Pope prays for hostages in Sinai Desert

Pope Benedict XVI

I would like to watch this on the news. It’s shameful this is not being really reported (at least here, it isn’t):

Campaigners have welcomed the intervention by Pope Benedict XVI on behalf of refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan who are being held hostage in the Sinai Desert by people traffickers.

Hundreds of refugees from the Horn of Africa have been held for months on the outskirts of a town in the Sinai Desert in purpose-built containers, where Bedouin people traffickers are demanding payment of up to US$8,000 per person for their release, though the hostages had already paid US$2,000 for passage to Israel.

On 1 December Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Human Rights Concern Eritrea, Agenzia Habeshia and EveryOne Group issued a joint appeal for urgent international intervention in the plight of the refugees, who are currently being held in degrading and inhumane conditions, bound by chains around their ankles and denied adequate food and water. The appeal details extreme methods of torture suffered by the refugees, including electric shocks, to force friends and families abroad to make the payments. The women in the group, who have been separated from the rest, are particularly vulnerable to severe abuse.

During his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI invited pilgrims “to pray for all situations of violence, intolerance, suffering in the world, that the coming of Jesus may bring consolation, reconciliation and peace. I think of the many difficult situations, such as the continuous attacks that occur in Iraq against Christians and Muslims, the clashes in Egypt where there were deaths and injuries, the victims of traffickers and criminals, such as the drama of the hostages, Eritreans and of other nationalities, in the Sinai desert. Respect for the rights of all is the prerequisite for peace. Our prayer to the Lord and our solidarity can bring hope to those who are suffering.”

via Pope prays for hostages in Sinai Desert on Independent Catholic News.

Nobel Peace Prize ceremony boycott grows due to Chinese pressure

Free Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned for 11 years due to his participation in the document called Chapter 08, in which several people supported democracy and the end to the “one-party”

… China and 18 other countries have decided not to be represented “for various reasons.” It noted that number has tripled from six weeks ago.

The countries joining China in its boycott include Russia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco and the Philippines.

The 58 countries who have embassies in Oslo were invited to attend.

China strongly objected to Liu’s win last October and levelled more criticism Tuesday, calling members of the Nobel committee “clowns” who are “interfering in China’s judicial affairs.”

The 54-year-old writer and academic was jailed in December 2009 to serve an 11-year term for subversion. He was detained just days before the publication of what has turned out to be an explosive political document, Charter 8, which he co-wrote.

Charter 08 calls for an end to one-party rule and the introduction of democratic reforms in China. It was signed, via the internet, by thousands of people, some of them Communist Party officials.

via CBC News – World – Nobel Peace Prize ceremony boycott grows.

WikiLeaks: Saudi private donors remain main source of Islamic terrorism

This isn’t surprising, of course…

Hajj is one of the financial sources of Islamic terrorism

Terrorist funding emanating from Saudi Arabia remains a serious concern.” So states a cable prepared for the visit of U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke to the kingdom earlier this year.

It is one of several that have appeared on the WikiLeaks site to indicate that despite some progress, the flow of cash to extremist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan from individuals and charities in the Gulf has certainly not been halted.

The cable, written by U.S. Ambassador James B Smith, says that the Saudis are “cooperating more actively than at any previous point to respond to terrorist financing concerns raised by the United States, and to investigate and detain financial facilitators of concern.”

It says the Saudi Ministry of Interior had begun to detain individuals involved in funding networks for groups such as Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), an extremist Pakistani group that carried out the Mumbai attacks in 2008, the Taliban, and Hamas.

But it says donors in Saudi Arabia “continue to constitute a source of funding to Sunni extremist groups worldwide, especially during the Hajj and Ramadan.” And it adds the kingdom remains “almost completely dependent on the CIA to provide analytic support and direction for its counterterrorism operations.”

via WikiLeaks cables assess terrorism funding in Saudi Arabia, Gulf states – CNN.com.

British PM ‘cautiously optimistic’ on Afghan pullout

David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday that next year must show “irreversible” progress in the anti-Taliban war, expressing hope that British troops could start leaving Afghanistan in 2011.

Making his second visit to the war-torn country as prime minister, Cameron met Afghan President Hamid Karzai days after leaked American cables showed heavy criticism by US and Afghan officials of the performance of British forces.

Cameron told a joint press conference with Karzai that he was “cautiously optimistic” over progress being made on the battlefield and about NATO plans to bring some troops home next year and the rest by the end of 2014.

via British PM ‘cautiously optimistic’ on Afghan pullout – Yahoo! News.

I hope they are not rushing things up….

 

Philippines: Hundreds of families flee as fighting breaks out in S. Philippines

Hundreds of terrified families fled in the southern Philippines as fighting between government security forces and Muslim rebels erupted, an Army official said on Sunday.

Lt. Col. Domingo Gobway, a battalion commander, said militias and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front clashed on Saturday afternoon in the town of Pikit in North Cotabato.

The fierce gun battle lasted for five hours, prompting civilians, about 500 families, fled their homes in the village of Macabual for fear of their safety.

Gobway said no one was reportedly hurt or killed on the government side.

The fighting occurred as peace talks between Manila and MILF rebels remained stalled.

The MILF has been fighting government troops for decades in a bid to establish a self-rule Muslim state in the south of the predominantly Catholic country.

via Hundreds of families flee as fighting breaks out in S. Philippines | The Manila Bulletin Newspaper Online.

In 2008, the Philippines’ Govt authorised the modification of the Constitution to grant MILF what they wanted. But the modification was stopped due to heavy opposition from citizens who didn’t want that constitutional change to be made.