Caritas Day “One Human Family, Food for All”

June 22, 2015

By Cecilia Agrinya-Owan

Expo Caritas Parade photo by Alberto Arciniega

Caritas Internationalis holds Caritas Day in Milan Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at the EXPO 2015 Milano to raise awareness and promote the importance of food security.

The “One Human Family, Food for All” campaign was launched on the 10th of December 2013 by the Holy father Pope Francis. The campaign aims to eradicate poverty by 2025 through creating awareness of this issue, empowering local farmers and improving their access to land to enable them grow their food and also engaging government at all levels to address issues of hunger by formulating and implementing policies that are pro-poor.

165 Caritas member countries gathered in Milan, Italy to discuss these issues and to share success stories on the support to the poor and vulnerable from around the world.

Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, ex Caritas Internationalis President, who started the campaign, in his opening speech said “there is sufficient food in the world but we still need to remove the inequalities in the world for all to have access to food”.

He noted that the goal of the “One Human Family, Food for All” campaign is to eradicate hunger, promote the right to food and guarantee food security for everyone by 2025.

Cardinal Maradiaga stated that “805 million people in the world go on an empty stomach and do not know how to feed their families” and that we need to guarantee access to healthy food for all and share with one another out food and food proceeds “as everything which is shared is multiplied.

Similarly, incoming president of Caritas Internationalis Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle emphasized that “We are One Human Family united by hunger. It is not just about food but it is the same hunger that unites us”.

“We tell the world; do not be afraid of faith. Faith will not destroy humanity. Faith makes us closer to human beings. Faith makes us courageous to love and to serve. That is Caritas that is what we are celebrating. The power of love towards the most needy with no ambition, our only desire is to love because we believe,” said Cardinal Tagle.

Caritas Day was concluded with a plea by Caritas leaders urging everyone to do their bits in reaching out to their brothers and sisters in love while appealing to world leaders and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, as priority to discuss during one of sessions of the UN meetings issues on access to food and the need to eradicate hunger in the world”.

In-coming President of Caritas Africa shares vision for the poor

June 22, 2015

By Cecilia Agrinya-Owan

Most. Rev. Gabriel Justice Yaw Anokye, Archbishop of Kumasi, Ghana, and second Vice President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) who is also in charge of Justice and Peace Commission. He is the newly elected President of Caritas Africa at the just concluded 8th Pan-African Conference, on Monday, May 11, 2015 at the ongoing Caritas General Assembly in Rome.

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Most. Rev. Gabriel Justice Yaw Anokye.

In this interview, he shares his vision of a Church for the Poor in Africa as Caritas and also the relationship between Caritas, Justice and Peace Commission.

 Q. What does the General Assembly mean for delegates from Africa?

A. Caritas Africa attends this 20th General Assembly in fidelity and in brotherliness as one family. This year as the theme tells us we all want to care for creation, we are one human family, one creation and every part of this family must come together to think of the whole.

We have also come to join our brothers and sisters from other Caritas member countries to form one big family, share success stories and challenges while learning from each other how to chart the way forward to achieve our mission and vision of serving the poor and caring for creation as Caritas.

Q. Looking at what the Pope says about a “Church for the Poor”, what does this mean in Africa?

A. The mission of Christ as announced by Himself in Isaiah Chapter 51 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, He has anointed me to bring the good news to the poor…” Similarly, in Christ’s sermon on the Mount; the first Beatitudes says “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.

So you can see that Him though rich in His divinity became poor (Philippians 2:6), in order to make us wealthy, divinized to share in His riches; this is the philosophy, theology, vision and indeed the mission of Christ; to raise the poor, to bring the lowly to a higher level, He didn’t come to save angels or raise again those who are already high up but to raise the poor, lowly, widows, orphans and strangers. These categories of people we call the poor are treated as the apples of His eyes and are kept very well by God Himself who hears the cry of the poor.

Therefore, Caritas which is issued out from the heart of the Church’s missionary and charity activities must also care for the poor. We do support the Pope as he reminds us of our duty to care for the poor. So for the Church to be able to serve the poor must be poor “a Poor Church” to be able to enter the ghettos, the sowetos, the zongos of our villages and hard-to-reach communities support the poor where they are as Caritas (Church).

Q. Going forward, looking at your role of being in charge of Justice and Peace Commission, how do you see Caritas and Justice Peace working together in member countries of the African Region, especially where there exist in parallel?

A. Before my election as President of Caritas Africa, I was and I still am the second Vice President the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). As the second Vice President, I am in charge of Justice and Peace Commission, Good Governance, Advocacy and Lobbying (talking for and against), I’m also in-charge development, migration and health. All these areas concern the human being as the focus of our activities. As we speak for justices and advocate for human rights, we are doing the work of Caritas, the work of love. Because if I look for justice for others, advocate for peace, good governance, transparency and accountability from African leaders to ensure growth and development for the common man, I am showing love which means Caritas. Bringing food to the suffering, visiting those who are sick or in prison, being in solidarity with those affected by earthquake and other natural and man-made disasters, is the visible part of justice, peace and reconciliation.

Justice, peace, development and reconciliation are integrated into the work of Caritas. One is more visible and the other structural but the two go together.

Q. As the new President, what is your vision of Caritas Africa?

A. Let me start by referring you to what Jesus himself said in Matthew 7:15 “I came to fulfill not to abolish”. In line with this, whatever vision there is already for Caritas Africa is what I am going to fulfill and our vision is to “give life in abundance” (John 10:10), I am not going to change that vision to fulfill it by making sure it is owned by everybody, loved, cherished and implemented. I am going to talk about it, remind members of the African region (46). The mission to achieving this is surely to bring people to know it, talk about it more, form people and also commission people do precisely that. So I am going to align with the old vision of Caritas Africa and ensuring that we achieve our mission of reaching out in love to our brothers and sisters who are in need.

A discussion with Jacques Dinan

June 22, 2015

By Cecilia Agrinya-Owan

Jacques Dinan, from Mauritius, is the outgoing Executive Secretary of Caritas Africa, one of the seven regions of Caritas Internationalis. As a member of the Caritas Internationalis Confederation Secretariat’s Team, he participated actively in the preparation of the 2015-2019 CI Strategic Framework which has been adopted by the 20th CI General Assembly on 17 May 2015.

As Executive Secretary Emeritus of Caritas Africa, Jacques is known and referred to by many as an excellent communicator, a visionary leader and an energetic and efficient coordinator, with a great passion for what he does. In this interview he speaks about the importance of Caritas Africa at the 20th General Assembly, the role of Caritas in promoting the global civilisation of love and the need to increase visibility of Caritas.

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Michel Roy, Caritas Internationalis Secretary General, (left) thanking Jacques Dinan at the end of his two terms of service as Caritas Africa Executive Secretary.

Q. What does it mean for Caritas Africa to be present at the General Assembly?

A. Caritas Africa is one of the seven regions of Caritas Internationalis. So being present at the General Assembly is part of our responsibility and this time we have quite a good delegation; 41 countries out of 46 in the region.

This shows that Caritas members in Africa are committed to the confederation and that is extremely important because in the confederation you are part of it, you have the support of other members but you also have to support other members as well. It is a family and in a family whether you are small or big, poor or rich, you are a member of the family and you have to behave as a member of the family because too often we say we are a family but we do not at all times behave as a family.

Q. What are your expectations of the new governance of Caritas?

A. At the level of Caritas Africa we have Archbishop of Kumasi, Ghana, Most Rev Gabriel Justice Yaw Anokye; he is a dynamic Archbishop, who will certainly build further with the Regional Commission members on what we have been doing during the past 8 years. Most of the members of the Regional Commission have been on the Commission for the past four years. So this means continuity and building up because we have to move forward.

Africa is a difficult continent with so many emergencies: diseases, droughts, cyclones, floods and of course human made emergencies like socio-political conflicts, and terrorism. Therefore, we need to have a strong Caritas that can mobilize resources. I believe that mobilizing resources is important, not just money but the population, the faithful, governments so that all together we move forward. Too often I hear people say it’s the job of Caritas but if you are a Catholic, Caritas is you; Caritas is all of us and if you are not a Catholic at least you can support but you can only support if you know what Caritas is doing. We have to tell people what we are doing and this doesn’t mean boasting ourselves but giving information about what we are doing and my greatest frustration at times is that we do so much, yet very few people know about it.

At the confederation we also have a new President, His Eminence Cardinal Luis Tagle, whom I know is also someone who is fast moving and dynamic and I’m sure he also will give more dynamism to our work in the confederation. This doesn’t mean we don’t have dynamism but that we can have more dynamism, we can always move further; the poor can’t wait, we cannot decide to this and not do that but we have to do all we can because the challenges are great. I always believe that where there is a will there is a way! If we don’t put the bar high enough we won’t reach anything but if we put the bar very high we can at least do 70-75%, or even more of what we set out to do in the service of the poor and underprivileged.

Q. Can the newly developed Caritas Africa Strategic Framework (2015-2019), live up to the theme of this Regional Conference (Love of Christ Urges us: Together in Service to the Poor)?

A. Yes, in Africa we have a Strategic Framework which has six Strategic Orientations and some people think it is too bold to do it but I believe we can do it.

We must remember that we are 46 countries in the Africa Region and the strategic orientations are for these 46 countries and not only for the regional secretariat. The priorities can differ from one country to another. The point is that we should all be able to look at our specific context, challenges and realities in our own zone, area or even diocese and parish. What is important is to have a framework, to be able to pick up one or two things that one would like to focus on.  What is important is that we all tend to move forward together.

We have to mobilize resources.  Local resources are often insufficiently tapped – human, financial and material resources as well! We should look at how we can tap these resources, how we can bring them together especially, how we can prepare for emergencies, and reconciliation which goes hand-in-hand with man-made crises in many countries today.

We, as Caritas, must be some sort of catalyst, we have to bring people together, not forgetting that charity is one of the three pillars of the Church, we are not doing it as a form of generosity but as a duty not just for Bishops and priests but also for the faithful.

 

A. Ignorance is what we have to fight!

The Pope talks about the Globalization of Indifference! Why are people indifferent? One reason is because they don’t know. They are ignorant of what is happening and this is terrible. It is like being in front of a big problem and ignoring the problem.

To start with, we have to let people know. Bring about knowledge. Knowledge will bring sympathy, compassion and empathy. So the first duty we have in terms of communication is to inform about what we are doing.

Today, we have all sorts of means to inform. People have television sets but are we always aware of what is happening close to us, where we live, in our country, in our continent? Of course, most of the times we are knowledgeable about the big events happening round the world but what about the small issues that go unnoticed? What about the sufferings of the poor in our parish, Diocese or in our country to start with? Do we communicate internally? We must first communicate properly internally to be able to communicate well externally. Do we know what is happening next door to us, with our neighbour for instance? Communication needs to be improved at all levels. We need to foster a culture of communication within every Caritas so that communication becomes quite natural internally and externally.

So Caritas has got to be the linking pin between people, starting from the parish, within families and members of the community.

We must care for our neighbours; care for other parishes, Dioceses and countries. Somebody told me the following, a few days ago:  “When we had a problem we were pleased to receive a solidarity message from Caritas Africa but we received nothing from countries next door to us!” Sending a solidarity note is not much, but such a little sign of attention shows that you are caring first of all. When you care then you will be able to also get the support of others. We have a solidarity fund for instance in Caritas Africa, we do get some support but we do have to get more support. We have to remember that charity begins at home and this means that we have to begin with our local support and not just turn around looking for countries abroad to help us. This means that we have to change our mind-set. There must be a paradigm shift. We must fundraise locally even if we can get only 5% or 10% of what we need to cover our expenses. Too often the normal reaction is to say who can help us from abroad instead of saying what can we do first of all in our own country to get the faithful and the population at large, including the Government and the Private sector, to support us in our work in the service of the poor and underprivileged .

I believe that this is partly due to ignorance. We are not visible enough and our achievements are not known. We have the duty of changing this situation of ignorance into knowledge. Also, we have too often in the past been supported from abroad.  I am not saying that we should be totally self-sufficient, autonomous or independent but we should be able to raise some funds locally and mobilize resources, create awareness and sensitize. All these are important and then only will people: the faithful, the population at large, governments, institutions and private sectors be ready to support us.

On behalf of the Communications Officers in the region I wish to use this medium to thank Mr. Jacques Dinan, for his untiring guidance and for creating a budding platform for communication in the region. We wish him God’s blessings and the very best in all his endeavours. God bless you Jacques! 

Caritas Africa e-magazine – June/Juin/Junho 2015 – No. 22

June 22, 2015

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Caritas Africa e-magazine – Number 21 – March/mars/março 2015

March 24, 2015

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Caritas Zambia and Fish farming trainings

December 19, 2014

Originally posted on Caritas, Love in Action:

 

In the 2008 to 2012 Caritas Zambia Strategic Plan, we aimed at strengthening community structures that will influence democratic governance and equal participation of men and women in development. Our first indicator for this Objective was to measure the Improvement in household income

The fish farming trainings, conducted by the Caritas Zambia programme, helped greatly to improve participants’ agribusiness and entrepreneurship skills. To this effect, 685(231 females and 454 males) participating farmers who underwent trainings in fish farming constructed a total of 126 fish ponds. In the process, 41,000 fingerlings were introduced into the ponds. The farmers sold their fish at ZMK20,000 (2011 local currency), per kilogramme after harvesting every 6 months.

At the beginning of the programme in 2008, Caritas Kasama put up 7 fish ponds in 7 centres for demonstration and for fingerling breeding. This guaranteed a steady supply of fingerlings to 13 ponds. Caritas Kasama in…

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Cardinal Peter Turkson departs for Sierra Leone and Liberia

December 13, 2014

His Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will depart for Sierra Leone on 16 December and then proceed to Liberia on 18 December. “These are two of the three countries most affected by Ebola Virus Disease. In total the World Health Organization reports some 18,000 confirmed, probable or suspected cases, and more than 6,500 deaths resulting from this disease.” The Cardinal hopes to bring “a message of solidarity and hope to the Church, health workers and the general populations.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana in 2005.  msgr-vitillo_who_april-2013

Cardinal Turkson (left) will be accompanied by Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo (right), Special Advisor on Health for Caritas Internationalis. “The Church, including Caritas, religious congregations, and other organizations of Catholic inspiration have been in the ‘front lines’ of the Ebola response,” said Vitillo. “In addition to providing health care for other illnesses and establishing strict infection control procedures and screening areas in order to prevent transmission of the virus in the health care setting, the Church has mobilized a community response and community education in order to engage clergy and local parish groups in efforts to stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

The Cardinal observed that the impact of this epidemic goes far beyond the health sector. “The closing of businesses and other places of employment has raised havoc with an already fragile economy. Experts tell us that the social costs are very serious; because the schools are closed, teenage pregnancies are on the increase, as well as petty crimes, as young people wander the streets with no productive activity. Ebola orphans often are rejected by their extended family members even when they have been confirmed as ‘Ebola free’.”

Cardinal Turkson also recognized “the need to help priests and other pastoral care workers attend to the spiritual needs of those living with the infection and of their loved ones. We must treat the whole person not just their bodies. Even though there is a ‘no touch’ policy in these countries, it is possible for pastoral care workers to pray with from a safe distance, to counsel them, to bless them, and to officiate at their funeral rites, which must be coordinated by specialized burial teams.”

“On several occasions,” Turkson concluded, “the Holy Father has expressed his deep concern for the people living with and affected by Ebola. I hope to give expression to the solidarity of the Pope and the entire Church.”

During his General Audience on 24 October 2014, Pope Francis said, “In the face of the worsening Ebola epidemic, I would like to express my deep concern about this relentless disease that is spreading on the African continent, especially among the more disadvantaged groups. I am close with love and prayer to those stricken, as well as to the doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious institutes and associations, who are working heroically to help our sick brothers and sisters. I renew my appeal that the International Community exert all necessary effort to weaken this virus, effectively alleviating the hardship and suffering of all those so sorely tried. I invite you to pray for them and for those who have lost their lives.”(1)

[1] Pope Francis during the General Audience, 29 October 2014

Caritas Africa e-magazine number 20 – December/décembre/dezembro de 2014

December 13, 2014

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Faith-based groups leave Melbourne conference with new commitment to leave no one behind in struggle against HIV and AIDS

July 26, 2014

Photo HIV melbourne

As researchers, activists and policy makers prepare to leave Melbourne at the conclusion of the 20th International AIDS Conference, they possess a new confidence that advances in treatment can mean an eventual end to the AIDS epidemic. Yet new testing mechanisms, antiretroviral medications, and government funding strategies alone won’t be enough to transform HIV infection from a global public health emergency to a manageable chronic disease. Religious leaders who came to Melbourne warn that making real the refrain of “nobody left behind” will also mean recognizing that faith-based groups must continue to play a major role in the comprehensive struggle against the virus.

Luiz Loures, the UNAIDS deputy executive director of program, told religious leaders on the eve of the conference that a complete response to the epidemic won’t be possible without the continuing involvement of faith-based groups.

“We have the tools. We have the science that we need. Yet there is no way to treat people if they have no access to care because they are afraid, or because they are women, or because they are a migrant, or because they need to hide to survive,” Loures said.

The global AIDS ambassador of the U.S. government, Deborah Birx, told the faith leaders in Melbourne that their “compassion and passion for this work continue to be the heartbeat of the response to HIV,” yet she also expressed concern about the role of some religious groups in fomenting discrimination in Africa, where anti-gay legislation has led to violence against sexual minorities.

The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, a pastor in the United States and executive director of the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network, said responsible faith leaders need to put their religious houses in order if nobody is going to be left behind.

“Some religious leaders and communities are indeed part of the problem. That’s a challenge for us. We need to create spaces where we can engage in dialogue, and appeal to the sense of empathy and compassion that almost every faith community carries. We need to hold each other accountable, and that may require some of us to more boldly confront the negative rhetoric that causes harm, puts people at risk, and supports laws that criminalize HIV, sexuality and gender identity,” he said.

The Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, a South African Presbyterian minister, said the anti-gay legislation is setting back the struggle against AIDS.

“The new laws and even the discussion of the new laws have promoted a lot of fear. People are scared of going to clinics or hospitals. They don’t know whom to trust,” said Mabizela, the executive director of the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+).

“We as a faith community should stand up and fight against this. It puts the lives of our most at-risk communities even more at risk. The more we discriminate against them, the more we stigmatize them, and the less likely they are to come forward for the resources they need.”

While homophobia is provoking violence in some areas, complacency has become a common problem in other parts of the world, primarily in the global north.

“In the United States, western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, complacency has become a problem,” said Father Robert Vitillo, a special advisor on HIV and AIDS to Caritas Internationalis. “Because we have relatively low levels of infection, and most people who are positive are on medications, we think the problem is solved. But that’s not the case. High income countries have had a steady rate of new infections for several years, yet they’re lecturing everyone else on how to reduce their new infections.”

Vitillo said this “lack of awareness” takes on even more dangerous overtones when PrEP becomes available, a reference to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. “With PrEP people can develop a sense that they don’t have to worry about infection anymore. So they can have all the sexual encounters they want, or inject any drugs they want, with a perception that they’re protected from HIV. But there are other diseases that they can acquire. We’re in danger, but there’s widespread denial about the danger,” he said.

According to Ulysses Burley III, a U.S. physician who is a leader for HIV care within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, young people in the United States, particularly African-American young men who have sex with men, are at a particular risk of being left behind in the struggle against HIV and AIDS.

“If Black America were its own country, it would be ranked 16th in the world in terms of HIV infections, above countries like Botswana and Ethiopia and Haiti. So as we discuss the global epidemic, I don’t want the US epidemic to be left behind, especially young African-American men who have sex with men,” he said.

Insuring their inclusion in the HIV response means churches have to establish new ways of reaching young people. “You can’t do outreach to a population to which you don’t have access,” Burley said. “It also means the church has to deal better with sex and sexuality, not as a separate theme, but as something integral to our spirituality.”

Changes in international funding for HIV testing, treatment and education will jeopardize continued progress against the virus, many religious workers in Melbourne warned. Of particular concern is a shift in funding, especially by the U.S. government, away from AIDS programs in countries where growing economies have moved the nations from being considered “poor” to now being labeled “middle income.”

Vitillo said that’s a mistake.

It’s true that a small number of people are getting richer and richer, and a country’s GNP may have risen into the middle income category, but the situation of the poor is often worse. And some governments claim they can handle all of their own health care, but they really can’t, and what they do provide they tend to concentrate in the large cities. As a result, the churches that have been providing care in rural areas have less access to funding today,” he said.

Assuring that nobody gets left behind, Vitillo said, will require fundamental policy shifts.

“It means much more equitable sharing of resources. We keep hearing there’s no money. But there is plenty of money. Governments just have the wrong priorities in how to spend it. If we took some of the funding that now goes to weapons and spent it in the struggle for development, we could take care of HIV and AIDS much more quickly,” he said.

Financial decisions at national levels are also increasing the risk of leaving whole segments of the population behind. In India, for example, the government this year ended 13 years of collaboration and funding for Catholic mission hospitals and community care centers.

“The government decided to close these and announced that people should go to the government health facilities. But those aren’t really capable of handling the complex multiple needs of HIV-infected people, especially complicated cases and those in the end stages of care,” said Father Mathew Perumpil, who coordinates HIV work for the Catholic Church in India.

Perumpil said the church decided to keep the centers open, even without government funding.

“We were the first to open our doors to people living with HIV. We didn’t start these programs because of the government. We started them because of the people. So many of the centers remain open and continue providing services. But that puts us in a huge bind. Where do the resources come from? The patients can’t pay,” he said.

While the Indian government continues providing antiretroviral medications at no cost, church-run hospitals and centers are now struggling to raise their own funding for other services.

Perumpil said the people most at risk of being left behind in the HIV response in India are women living in the countryside.

“The poor, the people without voices, are always the ones who are left behind. They aren’t the key populations that get lots of attention and money from the international community. They are poor women in villages who still know nothing about HIV and end up getting infected by their husbands who are working elsewhere. They are the people who are still left behind,” the priest said. “You don’t see them in Melbourne because this conference is too expensive for any of them to attend. They are marginalized not because of their sexual orientation, but simply because they’re poor. The church is close to them, and the church has to do a lot more in solidarity with them.”

Despite the work of faith-based organizations in response to HIV around the world, the groups have always received a mixed reaction at the international AIDS conferences. While there has always been appreciation from many for the faith groups’ commitment to caring for affected people long before it became fashionable, some have wanted to accuse all religious groups of fomenting stigma and discrimination.

It was often a lively conversation. Yet according to Sara Speicher, the interim executive director of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), such controversy has been replaced with silence.

“In the speeches here about human rights there has been no mention of faith-based organizations,” she said. “Whatever your opinion is about this, faith-based groups were involved from the beginning in the development of the international human rights framework and many see rights as integral to their witness. At the same time, we know that some religious leaders and communities have problems with rights-based language and activism. One way or another, these issues need to be recognized, and we have to be involved in these discussions.”

Speicher said she knew of several EAA members who took the issue up with presenters, who acknowledged, after the fact, the need to include everyone in the conversation. “But it didn’t seem to occur to them ahead of time,” Speicher said. “If we’re going to make sure that faith-based groups can continue our struggle that nobody gets left behind in the response to HIV, we’re also going to have to make sure our own voices are heard. That’s something we will have to work on, as we look towards AIDS 2016 in Durban, South Africa.”

By Paul Jeffrey

Caritas Africa e-magazine No 18 – June / juin / junho de 2014

July 5, 2014

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