Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Angry Public Servants Don't Serve America

As cable demagogues and bloggers compete for America’s top ranter, moderates like me (i.e., most Americans) are getting left in the dust. And it’s getting uglier by the day.

It’s not easy being a political vegetarian.

Recently I appeared on a highly rated cable program discussing an issue of the day. My take happened to be somewhat bipartisan and collegial. During the break the host turned to me and said, “McKinnon cut the Kumbaya crap and give me some red meat.”

I know how to drive activity on a blog post. Simply say anything in defense George Bush. And I mean anything.

This is where there is a huge disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country. Most people I know are not highly partisan. Most are fairly centrist, a little left or a little right, but not on the fringe. And increasingly, they don’t feel like they have a representative voice anymore.

There just isn’t a lot of nuance or middle ground in the blogosphere, on talk radio, or cable TV. You are a shirt or a skin.

For a while the media accused incumbent presidential administrations of running permanent campaigns. But, now it’s the media that can’t put down the crack pipe of political conflict because it drives ratings.

It is interesting that CNN, the “noneditorial, middle-of-the road” cable news network, just fell to third place, falling behind Fox and MSNBC, which made a strategic decision to become give up objectivity for a lurch to the left.

And it’s not just the lurching to the left and right that is troublesome, it’s venom-and bile-filled tone. Think Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World.” What a wonderful daily mission that is.

I know how to drive activity on a blog post. Simply say anything in defense of George W. Bush. And I mean anything. The haters come out of the woodwork. Or, for that matter, say anything laudatory about Barack Obama. Same thing. Doesn’t matter. It is simply unacceptable anymore to suggest that our public servants may actually be doing, if not a pretty good job, at least the best they could be doing under the current circumstances.

It’s simply impossible to have any moderate political discourse. Impossible to put forth an argument and not instantly have your motives questioned. It’s not OK just to be on the wrong side of an issue—you have to be bad, misguided, ill-informed. Blame it on the evolutionary Darwinism of the media. Blame it on redistricting. Blame it on anything, but it’s hard to deny.
I describe myself as a Connecticut Republican. Which is shorthand for a moderate Republican. Of course, there are no more Republicans left in Connecticut.

I admit that I’m just a longtime political hack without much credibility to talk for the man on the street. But I do know that a healthy percentage of the people I talk to these days increasingly feel like no one represents them anymore. Not in Congress. Not in the media. Not anywhere. And they are the majority.

But the angry minority is running the show these days.

And it’s getting uglier by the day.

Read it here.

As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, causes, and individuals, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono. McKinnon is co-chair of Arts & Labs, a collaboration between technology and creative communities that have embraced today’s rich internet environment to deliver innovative and creative digital products to consumers.

Rhetoric Adjustment as Obama Heads to Europe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the Obama administration has indeed abandoned the term "global war on terror."

The top U.S. diplomat told reporters Tuesday that the Obama administration has quit using that line to describe the effort to fight terrorism around the world.

"The administration has stopped using the phrase and I think that speaks for itself," Clinton said.

Clinton spoke as she headed to Europe for a week of diplomatic meetings. The phrase "war on terror" is widely disliked in Europe and elsewhere overseas, where even close U.S. allies suggested it was overly militaristic and perhaps counterproductive.

It is also now associated with a range of Bush administration policies such as harsh interrogation practices that President Barack Obama has pledged to abandon.

Read it all here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Democracies Must Act to Defend Tamil

The horror that is unfolding in Sri Lanka becomes possible because of the silence that surrounds it. There is almost no reporting in the mainstream Indian media — or indeed in the international press — about what is happening there. Why this should be so is a matter of serious concern.

From the little information that is filtering through it looks as though the Sri Lankan government is using the propaganda of ‘the war on terror’ as a fig leaf to dismantle any semblance of democracy in the country, and commit unspeakable crimes against the Tamil people.

Working on the principle that every Tamil is a terrorist unless he or she can prove otherwise, civilian areas, hospitals and shelters are being bombed and turned into a war zone. Reliable estimates put the number of civilians trapped at over 200,000. The Sri Lankan Army is advancing, armed with tanks and aircraft.

Meanwhile, there are official reports that several “welfare villages” have been established to house displaced Tamils in Vavuniya and Mannar districts. According to a report in The Daily Telegraph (Feb 14, 2009), these villages “will be compulsory holding centres for all civilians fleeing the fighting”. Is this a euphemism for concentration camps?

The former foreign minister of Sri Lanka, Mangala Samaraveera, told The Daily Telegraph: “A few months ago the government started registering all Tamils in Colombo on the grounds that they could be a security threat, but this could be exploited for other purposes like the Nazis in the 1930s. They’re basically going to label the whole civilian Tamil population as potential terrorists.”

Given its stated objective of “wiping out” the LTTE, this malevolent collapse of civilians and “terrorists” does seem to signal that the government of Sri Lanka is on the verge of committing what could end up being genocide.

According to a UN estimate several thousand people have already been killed. Thousands more are critically wounded. The few eyewitness reports that have come out are descriptions of a nightmare from hell. What we are witnessing, or should we say, what is happening in Sri Lanka and is being so effectively hidden from public scrutiny, is a brazen, openly racist war.

The impunity with which the Sri Lankan government is being able to commit these crimes actually unveils the deeply ingrained racist prejudice, which is precisely what led to the marginalisation and alienation of the Tamils of Sri Lanka in the first place.

That racism has a long history, of social ostracisation, economic blockades, pogroms and torture. The brutal nature of the decades long civil war, which started as a peaceful, non-violent protest, has its roots in this.

Death Squads
Why the silence? In another interview Mangala Samaraveera says, “A free media is virtually non-existent in Sri Lanka today.”

He goes on to talk about death squads and ‘white van abductions’, which have made society “freeze with fear”. Voices of dissent, including those of several journalists, have been abducted and assassinated. The International Federation of Journalists accuses the government of Sri Lanka of using a combination of anti-terrorism laws, disappearances and assassinations to silence journalists.

There are disturbing but unconfirmed reports that the Indian government is lending material and logistical support to the Sri Lankan government in these crimes against humanity. If this is true, it is outrageous.

What of the governments of other countries? Pakistan? China? What are they doing to help, or harm the situation?

In Tamil Nadu the war in Sri Lanka has fuelled passions that have led to more than ten people immolating themselves. The public anger and anguish, much of it genuine, some of it obviously cynical political manipulation, has become an election issue.

It is extraordinary that this concern has not travelled to the rest of India. Why is there silence here? There are no ‘white van abductions’—at least not on this issue. Given the scale of what is happening in Sri Lanka, the silence is inexcusable.

More so because of the Indian government’s long history of irresponsible dabbling in the conflict, first taking one side and then the other. Several of us including myself, who should have spoken out much earlier, have not done so, simply because of a lack of information about the war. So while the killing continues, while tens of thousands of people are being barricaded into concentration camps, while more than 200,000 face starvation, and a genocide waits to happen, there is dead silence from this great country.

It’s a colossal humanitarian tragedy. The world must step in. Now. Before it’s too late.

Source: Pakistan Dawn.com

Mayor Durán Muñoz Implicated in Shooting

SOURCE: Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET), Mexico City(CEPET/IFEX) - On the morning of 28 March 2009, the home of Juan Antonio Zavala Hernández, editor of the weekly "Mi Ciudad" was shot at in the municipality of Romita, Guanajuato state, central Mexico. Nobody was injured in the incident.

Zavala Hernández said the building, which also houses the "Mi Ciudad"offices, was hit 10 times. He added that he suspects the person behind the attack is Mayor Felipe Durán Muñoz, of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), who has been harassing him for some time.

The editor said that on the day of the incident, a wake was held at a house next door to his, and those in attendance who witnessed the attack told him that the assailants were travelling in a white Ford Explorer. According to Zavala Hernández, this description corresponds with that of a vehicle owned by the mayor.

Zavala Hernández said that Durán Muñoz has harassed him and other "Mi Ciudad" employees on several occasions. The last time was on 18 March.

In December 2008, Zavala Hernández and reporter Carlos Durán Rangel launched a criminal complaint against Durán Muñoz for causing injury, issuing death threats and damaging equipment.

A the beginning of December, the "Mi Ciudad" editor received a telephone call from an unidentified individual who said, "Stop publishing lies because your lives are in danger." Zavala Hernández said that although the person did not identify himself, he realised that it was the mayor.

Two days later, Durán Muñoz assaulted Durán Rangel, a reporter and photographer for "Mi Ciudad". The incident took place when Durán Rangel went to a location where arrangements had been made for him to take promotional photographs. The mayor also destroyed Durán Rangel's camera.

Zavala Hernández told CEPET that "Mi Ciudad" has published a number of complaints made by citizens about the mayor's administration, in addition to photographs that show Durán Muñoz in a drunken state.

According to Zavala Hernández, Durán Muñoz initiated legal action against "Mi Ciudad" for "damaging his image" and "extortion" but the complain tfailed to proceed because there was no evidence to support hit claims.

CEPET calls on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation in order to bring those responsible for the attack on Zavala Hernández to justice.

The organisation views attacks on journalists and media outlets as an attack on society as a whole since it jeopardises the right of citizens to receive information.

For further information on the Durán Rangel case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99426

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Shrinking Episcopal Church

“In prior years the Committee on the State of the Church often heard the criticism that our church seemed unwilling to recognize the presence of a major source of internal controversy that some argued was having an impact on our common life, as reflected in declining membership and attendance statistics,” the Blue Book Report states. “The metaphor most often used was that we ‘failed to acknowledge the elephant in the room’, referring to what many viewed as the momentous decision by the 74th General Convention (2003) to consent to the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire.”

There are some indications that what the committee describes as “tensions” are growing in congregations. In a similar survey undertaken in 2005, 37 percent of congregations reported serious conflict that resulted in at least some members leaving. About one-third of those responding in 2005 attributed the conflict to decisions made during the 2003 General Convention. In a similar survey conducted in 2008, 64 percent of congregations reported some level of conflict over the ordination of homosexual clergy, with most reporting such conflict to be serious.

“Overall, 47 percent of Episcopal congregations had serious conflict over this issue, 40 percent indicated that some people left and 18 percent indicated that some people withheld funds,” the committee report states. “Furthermore, the rate of decline in Average Sunday Attendance from 2003-2007 among congregations with serious conflict over the ordination of gay clergy was 35 percent higher than congregations with no conflict over the issue (and accounted for more than double the aggregate loss).” Read the full story here.

Another report says, "In the Episcopal Church, size apparently doesn't matter. As the church shrinks, its cries for inclusivity and diversity grow louder and louder. The latest figures for Episcopal Church attendance do not augur well."

The 77th annual edition of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, long a highly regarded chronicler of growth and financial trends of religious institutions, records a slight but startling decline in membership of the nation's largest Christian communions. In 2007, The Episcopal Church said it had 2,116,749 baptized members down 1.76 percent. A more accurate reading of TEC, based on Fast Facts from a church source, showed that Average Sunday Attendance, had gone from 765,326 to 727,822 in 2007. While 2008 is not known at this time, nor are the first two months of 2009, it is hard to imagine that the church can still claim 700,000 active members.

A survey in mid 2008, before the economy tanked, revealed that the proportion of parishes in some or serious financial difficulty almost doubled from 2000 to 2005, increasing from 13% to 25% and then remained unchanged for 2008. 26.4% of congregations have average Sunday attendance of less than 35. A majority (62%) of Episcopal parishes and missions report that more than half of their members are age 50 and above. 90% of Episcopal congregations reported having conflicts or disagreements in the last five years. 47% of Episcopal congregations report serious conflict over the ordination of gay priests/bishops. Overall, 63% of Episcopal parishes have at least one full-time paid clergy. Another 25% are served by part-time clergy, priests, or by seminary students. The remainder report having no clergy at all or that they are served by supply or interim priests. 11% of Episcopal congregations report that they have no youth in the church and 58% have 10 or fewer youth among their active members or regular participants. Only 20% of Episcopal congregations have 20 or more youth actively involved.

The overall picture is not comforting. Only one diocese, South Carolina showed any sign of growth. The aggressive Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMIA), headquartered in Pawleys Island, just miles down the road from the Diocese of South Carolina's headquarters in Charleston is making inroads in that part of the country, no doubt to the chagrin of Bishop Mark Lawrence.

While TEC slowly sinks, news comes that the yet to be inaugurated Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is making great strides forward. A story in today's digest shows remarkable strength even before it makes its official debut in June, according to figures revealed by its leaders.

Read it all here.

UK: Debaptism has Political Ramifications

Friday, 27th March 2009
By: Toby Cohen

Fifteen hundred people paid to be ‘debaptised’ in the UK last week alone, as a new trend threatens to undermine the place of the Church of England.

The National Secular Society (NSS) has provided a ‘certificate of debaptism’ on its website for five years which has been downloaded by more than 100,000 people. They have recently introduced a new parchment copy for £3 which has proved incredibly popular, but the Church is refusing to recognize a need for the procedure.The recipient of the certificate declares they “reject all [the Church’s] Creeds and all other such superstition in particular, the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed by Baptism of alleged Original Sin, and the evil power of supposed demons.”It continues: “I wish to be excluded henceforth from enhanced claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics used, for example, for the purpose of securing legislative privilege.”

The NSS have asked the Church if they will follow the Catholic example and provide an official procedure for undoing baptism.

A letter from the Church’s legal adviser Stephen Slack to NSS president Terry Sanderson said: “The Church of England has no reason from its point of view for maintaining a formal record of those who have renounced their baptism: it is content simply to accept that those who have explicitly repudiated their baptism and take no part in the life of the Church should not be regarded as members of it in the more general sense.”

The Church insists that it only collects data on attendance, the number of those who have been baptised in the Church of England in the year in question; and the number of people whose names are entered on the electoral rolls maintained by its parishes. However a recent investigation by the Times revealed that the number of Anglicans baptised in England was used by the Wakeham Commission in reform of the House of Lords. The 26 Lords Spiritual could now have their position undermined as the number of people being debaptised grows.

Mr Sanderson has been “astonished” by the popularity of the certificate. He said: “It could have political repercussions- if a sufficient number of people became involved. I can’t see that happening though. It mainly shows that the resurgence of religion that we’re seeing at the moment is unsettling a lot of people.”

The certificate has in fact angered groups on the other side of the debate. Mr Sanderson said: “There’s been a lot of criticism even from atheists about it, saying ‘what are you bothering with this for, if you don’t believe it, what difference does it make doing away with it’.”

The certificate was designed by former NSS president Barbara Smoker, who once considered becoming a nun. Mr Sanderson sees how the popularity of the certificate demonstrates the need for the sacramental. “It’s always in the background, everybody has still got that residual echo of religion in their heads even if they rejected it intellectually.”

Source: Religious Intelligence News

How Madoff Did It

These are tough times for trust. Successful marketplaces -- indeed, all social systems -- require a level of ethical behavior among their participants. The recent arrest of Bernard L. Madoff, accused of bilking thousands of investors in a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, is only the latest incident to diminish trust on Wall Street. Wharton operations and information management professor Maurice E. Schweitzer and G. Richard Shell, professor of legal studies and business ethics, have conducted extensive research on the role of trust in markets. In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, they explain why even the most sophisticated investors put their faith in Madoff and how his actions have damaged markets in general.

Knowledge@Wharton: Why is it that even sophisticated investors are being snookered in Ponzi schemes, still?

Maurice Schweitzer: The Madoff scandal is a story about several powerful influence principles working in concert. These are textbook principles. And in this case, you have four that are key. One is scarcity, where investors were told, "The fund is closed. But maybe I can get you in." It was exclusive, and there were some clients that got fired [because they asked too many questions]. The second key principle is authority. Madoff was somebody who in 1990 was the chair of NASDAQ. He pioneered electronic trading. He was a board member. He had this air of authority. And we know from the Milgram experiments and other studies that authority figures exert a huge amount of influence over us. Third, social proof. Everyone's doing it. From the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to Line Capital of Singapore, to Stephen Spielberg and the owner of the New York Mets. You look around and everybody else is investing here. It seems like a reasonable thing to do. And fourth, the liking principle. We're influenced by people that we like. And here, social networks, meetings in country clubs, the charity events -- this is what brought people in. So you have in concert these four classic influence principles working together. And on the other hand, you have motivated reasoning. You have these investors who want to believe. They want to believe that they can earn the 10%, 11% interest, like clockwork. So they're willing to suspend their disbelief. And I think we failed to realize how powerful all of these factors are, when they work together.

Knowledge@Wharton: If the allegations against Madoff are true, this scheme lived longer than most Ponzi schemes. How was he able to sustain this?

G. Richard Shell: There was a failure of regulation. That seems to be getting explored in Congress now. And this particular scheme was remarkable in that the con artist conned the regulators as well as their investors. Maurice's point about the authority that this fellow had is partly responsible for that -- because [Madoff is] one of them. When you've been the head of the NASDAQ, you're inside the tent as far as the regulatory group is concerned. It's very difficult when there are no outward visible signs of fraud, to pick this up. And then it built on itself, so that as years passed, it became more and more credible. I think that in hindsight, it looks easy to spot, because it was a secret formula. He didn't reveal it to anybody. There were quite a number of people who decided not to play, because they couldn't see behind the veil of where the money was coming from. They look pretty smart now. But when you're doing this prospectively, and you have this opportunity, they look like the suckers. They look like the people who are being overly prudent. And the smart money is getting involved. So I think the length of this one has something to do with the fact that he was able to con the regulatory system at the same time he was conning the investors. That's a double whammy that's really hard to pull off over a period of time and over many different markets.

Read it all here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mexico Probably Prosecuting an Innocent Man

Man sentenced to 38 years in prison for murder of radio journalist AmadoRamírez Dillanes

SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris(RSF/IFEX) - Genaro Vázquez Durán has been sentenced to 38 years in prison for the April 2007 murder of Amado Ramírez Dillanes, a radio journalist and correspondent for the national TV station Televisa, in Acapulco, in the southern state of Guerrero. The authorities said it was a "crime of passion" but the motives have never been properly explained.

Vázquez's lawyer has appealed his conviction on the grounds that no witness ever clearly identified him as the killer and one witness who was cited in the investigation even stated that Vázquez was not responsible for the crime.

Vázquez, who said he was tortured during interrogation, insisted on his innocence in an interview after the verdict.

Ramírez was gunned down as he was walking to his car after presenting his programme "Al Tanto" on Radiorama Acapulco, on 6 April 2007, amid a wave of drug-related killings in Guerrero state that left 14 dead in the space of afew hours. "

Al Tanto" was withdrawn by the station immediately after his murder, suggesting that "someone" made their point through violance and intimidation.

Mexico is the second most dangerous country for journalists. The first is Pakistan.

Updates the Ramírez case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94561

Americans Mostly Pro-Life

WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- An online nationwide poll sponsored by the U.S. episcopal conference found that an overwhelming majority of Americans want restrictions on the legality of abortion.

Four out of five U.S. adults want limits on abortion, with 11% wanting it illegal in all circumstances. These findings were released last week after a Dec. 10-12 poll.

Thirty-eight percent would limit abortion to the circumstances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother; and an additional 33% would limit abortion to either the first three or first six months of life. Only 9% said abortion should be legal for any reason at any time during pregnancy."

These findings are remarkable," said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. "Fewer than one in 10 Americans support legal abortion for any reason at any time during pregnancy. But that is precisely the current state of abortion law under Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that made abortion legal throughout the nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason."

The survey of 2,341 adults also found that 95% favor laws ensuring that abortions be performed only by licensed physicians; 88% favor informed consent laws that require abortion providers to inform women of potential risks to their health and about alternatives to abortion; 76% favor laws that protect health care professionals from being forced to perform or refer for abortions; and 73% favor laws to give parents involvement in a minor daughter's abortion decision."

Support for these measures cuts across 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' positions," McQuade said. "This research indicates how out of touch pro-abortion groups are with mainstream America."

McQuade lamented that measures that have proven effective in reducing abortion rates are now "seriously threatened by abortion advocates and their allies in Congress."

"Pro-abortion groups have already sent a comprehensive 55-page blueprint for their agenda to the incoming administration," McQuade said. "But their agenda -- including publicly funded abortions, passage of the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, and attacking the Hyde amendment and other longstanding pro-life provisions in appropriations bills -- won't sell in the general public."

Read it here.

Doctors Alarmed by Obama's Anti-Life Stance

ROME, FEB. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations is sounding an alarm about new threats to human life under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

In a statement released today on the Obama presidency and the culture of life, the health care professionals note that the new president "has begun his term with actions that will undermine respect for human life, human dignity and religions freedom."

The statement recalls the ominous message already sent during Obama's political career and campaign, including his 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood; his opposition to every limitation on abortion; his support for the Freedom of Choice Act; and "shockingly," his opposition as a senator to "any protections for infants born alive after failed abortion procedures."

The health care officials also noted Obama's promise of support for federal funding for stem cell research that destroys human life.

Now that he is president, the federation statement continued, he has already engaged in "a series of actions that indicate that he is prepared to implement his prior support for abortion." In this regard, they noted his overturning of the Mexico City policy, which denied federal funding to international agencies that promote or perform abortion as a means of birth control; and his willingness to provide financial support to the United Nations Population Fund, an organization that lost U.S. government funding after it collaborated with the Chinese government's "one child" population policy.

Furthermore, the statement pointed to Obama's choice for pro-abortion staff members, including Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Dawn Johnsen, and many others.

And in a move that particularly touches health care officials, the statement noted the president's opposition to a rule that protects the conscience rights of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care workers.

Thus, the World Federation urged the president to change his support for abortion.

They added: "In addition, we offer our prayers, encouragement and appeals to Catholic physicians in the United States to educate the public and to oppose these efforts to promote abortion. Finally, we appeal to all members of [the World Federation] to be vigilant in opposing the new threats to human life and dignity that could now come from the Obama administration officials in foreign policy positions and at the United Nations."

To read the full text, go here: www.zenit.org/article-25117?l=english

Abortionists Want to Advertise

LANCASTER, England, MARCH 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A proposal by the Advertising Standards Authority to consider allowing the abortion industry to advertise on TV and the radio is "deeply damaging," according to the bishop of Lancaster.

Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue explained in a statement released today that the proposal originated from the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV, and "therefore comes from the heart of the abortion industry -- threatening yet another hammer-blow to the sanctity of human life in this country."

"I am appalled that this proposal will result in the deaths of many more preborn children and cause untold harm to women," he continued.

"As a society, we need to wake up and stop treating abortion as a quick-fix solution to pregnancy and offer compassionate and practical support to women facing crisis pregnancies."

Bishop O'Donoghue mentioned the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative in Scotland that works to aid "pregnant women who find themselves isolated and frightened, offering emotional support and practical help such as liaising with families and providing financial assistance to women in need."

"The killing of the innocent can never be a genuine solution to a problem," the prelate concluded.

"I urge all those who care about the sanctity of human life to voice their opposition to this proposal with one voice."

At the same time, please consider lending your support to our pro-life organizations that care about mothers and their preborn children."

Read it here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Egypt to US: Return Pharoanic Coffin

afrol News, 23 March - Egyptian authorities are expected to make an official request to the United States government demanding the return of the Pharoanic wooden coffin which was allegedly smuggled out of the country over a century ago, the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt said in a statement.

The coffin, five foot long, which is believed to be more than 3,000 years old and belonged to Pharaoh Ames of the 21st Dynasty, which ruled from 931 - 1081 BC was reportedly stolen from a tomb in Luxor, an ancient pharaonic capital in southern Egypt.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt's Secretary General, Zahi Hawass, said the ornately decorated coffin was seized by customs officials in Miami last month, when an American, who bought it from a dealer in Spain, was unable to provide sufficient paperwork to prove ownership.“The council has sent documents to authorities in Miami proving that the coffin was taken out of Egypt illegally in 1884,” he said.

The Egyptian antiquities department has recovered 5,500 artefacts in the past six years that were smuggled out of the country, the statement said.

Egyptian government had formed a committee in 2007 to recover stolen antiques from its 5,000 year-old civilization that are sold at auctions and found in museums around the world.

Mr Hawass in 2003 demanded that the British Museum return the Rosetta Stone, the engravings Jean-Francois Champollion deciphered to break the code of hieroglyphics. The British Museum sent a replica to Egypt instead.

US Keeps Contact with Sharif Brothers

WASHINGTON, March 24: Sending American troops into Pakistan is a “red line” that cannot be crossed, says US special envoy Richard Holbrooke, but he refuses to confirm or deny media reports that Washington may expand drone attacks to Balochistan.

Mr Holbrooke made these remarks in a series of interviews he has given to various media outlets, outlining salient features of the new US strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

His interviews, and those of other US officials, indicate that Pakistan has a pivotal position in the new strategy that seeks to redefine the US’s approach to the two countries.

As the United States prepares to unveil the new strategy later this week, hectic consultations have begun between Washington and Islamabad to ensure that “there are no surprises for Pakistan in the new policy”, said a diplomatic observer familiar with the US plan for the region.Also, the Obama administration has indicated that it wants to brief senior Pakistani officials before announcing the new policy to avoid misunderstandings.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that the Obama administration also plans to reach out to opposition politicians, particularly Nawaz Sharif. Senior US defence officials will also brief the Pakistani military on the new strategy, which calls for a three-fold increase – about $1.5 billion a year – in US aid to Pakistan.

Last week, Pakistan’s Ambassador Husain Haqqani reminded the Americans that only “elected leaders will continue to be the interlocutors with the international community on behalf of Pakistan”.

His comments followed US contacts with the Pakistan army and the Sharif brothers during the long march. The term, as interpreted by the ambassador, excludes the military as well as the Sharif brothers from the list of those who, according to him, have the right to talk to other governments.

He does not consider the Sharif brothers “elected leaders” because one of them was prevented to participate in the elections and the other was unseated.

But recent comments by Ambassador Holbrooke and other American officials show that they not only want to maintain their contact with the Sharif brothers but also consider the army a key player in Pakistan’s internal and external affairs would continue to consult them as well.

The Americans fear that the Zardari government is not focussed on the war on terror and is wasting its resources on non-issues, like the toppling of the Punjab government or taking on the judiciary.

They are still willing to help the Zardari government in maintaining its control at the centre, but expect Mr Zardari to let the PML-N, the largest party in Punjab, run that province.

At the centre too, they would like to see a distribution of power between the president and the prime minister and would like Mr Zardari to empower parliament as well.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

US Pushing for Palestinian State

March 4, 2009

Just hours after blaming Hamas and other terror groups for the lack of peace in the region, visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled that while it may recognize the source of the obstruction, that won't stop the Obama Administration from pushing for the rapid creation of a Palestinian Arab state.

Clinton told reporters in Jerusalem that she and President Barack Obama plan to be "vigorously engaged" in bringing about the birth of "Palestine," adding that "there is no time to waste."

That is likely to put Clinton and Obama at odds with incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has refused to commit to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, and instead wants to focus on bettering the economic conditions under which the Palestinian Arabs live.

Netanyahu met with Clinton on Tuesday, and indicated in remarks to the press that the two had found some common ground. However, few expect relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments to be smooth.

On Wednesday Clinton all but guaranteed that her government will clash with Netanyahu's when she suggested in a joint press conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that for Washington, the division of Jerusalem is a foregone conclusion.

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Clinton said she was not pleased with the Jerusalem municipality's plans to demolish 80 Arab homes on the city's eastern side that were built without proper permits.

"Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the 'road map'," said Clinton. "It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem."

Israel, of course, officially rejected those parts of the "road map" peace plan that attempted to equate Israel's sovereignty over the eastern half of Jerusalem to its settlement-building activity in the rest of Judea and Samaria.

Clinton's remarks suggested that the Obama administration does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the eastern half of Jerusalem any more than it does in the so-called "West Bank."

Observers argued that she also legitimized lawlessness on the part of eastern Jerusalem's Arab populations by suggesting that they are not subject to the authority of the Jerusalem municipality.

In related news, Jerusalem police officials confirmed to WorldNetDaily and Israel National News this week that Palestinian Authority police forces are being permitted to operate on the outskirts of the Israeli capital.

Israeli police have given Palestinian police the green light to take over public security in Arab villages and neighborhoods on the eastern edges of Jerusalem, and Israeli Jews have been warned to now steer clear of those areas.

Read it all here.

A Palestinian State would at least make it possible for Palestinians to develop industries and to improve their standard of living. However, such an entity would have to guarantee the protection of the Christian minority in Palestine (though I doubt this concerns Hillary Clinton.)

Appel: A Dangerous Bioethicist

Jacob Appel, an Ivy League-educated lawyer and medical historian, recently wrote that “the moment is ripe—more than ripe—for an Abortion Pride Movement.” He believes such a movement is necessary because women should “feel comfortable expressing public pride in their brave and wise choices.” Along with glorifying abortion, Appel has in the past contemplated a market for the fetal organs of abortion victims. With Appel having such radical beliefs, it is truly laughable that he is a bioethicist.

He has said that those "who have chosen to terminate their pregnancies are rarely encouraged to take pride in their decisions. That is unfortunate."

This kind of irrational thought and behavior is nothing new to the pro-choice movement. Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in this country, stated that abortion wasn’t shameful and even had the audacity to make shirts proudly announcing “I had an abortion.” Planned Parenthood also distributed “Choice on Earth” Christmas cards mocking the Slaughter of the Innocents told in the Gospel of Matthew. Locally, the NARAL Pro-Choice group of Maryland ironically wants to celebrate this year’s Mother’s Day with a brunch commemorating reproductive freedom.

For unplanned pregnancies, Appel seems to think that abortion is a better choice than allowing the child to be born and grow up. He believes this because, as he says, “there is enough suffering in this world.” This kind of thinking probably led to the recent dumping of a newborn baby’s body in a College Park lake. Adoption can easily alleviate the so-called “suffering” as there are plenty of willing parents that would love to adopt children.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Carlos Cardoso Sequel?

SOURCE: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Windhoek (MISA/IFEX) - MISA-Mozambique has received reports that Tete provincial governor, Ildefonso Muanan, has threatened journalist Bernardo Carlos with death in apparent anger over his reporting. Carlos is a journalist with the daily publication "Noticias".

Governor Muanan had threatened Carlos on 16 and 17 March 2009 while touring the Mágoè district in his province. While addressing a meeting attended by journalists from Mozambique Public Television (TVM), Radio Mozambique (RM) and from the daily "Diário de Moçambique," the governor said that what happened to editor Carlos Cardoso, assassinated in November 2000, could happen to Carlos. In a direct address to Carlos, the governor said, the"truth has got its price.( . . . ) Do you know what happened with journalist Carlos Cardoso? Do not be surprised if one of these days you wake up without the arm you are using to deride me.

"The following day, the governor made a second threat while addressing agroup of journalists who were covering his visit to the district, saying that what Carlos wrote was tarnishing him.

The governor's threats stemmed from his apparent anger over the content of some of the stories Carlos had written recently, exposing problems in the management of public works and municipal services.

Among the stories covered that angered Muanan that was an article on the sub-standard work on the electrification of a district in the province and the fact that two years after floods in Tete province victims were still homeless and living in the streets.

Contacted by MISA-Mozambique, the editor-in-chief of "Notícias", Rogério Sitoe, confirmed the threats and stated that he had not been in touch with the governor to better understand his concerns. The editor-in-chief said he would meet with the governor this week to resolve the matter.

MISA-Mozambique condemns the threats by Governor Muananthat, which are adirect violation of the fundamental rights of the media as stipulated inthe Constitution. MISA-Mozambique will be monitoring the situation closely.

For further information on Cardoso case, see:

For further information, contact Kaitira Kandjii, Regional Director, orRashweat Mukundu, Programme Specialist, MISA, Private Bag 13386, Windhoek,Namibia, tel: +264 61 232 975, fax: +264 61 248 016, e-mail:director@misa.org, rashweat@misa.org, Internet: http://www.misa.org

UN Guilty of Cultural Genocide?

Alice C. Linsley

Is the United Nations guilty of cultural genocide in Africa? It certainly appears to be the case.

The U.N. has targeted two African religious customs with a view to eradicating them. One wonders what motivates this effort: racism or antagonism to traditional religions?

Consider the case of female circumcision, called Female Genital Mutilation by the U.N.

Female circumcision is wide spread practice in Africa and deeply rooted in the African religious worldview. Contrary to U.N. and Feminist propaganda, it doesn’t lessen sexual arousal or pleasure, and it is no more dangerous than male circumcision is to the male. In fact, the 2 types of circumcision are comparable, yet the U.N. has not taken on male circumcision with an eye to eradicating it.

To read about female circumcision in context, go here.

Consider also the practice of indentured girls at local shrines. The U.N. refers to this as the "trokosi system" and fails to look at this custom in its proper historical and cultural context. The U.N. literature stresses only the negative aspects of the practice, stressing the need to liberate the shrine girls. However, those involved with the shrines have repeatedly denied the UN’s claims of wrong doing on the part of the shrine priests and have pledged to preserve the ancient custom.

To read about indentured shrine girls in context, go here.

So what motivates the United Nations attack on traditional religions in Africa?

A U.N. spokesman would likely respond that the motivation is human rights and the liberation of abused and oppressed African women. The U.N is always able to find witnesses to support its agenda. But the majority of African women and their families would probably prefer that the U.N. direct its efforts to the eradication of polio and malaria rather than to the eradication of traditional African religion.

Quote of the Week - Jason Kranzusch

"A person’s failure to recognize the beauty of the life of the mind, either by neglect, inability, prejudice or faulty instruction, does not justify that person denigrating or dismissing intellectual pursuit." -- Jason Kranzusch

No Progress for Mexican Journalists

SOURCE: National Center for Social Communication (CENCOS), Mexico City (CENCOS/IFEX) - The following is an abridged translation of a 19 March 2009 CENCOS press release: Murder of Roberto Mora, "El Mañana" editorial director, remains unpunished five years after his death

México D.F., 19 March 2009 - Five years after the assassination of Roberto Javier Mora García, editorial director of the Nuevo Laredo-based newspaper "El Mañana", the case has not been solved.

On 19 March 2004, Mora García was stabbed 26 times near his home in the Jardín neighbourhood, in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, northeastern Mexico.

In 2004, a group of national and international independent organisations of journalists and human rights defenders formed the In Memoriam Commission. The commission found that the investigation was marked by irregularities, such as anomalies in experts' testimony, the disappearance of evidence, and the mismanagement of testimonies. For example, the Tamaulipas State Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría de la Justicia) provided a description of the weapon that reportedly does not match the one used to commit the crime.

Two of the journalist's neighbours, Mario Medina and Hiram Oliveros, were arrested in connection with the crime. The National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) found that Medina was beaten.

Both of the accused said they were tortured while in detention and denied that they knew Mora García, who had only moved into their building one month before his murder. Medina was accused of being the assassin and was himself killed while in prison, some weeks after his arrest.

Mora García was editor of the Monterrey-based newspaper "El Norte" and editorial director of "El Diario", also based in Monterrey and now known as "Milenio". In 2000 he began working for "El Mañana" in Nuevo Laredo. He also edited the "Biznews" magazine.

The lack of action in this case is indicative of the impunity that is characteristic of assassinations of journalists in Mexico.

Updates the Mora García case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94252

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

S. Africa Denies Dalai Lama Visa

The organizers of a South African conference aimed at promoting soccer as a tool for peace have postponed the gathering after South African officials refused to grant the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the event. An initiative of South Africa's FIFA 2010 World Cup local organizing committee (LOC), the South African Peace Conference was planned to focus on the power of soccer to generate peace in the face of racism and xenophobia.

The committee had won the support of South Africa's Nobel Peace laureates, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and F.W. de Klerk for their initiative. They in turn invited the Dalai Lama, along with the Nobel Peace Committee, and other dignitaries to attend the conference.

Now, the chairman of the organizing committee, Irvin Khoza said the refusal of a visa to the Dalai Lama to attend the conference has placed the conveners in an untenable position, leaving them no choice but to postpone the conference."

Given that the purpose of the conference is peace, the conveners do not wish to put the Nobel Peace Committee under circumstances that would create conflict between the committee and its laureates. The conveners have therefore decided in a spirit of peace, to postpone the South Africa Peace Conference to ensure it is held under conducive conditions."

The postponement follows decisions by Archbishop Tutu and Mr. de Klerk to withdraw from the conference. Mr. Mandela was not slated to attend. Tutu said the refusal to grant the visa was disgraceful, adding that South Africa is shamelessly succumbing to pressure from China.

South African government spokesperson Themba Masebe said the decision had nothing to do with the Chinese government. Instead, he said, the government did not want Tibet to overshadow a 2010 World Cup event. Masebe's statement appeared to contradict a Chinese Embassy official in Pretoria, who told local newspapers the Chinese government had asked South Africa to refuse the visa.

South Africa accounts for twenty percent of China's trade in Africa and last year the ruling parties of the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding without revealing its contents.

The respected local weekly newspaper, the Mail and Guardian, last week reported that the Chinese Communist Party is providing campaign funds to the African National Congress. In an online report, the paper said the party was also getting campaign funds from the ruling parties in India, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea.

Source: VOA News

Israel: Hope for Labor Party Support

Israeli radio says Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and moderate Labor Party leader Ehud Barak reached a coalition deal Tuesday.

The report says the Labor Party will soon vote on the pact, which allows Mr. Barak to remain Israel's defense minister as part of the agreement. Many Labor lawmakers say they oppose joining Mr. Netanyahu's coalition, which includes his right-wing Likud party, ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party and Orthodox Jewish Shas party.

Analysts in Israel say the coalition government would appear more broad and moderate if the Labor Party signs on. If approved, the new coalition will give Mr. Netanyahu a political partnership that holds 66 of parliament's 120 seats. The Shas party agreed Monday to join Mr. Netanyahu's coalition government, which will be dominated by right-wing parties that oppose giving many concessions to the Palestinians.

President Shimon Peres has given Mr. Netanyahu until April third to create a coalition government.

Mr. Netanyahu was tasked with forming a new government following elections last month.

Source: VOA News

Monday, March 23, 2009

Freedom of Information Act

23 March 2009
SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders praises Attorney General Eric Holder's comprehensive new guidelines regarding the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In his memo addressed to the heads of executive departments andagencies, he expressly rescinds the Bush administration's policy of withholding information and instead advocates an open approach in the administration of the FOIA.

"An informed public is an essential aspect of a democracy and Attorney General Holder's guidelines should restore the public's trust in access to information," the press freedom organisation said. "This is a tremendous change from the disastrous standards of over-classification set forth in 2001 and a huge victory for the free flow of information and the American people. It will set the tone for how the executive branch will interpret and administer the FOIA."

The memo stipulates that agencies should "readily and systematically post information online in advance of any public request." In addition, the agencies should have the tools they need to respond promptly and efficiently to FOIA requests. Furthermore, each agency's chief FOIA officermust ensure compliance with the law which asserts that whenever documents cannot [vs be released in full, as much information as possible should bereleased. Finally, FOIA denials will only be defended if an agency "reasonably foresees that the disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions."

The new guidelines sanction comments made by President Barack Obama the day after his inauguration, when he reiterated that the FOIA was not created to "keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears."

"The prevailing attitude under the Bush administration was that all information was confidential. The onus was on the individual filing an FOIA request to prove otherwise," Reporters Without Borders said.

"Under these new guidelines, if there is any doubt whether or not the information should be made public, the ideals of openness and transparency should now prevail."

For further information, contact Benoît Hervieu, RSF, 47, rue Vivienne,75002 Paris, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 68, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51,
e-mail: americas@rsf.org, Internet: http://www.rsf.org

The question is: "In the face of a serious threat to national security, will the Obama administration act differently than the Bush administration?"

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dostoevsky's Orthodox Convictional Theology

Pastor Dima (Dimitru Sevastian) is the Dean of Theology at the Theological College of Moldova (TCM), and also a Pastor at Bethany Evangelical Baptist in Chisinau, Moldova. He has his MDiv from TCM, and is currently pursuing his doctorate of divinity. This paper is one he delivered recently at a bible conference in Prague. It is part and parcel of his extensive research and work toward his doctorate.

Dostoevsky’s implicit mission to Russian society as a lived out Russian Orthodox Convictional Theology

The purpose of this research is to point out some common practical elements in the mission of Baptist and Orthodox Christians in an Orthodox context. My intention is to explore Dostoevsky’s implicit mission in order to suggest some ways in which Baptist and Orthodox Christian can work together in responding to the Missio Dei. The focus is being the theology[1] in terms of lived out convictions[2].

To understand Dostoevsky’s mission, one must ‘hear’ his story, which is linked with the story of the people and with the greater story of God.[3]

Dostoevsky was a journalist as well as a novelist. That’s why in the first section of this paper I am going to examine his perception of the situation of his time as a form of ‘mission as witness.’[4] In the following three sections I intend to explore three elements in Orthodox Church mission: love, life and unity[5] as they are evident in the life of Dostoevsky.

1. Perception of his time situation as ‘mission as witness’
‘The perception of the situation often begins by defining the threat’ and by ‘the questions of the desirability and speed of the presumably needed social change in the community’.[6]

The situation itself
The 19 century finds Russia in a rather complicated condition. The emperor is reigning autocratically, answerable only to the Lord God.[7] Not being a man of outstanding morals, Nikolai I abuses his given power, going into violence and immorality.

Just like a squire managed lives and desires of peasants, so was tsar with his servants. He would pay attention… not only to young beauties at his palace – ladies and maids, but to girls he accidentally met while walking. If he liked someone during his walks or in theatre, he would tell it to an adjutant on duty. And, this girl would be under his control. If she hasn’t been involved in any improper activities, then her husband (if she was married) or parents (if she wasn’t married) would be told about enormous honor, which they received… No one ever resisted Tsar’s desires … In this strange country, to sleep with an emperor was considered as a great honor…for parents and even for husbands…[8]

The social situation was very complicated as well. Serfdom-based forms of exploitation were pushed to an extreme, turning a serf into a slave. The Rule of landlords always meant excessive abuse of serfs, endless outrages upon the personhood of serfs, and implied the most impudent, shameless, unprecedented exploitation of serf labor.[9] The gap between the landlord and the slave was so great that the landlord seemed to consider himself made from another material than common folk.[10]

A secret police force was formed to keep everything under tight control. Police controlled all the literature, which made the existence and development of publishing in Russia practically impossible.[11] The Tsar and the head of the secret police became the ultimate censors.[12]

French author Marquis Astolf de Custin compared the vast Russian Empire with a prison where the emperor has the key.[13]

Violence in the name of love - a proposed solution to change the society
As a reaction to this existing police-feudal régime we see the appearance of the first secret society starting as early as the first quarter of the 19th century.[14] The members of this society wanted to overthrow the absolute power of the emperor and destroy the existing feudal customs.[15] On the verge of the years 1830-1840 we see the appearance of such ideological currents as “Slavophile” and “Westernism”.[16] Whereas the slavophiles wanted to transform the country by implementing reforms,[17] the westernizers dreamed of a revolution similar to the one in France.[18] The mid 1840's see the appearance of other, more radical socialist circles, members of which were convinced that autocracy and social injustice are the main obstacles in the way of the people’s wellbeing. Thus their main purpose became getting rid of these obstacles, even resorting to violence.

Literary critic V. Belinsky was one of the leaders of the westernist movement. He was a convinced atheist. In his understanding, Russia's transformation would be impossible without eliminating Christianity.[19]

In that time Dostoevsky, also deeply concerned for the lives of his countrymen, became close to Belinsky and often visited some of the illegal, antigovernment meetings. Belinsky preached his socialist-atheist way with such passion that Dostoevsky couldn’t resist. Accepting the socialist teachings of Belinsky, Dostoevsky saw his Christian convictions being shattered. He describes this time as the time of “losing Christ”.[20] “We were infected with the ideas of theoretical socialism of those days!” – Dostoevsky would recall.[21] For his involvement in the antigovernment movement, Dostoevsky was sentenced to capital punishment, which was later replaced with 4 years of penal labor (katorga).

Returning to faith in God as the only way to transform society
In penal servitude, Dostoevsky went through something that he calls “the regeneration of his convictions”.[22] What could have taken place to change his convictions so completely? Dostoevsky himself answers this question by saying, “I accepted Christ in my life, whom I got to know as a child in my parent’s house and whom I have almost lost, when I in turn became a European liberal.”[23]

Dostoevsky began to understand clearly that Russian society's greatest problem was its departure from God. Thus the problem lay not in the social but in the spiritual realm. The social realm is a result of the people's spiritual condition.

Another problem, which could make matters worse, was the intrusion of the socialist atheist teaching mentioned above. From his own experience, Dostoevsky knew the danger and destructiveness of this socialist way, offered by many as the way to reform society. In his letter to M. Pogodin, Dostoevsky writes that ‘socialism and Christianity are antonyms’.[24] The danger of this way, in Dostoevsky’s opinion, was its negation of God and establishment of a new atheistic society.

By means of his novels, articles, and personal correspondence, Dostoevsky warned about the consequences of entering this dangerous path. The tragedy of Rasskolnikov, the main character of the novel Crime and Punishment, shows how easily one can be infatuated with this teaching of “violence for the sake of love”.

Dostoevsky not only warned about the dangers, but also proposed a way to transform society, and openly called the people to come back to God. At the same time he realized how hard it is for a person to pass through this process of doubt and disbelief. In his works Dostoevsky shows this inner struggle which takes place in a person who is on the path of returning to God.

The Diary of a Writer contains an interesting article describing this path. Dostoevsky answers a certain Gradovsky, who is considered by others to be a Christian, on Gradovsky's statement that faith is not related to social ideals and that faith in God cannot transform society. Dostoevsky's first utterance: “It is funny how you understand Christianity!”[25] He goes on to explain that growth in Christian faith changes Christians themselves and these changes have an effect upon people in society. He was convinced that even without the abolition of serfdom, slavery would disappear because the landlord and the serf would become brothers.[26] (Rasskolnikov's sufferings would awaken a new life in him.)

Thus the call of Dostoevsky is towards return of people to faith in God.

2. Love of God as the foundation of missions
According to David Bosch, God’s love expressed in the sacrifice of Christ is the foundation for mission, in an orthodox understanding. The followers of Christ are to display this same love beyond the limits of the flock.[27]

Dostoevsky doesn’t simply call others to the imitation of Christ, but he himself lives as a compassionate person who loves the people. He learned to be compassionate to the poor and needy from his childhood, when he lived in the house of his father in Moscow, in the hospital for the poor.[28]

Being near helpless people, he would go out of his way to help. When still in his teens he once gladly brought water to a peasant lady who accidentally spilled it and had no one to carry it to her child in their village 15 kilometers away.[29]

A. Saveliev, who served as an officer in the engineering school when Dostoevsky was a student, expressed his observations of Dostoevsky’s compassion to the poor:

The feelings of compassion remained in Fyodor Michailovich during his times of studies. They witnessed life of poor peasants in a Staraya Kikenka village. The picture of terrifying poverty, absence of providence, poor clay ground and unemployment was unveiled. The main reason for this situation was a neighboring wealthy property of earl Orlov. Striking poverty, pitiful houses and masses of kids without good nutrition used to increase the level of compassion in young people’s hearts towards peasants of Staraya Kikenka. Dostoevsky and Berezhesky along with their friends used to make fund raising for needs of poorest peasants.[30]

Later Doctor Rizenkampf, who lived in the same apartment with Dostoevsky, spoke on the writer's sacrificial spirit:

Fyodor Michailovich had such type of personality that everyone enjoyed, yet these kinds of personalities were in need themselves. He had been robbed unmercifully, though due to his kindness and trust, he wouldn’t want to get into details or rebuke servants that used his carelessness.[31]

O. Miller states that when in Dostoevsky and Rizenkampf rented an apartment together, ‘this co-habitation with the doctor practically turned out to be a new source of constant expenses. Each poor person coming to doctor for advice he was ready to accept as a dear guest. Often he would come to a point of extreme need of money.’[32] “The new day with the lack of money, new loans, often times with exorbitant interest rates, just to borrow enough money to be able to buy sugar, tea, etc.”[33]

Doctor S. Yanovski knew that Dostoevsky was well paid, but also knew that he was constantly in need of money. Yanovski posed the question, “Where did his money go?” And supplied the answer himself:

I can answer this question correctly, since Fyodor Michailovich was open to me more than to others when it used to come to finances: he distributed almost all of his funds to those who were any poorer than him; sometimes distributed funds to those, who were not poorer than him, but they would receive his money due to his endless kindness. He never gambled, did not have a clue about the rules and even hated card game. He was a decisive enemy of wine and carouse.[34]

The testimony of Dostoevsky's brother Andrei serves as a good illustration for Yanovski’s words. “When there was the first case of cholera and a patient had an attack on the street, brother Fyodor immediately” ran to the patient to give him medication and after that was massaging him when he had convulsions.[35]

Another story came from A. Dostoevskaya, wife of the writer. She tells about Fyodor Michailovich's compassion to poor and sick people:

Having heard about poverty of one widow, who remained with three children of 11, 7 and 5 years after husband’s death, Dostoevsky out of pity has hired her as a servant with all of her children … Fedosya with tears in her eyes shared with me, while I was still a bride, about Fyodor Michailovich’ kindness. According to her, at nights whenever hearing a child coughing or crying, he would come to him/her cover with a blanket, calm him/her down, or at least wake mother up.[36]

Dostoevsky would never turn away those asking for alms. “There were cases” – his wife would say – “when my husband would not have petit cash and he was asked for alms close to our stairs, then he would bring the beggars in and in our apartment they would be given the money.”[37]

He would not pay back evil for evil, but would forgive his offenders. In 1879 some drunk peasant on the street had hit Dostoevsky over the back of his head with such power that he fell on the pavement, resulting in a bloody gash. In the police station Fyodor Michailovich asked the officer to release the offender, as he had forgiven him. However the protocol was already completed and the process could not be reversed. Dostoevsky said to the judge that he forgave the offender and asked for his release. The judge acceded to Dostoevsky’s request, however still fining the peasant 16 rubles for “creating noise and disorder on the street.” Dostoevsky waited for his offender at the exit and gave him 16 rubles to pay the fine.[38]

According to A. Dostoevskaya, Fyodor Michailovich was a man of limitless kindness. He would display it not only to those close to him, but to anyone whose misfortune or crisis he would hear came to his notice. He would not have to be asked, he would offer his help himself.

Having influential friends, my husband used their influence in order to help others. He placed many old people in elderly homes, children to orphanages and helped losers to find their place in society. He had to read and correct many other writings, listen to honest confessions and offer advices on very personal issues. He did not feel sorry about his time or his strength, trying to help to his neighbor. He has helped financially, in case he lacked funds, he would sign bills and had to later pay them off. Sometimes, Fyodor Mikhailovich’ kindness contradicted family interests, and often I would get upset about his unlimited kindness, yet I could not help but delight seeing him rejoice whenever having opportunity to help others.[39]

Dostoevsky was especially concerned for children and paid attention to cases of child abuse that he heard about. He followed closely the trials of parents accused of child abuse.[40]

Towards the end of his life Dostoevsky became a spiritual leader for a great many people. Every day he would receive letters from all across Russia and would agree to see visitors asking for spiritual advice, seeking mentoring, or looking for direction for their lives. This activity of Dostoevsky was similar to the social ministries of staretzes in the monastery, similar to the elder Ambrosi whom he saw in the Optina monastery, or staretz Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov.[41]

Dostoevsky lived so sacrificially because his convictions were deeply founded in Christ's suffering and resurrection. In addition, he was convinced that this was the only way for the Russian society he loved so much to be transformed. Staretz Zosima in the novel The Brothers Karamazov admonishes Aliosha Karamazov to go into the world and to love the people even in their sins. The sacrificial love of Dostoevsky comes from the conviction that “there is nothing more beautiful, deeper, attractive, wiser, more courageous, and more perfect than Christ, and not only nothing, but I say with a jealous love, that there can never be”.[42]

3. Life as the goal for mission
According to Bosch, “For the Orthodox Church - love is the foundation of mission and life is the goal of it. Christ came not first of all to free the man from their sins, but to restore them in their godly image and to give them life”.[43] People are called not to simply get to know Christ; they are called to “share the glory of Christ”. “It is a continuing state of worship, prayer, thanksgiving, adoration, intercession as well as meditation and consideration of the triune God and God’s infinite love.”[44]

We have now many examples of the prayer life of Dostoevsky, of his meditations and ponderings about God and biblical characters.

One of Dostoevsky's early memories is a daily prayer with his nanny before going to bed, when he was 3 years of age. “I put all my hopes in Thee, Mother of God, keep me in Thy care”. This prayer Dostoevsky loved so much that it became part of the prayers which he read to his children at bed time.[45] Also from his early years Dostoevsky listened to bible stories. Remembering those years, Fyodor Michailovich wrote in 1873, “in our family we knew the Gospel almost from earliest childhood.”[46]

In his student years, Dostoevsky displayed a conscious eagerness to talk about God, despite the laughter of his comrades. Soloviov testifies,
Fyodor Michailovich behaved modestly; executive responsibilities and tasks performed meticulously, but were very religious, diligently performing the duties of an orthodox Christian. In his possession you could see both the Gospels and “Die Stunden der Andacht” (Hour of prayer). After lectures of Scriptures by Poluektov Fyodor Michailovich would talk at length to his Scriptures teacher. This was so sharply contrasting with everyone else’s way of life that his friends called him Fotius Monk.[47]

This is an important testimony that from his earliest childhood Gospel reading was not just a form. It made its way deep into his heart, and he loved it. In Dostoevsky’s letters to his brother Mikhail he said “To learn nature, soul, God, love… this is learned with the heart and not with the mind.”[48]

From the time of Dostoevsky’s marriage with Anna Grigorievna we have a number of references to his prayers. We have a letter in which Dostoevsky writes to his wife, “I prayed with tears about you this night”.[49] When the firstborn was due Dostoevsky prayed all night. As the birth of another son, Fyodor, approached, he prayed all day and all night.[50] When his two-year-old daughter Liubovi broke her hand and the bones did not knit well, she had to undergo surgery. “Anya, we shall pray and ask for the help of God, the Lord will help us!” remembers A. Dostoevsky – “we got on our knees and probably never have we prayed with such zeal as in those moments.[51]

Meditating about Christ and desiring to imitate Him in His self-sacrificial spirit, Dostoevsky said to writer D.V. Averkiev, “To understand your existence, to be able to say, I am! – that’s a great gift, but to say I am not, to humble yourself for the sake of others, to have this power is probably much greater”. To which Averkiev objected, “this certainly is a great gift, but no one has it or had ever had except for one, who was God”. To which Dostoevsky answered, “Yes, but also man.” For Dostoevsky Christ was not only God but also man, open to pain and called to go through it.[52]

The book of Job made an especially strong impression on Dostoevsky, with its story of an innocent sufferer, uncomplainingly enduring the difficult tests God sent to him: the death of his close ones, bankruptcy, leprosy, poverty. For that he was healed, restored to his wealth, became again the father of a large family and “died in late years filled with days”. Later he will say to his wife in 1875, “I am reading the book of Job and it creates in me a morbid excitement, I stop reading and walk about the room for about an hour, on the verge of crying…this book, Anya, is strangely one of the first that made a deep impression on me, and I was almost a baby back then!”[53]

The image of Christ who suffered and was resurrected and the image of Job suffering and his ‘resurrection’ to new life served as a model and inspiration for Dostoevsky's walk by faith.

4. Unity and mission
Dostoevsky was part of Russian Orthodox society. A constant love towards Russia and the Russian people, and steadfast Christian ideals, were among Dostoevsky's chief characteristics. Together they gave him a dream of the ‘reconciliation of nations’ in Christ with the help of Orthodox Russia.[54] Dostoevsky's thoughts and dreams on universal reconciliation, fascinating him throughout his life, came to their fullest expression six months prior to his death in his speech in honor of Pushkin, delivered on 8 June 1880. In the end he says with assurance,
Future Russian people will understand all and every single person that this is what it means to be a true Russian: to try to finally reconcile European disagreements once and for all, to show the way out for European boredom in our Russian soul, universal and all unifying, to encompass in it with brotherly love all of our brothers, and finally may be to reach a concluding agreement of all the nations on Christ’s gospel law.[55]

According to Dostoevsky, a divine harmony that would resolve all contradictions would be possible if people would live the life of Christ. He himself understood that this dream bordered on fantasy, yet nonetheless he strived to fulfill it, providing an example for others.

In the center of Dostoevsky’s mission is the image of Christ suffering and resurrected. He warned people of the danger of turning away from Christ, and called upon them to follow Him through the difficulties and hardships to “resurrection for new life”. With all that he would display a personal example of life in Christ in his relationships with Him and the people around.

I am aware that this study does not cover all the elements of Dostoevsky’s implicit mission. I hope that this research of Dostoevsky’s implicit mission to Russian society as a lived-out Russian Orthodox Convictional Theology will help us, as Baptist believers, in our mission to secularized people in European contexts where an Orthodox religious presence predominates.

However what was most evident in Dostoevsky’s life, day by day, was the love of God evident in him and through him because his convictions were grounded in Jesus.

[1] According to James Wm. McClendon’s definition, the theology is “discovery, understanding, and transformation of the convictions of a convictional community, including the discovery and critical revision of their relation to one another and to whatever else there is”. McClendon, James Wm. Jr. Ethics. Systematic TheologyVolume1 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986), p. 23.
[2] Convictions are firm beliefs that guide the person. They don’t change so easily, but if we change them, then the person changes as well. (See McClendon, James Wm. Jr. & James M. Smith, Understanding Convictions: Defusing Religious. Revised edition. (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1994), p. 5).
[3] McClendon, James Wm. Jr. Ethics. Systematic TheologyVolume1 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986), p. 356.
[4] Parush R. Parushev and Rolling Grams, Academic Reasoning, Research and Writing in Religious Studies. A Concise Handbook (Librix.eu Tribun EU, 2008), p.19.
[5] David J Bosch, Transforming Mission. Paradigms Shifts in Theology of Mission (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 1991), pp. 207-209.
[6] Lina Andronovienė and Parush R. Parushev, ‘Church, State, and Culture: On the Complexities of Post-soviet Evangelical Social Involvement’, Theological Reflections, EAAA Journal of Theology 3 (2004), pp. 194-21.
[7] A. Radzinskij, Alexandr II Zhizn’ I Smert’ [Akexander II Life and Death] (М., Izdatel’stvo АСТ, 2006), p. 81.
[8] Ibid, 75.
[9] A. F. Vvoznyi, Policejskij sjsk I kruzhok Petrashevcev [Criminal investigation and the Petroshavski’s group] (Kiev, KVSH MVD SSSR, 1976), p. 25.
[10] Marquis Astolf de Custin, Nikolaevskaya Rossiya [Nikolai’s Russia] (М., Izdatel’stvo politiceskoj literatury, 1990), p. 301.
[11] Kniga dlya chteniya po istorii novogo vremeni Т. IV [New Time History Handbook. Vol. IV] (М., Tipogragiya t-va I. D. Sytkina, 1914), p. 100.
[12] Radzinskij, Alexandr II Zhizn’ I Smert’, p. 59.
[13] Custin, Nikolaevskaya Rossiya, p. 157.
[14] Istoriya Rossii v XIX veke [History of Russia in XIX century] (SPb., Pusskaya Skoropechatnya, V. 1-2, no year.), p. 69.
[15] A. V. Semionova, Velikaya Francuzskaya revolyuciya I Rossiya [Russia and the Great French Revolution] (М., «Znanie», 1991), p. 8.
[16] Rossiya. Ehnciklopedicheskij spravochnik [Russia. Encyclopedia] (М., Izdatel’skij dom “Drofa”, 1998), p. 132.
[17] Russkoe obshhestvo 40-50 godov XIX veka [Russian society of years 40-50 of XIX century] (М., Izdatel’stvo Moskovskogo universiteta, 1989), p. 10.
[18] Ibid, 13.
[19] F. M. Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 21, Dnevnik pisatelya za 1873 god., [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 21, The Diary of a Writer for 1873.,] (L., Nauka, 1980), p. 8.
[20] Ibid, 9.
[21] Ibid, 130.
[22] Ibid, 134.
[23] Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 26, Dnevnik pisatelya za 1880 god., [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 26, The Diary of a Writer for 1880.,] (L., Nauka, 1980), p. 152.
[24] Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 28, Pis’ma 1873 god.,M. P. Pogodinu 26 fevralya [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 28, Letters of 1873.,to M. Pogodin from 26 February] (L. Nauka, 1985), p. 471.
[25] Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 21, Dnevnik pisatelya za 1873 god., [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 21, The Diary of a Writer for 1873.,] (L., Nauka, 1980), chapter 3.
[26] Ibid
[27] Bosch, Transforming Mission. Paradigms Shifts in Theology of Mission, pp. 208-209.
[28] Ibid
[29] A. М. Rumyanczeva, Fiodor Michailovich Dostoevsky (L., Prosveshhenie, 1971), p. 14.
[30] F. M. Dostoevsky v vospominaniyah sovremennikov v dvuh tomah [F.M. Dostoevsky in reminiscence of his contemporaries in two volumes] (М., Hudozhestvennaya Literatura, 1990), pp. 166-167.
[31] Ibid, 189.
[32] Ibid, 189-190.
[33] Ibid, 191.
[34] Ibid, 235-236.
[35] Ibid, 141.
[36] A. G. Dostoevskaya, Vospominaniya [Memoirs] (М., Pravda, 1987), p. 78.
[37] Ibid, 220.
[38] Ibid, 354.
[39] Ibid, 421.
[40] Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 25, Dnevnik pisatelya za 1877 god., [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 25, The Diary of a Writer for 1877.,] (L., Nauka, 1983), pp. 182-187.
[41] N. О Lossky, Bog I mirovoe zlo [God and world evil] (М., Respublika, 1994), p. 19.
[42] Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 28, Pis’ma 1854 god., N. D. Fonvizina 20 fevralya [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 28, Letters of 1854.,to N. D. Fonvizina from 20 February] (L. Nauka, 1985), p. 175.
[43] Bosch, Transforming Mission. Paradigms Shifts in Theology of Mission, pp. 208-209.
[44] Ibid
[45] Lossky, Bog i mirovoe zlo, p. 36.
[46] Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 21, Dnevnik pisatelya za 1873 god., [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 21, The Diary of a Writer for 1873.,] (L., Nauka, 1973), p. 134.
[47] F. M. Dostoevsky v vospominaniyah sovremennikov v dvuh tomah, p. 163.
[48] Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 28, Pis’ma 1838 god., M. M. Dostoevsky 31oktobrya [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 28, Letters of 1854.,to M. M. Dostoevsky from 31 October] (L. Nauka, 1985), p. 53.
[49] Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 28, Pis’ma 1867 god., A. G. Dostoevskaya 8 maya [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 28, Letters of 1867., to A. G. Dostoevskaya from 8 May] (L. Nauka, 1985), p. 188.
[50] Dostoevskaya, Vospominaniya, p.78.
[51] Ibid, 144.
[52] F. M. Dostoevsky v vospominaniyah sovremennikov v dvuh tomah, p. 20.
[53] L.Grossman, Dostoevsky (М., Molodaya Gvardiya, 1962), p. 15.
[54] Lossky, Bog i mirovoe zlo, p. 19.
[55] Dostoevsky, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij v 30 tomakh, tom 26, Dnevnik pisatelya za 1880 god., [The Complete Works in 30 volumes, V. 26, The Diary of a Writer for 1880.,] (L., Nauka, 1984), p. 148.

Tehran Accuses US of Supporting Terrorists

Speaking a day after President Obama offered Tehran a “new beginning” to turn back the tide on decades of mutual animosity, Mr Khamenei — the final decision maker on Iranian strategic issues — said Iran was yet to see any change in Washington’s attitude towards Tehran.“

We have no experience with the new American government and the new American president. We will observe them and we will judge,” he said.

“We cannot see any change. What is the change in your policy? Did you remove the sanctions? Did you stop supporting the Zionist regime? Tell us what you have changed. We can’t see change even in the words of the new American president. Change only in words is not enough. Change must be real,” he said.

“The American leaders and others must know that they can’t deceive our nation or scare it.”

He accused Washington of having had a “hostile” attitude towards Tehran since the Islamic revolution toppled the US-backed Shah in 1979. “They supported all the terrorist and opponent groups” against Iran, he said.“We can see the American hand behind these groups.

Unfortunately, this support is still continuing,” he said, adding that US-backed groups were aiding rebels fighting Iranian security forces along the Iran-Pakistan border.

Read it all here.

Destroying Embryos Unethical and Irreverent

From the moment President George W. Bush imposed federal funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, Big Biotech, patient advocacy groups, celebrities and the media have been obsessed with eviscerating the policy. Indeed, although the Bush administration funded about $175 million in grants for human embryonic stem cell research, and despite the literally billions poured into the field from public and private sources such as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, and philanthropists, the public was continually warned that embryonic stem cell research in the United States was in danger of withering on the vine due to Bush.

With such abundant funding, that wasn't true. Nor was the charge that Bush's policy was "anti-science" because it funded only research on stem cell lines in existence as of Aug. 9, 2001. But the controversy was never a science debate. It was – and remains – an ethics debate that impacts directly on the importance and meaning of human life. Indeed, the question raised by embryonic stem cell research is whether it is morally right to treat and exploit human life – even at the nascent stage – as a mere natural resource.

That concern did not start with Bush. Since 1996 with the passage of the Dickey Amendment and continuing in a bill just signed by President Barack Obama, it has been illegal for the federal government to directly fund research that destroys human embryos.

Bush's policy went a step further, preventing funding to study stem cell lines derived from destroyed embryos in anticipation of receiving federal funding – the reason for the 2001 date.
Last week, the new president kept a campaign promise to free up federal funding for all embryonic stem cell lines whenever derived. But he also told the country that ethics still matter, stating: "We will support it (embryonic stem cell research) only if it is both scientifically worthy and responsibly conducted. We will develop strict guidelines, which we will rigorously enforce, because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse."

How is that different in kind from what Bush did? Are ethical constraints "anti-science" only if one disagrees with where the lines are drawn? Beyond that, as he revoked the Bush restrictions, Obama also undermined a promising field of regenerative medical research that holds tremendous potential to bridge the bitter cultural divides rending the country – pro-life vs. pro-choice, liberal vs. conservative, pro- and anti-embryonic stem cell research – the very kind of policy the president has repeatedly promised to pursue. This field involves alternative methods for obtaining pluripotent stem cells, which theoretically can become any tissue type, without destroying embryos.

One such alternative, "cell reprogramming," transforms ordinary body cells in the lab into "induced pluripotent stem cells." Science hailed the development of IPSCs as the biggest scientific breakthrough of 2008 and for good reason: They have already been used to create patient-specific, tailor-made stem cell lines for use in drug testing and research – the very benefit researchers once claimed that only therapeutic cloning could provide.

In 2007, President Bush issued an executive order requiring the government to fund research into alternatives. Inexplicably – and without discussing it in his speech – Obama revoked this Bush order, too. He claimed he wants to fund such research, but what he did was take away the existing legal requirement that it be done. We have seen this same undermining of alternatives here in California. Last year, Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) introduced a bill (SB 1565) that would have, among other provisions, made it easier for the CIRM to fund IPSC research. That proposed legal shift in emphasis was opposed adamantly by the CIRM, and despite overwhelming bipartisan support, fell to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto.

If pursuing the best and most ethical science were truly the goals, why deflect increased support for this promising research to which no one objects? Perhaps it is because this debate involves more than stem cells taken from embryos "left over" from in-vitro fertilization – as the argument is usually couched – which brings us back to ethics. In the wake of the Obama changes in federal policy, the New York Times editorially threw down a gauntlet, calling for both the rescission of the Dickey Amendment and federal funding of human therapeutic cloning research.

Now that the Bush restrictions are history, look for these battles – which again are not science debates – to flare in the years to come. In this sense, embryonic stem cell research threatens to become a launching pad to an ever-deepening erosion of the unique moral status of human life.

From here.

Tell White House "Uphold Freedom of Conscience"

A 30 day public comment period on the administration's decision to rescind the conscience protection regulations is currently underway. Comments may be submitted by email at proposedrescission@hhs.gov.

"The president and Cardinal George discussed a wide range of issues," stated the White House release, "including important opportunities for the government and the Catholic Church to continue their long-standing partnership to tackle some of the nation's most pressing challenges."

The statement from the USCCB said: "The meeting was private. Cardinal George and President Obama discussed the Catholic Church in the United States and its relation to the new administration."

Cardinal George, the president of the USCCB, taped the video released today after the Obama Administration announced in early March that it was rescinding the regulations which guarantee that health workers cannot be forced to provide services that violate their consciences, including abortions.

"As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we are deeply concerned that such an action on the government's part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism," says the Cardinal in the video.

"Respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion as such ensures our basic freedom from government oppression. No government should come between an individual person and God - that's what America is supposed to be about. This is the true common ground for us as Americans. We therefore need legal protection for freedom of conscience and of religion-including freedom for religious health care institutions to be true to themselves."

The Cardinal observed that the country respects conscientious objection in the case of those who object to war, "even though it's good to defend your country," and for physicians who do not want to participate in the death penalty.

"Why shouldn't our government and our legal system permit conscientious objection to a morally bad action, the killing of babies in their mother's womb?" he asks. "People understand what really happens in an abortion and in related procedures - a living member of the human family is killed - that's what it's all about - and no one should be forced by the government to act as though he or she were blind to this reality."

The Cardinal concluded by urging concerned citizens to contact the government and tell them to retain the conscience protection regulations: "I ask you please to let the government know that you want conscience protections to remain strongly in place. In particular, let the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington know that you stand for the protection of conscience, especially now for those who provide the health care services so necessary for a good society. "

Tell the White House that you oppose despotism and urge that freedom of conscience be upheld. Submit your comments by email at proposedrescission@hhs.gov.

Read more here.