Posts Tagged ‘violence’

Hundreds protest murder of activist councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro

March 19, 2018

© Mauro PIMENTEL, AFP | People march in memory of Brazilian slain human rights activist and politician Marielle Franco through the Mare favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 18, 2018.


Latest update : 2018-03-19

At least 1,000 people marched in Brazil’s second largest city Sunday to protest the murder of councilwoman and human rights activist Marielle Franco.

Franco and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, were shot dead by assailants Wednesday night while returning from an event focused on empowering young black women.

Protesters gathered in Rio’s Mare slum, where Franco grew up, before marching along Avenida Brazil, the main north-south artery through the city. Several carried banners reading “Marielle and Anderson Present Today and Always.”

Several hundred people took part in a smaller protest rally in Sao Paulo.

Franco’s murder came just a month after the government put the military in charge of security in Rio, which is experiencing a sharp spike in violence less than two years after hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The intervention has put thousands of troops on the streets, but doesn’t appear to be having an impact. Critics say that’s because generals don’t have the appetite to take on major components of the violence, such as endemic police corruption and heavy-handed tactics.

Rio’s police force is one of the most deadly in the world. In 2016, 925 people were killed during operations, according to the think tank Brazilian Public Security Forum. Tallies by human rights groups put the number over 1,000 in 2017.



Brazil: Army takes control of Rio security in bid to squash gang violence

February 17, 2018

Brazil’s military has taken full control of security in Rio de Janeiro and the surrounding state in an effort to fight gang violence. The move comes after the Defense Ministry said security in the city was “broken.”

A military officer in the Barbante slum of Rio de Janeiro

President Michel Temer has signed a decree giving the military control of security in Rio de Janeiro in response to spiraling drug gang violence.

The military already supports police in favelas, large slums overrun by drug gangs. It had previously helped provide security during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

But the decree, which went into effect immediately, hands the military power over all police operations in Rio state. It must be approved by both chambers of Congress within 10 days.

“Organized crime nearly took over in the state of Rio de Janeiro. This is a metastasis that is spreading in our country and it threatens our people. That’s why we decided on the intervention,” Temer said at the presidential palace in Brasilia on Friday. “Our administration will give a tough, firm answer.”

The military mission will last until the end of the year.

Broken security

The dramatic decision in a country that was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1964-1985, comes after Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said last month that “the security system is broken.”

Brazilian military police in a Rio favela (Getty Images)Military units already support police in patrols in Rio slums

On Friday, he said the decree will put in place “a more robust, better coordinated security system, with a better intelligence service.” It would not impact the country’s democracy, he said.

Highlighting the dire state of security in Rio, Carnival in recent years was marked by violence and muggings.

“The total confusion and lack of coordination of the security forces during the Carnival” prompted Temer’s decree, David Fleischer, professor of political science at the University of Brasilia, told the Agence France-Presse.

Arthur Trindade, a university professor and former security secretary for Brasilia, told AFP the decree is also aimed at cleaning up a corrupt police force.

Other motives

Former National Security Secretary Jose Vicente da Silva told The Associated Press that the military invention would help, but not totally end systemic drug gang violence.

“Rio state can’t solve this any time soon and the military could be effective in keeping some smaller groups that have operated lately off of the streets,” da Silva said.

Analysts say the move is also an attempt to distract from Temer’s single-digit poll numbers and failure to advance pension reform ahead of a general election scheduled for October.

The military intervention also raises questions over accountability. If soldiers commit crimes during patrols, they will not be tried by civilian courts. It is the first time the military has taken control of a state’s security since the return to democracy in 1985.

cw/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Five migrants shot in Calais brawl blamed on traffickers

February 2, 2018


© AFP / by Gregory DANEL, Clare BYRNE | Three fights across Calais drew in hundreds of the migrants camped out in the hope of stowing away on a truck to England

CALAIS (FRANCE) (AFP) – Five migrants were shot during a giant brawl in Calais, leaving four fighting for their lives Friday in what the French government called an “unbearable” escalation of violence in a port that serves as a gateway to Britain.Twenty-two were hospitalised with injuries after three fights across the city, which drew in hundreds of the migrants camped out in the hope of stowing away on a truck bound for England, according to officials.

Four Eritreans, who were shot in the neck, chest, abdomen and spine, were in critical condition, they said.

Police were searching for a 37-year-old Afghan suspected of the shooting.

A number of other migrants sustained stab wounds in what Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, who visited the scene of one of the clashes near a food distribution point, called an “escalation of violence that has become unbearable for the people of Calais and the migrants”.

The violence comes two weeks after President Emmanuel Macron visited Calais with a message of zero tolerance on migrants setting up camps like the sprawling “Jungle” which was razed in 2016.

He later travelled to Britain, where Prime Minister Theresa May agreed to pay more to help stop migrants trying to reach England’s shores and to take in more unaccompanied minors.

– Unprecedented levels of violence –

Crucially, Macron did not seek to renegotiate a controversial 2003 deal effectively pushing Britain’s borders back onto French soil.

Collomb, who met with security force members and immigration officials in Calais, on Thursday accused the traffickers who charge the migrants hefty sums to secure passage to England, of “fuelling daily violence and brawls”.

“This is a level of violence never seen before,” he said.

He repeated that the government would not allow migrants settle in the area.

“The message I want to get across is that if you want to go to Britain, it’s not here you should come,” he said, adding that minors applying for asylum in Britain would be automatically moved to shelters around the country.

Clashes between migrants are a frequent occurrence in Calais, where newcomers live scattered in the woods, emerging at night to try waylay passing trucks.

The notorious Jungle, once home to some 10,000 people, was demolished in 2016, but hundreds more migrants have since descended on the city.

Shots were fired during the first fight Thursday between about 100 Eritreans and some 30 Afghans queueing for free meals at a distribution point near the town’s hospital at around 3:30 pm (1430 GMT).

The authorities suspect that traffickers mixed in with the crowd.

Shortly afterwards, a second fight broke out at an industrial site around five kilometres (three miles) away, with more than a hundred African migrants armed with iron rods and sticks setting on a group of around 20 Afghans, prosecutors said.

Police intervened to protect the Afghans, the authorities said.

– No tolerance for economic migrants –

Further violence broke out in the late afternoon at a third site.

Two police officers were injured during the clashes and security reinforcements were deployed.

In July, 16 people were injured in a brawl, one seriously.

Groups of migrants have also frequently clashed with the police, who systematically tear down their encampments and intervene to prevent them boarding trucks.

Macron has taken an unbending line towards those dubbed economic migrants because they are not fleeing war or persecution.

He has vowed to step up deportations while speeding up waiting times for bona fide asylum-seekers — an approach he touts as mixing “humanity” and “efficiency”.

Polls show the French supporting his approach but leftist parties, intellectuals and NGOs have been critical.

A former key adviser Jean Pisani-Ferry was among those who signed a hard-hitting open letter recently, accusing the centrist president of betraying his image as a humanist.

by Gregory DANEL, Clare BYRNE

Anxiety, evasion and addiction: how Mexicans deal with endless violence — More than 23,000 dead

December 29, 2017


© AFP/File / by Sofia MISELEM | A Mexican woman protests the assassination of journalist Javier Valdez

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Between anxiety, addiction and evasion, Mexicans have found coping mechanisms to deal with the violence plaguing their country and which peaked in 2017 to the highest level in two decades.The year is not yet over, but the number of murders committed in November reached 23,101, according to a government registry of violent deaths, the highest count since the tally was launched in 1997, and topping the 22,409 killed in 2011 when the big drugs cartels started to fracture.

The statistics do not show how many of the deaths were linked to narco-trafficking, but experts believe the majority were attributable to the wave of drugs-related violence that has risen incessantly since 2006, when the government launched all-out war on Mexico’s powerful cartels.

– Collective violence –

“Since the start of this absurd war on drugs, Mexico has entered into what the World Health Organization technically defines as ‘collective violence,'” said Juan Ramon de la Fuente, a psychiatrist and former dean of the Autonomous National University of Mexico, or UNAM.

“It is a kind of epidemic when there are more than 10 homicides for every 100,000 people,” he said.

WHO figures show that in 2015 Mexico was suffering 19 murders per 100,000 people, but De la Fuente, who participated in a multidisciplinary study of the impact of violence on society, puts that figure at at least 22 per 100,000.

The lack of security that has reigned over large tracts of Mexico for years has had a tangible emotional impact on the population, said De La Fuente, while life expectancy has dropped yearly among young people because of the number of youths being killed.

“We cannot separate the violence from the mental health problems which are on the rise across the country,” said De La Fuente. “There is a feeling of helplessness which creates reactions that people express symptomatically, in terms of anxiety, a disturbance to sleep patterns, or the increased use of alcohol and other drugs.”

According to government data, drug consumption has in fact increased by more than 40 percent since 2010.

“In Mexico there are no fewer than a million people who probably have suffered from some emotional or psychological impact derived from the drugs war since the army was sent on to the streets,” said Rogelio Flores, a researcher into the societal effects of violence at UNAM’s psychology department.

De la Fuente estimates that with the 200,000 people murdered, and tens of thousands missing since 2006, around 250,000 homes in Mexico have been affected by “a process of pain, depression, helplessness, frustration and fear, a gamut of very powerful and complicated emotions which is overlooked by the state from a medical and psychological point of view.”

– Scenes from Dante –

In other cases, people display the phenomenon of “normalization” or “habituation” to the endless violence that is incorporated into daily life, from school children learning how to protect themselves during shootings to drugs lords being lionized in television shows or in the folk ballards known as “narco-corridas.”

“It is worrying that we come to see death as an element of everyday life,” said Flores. “There is a process of desensitization in large parts of society which is promoting and legitimizing violence, without considering its consequences.”

The spectacular cruelty of the drug cartels has produced scenes of Dantesque horror, with people being beheaded, dismembered, skinned alive, tortured and hung from bridges — their bodies dumped, often by the dozen, in the streets for all to see.

Martin Barron, a criminologist at the National Institute for Criminal Science, said that in the past the cartels had “codes of respect” that included not killing a victim’s wife or children.

But in 2009, with the rise of the Zetas — the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, which was made up originally from government special police who defected to the drugs lords — all the rules started to disappear.

“The criminals now have no limitations preventing them inflicting whatever degrading acts they wish upon another human being,” he said.

He underlined the lack of importance given to the origin of the Zetas, former elite commandos around whom swirl macabre legends, such as the story that one their late leaders used to eat the human flesh of his victims.

“We have to analyze these figures that come from a military background, they start out there and then the cartels look for someone who would do be prepared to do something like this. This violence is not in the normal make-up of Mexicans, you have to go out looking for someone with psychotic tendencies,” he said.


Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 9, 2017 — “This is the way; walk in it.” — “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

December 8, 2017

Saturday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 180

Reading 1 IS 30:19-21, 23-26

Thus says the Lord GOD,
the Holy One of Israel:
O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem,
no more will you weep;
He will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as he hears he will answer you.
The Lord will give you the bread you need
and the water for which you thirst.
No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or to the left.He will give rain for the seed
that you sow in the ground,
And the wheat that the soil produces
will be rich and abundant.
Image result for the lamb will graze in spacious meadows, photos
On that day your flock will be given pasture
and the lamb will graze in spacious meadows;
The oxen and the asses that till the ground
will eat silage tossed to them
with shovel and pitchfork.
Upon every high mountain and lofty hill
there will be streams of running water.
On the day of the great slaughter,
when the towers fall,
The light of the moon will be like that of the sun
and the light of the sun will be seven times greater
like the light of seven days.
On the day the LORD binds up the wounds of his people,
he will heal the bruises left by his blows.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (see Isaiah 30:18d) Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.
R. Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name.
R. Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
Great is our LORD and mighty in power:
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.
R. Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.

Alleluia IS 33:22

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The LORD is our Judge, our Lawgiver, our King;
he it is who will save us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 9:35–10:1, 5A, 6-8

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
09 DECEMBER, 2017, Saturday, 1st Week of Advent

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 30:19-21,23-26PS 147:1-6MT 9:35-10:1,5,6-8  ]

Like the Israelites in today’s first reading, we often feel abandoned and miserable.  We feel lost and disheartened because of our sufferings.  We feel that we are failures in life, like the Israelites when their crops were not growing and animals were dying because of drought.  Like those during the time of Jesus, many of us are carrying infirmities in our bodies.  We are sick because of illnesses, accidents, old age.  Some of us suffer mental and spiritual illnesses.   Most of all, many have no direction in life.  We do not know what we are living for and why we are living.  We are merely keeping ourselves alive, and pampering ourselves with some comforts and enjoyment.  But we have no direction and real purposed in life.  Life is merely a routine; work, eat, sleep and enjoy.

And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Jesus came as a shepherd to fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel when God lamented that His people were without a shepherd.  “So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the wild beasts.”  (Ez 34:5)  Jesus saw Himself as the Good Shepherd.  He said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.”  (Jn 10:14f)

How is Jesus our Good Shepherd?  Firstly, He is our teacher who comes to show us the way.  “Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom.”  In order for us to understand the truth of life, we need to hear the teaching of our Lord. The ministry of Jesus began with teaching.  He came to offer us the kingdom of God.  “He will be gracious to you when he hears your cry; when he hears he will answer.  When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes.”   A teacher is one who leads by teaching and enlightening.  Jesus came to show us how through our suffering, we will come to understand the purpose of life.   Through “the bread of suffering and the water of distress”, we learn the hard way, the ways of God.  Indeed, for many of us, it is through our mistakes and the price we paid for them that we learn not to repeat them again.

The question for us is whether we are ready to listen to the words of the shepherd.  Jesus said, “To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (Jn 10:3-5)  Although we call ourselves Catholics, we take direction from the world instead of listening to the voice of the shepherd.  Many Catholics do not have a deep love and conviction of the Bible as the Word of God.  They only pay lip service because they make no reference to the Word of God in their thinking and decision-making.  How I wish I could say with St Paul to all Catholics, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”  (1 Th 2:13)  That is why we are exhorted to pay attention to the teachings of our Lord.  The prophet said, “Whether you turn to right or left, your ears will hear these words behind you, ‘This is the way, follow it.’”  Jesus made it clear in yesterday’s gospel that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  (Mt 7:21)

Secondly, Jesus did not simply teach but He also healed and delivered the people from all kinds of bondages.  Teaching without the accompaniment of signs will not be convincing enough.  Jesus empowered the apostles to heal and to deliver the people from the bondages of the Evil One. “He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of disease and sickness. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.”  No matter how powerful and eloquent a sermon might be, without the concrete manifestation of God’s love and mercy, they merely remain inspiring words, but it will not change lives. We need the signs of God’s power at work in us through our healing miracles and works of charity if we are to convince those whom we reach out to that God’s love is real and that He is all powerful.    This explains why in the command to preach the gospel, the Lord also added, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  (Mk 16:17f)

The reason why today many of the institutionalized churches, including the Catholic Church, are not changing lives or moving people to come to God,  is because it is all talk but no action.  We preach nice homilies on God’s love and mercy.  We talk about them in our classes and courses.  We write beautiful articles on His unconditional love.  But unfortunately, we do not manifest the signs of God’s presence and love. In fact, our churches today have become so institutionalized that they operate more like a business enterprise.  Many Catholics lament that the Church is no longer functioning like a welcoming mother or a forgiving Father, but that it is businesslike, bureaucratic, uncaring, and legalistic, compared to other faith communities.  The priest is no longer seen as a shepherd but merely an administrator; not as a kind, loving and understanding Father but a regimental officer.   If we are not careful, the Church will lose its personal touch of the compassionate and loving Good Shepherd.

Thirdly, if people feel that there is a scarcity of shepherds, it is because many of us are not generous with what the Lord has blessed us with.  Jesus instructed the disciples, “You received without charge, give without charge.”  Many are also finding our churches to be calculative and demanding; we appear to only receive but do not give freely and generously to the people in return.  We have forgotten what the Lord has said.   We must not forget that all of us have been blessed by the Lord in so many ways.  If we are what we are today, then it is because of the Lord’s graciousness and kindness towards us.  If we remember that we have received freely, then we want to give back freely what we have received.

This mentality of receiving without giving is something that all must change, from the Church’s hierarchy to every member of the Church.  This is true not just in terms of financial contributions, but of rendering our services as well.  Many look to the Church as a dispensing machine; giving to all who come to ask.  Many know how to ask and demand for services, but they would not give a helping hand to the Church.  Hardly 15% of our Catholics are giving back to the Church or serving in ministries.  The few who are serving are helping out in a few ministries!  They are overworked and hardly have time to pray, much less be formed in the faith.  This explains why some come across as being un-Christian in the way they serve and are ineffective in service.  Then again, when we look to employing more workers to do the job, we find that we do not have the financial resources because people only give for the maintenance of the church; not for the evangelistic and missionary dimensions of the gospel.   So today, let us heed the Lord’s cry to reach out to the many who are looking for a true shepherd after the heart of Christ.  He said, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”  Let us pray that more generous Catholics will respond to the Lord’s call to be His messengers of peace, love and joy.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh



Commentary on Matthew 9:35 -10:1,6-8 From Living Space

The promises of the First Reading are shown being fulfilled in the person of Jesus in the Gospel. We can read it in three sections:

Jesus is shown constantly on the move, teaching in synagogues all over the region, proclaiming the Good News of God’s reign coming among them and bringing healing to all who are sick and diseased. Matthew does not use the title of Good Shepherd for Jesus but he does indicate the deep compassion of Jesus for all those are harassed and depressed, people with no direction in their lives, who are like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus is clearly the Shepherd who can lead them back to where they belong.

He then says to his disciples that there is a huge harvest waiting to be reaped. Up to this he has been working alone but he needs help, especially after he has gone. There are very few people available to work in the harvest field. He then calls the Twelve and hands on to them his own powers to liberate people from evil powers and to heal all kinds of sickness.

The harvest is still great and the need for labourers is as great as ever. In asking the Lord to send labourers into the harvest, we have to ask ourselves what is the role of each one of us. It is not just a question of priests and religious. Jesus was not talking to priests and religious (there was no such thing at the time the gospels were written) but to every one of his followers – to every one of us who has been baptised. Every one of us is being called to be a harvester. Each one of us can reach a corner of the harvest field that is accessible to no one else. These include my family, my neighbours, my work colleagues and others who come into my life. I may be the only person who brings Jesus with his healing and compassion into their lives.

And what are we to do? Let people know that the Reign of God is very close, because God himself and Jesus are so close. Once we say Yes to God and his Son, they become part of our lives. And we are to do the same work he told his to do:

Heal the sick: by our sympathy and support, which can often do more than any medical treatment.

Raise the dead: perhaps not literally. But there are many who are intellectually, emotionally and socially dead. They are physically alive but they have stopped living meaningful lives. We can help them to find life again.

Cleanse the lepers: all those people who are on the fringes of society, whom we neglect, ignore, despise, reject, avoid. There are the dropouts, the drug addicts and alcoholics, the HIV/AIDS victims, the homeless, single mothers, ‘sex workers’… Let them know they are accepted and loved by God.

Cast out devils: help people liberate themselves from the demons of fear, anger, hatred, violence, from drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sexual abuse (themselves and others), greed for money…

There are so many people who need to hear and to experience the message of Christmas.

There are many, alas, for whom Christmas is Bad News, a time of misery, depression and loneliness. Let’s change that.



From 2015

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 30:19-21,23-26MATTHEW 9:35-10:1,5,6-8

Some Catholics are confused whether the prosperity gospel as preached by some Christians is part of the Catholic Teaching and whether it is faithful to the Word of God.  The principle of the prosperity gospel seems to be quite sound on the surface, namely, the more you give to God, the more you receive.  There seems to be a basis in the gospel when Jesus said, “give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”  (Lk 6:38)  St Paul wrote to the Corinthians expressing the same message, “The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  (2 Cor 9:6)

Indeed, in today’s scripture readings, we are encouraged to have hope in the messianic blessings that God wants to give us as He promised the Israelites.  Prophet Isaiah consoled the people by assuring them that the God of Israel is a gracious God.  “Thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:  People of Zion, you will live in Jerusalem and weep no more.  He will be gracious to you when he hears your cry; when he hears he will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes.”  Indeed, God would provide the fodder for the animals, water for all and the crops.

These messianic blessings were renewed in the person of our Lord when He came to earth.  We read in the gospel, “Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.”  He came as the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, as a Teacher.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  Prophet Isaiah said, “he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes.  Whether you turn to right or left, your ears will hear these words behind you, ‘This is the way, follow it.’”   However, Jesus came not just as a teacher or a preacher only.  The preaching and teaching are but a prelude to the miracles of healing and exorcism.   He came as a healer to restore creation and a fallen and wounded humanity.   He was a shepherd to those who were lost, confused, downtrodden and in despair.  St Matthew noted, “And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.”

All those who are receptive of our Lord were healed and enlightened.  They were set free from their illnesses, fears, anxiety and slavery to their sins and addictions.  This is what the psalmist says, “Happy are all who hope in the Lord. He heals the broken-hearted, he binds up all their wounds. He fixes the number of the stars; he calls each one by its name. Our Lord is great and almighty; his wisdom can never be measured. The Lord raises the lowly; he humbles the wicked to the dust.”  Today, the Lord still heals us if we are available to Him for healing.  The Lord still shows us the way and enlightens us in the truth if we are docile to His Word.  Indeed, the Lord comes to us again and again through the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church in the college of bishops, the Word of God preached in the Eucharistic celebration and catechesis.  Most of all, when we spend time meditating and praying with the Word of God.  The Lord comes to us in a special way through the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, where we feel His closeness and presence; and in the sacrament of reconciliation where we are healed of our fears, brokenness, guilt and pain.  Finally, in the sacrament of anointing of the sick, the Lord continues His healing works through the priests.

So it is clear that the Lord wants to bless us.  But we cannot reduce the blessings of God to material blessings, not even of health and less still of money, power and status.  These worldly things do not necessarily bring us real happiness and therefore are not real blessings.  They are only means to greater blessings the Lord wants to bestow on us.  It is the blessing of a blessed life of joy, love and peace that the world cannot give.  We only need to look around those of us who have been blessed with material and worldly blessings.  Are they really happy, at peace with themselves, full of joy and love?  Many of us have quite good physical health but we are not happy, always discontented and full of anger, vindictiveness, greed and dishonesty.  Those of us who are rich have so many worries and fears and, most of all, temptations.  Finally, the powerful and influential are not so powerful after all, because they are always worried about public perception and security, and so they have no real freedom to do what they want.

If we want to enjoy the real blessings of God, then the gospel makes it clear, “You received without charge, give without charge.”  On this basis, Jesus, after giving the disciples “authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of disease and sickness”, sent them out instructing them as follows: ‘Go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.”   So the principle is clear, what we have received, we are called to give.   We are never called to give what we do not have.  We are only to give what we have been given!   St Paul again said, “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”  He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”  (2 Cor 9:7-10)  So we must never forget that if the Lord blesses us, it is in order that we can bless others even more.  So He gives us position, wealth, talents, health, time and resources, not for our selfish enjoyment and pleasure but so that we have the capacity to give on His behalf.  He does not expect us to give what we do not have.  But having received, to receive more, we need to give out what we have been given.  We must follow Jesus’ example, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”  (2 Cor 8:9)

By so doing, the blessings that we give out to others overflow back to us; and as a consequence, we become more and more blessed in return.  Isn’t this is what St Paul is saying, “ You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God.”  (2 Cor 9:11)   Concretely, it means that when we use our resources to share with others, we receive the righteousness of joy of sharing.  When we give to the poor and help them, whether financially or materially, we receive the joy and satisfaction of sharing their joy and happiness.  When we reach out to those who are sick and even if we are sick ourselves, we feel much consoled by them and learn compassion, empathy and mercy.   In the process of visiting and taking care of the sick, we learn to appreciate and not take our health for granted.  In the same vein, when we use our time for teaching the faith, counselling the troubled and those in distress, guiding the young, we grow in understanding of our own faith and begin to appreciate the sufferings of our fellowmen.  This again will make us more humane and not to complain too much about the sufferings we have because there is so much more sufferings that others have to go through.  When we see how well they cope with their sufferings, we cannot but find inspiration and be edified by them.  In a nutshell, by giving and serving, we receive much more than we give.   The rewards and joys of sharing our gifts and blessings cannot be compared to any earthly reward.

Indeed, let us see the big picture and acquire the heart of the Good Shepherd.  As He said, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”   If we want to receive the joy, peace and love of God during the season of Advent and Christmas, then be a blessing to others.  Be channels of His blessings to the poor, the lonely, the sick, the distressed and those without hope.  Give them love, joy and hope; and in turn you will receive much more than you give out.  This is the true meaning of prosperity gospel!   The blessings of righteousness cannot be compared to any earthly or worldly blessing.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh



Philippines is Worst in Global Impunity Index (Weak capacity to prosecute crimes and bring perpetrators to justice)

September 23, 2017


Violence related to organized crime and terrorist activities by groups linked to the Islamic State placed the Philippines in the worst spot in the Global Impunity Index or GII drawn up by the Mexico-based University of the Americas Puebla or UDLAP and its Center of Studies on Impunity and Justice.

This GII is different from an index of the same name that focuses on violent attacks on journalists. The UDLAP study also covers only 69 out of the 124 United Nations members because information on security and justice was insufficient in the other states. But both studies ranked the Philippines among the worst because of the weak capacity to prosecute crimes and bring perpetrators to justice.

The UDLAP index stresses that impunity can lead to socioeconomic and legal inequality, rule-of-law problems and more human rights violations. It can aggravate corruption and violence, retard economic development and the ability to attract foreign investment and tourism.

The UDLAP index covers structural, functional and human rights dimensions of impunity. The human rights dimension is based on cases of torture, “homicides perpetrated by public officials, political imprisonment, extrajudicial killings, massive homicides, and disappearances.”

Ranked behind the Philippines were India, Cameroon, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua and the Russian Federation. Surely there are countries where impunity is just as bad or worse among the 124 UN member states that were excluded from the study. But regardless of the Philippines’ ranking if all UN states were included, no one will dispute the observation that the country suffers from institutional weaknesses in every aspect of the criminal justice system, from law enforcement to prosecution and corrections. The country received the worst rating in terms of the delivery of justice.

Frustration with the justice system has led to public tolerance of brutal methods of fighting criminality including the drug menace. This public support has emboldened the police, leading to abuses and impunity. Unless the nation moves decisively to boost the state’s capacity to deliver justice, law enforcement short cuts will continue to enjoy a measure of public support, and impunity will become worse.


Trump may be inciting ‘violence’ against media — Frequent ‘reckless’ comments — Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says

August 30, 2017


© AFP/File / by Ben Simon | The UN rights chief voiced alarm over US President Donald Trump’s verbal assaults on CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post 
GENEVA (AFP) – The UN human rights chief said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s relentless attacks on the media could trigger violence against journalists, suggesting the US leader would be responsible.In a broad condemnation of Trump’s conduct in office, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he viewed the US presidency as the driver of “the bus of humanity”, accusing Trump of “reckless driving”.

Zeid, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also blasted Trump’s decision to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt last month for illegally profiling Hispanic immigrants.

 Image may contain: 2 people, beard
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. UN Photo -Jean-Marc Ferré

On the media, Zeid voiced particular alarm over Trump’s verbal assaults on CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post.

“To call these news organisations ‘fake’ does tremendous damage and to refer to individual journalists in this way, I have to ask the question, is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists?

“And let’s assume a journalist is harmed from one of these organisations, does the president not bear responsibility for this, for having fanned this?” Zeid told reporters in Geneva.

“I believe it could amount to incitement,” he added, saying Trump had set in motion a cycle that includes “incitement, fear, self-censorship and violence.”

According to the rights chief, Trump’s assault on the media has emboldened other countries to crack down on press freedoms.

“The demonisation of the press is poisonous because it has consequences elsewhere,” Zeid said.

He expressed specific concern over Trump’s speech in Arizona earlier this month in which journalists were condemned by the US leader as “dishonest people” who “don’t like our country”.

– Supports ‘racial profiling’? –

Turning to the pardon for Arpaio, a hugely controversial figure intially targeted for prosecution by former president Barack Obama’s justice department, Zeid said he was deeply disturbed by Trump’s decision.

“I had to ask myself the question what does this mean? Does the president support racial profiling of Latinos in particular? Does he support abuse of prisoners?

“Arpaio at one stage referred to the open air prison that he set up as a ‘concentration camp'”, Zeid said, asking “does the president support this?”

Arpaio, who was known to make detainees wear pink underwear to humiliate them, housed prisoners in tent camps surrounded by barbed wire, in the scorching Arizona desert.

The former sheriff once likened the encampment to a concentration camp, although he later backed away from that remark.

– Dangerous? –

Reacting publicly for the first time to the recent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Zeid denounced the racist and anti-semitic actions of neo-Nazi and white supremacists demonstrators as “an abomination” and “a nightmare.”

Zeid, who has not minced his words in previous criticism of Trump, indicated that the world was is in a perilous state with the New York billionaire in a position of global leadership.

“I almost feel that the president is driving the bus of humanity and we are careening down a mountain pass and, in taking these measures, at least from a human rights perspective it seems to be reckless driving,” he told reporters.

“You asked me in November if I thought he was dangerous,” Zeid continued. “Today the only person who can confirm that is the president himself by dint of his own actions.”

Why are Nazis In America?

August 14, 2017

The ‘Last Week Tonight’ host didn’t hold back Sunday night.


This weekend, the nation was fixated on the horrifying display of hate in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a group of neo-Nazis held court armed with tiki torches, military cosplay, guns, clubs, and an outrageous sense of entitlement.

These preppy fascists were said to have congregated on the University of Virginia campus to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, but really, most of these whiny brats couldn’t tell you the first thing about the Confederate general. They came to instigate outrage, and violence. And when all was said and done, a suspected white nationalist was arrested for allegedly plowing his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least another 19 people.

“It was truly a weekend of horrifying images. We saw Nazi flags and marchers carrying torches—tiki torches, by the way, because nothing says ‘white nationalist’ like faux Polynesian kitsch,” said John Oliver.

The Last Week Tonight host opened his program Sunday evening by addressing the events in Charlottesville—including President Donald Trump’s rambling, insufficient reaction to the tragedy, with the commander-in-chief refusing to denounce white nationalists, slipping in President Barack Obama’s name, imploring Americans to “cherish our history” (see: Robert E. Lee’s statue), and condemning hate “on many sides.”

“We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence—on many sides. On many sides,” declared Trump from his Bedminster golf club.

“Wait… on many sides?!” exclaimed Oliver. “This was a white nationalist rally—you have to call that out by name. There aren’t many instances in modern American politics where you can honestly think, ‘That guy really should have mentioned the Nazis,’ but this is emphatically one of them. It’s like a reverse Godwin’s Law: if you fail to mention Nazism, you lose the argument.”

And, after “having made a wild false equivalence between Nazis and people who oppose Nazis,” Trump attempted to clear his own name, saying, “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

But this rally did have plenty to do with Donald Trump—according to the white nationalists who participated in it. In addition to white nationalists chanting things like “Heil Trump,” David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (whose presidential endorsement candidate Trump famously refused to disavow for several days), was interviewed in Charlottesville by a reporter.

“We are determined to take our country back. We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believe in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump,” said Duke.

“I’ve gotta say, David Duke and the Nazis really seem to like Donald Trump, which is weird because Nazis are a lot like cats: If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them,” said Oliver, adding, “And that kind of connection there is something that anyone in their right mind would want to immediately and repeatedly disavow, and it’s not like Trump wasn’t given the opportunity.”

Yes, Trump was repeatedly asked to condemn the white nationalists in Charlottesville, many of whom took to the streets in his honor, as he exited his Bedminster press conference. “How do you respond to white nationalists who say they’re participating in Charlottesville because they support you?” one reporter asked. “Do you want the support of these white nationalist groups who say they support you, Mr. President?”

The questions fell on deaf ears.

“Here’s the problem with that: A non-answer in a moment like this is an answer,” said Oliver. “And look, don’t take that just from me. White nationalists seemed pretty clear about the message Trump had sent to them with his response.”

Indeed, neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer ran a piece on Saturday praising President Trump’s vague speech. “Trump comments were good… He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about white nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him,” they wrote.

“And look, maybe Trump will eventually take a second swing at personally condemning the white nationalists. Maybe he has since we’ve taped this show. But even if he does, it’ll be too late. Because his first response is who he is. And the truly infuriating thing is how predictable this was,” offered Oliver.

“It simply doesn’t get easier than disavowing Nazis. It’s as much of a presidential gimme as pardoning a fucking turkey. It is almost impossible to screw it up. But that’s exactly what happened,” the comedian continued. “So there is clearly no point waiting for leadership from our president in moments like this, because it is just not coming, which means we will have to look to one another, because incredibly, in a country where previous presidents have actually had to defeat Nazis, we now have one who cannot even be bothered to fucking condemn them.”


‘Why are these Nazis able to come into our city?’ Charlottesville left in shock after day of violence

At the scene where a suspected far-right extremist mowed down anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville, local resident Anna Quillom spent Sunday laying dozens of carnations along the street.

“I grew up here but this doesn’t feel like my home anymore. The lid’s come off it,” said Miss Quillom, 36, who runs wine tours in the historic college town. Welling up with tears, she added: “It was the best place in the world, inclusive, everyone cares about each other. Why are these Nazis able to come into our city?”

Nearby, at a makeshift memorial, a sign read “No Place For Hate!” A red shoe, lost by one of the victims, had been stuffed with roses.

 A mourner lays flowers at a makeshift memorial at the scene of where a car plowed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville
 A mourner lays flowers at a makeshift memorial at the scene of where a car plowed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville CREDIT: JUSTIN IDE/REUTERS

Charlottesville, a town of 47,000 with a university very much at its heart, was shattered by Saturday’s events when hundreds of racist extremists descended and violence erupted.

In the high street, dotted with book and antique shops, people appeared stunned….

Read the rest:

Donald Trump’s Charlottesville Comments Draw the Attention of Cartoonists

August 13, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

The Jerusalem Post
 AUGUST 13, 2017 07:58


After violent clashes in Charlottesville in which one woman died, US president denounced violence ‘on many sides.’

US President Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in an arena in Youngstown, Ohio, US July 2

US President Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in an arena in Youngstown, Ohio, US July 25, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS)

In a televised announcement, Trump told reporters that he condemned the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” Trump’s decision not to specifically condemn the white supremacy rally where the violence occurred has earned him scorn.

We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST.

John Cole, a Pennsylvania-based editorial cartoonist, tweeted four drawings. One depicted a man wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat – a hallmark of Trump’s campaign and presidency – with a Hitler-esque mustache, standing in front of an American flag while performing a Nazi salute. Another showed Trump standing in front of a crowd of KKK members and other assumed white supremacists, with his arms opened to a Black couple, encouraging them to join him. One of the cartoons was a play on the film The Producers, in which a Jewish accountant helps produce a play about the ‘happy home life of Hitler.’

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

I’ve drawn a few cartoons about @POTUS‘ normalization of white nationalism/neo-nazism. Here are a few. 

Trump’s statement that ”we are all Americans” drew criticism from many people.

The original rally, called ”Unite the Right,” was headlined by prominent white nationalists and neo-Nazis, including Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler. The organizers called the protest against what they saw was an infringement on the rights of white Americans, and a perceived special treatment of people of color and immigrants. The organizers also made explicit their support of the confederacy movement, a modern reincarnation of the original Confederacy.

The Confederacy was a union of slave-holding states that sought to secede from the United States, which led to the American Civil War.

Virginia was an important state in the Confederacy and throughout the South, the memory of the Civil War is a complex issue that deals with states’ rights, racial relations, and politics.

One of the more famous cartoons associated with the alt-right and the neo-Nazi movement during Trump’s campaign was Pepe the Frog, who reportedly made a few appearances at this weekend’s rally.

An alt-right protestor holds a sign depicting Pepe the Frog

An alt-right protestor holds a sign depicting Pepe the Frog

China probes social media platforms for ‘obscenity’

August 11, 2017


© AFP/File | China has launched probes into three of its largest social networking platforms over the suspected dissemination of violence and obscenity
BEIJING (AFP) – China has launched probes into three of its largest social networking platforms over the suspected dissemination of violence and obscenity — the latest move aimed at sanitising the country’s increasingly closed-off internet.The world’s most popular messaging service WeChat, the Twitter-like Weibo as well as the Tieba discussion forum are being investigated, according to an announcement from the Cyberspace Administration of China on Friday.

Citing reports from internet users, the administration said other users on WeChat, Weibo and Tieba’s platforms “have disseminated content showing violence, terrorism, fake rumours, obscene pornography and more”.

Such materials “endanger national security, public security and the social order” and are illegal under a cybersecurity law that came into force in June, the agency said.

China’s internet is already considered one of the most tightly-controlled in the world, with a censorship system known as the “Great Firewall”.

But restrictive measures have multiplied in recent months, as celebrity gossip blogs and online video streaming sites alike have fallen victim to the new web regulations.

Last month, the Cyberspace Administration directed the country’s biggest technology firms — including Baidu, Tencent and Sohu — to shut down accounts on their networks that publish “bad information”.

The content was deemed to misinterpret policy directives and distort Chinese Communist Party history.

Another mandate in the new cybersecurity law requires online platforms to get a licence to post news reports or commentary about the government, economy, military, foreign affairs and social issues.

There has also been increasing concern among internet users that they will completely lose access to virtual private networks (VPN), software which allows people to circumvent the Great Firewall.

In January China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced it would be banning the use of unlicensed VPN providers.

While there has been little clarity on what exactly the rule meant and how, or even if, it would be implemented, Apple said last month that it was removing VPNs from its China app store.

“The Red Guard generation is in power now,” one Weibo commenter said of the latest investigation, alluding to a 1960s youth paramilitary movement that tormented and attacked people whom they perceived to be opposed to Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.