Friday, July 23, 2010

Clinton: US, world stand with Afghanistan

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday vowed the United States and its allies will stand by Afghanistan even as fears are growing about the course of the nearly 9-year-old war and the Obama administration plans to begin withdrawing American troops from the country next year. Clinton acknowledged deepening opposition to international involvement in the conflict amid the rising death toll of foreign troops in the country. But she told an international conference on Afghanistan's future that the "world is with Afghanistan" and that the planned drawdown of U.S. forces was not a sign of flagging commitment. "The July 2011 date captures both our sense of urgency and the strength of our resolve," she said of U.S. plans to accelerate the process of turning over security to Afghanistan's police and military. "The transition process is too important to push off indefinitely." "But this date is the start of a new phase, not the end of our involvement," Clinton told the conference, which is being attended by senior officials from about 70 countries. "We have no intention of abandoning our long-term mission of achieving a stable, secure, peaceful Afghanistan." Mounting concerns about the war and rampant corruption in Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government have prompted many in the U.S. and allied countries to raise serious questions about the wisdom of carrying on the fight. Clinton allowed that "the road ahead will not be easy," particularly given those concerns, which could threaten funding for military operations. "Citizens of many nations represented here, including my own, wonder whether success is even possible — and if so, whether we all have the commitment to achieve it. We will answer these questions with our actions," she said, pledging to step up U.S. civilian assistance to help rehabilitate and reconstruct the war-shattered nation.

Pakistan: Muslim marauders target Christians

“Policemen patrol every street in Waris pura. After last night's attacks, the situation is tense and some panic stricken Christian families are barricaded in their homes. I and other Catholic priests spent the night on the streets trying to reassure people, calling on Christians not to react toviolence with violence”: said Dominican Fr. Pascal Paulus, parish priest at Holy Rosary Church, in Waris pura, suburb of Faisalabad, after a sleepless night of emergency, fear of massacre, and the determination “to do everything possible to prevent bloodshed”. As the sun set – the priest told Fides– “a mob of about 2,000 armed Islamic militants launched an attack on the Christian district of Waris pura. The mob was out of control, shops and streets were devastated, there was shooting, looting and torching. Some Christian were hurt, but the outcome could have been much worse ”. Yesterday was a tragic day for Christians in Faisalabad: two brothers Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel, born to Catholic parents, charged with blasphemy, arrested, tried and then finally acquitted, were barbarously murdered as they left Faisalabad law courts escorted by police officers as free innocent men. Armed men attacked the group killing the two brothers and also wounded one of the accompanying police officers. Bewildered Christians poured into the streets voicing grief and anger: “Emotional tension was high, there was some shouting, stone throwing against Muslim shops ”, said Fr. Khalid Rashid Asi, vicar general of the diocese of Faisalabad. Reaction from Muslim extremists was swift: a few local mosque preachers urged the Muslim mob to “fight the infidels”: some 2,000 militants raged through Waris pura all night long. Fr. Khalid continues: “We, four priests, went from door to door, begging Christians not to react, to stay calm, to avoid provoking a dangerous spiral of violence and revenge. We reminded them: we belong to Christ, we love peace, we forgive our enemies ”. The police intervened to restore order and this morning Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabd, presided the funeral of the two murdered brothers. Among those present, besides about 500 local Catholics, Fr. Emmanuel Mani, head of the Pakistani Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission. “Many of the faithful were still to frightened to leave their homes. Some leading Muslim citizens expressed solidarity with the Christians and condemned the violence ”, Fr Khalid told Fides. The brother's parents were Catholics and both had been baptised at the local Catholic church. Rashid recently had taken course with a Protestant denomination to prepare for preaching the Bible. “They were two innocent men. They are our martyrs. We ask only for respect, peace, equality and rights. As long as Pakistan has this blasphemy law, tragic episodes such as this will continue to happen ”, concludes Fr. Khalid.

Pakistan army chief to remain in post

Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who is popular at home and has won praise from U.S. officials for his leadership in the fight against Taliban militants, will serve three more years as army chief of staff.