Pope Francis hosts historic meeting of Higher Committee of Human Fraternity

Pope greeted the members and heads of the secretariat of the committee and presented the members with a copy of the Document on Human Fraternity. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 September 2019

Pope Francis hosts historic meeting of Higher Committee of Human Fraternity

  • The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity consists of religious, educational and cultural leaders from across the world
  • The Committee expressed its gratitude to Pope Francis for his welcome and thanked the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb for his encouraging words

DUBAI: The first meeting of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was recently hosted by Pope Francis at the Vatican, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

The inaugural convening of the Committee brought all members of the newly-established, independent body together. The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, first announced in August, consists of religious, educational and cultural leaders from across the world who are inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together that was signed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, during the pontiff’s visit in February this year.

The meeting focused on establishing the organizational structure and mandate of the new body, as well as endorsing its independence as an advisory committee empowered to progress the goal of peaceful coexistence. The Pope greeted the members and heads of the secretariat of the committee and presented the members with a copy of the Document on Human Fraternity. He then expressed words of gratitude and commended the group as “artisans of fraternity”, encouraging them to be at the origin of new policies “not only of outstretched hands but of open hearts.”

After being received by the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, Edgar Peña Parra, the committee returned to Casa Santa Marta to start its work. The Committee expressed its gratitude to Pope Francis for his welcome and thanked the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb for his encouraging words.


India blocks SMS services in Kashmir after trucker killed

Updated 15 October 2019

India blocks SMS services in Kashmir after trucker killed

  • Security sources said the decision to cut text messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate
  • Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones

SRINAGAR: Text messaging services were blocked in Indian Kashmir just hours after being restored when a truck driver was killed by suspected militants and his vehicle set ablaze, authorities said Tuesday.
Separately Indian officials said that a 24-year-old woman died in the latest exchange of artillery fire with Pakistan over their de-facto border dividing the blood-soaked Himalayan region.
Security sources said the decision to cut text messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate.
Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones on Monday, following a 72-day blackout in the restive northern territory imposed after New Delhi scrapped the region's semi-autonomous status.
The seven million-plus people of the Kashmir Valley — the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule — are still cut off from the Internet, however.
Authorities said SMS services were cut again on Monday night following the attack on the driver of a truck carrying apples in Shopian.
Residents said two masked gunmen told the driver to use his truck to block the road, but it skidded and got stuck.
“The gunmen then fired at the truck and set it on fire,” a witness told AFP.
Apples are a sensitive issue in Kashmir, which exports vast quantities of the fruit to markets across India.
Many orchard owners say they are refusing to harvest this year to protest against the government’s move to scrap Kashmir’s autonomy.
Indian authorities say that militants — backed by arch-rival Pakistan — have been intimidating farmers and businessmen.
The latest death from Pakistani artillery fire over the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir brings the number of fatalities on the Indian side to three in the past four days, the Press Trust of India reported.
Two Indian soldiers were killed in two separate incidents on Friday and Sunday, PTI said. It was unclear if there were any fatalities from Indian fire on the Pakistani side.
Also on Tuesday, police arrested 13 women activists in Srinagar after they staged a protest calling for civil liberties and the release of detainees.
The women, wearing black armbands, were arrested for “breaching the peace” and for a contravening a ban in place since early August on public gatherings of more than four people, police said.
They included the sister and daughter of former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, one of several hundred local politicians, lawyers and others in custody since early August, mostly without charge.
Abdullah, 81, was formally arrested in mid-September under the highly contentious Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows someone to be held for up to two years without charge, and which has been used widely in Kashmir in recent years.
Rebels have been fighting for three decades some 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or to join Pakistan which also controls part of the region and, like India, claims it in full.