News briefs

Nearly 1.6 million people displaced by flooding in Pakistan, the majority of whom have never used the formal banking system, received VISA debit cards pre-loaded with U.S.$235 in government funds. A partnership between Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), the government of Pakistan, and United Bank Limited, generously supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the “Watan” (Urdu for “nation”) branchless banking project will ensure aid is delivered in a timely and transparent way, while revolutionizing Pakistan’s banking landscape.—MEDA release

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At the beginning of February, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) temporarily relocated its 14 international workers in Egypt to Strasbourg, France, due to the ongoing violence in Egypt.—MCC release

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Sexual violence against Haiti’s women is on the rise. The Aftershocks report from Amnesty International said more than 250 cases of rape in several camps were reported in the first 150 days after last January’s earthquake. The makeshift camps make women vulnerable: attackers rip their plastic tents at night or attack them as they wait in long lines for the toilets. A year later, rape survivors arrive at the office of a local women’s support group almost every other day. Many survivors say when they sought help, the police could do nothing. Amnesty International is calling for the government to take urgent steps to preserve evidence of rape for future prosecutions, advise women of the recourse available to them, and maintain police and military presence in the camps.—CBC.ca

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B.C. Christian News ceased publication Jan. 31, releasing its final issue in February. Its parent Christian Info Society will continue to produce the youth magazine Converge and the national website www.canadianchristianity
.com
. The Light Magazine, a free B.C. Christian lifestyle magazine launching in March, has hired many of B.C. Christian News’ staff.—Vancouver Sun

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Canadian Mennonite University will launch a bachelor of business administration degree in Fall 2011. Students will develop character, wisdom, and conviction, engaging with ethical issues of justice and fairness, while obtaining a solid business training. The four-year BBA features a co-op component option involving 6 work placement terms, making this business program one-of-a-kind in Manitoba.—CMU release In February, Canada Family Action (CFA) appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights calling for the strengthening of Bill C-54, which currently only increases the minimum sentence for child pornography from 14 to 90 days, or 6 months for indictable convictions. CFA was also concerned that Bill C-54 did not even mention the crime of “making” child porn. CFA collected 84,500 signatures from Canadians pleading with lawmakers to change the terminology and provide tougher sentences for pedophiles.—familyaction.org
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Max Canada Insurance Company offers grants to congregations assisting with financial needs caused by unanticipated events not covered by insurance. Their Mutual Aid Ministry (MAM), supported by insurance operational tithes and charitable donations, offered their Burden Bearing Ministry to 41 communities in 2010. Of those, 17 resulted in financial grants, amounting to a record $23,366, with congregations fully or partially matching support.—MAX release
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Jan. 10, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal released its decision in the Marriage Commissioner Reference, namely that commissioners may not refuse to solemnize marriages contrary to their beliefs. However, in order to respect the religious freedom of commissioners, the court proposed an alternative: the creation of a “single point entry system” by which couples apply to a central office that would then assign a commissioner able to provide their requested service. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) was an intervenor before the court.—activatecfpl.evangelicalfellowship.ca
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After months of consultation, Mennonite Church USA affirmed Phoenix as the location of its 2013 Convention. The executive board is committed to offering an additional location for delegates unable to attend “because of conscience or concerns for safety” due to Arizona’s controversial immigration law.—TheMennonite.org

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Canadian Foodgrains Bank invites Canadians aged 17–24 to learn about food justice, international agriculture, and fair trade issues through a youth food study tour to Guatemala May 9–23. By discussing food security with farmers and the environmental impact of mining with residents of San Marcos, participants will be challenged to consider how their lifestyle affects people around the world.—foodgrainsbank.ca

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