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Religious-hate legislation gets toned down as British Government is handed an unusual defeat

 LONDON, FEB. 4, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A proposed hate law affecting religion has been substantially watered down in a rare parliamentary defeat for Britain's Labor government. In two votes in the Commons the government lost; the first time by 10 votes, the second time by just one vote, reported the Independent newspaper the following day.

The Commons voted to accept some significant amendments along the lines of changes asked for when the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill was debated last October in the House of Lords. On that occasion the government's proposal was amended by an overwhelming majority of 149 votes.

The bill had proposed to make it an offence to stir up hatred against people on religious grounds; either spoken or written, in public or in private. Originally the law proposed by the government contemplated making insults and abuse an offence, as well as threatening words and behaviour. The original proposal also made it an offence even if the person involved had not intended to stir up hatred.

The law as finally passed by Parliament stipulates that for a person to be charged it will have to be shown that "threatening" language or behaviour was used, instead of the "threatening, insulting and abusive." It will also be necessary to prove that there was an intention to commit the offences. The day Parliament voted on the law several hundred demonstrators gathered outside in protest against what they saw as an unjustified restriction on free speech.  ZE06020403

for  further details, including a report on the Australian experience, go to



Civil rights matriarch dies

Coretta Scott King -- to many, the first lady of the civil rights movement – has died. According to the American Anti-Slavery Group, the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., dedicated her life's work to bringing about racial justice and non-violent social change -- both at her husband's side and following his death. In the public eye, Ms King came to personify the values she and her husband espoused in their work: peace, fairness, equality, and freedom.   In her words: Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.


Can politics, religion and justice meet globally?

The first years of the new century do not bode well for those who hold hopes for a cosmopolitan world and peaceable international relations. While political theorists have thought through issues of justice, equality and liberty at the level of the nation state, there is a paucity of theory focused at thinking through such issues at the international level. One pressing problem for such relations is how such terms as liberty, justice and equality are understood in contexts where different norms are at play.

International Politics, Religion and Global Justice in the New Century is a University of Sydney interdisciplinary summer symposium that aims to discuss these issues and reflect upon such questions as: How can we talk about global justice and global equality if our cultural norms orientate us differently to these terms? How can we talk about global justice and equality where gross inequalities of both military power and economic might are used as points of leverage in international negotiations? How can such justice and equality be achieved when the most powerful nations of the world seem to rely on threat and coercion as a means to these ends? Given this situation; what are the prospects for international relations in the new century? What are the prospects for cosmopolitanism and global justice in the new century?  Emeritus Prof. Genevieve Lloyd, Philosophy (UNSW);  Honorary Prof. Garry W. Trompf, Religion (Sydney);  Emeritus Prof. Stuart Rees, CPACS (Sydney); Mark Kelly, Philosophy (Sydney); and John Nijjem, Philosophy (Sydney) will be presenters at the symposium on Thursday, February 16.


New Director for Uniya

The first lay Director has been appointed for the Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre. Mary Bryant was a lecturer in the School of Social Work at the Australian Catholic University. Ms Bryant brings to Uniya skills in management, community development and social policy, having also been a lecturer at the University of Western Sydney and a community worker in social policy and planning.  She also has experience in palliative care counselling.  Ms Bryant replaces Sr Patty Fawkner.  Uniya was founded as a research centre by the Australian Jesuits in 1989.


Vibrant gathering spurs on Brothers’ redefinition

The largest assembly of Christian Brothers to gather in Australia continued to redefine their future in the Oceania region when they met in Brisbane recently.  Three hundred and fifty brothers from Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia celebrated the final profession of PNG Brother, Herman Wagira; commissioned four Brothers to begin the congregation’s first community in the Philippines; farewelled four young men from Oceania to begin, in Africa, their training as Christian Brothers and committed themselves to a mission of brotherhood in education, with a special focus on addressing the needs of the marginalised, especially the young.  In a commitment to the welfare of the planet, a decision was made to spend one per cent of the cost of the gathering on planting trees – as a symbolic and practical action to recognise the effects of fuel consumption in travelling to and from the conference.  In the coming months, Christian Brothers will engage in further discussion before a decision is made on a new structure for Oceania to be recommended to the Congregational Leadership Team before the end of this year.  Among the guests at the conference was the Congregational Leader, Br Philip Pinto.

photo:  The colourful final profession of PNG Brother Herman Wagira, led by fellow PNG Brothers and Fr Kevin Hennessy CP, a fluent speaker of pidgin.

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