Peru shamans hold rituals, foresee good news during Pope's visit

  • Published in World

Peruvian shamans said on Wednesday they expect good news from the visit of Pope Francis to the Andean nation, and held rituals on a beach near Lima to give him strength to fight against accusations of sexual abuse that have plagued the Roman Catholic Church.

Dressed in ponchos, the shamans passed rue leaves - believed to ward off evil and bring good luck - over photos of the Argentine pontiff, and stood by the ocean playing percussion instruments.

The pope lands in Peru on Thursday after finishing a trip to neighbouring Chile. He will visit the Amazon jungle city of Puerto Maldonado and the northern city of Trujillo as well as the capital, Lima.

I see it going very well, above all in Trujillo and Puerto Maldonado. There will be good news and we ask the pope to pray with all the Andean priests," said shaman Juan Osco, as he tossed flower petals over the pope's image.

We want to congratulate Francis for being a leader with enough strength to get rid of paedophile priests," he said.

In Chile, Francis has faced protests from Catholics upset with his 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros to head the diocese of Osorno. Barros denies accusations that he protected a priest found guilty in a Vatican investigation of abusing teenage boys.

The pope, who also faces criticism in Peru for his handling of abuse allegations against the former leaders of an elite Catholic society, met with victims of child sexual abuse in Chile and expressed "pain and shame.

Seen as kinder towards indigenous people than previous Church leaders, Francis will meet with Amazonian indigenous leaders on Friday. He shared a meal with Mapuche in Chile on Wednesday.

Shamans from different indigenous groups in Peru frequently give their visions for events, politicians and soccer games.

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James Haskell banned for England’s first two Six Nations games

  • Published in Sports
James Haskell banned for England’s first two Six Nations games • Wasps flanker was sent off for tackle in Champions Cup defeat
• France’s Bastareaud banned for three weeks for slur

The Wasps flanker James Haskell will be unavailable for England’s first two Six Nations games after receiving a four-week ban.

Haskell, who has won 75 caps, was sent off following a dangerous tackle on the Harlequins centre Jamie

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Fears of serial child killer in Pakistan city

The rape and murder of a dozen children by a suspected serial killer have terrified parents in central Pakistan, and prompted soul-searching over how the country fails to protect its most vulnerable.

The killing of six-year-old Zainab Fatima Ameen became the tipping point last week when her body was found on a rubbish heap near her home in the city of Kasur.

Candlelight vigils were held across the country and the hashtag #JusticeForZainab trended on social media, with celebrities, opposition politicians and outraged web users demanding action.

But grief spilled over into anger in Kasur, a city already infamous for child abuse after a massive paedophilia ring was exposed in 2015.

Zainab, officials said, is the 12th child found raped and murdered in the city within a 2km radius in the last two years.

The discovery of her body sparked riots in Kasur, with thousands swarming police stations and setting fire to politicians' homes, accusing the authorities of inaction.

At least two demonstrators were killed after police opened fire on the crowds.

A spokesman for the government of Punjab province - where Kasur is located - said the suspect was likely "a lunatic with psychological disorders".

The perpetrator involved in the murder is a serial killer," Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan told AFP.

In six of the cases, investigators have found the same DNA, Kasur district hospital chief Dr Nazir Ahmed told AFP.

Another doctor said the bodies of the children bore similar injuries.

Dr Fareed Khan said the victims showed signs of "strangulation, burn marks, scarring and wrist cuts.

Television stations have repeatedly broadcast chilling CCTV footage purportedly showing the young girl walking hand-in-hand with an unidentified male in what may have been her last moments.

Kasur is notorious for such heinous crimes.

In 2015, officials uncovered a huge paedophilia ring in the city. At least 280 children were sexually abused on camera by men who later blackmailed their families, threatening to leak the footage.

Police conspicuously failed to act despite pleas from parents, only making arrests after clashes between relatives and authorities dragged the issue into the spotlight.

From January to June 2017, there were 129 cases recorded in Kasur - including rape and murder - according to Sahil, an aid group that works on child protection issues.

Parents interviewed by AFP appeared overwhelmed once again by their powerlessness.

The district police chief told us if they can't arrest the culprit then what can they do," said Muhammad Ayub, whose eight-year-old niece was raped and killed in July last year.

Just one child is believed to have survived an attack.

The six-year-old girl has spent months in intensive care, paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak after being raped, tortured and left for dead at a garbage dump in November.

Cameras should be installed in the streets on every turn for protection of the children. how can mothers accompany their children all the time? asked the survivor's aunt.

How can I be satisfied. we don't know what's happening," raged Zainab's father Ameen Ansari at his home, where he blasted the police for inaction. They have not shown any interest at all.

Authorities, however, remain confident. I'm pretty sure that within a few days maybe we will present the main accused," said district police chief Zahid Nawaz Marwat.

Such assurances are not enough for the people of Kasur.

We have been forced to lock our kids inside our homes," said resident Ghulam Fareed.

Pakistan criminalised child sexual abuse for the first time in 2016, after the initial paedophilia scandal broke.

But with sex education non-existent in the conservative Muslim country, experts fear that an untold number of abuse cases continue to go unreported.

Always the powerful are abusers and the weak are the victims," said Manizeh Bano, the executive director of Sahil.

Such fears are not limited to Punjab.

Recent media reports have pointed to rampant sexual abuse of children in unregulated madrassas across the country, while a 2014 documentary highlighted how young boys in the north-western city of Peshawar are often abused for sex.

For Zainab's family, any change will come too late. They were unable to find my daughter for five days," her mother Nusrat Bibi said through tears.

I had educated Zainab (on) how to deal with strangers if they try to trap you," she cried. The girl was very wise and obedient.

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Simone Biles breaks her silence: 'I am not afraid to tell my story'

  • Published in Sports
US gymnast Simone Biles won four golds at the Rio Olympics.
  • Sentencing of the former USA Gymnastics team doctor has begun
  • US gymnast revealed on Monday she too was victim of Larry Nassar

As the sentencing of the former USA Gymnastics team doctor starts in a Michigan courtroom, questions are being asked over how he was allowed to sexually abuse dozens of young athletes, including one of the stars of the 2016

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