Boston Marathon’s Muslim Runners To Play A Critical Role In Shattering Stereotypes

(RNS) Ask Jalon Fowler, a 38-year-old IT specialist for John Hancock Financial Services, what advice she would give to two Muslim friends who will each be running their first Boston Marathon, and this Muslim convert is happy to opine.

“Go easy; stay relaxed,” Fowler said. “Make sure you get to 17 in good shape. Make sure that you have enough in the tank to get through the hills, because that’s the hardest part. But know that when you get to 21, there is such a huge crowd waiting for you, cheering for you so loud, and you’ll feel so much adrenaline that it’ll take you the rest of the way.”

Fowler, who grew up in nearby Methuen and will be running her fourth Boston Marathon on Monday (April 21), understands this year is different. After last year’s tragedy, in which three people were killed and more than 260 others were injured when a pair of homemade bombs detonated near the finish line, Fowler knows she will also be the face of Muslim America when she runs past thousands of spectators.

“I do know some people will say, ‘Hey, there’s a Muslim,’ when they see me,” said Fowler, who wears a hijab. “And by running, I’m saying what happened last year was wrong, I’m against that. And I’m a Muslim. This is what a Muslim is, not what you saw last year.”

Muslims who are involved in this year’s Boston Marathon, as runners, physicians or volunteers, say they want to participate as Bostonians and athletes. But because the bombers were Muslim and many Americans still associate Islam with terrorism, some Muslims involved with the marathon see a responsibility, or a chance, to counter stereotypes of Muslims as violent.

“I’m a Bostonian,” said Firas Naji, a physician who last year led a four-person medical team stationed in a tent one block away from the finish line. “I’m going to be there. Muslims who came to this country share the same values as everyone else. But it takes just a few seconds on the news to change all that.”

Naji, who was born in Damascus, said his Syrian relatives texted him after the bombing to tell him they were praying for Boston.

While Boston’s Muslims acknowledge that many people still associate their religion with terrorism, they also believe that by being involved in events like the Boston Marathon, they are breaking that link.

Chechen brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are accused of carrying out the attack, motivated by extremist Islamist beliefs and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunbattle with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces the death penalty, if convicted. He awaits trial in a federal prison.

The day after last year’s bombing, Hamza Syed, whose family came from Pakistan to Massachusetts when he was 3 years old, vowed he would run this year. To prepare, he trained by running the Chicago Marathon and wore a “Boston Strong” T-shirt to show his pride for his adopted city.

The emotional charge from that marathon is still with him.

“The amount of love I got from the crowd was amazing,” said Syed. “First people were yelling, ‘Go Syed, go Syed.’ And then after my nametag fell off, people were yelling ‘Go Boston, go Boston.’ To be honest, I got a bigger rush hearing people say ‘Go Boston’ than hearing my name.”

Leanne Scorzoni, who converted to Islam soon after the bombings, will be wearing a special sports hijab for the race. She downplays the prospect of being an ambassador for Muslims but said she still understands that the experience can connect people.

“When Americans see Muslims running, and when Muslims see Americans cheering them on, people realize how united we are,” Scorzoni said.

“As a society it’s important to replace fear and suspicion with knowledge and trust, and we can only do that by getting to know each other,” said Naji. “If more cities were like Boston, we would be in good shape as a country.”

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-21 »

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Obama Family Celebrates Easter Sunday 2014 At Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

The Obama family is celebrating Easter Sunday at Nineteenth Street Baptist Church alongside 250 other congregants and led by the Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins.

According to the White House pool, the president is rocking his head back and forth to the fab…

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-21 »

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Obama Family Celebrates Easter Sunday 2014 At Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

The Obama family is celebrating Easter Sunday at Nineteenth Street Baptist Church alongside 250 other congregants and led by the Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins.

According to the White House pool, the President is rocking his head back and forth to the fab…

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-21 »

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Hate Crime Charge In NY Attack On Sikh Professor

NEW YORK (AP) — A man accused of pulling the beard of a Sikh professor before a group of young men who had called the professor “Osama” and a “terrorist” attacked him, has been arrested and charged with a hate crime, police said Saturday.

Christian Morales, 20, was charged with aggravated harassment in connection with September’s attack on Columbia University professor Prabhjot Singh, who suffered a broken jaw. Singh, 31, was walking home with a friend in upper Manhattan when he was approached by a group of 12 to 15 young men, he said days after his attack.

“I heard, ‘Get him. Osama.’ I heard ‘terrorist.’ And I felt somebody grab my beard,” Singh said then.

He was then kicked and punched in an attack that ended after other people intervened, police said.

Singh didn’t return a message seeking comment Saturday.

Morales was in custody and was unavailable for comment. A phone number for him was out of service, and it was unclear if he had an attorney.

Detectives from the hate crimes task force are investigating the case.

Sikhism is a peace-loving religion that originated in India and preaches equality and a commitment to justice. Its practitioners have been targeted by attackers who in some cases confuse Sikhism and Islam because Sikh men and boys are required to wear turbans and beards.

Singh co-authored a 2012 op-ed in The New York Times accusing the federal government of failing to accurately measure the extent of anti-Sikh violence in response to the August 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee that left six people and the white supremacist gunman dead.

In the op-ed, Singh and his co-author argued that it is wrong “to assume that every attack against a Sikh is really meant for a Muslim.” They said Sikhs have historically been targeted.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-21 »

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Hate Crime Charge In NY Attack On Sikh Professor

NEW YORK (AP) — A man accused of pulling the beard of a Sikh professor before a group of young men who had called the professor “Osama” and a “terrorist” attacked him, has been arrested and charged with a hate crime, police said Saturday.

Christian Morales, 20, was charged with aggravated harassment in connection with September’s attack on Columbia University professor Prabhjot Singh, who suffered a broken jaw. Singh, 31, was walking home with a friend in upper Manhattan when he was approached by a group of 12 to 15 young men, he said days after his attack.

“I heard, ‘Get him. Osama.’ I heard ‘terrorist.’ And I felt somebody grab my beard,” Singh said then.

He was then kicked and punched in an attack that ended after other people intervened, police said.

Singh didn’t return a message seeking comment Saturday.

Morales was in custody and was unavailable for comment. A phone number for him was out of service, and it was unclear if he had an attorney.

Detectives from the hate crimes task force are investigating the case.

Sikhism is a peace-loving religion that originated in India and preaches equality and a commitment to justice. Its practitioners have been targeted by attackers who in some cases confuse Sikhism and Islam because Sikh men and boys are required to wear turbans and beards.

Singh co-authored a 2012 op-ed in The New York Times accusing the federal government of failing to accurately measure the extent of anti-Sikh violence in response to the August 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee that left six people and the white supremacist gunman dead.

In the op-ed, Singh and his co-author argued that it is wrong “to assume that every attack against a Sikh is really meant for a Muslim.” They said Sikhs have historically been targeted.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-21 »

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Pope Francis Easter Message ‘Urbi Et Orbi’ (FULL TEXT)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The following is the text of the Vatican’s official English-language translation of Pope Francis’ Easter Sunday “Urbi et Orbi” (Latin for ‘to the city and to the world’) read by him in Italian from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter! The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised . Come, see the place where he lay” (Mt 28:5-6).

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.

That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast. “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!

Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you.

Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.

Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned.

Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty.

Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped.

Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith.

We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent.

We pray in a particular way for Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!

We ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan.

We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela.

By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the intiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future.

Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: You who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace!”

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-21 »

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Easter In Holy Land Celebrated By Pilgrims

JERUSALEM (AP) — Thousands of pilgrims from around the world are celebrating Easter in the Holy Land, commemorating the day when according to Christian tradition Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem two millennia ago.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal led Mass at the Holy Sepulcher church in Jerusalem on Sunday. The site is where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, worshippers prayed and lit candles at the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.

Easter was also celebrated in Gaza where less than three thousand Christians live among about 1.7 million Muslims.

Christian communities in the Holy Land, as well as elsewhere in the Middle East, have been declining in recent years due to regional turmoil.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-21 »

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Pope Francis Celebrates Easter Sunday With Huge Crowds In St. Peter’s Square At Vatican (PHOTOS)

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, April 20 (Reuters) – Pope Francis, in his Easter address before a huge crowd, on Sunday denounced the “immense wastefulness” in the world while many go hungry and called for an end to conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Af…

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-20 »

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A royal Easter at St Andrew’s Cathedral

NEWS | Sophie Timothy Sunday 20th April 2014 The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have spent Easter Morning at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Sydney. The royal couple joined the congregation at St Andrew’s for a special Easter service where they sang the classic hymn In Christ Alone and Archbishop Glenn Davies spoke on . […]

The post A royal Easter at St Andrew’s Cathedral appeared first on Bible Society.

Read the original article at Bible Society  2014-04-20 »

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Ukrainian Church Head Condemns Russian ‘Aggression’ In Easter Message

KIEV, April 20 (Reuters) – As Russians and Ukrainians celebrated Easter on Sunday with their nations locked in conflict, the head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church condemned Russian “aggression” and said “evil” would be defeated. “Against …

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-20 »

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Stop dressing so tacky for church

By John Blake, CNN (CNN) – If the Rev. John DeBonville could preach a sermon to lift the souls of churchgoers across America, his message would be simple: Stop dressing so tacky for church. DeBonville has heard about the “come as you are” approach to dressing down for Sunday service, but he says the Sabbath […]

Read the original article at CNN Belief Blog  2014-04-20 »

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Holy fire ceremony draws thousands

The dark hall inside Christianity’s holiest shrine was illuminated with the flames from thousands of candles on Saturday as worshippers participated in the holy fire ceremony, a momentous spiritual event in Orthodox Easter rites.Christians…

Read the original article at nzherald.co.nz - Religion and Beliefs  2014-04-20 »

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Pope Francis At Easter Vigil Baptizes 10; Asks All To Remember Faith In Sermon (FULL TEXT) (PHOTOS)

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis baptized 10 people Saturday and urged them to bring their faith “to the ends of the Earth” as he presided over an Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The vigil is among the Vatican’s most solemn services. Francis entered the darkened basilica with a lone candle, which he then shared with others to slowly illuminate the church. The symbolic service commemorates the darkness of the faithful over the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and their joy and light at his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Francis urged the priests, bishops, cardinals and ordinary Catholics gathered for the late night service to remember when they first found their faith. “Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Look for it. You’ll find it. The Lord is waiting.”

Trying to remember isn’t an act of nostalgia but rather a way to bring the “fire” of faith “to all people, to the very ends of the Earth,” he said.

After his homily, Francis proceeded to baptize each of the 10, starting with Italian brothers Giorgio and Jacopo, aged 8 and 10. “Do you want to be baptized?” he asked each one as he smiled.

He asked the same of the adult converts, who hailed from Vietnam, Belarus, Senegal, Lebanon, Italy and France.

It was the second late night for Francis after the long Good Friday Way of the Cross procession at Rome’s Colosseum. Francis, 77, will get a few hours of rest before celebrating Easter Sunday Mass in the flower-strewn St. Peter’s Square.

He then has a week to prepare for the other major celebration of this year’s Easter season: the April 27 canonizations of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend.

Full Text of Sermon via National Catholic Register:

“The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath. They go to the tomb to honour the body of the Lord, but they find it open and empty. A mighty angel says to them: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5) and orders them to go and tell the disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (v. 7). The women quickly depart and on the way Jesus himself meets them and says: “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10).

After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died. But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness. The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said. And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”.

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).

To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.

For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience. To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.

In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.

Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.

The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.

“Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15; Is 8:23)! Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter… Let us be on our way!”

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-20 »

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Easter 2014: Photos Of Christians Around The World Celebrating The Resurrection Of Jesus

Christians around the world celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ with vigils, services, fireworks and, of course, Easter Eggs.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-20 »

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Easter Marks Jesus’ Resurrection, But Some Christians Still Have Doubts

(RNS) “On the third day, he rose again.”

That line, from the Nicene Creed, is the foundational statement of Christian belief. It declares that three days after Jesus died on the cross, he was resurrected, a glimmer of the eternal life promised to believers. It’s the heart of the Easter story in seven little words.

But how that statement is interpreted is the source of some of the deepest rifts in Christianity — and a stumbling block for some Christians and more than a few skeptics.

Did Jesus literally rise from the dead in a bodily resurrection, as many traditionalist and conservative Christians believe? Or was his rising a symbolic one, a restoration of his spirit of love and compassion to the world, as members of some more liberal brands of Christianity hold?

As Easter approaches, many Christians struggle with how to understand the Resurrection. How literally must one take the Gospel story of Jesus’ triumph to be called a Christian? Can one understand the Resurrection as a metaphor — perhaps not even believe it happened at all — and still claim to be a follower of Christ?

The struggle keeps some Christians from fully embracing the holiday. A 2010 Barna poll showed that only 42 percent of Americans said the meaning of Easter was Jesus’ resurrection; just 2 percent identified it as the most important holiday of their faith.

“More people have problems with Easter because it requires believing that Jesus rose from the dead,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of the new book, “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.”

“But believing in the Resurrection is essential. It shows that nothing is impossible with God. In fact, Easter without the Resurrection is utterly meaningless. And the Christian faith without Easter is no faith at all.”

Scott Korb, 37, has a different take. Though he now describes himself as a non-practicing Catholic, he once wanted to become a priest. At that time, he believed Jesus literally rose from the dead, but now finds himself accepting the story only symbolically.

“The miracle of a bodily resurrection is something I rejected without moving away from its basic idea,” Korb, a New York University professor, said. “What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others.”

And that change — from a literal to a metaphorical approach — has given the story more power, he said.

“There is only one story to be told of a single man who dies and then rises,” Korb said. “But if we think about the metaphor of the Resurrection, that allows us to return to the story year after year and find new meaning in it.”

Reg Rivett, 27, finds the repetition of the Easter story a big problem. A youth minister at an evangelical house church near Edmonton, Canada, he said his belief that Jesus literally rose from the dead is central to his Christian identity and faith. Nonetheless, he still has conflicting feelings about how the Resurrection story is used in some circles.

“You hear about it year after year or at the end of every youth event — ‘This is why Jesus came and why he died,’” he said. “We tack it on to the end of everything and that is not what it should be. It’s like we’ve taken something that is very sacred and made it very common.”

That leads to some internal conflict on Easter Sunday, even as he goes to church with his family and joins them for a big meal.

“It becomes something I need to do and I do it out of respect for others,” he said.

To restore the Resurrection and the Easter story to its appropriate place, Rivett said, the church should “build” toward it throughout the year — place it in its context within the whole biblical saga.

“It is another story about Jesus, another piece of the whole Bible, but at the same time it is such a significant piece,” he said. “Neglecting it completely would be wrong, but over-saturation is wrong, too. It is hard to find a balance.”

Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, best known for his famously liberal interpretation of Christianity, does not adhere to Rivett’s literal view of the Resurrection. His 1995 book, “Resurrection: Myth or Reality?” caused a dust-up when it asked, “Does Christianity fall unless a supernatural miracle can be established?”

For Spong, 82, the answer is an emphatic no.

“I don’t think the Resurrection has anything to do with physical resuscitation,” he said. “I think it means the life of Jesus was raised back into the life of God, not into the life of this world, and that it was out of this that his presence” — not his body — “was manifested to certain witnesses.”

Like Rivett, he too thinks the Resurrection must be placed in context to be interpreted and understood — something he tried to do as a young priest in the Bible Belt through yearlong Bible study classes culminating in the Easter story, he said.

“I tried to help people get out of that literalism,” he said. “But you don’t do it in a single sermon. You need time to lay the groundwork and for people to process it, ask questions. You have to begin to build it.”

Spong’s Bible studies were enormously popular, attracting 300 people to each session, he said. His congregations grew as a result.

“When people hear it, they grab on to it,” Spong said. “They could not believe the superstitious stuff and they were brainwashed to believe that if they could not believe it literally they could not be a Christian.”

A Christian, Spong said, is one who accepts the reality of God without the requirement of a literal belief in miracles.

“What the Resurrection says is that Jesus breaks every human limit, including the limit of death, and by walking in his path you can catch a glimpse of that,” he said. “And I think that’s a pretty good message.”

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2014-04-20 »

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