Category: News and Events

isisIt’s a sad fact that ISIS has become part of our vocabulary, but many of us still don’t know a lot about this terrorist movement. At Aleteia, news editor John Burger spent time with some people knowledgeable abaout this group, and created a top 10 list. Burger spoke to Father Elias D. Mallon, external Affairs Officer of the New York-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN, and William Kilpatrick, author of Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for The Soul of The West.

Here is what you need to know:

1. What or who is ISIS? How did it come to be? ISIS consists of Sunni extremists who broke off from Al-Qaeda and are now claiming to be an independent state that includes part of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

2. Why do they exist? Father Mallon gives both ideological and practical reasons for their existence. The ideological is based on what Mallon calls a “romantic” but brutal vision of Islamic history, the practical speaks to the feeling of disenfranchisement with leadership in Baghdad. (more…)

burialMany people once viewed politics merely as a form entertainment. We could all collectively laugh at the likes of Edwin Edwards even if he was notoriously corrupt. Many folks in Louisiana embraced the former governor for his antics and not merely for his ability to fix every problem in the state. I’m certainly not defending Edwards’s criminal past, but now we look to every politician to solve society’s problems, as if politics could. Because politics is now life and death for so many, it has become too serious for entertainers.

Now the deaths of famous people like Robin Williams are routinely politicized. You’ve probably seen this if you pay attention to social media, 24 hour news shows, or talk radio. Over a decade ago, the Paul Wellstone funeral turned into partisan pep rally for rigid collectivism and electoral success. Politics is everywhere and now in everything. It’s saturated in sports, education, the military, the weather, and history, to just name a few. My own alma mater, The University of Mississippi, is looking to shed its well known and affectionate nickname “Ole Miss” because it could be perceived as politically incorrect.

Now that death is becoming more and more politicized, it’s a powerful reminder of the surge of secularism in society. Death needs to be politicized to give death meaning given that politics is becoming all consuming and the pinnacle of life for so many. Politicizing death expresses, perhaps unbeknown to those guilty of it, this sentiment that there is little or nothing of worth beyond this world. More important to them is the here and now and attempting the impossible, fixing society through politics.
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With the mountain of books and articles that have been written about business ethics, one wonders why nothing much has been written on what we might call shareholder ethics. I’m thinking of religious shareholder activists such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. As it turns out, these groups trade on the moral status of their respective members to further agendas seldom related to matters of religious faith.

Instead, the clergy and religious in shareholder activist groups dedicate themselves to temporal causes of a distinctly left-of-center stripe, including stifling corporate political speech in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. According to Acton’s Rev. Robert Sirico:

Every annual meeting season, we watch as a small group of activist groups on the left such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility submit proxy resolutions that demand disclosures of corporate public policy expenditures. This is done, these groups claim, in furtherance of a more ‘just and sustainable world.’ In fact, such resolutions are designed to first bully corporations into disclosing lobbying activities and then promptly turn the tables by conducting aggressive campaigns in the press to shame them. (more…)

Dominican Sisters in Iraq

Dominican Sisters in Iraq

The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have served the Christian community in Mosul since 1877. In recent days, they have been keeping their order and the world informed of the horrifying situation there.

On August 4, they wrote:

As you perhaps know, concerning the situation in Mosul, the Islamic State has a policy in governing the city. After displacing the Christians, they started their policy concerning the holy places that angered people. So far, the churches are under their control; crosses have been taken off. But we are not sure about the extent of the damaged done in them. In addition to that, few mosques have been affected, too. The ISIS destroyed two mosques with their shrines last week: the mosque of Prophet Sheeth (Seth) and the mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, said to be the burial place of Jonah. The militants claim that such mosques have become places for apostasy, not prayer. This was really too painful for all people as Jonah’s shrine was considered as a monument. Also, it was a historical place as it was built on an old church. Destroying such places is a destruction of our heritage and legacy. (more…)

vietnamReligion & Liberty recently interviewed former German war correspondent Uwe Siemon-Netto. He’s also the author of Triumph of the Absurd, a book chronicling his time covering the war in Vietnam. One of Siemon-Netto’s recurring themes is the still propped up line in the West that North Vietnam’s aggression was a “people’s revolution” or an act of liberation. A people’s revolution doesn’t execute soldiers who have laid down their arms or force large segments of the population in South Vietnam into reeducation camps. After the fall of Saigon, hundreds of thousands of boat people died or drowned at sea trying to flee their communist tormentors.

One of those young boys at the time was Vinh Chung, whose family was rescued by a World Vision aid ship in 1979. His Vietnamese and American story is chronicled in the new book Where the Wind Leads. In Parade magazine, Chung talks about his return visit to Vietnam and the importance of Christian sacrifice, stewardship, and what it means to be an American:

When I was a student in ­medi­cal school in 2002, I returned to Vietnam for the first time, to visit my relatives who are still there. I was shocked by the poverty. Their houses were shacks, the walls plastered over with newspapers; bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling on electrical cords. My cousins slept on the floor. Visiting them was like walking into a parallel universe—the life that would have been mine had the wind blown our boat in a different ­direction.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (12:48 NLT). I used to wonder who Jesus meant, because I sure didn’t think it was my family. The way I saw it, we had been given nothing, entrusted with nothing. I hoped that rich and powerful people would read Jesus’s words and take them to heart.

But when I went to Vietnam, I finally understood: He meant me. I was the one plucked from the South China Sea. I was the one granted asylum in a nation where education is available to everyone, and prosperity is attainable for anyone. I worked hard to get to where I am today, but the humbling truth is that my hard work was possible because of a blessing I did nothing to deserve. And that blessing is something I must pass on, in any way I can.

My story is true for all of us, whether you arrived in this country by boat or by birth: Much has been given to us—and much is required. That, I believe, is what it means to be an American.

Sacrifice is increasingly a virtue we are losing in our contemporary American society. We’ve got the entitlement part down but our solely lacking in the requirement of being citizens department. That fact is attested to by just glancing at our bloated federal debt, our culture of entitlement, and the rise of the grievance industry. In the epilogue of Triumph of the Absurd, Siemon-Netto makes a prescient observation, “When a self-indulgent throwaway culture grows tired of sacrifice it becomes capable of discarding everything like a half-eaten doughnut.”

253877_5_Acton’s president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, recently wrote a piece for Real Clear Religion about corporations and social justice activism. He warns that the religious left’s attempts to stifle free speech in corporate boardrooms  would certainly negatively impact our political life.

Every annual meeting season, we watch as a small group of activist groups on the left such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility submit proxy resolutions that demand disclosures of corporate public policy expenditures. This is done, these groups claim, in furtherance of a more “just and sustainable world.” In fact, such resolutions are designed to first bully corporations into disclosing lobbying activities and then promptly turn the tables by conducting aggressive campaigns in the press to shame them.

But the religious underpinnings for such arguments are spurious. The argument always goes that corporations have money and the poor and disadvantaged (always “disenfranchised” from the political process) do not. Therefore, according to this logic, it follows that it’s unfair that corporations are allowed to make public policy expenditures to unduly influence the political process. Curiously, opponents of such spending are often themselves corporate entities (albeit non-profit entities) that spend large sums of money to voice their own opinions. (more…)

Displaced Iraqis

Displaced Iraqis

The U.S. is beginning to bring much needed humanitarian supplies to victims of war in Iraq. Aleteia is reporting that

Cargo planes dropped parachuted crates of food and water over an area in the mountains outside Sinjar, where thousands of members of the Yazidi minority where sheltering, according to witnesses in the militant-held town, who asked not to be identified for security reasons.

At the same time, U.S. military has begun airstrikes against the terrorists Irbil, a city in the Kurdish region of Iraq, an area controlled by ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group.

Director of Istituto Acton, Kishore Jabalayan, made this statement:

I’m glad to see that President Obama feels some sense of responsibility to protect Americans as well as the Iraqis who are the victims of ISIS,” said Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Rome office of the Acton Institute, in an email exchange with Aleteia. “In the rush to pull American troops out of Iraq three years ago, we knew that such problems were likely to happen and would eventually require our return, if that’s what we want to call it.”

Read “Airdrops Bring Hope to Religious Minorities in Iraq” at Aleteia.

The 2014 proxy shareholder season is over, and left-of-center religious investment groups such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow are crowing about victories and announcing their plans for next year. For example, ICCR notes in its latest issue of The Corporate Examiner:

While virtually every company participates in lobbying of some sort, companies often make undisclosed expenditures to third-party trade associations which then use that money in ways that can run counter to a company’s publicly-stated positions. After sustained engagement with ICCR members, VISA left the controversial model legislation group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has implemented board-level oversight of its lobbying activities. Amgen agreed to disclose its membership in trade associations along with the amounts the trade associations spend from its fees for lobbying. Accenture has significantly expanded its public lobbying disclosure. A resolution calling for lobbying disclosure at Emerson won 41.6%.

Political spending by corporations is also an issue for investors. Hess committed to fully disclosing its trade association memberships and the names of the tax exempt organizations to which it makes contributions, as well as the portion of those payments that is used for political activities. EQT adopted a political contributions transparency policy. A resolution on contributions at Emerson won 47% of the vote. (more…)

Yazidi children

Yazidi children

The Yazidis are a tiny religious minority, Kurdish by ethnicity, who are facing extinction by the Islamic State in Iraq. While there are about 700,000 Yazidis worldwide, more than half a million were living in Iraq, although many have fled the violence in the nation. The Yazidis trace their religious roots back to the 11th century, when an Ummayad sheik broke off from mainline Islam. Their ancient religion is a blend of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Islam.

Yazidis believe that a supreme God placed the earth under the custody of seven holy beings, the most exalted of which is the Peacock Angel. For this, Yazidis are sometimes labeled as heretics or devil worshippers.

The Islamic State justifies the killing of Yazidis due to their heretical beliefs. (more…)

autocamA few weeks ago, Hobby Lobby made waves when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the arts and crafts chain in its lawsuit against the Health and Human Services Contraception Mandate. West Michigan manufacturer, Autocam, has been engaged in a similar legal fight. John Kennedy, owner of Autocam, stated that his and his family’s Roman Catholic faith “is integral to Autocam’s corporate culture” and the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraceptives and abortifacients was a violation of their beliefs.

Late last year, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied Autocam’s lawsuit against the HHS department. The company’s claim was denied on the grounds that, according to that court, engaging in for profit business is  separate from any religious beliefs of owners.

On Monday August 4, The Supreme Court officially reversed the decision from the Sixth Circuit. Tom Ciesielka from the Thomas More Society, who represents the company, gave a statement:

Today, the United States Supreme Court officially vacated the 6th Circuit’s decision that denied Autocam Corporation and its owners, protection against governmental violation of Constitutionally protected religious freedoms. The case has now been sent back to the lower court, following the decision in the Hobby Lobby case, argued on comparable merit. (more…)