FaithWorld

Frictions seen easing in troubled U.N. human rights body

(Delegates observe a one-minute silence during the high level segment of the 16th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud)

(Delegates at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 28, 2011/Valentin Flauraud)

The United States and NGO campaign groups say diplomatic shifts on highly-charged issues like religion and Iran in the long-polarised U.N. Human Rights Council could turn it into a more effective body.

U.S. ambassador Eileen Donahoe said emerging accords on tackling religious hatred, Iran’s rights record and unusual cooperation across mutually suspicious regional blocs on Libya could mark a turning point for the forum.

“While the council remains an imperfect body, we have seen distinct progress in terms of its ability to respond to happenings in the world with respect to human rights in real time,” the U.S. ambassador to the council told reporters on Wednesday. “There is more shared common ground here than people realise.”

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to promote universal human rights used terms like “seismic shift” and “groundbreaking” to describe an apparent softening in demands from the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic States (OIC) that religions be protected internationally from “defamation.”

Guestview: Editorial independence and an ecumenical news agency

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone.  Peter Kenny is the former editor-in-chief of ENInews.
eninews1By Peter Kenny

Maintaining editorial integrity at ENInews, a Geneva-based world-wide news agency run by Ecumenical News International that covers global Christianity and other religions, is hard work. Although church groupings and their partner organizations founded ENInews, editorial independence is often linked to that which is the root of all evil — money. (Photo: Financial freeze puts squeeze on ENInews at Geneva Ecumenical Centre/Peter Kenny)

And that was one of the root causes of ENInews being forced to suspend production for a time at the beginning of the year. It has resumed services and now has an interim editor and is looking for an editor/manager for a one-year term, who will have no office. In 2011 it will also likely face another big cut from its biggest sponsor.

Ecumenical news agency ENInews suspended, editors removed

genevaEcumenical News International, an award-winning agency reporting on religion and based at the World Council of Churches (WCC), has been temporarily closed and had its two top editors removed, one of them said on Monday. The decision, taken at a meeting of its executive committee last week, comes after the Geneva-based WCC cut the agency’s funding and its former head criticised its coverage.

The suspension and leadership changes led to the resignation of the ENInews president and its treasurer, both senior figures in Scandinavian Protestant churches, a report by the agency said. WCC officials said the agency was not being closed but would resume some time in 2011 with one part-time editor. (Photo: Geneva, April 29, 2008/Valentin Flauraud)

Earlier this year the WCC, which has been ENInews’s main funder and in whose headquarters the agency was based, said it was reducing its financial support for 2011 by over 50 percent.

Christian-Muslim crisis response group to defuse religious tensions

wcc 1 (Photo: Christian and Muslim leaders at Nov 1-4, 2010 Geneva conference/WCC – Mark Beach)

Christian and Muslim leaders agreed on Thursday to set up “rapid deployment teams” to try to defuse tensions when their faiths are invoked by conflicting parties in flashpoints such as Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt or the Philippines. Meeting this week in Geneva, they agreed the world’s two biggest religions must take concrete steps to foster interfaith peace rather than let themselves be dragged into conflicts caused by political rivalries, oppression or injustice.

Among the organisations backing the plan were the World Council of Churches (WCC), which groups 349 different Christian churches around the world, and the Libyan-based World Islamic Call Society (WICS), a network with about 600 affiliated Muslim bodies. They would send Christian and Muslim experts to intervene on both sides in a religious conflict to calm tensions and clear up misunderstandings about the role of faith in the dispute.

“We call for the formation of a joint working group which can be mobilised whenever a crisis threatens to arise in which Christians and Muslims find themselves in conflict,” the leaders said in a statement after their four-day meeting.  “Religion is often invoked in conflict creation, even when other factors, such as unfair resource allocation, oppression, occupation and injustice, are the real roots of conflict. We must find ways to disengage religion from such roles and reengage it towards conflict resolution and compassionate justice,” said the statement issued in Geneva.

Scientists inch towards finding elusive “God particle” creating cosmos

LHC 1 (Photo: A core magnet in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, March 22, 2007/Denis Balibouse)

Scientists working with particle accelerators in Europe and the United States said on Monday they may be closing in on the elusive Higgs Boson, the “God particle” believed crucial to forming the cosmos after the Big Bang.

Researchers from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project near Geneva said in just three months of experiments they had already detected all the particles at the heart of our current understanding of physics, the Standard Model.

The International Conference on High Energy Physics in Paris heard that experiments were progressing faster than expected and entering a stage in which “new physics” would emerge. This could include long-awaited proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson and the detection of dark matter, believed to make up about a quarter of the universe alongside an observable 5 percent and 70 percent consisting of invisible dark energy.

Death penalty opponents see executions on the wane

abolition

World Congress Against Death Penalty in Geneva, 24 Feb 2010/Denis Balibouse

More and more countries are abolishing the death penalty and even the most active capital punishers are taking steps to restrict it. Fifty-six countries continue to execute people, while 141 countries do not use it, including 93 that have formally abolished it.

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New WCC head aims at global issues, skirting some hot buttons

tveit

WCC General Secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, 22 Feb 2010/WCC-Peter Williams

Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, the new general secretary of the World Council of Churches, aims to give the organisation a higher profile as a focus for action by Christian bodies on global issues like humanitarian relief in crises, climate change and the Middle East impasse. But at his first news conference this week since taking over on January 1, the Norwegian Lutheran cleric also made it clear that the constraints imposed by a widely diverse organisation that makes its decisions by consensus limit his options.  It’s unlikely we’ll hear him taking a public stand on two of the main issues making religion headlines these days, the sexual abuse charges against the Roman Catholic Church and the disputes over homosexuality straining relations in several Protestant churches.

Tveit left no doubt that the 349-member WCC, which groups many of the world’s Christian churches but not the Roman Catholics, will not join in widespread criticism of the Roman Catholic Church for its continuing problem with clerical sexual abuse of children. These have surfaced most recently in Ireland and Germany.

“That is a burden all of us have to bear. It is a burden that is carried by the Roman Catholic Church, and they have to deal with it. It is not our role to make it worse,” the 48-year-old Tveit told journalists on Monday at the Geneva Ecumenical Centre, where he has his office and which serves as the effective headquarters of the WCC.