Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The security force offensive in the Syrian city of Hama continues, where violent clashes between troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and dissidents erupted in recent days. Activists report that yesterday three other people had been killed, in addition to 140 massacred by the army on July 31, the death toll in the city has exceeded the 160. Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the Syrian President has "lost all sense of humanity," but the Security Council for the second consecutive day failed to reach an agreement on a possible resolution of condemnation against Damascus.
The dead and the harsh violence in Hama and other areas of revolt has sparked international condemnation. Ban Ki-moon expressed anger and frustration over the "numerous statements" issued from the beginning of the crackdown, in which he invited President Assad "with whom I have spoken several times" to resolve the situation "peacefully".
However, even within the United Nations Security Council it is stalemate. For the second consecutive day the 15 member countries did not reach agreement on a possible motion of condemnation of the regime in Damascus, because of the opposition of China and Russia. Internal sources speak of "progress" among the delegates, but there are deep "divisions" on the measures to be implemented.
Meanwhile, demonstrations of dissent against the regime are still taking place, despite the army's offensives. On the night of August 2 there were demonstrations in Homs and several surrounding villages, similar scenes were also recorded in coastal cities of Latakia and Baniyas. But the attention is focused on Hama, where for several days the military loyal to the regime has been leading a violent crackdown, which yesterday alone led to three more deaths.
Hama, a city of 800 thousand inhabitants in central Syria, is one of the bastions of anti-regime revolt and plays a special role in the country's recent history. In 1982 then-President Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, sent the army to quell a Sunni opposition revolt, led by the Muslim Brotherhood. The crackdown caused tens of thousands of deaths and destroyed the city.
Human rights activists report that since the beginning of the Arab Spring revolt in Syria in March, at least 1,992 people have been killed, including 1,618 civilians and 374 members of the military or security forces. However, it is impossible to confirm the numbers for the lack of independent sources in the country, where there is a strict censorship.
For projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the countries of Eastern Europe more than 539 million euros were provided in 2010. Besides financial assistance to support development projects several collaborations with church groups, associations, parishes and dioceses around the world were launched. On the humanitarian front priority to victims of natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan was given.
The annual report is published by the new "Conference of the Universal Church" founded in April this year, which brings together the realities of the German Church more committed on an international level. Head of the conference was the President of the Commission for the missions of the German Bishops, S. E. Mgr. Ludwig Schick, Archbishop of Bamberg, who in his introduction to the report recalls the common foundation of commitment to the universal Church: "the commitment to the mission of Christ and the testimony of God's salvation among all peoples". (MS)
CATH NEWS REPORT- Around 3,100 Catholic pastoral musicians from around the United States, Canada and Mexico gathered in the US to prepare for the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal, said a Catholic News Service report on NCR.
"Whether we will sing new words to old tunes or new words to new tunes, the upcoming changes will affect all of us," Dominican Fr Paul Colloton told the crowd during the opening of the National Pastoral Musicians Convention on July 18 in Louisville, Kentucky. Colloton is the organisation's director of continuing education.
Parishes around the United States will begin using the new text - and some new music with it - for the celebration of Mass on November 27, the first Sunday in Advent.
He called on the 3,000-voice choir to sing with him the line, "Sing to the Lord a new song," the theme of this year's convention.
Colloton acknowledged that the new missal translation will bring changes in the Mass but said it also offers Catholics an opportunity to find a "deeper relationship with Jesus Christ" so that "we can sing to the Lord with new words," and he directed the crowd to sing the latter in unison.
Keynote speaker Msgr Ray East wove music intermittently into his speech. Singing the Magnificat at one point, East told the crowd, "That 'yes' Mary said changed the history of the world.
"I also believe that your 'yes' to everything that [is changing in the liturgy] will change our worship for the better," he said.
East, pastor of St Teresa of Avila in Washington, noted that some people came to the convention "with anger" and some came "sad." A variety of emotions have animated responses to the new Roman Missal, he said.
"All of us came here with questions, panicking about the advent of Advent," he said, as the crowd murmured with comments. "But I hope that somebody came here to Louisville with an open mind ... with an open heart to listen, to learn, to study. And I hope somebody came to 'sing to the Lord a new song.' "
SYDNEY ARCHDIOCESE REPORT-
2 Aug 2011
The Society of St Vincent de Paul has expressed its concern at the high number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders seeking the agency's specialist homeless services.
"The proportion of Australia's First People experiencing homelessness is a massive over-representation," says Dr John Falzon, Chief Executive of the Society's National Council in a statement to mark National Homeless Persons' Week which was launched in Canberra on Monday this week by the Government's Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness, Mark Arbib.
But despite welcoming the Government's ongoing commitment to halve the rate of homelessness in Australia, and promise to offer supported accommodation to all those who need it by the end of the decade, Dr Falzon says Australia will be unable to eliminate homelessness as a nation unless there is greater investment in social housing.
Dr Falzon also expressed Vinnies' ongoing concern at the inadequacy of social security benefits, especially the Newstart Allowance. The Newstart Allowance paid through Centrelink gives financial support to the unemployed. But the amount has not kept pace with the cost of living and has remained unchanged for the past 15 years.
"Being forced to try and survive on $34 a day increases a person's vulnerability to homelessness," Dr Falzon says.
At present there are an estimated 105,000 homeless men, women and children across Australia. Based on figures from the nation's last census in 2009, 10,000 of this number are children under the age of 12, with a further 36,173 aged between 12 and 24.
"There are many reasons why people experience homelessness," says Vinnies' National President, Anthony Thornton and explains how some are pushed into homelessness as a result of domestic violence, poverty, and social inequality.
Other causes can include family breakdown, domestic violence, the lack of affordable housing particularly in cities such as Sydney and drug and alcohol related problems. Mental illness is also another key factor.
"In a recent scientific study it was found that 75 percent of homeless people in Australia suffer some form of mental illness," says Sister Maree Harris RSJ, founder of Petersham's Gethsemane Community which offers pastoral care and support services, shelter, food and resources to many of Sydney's homeless.
The mental illnesses suffered by a large proportion of homeless men and women range from clinical depression and bipolar disorder to schizophrenia. In fact in one study it has been found that as many 23 percent of homeless men suffer from schizophrenia with almost half of all women on the streets afflicted by this condition.
Other disturbing figures in the study found that as many as 98 to 100 percent of women had also suffered major trauma or rape after becoming homeless.
Sr Maree urges the Government to make safe secure affordable housing a priority and this needs to be backed up with adequate support, care and counselling for those with special needs, particularly for those with mental illness.
Vinnies' President, Anthony Thornton agrees.
"As a prosperous nation we should at least ensure that everyone is given the basic right to housing," he says, adding that once this was accomplished, there would be a safe and secure base from which other problems of society could be addressed.
Over the coming week those involved with the homeless services sector such as Vinnies and CatholicCare aim to increase public awareness about homelessness and the diverse reasons a family, individual or single mum and her kids can find themselves without shelter and unable to afford the city's escalating rents, let alone a four or five figure security deposit.
With Australia's next census to be taken on 9 August it is also hoped more details and information about homelessness in Australia will emerge. This will result not only in better data on homelessness experienced by Indigenous people who remain some of Australia's most disadvantaged, but will also shed light on refugee communities and humanitarian visa entrants, who due to language difficulties and lack of financial support, are at constant risk of becoming homeless.