Many freed Sudanese slaves and slavers are no such thing, report says
"Momentum has been growing among American Christians to do something about the captives in Sudan. But recently, evidence has surfaced that suggests purchasing the freedom of slaves may be doing more harm than good," Christianity Today reported back in 1999. At the heart of our story then were fears that the slave redemption programs of groups like Christian Solidarity International (CSI) were "fueling both a slave economy and the war" in Sudan.
Now the story has shifted dramatically—in many cases, slave redemption is nothing but an elaborate hoax. The Washington Post puts the exposé on today's front page, but The Irish Times apparently had it first on Saturday, and British papers The Independent and The Scotsman first published reports on Sunday (all three articles were written by Nairobi-based reporter Declan Walsh, but they differ). "In reality, many of the 'slaves' are fakes, rounded up by SPLA officials to pose for the cameras," Walsh wrote in The Scotsman. "The 'slavers' are also fake, sometimes a light-skinned rebel soldier that resembles an Arab, other times a passing trader. Before the CSI plane lands, the children are coached in stories of abduction and abuse to be repeated when a redeemer, or visiting journalist, asks questions. Interpreters may be instructed to twist their answers."
The key whistleblower is Italian missionary Mario Riva, who recognized some of the "slaves" as his own parishioners. "The people told me they had been collected to get money. It was a kind of business," he tells Walsh. And since he could speak the local language, he also noticed deliberate mistranslations: "For example, says Father Riva, [CSI representative John] Eibner would ask if a slave had been held in captivity. The official would translate the question as 'have you suffered in the war?' The villager would emphatically reply in the positive. Then the translator would tell Eibner that the man had been abducted by Arabs, treated inhumanely and was grateful to CSI for saving his life." With armed rebel soldiers—who make a lot of money from such "slave redemptions"—standing by, Riva waited until later to voice his concerns.
Both CSI and Baroness Caroline Cox's Christian Solidarity Worldwide (which stopped participating in slave redemptions last year) say they've never been cheated.
The Washington Post adds an important caveat:
What no credible expert disputes is the existence of slavery, and many warn that corruption associated with redemption should not dissuade efforts to eradicate the practice. "This is completely sort of an offshoot of the slavery phenomenon, but it doesn't mean there is no slavery," said Jemera Rone, Sudan specialist for Human Rights Watch, the New York-based watchdog group. "It wouldn't be possible if there weren't slavery."
Walsh agrees, and adds that there have been many genuine slave redemptions as well. But funding such efforts just became a lot more problematic.
American missionaries shot down over Peru threaten to sue
"American missionaries whose small plane was mistaken by CIA contract employees for a drug-runner's and was shot down over Peru last year are seeking $35 million in compensation from the U.S. government," reports The Washington Post. "They say they are frustrated by the lack of a response, and, if there is no settlement soon, they will sue." The attorney for Jim Bowers and Kevin Donaldson says neither the Peruvian nor the American government has apologized or admitted liability, despite several government reports clearly finding fault with both. (If there's any question in your mind about whether they deserve an apology and compensation, watch the video again.) More sad news: "No one has replaced the Bowerses, who taught the Bible and trained locals in church leadership, and a family that had been working with them in remote regions has left."
- Scientists-professors to back evolution vs. intelligent design | Stephen Jay Gould, Kenneth Miller and Lawrence Krauss will weigh in on Ohio's increasingly quarrelsome debate over what to teach students about the origin of life. (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- Keeping the faith | While there are several home school organizations throughout the region, there is one that looks for divine intervention when it comes to education (Daily Herald, McDonough, Georgia)
- Bob Jones U. opens its doors (and mind) to minorities | The letter that BJU recruiters sent to minority students has to be a masterpiece of persuasive writing unsurpassed in the annals of American belles-lettres (Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Bad schools or bad choices? | When the voucher goes to the religious school, the state is paying to teach kids the fourth R: religion (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe)
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore:
- Ruling or stump speech? | Anti-gay opinion sparks debate on judicial elections (Legal Times)
- Chief justice applauded, condemned | Local and national homosexual and religious groups Friday demanded Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore's resignation because of a legal opinion in an adoption case involving a lesbian mother. (Times Daily, Florence, Ala.)
- Protesters call for Moore's resignation (The Gadsden [Ala.] Times)
- Earlier: Weblog: In Alabama Supreme Court Decision, Chief Justice Roy Moore Rants Against Homosexuality (Feb. 22)
- Kenya split over Bush abortion policy | Family planning organisations in Kenya say they are being forced to close clinics in the slums after a cut in funding from the U.S. Government (BBC)
- Nevers Mumba in pulpit, politics, and books | Zambian pastor lost election, but is still firmly in politics (The Times of Zambia)
- Ashcroft uses vocal talents to help mark seminary's anniversary | Attorney General sings at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Associated Press)
Sexuality & marriage:
- Pastors propose churches form own courts | Minister-performed divorces? Idea raises constitutional doubts (Eastside Journal, Bellevue, Wash.)
- Sweden seeks to bolster gay couples' right to adopt | Passionate debate anticipated, but bill likely to pass win in June 5 vote, with passage into law in 2003 (Los Angeles Times)
- Cover up, Nigerian brides told | Anglican church says it will not officiate at any marriage where the bride wore a skimpy dress or gown (SAPA)
Pop culture and media:
- Duke's grandson, pilgrim in spirit | Son of John Wayne's daughter, the newly ordained priest says Mass at his childhood chapel. (Los Angeles Times)
- Five questions with Mary J. Blige | Singer says she's undergone a spiritual and emotional transformation since her hard-knock beginnings on the R&B scene (Associated Press)
- 'VeggieTales Live' has a message | Larry, Bob and a bushel basket of their wacky vegetable friends are featured in a singing, dancing, theatrical version of the popular VeggieTales videos that use humor to teach children morality lessons (Associated Press)
- 'Big Brother' priest suspended after his jailhouse antics rock Sydney | Kevin Lee spent three weeks sharing a cell with a strip club manager for a radio stunt (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Quiet revolution takes place in gospel music | Zimbabwe's gospel musicians now outnumber musicians in other genres (The Daily News, Harare)
- Earlier: Gospel music continues to excel (Zimbabwe Standard, Harare, Jan. 27)
- 'Godless' bishop given BBC Good Friday slot | Richard Holloway, retired head of Scottish Episcopal Church, denies the divinity of Christ (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- USA Today series on Franklin lends support to criticisms of media biases | Newspaper says that God, gays and guns separate Americans after Sept. 11. This nation deserves more credit. (Tim Chavez, The Tennessean)
- Earlier: 'Christian values' set the tempo of daily life in Franklin, Tenn. | Christian evangelicals dominate religious life here, and they are straightforward about their convictions (USA Today)
- Hour of white power | Robert H. Schuller relies on a man with ties to Neo-Nazis to build religious understanding (OC Weekly)
- Clergy members mine golden parables from Enron tale | For some area clergy, energy giant collapse also a spiritual scandal (The Washington Post)
- Dog gets own permit to attend mass | Edgar Deno told Dutch priests he never goes anywhere without his three-year-old pet Motril (Ananova)
- Moderate Baptists gear up for showdown in Dallas | Conservatives' creed, support for missionaries on agenda Tuesday (The Dallas Morning News)
- Let non-English bishop replace Carey, says Tutu | Serious consideration was given to offering him the position in 1990 (The Times, London)
- We're part of you, says Glasgow's new archbishop | Church "is the heart of the city, at the heart of the world, a Church passionately in love with humanity." (The Daily Telegraph, London)
Missions & ministry:
- Others' fervor irks low-key Mormons | Mormon leaders promised that they wouldn't use the Olympics to woo converts. Now, they are concerned that some visitors mistakenly think they created the religious carnival. (The Denver Post)
- Afghan mullahs see missionary conflict | Muslim for a millennium, this prostrate land now looks from far-off pulpits like a God-given opportunity for missionary work (Associated Press)
- They're believers first, then artists | Only committed Christians can join Actors Co-op. They say shared faith lends cohesion on stage. (Los Angeles Times)
- His parish is a three-ring circus | 'Father Jerry' shares the joys and sorrows of entertainers under the big top (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- A cathedral at sea | In an atmosphere that's as much like home as the Navy can make it — right down to fake stone walls and faux-stained glass windows — people of many religions go to worship as the USS John F. Kennedy heads to war (Associated Press)
- Way cleared for faith-based nursing home deal | A maverick Christian group will this week throw in the towel in its campaign to spoil a £12.3m takeover of nursing homes company Trinity Care by its larger rival Southern Cross (The Guardian, London)
- Monastery seeks a few new monks | Utah abbey hopes to cut average age (Chicago Tribune)
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