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Trust deficit mars installation of new Sri Lankan president

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is gone, but the 22 million people of the island nation are in no mood to trust his successor to lead them out of the terrible mess he left behind. The country’s worst-ever economic crisis has reduced Sri Lankans to buy less, eat less and work less.

Published: July 22, 2022 11:28 AM GMT

Updated: July 22, 2022 11:29 AM GMT

There seems no end in sight for Sri Lanka’s woes as protesters rejected parliament’s decision to vote former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new president.

Catholic clergy, Buddhist monks and rights activists have joined the chorus saying Wickremesinghe was rejected and not voted in by the people. The new president was sworn in on Thursday, a day after his election and after briefly serving as the acting president when former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country.

Wickremesinghe's party had lost in the 2020 parliamentary election. He entered parliament with just one bonus seat and has been a loyalist of the Rajapaksa political dynasty that ruled the island nation for over two decades and is blamed for the current weakening of the economy.

According to the World Food Programme, nearly five million people need food aid. More than five out of every six families were either skipping meals, eating less or buying worse food, it said.

This handout photo taken on July 21 and released by Sri Lanka's parliament shows president-elect Ranil Wickremesinghe, center, signing documents during his swearing-in ceremony as Sri Lanka's President, at the parliament in Colombo

This handout photo taken on July 21 and released by Sri Lanka's parliament shows president-elect Ranil Wickremesinghe, center, signing documents during his swearing-in ceremony as Sri Lanka's President, at the parliament in Colombo. (Photo: AFP) 

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A Catholic bishop has called for respecting human dignity in conflict-torn Myanmar.

In a message last Sunday, Archbishop Marco Tin Win of Mandalay said he is deeply disheartened by the suffering of thousands of people, mostly from villages whose homes were burned, and properties were looted, leaving them homeless, displaced and in dire need of food and shelter.

This handout photo from the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers taken on May 3, 2022 and released on May 4 shows civilians hiding in a cave after airstrikes and mortar attack on their village by the Myanmar military. (Photo: AFP/Free Burma Rangers)

The prelate has appealed for peace as the military junta escalates its attacks on civilians with air strikes and artillery shelling in several villages including the historic Catholic Mon Hla village in Sagaing region. Media reports suggest the military regime is specifically targeting three Catholic villages in the Buddhist Bamar heartland of Sagaing in a bid to stamp out growing resistance by people’s defense forces.

Churches and villages in Christian strongholds like Kayah, Chin, Karen and Kachin states have been attacked. Priests, pastors and laypeople have been arrested and killed.

Members of a pro-independence insurgent outfit shot dead 10 civilians including a Protestant pastor in Indonesia’s conflict-ridden Christian-majority Papua region.

About 20 members of the criminal group stopped and fired at the truck carrying civilians, mostly traders and the Protestant pastor, Eliaser Baner. This was one of the bloodiest attacks on civilians in the restive region that has seen an escalation of violence in recent years.

Members of the West Papua National Liberation Army and Free Papua Movement (TPNPB-OPM) are seen in this file photo. (Photo: TPNPB-OPM’s Facebook)

The West Papua National Liberation Army, the military wing of Papua's main separatist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Thousands have been killed and displaced amid fighting between security forces and insurgents since Indonesia annexed Papua in the 1960s.

Filipino Catholic religious superiors have vowed to defy the threat of being labelled “communists” by the government and to continue their criticism on issues like mismanagement and corruption.

In a statement last Sunday, the religious leaders said the “red-tagging” would not deter them from being critical of President Ferdinand Marcos Junior. The superiors noted that their fellow confreres were red-tagged and their names were called out for condemning graft and rights violations during the regime of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

This photo taken on Dec 10, 2020, shows protesters with slogans against "red-tagging" on their hats and placards as they take part in a protest to commemorate International Human Rights Day near the presidential palace in Manila.

Red-tagging is the labeling of individuals or groups or both as “terrorists” or “communists” for criticizing the government. Successive governments have used this malpractice against the Communist Party of the Philippines, since 1969.

The governments have also accused activists, journalists, politicians, and various organizations publicly for being allegedly involved with the communists. Red-tagging intensified during Duterte government and some senior church officials were targeted for strongly criticizing the deadly anti-drug war that left thousands dead.

Catholic bishops in Pakistan have joined educationists to call for withdrawal of a revised school curriculum that makes Islamic instruction a significant part of compulsory subjects.

During a press conference in Lahore on Wednesday, the Catholic Bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace said Pakistan’s religious minorities demand textbooks without hate material and insisted that the education policy and curriculum be in line with national and international human rights framework.

Naeem Yousaf Gill (center), executive director of the Catholic Bishop's National Commission for Justice and Peace, addresses a press conference at Lahore Press Club on July 20. (Photo: Kamran Chaudhry)

Christian educationists regretted that the national curriculum was being imposed without the required consensus which violates constitutional rights to education.

The Single National Curriculum, introduced by the government of former prime minister Imran Khan as a uniform education system across the nation, has faced strong criticism for failing to recognize the religious and cultural diversity of Pakistan.

Catholic activists and environmentalists have criticized the South Korean government for its pro-nuclear power stance to overcome a crippling energy deficit in the country.

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Earlier this month, the government of President Yoon Suk-yeol said it will embrace nuclear power as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions. This is a reversal of the strategy of the previous government of President Moon Jae-in that sought to gradually phase-out the country’s nuclear power plants within next five decades.

Environmental activists hold a protest in the South Korean capital Seoul in January of this year to demand presidential candidates make concrete pledges to get rid of nuclear power. (Photo; Catholic Times of Korea)  

Catholic activists and environmental campaigners have said the pro-nuclear policy is a threat to present and next generations as nuclear plants often do not follow safety standards set by the European Union and remain vulnerable to disasters.

South Korea is one of the world’s most prominent nuclear energy countries and exports nuclear technology widely. It has 25 active reactors, providing one-third of the nation’s total electricity. The Korean government also aims to export new energy from nuclear plants abroad by 2030.

Reporters Without Borders, the global media watchdog, has urged Timor-Leste government to drop charges against journalist Raimundos Oki, who has been charged for violating judicial secrecy.

The editor-in-chief of The Oekusi Post came under fire for publishing reports that argued the virginity tests of underage girls in an abuse case involving American ex-priest Richard Daschbach were “forced” on the victims and violated human rights. Oki faces a sentence of six years if found guilty.

Journalist Raimundos Oki (center) reacts after his court hearing in Dili, East Timor, on June 1, 2017. (Photo: AFP)

In a statement on Tuesday, the RSF said Timor-Leste should put public interest on top as the story Oki covered is so sensitive that he cannot be accused of violating judicial confidentiality. Earlier, International Federation of Journalists, urged the government to drop charges against Oki and respect press freedom.

Daschbach, a former Divine Word priest was jailed for 12 years in December for sexually abusing young orphaned and underprivileged girls in a shelter he founded in 1993. He is the first priest in the Catholic-majority country to be charged and convicted for child sex abuse.

A Church group has welcomed the Taiwanese government’s new policy for the protection of foreign fishermen working in distant-water fishing fleets. Taiwan passed the Regulations in May and began its implementation from July.

The regulation aims to improve labor environment in the fishery industry and ensure safeguarding of human rights. It stipulates a salary of migrant fishermen to 550 dollars per month, a hike of hundred dollars, increased insurance costs, and greater monitoring of the work situation by installing CCTV cameras on board, besides creating a task force to inspect ships.

Representatives from Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency, migrant fishermen and government figures from the countries of their origin attend an event sponsored by Stella Maria Kaohsiung on July 16. (Photo supplied)

The Stella Maris Kaohsiung that provides care for migrants, seafarers and refugees, said the regulation would improve the lives of the migrant fishers and protect their rights.

About 21,000 migrant fishermen are employed in Taiwanese finishing boats, a majority from Indonesia and the Philippines. Many of them are vulnerable to abuses such as forced labor.

Thousands of people including Church and government leaders in Vietnam enjoyed watching a soccer competition for Catholic priests that seeks to boost fraternal spirit and solidarity among the clergy.

The first two matches of the National Synodal Cup were played at Phong Phu stadium in northern Vietnam, on Tuesday. Total 20 teams representing Vietnam’s 27 Catholic dioceses are competing in the months-long tournament organized by Vietnamese bishops.

Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien speaks before a match between Clergy Hanoi and Hai Phong at Phong Phu stadium on July 19. (Photo: UCA News)

Before start of the matches, the crowd joined prayers and sang hymns for the players, while church leaders and government officials offered flowers to players and referees to encourage them to play fairly. The crowd waved flags and shouted slogans to encourage the teams, while Catholic groups played drums and trumpets.

The competition will run from July to October and end during the 15th National Congress of Vietnam bishops. The tournament lives the spirit of Synodality in the run-up to the 2023 Synod of Bishops in Rome.

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