- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2008

Pope says charity duty for Catholics

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI said charity was a “duty of justice” for Roman Catholics and that they must assume greater responsibility to help the less fortunate.

Focusing on almsgiving in his traditional message for Lent — the time the church sets aside for fasting and prayer in preparation for Easter — the pope warned Tuesday against do-gooders who are in it for personal aggrandizement, saying that true charity goes beyond philanthropy.

He said that helping the poor and abandoned is for Christians a “duty of justice, even prior to being an act of charity.” Lent begins on Ash Wednesday next week.

During the presentation of the message, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, head of the Vatican charity office, advised donors to check where their money was actually going.

Without giving names, he noted that the overhead of some organizations is close to 50 percent of the money received. Cardinal Cordes said that figures from 2006 showed that the administrative costs of the Catholic charity Caritas in Italy were 9 percent of the donations.

Bahai to get IDs stating no religion

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Tuesday ruled that members of the Bahai faith can get new ID cards that don’t state their religious affiliation, ending four years of court controversies, including rulings that denied Bahaism exists as a religion.

The decision followed an appeal filed by two Bahai families who were refused ID cards by the Egyptian Interior Ministry because their religion is not recognized under the law here. Egypt recognizes only Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and requires all identification papers and other documents, such as birth certificates, to state an individual’s religion.

The court said the Bahais would be “allowed to put a hyphen” in the “religion” column in documents, instead of filling it out. The two Bahai families had asked the court allow them to leave the column blank.

But in its decision, the Supreme Administrative Court in Cairo also stated that Bahaism is not a recognized religion in this country. “The officially recognized religions are Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and there are no other recognized religions,” it stated.

The phrasing reflected a compromise — while not going against the law, it allowed for the Bahais, who are estimated to be 2,000 people in Egypt, to get documents.

Teacher rebuked for forced shaving

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A teacher in Muslim-majority Malaysia has been reprimanded for forcing six Hindu schoolboys to shave their mustaches and beards, which they were growing for a religious ritual.

State Education Director Hussain Harun said the teacher in the northern Perak state was enforcing school regulations that require students to be clean shaven, according to a report in the Star newspaper Tuesday.

However, the teacher was guilty of being insensitive to the students’ feelings, and has been reprimanded, Mr. Harun said. The teacher also forced the students to remove religious wristbands to enforce a rule that no ornaments be worn in school.

“If need be, the teacher would have to apologize … for hurting their feelings by being insensitive to their religious and cultural needs,” the Star quoted Mr. Hussain as saying. “The best way is to ask for their forgiveness.”

The education officer investigating the case declined to comment.

The students were growing their hair as part of a ritual for the Thaipusam festival that was celebrated on Jan. 23. Many ethnic Indians, who form 8 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people, let their hair grow for a certain period and have themselves shaved on Thaipusam Day.

The Star did not identify the teacher’s religion.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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