Oswaldo Payá, Cuban Activist Dies Suspiciously

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:12 AM EDT, 24 July 2012

Oswaldo Paya, Photo by Kozusnik.euHAVANA, Cuba – Oswaldo Payá, 60, a prominent Cuban dissident and pro-democracy campaigner died when his car was struck on Sunday, 22 July 2012. Of the three passengers accompanying him, two were uninjured, but Harold Cepero, 31, a fellow activists also perished.

Payá, a practicing Catholic, was the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement and organizer of the Varela Project, a citizen petition movement for greater rights guarantees in Cuba, which resulted in the brutal suppression and arrest of hundreds of pro-democracy activists in 2003.

Payá was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, and worked tirelessly in defense of human rights, particularly the right to free assembly, freedom of speech, and achieving equal representation in the government.

Despite great risk to himself and his family, Payá devoted his efforts toward effecting change from within Cuba and conscientiously chose not to align himself with the powerful U.S. based Cuban community nor accept any external financial support from anti-Castro organizations. Regardless, the Cuban government maintained that Payá was a subversive United States agent tasked with the job of undermining the country's revolution.

At a recent conference honoring Cuban dissidents and activists Payá reiterated his goal for ‘peacefully defending and promoting the rights of all Cubans; for fearlessly denouncing violations of these rights; and for writing and speaking the truth, which in Cuba is itself imprisoned.’

Throughout his political career he has received numerous death threats, but family members stated that recently these have increased in frequency.  “His death follows the death last October of Laura Pollan, the leader of the Ladies in White, also under suspicious circumstances. (Source: PR Newswire)

Payá’s funeral was held in San Salvador Catholic Church and was attended by family, friends, and fellow Cuban human rights activists. Distraught relatives alleged to the press that Payá was murdered by being driven off of the road, a charge with the government vehemently denies.

The government countered these assertions by issuing an official statement blaming Payá for losing control of his vehicle while traveling on a road in eastern Granma province just before hitting a tree. They subsequently issued a statement that an investigation into the incident would be initiated.

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Africa's Christians Under Attack

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:05 PM EDT, 30 April 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya - In recent months, across Africa, Christian sects have been under attack from extremist. On Sunday, 29 April 2012, a church in Ngara was bombed leaving one person confirmed dead and 16 others seriously injured.

Although the US embassy warned of an imminent threat of terrorist attacks in the country, specific targets were not identified. The lone attacker is said to have entered God’s House of Miracles International Church with other worshipers, at which point he hurled a grenade toward the front pews before hastily retreating toward the exit.

Police immediately launched an investigation while many of the victims were taken to be treated at the Guru Nanak and Kenyatta National hospitals. Unlike the conflict between radical Islamists and Christians in northern Nigeria, the terrorist’s attacks in Kenya are primarily a reaction to Kenya’s incursion into Somalia in October 2011 when troops were dispatched to fight al-Shabab fighter.

Terrorist attacks like the Sunday church bombings in Kenya and Nigeria seem to be the favored method of expressing dissatisfaction with the government. Prior to the Ngara bombing, there was a grenade attack on a church service in Mtwapa, Mombasa that left one person dead and ten others seriously injured.

From East Africa to West Africa, the incidence of sectarian violence is escalating. Previously, we reported on the rising conflict between Christians and extremist Islamic factions in northern Nigeria’s Kano State. The radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram has in recent months unleashed bloody attacks on Christians and other non-Islamic sects as they seek to impose Sharia law in Nigeria.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, is widely believed to be Boko Haram's base of operations and has the highest number of incidents of violence against Christians, police, and the military. Thus, the Monday 30 April 2012, Kano church attack by Boko Haram, a day after the Nairobi bombing was surprising.

The Nigerian attack was carried out by gunmen on motorcycles who hurled small homemade bombs into a university lecture hall where church services were being conducted. A total of 19 people were injured or killed in Boko Haram attacks on Christians in Maiduguri and Kano on both Sunday and Monday.

According to an official presidential statement, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the murderous terrorist attack on the Bayero University Campus in Kano yesterday and the "brutal killing of innocent worshipers by vicious assailants." However, many Nigerians believe that Goodluck has not been forceful enough in his efforts to eradicate Boko Haram and restore peace in the North.

The Vatican has also condemned the incidents. “The new terrorist attacks in Kenya and Nigeria at Christian celebrations are horrible and despicable acts,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

“We must be close to victims and communities that suffer just as they are peacefully celebrating a faith that wants love and peace for all,” he said. “We must encourage the whole population.... not to give in to the temptation to fall into the vicious circle of homicidal hatred,” he added. (Source: Independent Catholic News)