Huge statue of JPII raised in Poland
Photo: A monument to the late Blessed John Paul II is raised into position in Czestochowa, Poland, April 3. The 13.8-meter (45.3-foot) white fiberglass figure was funded by a private investor and put up on his land. The statue of the Polish-born pontiff shows him smiling and stretching his arms to the world.
(CNS photo/Agencja Gazeta, Reuters)

Church bells toll in Colombia for victims of violence

Bogotá, Colombia (CNA) – Church bells across Colombia rang out on Tuesday in a move of solidarity with the thousands of victims of violence that has plagued the country for decades.

“This was a humanitarian gesture of closeness…with the victims of the violence in Colombia, that their suffering not be minimized or ignored and that their right to the truth, to justice and to reparations be protected,” Father Pedro Mercado Cepeda, adjunct secretary of the local bishops’ conference, told CNA.

The tolling of the bells came as 200,000 Colombians took part in a massive peace rally in the capital city of Bogota on April 9.

Colombia’s bishops warned in February that violent actions by a prominent rebel group are undermining peace negotiations in the country.

In statements Tuesday, Bishop Jose Daniel Falla – secretary general of the bishops’ conference – told reporters that the Church does not support on sector of society over another, but instead raises her voice to defend those suffering from violence.

Pope salutes his favorite soccer team

Vatican City (CNA) – Diverse groups from around the world were present at the April 10th general audience, but one – the Pope’s favorite soccer team – received a greeting from the pontiff that no one else did.

As he moved through the list of those present at the April 10 assembly, he came to the only delegation from his homeland and said, “Ah, this is very important!”

That group was made up of representatives from the Saint Lawrence Athletic Club, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They made Pope Francis a member in 2008, and after his election as Pope sent him congratulations, along with a new team jersey.

In response, Pope Francis sent a letter on March 20 to the club’s president, telling him, “I really appreciate this token of appreciation, which I am happy to respond to, asking our Lord to generously repay this delicacy.”

“Aside from the love of football, I ask you to cultivate friendship with Jesus, the true friend, he will always be with you, in good times and also when there are difficulties,” the Pope wrote.

In new film, pastor issues ‘war cry’ against human trafficking

Colorado Springs, Colo.(CNA) – A Christian pastor hopes a new film focused on modern day slavery will act as a catalyst for action to help some 27 million people who make up the thriving market of human trafficking.

“We’re praying this is that war cry for Christians to not just have faith, but to put faith into action,” Matthew Cork, lead pastor of Friends Church in Yorba Linda, Calif., told CNA in a recent interview.

Hitting theaters April 12, “Not Today,” tells the story of a twenty-something American who, through his own personal conversion, works to rescue a young Dalit girl after her father unintentionally sells her to human traffickers.

India’s Dalit population – approximately 250 million people – is among the most vulnerable people group for human trafficking in the world due to the practice of untouchability, or the ancient tradition that some people are inherently worthless and less than human.

Perhaps the most troubling group of people who are victims of the modern slave trade are the estimated 1.2 million Indians who are forced to be child prostitutes.

“I pray there are some things that are actually disturbing,” Cork, who also served as the film’s executive producer, said of the movie. “I pray there are some things that really challenge you to understand that you can no longer look the other way.”

As followers of Jesus, Cork said Christians need to work to put a stop towards that which goes “against the very nature of God,” or, the buying and selling of other human beings.

Even if the movie does well at the box office, Cork said they will not consider it a success if people are not “challenged” or “mobilized” to respond.

Along with sponsoring a child’s education, movie-goers can commit to building a school or can support the film’s global partners such as, Abolition International, Focus on the Family and International Justice Mission, in fighting human trafficking.

The film, which will premiere in select theaters across the country and is rated PG-13, stars TV actor Cody Longo, and Shari Rigbi and John Schneider – both of hit 2011 film “October Baby.”

To learn more about the film and the movement to end human trafficking in India, visit: nottodaythemovie.com.