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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE & CONFLICT

2000-JANUARY

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

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bulletJAN-4: Egypt: Muslim-Christian conflict. According to ReligionToday: 3
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."
bulletJAN-4: China: Government vs. Christians. According to ReligionToday: 3
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.
bulletJAN 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.

bulletJAN-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 Holocaust.' "

"[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."
bulletJAN-10: Lebanon: Muslim - Christian violence: According to ReligionToday:
"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, said." <snip>
bullet"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 said."
bullet"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 died."
bullet[A third incident, a rape and strangulation of a nun was  reported. However it is not obvious that the incident was religiously motivated.]
bulletJAN-11: Saudi Arabia: Government vs. Christians: According to ReligionToday:
"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."
bulletJAN-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 in Israel."
bulletJAN-11: USA: NC School board vs. Wiccan employee: According to Matt Leclercq a staff writer for the Fayetteville (NC) Observer:
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."

A 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.

bulletJAN-12: Indonesia: Christians vs. Muslims: According to ReligionToday:
"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...
"
bulletJAN-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 mosque system."

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..."
bulletJAN-12: Poland: A Catholic leader vs. Jews: According to: Court TV/AP: 
"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 nation."
bulletJAN-14: USA: MA lawmaker criticizes Roman Catholics. According to EWTN News:
"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."

bulletJAN-14: USA will criticize China's human rights record: According to Newsroom:
"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.
bulletJAN-14: England: Nun resigns due to Vatican pressure: According to ENI: 8
"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 Church."
bulletJAN-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."
bulletJAN-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."  
bulletJAN-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.
bulletJAN-28: Pakistan: Probably an intra-Muslim conflict: According to DayWatch: 1
"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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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 newslatters 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. Hanna Rosin, "GOP AIDE'S WORDS ANGER MUSLIMS; GROUP SEES PATTERN IN PARTY STATEMENTS," Washington Post, 2000-JAN-12, Page A17:
  6. 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
  7. EWTN News carries Roman Catholic news from Catholic World News, Vatican Information Service, ZENIT, CWNews.com. See: http://www.ewtn.com/news/ 
  8. 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 

Copyright © 2000
Originally written: 2000-JAN-4
Latest update: 2000-JAN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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