RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE & CONFLICT
We also have a list of religious tolerance news
items for this month.
||Saudi Arabia: Government vs Christians: Excerpts taken from
an article by Steven Snyder of International
Christian Concern, in Newsroom on NOV-1:|
Saudi Arabia...prohibits the public practice of any religion other
than Islam. [The interior of a private home is
apparently considered a public place.] Thirteen Filipino
Christians arrested in a house church raid by Saudi religious police
in Riyadh were released on Sunday after 24 days in
detention...Authorities at Nasariyah detention center turned over the
expatriate Christians to their employers and gave them 10 days to
prepare to be deported...
||China: Government vs Christians: Excerpts taken from an
article by Newsroom on NOV-2: A bishop in China's
underground Roman Catholic church has been detained, according to the
U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation. Chinese police arrested Bishop
Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding in Hebei Province on August 15. The bishop's
whereabouts are unknown, the Kung Foundation said. The South China
Morning Post of Hong Kong reported Tuesday that police in Zhengding
denied any knowledge of Bishop Jia or of his arrest. The 65-year-old
bishop -- who has spent a total of 20 years in prison -- has been
arrested frequently on the eve of Catholic feasts, presumably to
prevent him from convening large public celebrations.|
||Israel, Nazareth: Christian/Muslim tension: Excerpts taken
from the Reuters Group PLC, NOV-3:|
Muslims wish to erect a mosque in Nazareth on Muslim-owned land which
contains the grave of the nephew of an Islamic military hero, Saladin. The
location is near the Basilica of the Annunciation. The basilica
is thought by Roman Catholics to be the location where the Angel
Gabriel informed Mary that she was pregnant. (Luke 1:26-38). Bishop
Joseph Fiorenza, president of the U.S. National Conference of
Catholic Bishops, has protested the decision by the Israeli
government to allow the mosque to be built. He wrote that the
Christians in Nazareth are "fearful that the building of the
mosque will only worsen their already insecure place in the community."
||The Muslim-owned land is about 100 meters (330
feet) from the Basilica. Muslims wanted to build a mosque there.
The mayor of Nazareth, a Christian, wanted to convert the area
into an open square. The Israeli government decided on a
compromise: two thirds of the area would become an open square; a
mosque would be built on the other third. This appears to be
unacceptable to the Christians in the area; they want it
||We hope that in the future, people might view the close proximity of
the mosque and basilica as symbols of cooperation between the world's
two largest monotheistic faiths, which are followed by about 55% of humanity.
There are absolutely no records from the 1st century BCE concerning
the exact location in Nazareth of the angel's visit. The location of
the basilica was arbitrarily chosen.]
||U.K.- Government vs. Neopagans: According to ReligionToday.com
Britain has stripped pagan groups of their
status as charities. Paganism -- including druids, witches, and followers of a Viking
god -- is not a religion "in the charitable sense,"
Charity Commission ruled. "Any charity must be established for
public benefit. This is not apparent in the case of paganism,"
spokesman said...Groups that will lose their charitable status include
The Pagan Hospice and Funeral Trust and Odinof, a
established to promote the teachings of the Norse god Odin. The
groups will now have to pay taxes on direct donations.
||Northern Nigeria - Christian/Muslim Tension: According to
ReligionToday.com for NOV-2:|
Tensions are increasing in Nigeria because of the adoption of Islamic law. The country is on the brink of religious strife
after Zamfara state adopted Sharia law, Christian Solidarity
Worldwide said. A declaration was made Oct. 28 by the Zamfara
state governor, Ahmed Sani Yerima, despite the objections of
national government, Muslim, and Christian leaders, including the
head of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs...Nigeria's
100 million people are divided into the mostly Muslim north and
Christian south, with some areas heavily mixed, CSW said. The
constitution prohibits an official state religion. Christian-Muslim
relations have been strained by violent attacks and persecution of the
Christian communities in the north. More than 150 churches in Kano
were designated by authorities for demolition this year, CSW said.
Despite the persecution, there has been a significant growth of
Christianity among the indigenous population, making it a large
minority, it said.
Northern Nigeria - Christian/Muslim Tension: Excerpts taken
from Newsroom for NOV-5:|
The creation of an inter-religious council in Nigeria could go a long
way toward promoting mutual cooperation between Christians and
Muslims, religious leaders in Africa’s most populous country
believe. But they are concerned that membership on the 2-month-old
council ignores animists and does not reflect the diversity within the
Christian and Muslim communities.
Worried by incessant conflicts between Christians and Muslims,
religious leaders agreed to form the Nigeria Inter Religious Council (NIREC)
Hundreds of people have died in the West African country in the
last decade during bloody religious clashes with ethnic and political
The omission of adherents of traditional religion, who often clash
with Christians and Muslims, is a major defect in the composition of
the council, according to Dr. Ola Fadeyi, secretary of the Nigerian
Baptist Convention. "It is high time that Nigerians come to
terms with this sector of the country’s religious life," he
said. "There is no way we can pretend that traditional
religion does not exist."
Israel, Nazareth: Christian/Muslim tension: Excerpts taken
from The Boston Globe, 1999-NOV-5, Page A02:|
The patriarchs of the Greek Orthodox, Latin, and Armenian Churches
in the Holy Land and the Franciscan ''Custos of the Holy Land,''
released a declaration that stated (in part) that ''all
Sanctuaries of the Holy Land will be closed on 22 and 23 November
1999." They also commented: ".''
This might be a veiled threat to close the sanctuaries at Christmas
They believe that the decision by the Israeli government to allow
Muslims to build a mosque on Muslim land in Nazareth near a
Christian Bassilica represents: ''clear discrimination against
the Christian community in Galilee.'' Suleiman Abu Ahmed, a
local Muslim leader commented: ''I can't believe what I am
hearing. I thought that religious people were supposed to be more
forgiving." The mosque's cornerstone is scheduled to be
laid on 1999-NOV-8.
||Ontario, Canada: Government vs. minority religions: Excerpts taken
from Canoe Limited Partnership's Cnews, 1999-NOV-5:|
The Ontario government runs a public, secular school system. It also
financially supports the Roman Catholic separate school system. The
latter is protected by a grandfather clause in the 1967 articles of
Confederation for Canada. But smaller religious groups with schools,
like Islam, Judaism, Seventh Day Adventists, and Sikism, are denied
funding. Anne Bayefsky of York University's Osgoode Hall law school
successfully initiated a charge of religious discrimination against
the government on behalf of Arieh Waldman, a Toronto man who spent
$95,000 to educate his sons in Jewish day schools. Ms Bayefsky
announced "Today, the [United Nations] human rights committee
has ruled that Ontario's policy of refusing to fund anything but Roman
Catholic schools is discrimination." Canada must respond to
the charge within 90 days. If they wish to meet U.N. guidelines, they
would have to either give full funding to the schools of all
religions, or to none. Both options are political dynamite.
||Canada: Government vs. minority religion/culture: According
to the Globe and Mail, a Toronto ON newspaper on 1999-NOV-5:
"Survival International" is a worldwide organization
"supporting tribal peoples. It stands for their right to decide
their own future and helps them protect their lives, lands and human
rights." On 1999-NOV-8, they issued a report 'Canada's
Tibet – the killing of the Innu.' They report that the Innu
people of Labrador and Quebec in Canada's northeastern regions have
the highest suicide rate in the world: 178 per 100,000 person per
year. This compares to an average suicide rate of 14 per 100,000
elsewhere in Canada. According to the Toronto Star newspaper,
there are two main causes:
||Incompetent, paternal, racist government policies under the
guise of benevolent control, and
||The sexual and physical abuse of Innu children at the hands of
Roman Catholic priests over a period of generations.
||Romania - Government vs. minority religions: According to ReligionToday.com
A proposed religion law in Romania would severely restrict religious freedom. The General Status of Religious Organizations
Bill would virtually eliminate churches of minority religions, Newsroom reports...The bill calls for all religious groups to be
approved by the secretary of state for religion to gain legal
recognition, but the requirements are so strenuous that few churches
would be approved, Newsroom said. Churches must have memberships of at
least .5% of the national population, 115,000 people, and at least 5%
of the local population, requirements that would exclude most
evangelical Protestant groups. The bill bans "aggressive
proselytism" and requires congregations to give to the government
the names and addresses of all members. Orthodox, Jewish, and Muslim
religious groups already have official recognition.
||United States: "Dogma" movie accused of blasphemy:
According to MSNBC on NOV-10:|
Lions Gate, a movie company, is releasing "Dogma" on NOV-12.
The film was actually made by Miramax. But Disney is being targeted by
some Roman Catholics for allegedly writing an anti-Catholic
movie. "But co-star Lee respectfully sums up the
underlying story as 'a woman’s journey from jaded non-believer to
regaining her belief in faith and herself.' Irreverent though the plot
may sound, it entails belief in miracles, angelic visitations, divine
grace and papal infallibility." The movie has been viewed by
a number of "traditional Catholic groups" none of whom found
the movie anti-religions. But "some 2,500 gathered last month
at the movie’s debut at the New York Film Festival at a protest
sponsored by the Pennsylvania-based American Society for the Defense
of Tradition, Family and Property." Presumably, none of them
had actually seen the movie. The society has allegedly "distributed
4 million fliers about “Dogma" to churches, religious groups and
those who requested them..." More
||Russia - Government vs. minority religions: According to
Konstantin Krylov of the Public
Relations Center on NOV-11:|
On Nov. 5, 1999 the final hearing took place in the St. Petersburg City
Court of two separate suits to liquidate the Collegiate
Association for Research of the Principle (CARP), a public
student organization founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
...The court ordered a psychiatric
evaluation of the CARP members whose parents were bringing the
suits. The evaluation found the CARP members to be mentally healthy
and competent. In addition, criminal experts who studied CARP and
Unification Church literature found nothing unlawful in their
teachings or activities.
...On Nov. 5, 1999 the City Court of St. Petersburg rejected
the City Prosecutor's and Justice Department's suits to liquidate
CARP and... accused the city Justice Department of
acting illegally when it rejected the attempt by CARP to
This decision finally vindicated CARP, despite the attacks and
opposition from the authorities. This victory also provides a
glimmer of hope for the establishment of an independent judiciary in
||Turkmenistan - Government vs. Christianity: According to ReligionToday.com
Authorities in Turkmenistan delayed the trial of an imprisoned
whose family has not seen him for weeks. Rahim Tashov has been in
prison since Oct. 31, but his family has been denied visits, Compass
Direct News said. The postponement of his Nov. 11trial has them
concerned, Compass said. "We want to know where he is -- even
to know if he is still alive," a source said. Tashov's
wife, Narjemal, has been turned away from the prison and has been
denied information about his whereabouts or condition, Compass said.
The couple has a 3-year-old son and is expecting another child in
six months. Police arrested Tashov Oct. 24, but released him a day
later with a warning to curtail his religious activities. They
arrested him again a week later.
||China - Government vs. a spiritual movement: According to
DayWatch for NOV-12: |
China jailed four leaders of the banned Falun Gong spiritual
movement for up to 12 years on Friday in the first known trial of
members of what the Communist government has decreed "an
evil cult." More than 100 Falun
Gong members have been formally arrested in a nationwide
crackdown and are expected to face trial. Many more are under
various forms of administrative detention, like labor camps, which
are not subject to the judicial process.
USA - Public vs. Christians: According to
DayWatch for NOV-15, quoting the Conservative News Service: |
Republican presidential hopeful Gary Bauer Tuesday addressed
anti-Christian bigotry in America, saying that prejudice against
Roman Catholics "is one of the last socially acceptable
prejudices left in America."
In a speech at St. Anselm College, a Catholic institution, Bauer
promised to make sure that "all Americans of faith will be
able to acknowledge their Creator in public as the founding fathers
did in our founding documents and public institutions."
Bauer told his audience, "Racism and anti-Semitism,
thankfully have been relegated to the lunatic fringes and extreme
elements of our society. Racial epithets and anti-Semitic slurs are
no longer tolerated in polite company...yet expressions of
anti-Catholic bigotry not only abound but are tolerated, especially
by the cultured elite, often in the name of free expression or
The candidate said today's anti-Catholicism is part of a pattern
of hostility from "radical secularists...toward those
institutions that stand in defense of Judeo-Christian moral values
and the ideals of Western civilization."
He also questioned whether obscene and blasphemous [artistic]
exhibits contribute to "a climate of hate that inflames the
unbalanced and inspires them to commit murderous acts," a
reference to recent shootings around the country.
Turkmenistan - Government vs. Non-Islamic groups: According to
Maranatha Christian Journal for NOV-17, quoting Compass
"...the government continues to crush unregistered religious
communities across Turkmenistan, both Christian and non-Christian.
Authorities have raided worship services, confiscated religious
literature and detained and fined believers."
"Only two months ago, Turkmen authorities destroyed two
Hare Krishna temples." During the weekend of NOV-13, city
authorities in Ashgabad had the Seventh Day Adventists church
bulldozed to the ground. Their registration as a religious
organization had been cancelled by the government, and they had been
unable to have it renewed. "Baptist congregations of the
Council of Churches of Evangelical Christian/Baptists" were
raided on the same weekend. Bibles, hymn books and some personal possessions
of their leader were carted away for burning. In Turkmenistan, a
pastor or minister can be criminally charged if he/she holds
services in an unregistered church. Yet in a classical Catch 22
situation, a religious group has to have hundreds of members before
it can be registered.
||China - Government vs. Christian group: According to Newsroom for
Chinese authorities break up another church meeting near Guangzhou.
Three Christian women were arrested Tuesday at the meeting place of
Chinese pastor Li Dexian, who remains in prison after his arrest
last week, according to sources in Hong Kong.
Israel - Government mainly vs. conservative Christians: According to Newsroom for
Members of the Israeli Knesset are circulating the draft of a
proposed bill that would criminalize missionary activity...
The new proposal, led by Rabbi Porush of the National Religious
Party, would mandate a five-year prison sentence to anyone convicted
of trying to persuade an Israeli citizen to change his religion,
whether directly or indirectly. The sentence would be double for
anyone who tried to convert a minor or "needy person,"
used deceptive means, or was successful in converting a person to
another religion. The law would apply even if the conversion took
place outside of Israel.
The Knesset Internal Affairs Committee held a preliminary hearing
on November 10 led by the committee's chairman, David Azoular of the
Shas Party. Azoular said that the committee had gathered to find
ways to deal with the "missionary menace threatening our
people." The discussion centered on accusations that a
long-established Messianic Jewish
congregation, Grace and Truth, and other groups were using
bribes to lure Jews into their fold. Messianic Jews believe that
Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
A 1977 Israeli law forbids any attempt to persuade an individual
to change his religion for the motive of "financial gain."
Baruch Maoz, the leader of the Grace and Truth Congregation,
attended the committee meeting. He insists that the bribery charges
are unsubstantiated. "It apparently never occurred to those
participating in the discussion that repeated failure to find
evidence could actually mean that bribes were never offered,"
said Maoz, former chairman of the Messianic Action Committee, a
group that has lobbied against previous anti-missionary bills...
The proposed bill would confer a three-year sentence on anyone
who solicits someone to their faith through advertising. A one-year
sentence would be imposed upon anyone who receives or brings a minor
or a needy person to the event of "another religion."
"Another religion" is one that is not of the
religious community to which the individual belongs according to
Minors or needy persons also would not be allowed into an
educational institution, youth hostel, or club in Israel that is
under the auspices of another religion.
Laos - Government vs. Christians: According to Newsroom for
Six Laotians were arrested for their Christian activities on
November 8 and 13, according to a document from Thailand that
reports an increase in religious persecution by Lao Communist
authorities. According to The South China Morning Post of
Hong Kong, Thai-based monitors of the church in Laos say the
government is determined to shut down churches because they view
them as a threat to security.
The Thai report refers to 46 Christians known to be in prison in
Laos. According to Laotian government documents, several have been
charged with "believing in the Jesus religion" or
"religious belief." Nine Christians are being held
in Savannakhet city jail and 11 are jailed in Attapeu.
The report says that one of the Christians being held in
Savannakhet is church leader Pa Tood, 45, who according to relatives
is suffering from poor health in solitary confinement. Authorities
want him to sign a declaration renouncing his faith. The relatives
say that he is in a dungeon with one leg in wooden stocks 24 hours a
day and is often deprived of food for several days at a time.
The Lao constitution prohibits "all acts of creating
division of religion or creating division among the people."
According to the U.S. State Department's Annual Religious Freedom
Report, the ruling "Lao Peoples Revolutionary Party (LPRP)
and government appear to interpret this constitutional provision
narrowly, thus inhibiting religious practice by all persons,
including the Buddhist majority and a large population of animists.
Although official pronouncements accept the existence of religion,
they emphasize its potential to divide, distract, or destabilize."
||USA - Southern Baptists vs. Hindus: Expanding on an
article by Thomas Grillo
of the Boston Globe on 1999-NOV-22:|
Chandrakant Panse is one of the organizers of New England Hindus
Against Religious Intolerance. About 60 people staged a
peaceful march outside the Beacon Hill Baptist Church on
Cambridge Street in Boston. They carried signs: "Respect All
Religions" and "Intolerance is Un-American".
Ms. Panse said: ''We're asking the Baptists to retract their
malicious attacks on the Hindu religion and its people.'' The
group was protesting a Hindu prayer guide distributed by the International
Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC
released the guide just before the most important Hindu festival of
the year: the three-day celebration of Diwali. Some of the
statements in the guide are:
||''Hindus seek power and blessing through the worship of
gods and goddesses and the demonic powers that lay behind them."
||"Hindus lack a concept of sin or personal
||"They are slaves bound by fear and tradition."
||"...the darkness in their Hindu hearts that no lamp
||''...demonic powers lie behind Hindu gods.'
The other organizer of the protest, Suresh Jain, commented that
''None of this is true. We are offended by statements in the
prayer book which say the only path to salvation is to follow Jesus
The regional director of the American Jewish Congress, Sheila
Decter, attended the rally. She noted that the SBC had previously
targeted the Jewish faith with a similar campaign just before the
Jewish High Holy Days this year. She said: ''The price of
democracy is the right to spread the good news about one's faith to
others. But this guide crossed the line from being a statement of
faith to denigrating another religion.''
The pastor of the Baptist church, David Draper, apologized to the
group. He said: ''I am embarrassed by the guide. Several
statements about the Hindu faith were offensive and insensitive.
While there are differences in our traditions and convictions, we
should not be intolerant of other faiths.'' He plans to meet
with the group and to persuade the Mission Board to be fore
accepting of other faiths.
Deprecation of non-Christian faiths is consistent with SBC
beliefs in the inerrancy of the Bible.
There are passages in the New Testament that state that the
Gods of other religions are actually demons. There are many
passages that say that people need a saving
faith in Jesus Christ in order to avoid hell.
Most Southern Baptists believe that both sets of passages are
||Israel, Nazareth: Christian/Muslim tension: According to
Pilgrims visiting Christian churches in Israel are finding them
closed. The churches were closed temporarily Nov. 22-23 to protest
the planned construction of a mosque outside the Basilica of the
Annunciation in Nazareth, The Associated Press said. Tensions have
escalated over the proposed mosque, spreading from the mostly Muslim
town of Nazareth into the rest of the Holy Land. Compromises
proposed by Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat have been rebuffed, as have pleas by the town's
mayor to end the controversy, the AP said. Pilgrims who have
traveled thousands of miles to see sites such as the Church of the
Holy Sepulchre, believed to be where Jesus was crucified,
are being denied entrance.
||Indonesia: Muslims vs. Christians: According to Newsroom
on 1999-NOV-26: |
Church lawyers representing Catholics and Protestants in Ambon have
asked the United Nations and the United States to intervene to stop
escalating violence in the Indonesian province. Christian commercial
districts and residential areas have been targeted in recent months,
and up to 700 Christians killed. As repatriation of refugees from
East Timor proceeds, religious extremism is being blamed for more
bloodshed in Ambon. The province is one of several that may seek
independence in a trend that some nationalists fear will lead to the
breakup of Indonesia.
|USA: Attack on Neopagans: Robert Kirby, a columnist for
the Salt Lake Tribune in Salt Lake City, UT, wrote an opinion
piece for NOV-27: "If you shop your brains out for Xmas,
You're no Christian -- You're an X-ian." In it, he
mentioned that every faith except for the Jehovah's Witnesses
celebrated religious holidays: "The Jews celebrate Hanukkah
by lighting the menorah and feasting. Druids do something obscure
and disturbing during the Spring Equinox. Buddhists celebrate Tet by
. . . I don't know, probably something Bhuddist. Shamefully,
Christians celebrate Christmas by shopping their brains out."
[We include this quote for two reasons:
To show an example of how some writers feel free
to ridicule or attack Druids or other Neopagans. They would not
dare say "Roman Catholics do something obscure and
disturbing during Easter." But Neopagans are fair game
for any insult.
To show how relatively tolerant North America
is. In some places in the world, people are being killed,
imprisoned, or having their churches bulldozed. In the U.S.,
religious intolerance is shown only by the occasional insulting
and unfounded remark.]
||Tanzania: Murdering "Witches": According to
Panafrican News Agency for 1999-NOV-29:|
In the Mwanza, Shinyanga and Tabora regions of Tanzania, 34 suspected
witches were murdered by mobs and vigilante action during the first
ten months of 1999. Victims are typically elderly women with
blood-shot eyes who are believed to be evil "witches."
They are believed to kill newborns, and be responsible for the high
infant mortality in the country. "Masked assailants routinely
invade elderly people at night and hack them to death with machetes."
No action is usually taken because "members of their
communities who share their superstitious beliefs refuse to unveil
their identity." Popular belief in the reality of witchcraft
is reinforced by a 1928 law which criminalizes "witchcraft,"
and which is still on the books. [There is no relation
between the beliefs of some of the Tanzanian public in
"witchcraft" and Wicca/Witchcraft as practiced in the U.S.
and Europe. They are two unrelated religions who share the same name.]
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Copyright © 1999
Originally written: 1999-NOV-3
Latest update: 1999-NOV-22
Author: B.A. Robinson