Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quote of the Week - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes."-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Saturday, March 30, 2013

US Air Power Down-Sizing

3/28/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force released its plan Mar. 28 to implement force structure changes mandated by the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

The bill authorized the service to complete actions approved in previous years, such as aircraft retirements, and directed execution of Congressionally-approved force structure actions.

Some of these changes were outlined in the Air Force's Total Force Proposal, developed in coordination with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Others were congressionally-directed.

'Our Air Force continues efforts to maximize the strength of our Total Force, and we are pleased with the progress that is being made on this front,' said Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley. 'This implementation plan illustrates the Air Force's continued commitment to transparency as it completes the force structure requirements directed and authorized by the NDAA.'

The NDAA directs a reduction of 65 aircraft and approximately 1,400 military billets from the Air National Guard, 57 aircraft from the Air Force Reserve, and 122 aircraft and approximately 6,100 military billets from the active-duty Air Force.

Read it all here.

Friday, March 29, 2013

US Bombers Over Korea

Steve Herman 
March 28, 2013

U.S. B-2 bombers have conducted a firing drill on the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. military is making no secret that the non-stop flights of a pair of B-2 bombers Thursday from the United States to South Korea should be interpreted as a signal to North Korea.

A military news release announcing the mission says it 'demonstrates the United States' ability to conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will.'

The strategic stealth bombers flew from Whiteman Air Force Base in the U.S. state of Missouri to drop inert munitions on an island off the southwestern coast of the Korean peninsula before heading back to their home base - a 20,000 kilometer non-stop trip.

Shin In-kyun, who heads the Korea Defense Network - an alliance of military experts based in Seoul - says it is unprecedented for the U.S. Air Force to be so transparent about such B-2 flights.

Shin says this means that the United States is taking seriously the provocative language from Pyongyang. And the B-2 is "a weapon North Korea fears the most."

Read it all here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nigeria Emerging Economic Power

"Africa has more than one story. When we get to know it well and completely, we surprisingly discover a continent that is big, joyful, generous, enthusiastic and optimistic. It is today the darling of many foreign investors, and the world's superpowers are competing to lay first claim to it, not now as lords as in times past, but with a desire to be first to be regarded Africa's friends. So much has it grown in many facets, economy included, that it portends hope for many peoples.

A one-word Ibo proverb "Nkoli" loosely translates to "tell your own story". Harambee blog sets out to contribute local brush strokes to build the real story about Africa told by Africans themselves.

There is much hope Africa can offer the rest of the world; from its love of life and family, to the heroic examples of people who have withstood great odds with a smile on their lips, and great stories of innovation achieved with limited resources." --Eugene Ohu, a Nigerian freelance journalist


From his office overlooking the Bank of England and the Shard, Charlie Robertson, one of the leading emerging market economists in the City, shows me his charts and graphs. According to his research, what started as a boom for raw materials will culminate with the complete transformation of the African continent by 2050.

Nigeria’s reinforced foundations

The Nigerian economy will eclipse South Africa, which by then will become just a regional player. I query whether the growth in countries like Nigeria, is built on shaky foundations, and whether corruption will undermine its prospects.

“All I can talk about is what I’ve seen,” says Robertson. He points to Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor since 2009, “who is remarkable. I haven’t heard anyone suggest that he’s in any way corrupt.”

And Sanusi is not alone. “If you go to the central government side, you’ve got Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who could have been the World Bank chief, if the Americans and Europeans hadn’t stitched up who gets the top job at the IMF and the World Bank…she’s that good.”

There is also the agriculture minister, “who looks great,” the trade and industry minister, the stock exchange chairman. “You seem to have a whole load of people with global and western skills in Africa pushing for change in the right direction.”

However, he concedes that Nigeria’s reputation for corruption is something that cannot be brushed aside. “I’m not naïve,” he says. “One of the key things I talk about is corruption and I say, well there’s a lot of corruption. This is normal at this income level, and inevitable, but you have got countries that are making a big difference.”

He points to a chart showing corruption linked to per capita GDP, with scores of 1 to 10 given by Transparency International. “Now the thing about all of these countries that are getting a good score, is that they are all rich…If you are poor, if your per capita GDP is $7000 or less, you are perceived to be corrupt.”

This suggests that the growth of the middle class in many Sub-Saharan African countries will mean an increase of educated people who are starting to question the government, demanding accountability.

“Basically we’re all pretty badly behaved when we’re poor, and as you get richer you begin to demand more transparency and more improvement. It’s not even about democracy versus dictatorship, because a lot of these countries like Qatar and Singapore don’t get great scores on democracy. But they are nonetheless seen to be quite un-corrupt, compared to poor countries,” says Robertson pointing to his chart.

“So my argument is that corruption is a problem and it will continue to be a problem until Sub-Saharan GDP is at $10,000, which we’re not going to get to for another 20 years, before you start to record scores in a three to six range instead of a 2 to 4 range. It’s going to be a very long process I suspect.”

“So my first point is corruption does exist, it is an obstacle. However, you’ve got good people in place to do the right thing. If you look at transparency scores for Nigeria, in 2001 it had a score of 1, today it’s got a score of 2.4. That was the 3rd best improvement of any country since 2001.”

Nevertheless, when it comes to Africa, it is, of course, not all plain sailing. Robertson admits there is a risk of countries going backwards, but he says: “That’s true for almost all the African countries.”

Democracy happens at $6000 GDP

There is an element that Robertson refers to as the democratisation risk. When per capita GDP reaches US$6000 p.a. all countries become democracies other than oil exporters, but before the country reaches that level of GDP there are inherent risks of failure in the system.

To support this theory he points to the fact that every country in the world which had a per capita GDP above $6000 in 2009 is a democracy of sorts, apart from six countries. The exceptions are China, which he predicts will democratise within a decade, Belarus, Cuba and Singapore. Tunisia and Thailand the other two of those six countries are now both democracies. “Tunisia which obviously led the whole Arab revolution, and the reason it led it in my view, was because their per capita GDP was over $6000, the middle class was ready for democracy.”

“Now that’s good, as you get richer, democracy gets stronger, and never ever dies. There is no case in history of a country above $10,000 losing democracy, it’s never happened. But sadly if you’re at $2000 or less of GDP, there’s quite a high chance, in fact, in any given year there’s about an 8 per cent chance of losing democracy,” Robertson explains. Hence the democratisation risk.

“A year ago when I started writing this book an 8 per cent chance, basically told me that one or two of them were likely to fall to a coup in any given year. And they did, Mauritania and Mali, and there should be, statistically, another coup this year in a nice but fragile democracy.”

Read it all here.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Legal Equality or Marriage Redefined?

Raphael Sanzio
Marriage of the Virgin
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
Alice C. Linsley

The United States of America is facing the question of marriage, that is, whether the traditional definition will stand or whether "marriage" is a term that also can be applied to same-sex couples. The original amicus brief before the US Supreme Court, with its supporting documentation, can be found here.

Some are calling this the "trials of marriage." We should consider instead that "marriage is on trial."

Why the big push to call same-sex partnerships "marriage" in the United States?  The answer is clear: activism on many levels supported by a great deal of money.

Other countries call this same-sex civil "partnership" and this is legally equal to marriage between a man and a woman. So the issue is not equality before the law, but redefining marriage.

Norway has had "registered partnerships" since 1993.

Sweden has called them "registered partnerships" since 1994.

Hungary and Iceland have had "registered partnerships" since 1996.

France has called them “civil solidarity pacts” since 1999.

In Denmark “registered partnerships” were first recognized in 1998 as an alternative to marriage and an option for heterosexual couples. Adoption by homosexual couples was approved in 2000.

The Netherlands, Finland and Germany have had "registered partnerships" since 2001.

In the USA same-sex partnerships are recognized in nine states and the District of Columbia. It has been argued that the Federal government should apply federal "marriage" benefits uniformly, but the states decide what constitutes a civil union or marriage. It is clear that other countries do not uniformly recognize same-sex partnerships either. Argentina has had "partnership registration" since 2003 only in Buenos Aires city and Rio Negro province. Likewise, Australia implemented "cohabitation rights" in 1994 in the Capitol Territory, and in 1999 in New South Wales, and in 2001 in Victoria.

In Spain, despite the Socialist Party push to grant equal status to same-sex partnerships through the "Law of amendment of the Civil Code in the matter of Marriage," homosexual partnerships are not recognized by the Church and are limited to some states. The law is intentionally ambiguous. Zapatero remembers how the Spanish Republic, a coalition of Leftist groups, attempted to impose a new morality on Catholic Spain in 1936 and cast that nation into a bloody civil war.

Switzerland has permitted homosexuals to form "civil partnerships" since 2005.

Liechtenstein has had "registered partnerships" since 2002.

New Zealand passed a "civil union" bill in 2005.

It should be noted that none of these nations has chosen to call homosexual partnerships "marriage." The world consensus is that marriage is a unique institution between a man and a woman. The argument against DOMA involves the binary framework that is universally and empirically observed in the order of Nature. A lawyer has argued that the human race has "evolved" beyond this. The Justices do not appear to be convinced by this because they recognize that this overthrows the basis of empiricism.

Many countries that permit homosexual civil partnerships do not permit homosexual couples to adopt children. Justice Scalia rightly raised the concern for children in his questioning.

Same-sex partnerships can never be marriages. The essential property of marriage is the binary set of male-female. That said, there will continue to be challenges to the withholding of federal benefits from US citizens who are recognized as legal partners by the 9 states and DC. In Wednesday's hearing the challenge to DOMA failed to demonstrate federal government interest in this, except for Obama's politically-motivated advocacy against DOMA. The Judges will probably decide that special recognition of and uniform application of same-sex partnerships cannot come from the federal government without violation of the historic right of the states.

Related reading: Homosex not universally acceptedCivil Partnership Does Not a Marriage Make; SCOTUS Considers Gay "Marriage"; The Shaky Science Behind Same-Sex Marriage; Today's Savage Mind

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rice: Africa's New Commodity?

Alice C. Linsley

Rice paddy in Volta Valley at Gobi

At one time rice was cultivated in the great river basins of East Africa. It was exported from Africa to Asia. From Asia, to came back to Africa. The exchange of rice was so common that the word for rice became the name of a basic measurement of weight.

During ice age glacial advances, when the ocean levels were up to 390 feet (120 meters) lower, both Asia and Australia were united with islands on their respective continental shelves and formed continuous land masses. However, the deep water between those two continental shelves kept the flora separated. During the late Paleolithic, rice exchange spread due to human commerce on the seas.

Rice formed the basis of weight measurement from East Africa to Sulawesi. On Madagascar, the weight of one grain of rice is called vary. This corresponds to the Swahili wari and to the Dravidian verasu. The Hebrew word for rice is orez and the Arabic is ruz. These share the RZ root with Dravidian.The Dravidian word reflects the most ancient written records of commercial weights.

Rice is returning to Africa as a significant grain commodity. Here is the most recent news:

In Ghana’s Volta river valley, a comprehensive project has been launched to expand Africa’s capacity for the cultivation of rice – a stubbornly unpredictable commodity that is critical to the continent’s continued food stability.

Launched two years ago, the project, known as Gadco, brings agricultural experts from Brazil, where rice is successfully grown in conditions similar to Western Africa, to Ghana. This will help local farmers learn to cultivate rice.

Over decades, there have been countless attempts have failed to successfully grow rice in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly due to poor management and a lack of funding. However, thus far Gadco appears to have finally managed to develop rice production in Africa.

Gadco is a profit-driven model and the funding has been provided by Summit Capital, a Seattle-based hedge fund. Over $15 million was spent on the first phase, bringing 40-per cent returns to investors. Thus far, the Gadco rice paddies have cultivated 1,600 hectares and have produced two successful harvests. Additional paddies are currently being planned.

The next phase of the project will be launched within the next two years. It will use a $100-million investment to develop rice paddies in five Sub-Saharan countries, including Mozambique, Zambia and Nigeria.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quote of the Week - Emile Cioran

“The French will not wake up until Notre Dame becomes a mosque.”-- Emile Cioran

Louisiana Benedictines Win Coffin Case

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that monks at St. Joseph Abbey near Covington should be allowedto sell handmade caskets from their monastery, despite opposition from Louisiana's funeral home directors who claimed a sole right to sell caskets in the state. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision to strike down a state law limiting casket sales to licensed members of the funeral industry.

The decision marks a victory for the Benedictine monastery, which has struggled for several years for the right to sell simple, wooden caskets built by monks in a woodshop to fund their medical and education needs. In 2007, the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors ordered the abbey to cease sales after a funeral home owner filed a formal complaint.

"We're just really thankful we can continue, because it means a lot to people," said St. Joseph Abbey's Abbot Justin Brown on Wednesday. "Every couple of weeks or so, I get a letter or a note or a phone call from people who have had our casket for a loved one, and they all are just so grateful and appreciative. It made them feel so good that they knew these caskets were made with love and prayer."

St. Joseph Abbey's lawyers said while the Fifth Circuit ruled against the Louisiana law, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar law limiting casket sales in Oklahoma in 2004. The divided opinion now leaves an opening for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh-in, if the Louisiana board decides to appeal, lawyers said.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Suspect in Daniel Pearl Murder Arrested

Journalist Daniel Pearl

Pakistani authorities announced on March 18, 2013 that they have apprehended a militant who was allegedly involved in the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi, according to news reports.

"As with every journalist murder, any and all perpetrators in the slaying of Daniel Pearl must be prosecuted and punished," said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. "In order to curb growing impunity in Pakistan, it is imperative that authorities send the strongest possible signal that acts of anti-press violence will not go unpunished."

The Pakistan Rangers paramilitary force said they detained Qari Abdul Hayee, popularly known as Asadullah, on Sunday March 17 during a raid on an unspecified location in Karachi, according to a Rangers spokesman, reports said.

Read it all here.

Related reading:  Daniel Pearl World Press Freedom Hero

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Episcopal "Church" Sticks it to Falls Church

Virginia Episcopal Bishop Shannon Johnston ordained an avowed lesbian, Jo J. Belser, to the priesthood in the former parish of the Rev. John Yates - at the Falls Church, VA -- even as he talked up "reconciliation" with ACNA priest the Rev. Tory Baucam in front of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Coventry cathedral recently.

The ordination included a number of men and women one of which included Belser. Belser is the lesbian daughter of a fundamentalist preacher who lives in Alexandria, VA, She said that she joined the Episcopal Church because "it's the only one that lets gay people grow spiritually without requiring that they stop being gay."

Here is an excerpt from Fr. Tory Baucam's response:

First was the ordination of a non-celibate lesbian in the former home of the Falls Church Anglican parish this past December. This was a problem of both menu and venue, of what and where it was done. This kind of ordination, which violates scriptural teaching, caused the Anglican schism in the first place. I believe that holding the service at the Falls Church shortly after they lost their building showed a disregard and lack of respect for the good and godly pastor and the people of the Falls Church. This was a failure to treat others in a way that honors the imago dei in each of us. It was extremely painful to learn of this action and my full sympathy is with John Yates+ and his congregation.

Read it all here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis is "an inspired appointment"

The Anglican Bishop of Argentina and former primate of the Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur (Anglican Church of the Southern Cone), the Most Rev. Greg Venables, has applauded the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio saying the Argentine Archbishop is a devout Christian and friend to Anglicans, who has stood in solidarity with the poor against government corruption and social engineering.

In a note released after the election of the new Pope, Francis I, on March 13 Bishop Venables wrote:

“Many are asking me what Jorge Bergoglio is really like. He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him."

In 2010 Bishop Venables joined forces with Cardinal Bergoglio to fight a government bill authorizing same-sex marriage. Cardinal Bergogolio denounced the move saying “this is no mere legislative bill. It is a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Read it all here.

Related reading:  The Vatican on Cardinal Antonellis' Pro-Gay Statement

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mississippi Passes School Prayer Bill

The Mississippi Legislature passed a bill allowing student-led prayer and religius clubs in public schools with a majority vote in both the Senate and the House. The State Senate passed the bill with an overwhelming majority vote of 50-1.

Senate Bill 2633 – also known as "The Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act of 2013"– prohibits public schools in the state from discrimination due to student's expression of religious beliefs. The bill, which passed March 6, has been sent to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature.

Representative Mark Formby (R-Pearl River) has introduced a school prayer bill every year since 2009. He shared with The Christian Post on Tuesday his reasoning for supporting such a bill, saying, "Legislators, especially those who claim to be Christian and that represent constituencies that are predominately Christian according to polling, should make proactive moves to stand in the gap. That's what I see this particular bill doing."

Formby, who is of the Baptist faith, went on to say, "I think that it is very obvious, any casual by-stander can tell that there is an attack on religion in general, especially on Christianity."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Mississippi sent a letter in a separate matter to a local Mississippi school district in October demanding that there be an end "to its widespread practice of promoting religious beliefs to students, faculty and staff," according to an official document.

Read it all here.

Related reading:  Kansas Science Education Bill Fails; Oklahoma and Tennessee: Teach the Controversy Bills


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quote of the Week - Fr. Anatoly Volgin

"The icon is, above all, theology. Its function consists not in aesthetic contemplation, but in participation in the act of worship ..." --Fr. Anatoly Volgin

Is the Pope an icon?  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Censorship in Turkey

(Bianet/IFEX) - Three associations representing Turkey's biggest educational, writing and film-making unions organized a panel on 7 March to discuss the The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government's recent censorship of classic literary works, such as Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince and John Steinback's Of Mice and Men.

Turkish students read books in school library

"The government aims to give society a more Islamic identity by censoring classic literary works," said Ünsal Yıldız, chairperson of Egitim-Sen, Turkey's Education and Science Workers Union.

Noting that the early AKP government promised to transform Turkey into a more transparent and pluralistic society, Yıldız claimed that the AKP has finally shown its true colours.

"It is not only about censorship," Yıldız continued. "The government is putting pressure on every opposing opinion. We are experiencing lay-offs at major newspapers. The purpose behind all of these practices is to flourish political Islam in Turkey's mainstream culture." Yıldız further claimed that several classic literary works have been edited to sound more Islamic.

"From Oscar Wilde to Leo Tolstoy, to Heidi and Pinnochio. We see this even in cartoons. This reminds us of the military coup days in 1980, where teachers were facing investigations for what they used in their curriculum. As the union, we strongly encourage our teacher members to keep 'state-censored' classic literary pieces in their curriculum, with the original version."

Mustafa Köz , chairperson of the Writers Union of Turkey, described government censorship as "black humor."

"We have a government that sees writers and literature as adversaries," he said. "They want to form a new society by putting a barrier between people and literature. We won't let that happen."

Poet Ataol Behramoğlu from the Moviemakers Labor Union of Turkey also supported the panel, saying that an intervention on literary works would severely damage their quality.

Turkish women journalists

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Big Money Backs Sterilization Camps

A government hospital in West Bengal's Malda district is facing an inquiry for conducting mass sterilization of women and relocating the women to a nearby open field.

Biswa Ranjan Satpathi, West Bengal's director of health services, was reported to have said, "This is inhuman and we have ordered a probe into the incident." 

Staff at a mass sterilization camp in West Bengal dumped 106 women in a field to recover after their painful surgeries.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the British government organized a family planning summit in London. Rich nations and NGOs pledged US$2.6 billion for population control/contraception in the developing world.

At the summit "sterilization camps" were not mentioned, but India's representatives spoke of a "paradigm shift" in their family planning. Likely, some of the $2.6 billion went into the pockets of the doctors who sterilized Indian women at the Manikchak Rural Hospital.

After the operation, women still under the effects of anesthesia, were dumped in an open field. According to the local media, "such frenzied sterilization camps are routine".

India no longer has centralized family planning quotas, but in practice state and district officials set targets, leading to disgraces like this.

Related reading: Australia Forced Sterilization Investigated; Israel's Abuse of Ethiopian Women; Judge Harms' Abortion-Sterilization Order Overruled

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Boko Haram Butchers Christian Factory Workers

The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN has urged the authorities to probe the gruesome killing of 13 factory workers identified as Christians at Sheka, Sharada Phase 111 in Kumbotso Local Government Area of Kano, by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members.

Although CAN has started its own probe of the killings, it wants the police to unravel what really happened.

Reports said terrorists stormed the residence of the factory workers at the weekend and killed all the men except, sparing the women and children..

“The occupants of that compound are mostly factory workers, and they are Christians. The gun men who came in taxi asked if they were not observing the evening Muslim prayers; and when they confirmed their victims were Christians, they started killing them sparing only the female and children.

“After the attack, I counted at least, 13 dead bodies murdered in gruesome manner. Security agencies later came and evacuated them, while the very few of them who survived the attack fled the area and vowed never to return,” said a resident of the area.

Bishop Ransom Bello, CAN chairman in Kano has been in a very bad mood, not only because of the killings but what he described as the non-challant attitude of Kano state government over the incident.

Bello who is also the General Overseer of Calvary Life Assembly said he has handed over the matter to CAN’s national leadership, adding that with what is happening, it has become obvious that Christians are no longer safe in Kano.

“Reports of the attack reaching us disclosed that on that fateful Saturday at about 7 p.m, Muslim faithful were conducting their prayer close to the affected compound occupied by Christian families, when two taxi cabs stopped in front of the compound and the occupants, who all concealed their arms dashed into the complex and demanded to know why the residents were not part of the 7 p.m. Muslim prayer.

“They responded by telling the visitors they were Christians and so could not be part of the Muslim gathering. At that point, they separated the men from their wives and children and shot them dead on the spot after ordering the women and children into their homes. The 13th victim, who hid in a dark alley in the compound, surrendered himself, following threats by the gunmen to visit the same fate on the women and children if any man was found shielded,” Bello recounted.

“We are pained over the silence of the relevant authorities in the state, including the government on such a high profile murder. Even though we believe it is the handiwork of extremists, who do not see the reason why the Muslim North should accommodate Christians. We are really worried that nobody from the government has deemed it right to console the family of those that were killed,” Bello lamented.

He added that, “government should show more concern, like it has always done when Muslims are affected; I have not seen that in the case of Christians—that 13 Christians were killed in one straight attack and nothing is heard from the government reflects selective justice because we are aware of compensation paid to Muslim families in situations of this nature.”

Kano state Commissioner of Police, Musa Daura confirmed the incident, saying that a special investigative team has already been dispatched to fish out the killers of the 13 men.

Daura who described the incident as unfortunate, embarrassing and barbaric, urged Kano residents to cooperate with security agencies by giving useful information on crime, terrorist activities and strange movement within their areas.

From here.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Others Join Rand Paul Filibuster

“I will speak until I can no longer speak,” Paul said. “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

The Kentucky senator was allowed to yield to the other like-minded conservatives for “a question,” but there are no rules mandating the form of the question. So, for example, Cruz and Lee delivered long speeches themselves in opposition to the drone program, sometimes actually stopping to ask Paul a question, other times going on for extended speechifying.

Why I Will Miss Pope Benedict

Monique David

I will miss the insights Benedict offered during his weekly public audiences. Since 2005, I have read most of his Wednesday addresses and have always found them incisive, relevant and practical, bridging divine truths and earthly realities. There was always food for thought and I have often found myself cogitating on these ideas long after reading them. I have forwarded many audiences over the years to friends or colleagues who I thought could benefit from the wisdom they encapsulated. They offered lights for scanning one’s conscience and behaviour as well as original explanations of theological notions which entered into dialogue with the public square.

In his Ash Wednesday audience, for example, he described the nature of Christ’s temptations in light of our daily struggles, pointing out that “reflecting on the temptations undergone by Jesus in the desert is an invitation for each of us to answer a fundamental question: what is truly important in our lives?”

I will miss witnessing his profound piety. The few liturgical celebrations presided over by Benedict XVI that I have been privileged to witness engraved images in my memory of a man plunged in prayer. Even though the camera made him the focus of attention, his center of attention was clearly not the camera. He was not the protagonist; God was. Clearly, the beauty of the liturgy was his highway to God. He was a living example of the core principle of liturgy: “where the gaze upon God is not decisive, everything else loses its orientation. The fundamental criterion for the liturgy is its orientation toward God, to be able thus to participate in his work.” (Public Audience “On the Sacred Liturgy as a School of Prayer”, September 26th 2012).

I will miss his humble gaze, which touched me when he first appeared in St. Peter’sloggia greeting the expectant crowd on the day of his election. And with the years, getting to know him better through his writings, his teaching and his ministry, I came to admire how that gaze is simply a reflection of his profoundly humble interior. He is increasingly recognized by renowned scholars as one of the best minds of our times and yet his demeanour reminds me that in his heart beats the conviction that he is the “Servant of the servants of God”.

I will miss his gentleness. I remember a scene during World Youth Day 2011 in Spain, when he visited a center for disabled children. He was, as any of us would be, very touched by the children’s welcome. It was striking to hear him say how much he was learning from them, asking them to pray for him and assuring them and their parents of his affectionate prayers. Visibly moved, he greeted each one of them lovingly and attentively. He was one of them.

I will miss his academic rigour and the way he approached the reality of faith. An exemplary intellectual, he had great faith in reason. I admire his love for truth. This love led him to promote rigorous and vigorous dialogues among theologians, philosophers, scientists, artists, politicians and leaders of other religions, as well as atheists and agnostics. And this genuine dialogue was driven by the Pope’s conviction that we all need each other to find the common ground necessary to promote human dignity and the building blocks of a more just world.

I find consolation in his parting words: “I wish to devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.” His prayer will undoubtedly generate even more wisdom which, hopefully, he will share with us in writings, as he has generously done up to now.

And despite my sorrow, there is an overwhelming surge of gratitude for the opportunity to have discovered the true German Shepherd so often misrepresented as “God’s Rottweiler”. Thankfully, this is not a funeral eulogy but a heartfelt recognition of a blessing for the Church and for whoever is wise enough to recognize in Benedict XVI his stature as a priest, theologian, pastor and Pope, who will still be among us, although in a hidden way.

Monique David is a Montreal based writer.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Quote of the Week - Soren Kierkegaard

"When the prosperous man on a dark but starlit night drives comfortably in his carriage and has the lanterns lighted, aye, then he is safe, he fears no difficulty, he carries his light with him, and it is not dark close around him. But precisely because he has the lantern lighted, and has a strong light close to him, precisely for this reason, he cannot see the stars. For his light obscures the stars, which the poor peasant, driving without light, can see gloriously in the dark but starry night. So those deceived ones live in the temporal existence: either, occupied with the necessities of life, they are too busy to avail themselves of the view, or in the prosperity and good day they have, as it were, lanterns lighted, and close about them everything is so satisfactory, so pleasant, so comfortable - but the view is lacking, the prospect, the view of the stars." --Soren Kierkegaard

Saturday, March 2, 2013

India: Another Minor Raped in Bhandara

Close on the heels of rape and murder of three minor girls of a family in Bhandara, a 14-year- old girl was allegedly raped by a teacher on school premises in the district.

Yadav Borkar (46), a government school teacher, allegedly raped the girl in the school premises at Golati village in Lakhandur taluka of Bhandara district two days ago, police said.

After the complaint was filed today, Borkar surrendered before the police and was arrested.

On February 14, three sisters, aged 6, 9 and 11 years, were abducted from Murwadi village of Bhandara district. Two days later, their bodies were found in a well. The post-mortem revealed that the girls were raped and sodomised before they were killed.

Police have made no progress in identifying the girls' abductors though they have questioned hundreds. 

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde revealed the names of three Maharashtra rape victims in the Rajya Sabha and subsequently retracted his statement. The Rajya Sabha expunged names of the rape victims from Shinde`s statement, but his ministry had already circulated the information to the media.

The three girls' destitute mother has rejected the government’s compensation offer of Rs 10 lakhs and wants the money be used to find the culprits. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

African Values and an African Pope

Eugene Ohu

Africans have values they consider inalienable and which for want of a better term they call “African values”. It might be because these values existed long before Christianity came to us, or because since most of Europe from whom we learnt them have abandoned these, we need to protect them with a name that is independent. And so “African values” refer to our belief in the sanctity of matrimony, as a union between a married man and woman, a belief in agreement with the teachings of the Bible. This union is the source of the family, the wellspring of society and hence determines the direction of social, economic and political decisions, and if they respect the dignity of man or not. Modernization and improved travel and communication is of course exposing Africa to values contrary to these “traditional” ones, a fact the Pope also acknowledged in the same aforementioned address. Two of such dangers being imported from Europe to Africa are those of practical materialism laced with relativist and nihilist thinking and that of religious fundamentalism. Ending therefore on a note of hope he concluded, “In as much as it protects and develops its faith, Africa will discover immense resources to support the family built on matrimony”.

Related to this is of course the respect for life from the moment of conception to its natural end. This is a Christian value but something, which Africans take very much as their own.

In the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Africa Munus that he gave during his 2011 visit to Benin Republic in Africa, Pope Benedict XVI enumerated countless virtues and values that are natural to Africa and which he wished we would sustain and if possible transmit to the rest of the world. It is telling that he prefaced his words in that document with these words of the gospel, “«you are the salt of the earth ...You are the light of the world » (Mt. 5: 13-14). Does Africa hold the key for a new hope for the Catholic Church?

Against the backdrop of the loneliness and rejection many aged people in Europe experience, leading some to consider euthanasia a work of “mercy”, the Pope said: “In Africa, the elderly are held in particular veneration. They are not banished from families or marginalized as in other cultures. On the contrary, they are esteemed and perfectly integrated within their families, of which they are indeed the pinnacle. This beautiful African appreciation of old age should inspire Western societies to treat the elderly with greater dignity.”

About women: “Women in Africa make a great contribution to the family, to society and to the Church by their many talents and unique gifts.”

About young people he said: “Young people make up the majority of Africa’s population. This youthfulness is a gift and a treasure from God for which the whole Church is grateful to the Lord of life.”

As subjects for a speculative exercise consider Ghana’s Cardinal Turkson and Nigeria’s Arinze. Besides their contribution and experience, serving the Church at various levels, in the eyes of many in the label-loving liberal world, both have the disadvantage of being “ultra conservatives”, meaning that they both strive to be faithful to Orthodox Church teaching. That in my book would be positive attributes. Both Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger were guilty of this and both were elected Pope, so clearly the ways of the world may not always translate to the votes of the Cardinals. As we stated in an earlier post, Cardinal Arinze is already 80 years old. If the present Pope cites age as a reason for retiring, my thinking is that the cardinal electors would want to do their best not to have another conclave any time soon, even though such desires counted for nothing in 1978 with two conclaves. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have to their credit the efforts they have made to foster Christian unity, a recent example being the creation of the Ordinariates for the acceptance of Anglicans desirous of returning to the Church. This should count in the favor of these cardinals.

At the 1979 episcopal ordination of Guinean Cardinal Sarah he was the youngest bishop in the world so clearly both his holiness and maturity have long been recognized. Before coming to Cor Unum, he was secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. If it is Europe that now needs to be “re-evangelized”, who might be better prepared? Therefore as far as credentials are concerned, Cardinal Sarah is not doing badly.

But these are mere speculations, food for fertile human minds. What is however clear is that whoever it is that the Holy Spirit choses as Pope, when the cardinals meet to be his instruments, he ought clearly to look towards Africa and breath there the clean, fresh air of faith and moral uprightness that still exist in many of its parts.

Read it all here.