Sunday, August 29, 2010

African Bishops Unite to Denounce Homosexuality

Kampala — The question of homosexuality reared its head for the umpteenth time this week at the all African Anglican Church conference that is taking place in Entebbe. Despite pressure from the western world, African bishops have renewed their condemnation of the practice of homosexuality in the church

The widely criticised practice in Africa has been viewed as a threat to the unity of the church. Homosexuality and ordination of women prelates are two of the underpinning practices that have put the Anglican Church at cross-roads over how its pastoral commitments should be exercised. Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of the province of Nigeria says the church has always had differences of opinion over certain issues.

Breeding disunity

"Homosexuality is not a new phenomenon in the society but the only trouble is that the issues dividing us (church) now are very difficult to handle. They are threatening the unity of the church because they disobey the authority of the scriptures," says Bishop Okoh. He says homosexuality is a result of some people engaged in making their culture to be superior to the biblical teachings. "It is two sided; while some people want to be obedient to their culture to determine the content of the church, others say no and it must be the guidance of the bible," he added.

The primates describe homosexuality as an imposed interpretation and alien culture that has hindered the growth of an authentic church which could respond to its people. "We are saying homosexuality is not compatible with the word of God. We are saying that this culture of other people is against the traditional belief of marriage held by the Anglican Communion," says the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi. Bishop Orombi says that the Anglican Church will never accept homosexuality because the scriptures too do not allow people of same sex to join in marriage.

Evil practice

"Homosexuality is evil, abnormal and unnatural as per the Bible. It is a culturally unacceptable practice. Although there is a lot of pressure, we cannot turn our hands to support it," says Bishop Orombi.

The remarks came up during the conference jointly organised by the Church of Uganda and the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) that attracted at least 400 bishops under the theme "Securing the future, unlocking our potential."

Other challenges on the agenda of African primates meeting are the problems of poverty, squander of public resources, pandemic diseases, justice and peace as well as the relationship between the Anglican Church and the state.

The Archbishop of the Province of Indian Ocean, Ian Ernest, says the bishops have to courageously raise their voices to counteract the false ideologies that creep into the church and put at stake the mission that Christ has entrusted to his church. "We cannot afford to continue to lurch from one crisis to the next in our beloved Communion. Despite attempts to warn some western provinces, action has been taken to irrevocably shatter the Communion. Sadly existing structures of the Anglican Communion have been unable to address the need for discipline," says Bishop Ernest, the chairman of CAPA. He says the teachings of homosexuality are irrelevant to the needs of Africans and are unrepresentative demographically hence the need for new structures that are credible and representative of the majority.

The anti-homosexuality voices from the bishops are a likely boost to proponents of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009), before the Ugandan Parliament which proposes life imprisonment for acts of homosexuality and introduces "aggravated homosexuality" as a serious crime.

According to the proposed law, offenders must face death if they have sex with a minor or a disabled person, or are found to have infected their partners with HIV/Aids. The proposed law, if passed in its current shape, would also punish attempted homosexuality as well as the failure of a third party to inform the authorities of homosexual activity.

Bishop Orombi says the primates in Africa have since shared their stand with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. Bishop Okoh says Africa has various challenges of disease, young widows, divorce, single motherhood, poverty which affect the church. "The issue of moral failure in the community is another problem to the church. But we have to work hard to ensure that the church of God is not divided by some practices like the ordination of women clergy which we are still studying," he says.

Gabonese unions call off general strike

LIBREVILLE — Trade unions in Gabon on Friday called off a planned general strike after the government met their demands for price cuts in electricity, gas and water, union spokesman Fridolin Mve Messa said.

"We have signed an agreement with the government. The strike has been cancelled. We won satisfaction on the cuts we wanted," Mve Messa, who spoke for 12 of the 14 union bodies, told AFP.

"The price of gas is going to go down from 6,000 CFA francs (9.14 euros a canister) to 5,450 CFA francs (8.31 euros / 10.57 dollars)", Mve Messa said. The unions had called for a cut to 5,300 CFA francs (8.07 euros) and the government had proposed 5,600 (8.53 euros).

The unions in the oil-rich central African country also obtained a cut in value-added tax of five percent for cement bags and for communal water and electricity meters, and 10 percent for individual meters.

The price of the kilowatt hour of electricity will be reduced by 2.5 percent and that of the cubic meter of water by 15 percent.

"We're greatly satisfied," Mve Messa said. "We can make savings. Things will change for people: the price of electricity, of water. On a canister of gas, we will save 550 CFA francs (0.83 euros). That's enough for half a taxi ride or for buying bread for your children."

The unions in Gabon, where many of the population of some 1.5 million live in poverty, initially threatened on May 1 to call a strike, but the stoppage was put off after the government cut some prices and promised to cut others.

The latest strike warning was issued on August 20.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Medics demand equal bonuses in another day of protests

Scores of physicians, members of Egyptian Medical Syndicate and advocay group Doctors Without Rights, stand in protest at Dar Al Hekma (House of Wisdom), housing syndicate, against policies of Egyptian Minister of Health Hatem Al Gabaly. According to one placard, med school students do not practice medicine but spend internships at hospitals doing administrative work, moving files and filling in applications.

Scores of doctors in Mahalla, Gharbiya staged a protest demanding the distribution of bonuses equal to those received by colleagues at other hospitals and health departments.

Protesters demanded bonuses of 175 percent for doctors and pharmacists, and 125 percent for nurses. Those figures were stipulated in a ministerial decision adopted last April.

Fifty-five dentists and ophthalmologists said they refused the 75 percent they have been offered, and demanded full payment of their bonus.

Nurses said the money set aside for their bonuses had instead been transferred to Sammanoud health department.

In Qalyubiya, around 200 nurses from the public general hospital and the fever hospital in Toukh organized a demonstration to complain about a two-month delay in the payment of their bonuses.

In Suez, 70 paramedics continued a sit-in at the governorate's ambulance point for a second day, protesting a two-month delay in salary payments. Protesters said five ambulances were currently out of action and further strikes would be staged if demands are not met.

Meanwhile in the 6th of October governorate, 500 citizens rallied in front of the Hawamdiya city council to protest a month-long water cut in the vicinity of the city’s main Baghdad Street. In Ismailia, scores of citizens in Qantara Sharq protested against the demolition of their homes and farms by security forces.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

Strike ends at Arcelor's Algeria plant

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Workers at ArcelorMittal's

steel plant in Algeria ended on Thursday a three-day strike over pay increases that had halted production, a union official said.

The union chief at the plant said in a statement the strike had been halted on the orders of the national executive of the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA).

The union is the only one officially recognised in Algeria and it usually follows the government's line.

The strikers had said they would stay off work until their demands were met for a pay rise but they came under pressure to call the action off after a local court this week ruled that the strike was illegal.

"Following the instructions given by the leaders of the UGTA ... we declare the strike over and call on the workers to resume their activities," Smain Kouadria, the union leader at the plant, said in a statement.

He added that he would resign from his position as union chief at the ArcelorMittal plant near the city of Annaba, eastern Algeria. ArcelorMittal managers were not immediately available for comment.

The El-Hadjar factory, in eastern Algeria, produced 750,000 tonnes of steel in 2009. Most is for domestic consumption though some is exported to the Mediterranean region.

Police fire rubber bullets at striking teachers in South Africa

Police fired with rubber bullets on teachers taking part in a nationwide civil servants' strike in South Africa on Thursday. The violence came on the second day of the strike for higher wages. At first the march was peaceful, with some strikers dancing and blowing vuvuzelas. However the situation quickly deteriorated, with police loading shotguns with rubber bullets and firing on the crowd. Several teachers fell as they were hit with the projectiles. Teachers threw bricks and stones at police - at least one officer was seen bleeding from the head.