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

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2001-MAR-1: Indonesia: Christians slaughter 118 Muslims: According to the Associated Press:
The Dyaks make up about 40% of the population in the Kalimantan provinces of Indonesia. They are a Christian group, although many still hold some Animist beliefs. They feel that they are discriminated against in education and jobs in this predominately Muslim country. About 8% of the population are Madurese. They are a strict Muslim group who began to be relocated to the province in the 1960, in order to relieve population pressures elsewhere in Indonesia. Many of the Muslims are troubled by the customs of the Dyaks including the keeping of dogs as pets and the eating of pork; both are forbidden in Islam. 

During the latter third of February, inter-faith rioting resulted in the deaths of at least 428 people. Aid workers estimate that up to 1,000 may have been killed. For many days, about 2,000 Madurese hid in the jungle; most were without food or water. Roving gangs of Dyaks slaughtered many of them on sight. The government was able to negotiate with the Dyaks to allow the Madurese to be evacuated to safety. Having received a government guarantee of protection, many Madurese came out of the jungle. But the Dyaks broke their promise and trucked 118 Madurese to a local soccer field. Six were beheaded. Others, including the elderly, women and babies, had their limbs chopped off and stomachs slashed open. None survived.


2000-MAR-1: Afghanistan: Religious statues ordered destroyed: According to Reuters:
The Taliban, a Fundamentalist Muslim group who control most of Afghanistan, ordered priceless statutes throughout the country to be destroyed. The office of Afghanistan's supreme leader stated: "In view of the fatwa [religious edict] of prominent Afghan scholars and the verdict of the Afghan Supreme Court, it has been decided to break down all statues/idols present in different parts of the country. This is because these idols have been gods of the infidels, who worshipped them, and these are respected even now and perhaps maybe turned into gods again. The real God is only Allah, and all other false gods should be removed."  The destruction will be overseen by the Information and Culture Ministry and  the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Most notable are two immense statues of the Buddha, carved out of a cliff. They are 125 and 174 feet tall (38 m and 53m). They date from the 4th and 5th century CE. Statues in the country's museums are also to be demolished. The European Union, Germany, India, Pakistan, Russia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and United Nations condemned the acts and appealed to the Taliban to reconsider. 

Egyptian Muslim intellectual Fahmi Howeidy said that the Taliban actions are contrary to the Islamic religion: "Islam respects other cultures even if they include rituals that are against Islamic law.'' According to the AP: "Heavily criticized for its restrictions on women and for its public executions, the Taliban is recognized by only three nations: Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia."

bullet2000-MAR-2: Israel: Status of the Western Wall: ReligionToday reported a story from the Jerusalem Post 15
The Muslim Mufti of Jerusalem, appointed by the Palestinian Authority issued a religious decree on 2001-FEB-20. He denies that the Western Wall has any connection to Jewish history and states that it is Islamic property -- simply the western wall of the Aksa Mosque. He suggests that it be called the Al-Burak Wall, after the name of Mohammed's horse.

 Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, rabbi of the Western Wall, commented: "The religious ruling of the mufti of Jerusalem is an attempt to distort history, which hurts attempts to settle the Jewish-Arab conflict ... The Western Wall is an eternal, ironclad property of the Jewish people, and no ruling by Moslem authorities can change this."

 Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau said, "The Wall, which is part of the outer wall of the Temple Mount, is a historical fact which can never be called into question...The dreams, yearnings and accomplishments of generations will not fail because of the nonsense of one man." 15
bullet2001-MAR-7: USA: Muslim group demands apology from Jerry Falwell: According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): 5
CAIR demanded an apology from Rev. Jerry Falwell, a well known Fundamentalist Christian TV evangelist. They charged him with "bigotry." According to CAIR's news release, Falwell was commenting on government funding of religious groups, saying: "I think the Moslem faith teaches hate. I think there's clear evidence that the Islam [sic] religion, wherever it has majority control -- and I can name a dozen countries -- doesn't even allow people of other faiths to express themselves or evangelize or to exist in their presence....I think that when persons are clearly bigoted towards other persons in the human family, they should be disqualified from funds. For that reason, Islam should be out the door before they knock...And whenever Islam, God forbid, ever gets a majority in the United States--like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, all the Moslem countries--free expression will disappear." 16 CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad sent a Fax to Fallwell, saying in part: "The dissemination of distorted or inaccurate information has a negative impact on the lives of ordinary American Muslims and serves to mislead people of other faiths. In fact, these offensive remarks are symptomatic of the very intolerance that you claim Islam promotes. No faith would accept being excluded from productive participation in our society based on such falsehoods...Your destructive rhetoric could lead to discrimination and even physical attacks against Muslims in North America."  He asked Falwell to apologize for his offensive remarks and to open a dialogue with Muslim representatives to gain accurate information about Islam.
bullet2001-MAR-10: USA: MTV spreads religious misinformation: In the "Fear" program section of their website, MTV states: "This is the cabin where cult members convene in dark robes, chant in strange tongues and drink the blood of their sacrifices--sometimes animal, sometimes human. A common icon in many cult religions, particularly satanic sects, is the pentagram. A pentagram is an inverted, five-pointed star surrounded by two circles. It is to satanic cults what the crucifix is to Christians. A local man gave testimony to witnessing a cult ritual near Pawnee Cabin in which a man dressed as a Catholic priest wrote the number "666" on a naked woman's breasts in blood while she was lying in a coffin. He then called on Satan to appear upon the lake of fire." All of this is weird fantasy unrelated to reality. Much of it can be traced to the "Burning Times" centuries ago in Europe when hundreds of thousands of heretics were accused of Witchcraft and burned at the stake. Unfortunately, some youth may well believe that this type of fantasy is happening today and that Satanic Ritual Abuse is real. This type of material raises groundless fears against all new religious movements -- here called "cults" here -- including the vast majority which are benign. It is also liable to confuse the Wiccan upright pentacle with its copy, the Satanic inverted pentacle.
bullet2001-MAR-11: Florida: Christian theme park criticized for religious intolerance: According to Strang Publications:
In North America, there are laws at the state, provincial and federal levels which prevent discrimination in employment, on the basis of gender, race, religion, etc. But religious groups are generally given an exemption from these laws; they can discriminate against any group on any basis. According to "The Orlando Sentinel" The Holy Land Experience (HLE) in Orlando, FL requires prospective employees to sign a Christian "doctrinal statement" of belief. Not only does this discriminate against non-Christians, it also appears to exclude Charismatic, Pentecostal and liberal Christians from applying for employment to work at the $16 million, 15-acre "living biblical museum." Founder Marvin Rosenthal, and Independent Baptist pastor, is quoted as saying: "We are not charismatics. We love them. We
appreciate them. But we would not offer them a job
." 17
bullet2001-MAR-11: Afghanistan: Buddhas of Bamiyn being destroyed: According to the Toronto Star:
Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, said that it is the sacred duty of Muslims in his country to smash stone "idols." He said: "Statues and things that represent living things, they are surely forbidden in Islam and they will be destroyed...The destruction has already been started." He also said that virtually all moveable Buddhas had been smashed. He noted that not a single fatwa (religious decree) had been issued by any Muslim authority against the destruction of the statues. Pakistan sent a cabinet delegation to ask the Taleban to cancel the decree; they made no progress. The Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar said" "All we are breaking are stones. Only Allah, the Almighty, deserves to be worshipped, not anyone or anything else." In Toronto, Canada, 120 Buddhists assembled in the city square to protest the destruction. They carried banners reading: "Tolerance is a virtue," and "Save the venerated 160-foot Buddha statues." It is interesting to note that one of the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments also forbids the creation of statues which depict humans or gods.
bullet2001-MAR-12: USA: Faith-based initiative program delayed: According to The Washington Post: Don Eberly, deputy director of the recently created White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has decided to delay sending a bill to Congress that would authorize large-scale routing of government funds to religious institutions. They had expected opposition from groups that promote the separation of church and state, but they "didnít expect a chorus of doubts from religious conservatives such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Richard Land, Michael Horowitz and even Marvin Olasky, one of the programís early architects. They worry that churches would be corrupted by government regulations or that objectionable sects would be rewarded." 18 Background material on charitable choice, faith-based initiatives.
bullet2001-MAR-17: Nevada: Two Muslim men attacked: According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in an apparent religious hate crime, two youths -- one carrying a baseball bat -- attacked two Muslims who were standing outside a mosque after evening prayers. One had his arm broken. The other, a Physician, is in critical condition after undergoing three operations.
bullet2001-MAR-24: World: Jerry Falwell attacks Pagans and Heathens: While discussing the movie Gladiator with Jonathan V. Last of Beliefnet, Jerry Falwell attacked Pagans and Heathens. He said: "younger people think of the present, the right now, whether theyíre spiritual or not spiritual. And it is normal after one reaches 50, 60, 70 years of age, he is thinking quite seriously about eternity, making decisions in that light. That is not new to any group, only pagans and heathens disregard the possibility of eternity and, as a result, make very little contribution to the world they live in." 19
bullet2001-MAR-21: World: Accusations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests: According to the Globe and Mail: "The National Catholic Reporter claimed...that a series of reports written by senior members of women's religious orders and by an American priest indicated that a pattern of sexual abuse of nuns by priests, including rape, prescribing of the birth control pill and coerced abortions, exists in as many as 23 countries. The publication cites cases in countries as far-flung as the United States, Brazil, the Philippines, India, Ireland and Italy - but claims that the abuse is particularly prevalent in the developing world.

 "I don't believe these are simply exceptional cases," Benedictine Father Nokter Wolf, abbot primate of the Benedictine order, told NCR. "I think the abuse described is happening. How much it happens, what the numbers are, I have no way of knowing. But it is a serious matter, and we need to discuss it." 20
bullet2001-MAR-26: Saudi Arabia: Pokemon games and cards banned: The highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, the Higher Committee for Scientific Research and Islamic Law has issued a fatwa (religious decree) banning Pokemon. They say that the video game and cards have symbols which include "the Star of David, which everyone knows is connected to international Zionism and is Israel's national emblem as well as being the first symbol of the Freemasons" They also referred to Christian crosses and Japanese Shinto symbols in Pokemon.

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  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. Keston Institute monitors freedom of religion in communist and formerly communist countries. See: http://www.keston.org/
  15. Etgar Lefkovits, "Mufti again denies wall's Jewish link," The Jerusalem Post, 2001-FEB-21. See: http://www.bridgesforpeace.com/publications/
  16. Jerry Falwell's comments are contained in an interview by Deborah Caldwell on Beliefnet.org. See: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/70/story_7040_1.html
  17. "Theme park's anti-Charismatic stand criticized," CharismaNews.com. See: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/01a/20010309a.shtml 
  18. Dana Milbank & Thomas B. Edsall, "Faith initiative may be revised," The Washington Post, 2001-MAR-11.
  19. J.V. Last, "Pious Pagans," BeliefNet, at: http://beliefnet.com/frameset.asp?pageLoc 
  20. Oliver Moore, "Vatican confirms damning sex report," The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 2001-MAR-21.

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Copyright © 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-MAR-2
Latest update: 2001-MAR-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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