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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE & CONFLICT

2000-FEBRUARY

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

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bulletFEB-1: USA: Anti-Muslim speaker to address House subcommittee. According to Excite News: 
Steve Emerson will testify before a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims on the topic of "Terrorist threats to the United States." He has been called a Muslim basher and an Islamophobe, partly because of his controversial TV program "Jihad in America" (PBS, 1994). He allegedly claimed that Muslims were responsible for the Oklahoma bombing, that they caused the downing of TWA flight 800, and that Islam sanctions "genocide...as part of its religious doctrine." He is allegedly involved in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against a Florida newspaper. The newspaper had reported that Emerson gave a document that he had written to two reporters, claiming that it was from the FBI files.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, (CAIR), has expressed concern over Emerson's appearance. CAIR has asked the Republican Party to repudiate Islamophobic statements made by GOP congressional staffers and to deal more effectively with anti-Muslim attitudes within its ranks. They feel that they have nor received any meaningful response to these requests.
bulletFEB-1: China: Human rights problems. According to Newsroom: 2
Reports are surfacing of many religious/spiritual crackdowns in China:
bulletThe government is shutting down a spiritual group similar to the banned Falun Gong. The Information Centre of Human Rights & Democratic Movement in China said on FEB-1 "that China has closed down 100 offices of the Zhong Gong spiritual group, which claims more than 10 million practitioners in the country. Zhong Gong, like the banned Falun Gong movement (with an estimated 100 million practitioners worldwide), is based on the traditional Chinese meditation practice of qigong. Chinese officials said earlier this month that they would step up monitoring of hundreds of similar health and spiritual groups, fearing that they might gain the kind of following that Falun Gong has attracted...Chinese police began the crackdown on Zhong Gong last November after President Jiang Zemin labeled it as a cult."
bullet"One week ago the Information Centre confirmed that China has sent more than 50 practitioners of the Falun Gong movement to a psychiatric hospital in Beijing since December where they are being treated like psychiatric patients. The Hong Kong-based Information Centre says that at least four practitioners have died in police custody."
bullet"Leaders of unregistered Catholic and Protestant churches say that the government continues to use its crackdown on the Falun Gong as a pretext to bring other groups under control. The Vatican news service Fides says that according to officials of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, the Chinese government is following through with a secret plan issued in August to absorb the underground Church into the official Patriotic Association, or to suppress it altogether."

"Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya insisted on Monday that 'China now has the best human rights situation in its history.' "

bulletFEB-11: USA: Christian Identity movement. According to ReligionToday: 3
White supremacists from the Christian Identity Movement are actively recruiting new members in East Texas. "Charles Burchett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kirbyville, in Jasper County, says that Klan leader James Roesch and his wife have moved from Ohio to Jasper, Texas, believing it is fertile ground to recruit members...Burchett said: 'They have a mission and an agenda, part of which is to infiltrate churches and Christian organizations...[The] wonderful thing that is happening' in East Texas is that black and white pastors are meeting together for prayer. Burchett said: 'It's not perfect, but there is communication and cooperation.' " 
bulletFEB-11: Canada: Sexual abuse in church schools: 
Hundreds of former students of two former residential schools on Vancouver Island have started a class-action lawsuit against the Anglican Church, the United Church and the Federal Government. Some plaintiffs allege that they were sexually abused in St. Michael's Residential School which the Anglican Church ran in Alert Bay from 1921 to 1969. The rest allege that they were abused at Alberni Indian Residential School which was run by the United Church (or the churches that merged to form the United Church) from 1891 to 1973. These two churches are the two largest Protestant religious organizations in Canada. There is some speculation that they might be forced into bankruptcy as a result of past deeds. The Federal Government funded these schools as part of their assimilation program, which was intended to destroy native culture and religion in Canada.
bulletFEB-15: China: Oppression of Roman Catholic Church: According to Newsroom: 2
Chinese authorities arrested an archbishop in the underground[Roman] Catholic church on February 10 in Fujian province. Archbishop John Yang Shudao of Fuzhou was detained around midnight by about 150 public security officers and his whereabouts are unknown.
bulletFEB-18: Turkmenistan: Oppression of Protestant groups: According to World Pulse:
"Turkmenistan recently issued a directive to close down the International Bible Society and the Southern Baptists. The closing of the two organizations effectively removes almost all foreign [religious] workers in the country."
bulletFEB-22: Russia: Oppression of minority religions: According to Newsroom: 2
Authorities in central Russia are trying to shut down 13 religious communities in accord with the country's new law on religion, the Keston News Service reports.

The Voronezh regional department of justice initiated suits in local courts, demanding liquidation of the groups, which include Baptist, Pentecostal, and Lutheran churches, and a Jewish community. The first hearing, against a Pentecostal church in Ertil, is scheduled for Tuesday.

Last Friday Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, voted to extend the re-registration deadline, but Keston says that the impact of that vote on the Vorenzh lawsuits remains to be seen.

Kryuchov said that other regions in Russia have not taken such action in compliance with the law because they have some 200 organizations to handle while Vorenzh has only 13.

bulletFEB-23, 24, 29: Nigeria: Christian-Muslim killing: According to Newsroom: 2
Nigeria is approximately 50% Muslim and 40% Christian. The remaining 10% follow Aboriginal and other faiths. Muslims are concentrated in the northern part of the country; Christians are largely in the south. Even though Nigeria is a secular country, the state of Xamfara adopted Sharia (Muslim law) in 1999-SEP. Since then, seven or more states have nearly completed the process of adopting Sharia; all are in the north. Riots broke out in Kaduna state on FEB-21 over imposition of Sharia there. By FEB-24, 50 deaths were reported and many churches and mosques have been destroyed.

In practical terms, Sharia prohibits the consumption of alcohol, allows caning and amputation of limbs for certain crimes, requires girls and boys to be educated separately, and requires separate public transportation for men and women. Although Sharia violates the federal constitution, there has been no move by the federal government to cancel its implementation. The conservative Christian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has said that he expects that "the issue will die off soon." A human rights group has filed a lawsuit to stop the implementation of Sharia in Zamfara state.

Zenit news service reported on FEB-26 that the death toll in Kaduna in Northern Nigeria has reached 400. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has denounced the application of "sharia" as unconstitutional.

Newsroom reported on FEB-28 that riots in Nigeria have spread to southeastern Nigeria. At least another 30 deaths have been reported. On FEB-29, Nigeria's governors announced that they were suspending the adoption of Islamic law in the northern states.
bullet

FEB-27: Egypt: Pope walks in Moses' footsteps to sacred site on Mount Sinai: According to Sandro Contenta of the Toronto Star: 
Pope John Paul II visited the Coptic pope, Shenouda III and Muhammad Sayed Tantawi, the sheik of Al Azhar, the highest authority of the Sunni Muslim faith in Egypt. He traveled to the Sinai Desert to pray at the ancient Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai. [Author's note: Although the exact location of Mount Sinai is not known, it is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims as the location where God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites.] Pope John Paul II said that the road to peace and salvation continues to lie in God's universal laws: "Today, as always, they are the only future of the human family. They save man from the destructive forces of egoism, hatred and falsehood. They point out all the false gods that draw him into slavery." [Author's note: Although this statement matches the belief systems of Jews, Christians and Muslims, it discounts the validity of non-Abrahamic religions and ethical systems, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Humanism, Reform Judaism, Unitarian-Universalism, etc. In view of the widespread conflicts between different Abrahamic faiths, one can legitimately ask whether these other spiritual paths might be able to make significant contributions to the cause of peace.]

See also our list of religious tolerance news items for a description of positive aspects to the Pope's visit.

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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 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 

Copyright 2000
Originally written: 2000-FEB-1
Latest update: 2000-FEB-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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