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Educators in Syria discuss school year start amid political turmoil

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Like many educators, Gabe and Theresa Kubasak spent the first part of September preparing for a new school year. They did so, however, under unusual circumstances.

Four years ago, the American couple founded the Iraqi Student Project (ISP), a program that seeks undergraduate education in the U.S. for young Iraqis displaced by war and ongoing violence in their homeland. As refugees in Syria and Jordan, these students cannot attend university there.

Located in the Syrian capital of Damascus, ISP is now operating in a country that is in the middle of a brutal crackdown with pro-reform protests eliciting violent government repression.

I recently questioned Huck and Kubasak, via email, on how the turmoil was affecting their work. Here is an edited version of our interview:

Nigerian bishops head: Gov't must control violence

LAGOS, Nigeria -- For the second time in as many weeks, a prominent member of the Nigerian bishops' conference has pushed the government to get a handle on violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect.

Archbishop Felix Alaba Job of Ibadan, president of the Nigerian bishops' conference, said that, within the past five years, security agencies had furnished governments at all levels with information on activities of the extremist Islamic sect, but nothing significant had been done to curtail their activities.

"We have spoken at length on it," he said Sept. 11, at the opening Mass of the Nigerian bishops' weeklong plenary in Abakaliki. "The blame as I know it is with the government ...."

"If you go to Maiduguri, you discover that their headquarters is at Central Railway quarters. What has the government done? At the first outbreak, I was there. I have been talking since then," he said.

Violence -- especially in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital -- has claimed hundreds of lives and resulted in the loss of property running into thousands of dollars.

Court: Catholic hospital must rehire divorcee

BERLIN -- A divorced doctor fired from his job at a Catholic hospital because he married another woman should be reinstated, a German court ruled Thursday.

The ruling by Germany’s highest labor court means that church organizations may fire someone if they are found not living up to church standards, but only if there is no overriding argument for the person to retain his job.

The case concerned a doctor at St. Vincent Hospital in Dusseldorf. According to a court press release, after he was divorced from his first wife, the doctor moved in with another woman, before marrying her in a civil ceremony.

The hospital then fired him, noting that when he was hired in 2000, he had signed documents promising to follow Catholic values.

The judges said that the hospital weakened its case by not disciplining the doctor when he was cohabitating and by not enforcing similar rules on non-Catholic employees.

They also noted that the man’s first wife had left him—and that the doctor and his new wife remained committed to church doctrine.

Church works for peace in Colombia

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BOGOTA, Colombia -- The Catholic Church in Colombia is actively involved in efforts to bring peace between the government and leftist rebels who have been engaged in a half-century-long war, said a Washington-based priest who recently visited the predominantly Catholic nation.

Father Juan Molina, director of the U.S. bishops' Office for the Church in Latin America, said he was impressed by the church's involvement in efforts to reach a settlement between the warring parties.

The rebels claimed they are defending the interests of the country's poor but finance their campaign through the drug trade, kidnapping and extortion. They also have been accused of widespread human rights abuses.

The Colombian government has been criticized for favoring a military solution to the conflict over negotiations while also committing human rights abuses. The government has argued that its actions are aimed at maintaining order and stability to protect the rights of citizens and private companies.

Japanese mark six months since disasters

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TOKYO -- The church bell tolled at 2:46 p.m., marking six months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan.

Throughout the nation Sept. 11, Japanese gathered for memorial services and to offer prayers for the more than 20,000 people who died and the hundreds of thousands made homeless in the disaster, which also triggered a nuclear meltdown.

The Japanese bishops' conference and the National Christian Council in Japan conducted a joint memorial service at the United Church of Christ's Shitaya Church. Approximately 180 people gathered for the service, which also had the support of the Japan Evangelical Association, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

The congregation offered prayers in memory of the victims, for the recovery of the worst-affected regions, and for a swift resolution to the nuclear crisis that arose in the wake of the tragedy.UCA News reported that Archbishop Peter Takeo Okada of Tokyo participated.

During the ecumenical gathering, Isao Tadokoro of Caritas Japan gave a short account of the Catholic Church's relief work in the disaster area.

Irish government defends comments on clergy abuse

DUBLIN -- The Irish government has stood by comments by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who charged that the Vatican attempted to "frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago."

In a one-page statement issued late Sept. 8, five days after the Vatican refuted the accusation, the government also welcomed the Vatican's expression of regret over the suffering of abuse victims.

Court rejects appeal involving murder of religious sister

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SAO PAULO (CNS) -- A court in the state of Para rejected an appeal by rancher Regivaldo Galvao, convicted of being one of the masterminds behind the February 2005 assassination of U.S.-born Sister Dorothy Stang.

With the Sept. 6 court decision an arrest warrant was issued for Galvao, who in April 2010 was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in the murder of Stang, 73, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and a naturalized Brazilian citizen.

The other four men involved in the murder are in jail, serving sentences that range from 17 to 30 years.

Stang, a native of Dayton, Ohio, lived in the Amazon region for nearly four decades. She worked closely with the Brazilian bishops' Pastoral Land Commission in favor of land rights for the poor and for sustainable development in the region.

Malawi priests condemn president's attack on bishop

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LILONGWE, Malawi -- Malawi's priests and religious have condemned the president's "irresponsible verbal attacks" on the head of the bishops' conference, Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza of Mzuzu.

"The threat of war is a major concern, especially coming from the head of state," the Association of Diocesan Catholic Clergy of Malawi, the Association of Religious (Women) Institutes of Malawi and the Association of Men Religious Institutes of Malawi said in a Sept. 3 statement.

Bishop Zuza invoked the ire of President Bingu wa Mutharika when, in a mid-August sermon, he said Malawi's social, political and economic problems "are of our own making, depending on our respective roles."

Responding to the bishop's remarks in an Aug. 25 speech in Blantyre, Mutharika said he would "deal with the nongovernmental organizations which are leading people to protest against my leadership," adding that his "patience is wearing thin, let us fight." He said people thought he was a fool, "but you're wrong because, when I spring up, you'll see."

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September 12-25, 2014

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