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Iraqis between 'hope, fear' as U.S. troops withdraw



Hope and concern. This is how Iraq is experiencing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the cities, six years after the conflict that led to the fall of Saddam Hussein and a bloody civil war, according to Catholic prelates in Baghdad and Kirkuk.

Today, June 30, the official withdrawal of the U.S. combat troops from Iraq begins and should be completed by the end of 2011. Today, Iraqi forces officially assumed control of security in Baghdad and other urban areas.

"People are worried and afraid for the future," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk. "Yesterday, Christian families did not send their children to catechism classes for first communion, and neither will they in coming days. They are waiting to see what will happen, they have little confidence.”

A car bomb has killed at least 27 people in Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city. At least 45 other people were wounded when the car bomb exploded at a market, leaving smoldering rubble where people had been shopping for food and other goods.

Honduran coup leader a two-time SOA graduate


The general who overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras is a two-time graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, an institution that has trained hundreds of coup leaders and human rights abusers in Latin America.

Gen. Romeo Orlando Vásquez Velásquez toppled President Manuel Zelaya in a pre-dawn coup on Sunday, surrounding the presidential palace with more than 200 soldiers and tanks and tear-gassing a crowd outside. The president was abducted and taken to an Air Force base before being flown to Costa Rica.
The overthrow followed a showdown over a controversial term-limit referendum that was to have taken place the day of the coup.

The military moved quickly against media outlets in an attempt to stem the flow of news about the ouster and the protests that followed.

Jesuit Fr. Joe Mulligan provided NCR with a copy of an email he received about the media crackdown from fellow Jesuit, Fr. Ismael Moreno, director of Radio Progreso, the order’s radio station in Honduras.

Pakistanis, displaced by bombings, endure hardships


In early June, 2009, I was in the Shah Mansoor displaced persons camp in Pakistan, listening to one resident detail the carnage which had spurred his and his family’s flight there a mere 15 days earlier. Their city, Mingora, had come under massive aerial bombardment. He recalled harried efforts to bury corpses found on the roadside even as he and his neighbors tried to organize their families to flee the area.

“They were killing us in that way, there,” my friend said. Then, gesturing to the rows of tents stretching as far as the eye could see, he added, “Now, in this way, here.”

The people in the tent encampment suffered very harsh conditions. They were sleeping on the ground without mats, they lacked water for bathing, the tents were unbearably hot, and they had no idea whether their homes and shops in Mingora were still standing. But, the suffering they faced had only just begun.

One killed at funeral of Fr. Jean-Juste in Haiti


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- One of the thousands of mourners for Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste died June 18 following the Haitian priest's funeral in Port-au-Prince.

Jean-Juste, a Port-au-Prince archdiocesan priest, died in a Miami hospital May 27 at age 62. A passionate advocate for the impoverished in Haiti and for Haitian refugees in the United States, he had lived in the U.S. since the 1970s and founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami.

Although some news reports quoted eyewitnesses as saying the unidentified man who died after the funeral was killed by gunfire from U.N. peacekeeping forces, a statement from the U.N. mission to Haiti said the peacekeepers "categorically deny the allegations."

Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, a spokeswoman for the mission, told the Reuters news agency that U.N. soldiers fired about five shots into the air to disperse a crowd that was throwing rocks at them.

Scholars believe Iranian election results will stand


WASHINGTON -- Despite cries of voter fraud and the promise of a limited ballot recount, two U.S. Catholic scholars said they believe the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will stand.

"Nobody can really predict the outcome of the current situation in Iran," said Scott Alexander, director of Catholic-Muslim Studies at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, the largest Catholic graduate school of theology and ministry in the U.S. "My guess would be the short-term outcome would be another four-year term for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Young Catholics learn of Khmer Rouge horror


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- "Year Zero" is a blank for most Cambodians. For those born after the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 reign of terror, there are few visible signs of the period when communist leader Pol Pot tried to forcibly return the country to a pre-industrial age.

It was with this in mind that the Catholic Social Communications office in Phnom Penh decided to hold a workshop on May 23 for young Catholics to learn more about their country's painful past.

The office is also planning to take small groups of youths to the ongoing trial of Khmer Rouge cadre charged with involvement in what many have called genocide, including the trial of Tuol Sleng prison guard Kang Kek Iew, also known as Duch.

Equal rights key to peace in Palestine


As a member of a Catholic Worker Peace Team in Israel and the Israeli-Occupied West Bank, I asked everyone I met, “What will bring lasting peace?”

I asked this question in a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem which is under an Israeli demolition order, in a refugee camp outside Bethlehem, in the Israeli city which has been hit with the largest number of rockets from Gaza, in a Palestinian village where a beloved local was recently killed by Israeli soldiers during a peaceful protest against the seizure of more than half of the community’s farmland, in the Jewish center of Hebron, the West Bank’s most contested city, in Israeli and Palestinian taxis, in the office of an Israeli human rights advocate, in a Palestinian farmhouse adjacent to the West Bank’s largest Jewish settlement, and in Bethlehem University.

I listened to soldiers, professors, doctors, farmers, border guards, children, parents, and grandparents. I expected wide disagreement. I found a remarkable consensus instead. In broad terms, everyone I interviewed agreed with Pope Paul VI’s advice, “If you want peace, work for justice.”



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July 18-31, 2014


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