The farce that the Taliban is calling a trial of eight foreign aid workers accused of promoting Christianity continued over the weekend, but no one—including, it seems, those in charge of the proceedings—knows what's going on. The aid workers' lawyer, Atif Ali Khan, first tried to present what was reported to be his closing argument on Saturday. But the Taliban Supreme Court rejected it, saying it had to be written in local language Pashto or Dari, not Arabic (has the Taliban banned Arabic now?). When he presented his translated case on Sunday, only one justice was present; five justices had been sitting in on proceedings earlier. And after Sunday's proceedings, Khan left Kabul and returned to Pakistan. "I don't know what that means," Jimmy Seibert, pastor of the two American hostages, told The Dallas Morning News, "but we're not as confident as we were about a quick resolution." (Seibert's Antioch Community Church has a nonstop prayer vigil continuing for the aid workers, and its Web site offers updates on their condition.) Khan is more upbeat. "I am optimistic about their release, because we have argued their case well," he told the Associated Press. He also explained to Reuters that he returned to Pakistan because all he can do now is wait to see if the justices (sorry for the bad word choice) have any questions.
The Dallas Morning News also has a droplet of news about the 16 Afghan Shelter Now workers who were also arrested. Apparently they are still alive and, in Seibert's words, living in conditions "harsher than they are for our gang."
On a related note, regular readers may remember last Thursday's Weblog item noting Sunday Express reporter Yvonne Ridley, who was imprisoned with the female Shelter Now workers for 10 days. The Sunday Express Web site didn't archive Ridley's great reports of her captivity, but they've been picked up (part 1 | 2) by Dawn, the English-language paper of Karachi, Pakistan.
Jehovah's Witnesses get to knock on Supreme Court's door—again
The Freedom Forum's report begins with a great quote from Supreme Court justice Harlan Fiske Stone: "The Jehovah's Witnesses ought to have an endowment in view of the aid which they give in solving the legal problems of civil liberties." They're once again at the center of a civil liberties case, though this one is being framed more in free-speech terms than freedom of religion. Stratton, Ohio, has required that all door-to-door solicitors get explicit permission from the mayor before they go knocking. The Witnesses sued for a number of reasons, but the Supreme Court will look only at the one rejected by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: that the Stratton law violates the Jehovah's Witnesses' right to anonymous speech.
AOL Time Warner's special message from C.S. Lewis
Nowhere to link this one, but Weblog has been told that Dick Parsons, the co-chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner, sent a message out to all employees Monday. Nearly the full text of the memo was a 264-word quote from C.S. Lewis's "Learning in War-time." "The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it," Lewis said in the 1939 sermon. "Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. … We are mistaken when we compare war with 'normal life'. Life has never been normal." Parsons added that the company leadership was "doing everything we can to secure the safety and well-being of our people and our businesses. Nevertheless, I think Lewis's admonition to his fellow citizens in war-torn England is equally relevant today."
- British churches suffer from arson, theft and graffiti | 60 percent have faced criminal activity, but only 43 percent have prevention measures (The Daily Telegraph)
- Christian Arabs, too, are harassed | It can come as news to many Americans that the Middle East is not uniformly Islamic, and that many nations contain historic Christian churches, the largest being the Coptic Church (The New York Times)
- Faith sustains missionaries in Muslim country | Injured woman says God is with her (Joe Fitzgerald, Boston Herald)
- Pakistani Christians a barometer of extremism | Like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, the tiny Christian community is often first to feel trouble (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Abu Sayyaf behead two Filipino Christians | Group enters an isolated farming district in Lantawan town and seizes four Christian coconut farmers (Sydney Morning Herald)
- Sheriff says he's being persecuted for "Christian life" | Ed Brown is accused of mishandling evidence in two murder cases (Associated Press)
- Utah official fights pornography | Many of 1,500 calls made to anti-porn office concern magazines like Cosmopolitan and Victoria's Secret catalogs (Associated Press)
- Women uniting for war on porn | Women For Decency sees parallel between smut and terrorism (The Salt Lake Tribune)
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