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Peace & Justice

Mo. lawmakers answer when life begins

It’s a question that has perplexed philosophers, theologians and scientists for thousands of years.

Pythagorean Greeks, early Christian church fathers, Talmudic rabbis, Sunni and Shia scholars, Hindu Brahmin and modern bioethicists have grappled with the fundamental, ultimately unknowable, mystery: At what point in our biological development are we infused with a soul?

At what point do we become human?

Missouri lawmakers have declared their answer. By withholding both his signature and his veto, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signaled that he agreed and recently allowed the legislative answer to become state law.

“The life of each human being begins at conception,” according to Senate Bill 793, which adds new regulations to the state’s 24-hour informed consent law for abortions. “Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

The bill makes Missouri the second state to adopt such language after a similar provision became law in South Dakota in 2005, and then survived a legal challenge in federal court in 2008.

Black Muslims hear echoes of Jim Crow

WASHINGTON -- Imam Mahdi Bray is feeling a sense of deja vu these days, with threats and attacks on Muslims reviving memories of his younger days working and marching alongside civil rights activists.

"For me and for America, these types of things have happened over and over again," said Bray, of the Muslim American Society.

He and other African-American Muslim leaders say the recent verbal and physical attacks against Muslims because of their faith are painful reminders of past discrimination felt by blacks because of their skin color.

Threats to burn Qurans recall the bombings of black churches, they say, and anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller's crusade against the proposed Park51 Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero summons memories of Bull Connor's orders to aim fire hoses at civil rights marchers in Alabama.

"When people are talking about exclusionary zones where Muslims cannot build houses of worship or cannot freely assemble, then it evokes memories of those exclusionary politics and exclusionary laws African-Americans had to deal with," said Imam Zaid Shakir, a professor at Zaytuna College, the nation's first Muslim college, in Berkeley, Calif.

A thank you to peace advocates

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We continue to remember fondly the clarity with which former Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen spoke out against nuclear weapons and the U.S. system of nuclear deterrence. It was in 1981 that Hunthausen termed the Trident nuclear submarine base in Bangor, Wash., “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.” These days the protests of these weapons by our church’s prelates have become more muted and nuanced. That said, we welcome and commend Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Bishop Robert W. Finn’s timely statement questioning the wisdom of a new $673 million ($1.2 billion over 20 years) nuclear weapons plant, which was dedicated Sept. 8 in Kansas City (see story here).

It is nothing less than outrageous that when our nation’s leaders are attempting to renegotiate a new global nuclear proliferation treaty, pressuring other nations (especially sworn enemies Iran and North Korea) from expanding their nuclear weapons programs, we move forward updating our own nuclear weapons systems even as we hide plans to build a new generation of nuclear weapons from the general public.

Quake strained Haitiís already ailing food system

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PETITE RIVIÈRE DE L’ARTIBONITE, HAITI -- It is no wonder that after the attendant terrors of January, the fertile valleys of Haiti’s north beckoned those who survived the earthquake that had laid waste Port-au-Prince and other Haitian cities.

This is green, lithe, quiet country, and if for no other reason, its seeming peace can be a balm for those seeking relief from the Haitian capital’s congestion and chaos.

Activists arrested at nuclear weapons plant groundbreaking

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Holding large signs and chanting refrains of "Build for peace, not for war," eight peace activists were arrested here Sept. 8 for blocking access to the official groundbreaking ceremony for a major new nuclear weapons production facility.

The acts of civil disobedience came six days after Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Kansas City-Saint Joseph diocese released a statement asking officials to reconsider the construction of the new plant and three weeks after 14 activists were arrested at the same site for a separate nonviolent peace action.

The new plant, which will make nonnuclear parts for nuclear weapons, is set to be the nation’s first new major nuclear weapons production facility in 32 years.

Stepping in front of buses carrying local, state and federal officials, activists halted the flow of people into the official ceremony for a few minutes as police gathered to arrest those who would not get out of the way and let the buses continue to move.

Making work a garden, not a nightmare

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Earth and Spirit

Not long ago, as I recalled bygone Labor Days, I dreamed this nightmare. Due to an acute shortage of folks to do service jobs because of rising anti-immigrant fervor, a new technology was sweeping the country. If the recently deceased were hooked up to car battery jumper cables, you could get another few weeks out of them; you just had to jolt them every eight hours.

'Contrived' mosque controversy aids potential terrorists

WASHINGTON -- Jewish, evangelical and Catholic speakers, some with backgrounds in national security and interfaith relations, called the controversy over plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque a few blocks from ground zero in New York "contrived" and likely to help those who would recruit potential terrorists.

"The individuals and organizations who are contriving this controversy seem to will that [a war with Islam] will come into existence," said Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army officer and professor of international relations at Boston University, in a Sept. 1 teleconference organized by the group Faith in Public Life. "It is absolutely imperative that we act together to deny them this."

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal the same day, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan said he was working with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders to identify clerics and laypeople to invite to interreligious discussions to work out conflicts as they occur.

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April 11-24, 2014

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