Chilean churches looted during protests

A protester carries a statue of Christ from La Asuncion church to be added to a barricade in Santiago, Chile, Nov 8, 2019. Credit: Esteban Felix/AP/Shutterstock. Not licensed for redistribution.
A protester carries a statue of Christ from La Asuncion church to be added to a barricade in Santiago, Chile, Nov 8, 2019. Credit: Esteban Felix/AP/Shutterstock. Not licensed for redistribution.

.- Several churches across Chile have been attacked and looted amid anti-government protests in the country.

The demonstrations began in mid-October in Santiago over a now-suspended increase in subway fares.
Other regions joined in the protests, expanding their grievances to inequality and the cost of healthcare.

Protesters broke into Santiago’s La Asuncion parish Nov. 8, hauling out pews, confessionals, and statues – which they defaced – to build a barricade. They set the barricade on fire before clashing with police, and sprayed anti-Catholic graffiti on the walls, pillars, and altar of the church.

The next day, the Chilean bishops said that “with many Chileans we are radically opposed to injustice and to violence, we condemn them in all their forms and we hope that the tribunals will identify those responsible and sanction them.”

“The violent protesters only prevent us from looking with due attention to the just claims of the majority of the Chilean people who yearn for real and peaceful solutions … the people are not only tired of injustice, of also of violence, and the great majority hope for dialogue with respect to the reconstruction of the social fabric.”

On Nov. 10, attackers in Talca forced open the doors of the Mary Help of Christians shrine, where they destroyed religious  images and then carried them into the streets along with the church’s pews to set them on fire and erect barricades. Before the Carabineros de Chile arrived at the scene, the attackers desecrated the tabernacle.

At a Nov. 12 press conference, Fr. Pedro Pablo Cuello, director of the Salesian presence in Talca, said that “Chile needs to grow, needs to be reconciled, with peace, with justice and equity … This is a desecration of the very face of Jesus.”

Bishop Galo Fernández Villaseca, auxiliary bishop of Santiago and apostolic administrator of Talca, said he was “impacted and moved by the violence one is experiencing which is intensifying  in the country and among us. These are not just material damages, it’s an attitude of discord and which attacks the deepest sentiments of a person, our religious sentiments. The desecration of the Blessed Sacrament hurts us deeply.”

“It hurts me that the soul of Chile is wounded, is incapable of dialogue, that the soul of Chile claiming legitimate things that we share to a great extent, is walking down a path that is counterproductive,” Bishop  Fernández said.

He encouraged the practice of “peace, dialogue, to value what is true in the different person and to walk down a path that means progress for all women and men in Chile.”

The Salesian community in turn asked that Chileans “seek peace and the ways of understanding and dialogue … convinced that the great challenge of every society is to achieve a good integration in which all people have a decent life, especially the elderly and children.”

“It’s a matter of respecting one another, of working together. We all want to build a new Chile, a Chile truly just and solidary and we will continue working according to our responsibilities as priests and as a Salesian School,” they said.

Bishop Fernández said a Mass of reparation in the church Nov. 12.

Also on Nov. 10, a mob attacked Our Lady of the Angels parish in Viña del Mar, immediately northeast of Valparaiso.

The attackers pulled out statues of Saint Expeditus and Saint Teresa of the Andes from their glass enclosures and destroyed them. They also destroyed some stained glass windows and other windows, sprayed graffiti, and tried to enter the church.

“This violent action hurts us deeply since the Shrine of Saint Expeditus has always been a refuge for those who suffer and need a place of peace and hope. Not only has a sacred image been broken, but also the home has been violated that welcomes thousands of pilgrims who with faith give over their yearnings and hopes,” the parish said.

Along with expressing their support for the legitimate demands of society, the parish condemned the vandalism and violence and said it is “time for a true constructive dialogue and to seek paths of unity for all of us who live in this land.”

In recent days, the Cathedral of St. James in Valparaiso and Saint Teresa of the Andes parish in Punta Arenas have also been attacked.

More than 20 people have been killed in the protests. Many of the protests are peaceful, but some have included looting and arson, and attacks on public and private property, national heritage buildings, and churches. More than 7,000 demonstrators have been arrested.

President Sebastian Pinera replaced several cabinet ministers last month, but it did not sate the protesters.


Statement of 11 nations opposes ‘reproductive rights’ focus of Nairobi Summit

Kenya's pro family activists deliver over 68,000 signatures to the President of Kenya to remove support for the ICPD25 in Nairobi, Nov. 11, 2019. Credit: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images.
Kenya’s pro family activists deliver over 68,000 signatures to the President of Kenya to remove support for the ICPD25 in Nairobi, Nov. 11, 2019. Credit: Simon Maina/AFP via Getty Images.

.- On the sidelines of the Nairobi Summit, the US and 10 other nations delivered a joint statement Thursday indicating their commitment to women’s health, and their concern over the summit’s process and content.

The statement echoes concerns that the international gathering is too focused on “reproductive rights”.

“We are … concerned about the content of some of the key priorities of this Summit,” read the Nov. 14 joint statement from the US, Brazil, Belarus, Egypt, Haiti, Hungary, Libya, Poland, Senegal, St. Lucia, and Uganda.

“We do not support references in international documents to ambiguous terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), which do not enjoy international consensus … In addition, the use of the term SRHR may be used to actively promote practices like abortion.”

The Nov. 12-14 Nairobi Summit is sponsored by the UN Population Fund and the governments of Kenya and Denmark, and it marks the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, which was held in Cairo.

Its program includes five themes, among which are “Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of universal health coverage” and “Upholding the right to sexual and reproductive health care even in humanitarian and fragile contexts.”

The 11 nations opposed to the summit’s abortion focus recalled that the 1994 Cairo Conference “had as its stated objectives and actions to collectively address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development.”

In the past 25 years “many countries have made substantial progress in reducing death rates and increasing education and income levels, including by improving the educational and economic status of women. It is noteworthy that, as opposed to the population growth predictions included in the ICPD Program of Action, these predictions have not come to pass,” the joint statement noted.

“Indeed, in most regions of the world today, fertility is below population replacement rates. As a result, family planning should focus both on the voluntary achievement of pregnancy as well as the prevention of unwanted pregnancy.”

The 11 countries affirmed the “key foundational principles” of the Cairo Conference, saying, “We strongly support the holistic pursuit of the highest attainable outcomes of health, life, dignity, and well-being … this includes but is not limited to: reproductive concerns; maternal health; primary health care; voluntary and informed family planning; family strengthening; equal educational and economic opportunities for women and men.”

“We wish to emphasize that the agreement reached at Cairo remains a solid foundation for addressing new challenges within a consensus-driven process that gives each government equal opportunity to negotiate a broadly accepted document within the UN, reaffirming that health is a precondition for and an outcome and indicator of the realization of ICPD,” read the joint statement.

The nations said the Cairo Conference’s action program was “approved by consensus” because, in part, it “made clear that the conference did not create any new international human rights.”

The joint statement noted, “There is no international right to abortion; in fact, international law clearly states that ‘[e]veryone has the right to life’” and that the Cairo Conference said “that countries should ‘take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning’ (ICPD 7.24) and to ‘reduce the recourse to abortion’.”

The 11 countries added that they “cannot support a sex education that fails to adequately engage parents and which promotes abortion as a method of family planning.”

They indicated that “we would have appreciated more transparency and inclusiveness in the preparation of the Conference, including regarding criteria for civil society participation. While the Cairo ICPD Program of Action was negotiated and implemented with and by the entire UN General Assembly membership, only a small handful of governments were consulted on the planning and modalities of the 2019 Nairobi Summit. Therefore, outcomes from this summit are not intergovernmentally negotiated, nor are they the result of a consensus process. As a result, they should not be considered normative.”

The countries said the Nairobi Summit “is centered on only certain aspects of the ICPD Program of Action and does not fully reflect all views and positions of the Member States … unless negotiated and adopted by consensus of all Member States, within the process and structure of an international body such as the UN General Assembly, no ICPD follow-on document has consensual weight or standing amongst governments.”

“We call upon Member States to maintain the original and legitimate 1994 ICPD principles … that explicitly retain important government statements and reservations that permitted consensus, to reiterate their reservations to the ICPD Program of Action as reflected in the conference’s report, and to focus our efforts, resources, and determination to fulfill the unfinished work of attaining sustainable development for every nation so as to promote the dignity of the human person and human flourishing.”

The objections of the 11 countries represented by the joint statement echoed concerns from the Holy See and from bishops in Kenya.

The Holy See is not partipating in the summit, saying that the organizers chose “to focus the conference on a few controversial and divisive issues that do not enjoy international consensus and that do not reflect accurately the broader population and development agenda outlined by the ICPD.”

“The ICPD and its encompassing Programme of Action within the international community’s broad development agenda should not be reduced to so-called ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and ‘comprehensive sexuality education,’”, the Holy See stated.

Bishop Alfred Rotich, Bishop Emeritus of the Military Ordinariate of Kenya and chair of the Kenyan bishops’ family life office, told ACI Africa: “We find such a conference not good for us, (and) destroying the agenda for life.”

Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa described the summit’s agenda as “unacceptable according to our teaching of the Catholic Church.”

The US delivered a commitment statement at the summit Nov. 13, saying it is committed “to empowering women and girls to thrive, but this statement is only intended for the purposes of this reading and is not to be used as an endorsement of the commitments of this summit.”

The commitment statement added that the US “has been, and will be a prime advocate and will continue to invest in programs which empower women and girls to realize their full potential, reinforce their inherent dignity, promote and advance their equality, protect their inalienable rights, and support optimal health outcomes across their lifespans. Families, positive male figures, (including caring fathers), communities, and civil society, (including faith based organizations), play an important role in supporting women and girls to thrive.”

Dr. Frederick Wamalma, regional president of Pax Romana International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs, told ACI Africa that the desire of many participants in the Nairobi Summit to have a decreasing rate of population growth in Africa is a fallacy.

“Africa needs to focus on population growth because we need to grow the population of working people, which is very important for us,” he said.

“If you go to some of the European countries, they don’t have the working age population. So, they have this larger population of old people who are no longer working. We don’t want to be caught up with what we’re seeing there,” Wamalma stated.

He added: “From a developing country point of view, population shouldn’t be a problem. What we need to be stressed with is being able to give these young people who are coming, joining the labour market the right skills to be able to be productive in the labour market.”

Wamalma stressed that African countries need clear “policies around education, policies around health, policies around labour market, policies around social protection.”

Rep. Chris Smith, a congressman from New Jersey, wrote in a Nov. 11 opinion piece at the Wall Street Journal that through the Nairobi Summit, “the governments of Kenya and Denmark and the United Nations Population Fund are attempting to hijack the U.N.’s global population and development work to support an extreme pro-abortion agenda.”

Smith, who attended the Cairo Conference, said the “conveners of the Nairobi Summit have blocked attendance by conservative organizations and excluded countries and stakeholders that disagree with their agenda from offering input on the substance and planning of the conference,” including the US.

He lamented that “key elements of the Cairo program are missing from the Nairobi Summit agenda,” noting that the ICPD recognized sex-selective abortion as a harmful practice.

“The Nairobi Summit isn’t a true reflection of ICPD but a gathering of like-minded individuals and organizations departing from the Cairo consensus as they promote a pro-abortion agenda while attempting to exploit Cairo’s name and reputation,” the congressman concluded.

To counter the agenda of the Nairobi Summit, the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, with the backing of Kenya’s bishops, has organized a parallel convention to be held Nov. 11-14.
Magdalene Kahiu contributed to this report.


‘My Life Was a Miracle’: The Journey of an Abortion Survivor

“I knew that I couldn’t stand for what abortion does. And so, I chose to take a stance and to speak out,” abortion survivor Claire Culwell says. (Photo: Getty Images)

When she was 21 years old, Claire Culwell found out a huge secret about her past: her biological mom had tried to have an abortion when she was pregnant with Claire and her twin. While Claire’s twin didn’t survive, Claire did—and that revelation changed her life. “I knew that I couldn’t stand for what abortion does. And so, I chose to take a stance and to speak out,” she says. Listen to her interview on the podcast, or read the lightly edited transcript of our conversation, pasted below.

The Daily Signal podcast is available on Ricochet,iTunesPippaGoogle Play, or Stitcher. All of our podcasts can be found at If you like what you hear, please leave a review. You can also leave us a message at 202-608-6205 or write us at [email protected]. Enjoy the show!

Katrina Trinko: OK. So, we’re at the Values Voter Summit with Claire Culwell. Claire, thanks for joining us.

Claire Culwell: Thanks for having me.

The demand for socialism is on the rise from young Americans today. But is socialism even morally sound? Find out more now >>

Trinko: OK, so, first off, you are an abortion survivor. Tell me about that.

Culwell: I met my birth mother in 2009; so, 10 years ago, and I had a gift for her, and I ended up thanking her for choosing life for me and giving me my family. And that was the moment she broke down into tears and shared with me about being pregnant at 13 years old.

She was in eighth grade, and she said she found herself pregnant, approached her mother. Her mother took her to an abortion clinic, and she had a dismemberment, a D&E abortion at 20 weeks, around 20 weeks.

And that they told her that her life would go back to normal. All the similar things that they tell women that have abortions today, but she said that her life never went back to normal.

In fact, a few weeks later she went back, because she said things didn’t seem right, and that’s when they told her that she had actually been pregnant with twins, and that they had successfully aborted one baby, but that I had survived.

And so, I was born at 30 weeks. I had a dislocated hip and club feet from being a twin. I was in a body cast for a little while to correct those things.

But when she shared this with me, obviously, I never imagined I would find something like that out. I thought the worst thing that will happen will be, she won’t want to meet me. But instead I found out that I had survived something that was meant to take my life.

And so, I knew that my life was a miracle, there was a reason that I was here, and I could either forgive my birth mother and share this story to show the humanity of the baby and offer hope and a message of forgiveness to women that have had abortions, or I could be angry and upset. And so, I chose to forgive my birth mother and share my story.

Trinko: So you had no idea before you met her that you had survived an abortion?

Culwell: No, I was 21 when I found out.

Trinko: Wow! So, how did

Culwell: I was adopted. So, I was placed for adoption, and since my birth mother was 13, and because they were [closed] adoptions back then, the majority of adoptions were, we didn’t know anything about my birth mother until we met her.

Trinko: How did you feel when you first found that out?

Culwell: When I first learned that I had survived my birth mother’s abortion, I remember not feeling sadness for myself, but looking into my birth mother’s eyes and seeing this deep pain that I somewhat identified with.

I mean, I had had hard things happen in my life, but I had never, I knew just from looking into her eyes that I had never experienced that level of pain, that deep pain that she had experienced, and so I knew that I couldn’t keep it to myself.

Trinko: And was it strange to realize that you had originally had a twin?

Culwell: I think that it kind of fit some of the pieces of the puzzle together for my life for me. I remember growing up and wanting a brother; specifically, a brother. I had a sister through adoption, but I felt like something was missing. And so, I do think that that was my natural instinct, because I lived five months in the womb with my twin, and so I knew him or her.

And so yeah, it is crazy. It’s surreal to think that I am literally missing probably my other half, you know? But it gives me reason to fight and to speak out in truth, because I imagine what our lives would have been like if my twin had been here, and it would’ve been very different for us.

Trinko: So, before you found this out, and you mentioned you were just 21, did you consider yourself pro-life? Did you have a view on abortion before this?

Culwell: I am adopted, and so, I think I would have told you back then that adoption was always a better option than abortion, but did I ever use that terminology like I’m pro-life? No, it wasn’t something that I ever thought about.

I wasn’t aware of anyone that had been affected by abortion in my life up until I was 21, and so, when I found out that I had been affected by abortion in a very unique way, in my mind, that’s what I thought back then. It opened up this whole new world for me.

Like, “OK, how do I feel about this? What does this mean? What does abortion do to a child or to a little girl like my birth mother or to a woman?” And I knew that I couldn’t stand for what abortion does. And so, I chose to take a stance and to speak out.

Trinko: Now, you’ve been speaking out for several years now. Has anyone who identifies as pro-choice, have they approached you? What has the response been from people who aren’t pro-life?

Culwell: It comes up in conversation … daily for me. All I have to do is sit down on an airplane, and it’s small talk. What do you do? What do you do? And it comes up. And so, I’ve had a lot of different responses.

A lot of people don’t want to hear it, and they will say, “Well, that’s interesting, but I don’t believe that happens.” And, “That’s imaginary. You must have made that up.” And it is …

Trinko: That’s so insulting to be like, “You must be crazy.”

Culwell: It can be hard to hear, but you know, I look at those instances as an opportunity to plant a seed. I got them to hear my story, and they’re going to go home and think about it.

I mean, how could you not go home and think about someone that survived an abortion? Something so eye-opening. But I think the majority of people, they hear my story and they see, “OK, I can actually see a physical person. I can see your face. I can hear your name. And so, this baby that is aborted grows up to be someone just like you.”

And so, they can really grasp onto that and identify with that. And it helps to put a face with what the issue of abortion is really dealing with, and I found that a lot of people do change their minds after seeing an abortion survivor.

Trinko: So, what do you think pro-lifers should be doing right now?

Culwell: I firmly believe that we need to speak love and truth and have our actions speak louder than words. You’ve heard that before. But I think that there are so many different movements that people can grasp onto and just different ways of approaching the life issue, but if you’re in prayer and if you’re speaking truth and love, and you’re reaching out to these women in love and telling them that we can help them, you can’t go wrong.

I think that every single woman or man or family that is entering into an abortion clinic and considering abortion is looking for a sign and looking for a way out.

And if you can imagine somebody holding out graphic signs and yelling, that’s not as welcoming, right? It may not be wrong, necessarily, but someone that is lovingly saying, “I’m here for you. I can help you.”

That is what women are looking for and what will help them choose life and feel empowered, because that’s what women need to feel. And that’s what we need to be voicing to them, is that they’re strong enough not just to have a career, but to have a family and continue on with their life and continue on with their career, because women are strong enough and capable of doing all those things.

Trinko: So, we’ve seen a surge in abortion extremism in the past year. Several states either passed or looked at passing laws that would have allowed abortion up to birth.

How do you as an abortion survivor feel about that, and how do you feel when so many liberal politicians seem willing to say that? “Yes. Anytime up until the very moment of birth it is OK to end this child’s life.”

Culwell: I remember what it felt like when New York lit up the Empire State Building pink in celebration of a woman’s right to choose late-term abortion. To me, all these people were celebrating this, and they thought it was this incredible thing. And then I’m standing there, and there’s other women just like me who have survived abortions or have had abortions themselves, and we’re standing there thinking, “Do they not see me? Do they not hear what I’ve been through? Do they not feel how abortion has hurt me?”

And so, when politicians and when states are celebrating these late-term abortion rights, it almost takes my breath away, because I think, “OK, they’re celebrating the right of women, and yet they’re not acknowledging mine.”

They don’t care about my right as a woman, as an unborn woman, about my right to choose. Because I definitely would not have chosen to be aborted. I definitely would not have chosen for my twin to be aborted, and for my life, my entire life, I will walk this earth as an abortion survivor when I didn’t have to. Because if my rights had been taken into consideration, I would have chosen to live.

Trinko: And you’re a mom yourself, right?

Culwell: I am.

Trinko: And what was the experience of pregnancy like for you? I mean, did it feel, I would imagine that, coming as an adopted child, it must have been a very emotional experience.

Culwell: I had an incredible childhood as an adoptee, and so, I actually have three children. I have two that I have chosen to be a mother to. I married a single dad, and so, I’ve had the privilege of raising them. And then I have one biological daughter. And so, I’ve only had one pregnancy, and that was extremely eye-opening for me, because I realized that if my life had been taken through abortion as it was meant to, as my twin was, that my little girl wouldn’t be here.

And so, I think that was the experience, the really eye-opening experience, for me was being pregnant and realizing the true domino effect that abortion has because my daughter’s life is now a miracle, too, because I lived to tell about my birth mother’s abortion.

Trinko: It’s beautiful. And I have cousins who are adopted, and we’re so grateful to their birth moms that they chose life for them, and yes, I love the way you say it, “I chose to have my daughters.”

Culwell: Adoption is such an incredible thing, and people often ask me, “Claire, why have you been able to respond in such a positive way? How have you been able to forgive your birth mother?” It truly is because of the family that I was adopted into and the way that I was raised. I knew without a doubt that my birth mother was already forgiven, and so I knew that I should forgive her, too.

Trinko: Well, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

Culwell: Thank you for having me.

Katrina Trinko

Katrina Trinko is editor-in-chief of The Daily Signal and co-host of The Daily Signal Podcast. Send an email to Katrina.