National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Washington

Global religious hot spots get their own U.S. envoy

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As the Islamic State tears across Iraq and Syria this summer, sending religious minorities fleeing for their lives, Congress created a new job at the State Department -- one the president needs to fill immediately, say those who pushed for the position.

The job: "Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia."

Special U.S. collection urged to help those suffering in Middle East

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The president of the U.S. bishops' conference on Tuesday asked Catholic bishops across the country to take up a special collection for humanitarian needs and pastoral support for Christians and other victims of violence in the Middle East.

Amid the ongoing crisis in what is "the cradle of Christianity," the Catholic church "mourns the terrible suffering of Christians and other innocent victims of violence in Iraq, Syria and Gaza who are struggling to survive, protect their children and live with dignity in dire conditions," said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky.

Aim of poster to show border crossers 'are real people,' not 'illegals'

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A human rights center in Tucson, Ariz., has released a poster with the hope that it will bring a human face to those who cross the border between the United States and Mexico.

The poster, titled "The Things They Carried: A Memorial to Lives Lost on the Border" and sold by the Colibri Center for Human Rights, features more than 100 of the most common -- and some not-so-common -- items found on or near the bodies of men, women and children who died when they attempted a border crossing near Arizona from 2000 to 2009.

More than 100 religious, immigration activists arrested at White House

More than 100 religious leaders and activists were arrested Thursday in a White House protest aimed at halting deportations and aiding immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

The direct action sponsored by Church World Service and Casa de Maryland, an immigration advocacy group, brought leaders from New England to Hawaii to the nation's capital.

The U.S. Park Police completed the arrests of 112 people by 3 p.m., charging each with "blocking passage" on the sidewalk outside the White House, a misdemeanor, said Sidney Traynham, a spokesman for Church World Service.

Faith leaders testify in support of EPA's Clean Power Plan

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More than two dozen faith leaders rallied at public hearings hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency to testify in support of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan to cut greenhouse gases.

The plan was proposed June 2 and is designed to cut carbon pollution from power plants as part of the White House's Climate Action Plan. The plan aims to cut carbon pollution by 30 percent by 2030.

In addition to the public hearings Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, the EPA held similar meetings this week in Denver, Atlanta and Pittsburgh.

Holy Land still safe for pilgrimages, says head of U.S. tour group

The head of a Michigan-based tour company that leads trips to the Holy Land said the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas so far has not had an impact on pilgrimages he and his associates lead.

"Everything is still functioning like in any other normal business day. The sector of tourism industry to the Holy Land is not affected," said Steve Ray, a tour guide and CEO of Footprints of God in Ann Arbor.

Rabbi David Saperstein tapped as first non-Christian to serve as U.S. ambassador for religious freedom

President Barack Obama on Monday said he plans to tap Rabbi David Saperstein as the next ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, the first non-Christian to hold the job, which was created in 1998.

As ambassador, the man named as the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine in 2009 will head the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom and will be tasked with monitoring religious freedom abuses around the world.

Obama administration says it plans opt-out alternative on mandate

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The Obama administration has filed a brief with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver indicating it plans to develop an alternative for Catholic and other religious nonprofit employers to opt out of providing federally mandated contraceptives they object to including in their employee health care coverage.

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