NAIROBI and LAIKIPIA NATURE CONSERVANCY, KENYA -- A pressing reality of the 21st century is that an ever-diminishing globe will require an ever-expanding degree of tolerance and cooperation among an astounding array of differing convictions -- religious and political among the most contentious -- if we’re ever to approach anything resembling world peace. We simply can no longer ignore or avoid the other.
MANILA, Philippines -- Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila challenged new graduates Friday to imitate Christ's example of loving relationships, humility and service to God as they face unemployment and other post-college struggles.
"This is the hour we've been waiting for," Tagle told 446 graduates and their parents and guests at San Beda College in Mendiola, Manila. "This is the hour when true persons formed after the very person of God will glorify God."
Before handing out students' diplomas, San Beda officials, led by Rector-President Fr. Aloysius Maria Maranan, conferred on Tagle the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities.
"Tagle deserves this honor from the school because he embodies San Beda College's ideals of fides (faith), virtus (virtue) and scientia (knowledge)," wrote San Beda College's Board of Trustees in its petition to the government Commission on Higher Education.
It was the second week in January 1991. I was in the sanctuary of a large Catholic church in Baghdad. Every votive candle in the place was lit, no doubt in support of prayers for loved ones in anticipation of the massive U.S. bombing campaign, which was to be known as “Operation Desert Storm,” that was soon to commence.
A member of our group asked the priest whose side the church would be on in the forthcoming conflict. He replied, “The church can only be on one side: that of the victims.”
SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba -- In this Caribbean nation of 11.3 million, one the greatest challenges to Catholic evangelization comes from Cubans who practice traditional African religions.
The fusion of diverse spiritual currents was occurring even before the Catholic church began expanding throughout the world. When colonizers brought Christianity to the New World, it was expected that other religious systems would adhere to the mother church.
In recent decades, however, the church's vision on this matter has been adjusted. The new approach has been inculturation of local populations. It is a process of welcoming traditional popular religious expressions and focusing on a gradual transition toward full communion via evangelization.
In Cuba, this syncretism of mostly animist African religions mixed with mainstream Catholicism is popular, said Jesuit Fr. Juan Rovira, who considers himself an "avid student" of popular devotion.
"The only real contact we have with them is when they come to church," said Rovira, pastor of Holy Family Parish is Santiago de Cuba.
As the Arab Spring made its way to Syria a little more than a year ago, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and his government were prepared for the peaceful protestors. Assad unleashed his military to break up the protesters and sparked violent clashes. The U.N. estimates that the current death toll is 9,000. A U.N.-led diplomatic solution is being pressed by special U.N. envoy Kofi Annan. As the conflict between Assad's government forces and the protesters continues, the issue of religious persecution of Christians is a major concern for church leaders in the region.
More than two years after a massive earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti, much of the capital city remains in shambles, with nearly 500,000 people still living under tarps, a lack of clean water and the looming threat of disease, leaving some to wonder what was done with the relief money funneled through countless organizations that operate in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Egypt’s Coptic minority, the largest and most influential Christian community in the Middle East, already faced deep uncertainty about its future in the wake of the Arab Spring. Many Copts feel suspended between the promise of equality in a democratic state, after centuries of second-class citizenship, and the peril of an Islamic theocracy.
Now they also face a vacuum in leadership with the March 17 death of Pope Shenouda III, who for more than 40 years was the face and voice of Egypt’s 10 million Coptic Christians, representing 10 percent of the national population.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA -- While in Seoul for an award ceremony March 13, campaigners from Cambodia urged the South Korean government to ban using land mines and to scrap its stockpiles of mines and cluster munitions.
Mercy Sr. Denise Coghlan, founder of the Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines, and one of its activists, Song Kosal, were recipients of this year’s Tji Hak-soon Justice and Peace Award.
The Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is one of the smaller offices at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with only two full-time staffers. But the office may pack more punch for the dollar than many other initiatives because its work in helping to rebuild the churches in former communist countries is yielding a harvest of grace.
BANGKOK, THAILAND -- Longtime Burma watchers here are in a wait-and-see mode as diplomatic and business enthusiasm builds for the new civilian-garbed, military-installed government of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. They wait to see the results of the April 1 by-elections to fill 48 seats in the 440-member parliament.