The Candid Eye

April 30, 2010

Bible Vs. Quran: The Evolution Of Violence In Religion

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, National Public Radio’s religion correspondent, ruffled some feathers last week when she posed this question: is the Bible more violent than the Quran?

Religion scholar Phillip Jenkins was on hand to answer that question. No contest, he argues in his new book Jesus Wars>. Whereas the violence prescribed in the Quran is mostly defensive, Jenkins says, the Bible is packed with genocidal commands from God. That drew a sputtering response of incredulity from Andrew Bostom, a self-taught scholar of Islam whose writings are most about the malevolence of jihad. “This is just preposterous!” he exclaimed in the same broadcast.

Vatican & Christianity

Since most Americans have at most read selected passages of the Bible, I expect they will agree with Bostom. But here are some hard truths: Christianity and Islam are the world’s dominant religions because they have used every possible tactic, including large-scale violence and intimidation, to get that way. There are no clean hands in this quarrel.

Sure, Jenkins make a fine “mote and beam” argument. (In a certain well-known sermon, Jesus is recorded as saying, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”) But the even harder truth is this: it doesn’t much matter what the sacred texts say. Scriptures are magic mirrors. They reflect back the wishes of those who stare into them. If you’re rich, you find justification in them for your wealth. If you’re poor, you find hope that you’ll be rewarded for your suffering.

Harder still: religions are like living beings, and like all living things they are subject to natural selection. Far from being the fixed point in a turning world, every religion evolves and, if it persists long enough, speciates. You can see this at a glance in Christianity and Islam. Each has split into two major species: Catholic and Protestant on the one hand, Sunni and Shi’ite on the other. But even up close, you can observe evolution at work in religion. As often as not, religion evolves toward violence.

Case in point: Quakers. I attended a Friends school back in my youth in Philadelphia and as a young adult flirted with the idea of being a Quaker, but I could not in good conscience declare myself a pacifist. Not that I like war, but imagining myself in my parents’ generation, I could not see sitting out the fight against Nazism. Peace constitutes a defining Quaker value. To be a Quaker is to be a pacifist. So it was not for me. And yet, the president who not only waged but expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos was none other than Richard Nixon, the nation’s only Quaker commander in chief.

Could Nixon have won the presidency as an outright pacifist? Probably not. Look at how he pasted the dovish George McGovern in 1972. Variation and selection bring about adaptation.

Of course, Quakers are not particularly doctrinal, and they have less respect for scripture than for inner reflection. Would it have made a difference if they were more, er, bookish? Not really. Let us not forget that the Ten Commandments, which theocrats are always trying to nail up in public schools, come in multiple versions, most of which include this: “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”

Pretty plain language, wouldn’t you say? And yet, a pro-death-penalty, war-loving preacher can slice and dice that commandment faster than Pitchman Vince on the Slap Chop. What’s more, even if you buy the argument that this commandment is simply a prohibition against murder, can you show any evidence that it has constrained the faithful? American jails are crammed with violent believers, including a disproportionately high number of Christians. Atheists, at less than half a percent of prisoners, are sadly underrepresented in proportion to their numbers in the real world.

Mecca & Islam

What of the reverse? Do commandments to do violence necessarily result in violence?

To be sure, there are suras in the Quran than can be read as highly aggressive. Take this choice morsel: “Then, when the sacred months have passed — that is, [at] the end of the period of deferment — slay the idolaters wherever you find them, be it during a lawful [period] or a sacred [one], and take them captive, and confine them, to castles and forts, until they have no choice except [being put to] death or [acceptance of] Islam; and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush, [at every] route that they use …” Of course, the passage ends with an offer of mercy if they convert to Islam, but still …

And yet, consider: Muslims believe the Quran to have been dictated, word by word, by Allah — that is, God. Taken literally, the above sura amounts to a command to go out and kill or convert nonbelievers every year. How many Muslims actually do that? Not even one in ten thousand, I daresay.

Only a minority of Muslims even laud the few who do practice jihadi violence, characterized by the suicide bombing. A 2007 poll of tens of thousands of Muslims in various Middle Eastern countries found support for violent extremism falling even among Palestinians. None of this is meant to dismiss the threat posed by Muslim extremism, which remains all too stark, nor to discount the humdrum violence and oppression that characterize all too much of the Islamic world. Nor do I mean to overlook the violence of Christian extremists such as Scott Roeder, who murdered Dr. Till in church last year.

On the contrary, both Christianity and Islam owe their global success not so much to the magic words in their scriptures as to their effectiveness in practicing forced conversions. Oh, yes, we all know about the growth of the Islamic Empire, whose berobed foot-soldiers held a scimitar in one hand and the Quran in the other. But pull that beam out of your eye, dear Christian reader, and remember the Celts, the West Africans, the Indians of the Plains, the Hawaiians, and countless other peoples whose religions and languages were violently suppressed that they might know salvation through “our Lord Jesus Christ.”

There are no clean hands in this quarrel.

Source: Huffington Post

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April 12, 2010

I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI : Richard Dawkins

RICHARD DAWKINS, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity”.

Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

Richard Dawkins : Image Courtesy - Times Online

The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.

The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the “good of the universal church” should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.

Benedict will be in Britain between September 16 and 19, visiting London, Glasgow and Coventry, where he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian.

Dawkins and Hitchens believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is categorised as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.

Pope Benedict XVI

They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action.The lawyers believe they can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court.

Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: “This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence.”

Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great, said: “This man is not above or outside the law. The institutionalised concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment.”

Last year pro-Palestinian activists persuaded a British judge to issue an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, the Israeli politician, for offences allegedly committed during the 2008-09 conflict in Gaza. The warrant was withdrawn after Livni cancelled her planned trip to the UK.

“There is every possibility of legal action against the Pope occurring,” said Stephens. “Geoffrey and I have both come to the view that the Vatican is not actually a state in international law. It is not recognised by the UN, it does not have borders that are policed and its relations are not of a full diplomatic nature.”

Source: Times Online

March 30, 2010

Missionaries: the good, the bad, and the ugly

An excellent article by Professor and Hindu Monk Ramdas Lamb.

Q: Is there a problem with proselytism overseas by U.S. religious groups? Isn’t sharing one’s faith part of religious freedom? When does it cross the line into manipulation and coercion?

Missionary proselytization has been an integral part of the two main prophetic religions, Christianity and Islam, since early on in the formation of each. It is precisely the reason they are the two largest religions in the world. It is also one of the darkest and most sinister aspects of religion and one of the main reasons so many people have a negative view of anything to do with religion. The basis and justification for proselytization is an extremely narrow minded and arrogant assumption: “My religion is the only right one, I have the only truth, all other religions are wrong, and it is my duty to get others to think and believe like me.” This belief has been used by Christians and Muslims for more than a millennium to justify the seduction, coercion, torture, and even murder of countless individuals in trying to get them to convert.

This does not mean that missionaries as a group have not done many good things for people over the millennia, and some continue to have positive impacts in the lives of the poor and needy. Examples of this can be seen currently in both Haiti and Chile. However, the negative actions of those who focus is proselytization far outweigh the positive.

Monk Ramdas Lamb : Image Courtesy - http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/

Religion is simultaneously one of the best as well as one of the most destructive of human creations. Religions have inspired people like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King to selflessly serve others and work to make the world a better place. Religions have also given rise to an ideology of hatred and have provided justification for the kinds of evils perpetuated by the likes of Aurangzeb, Hitler, and bin Laden.

Proselytizers are fundamentalists whose ideology divides the world into “believers” and “non-believers.” The latter comprise all those who are different, those perceived as the “other.” One of the biggest difficulties that we face in this world is our distrust of others, a feeling that leads to fear, hate, and violence. In his 1991 documentary entitled “Beyond Hate,” Bill Moyers addresses concepts such as “insider and outsider,” “us and other,” etc. and the pivotal role this bifurcated view plays in justifying hatred and violence. Proselytizers thrive on these distinctions, these divisions, drawing sharp lines between their own beliefs and those of everyone else. Non-believers are seen as lesser, sometimes even as evil, and clearly in need to either being changed or, in the extreme, annihilated.

More wars have been fought because of narrow religious doctrine and beliefs than for any other reason, and Christians and Muslims have been at the forefront. Both their histories are punctuated with wars against people of other religions, and the paths they have followed are riddled with the bodies of millions of innocent victims. One of the more extreme examples is the case of Timur, the 14th-century Muslim conqueror. In December, 1398, he overthrow the reigning Muslim ruler in Delhi. His justification was that the ruling dynasty was too tolerant of Hindus and did not convert them. Timur happily recounts in his memoirs that in the process of taking over, his army slaughtered 100,000 Hindus in a single day.

Forced conversions continue, as is evident by events in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Egypt. Even in the Gaza strip, two western newsman were recently forced to convert at gunpoint. Just last week, two young Sikh men were kidnapped and beheaded by members of the Taliban in Pakistan for refusing to convert to Islam. While such actions clearly do not represent the vast majority of Muslims, they have been condoned and even justified by fundamentalist Muslim leaders, and very few Muslims speak out in opposition, often out of fear. A recent and welcome exception is Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri, an influential Pakistani Muslim scholar, who just released a 600-page fatwa (religious edict) condemning Muslim terrorism and suicide bombings. Although it is a powerful and needed statement, it is a rarity, and Dr. ul-Qadri has unfortunately put his own life in danger in the process. Fundamentalists, irrespective of their chosen ideology, find disagreement difficult to allow, and violence has increasingly become a common reaction.

Christian missionaries in the past were not much better. In addition to the violence in the name of Christianity that was perpetuated during the Crusades and the Inquisitions, a look at the early proselytization efforts in India, the Americas, and the Pacific makes it clear that many missionaries found relatively easy justification for the torture and execution of those who refused to become Christian or who challenged their beliefs. Although nowadays most Christian proselytizers have renounced such violence, groups like the Manmasi National Christian Army in Assam, India, continue to use threats to force conversion.

Most European and American Christian missionaries during the last two centuries in Asia have found offers of food, work, education, and health care to be better methods for gaining converts. In the late 1700s, missionaries followed on the heels of the British East India Company and began a concerted effort to take over the Indian soul. Once the British government took control the country, proselytizers had a relatively free reign to pursue their objectives. Again, some missionaries did good works, but those focused on proselytization showed little actual concern for the well being of those they sought to convert.

Many Hindus had hoped that Indian Independence would help curtail the more underhanded activities of the missionaries, but this did not happen. Less than a decade after Independence, a government study conducted in central India known as the Niyogi Report brought to light many of the underhanded and cynical methods that Christian missionaries were continuing to use. The Indian government did little about it, and as a consequence, many of the same tactics remain prevalent.

Currently, Americans donate millions of dollars annually to Christian organizations that advertise charity work they do around the world. While it is true that some organizations do help many people, the assistance of many such groups comes with a price for the people being helped. That is because the real focus of most missionaries is on their proselytization efforts, for which a significant portion of the money is used. Far too often, their activities have absolutely nothing to do with spirituality or real charity, and everything to do with getting names and numbers of converts, so the missionaries can go back to their funding agencies and supporters and ask for continued finances for their claimed “successes.”

In India, missionaries tell their supporters in the U.S. that they provide free or inexpensive services to the needy. However, once initial assistance is given, then conditions are often added for subsequent help. If free education is provided, conversion may then be a requirement for its continuance past a certain point. If aid is in the form of health care, then the quality of care or type of medicine and treatment available may be determined by one’s willingness to convert. This becomes a serious and difficult issue for parents who bring a sick or injured child to a missionary hospital. They may be told that the necessary care is only given to Christians, or that the required medicines “will only work” on Christians. For those who do convert in order to receive needed care, they may well be pressured to then convert other family members or else lose whatever aid they are receiving. I have seen families torn apart by such missionary activities in Central India where I conduct research. Again, this is not what all missionaries do, but these are fairly common occurrences.

In early 2009, Pope Benedict XVI met the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and agreed to stop all conversion attempts directed at Jews. A month later, Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, visited India and was asked while there if he would offer Hindus the same respect. He refused. There is a degree to narrow mindedness in every religious tradition, but when that is coupled with fundamentalist arrogance and powerful backing, nothing good can come from it.

In his “Seeds of Contemplation,” the late Catholic Trappist monk and mystic Thomas Merton warns about those with spiritual pride who think of themselves as having the truth and humility while others do not, who think they are suffering for God’s sake but deep inside are becoming full of pride in their supposed sanctity, who think that everyone else must adhere to their truth. Merton writes that when such an individual thinks that “he is messenger of God or a man with a mission to reform the world. . . He is capable of destroying religion and making the name of God odious to men.”

I am a strong supporter of freedom of religion. Most proselytizers are not. They want the freedom to coerce vulnerable and gullible individuals into converting, and they can justify many nefarious methods to accomplish their goal. No matter how well intentioned, any attempts to push a religious belief or denomination on someone ultimately benefits no one and demeans the religion in the process. If missionaries actually have something of genuine worth and value, why do they need to seduce, coerce, or threaten people to get them to accept it? Maybe their methods suggest that what they have to offer is not that worthwhile.

March 28, 2010

Devil is in the Vatican!!

Sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church are proof that that “the Devil is at work inside the Vatican”, according to the Holy See’s chief exorcist.

Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been the Vatican’s chief exorcist for 25 years and says he has dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession, said that the consequences of satanic infiltration included power struggles at the Vatican as well as “cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon”.

Don Gabriele Amorth is the chief exorcist at the Vatican : Image courtesy - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/

He added: “When one speaks of ‘the smoke of Satan’ [a phrase coined by Pope Paul VI in 1972] in the holy rooms, it is all true – including these latest stories of violence and paedophilia.”

He claimed that another example of satanic behaviour was the Vatican “cover-up” over the deaths in 1998 of Alois Estermann, the then commander of the Swiss Guard, his wife and Corporal Cedric Tornay, a Swiss Guard, who were all found shot dead. “They covered up everything immediately,” he said. “Here one sees the rot”.

A remarkably swift Vatican investigation concluded that Corporal Tornay had shot the commander and his wife and then turned his gun on himself after being passed over for a medal. However Tornay’s relatives have challenged this. There have been unconfirmed reports of a homosexual background to the tragedy and the involvement of a fourth person who was never identified.

Father Amorth, who has just published Memoirs of an Exorcist, a series of interviews with the Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti, said that the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II in 1981 had been the work of the Devil, as had an incident last Christmas when a mentally disturbed woman threw herself at Pope Benedict XVI at the start of Midnight Mass, pulling him to the ground.

Father José Antonio Fortea Cucurull, a Rome-based exorcist, said that Father Amorth had “gone well beyond the evidence” in claiming that Satan had infiltrated the Vatican corridors.

“Cardinals might be better or worse, but all have upright intentions and seek the glory of God,” he said. Some Vatican officials were more pious than others, “but from there to affirm that some cardinals are members of satanic sects is an unacceptable distance.”

Father Amorth told La Repubblica that the devil was “pure spirit, invisible. But he manifests himself with blasphemies and afflictions in the person he possesses. He can remain hidden, or speak in different languages, transform himself or appear to be agreeable. At times he makes fun of me.”

Devil making fun of Father Gabriele Amorth

He said it sometimes took six or seven of his assistants to to hold down a possessed person. Those possessed often yelled and screamed and spat out nails or pieces of glass, which he kept in a bag. “Anything can come out of their mouths – finger-length pieces of iron, but also rose petals.”

He said that hoped every diocese would eventually have a resident exorcist. Under Church Canon Law any priest can perform exorcisms, but in practice they are carried out by a chosen few trained in the rites.

Father Amorth was ordained in 1954 and became an official exorcist in 1986. In the past he has suggested that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were possessed by the Devil. He was among Vatican officials who warned that J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels made a “false distinction between black and white magic”.

He approves, however, of the 1973 film The Exorcist, which although “exaggerated” offered a “substantially exact” picture of possession.

In 2001 he objected to the introduction of a new version of the exorcism rite, complaining that it dropped centuries-old prayers and was “a blunt sword” about which exorcists themselves had not been consulted. The Vatican said later that he and other exorcists could continue to use the old ritual.

He is the president of honour of the Association of Exorcists.

Source: Times Online

November 18, 2009

Dalit Christians are victims of discrimination with in the Church

Filed under: Christianity,Evangelists,India — thecandideye @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

In view of the forthcoming winter session of Parliament several church organizations are planning to held a demonstration at the Jantar Mantar on 19 th November . While agreeing with the broader objectives the Poor Christian Liberation Movement is of the opinion that the Church authorities in India have not done justice to the marginalised Christians.

 

Cross

The “Poor Christian Liberation Movement” PCLM President RL Francis stated that several Dalits have embraced Christianity for better and equal treatment but the despite conversion their conditions have not changed. The Dalit Christians are still victims of discrimination with in the Church.

The PCLM pointed out that Dalits or the socially underprivileged questions the church leadership for demanding special treatment for them they are treated badly Stating that Dalit Christians accounted for nearly 70 percent of India ’s Christian population, the PCLM, a Christian organization, accused high caste Christians of exploiting them.

The church leadership ‘exploit the poverty and unemployment” among the Dalits to convert them to Christianity. The Church bodies are demanding reservation from the Government but in their own institutions are neglecting and ill treating the Christians of Dalit background. Some all India Christian leaders are minting money from abroad in the name of demonstrations etc. “Let the Church in India make 50 % job reservation for Dalit Christians in their institutions and then go to government for relief” said the PCLM President R L Francis in a press statement.

“But despite a wide network of (Christian) missionary schools and colleges, most of Dalit Christians are illiterate and living in utter poverty because the convent schools are busy catering to the educational needs of rich and high caste people”, the statement further mentioned.

“Same is the case with job opportunities and entrepreneurship development. Dalit Christians are being denied all these facilities while the church leadership continues to flourish by usurping vast foreign funding and real estate resources,” Francis charged.

Source : Orissa Diary

October 10, 2009

Converting Mahatma Gandhi!

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

Just as converting Dr. Ambedkar to Buddhism was expected to bring in a group of Dalits into the Buddhist fold, strenuous marketing efforts were made to convert Gandhiji to Christianity so that a mass of Hindus would fall in line and embrace Christianity. But Gandhi frowned upon proselytizing. He said: ” I claim to be a staunch Sanatani Hindu because, I find the Hindu scriptures to satisfy the needs of the soul. I would dispute the claim that Christianity is the only true religion.” (source: The Mahatma and The Missionary – By Clifford Manshardt p. 58-59). ” Religion is not a matter of barter.” (ibid.p. 71). “Yes, I do maintain that India’s great faiths are all-sufficing for her..” (source: Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi 1969)Vol. 46 p.28-29). Mahatma Gandhi has stated -“God is not so helpless in winning souls all by himself as to need anybody’s help.”

Quotes from Gandhi on Conversion

I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the word. It is a highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbor as to his faith which I must honor even as I honor my own. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Musalman, or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own. (source: Harijan: September 9, 1935).

I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and that whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be that a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian. (source: Young India: January 19, 1928)

Why should a Christian want to convert a Hindu to Christianity? Why should he not be satisfied if the Hindu is a good or godly man? (source: Harijan: January 30, 1937) .

I am not interested in weaning you from Christianity and making you Hindu, and I do not relish your designs upon me, if you had any, to convert me to Christianity. I would also dispute your claim that Christianity is the only true religion. (source: Harijan: June 3, 1937).

Conversion nowadays has become a matter of business like any other … India (Hindus) is in no need of conversion of the kind … Conversion in the sense of self-purification, self-realization, is the crying need of the times. That however is never what is meant by proselytizing. To those who would convert India (Hindus), might it not be said: Physician heal thyself. (source: Young India: April 23, 1931)

I hold that proselytizing under the cloak of humanitarian work is unhealthy to say the least. It is most resented by people here. Religion after all is a deeply personal thing. It touches the heart. Why should I change my religion because a doctor who professes Christianity as his religion has cured me of some disease, or why should the doctor expect such a change whilst I am under his influence? (source: Young India: April 23, 1931).

Christianity in India has been inextricably mixed up for the last one hundred and fifty years with British rule. It appears to us as synonymous with materialistic civilization and imperialistic exploitation by the stronger white races of the weaker races of the world. Its contribution to India has been therefore, largely negative. (source: Young India: March 21, 1929).

September 24, 2009

Dancing Jesus!!

Filed under: Christianity,Evangelists — thecandideye @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

Dancing Jesus illustration in The New Community Bible published by The Bombay St. Paul’s Society, 2008, and released by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India. The “Indian Bible” as it is called, contains invented and interpolated phrases such as “he will dance with songs of joy for you” for Zephaniah 3:17, and numerous quotations from the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas. The vedic and puranic slokas are described as sourced from “Indian Scriptures”, not Hindu Scriptures.

Dancing Jesus

Dancing Jesus

The newfangled Bible has been strongly condemned by Hindus in India and abroad, and by many Christians in India who regard it as blasphemous. It is designed to subvert and subsume the Hindu scriptures to the Christian scriptures, and assist in the mission of “fulfilling” Hinduism in the “saving truth” of Jesus Christ.

The Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram Sri Jayendra Saraswati made special mention of the Indian Bible to the Vatican’s representative Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran at a private interfaith meeting in Mumbai on June 12, 2009. He demanded that the Indian Bible be withdrawn and that the Catholic Church cease and desist from further use and abuse of Hindu dress, scriptures, symbols, and rituals.

He also demanded that the Catholic Church give up its mission to convert Hindus to Christianity, and that a firm commitment to this end be given to Hindus by the Vatican even as a similar commitment to stop evangelizing Jews was given to the Chief Rabbi of Israel by Pope Benedict XVI in Jerusalem on May 12, 2009.

See also these articles from Vigil Online:

Kanchi Acharya at interfaith dialogue with Vatican in Mumbai

Vatican surrenders right to convert Jews

Related articles:

New Indian bible draws fire over Hindu references

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