We also have a list of religious tolerance news
items for this month.
2000-OCT-3: China: Chinese government crackdown on the
Falun Gong: According to Newsroom:
"Chinese President Jiang Zemin is personally responsible for a
crackdown against Falun Gong practitioners that
has intensified in the past month, followers of the spiritual sect claim.
Police arrested as many as 1,000 Falun Gong protesters in Beijing's
Tiananmen Square during China's National Day celebration on Sunday."
According to the China Crisis News Bulletin #60, 53 followers of
Falun Dafa have died to date, after having been tortured by the police. The
latest victim is a Tian Xiangcui, aged 61. According to her daughter, Tian's body was covered
with wounds. 12
2000-OCT-11: Sudan: Refused seat on the U.N.
Security Council: According to Newsroom: 2
"The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday rejected
Sudan's bid to win a seat on the Security Council. The loss is a
victory for activists who have lobbied Washington for years to make
the treatment of Christians and other non-Muslims in the North African
country's 17- year civil war a higher priority."
2000-OCT-11: West bank - Israel: Religious site
destroyed: According to ReligionToday: 3
A tomb on the West Bank has been revered as "Joseph's Tomb"
by Muslims in the area. It has also been recognized by some Jews. It
is probably not the burial place of the Patriarch Joseph, because the
Book of Genesis states that Joseph was buried in Egypt. After Jewish
soldiers left, a Palestinian "mob vandalized the tomb, set
fires, and hammered at the stone buildings, breaking off chunks of
rocks, but left the stone sarcophagus untouched."
2000-OCT-11: Iran: Cleric imprisoned: According
to Human Rights Watch:
Human Rights Watch today condemned the Iranian government's
prosecution of a leading independent writer and religious scholar,
Hojatoleslam Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari. Eshkevari, who has been
held in solitary confinement and denied legal counsel since August
5, was tried behind closed doors on October 7 on a variety of
charges, including "being corrupt on earth" and
apostasy, which carry the death penalty. The verdict and sentence
in his case is expected shortly.
"Hojatoleslam Eshkevari may be facing the death penalty for
publicly expressing his independent point of view," said
Hanny Megally, the Executive Director of the Middle East and North
Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "His arrest and
prosecution is part of an overall clampdown on free expression in
Iran, which has seen the closure of over 25 independent newspapers
and the imprisonment of journalists and publishers."
Eshkevari was initially charged with five offenses: "endangering
the security of the state;" "propaganda against
the state;" "defamation of public officials
in published articles;" "conduct unbecoming of a
clergyman;" and "denial of basic religious
principles." At the hearing he was charged with three
additional offenses, including "declaring war on God;"
"being corrupt on earth" and apostasy. These
latter charges carry the death penalty.
2000-OCT-13: Signs of anti-semitism and religious oppression:
According to Newsroom: 2
In a visit to Volgograd last week, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo
said that police and clergy should join forces to oppose cults and
sects that "aim to undermine statehood in Russia."
Rushailo said he has discussed this kind of cooperation with Patriarch
Alexy II, the head of the Russian Orthodox church.
In September, President Vladimir Putin dedicated a new Jewish
community center in Moscow, hailing it as a demonstration of a new era
of tolerance in Russia. Putin said the country's "spiritual
revival is unthinkable without the understanding that Russian culture
is a combination of the traditions of all the people who have lived in
Russia for centuries." Earlier in September, however, an
official in Putin's administration wrote an article in the influential
national newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, alleging a Jewish
conspiracy to control the world that requires "immediate
correction." Aleksandr Ignatov, the general director of the
Information Analytical Agency of the Department of Affairs, said
legislation should be introduced "as soon as possible"
to establish the "concept of state religion to which Orthodoxy
and Islam should be relegated."
Last week the U.S. State Department condemned a September 17 attack
on a Jewish school in Ryazan and August 20 attacks on Jehovah's
Witnesses and Mormons in Volgograd, the site of Rushailo's remarks.
The U.S. called on Russian authorities to "conduct full and
thorough investigations on an urgent basis."
Mark Elliott, a researcher of religion in Russia, says that
although foreign missionaries have had problems with provincial
authorities -- about a dozen instances of deportation have occurred in
the past six months -- there is a "pattern of greater
discrimination" against indigenous non-Orthodox groups.
Steeves agrees, citing recent complaints coming from more established
groups. The Council of Evangelical Christians - Baptists has
charged that local authorities across the country are favoring the
Orthodox church and inhibiting the work of evangelism. "That
is a surprising source," Russia watcher Paul Steeves said,
noting that complaints until recently have come from foreign and newer
groups. "It suggests that there is a movement underfoot by
||2000-OCT-13: Israel: Death toll mounts: According to ACNS:
"So far, over 90 Palestinians have been killed, including 13
Arab Israelis, and of these over 50% are minors under the age of
eighteen. Over three thousand have been injured. Health care
institutions are full beyond capacity, and the Palestinian Ministry of
Health reports a dangerously low stock of medications and supplies.
Hospitals in neighboring Arab countries are also full with those
critical cases that have been transferred. The recent closure of the
Gaza Airport by Israel has not only hindered the arrival of
international donations of medical supplies and aid, it has
necessitated the transport of critically ill and injured patients
across the border to El Arish in Egypt for air evacuation."
Added to this death toll is approximately seven Israelis.
||2000-OCT-17: Anti-semitic violence around the world:
According to ReligionToday:
There have been many instances of criminal attacks on Jews and Jewish
property. These include arson at many synagogues in France, the U.S.
and other European countries. A Jewish school in Paris was
fire-bombed. A rabbi in Chicago was murdered, perhaps during a hate
crime. The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that
these incidents "should cause shock and disgust among all
civilized people." It asked countries to take "immediate
action" to find the persons responsible. 3
||2000-OCT-19: Afghanistan: Religion holds society hostage: According
to BBC News:
A United Nations report on religious
extremism has accused the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan of using
religion to take an entire society hostage. The report -- which
covered twenty-five countries -- described religious extremism as an
ever growing scourge and said the situation in Afghanistan was the
epitome of it. It said that women there had been reduced to pariah
status, being afflicted by social, economic and cultural exclusion.
||2000-OCT-21: USA: Jimmy Carter leaves the Southern Baptists:
According to Covenant News: 14
Jimmy Carter, former President of the U.S. and a Sunday school teacher
with the Southern Baptists since the age of 18, has severed ties with
his denomination. He and his wife Rosalynn have felt "increasingly
uncomfortable and somewhat excluded, in recent years." The
denomination's statement in 2000-JUN that prohibits women from serving
as pastors and which requires women to be submissive to their husbands
was the final straw. Carter said: "I think there ought to be
the ability for Baptists who have slightly different commitments to
Christianity to get along, work together and love each other."
[The denomination has experienced an internal conflict between
moderates and fundamentalists for the last two decades; the latter
have been winning the battles in recent years]
||2000-OCT-28: Washington DC: Violent symbolism in clergy march:
According to U.S. Newswire: 15
The National Clergy Council and Operation Save Our Nation have
scheduled a "Jericho March" of 100 religious
"intercessors" around Capitol Hill and the White
House for this day. As at the battle of Jericho they will blow a
shofar (ram's horn) periodically. Unlike the real Jericho event, they
are not expected to engage in mass crimes against humanity and "utterly
destroy all in the city, both men and women, young and old...with the
edge of the sword." (Joshua 6:21). President of the Council,
the Rev. Rob Schenck said: "The concept behind this Jericho
March is to 'tear down' the walls of the new 'Washington Paganism' --
the secularization, New Ageism and postmodern amoralism -- epitomized
in the Clinton-Gore Administration, in the morally weak leadership in
the Congress, and in the liberal members of the Supreme Court."
||2000-OCT-28: Oklahoma: Student suspended for allegedly casting
spell. According to Reuters: In Broken Arrow, OK, high school
officials at Uniin Intermediate High School accused a 15 year-old
female student of casting a magic spell on a teacher which caused him
to become sick They suspended Brandi Blackbear for 15 days. The ACLU
has launched a lawsuit, alleging that the school seized her notbooks
and prevented her from drawing or wearing Wiccan signs. Brandi's
father, Timothy Blackbear, commented: "Itís hard for me to
believe that in the year 2000 I am walking into court to defend my
daughter against charges of witchcraft brought by her own
school." According to the lawsuit, assistant principal Charlie
Bushyhead culminated an interview with the student by "accusing
Plaintiff, Brandi Blackbear, of casting spells causing (a teacher at
the school) ... to be sick and to be hospitalized." The
lawsuit stated that because of the "unknown cause" of
the teacherís illness, Bushyhead advised the 15-year-old girl "that
she was an immediate threat to the school and summarily suspended her
for what he arbitrarily determined to be a disruption of the education
note: At first, we thought that this was a hoax. Bushyhead accuses
Blackbear? Student believed to create spell that sent teacher to
hospital? This sort of stuff was routine in 1693 Salem MA. But I would
have hoped that we had learned something since then.]
||2000-OCT-30: Texas: Desecration of Wiccan ritual site:
According to a personal Email, the Wiccans at the Fort Hood Open
Circle at the Fort Hood army base near Kileen TX decided to build
a Haunted Forest for Samhain. Samhain is an ancient Celtic
festival day that is celebrated by modern-day Wiccans and other
Neopagans. It is the basis of Halloween. On OCT-29, they found that
someone had disturbed their props. On OCT-30 they found that someone
had smashed their altar to pieces. The "quarters"
which mark the North, South, East and West directions had been stolen.
All of their Haunted Forest were destroyed and thrown into the
dumpster. The altar was made out of a 4' x 4' x 1' solid piece of
stone. They have since set up a temporary circle. The motivation for
this vandalism is unknown. It might be related to statements by Representative
Barr (R-GA) and Governor Bush (R-TX) that Wiccans should not be
allowed the same religious privileges as the followers of other faiths
on army bases. It might be related to a local Baptist minister who
allegedly said that the army should napalm Wiccans. Feelings run high
against Wiccans among the Christians in and around Kileen.
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Robert Mendick, "Pagan teacher to be disciplined by school,"
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China Crisis News Bulletin #60, 2000-SEP-25, Falun Dafa
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"UN Report criticises Taleban," BBC News at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/
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"Not so practical magic: High school expels student for
casting a sickening spell," Reuters, 2000-OCT-28, at: http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/
Copyright © 2000 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-OCT-1
Latest update: 2000-OCT-31
Author: B.A. Robinson