Human Rights

Pope Francis Tells Europe to 'Tear Down the Walls'

Image via Osservatore Romano / Reuters / RNS

Pope Francis is calling on Catholics to play a part in the “rebirth” of a united Europe that opens its doors to refugees.

The Argentine pontiff, who has been critical of European countries’ handling of the migrant crisis, made the comments as he picked up the prestigious Charlemagne Prize. The award, named after the founder of the medieval Holy Roman Empire, is given for work done in the service of European integration.

Bipartisan Commission: LGBT Discrimination on 'Religious Liberty' Grounds Is Human Rights Violation

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

Citing “religious liberty” as a reason for denying one class of citizens bathroom access, equal housing, or services is a human rights violation.

That’s the finding of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent, bipartisan agency that advises the president and Congress on civil rights matters. The commission issued a statement April 18 saying it “strongly condemns recent state laws passed, and proposals being considered, under the guise of so-called ‘religious liberty’ which target members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community for discrimination.”

Italy Fined for CIA Abduction of Egyptian Cleric

Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. Image via REUTERS/Nasser Nuri/RNS

Italy must pay compensation to an Egyptian imam’s family after a European court ruled his human rights had been breached in a C.I.A. operation that had him abducted in Milan and sent to his country of birth where he was tortured. The European Court of Human Rights ordered Italy to pay a total of 115,000 euros ($126,500) in damages and legal expenses to Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr and his family.

Pope Francis Praises China in Latest Effort to Thaw Chilly Relations

Image via REUTERS/Stringer/RNS

Pope Francis’ impassioned praise of China this week is the strongest sign of the pontiff’s ambitious agenda to use his personal and political clout to transform the historically fraught relations between Beijing and the Holy See. “For me, China has always been a reference point of greatness. A great country. But more than a country, a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom,” the pope said at the start of his interview with Asia Times, which was published Feb. 2.

Pope Francis Renews Call to Welcome Refugees While Ensuring Security

Image via REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/RNS

Pope Francis has called on European leaders not to turn their back on refugees and migrants despite the cultural and security challenges associated with the arrival of 1 million people this past year. Francis has made concern for migrants a centerpiece of his papacy, and on Jan. 11 in his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See he again urged governments to “overcome the inevitable fears associated with this massive and formidable phenomenon.”

The Global Refugee Crisis Is a Moral Test for All of Us

Image via Marko Djurica/REUTERS/RNS

Western claims to stand for human dignity and human rights usually look pretty hollow whenever a major refugee crisis hits. That is what is happening now, as millions of refugees seek asylum in Europe — and mainly run into closed doors and cold shoulders.

The current crisis is a grave one. According to Amanda Taub, 19 million people today are refugees. They come from all over, though today especially from Africa and the Middle East. Four million have fled Syria since 2011. They are making global headlines as they surge into Europe, which is for many just the latest stop on a desperate odyssey.

They are dying in disturbing numbers — in rickety boats, sealed trucks and squalid refugee dumping grounds. They are not wanted where they come from and not wanted where they are going.

Let Cecil the Lion’s Death Shine Light on Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Abuses

REUTERS / David Bailey / RNS
Stuffed animals left by protesters block the doorway of River Bluff Dental clinic in Bloomington, Minn., after the killing of a famous lion in Zimbabwe, July 28, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / David Bailey / RNS

When a lion killed an American woman last month in South Africa, where I now live, the story made a few headlines, but the Internet did not melt. Perhaps Americans assume “lion bites woman” is the African equivalent of “dog bites man” — too ordinary to merit mention.

But when man bites dog, or when man shoots lion with an arrow, Americans conjure up images of Simba and Mufasa, the only reference many have to a continent of 1.1 billion people three times the size of their own country, and they lose their proverbial scat.

Assuming Zimbabwe won’t make the news again until dictator Robert Mugabe finally dies, allow me to capitalize on Cecil’s demise with a quick rundown of the country’s atrocious human rights record.

Pope Francis: Seek Forgiveness for Shutting Out Refugees

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Three hundred sub-Saharan Africans sit onboard a boat during a rescue operation. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis on Wednesday said people who shut out refugees should seek forgiveness, after clashes on Italy’s borders as European countries try to push back against a wave of migrants fleeing by boat from Libya.

Addressing crowds in St. Peter’s Square, Francis drew his followers’ attention to the U.N.’s World Refugee Day this Saturday.

A Primer on Fast Track Trade Authority for People of Faith

Image via pogonici/shutterstock.com
Image via pogonici/shutterstock.com

t’s also one of the most divisive political issues on the Hill right now. Here’s why: The notion of "fast tracking" trade deals with almost no congressional oversight has led to the creation of odd alliances — putting the Democrats and Tea Party in one camp (against), and the Republicans and Obama Administration (for) in another. Pro-business Republicans are long time supporters of free trade, while members of the Tea Party are against most anything that would allow the President to usurp legislative authority. As for Democrats, they argue that the TPP would allow multinational corporations to undermine labor safeguards, civil rights, environmental protection and healthcare, and derail urgent efforts at fighting climate change. Organizations typically aligned with President Obama are against him here: labor unions, environmental groups, and even traditionally non-political groups have fought hard against Fast Track and the TPP.

Indeed, the potential harm from the trade deal seems to leave few interest groups untouched. To provide just a few examples, Doctors Without Borders has called the TPP the "worst trade deal ever," claiming that it will cause millions to lose access to life-saving medicines; left-leaning Global Exchange has pointed to the increasing number of sweatshops such a framework would lead to; and the digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation has expressed its belief that the TPP would put overly restrictive controls on the internet. And we’ve already seen our political leaders weaken standards for protection against human trafficking and child labor should the trade deal move forward.

These are all compelling arguments, and they are ones faith groups are making as well.

From This Day Forward

Image via Syda Productions/shutterstock.com
Image via Syda Productions/shutterstock.com

When I reached high school and started dating, my relatives had a lot of questions: "This girl you’re going to the movies with: Is she Catholic? Slovak? What’s her family’s last name? What does her father do for a living?"

She had to be Catholic, of course. Preferably Slovak. If not, some other nearby nationality. Anything less would get disapproving comments. Those questions may sound odd now, but they mattered back then. The Catholic Church had only recently concluded Vatican II, which tried to bridge centuries of animosity between churches. Accepting Protestants as equals was something new. And many of the immigrants in my neighborhood were trying to preserve the culture and traditions that they brought from Europe. They were afraid of losing their heritage in the new land.

For them, traditional marriage meant choosing someone from the same faith, the same ethnic background. Simply put, they were afraid. Terrified, actually. They feared that if marriage changed, their world would fall apart. 

That's why to so many people, my relationship wasn’t about finding someone who fit me — it was more about me finding someone who fit them.

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