Islamabad (AsiaNews) - President Asif Ali Zardari confirms Shahbaz Bhatti as Minister of minorities, after the cabinet reshuffle that took place yesterday following the resignation of the staff of the federal cabinet presented in recent days by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.
Bhatti, who is a Catholic, was the first parliamentarian to take up the post of Minister for Minorities. His Christian predecessors were offered only minor portfolios. In recent years he has fought to amend the blasphemy law and has recently launched an initiative to seek pardon for Asia Bibi. In fact because of his positions Bhatti has received death threats from Islamic extremist groups that still do not want to change the law. Bhatti told AsiaNews: "I thank God for giving me this opportunity to continue my struggle for the oppressed minorities in Pakistan." "Christians and other minorities - he adds - are citizens of Pakistan and have the same rights as any other citizen, because our ancestors sacrificed their lives for this country".
According to sources close to the presidency, the government has confirmed Bhatti only after strong pressure from the international community concerned about the recent cases of violence against minorities because of the blasphemy law. A young Christian man was killed in recent days in Ghakkar Mandi (Punjab), while Asia Bibi, the young Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy who is still waiting for her appeal to be heard in the Court of Lahore.
Bishop Anthony Rufin of Islamabad emphasizes that confirmation of Bhatti "is a positive sign for the minorities." The bishop hopes that the minister will help the government to realize the increasing oppression of Christians and Hindus and followers of other religions, often forced to leave the country in order to survive.
LIFESITENEWS.COM REPORT: Chicago’s Resurrection Hospital is making national news with its new commitment to reversing mid-term abortions for women who have changed their minds and wish to have their babies.
The program, which was formally dedicated on January 26, is called the Bethlehem Project, and is being conducted in cooperation with Chicago’s Pro-Life Action League and the Chicago Women’s Center. It assists women to reverse a second-trimester abortion known as Dilation and Evacuation (D&E), a procedure that takes two days to complete.
Women undergoing a D&E abortion must pass through a 24-hour period in which their cervix is dilated using laminaria made from seaweed or another substance, which slowly expands. After the cervix has been opened sufficiently, the abortionist applies a vacuum hose and forceps to tear the unborn child to pieces, which are removed one by one until the entire body is extracted.
Through the Bethlehem Project, Resurrection Hospital is committed to removing the laminaria from the cervix of women who do not wish to complete their abortions, and to give them whatever medical attention is necessary to protect their health and that of their unborn children, something abortion providers are hesitant or unwilling to do.
The story of the hospital’s commitment to the unborn is now being reported by news organizations across the United States, including Time Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and Fox News.
Sister Donna Marie Wolowicki, CEO of Resurrection Hospital, told the Chicago Tribune that stopping abortions is “part of who we are,” and added that “Catholic health care is to reach out to people and help them in their need. Of course, it’s vital to be true to the ethics we believe in. Holding life sacred is a big piece of what we believe.”
“We hope that in other parts of the country where abortion clinics are doing late term abortions, sidewalk counselors can forge similar relationships with Catholic or Christian hospitals to meet the needs of women who want to reverse the abortion procedure and choose life for their babies,” said Ann Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League. “We’re happy to help make that happen.”
Three unborn children have reportedly been saved by the program since it began in October. The Tribune quotes one beneficiary of the program who was stopped by a “pushy” priest who encouraged her to halt her second-trimester abortion.
“Thank God this man stopped us,” the woman said in an anonymous interview. “He saved the life of my baby and maybe he saved my life too.”BY MATTHEW CULLINAN HOFFMAN\
CATH NEWS REPORT: Christian leaders will question the NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, and the state Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, on a range of social issues during a special leaders' forum at State Parliament next week, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
Videos of the leaders being asked eight questions were posted on the lobby group's website. Julia Gillard also answered the questions when she replaced Mr Rudd as prime minister.The invitation-only event scheduled for next Tuesday, organised by the Australian Christian Lobby, is inspired by a similar exercise before last year's federal election involving the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, and the federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.
The ACL's state director, David Hutt, said Ms Keneally and Mr O'Farrell agreed to the forum in December.
"It's an important opportunity for the leaders of both parties - both major sides of politics - to present themselves to the Christian constituency and try and vie for their support at the election," he said. "It will be a very senior audience from the Christian constituency, with a number of heads of denominations.
"It's virtually all denominations," he said.
Both leaders will face the forum separately, but will be asked the same questions. Mr Hutt said ethics classes would be on the agenda, as well as questions on social justice issues, such as poverty and homelessness.
''Ethics classes are an issue which a great many people in the church have a strong interest in. It's one of many issues. The night is not all about ethics classes.''
The Catholic Church this week voiced its displeasure at the opposition's ''backflip'' on ethics classes on the front page of the Catholic Weekly.
Bishop Julian Porteous, the auxiliary Bishop of Sydney, told the newspaper that from a Christian perspective, the ethics classes were "very defective".
"It is what Pope Benedict has so often warned against - a dictatorship of relativism," he said.
Separately, comments by Mr O'Farrell to the National Press Club that his party was unlikely to enter into a preference deal with the NSW Greens was "cautiously welcomed" by the ACL, said a media release.
"The NSW system of optional preferential voting means there is no reason why the Coalition should give preferences to the Greens," said Mr Hutt, the NSW ACL Director.
"More and more we are seeing that the Greens' agenda goes far beyond environmental protection. They support a range of social engineering policies that are clearly making a lot of people uncomfortable.
"I strongly suspect that Mr O'Farrell will be rewarded politically for any decision not to preference the Greens in the same way Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu was rewarded on Election Day for a similar decision."
St. Saturninus & Companions
Feast: February 12
|Mark 8: 1 - 10|
|1||In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him, and said to them,|
|2||"I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat;|
|3||and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come a long way."|
|4||And his disciples answered him, "How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?"|
|5||And he asked them, "How many loaves have you?" They said, "Seven."|
|6||And he commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.|
|7||And they had a few small fish; and having blessed them, he commanded that these also should be set before them.|
|8||And they ate, and were satisfied; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.|
|9||And there were about four thousand people.|
|10||And he sent them away; and immediately he got into the boat with his disciples, and went to the district of Dalmanu'tha.|