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Italian War Journalist Missing In Syria - A Taste Of His Work, And Courage

Domenico Quirico
Domenico Quirico


PARIS - La Stampa's veteran war correspondent Domenico Quirico has been missing in Syria more than three weeks now. Our Turin-based partner released the news earlier this week after working quietly with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to trace the journalist.

Heading for Homs, he crossed the Syrian border through Lebanon on April 6 and contact was lost three days later. Quirico, 62, is renowned for his reports on conflicted areas and, according to La Stampa editor-in-chief Mario Calabresi, has often lost contact, but never for this amount of time.

In the past year, he has been to Mali three times, Somalia once, and, now for a fourth time, he is in Syria. His first two Syrian trips were to Aleppo and the third to Idlib, following the rebels. This time he wanted to go back and write about the evolution of the conflict that strayed from the front pages.

Quirico would never write a story away from the front lines -- ethically, he found that unacceptable. La Stampa quotes him as once saying that in order to report the true facts about bombings, you must be under the bombs with the population, sharing emotions, as well as the destiny of the people you are covering. So, to honor the job that he loves, he went back.

His disappearance is especially poignant this Friday, as it is World Press Freedom day and 2013 marks its 20th anniversary. Since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011, the country has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

See below for a sample of Worldcrunch's English-language editions of Quirico’s reporting, from searching for the Taliban to consciously risking his life on a tiny boat with illegal immigrants crossing from North Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Our thoughts are with him, his family, and his La Stampa colleagues:

Ride Along With Tuareg Rebels, As Al Qaeda Undermines West African ‘Spring’

In Mali this time last year, he joined the Tuareg rebels fighting for their freedom.

I arrived in the newly declared West African nation of Azawad. It is a beautiful, and dark name which means “land of transhumance,” in Tamasheq, the Tuareg language. The Mali army left Azawad three weeks ago. Now, there are only the Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) who declared their independence from not only the Mali authorities, but also Salafists and al Qaeda. Here, no one is in charge.


Somalia, When Al Qaeda Arrives From Everywhere

In Somalia in 2012, Quirico joined a general and his men who were fighting al Qaeda.

General Barisse’s men are in the pick-up trucks, one next to the other, holding their weapons, looking around. They are hunting the al-Shabaab, the Somali Taliban, the nightmare that al Qaeda bore, even here in the sands of the Horn of Africa, cultivated in the microbes of an infinite tribal war that the West did not know how to, or did not want to solve.

Yes, the war that Barisse’s men fight is complicated. It isn’t a drone war -- mechanic, sterile, rather cowardly - that the Americans are also fighting here, and that has silently eliminated at least 200 al-Shabaab, including several key leaders.


Tunisia To Lampedusa: Reporter Joins Risky Immigrant Journey

Joining 112 immigrants from Tunisia, Quirico spent 22 hours on a tiny boat, crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

“I made the journey because of my arrogant desire to understand why these young men risk their lives to reach Europe. It is not just poverty that drives them. In Tunisia, even if people have always been poor, they are not starving. They are driven by the same force that has always made young people dream and leave their hometown. They are just looking for another life. They want to dream, and to try.”

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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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