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Burundi calls for water protection to manage environmental problems

The Burundian government on Tuesday called on the public to protect water resources as waste and poor management has caused environmental problems such as soil degradation, drought and pollution in the eastern African country..

To mark the World Water Day on Tuesday, Burundian Water Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru said in a statement that the Burundian people should protect mountains, forests, rivers and other water catchments as water is an economic richness for the country.

Located in Africa's Great Lake region, Burundi has a tropical rainforest climate that usually brings heavy and frequent rainfall throughout the year.

However, the country faces some environmental problems such as a reduction of water reserves and water pollution due to a lack of water management and undue deforestation around the country.

Rainwater should be seen as an "opportunity" instead of a trouble, Niyonkuru said, adding that it contributes to poverty and disease reduction, environmental conservation as well as economic growth.



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Burundi's environment minister was shot dead in the capital Bujumbura early Sunday, police said, the first killing of its kind since the country was plunged into political turmoil two years ago.

Emmanuel Niyonkuru, 54, the country's water, environment and planning minister, was killed shortly after midnight, according to a tweet sent by police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye.

The murder, the first of a serving government minister since Burundi sank into turmoil over President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial bid for a third term in 2015, comes after months of relative calm.

"Minister of water and environment killed by a criminal with a gun on his way home to Rohero, around 00:45," Nkurikiye wrote four hours after the incident.

He added that a woman had been arrested following the "assassination" although the motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

Also on Twitter, Nkurunziza offered his condolences "to the family and all Burundians", vowing the crime would be punished.

The murder comes days after Nkurunziza hinted he might seek a constitutional amendment allowing him a fourth term in 2020.

"If the people request it, we won't betray the confidence of the country, we won't betray the confidence of the people," Nkurunziza said Friday.

Emmanuel Niyonkuru was assassinated early Sunday

Regime figures targeted

At least 500 people have been killed and 300,000 have fled the country since unrest began in April 2015 as protesters -- and then military coup-plotters -- fought against Nkurunziza's third mandate.

Niyonkuru is the first cabinet minister to be killed but other senior regime figures have been targeted during the months of crisis.

General Adolphe Nshimirimana, considered Nkurunziza's right-hand man, was killed in August 2015. Almost a year later former government minister and spokeswoman Hafsa Mossi was killed by gunmen in her car.

Other attacks have failed, with senior presidential advisor Willy Nyamitwe, a spokesman widely regarded as the public face of the government, escaping an ambush by a group of gunmen as he returned to his Bujumbura home in November.

And in April, human rights minister Martin Nivyabandi and his wife were injured in a grenade attack while leaving church.

Burundi has commonly blamed neighbouring Rwanda for the attacks.

The murder of Niyonkuru comes as Nkurunziza shores up his control of the restive nation.

The loyalist parliament has passed a law imposing strict controls on international aid groups that Nkurunziza has accused of backing insurrectionists.

It has also begun the process of withdrawing the country from the International Criminal Court (ICC) which was looking into allegations of government abuses, including murder, torture and rape.

UN and NGO human rights reports have raised fears that Burundi's political crisis might take on an ethnic dimension, warning of the potential for genocide.

Church leaders this week officially voted Andres Peralta

Church leaders this week officially voted Andres Peralta to serve as the new associate director of Adventist Youth Ministries. Peralta is coming from his role as Youth Director for the Church's Atlantic region, which includes six states and the Island of Bermuda. He is the youngest to have that role within the Church's North American territory.

Peralta is a native of the Dominican Republic. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Theology from the  Antillean Adventist University in Puerto Rico. After completing his studies at Antillean, he enrolled at Andrews University where he earned his Master of Divinity. He also earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Andrews University in Teamwork and Urban Youth Ministry. In addition to serving the church as an ordained pastor, he is also a United States Navy Lieutenant Reserve Chaplain.

Peralta is passionate about empowering children, youth, and young adults to grow in Christ and look to Jesus as their ultimate example. He has mobilized thousands of youth to serve in hundreds of community projects and dozens of mission trips locally and internationally. He and his wife of 16 years, Martha have a daughter named Melany. As Associate Director, Peralta will oversee the Church's Junior Youth ministries, which include Pathfinders and Adventurers programs.

Growing tensions in the Middle East over the last two years

Growing tensions in the Middle East over the last two years caused a massive exodus for thousands of families who fled to European countries, one of which is Serbia.

More than 4,000 migrants settled in Serbia with plans of moving farther west. However, the Balkan border was blocked and migrant families found themselves stuck in a country they knew little about. For over a year, they waited to cross the border and meanwhile had to readjust their way of life. Intervention came in the form of a women’s community center established by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Serbia and its partner, UN Women Serbia, and later supported by UNICEF.  

In November 2017, ADRA Serbia’s women’s community center was officially opened. The center vouched to help the most vulnerable population of migrants, which are women and girls, to help them improve their knowledge and skills for a better future, and help them find a sense of belonging and purpose. After time spent in a country where the language is foreign and access to education is limited, the community center was recognized as a safe haven. 

Thirty-year-old, Layla, who migrated from Afghanistan to Serbia more than a year ago said she found peace at the new center, made friends and learned new things. “We did not know how to write Farsi,” she said, “now we do.” 

An additional 50 women, one third of whom are minors, from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, visit the community center every day learning language, English and math. Each woman works closely with a specialist who monitors her improvement. In all, there are 20 specialists, interpreters, and volunteers who offer their services.  The women’s center also offers psychological and legal support. 

“I have visited the ADRA center for the last 11 months because my children can play here and it’s a nice environment,” said Sotude Mirsaly, a mother who participates in the program. “I take part in the fitness class because it makes me feel energized and a lot better.”  

Regardless of age, mothers like Mirsaly, are also taught unique trade skills, including sewing and baking. Young adult men who participate in the program take interest in either auto repair lessons and/or becoming a make-up artist. Recreational activities, such as piano, guitar and singing lessons are also activities held. 

Transportation, in addition, is arranged by ADRA Serbia so that children can get to the community center. “Approximately 120 children are transported by van to the school and back to their residential areas,” said Igor Mitrovic, the executive director of ADRA Serbia. With the convenient services on hand for migrant families through the women’s community center, mothers and children have found it easier to cope. “Because they receive help from our teachers and staff, the children find it easier to complete their homework,” Mitrovic added.   

The center, though meant to create a place of safety, security, comfort and support, is also being recognized as a place of empowerment. “The focus of this center is meeting the needs of the women and children. Unfortunately, they are not aware of their rights regarding asylum, if and how it applies to them,” said Mia Kisic, ADRA’s program coordinator at the center. With respect to cases of domestic violence, Kisic shared that sometimes women are not aware that they can be moved out of those environments. Since the center’s inception, an economic empowerment program has been created, which is particularly valuable for gender-based violence survivors.

More awareness is being created to help women and children recognize their right to feel in control of their lives, and gain independence according to Mitrovic. Meanwhile, the variety of courses offered has attracted more and more migrants requesting further education or learning a trade. As a result, 50 minors have so far been trained through internships on different trade skills. 

ADRA Serbia’s women’s community center continues to serve as an integral connection for locals to meet common ground with migrants, as well. This has helped foster improved relations, develop tolerance, and break free of the prejudices they may hold against those who are different. With a strong support for the migrants and community development programs like ADRA, local Serbian officials anticipate that the families will remain in Serbia for a long time. 

Accusations about Ben Carson Jr.’s involvement

4 February 2018 | Accusations about Ben Carson Jr.’s involvement in a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) listening tour have prompted his father, HUD secretary Ben Carson, to call for an investigation.

News analysis site Vox reports that the brewing scandal stems from reports that Carson Jr. was invited to be part of the tour despite a warning by Linda Cruciani, HUD’s deputy general counsel for operations, that his involvement may give the appearance that “the Secretary may be using his position for his son’s private gain.” The tour was supposed to provide Carson with information about housing projects supported by the federal government as well as give him a chance to talk about his policies.

On Saturday, February 3, Carson, an Adventist former neurosurgeon took to Twitter saying: “This week, my family and I have been under attack by the media questioning our integrity and ethics. I have openly asked for an Independent Investigation to put to rest these unfounded biases. Exodus 14:14”

The scripture he referenced reads “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV)

The Washington Post reported last week that Carson’s son and his daughter-in-law, Merlynn Carson, had made multiple requests for people to be invited to the listening tour. According to a July memo by Cruciani, Carson Jr. and his wife asked for more than six people to be invited to Carson’s Baltimore tour. On this list of requested invitees were high profile business executives such as Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Genesis Rehab Services co-chief operating officer Dan Hirschfield.

Carson Jr. is chairman and co-founder of a Maryland-based private equity firm called Interprise Partners. In addition, he chairs the construction and engineering services company Argo Systems. His wife, Merlynn, is CEO of consulting company Myriddian LLC.

One of the invitees was Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Washington Post reports that, less than three months after the invitation, CMS awarded Myriddian a $485,000 contract. CMS neglected to go through a competitive bidding process in awarding the contract.

Defending his involvement, Carson Jr. said that his father had asked him to help with the Baltimore listening tour and that he had merely invited people “who work with us, but [who] advance HUD initiatives.” He also claimed that he had three law firms and 2,600 employees and was regularly audited. “HUD can’t operate in Baltimore without touching on us,” said Carson Jr.

Secretary Carson defended his son’s involvement in the tour by saying that Carson Jr. was the largest employer in Maryland (a claim Vox reported is false.) Vox also explains that “executive branch officials aren’t supposed to use their offices to advance private or commercial interests, and anti-nepotism laws bar officials from employing or promoting the interests of their relatives.”

Carson senior has asked the HUD’s inspector general to investigate his listening tour. He also released a statement on February 1 saying, “In my role as HUD secretary, I try to be as inclusive as possible and talk with a wide variety of people because when it comes to increasing access to affordable housing, no rock should remain unturned.”

Carson launched an unsuccessful bid for the United States presidency, running as a Republican candidate in 2016.