INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Mexico cardinal knew about child abuse, group claims

MEXICO CITY (BP)--Mexico's leading Roman Catholic cardinal knew a Mexican priest might be molesting children when he transferred him to the United States, a victim's rights group has alleged.

To support their claim, the Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests released letters written in 1987 between Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, as well as 1986 police report in which Nicolas Aguilar, a priest in Mexico's Puebla state, was accused of molesting boys during overnight stays.

The documents had been filed by attorneys defending Rivera against charges in Los Angeles that he and Mahoney conspired to protect Aguilar, according to the Associated Press.

In 1988, Aguilar worked as a priest in Los Angeles for nine months before returning to Mexico. He was allowed to continue working as a priest there, even after 19 felony charges of committing lewd acts on a child were filed in Los Angeles and attempts were being made to extradite him.

The current lawsuit was filed by a man who accuses Aguilar of raping him in Mexico City in 1994, when he was 12 years old. He contends Rivera was responsible for what happened to him because he covered up the previous accusations of child sexual abuse. Rivera's lawyers argue the Los Angeles court has no jurisdiction over a Mexican cardinal for events that allegedly occurred in Mexico.

N KOREA MAY HOLD 1 MILLION PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE -- As many as 1 million people may be imprisoned in North Korea for political and religious reasons, a Christian advocate for persecuted believers has charged.

Eight prison camps for political prisoners most likely contain at least 500,000 and possibly 1 million people, a representative of Open Doors said Oct. 2. Many North Korean prison camps are so large that in satellite photos they appear to be cities, not prisons, he said.

Identified only as "Simon," the worker also said hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are forced to labor in 30 other work camps every day. At least one-fourth of the country's estimated 200,000 Christians are imprisoned for their faith, he said. Prisoners of conscience rarely emerge from the camps alive.

"In North Korea, it is strictly forbidden to be a Christian," said Simon, who is responsible for Open Doors' work in North Korea. "Anyone who has a Bible is sent to a camp, along with his or her whole family. Refugees who are detained in China or North Korea can be sentenced to a few years in a prison camp. But if the North Korean authorities discover that the refugees have been in touch with Christians, they are dealt with much more harshly. Torture and execution often occur."

The number of North Korean refugees crossing the border into China is declining, the worker reported.

"It is so difficult to cross any of the border rivers. Traps have been laid on the North Korean side, including pits with bamboo spikes in them. On both sides of the river, high fences with barbed wire are being erected," he said. "Regularly raids are made both in North Korea and in China to arrest refugees and those helping them. China has installed cameras and offered rewards to anyone who reports refugees."

PRE-OLYMPIC PRESSURE EXERTED ON HOUSE CHURCHES -- China's communist government is exerting more pressure against unregistered house churches as the country prepares for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

On Sept. 5, the capital city's Public Security Bureau issued a public notice to all landlords that they should refuse to rent property to "five types of prospective tenants," including people accused of engaging in "illegal religious activities," according to China Aid Association, a Midland, Texas, organization that advocates on behalf of persecuted Christians in China.

The notice, released through the Beijing Evening News, said police officers are being organized for an "intensive inspection" of rental properties to ensure compliance with the law. The possibility of facing charges for renting to a house church would intimidate landowners into forcing Christian tenants out.

"House churches in Beijing are being pressured to stop gathering or to leave Beijing," said CAA founder Bob Fu. "This is clearly a new tactic to persecute house churches before 2008 Beijing Olympics is held."

CORRUPT OFFICIALS ASSIST FORCED PROSTITUTION, GROUP CHARGES -- Police and local authorities often cooperate with criminal gangs that force women into prostitution, a group of religious leaders in Indonesia has charged.

Migrant women seeking work are kidnapped, drugged and forced into prostitution in Indonesia or shipped to prostitution markets in Malaysia and Singapore -– with the assistance of local officials who issue false identity documents and work permits, said 22 representatives of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia.

The group urged police "to make an unwavering commitment to fighting the problem" at the end of a six-day conference on Batam Island, Riau Province (Sumatra), one of the areas most affected by the problem, according to AsiaNews.

Sister Ferdinanda, who serves in a parish on Batam Island, told AsiaNews that women are abducted in different parts of Indonesia and held like slaves in temporary shelters controlled by criminal gangs. Corrupt local officials issue foreign work permits and new identities, and the gangs transport the women to Singapore and Malaysia, where they are exploited in prostitution and other types of slave labor.


Mark Kelly is a freelance writer based in Gallatin, Tenn.

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