Straight outta Colombia: nun raps for pope

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Rafaela, a fellow nun of Maria Valentina de los Angeles, of the “Comunicadoras Eucaristicas del Padre Celestial” (Eucharistic Communicators of the Celestial Father) congregation, makes an internet radio program at a convent in the outskirts of Cali, Colombia, on July 17, 2017. Nun Maria Valentina de los Angeles –who wears tennis shoes, raps and already participated in a reality show- will see her dream of singing to Pope Francis come true during his visit to Colombia. - TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY RODRIGO ALMONACID / AFP / Luis ROBAYO / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY RODRIGO ALMONACID
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Nun Maria Valentina de los Angeles (C), of the “Comunicadoras Eucaristicas del Padre Celestial” (Eucharistic Communicators of the Celestial Father) congregation, plays the guitar and sings alongside fellow nuns at a convent in the outskirts of Cali, Colombia, on July 17, 2017. Nun Maria Valentina de los Angeles –who wears tennis shoes, raps and already participated in a reality show- will see her dream of singing to Pope Francis come true during his visit to Colombia. - TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY RODRIGO ALMONACID / AFP / Luis ROBAYO / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY RODRIGO ALMONACID
Updated 04 September 2017
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Straight outta Colombia: nun raps for pope

CALI, Colombia: A Colombian nun-turned-rapper in sports sneakers will perform for Pope Francis when he visits her country this week.
Maria Valentina de los Angeles is one of a group who will sing the official song for the Argentine pontiff’s visit as he greets the crowds.
It is “an opportunity to show him our love the way that we know, which is through music,” Maria Valentina, 28, told AFP.
“The cool thing about rap is that it sticks in your head easily. And when it has the depth of truth, which is Christ, then it is even more striking.”
The petite nun, 28, performs a rap interlude among the cheerful Latin beats of the song “Let’s Take The First Step” by the United Catholic Musicians.
The ensemble headhunted her after she won a reality-show competition on television called “Another Level.”
The United Catholic Musicians hailed the naturalness of her rapping and invited her to compose and perform the rap interlude.
Francis visits Colombia, a Catholic country of 47 million, from September 6 to 10.
He is credited with aiding a peace deal signed last year between the Colombian government and the leftist FARC rebel force after half a century of war.
“Colombia welcomes you with open arms,” goes Maria Valentina’s rap.
“With one voice happily we say to you: blessed be God, who in his wisdom has brought you to our land to be its guide.”
The nun says she likes the rebellious spirit of rap. For her, it chimes with Francis’s own call to the young to “make trouble” — his way of telling them to fearlessly share their faith.
“Trouble in the way the holy father means it is being different, being bold and bringing a message of joy, hope and charity,” she told AFP in the western city of Cali, where she is based.
“Our intention beyond just thanking the holy father is to act as a church so that all people can sing with us.”
Maria Valentina is a member of the Community of Eucharistic Communicators of the Heavenly Father in Cali.
The group was formed in response to a call from the late Pope Jean Paul II for artists to use their work as a means of spreading the gospel.
Its members include a television producer and a musical group including Maria Valentina, which has made two records.
“God wants to be known through the media,” she says. “He has to make himself known by way of current trends.”
Maria Valentina also strums the ukelele and played rock guitar in her youth.
She says God saved her from a serious liver disease when she was a youngster.
“My dream is to be a good nun. Making music is a second dream,” she says.
“I want to make more recordings, but more than making people fall in love with my voice, I want to make them fall in with Jesus.”


After shedding Daesh, Mosul embraces makeovers

An Iraqi woman gets a lip injection at an aesthetic clinic in the northern city of Mosul on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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After shedding Daesh, Mosul embraces makeovers

  • Mosul, and Iraq more broadly, have been shaken by waves of conflict since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for a sectarian war
  • The city’s medical services were hit hard by Daesh’s three-year reign and the months-long battle to oust it

MOSUL, Iraq: For three years, Mosul’s women were covered in black from head to toe and its men had to keep their beards long. Salons were shut, and plastic surgery considered a crime.
But more than a year after the Daesh group’s ouster, the Iraqi city is flaunting its more fabulous side.
Need to zap away a scar or a burn? Cover up a bald spot with implants? Whiten teeth for a dazzling smile? Mosul’s plastic surgeons and beauticians are at your service.
Raji Najib, a Syrian living in Mosul, recently made use of the city’s aesthetic offerings.
The 40-year-old had long been self-conscious of his bald spots, until his Iraqi friends told him what had worked for them — hair implants at a new clinic in their hometown.
“They told me the equipment was modern, the nurses competent and the prices good,” Najib said.
In Mosul, the average hair implant procedure costs around $800, including the follow-up after the operation.
Nearly 90 kilometers (50 miles) to the east in Iraq’s Irbil, or even further north in Turkey, the same operation costs at least $1,200.
Plasma injections to prevent hair loss cost around $63 in Mosul, but at least $20 more in Irbil.
In addition to the difference in price, Najib would have had to put up money and time for travel.
“Going to a clinic in Mosul is much easier, as I don’t have time to travel outside Mosul,” he told AFP.

Decades ago, only one department in Mosul’s hospitals offered plastic surgery, and only to those who had a severe accident or were trying to eliminate a physical handicap from birth.
Mosul, and Iraq more broadly, have been shaken by waves of conflict since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for a sectarian war.
Religious hard-liners forced women to cover up or stay at home, and extremists in particular targeted hairdressers, many of whom closed their shops in fear.
Another shock came in 2014 when the Daesh group swept across much of Iraq’s north, with the militants making Mosul their de facto capital.
The religious police of Daesh enforced ultra-strict rules on dress for all residents, making sure women showed no skin and men wore ankle-length capris and long beards, with no moustache.
The city has since gotten a makeover.
Five beauty clinics have opened since Mosul was recaptured last summer by Iraqi security forces, and they can hardly keep up with the flow of customers, most of them men.
Muhannad Kazem told AFP he was the first to relaunch his city’s beauty business with his clinic, Razan, which offers teeth whitening services and other dental care.
His secret? “The employees came from Lebanon, and the treatments and machines were imported,” said Kazem, 40.

The city’s medical services were hit hard by Daesh’s three-year reign and the months-long battle to oust it.
The available hospital beds in Mosul dropped from 3,657 before 2014 to just 1,622 last year, according to the local human rights commission.
But the city is rebuilding, and one new commercial center houses the Diamond Dental Clinic in the bottom floor, with the Shahrazad beauty center upstairs.
A poster at the entrance advertises what’s on offer: injections of botox and other fillers, slimming surgeries, dermatological operations, and more.
Inside the glossy interior are men and women alike, an unthinkable sight under the iron-fisted rule of Daesh.
A female employee carefully injected serums to prevent hair loss into the scalp of a woman gritting her teeth, one of the dozen customers streaming in per day.
Beautician Alia Adnan said the physical and mental impact of the militants on people in Mosul has been long-lasting.
“They have hair or skin problems because of the stress and the pollution that Mosul’s residents were exposed to, both under Daesh and during the clashes,” she told AFP.