Nigerian bishop calls on global community to fight Boko Haram

One day after bombings in his city killed nearly 120, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria, has called on the international community to take tangible steps in helping to defeat a radical Islamist group.

Two bombs went off in Jos, capital of Nigeria’s centrally located Plateau State, on May 20. One blast was in a market, and the other was outside a nearby hospital. At least 118 people were killed, and 56 injured. The second bomb, set off half an hour after the first, killed rescue workers.

Archbishop Kaigama told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need May 21 that “the international community can help in a number of important ways. The sale of arms is of grave concern. In short, the (government) needs help in cutting the supply lines of Boko Haram and others.”

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful,” launched an uprising in 2009 and hopes to impose sharia law on Nigeria. It has targeted security forces, politicians, schools, Christian minorities, and moderate Muslims in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.

The group “is faithful to its target of eliminating and destroying Christianity from parts of the country,” Archbishop Kaigama siad. “The only difference is that we are not just seeing Christians dying and being abducted, we are seeing attacks on Muslims who (Boko Haram) considers are not Muslim enough.”

Boko Haram’s attacks have killed thousands since 2009, including at least 1,600 in 2014 alone. The United Nation estimates that the attacks have led to more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, and some 57,000 refugees.

Religious leaders back U.S. work for Holy Land peace

Two U.S. bishops have joined other religious leaders in asking Secretary of State John Kerry to continue “determined U.S. leadership” in negotiating for peace between Palestine and Israel.

“Indeed, no past progress toward peace has occurred in this conflict without U.S. leadership, facilitation and resolute support,” said the May 20 letter to Kerry from the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East.

More than 30 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, including Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the emeritus Archbishop of Washington, signed the letter.

“A two-state agreement, in which both peoples will live in peace, security, and mutual recognition, represents the only realistic resolution of the conflict,” the letter continued. “Over time, developments on the ground and failures of leadership are making that goal more difficult to achieve.”

The religious leaders professed unity in their support for Kerry’s commitment to peace, saying this commitment needs his “continued, determined engagement.”

“We continue to be committed to mobilizing public support of our members in synagogues, churches and mosques across the country for your efforts, and we look forward to meeting with you at an appropriate time to discuss ways we can help.”

Christian pastor forcibly returned to Iranian prison

After being treated for two months in a hospital for injuries suffered from beatings during his imprisonment, Saeed Abedini — a Christian pastor and American citizen — is being returned to Iran's Rajai Shahr prison.

“This is an extremely disappointing development — one that breaks my heart,” said Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, in a May 20 statement. “We are very grateful that so many people around the world continue to pray for Saeed.”

Pastor Abedini was arrested in Iran in September 2012. The Iranian government has charged him with compromising national security. However, the pastor’s supporters say he is being imprisoned for his Christian beliefs, particularly because he left the Muslim faith to become Christian.

U.S. government asked to defend global religious freedom

The United States should actively promote religious liberty, a critical right that forms a foundation for a healthy society, the head of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom told members of Congress.

“This hearing is timely and important,” said Robert P. George, chairman of the religious freedom commission and a professor at Princeton University. “Religious freedom remains under serious assault across much of the world.”

During a May 22 hearing before the House congressional panel overseeing global human rights issues, George explained that this “pivotal human right is central to U.S. history, affirmed by international treaties and obligations, and a practical necessity crucial to the security of the United States and the world.”

He stressed that “we need our government to pay attention to the violations and abuses going on abroad.”

Search begins for Cardinal George’s successor

The initial stages have started in the search to replace Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who is fighting cancer for the third time, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, papal nuncio to the U.S., told Cardinal George that the consultation process has begun, the publication reported May 22. It is expected that the process will be finished in late fall.

In March, Cardinal George revealed that after more than a year of dormancy, the cancer in his right kidney was “showing signs of new activity.”

He made the announcement in a column for archdiocesan newspaper the Catholic New World, explaining that after numerous tests, he would be entering aggressive chemotherapy over the next two months. Still he said, “this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death.”

U.N. report shows reform efforts in Church, observers say

A United Nations anti-torture committee’s report on the Holy See recognized Church efforts to combat sex abuse, but some problems in the committee’s approach risk undermining international treaty agreements, observers said.

“It is encouraging to see the Committee Against Torture affirm and praise the important reforms the Church has put into place to protect children and its ongoing commitment to those reforms,” Ashley McGuire, an advisory board member of Catholic Voices, said May 23.

She noted that the report cites Pope Francis’ words that the Church “will not take one step backward” in its response to sex abuse and to sanctioning its perpetrators.

The U.N. committee reviews the activities of countries that have signed the Convention Against Torture, meeting with delegations from signatory countries every five years. The hearing on the Holy See’s adherence to the convention took place in Geneva in early May. The committee report was released May 23.

The committee report cited the Holy See’s “clear condemnation” of the use of torture and noted Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 statement to prison chaplains that the prohibition against torture “cannot be contravened under any circumstances.”

The committee acknowledged that the Holy See, Catholic dioceses and religious orders have instituted “important efforts” to prevent sex abuse. It said the Holy See should ensure effective monitoring of accused clergy, prevent the transfer of clergy who face credible abuse accusations, and report allegations to civil authorities.