HTI-religionLINDAU, Germany – Within hours of the earthquake that devastated Haiti's Tiburon Peninsula in August, faith-based aid workers were on the scene, comforting victims and helping to pull survivors from the rubble, then providing food and water. 

"The most important thing in a disaster can be human contact," said the Rev. Clement Joseph, head of the state-founded Social Mission of the Haitian Churches and secretary-general for Religions for Peace-Haiti. 
"Helping people to realize they are not alone, that help is on the way, that increases their reliance and their willingness to fight," Joseph said.
Joseph, who spoke on Wednesday (Oct. 6) at Religions for Peace's international conference in Lindau, Germany, sees religion playing a key role in confronting Haiti's many challenges.
The last several months have been catastrophic for Haiti. The Aug. 14 earthquake left more than 2,200 people dead, followed by Tropical Depression Grace two days later. The country's political sector has been in disarray since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home in July. The upheaval has worsened the effect of the pandemic, which has killed 22,000 people officially, but surely more in a country where a small percentage of the population has access to medical care.
When the pandemic hit, Haiti had not fully recovered from a cholera epidemic that started after a major 2010 earthquake and major hurricanes in 2010 (Hurricane Thomas) and 2016 (Matthew).
Despite billions in aid over the last generation — the 2010 earthquake alone resulted in $13 billion in aid, predominantly from the United States and Canada — the country remains the poorest in the Americas. In its 2020 survey, the World Bank ranked Haiti 170th out of 189 countries in its Human Development Index.
Religious groups in the country are attempting to make aid more effective. In his remarks in Lindau, Joseph said that Social Mission of the Haitian Churches has trained some 12,000 young people over the last 15 years and sponsored initiatives to distribute aid through women — who, studies say, are less likely to misspend the resources.
But as important as spiritual institutions' material help has been, Joseph said, religion also helps give locals the strength to avoid despair and survive what appears to be wave after wave of tragedy.
"Despite everything, Haiti still has its faith," he said. "We are a very religious country."
Not just religious, but also religiously diverse. Joseph said the country has thriving communities of Protestants and Catholics, as well as practitioners of the Bahá'í faith and Indigenous Vodou traditions. Combined, he said, there was one religious leader for about every 700 residents of Haiti. According to surveys, 85% of Haitians see religion as "very important" in their day-to-day lives, among the highest levels for a secular state.
Recognizing the importance of religion in keeping the country together when all other systems seemed to fail, Religions for Peace has worked to shore up Haitians' faith. In the wake of Moïse's assassination, Religions for Peace-Haiti issued an open letter to the people of Haiti that said the organization wanted to "invoke the soul of this great nation for resilience, tolerance, dialogue, peace, and reconciliation at a time of crisis."
The signees of the letter — Catholic Bishop Pierre-Andre Dumas, Episcopal Bishop Oge Beauvoir, Supreme Chief of Haitian Voodoo Manbo Euvonie Auguste Georges, and Joseph — stated that they were "proud to be citizens of this country, sharing our aspiration for freedom, respect for human dignity, and dedication to foundational values and principles on which our nation was built."

Photo: Rev. Clement Joseph, head of the state-founded Social Mission of the Haitian Churches and secretary-general for Religions for Peace-Haiti, said that religious groups in the country are attempting to make aid more effective. He added that the country has thriving communities of Protestants and Catholics, as well as practitioners of the Bahá'í faith and Indigenous Vodou traditions.
Credit: Pixabay (12/31/18)

Story/photo published date: 10/06/21

A version of this story was published in Religion News Service.
Guam ApuronVATICAN CITY – A specially-appointed Vatican tribunal Friday announced that Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron was “guilty of certain accusations” related to be sexual abuse of minors, stripping the 72-year-old Guam native of his office and prohibiting him from returning to native island.

Within hours of Friday’s ruling, Apuron said he would appeal the ruling, which dismissed some of the charges against him.

“God is my witness; I am innocent and I look forward to proving my innocence in the appeals process,” Apuron said in a statement released by his lawyer. Apuron previously threatened to sue his accusers, but his latest statement did not repeat the threat.

The tribunal’s penalties against Apuron will be suspended until the appeal process is concluded, according to Giorgio Giovanelli, an expert on canonical law with Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University.

Apuron was suspended as archbishop in June 2016 in the wake of allegations he had sexually abused altar boys starting when he was a priest in the village of Agat in the 1970s. Months after the suspension, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes to fill Apuron’s role in Guam, and a five-member secret tribunal was formed to look into the charges.

The tribunal’s decision was welcome news in Guam, where the archdiocese has been named in more than 160 sex abuse lawsuits.

Roland Paul L. Sondia, 56, who accused Apuron of molesting him as a 15-year-old altar boy in 1977, said he felt deep relief after the verdict.

“We’ve waited so long for this day to come,” said Sondia, who still lives in Agat with his family. “The Vatican tribunal believed us, believed what was done to use. I’m still trying to take it all in.”

Sondia said he hugged his wife when he heard the news: “We hugged each other,” he said. “We were in tears. Tears of joy.”

Another accuser, Roy Quintanilla, said he was not surprised by the ruling.

“I always believed the Vatican would find Apuron guilty,” said Quintanilla, who said he was raped as a 12-year-old, 40 years ago. “How could they now, after our written and personal testimony? This verdict was a long time coming.”

“I am so glad we stopped being silent,” said Quintanilla, who now lives in Hawaii. “The Vatican’s verdict was made possible because Guam’s faithful stood together against an injustice.”

The full membership of the Vatican tribunal is secret: the only member known to the public is Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a Wisconsin native.

The tribunal had been scheduled to make its ruling twice before Friday: in August and then October last year. But it was delayed, at least in part because new evidence kept coming into light. In the latest, Mark Apuron, the archbishop’s nephew, accused his uncle of raping him when he was a teenager, in 1989 or 1990.

The Vatican said the decision of the tribunal will become “final and effective” if the tribunal’s decision is upheld. Giovanelli, the canonical law expert, said Pope Francis could choose to intervene, though other sources said that is unlikely.

Giovanelli said Apuron would formally retain the title of archbishop even if the decision is ultimately upheld, though being stripped of his title would mean Apuron would no longer have a pastoral role. It is not clear what options would be available to Apuron if he remains barred from returning to Guam, though in the past high-ranking church figures accused of misconduct -- such as Boston Cardinal Bernard Law -- have retired to isolated lives in Rome. But Apuron is the highest ranking church figure to have been convicted of first-hand sexual misconduct. Law and others were accused to helping to cover up such activities.

There is no set time table for how long an appeal would last, according to Chicago native Joshua McElwee, Vatican correspondent for National Catholic Reporter.

“It’s not a transparent process,” McElwee said. “We probably won’t know when it starts, or what is happening in an appeal. We will probably only find out what happens when a statement is suddenly released, the way it was for the tribunal’s ruling” on Friday.

Apuron, in a wheel chair because of health issues, met with Pope Francis a month ago in Paul VI Hall in the Vatican City. Italian media reports said Francis embraced Apuron and whispered a few words into the archbishop’s ear, but Francis made no public statement about Apuron.

Francis, who celebrated his fifth anniversary as pontiff March 13, has repeatedly said the church should take more responsibility for sexual abuse scandals in its past.

Apuron, a former altar boy himself, rose from priest to archbishop in just 14 years. He was installed as the leader of the island's faithful in 1986.

His descent from power was also swift, hastened by a group of community leaders, a tenacious blogger and a few former altar boys represented by a prominent attorney.

Initially, the archbishop came under scrutiny because of his close ties to the Neocatachumenal Way, a group within the Catholic Church that was often at odds with traditional Catholics on the island. After a multi-million-dollar property transfer and the removal of two popular priests, Apuron became the target of public protests.

As critics worked to unseat the archbishop, their efforts uncovered a massive child sex abuse scandal, propelled an overhaul of the archdiocese and changed Guam law.

Photo: Catholic Archbishop Anthony Apuron
Credit: Courtesy of Kuam News official YouTube channel (11/02/16)

Story/photo publish date: 03/16/18

A version of this story was published in USA Today.
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_USA160101aa001.jpegBERLIN — Europe's most populous and economically powerful country can easily afford to spend more on its military defense, as NATO requires and President Trump demands. Yet Germany, still haunted by the horrors of World War II, simply doesn't want to do that.

Even in today's dangerous world, Germany is a largely pacifist nation, security analysts say.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU150401aa003.jpegBERLIN — Some Berliners say they will still go about their business - with defiance. Others fear more attacks are coming - and vow to alter their routines.

But most agreed that a murderous rampage in Berlin on Monday night has left their lively, fun-loving city shaken to its core, and said they were determined to defend their way of life here in spite of it.

Read more at Aljazeera

CUB13396500193 9496602eac zMiguel Hernandez kneels on the floor of his workspace at the Jose Marti Experimental Studio at the edge of the Avenida del Presidente, central Havana’s main tourist drag, spraying stencils of the Shell Oil logo onto his oil painting of an old-style diver.

“The oils come from my study of art history, and the logos are because I studied advertising,” said the 30-year-old art teacher. “Cuban art is apocalyptic: We gather up those parts of the outside world that wash up on our island, and combine them with our own island identity.”

Read more at The Washington Times

BRA161423003“Our country is living through a very worrisome moment,” said Eudes Raony, an architect in the northeastern city of Joao Pessoa. “Our democracy is becoming more fragile because of the right-leaning opposition that is pushing for the exit of (Rousseff)."

Read more at USA Today
b_179_129_16777215_00_images_130311AA001.jpegRIO DE JANEIRO — Last week's raucous partying to mark the end of Carnival season in this teeming metropolis masked a growing list of troubles that plague Rio and the rest of Brazil.

First it was the collapse of a once-soaring economy, followed by a humiliating World Cup defeat on home soil in 2014. Then a growing corruption scandal enveloping President Dilma Rouseff and fears the country won't be ready to host the Olympic Games this summer.

Read more at USA Today


As the world prepares to wean itself from fossil fuels, many eyes are turning to Brazil with its land mass nearly equal that of Canada, plentiful sunshine, history of sugarcane plantations dating to colonial times, and decades of experience producing and burning ethanol. The South American giant's principal feedstock is considerably more efficient than crops that predominate elsewhere, such as corn in the United States.

Domestic demand for ethanol is expected to double from its current level to 54.5 billion litres by 2022, according to the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA).

Read more at The Globe and Mail 

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_MEX151130aa001.jpegMEXICO CITY — As the hunt for fugitive drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán intensifies, Mexican authorities recently announced they have confiscated a total of 11 planes, eight vehicles and six houses belonging to the kingpin in the past five months.

That's likely just a fraction of the assets Guzmán has accumulated during his life of crime. The Sinaloa Cartel he oversees traffics billions of dollars worth of narcotics to the United States every year, according to estimates from the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Read more at USA Today 

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU121121AA001.jpegBERLIN — Thomas Sperveslage remembers the day Victor Onuh came knocking on his door.  Onuh, a 40-year-old Nigerian refugee, had worked odd jobs for around a $1 an hour since arriving in Germany in 2002. In 2012, he decided to he wanted a raise.

"He managed to bypass reception somehow so he could apply for a job with us," said Sperveslage, who works as a personnel manager at a construction company in the former East Germany.


b_179_129_16777215_00_images_MOR130531.jpegRABAT, Morocco - Volunteers were knocking on doors in the residential neighbourhood of Agdal in Rabat on Wednesday to drum up votes amid a political malaise that has gripped the country in recent years.

The volunteers were members of the Democratic Leftist Federation, a coalition of groups headed by Nabila Mounib, leader of the Unified Socialist Party, running a campaign called "vivre ensemble", or live together.

Read more at Aljazeera

pope130228AA001VATICAN CITY — The leak of the papal encyclical on the environment three days early highlights a rift in the Catholic Church between those who share Pope Francis' view that mankind should be the guardian of nature and those who think the risks of climate change are exaggerated.

The encyclical will officially be released Thursday and is called "Laudato Sii" — translated from Latin as "Praised Be," a reference to a prayer from the pope's namesake, St. Francis, viewed by Catholics as the patron saint of ecology. But an Italian-language draft of the document was posted Monday by L'Espresso magazine and quickly prompted worldwide attentio

Read more at The Washington Times

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_AFR141002aa001.jpegFREETOWN, Sierra Leone — As infectious Ebola patients in this country's remote northern region were being transferred for treatment, the ambulance moving them overturned on a narrow, dirt road, injuring the driver and patients and exposing the area to the deadly virus.

The eight patients were rushed to a nearby government hospital for treatment after the Oct. 10 accident, but the staff wasn't prepared to deal with Ebola. After cursory first aid, they were placed back in a vehicle to be driven to a treatment center more than 100 miles away.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_ISR130226AA002.jpegJERUSALEM — More than 50,000 mourners crowded the cemetery where three teenagers were buried Tuesday, in a day of national mourning for the teens who were abducted more than two weeks ago and killed.

As is the custom in Israel after tragedies like bus bombings, local radio stations played somber music throughout the day, and news commentators analyzed what Israel's next move will be in the war against terrorism.

Read more at USA Today


KABUL - An Afghan security guard allegedly shot and killed three Americans at a hospital in Kabul on Thursday. The three killed were doctors, including a visiting father and son.

Another doctor and a U.S. nurse were wounded in the attack.

Read more at USA Today


JOHANNESBURG - Insufficient efforts to combat widespread illegal South Africa mining led to accidents such as the weekend incident that's trapped about 200 men in an abandoned gold mine, analysts say.

"The government leaves it mainly to the mining companies to prevent and minimize illegal mining," said Dirk Bakker, senior lecturer at the School of Mining Engineering of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. "It is only when there are accidents that rescue organizations and local authorities get involved."

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130403AA1.jpegCAIRO – Egypt's deposed president Mohammed Morsi shouted angrily at a judge Tuesday from inside a soundproof box and metal cage during the opening of his trial on charges of conspiring with foreign groups in a prison break.

In taped video footage that aired on Egyptian television, Morsi wore a white prison jumpsuit and paced back and forth, at one point furiously yelling at the judge: "Who are you? Tell me!"

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_131108ROMaa001.jpegAMMAN, Jordan - Peace talks in Switzerland to end the Syrian civil war began Wednesday with the United States and Syrian diplomats clashing over a sticking point that has existed for months — whether President Bashar Assad can remain in power.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Assad's violent crackdown on peaceful dissent in a nearly three-year war means he cannot stay.

Read more at USA Today


CAIRO - Egyptians saying "no" to a proposed new constitution were difficult to find Tuesday in a vote that may be a significant turning point for a country in turmoil since a revolution three years ago.

Most people in the capital said they supported the proposed constitution, suggesting broad support but also an indication that those who opposed the charter largely stayed home.

Read more at USA Today

BERLIN - Two girls, hand-in-hand, walking along a railroad track, facing the future together. It's a romantic picture and one that has been embraced by Germany's young girls.

But in their rush to recreate such idyllic images, many overlook the dangers posed by Germany's high-speed train network -- occasionally with deadly results.

"Even if a train were to come, I wouldn't let go of your hand," read the dramatic pledges emblazoned across photos often posted on Facebook or other social media platforms.

German police believe the seemingly innocent trend may have already claimed lives.

Two weeks ago, the bodies of two girls-- aged 14 and 15 -- were discovered by a friend near the tracks outside of Luenen in northwestern Germany. According to local media reports, police have ruled out suicide and a camera was discovered near the bodies.

Speaking to the German regional paper, the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, police spokesmen Volker Stall confirmed that photos have played a role in similar incidents, including the death of two girls in 2011 in Memmingen in Bavaria in the south of Germany.

"Earlier, girls may have had a poster of The Pussy Cat Dolls on their wall and worn similar make-up," said Martin Voigt, a Munich-based linguistic and sociologist, who points to a new "cult of the B.F.F" or Best Friends Forever -- coupled with the power of social media -- for the risky new trend.

"But now girls are almost like little stars themselves and can portray themselves like stars on social media," he said.

He points to media stars like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie for popularizing the B.F.F. concept when they began incorporating their private relationship into their public personas. According to Voigt, social media platforms give young women the ability to compete with their favorite stars "eye to eye."

He said social media has changed the way young girls interact and has led to young women forming much more emotional and public relationships and posting pledges of friendship on platforms like Facebook, YouTube and other social networks.

According to Voigt, train tracks are often chosen because they are romantic symbols, but many of the young girls are unaware of the dangers lurking on many of Germany's railways.

"We need to tell girls that it's hard to hear a train coming and that you often don't have time to react when a train is coming toward you," he said.

But despite repeated public information campaigns by German police, the deaths in Luenen demonstrate that railways still pose a danger to German adolescents.

Voigt has praised the efforts to inform young girls of the dangers posed by high-speed trains. But he also called of parents to actively involve themselves in their children's online lives.

It's a sentiment echoed by police spokesman Stall, who also called on parents to pay attention to what their children post on social media.

"It's more important that parents observe what their children are doing" said Voigt. "A lot of parents don't have a clue about Facebook or social media. The children are often left on their own."

By Aaron Tilton

BERLIN - The families of fallen German World War II soldiers will travel to Russia on Aug. 3 for the opening of Germany's last big war cemetery on the Eastern Front.

Around 200 people will attend the opening near the Russian town of Smolensk. The remains of five soldiers, representing the 30,000 already re-interred at the site, will be symbolically buried by the German War Graves Commission and its Russian counterpart.



CAIRO — Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called for fresh protests in Cairo Wednesday as the country's interim cabinet was set to get to work after being sworn in, and as opposing political groups remain at odds over a turbulent political transition.

The new cabinet, comprised of leftists, liberals and technocrats, does not include any members of the Brotherhood or the ultraconservative Nour Party — the nation's two principle Islamist groups that, over the past two years, dominated politics.

Read more at USA Today

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGT130712AA004.jpegCAIRO - Not long before sunrise Monday morning, security forces clashed with supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi outside a facility of the Republic Guard.

More than 50 people were killed in the bloody chaos that ensued – days after Morsi, the nation's first democratically elected president, was forced out of power.

Read more at USA Today


Yassin, a Syrian Ph.D. candidate at the University of Edinburgh, had been studying in Scotland since 2007, when what was supposed to be a short visit home led to trouble with the Syrian security forces.

In March 2011, Yassin — his real name is changed to protect his safety — had expressed disgust via Facebook posts at the Syrian regime’s brutal response to early protests of the uprising. Arriving home, he was called in for questioning at the office of the ruling Ba’ath party officials at Damascus University. Soon after, a college dean arranged a meeting that Yassin describes as a trap.

Read more at Al-Fanar


PARIS - François Hollande will bring with him more questions than answers when he is inaugurated later this month.

A virtual unknown on the global stage, Hollande is emerging from a campaign where the main plank of his platform seemed to be “I am not Nicolas Sarkozy,” the outgoing president.

French voters gave the Socialist Party candidate the reins to the second-largest country in the European Union, with the world’s fifth-largest economy, by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin over incumbent Sarkozy, according to the French Interior Ministry.

Read more at The Global Post

You are here: Home About us Featured stories