Little hope of finding survivors after landslide buries chapel in Philippines

Hopes are fading of finding survivors from a massive landslide that buried a chapel in the Philippines on Saturday.

At least 57 people were unaccounted for in the small hillside mining community in Itogon, Benguet, on Tuesday. Many of them were sheltering inside a small chapel at the time of the landslide, triggered by Typhoon Mangkhut.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by widespread damage to roads, preventing heavy machinery from being brought to the site.

Hundreds of rescuers have had to hike two hours from the nearest highway to reach the village and dig through the mountain of mud and debris by hand.

The massive storm forced around 150,000 in the Philippines to shelter in evacuation centres, before it brushed past Hong Kong and made landfall in China, where another four people have been confirmed dead.

Police officer Heherson Zambale told The Associated Press he had tried to persuade villagers in the mining community to evacuate the day before the tragedy struck but they decided to stay put.

The villagers reportedly told the police officer that they believed the site of the chapel and nearby bunkhouses to be stable, and that they would evacuate if the storm became severe.

Some villagers decided to go to the evacuation centre after the officer’s warning.

‘But many were left behind,’ said Zambale.

According to CBC Canada, a special police unit scanned the affected area with a special radar that can detect heart beats, but nothing was picked up.

Regional police commander Rolando Nana said: ‘I really feel sad, I cannot describe the emotion. It’s not only the people who don’t listen. They have children, wives, elderly parents who will all suffer.’

Hillary aghast Trump might fire disloyal staffers

Hillary Clinton with Rachel Maddow

Hillary Clinton is talking – again. In an interview with MSNBC, she worried that President Trump is becoming “uncontrollable.”

The unsuccessful 2016 Democratic presidential candidate sat down with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and said she has an overwhelming fear concerning President Donald Trump once the midterms are over:

Clinton: “He will fire people in the White House, he will fire people in his administration who he thinks are crossing him, questioning him, undermining him. The president is close to being uncontrollable.”

Political analyst Richard Randall finds Clinton’s remarks somewhat hypocritical, pointing out that she often fired those who she thought were disloyal – and he argues she would never have stood for someone controlling her.

“She somehow has a problem with the president [firing] somebody who is undermining him, betraying him, leaking information, or trying to disrupt what goes on in the White House – and [she] seems to think it’s a problem for him to not want that person working in the White House?” he asks.

And why wouldn’t the president fire that self-described “resistance” person who wrote the op-ed in The New York Times that he hides things and grabs papers off the president’s desk in the Oval Office?

Randall says it’s like the left wants to bring an atom bomb to every knife fight.

“Democrats, progressives – they’re at wit’s end. They never saw this coming,” he says. “They couldn’t imagine Trump winning … they couldn’t imagine Hillary not having eight years to go down that road.”

New American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines Support Sex Reassignment for Kids

New American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines Support Sex Reassignment for Kids

In a new medical policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it supports the surgical and hormonal transition of transgender children and teens.

The statement will be published in October in the AAP’s journal, Pediatrics.

According to The Christian Post, the document discusses ways for parents and health care providers to affirm the gender choices of patients, including encouraging primary care doctors to install gender-neutral bathrooms in their offices and signs that show the office is LGBT inclusive. The statement also suggests diversity training for employees to be “helpful for educating clinical and administrative staff.”

AAP is also recommending that doctors use the term “gender affirmation” instead of “gender transition” to discuss the gender identities of children and teens.

Dr. Jason Rafferty, a member of the AAP Section on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health and Wellness, wrote the guideline.

The guideline also supports the use of chemical treatments to stop normal puberty, saying those treatments are “reversible.”

The treatments can be used until the child is 16 and gives time for the family to “explore gender identity, access psychosocial supports, develop coping skills and further determine treatment goals.”

“The available data reveal that pubertal suppression in children who identify as [transgender or gender-diverse] generally leads to improved psychological functioning in adolescence and young adulthood,” the guideline claims.

The statement also says that chemical treatment to stop puberty can be risky, saying that “research on long-term risks, particularly in terms of bone metabolism and fertility is currently limited and provides varied results.”

In 2017, Johns Hopkins University and Washington University researchers called those treatments “radical” and “experimental.”

Meanwhile, the American College of Pediatricians released its own policy statement in 2017, saying that doctors, lawmakers and educators should “reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex.”

Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Sara Rampazzo

Christian Teenager Jailed on Baseless Rape Charge in India, Sources Say

Statue of Hindu deities in Chhattisgarh, India. (Wikimedia, GK13286)

HYDERABADIndia (Morning Star News) – A 16-year-old Christian and three others in eastern India have been in jail for more than a month on a baseless rape charge, sources said.

Tarai Beda village leaders in Kondagaon District, Chhattisgarh state who worship tribal and Hindu deities had Piso Ram arrested days after a 16-year-old girl accompanied him to his house in early August, relatives said.

One relative told Morning Star News that village council leaders who have long persecuted Christians pressured police to file the charges after the girl’s father discovered she had gone to Piso’s house. Tula Ram, Piso’s 22-year-old cousin and adoptive brother since Ram’s parents adopted Piso after the boy’s parents died eight years ago, told Morning Star News that police still call him regularly threatening to arrest more Christians.

“The station-in-charge calls me every next day to warn about the threats from the village council leaders,” Ram said. “They want to publicly humiliate and expel us from the village.”

The girl’s mother earlier this year told Piso that she and her husband would give their daughter to him in marriage, Ram said. The girl’s mother encouraged them to see each other, Ram said, adding that Piso agreed with him when he told the boy he was too young to be thinking about marriage.

“Months passed by, but through some relatives in the village, he found out that the girl had developed affection for him,” Ram said. “The very next day, [girl’s name withheld] came with Piso to my house. We are a family of nine and follow Christianity, but she and her parents worship the tribal and Hindu gods. I asked her, ‘Why did you come here? Do your parents know that you are here?’ She said, ‘I came to live here with Piso.’”

Within five minutes, the girl’s sister, who knew about her interest in Piso, brought her parents to Piso’s house, and they took the girl away, said Ram’s wife, Subri Ram.

“She had sent him a message that she loves him and wants to stay with him and came home [with him],” she said.

Three days later, on Aug. 11, the girl’s father and four other tribal men attacked Tula Ram’s cousin, identified only as Parsu, deep in the forest, he said.

“He was brutally attacked by her father,” Tula Ram said. “He accused Parsu of lifting his daughter from his house to convert her and marry her in Christian faith, in extremely abusive language.”

The next day, Aug. 12, the girl’s parents filed a complaint against seven male members of the church, alleging that their daughter was gang raped, the pastor of the church told Morning Star News.

“It was shocking,” said the pastor, whose name is withheld. “Police arrested seven male members, including Piso, 16, and Baadhu, 18. The arrests were made solely based on the oral statement given by [the girl] and her parents.”

Piso is in the juvenile ward of the Jagdalpur central jail.

Three of the Christians were released, and the First Information Report (FIR) against the other four Christians was not filed until a week after their arrest – a strong indication that the charges were fabricated, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)-India said. Besides Piso, charged with kidnapping and rape were Christians identified only as Lakshman, 30, Parsu, 25, and Baadhu.

They were booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for kidnapping (Section 363); kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman to compel her marriage (Section 366); rape (376); obscene acts in any public place (294); voluntarily causing hurt (323); criminal intimidation (506); wrongful confinement (342); acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention (34); and section 4 of the POCSO ACT, penetrative sexual assault, punishable by imprisonment that may extend to life.

“We tried to file a counter complaint against her father citing the brutal attack on Parsu the previous day, but police refused to receive the complaint,” the pastor said. “The station-in-charge told us that [the girl’s] father had contacted the village council leaders, and that under their directions they had recorded a statement alleging gang rape so that there can be a strong case against Christians.”

The Tarai Beda village council head, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member identified only as Rudra, has sent a message to the Christians via police officers asserting, “You did not leave the village when we asked you to leave – now we will publicly humiliate and expel you from here,” according to Tula Ram and the pastor.

The girl and her parents were unavailable for comment. Relatives said the girl’s father is keeping her at home and away from all public contact.

Police Sub-Inspector Pitambar Khattar of Makdi Block police station told Morning Star News that the girl’s mother had told Piso that they wanted to give him in marriage to her daughter, but that the two teenagers did not have a romantic relationship.

“The girl gave the statement that she was locked in a room with four men and that they tried to take advantage of her, and her father was repeating the same,” Khattar said. “But as per medical reports and doctor’s statement, we see the possibility of intercourse, and it could have been a forced intercourse, but not gang rape. We suspect Piso must have forced her.”

The ADF-India attorney based in Chhattisgarh told Morning Star News that there was no possibility of intercourse between the two teenagers.

“The police were under the village council’s pressure to frame Christians under section 376 [gang rape],” the attorney said. “When the girl came to Piso’s house, his brothers and their wives and his adoptive father and mother also were present. She was there with Piso’s family for not more than five minutes, according to eyewitnesses, and her parents took her away immediately.”

To prosecute the gang rape charge as area leaders have sought, supportive medical evidence was necessary, so police fabricated medical documents as they are under pressure from the village council, the attorney said.

“Let them submit the evidence to the court, we can challenge its genuineness in the court of law only,” the lawyer said.

ADF, which undertakes legal advocacy for religious freedom, notes in its campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights that it is sadly ironic that Christians are persecuted in a country with a long tradition and legal framework of freedom of religion.

Article 18 of the U.N. declaration asserts that believers have the freedom to practice their faith “in teaching, practice, worship and observance,” ADF notes in its campaign to obtain signatures supporting the Geneva Statement on Human Rights at www.ImHumanRight.org.

History of Persecution

For years, the pastor said, the village council has refused to issue caste certificates to Christian youths, preventing them from obtaining low-caste benefits, including admission to educational institutions.

Christians in Tarai Beda village suffered attacks orchestrated by the village council during Christmas and Easter celebrations, sources said. As commonly happens in India, police registered an FIR against the victim of one of the attacks, an area pastor, according to the local pastor who works with him.

“The pastor and I now minister in the neighboring villages and have invited a guest pastor to lead the Sunday worship in Tarai Beda,” he said.

Leaders of the Hindu extremist BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 2016 called for a meeting with more than 500 tribal people and Hindus from Tarai Beda and neighboring villages to devise plans to expel Christians from villages in the district, he said.

“In 2016, a batch of armed RSS activists prevented us from using the route to the ground where the meeting was held – they asked us to use a different route to enter the village,” the pastor said. “But a Christian police officer who was posted in Kondagaon back then warned the RSS leaders that they cannot hold meetings promoting enmity between faiths. The police officer saved our lives that day by intervening timely.”

Christian leaders raised the issue before the district collector, he said. The ADF-India attorney said the RSS and Bajrang Dal members who make up the village council in Tarai Beda have been irked that pastors from villages can raise issues against them before the district collector and police.

“Now, the trend has changed in Chhattisgarh,” the lawyer said. “Earlier, when they refused to supply water and essentials to Christians or disrupted the prayer services, the matter was raised before higher officials. The Hindu extremists now launch personal attacks by setting up their own tribal relatives against Christians.”

The attorney said such retaliation is precisely what has happened in Tarai Beda.

“They picked a very serious and sensitive issue involving a minor female and framed a case,” the lawyer said. “It is not easy to avail bail in POCSO cases.”

Last year, more than 30 Christian families in Chhattisgarh state were driven from their homes and villages because of their faith, living as displaced people in neighboring villages, according to the lawyer.

“This kind of violence and displacement can be seen mainly in Kanker, Kondagaon, Bastar and Sukma districts,” the attorney said. “The victims are currently in grave need of relief and protection, and rehabilitation from the state authorities. We filed a writ petition in the high court seeking protection and rehabilitation of displaced Christians.”

ADF-India has recorded 18 incidents of persecution so far in 2018 from Chhattisgarh state.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution.