Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies)-Thousands of protesters continue to occupy the streets of major cities in Egypt, calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.The toll from the protests - that erupted yesterday after Friday prayers - has reached 50 dead, a thousand injured, hundreds of arrests. Overnight people have defied the curfew imposed by the authorities, while the Head of State announced a change of government, but excluded his resignation. Meanwhile, China has censored the word "Egypt" from websites and the governments of Japan and the Philippines have invited nationals not to travel in the country.
Yesterday evening Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak spoke to the nation in an attempt to avert the worst social and political crisis since coming to power 30 years ago. He announced the resignation of the government and the birth of a new formation, accepting the "legitimate" demands of the demonstrators, but at the same time accusing them of "fostering" violence to "destabilize" the country. In the morning, the government announced its resignation.
Police are guarding the corridors of power and TV headquarters, but seem unwilling to attack the demonstrators. Al Jazeera sources in Suez report that the military wants to avoid an open confrontation with protesters. A military official confirmed that troops "will not shoot a single bullet against Egyptians."
The protests erupted yesterday after the Friday prayers with thousands of people flooding the main streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. The protesters defied the curfew, with demonstrations continuing even during the night. This morning in the capital, several groups of people gathered in Tahrir Square, chanting songs and slogans, including "[Mubarak] Go away! Go away. "
The toll from the violence has risen to 50 dead and a thousand injured. In Alexandria 23 people died, 15 are confirmed dead in Suez and another 15 in Cairo. Popular discontent shows no sign of diminishing despite the news of the resignation of the government, the goal of the social unrest - which unites Christians and Muslims - is "the fall of the regime, not the change of the executive."
Yesterday the police detained Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN's nuclear body and Egyptian opposition leader for a few hours. He was arrested after prayers at a mosque in the Giza area, then was released so as to join the protesters who marched through the streets of the capital.
Meanwhile, local sources confirm that phone lines are operational - at least in part – after thecrackdown imposed yesterday by authorities involving the web, cell phones and text messages. In contrast, internet is still down throughout the country today.
The United States and world governments are closely following the riots that have erupted in north Africa and the Middle East, stemming from the ouster two weeks ago of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after a popular revolt. Discontent is also evident in Jordan, where King Abdullah II has announced reforms, and in Yemen. The U.S. president Barack Obama has called on Egypt’s Mubarak to meet the demands of democracy and economic freedoms demanded by the population.Obama also added that a violent response will not help resolve the situation and alleviate the suffering of the people.Previously, the White House spokesman Robert Gibbs asserted that the U.S. would have "revised" its aid program in the coming days.The governments of Japan and the Philippines have invited their fellow citizens not to travel to Egypt. To those who are already in the country, are being advised not to leave their homes and embark on the first available flight. Finally, the Chinese government has censored the word "Egypt" on the web, with a terse statement that appears on the search engine: "According to the laws in force the results of your search can not be communicated". The censorship also involves the major social networks. Instead the mainstream media - news agency and television - have reported on the riots and protests against President Mubarak.
CBN REPORT: Nine senators from Hawaii are not backing down when it comes to prayer.
Last week, the Hawaii Senate voted to end its official invocations before Senate sessions after complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union that the invocations often referred to Jesus Christ.
The ACLU says that reference is at odds with the separation of church and state, prompting Senate leaders to avoid any appearance of breaking the law.
On Wednesday, the nine senators held an informal prayer meeting in the Senate chamber before the day's session, asking God to bless and guide them as they sought to serve the people they represent.
"It's nice to start off the day with a prayer because we need all the help we can get," said Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-Kalaeloa-Makakilo.
Senate President Shan Tsutsui said while he didn't participate in the impromptu prayer, he appreciated their decision to pray together informally.
"It's a matter of free speech," said Tsutsui, D-Wailuku-Kahului. "We do encourage members, at their own will and desire, to go ahead and engage in prayer."
They insist their faith has a place in their work.
The light for the common good of the nation – the Cardinal notes during his interview with Fides - must be “the absolute respect for life” that the Church has always proclaimed with conviction as a value to promote. In this regard, the measure announced by the Government of Benigno Aquino on family policy, respectful of the Catholic “Natural Family Programme”, generated satisfaction in the Catholic community. The new text will replace the previous Reproductive Health Bill: for the Church this is a step forward, because it “responds to the spirit and desires of the Filipino people.” The Government has recognized that population growth is not the primary factor in poverty and has endorsed the need for education policies for youth on affectivity.
On the other hand, notes the Cardinal, the violent occurrences that continue to affect society, such as killing, wounding or kidnapping of journalists, trade unionists and human rights activists (see Fides 20/01/2011 and 25/01/2011), is an alarm bell. “Again in this area, respect for human life means to guarantee all the freedoms and rights which every citizen is entitled to.” To promote and ensure “a culture of life” means, then, for the Christian community “to affirm the value of unborn life but also walk alongside those who defend human rights.”
The Archbishop of Manila highlighted another two challenges facing the Philippines: governance and poverty. “Governance must be in the name of morality, transparency and solidarity with the past. We need to thoroughly oppose the cancer of corruption. If the political elites tolerate or boost corruption, then the population also considers the practice justified. The new Aquino government should be given time to address these challenges, but the objectives must be clear.”
On poverty: “the State must ask what are the just remedies and put them into practice. As Christians, we must use the Word of God to help the poor, to pay particular attention to the marginalized and dispossessed. The point of reference for us is the Holy Father Benedict XVI's Encyclical, “Caritas in veritate”.
CATH NEWS REPORT- Parents at a Catholic primary school in Thornbury, Victoria, plan to boycott a new $105 annual building levy introduced by the local parish priest to help fund a major government development project at the school, reports the Northcote Leader.
The $2 million Federal Government Building the Education Revolution project comprises a library, technology centre and learning areas.The parents of students at St Mary's Primary School in Thornbury, said they do not want to pay until the priest, Father Gerald Medici, justified the need for the levy and guaranteed satisfactory resolution of the past year's issues.
"St Mary's has already received $2 million in (federal) funds and Father Medici applied for a $400,000 grant to fix up the school grounds," said one parent, Con Sarazen.
"Why should parents have to pay an extra levy? We are asking other parents not to pay it out of protest."
In a statement sent via the Catholic Education Office, Father Medici said the building levy would help service a loan to refurbish the school buildings and it was no higher than similar levies at other Catholic schools in the area.
Fr Medici said the levy was "totally separate" from the federal project and that an existing community development levy of $50 had been discontinued.
In a separate clash, teachers have raised concerns with the Victorian Independent Education Union about health and safety issues arising from building works.
Union spokesman David Brear said concerns included builders' ladders left erected in school toilets, contractors failing to sign in, teachers forced to vacate classrooms at short notice, cuts in programs and lack of consultation.'
St. Gildas the Wise
Feast: January 29