Fights for freedom, rights continue across Asia

People in the Philippines are mourning former President Benigno Aquino, who died at age 61 on Thursday following his hospitalization earlier this week. He was believed to have been suffering from kidney disease.

Aquino served as the country’s 15th president from 2010 to 2016 and was known for his strong anti-corruption stance and legal challenge to China amid territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino, who waged an anti-corruption agenda and ushered in key economic reforms during his term, has died at the age of 61, officials said on June 24. (Photo: AFP) 

Aquino was the only son of the late senator Benigno Aquino Junior and former president Corazon Aquino, who spearheaded the 1986 People Power movement to overthrow military dictatorship.

Catholics offered condolences and prayers as news of Aquino’s death broke and they hailed him for his efforts to reduce corruption and poverty.

Meanwhile, on the same day, Cardinal Jose Advincula was installed as the new archbishop of Manila in a ceremony at the Philippine capital’s cathedral.

The 69-year-old cardinal from Capiz became the 33rd archbishop of the country’s largest diocese, succeeding Cardinal Luis Tagle, who is now the prefect of the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples in Rome.

Manila’s new archbishop, Cardinal Jose Advincula, kisses the cross during his installation ceremony at Manila’s historic cathedral on June 24. (Photo: AFP)

The installation was attended by the papal nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, along with another former Manila archbishop, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, and apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo. Several other bishops and a limited number of priests and civic officials were present in the ceremony scaled down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cardinal Advincula made history on June 18 as he received his red hat and ring from the nuncio in his archdiocese in Capiz province after he missed a Rome consistory last November due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Catholics in Sri Lanka have rejected a police statement that investigations into the deadly Easter Sunday attacks are over. Senior deputy inspector general of police Ajith Rohana said the probe into the 2019 suicide bombings has been completed.

Church officials have dismissed the claim and insisted the investigation must continue. Father Camillus Fernando, spokesman for Colombo Archdiocese, said that further inquiries should be carried out into issues such as what happened to swords imported into Sri Lanka prior to the attacks.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith blesses a survivor of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks at midnight Mass at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo on Dec. 25, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has filed a case asking for an investigation into the import of about 6,000 swords, prompting a court to issue notices to top government officials seeking an explanation. A group of suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamath targeted three churches and three luxury hotels in 2019, killing at least 279 people including 37 foreign nationals.

Police say 32 suspects have been charged in nine cases in the High Court.

Minority leaders including a Catholic bishop have expressed skepticism after police in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh arrested two Muslims on allegations of converting more than 1,000 people from other faiths to Islam.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad of state police said the two were part of a nationwide mass religious conversion racket and claimed that the men received funding from overseas organizations and targeted disabled children and other vulnerable groups. Archbishop Emeritus Albert D’Souza of Agra says cases of religious conversion, hate crime and communal harmony will intensify as the government aims to hide its failures ahead of an assembly election next year.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (center) waves to supporters as he arrives to address a gathering in his home constituency of Gorakhpur in March 2017. (Photo: UCA News/IANS)

The prelate noted the government of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party has always treated minorities and poor communities as second-class citizens and is now using the communal card to divide people in the name of caste and creed. He said the state’s strict anti-conversion law could be misused for political gain as it mostly targets minority groups such as Muslims and Christians.

Several states run by the BJP have enacted stringent anti-conversion laws that triggered a series of attacks and lawsuits against minorities by radical Hindus in recent years. 

In Pakistan, Christian nurses who provide vital medical services face many workplace challenges including discrimination, religious bias and teasing by Muslim co-workers. During a recent seminar organized by the Archdiocese of Lahore, some 250 nurses, doctors and paramedics were hailed for their dedicated services and advised on how they can avoid being targeted with blasphemy accusations by Muslims.


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