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CRS forced to close food program in Darfur

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BALTIMORE -- Catholic Relief Services announced that it will be forced to close its food program in the Sudanese state of Western Darfur at the end of March.

A statement from CRS headquarters in Baltimore did not list a reason for the program's closure, and a CRS spokeswoman in Baltimore said March 28 the agency would not comment further.

However, the previous day, Sara Fajardo, CRS spokeswoman in Africa, told Agence France-Presse that the Sudanese government had asked CRS to leave because it said it could not guarantee staffers' security. CRS remained in Darfur in 2009 when the government expelled 13 other aid agencies.

"One of their (government's) claims was that we were distributing Bibles. This is completely wrong. It is against all our operating principles," Fajardo said. "We are a humanitarian organization whose work is based on need and not creed. The majority of our staff in Darfur are Muslim."

Nigerian bishops initiate forum on oil industry's impact

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ABUJA, NIGERIA -- Catholic bishops, state and local government officials, oil executives and representatives of nongovernmental agencies met in Port Harcourt, the corporate and logistic hub of Nigeria’s oil industry, to address the issues of poor governance and poor oil industry practices that have bedeviled the Niger Delta region for decades.

On nuclear power, the warnings are clear

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Like Three Mile Island in the 1970s and Chernobyl in the 1980s, we will be studying the lessons of Fukushima for decades to come. But at least one thing is clear today: The benefits of nuclear power are too few, and the consequences of serious mishap too great, to make it a reliable component of the energy supply the world needs in the decades to come.

Nuclear power is simply too risky. It is a temptation world governments must resist.

Libya and the law of unintended consequences

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In the abstract, the term "no-fly zone" sounds benign, almost peaceful, like a schoolyard peacemaker stepping between two fists-drawn belligerents. All so easy.

No, the world’s civilized governments could not watch idly as Moammar Gadhafi’s military, on the ground and in the air, indiscriminately murdered thousands of his own country’s civilians, any more than we could have observed from the sidelines if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (does he now regret stepping aside?) ordered his military to attack those in Tahrir Square. In an age of instantaneous messaging, where foreign and military policy seems another reality television show, this would have somehow been too much to bear.

Darfur, not so much; Bahrain, our “interests” -- oil, hospitality to our troops, perhaps another Mubarak-like “solution” -- override our humanitarianism.

Gadhafi is no Mubarak, the former publicly swearing that “no mercy” would be demonstrated to Libyans who innocently stood in the way, let alone ragtag rebels who bravely, if somewhat naively, seek his head. For several weeks the world looked to the United States: Would we, the indispensable power, intervene?

Africans who sought refuge in Libya especially vulnerable

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SASKATOON, Saskatchewan -- Africans who sought refuge in Libya before the recent turmoil are particularly vulnerable and need protection now, said Ellen Erickson, refugee sponsorship representative for the Diocese of Saskatoon.

An already bad situation in Libya for refugees worsened with the outbreak of the internal conflict and Western airstrikes, said Erickson.

Missionaries grapple with leaving Japan

Wolfgang Langhans, a Tokyo-based field director for missionaries, calls the week since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan “the busiest and most stressful week of my life.”

But when those twin crises created a third—the threat of dangerous radiation leaks from a damaged nuclear plant—the balancing act between living out a missionary calling and keeping safe became particularly difficult.

Economic issues on Obama's trip agenda lead back to migration

WASHINGTON -- Much of the official itinerary of President Barack Obama's trip to Latin America March 20-23 deals with economic, development and trade issues, which to the thinking of Salvadorans ought to start with the issue of immigration.

Obama was to visit Brazil and Chile before concluding his trip with a swing through El Salvador.

Bishop: Interfaith tensions worsen in Ethiopia

OXFORD, England -- A Catholic bishop in Ethiopia said he thought interfaith tensions were worsening in western parts of the country.

After a rampage by Muslims left dozens of Christian churches in ruins, Christian leaders met and "pledged to prevent this from happening again," said Bishop Theodorus van Ruijven, the Dutch-born bishop of Nekemte. He also said Muslim leaders promised to help rebuild what was destroyed.

"But Islamic missionaries are coming from Somalia and preaching to local Muslims, telling them they'll be raised up and get to heaven sooner if they do something to strengthen the Islamic faith here," he told Catholic News Service in a March 17 telephone interview.

The bishop said Catholic churches were not directly targeted by the attackers, who destroyed Protestant and Orthodox churches and schools and ransacked private homes earlier in the month in Ethiopia's Oromia region. However, he added that the rapid expansion of Muslim communities had created tensions, fuelling wider uncertainties about the future.

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