News Bites

  • Grand Gestures. In an unprecedented move, Iraq's leading Shia cleric, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, met with a delegation of Iraqi Christian leaders from the Armenian Christian Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Churches in October to stress common bonds, encourage active participation in Iraq's elections, and to address the bombing of Christian churches.

  • Stay Strong. The Presbyterian Church (USA) headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, received a letter threatening arson attacks on Presbyterian churches because of its policies in the Middle East. Last July, the Presbyterian Church (USA) agreed to support selective divestment of holdings in multinational corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

  • Vote With Feet. Eight hundred forty-three former soldiers-more than 33 percent of the total who were told to appear at mobilization stations by mid-October-didn't show up when the Army asked them to report for duty to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.

  • Way Offshore. Along with shipping U.S. jobs overseas, now it appears that we can't even say our own prayers. "With Roman Catholic clergy in short supply in the United States," reported The New York Times, "Indian priests are picking up some of their work, saying Mass for special intentions, in a sacred if unusual version of outsourcing."

  • Duty Bound? Despite Azerbaijan's constitutional commitment to allow alternative service for conscientious objectors to military service, Jehovah's Witness Mahir Bagirov has been ordered to report for duty. "My religious convictions would be violated if I was forced to bear arms," Bagirov told Forum 18, an Oslo-based Christian religious freedom group.

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