Signs of the Times

Steps Toward Peace With Muslim World

A new report calling for stronger diplomatic relations between the United States and Muslims around the world is a step toward peace, said Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore (above). “It offers a very good approach to what can be done” and also stresses that the divide between the United States and the Muslim world is “not as wide as people make it out to be,” said the bishop, one of 34 American leaders who produced the 146-page document Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations With the Muslim World. The report was created by the Leadership Group on U.S.-Muslim Engagement, which included representatives from religious, business, military, foreign policy, academic, foundation and nonprofit circles. The group released the report Sept. 24, a day after briefing members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and members of Congress on its key points. Project members spent 18 months examining various polls and studies of Muslim and American attitudes and coming up with possible solutions for improving relations.

U.S. Bishops Stress Human Aspect of Bailout

Church leaders urged members of Congress and the Bush administration to keep the human and ethical dimensions of the economic crisis in mind as they design a financial bailout package for Wall Street. “This crisis involves far more than just economic or technical matters, but has enormous human impact and clear ethical dimensions which should be at the center of debate and decisions on how to move forward,” said Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., in a Sept. 26 letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and key House and Senate leaders. Bishop Murphy, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, also stressed responsibility, accountability, awareness of the advantages and limitations of the market, and the principles of subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good in the search for just and effective responses to the economic crisis. The House of Representatives rejected a $700 billion compromise bailout package Sept. 29.


More Deaths in Orissa

One woman was axed to death and 10 people were wounded as anti-Christian violence in Orissa entered a sixth week. The Sept. 30 killing raised the number of confirmed deaths to 47 in the violence that began in the Indian state Aug. 24. In a predawn attack, groups of armed Hindu extremists descended on Gadaguda and Rudangia villages in Orissa’s Kandhamal district and selectively attacked Christian homes, the Rev. Leo Parichha, the parish priest, told the Asian church news agency UCA News. The attackers came with gasoline bombs, swords, axes and knives and “brutally attacked sleeping families,” said the priest, who left the parish for safety in late August after the anti-Christian violence began. The priest’s parish includes both villages. On the night of Sept. 25, hundreds of fanatics destroyed the church, the priest’s house and the Missionaries of Charity convent in the parish compound.

Hanoi Priests Protest Misinformation

Priests in Hanoi have asked state-run media to stop spreading false information about their archbishop and Catholics in general. The priests say two state-run television channels misquoted Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi, who met city authorities Sept. 20 to discuss construction on the grounds of the former apostolic nunciature, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News. In a letter dated Sept. 21 and sent to television and radio stations as well as city officials, The Rev. Anthony Pham Van Dung, on behalf of local priests, said the two channels had broadcast “untrue reports” about Archbishop Kiet’s statement at the meeting. Local newspapers also quoted from the television reports. Archbishop Kiet’s statement “was truncated and separated from its context by you so as to...slander the archbishop and comment about him in an offensive way,” according to the letter. Earlier it was reported from Hanoi that the police are inspecting the computer activity of Catholics suspected of being involved in the protests. “You are in serious trouble should your browsing history include AsiaNews, Catholic News Agency, IndependentCatholicNews, VietCatholicNews, Zenit and others,” the correspondent warned.

Vatican Representative Addresses the United Nations

The global community must work together to recognize “the centrality of humans in all aspects of political and technological development,” the Vatican observer at the United Nations said on Sept. 29 during general debate at the 63rd session of the U.N. General Assembly. Archbishop Celestino Migliore focused his talk on a “preoccupation and inconsistency that exist today in the realm of international and national law, namely, that all that is technically possible must be legally licit.” He said the global approach to climate change reflects a belief that “not all environmental activity should be allowed and sanctioned by law because it is technically possible and economically profitable.” He said, “Indiscriminate deforestation, the dumping of radioactive waste and invasive and devastating acts of nature are often more expedient and technically possible, but because they provoke our consciences as well as our responsibility toward creation, we come to the decision to invoke the principle that even though it is possible it should not be legally licit.”

The approach changes “when passing from the ecological field to that of humans,” the archbishop said. “By its nature and structure, the United Nations normally creates neither the events nor the trends, but rather, serves as a sounding board where events and trends are submitted for debate and a coherent, consensual and timely response.” He turned attention also to an analysis of the interdependence among nations and the proper motives for mutual protection. “This year has been dominated by a number of challenges and crises: natural and man-made calamities, staggering economies, financial turmoil and fuel prices, the impact of climate change, local wars and tensions....”

One of the clear facts recognized by all is that every crisis presents a mixture of natural factors and elements of human responsibility. However, these are all too often compounded by tardy response, failures or reluctance of leaders to exercise their responsibility to protect their populations. “When speaking within these walls of the responsibility to protect,” the prelate added, “the common understanding of the term is found in the 2005 Outcome Document, which refers to the responsibility of the international community to intervene in situations where individual governments are not able or willing to assure the protection of their own citizens.... In the past, the language of ‘protection’ was too often a pretext for expansion and aggression. In spite of the many advancements in international law, this same understanding and practice tragically continues today.

“However, during the past year,” the archbishop continued, “there has been growing consensus and greater inclusion of this expression as a vital component of responsible leadership. The responsibility to protect has been invoked by some as an essential aspect of the exercise of sovereignty at the national and international levels, while others have relaunched the concept of the exercise of responsible sovereignty.... The ‘we the peoples’ who formed the United Nations conceived the responsibility to protect to serve as the core basis for the United Nations,” the archbishop concluded. “The founding leaders believed that the responsibility to protect would consist not primarily in the use of force to restore peace and human rights, but above all, in states coming together to detect and denounce the early symptoms of every kind of crises and mobilize the attention of governments, civil society and public opinion to find the causes and offer solutions.”

Earlier in the week Archbishop Migliore had said that not meeting the U.N. Millennium Development Goals meant to bring the world’s poorest countries out of poverty would be “a moral failure of the whole international community.” Failure to meet the goals, he added, would have “political and economic consequences even beyond the geographic boundaries of the L.D.C.’s,” the least developed countries.

Archbishop Migliore made these remarks Sept. 25 during a special U.N. session on the Millennium Development Goals. Described as a “high-level event,” it was convened by the U.N. secretary-general and the president of the U.N. General Assembly. The goals, established in 2000 and intended to be reached by 2015, address hunger, education, inequality, child and maternal health, H.I.V./AIDS and the environment.

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