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In Timbuktu, majority Muslims, minority Christians reject extremists

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In this ancient city that has become synonymous with the ends of the earth, the recent terrorism of Islamist extremists belies long years of peaceful Muslim-Christian coexistence.

"This city is 99 percent Muslim, but all of us are tolerant. We preach tolerance. Islam teaches us to respect all religions," Abdrahamane Ben Essayouti, the chief imam of the fabled desert city, told Catholic News Service.

The Rev. Moha Ag Oyahitt agrees. He's a Baptist pastor who fled Timbuktu for Bamako, the nation's capital, when the al-Qaida-linked terrorists took over the town.

Bishops find problems in Colombia, Peru, echo issues at home in U.S.

Conflicts over natural resources and land rights in places like Peru and Colombia echo similar problems in the United States, said U.S. bishops who visited the two countries in late June.

"We came to express solidarity with the church in Peru and Colombia, that we are one family in Christ, and the concerns of one part of the family are the concerns of the other," Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., told Catholic News Service.

European churches welcome EU move to link aid to religious freedom

Churches in Europe have welcomed pledges by the European Union to make financial help for countries around the world conditional on their protection of religious freedom.

The Brussels-based Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, COMECE, said Tuesday that action was needed "given the systematic and increasing violations of freedom of religion by some governments and non-state actors."

Syrian priest killed during rebel attack on Franciscan convent

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A 49-year-old Syrian priest and hermit was killed Sunday, apparently when a group of rebels attacked the Franciscan Convent of St. Anthony in Ghassanieh, a village in the north near the Turkish border.

Franciscan Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, told Vatican Radio on Monday that Fr. Francois Murad was not a Franciscan, but had taken refuge in the convent when it became clear he was not safe at the Syriac Catholic hermitage he was building nearby.

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