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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.

Cuba releases pro-life activist

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WASHINGTON -- Cuba released a renowned pro-life activist and political dissident, but sent mixed signals the next day when courts sentenced an American contractor to 15 years in prison for taking telecommunications equipment into the country.

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, 49, an activist first jailed in 1999 for denouncing Fidel Castro's abortion policies, was released from prison March 11, as announced by the Archdiocese of Havana, which has negotiated the release of 52 political prisoners since last summer. He was also among a group of 75 activists jailed in anti-government protests in 2003.

Upon his release, he told EFE, the Spanish news agency, that he intends to stay in Cuba.

"I've always lived in Cuba and I am of Cuba," he said. "I haven't ever harmed anybody, just given love, much love, and because of that I was harmed by the government."

In a teleconference from Havana March 14, Biscet signaled his intention to remain critical of the government, calling the Castro regime a "total dictatorship" that fears informed citizens.

In Nigeria, a palpable hunger for democracy

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ABUJA, NIGERIA -- Africa’s largest democracy and second-biggest economy -- Nigeria -- will hold national elections April 9. And in Nigeria, a nation where religion counts, religious people want to be counted.

Nigeria has a population of 155 million. With half its citizens, or 75 million, listed as Muslims, Nigeria has overtaken Egypt as the biggest Islamic country in Africa. Officially, Christians make up 40 percent of the population, though some sources put the figure at 48 percent, due to rapid growth of evangelical megachurches in the south.

Among Christians, Catholics are the largest denomination, comprising 20 percent of the nation. They are among “the strongest supporters of democracy,” Msgr. Obiora Ike told NCR. Ike directs the Catholic Institute for Development, Peace, Justice and Caritas in Enugu, Nigeria.

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September 12-25, 2014

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