One bishop is absent from Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Synod of the Bishops on the family. He was invited, he wanted to come, his name is on the participant list, but he is not in Rome. He is some 4,000 miles away. And few—if any—people outside the synod hall even know he is not there.His name is Bishop Anthony Borwah, 48, and he leads the Catholic Diocese of GBarnga in central Liberia, where Ebola is wreaking havoc. Tony, as he is called, learned he could not travel to the Synod in late August, when the Ivory Coast closed its borders due to the Ebola outbreak and restricted the one airline that could have taken him to Abidjan, where he needed to apply in person for a Schengen visa to travel to the European Union.Borwah may not be at the Synod, nor is he able to participate remotely due to technological limits, but the gathering’s focus on the family is vital to his Liberian families. Ebola is their most urgent challenge, but it is not the only one, he explained to TIME in this exclusive interview. Borwah submitted an essay to the Synod—an “intervention” in Vatican-speak—about the situations facing Liberian families. Borwah’s essay is not being read aloud at the Synod but will be entered into the written record and considered in any final documents that the Synod produces.“Enormous are the pastoral challenges of the family in Liberia today,” his essay begins, before continuing to describe the challenges including Ebola, polygamy, migration, unemployment, the lack of a father-figures, domestic violence, child trafficking, and sexual tourism. “Existential questions from the poor, prevalently during the Civil war, are been asked again: Where is God? What wrong have we (Liberians) done again? How come we have once again become the abandoned and scum of the earth?”The past few months since Ebola outbreak have been brutal for Liberia, where about 69% of the population is Christian, according to Pew Research Center. Borwah has lost dear friends to the virus, including his spiritual director, Father Miguel from Spain, his mentor and medical doctor Abraham Borbor, and his prayer partner Tidi Dogba. While the Catholic community as a whole has not had many deaths in Gbarnga, he says, those who are dying are relatives and friends. “As Bishop of my people I carry within my heart their wounds and pains every moment of life here,” he says.The Liberian Catholic community is doing what it can to combat the virus. Borwah has called on all Catholics in his diocese to gather in prayer against Ebola from 5 to 6 p.m. every day from September 1 through November 30. The church uses the first ten minutes for education and updates about Ebola, and then for the last 50 minutes they pray with the Holy Rosary. They are observing strict medical rules about what kind of interaction they can have while together for prayer. No touching, no handshakes, and entrances of churches, homes, and offices have buckets of chlorinated water for hand washing.The Catholic Church is also collaborating with the government on the national Ebola Task Force Team, Borwah says. The National Catholic Health Team is training nurses in three Catholic dioceses in Liberia, and Catholic clinics remain open. “Our Human Rights Department is also actively involved in violations issue[s] that may occur under such a crisis situation and the state of emergency when rights are restricted,” Borwah adds. “We hope to soon begin the distribution of food to mainly quarantined communities and other affected areas.”The Ebola devastation extends beyond just a health crisis for Liberian families. The virus’ highly contagious nature means that family members are kept at a great distance from infected loved ones. Ignoring the restriction, on the other hand, can lead to death, but Liberian families are very affectionate especially in difficult times, Borwah explains, and the inability to show real human kindness is wounding morale.Poverty is also increasing, he says. Already more than 80% of families in Liberia live below the poverty line, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. Now the price of rice and other essential commodities has spiked since the ebola outbreak due to port and border closures, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Labor shortages due to migration restrictions are also putting the fall’s rice and maize harvests at risk. Women, the FAO has noted, are particularly hard hit as many are the primary caregivers and can’t repay their small business loans. Schools are closed while the virus is present, and so students stay home and teachers do not get paid. “The Ebola situation has badly crippled the economy resulting in rife impoverishment and hunger,” Borwah says.Increased poverty means increased desperation over the loss of family members to Ebola, he continues. That frustration is compounded when the government buries or cremates loved ones, often without family members present. “These new wounds are a tragic addition to festering wounds that families here experienced as a result of a more than 15 years of fratricidal civil war that officially ended a decade ago,” he says.Borwah is grateful for global aid groups and donors like Catholic Relief Services and CAFOD, the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales, but more support is needed, especially when it comes to supporting survivors. “Recently one of the survivors—my kinsman—committed suicide when people avoided him and he felt that he was unworthy of love anymore,” Borwah says. “We need more support to feed the thousand whom are hungry and angry and to care and counsel the Ebola survivors who carry the stigma.”There is a dimension to the Ebola outbreak that also concerns him—the idea that Ebola’s spread could have a man-made and not just a natural source. “I believe that the causes of Ebola are not just physical but spiritual,” he says. “I like calling it the ‘Ebola phenomenon’ because it’s existence raises more questions than answers.”Then there are Liberia’s non-Ebola-related challenges. Infidelity in marriages is common, with the causes ranging from poverty (mostly on the part of the women) and cultural permissiveness (on the part of the men), he says. “Generally the economy of the nation is in the pocket of few men, hence there is a lot of women prostitution,” he says. “I often say that these prostitutes are prophets and friends of Jesus as they signify the inequality, marginalization and injustice meted out against the poor and nobodies of our society especially women.”Women, he adds, are generally subject to men culturally, and are often subjected to brutal domestic violence and impoverishment. The government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has done a lot to raise the dignity of womanhood in beloved Liberia, he continues, but “the walk is still too long.”Families are navigating questions of shifting identity. Western technological and cultural shifts mean that young people often have different value systems from their parents, and that is dividing families. “Parents can no longer control their children in the face of this new ethics, something, which brings a lot of pain and worries about the future of the family,” he says.Borwah has a message for the world: “The friends of Jesus Christ—the nobodies, the poor, women and the innocents, the caretakers of others—need both the spiritual and material help. They are losing faith, hope and love. They are poorer, hungrier and very desperate. God has not and will not abandon us, so please do not abandon us to the onslaught of Ebola.”And, in the midst of it all, Pope Francis, Borwah says, has not forgotten the Liberian people. “The Holy Father prays for Ebola stricken people everyday, even as the Synod goes on,” Borwah says. “He is very close to our suffering.”His final words: “Please pray for us.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
…despite Opposition’s criticisms of Govt’s unpreparednessSince the discovery of oil and gas in Guyana, there has been much debate and discussion surrounding the slow pace at which Government is looking to implement policies to guide how revenues are spent from this new-found natural resource.But Business Minister Dominic Gaskin feels Government has been doing its best to prepare for this sector. As such, he told a recent forum that he is pleased with the progress the coalition has made but said it is now left up to Guyanese to make use of the opportunities available in the sector.“Everything may not be perfect, and I don’t think anyone is saying that it is, I am certainly not saying that everything is perfect, but what I am saying is, that I’m satisfied with the progress that has been made in the petroleum sector since the announcement of the discoveries in 2015 and to date.”The Minister said he is also satisfied that some Guyanese are already benefiting from the sector and many more Guyanese will most likely benefit once oil production begins in 2020.“I’m also satisfied that our Government is doing everything it can to ensure that Guyanese, not just now but for generations to come will benefit from Guyana’s oil,” he stated.According to Gaskin, with the circulation of oil money in Guyana through local procurement, local employment, and through local spending by expatriate employees, contractors, consultants and other professionals, Guyana’s economy will experience significant growth.“Should we try and maximise the benefits that Guyanese will enjoy from oil andBusiness Minister Dominic Gaskingas? Of course! There is more than one way to achieve this…of course, there is,” he added, noting that while some people are questioning Government’s approach, others and taking advantage of the opportunities.However, he said it is unfortunate that many are not, because they are caught up and distracted by the negative rhetoric coming from a handful of what he described as self-appointed experts, many of whom are quietly positioning themselves to benefit from the industry.“Some of them want to get there first because little competition is possible and that therefore happen to see Guyanese disenchanted with the prospect of oil, he explained adding that many Guyanese still live below the poverty line and they too must benefit from the oil resources.“…They (the poor) are looking forward to oil production. They are depending on Government to make the right decisions for their future and their children’s future. I want to assure you all that this is what our Government will do and we will ensure that every Guyanese benefit,” he stated.He added that the prospect of oil production has created quite a buzz in Guyana as well as outside of Guyana, noting that he believes “it’s generally a good thing for us, in fact, the actual news is extremely positive, the discovery so far and the outfield development, the development of the production vessel and the shore-based activity, it’s all very good news for Guyana and we need to turn it into positive outcomes.UnpreparednessWith just two years to go before first oil, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said Government has not made any substantial plans for the oil sector. Jagdeo has urged the coalition to formulate a national oil spill policy as a priority, and said the other key legislations are still not in place.“I’m saying to you, if we don’t address these critical issues, if we don’t address the rest of the economy, Guyana will be worst off in the next decade than we are now. You read the experience of many of those countries. Check the assessment of Chad and Nigeria and Venezuela and all those places. And just hear where they are today,” Jagdeo urged at one of his press conferences. Further, Jagdeo said, “They were supposed to get the Sovereign Wealth Fund to protect our interest and they failed on that. They failed on the Petroleum Commission. They failed on local content. It’s the same pattern. They’re failing to address this issue in a manner that protect Guyana.”However, Jagdeo made it clear to reporters that his position on the state of preparedness for the new industry was at variance to what is contained in the Government publication. “We still haven’t gotten the Petroleum Commission, no local content legislation, no Sovereign Wealth Fund, no decision on whether they will auction the blocks… but all the measures are in place for 2020,” he said.Some stakeholders and sections of the society in Guyana have said that preparations for first oil should have been at a more advanced stage since the country is less than two years away from production. Government has however maintained that all systems will be in place in time for 2020.
THE HIGH Court has continued for another four weeks an order restraining a company owned by crook Francois de Dietrich from reducing its bank account in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, below €1.7 million.The order was granted to two Co Donegal businessmen, who are among a large number of people who invested substantial sums in the company.The account of Etic Solutions Ltd, Ballybofey, a firm which allegedly represented to investors that it was involved in purchasing liquidation stock across Europe, has already been frozen on a Garda application. Mr Justice Roderick Murphy was told yesterday there were two Garda investigations into the main director of the company. Daniel O’Donnell, with addresses at Termon, Co Donegal, and South 55th Court, Oaklawn, Illinois, US, is claiming he is owed some €1.6 million arising from his investment with Etic, while John O’Donnell (no relation), Cluain Ard, Letterkenny, claims some €74,000 is due to him. Both are seeking summary judgment against the company.Noel Travers, for the businessmen, told the judge yesterday a warrant for the main director of Etic had been issued in Northern Ireland recently.There had been no appearance for the company to date in this case and he believed it was unlikely a defence would be lodged in the proceedings, counsel added.Mr Justice Murphy agreed to continue the freezing order for another four weeks. It applies to the company’s account at Allied Irish Banks’ branch at Main Street, Ballybofey, which remains frozen after an earlier application by the Garda and is said to contain a substantial credit sum.Daniel O’Donnell claims he is owed some €1.69 million arising from an initial €100,000 investment made by him with Etic, while John O’Donnell claims he is owed some €74,000 arising from an investment of some €53,000.Both men claim they have received no payments from the company and are seeking summary judgment for the amounts allegedly owed.In separate affidavits, both men said they invested in Etic on foot of representations made to them by its local agent, Thomas Ryan, a former inter-county GAA footballer who was also involved in the management of the county team from 2008 to 2010.FRANCOIS INVESTIGATION: GAA LEGEND TOMMY RYAN SOLD ETIC INVESTMENTS, COURT HEARS was last modified: February 8th, 2011 by gregShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)