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MALIAN ‘CARDINAL OF PEACE’ IS ELEVATED BY THE POPE

May 22, 2017 (GIN) – Bishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, is one of five men from four continents elevated by Pope Francis to the College of Cardinals. The move continues the Pope’s practice of adding men from the peripheries of the Catholic word to the body that will elect his successor.
In choosing the five clerics, the Argentine pope passed over dioceses in Italy, the U.S. and other countries whose bishops traditionally receive the rank.
The weekend announcement underscores two priorities of the pope’s reign since his election in 2013: the needs of the poor and reaching out to other religions. 
Monsignor Zerbo, 73, played an active role in the negotiations to end a civil war in Mali that broke out in 2012 and officially ended in 2015. In 2012, he was a member of the civil society delegation who took part in the talks held in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) between the military junta and political opposition parties.
When a Catholic nun from Colombia, South America was abducted by armed men in the southern Malian city of Karangasso last February, Bishop Zerbo shared his hope for an end to conflict. “Peace can only be achieved through the conversion of the hearts,” he said, “regardless of faith.”
He also served as president of Caritas Mali, an international aid program for refugees and the poor.
Africa represents about 12.63% of global Catholic population and currently, only about 12.1% of the African cardinals are eligible to vote in a papal election. 

Meanwhile, President Trump, on his first foreign trip, is making three important stops to major religious sites - Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam; Jerusalem, including a stop at the Western Wall; and the Vatican, in order to meet Pope Francis.

The choice of countries underscores efforts by the Trump administration to overcome the rhetoric of his campaign speeches that singled out Muslims with prejudicial remarks.
Bishop Zerbo joins two other cardinals from countries with minuscule numbers of Catholics: Sweden and Laos. For El Salvador, a majority-Catholic country, Pope Francis will be elevating the assistant to assistants, Bishop José Gregorio Rosa Chávez.
Cardinal-designate Rosa Chávez was a close associate of the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, a martyred champion of social justice whom Pope Francis approved for beatification, the church’s highest honor short of sainthood, in 2015. w/pix of Bishop Jean Zerbo

UNPLEASANT SURPRISE UNVEILED FOR WEST AFRICANS IN AMERICA – YOU’RE DEPORTED


May 22, 2017 (GIN) - Ghanaians who have overstayed their U.S. visas are facing a new Trump Administration push to deport hundreds or thousands of Africans including those from countries stricken by the Ebola epidemic in 2014. That was the message from the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Robert Jackson, in an interview with Ghana’s Starr FM Online earlier this year.
“In fact about 7,000 (Ghanaians) are currently at different stages of the deportation process. And we are not apologetic about that,” the U.S. Ambassador was quoted to say. “We have a lot of Ghanaians who have overstayed their visas in the U.S. and I think that they need to be concerned about whether they would be allowed to remain illegally,” Jackson said. “My guess is they will be given some options, but the president will be serious about asking those who’ve violated their visa status to depart.” The Ambassador offered assurances that the Trump administration would not paint every African country with the same brush. But Nigerians should be worried, he cautioned. “Ghana’s economy is growing, Nigeria’s is shrinking. We have a very different relationship with Ghana. Ghana is more supportive of free trade and shares a long history of peaceful existence which Nigeria does not have.” Subsequently, more worrying news for Africans in the U.S. came from the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) which announced that since Ebola has been vanquished, West Africans from the so-called Ebola states should pack their bags and return home or face deportation when their temporary visas expire this month.“The designations of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone terminate effective May 21, 2017,” the Department states on its website. Some 58,000 Haitians also facing the same TPS termination have been given an additional six months stay.
Last year, TPS beneficiaries were given 8 months advance notice of the expiration in 3 notices in the Federal Register. These notices urged individuals who did not have another immigration status to use the time before the terminations became effective in May to prepare for and arrange their departure or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible.
Minnesota is home to a large Liberian and Guinean community mostly in the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities metro. Alhaaji Mohamed Bah, president of the Guinea Association of Minnesota, commented: “There’s no way of going back” since many of the TPS holders lost homes jobs and families to Ebola.

In recent weeks, as the end of the TPS approached, Bah said he’s been getting calls from people who fear deportation. “Some of them even said: ‘It’s better for me to die because going back is like death for me; I don’t have anybody anymore,” he recalled.
Abdullah Kiatamba, executive director of African Immigrant Services, underscored: “For those who escaped Ebola, uprooting them from the U.S. could be devastating.” w/pix of Alhaaji Mohamed Bah


NIGERIA’S FIVE WEALTHIEST MEN COULD END POVERTY IN THAT COUNTRY – OXFAM


May 22, 2017 (GIN) – A new report by the anti-poverty group Oxfam International paints a devastating picture of economic inequality, finding that the combined wealth of five of the richest Nigerians – put at $29.9 billion - could end extreme poverty in their country yet millions face starvation in the country’s north east with no relief in sight. The report, “Inequality in Nigeria” exposes the large and growing gap between rich and poor. Benefits of economic growth have been captured by a wealthy elite, the report finds, at the expense of ordinary Nigerians.
The 5 richest Nigerians are: Aliko Dangote (net worth US $14.4 billion), Mike Adenuga (net worth US $9.9 billion), Femi Otedola (net worth US$1.85 billion), Folorunsho Alakija (net worth US$1.55 billion), Abdul Samad Rabiu (net worth $1.1 billion). 

Here are a few figures from the report:
"While more than 112 million people were living in poverty in 2010, the richest Nigerian man will take 42 years to spend all of his wealth at 1 million per day."
"In one day, the richest Nigerian man can earn from his wealth 8,000 times more than what the poorest 10% of Nigerians spend on average in one year for their basic consumption."
"A Nigerian lawmaker receives an annual salary of about $118,000 ... 63 times the country's GDP per capita (2013). "Between 1960 and 2005, about $20 trillion was stolen from the treasury by public office holders."

This issue is not due to a lack of resources but "to the ill-use, misallocation and misappropriation of such resources," the report argues. "At the root there is a culture of corruption combined with a political elite out of touch with the daily struggles of average Nigerians."
“The burden of taxation mostly falls on poorer companies and individuals," Oxfam writes, while at the same time "big multinationals receive questionable tax waivers and tax holidays, and utilize loopholes in tax laws to shift huge profits generated in the country to low tax jurisdictions."
Resources that the government manages to collect are often spent in an unfair and inefficient way, says Oxfam.

Governance costs are "astronomical and indefensible." In one typical scandal in 2015, allegations surfaced that the nation's 469 lawmakers had been given a combined sum of $43 million as a "wardrobe allowance." Commenting on the report, Celestine Odo, Good Governance Program Coordinator for Oxfam in Nigeria, said extreme inequality was undermining the economy and fermenting social unrest. It was an irony, he said, that Nigerians were living in poverty in spite the abundance of wealth in the country. Nigerians must build a new political and economic system that works for everyone and not just a fortunate few. “The government can make a start by tackling corruption, ensuring big business and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax, investing in vital public services, and protecting the rights of women,” Mr. Odo said.
“It is obscene that the richest Nigerian has amassed more money than he can ever hope to spend in a country where five million people will struggle to feed themselves this year. Nigerian leaders must be more determined in tackling this terrible problem.”
Responding to the report, Minister Mr Eloho Samuel complained that the authors ignored the positive poverty alleviation scheme implemented by the government. The entire report can be read at www.oxfam.org 

NIGERIA’S ABDUCTED GIRLS REUNITED WITH PARENTS AT LAST

May 22, 2017 (GIN) – Weeping, sobbing, embracing, singing – the abducted girls from Chibok, Nigeria, were finally reunited with their mothers, fathers, and other relatives after three years in Boko Haram captivity. The girls were freed from captivity on May 7 after negotiations between the Nigerian government and the extremist group and a swap of 82 girls for five Boko Haram leaders. But iIt took two weeks to organize the reunion in the capital city Abuja – the government has been keeping the students for psychological assessment, military debriefing, medical check-ups and for remedial classes to catch up on three years of lost education. Despite Boko Haram's abusive record and history of human rights violations, Bulama Jona, father of one of the freed girls, told Ofeibea Quist-Arcton of National Public Radio that forgiveness is the best way for families to overcome their trauma. "Three years [in captivity] is not three days — how she thinks and how she talks is different," he said. "I thank Boko Haram for releasing our Chibok girl,” he continued. “We forgive them for what they have done to us. .. Now we are pleading with Boko Haram, let them release those people who are still with them."
Most of the girls abducted from the boarding school in Chibok were Christians but were forcibly converted to Islam by their captors. With the appearance of young girls as suicide bombers, there are fears for the lives of Boko Haram’s many kidnapped children, totaling by some accounts in the thousands.

Meanwhile, a dispute has broken out between government officials over the girl students’ release with Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state calling it a diversionary tactic to turn attention away from the health status of President Muhammadu Buhari. The 72 year old President returned to London on May 7, shortly after greeting the freed girls, for a second health check-up , delegating responsibility to the Vice President. An earlier check up, scheduled for 10 days, had stretched to two months.  Buhari's aides have repeatedly played down the severity of his illness, even though he missed three consecutive cabinet meetings, Friday prayers and his grandson's wedding.
Aides asserted that he was "hale and hearty" but the language since has changed.
Buhari himself admitted in early March that he had "never been so ill" and has had blood transfusions. w/pix of Chibok girls and family reuniting

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