Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber WINNIPEG - Nearly 80 senior religious leaders from every region of the world gathered for the World Religions Summit in Winnipeg June 21-23 to address the “most pressing practical, ethical and strategic issues of our time.” And after many words were spoken and considered, the interfaith assembly emerged with a four-page message to the most powerful people in the world.

Winnipeg area MP Stephen Fletcher received the statement, “A Time for Inspired Leadership,” on behalf of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and was expected to deliver the document to leaders of the G8 and G20 nations meeting in  Toronto and Huntsville, Ont., June 25-27.

'New world disorder' cited by Dallaire

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Senator Romeo DallaireWINNIPEG - Retired general Senator Romeo Dallaire told a packed audience of religion leaders that the proliferation of child soldiers in world conflicts is a sin and a crime against humanity.

Dallaire, the retired general who led the ill-fated UN peacekeeping forces during the mid-1990s genocide in Rwanda, was addressing some 71 delegates and 130 observers at the opening session of the World Religions Summit, June 21-23 at the University of Winnipeg.

Child soldiers a crime against humanity, says Sen. Dallaire

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Boy soldierWINNIPEG - Retired general Senator Romeo Dallaire told a packed audience of religious leaders that the proliferation of child soldiers in world conflicts is a sin and a crime against humanity.

Dallaire, the retired general who led the ill-fated UN peacekeeping forces during the mid-1990s genocide in Rwanda, was addressing some 71 delegates and 130 observers at the opening session of the World Religions Summit June 21-23 at the University of Winnipeg.

Church, soccer intertwined in Slovenian life

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Slovenian fansTORONTO - It started off so well for the Slovenians gathered in the parking lot of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in the southwest corner of Toronto — painting faces, waving flags, blasting vuvuzelas and drinking Slovenian beer at 9:30 a.m. on June 18.

The Green Dragons of Slovenia at the World Cup in South Africa — and at the parish hall in Etobicoke — were ready to take on the Americans.

South Koreans celebrating community, faith

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Sacred Heart of Jesus parishTORONTO - Wearing South Korea’s trademark red shirts, parishioners at Etobicoke’s Sacred Heart of Jesus parish have caught the World Cup soccer fever.

For the team’s third game of the World Cup in South Africa on June 22, against Nigeria, parishioners, including pastor Fr. Min-Kyu Antigonus Park, cheered their team on. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, sending South Korea into the Round of 16.

Another aid group fears CIDA cuts

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CCIC logoThe umbrella group for 90 religious and secular development aid groups has laid off all but eight of its employees, put its building up for sale and emptied its $500,000 reserve fund for severance packages as it waits for final word on a funding decision from CIDA that’s now three months overdue.

The Canadian Council for International Co-operation is assuming it won’t get the $1.7 million the federal government normally contributes to its $2.4-million budget, said executive director Gerry Barr.

Rumours of Rome posting for Ouellet downplayed

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Cardinal Marc Ouellet Rumours that Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet will replace the prefect of the congregation of bishops at the Vatican are just speculation, said an archdiocesan spokesperson.

“We won’t comment on those rumours because they are rumours, especially (because of) the fact that the actual prefect has not retired yet,” said Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre, director of communications for the archdiocese of Quebec.

Tracking G8 accountability: hype vs. substance

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G8 LogoTORONTO - G8 countries have issued themselves a glowing report card complimenting themselves on how "The G8 has acted as a force for positive change and its actions have made a difference in addressing global challenges."

However, an independent academic assessment of G8 performance and comments by aid agencies and activists from poor countries aren't quite so kind.

Canada has lost its traditional second place ranking in the G8 Research Group analysis, keeping just 17 of 24 commitments it made at the last G8 meeting in L'Aquila, Italy.

Gaza drama comes to Toronto as controversial exhibit opens

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Child at campTORONTO - Amid the darkness of a Christmas evening, a seven-year-old boy holds a candle and a Father Christmas doll at his home during a power outage two years ago, just before the Israeli military launched an offensive on Gaza City.

This picture forms part of a controversial exhibit by the non-profit group Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. “Human Drama in Gaza” runs from June 16 to June 28 at the Cream Tangerine Cafe's The Great Hall on Queen Street West. The exhibit is a collection of 44 pictures taken by photographers from Agence France Presse, Getty Images and Reuters during the conflict.

The photos reflect scenes of sadness, death and despair during the December 2008-January 2009 battle as well as scenes of resilience at refugee camps established as safe havens for those left homeless after the attacks.

Maternal health the right choice for G8

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Maternal healthcareTORONTO - Canada has picked the right issue to push at the G8 meetings in Huntsville, Ont., June 25 and 26, but it hasn't got the math quite right, according to aid groups.

Leaked drafts of the final Huntsville communique indicate Canada is offering $1 billion over five years to tackle maternal and child deaths in poor countries — a commitment that comes in less than the $1.1 billion security budget for the G8/G20 summit and less than the $1.5 billion recently pledged for maternal and child health by Bill and Melinda Gates.

Targeting the health of women and children is the right thing to do, said Michael Casey, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

“It is certainly a huge development priority,” Casey said.

Religious hate crime numbers on the rise

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Race, religion and sexual orientation continue to be the prime targets for hate crimes in Canada, with more than one quarter of all hate crimes committed against people because of their faith.

Though race accounted for 55 per cent of hate crimes reported by police, religiously motivated hate crimes jumped 53 per cent between 2007 and 2008 and accounted for 26 per cent of 1,036 hate crimes in 2008.

The Statistics Canada figures on hate crimes are gathered from police services that serve 88 per cent of Canada’s population. Statistics Canada warns that the figures almost certainly underreport hate crimes not only because not all police forces report hate crimes but because many incidents go unreported to police.