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first_imgAround 100 countries send their heads of armed forces to UN Headquarters to discuss strengthening of UN peacekeeping. (Photo UN PhotoManuel Elias)Brigadier-General Prince C. Johnson III, the Armed Forces of Liberia’s (AFL) Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS), has described the just-ended Chiefs of Defense Conference as a great learning experience for Liberia.The 2017 Chiefs of Defense Conference, which brought together heads of about 100 countries’ armed forces, and held under the theme, “Meeting the Challenges,” took place at the United Nations headquarters in New York from July 6–8, 2017.Brig/Gen. Johnson and AFL Chief of Operations – Headquarters, Colonel Daniel Holman, represented Liberia.The conference also included the participation of military representatives from the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as well as the Force Commanders of the UN peacekeeping missions in Mali (MINUSMA), Central African Republic (MINUSCA), South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).According to a dispatch from Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, the conference, among other things, discussed issues surrounding the rapid deployment of troops, training, soldiers’ conduct, discipline and the need to increase the number of female peacekeepers, which is placed at approximately six percent.Liberia is currently contributing a company strength of 75 peacekeepers, including eight female personnel, to MINUSMA following its service as a platoon under the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).“We went under AFISMA serving as a platoon with Nigeria and Togo in June 2013. AFISMA was transformed to MINUSMA; and as of February 2017, Liberia has company strength of 75 personnel operating independently,” DOS Johnson explained.Johnson said experiences shared by other contributors especially Uganda, who has an all-female platoon in the DRC, will help Liberia, who recently rejoined the peacekeeping efforts after nearly 60 years to strengthen its peacekeeping capacity.He added that on the margins of the conference, he used the time to negotiate on behalf of Liberia and secured a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the United Nations that details the number and types of military personnel as well as equipment and logistical services that will be provided by the country’s armed forces.The AFL Deputy Chief of Staff said that it is a standard procedure that every contributing country including Liberia funds the deployment and upkeep of its soldiers including the provision of major logistical support and services and gets reimbursed.“We are not alone. Based on the new regulations of the UN, some changes have been done. Other countries are also negotiating their MOU. The UN has two agreements – the ‘dry lease’ and ‘wet lease.’ Liberia’s deployment is under a ‘wet lease’ agreement where we go independent and take care of our troops and then the UN reimburses us,” Johnson explained.He added that when the MOU is completed, it will state how Liberia will be reimbursed for major equipment, maintenance, troop deployment and welfare.Meanwhile, Johnson disclosed that more AFL personnel are eager to serve peacekeeping missions in accordance with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s quest “to give back”; but cannot do so now due to the terms of the negotiated MOU.“The motivation is high; the soldiers are eager; we are hopeful that after the signing of the MOU, we will be requesting an increment to a full company size of 150 peacekeepers. The military is about service, and the soldiers are ready to serve. It is just that our MOU gives us a set number,” he noted.Meanwhile, Liberia’s permanent representative to the UN, Amb. Lewis G. Brown, met with Brig/Gen. Johnson during a visit to Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. On behalf of his colleagues, Johnson thanked Amb. Brown and staff for all the support during the MOU negotiation process.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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first_img Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Email,(RNS) — Neil Armstrong’s words as he first stepped onto the surface of the moon — “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” — are some of the most memorable in history.But seven months earlier, the astronauts aboard NASA’s first manned mission to orbit the moon, Apollo 8, were at a loss for words.RELATED: 5 faith facts about the moon landing: Space Communion and a prayer league of its ownIn December 1968, James Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders prepared to become the first humans to journey beyond Earth’s orbit, circling around the dark side of the moon. Just about everyone on the planet would be listening.What could they possibly say as they watched that pale blue dot rise over the moon’s horizon on Christmas Eve?“We wanted to do something significant, not so much religious as to give them sort of a shock in the psychological solar plexus, to help them remember Apollo 8 and humankind’s first venture from the earth,” Anders later told PBS.Before their mission, the astronauts had contacted a government public affairs specialist named Joseph Laitin for his advice, according to a 2018 Boston Globe report.It was Laitin’s wife, Christine, who reportedly suggested the trio read the creation account from Genesis 1, the foundation of a number of world religions.The passage begins with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”Borman read last, ending the transmission with a holiday greeting.“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth,” he said.Atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair later sued the U.S. government, alleging the Genesis reading was a violation of the separation of church and state. Her case was ultimately dismissed.But the crew members of Apollo 8 weren’t the last space travelers to bring religion with them into orbit. From NASA’s Apollo missions to SpaceIL’s recent moonshot, and from Christmas to Ramadan, humans have found ways to practice their beliefs while touching the heavens.This interior view of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module shows Astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr., during the lunar landing mission in July 1969. Photo by Neil A. Armstrong/NASA/Creative CommonsNot long after that Christmas Eve, astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first person to celebrate the Christian rite of Communion in space in the moments before he and Armstrong touched down on the surface of the moon 50 years ago this Saturday (July 20).Several others have since. Three Catholic astronauts received Communion aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 1994, astronaut Tom Jones recalled in his memoir. So did astronaut Mike Hopkins aboard the International Space Station in 2013, according to Catholic News Service.“When you see the Earth from that vantage point and see all the natural beauty that exists, it’s hard not to sit there and realize there has to be a higher power that has made this,” Hopkins told Catholic News Service.RELATED: Bishops and astronauts gather in Washington to remember Apollo 8Religious rituals in space aren’t confined to Christianity, either.The first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, had written the Kiddush, the Jewish blessing for wine, into his diary so he could offer it aboard the space shuttle Columbia “during his space Sabbath which he read over the radio to Earth,” according to Wired.A page from the diary of Ilan Ramon with the Friday night Kiddush blessing. Photo courtesy of The Israel MuseumRamon, whose father had fled Nazi Germany and whose mother had survived the concentration camp at Auschwitz, was killed when Columbia disintegrated upon reentry in 2003, minutes before it was expected to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Only about 40% of the space shuttle and its contents has ever been recovered.Ramon’s is the only diary that was found, wet and crumpled in a field outside Palestine, Texas. Scientists and scholars spent four years restoring its pages before it was displayed in 2008 at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem — his handwritten Kiddush clearly readable on its pages.His wife, Rona, told Wired it was “a small miracle that needs to be shared.”Ramon also had carried a drawing of the Earth from the perspective of the moon by a Jewish boy killed at Auschwitz and a small Torah that had been smuggled into the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.RELATED: Tiny Torah travels from hell on earth into outer spaceThe first known Ramadan prayers offered from orbit came from Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, aboard the International Space Station in 2007.Shukor, an orthopedic surgeon selected as a crew member on the station’s 16th mission, would be in space during the tail end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Though the Muslim Shukor was intent on observing the associated rituals, fasting and praying while in space wasn’t a straightforward endeavor.The ISS orbits the Earth at around 17,500 mph (making it difficult to pray in the direction of Mecca, especially while floating in microgravity) and completes one revolution roughly every 90 minutes, meaning the sun rises and sets far more frequently than for stationary humans below. This makes it unclear when to break one’s daily Ramadan fast, which begins at sunrise and ends at nightfall.To address these concerns, Malaysia’s space agency convened 150 Islamic scientists and scholars, who ultimately produced a document outlining instructions for observing various rituals while in orbit, usually by establishing a list of preferred options “based on what is possible.”For example, the authors concluded that if it is too difficult to pray toward the Kaaba, the building at the center of the Great Mosque of Mecca, it would be permissible to simply pray toward Earth.The document was ultimately approved by Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council, and Shukor brought into space Malaysian satay — skewers of spicy meat — and cookies to give to others aboard the space station to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.RELATED: The jubilee of the moon landing is a chance to assess technology’s promise (COMMENTARY)Beyond the rituals of the major faiths, tokens of religious devotion also have been part of many space flights.St. Seraphim of Sarov, one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s most revered saints, was an 18th-century monk known for his hermetic lifestyle, visions of the Virgin Mary and reported ability to perform miraculous healings.He’s also known for his 2017 spaceflight.The International Space Station as viewed from the Space Shuttle Atlantis on May 23, 2010. Photo by NASA/Creative CommonsRussian cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov carried a relic of the saint with him — a gift from a monastery — to the International Space Station, according to The Associated Press.“We always wait for some sort of miracle, but the fact that a piece of the relics traveled to the orbit and blesses everything onboard and outside, including our planet, is a big miracle in itself,” Ryzhikov told The Associated Press.Russian space travelers have taken relics of at least six Orthodox saints and a piece of the Holy Cross with them, according to The Associated Press. Roman Catholic astronauts have carried with them crucifixes, prayer cards, icons and religious items and other mementos from schools, parishes and friends, according to Catholic News Service reports.RELATED: For Israeli lunar lander, faith provides inspiration and challengesEarlier this year, an Israeli moonshot went back to the beginning.When the Israeli group SpaceIL began working with American aerospace company SpaceX to plan the launch of SpaceIL’s scrappy unmanned lunar lander, they quickly ran into an unexpected religious problem. SpaceIL planned on hitching a ride on a SpaceX rocket to get the project into space, but the U.S. company normally launches its rockets on Saturdays — traditionally a day of rest and religious observance for many on SpaceIL’s staff, some of whom are Orthodox Jews.A selfie taken by the Beresheet moon lander spacecraft while roughly 23,350 miles from Earth. Image courtesy of SpaceILSpaceIL and SpaceX eventually agreed to a Thursday launch, and the Israeli group’s Beresheet lander — whose name is a reference to the Hebrew word for “in the beginning” in Genesis — took its trip to the moon, carrying, in addition to scientific instruments, a massive digital library that included religious texts. The lander also toted along a separate virtual time capsule loaded with Israeli symbols, a Bible and a copy of the Jewish Wayfarer’s Prayer.Though the Space IL lander crashed into the lunar surface due to an engine glitch, the group has signed a partnership to share its technology with another U.S. company, Firefly Aerospace, which will embark on its own moonshot.The name for Firefly’s lander?Genesis. Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Email Israeli archaeologists discover signs of religion in 9,000-year-old city near Jerusale … Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Email,About the authorView All Posts By: Emily McFarlan Miller emmillerwrites By: Emily McFarlan Miller emmillerwrites By: Jack Jenkins jackmjenkins Anti-extremism program won’t stop hate, say Muslims who’ve seen its flaws August 30, 2019 Emily McFarlan Miller emmillerwrites By: Emily McFarlan Miller emmillerwrites Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.,Scribes tried to blot her out. Now a scholar is trying to recover the real Mary Magdal … Share This! Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Email Opinion By their tweets you will know them: The Democrats’ continuing God gap August 30, 2019 Share This!center_img Tags5 faith facts Apollo 11 Apollo 8 Beresheet Christmas Five Faith Facts homepage featured Ilan Ramon International Space Station moon landing NASA Ramadan Sabbath Sergei Ryzhikov Shabbat space space shuttle Columbia Top Story,You may also like Emily McFarlan Miller Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity. Jack Jenkins jackmjenkins Columns • Opinion • Simran Jeet Singh: Articles of Faith Share This! We are not all the same, and in our difference we are divine August 30, 2019 News About the authorView All Posts By: Jack Jenkins jackmjenkins Jack Jenkins Jack Jenkins is a national reporter for RNS based in Washington, covering U.S. Catholics and the intersection of religion and politics.,Add Comment Click here to post a comment Share This! By: Jack Jenkins jackmjenkins Share This! Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn ReddIt Emaillast_img read more

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