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Christians face increasing persecution, congressman says

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The global persecution of Christians has gone from bad to worse, said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith at a congressional hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Smith, a New Jersey Republican, along with other U.S. House subcommittee members and various speakers gave testimony about religious hostilities against Christians worldwide. Speakers noted that religious persecution violates basic human rights.

Smith likened the persecution of Christians in Iraq to genocide.

"Christians remain the most persecuted group in the world and thus deserve special attention," he said.

Ukrainian church leader asks for prayers to resolve national crisis

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Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, head of the Ukrainian Catholic church, capped a weeklong visit to the United States by asking all people of goodwill to join Ukrainian Catholics in prayer to resolve the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine.

Each night at 9 p.m. -- 2 p.m. EST -- Ukrainians pray one Our Father and one Hail Mary for the intention for a peaceful and nonviolent resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.

Preview: Philippine Carmelites launch independent province

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A mission area of the Dutch Carmelites in the Philippines has emerged from a painful era of establishment with members and partners prepared to take on the challenge of carrying on as an independent province.

As first provincial of the Philippine Province of Blessed Titus Brandsma, "It makes me feel a little tense," Carmelite Fr. Christian Buenafe, 47, said at provincial headquarters in Quezon City, northeast of Manila. "We will run our own structure, finances, formation, leadership and governance."

Cardinal: Lebanese must coexist, get president elected in timely manner

Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai said the Maronite Catholic church could not remain a bystander as Lebanon neared an "existential crisis."

"We must return to the achievements reached by the Lebanese people when they devised the original national pact," Rai said, referring to the 1943 agreement that laid the foundation of Lebanon as a multiconfessional state. "Coexistence lies in belonging to a civilized project that brings together Muslims and Christians."

Syrians fleeing to Jordan say Homs residents starving from lack of food

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Syrians fleeing to neighboring Jordan from the besieged central city of Homs said some people there are starving to death for lack of food.

"People are dying of hunger especially, babies and young children," said Um Mohamed, the mother of four children, who fled with her family to this northern Jordanian town in mid-2013 after her son was hit in the chest with shrapnel from an exploding bomb.

"There is no milk, no basics are available," she said, citing phone conversations with family members stuck in Homs.

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