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NEWS OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE AND CONFLICT

2000-OCT

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

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2000-OCT-3: China: Chinese government crackdown on the Falun Gong: According to Newsroom: 2
"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

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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."

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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."

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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.

bullet2000-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 local authorities."

bullet2000-OCT-13: Israel: Death toll mounts: According to ACNS: 9
"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.
bullet2000-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
bullet2000-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.
bullet2000-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] 
bullet2000-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." 
bullet2000-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 process." 16 [Editor's 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.]
bullet2000-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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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 
  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. Robert Mendick, "Pagan teacher to be disciplined by school," at: http://www.independent.co.uk/advancement/Schools/  
  11. AANEWS is distributed by American Atheists. 
  12. 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 
  13. "UN Report criticises Taleban," BBC News at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/ 
  14. Covenant News disseminates "Today's news for today's church." See: http://www.CovenantNews.com/index.html 
  15. 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/ 
  16. "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 Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-OCT-1
Latest update: 2000-OCT-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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