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Haiti, desperate poverty even before the earthquake

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Editor’s note: Tom Roberts, NCR editor at large, traveled to Haiti and the Dominican Republic in October with two other journalists, winners of Catholic Relief Services’ Eileen Egan Award for Journalistic Excellence. The trip was sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, which prepared the itinerary. As such, it serves as a backgrounder to the current disaster.

HAITI and DOMINICAN REPUBLIC -- Our small group and several dozen other people, most of them presumably from Haiti, embarked on a trip from the ground level of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., airport in late October. No one opened or inspected any of our bags or the various boxes going on board the small propeller-driven commuter plane. No one was required to go through any screening devices.

It was the first time since 9/11 that any of us -- three journalists and two staff members of Catholic Relief Services -- could recall leaving a U.S. airport for anywhere without having to go through even minimal security. In a later phone call to the airline counter, a man who claims he’d been loading passengers there for five years said the airline never conducted any security because it was small and isn’t considered a threat.

US grants temporary protected status for Haitians

WASHINGTON
Haitians currently living in the United States without legal status will be granted temporary protected status, allowing them to remain in the country and legally hold jobs, announced Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Jan. 15.

In a teleconference, Napolitano said temporary protected status will be extended to Haitians who were in the United States as of Jan. 12, the day a magnitude 7 earthquake flattened much of Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince.

The designation will continue for the next 18 months, she said, and people may apply immediately.

She said Haitians who are not currently in the United States should not attempt to travel there to qualify for the status. "They will not be eligible and will be repatriated," Napolitano said.

She said she understands that the dire conditions in Haiti make it "tempting to seek refuge elsewhere," but encouraged people to remain in their country to help in rebuilding.

Since the earthquake, calls have escalated to protect Haitians in the United States from deportation and allow them greater freedom to send money back to their homeland.

A downward spiral, but 'Christians will remain'

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Even a casual review of the Vatican's foreign policy interests over the last few decades would confirm that the Middle East -- in Christian parlance, the Holy Land -- is at the top of the list. In part, that's because the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is key not only to stability in the region, but to relationships between Islam and the West and between Christianity and Judaism. In part, too, it's because the Christian population of the Holy Land is in freefall, with the nightmare scenario being that one day soon there will be no Christians left in the land of Christ.

As one Arab Christian told The Jerusalem Post recently, speaking anonymously for fear of backlash: "We're trapped between two larger peoples that don't like each other … and they don't like us either."

Relatives of Haiti earthquake victims pray

MIAMI -- Martine Jeudi held photos of her aunt and other relatives in her hand at a Miami church Jan. 13 as she prayed for victims of the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Haiti Jan. 12 and devastated areas of Port-au-Prince, the capital.

"My aunt was killed," said Jeudi, 36, who came from Hollywood to attend a memorial prayer service at Notre Dame D'Haiti Church. "My other relatives are missing. The building (where they lived) was destroyed."

Catholic agencies prepare for long-term relief

Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services has been asked by the Vatican to coordinate the church's relief and recovery efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The U.S. bishops are asking parishes across the United States to take up a second collection Jan. 16-17 to help ease "the terrible suffering of our brothers and sisters in Haiti" after a magnitude 7 earthquake.

Moderate Muslims confront Islamic radicalism

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A recent report from Duke University praised U.S. and Canadian Muslim leaders for fighting to keep Islamic radicalism out of their communities by condemning terrorism, self-policing, and becoming active in politics.

Within days, in what seemed to confirm the "Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim Americans" report from Duke, a group of 20 imams -- 19 Canadian, one American -- issued a fatwa, or religious edict, condemning Islamic extremist attacks as an attack on all North American Muslims. The fatwa urged rank-and-file Muslims to "expose" radicals, and relay the message to Muslims abroad that they have religious freedom.

CRS expects 'thousands and thousands' Haiti dead, injured

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WASHINGTON
Catholic Relief Services was preparing for "thousands and thousands" of dead and injured people in the wake of the most devastating earthquake to strike Haiti in two centuries, said Karel Zelenka, the agency's country representative.

Among those reported dead were Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince and Zilda Arns Neumann, a pediatrician who founded the Brazilian bishops' children's commission and sister of Brazilian Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, retired archbishop of Sao Paulo.

A group of Montfort priests and seminarians initially reported to have died in Port-au-Prince were not even in the city and were not killed, a spokesman said.

In an e-mail from the capital, Port-au-Prince, Zelenka told his colleagues at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that damage was "incredible all around."

In response, CRS initially has committed $5 million to help survivors, said John Rivera, the agency's communications director.

Hume says anti-Christian bias fueled backlash

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WASHINGTON -- Fox News analyst Brit Hume, who was both widely praised and criticized for suggesting that golfer Tiger Woods should embrace Christianity to find true "redemption," said he fell victim to widespread media bias against Christianity.

"Instead of urging that Tiger Woods turn to Christianity, if I had said what he needed to do was to strengthen his Buddhist commitment or turn to Hinduism, I don't think anybody would have said a word," Hume told Christianity Today's Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

Catholic mission to fight HIV/AIDS in Sudan

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Catholic Medical Mission Board gets grant to fight HIV/AIDS in Sudan

NEW YORK -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given a five-year, $5.9 million grant to the New York-based Catholic Medical Mission board to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS in southern Sudan.

The project's goals are to reduce the incidence of new HIV infection through testing and counseling, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and behavior change to prevent sexual transmission of the virus.

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October 10-23, 2014

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