Atif Ali Khan, the young Pakistani lawyer representing the eight foreign aid workers being held prisoner in Kabul, tried last weekend to send a colleague to see how the prisoners were doing. The colleague was told the prisoners were safe, but he could not see them, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday. "The Consul General and Mr. Ali Khan are working together with the International Red Cross to send another care package and letters to the detainees by the end of the week," Boucher said. "We have no information yet on how they can do that. And we don't have any new information at this point on the status of the trial." When asked by a reporter if the U.S. Embassy has a plan for what to do about the hostages if the Northern Alliance captures Kabul, Boucher responded, "I don't do 'what happens if' questions. There are too many of those in the world for me to spend my days answering them. Sorry."
Boucher and the reporters also had a discussion about what to call the hostages:
Question: On the detainees? If we're not allowed to see them anymore, and there's no trial going on, why are they just detainees, and why don't we use another word that — like "hostages" or even "human shields," that have been used to describe people who are held against their will, and we don't know where they are, we can't talk to them?
Boucher: Detainees is a word that describes people being held against their will, and that's what they are. That's —
Question: But what is the difference between a "detainee" and a "hostage"?
Boucher: Look it up. I'm sorry, I'm not going to try to do those from here.
Question: I think the President has used the word "hostage" already. Why haven't we?
Boucher: As I said, these people are being detained. We have a strong interest in their welfare. We want to make sure we do everything possible to see that they are well kept, that they are not hurt —
Question: But you don't know?
Boucher: And that we want to do everything possible to make sure that they are well kept, that they are not hurt, that they are well tended to, and that they get out as soon as possible. We will continue to do that.
The Washington Times, on the other hand, doesn't hesitate to call them hostages. "Regardless of whether the Taliban deems their private conversations in the home of an Afghan family a violation of its repressive laws, [Heather] Mercer and [Dayna] Curry's bold gifts of service to the Afghan people must not be forgotten by the U.S. administration," the paper said in a Tuesday editorial. "It is easy to forget two young women who have risked their lives to help the poor of Kabul when every day there is a new bombing mission to carry out. But lives forgotten could be lives endangered—and another victory for the Taliban."
Sunday, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, is also Dayna Curry's 30th birthday. Check our site later this afternoon for more on what her relatives, friends, and others are doing to mark the day.
Philippine military turns up heat on Abu Sayyaf
By Monday, there's likely to be some news about Gracia and Martin Burnham, the New Tribes missionaries held hostage in the southern Philippines. The area is heating up even as Weblog types. Several of the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, including one of their leaders, have been killed in the last several days. Others have been captured. Abu Sabaya, spokesman for the militant group, has asked to open negotiations (reportedly demanding a $2 million ransom for the Burnhams), but the military denied the request. "Just surrender and release the hostages," said Lieutenant General Roy Cimatu, who suggested that the request was merely a diversionary tactic. Still, there is much confusion in the area. "American hostages Martin and Gracia Burnham are still alive contrary to rumors they were beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf over the weekend in this island province," Basilan governor Wahab Akbar said earlier this week.
Prayer in schools:
- Restricting student prayer could cost schools federal funds | If education passes, it would mark the first time that Congress has tied federal funds to compliance with Education Department school-prayer guidelines. (Associated Press)
- Also: Panel okays school prayer measure | School districts that unlawfully restrict student prayer could lose their federal funds under a measure approved by a congressional committee. (Associated Press)
- Governor's prayer starts debate in Texas town | But town's residents wonder what the big deal is (Associated Press)
- Also: Texas governor's position on school prayer gaining support | ACLU attributes surge to crisis (Houston Chronicle)
- Also: Falwell backs Perry stance on prayer | Pushing for school prayer is good politics, Falwell says in circulated e-mail (The Dallas Morning News)
Ten Commandments displays:
- Ten Commandments proposal stirs opposition | Tennessee county commissioner wants other officials to support displays (The Tennessean)
- Ten Commandments display challenged | Two federal lawsuits seek removal of monument Alabama judicial building (Associated Press)
- Ten Commandments display in Ringgold leads ACLU to threaten suit | Empty frame "for those who believe in nothing" doesn't counter religious message of Ten Commandments and Lord's Prayer displays, says organization (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Abercrombie & Fitch link to Christian band draws fire | Was Relient K's move an evangelism opportunity or a blurring of the message? (Baptist Press)
- Advertising campaign offends Mormons | Polygamy Porter is latest in series of ads playing off Mormon culture and history (BBC)
- Religious Right on the ropes | Despite huge increases in spiritual interest, the Religious Right is not benefiting from what many are calling America's "religious revival." (Bill Berkowitz, AlterNet)
- A turning point for sites that keep the faith? | While there is no evidence that religious sites are getting a commercial boost from terrorism, there are signs the Sept. 11 fallout may test some of their concepts about how the Internet could enhance religious tolerance and help meet people's spiritual needs (The Washington Post)
Christians speak out on Holy Land violence:
- Bishops join pro-Palestinian rally | Episcopalians thought to be first local church leaders to join protest (The Boston Globe)
- More Christian leaders voice concern over Israeli actions | But Jewish leaders decried the Tuesday protest by the bishops outside the Israeli consulate in Boston as unfairly one-sided (The Boston Globe)
- Jewish leaders angry over Episcopal protest | Cardinal Law offers to help on easing tensions (The Boston Globe)
- Survivor of church attacks threatened | Pakistani woman who helped police draw sketches of gunmen who killed 16 of her fellow parishioners says attacker called, warning her to "get ready for death." (Associated Press)
- Keep strong, kidnapped Italian missionary told | Kidnappers still unknown (Philippine Daily Inquirer)
Politics and law:
- Bush administration broadens gay overtures | Religious conservatives irked by moves (Associated Press)
- Court discusses movie sex scenes | Is Titanic child porn? (Associated Press)
- Episcopal priest plans appeal of his removal | Validity of court order is questioned in Prince George's case (The Baltimore Sun)
Other stories on interest:
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