Catholic News Service has published the following briefs on these topics: Deportation of Chaldean Christians; Deported Central Americans; Global deforestation; Resettlement of refugees; Calls for restorative justice; Tougher stance against Islamists in Mali; Aid to South Sudan.
USCCB officials urge Homeland Security to defer deportation of Chaldeans
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairmen of the bishops' migration and international policy committees urged Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to defer deportation of Chaldean Christians and others arrested June 11. They made the comments in a letter to Kelly in response to the apprehension of Iraqis in the Detroit area and near Nashville, Tennessee, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than 100 were arrested, including Chaldean Christians and Shiite Muslims. There were placed in federal custody in Youngstown, Ohio, and faced deportation June 21. "Returning religious minorities to Iraq at this time, without specific plans for protection, does not appear consistent with our concerns about genocide and persecution of Christians in Iraq," the bishops wrote. "We strongly encourage you to exercise the discretion available to you under law," they continued, "to defer the deportation of persons to Iraq, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, who pose no threat to U.S. public safety, until such time as the situation in Iraq stabilizes and its government proves willing and capable of protecting the rights of religious minorities."
Report shows deported Central Americans face harm upon return home
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- On World Refugee Day, a New York-based think tank released a report showing the dangerous situations some of the deported face when they return to their home countries in what's known as the "northern triangle," meaning the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. "Violence is the straw that stirs the drink in the northern triangle countries," said Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies in New York, one of the organizations that collaborated on the report released June 20 and based on interviews with deportees. When the deported returned to the violent environments of the countries they had tried to flee, they returned to a life of seclusion where the only security comes from what their families can provide, said Appleby. Others knew they would die and left again. "It's quite clear in these case studies that returnees' lives are still at risk and their freedom, including their ability to attend school, to work, to participate in religious celebrations, and to live any semblance of public lives, even to leave their homes, in some cases, can be illusory," he said during a June 20 briefing on the report.
Religious leaders, indigenous people meet to discuss global deforestation
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Both religious leaders and indigenous people can find common ground in their commitment to ensure that people live in peace together and in harmony with the environment, said a South American indigenous leader attending a conference of faith leaders discussing global deforestation in Oslo, Norway. Harold Jhonny Rincon Ipuchima, secretary general of the National Organization of the Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon, said it was important to share the perspective of indigenous people on environmental issues and begin the work of collaboration to protect the environment. The topic of global deforestation was the focus at the conference, Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, a meeting of religious leaders and indigenous people seeking solutions for the increasing concern for environmental issues worldwide, June 19-21. Vatican scholars as well as Catholic academics attended the conference to share Catholic efforts to preserve environment following Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home.”
Refugee-turned-reporter recounts Catholic agencies' role in resettlement
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Igor Bobic, now a reporter at HuffPost, told a Washington audience June 19 about his own experience as a refugee and the twists and turns that led to being resettled with his parents in the United States and the part Catholic agencies played in his family's new life. "I wouldn't be here; I wouldn't be alive, without the help of the USCCB and Catholic Charities," he said, referring to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bobic spoke as part of a panel on "Perspectives on Refugee Resettlement in U.S." during an event sponsored by the USCCB's Migration and Refugees Services at the National Press Club in advance of World Refugee Day, observed June 20. Other speakers included Patricia Maloof, program director of migration and refugee services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, and Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the New America Economy, which that day released a report about refugees' positive economic impact titled "From Struggle to Resilience."
Catholic leaders among those calling for restorative justice
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Two Catholic leaders are among the first 100 Christians, most of them evangelicals, calling for restorative justice as part of a nationwide criminal justice reform initiative. The core of the effort is the Justice Declaration, which has received the endorsement of Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network. Other key signatories include Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; and James Ackerman, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship, which is spearheading the campaign. Moore, Anderson and Ackerman, after unveiling the Justice Declaration at a June 20 news conference in Washington, went to Capitol Hill to meet with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and Rep. Mark Walker, R-North Carolina, head of the Republican Study Committee, to press for a criminal justice reform bill. The 10-point declaration is couched in an "urgent appeal to all who follow the Lord Jesus Christ," it said in the preamble, adding its call for "a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all."
Mali's Catholic Church demands tougher regional stance against Islamists
OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Mali's Catholic Church has urged a common front against Islamist violence after al-Qaida-linked terrorists attacked a tourist resort just days before the creation of the country's first cardinal. "Although our Church hasn't been directly targeted, it's deeply affected by such attacks," said Msgr. Edmond Dembele, secretary-general of the Mali Catholic bishops' conference. "The international community should urgently help Mali and other countries in this region to curb these outrages. When the people of Mali are struck in this way, neighboring states are struck as well. The echoes of fear and insecurity are felt throughout Africa," he said. Meanwhile, authorities continued the investigation into the June 18 attack on Le Campement Kangaba resort, east of the capital Bamako, which left nine dead, including four assailants. Msgr. Dembele told Catholic News Service June 21 that sporadic rocket attacks on military and civilian targets across the country had fueled "popular tensions," as well as fears of intercommunal violence between Christians and Muslims. "For now, this isn't an interreligious conflict. No one has been attacked because of their faith," Msgr. Dembele said.
In lieu of visit, Pope makes major donation to South Sudan charities
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With a trip to South Sudan postponed indefinitely, Pope Francis is sending close to a half-million dollars to help two Church-run hospitals, a teacher training center and farming projects for families as a way to show the people there his solidarity and support. Because a planned trip with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury couldn't happen this year as hoped, Pope Francis "wants to make tangible the presence and closeness of the Church with the suffering people through this initiative 'The Pope for South Sudan,'" Cardinal Peter Turkson told reporters at a Vatican news conference June 21. "He fervently hopes to be able to go there as soon as possible on an official visit to the nation; the Church does not shut hope out of such an afflicted area," said the cardinal, who is prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. An official visit was meant to draw the world's attention to a silent tragedy, give voice to those suffering, and encourage conflicting parties to make renewed and greater efforts in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, the cardinal said. Already in March, Pope Francis had expressed doubts about the possibility of making the trip, saying in an interview with Germany's Die Zeit newspaper, that visiting South Sudan would be "important," but that "I don't believe that it is possible." The Pope approved the project funding in April, a month before the Vatican announced the trip's delay.