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ENI News for June 22, 2009

June 22nd, 2009
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Ecumenical News International
News Highlights
22 June 2009

Ex-US President Carter sees new hope for Middle East process

Jerusalem (ENI). Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has told Christian leaders in Jerusalem he sees “new hope” for the peace process in the Middle East. “His analysis is that there is a new hope for the peace process given the new U.S. administration’s determination to press seriously for hope and to be an honest broker in the peace process,” said Hrair Balian, director of the Carter Center’s Peace and Conflict Resolution department following a closed-door meeting with the Christian leaders on 18 June at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. [590 words, ENI-09-0498]

Zimbabwe prime minister booed in London cathedral

London (ENI). Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who reluctantly joined a government of unity with President Robert Mugabe, faced the wrath of exiles from his country when he was heckled in London’s Southwark Cathedral. Tsvangirai, who was beaten and detained by Mugabe’s police in 2008, tried to tell about 1000 Zimbabweans who came to listen to him in the cathedral on 20 June that it is time for them to return home.  “There is peace and stability in the country,” he declared. [591 words, ENI-09-0496]

Young Zimbabwe Christians give ‘unity government’ low score

Harare (ENI). Zimbabwe’s coalition government has failed to address widespread hunger and human rights violations in the country, a Christian youth movement has charged. “The sad reality remains that the expectations of the public remain largely unmet,” the Students Christian Movement of Zimbabwe said in a report released on 17 June and made available to Ecumenical News International. “It is sad to note that little has been done to bring about economic sanity in the country and most people are still living below the poverty datum line,” said the students, noting that the majority of workers earn one to 3.5 percent of what they need to meet the cost of basic needs. [562 words, ENI-09-0482]

US faith groups mark UN Day to honour refugees displaced

New York (ENI). U.S. faith and humanitarian groups have marked World Refugee Day with paintings that highlight the struggles of  the 42 million people worldwide forcibly displaced by wars, political conflicts and natural disasters. “Too often we see refugees as simply numbers and problems,” said New York Mennonite peace activist Mel Lehman, who, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, helped organize a New York exhibit of paintings by Iraqi artists in exile. [342 words, ENI-09-0499]

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Ex-US President Carter sees new hope for Middle East process
ENI-09-0498

By Judith Sudilovsky
Jerusalem, 22 June (ENI)–Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has told Christian leaders in Jerusalem he sees “new hope” for the peace process in the Middle East.

“His analysis is that there is a new hope for the peace process given the new U.S. administration’s determination to press seriously for hope and to be an honest broker in the peace process,” said Hrair Balian, director of the Carter Center’s Peace and Conflict Resolution department following a closed-door meeting with the Christian leaders on 18 June at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

Carter was near the end of an almost two week tour of the region and spoke to both Israeli officials and Hamas as well as regional leaders.

Balian said the meeting with international and local Christian leaders and the World Council of Churches was held in a very “friendly, warm atmosphere” where Carter shared his impressions of the situation in the Middle East. The former U.S. president had part of an observation team for the 7 June Lebanese elections and had spoken to Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Syria. They did not discuss the situation in Iran or Iraq, said Balian.

The Christian leaders discussed the dwindling numbers of young Christian Palestinians who immigrate abroad for better life opportunities. Balian said Carter would use his trip to raise “international consciousness”, including within the U.S. administration, of the conditions in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The former president will also seek measures to “encourage Christian Palestinians to remain in the Holy Land”.

Carter’s trip took him through Syria, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to promote constructive dialogue on the Israeli-Arab conflict. In addition to the Syrian leaders, Carter met with Israeli president, Shimon Peres; the president of the Palestinian authority, Mahmoud Abbas; Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad; and the Palestinian Reform Steering Committee.

He also met with Israeli human rights leaders, visited an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, where he spoke with settler leaders and visited Gaza, delivering a speech at the graduation ceremony for students of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s Human Rights Programme.

Carter, a committed Christian and Baptist, also met with Noam Shalit, the father of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is believed to be held in Hamas-controlled territory in Gaza. Balian said Carter had been able to deliver to Hamas a letter from the elder Shalit to his son. He was hopeful it would be delivered.

In his speech in Gaza Carter also mentioned the 11 700 Palestinian prisoners – 400 of them women and children – being held in Israeli jails.

“Rational negotiations and a comprehensive peace can end this suffering on both sides,” said Carter.

At the Gaza graduation ceremony Carter said following his talks with Hamas it appeared that the group was “ready to join the peace process and move toward the creation of an independent and just Palestinian state”.

Enumerating the destruction in Gaza following the war and the continuing economic siege, Carter said that the international community “largely ignores the cries for help while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings”.

He also spoke about the need of reconciliation among Palestinian factions and urged them to create a state which was “pluralistic and democratic”. “The Palestinian State, like the land, must be blessed for all people. Jerusalem must be shared with everyone who loves it – Christians, Jews, and Muslims.” [590 words]

ENI News Headlines and Featured Articles are now available by RSS feed.
See http://www.eni.ch/rss/

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.

Ecumenical News International
PO Box 2100
CH – 1211 Geneva 2
Switzerland

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088 – 6111
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244
Email: eni@eni.ch

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Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
22 June 2009

Zimbabwe prime minister booed in London cathedral
ENI-09-0496

By Trevor Grundy
London, 22 June (ENI)–Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who reluctantly joined a government of unity with President Robert Mugabe, faced the wrath of exiles from his country when he was heckled in London’s Southwark Cathedral.

Tsvangirai, who was beaten and detained by Mugabe’s police in 2008, tried to tell about 1000 Zimbabweans who came to listen to him in the cathedral on 20 June that it is time for them to return home.  “There is peace and stability in the country,” he declared.

Church sources said Tsvangirai chose Southwark Cathedral for his speech as the diocese has ties with four Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe, where the former Anglican bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, a close ally of Mugabe, had his clerical licence removed after attempts to set up his own church province.

Anglicans were locked out of their cathedral in Harare and riot police harassed and detained church members on a number of occasions. Bishop Sebastian Bakare, who stood up to Kunonga, led Anglicans in Easter celebrations in the  cathedral in the capital after being shut out for two years.

When Tsvangirai entered the London cathedral, the men, women and children in the congregation, who had travelled from different parts of Britain to hear him speak, roared their approval. But the moment he suggested they should return home to re-build the country controlled by Mugabe since 1980, the cheers turned to jeers.

“I did not say you must pack your bags and go back tomorrow,” he shouted in response to boos and catcalls, which led the Bishop of Southwark, the Rev. Tom Butler, to appeal for calm.

As shouting continued the atmosphere changed from that of a religious service at a London cathedral to that of a political meeting in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital.

“I am very fearful of going home,” said one young man, who asked not to be named. “It’s still a very volatile situation and Mugabe will punish, torture and kill people who fought against him in the UK and elsewhere.”

Tsvangirai did not stay long enough to answer questions from the congregation, slipping away to attend a press conference even though there were about 20 people wanting to ask questions.

Asked if Amnesty International was correct in charging that he was ducking the issue of human rights in Zimbabwe, the prime minister replied: “My record is very, very clear. I have spoken out against the absence of the rule of law.”

The prime minister said that the Christian churches have a “very important role” to play in the national healing process which, he asserted, started when he joined the government of national unity in February after a deal brokered by neighbouring African countries. Although Tsvangirai won parliamentary elections and a presidential poll in 2008, Mugabe insisted on staying on as president and keeping control of the security apparatus in Zimbabwe.

Asked what he was doing to stop supporters of President Mugabe beating up Christians in churches, Tsvangirai said: “You are talking about the past. I am not here to defend the past. I am talking about the future.”

He refused to comment on whether he and Mugabe, who grew up as a Roman Catholic, were reading from the same Bible, declaring, “I am sure that the one who makes such judgments is God, not me.”

On 23 June Tsvangirai was scheduled to address a meeting organized by the Royal Institute for International Affairs and Zimbabwean sources told Ecumenical News International that further demonstrations by exiles were expected. [591 words]

ENI News Headlines and Featured Articles are now available by RSS feed.
See http://www.eni.ch/rss/

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.

Ecumenical News International
PO Box 2100
CH – 1211 Geneva 2
Switzerland

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088 – 6111
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244
Email: eni@eni.ch

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Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
22 June 2009

Young Zimbabwe Christians give ‘unity government’ low score
ENI-09-0482

Harare, 22 June (ENI)–Zimbabwe’s coalition government has failed to address widespread hunger and human rights violations in the country, a Christian youth movement has charged.

“The sad reality remains that the expectations of the public remain largely unmet,” the Students Christian Movement of Zimbabwe said in a report released on 17 June and made available to Ecumenical News International. “It is sad to note that little has been done to bring about economic sanity in the country and most people are still living below the poverty datum line,” said the students, noting that the majority of workers earn one to 3.5 percent of what they need to meet the cost of basic needs.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said in its latest report that an average family of five requires US$437 a month for basic commodities, while the majority of workers earn 100 dollars a month or less.

“The law enforcement agencies continue to enforce the law in a partisan manner and the culture of impunity for the police, who are the perpetrators of human rights violations, remains intact,” the Christian students said. “Even the attorney-general has clearly failed to demonstrate non-partisanship and independence. There are still reported cases of retributive violence in some areas like Mutoko and disturbingly, none of the perpetrators has been prosecuted despite the fact that they are known within their communities.”

In London on 20 June Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who reluctantly joined a government of unity with his old foe Mugabe, was heckled and booed by exiles in London’s Southwark Cathedral when he said it was safe for them to come home.

Some reports have said that a secret security cabal from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party want to make sure that that Tsvangirai, who won parliamentary elections and a presidential poll in 2008, does not succeed in the government of national unity role that began in February after being brokered by African leaders.

Tsvangirai, who was beaten and detained by Mugabe’s police in 2008, tried to tell about 1000 Zimbabweans who came to listen to him in the London the cathedral on 20 June that it is time for them to return home declaring, “There is peace and stability in the country.”

On 18 June Zimbabwe riot police blocked a march by a group of women and beat up protesters, who were demanding greater participation of women in the writing of a new constitution. At least 18 activists face prosecution on charges of seeking to overthrow the 85-year-old president, Robert Mugabe, who has held power since 1980. None of those in custody have been charged and legal experts dismiss the case as ploy to harass Mugabe’s opponents.

“The government of national unity has failed to resuscitate the social services delivery system in the country,” the Christian students said in their report. “There is need for concerted efforts from the so-called government of national unity to revive the education system, right from the infrastructure to service delivery, if we are to reclaim Zimbabwe’s position on the continent.”

Zimbabwe’s main national university has not opened since the beginning of 2009 as the government has failed to raise money to pay lecturers, who went on strike at the end of the previous year demanding higher salaries.

:: Restrictive media laws and practice remain in Zimbabwe, hence ENI’s correspondent is not named. [562 words]

ENI News Headlines and Featured Articles are now available by RSS feed.
See http://www.eni.ch/rss/

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.

Ecumenical News International
PO Box 2100
CH – 1211 Geneva 2
Switzerland

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088 – 6111
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244
Email: eni@eni.ch

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Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
22 June 2009

US faith groups mark UN Day to honour refugees, displaced
ENI-09-0499

By Chris Herlinger
New York, 22 June (ENI)–U.S. faith and humanitarian groups have marked World Refugee Day with paintings that highlight the struggles of  the 42 million people worldwide forcibly displaced by wars, political conflicts and natural disasters.

“Too often we see refugees as simply numbers and problems,” said New York Mennonite peace activist Mel Lehman, who, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, helped organize a New York exhibit of paintings by Iraqi artists in exile.

“On the contrary, they’re unique individuals and they have gifts to bring to us,” Lehman told Ecumenical News International during the first day at the exhibit, held at Second Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Pointing to some the paintings of 20 Iraqi artists now living in Syria, Lehman said: “This represents the vitality of human beings.”

The exhibit’s opening coincided with events in the United States and elsewhere in the world to mark 20 June, the day that the United Nations designates to focus attention on refugees and the displaced.

At a 19 June event at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, the U.S. Episcopal (Anglican) Church’s presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, said it was important for faith groups to “remember those who have no home and learn what we can do to help that sojourner”.

Agencies affiliated with the Episcopal Church, as well as other U.S. churches help resettle refugees to the United States, and provide humanitarian assistance to those who have been displaced.

In Chicago, António Guterres, the Geneva-based U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, marked 20 June by meeting with one-time refugees from Liberia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bhutan at an Ethiopian restaurant owned by a former refugee.

“World Refugee Day is about giving a wider audience a better understanding of what it means to be a refugee,” said Guterres. “What better place to mark it than, Chicago, which has one of the United States’ – and the world’s – most successful resettlement programmes. Refugees truly feel welcomed here.” [342 words]

ENI News Headlines and Featured Articles are now available by RSS feed.
See http://www.eni.ch/rss/

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.

Ecumenical News International
PO Box 2100
CH – 1211 Geneva 2
Switzerland

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088 – 6111
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244
Email: eni@eni.ch

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