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Egyptian Women Speak Out Against Sexual Violence

Violence against women at protests is at a chronic level due to security breakdowns and mass protests that are not policed. As Heba Morayef, Egypt director for Human Rights Watch says organized, opportunistic men are raping women and they are getting away with it. Furthermore, the culture of silence that blames the victims rather than the perpetrator prevails from members of the upper house of Egypt’s parliament and other women which further violates these women. 

However, as the number of victims increase, these women are rising up and speaking up against the violence. To read and to hear more, visit NPR

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Afghan Women and Girls Victims Increases, UN Says

On Tuesday, the United Nations reported that the number of civilian casualties fell for the first time since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) started measuring casualties in 2007. However, there has been a increase in the number of Afghan women and girls killed or injured in the last year while going about their daily lives. From Reuters: 

But despite the good news, the United Nations said there had been a 20 percent increase in the number of Afghan women and girls killed or injured in 2012, with more than 300 women and girls killed and more than 560 injured.

To read more, visit Reuters

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An Amazing Journey

From the Senate staff to the 2008 campaign to the White House, Joshua DuBois has been President Obama’s top faith advisor. Last week, DuBois resigned as the director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. On CNN Belief Blog, he shares reflections on his journey and what is ahead – writing a book, launching a new social enterprise, teaching and speaking. DuBois concludes:

“As a committed African-American Pentecostal, I never thought I could become such dear friends with so many in the faith community  Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Jews, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats  who care first about God, and second about their neighbors, and seek to live this care out into the world. I would hope to honor those friendships, continue to serve this good president, and let my life and work be a song of worship in the exciting days ahead.”

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House Passes Bill Requiring FEMA to Deliver Storm Aid to Houses of Worship

Following more than 200 houses of worship being denied FEMA aid following Superstorm Sandy, on Feb. 13, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 592 with a vote of 354-72, to clarify that houses of worship are “eligible for certain disaster relief and emergency assistance on terms equal to other eligible private nonprofit facilities, and for other purposes.” From The Hill:

Supporters of the bipartisan bill, H.R. 592, said federal aid to houses of worship is not a violation of the Constitution when that aid is meant to be used broadly for a range of affected entities. In those cases, federal aid need not be withheld from houses of worship that are, like many others, seeking to repair their buildings from storm damage.

"There is no intrinsically religious purpose in providing disaster assistance," said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), a supporter of the bill.

Read more HERE.

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Episcopal Bishop Schori Addresses Senate Committee on Gun Violence

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, submitted written testimony today to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on gun violence, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. The subcommittees is accepting “Proposals to reduce gun violence: protecting our communities while respecting the Second Amendment." Established after the Newtown massacre and in the wake of President Obama's leadership on reducing gun violence, the subcomittee is recieving statements from a number of religious leaders.
 
Bishop Schori says:
"I urge lawmakers to press for comprehensive and universal background checks for firearm ownership, regardless of where and how a gun is purchased; for bans on the availability to civilians of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines; and for policies designed to better regulate the manufacture of guns,” the Presiding Bishop states in her testimony. “The Episcopal Church also supports the highest level of accountability for violation of all existing laws pertaining to violence in our midst.”
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Pope Benedict XVI Announces Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI announced today he will step down on Feb. 28, citing his advanced age. The head of the Catholic Church is 85 years old. Below is the text of his announcement.

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

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How Abortion Became An Evangelical Issue

Evangelicals haven't always been part of the pro-life coalition. Prior to Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution supporting abortion in certain circumstances. After Roe allowed any abortion for any reason, evangelicals began to change their stance and with Catholics formed the pro-life coalition we know today. The Washington Post reports:

The reality of abortion on demand and exposure to the logic of the abortion rights movement led to a fundamental shift in the evangelical conscience. By 1976 the Southern Baptist Convention would declare every abortion to be a “decision to terminate the life of an innocent human being.” Similarly, the large evangelical movement would develop an overwhelming pro-life consensus, seeing abortion as a great moral evil and a threat to the dignity of all human life.

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In 113th Congress: First Hindu, first Buddhist in Senate, and (maybe) first ‘none’

The 113th Congress is the most diverse in U.S. history. New members include the first Hindu, first Buddhist, and the first "none." The Washington Post reports:

The new, 113th Congress includes the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate, the first Hindu to serve in either chamber and the first member of Congress to describe her religion as “none,” continuing a gradual increase in religious diversity that mirrors trends in the country as a whole. While Congress remains majority Protestant, the institution is far less so today than it was 50 years ago, when nearly three-quarters of the members belonged to Protestant denominations.

Read more here.

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The Rise of a New Religious America

In November, Americans elected the first Hindu and Buddhist representatives to Congress. They represent a growing number of religious minorities who are becoming more and more visible. The Washington Post reports:

Now that Protestants are no longer in the majority – as reported in a study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in October – even the term “religious minority” will need fresh definition in our newly minted minority-majority nation.

Read more here.

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Baby Boomer Nuns Help Revolutionize Health Care

Since Vatican II American Nuns have  worked to fill in the gaps of the American health care system. A new documentary chronicles how these nuns changed the Catholic Church's social justice movement. CNN reports:

"Vatican II was the spark that showed the church isn't just the hierarchy, it's the people," Fishman said. "Sisters from all over the country were inspired to work directly with those that needed their help. These faith-filled people became the most vibrant part of the church who went on to get people excited and passionate about doing God's work and creating real change."

Read more here.

 

 

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Episcopal Bishop Jane Dixon Dies at 75

Bishop Jane Dixon, 75, died in her sleep on Christmas Day, according to the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Dixon was the second woman consecrated as bishop in the Episcopal Church and the third in Anglican Communion.

A champion for justice and equality, Dixon was selected three times byWashingtonian magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in the Washington metropolitan area. In January 2002, she was named a Washingtonian of the Year. 

From Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of Washington

Called to serve at a time when some refused to accept the authority of a woman bishop, Jane led with courage and conviction, and sometimes at great personal cost.  She demonstrated that same bravery and grace when she brought hope and healing to our country by officiating at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service at Washington National Cathedral following the tragedy on 9/11.   

Jane was a fighter for equality and social justice and this led her to speak at the White House against hate crimes and to stand for inclusiveness within the Episcopal Church.  

'Jane is a person who has the courage of her convictions but the grace and humility to know that none of us can equate our ways with God's ways, our thoughts with God's thoughts,' said the late Verna Dozier, Jane’s longtime mentor, in the sermon she preached at Jane’s consecration.

Dixon is survived by her husband of 52 years, David McFarland Dixon, Sr., her three children, and six grandchildren.

Photo: jaymallinphotos / Flickr.

 

 

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Supreme Court Takes Up Landmark Gay Marriage Case

Talking Points Memo reports:

The Supreme Court declared Friday that it will take up same sex marriage next year in what’s sure to be a blockbuster case with sweeping implications.

The Court accepted a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that prohibits federal recognition of same sex marriage. Two appeals courts have ruled that Section 3, which effectively bans same sex couples legally married in their states from receiving federal benefits, is invalid under the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Oral arguments will be next spring and a decision is expected by the end of June

Read more here.

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Progressive Christians Enter the Age of Relevancy

The Huffington Post reports:

It's been a sobering few decades for Christians who work alongside the poor, claim their feminism, respect scientific discovery, care for the earth, and yearn for marriage equality. We felt like the voice of Christianity had been captured by some strange ventriloquist, and it was proclaiming things that often contradicted our faith. We became frustrated with our own irrelevance, as our speech in the public square seemed to be on permanent mute.

And yet, we worked alongside the poor, remembering Mary, the mother of Jesus, a single woman expecting a child. Mary magnificently proclaimed that God had exalted the humble, filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich empty away.

Read more here.

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Mitt, Mormons, and the Religious Test That Wasn’t

Charls C. Haynes writes in The Washington Post:

Buried in the mountain of demographic data preoccupying political pundits this week is one historic statistic that may have far-reaching consequences for religious freedom in America:

Seventy-nine percent of white Protestant evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – popularly known as the Mormon Church.

After a bitter Republican primary season during which many evangelical leaders supported the “anybody but Romney” effort, prominent conservative Christian ministers lined up behind Romney for the general election. A defining moment came on Oct. 11 when America’s Preacher, the Rev. Billy Graham, publicly signaled support for Romney’s candidacy.

Read more here.

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Should President Obama reach out to the Catholic bishops?

Thomas J. Reese writes in The Washington Post:

One group of Americans that took a beating in the recent election was the U.S. Catholic bishops. Many of them were not shy in expressing their opposition to the administration and their preference for a Romney presidency. They also fought and lost a series of state referendums on gay marriage.

Some in the Obama administration may feel that the election shows that the bishops can be ignored as leaders without followers. But it would be a mistake to count out an institution that has been around for 2,000 years. In fact, this is a situation where being a gracious victor is not only the right thing to do, it makes good political sense.

Read more here.

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