Worshippers in hard hats to attend Notre-Dame’s first mass since fire

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This aerial picture taken on June 12, 2019 in the French capital Paris shows the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral under repair after it was badly damaged by a huge fire on April 15. (AFP)
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In this file photo taken on May 15, 2019 in Paris shows a protective net in the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral during preliminary work one month after it sustained major fire damage. (AFP)
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This aerial picture taken on June 12, 2019 in the French capital Paris shows the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral under repair after it was badly damaged by a huge fire on April 15. (AFP)
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In this file photo taken on April 16, 2019, bystanders look on as flames and smoke billow from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. (AFP)
Updated 15 June 2019

Worshippers in hard hats to attend Notre-Dame’s first mass since fire

  • Church leaders are keen to show life goes on at the cathedral as donations to help rebuild it trickle in
  • Less than 10% of the 850 million euros pledged by billionaires, business leaders and others has been received so far, the French government said

PARIS: A small congregation wearing hard hats will attend mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on Saturday, the first service to be held since fire devastated the Gothic landmark two months ago.
Church leaders are keen to show life goes on at the cathedral as donations to help rebuild it trickle in. Less than 10% of the 850 million euros pledged by billionaires, business leaders and others has been received so far, the French government said.
Saturday’s mass, which commemorates the cathedral’s consecration as a place of worship, is due to be held at 1600 GMT in a side-chapel, with attendance limited to about 30 people who will wear the protective headgear for safety reasons.
“It is a nice symbol. A very small group of people will attend and one can understand why as there are still major safety issues,” Culture Minister Franck Riester told Europe 1 radio.
He told France 2 television on Friday the cathedral was still “in a fragile state, namely the vault, which has not yet been secured. It can still collapse.”
The April 15 blaze caused the roof and spire of the architectural masterpiece to collapse, triggering a worldwide outpouring of sadness as well as the multi-million-euro pledges for reconstruction work.
Among the high-profile people who promised to donate to the rebuilding effort were luxury goods tycoons Bernard Arnault and François-Henri Pinault.
“There could be people who promised to donate then in the end did not,” Riester said, without giving further details. “But more importantly, and this is normal, the donations will be paid as restoration work progresses.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has set a target of five years for restoring the cathedral, though Riester was more cautious.
“The president was right to give a target, an ambition. But obviously what matters in the end is the quality of the work,” he said. “So it does not mean that work will be totally finished in exactly five years.”
The archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit will lead Saturday’s service, which will be broadcast live on a religious TV channel.


Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.