News Fall 2006

Soldier who said no: Resistance an act of penitence

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A soldier who fled to Canada rather than return to Iraq surrendered October 4 to military officials. Specialist Darrell Anderson, 24, said he deserted the Army last year rather than fight in what he believes is an illegal war. “I feel that by resisting I made up for the sins I committed in Iraq,” Anderson said during a press briefing shortly before he turned himself in at nearby Fort Knox, Kentucky. Anderson risked facing a charge of desertion, but it is anticipated that he will be given a discharge other than honorable. At that point, he should be free from his military commitment and face no other charges, according to one source.

Anderson joined the Army in January 2003 and went to Iraq a year later with the 1st Armored Division. He was wounded and received a Purple Heart in A large majority of Iraqis want US-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their departure would make Iraq more secure and de- crease sectarian violence, according to polls commissioned by the State Depart-ment and independent researchers. The results were released by The Washington Post.

In Baghdad, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if US and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout. Another poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believed that the US government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends to keep permanent military bases in the country.

“Majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas state that the Multi-National Force-Iraq should withdraw immediately, adding that the [military] departure would make them feel safer and decrease violence,” concludes the 20-page State Department report. The report was based on 1,870 face-to-face interviews.

“I really don’t like the Americans who patrol on the street. They should all go away,” said a young boy as he swept up hair in a barber shop. “But I do like the one who guards my church. He should stay!”

Lebanese Christians took in Muslims

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The word went out that there was refuge in a Christian village and thousands came. In a pilgrimage of fear, Shiite Muslims from the most ravaged towns along the Lebanese border fled for Rmeish, a hilltop hamlet along a road where Israeli shells were steadily falling, at times every 15 seconds. Once in Rmeish, they escaped to a church, and at the church, a basement lit by soft shafts of sunlight.

In it were the wretched of this war: children with dirty feet and a pregnant woman who feared giving birth in squalor, an 85-year-old man whose donkey, his sole possession, was killed by a bomb, and hundreds of others among the at least 10,000 who arrived in Rmeish, some drinking from a fetid pool and walking the streets in search of food and goodwill. “The safety of God,” said Heidar Issa, one of those here. “That’s what we were counting on.”

In a country fractured by faith, torn asunder by 15 years of civil war, they found refuge among the Lebanese Christians they once fought. Their politics often diverged, but they shared a plight. And in a common misery wrought by war, less than a mile from the Israeli border, there was fleeting coexistence rather than talk of strife. “Everyone is opening their doors to anyone who comes,” said Tannous Alem, a 43-year-old Christian resident of Rmeish, who had brought 120 people into his home over 12 days. “We’re all the same in times like these.” “They welcomed us with 100 hellos,” said Issa, who arrived 10 days ago with 26 people in his truck. “Bless them.” His friend, Hussein Rahmi, nodded. “It’s safer with the Christians,” he said.

Metropolitan Philip decries Israel’s methods in Lebanon

On July 31, Metropolitan Philip, head of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, issued a statement opposing Israel’s offensive in Lebanon. “Indiscriminate killing is against the Geneva Convention, the UN Charter and all laws of civilized nations,” he said. “This savage war is between Israel and Hezbollah. Lebanon has no air force, no navy and no large military force. As a matter of fact, the Lebanese army is not involved in this war at all….

“Why is Israel bombing Lebanese cities, villages, bridges, roads and killing innocent men, women and children – in the south and north, east and west of Lebanon? According to UN statistics, more than 800 civilians have been killed, many of them children, and more then 800,000 Lebanese have been made refugees in their own country. Israel knows “We deplore the kill- ing and destruction on both sides. We know that Hezbollah has weapons which are causing some unfortunate killing and destruction in Israel. But Hezbollah does not have American weapons such as F-16s, F-15s, Apaches and smart bombs, etc. “When I saw the Leb- anese Red Cross retrieving the tender dead bodies of little children from underneath the rubble and I looked at their innocent faces and iconic eyes, I wept. I was indeed ashamed to see the extent of the cruelty and barbarism of our world. This morning, when the Lebanese Broadcasting Company showed pictures of the city of B’int-Jbeil which was completely leveled by the Israeli air force, I was reminded of the destruction of Stalingrad and Berlin during the Second World War. We and the whole world, with the exception of the United States, Great Britain, and Israel, are calling for an immediate cease fire. If we allow the law of the jungle to prevail, and if we allow our moral principles to be trodden on by barbarian feet, what will be left of our civilization?”

Russian Orthodox relations with Rome improving

The Russian Orthodox Church leader in charge of inter-denominational contacts has said relations with the Roman Catholic Church have steadily improved sincethe ascent of Pope Benedict XVI. “After the election of Pope Benedict XVI our dialogue became more intensive,” Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, said in August. “And that’s why I have a much more positive attitude to the level of Orthodox tensions come to fore at meeting with Catholics An international gathering of Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders held in Belgrade offered signs of stabilizing Orthodox-Catholic relations than previously,” Kirill said. Kirill met Pope Benedict at the Vatican in May and spoke warmly of the pontiff in July at the World Summit of

Religious Leaders in Moscow. Pope Benedict did not attend that event, but Cardinal Walter Kasper led a large Vatican delegation. Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, spoke repeatedly of his dream to visit Russia, but met resistance from the Moscow Patriarchate, which accused the Vatican of seeking converts and infringing on its jurisdiction by creating Roman

Catholic dioceses in Russia. Kirill said the two churches had much in common in counteracting “the policy of pushing religion out of public life.” But he appeared restrained about prospects for a speedy meeting between the church’s leaders, despite the improved relations. “We will develop them and see what this realistically will bring to our churches, and then we’ll decide when, where and how the primates of our churches should meet.”

Orthodox tensions come to fore at meeting with Catholics

An international gathering of Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders held in Belgrade offered signs of stabilizing relations between the two traditions but also showcased intra-Orthodox tension between Moscow and Constantinople, participants at the gathering report. The Orthodox and Catholic leaders gathered in Serbia from 18 to 25 September to restart a dialogue that broke off in 2000 because of post-communist tensions in Eastern Europe over “uniatism,” or the role of Greek-Catholic churches that are in communion with Rome.

While no major breakthroughs were reported, the 30 leaders from each side discussed a document on the nature of the Church dating back to 1990, which was “carefully examined in a shared spirit of genuine commitment to the search for unity,” a joint statement on the web site of the Serbian Orthodox Church noted. A committee was set up to bring a revised text back to another meeting in 2007.

The joint commission was established in 1979 when Pope John Paul II visited Istanbul, once the Byzantine Christian capital of Constantinople, and which is the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Bartholomeos.

But after the collapse of communism, meetings of the commission were marked by tensions between Orthodox and Catholics in Eastern Europe and the former USSR.

Those conflicts are said to have eased markedly under Pope Benedict XVI, and the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchate, which oversees the world’s largest Orthodox population, now emphasize common goals. Still, the meeting was marked by tension between the Orthodox patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople, which are in an increasing tug-of-war for dominance in the post-Soviet Orthodox world.

Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria lodged an official complaint to Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s top official for church unity who is the commission’s Catholic co-president, the Interfax news agency reported.

Hilarion objected to the document’s definition of the status of Rome and the of Constantinople. He also rejected an amended text that had been suggested to try and take account of his objections. But when Cardinal Kasper proposed that an amended text be put to the vote, most Orthodox churches sided against Moscow and voted for the amendment.

[Sonia Kishkovsky/ENI]

ROCOR clergyman backs communion with Moscow.

The signing of the Act of Canonical Communion will ensure the future of the self-governing Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and place it on “a solidcanonical foundation,” according to Fr. Rev. Alexander Lebedev, secretary of the ROCOR Commission on the talks with the Moscow Patriarchate. In an article published in November on the ROCOR website, he noted that the earlier grounds for the ROCOR inde- pendent existence can no longer be justified, now that the Church in Russia is free.

Rejection of the Act, he said, “would mean the total break of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia with all the Local Orthodox Churches, which will then have every reason to deem us schismatics.”

If this occurs, he continued, “the Serbian Orthodox Church, our last link with the fullness of canonical Orthodoxy, will doubtless refuse communion with us,” while the Church of Jerusalem may withdraw the blessing for our bishops and priests to serve in the Holy Land. Rejecting the Act would make us, in the eyes of the Russian OrthodoxChurch, schismatics, “and will exclude the possibility of participating inthe church life of our homeland.” If the act is not signed, he said, “not only the Moscow Patriarchate, but the entire Orthodox world would thereby be convinced that we cannot be dealt with seriously, that we ourselves prefer to be essentially sectarians, torn from the fullness of universal Orthodoxy, and do not wish to be united with our much-suffering Church in the Fatherland and with canonical Orthodoxy.”

“Adoption of the Act will serve to end the sorrowful division of the Russian Orthodox people.

“The participation of our clergymen and faithful in the work of the spiritual rebirth of the Russian people will rise to an entirely new level.”

One in eight Americans living in poverty

In the world’s biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty in 2005, the US Census Bureau said in August, a figure virtually unchanged from 2004. The survey also showed 15.9 percent of the population, or 46.6 million, had no health insurance, up from 15.6 percent in 2004 and the fifth increase in a row. It was the first year since President Bush took office that the poverty rate did not increase. As in past years, the figures showed poverty especially concentrated among blacks and Hispanics. an entirely new level. In all, some 37 million Americans lived below the poverty line, defined as having an annual income below around $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a family of four.

Patriarch Bartholomew welcomes Pope’s visit to Turkey

Pope Benedict XVI’s November trip to Turkey will help calm recent tensions with Islam and advance his church’s struggle for religious rights, predicts Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Speaking to reporters in Istanbul in October, Bartholomew said the visit alsowould underline the pope’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue at a time when Catholic-Orthodox theological talks are resuming. “It’s an opportunity to cultivate dialogue and to remove misunderstandings. The circumstances at this moment make this visit more interesting, more necessary and more important than at any other moment,” he said. “The pope always underlines the principles of religious freedom and human rights … which are valid principles for democratic societies. So I think the pope in his sermon here will speak not only in favor of Catholics but in favor of all religious minorities,”

Russia: take the afternoon off and make a baby

The governor of a Russian province gave workers an afternoon off and told them to go home and multiply in the most direct attempt yet by officials seeking to tackle the country’s growing depopulation crisis. Politicians have been dreaming up imaginative schemes to help reverse the trend ever since President Vladimir Putin identified Russia’s demographic crisis, caused in part by soaring levels of alcoholism, as the country’s biggest threat.

But few have been quite as blunt as Sergey Morozov, the governor of Ulyanovsk, a depressed region on the Volga. In exchange for an afternoon of state-sponsored passion, his “give birth to a patriot” campaign, launched in September, offers parents who give birth next year on June 12, Russia’s Independence Day, a range of incentives from a fridge or washing machine to a four-wheel-drive vehicle, depending on how many children the couple already has. President Putin has promised to give €5,000 to every mother who gives birth to a second child.

Ten-year window to act on climate warming

A leading US climate researcher said in September that the world has a 10-year window of opportunity to take decisive action on global warming and avert a weather catastrophe. NASA scientist James Hansen, as dean of American climate researchers, said governments must adopt an alternative scenario to keep carbon dioxide emission growth in check and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.8 degrees F.

“I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change… no longer than a decade, at the most,” Hansen said at the Climate Change Research Conference in Sacramento, California. If the world continues with a “business as usual” scenario, he said temperatures will rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 7.2 degrees F) and “we will be producing a different planet.”

On that warmer planet, ice sheets would melt quickly, causing a rise in sea levels that would put most of Manhattan and many other cities and towns under water.

Study Sees ‘Global Collapse’ of Fish Species

If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be “global col- lapse” of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting. The scientists, who report their findngs today in the journal Science, say it is not too late to turn the situation around. As long as marine ecosystems are still biologically diverse, they can recover quickly once overfishing and other threats are reduced, the researchers say.

But improvements must come quickly, said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led the work. Otherwise, he said, “we are seeing the bottom of the barrel.” The researchers drew their conclusion after analyzing dozens of studies, along with fishing data collected by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organiza- tion and other sources. They acknowledge that much of what they are report-ing amounts to correlation, rather than proven cause and effect. And the F.A.O. data have come under criticism from researchers who doubt the reliability of some nations’ reporting practices, Dr. Worm said.

Twelve scientists from the United States, Canada, Sweden and Panama contributed to the work reported in Science today. “We extracted all data on fish and invertebrate catches from 1950 to 2003 within all 64 large marine ecosystems worldwide,” they wrote. “Collectively, these areas produced 83 percent of global fisheries yields over the past 50 years.”