It doesn’t take much to change a child’s life forever
Cleft lip and palate is one of the most common birth defects in the world, occurring in the womb when the parts that normally move to form a baby’s face don’t join together properly. If a hole is left in the roof of the mouth, the baby is born with a cleft palate. And if there’s a gap in the top lip, the baby is born with a cleft lip. In the UK, children born with a cleft lip or palate are given an operation to repair it on the NHS. But in developing countries like Somalia, families are far too poor to ever afford this surgery, and the effects are devastating. Most children with clefts are unable to go to school, make friends or get a job. The stigma is so great that some are just abandoned by their parents at birth, in orphanages or even by the side of the road. Clefts are far more than just a disfigurement. They stop a child being able to eat, speak or breathe properly.
Just imagine how heartbreaking it would be if your son or daughter was never able to talk, laugh or even smile back at you. That’s where The Smile Train comes in. We have a very simple and effective solution to the problem. We train local doctors in 77 countries, including Somalia, to perform surgery to fix children’s clefts for free, leaving a lasting legacy in these communities. Smile Train have been working in the world’s poorest countries for 11 years and we’ve already provided more than 580,000 free cleft surgeries for poor children. The best part is that the surgery we provide is quick and simple. It can take as little as 45 minutes and costs as little as £150.
Every surgery is paid for by our generous supporters. Although Smile Train has already given so many boys and girls a second chance at life, there is still a huge waiting list of children desperate for surgery in developing countries like Somalia. I hope that you’ll read this short field report to see why donations are so urgently needed…
A gift of any amount can help us save a child’s life. Visit www.smiletrain.org.uk or call 0870 127 6269 today. BOOK EXTRACT
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Church in Pakistan grows amid persecution www.catholicherald.co.uk
April 2 2010 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
INSIDE THIS WEEK’S ISSUE
BY ED WEST
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH in Pakistan has experienced a “miracle of survival and growth”, with a surge of vocations and ever larger numbers joining the faith in spite of increasing threats from Islamic extremists.
Seminary numbers are at a 15-year high, a new Catholic television channel has been launched and Catholic numbers continue to rise, according to a fact-finding mission by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
The visit by representatives of the charity, who conducted indepth interviews with bishops, priests, Sisters and lay people, as well as visits to key Church communities all over the country, underlined the rise of extremism described in the report as a “Talibanisation” of society.
Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, president of the Pakistani Catholic Bishops’ Conference, spoke of a new extremist “push” through to southern Punjab close to the country’s Christian heartland around Lahore. With increasing pressure to conform to a strict Islamic culture and dress code, Church leaders said the Christian faithful felt threatened by a growing tide of intolerance, especially in rural areas and in the north of the country, an extremist stronghold thought to be the current home of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
John Pontifex, spokesman for
ACN, said: “It’s the miracle of survival and growth. There are so many good men and women wishing to give their life to the Church.
“They see the Church as champion of a happier and freer Pakistan, and some of them are highly educated guys who could have done anything they wanted.
“Time and again during this visit, we were moved by the plight of the Christian faithful. I was shocked by the scale of suffering Christians and other minorities now experience in Pakistan.
“Their experience of discrimination, oppression and sometimes outright persecution is made worse by grinding poverty and a climate of increasing fanaticism and intolerance. The chances of incidents of this kind spilling over into violence are more likely than before.
“More than ever, Pakistan is a number one priority for ACN support and action. We returned with a heap of requests for help with everything from building a new seminary to supporting catechist training.
“Responding to such appeals for help is only possible thanks to the continuing compassion and generosity of ACN’s generous friends and benefactors.”
Aid to the Church in Need has called for the repeal of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy law and last October hosted a visit to Britain by Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad who spoke out against abuses of the law, which frequently result in violence.
Students light candles during a peace march in Lahore amid concern over the ‘Talibanisation’ of Pakistan
Abuse of the country’s notorious Penal Code 295B and 295C has led to an increased threat of violence, most of it against Christians.
Mr Pontifex said that blasphemy laws “give licence to local bullies to wreak havoc, and the Christians are often the victims because they are vulnerable and defenceless”.
There have also been repeated cases of Christians being punished for refusing to convert. Last week Church leaders expressed outrage after a Christian committed suicide following the rape of his wife, supposedly as punishment after he refused to convert.
Arshad Masih, 38, who lived just outside Islamabad, refused his employer’s repeated requests to convert to Islam and, according to reports received by ACN, after he disappeared into hiding his wife was arrested and raped in police custody. In response a humiliated Mr Masih doused himself in petrol and set fire to himself. He died from his injuries.
In some rural areas Christians are prevented from using the same cooking utensils as Muslims, or of using the same tap. A 19-year-old Christian student, Javaid Anjum, died after being tortured in police custody after being caught drinking from a tap connected to a madrassa near Faisalabad in Punjab province.
Pakistan was formed as a secular stated but officially adopted sharia law in the 1970s, and in the past decade has become ever more hard-line, thanks to Saudifunded Koranic schools.
Although the government is opposed to the Taliban, which controls much of the tribal region on the Afghan border, Islamist extremists have many sympathisers within the country.
Mr Pontifex said that the country was being influenced by “a very toxic form of Islam that has become very intolerant of the outsider, and Christians are under threat not least because of their association with the West”.
The war in neighbouring Afghanistan, in which many civilians have been killed by US and British bombs, was used as a pretext, he said.
There are 2.5 million Christians in Pakistan out of a total population of 180 million. And yet despite their hardships, the Christian population is increasingly confident. Seminary numbers have doubled in four years, reaching a 15-year peak, with 20 would-be seminarians turned away last year because of lack of space. Such is the demand that ACN is supporting the construction of a new seminary in
Karachi. Last week Good News TV, a Karachi-based Catholic cable television channel, started regular transmissions, broadcasting daily Mass, Christian witness testimonies, news and debates.
It is the latest stage of what the initiative’s director, Fr Arthur Charles, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Karachi, called a plan to “change the information landscape of Pakistan”.
New parishes, with schools, churches and convents, have been developed in Baluchistan province, west Pakistan, along with outreach and education programmes for the Kutchi Kholi and the Parki Kholi tribes in the south-east of the country.
ACN has helped to provide 70,000 Child’s Bibles in the national language of Urdu and a further 10,000 in Sindhi, spoken in the south-east.
INTERVIEW Fr Benedict Groeschel tackles Richard Dawkins
Paul Johnson hails ‘Jesus’s Ten Commandments’
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Archbishop: Newman’s idea of a university ‘more vital than ever’
BY SIMON CALDWELL
CARDINAL John Henry Newman’s vision for a university is more necessary than ever, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has said.
He told students at University College London they should embrace the 19th-century convert’s aim of “cultivating the holistic mind, open to the widest body of knowledge and connected with the integrated vision of humanity in its relationship with God”.
He said the vision, set out 150 years ago in The Idea of a University, is an antidote to a trend of reducing the individual “to the status of an instrument” and to “turn out useful products fit for production, rather than promote learning”.
Cardinal Newman, he said, was instead motivated by the quest for a “truth that unifies” and this vision had implications not just for education but for society in general.
“Can we at this time find some underlying set of values or overarching vision for our society within which the proper political debate can take place?” Archbishop Nichols asked.
“Or is it simply that just as the university struggles to express or explore the possibility of an overarching unity of truth, or sense of meaning, then our society, too, no longer sees any purposeful sense in trying to find or live by one?”
He said: “The exploration of these matters is surely pertinent to the university, to an institution and community dedicated to the expansion of knowledge and the service of the common good.”
Cardinal Newman, who will be beatified in Coventry in September by Pope Benedict XVI, founded a boys’ school in Birmingham and was a founder of University College Dublin.
According to Archbishop Nichols, Newman’s ideas on education have inspired both Pope Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
Cardinal to write the Way of the Cross
Pullman launches book on ‘real Jesus’
BY MARK GREAVES
ITALIAN Cardinal Camillo Ruini has been asked by the Pope to write the meditations for today’s Way of the Cross in Rome.
The cardinal was the vicar for the Diocese of Rome from 1991 to 2008 and president of the Italian bishops’ conference for more than a decade.
Last year the task was given to an Indian Salesian, Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati. In 2008 the meditations were written by Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun.
The procession, to the Roman Colosseum, will be presided over by Pope Benedict XVI on the evening of Good Friday. The tradition dates back to the 18th century, from the pontificate of Benedict XIV. Pope Paul VI re-established it in 1964.
Last month it was announced that Cardinal Ruini will lead an investigation into the alleged Marian apparitions at Medjugorje.
BY MARK GREAVES
PHILIP PULLMAN failed to attract any protesters to his book launch in Oxford on Sunday despite claims that he would need extra security because of religious zealots.
His book, entitled The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, tries to separate the “historical Jesus” from the “Christ of faith” by re-writing Gospel episodes. Mr Pullman said his version was “much closer to what Jesus would have said”. This approach has been sharply criticised by the wellregarded Ignatius Press blog, which said: “Think of it: Pullman denies that the Gospels are accurate in recording
Saying A of Jesus because it doesn’t seem similar enough to Sayings B, Q, and Z, which also appear in the Gospels, but which are accepted as being more legitimate because... um... well... Pullman says so.”
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