Friday, June 18, 2010

Missionary Childhood: Day of the African Child: Updates

EUROPE/FRANCE - Missionary Childhood marks 90 years since the arrival of the relics of the Chinese martyr Saint Paul Chen at the Cathedral of Notre Dame

Paris (Agenzia Fides) – Recently in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, the Pontifical Society of Missionary Childhood or Holy Childhood celebrated the 90th anniversary of the arrival in the Cathedral of the relics of Saint Paul Chen, a young Chinese seminarian martyr who was a member of Holy Childhood in China. His earthly remains reached Notre Dame on 10 June 1920 and were placed in the chapel dedicated to the Child Jesus, entrusted to the Holy Childhood Mission Society. On the occasion of the anniversary on June 10 Bishop Jérôme Beau, Auxiliary Bishop of Paris, presided a special Mass and in his homily emphasised the essential role of children in the Church, they open their hearts to the needs of less fortunate children and to the missionary life. The anniversary was an opportunity to give new impulse to efforts of solidarity made by Missionary Childhood children towards their peers in China. From Rome Baptistine Ralamboarison represented the International Secretariat of the Pontifical Society of Missionary Childhood at the celebration 
Paul Tchen (Chen Changpin) was born on 11 April 1838 at Sintchen, in the Chinese province of Kouy-tcheou (Guizhou), to non Christian parents who were very poor. Paul received instruction thanks to support from the Missionary Childhood Society. He was admitted to the minor seminary in 1853, and baptised and confirmed on Christmas day the same year, making his first Holy Communion in 1854. A gentle, kindly boy, he refused his father's call to return to the family, since he felt quite sure about his vocation. In 1860 he entered the major seminary of Tsin-gay. On 12 June 1861 soldiers broke into the college, they arrested Paul and others charged with being Christians. Despite suffering and treats none of them renounced the faith. Paul and his companions were killed on 29 July 1861, and seminary was destroyed. Beatified by Pope Pius X in 1908, the earthly remains of Paul were taken Paris to the Cathedral of Notre Dame and placed in the Chapel of Holy Childhood on 10 June 1920. Seminarian Paul was among of 120 Chinese martyrs canonised by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, on 1 October 2000. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 17/6/2010)

AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - "People feel very strongly about the Day of the African Child in Sierra Leone where the majority of the population is under 25 years of age"

Freetown (Agenzia Fides)- "People in Sierra Leone feel very strongly about the Day of the African Child. It is a national celebration involving schools of all grades" Fides learns from Xaverian Missionary Fr Gerardo Caglioni, who spent years on mission in Sierra Leone.
"It is popular because the majority of the country's population is young, under 25. In a way the Day acknowledges the importance of investing in the new generations, so that, thanks to school education, they realise who they are and are able to guarantee their country a better future" Fr. Caglioni told Fides.
The Day of the African Child was begun in 1991 by what, at the time ,was called the Organisation for African Unity, today the African Union, to commemorate the victims of a massacre in Soweto in 1976 and to promote the rights of children, denied on this continent. On 16 June 1976, thousands of black school children in the township of Soweto, South Africa, took to the streets to protest the inferior quality of their education and the imposition of the Afrikaans language used by white South Africans, hundreds of young boys and girls were shot by the police.
To the young victims of 1976 we can add all the victims, many of them children, of the numerous African wars. 
But African children die not only because of war. The first cause of infant mortality is disease, often due to a lack of hygiene and efficient medical care. According to recent figures in Sub-Saharan Africa every year 4.5 million children die before reaching the age of 5. Most killer disease can be easily prevented. Malaria for example could be better prevented with more widespread use of mosquito nets, deaths caused by chickenpox could be prevented with vaccination. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 17/6/2010)

AFRICA/SOMALIA - Disabled children in the region of Somaliland deserve more attention

Hargesia (Agenzia Fides) – A call for more attention to be given to disabled children in the Somaliland region of Somalia was made on the occasion of the Day of the African Child, marked yesterday June 16. These children are very often neglected, excluded from programmes for education, healthcare or living expenses. "Denied access to structures such as schools or hospitals, people's attitude towards them and lack of public awareness and sensitivity are the real barriers against the progress of these children, not their disability", we read in a report by Disability Action Network (DAN), the principal NGO committed to assisting children with a physical or mental disability. 
Despite the Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability, the disabled children of Somaliland have no priority, especially regarding economic plans and grants. Somaliland has thousands of children with a physical or mental disability but only very few structures to meet their needs". "For example, deaf children in Mogadishu attend a special school in Hargeisa, because they have no structures in their own town". With regard to discrimination, the Constitution denies disabled people the right to hold government jobs. According to DAN, about 10% of the children in Somalia suffer from some form of disability. In Somaliland, the number is bound to rise because of refugees from neighbouring countries. The rates of infant and maternal deaths in the region are among the highest in the world, the principal causes are diarroeah, malaria and respiratory infections and access to basic services is still a challenge in many areas. (AP) (17/6/2010 Agenzia Fides)