"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
|In Simiri, Niger, 85 children are acutely malnourished. CRS delivered vegetable oil and corn-soy blend for children under 2 years old. Learn more about CRS' efforts in Niger. All photos by Lane Hartill/CRS|
(Editor's note: The following is a press release from USCCB.)
WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sponsored a delegation July 26 - August 2 to Haiti and the Caribbean region to examine the plight of Haitians impacted by the January 12 earthquake.
The mission, led by Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, took place a little more than six months after the tragedy and focused upon the situation of vulnerable populations, particularly children, as well as reconstruction and economic development efforts. The delegation also traveled to the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic to assess the problems facing Haitians in those countries.
"It is clear that efforts to clean up and recover from the earthquake are progressing slowly," said Archbishop Wenski. "However, the international community must remain steadfast in working with the Haitian government to reconstruct the country and strengthen its institutions. The survival and long-term future of the Haitian people are at stake."
In addition to visiting with members of Haiti's government, civil society, and business sectors to discuss long-term development, the delegation paid special attention to the most vulnerable Haitians, especially women and children, visiting orphanages and camps in Port-au-Prince and the other countries.
"Children, especially those who have lost parents or are separated from them, remain at grave risk," said Bishop DiMarzio. "Without a more concerted effort to protect them and find long-term solutions for their care, they will become even more vulnerable to criminal elements, including smugglers and human traffickers."
In some of the camps, the delegation found that women remain vulnerable to violence and sexual assault. "Women, especially single mothers with children, are struggling to feed and protect their families, but at the same time are themselves exposed to gender-based violence. More must be done to enhance their security," said Maria Odom, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC) and member of the delegation.
Despite the slow recovery and humanitarian challenges, the delegation saw seeds of hope in their mission. They visited a number of emergency, transitional, and development programs operated by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and their local partners. CRS has operated in Haiti for 55 years, responding to the needs of the most vulnerable and supporting local development and strengthening of Haitian families.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, CRS additionally supports child protection programming, which includes family tracing to reunite separated children with their families, where possible, and the pursuit of durable solutions for orphaned children. CRS is also working throughout Haiti to assist the displaced located outside of the earthquake zone, and, through agriculture programs, to help them find the means to remain in the countryside.
Upon returning to the United States, the delegation recommended that several steps be taken by the U.S. government to help reunite and strengthen Haitian families and continue helping Haiti's long-term development, including:
The delegation will be releasing a more formal and detailed report and recommendations in early September. The delegation included staff representatives from Migration and Refugee Services and the Office of International Justice and Peace Office of the USCCB; the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), and Catholic Relief Services.
"This is a pivotal moment in Haiti's history which requires cooperation and patience," stated Archbishop Wenski. "Haiti is at a crossroads and it is crucial that the international community not lessen its commitment to the rebuilding process."
In a collection taken up after the earthquake, Catholics in the United States contributed $80 million to recovery efforts in Haiti, which is being used to provide human needs assistance and to help restore Haiti's infrastructure, including churches, schools, and clinics. CRS and the Secretariat for the Church in Latin America of the USCCB are administering the funds, in consultation with the bishops of Haiti.
"It will take time to make Haiti whole again, but it is important that the Haitian people and the children of Haiti—its future leaders—do not lose hope," concluded Archbishop Wenski.
(Editor's note: Lane Hartill is the western and central Africa regional information officer for Catholic Relief Services. He is based in Dakar, Senegal. This article is reprinted with permission. For more information, www.crs.org)
Illiasson, 16, left, and his brother, Abdul Aziz, 14, haul their heifer, Blackie, in a donkey cart to their village in Niger. Blackie collapsed from starvation. Cattle in Niger are starving because of a lack of grass.
Habsu Boubacar has gotten used to being hungry.
The burning stomach, the blurred vision, the joint pain: Habsu has learned how to work through aches, how to force herself to go on.
Growing up in Toudoun Jaka, a sand-blasted village full of ribby cattle and bone-thin dogs that slink through the sand, Habsu learned how to cope.
She learned how to mix water and millet husks — the stuff she normally feeds the goats and sheep — and make a sludgy drink. She learned how to gulp the brown, gritty stuff so the bitterness doesn't sit too long on her tongue. She got used to the feel of it in her stomach; it takes up space, so she can feed the real food to her four kids.
What she hasn't gotten used to — what she doesn't even like to think about — is anza. It's famine food, and only the most desperate donkeys would nibble it during normal times. The plant's fruit is so bitter and tough she has to boil it several times to get the bitterness out of it. Then she adds tobacco to soften it. But she eats it, like most people do, when there's nothing else.
Nigeriens want the world to know what they are going through. But hunger here is a recurring theme, a slow-burning problem that doesn't make headlines.
Nigeriens have known for months this would happen. When the rains failed to show up last year — influenced by the El Niño phenomenon—everyone knew that food would be scarce. But now that it's here, the numbers are startling:
The rain never came to Toudoun Jaka last year, and the land withered and cracked. Habsu's millet crops shriveled and died. She wasn't able to put any grain away for her or her four kids.
Souéba, left, and Balki Boubacar are sisters who live in Toudoun Jaka, Niger. For the last several months, they have lived on crushed millet and water. CRS is delivering food to their village.
She and her husband grappled with a single question: To stay or leave Toudoun Jaka. Habsu's husband, along with other men in the village, decided to go to the capital, Niamey, where they could work as part-time livestock butchers, a job many here wouldn't do because of the low-class status associated with it. The little cash Habsu's husband could send home would partially meet the grocery bill. God, they figured, would take care of the rest.
Habsu sold off three goats and three cows — all listless and skeletal — in order to pay for food. Only two goats remain, the ones that are nosing around her daughter, Balki, a smiling girl with warm brown eyes. In the last six months, her delicate frame has lost what little extra weight it had on it. Her dusty knees are bulbous compared to her stick-like legs.
Balki and her siblings eat nothing but millet mixed with water, a chalky-tasting porridge with little nutritional value. Habsu can't remember the last time she served them anything else. No fruit, meat, or vegetables. Just millet porridge every meal.
The millet Habsu planted recently has withered and been covered over by blowing sand. Maybe by some stroke of luck, the rain will come and soak the ground and the millet will grow. But even then, nothing will be ready to harvest for another couple of months. So Habsu has a backup plan: the stack of dishes near her sagging four-poster bed. She will sell them to buy food. Until then, it's millet husks and that vile green fruit, anza.
Not far from Habsu's mud house, on a desolate stretch of road, two boys are driving a donkey cart. Illiasson and Abdul Aziz, two brothers, squint through the haze. The heat — 110 degrees Fahrenheit — has sucked the energy and life from everything. In the cart, carefully bedded down on a yellow blanket, is Blackie, a heifer so exhausted and malnourished she can barely hold her head up.
In Islam, it's forbidden to eat a sick animal. And thousands of cattle like Blackie, who have been forced to eat bitter leaves for the last six months, whose flesh long ago gave way to a rack of bones, are considered sick. Farmers bring them to cattle markets that are full of bulls that can't stand, calves with sunken sides, and cows with no cud to chew. Long-horned zebus, once flashing with muscles, could bring well over $600. Now, a farmer, if he is lucky, might get between $150 and $200 for a cow.
Illiasson, 16, and Abdul Aziz, 14, refuse to sell Blackie. They are from the Tuareg ethnic group and revere their animals. When word came in that morning that Blackie had gone down and was too weak to stand, they jumped into action.
She was in "the forest" as Illiasson called it: a patch of acacia trees and some gnarled bushes all on a vast bed of sand. When they found Blackie, she didn't move. They hoisted her into the donkey cart. They were getting pretty good at it. Of their 12 cows, only three were still standing. The rest had collapsed from starvation. Illiasson said a passing farmer had told them Blackie also had malaria.
Now the hard part begins: Hand-feeding Blackie a mix of millet husks and sorghum — the same food many people eat — in hopes that she bounces back.
As Illiasson and Abdul Aziz head home, they'll pass by Goma Gadji's house. She's standing out front, a woman with a deeply lined face and a swirl of children eddying around her feet. She isn't afraid to admit what most people don't want to: She's getting close to turning to the termites for food.
A CRS volunteer pours vegetable oil for a woman in Simiri, Niger. Women and their children, many of whom are malnourished, received vegetable oil and corn-soy blend at a CRS food distribution.
"For the moment, I haven't gone to them yet," she says, referring to the termite mounds. "But if things don't get better, I'll have to."
She's had to do it in the past. Now, with her husband too old to travel to Niamey to look for work, she'll have to do it again. Already, the kids around her feet show signs that things are bad. Some are losing their hair. Others have distended bellies. Both are symptoms of malnutrition.
A termite mound, a rust-colored conical pile of sand and saliva, is where desperate Nigeriens go for food. Termites store grain in a series of connected chambers. And a series of ventilation shafts maintain a constant temperature within the mound. In this climate-controlled environment, termites use separate chambers to store different grains. When Goma hacks back the mound and exposes the chambers, she says, if she's lucky, she can find up to several cups of grain.
If you cut straight across the desert from Goma's house, you'll run into a scorched and rocky plain, so flat and empty it looks lunar. That's where Abdoulai saw the French safari hunters take down the bull elephant. With their Mausers and khaki attire, the French loved to roam the forest above Boulkougou in the 1970s, looking for the big bulls. It was a jungle, and Abdoulai as a teenager was careful not to venture too deep.
But then the droughts came. The trees died and the vegetation wilted. Now the only thing left are doola, a tangle of green vines that sprout from the places trees once occupied. Doola is everywhere, a map to a forgotten forest. And it's what Abdoulai, 58, and his wife Bibi, ate when they ran out of food.
The rainy season last year was so bad, Abdoulai says, that his crops didn't produce a single sack of millet. For his brood of children, it didn't even last a week. That meant he had to count on work as a day laborer at a nearby gold mine. But he was one of scores of men, and his name was only intermittently called. And after a day of crushing rock, he only made about $2.
So for the first five months of this year, Abdoulai was always hungry. He says when hunger persists, one of the first things to go is your sight. Things blur. Time slows. And one day will feel like two.
"If you haven't eaten all day and someone is walking toward you, it will seem like two people," he says. "When the sun goes down, you can't see at all."
So when Catholic Relief Services showed up in his village, asking who wanted work, it was a godsend. Banquettes, or berms that trap rainwater, needed to be dug on the plain that used to be a forest. Grass will grow, and the hope is that other plants will take root and transform that hot pan into a green field.
Cash-for-work projects like these employ hundreds of Nigeriens while providing cash so people like Abdoulai can buy food in the market (though crops failed, there is still food in the markets, albeit expensive). The money comes from a grant made by the United States Agency for International Development and managed by CRS.
For Abdoulai, the stress of not having to wonder when he'll eat next is the best part of the job. The blisters on his hands, the furnace-like wind that never stops, and the 115-degree heat are a small price to pay for the $3.50 a day he makes.
"I had a lot of stress before," he says. "I was always worried about money. But now food is not a problem."
"Now," he says, "we have leftovers."
(For more information and to make donations, contact Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203-7090, phone 1-800-736-3467, or www.crs.org)
Fred H. Summe is Vice President of Northern Kentucky Right to Life, P.O. Box 1202, Covington, Kentucky 41012
The U.S. economy shows no real improvement. Our jobless rate remains high. Even though a record number of homeowners have lost their homes in foreclosure, we are told to expect even more in the near future. Individuals and businesses continue to file a record number of bankruptcies.
The so-called Patient Protection Act, commonly referred to as "health care reform," calls for "rationing of health care" and taxpayer subsidies to those who profit from abortions.
Many states are unable to balance their budgets, with some states, such as Illinois, facing financial collapse.
The United States' involvement in Iraq and in Afghanistan seems to have no clear ending in the next few years.
The misuse of drugs and alcohol continues to grow. Drug wars in Mexico have now crossed our southwest border.
Homosexuality becomes more acceptable, as some states start to proclaim that homosexual relations can somehow be a marriage.
A record number of births are to single mothers, and more children grow up without their father's love and protection.
As the federal government takes over control of companies like General Motors, or regulates the banking industry into submission, the federal government's spending imposes a greater debt burden on our children and grandchildren, who now become more beholden to Communist China, which has financed the American binge. Not only government, but also many individuals and corporations have abandoned self-control.
Why is the United States, the country that was so blessed with economic prosperity and individual freedoms, finding itself in a condition of decline?
To every generation, God has sent prophets to not only call people back to Judeo-Christian principles, but who have also warned of the undesirable natural consequences flowing from our abandonment of those principles.
To our times, we have been blessed with one, who through his personal experience, understood the true cause of tyranny, whether it was Nazism or Communism, and how people bring upon themselves and others such tyranny.
When Pope John Paul II concluded his second visit to the United States in 1987, he warned:
"All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person. …[You] will succeed only if respect for life and its protection by law is granted to every human being from conception until natural death.
"This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn."
Catchy phrases or political clichés did not find their way into his speeches. Words were not to be wasted when this man expressed his thoughts and concerns. His warning was clear. The United States will not solve the problems and challenges of the day until, and unless, we first stop aborting God's children. "The condition for her survival" depends on how Americans resolve the issue of abortion.
If we continue to kill unborn children, our nation, as it once was, may cease to exist.
What kind of people we will decide to be, what kind of nation we will have, depends, in part, on who are placed in positions of leadership in our federal, state, and local governments. Christians, who have received the faith in Jesus, have the moral obligation to participate in the electoral process and to base their vote on the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life.
Will we give our vote to our perceived self-interests, whatever they may be, or will we put our vote through the ultimate test, i.e., will our vote respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones? Will we give our vote to God?
"We must allow the truth of God and the truth of the dignity of the human person to guide us in every decision we make. With each law or bill we consider, we must be first a people who recognize that there is the inherent dignity of human life which is bestowed by God and can never be violated. Once we begin to determine what is good or what is evil, once we begin to determine who has dignity and who doesn't, we will see that the lust for power, money and control overtakes and guides the human heart. The result is that violence and murder govern society." Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota.
The news media, including many Catholic sources, along with many Catholic politicians, want us to believe that opposition to legalized abortion, euthanasia, cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, homosexuality, and assisted suicide are all based on religious beliefs. However, true Catholics, as well as all people of faith, know that this is not correct.
The above-mentioned attacks on human life are not morally wrong because they are opposed by the Catholic Church, but because these intrinsically evil acts violate the natural law, the law of God, and thus everywhere and every time are morally unacceptable.
Christianity, for 2,000 years, has been promoting this concept, i.e., that each person, made in the image of God, possesses an intrinsic dignity. This dignity does not depend on one's stage of development in life, one's physical, mental, or psychological abilities or disabilities, one's productivity, one's wealth or family ties, or one's political power. A person, by the very fact that he is a human person, has this human dignity, gratitude for which he owes to no other human person, society, or church. Although not the only voice, the Catholic Church has been a clear teacher upholding this dignity, the sanctity of all innocent human life.
Just because the teachings of the Catholic Church, and other religions, condemned slavery, does not mean that opposition to slavery was based solely on religious beliefs. What made slavery an intrinsic evil was that it denied human dignity to a class of human beings.
Although there are many important issues facing our nation, only a few define what type of nation we will be.
As people of faith, who believe in the Judeo-Christian principle of the sanctity of all innocent human life, there are positions on some issues we must adhere to in order to be faithful to basic moral principles. On the other hand, there are other issues on which reasonable Christian minds can differ, and do.
Issues such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, or so-called "same-sex" unions involve acts which are intrinsically evil, and are always, under any and all circumstances, morally unacceptable. These non-negotiable issues are so crucial that if a candidate supports legalization and/or funding for such immoral acts, he disqualifies himself from receiving the support, vote, and contribution of true pro-lifers.
Archbishop William J. Levada, then the Archbishop of San Francisco, states: "Catholic social teaching covers a broad range of important issues. But among these the teaching on abortion holds a unique place. …There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war or applying the death penalty, but not with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
One of the simplest ways for Americans to give witness to truth is by their vote. Does our vote give witness to the sanctity of all innocent human life, or does it help keep the killing machine in place?
"No cause takes precedence over the preservation of innocent human life. It would be irresponsible for us to claim to be pro-life while voting for candidates who support the right to abortion." Bishop John Smith, Trenton, New Jersey
"Stand Up for Life!", as commanded by Pope John Paul II.
The Creation Museum claims in its brochure to be "a unique and unparalleled experience" and many would say they believe it is so. Even on a weekday the museum is quite crowded with visitors from all across the country. Located near Petersburg, Kentucky, it succeeds in demonstrating the truths of both science and Christianity.
Upon entering the museum a visitor is offered the opportunity to be photographed with a dinosaur. Upon entering "The Walk through Time," two paleontologists, one Bible-believing and one unbelieving, present their differing points of view from the video display. Nearby visitors can find opportunities to learn about and hunt for fossils in the rock wall themselves.
The Walk then continues on through a presentation of the history of the Bible in tableau, from Isaiah's prophecies to Moses' history to David's psalms to John and Peter at the empty tomb and Paul writing his letters. From there it lists the opposition to the Bible through time, in Esther's and Daniel's time in Babylon, in the time of the Maccabeans and in Herod's and Diocletus. It even goes on to list opponents like modernists, even specifically The Da Vinci Code.
Despite all attempts to destroy the Scriptures past and present, it has survived. It is the most translated, and by far the most best-selling book ever.
The museum shows one of the most significant turning points in the history of the Bible, Gutenberg's print shop. Nearby, however, are shown a facsimile of the original Greek Codex Vaticanus and a portion of 300-year-old sheepskin with Genesis in the original Hebrew from a Torah saved from the late Saddam's ban.
Next comes the worst part of the whole museum, the depiction of what the world would be like without faith, what it is becoming with growing disbelief. Belief in God's design makes all the difference in a world that otherwise is without purpose, without hope.
Continuing on to "The Wonders of Creation" the visitor is mercifully presented with countless examples of the Creator's handiwork in His creation. From botany, biology, astronomy, and genetics the diversity and unity imaging the Trinity is shown. The best image of God, it is pointed out, is man, created to oversee His creation. Unexpectedly we are made in God's image no matter how unintelligent or uncreative we may be.
The Walk through Time includes a walk through Eden with the Serpent in the tree and Adam and Eve below. Immediately after the Fall, however, the visitor is encouraged to contemplate the prophecies of a future when there will again be no death (Is 11:8), not pain (Rv 21:4), no conflict (Is 11:6), no hard labor (Is 65:23), before witnessing the murder of Abel by Cain.
A lively 969-year-old Methuselah tells the visitor of the coming flood while Noah and his sons work on the Ark. Visitors can learn about the Ark, view the interior and the animals, and even (via an interactive game) help Noah build the Ark.
After watching the Flood from space, the visitor can ask Noah questions and watch as Noah's family makes their thanksgiving sacrifice on Mt. Ararat.
Possible causes and consequences of such Deluge are speculated on. Underwater volcanic eruptions could have caused hypercanes bringing nearly endless rain and then an ice age. Prehistoric lakes in the West and Southwest could have carved out canyons without leaving debris, including the Grand Canyon.
"The Last Adam" rounds out the Walk through Time with visits with Mary who touchingly recalls Joachim explaining the need for the sacrificial lamb — and her understanding her Son was that Lamb. With her is the Centurian movingly describing Jesus' last words, "It is finished," as "like a receipt, 'paid in full.' "
The Stargazer's Planetarium shows include "Created Cosmos" and "Worlds of Creation." The first is a tour from Earth to the farthest reaches of the known universe and back again to the Creation Museum. Delightfully mixed with the up-to-date astronomy and high-definition special effects are appropriate quotes from Job, "The Earth hangs on nothing," and Isaiah's "The Earth was made to be lived in."
The second is "just" a tour of the planets of the solar system with a brief stop on Mars. Earth is, like the museum, proved to be unique.
Among other offerings available are a "Creative Adventure Workshop," "Creation Musical Adventure," "Men in White," and "Dino-mite Readers," even a petting zoo and camel and dinosaur rides for youngsters. For adults the Dragon Hall Bookstore and gift shop is stocked with books, DVDs, and other things both scientific and Christian.
Because the museum has so much to offer, two-day passes are available.
(Editor's note: Mr. Zani writes from Texas. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
It should go without saying, no one approves of child abuse. In fact, every sane and rational individual knows it is dead wrong. It is the antithesis of what Christianity is all about. Child abuse is intolerable.
At the same time the Main Stream Media (MSM) and Determined Anti-Catholics (Haters) have had a field day deliberately presenting a partial and completely distorted picture of the overall situation concerning this subject. Particularly in this country. Cardinal Sodano has been right all along. To be sure, there has been a serious problem which has too often been mishandled; however, without the money and for-profit element/motive of all too many, there would have been no deliberate, ongoing, public smear. No adding a lot of water to the wine. No persons waiting for 30, 40, 50 years to tell their for-profit story. The entire situation as concerns the Catholic Church specifically has been grossly exaggerated and exacerbated by those desperate to cash in, one way or another, on the pain, misery, and suffering that has resulted. As Jesus Christ pointed out at Matthew 24:28, if vultures think there is a body to be picked clean, they will gather.
It is beyond doubt that there is a national problem of child abuse, not to even delve into spouse abuse which is in epidemic. An enormus problem in and of itself. To slyly and cleverly defacto blame the Catholic Church for the sins of millions of non-Catholics makes transparent the virulent anti-Catholicism of those who coyly blame the Catholic Church, and by implication its members, for a national problem. But since spouse abuse cannot rationally be blamed on the Catholic Church, you do not see the MSM making a big thing out of it, and/or criticizing secular authorities for the problem and/or sitting on their hands and not even attempting to do anything about it.
According to U.S. Government sources in 2007, more than 1,700 American children died as a result of abuse or neglect. More than four children every day in the United States. How many of those deaths were caused by priests or nuns? Not a one. Why is it that the MSM never even mentions that, let alone attaching blame? Well, why not? There ain't no gold in them thar hills. That is exactly why. The numbers don't lie. But the Catholic haters and those dedicated to destroying the Catholic Church, one way or another, sure do! Over 1,700 small, abused bodies crying out to the we-can't-be-bothered MSM. What we have on our hands is an anti-Catholic lynch mob trying to divert attention from all sorts of secular deadly problems — by pointing fingers at the Catholic Church for what are enormous secular American social and moral problems.
How interesting it is that it has been left for the maligned and vigorously insulted Catholic Church to speak out for these 1,700 plus American citizens, these 1,700 plus abused-to-death tiny ones, and against a culture of death that abused them into an early grave.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed some of the challenges facing Iraq when receiving the new Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, Habbeb Mohammed Radi Ali Al-Sadr on July 2. The Holy Father conveyed greetings to the president of Iraq and gave "the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of all the citizens of your country."
"On March 7, 2010, the people of Iraq gave a clear sign to the world that they wish to see an end to violence and that they have chosen the path of democracy, through which they aspire to live in harmony with one another within a just, pluralist, and inclusive society. Despite attempts at intimidation on the part of those who do not share this vision, the people showed great courage and determination by presenting themselves at the polling stations in large numbers. It is to be hoped that the formation of a new Government will now proceed swiftly so that the will of the people for a more stable and unified Iraq may be accomplished. Those who have been elected to political office will need to show great courage and determination themselves, in order to fulfill the high expectations that have been placed in them. You may be assured that the Holy See, which has always valued its excellent diplomatic relations with your country, will continue to provide whatever assistance it can, so that Iraq may assume its rightful place as a leading nation in the region with much to contribute to the international community.
"The new Government will need to give priority to measures designed to improve security for all sectors of the population, particularly the various minorities. You have spoken of the difficulties faced by Christians and I note your comments about the steps taken by the Government to afford them greater protection. The Holy See naturally shares the concern you have expressed that Iraqi Christians should remain in their ancestral homeland, and that those who have felt constrained to emigrate will soon consider it safe to return. Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have been present in the land of Abraham, a land which is part of the common patrimony of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is greatly to be hoped that Iraqi society in the future will be marked by peaceful coexistence, as is in keeping with the aspirations of those who are rooted in the faith of Abraham. Although Christians form a small minority of Iraq's population, they have a valuable contribution to make to its reconstruction and economic recovery through their educational and healthcare apostolates, while their engagement in humanitarian projects provides much-needed assistance in building up society. If they are to play their full part, however, Iraqi Christians need to know that it is safe for them to remain in or return to their homes, and they need assurances that their properties will be restored to them and their rights upheld.
"Recent years have seen many tragic acts of violence committed against innocent members of the population, both Muslim and Christian, acts which as you have pointed out are contrary to the teachings of Islam as well as those of Christianity. This shared suffering can provide a deep bond, strengthening the determination of Muslims and Christians alike to work for peace and reconciliation. History has shown that some of the most powerful incentives to overcome division come from the example of those men and women who, having chosen the courageous path of non-violent witness to higher values, have lost their lives through cowardly acts of violence. Long after the present troubles have receded into the past, the names of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, Father Ragheed Ganni, and many more will live on as shining examples of the love that led them to lay down their lives for others. May their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of so many others like them, strengthen within the Iraqi people the moral determination that is necessary if political structures for greater justice and stability are to achieve their intended effect.
"You have spoken of your Government's commitment to respect human rights. Indeed, it is of the utmost importance for any healthy society that the human dignity of each of its citizens be respected both in law and in practice, in other words that the fundamental rights of all should be recognized, protected, and promoted. Only thus can the common good be truly served, that is to say those social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to flourish, to attain their full stature, and to contribute to the good of others (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 164-170). Among the rights that must be fully respected if the common good is to be effectively promoted, the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of worship are paramount, since it is they that enable citizens to live in conformity with their transcendent dignity as persons made in the image of their divine Creator. I therefore hope and pray that these rights will not only be enshrined in legislation, but will come to permeate the very fabric of society – all Iraqis have a part to play in building a just, moral, and peaceable environment.
"You begin your term of office, Mr. Ambassador, in the months leading up to a particular initiative of the Holy See for the support of the local Churches throughout the region, namely the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. This will provide a welcome opportunity to explore the role and the witness of Christians in the lands of the Bible, and will also give an impetus to the important task of inter-religious dialogue, which has so much to contribute to the goal of peaceful coexistence in mutual respect and esteem among the followers of different religions. It is my earnest hope that Iraq will emerge from the difficult experiences of the past decade as a model of tolerance and cooperation among Muslims, Christians, and others in the service of those most in need . . ."
(Editor's note: The following press release was provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
WASHINGTON—Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, Vice-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, testified before Congress on the ethical imperative for reform of the U.S. immigration system. He spoke July 14, before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.
Bishop Kicanas, whose diocese runs along the whole of the Arizona-Mexico border, said he witnesses every day "the human consequences of our broken immigration system," adding that "[t]his is a situation which from a humanitarian and ethical stand point, needs to be addressed in a humane and comprehensive manner."
Though often dismissed by analyses that highlight the economic, social, or legal aspects, "immigration is ultimately a humanitarian issue, since it impacts the basic rights and dignity of millions of persons and their families. As such it has moral implications," he said. "We cannot accept the toil and taxes of immigrants without providing them the protection of law."
Bishop Kicanas recognized the rule of law as a flashpoint in the debate.
"The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wholeheartedly agrees that the rule of law is paramount, and that those who break the law should be held accountable," he said. "As our testimony points out, comprehensive immigration reform would honor the rule of law and help restore it by requiring 11 million undocumented to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and get in the back of the line. We believe this a proportionate penalty for the offense."
He also said the bishops believe immigration reform will make the nation more secure, "freeing up time and resources to concentrate on those coming who intend to do us harm." He praised both the enforcement and life-saving efforts of border patrol agents, but pointed out that decades of enforcement-only policies have not solved the border or the larger immigration problem.
Bishop Kicanas also addressed the issue of the passage of controversial Arizona SB 1070.
"It is my belief that the passage of this law reflects the frustration of Arizonans and the American public with Congress for not addressing the issue of immigration reform. The message is to break the partisan paralysis and act now," he said.
The bishop's oral testimony was accompanied by a more in-depth written testimony in which Bishop Kicanas summarized the U.S. bishops' longstanding recommendations on immigration reform:
The testimony also listed the many perceived benefits of an earned legalization program and reform aspects that the Church finds problematic.
An Act Of Consecration To The Holy Spirit
Divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate my mind
and heart and will to You for time and for eternity. May my mind be open
to Your divine inspirations and to the teachings of the Church, whose
infallible guide You are. May my heart be filled with love of God and of
my neighbor and my will conformed to the will of God. May my whole life
be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of Christ our Lord to Whom,
with the Father and You, be honor and glory forever. Amen.
- Pope St. Pius X -
Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.
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