More than 500 killed as Nigeria again erupts in religious fighting
America isn't the only place this week where people who've handed themselves over to evil claimed the lives of countless others. Violence between Christians and Muslims around Jos, Nigeria, erupted again late this week—reportedly in response to the terrorist attacks in the U.S. Fighting originally broke out last Friday when false reports circulated that Muslims had burned down a local church. The military was able to restore some semblance of order by Monday, but wasn't able to maintain the peace. Reuters quotes one resident saying, "Some (Muslim) people have been jubilating because of what happened in the U.S., and I believe that must have encouraged them." Tens of thousands of residents reportedly fled the area for their lives.
Tensions between Christians and Muslims have of course been high in Nigeria ever since states began implementing Islamic Shari'ah law. This week, an Islamic court handed down the country's first death sentence under the law. A 35-year-old man from the northwest state of Kebbi will be stoned for sodomizing a 7-year-old boy.
RU-486 may have killed Canadian woman
An unidentified Canadian woman died of septic shock resulting from a clostridium infection while testing abortion pill mifepristone, also known as RU-486. That's about all the news we have so far—it certainly isn't getting very much media attention—but we'll keep you posted as we find out more.
Moscow court orders Salvation Army closed
In the latest efforts by Moscow to shut down the Salvation Army, Judge Svetlana Grigoryeva of the Tagansky Region People's Court has ordered the church to shut down its operations. The Moscow government has been trying to force the church out for years. Since 1998, the government has made the ridiculous accusation that it is a paramilitary organization bent on taking over the country. This year, the government argued that the church missed its registration deadline, which only happened because its registration was rejected. "This will teach them a good lesson that in Russia everybody is equal before the law, regardless of whether you represent the Salvation Army or not," Vladimir Zhbankov, deputy head of the Justice Ministry's Moscow directorate, told the Los Angeles Times. "There are some notorious organizations I would so eagerly liquidate, but I can't because they comply with the law. But the Salvation Army chose not to. Well, now they will have to sustain serious material losses, as they will have to hand in all their property and money to the state and start again from scratch: write a new charter, fill in all the forms and hand in the registration papers on time." Col. Kenneth Baillie, commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Russia, says the church will appeal the ruling and will continue working until the police remove them by force. Russia Religion News, a site by Stetson University's Paul D. Steeves, is still updating his site with translated news articles from Russia and elsewhere.
Republicans say they're trying to reverse IRS ban on churches' politicking
The Washington Times reports that Republicans in Congress are trying to reverse a ban on churches' involvement in "any political campaign on behalf of any candidate." The ban has been in place since 1954. "Our tax code inappropriately suppresses religious commentary on political issues," House majority whip Tom Delay (R-Tex.) tells The Washington Times. The article appeared in Wednesday's paper, but the reporting apparently took place before the terrorist attacks. Weblog assumes this legislation is on indefinite hold, but if it progresses it will be a huge change in church-state law. Apparently it's currently in the House Ways and Means Committee.
Supreme Court won't stop Virginia's moment of silence law
What better timing than this week for the Supreme Court to support Virginia's required moment of silence before every school day? The Supreme Court still hasn't made an official decision on whether the law is constitutional, but writes Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist certainly gave it a boost when he denied the ACLU's request for an injunction. "There is no allegation that Virginia school teachers have used the minute of silence, or any other occasion, to lead students in collective prayer," Rehnquist said.
Ratzinger: Decentralize Vatican hierarchy
Big news in the Roman Catholic Church as well this week. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is seen as the enforcer of orthodoxy, has announced he's planning to retire next year at the age of 75. But before he goes, he's reportedly taking a surprising tack: pushing for less power in the papacy. The Times of London reports that in Ratzinger's upcoming capstone book, titled God and the World, Ratzinger says he agrees "with Catholic reformers that the functions and structure of the Vatican hierarchy should be 'decentralized.'" Does this mean he's pushing for a conciliar future for the Church? The Times doesn't say. But this is certainly a story worth watching.
Fears for Afghanistan aid workers as tensions with U.S. increase
Relatives of the foreign aid workers have pulled out of Kabul—as have diplomats, U.N. aid workers, and even countless Kabul residents—as the country fears U.S. reprisals for this week's terrorist attacks. "In light of what's happened, obviously, we're in a real precarious situation now, on whether diplomats and people will be allowed to stay in the country or not," says Jimmy Seibert, who is senior pastor of Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, and has been in contact with two of the detainees' parents. German diplomat Helmut Landes agrees. "We hope that the Taliban government will take care of their personal safety and security," he told Reuters after leaving the country for Pakistan. U.S. Congressmen tell The Tennessean they're working for the aid workers' release. At last report, a the detainees had picked a non-Afghan lawyer to represent them during the trial. But since the terrorist attacks, it's unclear what's going on with the trial, or whether it's continuing at all.
The world joins in prayer
Following the lead of today's Washington National Cathedral's Presidential Prayer Service (video of which is available via C-SPAN if you have the RealPlayer), Americans gathered across the nation in churches, temples, and mosques to pray over the events of the last week. Today's National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, announced yesterday by Bush, called for noontime memorials and candlelight vigils tonight.
The Washington D.C. event featured speakers of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths. A transcript and video of Billy Graham's message will be available later today. President Bush's remarks at the service explained why he felt support from God was necessary after the Sept. 11 attacks:
Our purpose as a nation is firm. Yet our wounds as a people are recent and unhealed, and lead us to pray. In many of our prayers this week, there is a searching, and an honesty. At St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on Tuesday, a woman said, "I prayed to God to give us a sign that He is still here." Others have prayed for the same, searching hospital to hospital, carrying pictures of those still missing.
God's signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that his purposes are not always our own. Yet the prayers of private suffering, whether in our homes or in this great cathedral, are known and heard, and understood.
Beyond American shores, citizens of the world also bowed their heads. From London and Scotland to Kenya, Pakistan to Wales, moments of silence and prayer services were held for those lost on Tuesday.
- Bush is playing with religious fire | It is almost as if we are on the road to religious war (James Carroll, The Boston Globe)
- Truth and its consequences | Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) says the bill he sponsored denying financial aid to drug users violates his evangelical Christian principles (The Boston Globe)
- Bishops seek to disarm border | Catholic committee calls for change in immigration policies (The Dallas Morning News)
- Jesus is just alright for city | American Center for Law and Justice asks that former decision regarding prayer in Burbank City Council meetings be overturned. (Los Angeles Times)
- "The Church will participate in politics" says Zambian evangelical leader | Time of church's complicity is over , promises director of Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (The Post of Zambia, Lusaka)
- UN council puts off lifting Sudan sanctions | Security Council was planning to discuss embargoes yesterday and vote to lift them Monday (Reuters)
- Appeasement in Sudan | There can be no rational defense of the realists advising President Bush to split the difference between slave and slave master, between the victims of ethnic cleansing and the killers bombing their villages (Editorial, The Boston Globe)
- Danforth tapped as U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan | Skepticism greets Bush's appointment (The Washington Post)
- Should Wall Street be open to slavers? | Millions of Americans are inadvertently partners in Khartoum's onslaught (Charles Jacobs and Carey D'Avino, The Boston Globe)
- Have some faith, bishop, and we might follow you | If Christianity were to disestablish, faith groupings and secularists would slug it out with each other, producing real intolerance. (Melanie Phillips, The Sunday Times)
- Drive-by homilies | Humorous or inspiring, church signs attempt to draw in the passing multitudes (The Washington Post)
- Church goes ape for Chippy the Chimp | Puppet is officially an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa (Fox News)
- Church adverts avoid mention of Christianity | "Spiritual rather than institutional" ads depict cocaine, neo-Nazis with slogan "What would love do now?" (The Daily Telegraph)
- Lawsuit seeks $456,000 donated to church | Swindler made contribution despite owing millions to creditors (Houston Chronicle)
- An era passes for old church | Members of Ames United Methodist, Bel Air's oldest black congregation, open the cornerstone of the building, which is being replaced with a new sanctuary. (The Sun, Baltimore)
- Baptist delegates leave with a mission | National Baptist Convention will set up health clinics in their churches (Star-Tribune, Minneapolis)
- National Baptist Convention U.S.A. struggles to heal wounds inflicted by former president | Current president William J. Shaw earns praise inside and outside denomination (Associated Press)
Missions & ministry:
- Exorcism in America | Ancient rite of casting out demons is thriving, experts say (ABCNews.com)
- Habitat for Humanity seeks to balance influence | While proud of the group's humble, hammer-in-hand beginnings, Habitat is increasingly relying on corporate sponsorship for its home-building drives (Associated Press)
- Rwandan visitor remains in U.S. hearts | Pastor Jupa' shows America his spirit, obtains help for his country's orphans (The Washington Post)
- Pass or fail | Students at religious schools often have to give up their safety for their sanity when they come out of the closet (The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian news magazine)
- Presbyterian chief makes case for gay relationships | Moderator Jack Rogers says Confessing Church Movement, Presbyterian Lay Committee are promoting schism (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- It's not what you think | Site lures viewers with sultry images, then offers help for sexual addictions (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Phonebox cards a call for love | But anyone who uses posting tactics—normally used by prostitutes—faces jail and fine (The Times, London)
- Earlier: Christians clear prostitutes' cards from phone boxes | Theologian Mark Greene has begun a one-man crusade to rid the nation's phone boxes of what he calls "pornography in a public space." Now the Evangelical Alliance is backing him and calling for others to do the same (The Independent, London)
- Vicar suspended over e-mail 'affair' | Minister confronted by husband of his alleged mistress while leading prayer of forgiveness during midweek service (The Times)
- New Christian take on the old dating ritual | Conservative Christian youths are not simply saying no to premarital sex. They are essentially saying no to premarital romance, trying to rewrite the rules for relationships. (The New York Times)
- Clergy push for reports of abuse | United Church of Christ lobbies for bill requiring priests, ministers, and rabbis to report suspected sexual abuse to secular authorities (The Boston Globe)
- Barbados TV minister charged with rape | Jippy Doyle's program continues to air despite accusations he raped a 14-year-old girl (Associated Press)
- SEC accuses Baptist minister of fraud | Ronald Randolph allegedly stole $3.5 million from more than 150 African-American Baptist investors (Reuters)
- Liberal cardinal quits contest to be Pope | Carlo Maria Martini, Archbishop of Milan, says he intends to retire to Jerusalem (The Times)
- Horrors fill path to sainthood | Paul L. Williams explains the pains and perks of canonization in The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Lives of the Saints (The Denver Post)
- Vatican allows Scrolls change | But revising the New Jerusalem Bible will take five years (The Times, London)
- Jews examining wartime pope say Vatican singled them out | Blame for failed Catholic-Jewish panel continues to be fought in press (The New York Times)
- God on the brain | The curious coupling of science and religion (The New Yorker)
- Brain scan shows emotion in moral decisions | Logic and analytical reasoning are superceded, says study (Associated Press)
- Stryper vs. P.O.D. | Christianity and heavy metal no longer at cross purposes (Orlando Weekly)
- Man strikes out in effort to halt Hardball premiere | Federal judge refuses to ban film even though coach says it defames him and Little Leaguers (Associated Press)
- One blond diva in for long haul | In a year of changes for Jessica Simpson, one of the biggest has been the way she struts her stuff. (The Sun, Baltimore)
- The good neighbor: Mr. Rogers departs | Here is the secret of Mister Rogers: He says exactly what he means and exactly what is true, and he says it for the consumption of a single, simple audience: children. (Michael Long, National Review Online)
- Don't have a sacred cow, man! | The Simpsons' love-hate relationship with religion. (Sojourners)
- The Steeple and the gargoyle—Celebrating TheSimpsons | The Simpsons affords us a delightful reminder of this upside-down Kingdom. It reminds us that everything down here is laughable. (Relevant)
- Dylan: TheTimesTheyAreA'Changin' is response to "God is dead" attitude | Musician criticizes "quasi-intellectuals who never really get the cultural spirit in the air when these songs are performed" (USA Today)
- Religious success books continue expanding territory | Bruce Wilkinson, Rabbi Harold Kushner, and Wayne Dyer find success in spiritual how-to books (Newsday)
Other stories of interest:
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