of their rights, he emphasized.

The Military Court in the Papua provincial capital Jayapura sentenced Major Helmanto Francis Dakhi to life imprisonment and dismissed him from the military on Tuesday. He is one of five soldiers who mutilated four Protestant Christians last August.

The soldiers allegedly killed them after accusing them of having links with a pro-independence separatist movement and dumped their dismembered bodies in the river. 

A group of activists is seen reconstructing the crime scene of the killing of four Protestant Christians in Papua province in Indonesia

A group of activists is seen reconstructing the crime scene of the killing of four Protestant Christians in Papua province in Indonesia. (Photo: supplied) 

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Catholic Church and labor activists in the Philippines have strongly condemned and demanded justice for a female migrant worker allegedly raped and murdered in Kuwait.

The authorities in the Middle Eastern country found the body of 35-year-old Jullebee Ranara, buried in a desert last Sunday. Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported that the autopsy report revealed the victim was pregnant at the time of her death.

Filipino labor group Kilusang Mayo organizes a protest rally in the capital Manila on Jan. 25 to demand justice for Jullebee Ranara, 35, a Filipino migrant worker raped and murdered in Kuwait. (Photo supplied) 

Left-leaning labor group, Kilusang Mayo, organized a protest rally in the capital Manila on Wednesday, to pressure the Kuwait government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

More than 2.22 million Filipinos were employed in various countries as of January 2021 with the majority in Middle Eastern countries. However, rights groups documented thousands of cases of abuses including rights violations and sexual violence against Filipino migrants. Only about 200 cases were moved to the courts.

The Japanese government has ordered a probe into alleged unauthorized adoption and violation of rules by the controversial Unification Church. Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato said on Monday the investigation was underway and the church has been asked to comply with national child adoption rules.

The move comes after the Unification Church was accused of facilitating child adoption among its members without authorization from the local government. An adopted person alleged that his real parents gave him up for adoption though they were capable of his upbringing.

Flags fly outside a branch facility of the former Unification Church, known officially as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo: AFP)

The South Korea-based church has been under scrutiny after the son of a former member shot dead Japan’s ex-premier Shinzo Abe. The church is accused of manipulating members into making huge gifts and donations for spiritual atonement.

Japan’s adoption mediation law stipulates that prefectural government permission is required for mediation. If unauthorized mediation and adoption recur, violation of the law is a punishable offense. 

Women and children are the worst sufferers amid the rise in anti-Christian violence in India, which prompted women and church groups to urge the federal government to halt the tide of targeted attacks.

The call was made during a rally in the national Delhi last Saturday. About 300 women protesters from 15 organizations joined the demonstration to express solidarity with the victims. It came following recent attacks on tribal Christians in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

Indian women's organizations hold a protest against the orchestrated attacks on tribal Christians in the central state of Chhattisgarh, at Jantar Mantar in the capital New Delhi on Jan. 21. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

Some 1,000 tribal Christian families, including pregnant women, children, and the elderly, have been forced to abandon their homes and villages by mobs of people accusing them of dishonoring the indigenous faith and practices by converting to Christianity.

It was the latest in a series of attacks against Christians in India over allegations of religious conversions by Hindu extremist groups. Rights groups say Hindu nationalist groups have launched renewed attacks against Christians since the pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party came to power in 2014. 

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh ruled children can have the name of their mother or any legal guardian on school and government documents in absence of a father.

The order makes it unconstitutional to deny a child education and passport if the child fails to mention the father’s name in the application.

A Bangladeshi mother plays with her child on the roadside in Dhaka in this picture taken on Oct. 2, 2009. (Photo: AFP)

The ruling came after three rights groups filed a petition for the cause when a state-run Education Board refused to admit a girl student as she could not fill in the father's name as required in the application, way back in 2007.

Women activists, child rights advocates and church groups have welcomed the verdict as Bangladesh has about one million street children, many of whom do not know their father’s name. Activists say the court order empowers single mothers and street children who can now live with dignity. 

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen appointed former vice president and Catholic academic Philip Chen Chien-jen as the new prime minister on Thursday.

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The appointment of Chen comes as the ruling Democratic Progressive Party seeks a cabinet reshuffle following the party’s heavy losses in the recent local elections. The party bagged only five out of 21 city and country leadership posts in the November 2022 elections.

Chen Chien-jen, 71, a Catholic politician and prominent epidemiologist, is the new Prime Minister of Taiwan. (Photo: Facebook page of Chen Chien-jen) 

71 year old Chen will take over the reins from Su Tseng-chang, Taiwan’s longest-serving premier who resigned on January 19 along with other cabinet members citing the local election setback. President Tsai immediately resigned as the party chair and called for structural reform in the government.

Chen, a renowned epidemiologist hailed for Taiwan’s successful battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, was the nation’s vice president from 2016-2020. He earlier served as health minister from 2003-2005, and as minister of the National Science Council from 2006-2008. In January, he attended the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican City as a special envoy. He was appointed a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences in August 2021. 

A fire ripped through Guryong, the last remaining slum in the South Korean capital Seoul leaving at least 60 homes destroyed and about 500 displaced. For decades, it has been known as “a symbol of inequality” in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

About 900 rescuers used water cannons and helicopters to douse the fire and successfully evacuated 500 residents. No casualty was reported. The authorities have reserved dozens of hotel rooms to accommodate the residents temporarily. The exact cause of the blaze is still unknown.

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at the Guryong village, the last remaining slum in the South Korean capital Seoul, on Jan. 20. (Photo: AFP)

However, observers said the construction of jam-packed houses with highly combustible materials such as cardboard, plywood, and clothes makes the area prone to fire.

Guryong shantytown has suffered at least 16 fires since 2009. The slum sprang up after the then military government evicted thousands of people from low-income areas to raze their homes and build new roads, skyscrapers, stadiums, and parks ahead of the 1988 Summer Olympics. 

Church leaders in Myanmar have issued an open letter to urge the country’s military rulers to protect places of worship following a series of attacks by the army in Christian-majority areas in the war-torn nation.

In the latest attack, the military torched the 129-year-old Assumption Church in Mandalay Archdiocese on January 15th. The letter signed by Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, and Archbishops Marco Tin Win of Mandalay and Basilio Athai of Taunggyi questioned why the sacred places are attacked and destroyed and asked for a halt on violence for peace and healing.

This handout photo from Amnesty International taken between June 27 and July 4, 2022 and released on July 20, 2022, shows a Christian church destroyed after being burned down by the Myanmar military, in Daw Ngay Ku village in Hparuso township, in eastern Myanmar's Kayah state. (Photo: AFP)

Church leaders cited international pacts like the Hague Convention which calls for the protection of places of worship, places of learning, and places of healing during any conflict.

Church groups say five out of 16 dioceses in the country — Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha, Kalay, and Mandalay — are affected by the ongoing conflicts between the army and ethnic rebel groups, some of whose members belong to various Christian denominations. 

On the third day of the Lunar New Year in Vietnam, hundreds of Catholics wanting safe roads had their vehicles blessed following a Mass. Around 1,000 Catholics attended the special Mass and prayed for safe travel at Yen Bai Church in the northern-central Yen Bai province on Tuesday.

The ceremony comes as Vietnam has seen an increase in road crashes and deaths in recent times.

A priest blesses motorbikes on Jan. 24 at Yen Bai Church in Vietnam's northern-central Yen Bai province. (Photo: UCA News)

The National Traffic Safety Committee, which is collaborating with the World Bank to improve road safety data systems in the country, reported there were 133 road traffic accidents, killing 77 people and injuring 96 others during the Lunar New Year festival in 2021. In most cases, accidents took place due to drunken driving and drug abuse.

Lunar New Year is known as the Tet festival in Vietnam. This year, Vietnam is observing the Year of the Cat, while East Asian nations like Korea and China which also celebrate the Lunar New Year, are observing the Year of the Rabbit.

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