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Religion parliament pulls fundamentalist, humanist protests

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The Parliament of the World's Religions opened Dec. 3 in Melbourne, Australia where some 8,000 people are gathered to discuss issues such as climate change, indigenous rights and the West's relationship with Islam. Edmund Chia, on the faculty of the Catholic Theological Union, is there and filing for NCR. This is his second report.

Melbourne
By Edmund Chia

We have been greeted each morning by a group of Christians bearing banners protesting the very idea of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Their main issue is that the Parliament is “intellectually dishonest at best,” claimed one of the protesters, as “these people are addressing different notions of truth” while truth, the protester asserts, “is a person, the person of Jesus Christ.” For the Bible clearly states that “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6).

It is thus “sacrilegious for our Christian government to spend $4.5 million bringing people together to talk about truths in religions when we should not trust religions in the first place.”

Parliament of World Religious opens in Australia

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Melbourne, Australia
One of the world's largest inter-faith festivals has opened in Australia. Up to 8,000 people are expected at the Parliament of the World's Religions - among them is the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

During the gathering, which opened Dec. 3 in Melbourne, delegates will discuss issues such as climate change, indigenous rights and the West's relationship with Islam.

Native American leaders, rabbis from Israel and Buddhist monks from Vietnam will join Muslim scholars, Hindu philosophers and representatives of the various Christian denominations at the event. The six-day parliament convenes every five years

On behalf of the spiritual ancestors and the traditional owners of Melbourne, I invite you to Melbourne in 2009, for the Parliament of the World’s Religions to share in the traditions, culture and spirit of Australia. It is a traditional custom of Australian Aboriginal communities to give permission to people who wish to enter the country.

Mexican bishops call out drug cartels, politicians

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CUAUTITLAN IZCALLI, Mexico -- The Mexican bishops' conference rebuked narcotics-trafficking cartels for their murderous ways and demanded that Mexico's politicians crack down on the corruption and impunity that permits the illicit drug industry to flourish.
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The bishops' Nov. 12 letter -- a long-anticipated response to the issue of violence in Mexico -- also called on all Mexicans, including senior Catholic leaders, to take responsibility for abating the drug- and crime-related violence that has claimed more than 13,000 lives over the past three years.

After 20 years, Salvadorans remember slain martyrs

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San Salvador, El Salvador
Salvadorans from every segment of society gathered here Nov. 14- 16 to commemorate the 1989 murders of six Jesuits, and their housekeeper and her daughter.

Many used local events to reflect on El Salvador's progress since the end of the country's civil war in 1992.

It was 20 years ago that a Salvadoran military unit broke into the grounds of Central American University, brutally killing Jesuits Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín Baró, Segundo Montes, Joaquín López y López, Amando López and Juan Ramón Moreno, as well as their housekeeper, Elba Ramos, and her daughter, Celina.

At the entrance to the university, only a short walk from the courtyard where the priests and the women were executed and where they are buried in the university's chapel, students collected supplies to contribute to disaster relief efforts after heavy rains Nov. 8 that led to mudslides, killing 160 people and leaving more than 12,000 homeless.

Carrying out the university commitment to social justice, several noted, is one way students could remember the Jesuits. “This is what they stood for, helping the poor,” one said.

Number of hungry in the world tops 1 billion

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GENEVA and ROME -- Despite record high grain crops, the number of undernourished people in 2009 reached the historic high of 1.02 billion, about 100 million more than in 2008, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and a coalition of religious, human rights and development groups.

The increase in hunger, the coalition said, was caused by governments’ and international institutions’ failure to act.

Honduran bishops hope talks bring just, peaceful solution

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- One day after the start of talks in the Honduran political crisis, the country's Catholic bishops appealed for calm and called for a "just and peaceful" solution.

"We cannot continue in uncertainty, personal and social tension, and economic breakdown," the bishops said in a statement dated Oct. 8. "The people of Honduras have placed great hope in this national dialogue, and those hopes cannot be frustrated, because it would lead to great disillusionment and increased personal and social tension."

A consistent ethic of life, Africa-style

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Rome

tThough this is perhaps a terrible over-generalization, Catholics in the United States and Europe sometimes fall into the trap of listening to only half of what the African church has to say. When African Catholic leaders condemn poverty, war, and racial injustice, Western liberals cheer; when those same Africans decry abortion and homosexuality, conservatives feel validated.

tThe hard truth for both left and right, however, is that African Catholics often don’t fit into Western ideological categories. They can be ferociously traditional on matters such as sexual ethics, and yet remarkably progressive in areas such as economic policy and ecology.

tIf a label is needed for all that, one might it call “a consistent ethic of life, Africa-style.”

Irish seminarians reach 10-year high

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DUBLIN -- The number of Irish men entering the seminary to become Roman Catholic priests has risen to a 10-year high following years of dwindling vocations.

The Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors for the Catholic Church in Ireland said that 36 new seminarians were about to begin studying for the priesthood in Irish dioceses. The announcement came against the backdrop of a recent damning government report about the abuse of children in Catholic institutions.

Lay missionary: Conflict in Honduras between poor, wealthy

Although ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya returned to his country, the situation is not simply a matter of a conflict between two politicians, said an American lay missionary in Honduras.

The real conflict in Honduras is between the poor and wealthy, said John Donaghy, assistant director of the church charitable agency Caritas in the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras.

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