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Biden administration seeks school regulation change to ban LGBT discrimination

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Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2022 / 17:45 pm (CNA).

The Biden administration proposed expanding the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a gender equality law that applies to thousands of schools across the U.S.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects Americans from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal funding. Today, its protections impact everything from women’s participation in sports to sexual harassment at schools. 

Its text reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The Department of Education intends to expand discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination based on “sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity,” it announced Thursday.

These changes, the Washington Post reported, would, among other things, permit transgender students “to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, using their correct pronouns and addressing bullying based on their gender identity.”

Title IX includes exceptions, including a religious exemption for educational institutions “controlled by a religious organization” if the application is inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.

Before becoming law, the proposed changes must undergo a public comment process. After it is published in the Federal Register, comments can be submitted the following 60 days via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

CNA reached out to several Catholic colleges and universities for comment Thursday. One responded by publication time saying that it will review the changes and will submit comments if necessary. 

Title IX applies to approximately 17,600 local school districts and over 5,000 postsecondary institutions, charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums, according to the department. It also applies to vocational rehabilitation agencies and education agencies.

Regarding athletics, the department announced Thursday that it will address Title IX's application to athletics at a later time. The announcement came the same day that female athletes from across the country expressed concern in Washington, D.C., about competing against transgender athletes.

For the 49th anniversary of Title IX, in 2021, the Biden administration issued a “notice of interpretation” that it would enforce Title IX protections against sex discrimination in education to also protect sexual orientation and gender identity. The proposed changes that came Thursday would make this federal law.

The Education Department’s fact sheet clarifies that the proposed regulations “would make clear that preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX, except in some limited areas set out in the statute or regulations.”

The changes also include revisions regarding how schools and higher education institutions address and respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment — and they expand the definition of sex-based harassment.

The changes also affect pregnant and parenting students. 

“The proposed regulations would update existing protections for students, applicants, and employees against discrimination because of pregnancy or related conditions,” the fact sheet reads. “The proposed regulations would strengthen requirements that schools provide reasonable modifications for pregnant students, reasonable break time for pregnant employees, and lactation space.” 

The department identifies “key issue areas” where Title IX applies: recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; treatment of LGBTQI+ students; discipline; single-sex education, and employment.

Report: More than 800,000 lives saved by pro-life pregnancy centers since 2016

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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

Pro-life pregnancy centers have saved over 800,000 lives since 2016, according to an analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

The analysis says that pro-life pregnancy centers “exist to provide support, education, classes, medical care and critical resources for women faced with difficult circumstances surrounding unexpected pregnancy.”

CLI, the research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, conducted the analysis with data from more than 1,100 Care Net pregnancy centers, according to a press release. Care Net is a Christian non-profit that offers a network of pro-life pregnancy centers and pro-life education. The data was then weighted by CLI to create national estimates. 

Data from the years 2016 through 2020 published by CLI show that an estimated 177,716 babies' lives were saved in 2019, marking the highest number out of all five years. The lowest estimated number of lives saved was in 2020, with 144,176. 

In 2016 there were an estimated 173,587 lives saved. In 2018 there were an estimated 169,547 lives saved. In 2019 there were an estimated 177,716 lives saved. 

The total number of estimated lives saved throughout the data set is 828,131. 

In the press release president of CLI, Charles Donovan condemned the recent attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers. 

“Radical pro-abortion activists have violently attacked pro-life pregnancy centers in recent weeks, which Speaker Pelosi and other national leaders have failed to condemn,” he said. “Yet real-world data shows that compassion and decency are winning, with more than 800,000 precious babies saved thanks to brave volunteers and staff who willingly take the risk of helping women and their families.”

Data from 2019 shows that 2,700 clinics across the nation were run by just short of 15,000 staff members and nearly 54,000 volunteers. The staff and volunteers included 10,200 licensed medical professionals, the analysis says. 

Out of the 10,200 licensed medical professionals, the analysis says that 3,791 were clinic staff members and 6,424 were clinic volunteers. There are about 3,000 pro-life pregnancy centers across the country today, the analysis says.

The lead author of the analysis, Moira Gaul, said that “On average, pregnancy centers consistently have client satisfaction rates over 95% leading to many ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals to pro-life pregnancy centers — meaning that the 800,000 lives saved just since 2016 represent a significant number of women who received support and then told their friends and families about the compassionate and cost-free care they received.”  

“More than any other group, pro-life pregnancy centers are best equipped to support women facing unintended pregnancies in a post-Roe America,” Gaul, an associate scholar at CLI, said. 

Another analysis done by CLI showed that in 2019, approximately 2 million women, men, and youth were served by more than 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation, the press release says.

Those services included free ultrasound services, prenatal and parenting classes, and over 1.2 million diapers given.

Pro-life pregnancy centers have come under attack since early May when a draft Supreme Court opinion was leaked showing that the justices may have been poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that created federal protections for abortion. 

The court is expected to release the opinion or decision in that case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, at the end of June or beginning of July.

The analysis says that pro-life pregnancy centers began organizing in the late 1960s, the same time some states began legalizing abortion.

Parents of young mother considered for sainthood share powerful testimony at World Meeting of Families

Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo. Photo Courtesy of Christian Gennari/www.chiaracorbellapetrillo.it / null

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 16:47 pm (CNA).

On June 13, 2012, a 28-year-old Italian woman, Chiara Corbella Petrillo, died in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends. In the 10 years since her passing, the story she left has touched the hearts of many around the world.

At the age of 18, Chiara met the man who would become her husband, Enrico Petrillo. As a married couple, they would face many challenges together. They suffered the death of two of their children, both of whom died 30 minutes after birth. 

Chiara became pregnant again with their son Francesco. The joyful news was short-lived as she was diagnosed with cancer. Her cancer was an unusual lesion of the tongue, which was later discovered to be carcinoma. 

She rejected any form of treatment that posed a risk to her unborn son. As the cancer progressed, it became difficult for Chiara to speak and see. 

Chiara's cause for canonization was announced on June 13, 2017, the fifth anniversary of her death.

Her parents, Roberto and Maria Anselma Corbella, shared their daughters' moving witness of faith during their speech at the Festival of Families, part of the World Meeting of Families, which is being held in Rome from June 22-26. 

They shared the struggles they have faced within their own family, touching on the lives of both of their daughters, Elisa and Chiara. While Elisa lives in northern Italy with her three children, it was the battle Chiara faced that left them “like Mary at the foot of the cross,” but taught them how to embrace their cross and trust in God’s plan.

Her mother Maria explained that Chiara’s son Francesco, now 11 years old, was only one when she passed, but during that time she showed them how “in every situation, one can expect the utmost happiness in this life with God as a guide.” 

“It was difficult for us to accompany her to the threshold of Heaven and let her go, but from that moment such grace flowed that gave us a glimpse of God's plan and kept us from falling into despair,” her mother said. “Chiara’s serenity opened for us a window to eternity and continues to shed light on it to this day.” You can watch the couple's testimony about their daughter in the video below.

In his speech during the Festival of Families, Pope Francis addressed Chiara’s parents and her legacy saying, “You testified that the heavy cross of Chiara’s sickness and death did not destroy your family or eliminate the serenity and peace of your hearts. We can see this in your faces. You are not downcast, desperate, or angry with life. Quite the opposite! What we see in you is great serenity and great faith.”

“As a wife, alongside her husband, she followed the way of the Gospel of the family, simply and spontaneously,” the Holy Father added. “Chiara’s heart also welcomed the truth of the cross as a gift of self: Hers was a life given to her family, to the Church, and to the whole world.”

Describing his daughter, Roberto said, “She did not run away in the face of life's trials, she faced them with her gaze heavenward. … Her every step was directed toward the goal with God's help and Mary's guidance, she was committed to reaching it, with personal prayer keeping her in relationship with the Lord from whom she received the grace that nourished her faith.”

“May Chiara be an inspiration on our own journey of holiness, and may the Lord support and make fruitful every cross that families have to bear,” Pope Francis concluded.

Cardinal criticizes Mexican president's anti-crime policy

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. / Octavio Hoyos / Shutterstock.

Guadalajara, Mexico, Jun 23, 2022 / 16:19 pm (CNA).

In his 2018 election campaign for the Mexican presidency, Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed a policy of “abrazos no balazos” — a catchy phrase that means “hugs not bullets.” This approach combats drug cartel violence by addressing the root causes of the drug trade, such as poverty, and softens the use of force by the military and police.

López Obrador’s policy is in contrast to the “war on drugs” of his predecessors. However, under his tenure, violent crime has increased.

In a country where violence is commonplace, the nation was nevertheless shocked by the recent murder of two Jesuit priests and another man inside a church, shot to death presumably by a cartel gunman. Adding to the outrage was that the criminals took away the bodies of the priests.

Commenting on the murders, the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal José Francisco Robles Ortega, said June 22 during the Ninth Diocesan Pastoral Ministry Assembly that “we are going through some difficult moments” and that “these people don’t know [anything] about hugs.”

The cardinal pointed to the June 20 shooting of Jesuit priests Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar, who were killed trying to protect a man who had fled inside the Catholic church of the small town of Cerocahui in the state of Chihuahua.

The crime, which is part of a growing wave of violence in Mexico, has shaken the country. On June 22, Pope Francis expressed his “pain and dismay” over the murder of the two Jesuits.

The Archdiocese of Guadalajara is no stranger to violence. The city is the capital of the state of Jalisco, the center of operations for one of the most violent and powerful criminal groups in the country, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Twenty-nine years ago, the then-Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, was gunned down at the city’s airport, a crime that authorities have yet to solve.

Cardinal Robles Ortega lamented that the killing of the two Jesuit priests "adds to an already long list of priests murdered in our country."

However, he continued, this crime shows "the complete gravity of the violent situation that we are going through in our country."

"The priests were in a place proper to their ministry," he said, because "they were fulfilling their mission, doing their ministry."

"They weren’t doing subversive things or encouraging violence by other groups against the government," he continued, but "they were in the most appropriate place for their ministry" — that is, the church.

The two Jesuit priests, the Archbishop of Guadalajara said, “were carrying out their ministry and were treacherously executed, without further ado. Just because they were doing good to a person” who fled into the church hoping for protection.

"This [is] a very, very serious situation," he said.

The cardinal said that the government of López Obrador should see that “these people, those who are dedicated to organized crime, don’t know [anything] about hugs, no matter how much the government offers them, promises them, and gives them."

"They don't understand hugs, they only know about bullets," he said.

In just three and a half years of the López Obrador administration, there have been more than 121,000 homicides recorded in the country, which is on track to exceed the more than 156,000 murders committed during the six-year term of his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto.

In addition, the number is way ahead of the 120,463 homicides recorded during Felipe Calderón’s six-year term.

From Jan. 1 to June 21 of this year, according to official figures, 12,481 homicides have taken place in Mexico.

The Archbishop of Guadalajara clarified that “I’m not saying that the government has to adopt the strategy of shooting these people. No. Simply bring them before the law for the murders and for all the activities they carry out against the law.”

“The government has to send them the message that there will be no more impunity,” he said. “Because that message of hugs is a message of impunity.”

Female athletes advocate for women’s sports ahead of Title IX transgender changes

Cynthia Monteleone, shown at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. The mother of three is a track coach, a Team USA World Masters track champion, and an advocate for the preservation of women’s sports. / Katie Yoder/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 23, 2022 / 16:03 pm (CNA).

Women athletes who are opposed to biological males identifying as transgender females competing in women’s sports rallied in Washington, D.C., on Thursday ahead of new proposed regulations coming from the Biden administration regarding transgender athletes.

The event, “Our Bodies, Our Sports,” sponsored by the Independent Women’s Forum, among other groups, coincided with the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a federal law that ensures that no person at schools and colleges receiving federal funds is discriminated against based on sex. The Biden administration plans to broaden the scope of the law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to gender.

Several athletes spoke to CNA, including a Catholic track star from Hawaii and a swimmer from Kentucky who competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, said they attended the rally, which drew a counterprotest by trans-rights activists, to preserve women's sports.

Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male. Katie Yoder/CNA
Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male. Katie Yoder/CNA

Riley Gaines Barker, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky, has won many championships and awards for swimming throughout her college career. Earlier this year, she tied for 5th place with Lia Thomas in the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. Barker said Thomas, competing for the University of Pennsylvania, received the 5th place trophy, while she was told that one would be sent to her at a later date.

“Women have fought the past 50 years today for equal rights in terms of sports and equal opportunities,” Barker told CNA.

“Just when you think you're almost there, it's a complete 180. My goal is to be here, and to use my voice to help bring light to the situation, and to help get back what Title IX is supposed to stand for,” she said.

For Barker, this issue comes down to a matter of fairness.

“It's not that I'm transphobic. I don't think that. I think that you can do what you want in your free time, but when you're infringing on women's sport and it's involving lots of female athletes, that's when I'm going to get involved and that's when I'm going to speak up about it,” she said.

Cynthia Monteleone, who lives in Hawaii, is a mother of three, a track coach, a Team USA World Masters track champion, and an advocate for the preservation of women’s sports.

“It means more to me to champion this fight for women's sports than anything else, and that's because I'm being true to myself and allowing my faith to guide me,” Monteleone, who is Catholic, told CNA.

Monteleone said she decided to skip the world track championships in Finland to attend Thursday’s rally. Had she competed, she would have had to go against a biological male, she said.

“I began to ask questions about the fairness of this issue, and I was told to keep my mouth shut for my own safety,” Monteleone said. “I did not do that. I'm still speaking up louder than ever.”

Monteleone said the stand she’s taking stems from the moral values she derives from her Catholic faith.

“God will lead the way to the path you're supposed to be on, so I am not supposed to get that medal at that world championship this week,” she said. “It means nothing to me if there's not a fair playing field.”

Monteleone said her daughter, Margaret, had a similar experience at her first high school track meet, where she lost to a biological male.

Monteleone said she does not place any value on the words of those who call her position on the issue “transphobic” or “discriminatory.” Instead, she noted, “I just say ‘stay strong’ and don't put value in those words.”

Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University, speaks at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA
Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University, speaks at the "Our Bodies, Our Sports" rally in Washington, D.C., on June 23, 2022. Katie Yoder/CNA

Another outspoken woman at the event was Madisan DeBos, a Division I track and cross country student-athlete at Southern Utah University.

“This is something that is so important to me because I have personally been affected by this issue at hand,” DeBos said, recalling a time when her relay team lost out to a team with a transgender athlete.

“Being here today and being alongside all of these athletes, I think our voices together are what's going to help make change,” DeBos said.

DeBos spoke on the biological differences between men and women and how women have the right to fight for fairness in their sports.

“This is within the sports world, and that really is a different world,” she told CNA. The physical advantages that come with being a biological male have “nothing to do with the outside world” when it comes to fair treatment.

Itinerary released for Pope Francis' trip to Canada in late July

An Inuit delegation from Canada meets Pope Francis at the Vatican, March 28, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican has released the itinerary for Pope Francis’ visit to Canada, during which he will meet with representatives of indigenous peoples, and with indigenous Catholics. 

The visit to Canada will take place July 24-29, with a return flight to Rome landing on the 30th, the Vatican said Thursday. 

While in Canada, Francis is expected to issue an apology on behalf of the Catholic Church for abuses committed against indigenous students in Catholic-run residential schools.

In addition to a visit to Edmonton, Alberta, the pope will meet with dignitaries in Quebec City before visiting Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, to meet with residential school survivors, among others. Despite the ambitious nature of the trip, the pope is expected to participate in events in Canada for about an hour at a time, owing to the health problems the 85-year-old has experienced of late. 

Francis had been scheduled to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan July 2-7, but the trip was postponed June 10 "at the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee," a Vatican spokesman said.

As Canada is the second-largest country in the world by area, the distances involved for the whirlwind visit are vast. The map below illustrates the air routes. 

After departing Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 9 a.m. local time on July 24, Pope Francis is expected to arrive in Edmonton, Alberta at 11:20 a.m. local time, and to receive an official welcome before taking the remainder of the day to rest. 

The next day, July 25, the pope will meet at 10 a.m. with members of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in the unincorporated community of Maskwacis, near Edmonton. This will not be the first time the pope has met with Canadian indigeous people; in March, Pope Francis met with representatives of the Métis and Inuit indigenous peoples, and with the Canadian Catholic bishops, both at the Vatican. 

Then, at 4:45 pm that same day, he will meet with indigenous Catholics at Sacred Heart parish in Edmonton

On Tuesday, July 26, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. Later that day, he will participate in a pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne, a site which plays host annually to thousands of pilgrims, billing itself as the largest annual Catholic gathering in Western Canada. July 26 is celebrated in the Catholic Church as the feast of St. Anne, the grandmother of Christ. The pope will also celebrate a Liturgy of the Word at the site. 

On Wednesday, Pope Francis will depart Edmonton and fly to Quebec City, the capital of Quebec. He is set to be welcomed by the Governor General of Canada, and will meet with Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister. Later he will meet with civil authorities, representatives of indigenous peoples, and members of the diplomatic corps.

The next day, July 28, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. at the National Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupré. That evening, at 5:15 am, the pope will pray Vespers with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians, and pastoral workers at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

On the final day of his visit, Friday, July 29, the pope is set to have a meeting at 9 a.m. with fellow members of the Jesuit order at the archbishop’s residence. Then at 10:45, another meeting with a delegation of indigeous peoples, also at the archbishop’s residence. 

Then, at 12:45, the pope will depart Quebec and fly some five hours north to Iqaluit. Home to only 7,500 people, Iqaluit is the capital — and only city — of the province of Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost and most sparsely populated territory. The area has been used as an Inuit fishing hub for thousands of years.

In Iqaluit, Pope Francis will meet at 4:45 p.m. local time with students of the former residential schools of Canada. Some 150,000 children attended residential schools in the years they operated, ending in the late 1990s. The schools were a government-led program, begun in the 1870s, to suppress the native language and cultural practices of indigenous peoples. 

Many of the schools were run by Catholic institutions, and in the 1980s, former students began to reveal some of the abuses they faced in the schools, including physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

Following the meeting with the former students, the pope will meet with young people and elders in the primary school square in Iqaluit, before a 6:15 p.m. farewell ceremony sees the pope off on his return journey to Rome, where he will arrive the following day. 

Eyewitness details brutal 'blasphemy murder' of Nigerian Christian student

A photo of Deborah Emmanuel's photo on her Facebook page. Emmanuel, a Christian student in Nigeria, was killed by an Islamic mob on her college campus on May 12, 2022. / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 23, 2022 / 14:01 pm (CNA).

Deborah Emmanuel, the Nigerian Christian student who was murdered by a Muslim mob last month, spent her final hours with a close friend who has shared exclusive details of the brutal killing with CNA.

CNA is using the pseudonym “Mary” for the woman’s protection. A Christian herself, she nearly was killed by the same mob.

Significantly, Mary’s account contradicts the claim of authorities that they attempted to rescue Emmanuel from the mob but were “overwhelmed.”

On the contrary, the police “could have stopped the murder if they had really tried,” Mary told CNA. 

Emmanuel’s so-called “blasphemy murder” took place on May 12 on the campus of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, Sokoto State, a major city located in the northwest corner of Nigeria. The city is home to the Muslim Sultan who serves as the top religious authority for Nigeria’s 100 million Muslim believers.

Prior to the attack, Emmanuel, a home economics major who attended Evangelical Church Winning All, was bullied by fanatical Muslim students at the teacher’s college for audio statements she made on WhatsApp, a messaging platform. She credited Jesus Christ for her success on a recent exam, and when threatened and told to apologize she refused, invoking the Holy Spirit, saying “Holy Ghost fire! Nothing will happen to me,” according to WhatsApp messages reviewed by CNA.

In the aftermath of these heated exchanges, a Muslim mob attacked Emmanuel on the college’s campus. After an hours' long siege, the mob beat and stoned her to death, then set her body on fire with burning tires, according to graphic video footage posted online. Rioters later that week rampaged in a Catholic Church compound in Sokoto and attacked other Christian-owned properties.

A relative of Emmanuel’s, who said he was standing approximately 60 feet from the mob, also told CNA he believes the police could have saved her. He, too, asked that his identity be withheld for his safety.

Unarmed campus security personnel made a futile attempt to rescue Emmanuel, according to a campus security report shared with CNA. But Emmanuel’s relative said there were dozens of armed police officers on the scene who didn’t fire their weapons.

The commissioner of police in the state also said officers did not fire their weapons. However, he maintained that only 15 of his officers were at the scene, according to a report in The Epoch Times.

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto has strongly condemned the attack and called on Emmanuel's killers to be brought to justice.

"This matter must be treated as a criminal act," he said. You can read his full statement here.

A plea for help

On the day of Emmanuel’s death, Mary received a frantic phone call from her around 9 a.m, asking for help. By that time, women who lived in her dormitory had begun slapping Emmanuel, Mary told CNA.

Mary arrived at the campus to see her friend surrounded by a mob and being led by a campus staffer to a gatehouse building for her protection. The Muslim students had bloodied her face and head with blows from rods and were joined by male students who believed their duty was to execute a blasphemer on the spot, Mary said.

“Allahu Akbar!” meaning “God is Great” was bellowed for hours, she said.

Mary initially stayed outside the building and tried to intercede for her friend, but she said it wasn’t long before the mob turned on her, too. Within moments Mary was trying to ward off punches and blows from sticks as she backed away from the gatehouse and toward the gate of the college 40 feet away. 

Mary said a college lecturer rescued her and brought her to join Emmanuel inside the gatehouse by 10 a.m.

At 10:25 a.m., the relative said, six officers of the Department of State Security (DSS) — the equivalent to the FBI in the U.S. — arrived, firing their rifles in the air but with no effect. Five minutes later, he said, a group of Sokoto police came on the scene and fired tear gas, temporarily scattering the mob. 

The above map is based on eyewitness accounts of the murder of Nigerian Christian student Deborah Emmanuel on her college's campus on May 12, 2022. Graphic by Alexander Hunter
The above map is based on eyewitness accounts of the murder of Nigerian Christian student Deborah Emmanuel on her college's campus on May 12, 2022. Graphic by Alexander Hunter

For about 10 minutes police had an opportunity to disperse the mob and force their way to the gatehouse to extract Mary and Emmanuel, Emmanuel’s relative believes. But that did not happen.

By 11 a.m., the mob had returned to the building, holding cloths against their faces to ward off the tear gas. The mob tried hurling stones at Mary through the windows of the locked gatehouse, but Mary barricaded herself behind a table.

The mob then threw gasoline on the women through the front windows and attempted to burn them alive, Mary said.

“Deborah was soaked with gasoline, but when lighted plastic was pitched in through the windows, I quickly stamped the flames out,” Mary said.

No escape

All of this transpired as police and DSS officers watched from a safe distance, according to Emmanuel’s relative.

The traumatized women said little to each other, but Emmanuel was still hoping to do her examination that day, Mary said. At one point, she recalled, Emmanuel asked, “What time is it? I have an examination at noon.” Mary said she looked at her cell phone and told her it was 1 p.m.

After another excruciating hour of siege, the mob pushed down a single Sokoto policeman guarding the door, broke the padlock on the door, and rushed in to find Mary and Emmanuel hiding behind furniture, Mary and the relative related. Two rioters placed a chain around Mary’s neck and pulled it hard, trying to strangle her, she recounted.

“Let this girl go! She is not an offender,” Mary recalled one of the rioters shouting. But as they released her, a young man in the mob grabbed Emmanuel and took her to the front steps of the gatehouse. There she was bludgeoned with steel pipes and wooden rods and stoned, the relative said.

Two DSS officers attempted to rescue Emmanuel but were hit by stones and pushed aside, the relative said. The police officers remained in position and did not come to her aid, he alleged.

Mary collapsed inside the gatehouse gasping from the strangulation. Approximately 40 minutes later, she said, she was roused by one of the mob to leave the building, which was on fire.

As she walked through the smoke, Mary saw the gatehouse burning and Emmanuel’s lifeless body in flames.

The face of Christian persecution

In the aftermath of Emmanuel's murder, human rights advocates and others have leveled sharp criticism at Nigeria's government leaders for not doing enough to stem the rising tide of violence directed at Christians and other non-Muslims.

Relatives of Deborah Emmanuel at her burial in Niger State, Nigeria. Courtesy of the Emmanuel family
Relatives of Deborah Emmanuel at her burial in Niger State, Nigeria. Courtesy of the Emmanuel family

Anti-Christian hatred was evident in days of rioting in Sokoto following the arrest of two suspects in Emmanuel’s murder. The rioters reportedly were incensed that there were any arrests at all.

"Deborah Emmanuel, like kidnapping victim Leah Sharibu (who was enslaved by Boko Haram insurgents in 2019), has become the face of Christian persecution in Nigeria,” said Kyle Abts, executive director of the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON). “There has not been an official report from the security forces on the lynching of Ms. Emmanuel. Her killing and subsequent riots show clear government complicity and coverup.” 

Tina Ramirez, founder of the international nonprofit Hardwired Global, also believes the Nigerian government has been unwilling to take a strong stand against blasphemy killings.

“The recent attacks on students are reminiscent of the attacks at Nigerian colleges two decades ago that were the precursor to the growth of extremist groups across Nigeria’s North and Middle Belt,” Ramirez wrote in a text to CNA.

Love without limits

Pencil Preaching for Friday, June 24, 2022

Ukrainian family prays for peace at World Meeting of Families

Wolodymyr, Tatiana, Franciszek, Magdalena, and Teresa Korczyński on June 22, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2022 / 10:42 am (CNA).

A Ukrainian family of 10 is participating in the World Meeting of Families this week.

Wolodymyr and Tatiana Korczyński arrived in Rome on June 21 with a Ukrainian flag and a desire to pray at St. John Paul II’s tomb for peace in their home country.

As Catholics from 120 countries are gathered at the Vatican to discuss the joys and challenges of family life, the Ukrainian family, currently based in Poland, has shared how war can weigh heavily on children.

“I see that the current situation in Ukraine requires more responsibility from children. They grow up faster,” Tatiana told CNA on June 22.

The mother of eight has seen this especially in her 13-year-old son Franciszek, who often accompanies his father on trips across the Polish border to provide aid and support for the Ukrainian cause.

“Franciszek often goes to Ukraine, but he also stays at home as an older man to support and help me a lot. This is because more responsibilities fall on his shoulders,” she said.

While the war has forced her kids to grow up faster, Tatiana has also observed that her children have also grown in compassion, knowing that many of their peers have lost parents in the war.

“I have more than once sensed that my children would want to adopt those children who stay in Ukraine, who have lost their families,” she said.

A pilgrimage of prayer

Amid the upheaval and uncertainty that their home country has faced, the Korczyński family sees their participation in the World Meeting of Families as an opportunity to pray for Ukraine.

“We feel very honored to represent Ukraine at this congress and to participate. For us, it is a great gift and at the same time a task to be done,” Tatiana said.

“All our prayers and the prayers of the people in Ukraine, who are now praying for peace, we can bring to God here in Rome and implore in an extraordinary way for a miracle, for God's lavishing his grace on our nation.”

Wolodymyr pointed out that the timing of the World Meeting of Families coincides with the anniversary of John Paul II’s apostolic journey to Ukraine in June 2001.

“It is no coincidence to be here now, to ask John Paul II for his mediation, for peace in Ukraine. I think God runs all this,” he said.

Faith passes through the family

“I can honestly say that Wolodymyr and I grew up at a time when the Catholic faith was being persecuted in Ukraine,” Tatiana recalled.

“Our grandmothers taught us the catechism … I think family is the bedrock and the very beginning of the Church,” she said.

Tatiana sees the World Meeting of Families as a celebration of how “we come to know God through love for our neighbor, first of all in the family.”

The Korczyńskis’ daughters, 12-year-old Teresa and 9-year-old Magdalena, added that they like being a part of a big family because of all the time spent together. 

The girls dressed up in matching blue dresses, white hats, and pigtail braids for their Vatican visit, alongside their elder brother, Franciszek. The Korczyńskis’ four youngest kids stayed in Poland in the care of their oldest daughter.

The Korczyński family are Latin rite Catholics originally from the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi in western Ukraine. The family relocated to Poland five years ago in an effort to keep the family together after their eldest daughter was accepted to a school in Szymanów.

“We decided to move and stay together because we think that the greatest gifts of a family are unity, collective prayer and being together in everyday life,” Tatiana said.

Tatiana remembered how the family all prayed the rosary together for peace in the days leading up to Pope Francis’ consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“We took part in the consecration. We prepared ourselves by confession, participated in the service, and prayed together at home,” Tatiana said.

“At this moment, when Ukraine is suffering, when a lot of people are experiencing great suffering, more people are asking and turning to God. I think it was very timely at that moment to talk about reparation, prayer, repentance, and forgiveness,” she said.

Justyna Galant provided the translation for this interview from Polish to English.

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