RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE & CONFLICT
We also have a list of religious tolerance news
items for this month.
||JAN-4: Egypt: Muslim-Christian conflict. According to
Twenty-seven Christians and a Muslim died in clashes after a perceived
insult. More than 30 Christian businesses and homes were destroyed and
one Muslim died Dec. 31-Jan. 2 in El-Kosheh, Egypt, a village 275
miles south of Cairo, news reports said...Fighting broke out when
Fayez Awad, a Muslim, and his two
brothers confronted Rashad Fahim Mansour, a Christian businessman, who
reportedly refused to sell Awad goods on credit, the Associated
Press said. The Muslims demanded that Mansour apologize for
insulting Awad and began shooting at him when he refused, the AP said.
Violence spread through the village of
23,000 and nearby villages."
||JAN-4: China: Government vs. Christians. According to
Chinese police arrested three Christians for holding a discussion
about God. Xu Yonghai and several other Christians met with about five
other men in his house to discuss theological issues, he told Reuters.
Beijing police raided the meeting, arresting the Christians and two
other men who belong to a banned political
party. "There was nothing illegal. It's the crossroads of the
millennium and we were holding an objective discussion on God and the
soul," Yonghai said. He was held for 24 hours in a Beijing
jail without food or blankets, and released Jan. 1, he said.
JAN 5: Vietnam: Government vs. Christians: According to Newsroom:|
A Christian woman who was arrested in October after holding a
baptismal service in her home in Vietnam has been sentenced to one
year in prison, a religious liberty group reports.
Nguyen thi Thuy of Viet Tri in Vietnam's Phu Tho Province was
sentenced on December 27 for "interfering with an officer of the
law doing his duty," according to the the World Evangelical
Fellowship's (WEF) Religious Liberty Commission. WEF contends,
however, that Thuy's case is one of many in which Vietnamese security
forces have provoked incidents in order to arrest Christians on
charges unrelated to the practice of religion.
Vietnam issued a decree in May that guarantees religious freedom,
but since then unofficial Protestant churches report an increase in
arrests and harassment, WEF says.
||JAN-5: USA: Intra-Christian conflict: According to Newsroom:|
Southern Baptists are planning to launch a "major
evangelism effort in Chicago" during 2000-summer. "The
Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago wrote a letter in
November to Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist
Convention, asking that the largest Protestant denomination in the
U.S. not send thousands of missionaries to Chicago for fear they would
create a climate conducive to hate crimes."
The Southern Baptists point out that "Neither spokesmen for
the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and Council of Religious Leaders,
nor organizations and agencies that track hate crimes cite any studies
linking them with evangelism."
"However, the implicit suggestion in Southern Baptist prayer
guides is that 'others, including Christians, who do not practice the
Christian faith as they do are not as Christian,' contended United
Methodist Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, a member of the inter-faith
council. 'That is insulting to us and conducive to real hurt.' With
the recent defamation of synagogues and deaths attributed to hate
crimes in the Chicago area, the bishop said, 'itís no stretch to
look back at history and see cause and effect.' "
"Sprague said the incident reflects the theological divide
between Christians about evangelism. Evangelical Christians, like
Southern Baptists, believe that salvation comes only by accepting
Jesus Christ as savior. Others consider Christ as the decisive
revelation and that believers witness their faith by living life 'with
Jesus Christ as savior, living and proclaiming the good news of Jesus
Christ.' It is clear as the Southern Baptist leadership has
communicated that they have a hold on truth, and others who do not
agree are outside the fold of salvation,' the bishop said. 'That is
offensive and theologically suspect...This raises deep historic
wounds, particularly in the Jewish community. It is important for us
as Christians to remember that this is still the century of the
"[Rob] Boston [spokesperson] of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State said he is aware that conversion
activities of Southern Baptists offend many people, 'but they have
every right to do it. It would be unfortunate if we got to a point
where folks wanting to spread their message could not do that. Ö The
First Amendment gives the right to hold unpopular opinions and the
right to spread them. The appropriate response is not to ask them not
to come, but to shut the door' when they come to your home."
||JAN-10: Lebanon: Muslim - Christian violence: According to
"Violence against Christians is getting worse in Lebanon,
where three Christian women, including a nun, have been reported
murdered. Officials suspect the killers are militant Muslims,
'Christian Solidarity Worldwide,' a London-based human rights group,
||"Al-Takfir Wal Higra, a radical Islamic group, is to blame for
the murder of Sarah Yazbek and her mother-in-law, Selma, in the
North Lebanon village of Kfar Abou, CSW said. Members of the group
beheaded the woman, who was pregnant, and dismembered her, CSW
||"A bomb exploded in the Christian village of Kolaia on New
Year's Day, causing at least one death, CSW said. Islamic
militants attacked four Catholic and Orthodox churches in
November, using rockets, machine-guns, and bombs, the group said.
Several parishioners were wounded and one church member
||[A third incident, a rape and strangulation of a nun was
reported. However it is not obvious that the incident was
||JAN-11: Saudi Arabia: Government vs. Christians: According to
"Saudi Arabia's religious police raided a private
Christian worship service in Riyadh on January 7, arresting 15 of
the estimated 100 persons gathered in a private home, including
the small children of two families."
||JAN-11: Israel: Untra-Orthodox rabbis vs. freedom of
information: According to ReligionToday:|
"Ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel have banned the
Internet. The chief rabbi of the Belz Hasidic sect decreed in
October that followers couldn't use the World Wide Web because of
the easy accessibility to pornography. Almost every other leading
ultra-Orthodox leader has endorsed the ban, The Associated Press
said. The rabbis considered banning computers altogether, but
backed off because they are useful for teaching the Scriptures and
running businesses. They decided that the real threat is the
Internet. The ruling affects more than 500,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews
JAN-11: USA: NC School board vs. Wiccan employee: According to Matt
Leclercq a staff writer for the Fayetteville (NC)
An 11th-grade English teacher, Shari Eicher, was allegedly
suspended from her job and immediately escorted off campus because she
is a Wiccan. Wicca has been a high-profile
religion in the area recently because Wiccan soldiers at Ft. Bragg
have asked for a location to worship on the base. Shari allegedly told
school administrators of her religion 14 months ago so that they would
not be surprised if they learned of it from others.
Shari is a Wiccan priestess; her husband Richard is a Wiccan
priest. Both are members of a small coven called WillowFyre. Richard had lost
his job in December, allegedly because of his religion. One
complicating factor is that the WillowFyre coven has a web site which
features some of the members celebrating rituals skyclad (nude). Shari
does not engage in ritual nudity.
Superintendent Shirley B. Prince said "According to our
attorney, we have to have reasonable cause to have inappropriate
behavior by an employee. In my mind, we had more than reasonable
cause...We have a responsibility to students and to the community, and
we needed to act...We would always take constitutional rights very
seriously, and that would come into consideration."
[The core problem may be that many conservative
Christians have been misinformed; they have been taught that Wicca is
a form of Satanism, that Wiccans worship Satan and perform black magic
in order to hurt others. None of this is true.] Kristie Garber,
co-director of Pagans in Action Council of Truth, said that
many Wiccans are discriminated against because of their
religion. She said: "What all this revolves around is
fear...Most members of pagan religions do not have any beliefs in
Satan or a purely evil entity."
Deborah Ross, spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union
of North Carolina in Raleigh, said that "The only way she
could be fired is if her speech so disrupted the work environment so
people couldnít do their jobs...It sounds like itís going to be
pretty hard for them to defend." Shari Eicher said "I
donít discuss my beliefs [at school], especially with children."
local laywer, Michael Schmidt, wrote a letter to school board members.
charging that the web site maintained by Mrs. Eicher and her husband
violate child-protection laws. It was signed by six Christian clergy.
The letter maintains that "the stated purpose of the 'Willowfyre'
[web] site is to encourage people to go to the Eicher apartment to
learn about 'Wicca Druidism or Paganism.' " The
implication is that the web site attempts to lure children into
dangerous situations. The facts are otherwise. Mrs. Eicher has had
little or nothing to do with the web site. Persons under the age of 18
are not allowed at Wiccan meetings unless accompanied by parent(s).
There is no sexual activity at Willowfyre meetings.
On JAN-27, an
agreement was reached among all parties. They agreed that "Ms.
Eicher has been associated, either knowingly or unknowingly, in name
only, with a website that contains pictures that, by some community
memberís standards, might appeal to prurient interest." [One
picture consisted of one poorly focused image of a skyclad (nude)
Wiccan performing a ritual by himself. One could recognize that he was
male only from the shape of his waist and apparent lack of
female-shaped breasts. Other pictures were of the unclothed backs of
two Wiccans above their belt line.] She will retain her past
performance ratings which were "at least at standard"
or "above standard" or "exemplary."
Other settlement terms were not made public.
||JAN-12: Indonesia: Christians vs. Muslims: According to
"Hundreds of Muslims have died, some in mosques, in religious
violence in the Moluccas islands. Scores of charred corpses reportedly
were recovered from burned-out mosques on the chain of islands 1,550
miles northeast of Jakarta,
Indonesia, CNN said. 'It's very difficult to count the bodies,' which
were 'torched and burned by unidentified people,' said Mursal Amal
Tomagola of Medical Emergency, an aid group. Authorities believe
nearly 1,000 people have died in the past two weeks after a Christian
bus driver accidentally killed a Muslim boy. At least 1,500 have died
in similar outbursts of violence since last January, CNN said. The
Moluccas are traditionally Christian..."
||JAN-12: USA: Muslims criticize Republican Party: According to
Hanna Rosin of the Washington Post: 5|
"A Muslim advocacy group 6 challenged
House Republican leaders yesterday to repudiate a congressional aide
for implying that North American mosques routinely harbor terrorists."
"The statement by Yossef Bodansky, director of the House Task
Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, is the latest in a
string of stray remarks by Republicans that Muslims have found
offensive." Bodansky allegedly said: "There are
several thousand militants in mosques across the continent protected
by their religious brethren...The majority of Muslims are not
terrorists, but the minority, the radical minority, including their
supporters and sponsors and what have you, are hiding within the
CAIR sent a letter to the chairman of the Republican National
Committee, Jim Nicholson. They described Bodansky's statements as
"inaccurate" and "offensive." They
referred to his task force's alleged "history of political
gaffes and blunders..."
||JAN-12: Poland: A Catholic leader vs. Jews: According to: Court
"A court in southern Poland convicted a radical Catholic
leader Wednesday of inciting hate against Jews for statements he made
to rally hundreds of followers to erect crosses outside the former
Nazi death camp at Auschwitz." Leaflets allegedly written by
Switon said "the time has come so that we, Poles, wage
merciless war on Jewish-communist-masonry, the biggest enemies of the
Polish state." The flyers referred to Germany and Israel as
"satanic-pagan forces aiming at extermination of the Polish
JAN-14: USA: MA lawmaker criticizes Roman Catholics. According to
"A Massachusetts legislator said Irish Catholic lawmakers were
biased against the mentally ill and underfunds programs for them
because they believe the conditions are cause lack of willpower
State Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst, said Irish Catholics have a
cultural bias that says mental retardation is 'determined by God and
that, therefore, there is an obligation to make sure those people are
taken care of,' but she added, 'if you're mentally ill, there's a
sense that you're not trying hard enough.'
Story, who says she does not practice a religion now said she
was baptized in the Episcopal Church, supports a series of proposed
bills that would fund more services for mental illness.
'I've never heard of anything like that, and I've been involved
in the mental health community since the 1960s,' said Joseph Doolin,
president of Catholic Charities. 'To say that religion has anything to
do with the way the departments are funded is just the most bizarre
thing I've ever heard,' said Rich Copp, spokesman for the state
Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which oversees the
departments of mental health and mental retardation."
||JAN-14: USA will criticize China's human rights record: According to
"The U.S. State Department has announced that it will
introduce a resolution condemning China for its human rights record at
the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva in March.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party on Tuesday called for greater
control of religions in order to "guarantee political stability."
||JAN-14: England: Nun resigns due to Vatican pressure: According to
"A prominent Roman Catholic nun in Britain has resigned from
her order, blaming Vatican authorities for trying to force her into
line over the issues of women priests and contraception. Lavinia
Byrne, aged 52, is a well-known broadcaster in Britain and, since
1964, a member of a highly respected order of nuns, Institute of the
Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) which she joined at the age of 17. She is
also the author of seven books, including Woman at the Altar, in which
she argued for the ordination of women priests in the Roman Catholic
||JAN-23: Canada: Orthodox Christian protestors disrupt pilgrimage:
According to the Toronto Star:|
Leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Greek
Orthodox, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army, and
United churches conducted in a pilgrimage through downtown Toronto.
They were celebrating the first day of the Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity. About 350 Greek Orthodox protestors accused their
leaders of selling out. They passed out flyers which accused some
denominations of liberal tendencies. They referred to the gradual
elimination of sexism and homophobia in some denominations which are
granting equality to women and homosexuals. One flyer read: "We
pray for unity based on truth, not on political compromise or naked
sentimentality. A banner read "The Orthodox Church prays
for you but cannot pray with you." Father Paul McGill, pastor
of Holy Rosary Church in Toronto was saddened that the show of
Christian unity met with such fury. He said: "If you're of the
Lord and doing his work, you will be hated. I think it would be naive
to expect there would be sweetness and light."
||JAN-26: Canada: Anglican Synod may face financial bankruptcy:
According to the Toronto Star:|
The Canadian Government adopted policies aimed at the destruction
of Native culture in earlier decades of the 20th century. The Anglican
Church cooperated with these policies by operating residential schools
for Natives under the direction of the federal government. Some
results of this arrangement have been a high level of sexual and
physical abuse of students, the near-destruction of Native culture,
and the highest suicide rate of any identifiable cultural group in the
world. Although these schools are no longer functioning, the fallout
continues. The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada
has been named in more than 300 lawsuits by more than 1,000 claimants.
According to Archdeacon Jim Boyles, the church's general secretary,
the claims total hundreds of millions of dollars and far exceed the
church's assets. Many of the claims of sexual abuse, physical abuse,
and cultural assimilation are alleged to have occurred in the 1950s
and 1960s, before insurance coverage covered such cases. Boyles said:
"Our main goal as a church is healing and reconciliations for
the damage done by residential school experiences."
||JAN-26: USA: David Duke intolerance towards religious minorities:
According to Peter Nicholas of the the Philadelphia Inquirer:|
David Duke is a former Klansman and former member of the Louisiana
House of Representatives. He delivered a speech at the National
Press Club, announcing the founding of a new civil rights group:
the National Organization for European American Rights (NOFEAR)
It will promote rights for white people. During his talk, he made
references to the "Jewish press," dismissed Kwanzaa
as a "pagan celebration," and described the Holocaust
as an "alleged" attempt to destroy the Jewish people.
||JAN-28: Pakistan: Probably an intra-Muslim conflict: According to
"Two bombs have left four dead and almost 40 injured in
the Pakistan city of Karachi. The most powerful blast literally blew a
Sunni Muslim mosque to pieces in a densely populated area of the city.
All the fatalities and at least 35 of those injured were victims of
this bomb which was believed to have been disguised by being wrapped
in a prayer mat."
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Hanna Rosin, "GOP AIDE'S WORDS ANGER MUSLIMS; GROUP SEES
PATTERN IN PARTY STATEMENTS," Washington Post, 2000-JAN-12,
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Copyright © 2000
Originally written: 2000-JAN-4
Latest update: 2000-JAN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson