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Issue Date:  December 7, 2007


300 protest torture; 3 arrested

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- More than 300 people rallied Nov. 18 outside the gates of Fort Huachuca, Ariz., home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and school for interrogation. Three Catholic activists were arrested during the rally as they tried to enter the base, where they say soldiers learn torture techniques, an accusation the Army denies.

Organizers of the protest say that Betsy Lamb, Mary Burton Riseley, and Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada wanted to enter the base to meet with enlisted personnel and officers to continue a dialogue begun three days earlier about the interrogation techniques taught there. Fort Huachuca is about 75 miles southeast of Tucson.

A spokesman for Fort Huachuca said the three wanted to get arrested and they ignored warnings that they were trespassing. A year ago an almost identical scenario unfolded that ended in the arrests of Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly. They are currently serving five month prison sentences. Lamb, Riseley and Zawada were to be arraigned in federal court in Tucson Dec. 4.

Veggie patch recovery planned

NEW ORLEANS -- After months of intense community planning, parishioners at Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church have begun laying the groundwork for an urban farm, with the hope of rebuilding the rich communal vegetable gardens that once mimicked rural Vietnam in suburban New Orleans.

The working farm will be on a 20-acre parcel next to the church and likely will include a mix of smaller family and larger commercial lots, one or more fish-raising ponds, space for raising chickens or goats, and an open-air market.

The project is being designed for free by the Tulane University architecture school’s City Center and Louisiana State University’s Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture.

Sweatshop crucifix report denied

NEW YORK -- Labor organizers allege that crucifixes sold at St. Patrick Catholic Cathedral, Trinity Episcopal Church in New York and stores of the Association for Christian Retail were produced by a Chinese sweatshop, but the New York archdiocese said there is no “conclusive evidence” to back up the allegations.

St. Patrick’s and Trinity removed the crucifixes from their shelves pending an investigation.

A report released Nov. 20 by the National Labor Committee said that the religious goods in question were made at the Junxingye Metal and Plastic Products Factory in Dongguan in southern China.

The report said workers at Junxingye are paid only 26.5 cents an hour, less than half of China’s minimum wage. After deductions for company housing and food, take-home wages drop to 9 cents an hour, the report said.

Dialogue brings pain, prelate says

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Interfaith dialogue has become increasingly important in a world “thirsting for a genuine reconciliation and healing” of age-old injuries resulting from people’s misunderstanding of their differences, especially when it comes to religion, said the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

In a Nov. 14 talk at Jesuit-run Fairfield University, Archbishop Demetrios offered five suggestions for developing dialogue among adherents of various religions, “namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

He said dialogue participants must unlearn in order to learn; brace themselves for some levels of pain; seek first to understand; recognize the sanctity and power of language; and focus on truth.

Dialogue, he said, “requires that we engage in truly honest inquiry into painful historical circumstances that are understood differently by different people.” He continued, “Our growing in knowledge will entail experiencing levels of pain. But the pain will not be debilitating.”

Demetrios, spiritual leader of 1.5 million Greek Orthodox Christians, received an honorary doctorate from Fairfield and celebrated his 40th anniversary in the episcopacy.

-- CNS/Koadi Mathibedi

Bearing the cross
Girls carry the World Youth Day cross upon its arrival in the South African province of Eastern Cape earlier this year. One thousand young people welcomed the cross in the province of a country where 18 percent of adults are HIV positive. At the ceremony, Fr. Matthias Nsamba, youth chaplain of the Aliwal North diocese, gave the young people crosses of their own and told them to take them into hospitals and homes where people are dying of AIDS. The pope, at the end of his Nov. 28 general audience, spoke about the Dec. 1 commemoration of World AIDS Day. He exhorted “all people of goodwill” to combat the disease and the prejudice people who have AIDS often face. He said, “I am spiritually close to those who suffer because of this terrible disease. ... I assure all of them of my prayers.” UNAIDS estimated that in 2007 about 33.2 million people were living with HIV, 2.5 million became infected and 2.1 million died of AIDS.


Blair says he wasn’t a ‘nutter’

LONDON -- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says his religious faith, although rarely expressed in public, was “hugely important” to him. “If I am honest about it, yes, of course, it [faith] was hugely important. There is no point denying it,” Blair told the BBC in a TV interview scheduled for Dec. 2.

But “it’s difficult if you talk about religious faith in our political system” and if you do, “frankly, people ... think you’re a nutter,” he said.

His communications chief, Alastair Campbell, once tried to explain Blair’s reluctance to discussion his faith by saying, “We don’t do God” at the prime minister’s office.

His friends are convinced the former prime minister’s life has a solid religious base. Campbell now insists that his ex-boss “does do God, in quite a big way.”

But Blair remains reluctant to go into any details about his religion, including reports that he will join his wife Cherie as a Roman Catholic in a ceremony, possibly in December.

Homelessness called ‘pandemic’

VATICAN CITY -- Homelessness is “a global pandemic” that demands a Christian response and government intervention, said the Vatican’s secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers during an international conference Nov. 26-27.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto said more than a billion people are homeless or lack adequate shelter, and that number is on the rise. These “figures should startle, if not shock us, and they should goad us to greater pastoral action” and advocacy work aimed at tackling the root causes of homelessness and poverty, he said in a Nov. 26 address.

About 50 participants from all over the world met at the Vatican to share ways the church could continue to provide basic material assistance for people on the street and find new ways that promote their dignity and value.

Marchetto said the church must foster “communities of welcome,” which are “ecclesial communities willing not only to receive the homeless but also to accompany them with commitment.”

National Catholic Reporter uses the following news services: AsiaNews, Catholic News Service, Latinamerica Press, New America Media, Religion News Service, and UCA News.

National Catholic Reporter, December 7, 2007

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