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WFA welcomes end of legal action against Australia Institute       

Thursday 8 May 2008

 

Independent women's think tank Women's Forum Australia today welcomed the decision of David Jones to end legal proceedings against the Australia Institute related to its 2006 discussion paper Corporate Paedophilia: sexualisation of children in Australia.

 

The report, written by Emma Rush and Andrea La Nauze, was responsible for kick starting the debate over the sexualisation of children in the media and popular culture in Australia.

 

Anyone concerned about the sexualisation of children owes the Australia Institute a debt of gratitude for getting the issue the attention it deserved.

 

Because of Corporate Paedophilia and the follow up report Letting Children Be Children: stopping the sexualisation of children in Australia, there is much greater understanding of the direct and indirect sexualisation of children and more pressure on advertisers to do the right thing.

 

The Institute pointed out:  "The pressure on children to adopt sexualized appearance and behaviour at an early age is greatly increased by the combination of the direct sexualisation of children with the increasingly sexualized representations of teenagers and adults in advertising and popular culture."

 

It also highlighted the dangers of portraying children as "sexual agents who accept or even desire sexual interaction" which can suggest "that children are capable of meaningfully consenting to such interaction in the way that adults do."

 

The authors provided extensive examples of the many ways children are sexualized including advertising, girls' magazines, TV programs and music video clips.

 

Women's Forum Australia drew on the Institute's research for its own magazine-style research paper Faking it: the female image in young women's magazines published last year. Our research found that even very young girls are the target of sexualised marketing and the commercialisation of their lives, promoting the view that they are not children, but sexy little adults.

 

Sexualisation contributes to greater body dissatisfaction among girls and young women. It is linked to eating disorders, anxiety, depression, self-harm and low self-esteem.

 

The Institute stated that children could only develop freely if government assists parents by limiting sexualising material at its source. Current regulation has failed. The current Senate committee inquiry into the sexualisation of children must make strong recommendations to protect children.

 

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Archbishop urges justice, not death for Iraqis on trial for genocide
        Friday 2 May 2008 

 

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

 

An Iraqi archbishop said justice should be served, but no death sentence should be handed down to eight defendants facing charges of genocide in Iraq.

 

Among those being tried is a Chaldean Catholic, Tariq Aziz, who served as deputy prime minister during former President Saddam Hussein's regime. Aziz has been in US custody for the past five years.

 

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk reminded people of the need for "justice, but in respect for human rights and the dignity of the person," which precludes "any capital sentence," according to the Rome-based missionary news agency AsiaNews.

 

The archbishop issued his 29 April appeal the same day the trial opened in Baghdad.

 

No formal charges were read and the court quickly adjourned until 20 May because one defendant was unable to be present due to illness.

 

Aziz, 72, is accused of the 1992 execution of dozens of store merchants declared guilty of hiking food prices and breaking state cost controls during a time the country was under strict UN sanctions levied after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

 

Aziz, being the only high-ranking Christian in Saddam's administration, had often been held up as an example of the tolerance or respect Christians experienced during the dictator's rule.

 

But in a 2003 interview with AsiaNews, Latin-rite Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad said "Tariq Aziz was not prime minister because he was Christian, but because he was a great childhood friend of Saddam.

 

"He had participated in several massacres with him in their first years of action and had contributed to the Baath Party's rise to power," Archbishop Sleiman had said.

 

All eight defendants will be tried by the Iraqi High Tribunal for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, according to news reports.

 

Human Rights Watch has called on the tribunal to conduct a fair trial in order to bring about real justice.

 

In 2006, the Iraqi court sentenced Saddam to death by hanging, and he was executed 30 December of that year.

 

[CNS]

 

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Where religious liberty suffers       

Monday 12 May 2008 

 

By Father John Flynn, LC

 

On 2 May the US Commission on International Religious Freedom released both its 2008 Annual Report and its recommendations to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on countries of particular concern.

 

The commission was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The act also requires that the United States designate as countries of particular concern (CPC) those states whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of religious freedom.

 

"In the past year, violent government repression of religious communities in China, Burma and Sudan, among other countries, confirms that religious freedom is a vulnerable human right that must be protected by the international community," said the commission chair, Michael Cromartie, in a press release.

 

The commission's recommendations for the 2008 CPC list are Burma (also known as Myanmar), North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

 

The actual designation of a country as a CPC depends on a decision by the U.S. State Department.

 

The recommendations are the same as in 2007, and the commission repeated its request from last year that the State Department put Vietnam back on the CPC list, from which it was removed in 2006.

 

In its press release the commission acknowledged that Vietnam had made "notable progress," but at the same time stated that there have been "persistent abuses, discrimination and restrictions."

 

The commission's letter to Condoleezza Rice gave more details on Vietnam, stating that during a trip to the country in October 2007, it found that progress in improving religious freedom was very patchy. The commission also argued, contrary to the State Department's view, that there continue to be religious "prisoners of concern" in Vietnam. In addition, authorities also limit human rights in general, the letter concluded.

 

In fact, the commission's letter to the State Department spoke openly of its dissatisfaction over the lack of action on countries that seriously limit religious freedom. The letter noted that the State Department has not designated any country as a CPC since November 2006.

 

This delay in naming CPCs "may send the unfortunate signal that the U.S. government is not sufficiently committed" to seeking improvements in countries that are severe violators of religious freedom, declared the commission's letter.

Iraq concern

 

The commission also publishes a "Watch List" that names countries where violations are serious, but less grave than those in the CPC group. The list is made up of the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.

 

As well, the commission declared that it remains seriously concerned about religious freedom in Iraq. In 2007, Iraq was included on the Watch List, but this year the commission will shortly be making a visit to Iraq to investigate conditions.

 

After the visit the commission will issue a report, along with any recommendations on what designation to give Iraq.

 

In the meantime the commission noted its concern for the "particularly dire conditions affecting non-Muslims in Iraq," saying the minority faces widespread violence from Sunni insurgents and foreign extremists, and also persecution and discrimination from government authorities.

 

Another country where the commission's report expressed dissatisfaction over the State Department's stand was Saudi Arabia. After a recommendation from the commission in 2004, Saudi Arabia was put on the CPC list. In 2006, however, the State Department removed it from the list.

 

In its 2008 report, the commission commented that after two visits to Saudi Arabia in 2007, the panel remains perturbed over the lack of religious liberty. In fact, the report stated, the promises given by authorities regarding steps to be taken to permit more religious freedom remain unfulfilled. Not only that, but during the commission's visits, the Saudi government refused requests for meetings with a number of key officials.

 

One of the conclusions drawn from the visits is that Saudi authorities continue to severely restrict all forms of public religious expression other than the officially approved version of Sunni Islam. "This policy violates the rights of the large communities of Muslims from a variety of schools of Islam who reside in Saudi Arabia," the report stated.

 

The commission also highlighted the Saudi government funding of religious schools and literature that supports intolerance and, in some cases, violence toward non-Muslims and those Muslims not approved by authorities.

 

Growth amid trials

 

Turning to Asia, the report lamented the serious violations of religion freedom in China, but also noted that in spite of repression, religious communities are growing rapidly. Authorities endeavor to restrict religion to government-approved associations and engage in "sometimes brutal abuses" against unregistered groups, the commission commented.

Protestant house church groups and underground Catholic priests continue to experience the most intense coercion, according to the report. It also noted the Chinese government's continued actions in demolishing Tibetan Buddhist structures and statues. Authorities even acknowledge that more than 100 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns are being held in prison, the report added.

 

Myanmar was another country singled out by the commission for its violation of religious freedom. In fact, the already very poor record on human rights further deteriorated in the past year, the report stated.

 

Among recent abuses, the report mentioned the violent action taken by the military junta in putting an end to the peaceful demonstrations by Buddhist monks in September 2007. At least 30 deaths were reported, although some estimates are much higher, the commission noted. Thousands of people were arrested and hundreds still remain in detention.

 

Matters are no better in North Korea, where, the report stated, "Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief does not exist." There is no evidence that religious freedom conditions have improved in the past year, according to the commission. Reports by some refugees speak of some 6,000 Christians imprisoned in a camp in the north of the country.

 

Most violent

 

In Africa the commission observed that in the past it had singled out Sudan, "as the world's most violent abuser of the right to freedom of religion or belief." Conditions have improved in recent times, but mainly just in the south of the country.

 

In the north, few changes have been implemented and all citizens, including Christians and followers of traditional African religions, are subject to the Islamic Shariah law. Muslims receive preferential treatment when it comes to government services, and conversion from Islam is a crime punishable by death.

 

Another African country examined in the commission's report was Nigeria, where it described the government's response to persistent religious freedom concerns as "inadequate."

 

Among problems mentioned by the report were the expansion of Shariah law into the criminal codes of several northern Nigerian states; and discrimination against minority communities of Christians and Muslims.

 

Nigeria has also been severely affected by ethnic and religious violence in past years. Last year the situation improved somewhat, but even so the report said that dozens of people were killed and dozens of churches and mosques were destroyed in communal violence in several towns and villages in various parts of the country.

 

One of the last countries mentioned in the report is Russia. Although the nation is not singled out for one of the commission's lists, the report nevertheless expressed concern about Russia's increasingly fragile human rights situation, which it says directly affects the status of religious freedom.

 

Minority religious groups continue to face some restrictions on religious activities, the report said, and one of the major problems is the lack of a clear national policy on religious affairs. This means that the status of freedom of religion varies dramatically from region to region.

 

As the report clearly shows, religious freedom is under threat in many countries. Convincing governments to take action to change the situation is, however, not so easy to achieve.

 

[Zenit]

 


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29 April:  Cardinal Pell gave his view on a on the call for an Australian charter of rights to the Brisbane Institute in Queensland, in an address titled "Four fictions: An argument against a charter of rights"       

 

http://www.cam.org.au/perspectives/four-fictions-an-argument-against-a-charter-of-rights.html


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Belgian politicians propose allowing terminally ill children to request euthanasia        Thursday 27 March 2008

 

Lawmakers of Belgium's coalition government have urged debate on a euthanasia law currently in Parliament that would allow "minors with incurable diseases and people who suffer from severe dementia" to "

end their lives voluntarily if that is their wish."

 

"We will not leave the ethical debate as it has been during the last four years," said liberal leader Bart Tommelein.  Tommelein has pledged to bring forward new legislative proposals extending euthanasia to children and old people suffering from such severe dementia that they are unable to choose for themselves. "We will seek, as Liberals, parliamentary majorities," he said.

 

The debate over the moral legitimacy of euthanasia has escalated since the death of Belgium writer Hugo Claus, who suffered from Alzheimer's and requested to be euthanised.  His decision was praised by liberal party members.

 

Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels denounced euthanasia during his homily on Easter Sunday.  "Avoiding suffering is no act of bravery," he said. "Our society seems unable to cope with death and suffering."

 

Euthanasia was approved by Belgium in 2002, and in 2007, the association Death with Dignity registered 495 cases of euthanasia.

 

[CNA] 


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Human dignity in the balance       

Tuesday 26 February 2008

 

By Father John Flynn, LC

 

A proposed new law regulating in-vitro fertilization in the United Kingdom is under fire from the Church and bioethics groups, who are concerned over the loosening of regulations regarding the procedure. The Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill has finished its passage through the House of Lords and will be debated in the Commons in the near future.

 

The bill concerns "profound questions of human life and dignity," warned a pastoral message released 19 February by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor on behalf of the bishops of England and Wales.

 

In his message the archbishop of Westminster noted that among the changes contemplated in the bill is the extension of scientific experiments using human embryos, and even the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos for research. It also removes a clause from the existing law, which requires the child's need for a father to be taken into consideration when clinics receive requests for IVF treatment.

 

In addition to drawing attention to these dangers, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor asked that members of Parliament should be granted a free vote on the bill, so they can follow their conscience.

 

According to press reports, some members of the Labor Party government are criticizing the lack of a conscience vote on the bill. Cabinet ministers Ruth Kelly and Paul Murphy are leading the call for parliamentarians to be given a free vote, reported the Observer newspaper on 27 January. According to the article, at the moment Labor Party officials are only going to allow a conscience vote on amendments that may be proposed on the issue of abortion.

 

Modified life

 

One of the groups active in organizing opposition to the proposed changes is the nondenominational charity the Christian Institute. In a briefing on problems with the bill, the institute noted that in addition to the creation of hybrid embryos and fatherless families the legislation proposes loosening restrictions on the use of embryo screening.

 

If approved the bill will allow the creation of "savior siblings," embryos created through a combination of genetic screening and IVF, whose tissues are used for brothers or sisters with health problems. The Christian Institute also warned that the legislation fails to define which tissues could be used from the embryos, opening up the possibility of allowing even the harvesting of organs.

 

Another concern over the bill is that it will permit human embryos to be created using two genetic mothers and a father. This would happen in the case of a woman who has defects in the mitochondria of her egg, the part which surrounds the nucleus. In such cases the nucleus would be transferred into the healthy egg of a second woman.

 

Another group protesting against the bill is Human Genetics Alert (HGA). In a 20 December 2007 letter sent to Dawn Primarolo, Minister of State for Public Health, HGA director David King adverted that the bill will allow genetic modification of human embryos, the first step toward creating GM babies.

 

The bill will, in fact, remove a ban in the existing law regulating IVF on any genetic modification of human embryos. "It is the first time that any country has officially sanctioned genetic engineering of human embryos a  the first step toward allowing human genetic modification," King commented.

 

The letter explained that due to its eugenic implications, human genetic modification has been treated in international law very similarly to human reproductive cloning, with most countries banning its use.

 

Embryos as commodities

 

The changes proposed by the government raise "huge concerns about eugenics and the treatment of human embryos and children as commodities," King declared. The use of genetic modification will potentially enable parents to engineer "enhanced" children, thus degrading human subjects into objects.

 

Even before the new law comes into effect, regulatory authorities are loosening restrictions on how embryos are treated. The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority granted a team of scientists permission to create the first human-animal embryo, reported the BBC on 17 January.

 

Two centres, King's College London and Newcastle University, were given one-year research licenses. Dr. Stephen Minger and colleagues at King's College London want to create hybrids to study diseases known to have genetic causes, the BBC reported. The embryos will be created, and destroyed within a few days of existence, in order to produce stem cells to be used by scientists in their research.

 

John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, qualified the approval as "disastrous" in a 17 January press release.

 

"It is creating a category of beings regarded as sub-human who can be used as raw material to benefit other members of the human family, effectively creating a new class of slaves," he declared.

 

Strong protests against the creation of animal-human hybrids came earlier from Scotland's bishops in the debate over the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill.

 

A pastoral letter issued in January by Archbishop Mario Conti, President of the Joint Bioethics Committee on behalf of the archbishops and bishops of Scotland, called attention to the damage inflicted on human dignity by such processes.

 

Archbishop Conti acknowledged the desire to help those affected by diseases, "but we should never seek to do good by doing wrong," he observed.

 

Another Scottish prelate, Bishop Philip Tartaglia, preached a homily criticizing the creation of animal-human hybrids 20 January.

 

In his homily, given at St. Mirin's Cathedral in the Diocese of Paisley, Bishop Tartaglia commented on the continual state-sponsored attacks on unborn human life. Calling the hybrid proposal a "twisted enterprise" he said that the Church is not anti-science, affirming that it has a lot to contribute to improving the world.

"But science can also destroy mankind and the world if it is not directed by a higher wisdom and by well-informed conscientious decisions of men and women of good will and of good faith," Bishop Tartaglia added.

 

Both parents needed

 

The proposal to eliminate the requirement to consider the need for a father has also been strongly reproved. Among critics is Baroness Ruth Deech, chairman of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority from 1994 to 2002.

 

In an opinion article published by the Times newspaper Jan. 17, Baroness Deech noted that instead of requiring the need for a father to be considered, the bill proposes that IVF clinics ponder "the need for supportive parenting."

 

She termed this change, "unacceptable and inappropriate," as it is difficult to interpret and will do little to safeguard the welfare of the child. "A substantial amount of research has demonstrated that fathers make a distinctive contribution to child rearing, without which children are generally the poorer," she commented.

 

"We all want to see women fulfilling their wish to become mothers, but one cannot overlook the contribution made by half the human race to the upbringing of the next generation," she continued.

 

"At the heart of the family is that unique bond between father, mother and child," observed Archbishop Vincent Nichols, in an opinion article published by the Telegraph newspaper Dec. 23.

 

The legislation being proposed removes the need for any acknowledgment of a father in the record of a child's birth, he noted. "Yet fatherhood is so much more than the donation of sperm. It is the giving of a whole complex of life-forming factors, whose influence cannot be avoided."

 

"The future of our society passes by way of the family," Archbishop Nichols concluded. A bleak future indeed, if the British government's proposals are approved in coming weeks by the House of Commons.

 

[Zenit] 



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Archbishop calls on Pakistani government to crack down on militants       

Tuesday 26 February 2008

 

By John Newton and John Pontifex

 

Pakistan's leading Catholic prelate has called on the new government to crack down on extremists after warning of a rise in militant groups which threaten to kill Christians if they do not convert to Islam.

 

In a statement coinciding with last week's presidential elections, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore described the growing "hatred and intolerance" of groups whom, he said, were contravening Pakistan's constitution by trying to force Christians to turn to Islam.

 

Archbishop Saldanha, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, highlighted the case of a young Catholic father of four who was kidnapped and threatened with death.

 

The kidnapping followed his promotion to bank manager, which is said to have sparked jealousy among his colleagues.

 

During his captivity, last month, the banker, whom the Archbishop calls Haroon, was ordered to phone his wife and tell her that he would be killed if she dared to inform the police.


Mr Haroon, from Narang, 30 miles north of Lahore, in Pakistan's north-eastern Punjab Province, only escaped ater his captors left him unguarded one morning.


By then, he had been moved to a number of different locations, finally ending up in a farmhouse 300 miles from Lahore in the south of the province.


His kidnappers, Jamaat-ul-Dawah, have been branded a terrorist organisation by the UK, Pakistan and other countries.


Stressing how religious freedom is enshrined in Pakistan's constitution, Archbishop Saldanha called on the government to crack down on extremism.


He wrote: "Haroon's story illustrates a new trend that underlines the difficulties and pressures of living in a land where extremism is growing and there is little tolerance for people who are non-Muslims.


"Especially Christians who live in remote and isolated towns are vulnerable. Here the level of hatred and intolerance is even more intense.


"Fortunately Haroon is an educated man and strong in his Catholic faith. He was able to resist his attackers."


The Archbishop described how after his escape from captivity, Mr Haroon managed to reach the main road and take a bus to town where he found his way to a Catholic mission station.


In the message, sent from his office in Lahore, Archbishop Saldanha goes on to describe the plight of Christian girls who are abducted and forced to marry Muslim boys and change their religion.


These events follow warnings issued by Archbishop Saldanha last May that Muslim extremists were now trying to force Christians to convert by threatening violence.


In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Archbishop highlighted a case where about 500 Christians had received anonymous letters warning of violent retribution if mass conversion to Islam did not follow within 10 days.


At the time, Archbishop Saldanha said: "It distresses us that Christians are threatened in an attempt to force them to convert to Islam. This is something that has never happened before."


He added, "We Christians are citizens, just like everyone else, and wish to have the same rights."

 

Helping Christians in Pakistan is a priority for Aid to the Church in Need, where annually the charity provides nearly £400,000 to support key projects - seminarians, sisters, catechists and religious education literature (Bibles and Catechisms) in the national tongue Urdu and provincial languages.


After the violence unleashed following the 2006 prophet Mohammed cartoon controversy, ACN offered support for repairs to churches and other buildings which were fire-bombed.


The charity also helped increase security at Christ the King Major Seminary, in Karachi after they were warned of a possible attack by Islamic extremists.


[ACN] 

 

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Cardinal Bertone: Cuba embargo is unacceptable       

 

Thursday 28 February 2008


Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone SDB has returned to the Vatican following his six-day journey to Cuba to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit there. The late Pope's trip was the subject of a Message sent by Benedict XVI to the Cuban bishops on 21 February.


On Monday 25 February, Cardinal Bertone met with Felipe Perez Roque, foreign minister of Cuba. Following the meeting the cardinal announced that both Raul Castro, the new Cuban president, and the Catholic Church wish to respond to the needs of the Cuban people "bearing in mind the difficulties, above all those caused by the economic embargo" against Cuba.


Repeating the words of John Paul II, the cardinal described the embargo as "unjust and ethically unacceptable". Ten years ago the late Pontiff had highlighted how the economic blockade is "an oppression for the people of Cuba", not a means "to help the Cuban people achieve dignity and independence" and "a violation of the people's independence".


Answering journalists' questions, the cardinal also affirmed that he had not asked the Cuban government for an amnesty but for "gestures of reconciliation", adding that the Church considers the recent release of certain prisoners as "a positive gesture".



Cardinal Bertone also made it clear that he had personally asked the government of the United States to facilitate the reunion of Cuban emigres with their relatives still on the island, saying this would be a humanitarian gesture and everything possible was being done to achieve it.


Wednesday's meeting with the new Cuban president, Raul Castro, marked the close of the cardinal's visit to Cuba.


[VIS]

 

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Vatican calls for prudence in Kosovo situation       

 

18 February 2008


After Kosovo declared independence yesterday, the Holy See urged leaders to be prudent and avoid violence.


In a note published on the Vatican Radio website, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, responded to those who have asked about the Vatican's position on the matter.


"The unilateral Kosovar declaration of independence -- which is based on the recommendations contained in the plan of Martti Ahtisaari, the UN mediator -- creates a new situation, which will naturally be followed with great attention by the Holy See, who will also have to evaluate possible requests of merit," Fr Lombardi explained.


"But in this moment," he emphasised, "the Holy See feels first of all the responsibility of its moral and spiritual mission, which also regards peace and good order in relations between nations, and therefore invites all, especially the political officials of Serbia and Kosovo, to be prudent and moderate, and asks for a decided and real commitment to avoid extremist reactions and violence, in such a way that there can now be created the premises of a future of respect, reconciliation and collaboration."


According to the communiqué, "It is necessary to pay particular attention to the safeguarding of democracy and of the rule of law, and in Kosovo, too, the international standards of respect for the rights of minorities and of all inhabitants should be applied, without distinctions according to ethnicity, religion, language or nationality, and there must also be vigilance in regard to the protection of the precious Christian artistic-cultural patrimony."


"There must be complete commitment to supporting the region's stability and the extremely important contribution of the international community is to be expected," the note stated.


Fr Lombardi added that Pope Benedict XVI "continues to look with affection upon the people of Serbia and Kosovo; he is near to them and he assures them of his prayers in this crucial moment in their history."


Serbia's president said his country would never accept an independent Kosovo. Russia also rejected the declaration, asking for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, which was agreed to for yesterday.


[Zenit]

 

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Human trafficking is modern slavery, says Vatican official       

 

Monday 18 February 2008


On 13 February, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, participated in the United Nations Global Initiatives to Fight Human Trafficking forum in Vienna, Austria. In his English language talk, Archbishop Marchetto spoke of how human trafficking is the slavery of modern times.


Archbishop Marchetto defined human trafficking as "one of the most shameful phenomena of our era. ... It is well known", he went on, "that poverty, as well as the lack of opportunities and of social cohesion, push people to look for a better future despite the related risks, making them extremely vulnerable to trafficking.


"Moreover", he added, "it should be emphasised that, nowadays, several factors contribute to the spread of this crime, namely, the absence of specific rules in some countries, the victims' ignorance of their own rights, the socio-cultural structure and armed conflicts.


"The Holy See encourages all kinds of just initiatives aimed at eradicating this immoral and criminal phenomenon and at promoting the welfare of the victims. The Palermo Protocol and the successive regional conventions have introduced an exhaustive international legislation against trafficking in human beings. Moreover, the Holy See notes with satisfaction the coming into force, at the beginning of this month, of the Council of Europe's Convention against trafficking in human beings," said the prelate.


In this context, the archbishop recalled that the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples also monitors "the issue of the victims of human trafficking, considered to be the slaves of modern times".


[CNA]

 

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Christian Brothers add to support for Indigenous people       

 

Friday 15 February 2008

 

The leadership team of the Oceania Province of the Christian Brothers have issued a statement to acknowledge the significance of parliament's apology to Australia's Indigenous people.


The leadership team agreed on the following statement on behalf of the Oceania Province of the Christian Brothers.


"We support the Federal Government's move to publicly apologise to those Indigenous people forcibly removed from their families. We acknowledge this as a crucial step in addressing Indigenous disadvantage and exclusion.


We officially voice our sorrow and offer an apology to Indigenous peoples who have been named 'The Stolen Generation'.


We support the move to publicly say "Sorry" to Indigenous people forcibly removed from their families at various times since white settlement of this country, Australia.


We applaud the official Federal response and hope that close collaboration between the Government and Indigenous leaders improves the quality of life for communities, families and individuals traumatised.


We restate our commitment to the Edmund Rice National Statement of Reconciliation; which binds us to:


acknowledge Australia's Indigenous peoples as the first peoples of this land


build respectful relationships


develop partnerships between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous people celebrate Australia's unique cultures."


Established in 1802 in Ireland by the Blessed Edmund Rice, the Christian Brothers today conduct their social justice and education missions in 27 countries around the world, with the Oceania Province covering Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the surrounding region.

 

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Autralian Catholic Bishops Conference delegate to take part in international women's congress in Rome       

 

Tuesday 5 February 2008


The Director of the ACBC Office for the Participation of Women, Kimberly Davis, will have the opportunity to network with women from around the world at a Rome congress this month to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter on the dignity and vocation of women, 'Mulieris Dignitatem'.


The international congress, entitled ‘Woman and Man, the humanum in its entirety", is being hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and will run from February 6 to February 9.


It will feature a range of keynote speakers, panel discussions and other opportunities for reflection on the subject of women since the Apostolic Letter 'Mulieris Dignitatem'. The panel discussions will also be forward-looking, touching on women's responsibility and participation in building up the Church and society.


A highlight will be an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.


Ms Davis said she was relishing the opportunity to attend an international congress of this nature.


"The opportunity to network with women from around the world regarding the importance of women's role and mission in the Church is a most exciting prospect," she said


"It is timely, 20 years after the apostolic letter 'Mulieris Dignitatem' was written, to recognise the challenges facing contemporary women throughout the world while acknowledging the huge contribution women make to the building up of the Church and society.


"I look forward to listening to women and men from around the world and hope that positive strategies can be achieved which will continue to uphold the dignity of all women."


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The Jammed named Australian Film of the Year by the Catholic Film Office for 2007.       

 

Tuesday 5 February 2008


The jury of the Australian Catholic Film Office (ACFO) has awarded its 2007 Film of the Year to Dee McLachlan's "The Jammed."


Tracing the story of three women brought to Australia under false pretexts for sexual exploitation, The Jammed reveals not only the horror of modern human trafficking and slavery but also peels back the complex moral layers involved for everyone, including governments.


Director of the office and jury chair, Jesuit Priest, Fr Richard Leonard said, "Last year was one of the strongest years in many years for Australian films with The Jammed, The Home Song Stories and Romulus, My Father among the best."


"The jury felt that The Jammed was a singularly courageous piece of cinema. Even though the extremely violent world this film portrays means many people would not want to see it, that does not allow us to ignore the sex trade in women and children occurring in our nation."


"It would be hard to think of a social issue upon which the whole church is presently speaking with such clarity. Pope Benedict XVI's statement on human trafficking for sex on 28 October 2005, his message to mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants have strenuously calls for all Catholics, Christians and people of good will to do everything they can to counter the causes and the evil results of human trafficking. In Australia, Catholic Religious Australia has been at the vanguard of lobbying, education and working with victims in regard to the international trafficking of women and children.


"The Jammed plays the role of raising our consciousness on this issue. This uncompromising and confronting film illuminates a dark, tragic side of Australian society (one replicated in many countries across the world), and thus makes a significant contribution to increasing people's awareness of an under-recognised but important issue of faith and justice," Fr Leonard concluded. 

 

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Hanoi Archbishop praises the solidarity of Catholics in Vietnam and around the world       

 

Tuesday 5 February 2008


In an open letter dated 1 February, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi officially confirmed the concession from government to return the nunciature and praised the solidarity of Catholics in Vietnam and around the world.


Since 18 December, thousands of Catholics in Hanoi and other dioceses have been organizing daily prayer vigils outside the former nunciature in Hanoi, pleading for return of the building that had been confiscated by the Communist leadership in 1959. Their protest has resulted in a stunning victory with the agreement from the government to turn the building over to Church leaders.


During 40 days of protest, "We have lived a new Pentecost," the prelate wrote.  "We have been united and devoted ourselves to the prayers...despite challenges and hardship".


The prelate expressed his appreciation to the solidarity which "is not limited within the archdiocese of Hanoi but extended world wide".  Daily reports in various languages from Asia-News, Catholic News Agency, Catholic World News, Independent Catholic News, VietCatholic News Agency and others drew great attention of Catholics around the world. The protest also garnered international media attention with extensive coverage by secular media.


In particular, the prelate thanked the Holy Father and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State, who closely and attentively followed events in the diocese. He trusted that the Holy See would always raise its voice for the legitimate aspirations of Vietnamese Catholics before the government.


Recalling challenges of the protest and the hardship that Hanoi clergy and faithful faced during the protest in cold rains and biting winds, the prelate praised the sentiments of fervent devotion and deep attachment to the Church, the deep loving relationship between pastor and flock, amicable relations between faithful, and devout prayers to the Lord. They are "a gift of grace from the Lord".


In conclusion, the prelate thanked all people in Vietnam and around the world for their prayers and their support and wished them a very happy new lunar year filled abundantly with Lord's grace.



By John Newton and John Pontifex

 

Pakistan's leading Catholic prelate has called on the new government to crack down on extremists after warning of a rise in militant groups which threaten to kill Christians if they do not convert to Islam.

In a statement coinciding with last week's presidential elections, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore described the growing "hatred and intolerance" of groups whom, he said, were contravening Pakistan's constitution by trying to force Christians to turn to Islam.

 

Archbishop Saldanha, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan, highlighted the case of a young Catholic father of four who was kidnapped and threatened with death.

The kidnapping followed his promotion to bank manager, which is said to have sparked jealousy among his colleagues.

 

During his captivity, last month, the banker, whom the Archbishop calls Haroon, was ordered to phone his wife and tell her that he would be killed if she dared to inform the police.

 

Mr Haroon, from Narang, 30 miles north of Lahore, in Pakistan's north-eastern Punjab Province, only escaped ater his captors left him unguarded one morning.

 

By then, he had been moved to a number of different locations, finally ending up in a farmhouse 300 miles from Lahore in the south of the province.

 

His kidnappers, Jamaat-ul-Dawah, have been branded a terrorist organisation by the UK, Pakistan and other countries.

 

Stressing how religious freedom is enshrined in Pakistan's constitution, Archbishop Saldanha called on the government to crack down on extremism.

 

He wrote: "Haroon's story illustrates a new trend that underlines the difficulties and pressures of living in a land where extremism is growing and there is little tolerance for people who are non-Muslims.

 

"Especially Christians who live in remote and isolated towns are vulnerable. Here the level of hatred and intolerance is even more intense.

 

"Fortunately Haroon is an educated man and strong in his Catholic faith. He was able to resist his attackers."

 

The Archbishop described how after his escape from captivity, Mr Haroon managed to reach the main road and take a bus to town where he found his way to a Catholic mission station.

 

In the message, sent from his office in Lahore, Archbishop Saldanha goes on to describe the plight of Christian girls who are abducted and forced to marry Muslim boys and change their religion.

 

These events follow warnings issued by Archbishop Saldanha last May that Muslim extremists were now trying to force Christians to convert by threatening violence.

 

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Archbishop highlighted a case where about 500 Christians had received anonymous letters warning of violent retribution if mass conversion to Islam did not follow within 10 days.

 

At the time, Archbishop Saldanha said: "It distresses us that Christians are threatened in an attempt to force them to convert to Islam. This is something that has never happened before."

 

He added, "We Christians are citizens, just like everyone else, and wish to have the same rights."

Helping Christians in Pakistan is a priority for Aid to the Church in Need, where annually the charity provides nearly £400,000 to support key projects - seminarians, sisters, catechists and religious education literature (Bibles and Catechisms) in the national tongue Urdu and provincial languages.

 

After the violence unleashed following the 2006 prophet Mohammed cartoon controversy, ACN offered support for repairs to churches and other buildings which were fire-bombed.

 

The charity also helped increase security at Christ the King Major Seminary, in Karachi after they were warned of a possible attack by Islamic extremists.

 

[ACN] 


******************************

Cardinal Bertone: Cuba embargo is unacceptable       

Thursday 28 February 2008

 

Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone SDB has returned to the Vatican following his six-day journey to Cuba to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit there. The late Pope's trip was the subject of a Message sent by Benedict XVI to the Cuban bishops on 21 February.

 

On Monday 25 February, Cardinal Bertone met with Felipe Perez Roque, foreign minister of Cuba. Following the meeting the cardinal announced that both Raul Castro, the new Cuban president, and the Catholic Church wish to respond to the needs of the Cuban people "bearing in mind the difficulties, above all those caused by the economic embargo" against Cuba.

 

Repeating the words of John Paul II, the cardinal described the embargo as "unjust and ethically unacceptable". Ten years ago the late Pontiff had highlighted how the economic blockade is "an oppression for the people of Cuba", not a means "to help the Cuban people achieve dignity and independence" and "a violation of the people's independence".

 

Answering journalists' questions, the cardinal also affirmed that he had not asked the Cuban government for an amnesty but for "gestures of reconciliation", adding that the Church considers the recent release of certain prisoners as "a positive gesture".

 

Cardinal Bertone also made it clear that he had personally asked the government of the United States to facilitate the reunion of Cuban emigres with their relatives still on the island, saying this would be a humanitarian gesture and everything possible was being done to achieve it.

 

Wednesday's meeting with the new Cuban president, Raul Castro, marked the close of the cardinal's visit to Cuba.

 

[VIS]


******************************

Vatican calls for prudence in Kosovo situation       

18 February 2008

 

After Kosovo declared independence yesterday, the Holy See urged leaders to be prudent and avoid violence.

 

In a note published on the Vatican Radio website, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, responded to those who have asked about the Vatican's position on the matter.

 

"The unilateral Kosovar declaration of independence -- which is based on the recommendations contained in the plan of Martti Ahtisaari, the UN mediator -- creates a new situation, which will naturally be followed with great attention by the Holy See, who will also have to evaluate possible requests of merit," Fr Lombardi explained.

 

"But in this moment," he emphasised, "the Holy See feels first of all the responsibility of its moral and spiritual mission, which also regards peace and good order in relations between nations, and therefore invites all, especially the political officials of Serbia and Kosovo, to be prudent and moderate, and asks for a decided and real commitment to avoid extremist reactions and violence, in such a way that there can now be created the premises of a future of respect, reconciliation and collaboration."

 

According to the communiqué, "It is necessary to pay particular attention to the safeguarding of democracy and of the rule of law, and in Kosovo, too, the international standards of respect for the rights of minorities and of all inhabitants should be applied, without distinctions according to ethnicity, religion, language or nationality, and there must also be vigilance in regard to the protection of the precious Christian artistic-cultural patrimony."

 

"There must be complete commitment to supporting the region's stability and the extremely important contribution of the international community is to be expected," the note stated.

 

Fr Lombardi added that Pope Benedict XVI "continues to look with affection upon the people of Serbia and Kosovo; he is near to them and he assures them of his prayers in this crucial moment in their history."

 

Serbia's president said his country would never accept an independent Kosovo. Russia also rejected the declaration, asking for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, which was agreed to for yesterday.

 

[Zenit]


******************************
 

Human trafficking is modern slavery, says Vatican official       

Monday 18 February 2008

 

On 13 February, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, participated in the United Nations Global Initiatives to Fight Human Trafficking forum in Vienna, Austria. In his English language talk, Archbishop Marchetto spoke of how human trafficking is the slavery of modern times.

 

Archbishop Marchetto defined human trafficking as "one of the most shameful phenomena of our era. ... It is well known", he went on, "that poverty, as well as the lack of opportunities and of social cohesion, push people to look for a better future despite the related risks, making them extremely vulnerable to trafficking.

 

"Moreover", he added, "it should be emphasised that, nowadays, several factors contribute to the spread of this crime, namely, the absence of specific rules in some countries, the victims' ignorance of their own rights, the socio-cultural structure and armed conflicts.

 

"The Holy See encourages all kinds of just initiatives aimed at eradicating this immoral and criminal phenomenon and at promoting the welfare of the victims. The Palermo Protocol and the successive regional conventions have introduced an exhaustive international legislation against trafficking in human beings. Moreover, the Holy See notes with satisfaction the coming into force, at the beginning of this month, of the Council of Europe's Convention against trafficking in human beings," said the prelate.

 

In this context, the archbishop recalled that the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples also monitors "the issue of the victims of human trafficking, considered to be the slaves of modern times".

 

[CNA]

*************************************
 

Christian Brothers add to support for Indigenous people       

Friday 15 February 2008

The leadership team of the Oceania Province of the Christian Brothers have issued a statement to acknowledge the significance of parliament's apology to Australia's Indigenous people.

 

The leadership team agreed on the following statement on behalf of the Oceania Province of the Christian Brothers.

 

"We support the Federal Government's move to publicly apologise to those Indigenous people forcibly removed from their families. We acknowledge this as a crucial step in addressing Indigenous disadvantage and exclusion.

 

We officially voice our sorrow and offer an apology to Indigenous peoples who have been named 'The Stolen Generation'.

 

We support the move to publicly say "Sorry" to Indigenous people forcibly removed from their families at various times since white settlement of this country, Australia.

 

We applaud the official Federal response and hope that close collaboration between the Government and Indigenous leaders improves the quality of life for communities, families and individuals traumatised.

 

We restate our commitment to the Edmund Rice National Statement of Reconciliation; which binds us to:

 

acknowledge Australia's Indigenous peoples as the first peoples of this land

 

build respectful relationships

 

develop partnerships between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous people celebrate Australia's unique cultures."

 

Established in 1802 in Ireland by the Blessed Edmund Rice, the Christian Brothers today conduct their social justice and education missions in 27 countries around the world, with the Oceania Province covering Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the surrounding region.


**************************************

Autralian Catholic Bishops Conference delegate to take part in international women's congress in Rome       

Tuesday 5 February 2008

 

The Director of the ACBC Office for the Participation of Women, Kimberly Davis, will have the opportunity to network with women from around the world at a Rome congress this month to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter on the dignity and vocation of women, 'Mulieris Dignitatem'.

 

The international congress, entitled ‘Woman and Man, the humanum in its entirety", is being hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and will run from February 6 to February 9.

 

It will feature a range of keynote speakers, panel discussions and other opportunities for reflection on the subject of women since the Apostolic Letter 'Mulieris Dignitatem'. The panel discussions will also be forward-looking, touching on women's responsibility and participation in building up the Church and society.

 

A highlight will be an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

 

Ms Davis said she was relishing the opportunity to attend an international congress of this nature.

 

"The opportunity to network with women from around the world regarding the importance of women's role and mission in the Church is a most exciting prospect," she said

 

"It is timely, 20 years after the apostolic letter 'Mulieris Dignitatem' was written, to recognise the challenges facing contemporary women throughout the world while acknowledging the huge contribution women make to the building up of the Church and society.

 

"I look forward to listening to women and men from around the world and hope that positive strategies can be achieved which will continue to uphold the dignity of all women."



*************************************
 

The Jammed named Australian Film of the Year by the Catholic Film Office for 2007.       

Tuesday 5 February 2008

 

The jury of the Australian Catholic Film Office (ACFO) has awarded its 2007 Film of the Year to Dee McLachlan's "The Jammed."

 

Tracing the story of three women brought to Australia under false pretexts for sexual exploitation, The Jammed reveals not only the horror of modern human trafficking and slavery but also peels back the complex moral layers involved for everyone, including governments.

 

Director of the office and jury chair, Jesuit Priest, Fr Richard Leonard said, "Last year was one of the strongest years in many years for Australian films with The Jammed, The Home Song Stories and Romulus, My Father among the best."

 

"The jury felt that The Jammed was a singularly courageous piece of cinema. Even though the extremely violent world this film portrays means many people would not want to see it, that does not allow us to ignore the sex trade in women and children occurring in our nation."

 

"It would be hard to think of a social issue upon which the whole church is presently speaking with such clarity. Pope Benedict XVI's statement on human trafficking for sex on 28 October 2005, his message to mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerants have strenuously calls for all Catholics, Christians and people of good will to do everything they can to counter the causes and the evil results of human trafficking. In Australia, Catholic Religious Australia has been at the vanguard of lobbying, education and working with victims in regard to the international trafficking of women and children.

 

"The Jammed plays the role of raising our consciousness on this issue. This uncompromising and confronting film illuminates a dark, tragic side of Australian society (one replicated in many countries across the world), and thus makes a significant contribution to increasing people's awareness of an under-recognised but important issue of faith and justice," Fr Leonard concluded. 


*************************************
 

Hanoi Archbishop praises the solidarity of Catholics in Vietnam and around the world       

Tuesday 5 February 2008

 

In an open letter dated 1 February, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi officially confirmed the concession from government to return the nunciature and praised the solidarity of Catholics in Vietnam and around the world.

 

Since 18 December, thousands of Catholics in Hanoi and other dioceses have been organizing daily prayer vigils outside the former nunciature in Hanoi, pleading for return of the building that had been confiscated by the Communist leadership in 1959. Their protest has resulted in a stunning victory with the agreement from the government to turn the building over to Church leaders.

 

During 40 days of protest, "We have lived a new Pentecost," the prelate wrote.  "We have been united and devoted ourselves to the prayers...despite challenges and hardship".

 

The prelate expressed his appreciation to the solidarity which "is not limited within the archdiocese of Hanoi but extended world wide".  Daily reports in various languages from Asia-News, Catholic News Agency, Catholic World News, Independent Catholic News, VietCatholic News Agency and others drew great attention of Catholics around the world. The protest also garnered international media attention with extensive coverage by secular media.

 

In particular, the prelate thanked the Holy Father and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State, who closely and attentively followed events in the diocese. He trusted that the Holy See would always raise its voice for the legitimate aspirations of Vietnamese Catholics before the government.

 

Recalling challenges of the protest and the hardship that Hanoi clergy and faithful faced during the protest in cold rains and biting winds, the prelate praised the sentiments of fervent devotion and deep attachment to the Church, the deep loving relationship between pastor and flock, amicable relations between faithful, and devout prayers to the Lord. They are "a gift of grace from the Lord".

 

In conclusion, the prelate thanked all people in Vietnam and around the world for their prayers and their support and wished them a very happy new lunar year filled abundantly with Lord's grace.



*************************************

Extracts from the Parliamentary debates on the legalization of human cloning in Victoria, April and May 2007:  http://groups.google.com.au/group/mcla?hl=en&lnk=srg

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