Ahmadinejad: What would Jesus do?
The leaders of Iran and the United States have had no official communication since 1979. This week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad broke the silence and wrote a letter to President Bush, largely criticizing his actions in the Middle East as being inconsistent with Christian faith.
"Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ, the great Messenger of God," Ahmadinejad wrote, "But at the same time, have countries attacked: the lives, reputations and possessions of people destroyed?" (That's a cleaned up version from what appears to be a somewhat poor translation.)
Ahmadinejad criticized the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the treatment of prisoners, support for Israel, U.S. actions in Latin America and Africa, and several other items.
"My students ask me how can these actions be reconciled with duty to the tradition of Jesus Christ, the Messenger of peace and forgiveness," he said. "If prophet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Joseph, or Jesus Christ were with us today, how would they have judged such behavior? Will we be given a role to play in the promised world, where justice will become universal and Jesus Christ will be present?"
The letter (which also alleges that the September 11 attacks were carried out with "coordination with [U.S.] intelligence and security servicesor their extensive infiltration") doesn't say anything directly about the conflict over Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. It does, however, claim that scientific research is "one of the basic rights of nations." Ahmadinejad asks, "Why is it that any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East regions is translated into and portrayed as a threat to the Zionist regime?"
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the letter does nothing to help resolve the nuclear conflict.
"This letter is not the place that one would find an opening to engage on the nuclear issue or anything of the sort," Rice told the Associated Press. "It isn't addressing the issues that we're dealing with in a concrete way. There's nothing in here that would suggest that we're on any different course than we were before we got the letter."
Quote of the day:
"Sometimes my own messages send signals that I don't mean to send, but stirs up anxieties in the Muslim world."
President Bush, in an interview with the German magazine Bild.
("Today's Top Five" will return when there are five stories worth noting.)
Church and state:
- House bill would remove limits on military prayer | Tucked into a massive defense authorization bill that the House will vote on this week is a provision aimed at giving military chaplains more freedom to pray as they see fit (The Washington Times)
- Commandments could be put on public buildings | The Ten Commandments could be coming to a courthouse or other local government building near you if legislation endorsed by the Louisiana Senate on Monday becomes law (The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.)
- Pastor's eviction was a mistake, sheriff's department says | One Sunday morning about two months ago, some members of his congregation had the Rev. Jimmy McCants arrested for trespassing as he stood on the altar preaching (Chicago Sun-Times)
- Government blocking registration of tsunami NGO | The Minister of Fisheries, Abdulla Kamaluddeen, ordered the completed marketplace to be torn down in April because it was donated by "people in opposition to the government" and "Christians" (Minivan News, Maldives)
- The Vatican's China problem | Beijing and the Vatican, like many antagonists, have some key traits in common. Both are intolerant of dissenting opinions. Both follow rigid orthodoxies, and both are control freaks. It's tempting to suggest that they deserve each other (Seth Faison, Los Angeles Times)
- Darfur refugees kill translator in Sudan | Darfur refugees rioted Monday and forced the U.N. humanitarian chief to rush from their camp, then later attacked African peacekeepers and killed a translator in a sign of deep tensions in the wartorn region despite a fragile peace deal (Associated Press)
- Darfur peace accord a battle of its own | Rebels balked, bickered in grueling talks (The Washington Post)
- Darfur deserves chance offered by peace accord | Senseless violence has resulted in 200,000 deaths and many more displaced (Editorial, The Tennessean, Nashville)
- If genocide doesn't spark a 'just war,' what does? | The crisis in Darfur points to the need for a new way to prevent genocide and other human-rights abuses says commentator Joe Loconte (All Things Considered, NPR)
- An imperialist indifference | Sudan and the colonial impulse. Richard Just reviews Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide by Gérard Prunier and Darfur: A Short History of a Long War by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal (The New Republic)
- Police allege terror suspects involved in priest's murder | Five militants arrested Friday in Central Sulawesi were wanted for attacks on Christians there and were not accomplices of Asia's most-wanted terror suspect, M. Noordin Top, police said Monday (The Jakarta Post, Indonesia)
- Catholic teen attacked by Protestants dies | A Roman Catholic teenager attacked by Protestants wielding baseball bats died Monday in what was the latest in a string of anti-Catholic attacks in an overwhelmingly Protestant town (Associated Press)
- Candidates vow to urge ministers to respect gays | The five major candidates for D.C. mayor pledged last night to promote tolerance for gay men and lesbians in the city's black churches and to combat attitudes that led two prominent local ministers to denounce homosexuality from their pulpits (The Washington Post)
- Health experts criticize changes in STD panel | Federal agencies ordered changes to a government-sponsored conference on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases after a congressman raised questions about the absence of speakers supporting abstinence programs, officials said yesterday (The Washington Post)
- Study: Lesbians' brains react differently | Lesbians' brains react differently to sex hormones than those of heterosexual women, new research indicates. That's in line with an earlier study that had indicated gay men's brain responses were different from straight men though the difference for men was more pronounced than has now been found in women (Associated Press)
- Marriage fight may turn in state | Gay rights backers see chance for victory here (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- Indian tribe may open abortion clinic on its land | The president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe has vowed to build an abortion clinic on Indian landdespite South Dakota's statewide ban on abortion (All Things Considered, NPR)
- Pregnant woman who shot self dodges charge | A judge on Monday dismissed a charge of inducing an abortion against a woman who shot herself in the abdomen the morning her baby was to have been born (Associated Press)
- OB/GYN group faults FDA on blocking OTC Plan B | The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on Monday condemned the Food and Drug Administration for blocking over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception (USA Today)
- Embryonic stem-cell news had a message | Last week, Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter announced a compromise on funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The intended message for voters is that the conservative Mr. Santorum can be a moderate, too (Editorial, The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.)
- Embryo checks 'should be widened' | Embryo testing should be extended to check for faulty genes not guaranteed to cause disease, a report by the UK fertility watchdog recommends (BBC)
- Lost in the moral maze? | When does human life really begin? And how should it end? From stem-cell research to advances in medicine, the merciless march of technology creates a succession of moral dilemmas that earlier generations didn't have to face. How should we respond? (Mary Warnock, The Independent, London)
- Baptists take up Belmont fight today | Board makeup topic for state convention (The Tennessean, Nashville)
- IMB trustee Burleson attacked again, but accuser may be violating new policy | In what could lead to another attempt to remove trustee Wade Burleson from the International Mission Board, a fellow trustee of the Southern Baptist agency is publicly criticizing Burleson for his views on baptism, alcohol and other subjects (Associated Baptist Press)
- Baptism takes a new form -- involving a swimming pool | To accommodate people who can't walk up stairs, pastor decides to perform ceremony in RV park (Contra Costa Times, Ca.)
- Williams turns to 'wise men' in crisis over gays | The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has quietly appointed four "wise men" to advise him on the crisis over homosexuals that is threatening to tear the worldwide Anglican Church apart (The Telegraph, London)
- A leap of faith | Some parents who shy from religion want their children to taste its psychological and spiritual comforts (The Washington Post)
- Young 'happy with a life without God' | Young people are quite happy with a life without God or spirituality, according to new research for the Church of England (Yorkshire Post, U.K.)
- What is sin? | Sin is as alien to the contemporary mind as fetching water from a well, darning your own socks or finding Demis Roussos sexy (Julian Baggini, The Guardian, London)
- Hip-hop hosanna | Singing is a vice no one will own up to, but a karaoke hymn machine could change all that (Rebecca Front, The Guardian, London)
The Da Vinci Code:
- Opus Dei, Howard at odds over "Da Vinci Code" | The director of the upcoming religious thriller The Da Vinci Code says he sees no need for a disclaimer labeling the film a work of fictionprovoking a rebuke on Monday from Catholic group Opus Dei (Reuters)
- Thrills, not theology | Why do so many believe The Da Vinci Code's fictional claims? (Paul Bentley, The Telegraph, London)
Other stories of interest:
- Bush says he unwittingly 'stirs up anxiety' in Muslim world | "Sometimes my own messages send signals that I don't mean to send, but stirs up anxieties in the Muslim world" (AFP)
- Pilots flying on a wing and a prayer | Irish Catholic priests illegally broadcasting Mass over the radio to housebound parishioners are suspected of creating a safety hazard for trans-Atlantic jets, officials said on Tuesday (Reuters)
- CDC wants routine AIDS virus testing | Federal health officials say they'd like HIV testing to be as common as a cholesterol check (Associated Press)
- L'affaire Hochschild and evangelical colleges | Is a Catholic out of place on Wheaton's faculty? (Thomas Albert Howard, Books & Culture)
- A godly life demands careful stewardship of Earth | One positive contribution Christians can make toward the future of the planet involves a fresh look at the cherished doctrine of incarnation (R. Scott Colglazier, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)
- Bush takes on the brothels | There is one area where President Bush is making a historic contribution: he is devoting much more money and attention to human trafficking than his predecessors (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times)
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