Home » Posts tagged 'violent protests'

Pope urges Venezuela’s bishops to stay close to suffering people

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While violent protests continue to break out in the streets of Venezuela, Pope Francis urged the country’s bishops to remain close to the poor and needy.

“My dear brothers, I encourage you to not allow the beloved children of Venezuela to be overcome by mistrust or despair, for these are the evils that penetrate people’s hearts when they do not see prospects for the future,” the pope wrote in a letter May 5 to the country’s bishops.

Demonstrators rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 3. Two days later, Pope Francis urged the country's bishops to remain close to the poor and needy. (CNS/ Reuters)

Demonstrators rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 3. Two days later, Pope Francis urged the country’s bishops to remain close to the poor and needy. (CNS/ Reuters)

Venezuela has descended into chaos after years of food shortages and economic turmoil under embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s government. Despite expressing a willingness to negotiate with the opposition, he has been accused of tightening his grip on power and suppressing any threat to his rule.

Protests began after March 29, when the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled to dissolve the country’s parliament, in which the opposition had a two-thirds majority following the 2015 elections. The unprecedented ruling transferred legislative powers to the Supreme Court, which is comprised of judges nominated by Maduro.

Although the Supreme Court restored parliament’s authority after local and international outcry, protests against Maduro’s government continued to escalate.

Venezuela’s bishops have been vocal against the dire conditions and denounced the government’s attempts to change the constitution in order to remain in power, saying that the plan seeks to impose “a totalitarian, militaristic, police, violent and repressive system that has given rise to the evils suffered by our country today.”

“We make our own the pain of the Venezuelan people and say: ‘Enough of so much repression!’” the bishops said in a letter published May 5.

The bishops also called on the people to continue “to raise their voice in protest without falling into the game of those who, while generating violence, want to bring the country into greater confrontation in order to aggravate the situation and stay in power.”

According to Reuters, as of May 6 the protests had resulted the deaths of 37 people, including a 20-year-old demonstrator who was shot in the head.

In his letter to the bishops, Pope Francis said that he is “following the situation of the beloved Venezuelan people with great concern” and the rising numbers of people killed or wounded “do not help to solve the problems, but only provoke more suffering and pain.”

He thanked the Venezuelan bishops for their “continued call to avoid any form of violence, to respect citizens’ rights and to defend human dignity and fundamental rights.”

The pope also conveyed his solidarity with the nation’s priests, religious men and women and laypeople who “suffer for lack of food and medicine,” noting that “some even have endured personal attacks and violent acts in their churches.”

“I wish to express my solidarity with each of you and thank you for your closeness to the flock entrusted to you, especially with the poorest and neediest, as well as for your initiatives to promote solidarity and generosity among Venezuelans,” he said.

Calling on the nation’s bishops and clergy to continue promoting peace, Pope Francis urged them to remain united, adding that “communion among yourselves and your priests will enlighten them to find the right path.”

“I offer my prayers to the risen Lord so that he may pour upon you, my dear brothers, and over the beloved people of Venezuela his abundant Easter gifts of peace which he himself, victorious over death, granted the apostles, freeing them from all fear,” he said.

     

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

Comments Off on Pope urges Venezuela’s bishops to stay close to suffering people

For most Zimbabweans, ‘life is unbearable,’ priest says

By

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Violent protests in Zimbabwe reflect people’s frustrations in extremely difficult times, a church official said.

With rising poverty levels, “life is unbearable now for most people” in the southern African country with an unemployment rate of 90 percent, Father Frederick Chiromba, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

Riot police detain residents after a July 4 protest by taxi drivers turned violent in Harare, Zimbabwe. Violent protests in Zimbabwe reflect people's frustrations in extremely difficult times, a church official said. (CNS photo/Philimon Bulawayo, Reuters)

Riot police detain residents after a July 4 protest by taxi drivers turned violent in Harare, Zimbabwe. Violent protests in Zimbabwe reflect people’s frustrations in extremely difficult times, a church official said. (CNS photo/Philimon Bulawayo, Reuters)

Thousands of people joined a July 6 national strike over grievances, including the government’s failure to pay state workers’ salaries, national cash shortages and new import controls.

The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations said in a July 5 statement that the country’s challenges require “collective concerted efforts, wisdom, insight, cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders and concerned friends.”

Father Chiromba is executive secretary of the umbrella group, which includes the bishops’ conference, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is “undergoing a very difficult patch, economically, socially, politically and spiritually,” the church leaders said.

Taxi operators and angry youths clashed with police in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, July 4 as they protested roadblocks that they said are used by police to solicit bribes.

Other violent protests that included the razing of a warehouse took place in early July at Zimbabwe’s border posts with South Africa after the Zimbabwean government banned imports of a wide range of foodstuffs and other products.

Protesters in Beitbridge, a border town about 400 miles south of Harare, barricaded a road with rocks and burning tires July 2, forcing the temporary closure of the border post.

Civil unrest is rare in Zimbabwe, where 92-year-old Robert Mugabe has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe’s administration, which spends more than 80 percent of its revenue on wages for state workers, faces a worsening cash shortage. In a bid to end hyperinflation, it abandoned its own currency in 2009 and uses mainly U.S. dollars.

The government “must provide the necessary leadership by clear and consistent communication on policy matters to avoid creating more chaos in an already chaotic situation,” the church leaders said.

Father Chiromba said the government is to blame for inconsistent policies, such as “the sudden banning of imports which has destroyed people’s livelihoods” and lack of effective leadership.

“We need to revive the economy,” he said, noting that formal sector retrenchments continue as industries close. He said the number of jobless youths is alarming.

Most people in Zimbabwe, with a population of close to 16 million, survive on $1 a day. They eke out a living in small-scale informal trade, mostly selling goods bought in South Africa.

With the ban on imports announced June 17, “groceries cannot be sent across the border from South Africa, which creates difficulties for families who rely on these,” Father Chiromba said.

Zimbabweans who rely on remittances from family members in the diaspora “are also suffering” as amounts dwindle in the global economic downturn, he said.

The bishops’ conference has launched an emergency appeal for food aid and is distributing contributions as well as making cash transfers to people in dire need, Father Chiromba said.

Many Catholic self-help projects, such as when people were given nuts to grind into peanut butter that they use to feed their families as well as to sell for some income, have been halted in the current drought, he said, noting that the agricultural products these projects rely on are no longer available.

The Zimbabwean church leaders said they “strongly believe that sustained dialogue provides the pathway” to resolving the country’s problems.

Noting local Shona wisdom that “chara chimwe hachitswanye inda” (one finger cannot crush lice), the leaders urged all concerned people to find a common approach to the difficulties Zimbabwe is enduring.

“We believe that everyone wants a Zimbabwe that is peaceful, prosperous and united,” they said.

Noting their opposition to violence, destruction of property and loss of life, the leaders urged “restraint and tolerance as people express their constitutional rights.”

Zimbabweans “must air grievances using the frameworks provided by the law,” they said.

— By Bronwen Dachs

Comments Off on For most Zimbabweans, ‘life is unbearable,’ priest says

Missouri parishioners pray for healing after violent protests follow shooting of teen

By

FERGUSON, Mo. — Against the backdrop of demonstrations and unrest, some of it violent, that has followed the Aug. 9 killing of an unarmed black teenager by police in Ferguson, members of a local Catholic parish did perhaps the only thing they could; they prayed.

As police and protesters stood in an uneasy truce Aug. 11 close to a burned-out convenience store and businesses looted in an earlier demonstration, two miles away members of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish prayed the rosary.

Parishioners from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Ferguson, Mo., hold a prayer vigil for peace Aug. 11. Protests and riots in the neighborhoods of Ferguson have followed the Aug. 9 shooting and killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

Parishioners from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Ferguson, Mo., hold a prayer vigil for peace Aug. 11. Protests and riots in the neighborhoods of Ferguson have followed the Aug. 9 shooting and killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. (CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review)

“As a community, we needed to come together in prayer,” said parishioner Cathy Cunningham, who described the community as “very sad.”

“We just have to put it in Jesus’ hands, and he will heal us,” she told the St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan newspaper.

Led by their pastor, Father Robert Rosebrough, about 100 people gathered to pray the rosary at the parish’s Our Lady of Lourdes grotto.

Since the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the community is demanding answers. Emotions run deep in the biracial community of Ferguson, 11 miles from downtown St. Louis.

The shooting has been met with protests and some violence, like the night of Aug. 10 when some local businesses were looted and the QuikTrip convenience store was set on fire, after a vigil that drew a few thousand people.

The next day was void of that violence but the scene remained tense. Police cars and officers in riot gear filled the parking lot of the burned-out store. Meanwhile, protesters held signs in front of the former store and crowds gathered in the middle of the street and alongside it as cars inched through with horns honking.

Bystanders hooted and hollered, most shouting in protest and many raising their arms in surrender, the gesture they say Brown was making as he was shot to death by a Ferguson police officer. Officials say Brown, who was unarmed, resisted arrested and struggled for the officer’s gun, then was shot as he fled.

According to an AP story, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has instructed attorneys in the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division to monitor developments.

Cunningham was among four women from Blessed Teresa who hatched the rosary idea. They were driving home Aug. 10 from an event at St. Joseph Parish in Manchester.

“In the car, Cathy Cunningham said the community needs to heal; that’s basically how it happened,” said Dorothy Frese, one of the four. “We had to do something. It just got rolling.”

Another in the group, Jeanne Baer, who is the parish’s pastoral associate, bounced the idea off Father Rosebrough, who was immediately onboard.

The parish’s youth ministry director, Jeff Finnegan, suggested the grotto for a venue. An email blast to parishioners and notices on social media and the parish website spread the word.

On cue, just before the service, the sky opened and drenched all with rain. “Baptismal waters,” Father Rosebrough called it.

The rain stopped for the 30-minute service, which featured parishioner Jeff Mazdra’s singing and guitar playing.

Father Rosebrough chose the luminous mysteries for the rosary, added by St. John Paul II in 2002. They also are known as the mysteries of light.

Earlier that day, as he walked along the avenue past boarded-up businesses damaged by the previous night’s violence, the priest said, he kept coming back to the luminous mysteries.

“It seemed like it was right on target. It calls us to do something,” he said. On that walk he also stopped briefly at “ground zero,” the QuikTrip, and “just quietly blessed the place.”

“People have invested money there, people got injured last night, and people don’t realize that employees there are now out of a job for several months. I just asked the Lord to help them heal,” Father Rosebrough said.

Healing will come in time, after an investigation into the shooting of Brown and also an examination of the deeper issues that precipitated the Aug. 10 violence. Now, though, the wounds are raw.

“We don’t have the answers,” Father Rosebrough said. “We just ask for his presence and consolation; that’s what people need.”

 — By Dave Luecking

Comments Off on Missouri parishioners pray for healing after violent protests follow shooting of teen
Marquee Powered By Know How Media.