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Philippine government and rebels sign peace agreement

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The government of President Benigno Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a landmark peace agreement Oct. 16 aimed at ending four decades of conflict on the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict as the mainly Muslim south has sought greater autonomy within the Christian majority country.

Negotiators from both sides signed the “framework agreement” at the presidential palace in Manila, with Aquino and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

Bhutan bans religious activities ahead of election

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Political leaders in the small Buddhist nation of Bhutan have announced a nearly six-month ban on all public religious activities ahead of its upcoming elections, citing the Himalayan nation’s constitution, which says that “religion shall remain above politics.”

A notification by the Election Commission of Bhutan asks people’s “prayers and blessings” for the second parliamentary election, expected in June 2013. But it also states that religious institutions and clergy “shall not hold, conduct, organize or host” any public activity from Jan. 1 until the election.

Kenyan churches say herbs threaten HIV/AIDS patients

Church leaders are pressing the Kenyan government to scientifically test herbal medicines that are used by millions to manage and treat diseases, saying the nontraditional therapies could be putting patients' health at risk.

The leaders say HIV/AIDS patients and others suffering chronic conditions are widely using the medicines, whose efficacy is unknown.

As South Sudan progresses, church leaders 'talk hard' about problems

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More than a year after national independence, relations between church and state in South Sudan are experiencing growing pains.

"I am happy with the government and with (President Salva Kiir). He's a Catholic and he prays in our church when he's at home," Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba told Catholic News Service. "But it doesn't seem as if the government is as willing to listen to the church as before."

Jewish and Christian groups at impasse over U.S. aid to Israel

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An established interfaith group is in danger of disintegrating as major American Jewish groups and prominent mainline Protestant churches differ over U.S. aid for Israel -- a long-standing argument that the group was established, in part, to diffuse.

Leaders of Reform and Conservative Judaism, the American Jewish Committee, and other Jewish groups sent a letter Wednesday (Oct. 17) to their Christian counterparts on the Christian-Jewish Roundtable saying they would not be attending a long-planned Oct. 22-23 meeting.

Franciscan martyrs hailed during beatification in Czech Republic

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Fourteen Franciscan priests were beatified in the Czech Republic, four centuries after they were tortured to death by Protestant forces in a Catholic monastery.

Presiding at the Oct. 13 ceremony at historic St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes, described the men as "heroic monks" whose actions in the face of violence can serve as an inspiration to modern-day people of faith to overcome evil with good.

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September 26-October 9, 2014

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