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Religious, secular experts unite in call to protect child safety online

October 6, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Oct 6, 2017 / 12:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a joint declaration on the need to protect youth on the internet, leaders and experts from various fields stressed the need Friday to raise awareness of digital dangers and to collaborate on child protection.

“Every child’s life is unique, meaningful and precious and every child has a right to dignity and safety,” an Oct. 6 joint declaration from participants in a Rome conference on promoting online safety for children read.

However, “today, global society is failing its children.” Instead of being protected, “millions of children are being abused and exploited in tragic and unspeakable ways, and on an unprecedented scale all over the world,” the declaration lamented.

Titled “Pope Francis – A society can be judged by the way it treats its children,” the declaration was drafted by the participants in the conference and presented to Pope Francis during their audience with him Oct. 6.

The conference, held Oct. 3-6 and dedicated to the theme “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” was the first of its kind on a global scale, drawing social scientists, civic leaders, religious leaders, and representatives from major tech companies.

It was organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection in collaboration with the UK-based global alliance WePROTECT and the organization “Telefono Azzurro,” and addressed concerns surrounding abuse prevention, pornography, the responsibility of internet providers and the media, and ethical governance.

The declaration included 13 action points for the future directed at different sectors of society, including technology companies, law enforcement, governments, and religious leaders.

Key areas highlighted for protecting minors in the future were the fields of education and building awareness of the internet and the risks involved. Participants also advocated for more stringent laws and accountability for online crimes, training of medical and educational personnel in how to look for signs of abuse, and swifter reporting of suspected instances of abuse.

They also asked that major tech companies invest in developing new technologies aimed at protection and identification of online victims, as well as broader efforts to rescue victims and educate youth on what behaviors could put them in harm’s way.

“Technology’s exponential advancement and integration into our everyday lives is not only changing what we do and how we do it, but who we are,” the declaration read.

And while many of these changes are positive, “we face the dark side of this new-found world, a world which is enabling a host of social ills that are harming the most vulnerable members of society.”

Numerous benefits have come from the internet, but alongside these have also grown content that is “increasingly extreme and dehumanizing is available literally at children’s fingertips.”

“The proliferation of social media means insidious acts, such as cyber-bullying, harassment and sextortion, are becoming commonplace,” the document read, noting that both the range and scope of online child sexual abuse and exploitation “is shocking.”

“Vast numbers of sexual abuse images of children and youth are available online and continue to grow unabated,” participants said, adding that the “detrimental impact of pornography on the malleable minds of young children” is yet another increasing and “significant online harm.”

“We embrace the vision of an internet accessible by all people. However, we believe the constitution of this vision must recognize the unwavering value of protecting all children,” the said. And while the challenges are “enormous,” the response “must not be gloom and dismay.”

Instead, “we must work together to seek positive, empowering solutions for all. We must ensure that all children have safe access to the internet to enhance their education, communications and connections.”

Technology companies and governments have shown great leadership in this fight, they said, stressing that representatives of this field “must continue to innovate to better protect children.”

Families, neighborhoods and various communities around the world must also be awakened to the issue and the reality of the impact of the internet on children, including the risks.

Emphasizing the need for collaboration, participants stressed that online abuse and exploitation “is a problem that cannot be solved by one nation or one company or one faith acting alone, it is a global problem that requires global solutions.”

“It requires that we build awareness, and that we mobilize action from every government, every faith, every company and every institution.”

The declaration concluded saying that “the world faces unprecedented challenges if it is to preserve the rights and dignity of children and protect them from abuse and exploitation.”

These challenges “require new thinking and approaches, heightened global awareness and inspired leadership,” it read, and issued a global appeal for everyone “to stand up for the protection of the dignity of children.”

In an Oct. 6 news briefing with journalists after the audience with Pope Francis closing the conference, Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, president of the CCP, said the conference was “very intense and very successful.”

“There was a unique sense of unity” among participants across the board, he said, explaining that he “felt absolutely enthused about the way people were interacting, networking and comping up with interactive proposals.”

Also present at the news briefing was Baroness Sheila Hollins, a professor and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

In her comments, she said that when historians look back at the digital age, they will most likely say it was the age that “changed the world in one generation,” and we’ll be judged on “did we do enough?”

She spoke of the need to engage at various levels in order to address the problem, particularly with youth themselves, who are the “digital natives” most familiar with new forms of technology and therefore are the best interlocutors.

Another suggestion that came out of working groups was a possible encyclical on “on childhood and the social environment,” given the rapid changes society is undergoing.

Hollins also noted a proposal made by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, who during a keynote speech suggested an in-depth study be made on childhood from an anthropological, philosophical, and theological perspective, keeping in mind the different cultural perceptions of childhood, and that while some things are forbidden in some cultures, they might be acceptable in others.

Dr. Ernie Allen, Chair of the International Advisory Board for WePROTECT, said that the organization intends to get the topic of the digital world and safety concerns on the table at relevant events in the coming years, such as the 2018 Synod of Bishops on youth, the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin, and the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama.

[…]

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Threats force Catholic families out of their homes in Northern Ireland

October 5, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Oct 6, 2017 / 12:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A paramilitary hate group is behind threats that forced four Catholic families to flee their homes in Northern Ireland, authorities have determined.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which warned the families of the threats last week, announced this week that the threats have been linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group that claims to have links to a historically anti-Catholic group from the early 20th century with the same name.

The families were forced to flee a social housing project in east Belfast that had goals of unifying the community.

“What an irony that is,” Chief Constable George Hamilton told the Belfast Telegraph.  

Hamilton said the threats came from people “purporting to be of east Belfast UVF,” but  “(w)hether or not that is an organisational position we do not know because it is a chaotic disorganised crime group – that is how I would describe east Belfast UVF,” he added.

UVF flags that were being flown in the neighborhood were also removed on Thursday as a “gesture of goodwill”, according to an organization that claims to mediate negotiations between the UVF and authorities, the BBC reported.   

One resident who was forced to flee his home told the BBC anonymously last week that he was shocked by the threats, because everyone in the neighborhood had seemed peaceful and friendly.

“We’ve been living there for just over a year and never had a problem – talked away to the neighbors, everyone was really nice – then this just came out of nowhere,” he said.

The resident and his family – including his children and his pregnant partner – now have to find new housing.

Political leaders crossed party lines in Northern Ireland to condemn the threats in a joint statement on Monday, and promised support to the appropriate authorities and agencies to rehouse the families if they felt unsafe returning to their previous homes.

Religious disputes have long been part of the history of Northern Ireland, which is predominantly  Protestant and a part of the United Kingdom, while the majority-Catholic Republic of Ireland gained its independence in 1916.

The region has had ongoing religiously and politically based conflicts, most notably “the Troubles”, which included violent clashes that lasted from the late ‘60s until 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was struck.

Hamilton said in a press conference that the UVF has “no legitimacy, they are a scourge on the community. People are giving us information out of fear and won’t translate into a written statement so that we can go into court and give evidence against these people.”

“We are 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement and I just wish the UVF wouldn’t be there anymore.”

The Catholic Church has long supported work toward peace and reconciliation in Ireland. On Sept. 29, 1979, Pope St. John Paul II celebrated Mass in Ireland, close to its border with the United Kingdom, calling for peace. “Further violence in Ireland will only drag down to ruin the land you claim to love and the values you claim to cherish,” he said.

“On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace,” the Pope pled.

 

[…]

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Microsoft rep calls Catholic Church a key ally in protecting kids online

October 5, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Oct 5, 2017 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The head of Microsoft’s office for online safety has said the Catholic Church is a key ally in the ongoing effort to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation online.

When asked why a major tech company would partner with the Catholic Church on such an important issue, Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer for Microsoft Inc., had a simple response: “why not?”

Beauchere spoke during an Oct. 3-6 conference on Child Dignity in the Digital World, addressing the topic of “How Do Internet Providers and Software Developers Define Their Responsibility and Limits of Cooperation Regarding Safeguarding of Minors.”

Speaking with a small group of journalists at the conference, Beauchere said, “why would you not take advantage of such a huge platform and such a huge array of people to make aware of the situation?”

Beauchere said she is willing to collaborate with “anyone who wants to talk about these issues,” because “we all can learn from one another. And the only way we’re going to get better, the only way we’re going to do and learn more is to really expand the dialogue.”

She also spoke on what future steps and investments technology companies can make in helping to fight online child exploitation, and action-points for the future, including some highlights from a joint-declaration from conference participants that will be presented to Pope Francis in an audience tomorrow.

Beauchere was one of two representatives of major tech organizations present at the conference, the other being Dr. Antigone Davies, Head of Global Safety Policy for Facebook.

Organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection in collaboration with the UK-based global alliance WePROTECT and the organization “Telefono Azzurro,” which is the first Italian helpline for children at risk.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin opened the conference as a keynote speaker. Other participants in the congress include social scientists, civic leaders, and religious representatives. Discussion points include prevention of abuse, pornography, the responsibility of internet providers and the media, and ethical governance.

 

Please read below for excerpts of Beauchere’s conversation with journalists:

Thank you for your time. It was very interesting to hear what Microsoft is doing to combat this issue. But many speakers that followed you said that more could be done as far as investments and money being put into helping in NGOs that are working to help in this issue, and technologies that can be put into fighting this issue. What is your response? What can be done in the future to address this call to action?

I would say the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement, and we can all do more. We can all do better. We just have to determine what is going to be the best root to direct our resources. So we come at the at the problem from a technology perspective, from an internal governance perspective with policies and standards and procedures, with education and with partnerships. We are already supporting a number of organizations, which I noted in my remarks. We are on the board for the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, I personally sit on the board of the WeProtect organization. I sit on the board of the In Hope organization, I used to sit on the board, now another colleague does, of the Technology Coalition. That’s all technologies coming together to come up with technical solutions, other operational means, to alleviate the problem. So there are many things we are dong, it’s a question of we have so precious few resources – we’re given budgets like every one ounce. We don’t get an unlimited pot of money, so we have to decide where are we going to put our efforts and what is going to deliver the most bang for the buck.

And where do you see this money being used most importantly?

I think efforts like this that really bring together a multitude of stakeholders. As I said, technology companies work together. Sometimes I feel like I work and talk to Twitter and Google and YouTube and Facebook more so in a week than I do with my own colleagues at Microsoft, so we’re always working together. Civil society works together. Academia works together. Government works together. But now we need to bring all of those stakeholders together. WeProtect started that effort, but I could say that there are really only four stakeholder groups there: that would be the technology companies, governments, law enforcement and civil society. But now with this world congress we’re expanding to include the Church and faith-based organizations, to include a broader array of academics, to include the public health sector. Now, with more people it could sometimes present a little bit more conflict, or hiccups or hurdles that we’re going to have to get over, but we’re going to have to find a way that we’re all going to have to agree on certain things, and then build from there.

On a practical level, you’ve spoken about all the boards and committees that you are a part of, and it’s really important to be a part of that conversation, but if you were going to tell me now where you are going to allocate your resources next as the frontier of where to fight this issue, where do you see the challenges and problems? Where should that money be allocated?

It has to be invested in technology. But technology investments don’t pay off immediately, they take time. So a lot of people are asking, ‘can’t you just invent a technology that can determine that that’s a child sexual abuse image, and then it won’t be uploaded from the get-go?’ This is artificial intelligence, this is machine learning, it’s only been in recent years that we’ve been able to identify, via artificial intelligence and via machine learning, that a cat is a cat. So when you put in the complex scenarios of the parade of horribles that could happen to a child, and the different actors that are involved in those scenarios and the different body parts, and the different scenes and places where things could happen as far as these crimes, you’re adding so much more complexity. So there’s a lot of work. These technology investments are not going to pay off immediately. I think people look at technology and they think it’s a silver bullet, they think that technology created these problems, so technology should fix them. Number one, technology didn’t create these problems, and number two, technology alone cannot solve them. So technology investments are key, but they’re not going to pay off immediately. So these kinds of efforts that are multi-party, multi-focused, multi-pronged and faceted, that’s where we need to put our efforts and I think the money will follow. The money will follow what proves the most successful or will at least show the most promise.

In terms of investment, many of the speakers addressed or were from areas of the world that are not as developed in technology, but are starting to gain access to the internet and don’t have the background or the education about what it can do. In terms of investment, do you guys have plans to address this issue in some of these nations that are not as developed?

We have educational and awareness raising resources available everywhere. Personally I see the developing world as an opportunity. Yes they are gaining access to technology quicker, but they have the ability to learn from the Western world and the mistakes that we made, and they have the ability and the opportunity to do things right from the ground up. They just can’t let the technology get ahead of them, they have to really incorporate the learning and the awareness raising and some of the good, healthy practices and habits, developing those habits for going online and keeping oneself and one’s family safe. But I see it as more of an opportunity than as a problem.

You mentioned that you are also trying to broaden your network of allies in fighting this issue, so why broaden it to faith-based organizations, why come to a Jesuit university to participate in this conference?

I say why not? Why would you not take advantage of such a huge platform and such a huge array of people to make aware of the situation. These are very difficult conversations to have. People don’t want, whether it’s people in government or elsewhere, they don’t want to acknowledge that these issues exist. It’s a very delicate topic, it’s a very sensitive topic, in some instances it’s taboo, so it’s been very refreshing to have a new outlet, to have a new audience, to potentially involve new stakeholders, and to see how people are coming to the issue and addressing it very directly, and very head-on, and being very open and transparent about what’s happening in their countries, and about how serious these situations and these issues are. So I will collaborate, I will work with anyone who wants to talk about these issues, we all can learn from one another. And the only way we’re going to get better, the only way we’re going to do and learn more is to really expand the dialogue.

You mentioned that a lot of people say that it’s all technology’s fault. So what can technology do to help in the issue and what should people perhaps take into their own hands?

People need to own their own presence online and they need to know what they are doing. They need to safeguard their own reputation. So there are certain habits and practices that they could develop, we offer a wealth of materials on our website. One thing I want to point out about people and their own learning is sometimes, unfortunately, that leaning comes a little bit too late. We were discussing this in my workshop. It’s been my experience that what drives people to action, and I’m talking about pro-action, is something bad happening to them. Their identity has been stolen, so now I need to go figure out how to protect myself from identity theft. A child’s been bullied, now I need to go figure out what’s been happening with online bullying. Unfortunately we want to galvanize people and rally them to take some proactive steps to safeguard their reputations, to know who and with whom they are talking, to know what they are sharing online, to be discreet where discretion is warranted. That’s not suppressing the kinds of engagements, and connections and interactions they want to have, but that’s doing so with eyes wide open, and that’s doing so with a healthy dose of reality and of what could potentially go wrong and of being aware of risks. I know there was a first part to your question…

What can technology do when it comes to this issue, but what are it’s limits?

Well technology can always help, and we tell people to get help from technology. So technology can help determine for instance, what parents want their kids to see online, what websites they want them to go to, who they want them to communicate with. Some people call them “family controls,” at Microsoft we call them “family safety settings.” And they’re right there in your Windows operating system, in your Xbox live console, so that is our obligation, that is our obligation as a technology company, t put those kinds of tools and resources into the product itself to help people, and to give them the tools they need to better educate themselves, make them aware of these issues, and to hopefully get them to want to teach others, to inform others. So it very much is a multi-stakeholder issue, it’s everyone’s problem and it’s everyone’s opportunity.

Are you going to the meeting with Pope Francis tomorrow?

Absolutely. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Are you Catholic?

Yes, I am. I spoke with my priest before I came here, because I was a bit overwhelmed.

What do you expect from that meeting, what do you hope is going to come out of that meeting tomorrow with the Pope?

Well he’s going to be presented with this declaration, which is a series of commitments, or calls to action, for every stakeholder group who was present at this congress, and it has the ability to be monumental. I really hope there is a follow-up and follow-through, because I have attended things like this before, not of this magnitude, where everyone is so excited and so jazzed to take this forward, and there’s very little follow-up and follow-through, and I personally am someone who always wants to do more and to continue. I don’t sign up to anything, I don’t commit to anything unless I’m going to be fully in.

In many ways Pope Francis has helped put climate change and immigration into the minds of policy makers. Do you think he has the ability to put the protection of minors up there?

Of course, of course.

Some have said there is perhaps anti-Catholic, anti-religious sentiment in Silicon Valley. Will they listen to the Church on this?

Well, we’re not in Silicon Valley, so I can’t attest to what’s going on in Silicon Valley, but I personally don’t see it. When I told my manager, my boss, that I had the ability to come here, he said, ‘get me an invitation, too.’ That was very wonderful to hear, and I did get him an invitation, but unfortunately he changed roles and he didn’t think it was particularly relevant for him to come and though that since he’s not in the same role perhaps he should not. So I’m the only one here for Microsoft, but I’m here.

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Internet porn is the ‘neon colosseum’ of the digital age, expert says

October 4, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Oct 4, 2017 / 04:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It’s well-known that in ancient Rome hundreds of thousands of people would to pile into the stacked layers of stone seating in the Colosseum to watch gladiators fight to their death, cheering on as the warriors met a bloody and often drawn-out end.

However, while being a “gladiator” in modern Rome has mostly become a way pick up extra cash in photo-ops with tourists, there are some who argue that the gruesome nature of the ancient battles, in which people would essentially celebrate and take pleasure in the pain of others, hasn’t gone away, but has rather taken on a new, less obvious form in the digital world: pornography.

When it comes to internet pornography, Dr. Donald Hilton Jr. of the University of Texas Health Science Center said we as a society have to learn to ask the “uncomfortable questions about our culture, why we’re so easily voyeuristic to watch people being harmed.”

While pornography has always been a problem, the new widespread access offered through the digital world has led to a culture that enjoys “watching women being hurt on screen,” he told CNA.

Hilton recalled that in a tour of the Colosseum, his guide explained that throughout the centuries of its of operation, the structure “had up to several hundred thousand animals and gladiators dying in the colosseum with people watching them and enjoying watching their pain.”

Now “I think we have a neon colosseum, a colosseum of screens where far more, now, are watching people being harmed. And people are enjoying it,” he said, adding that in his opinion, “we’re no better than the ancient Romans in that.”

“In fact, in some way I think we’re worse, because at least they did it openly, but we hide behind our screens at night and do it, and tell ourselves it’s okay.”

Hilton spoke as part of a four-day conference on protecting children in a digitally connected and global society. Titled “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” the conference is being held in Rome Oct. 3-6 and is organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin opened the conference as a keynote speaker. Other participants in the congress include social scientists, civic leaders, and religious representatives. Discussion points include prevention of abuse, pornography, the responsibility of internet providers and the media, and ethical governance.

Several leading personalities participating argued that given the easy access children have to the internet, they are increasingly falling prey to an industry that, without the proper protections, can ultimately leave them vulnerable, becoming victims to a wide variety of abuses.

On day two of the conference, Hilton was part of a panel of experts exploring the dangers of internet pornography and its impact on children, specifically the link between pornography and violence, and the effects of porn use on the human brain, particularly among youth.

A celebrated neuroscientist and world-renown surgeon, Hilton examined the scientific changes in the human brain when viewing pornography.

Essentially, he said human beings have “two brains,” one being the cortex, which he called our “thinking brain,” and the other being the brain stem, referred to by Hilton as our “wanting brain.” So while the brain might tell us to do something because it feels good, the cortex will tell us to slow down and think about the consequences.

Between the two is the “reward center” of the brain, he said, explaining that while it is intended to help motivate us, the reward center can be “hijacked and diverted” from this purpose if we take in “powerful rewards indiscriminately.”

In this case, the reward center can “reset the pleasure thermostat of the brain,” and a “new normal” is established, which can quickly become addiction, Hilton said, explaining that the brain structure is impacted by learning, and that “addictive learning sculpts the brain in a very damaging way.”

Referring to a recent study done by medical personnel, he said addictions to food and sex have now been put on par with substance abuse, because the same changes are found in brain studies “and the behaviors are almost identical.”

Children and young adults are particularly at risk from this, he said, because for one, the frontal-lobe control center of the brain don’t fully mature until the person is in their mid-20s. However, most exposure to pornography happens at a young age, leaving children particularly vulnerable to changes in the brain structure.

He said children are also more at risk because the chemicals for processing rewards and addictions are more potent brains that are not yet mature, so “an immature breaking system is essentially paired with an accelerated reward-seeking drive.” He also cited problems with brains systems that identify observers with the “motivational state” of those performing in the program, which in pornography is often linked to violence.

In his comments to CNA, Hilton said porn access at a young age is particularly concerning because since the brain of a child or teenager is not yet developed, it makes a strong imprint and “sets their template” in way that essentially sculpts the brain to prefer what they watch over reality.

Quoting American author, feminist, and political adviser Naomi Wolf, he said “pornified” boys are increasingly led to a mentality that “real women are just bad porn.”

Hilton said that in order to help counter the online porn industry, the issue has to be addressed in a new way. Whereas in the past it has primarily been relegated to the moral realm, he said the issue is wider, and that it’s important to bring the issue up in public settings “without mentioning religion.”

“Can we talk about exploitation not only of youth who are viewing pornography, but of young female performers that are being used up so quickly and exploited by a very powerful industry? Can we leave the religion out of it and talk about it from a public health perspective?” he said.

“This is a vast industry, the internet is a vast industry,” he said, adding that if any other industry had the same amount of disease, emotional health issues, and drug abuse involved, “they would cry out and there would be outrage.

However, “with porn, as long as they take their clothes off and put a camera there, you can do anything you want,” he said, comparing porn to “filmed prostitution.”

“Can we really say that porn is good and that people should view it if the people that make it are being harmed? Is it an ethical product then?” he asked, and noted that according to one study paper, 88 percent of the scenes in the 250 most popular porn movies show aggression toward women.

So when looking at the concrete numbers, “if it’s not ethical to produce it, is it ethical to watch it? What is the price someone is paying to film that?”

Also speaking at the conference was Dr. Mary Anne Layden, a psychotherapist and Director of Education for the University of Pennsylvania, who addressed the link between violence and pornography.

In her speech, she presented various research studies linking the use of pornography to increased aggression toward women. In youth particularly, various studies have proved that exposure to porn at a young age increases the likelihood youth will be promiscuous at an earlier age, and are more prone to partner abuse as they get older.

Porn use also and the misconceived belief that if access is so common, it isn’t harmful, and that women who are treated violently in porn films actually like it, she said.

In comments to CNA after her speech, Layden said pornography is especially dangerous for children because “everything children see is educational,” and since porn is typically the only imagery kids have when it comes to sex, they learn about it from “this toxic form.”

“Now their brains are absorbing this and they are getting these messages, and then they very quickly start to act on that,” she said, explaining that they “will likely start having sex earlier, they will likely think all relationships are sexual, they’ll start to try and get their partner to try and act out things they’ve seen in pornography.”

Pornography also leads to misconceptions about the human body and what constitutes abuse, she said, explaining that many young adults have come into her clinic complaining that their bodies “don’t work” because things don’t happen like they do in movies.

While numerous research studies have proven that performers in pornography films don’t enjoy what they do on-set, many people still believe the opposite, Layden said, because they don’t see the suffering the performers endure.

What most people don’t know, she said is that “on those porn sets there is a doctor, on every porn set,” and “he will give you any drug you can name – he will give you Percocet, he will give you Xanex, he will give you heroine, he will give you anything to get you to go through that scene, take that torture and smile while they’re doing it.”

She said that when children first come into contact with pornography their initial reaction is that “there’s something scary” about it, and even something violent, but that very quickly they start to learn from what they see that “violence is a sex act,” and this notion becomes more normal as they get older.

In terms of protecting children from harmful images, Layden stressed the importance of educating parents on the risks and finding the right software to block problematic content from popping up.

Unfortunately, she said around only 20 percent of parents have actually put protective software on their children’s devices and activated it.

But if parents are looking for a good company, she said “Covenant Eyes” has programs that work very effectively through blocks and accountability software that will send a list of their child’s search history to them at the end of the week.

While it might not be possible bring the porn access to zero, it is possible to reduce it, Layden said.

“The fact that we can’t reduce it to zero doesn’t make us stop anything else,” she said, naming youth smokers and cancer patients as examples. And concrete ways to reduce exposure is to put filters on computers in libraries and at schools, as well as personal devices children own, and to not let them put their computers in their bedrooms.

She also stressed the need to get legislators and governments involved, explaining that pornography sites have finally been legally required to check the age of someone trying to access their web-pages.

“That won’t stop the damage that’s done to adult men,” she said, explaining that pornography first of all does damage to those who use it, “but it will stop with the most vulnerable, which is the children.”

Perpetrators of pornography must also be held accountable, Layden said, because the industry ultimately makes money by “hurting children.”

“This is an absolute scandal, these are child abuse perpetrators, these pornographic websites,” she said, explaining that they ought to be treated as perpetrators and put in jail, because “if you actually enforce law against obscenity, you can actually take all of their profits.”

Doing this would also “send the message to culture that if we’re putting them in jail, this must be a bad thing,” she said. “The permission-giving beliefs that say everyone is doing it, it must be fine, is just one of the biggest damages, and we can start the sending the message that it’s not okay.”

“We’ve got to stop saying ‘boys will be boys,’” and instead begin educating families more effectively on what healthy sexuality entails, she said, because pornography “hurts everyone involved; men, women, children, performers…it hurts everybody that comes close to it.”

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Pope’s Bangladesh, Burma trip to emphasize peace amid conflict

October 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Oct 4, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA).- In November Pope Francis will visit Bangladesh and Burma, two developing countries in Asia, where he will bring a message of peace and coexistence amid persecution of minorities, a missionary priest said.

“The Pope’s visit, in my opinion, will help to emphasize that coexistence helps the future of the country, not conflict,” Fr. Bernardo Cervellera told CNA.

In particular, Pope Francis will address the plight of the long-persecuted Rohingya people, in whose defense he has spoken out many times.

Rejected by Buddhist fundamentalist groups – Burma’s religious majority – the Muslim ethnic group has been largely turned away from the Muslim country of Bangladesh as well, where they have sought refuge.

“So these people don’t have a country, they are migrants in the full sense of the term, they have nowhere to lie their head,” Cervellera said.

“And so the Pope defends them, to let Christians and Muslims know that we need to help people not on the basis of their creed, or on the basis of their wealth, or their abilities, but simply because they are human beings.”

Cervellera, a priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and editor-in-chief of AsiaNews, has spent time in both Burma and Bangladesh. He spoke about Francis’ upcoming visit to Bangladesh and Burma, also known as Myanmar, Nov. 27-Dec. 2.

Something to note about the visit, he said, is that Catholic population in both countries is very small. In Bangladesh less than three percent of the population is Catholic and in Burma it’s less than one percent.

So the Church there is undoubtedly a small minority, he explained, and on top of that, Burma and Bangladesh are still developing, very much placing these countries at the “peripheries of the world.”

“The Pope continues to say: I should go to the peripheries, go out to the peripheries. I find that the Pope really goes to the peripheries to meet with these Catholics and to sustain their mission,” he continued.

In addition to being a minority religion in itself, the Church in these countries is also made up of people from a variety of ethnic minority backgrounds as well.

Besides the Rohingya, during his visit in November the Pope will likely speak out strongly against the ongoing persecution of other minorities in these countries, and “in this case the two things coincide,” Cervellera said.

“That is, the Catholic minority is formed from many ethnic minorities. So the Pope speaks of defending minorities because in this way he also defends Catholics.”

“But in the defense of Catholics, the defense of minorities, he wants to speak to the whole society because the way of peace is the most fruitful for everyone,” he emphasized.

Cervellera also stressed that the Catholics in these areas, though a tiny minority, also have a very important mission in their contribution to development. Because of the Church “there are hospitals, shelters, clinics for the poor, schools, professional schools, colleges, work cooperatives,” he said.

“The Church is a help to the society, to evolve, to mature.”

He also said that he has been to both Bangladesh and Burma and can say that they are “very enthusiastic communities in their faith.” Their faith is “what gives meaning to their life, what gives it color and dignity,” he said.

Though they sometimes face persecution and oppression because of their minority status, this seems to only strengthen their catholicity, he pointed out, finding consolation in having a larger, universal identity to which they also belong.

Though the Catholics in these two countries are among the poorest, living in huts and sleeping on dirt floors, “they are joyous,” he said, and they wish to share the faith with others.

“I think that we can learn from them, this enthusiasm. And maybe we can support them in some way. Because their mission is also ours,” he pointed out.

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News Briefs

Dutch cardinal: Don’t underestimate power of Catholics as a ‘creative minority’

October 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 3

Rome, Italy, Oct 3, 2017 / 06:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Despite the challenges of secularization, a Dutch cardinal encouraged Catholics from his country and from all parts of the world to be a “creative minority” in society.

Cardinal Wilhelm Jacobus Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, recently spoke with CNA in Rome, while giving a presentation on euthanasia. Eijk studied medicine before becoming a priest, and wrote a doctoral dissertation on euthanasia.  

The cardinal, however, identifies euthanasia as only one of many issues the Church is facing amidst a secularizing society.

Between 2003 and 2013, the Catholic population of the Netherlands declined by 589,500. Catholics now represent just 22.9 percent of population, according to 2015 data.

The country underwent a rapid period of secularization during the 1970s and ’80s, and religious groups now find it difficult to identify their place in public life.

Euthanasia is one of the most obvious symptoms of this problem, Eijk said. The Netherlands legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2002. The cardinal noted that Dutch “society is marked by abortion and euthanasia.”

The situation is similar in Belgium, the Netherlands’ neighbor. There, the cultural push toward euthanasia has affected hospitals owned by the Brothers of Charity religious order, whose lay-majority board recently voted to allow euthanasia to be performed in their facilities under certain conditions.

Cardinal Eijk said that the struggle against secularization is mostly cultural. “We have to fight this secularizing trends with testimony,” he said.

In the public square, he said, Catholics “have limited possibilities, because they are just a few, and because among them there are even fewer Catholics who fully accept the Church’s teaching.”

Eijk said the solution is for faithful Catholics to build a culture of life by becoming a “creative minority.”

“When Benedict XVI traveled to the Czech Republic, he said that Czech Catholics could be few in number, but when a minority is creative, we can achieve a lot,” Cardinal Eijk said.

“The idea of a creative minority,” he explained, “is derived from the English historian (Arnold) Toynbee. He analyzed many cultures and determined that the rise of culture is due to creative minorities.”

And so, the cardinal said, “we should behave as Catholics in a way that shines with the culture of life and fights the culture of death.”

In pragmatic terms, this includes fighting euthanasia through public testimony, and by providing care for the sick and suffering.

“We work a lot to propose bills or amendments to bills in the Parliament, we explain our positions in our journals and websites,” Eijk said. “We try to announce the Gospel of Life as clearly and as often as possible.”

 

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News Briefs

Iraqi nun: We pray for ISIS militants. It helps us forgive.

October 3, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Oct 3, 2017 / 03:11 am (ACI Prensa).- Three years ago, there were 73 nuns with the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena living in Kurdistan. Since the Islamic State captured the Plain of Nineveh in 2014, one-third of them have died.

Sister Silvia is one of the survivors. Surrounded by devastation, she said that she is praying for those who persecute her community, and learning how to forgive them.

“We pray for them every day as sisters. We pray for them, for those bringing peace, for our soldiers, for those who help people have a better life,” she told CNA.

“This prayer helps us forgive – not to forget, because you can’t forget, but to not hate the other person. If we hate others, that means that we’re doing what the devil wants, not what Jesus wants.”

Silvia had been living with 35 of her fellow sisters at a convent in Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city.

“When we knew that ISIS has arrived, the first thing we felt was fear – fear of being taken prisoner by them, fear of violence, fear of death.”

The sisters – whose community has lived in the Nineveh Plains and Kurdistan regions of Iraq for 120 years – were forced to flee in August 2015.

During ISIS’ occupation of the Nineveh Plain, some 100 places of worship were destroyed, mostly Christian churches.

Now, thanks to the support of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, about 1,000 Christian families have returned to their homes. Since 2014, the foundation has allocated $36.6 million for food and housing projects for the displaced Christians in northern Iraq. The estimated cost of reconstruction of the Christian towns is $250 million.

Looking forward, Silvia says, she hopes to continue the religious mission to which she has dedicated her life.

“My dream is to live in peace,” she said. “Both my own peace, within myself – because we are also at war within ourselves – and the peace we physically live. Living in tranquility, in love, and helping the people know Jesus because he is love.”

“I say to all Christians that if we are really Christians, baptized in the name of Jesus, we must always trust in the fact that Jesus will be with them. Jesus is with us. Jesus never leaves us. Even if we turn away from him, he will wait for us to return,” she emphasized.

Little by little, Christians have begun to return to the Plain of Nineveh, but there still remains much to be done.

“We’ve asked Aid to the Church in Need for help in rebuilding our convent, and to allow people to return as soon as possible,” Sister Silvia said.

“Around 30 sisters will return. We will give hope to the people, we will help educate them, because we have schools to educate their children, and we will continue our catechesis in the churches and the schools,” she said.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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