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Philippines reproductive health bill survives Catholic 'Prayer Power'

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QUEZON CITY, Philippines -- On a voice vote, the Philippines House of Representatives Aug. 6 ended debate on a reproductive health bill that has been hotly contested in the chamber and strongly opposed by the country's Catholic hierarchy since it was introduced in March 2011.

The vote followed a weekend of prayer vigils and rallies organized by the Catholic church that drew tens of thousands to oppose House Bill 4244, titled Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development.

Social responsibility groups ask ABC, NBC to report global banking manipulation

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WASHINGTON -- It's not exactly sexy or easy to report, but why did ABC World News and NBC Nightly News totally ignore recent revelations of one of the biggest global banking scandals ever?

That's the question three U.S. religious organizations devoted to social responsibility in financial affairs raised in early August.

Expert: Peace for Syria will not come from the outside

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Syria's 18-month revolution has already claimed the lives of 20,000 people. What began as an "Arab Spring" rebellion for reform is fast becoming a full-scale civil war of regional, perhaps global significance, according to many observers.

The escalation in fighting in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Aleppo in early August, along with an announcement by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that he would resign as special envoy to Syria after his term expired this month, seemed to confirm this view.

To better understand the war in Syria, NCR spoke with Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Bennis has been a writer, analyst and activist on Middle East and U.N. issues for many years. Her numerous books include primers on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the U.S.-Iran crisis, and the U.S. war in Afghanistan. In late June, she authored "Syria: No to Intervention, No to Illusions," an essay widely circulated on the Web. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

Priest's homily leads to deportation from Zambia

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LUSAKA, Zambia -- Zambian authorities deported a Rwandese Catholic priest after he was detained for two days and questioned for preaching about poverty and justice for the poor during a Mass.

Edgar Lungu, minister of home affairs, confirmed that Father Viateur Banyangandora, pastor of the parish in Lundazi, Zambia, was sent to his homeland Aug. 1. He declined to say why the priest, 40, was deported.

"Father Banyangandora's conduct was found to be a danger to peace and good order in Zambia," Lungu said.

Zambian church officials had no immediate comment on the deportation.

Father Banyangandora was picked up at his residence by police at about 5 p.m., July 30, and taken to Lusaka, the Zambian capital, for questioning, said Father Evan Sakala, the parish's parochial vicar.

Father Sakala explained that police pointed to comments that Father Banyangandora made in which he castigated the government over its handling of an impasse between cotton growers and cotton ginners. Authorities, Father Sakala said, apparently considered the comments capable of inciting people to rise against the government.

HIV stigma, while declining, still a stark reality for some in Zambia

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This story is the second in a series looking at HIV and AIDS in Zambia.

LUSAKA, Zambia -- Press visits can be a boon for journalists. If done well, they allow what is most needed for good reporting: access to people willing to talk.

So it was recently when I visited Zambia on a media tour sponsored by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a Geneva, Switzerland-based international financing institution that has provided $632 million in funding to battle the three diseases in southern Africa nations. Zambia is one of 150 countries in which the Global Fund allocates funding.

In the case of AIDS, funding has gone to various programs, many of them run by a network of Catholic and Protestant church institutions called Churches Health Association of Zambia.

The trip was a rich, full experience, allowing a group of journalists based in France, South Africa and the United States a chance to talk to a wide spectrum of Zambian society on the eve of the recent XIX International AIDS Conference, held July 22-27 in Washington.

Seven Chinese priests forced from parishes following illicit ordination

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HARBIN, China -- Chinese government officials have forced seven priests in Heilongjiang province who resisted the illicit episcopal ordination of Father Joseph Yue Fusheng of Harbin to leave their parishes, local Catholic Church sources said.

The action was taken, the sources said, to force the priests to "repent for their wrongdoing," reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

The priests are either staying with parishioners, returned to their hometowns or have fled to other provinces, according to the sources.

Prior to the July 6 ordination, religious officials within the Chinese government warned that disobedient priests would face dire consequences. In recent weeks, they ordered priests with "dissatisfactory performances" to take three months of leave for self-examination, sources said.

The seven priests were either absent from the ordination or openly expressed their opposition to Father Yue, who did not receive a papal mandate and is seen as being too close to the government.

Zambia pushes for continued education, medication for HIV/AIDS patients

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This story is the first in a series looking at HIV and AIDS in Zambia.

LUSAKA, Zambia -- Sr. Mary Roche looked around at her students in the Mary Aikenhead Open Community School and said there were very few who have not been touched in some way by the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

"It's dreadful, dreadful," said Roche, 68, speaking with a quiet Irish lilt that does not betray her concern, passion or even anger about what HIV and AIDS have done to this southern African nation of 13 million.

HIV's deleterious effects are seen in ways both large and small, including people who are often sick and leaving work to find treatment and families having to channel day-to-day energies -- and parceling out small incomes -- to help the ill get to hospitals and clinics.

This, in turn, perpetuates cycles of poverty, illness and hunger, said Roche, a member of the Religious Sisters of Charity who has worked at the Lusaka school since 2008.

A little office that reaches a continent

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The offices of the Africa Faith and Justice Network are tucked into a corner of the fourth floor of a building on the campus of Trinity College in Washington, D.C. On the wall, a map of Africa is covered with pins to which are tied strings leading to little slips of paper that surround the map. Each slip of paper lists the name of the country and the different religious orders working within its borders. This little office reaches an entire continent.

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August 15-28, 2014

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