In his annual message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, Pope Benedict XVI said the freedom to profess and express one's faith is an "authentic weapon of peace" now under threat, especially in Iraq. The pope made special mention of the plight of Iraqi Christians, recalling the October attack on a Catholic cathedral in Baghdad in which dozens of worshipers, including two priests, were killed by gunmen linked to al-Qaeda. Benedict also warned against "more subtle and sophisticated forms of prejudice and hostility" aimed at Christians in the West, especially in an increasingly secular Europe (RNS).
Mourning into dancing
Dec 28, 2010
When Robin Rogers and George Overholser called off their nuptials, they decided they didn't want to waste their $3,500 deposit for the reception, so they organized a $100-per-person fund-raiser for the Greenpoint Reformed Church's soup kitchen in New York City and raised $10,000 for the hungry. "This is a great example of someone turning mourning into dancing," the Greenpoint pastor said (The Week, December 17).
Dec 27, 2010
Glamour magazine has named Dr. Hawa Abdi woman of the year, saying she is "equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo." A Somali ob-gyn and lawyer, she runs a 400-bed hospital and helped start a school mostly for girls. Surrounding the hospital are 1,300 acres of farmland that have become a refuge for some 90,000 people displaced by the warring factions in Somalia. A hard-line militia decided last May that a woman couldn't run this operation and ordered her to hand it over to them. She refused, even though her daughter pleaded with her to give in. The militia eventually relented in the face of worldwide outrage, mostly from Somali groups. But before departing the militia wrecked the hospital. Abdi has been in the U.S. raising money to restore the facility (Nicholas D. Kristof in New York Times, December 15).
Power of poetry
Dec 22, 2010
Kim Rosen (author of Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words) visited a safe house in Kenya for young Masai women who had run away from home to escape genital mutilation. The girls liked to sing and asked Rosen if she knew any songs. When Rosen said that what she really likes is poetry, the girls asked her to recite a poem. The first poem to come to Rosen's mind was Mary Oliver's "The Journey," a poem about leaving home, which begins: "One day you finally knew / what you had to do." By the time Rosen was done reciting this poem, she and some of the girls were in tears. One of them asked, "Who is this woman, Mary Oliver? Is she Masai?" (The Sun, December).
None of the above
Dec 22, 2010
Conservative Christians may have a plethora of presidential candidates appealing to them for their votes in 2012, but many of the prominent figures have liabilities in the eyes of this constituency. Sarah Palin is seen by many as unelectable. Mitt Romney is a Mormon, which is anathema for many evangelicals. Newt Gingrich has a marriage problem—two ex-wives. And while Mike Huckabee is a pastor who speaks the language of "values voters," some believe that he failed to make the most of the popular support he had in 2008 (Newsweek, December 20).