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UN chief Antonio Guterres appreciates India’s leadership in fight against Covid-19, vaccine assistance

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UN chief Antonio Guterres has voiced appreciation for India’s leadership in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its efforts to bring a “much-needed supply” of the Covid-19 vaccines to the world market.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti tweeted on Saturday that Guterres, in a letter dated February 17, “extends his personal gratitude” to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar for “India’s offer of 200,000 doses” of Covid-19 vaccines for UN peacekeepers.

The Secretary-General says “India has been a global leader in pandemic response efforts”, Tirumurti tweeted, expressing his gratitude to the UN Chief.

In an excerpt of the letter tweeted by Tirumurti, Guterres says, “Indeed, India has been a global leader in pandemic response efforts having provided critical medicines, diagnostic kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment to more than 150 countries.

“Efforts by India in developing and manufacturing one of the two vaccines currently granted Emergency Use Listing by the World Health Organization bring a much-needed supply to the global vaccine market. I also appreciate your continued efforts to support and strengthen the COVAX Facility to ensure more equitable access.”

COVAX is is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

On Wednesday, India, which has been hailed as the pharmacy of the world, announced the gift of 200,000 Covid-19 doses for UN peacekeepers.

“Keeping in mind the UN Peacekeepers who operate in such difficult circumstances, we would like to announce today a gift of 200,000 doses for them,” Jaishankar said, addressing the UN Security Council open debate on the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020) on the cessation of hostilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quoting the Bhagavad Gita, Jaishankar had said “Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”

He told the meeting that it is this spirit in which India approaches the Covid-19 challenge and urged the Council to work collectively to address its different dimensions.

The 200,000 doses essentially mean that it will be possible to administer the required double doses of Covid-19vaccines to all UN peacekeepers across missions.

According to UN Peacekeeping, currently, a total of 94,484 personnel are serving in 12 peacekeeping operations across the world led by the Department of Peace Operations.

A total of 121 nations are contributing uniformed personnel to the UN peacekeeping missions. India is traditionally among the largest troop-contributing countries to peacekeeping missions.

Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, had told PTI in response to a question on the Secretary General’s thoughts on the announcement by India, said that Guterres is “extremely grateful” for the gift of 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses for UN peacekeepers and the distribution will be operationalised by the UN’s Department of Support.

“We are extremely grateful for this donation announced today by the Indian delegation. The distribution will be operationalised by the UN’s Department of Support,” Dujarric had said.

Earlier this week, two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine were given WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL). The versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, produced by AstraZeneca-SK Bioscience (AZ-SKBio) and the Serum Institute of India (AZ-SII), are now available for global rollout through the COVAX Facility.

The vaccine Covishield is the version of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. Covaxin is the indigenously developed vaccine by pharma company Bharat Biotech.

Jaishankar said these two vaccines have already been granted emergency authorisation and additionally, as many as 30 candidates are under various stages of development.

Under the initiative “Vaccine Maitri”, which translates into Vaccine Friendship, India is providing vaccines to the world.

Last month, Guterres had said that the vaccine production capacity of India is “one of the best assets the world has today”, and had applauded India for supplying Covid-19 vaccines to nations around the world.

“I would like to say how much we count on India. I mean, India has one of the most advanced pharmaceutical industries. India played a very important role in the production of generics for use that was a very important element of democratisation of access to medicines all over the world,” Guterres had said.

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Governor Kemp Rolls Out “Faith Protection Act” Legislation

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Atlanta– Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced his administration’s introduction of the “Faith Protection Act,” which would ensure the emergency powers of any governor of Georgia are not used to “specifically limit the practice of any religion.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, people of all faiths across America were told by state governments how, where, when, or even if they could worship at all. Not in Georgia. We chose to work alongside congregations across our state to ensure they practiced their faith safely and in accordance with public health guidance,” said Governor Kemp.

“The Faith Protection Act will ensure the emergency powers of any governor of Georgia in the years to come are not used to limit the God-given right to worship. In Georgia, we never shuttered churches, synagogues, or other places of worship because we value faith, family, and freedom. With the Faith Protection Act signed into law, Georgia will be a sanctuary state for people of faith.”

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Pakistan: Christian college student abducted at gunpoint

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Gujranwala – The Pakistani police have registered a complaint about the kidnapping of another Christian student from Lahore in order to force her into an Islamic marriage. Mehwish Bibi, a student at the Women’s College in the city of Gujranwala, left her home at 8.10 am on February 18, to go to college but she never returned home. The family suspects kidnappings with the aim of forced marriage. Patras Masih, the young woman’s father, wrote down the following in the investigation report: “We looked for our daughter and started asking people about her. Two Christians, Masih and Akram Masih, informed us that they saw a Muslim, Muhammad Sabir, who with the help of two accomplices kidnapped her and pointed a gun at her. According to the witnesses, they forced my daughter into a white pickup truck. We ask the police to rescue my daughter as soon as possible. We demand justice and severe punishment for the perpetrators”.

Khalid Shahzad, human rights and religious minorities activist comments to Fides: “It is sad that we have to take note of yet another episode of the kidnapping of a Christian girl. Cases of kidnapping of young women belonging to religious minorities are increasing in Punjab Province. It is tragic that no one tried to stop the kidnappers from kidnapping a Christian girl. Every day Christian families live in worry and fear that their daughters will be victims of kidnappings”.

Christian communities have long urged the government to stop the phenomenon of the forcible kidnapping and conversion of Christian minors, complaining that impunity promotes such crimes. Impunity, they note, encourages such crimes. According to data confirmed to Agenzia Fides by the National Commission for “Justice and Peace” of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, there are around 1,000 cases of kidnapping of young Christian and Hindu women who are abducted from their families for the purpose of marriage and forced conversion to Islam every year.

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