Pope urges peace, not politics in call to Russian patriarch

Pope urges peace, not politics in call to Russian patriarch
A photo taken on Wednesday by The Vatican Media shows Pope Francis talking with Russia’s Orthodox Patriarch Kirill during a virtual audience via videolink in The Vatican. (AFP)
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Updated 16 March 2022

Pope urges peace, not politics in call to Russian patriarch

Pope urges peace, not politics in call to Russian patriarch
  • The call was all the more remarkable because Francis and Kirill have only met once
  • A Vatican statement said both men agreed that the church "must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus”

ROME: Pope Francis rejected the concept of a “just war” and stressed the need for peace in a video call Wednesday with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
This is the first known communication between the two Christian leaders since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The call was all the more remarkable because Francis and Kirill have only met once — at the Havana airport in 2016 — in what was then the first encounter between a pope and Russian patriarch in over 1,000 years.
A Vatican statement said both men agreed that the church “must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus” and stressed the importance of negotiations to reach a cease-fire.
“Those who pay the price for the war are the people, it is the Russian soldiers and the people who are bombed and die,” the Vatican quoted Francis as saying.
Wednesday’s call came just hours after Francis evoked the specter of a “final catastrophe” of an atomic war that would extinguish humanity. While Francis didn’t reference Ukraine explicitly in that part of his speech during his weekly audience, he did elsewhere call for prayers for Ukraine and for God to protect its children and forgive those who make war.
Francis’ long-term goal to improve relations with Kirill and avoid antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church had explained his initially tepid responses to the Feb. 24 start of the Russian invasion. He has since stepped up his denunciations, demanding “an end to this massacre,” and labeling the invasion an “unacceptable armed aggression.”
But he has not condemned Russia by name for the onslaught or publicly urged Kirill to use his influence with Russian President Vladimir Putin to demand an end to the war, as other Catholic bishops and Orthodox leaders have done. The Vatican has a tradition of quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy and tends to not call out aggressors.
In fact, Francis’ comment about Russian soldiers paying the price for the war marked the first time he had publicly referenced Russia.
Kirill has said he appreciated the Holy See’s moderate tone.
Kirill, though, has sent signals justifying the war by describing it as part of a struggle against sin and pressure from liberal foreigners to hold “gay parades” as the price of admission to their ranks. He has blamed the West and a fellow Orthodox patriarch for fomenting enmity between Ukraine and Russia.
According to the website of Kirill’s church, he and Francis — flanked by top officials of both churches — spoke about the situation in Ukraine, particularly the humanitarian aspects, and efforts by both churches to overcome the problems.
“The parties stressed the exceptional importance of the ongoing negotiation process, expressing their hope for the soonest achievement of a just peace,” the Russian church said.
The Vatican, in its readout of the conversation, did not reference a “just peace,” and in fact quoted Francis as saying the traditional Christian concept of a “just war” was no longer possible.
“Once upon a time there was also talk in our churches of a ‘holy war’ or ‘just war,’” the Vatican quoted Francis as saying. “Today we cannot speak like this. Christian awareness of the importance of peace has developed.”
Francis has previously said it was permissible to use force to stop an “unjust aggression,” referring in 2014 to the US military action to stop extremists from attacking religious minorities in Iraq. But he stressed then that such action could not become a pretext to launch an actual war, merely to stop an “unjust aggression.”
“Wars are always unjust. Because those who pay are the people of God,” Francis told Kirill on Wednesday. “Our hearts cannot help but cry in front of the children, the women killed, all the victims of war. War is never the way. The Spirit who unites us asks us as shepherds to help the peoples who suffer from war.”
The phone call came hours before Francis’ deputy, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, celebrated a Mass for peace in Ukraine for ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. The Ukrainian and Russian ambassadors attended, and prayers were read out in Russian and Ukrainian, including by a woman wearing a blue and yellow ribbon on her lapel, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
And on Friday, Francis is to celebrate a Mass during which he will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Virgin Mary in a ritual that holds deep significance for the Catholic faithful. According to tradition, one of the so-called secrets of Fatima concerns the consecration of Russia to “the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” prophesizing that peace will follow if the consecration is done.
St. John Paul II performed the consecration on March 25, 1984, though he didn’t specify Russia by name, and Francis will repeat the gesture 38 years later. On the same day, Francis’ chief alms-giver, Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who recently returned from a humanitarian mission to Ukraine, will celebrate a consecration Mass in Fatima, Portugal, the site of the early 20th century Marian apparitions that formed the basis of the “secrets of Fatima.”
Kirill’s ties to the Russian government and justification for the war have posed a diplomatic and ecumenical problem for the Vatican, which had offered itself up as a potential mediator. Francis visited the Russian ambassador soon after the initial invasion and spoke by phone with the Ukrainian president.
Kirill, for his part, has rebuffed calls for him to act as a mediator. In a March 10 letter to an official of the World Council of Churches — who had urged Kirill to mediate with Russian authorities to stop the war – Kirill faulted the West for the eastern expansion of NATO.
He also faulted Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople – considered first among equals of Eastern Orthodox prelates, though lacking the universal authority of a pope – for recognizing the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.


‘We may suddenly arrive one night’: Erdogan threatens Greece, ‘annoying’ countries

‘We may suddenly arrive one night’: Erdogan threatens Greece, ‘annoying’ countries
Updated 07 October 2022

‘We may suddenly arrive one night’: Erdogan threatens Greece, ‘annoying’ countries

‘We may suddenly arrive one night’: Erdogan threatens Greece, ‘annoying’ countries
  • Said Greece should take warnings about Turkey’s response to any threats seriously
  • Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his country was open to a dialogue with any neighboring country

PRAGUE: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Greece, and other countries that “annoyed” him, understood Ankara's message when Turkish officials said “we may suddenly arrive one night” — a comment that Greek and some other Western officials have condemned as a threat to a neighbouring state.

Erdogan aded there was nothing worth discussing with Greece at the moment and, at the inaugural meeting of the European Political Community, he accused Athens of basing its policies on “lies.”

“They are not where they are supposed to be," Erdogan told a press conference in Prague. “Their entire policy is based on lies, they are not honest. We have nothing to discuss with Greece.”

He said Greece should take his warnings about Turkey’s response to any threats seriously, and also told the summit that he expects the EU “to call on Greece for dialogue on a bilateral basis instead of supporting illegal initiatives masquerading as unity or solidarity.”

In return, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said his country was open to dialogue with any neighboring country.

“Greece never provokes, and it always responds with confidence when provoked,” Mitsotakis said ahead of Friday’s meetings.

“It does not make sense to accuse Greece of raising the tension in the Aegean when Turkey even raises issues of the sovereignty of the islands.

“Greece is not closing the door to dialogue, we are sure that we have international law on our side,” he added.

Leaders from across Europe started meeting Thursday in Prague for the inaugural summit. The first gathering at the grand Prague Castle complex brought together a disparate grouping of 44 nations from the Caucasus in the southeast to Iceland in the northwest.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was not invited, loomed over the meeting as discussions focused on the economic and security turmoil sparked by his invasion of Ukraine.

* With Reuters and AFP

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Indian workers rescued from job scams in Southeast Asia

Indian workers rescued from job scams in Southeast Asia
Updated 07 October 2022

Indian workers rescued from job scams in Southeast Asia

Indian workers rescued from job scams in Southeast Asia
  • Some fraudulent IT companies appear to be engaged in digital scamming and forged cryptocurrencies
  • The Indian workers were held captive and forced to commit cyber fraud

NEW DELHI: India’s government on Friday said it has rescued about 130 Indian workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia after they were lured by agents for fake job opportunities in the information technology sector in Thailand.
Arindam Bagchi, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, said some fraudulent IT companies appear to be engaged in digital scamming and forged cryptocurrencies. The Indian workers were held captive and forced to commit cyber fraud, he told reporters.
The companies appear to be operating through agents in Dubai, Bangkok and some Indian cities and were recruiting Indian workers through social media advertisements for fake highly lucrative jobs in Thailand, he said.
Many of the workers were taken illegally across the border into an area of Myanmar that is difficult to access because of the local security situation, Bagchi said.
He said nearly 50 workers have been brought back to India from Myanmar, while some others were still in Myanmar police custody for questioning because they illegally entered the country without visas.
He said 80 other Indian workers have been rescued from Cambodia and Laos.
Last month, M.K. Stalin, the top elected official of India’s southern Tamil Nadu state, said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that 300 Indians, including around 50 Tamils from the state, were being held captive in Myanmar.
Citizens of other countries in the region have suffered in similar scams.
On Thursday, 21 Malaysians rescued from human traffickers in Cambodia and Laos returned home. Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the government has now rescued 273 people out of 401 reported missing in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Most have returned except for 60 still in immigration detention centers in those countries who are waiting to be processed, he said.
A UN envoy has said the scam networks, which often have links to transnational organized crime, are set up in countries with weak law enforcement, attracting educated young workers with promises of high earnings. The workers are then subject to isolation and the threat of violence unless they succeed in cheating victims reached by phone into transferring payments into overseas bank accounts.


UN rights body agrees to appoint expert to scrutinize Russia

UN rights body agrees to appoint expert to scrutinize Russia
Updated 07 October 2022

UN rights body agrees to appoint expert to scrutinize Russia

UN rights body agrees to appoint expert to scrutinize Russia
  • The 47-member Human Rights Council passed the proposal, presented last week by all European Union member countries except Hungary
  • The original proposal expressed concerns about “mass forced shutdowns" of independent media, NGOs and opposition groups in Russia
GENEVA: The UN’s top human rights body voted Friday to appoint an independent expert to step up scrutiny of Russia’s rights record at home as arbitrary arrests, a crackdown on dissenting voices and limits on free speech worsen during the war in Ukraine.
The 47-member Human Rights Council passed the proposal, presented last week by all European Union member countries except Hungary, on a 17-6 vote, with 24 abstentions. Shortly before the vote in Geneva, Russian human rights group Memorial was named a co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
The original proposal expressed concerns about “mass forced shutdowns” of independent media, non-governmental organizations and opposition groups in Russia.
The Human Rights Council majority agreed to name a “special rapporteur” to keep tabs on rights violations in Russia, in part by relying on help from Russian groups and activists who are both still in the country and abroad.
It’s the first time the council has authorized a special rapporteur to look into human rights issues in any of the five countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
Russian ambassador Gennady Gatilov called the draft proposal a “despicable document” that was intended “to find yet another way of exerting leverage for bringing pressure to bear on Russia.”
“This scheme by the EU and its allies is yet another attempt to punish our country for pursuing an independent foreign and domestic policy, and to entrench for the long-term the topic of Russia on the agenda of the HRC so as to unleash a stream of false allegations and accusations directed at us,” Gatilov said.
Western countries provided most of the votes in favor, joined by Paraguay, Marshall Islands and Ukraine. Diplomats from Bolivia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Kazakhstan and Venezuela voted against the proposal.
The number of abstentions in part reflected hesitations about authorizing a special rapporteur for a country that opposed the initiative: It’s unlikely that Russia will let the special rapporteur to visit the country.
The council previously appointed a Commission of Inquiry — the UN-backed body’s highest form of scrutiny — that is looking into rights abuses related to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Russian government has taken a number of steps to limit domestic dissent over the war, including passing a law that criminalizes spreading “fake” news about Russia’s military.
British ambassador Simon Manley said “repression at home, aggression abroad” by Russian authorities had increased since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February.
“The truth is that (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin uses repressive legislation to restrict freedom of speech and assembly. He crushes dissent through arbitrary detention and violence and has created a climate of fear and intimidation in order to deter civil society and activists from speaking out against the authorities,” Manley said.
Russia was a member of the Human Rights Council until earlier this year, when it suspended its participation as the UN General Assembly was set to strip the country of its membership due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Friday was the last day of the council’s fall session. A day earlier, member countries rejected a proposal, first floated by the United States and several other Western countries, to hold a debate over alleged human rights abuses in China’s Western Xinjiang region.

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’
Updated 07 October 2022

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’
  • Hayashi stated that Japan recognizes “the right of Palestine to establish an independent state”
  • Japan has continued to provide substantial aid assistance to the Palestinian state

TOKYO: Japan Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa on Friday said Japan “will continue to comprehensively examine whether Palestinian state recognition will contribute to the progress of the peace process.”

In reply to a question from Arab News Japan, Hayashi stated that Japan recognizes “the right of Palestine to establish an independent state” and Japan supports the two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The state of Palestine has “the right to self-determination,” Hayashi said, adding: “We support the Palestinians’ efforts to establish an independent state from the political and economic perspective.”

Meanwhile, Arab News Japan learned that when former Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah, former Prime Minister of Palestine met with Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio last week, he asked for Japan to recognize Palestine as a state.

Japan has continued to provide substantial aid assistance to the Palestinian state.

This article was originally published on Arab News Japan. 


Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers
Updated 07 October 2022

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers
MALANG: Indonesians gathered for Friday prayers mourned 131 people killed in a soccer stampede six days ago, amid calls for a prompt investigation into one of the world’s most deadly stadium disasters to enable its victims to rest in peace.
Most of those killed after the match in the town of Malang, in East Java province, died of asphyxiation, caught in a panicked crush as they tried to flee after police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse a rowdy crowd.
At Al Fatih Mosque near Malang an Islamic preacher led a tearful recital of tahlilan, or special prayers for the dead.
“Many of the supporters demand the case be immediately resolved so the souls of those who died can rest in peace,” said 53-year-old soccer fan Widodo after joining the prayer.
Widodo, who like many Indonesians uses one name, had been at Saturday’s match but left early fearing things could turn bad.
Police have named six suspects in an investigation into the stampede, including match organizers and three officers who were present.
The deadly incident has fueled accusations of heavy-handed policing in the soccer-mad Southeast Asian nation, with the use of tear gas inside the stadium — prohibited by world soccer body FIFA — widely criticized.
Messages and posters have been plastered on the stadium’s doors and walls, some demanding an end to “police brutality,” and Amnesty International Indonesia said on Friday that the tragedy “shows what can happen when excessive use of force by security forces is allowed to go on with impunity.”