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Archive for April 19th, 2008

Vigorous Defense of Human Rights Is Urged by Pope in U.N. Address

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Pope Benedict XVI addressing the U.N.’s General Assembly on Friday. “Failure to intervene” in other nations’ human-rights violations, the pope said, is what does “the real damage.” More Photos >

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Published: April 19, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in New York on Friday, turning his attention beyond the challenges faced by the Roman Catholic Church: He addressed the United Nations, stressing the importance of human rights; offered Passover greetings at an Upper East Side synagogue; and met with other Christian leaders.

Touring a city defined by its diversity, the pope shook hands with its former mayor, Edward I. Koch, and rubbed the fuzz on several babies’ heads.

Benedict, a man who has shunned the spotlight for most of his life, was greeted like a rock star.

The pope flew to New York on the Alitalia papal plane, called “Shepherd One,” from Washington, where he had largely devoted his efforts to addressing the issue of sexual abuse by priests. On Thursday afternoon, he held a surprise meeting there with five victims from Boston, the city where the scandal unfolded with particular anger and division.

But for the first day since he arrived in America, the pope did not address the scandal on Friday.

After being greeted at Kennedy Airport by Cardinal Edward C. Egan, head of the New York archdiocese, Benedict flew by helicopter directly to the United Nations.

The 81-year-old pope, who was a young German prisoner in the war that forged the United Nations, insisted that human rights — more than force or pragmatic politics — must be the basis for ending war and poverty.

“The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security,” Benedict told the United Nations General Assembly.

“Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then become violators of peace,” he said.

He made no explicit reference to a nation or conflict in particular, and he laid no specific blame in the half-hour speech, which was densely packed with philosophy and theology. But he did mention briefly some specific priorities for the Vatican, like protecting the environment, and making sure that poor nations, especially in Africa, also reap the benefits of globalization.

And in a passage that will have particular resonance for the current United Nations leadership, which is trying to establish the right of the outside world to intervene in situations where nations fail to shield their own citizens from atrocities, the pope said that “every state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights.”

The concept, known as “responsibility to protect,” is one that Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, has backed as a way for international institutions to take action in regions like Darfur.

“If states are unable to guarantee such protection,” the pope said, “the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations charter and in other international instruments.” In an apparent allusion to countries that claim such international actions constitute intervention in their national affairs, he said they “should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty.”

He added, “On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage.”

In his speech, Benedict touched on themes important both to his three-year-old papacy and his decades of writing as a cardinal and one of the church’s leading intellectuals.

At base, the pope presented the idea that there are universal values that transcend the diversity — cultural, ethnic or ideological — embodied in an institution like the United Nations, founded to help prevent the ruin of another world war. Those values are at the base of human rights, he said, as they are for religion. Thus religion, he said, cannot be shut out of a body like the United Nations, which he said aims at “a social order respectful of the dignity and rights of the person.”

“A vision of life firmly anchored in the religious dimension can help achieve this,” he said. “Recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman favors conversion of heart, which then leads to a commitment to resist violence, terrorism, war and to promote justice and peace.

Benedict was introduced to the thronged General Assembly hall by Mr. Ban, who called the United Nations a secular institution but is “home to all men and women of faith around the world.”

The speech to the General Assembly is a papal tradition: Pope Paul VI made an appearance in 1965, and Pope John Paul II in 1979 and 1995.

On Friday afternoon, Benedict met with local Jewish clergy at the Park East Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation on the Upper East Side founded in 1890. It was the first papal visit to a synagogue in this country; only two other visits have ever been recorded, both in Europe.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Holocaust survivor who has led the synagogue since 1962, greeted Benedict and told him that his visit was “a reaffirmation of your outreach, good will, and commitment to enhancing Jewish-Catholic relations.” He presented Benedict with a silver Seder plate and a box of matzo, just in time for Passover, which begins on Saturday evening.

“The Jewish community make a valuable contribution to the life of the city,” the pope told the Jewish leaders, “and I encourage all of you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighborhood.”

The pope then posed for photographs with several prominent Jewish New Yorkers, including Mr. Koch, the former mayor. Later in the evening, the pope met with the ministers of various denominations, including the Rev. Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ms. King declined to say what they discussed, saying only, “He blessed me.”



Written by Lwin Aung Soe

April 19, 2008 at 5:01 pm

China Said to Arrest 100 Protesting Monks

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The New York Times

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April 19, 2008

China Said to Arrest 100 Protesting Monks


BEIJING — As many as 100 Tibetans were arrested in northwest China on Thursday after they demonstrated against the earlier detention of monks from a nearby monastery, witnesses and a Tibetan human rights group said Friday.

Local residents reached by telephone on Friday said that the police beat and arrested people at an open-air market in Tongren, a town in Qinghai, a western province bordering Tibet, after they refused orders to leave.

The residents said the town was the scene of several disturbances in recent months, including an unauthorized gathering in February involving 300 monks who were dispersed by tear gas as they tried to make their way to a government building.

A police official in Tongren confirmed by telephone that there had been detentions after “unrest,” but said that half of those detained had been released.

The disturbances on Thursday were the latest sign that the continuing turmoil in Tibetan regions of China has yet to be quelled. Since the riots on March 14 in Lhasa, 2,200 people in areas with heavily Tibetan populations, most of them in Qinghai and Gansu Provinces, have been taken into custody, according to the official Xinhua news agency. The authorities said most of those who had been arrested or had surrendered to the police had been released.

At a news conference Friday in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Dalai Lama said that he had taken part in private meetings aimed at quelling the violence, but that they had not borne fruit.

“Soon after the crisis happened, there was some contact, some private channels,” he said, adding, “No signs are positive.” Tibetan exile groups say that 140 people, most of them protesters, have died in the violence in the Tibetan regions; Chinese officials put the number at 19 and say nearly all were victims of the rioting.

Tashi Choephel, a researcher at the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy in India, who said he had spoken to three witnesses in Tongren, said many of those arrested Thursday were monks from the Rong Gonchen Monastery. He said the monks had been at the center of previous clashes with the authorities.

“It’s very, very tense,” Mr. Tashi Choephel said, adding that the police were preventing anyone from entering or leaving the monastery.

The trouble on Thursday began around 11 a.m., he said, when 22 monks staged a quiet protest to demand the release of three monks who had been detained a week earlier for their role in a March 16 demonstration.

A local resident, reached by telephone, said many people were upset by the detentions. “We wanted them to come back home, but the government said no,” said the resident, who refused to give his name, citing fear of punishment by the authorities.

Mr. Tashi Choephel said that armed police officers quickly arrested the monks and that word then spread to the monastery, prompting 80 monks to descend on the marketplace. The gathering turned boisterous, he said, drawing passers-by and provoking a heated confrontation with the police.

The police beat many of those at the scene, Mr. Tashi Choephel said. They were put onto four waiting trucks and taken to the county office of the Public Security Bureau.

The Dalai Lama arrived in Michigan after meeting with Chinese and Tibetan students in Canada, and said that such meetings could be a way to promote understanding between the sides.

“Now that time has come that we should start a Sino-Tibetan friendship group, and meet regularly,” he said.

The Dalai Lama repeated his support for the Beijing Olympics and said that he would not ask that demonstrations stop, although he did not condone violent protests.

He also said he did not mind criticism of him by Tibetan leaders. “I welcome it,” he said.

Micheline Maynard contributed reporting from Ann Arbor, Mich. Huang Yuanxi and Zhang Jing contributed research from Beijing.

Micheline Maynard contributed reporting from Ann Arbor, Mich. Huang Yuanxi and Zhang Jing contributed research from Beijing.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

April 19, 2008 at 9:30 am

World Focus on Burma (19 Apr 08)

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1.   Atmosphere of intimidation clouds Myanmar polls: British envoy
Peninsula On-line, Qatar –
BANGKOK • A top British envoy on Myanmar said yesterday an “atmosphere of intimidation” was clouding next month’s referendum on a new constitution and urged …

2.   Ships that ply the lakes
St. Catharines Standard, Canada –
The latter sailed for the Burma Navigation Company. It was registered in
Burma (now Myanmar) when it came through the St. Lawrence Seaway in April 1990 to …

3.   Looking for something special? Try treasure hunting in India
Kiwi Collection, Canada – 
He himself is often traveling, to
Zambia for diamonds and emeralds, to Colombia for sapphires, to Myanmar (Burma) for rubies, Afghanistan for lapis. …

4.   ‘Indo-US Relations’ series to begin April 21
Princeton UniversityNJ –
Sibal will present “
India, China and Tibet” at 4 pm in 1 Robertson Hall, offering his perspective on how to deal with the current situations in Tibet, Burma

5.   Rohingyas demonstrate outside Myanmar, Thai embassies
New Straits Times, Malaysia –
The demonstration started at
10am and ended at 11.30am, led by All Burma Democratic Force vice chairman Mohammad Sadek. The group first went to the Myanmar

6.   Exciting new program lined up for film society’s spring season
Bowen Island Undercurrent, Canada –
The subject is a Canadian filmmaker’s soulful immersion in Myanmar’s (Burma) ancient traditional ‘sport’ of chinlone, a combination of soccer, …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

April 19, 2008 at 12:08 am

Posted in World Focus on Burma

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