Articles are reproduced with thanks from the Archdiocesan website, unless otherwise stated.


16 January 2015

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

Nigeria has been named as the world's most violent persecutor of Christians. In 2014 Boko Haram's militant Islamic extremists massacred more than 2484 men, women and children of faith. This was followed last week by even more atrocities when it is believed, but as yet unconfirmed, that as many as 2000 were slaughtered by Boko Haram in a bloody attack on Baga, a city in Nigeria's north.

In a disturbing new report by Open Doors, the US-based international organisation that supports persecuted Christians worldwide, Nigeria tops the list of the most violent and dangerous nation for for Christians.

Although exact numbers of the dead in last week's horrific attack by Boko Haram are not yet known, satellite images of Baga and the nearby town of Baga Doron show complete devastation with Christian churches, schools, houses, clinics, hospitals and almost every building razed to the ground.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both published separate satellite images on their websites and describe the destruction as one of "catastrophic proportions" with more than 3700 structures estimated to have been destroyed.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and Nigeria's notoriously corrupt government and army, which have done little to try to halt Boko Haram's murderous advance, dispute the number of those killed and claim no more than 150 died in the attack.

4 December 2014

Catholic News Service

As Pope Francis and leaders of other churches and religions signed a declaration pledging to work together to help end modern slavery in the world by 2020, he urged governments, businesses and all people of good will to join forces against this ‘crime against humanity.’

Tens of millions of people are ‘in chains’ because of human trafficking and forced labor, and it is leading to their ‘dehumanization and humiliation,’ the pope said at the ceremony on Tuesday 2 December, the U.N. Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Every human person is born with the same dignity and freedom, and any form of discrimination that does not respect this truth ‘is a crime and very often an abhorrent crime,’ the pope said.

Inspired by their religious beliefs and a desire ‘to take practical action,’ the pope and 11 leaders representing the Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox, Anglican, Buddhist and Hindu faiths made a united commitment to help eradicate slavery worldwide.

The leaders signed the joint declaration at the headquarters of Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican Gardens.

The signatories included: Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury; Rabbi David Rosen, international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee; Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi, an influential Shiite scholar; and representatives signing on behalf of Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar University -- a leading Sunni Muslim institution in Cairo -- and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

3 December 2014

By Debra Vermeer

WITH a euthanasia bill tabled in the Federal Parliament, arguments on all sides of the debate are gathering steam, but there is one group of people who say they have more to fear than most from euthanasia legislation–those who are living with disability and battling a daily presumption from society that their lives are not worth living.

Greens Senator, Dr Richard Di Natale, earlier this year tabled the Exposure Draft Medical Services, Dying with Dignity Bill 2014, which was then referred to a Senate Inquiry.

Hearings for the inquiry took place in October.

Among those who appeared before the Senate Committee was Craig Wallace, Convenor of Lives Worth Living, a network of Australians with disability speaking about euthanasia and eugenics, not from a religious, ideological or pro-life position, but from a disability rights perspective.

Mr Wallace said there is a lack of clarity in the debate which raises questions over the interpretation of words such as ‘terminal’, ‘voluntary’ and ‘unacceptable suffering’ and leaves people living with disability open to being swept up in the fatal consequences of euthanasia legislation.

'It isn’t clear that people with disability would necessarily be excluded from that, Mr Wallace said.

Indeed, evidence from countries like Belgium and The Netherlands, shows that people with disability, but not a diagnosed terminal illness, have died under euthanasia laws.

25 November 2014

Caritas Australia

On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Caritas Australia is releasing a new report on sexual violence and conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and calling for an end to impunity in this war on women.

The report Fearless Voices: speaking up for peace, equality and justice in the DRC documents the state of law, war and justice in the DRC highlighting the scourge of rape and sexual violence in a country known as the most dangerous place to be a women.

Through the first-hand accounts of women and girl survivors in the war-torn North Kivu Province, Fearless Voices calls for an end to systemic rape and violence perpetrated against women within a culture of silence, impunity and corruption.

The report comes just over a decade since the end of the Second Congo War and six years since thousands of Catholics joined Caritas Australia to break the silence on desecration and plunder in the DRC following the launch of the 2008 Forsaken Voices report.

Caritas Australia’s Program Coordinator for the DRC, Canberra-based, Lulu Mitshabu, says the new report highlights important progress towards peace, equality and justice in the DRC but captures the urgent need to end impunity for violence against the nation’s strongest agents for change.

‘My country has been ravaged by more than a century of exploitation and almost two decades of war. One of the greatest tragedies of this conflict is relentless, calculated and brutal violence against women and girls. In the DRC, it’s more dangerous to be a woman than a solider,’ says Ms. Mitshabu.

21 November 2014 

A coalition of religious groups has called upon all parties contesting the Victorian election to commit to maintaining Victoria’s current equal opportunity laws.

Religious leaders, including Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird, and representatives from the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist and Coptic Orthodox faiths, have issued a statement urging parties to keep the current legislation.

‘The current equal opportunity Laws strike a fair balance between the right to equality, freedom of association and religious liberty,’ Archbishop Philip Freier, Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, said.

Religious organisations provide educational, welfare and health services to Victorians of all faiths and of none.

These services remove a substantial burden from the taxpayer and are often provided at a higher standard than Government service because of the faith based commitment to the dignity of the human person held by employees.

‘Many people who work in religious schools, religious hospitals and aged care homes as well as in religious providers to the needy in our community, consider their role not just as an employee but as a type of religious vocation,’ Archbishop Denis Hart of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne said.

7 November 2014
Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese

Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, Australia's first hospital ethicist, prolific author, internationally acclaimed bio-ethicist and Associate Dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family died this morning in Melbourne after a long and constant battle with ill health.

He was 58 and is survived by his wife, Mary and the couple's four children, Claire, Lucianne, Justin and John.

Today Catholics, academics, medical personnel, students and the  faculty at Melbourne's John Paul II Institute are in mourning, along with the many others whose lives he touched and inspired.

Following the sad news of his friend's passing Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said; "As someone involved in founding the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family I am deeply grateful for the tireless work Nick did as a Professor and Associate Dean at the Institute. He was genuinely loved and revered by the Institute's staff and students. They appreciated Nick's sharp intellect and extraordinary capacity for hard work, his courtesy and availability. His generosity was all the more astonishing given chronic pain and a condition which required regular hospitalisation, surgery and dialysis. Remarkably, even when exhausted by all that and in the midst of controversy, even vilification, sometimes by people who should be his friends, he remained courteous, humorous and focused on the ball rather than the player, on building the civilisation of life and love. His ability to maintain good humour and respect in the midst of such challenges always inspired me. "

6 November 2014

Catholic News Service

Catholic leaders in Pakistan protested the beatings and burning, on Tuesday 4 November, of a young Christian couple accused of desecrating the Quran.

‘The government has absolutely failed to protect its citizens' right to life,’ said the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Pakistan in a statement on Wednesday 5 November.

Condemning the brutal killing of Shahzad Masih, 28, and his pregnant wife, Shama Bibi, 24, the NCJP pointed out that the killing of the couple at the hands of a mob was based on a ‘false accusation of blasphemy.’

Police said they attempted to save the couple but that they were unable to do so because they were outnumbered.

The couple had three children, according to family members.

The victims' bodies were burned at the brick kiln where they worked in Kot Radha Kishan, a town in Punjab province.

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan. Critics have charged that blasphemy laws often are misused to settle differences and that minorities are unfairly targeted.

5 November 2014
Aid to the Church in Need

A Report released Tuesday 4 November, showing that religious freedom is compromised in nearly 60 percent of countries worldwide, is expected to send out a signal to Governments and religious leaders that this is an issue that can no longer be ignored.

International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need’s Religious Freedom in the World 2014 Report, compiled by journalists, academics and commentators, reveals worrying concerns for people of faith in 116 of the world’s 196 countries.

The report – looking at all religious groups and covering events from autumn 2012 to summer 2014 – concludes that where the situation regarding religious liberty has changed, it has almost always changed for the worse.

In the 196 countries analysed, deteriorating conditions are noted in 55 countries (or 28%). Only six of the 196 countries – Iran, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Qatar, Zimbabwe and Taiwan – have been classified as improved and yet, even of those, four remain categorised as experiencing ‘high’ or ‘medium’ persecution.

The Religious Freedom in the World 2014 Report, launched on Tuesday 4 November by Aid to the Church in Need offices around the world, can be read online by clicking on the link below.

John Pontifex, London-based Editor-in-Chief of the report, said: ‘In the period under review, global religious freedom entered a period of serious decline and the report confirms media perceptions of a rising tide of persecution aimed at marginalised religious communities.

‘The report we have produced indicates that many of those in authority – governments and religious leaders – have continually failed to stand up for religious freedom and hence it has become an orphaned right.

‘Serial human rights abuses – from the threat of massacres in the Middle East and discrimination in the workplace in Western countries – are the direct result of religious freedom violations.
‘As a Catholic organisation, it is our duty not simply to stand up for Christians suffering religious freedom violations, but for people of all faiths.’

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