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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE AND CONFLICT
DURING 2000-DEC

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We also have a list of religious tolerance news items for this month.

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2000-DEC-4: Indonesia: Religious massacres continue: According to Newsroom: 2
In Indonesia's eastern Maluku province, attacks on Christian villages by Muslim warriors  have left more than 50 people dead. "The most deadly attack came on the same day that provincial leaders were planning ways to stop bloodshed during the upcoming religious holiday season, when sectarian attacks often are sparked."

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2000-DEC-7: India: Christians attacked: According to Newsroom: 2
"A spate of attacks on Christians across India has prompted New Delhi's new Catholic archbishop to seek immediate action from Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. 'The Christian community is concerned about the incidents of violence against minorities, especially against Christians. In the last five days as many as five incidents against the Christians have taken place,' Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao wrote in a letter to the prime minister on Saturday [DEC-2]. Religious minority leaders have accused the prime minister's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of fomenting an environment in which hundreds of attacks on minorities have occurred since it came to power in 1998. The government, however, generally has treated the incidents as 'simple law-and-order problems'."

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2000-DEC-7: USA: Distribution of "Jesus Film" called offensive: According to Maranatha Christian Journal:14
Networks of local churches in the U.S. are distributing unsolicited copies of the "Jesus Film" via the U.S. Postal Service to homes and apartments in their area. This is a video originally produced 20 years ago by Campus Crusades for Christ. It is based on the Gospel of Luke. Problems surfaced in May when 400,000 copies were distributed in Palm Beach County, FL -- an area with a sizeable Jewish population. Some recipients attached bricks to the video, and refused delivery. This increased the return shipping charges. Rabbi David Eliezrie of Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen-Chabad Center in Westminster expects over 1 million copies to be distributed in his area. He told a reporter: "While I respect the right of freedom of religion, I resent the effort of certain Christian groups to evangelize the Jewish community. And I'd prefer that they focus on their own religious brethren." Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California Council on American-Islamic Relations commented: "As a person who believes in God, I don't approve of such tactics because it might offend people who don't appreciate God's message." John Erickson, president of Interfaith of Topeka, KS, and a Roman Catholic priest said: "I don't for a moment doubt the sincerity and good intentions of those who do such things. But I question the effectiveness of bringing people to Christ. The best way to do that is the personal living of the gospel, treating people with justice and dignity and respect."

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2000-DEC-7: Moluccas (Spice Islands): Muslims massacre over 100 Christians: According to ReligionToday: 3
Islamic troops attacked four villages in NOV-28 giving the people the choice of converting to Islam or death. 93 died; over 700 converted. Similar attacks earlier in the week left 54 villagers dead and two churches destroyed. This brings the total deaths to over 4,000 during the past two years. The government was slow to respond to the atrocities. 

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2000-DEC-8: Russia: Salvation Army to be banned: According to ReligionToday: 3
The Salvation Army has successfully registered with the Russian government in five cities in Russia. But their application has been rejected in Moscow, the Russian capital,  because they are seen as an unwelcome foreign military organization. Unless it wins an appeal to the Russian Supreme Court, it will have to shut down its operations there.

bullet2000-DEC-12: Australia: Spanking of students being phased out: Prior to 1995, schools in this country were allowed to use straps, canes, or lightweight wooden paddles to hit students as a method of discipline. Since 1995, a new state law has forbidden such corporal punishment. 51 private Christian schools in the state have complied with the law, with some reluctance. The remaining two private Christian schools in New South Wales, Sunderland Shire Christian School and Nambucca Valley Christian Community School, refuse to conform to the law. They state that they are simply disciplining children according to biblical principles, and that state interference outlawing this practice is unacceptable. The government has given Sunderland Shire Christian School until 2001-MAR to comply with the law; the deadline for Nambucca Valley Christian Community School is the end of December. If they do not comply, then they will be de-certified. This would mean a loss in funding and denial of the right for their students to take public examinations. The latter are necessary for students to obtain an official graduation certificate.

Duncan McInnes, heads the New South Wales Parentís Council. He said that corporal punishment is "... a moral issue and schools should have the right to decide for themselves. There are enough safeguards in the child protection legislation to ensure they are not being abused physically." , Neville Pollard, education director for Christian Community Schools, a state umbrella organization, defended corporal punishment. He said: "If given lovingly and carefully, itís a very viable method of punishment."

bullet2000-DEC-14: Italy: Pope to meet Fascist sympathizer: According to AANEWS: 
"As thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of Rome in protest, the Vatican confirmed that Pope John Paul II will go ahead with plans to meet tomorrow with Austrian far-right political leader Joeg Haider. Holocaust survivors, Jewish organizations, World War II partisans, and diverse political groups are charging that the Vatican meeting legitimizes a man frequently compared to Hitler. The Holy See's decision to follow through on the meeting between the pontiff and Mr. Haider has been a lightening rod for critics who see the Vatican as unwilling to distance itself from odious sympathizers, and take responsibility for its past wrongs. Earlier this month, for instance, the Vatican asked U.S. authorities to intervene and dismiss a lawsuit naming it as a party in aiding Nazi expatriates at the end of World War II, and hiding gold and other valuables expropriated from victims of the clerical fascist Ustashi Catholic government in the former Yugoslavia.10
bullet2000-DEC-18: USA: G.W. Bush asked to not use Bible: According to Associated Press:
Spokesperson Anne Nicol Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation asked President-elect George W. Bush to recognize the constitutional principle of separation of church and state by not using a Bible during his oath of office in January and not referring to a god during his inauguration. She said: "I think that it would be a very good thing if he did pay attention to the Constitution, especially given all the post-election ruckus." I think people are critical."
bullet2000-DEC-18: U.S.: President Bush becomes president-elect: The Electoral College selected George W. Bush to be the next president of the U.S. He will take office in mid-January. If he carries through with his election promises, one early decision will be to terminate federally funded stem cell research in the U.S. That will satisfy conservative Christians who generally regard the pre-embryos from which stem cells are extracted to be human persons. It will offend religious liberals who regard pre-embryos as non-persons; they will regret the loss of stem cell research that offers such promise in the alleviation of human suffering.  It will allow other countries to achieve a massive lead in biotehnology. 
bullet2000-DEC-19: UK: Stem cell research approved: According to MSNBC: In a free vote, members of parliament voted 366 to 174 to permit stem cell research in their country. Yvette Cooper, the junior health minister, told the House of Commons "In embryonic stem cells may lie the key to healing within the human body...These regulations do not raise any new moral issues beyond those that have already been debated and discussed in the present law. Parliament is not being asked to cross the Rubicon today." Opposition to the bill was based upon the belief that stem cell research will lead to human cloning. One conservative MP stated: "For the first time we are saying to the scientific community that we shall create cloned human beings." This appears to be a misunderstanding on the part of The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and other pro-life groups; stem cell extraction and cloning share a few mechanical techniques, but are otherwise unrelated:
bulletCloning leads to the creation of an embryo that will develop into a newborn.
bulletStem cell research removes an embryo's stem cells, thereby destroying an embryo. These cells are then used to develop the tissue of a single organ. Stem cells are incapable of inducing a pregnancy and resulting in the birth of a newborn.

It is not clear from the press reports whether those opposing stem cell research who are raising concerns about cloning are:
bulletMerely misinformed about the nature of stem cells, or 
bulletAre exploiting the public's fear of cloning in order to generate opposition to stem cell research.

Under the bill, human cloning will remain illegal. 15

bullet2000-DEC-19: Netherlands: Gay marriage approved: According to Reuters: The Dutch upper house of parliament passed two bills that had been previously approved by the lower house in 2000-SEP. Effective 2001-APR, marriage and adoption in the Netherlands will be open to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. This is the first country in recent history to have legalized gay and lesbian marriages. 
bulletThe bills were strongly opposed by a number of Christian religious parties who felt that the bills attack marriage between one woman and one man. 
bulletThe bills were strongly approved by religious liberals and groups promoting equality justice and opportunities for gays and lesbians. Onno Hoes, a spokesperson for one such group, COC,  said: "We're the first country in the world where there is no distinction made [in marriage] on the basis of gender.

The Senate statement said: "As far as possible, homosexual marriage will have the same consequence as heterosexual marriage." Among other things, this means that spousal support obligations would also apply to same-sex marriages.

bullet2000-DEC-22: Italy: Drive to re-criminalize "witchcraft:" According to Xenit.org:
An anti-cult group, the "Anti-Witchcraft Telephone" group estimates that there are four million families suffering from what they call "false saviors." This apparently includes individuals adversely affected by either new religious movements, or black magic. Group volunteers are promoting a petition to have a law reinstated that would make witchcraft a crime once more. It was illegal until a witchcraft law was repealed in 1981. The group is often met with derision and attack from skeptics. It is not clear which of the 17 different varieties of "witchcraft" that they are opposed to. The pope was asked to hold a special audience for victims of black magic and new religious movements in December. He refused, and said that there is no need for new laws in Italy to deal with new religious movements.
bullet2000-DEC-28: North Carolina: Firm rejects town because of allegations of religious intolerance: According to Asheville Citizen-Times, Asheville, NC: 16 Lawrence Erlbaum, president of Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., a publishing company, was considering relocating his business to Asheville. He was "impressed by the cultural diversity, natural beauty and the apparent high quality of life. The availability of the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College to assist in training what we project to be about 200 in our work force was also a real plus." But he has noticed recent news reports of religious intolerance from the area. "Our organization has typically employed workers from diverse groups, with cultural heritages that include those of Asian, African and Middle East descent. These highly skilled people would be managerial employees that would have to relocate, train workers, and manage the new facility. It is clear that many of our employees and especially their children would not be comfortable in your community or schools." Erlbaum mentioned specifically the "we shall pray" rallies "that flaunt the Supreme Court and the constitutional separation of church and state in order to impose their own religious views on minority groups within the community." Also of concern were other local religious schisms, and the mayor's proclamation of "the lordship of Jesus Christ awareness week.

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References:

  1. DayWatch is a daily service of Maranatha Christian Journal. It provides "a daily summary of news headlines with a Christian perspective..." The newsletter is free on request. Their web site is at: http://www.mcjonline.com 
  2. Newsroom is a service of Worldwide Newsroom Inc. Their articles are written by "a network of journalists, scholars and other professional contacts in country." You can subscribe to their free service from their website at http://www.newsroom.org/ 
  3. ReligionToday provides free newsletters to which you can subscribe at: http://www.ReligionToday.com. These summaries are part of GOSHEN.net, which also includes LiveIt.net, Devotionals.net, ChristianShareware.net, ChristianClassifieds.net, ChristianMessageBoards.net, BibleStudyTools.net, MediaManagement.net, WorldNewsToday.net, WebCastGuide.net, and ChristianCollegeGuide.net
  4. Reuters is "the world's leading financial information and news group. Their web page is at: http://www.reuters.com/ 
  5. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): E-mail: cair1@ix.netcom.com
    URL: http://www.cair-net.org To join CAIR-NET, CAIR's read-only mailing list: Send subscribe cair-net in the body of a message to majordomo@cair-net.org
  6. EWTN News carries Roman Catholic news from Catholic World News, Vatican Information Service, ZENIT, CWNews.com. See: http://www.ewtn.com/news/ 
  7. Ecumenical News International (ENI) in Geneva Switzerland distributes news free religious news highlights to subscribers. They can be contacted at PO Box 2100, CH - 1211, Geneva 2, Switzerland. Telephone: (41-22) 791 6087/6515. Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 Email: eni@eni.ch. Their web site is at http://www.eni.ch 
  8. ZENIT.org is "an International News Agency based in Rome. Our mission is to provide objective and professional coverage of events, documents and issues emanating from or concerning the Catholic Church for a worldwide audience, especially the media." Their web site is at: http://www.zenit.org/english/ 
  9. Anglican Communion News Service provides information from an Anglican perspective. See: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/index.html
  10. AANEWS is distributed by American Atheists. 
  11. China Crisis News Bulletin #60, 2000-SEP-25, Falun Dafa Information Center. They publish regular information on the Falun Gong via fax. Their Email is faluninfoctr@nycmail.com. Their web site is at http://www.faluninfo.net 
  12. Covenant News disseminates "Today's news for today's [Christian] church." See: http://www.CovenantNews.com/index.html 
  13. U.S. Newswire is "the leading national wire service for distribution of full text news." They have a web site at: http://www.usnewswire.com/ 
  14. "Distribution of 'Jesus' video called offensive," at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/00b/20001206d.htm
  15. "Britain okays embryo cell research: Opposition calls it a step toward human cloning," MSNBC, at: http://www.msnbc.com/news/505792.asp 
  16. Mark Barrett, "Firm rejects Asheville," Ashville Citizen-Times, at: http://www.citizen-times.com/cgi-bin/story.cgi?news&20001228_n9.txt 

 Copyright © 2000 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-DEC-4
Latest update: 2000-DEC-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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