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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - January 24, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 159)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog

=== Aum Shinrikyo (Aleph)
1. Kidnapped son of Japan's Aum sect founder rescued
2. Japan Sect's Name Change Brings Confusion and Fear
3. Aum exec held over threat accusation by bank official
4. Prosecution needs to speedily handle case of Aum cult leader

=== Kaeda-Juku
5. Religious cult said active in fund-raising
6. Miyazaki cult leaders sent to prosecutors

=== Falun Gong
7. China Tries 2 In Religious, Political Crackdowns -Report
8. Falungong leaders have not appealed stiff sentences: China

=== Lamas
9. Tibetans Seek Young Monk's Asylum
10. Karmapa not to be allowed into Sikkim
11. China Fends Off Criticism Of "Living Buddha" Choice

=== Scientology
12. Millionaire Opens Center to Crusade Against Scientology

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
13. Conspiracy dreams are an FBI nightmare

=== Mormonism
14. Prepare to be strong leaders, Elder Ballard urges BYU students
15. Hinckley Will Dedicate 2nd Hawaiian Temple
16. A Beacon of Light: The Salvation Army expected the worst arriving in Utah

=== Unification Church
17. Rev. Sun Myung Moon celebrates 80th birthday with 3,000

=== Other News
18. One Killed in Calif. Temple Shooting (Sikh)
19. Rebels Raid Hospital in Thailand (God's Army)
20. Indian guru follower Anand Sheela arrested after German TV show
21. Wife of Late Bahai Leader Dies
22. Greening of Faiths Has Many Shades of Meaning
23. Environmental evangelism

=== Noted
24. The new believers

=== Aum Shinrikyo (Aleph)

1. Kidnapped son of Japan's Aum sect founder rescued
Yahoo/AFP, Jan. 24, 2000
Japanese police said Monday they had safely rescued the seven-year-old son of
the Aum Supreme Truth sect founder Shoko Asahara, two days after he was

Police arrested a 29-year-old Aum member, identified as Akira Tone, on
suspicion he used a fictitious name to stay at the inn with the son of

Police suspect a group of six Aum members kidnapped the boy on Friday from
the aum facility in the village of Asahi in Ibaraki, northeast of Tokyo. Two
of the six were believed to be Asahara's 18-year-old and 16-year-old

Police have already arrested two of the suspected abuductors, 30-year-old
Masaru Jingu and 37-year-old Satoru Nagayama, on charges of trespass and

Asahara has six children -- four daughters and two sons -- with his wife,
Tomoko. The seven-year-old boy had been living with Asahara's eldest
21-year-old daughter in Asahi. The 16-year-old daughter has strong influence
within the cult as she was Asahara's first child after his supposed

But the kidnapped boy and his five-year-old brother have become revered as
spiritual leaders since Asahara nominally stepped down as guru in 1996.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Japan Sect's Name Change Brings Confusion and Fear
New York Times, Jan. 24, 2000
(...) But the name change from Aum Shinrikyo to Aleph, which is the first
letter of the Hebrew alphabet and signifies renewal for many Japanese,
appears to have raised more fears than it calmed.

In fact, since Aum announced the name shift on Tuesday, Japanese businesses
and organizations that use the name Aleph have been flooded with telephone
calls from people concerned that they were associated with the sect.

Many Internet sites of businesses and groups that use the name Aleph have
received so many hits in recent days that they have been forced to shut down
or post messages on their home pages disclaiming any affiliation with Aum.
Some companies are considering abandoning the name Aleph altogether.

Such widespread concern over being linked to the sect, if only by name,
underscores the deep-seated fear of Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, despite strict
new laws and growing vigilantism that have crippled the sect's activities.

Law enforcement officials said that assumptions by Japanese that businesses
and groups with the name Aleph were linked to the sect were not unjustified
because Aum Shinrikyo operates publishing, computer and electronic equipment
businesses under names that few recognize.

Indeed, since 1996, Aleph has been the name of an Aum Shinrikyo company that
manages the group's donations and seminars and conducts business in computer
parts, delivery services, warehousing and travel.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Aum exec held over threat accusation by bank official
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 25, 2000
Police on Monday arrested Naruhito Noda, 33, a senior member of the Aum
Supreme Truth cult, which recently renamed itself Aleph, on suspicion of
becoming violent at a bank that turned down his request to open an account.

The public security division of the Metropolitan Police Department also
searched seven locations, including the cult's Yokohama branch and a facility
in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture.

The MPD will question Noda, Aum's chief accountant, regarding how the cult
raises its funds and how those funds are spent. They also plan to question
him regarding the abduction of the eldest son of cult founder Chizuo
Matsumoto, 44, also known as Shoko Asahara, and other internal cult

According to investigators, Noda visited a branch of a major bank in Adachi
Ward, Tokyo, shortly after 10 a.m. on Jan. 14. He identified himself as "an
accounting official with the Aleph religious organization" and asked to open
an account.

When an executive bank official turned down his request, Noda allegedly began
to threaten the official. "Aum is seeking to compensate victims (of
cult-related crimes) and is trying to start over, but all you can do is
discriminate against us," he reportedly yelled. "I know a rightist
organization and will ask it to dispatch its speaker trucks."

The bank contacted police after Noda left the branch, and the MPD
investigated the case and arrested Noda on a road in front of Tokyo Detention
House in Kosuge, Katsushika Ward.

Investigators found two automobiles, one of which is believed to have been
used to carry cult documents around Tokyo every day to avoid police
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Prosecution needs to speedily handle case of Aum cult leader
Asahi News (Japan), Jan. 23, 2000 (editorial)
Why don't they consider dropping indictments on some of the eight cases that
have yet to be dealt with, except for the cases involving physical attacks on

The trial of Chizuo Matsumoto, leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which has
entered its fifth year, is typical of generally slow-moving and drawn-out
trials in Japan. The situation threatens to shake the public's confidence in
the nation's criminal justice system to its foundation.

Regarding the courtroom atmosphere of the Matsumoto trial, sharp
confrontation has given way to a seemly stable relationship among the court,
the prosecution and the defense counsel. But merely conducting businesslike
proceedings under the facade of quietude does not live up to the expectations
of the people.

Under these circumstances, the prosecution should concentrate on the cases in
which the victims were killed or injured, rather than aim at obtaining
convictions in the other cases. That would open the way for an early
conclusion of the Matsumoto trial, something that would serve a greater
public interest.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Kaeda-Juku

5. Religious cult said active in fund-raising
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 24, 2000
The Miyazaki-based Kaedajuku religious cult, whose leaders were handed over
to prosecutors Friday on suspicion of abandoning the bodies of a boy and an
infant, took part in various fund-raising activities, including running a
ramen noodle shop and selling advertising space in the cult's free employment
magazine, sources close to police said Saturday.

Miyazaki prefectural police suspect Junichiro Higashi, 55, the cult leader
and a self-styled management consultant, played a leading role in all of the
cult's fund-raising activities, the sources said.

The cult promoted itself by claiming its powers could heal children suffering
from diseases and discipline truants and delinquent young people. According
to the sources, parents who placed their children in the cult's care were
asked to donate about 1 million yen per child.

Higashi is said to have lectured at seminars hosted by an affiliated
organization, where he would tell audience members they were haunted by evil
spirits and try to sell religious products that were said to have exorcising
properties. Items included 200-gram packets of salt priced at 4,000 yen, and
10-kilogram bags of rice priced at 9,800 yen, as well as ceramic pots.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Miyazaki cult leaders sent to prosecutors
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Jan. 23, 2000
(...) Cult leaders Junichiro Higashi, 55, and Akemi Togashi, 49, were sent to
the Miyazaki District Prosecutors Office on suspicion of abandoning the
bodies of a 6-year-old boy and an infant.

It was also learned that Higashi, a former member of the Unification Church,
in April 1996 held a mass wedding ceremony in Miyazaki, during which male
cult members married Russian women whom they had not previously met, police

Some members who attended the ceremony were quoted as saying they had been
served drinks laced with some type of drug. The drinks were served at
Kaedajuku after Higashi completed a ritual, during which he "blessed" water
taken from a nearby river and blew into his hands in front of an audience of

"Higashi joined the Unification Church in 1986 and left in 1989," a
Unification Church official said. "The church has nothing at all to do with
the current case."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

7. China Tries 2 In Religious, Political Crackdowns -Report
Yahoo/Dow Jones, Jan. 24, 2000
A leader of China's banned Falun Gong spiritual group went on trial Monday
after a court blocked him from pleading innocent to charges of cult activity
and told him to only ask for leniency, a human rights group said.

Li Jianhui's trial in Futian District Court in the southern city of Shenzhen
ended after 2 1-2 hours but no verdict was immediately announced, the Hong
Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in
China said.

Court officials confirmed the trial began but would not give details.
According to the Information Center, Li is the first Falun Gong practitioner
prosecuted in Guangdong, the southern province that borders Hong Kong, since
China's communist leaders launched a crackdown on the multimillion-member
group in July.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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8. Falungong leaders have not appealed stiff sentences: China
Inside China Today/AFP, Jan. 21, 2000
Four key members of the banned Falungong group who were sentenced to long
jail terms last month have not appealed, the official Legal Daily reported
Friday. The paper, quoting officials at Beijing's Number One Intermediary
Court, said the four would now serve the prison terms of between seven and 18

All four defendants held positions of some authority in the group, which was
banned in July as an "evil cult."

More than 35,000 Falungong followers have been detained across China, with
many in labour camps according to rights groups, and a propaganda onslaught
has been launched against the group
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Lamas

9. Tibetans Seek Young Monk's Asylum
AOL/AP, Jan. 24, 2000
A group of 37 Tibetan organizations on Monday urged the Indian government to
allow an influential 14-year-old monk to remain in India.

The Sikkim state's Joint Action Committee said Monday that the Karmapa should
be allowed to live in the Rumtek monastery in the northeastern state of
Sikkim, where his predecessor established the seat of the Karma Kagyu sect
after he left Tibet in 1959.

The Indian Express reported Sunday that the Dalai Lama, in a letter to
Vajpayee supporting a request by the Karmapa to stay. The Dalai Lama said the
teen-ager was a person of immense spiritual significance and he should be
allowed to go through traditional training by religious teachers in India.
The Foreign Ministry and the Dalai Lama's administration refused to confirm
the report.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Karmapa not to be allowed into Sikkim
The Hindu, Jan. 22, 2000
The Vajpayee Government is believed to have taken the first step towards
finalising a policy on the Karmapa issue. According to senior sources in the
Vajpayee Government, it had been decided that the 14-year old Ugyen Trinley
Dorje, who is the 17th Kagyu Karmapa, would not be allowed to enter Sikkim.

It is not known whether the Karmapa had made any formal request to be allowed
to go to Sikkim but the Government's decision not to let him travel to the
Rumtek monastery is part of a larger decision to deal with the issue without
generating any tensions in the relationship with China.

The understanding means that both sides would pretend that Beijing was as
much surprised as New Delhi at the arrival of the young Karmapa in India;
this assessment presumably does not admit to the ''Chinese ploy'' theory,
which makes it easier for the Government to take a less hurried attitude. It
also means no immediate asylum for the Karmapa, even if he makes a request
for it. Nor for that matter is there a clear assessment as to what the
American stand, if any, is in the matter.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. China Fends Off Criticism Of "Living Buddha" Choice
Inside China Today, Ja. 21, 2000
China shrugged off criticism of its ordination of a two-year-old boy as the
reincarnation of a Tibetan "living Buddha", saying he had been chosen
according to established practice.

Ordinary Tibetans and monks had beseeched the Chinese government to search
for the reincarnation of the Sixth Reting, who died in February 1998, the
spokesman said.

The Tibetan government in exile denounced the ordination, saying it did not
have the Dalai Lama's approval and calling it a political appointment.

The Reting is significant as one of the few Tibetan lamas who can act as
regent in the absence of the Dalai Lama, who held political power in Tibet
before Chinese communists took power in Beijing in 1949.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

12. Millionaire Opens Center to Crusade Against Scientology
Detroit News/Baltimore Sun, Jan. 19, 2000
It's a modest, two-story office building in a sleepy downtown. But for Bob
, it is the field office for nothing less than a war for the heart and
soul of this quiet coastal city. "We're going to liberate Clearwater,"
Minton declares.

Whether Clearwater needs liberating is open to debate. But after about 25
years of serving, often uneasily, as one of the Church of Scientology's most
important bases in the country, Clearwater finds itself once again drawn into
a battle over the controversial group.

But Scientology perhaps has never come up against someone like Minton, who
could be dismissed as just another gadfly if it weren't for the fact that he
seems willing to put considerable money where his mouth is. To date, Minton
estimates he has spent $2.5 million on his crusade.

Church officials have fought back: Picketers have descended on Minton's
various homes to denounce him as a religious bigot, and he says his family
and friends also have been harassed. The church sought to block Minton's
center from opening by offering the seller of the building twice the $325,000
that Minton paid.

The church, founded in 1954, has long been controversial. Its philosophy is
part sci-fi, part self-help: Hubbard wrote that people are spirits who were
banished to Earth 75 million years ago by an evil galactic ruler and need to
be "cleared" of problems and ailments that they have picked up in previous
lives by going through a series of "auditing" sessions with a trained

But critics say Scientology is actually a business that coerces members to
spend tens of thousands of dollars on its literature and to go through
auditing. The IRS, in fact, revoked the church's tax-exempt status in 1967
but reversed the decision 26 years later, after a costly battle in which
Scientology launched numerous lawsuits and its own investigation and
infiltration of the federal agency.

Scientology bought its first building in Clearwater, the landmark Fort
Harrison Hotel, in 1975 under a pseudonym, United Churches of Florida.
Documents seized in an FBI raid of Scientology properties elsewhere revealed
that the church arrived with plans "for taking control of key points in the
Clearwater area," by infiltrating the government, police, media and other

Outraged city officials held investigative hearings in 1982 to find out more
about the church that had settled in their midst. The city subsequently
passed an ordinance requiring strict record-keeping and disclosure methods
for religious and charitable groups, but the church sued and ultimately got
the law overturned as unconstitutional.

Minton's crusade against Scientology began, he says, as a free-speech action.
Minton, who retired in 1992, says he learned of the church's attempt about
five years ago to kill an Internet newsgroup dominated by former members and
other detractors who criticized the church and sometimes published its secret
documents. Groups devoted to the free flow of information on the Internet,
such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, of which Minton is a member, rose
up in protest.

Scientology's critics say McPherson's case is emblematic of the dangers the
church poses to its members.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Waco / Branch Davidians

13. Conspiracy dreams are an FBI nightmare
San Antonio Express News, Jan. 23, 2000
(...) His story stretches credibility, perhaps, but the man whose last name
is synonymous with fiction is in the news again, this time in connection with
controversy over the 1993 federal siege at Mount Carmel near Waco that left
about 80 people dead.

Gordon Novel, 61, is the originator of allegations — recently popularized by
"conspiracist" documentaries— that federal agents fired upon David Koresh's
followers as Mount Carmel was bursting into flames.

Because of the charges that Novel developed, government investigators and the
media now are looking into the possibility that at Waco, federal agents might
have been guilty of attempted murder, not negligence.

Sometime between now and April, at the request of the Justice Department's
special counsel, former Sen. John Danforth, and at the order of Waco's
federal district court, experts will re-enact a scenario intended to prove or
debunk Novel's contentions.

But Novel is not the sort of figure whose charges the media or the courts are
accustomed to taking seriously, and his background only adds to the furor
over the Mount Carmel events.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Mormonism

14. Prepare to be strong leaders, Elder Ballard urges BYU students
Deseret News, Jan. 19, 2000
(...) And Tuesday, Elder Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve in The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
, found himself repeating that message at
BYU's weekly campus devotional in the Marriott Center.

Since the church was under the leadership of President Lorenzo Snow at the
turn of the century, it has grown in number from 271,681 members in 40 stakes
to 10.7 million members in 2,542 stakes. In that same time, the missionary
ranks have swelled from 2,000 in 18 missions to about 59,000 in 333 fields of
service, he said.

Now, based on growth rates of the church, he said, anticipated membership is
expected to reach 20 million by 2020 and 50 million by 2040.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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15. Hinckley Will Dedicate 2nd Hawaiian Temple
Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 22, 2000
(...) This weekend, the church will dedicate its second temple on the
islands, one of more than 40 such dedications that President Gordon B.
Hinckley will preside over this year.

The Kona Hawaii Temple will become the 70th operating temple of The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Mormon church is now the second largest church in the Hawaiian Islands
with a membership of approximately 56,000. There are more than 6,000 members
on the island of Hawaii.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. A Beacon of Light: The Salvation Army expected the worst arriving in Utah
in 1887. It didn't happen.
Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 23, 2000
[See Interfaith]
(...) While Cozens may have despaired over Utahns' charity in 1887, today's
Salvation Army counts the LDS Church and its members -- along with numerous
other denominations -- among its strongest allies in serving the needs of the
homeless, hungry and poor.

"It is wonderful to work here," said Maj. Wayne Froderberg, current
commanding officer. "There's a sense of shared ministry with our Mormon
friends, and I find as I work with them and other pastors, there is a real
passion to come together in the love of God and help people.
"We have much more to celebrate than to disagree on."

Froderberg, who spent two years in the Ukraine establishing Salvation Army
programs before taking the reins in Utah in July 1998, also serves as pastor
to a congregation of 80-90 who meet Sundays at 438 S. 900 West in Salt Lake
City. It is behind the pulpit where the major become an evangelist, keeping
alive what he says is still the heart of his organization: Preaching the good
news of salvation.

The message has not changed since Salvation Army founder William Booth took
his evangelical Methodism to the down and out of London's notoriously
destitute East End in 1865.

The future of the Salvation Army in Utah? Bright, "as long as we stay
faithful to our core values and learn to network and partner with the
community. "We're part of a body of people who get up in the morning and
God says to them, 'You are your brother's keeper; what are you doing to do
about it?"
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Unification Church

17. Rev. Sun Myung Moon celebrates 80th birthday with 3,000
Yahoo/AFP, Jan. 22, 2000
[Unification Church]
Some 3,000 people from around the world, including former British Prime
Minister Edward Heath and former Zambian leader Kenneth Kaunda, gathered here
Saturday to celebrate Reverend Sun Myung Moon's 80th birthday.

Still more people crowded into the back of the main ballroom to watch short
film vignettes of Moon's life, listen to US religious leaders speak and
others give testimony of how Moon's teachings changed their lives.

Speakers praised the work of the Moon, comparing him to great religious
leaders of recent times and the far past, from Martin Luther King to Gandhi,
Moses and Jesus.

Dressed in a dark suit with a dark yellow tie, Moon spoke for half an hour on
the on the theme of "The path of America and Humankind in the Last Days."
"Human liberation (is attained through) the restoration of the family," he
said, predicting that the new millennium would mark the completion of the
Christian testament with "America (as) the model for the kingdom of heaven on
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

18. One Killed in Calif. Temple Shooting
A man who had been told he could not speak at a Sikh temple Sunday returned a
short time later and opened fire with a gun, killing a man, authorities said.
The alleged gunman was hospitalized, but authorities did not say why.

Sgt. Joe Caruso of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department said the
suspect was not a member of the temple, but had asked to speak.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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19. Rebels Raid Hospital in Thailand
Excite/AP, Jan. 23, 2000
Jan. 23, 2000
About 10 men from the Myanmar insurgent group God's Army raided a hospital
Monday in western Thailand, demanding that the doctors treat their injured,
the Thai interior minister said.

God's Army is an insurgent guerrilla group of 200 mostly ethnic Karen
fighters battling the military regime in Myanmar. It is led by 12-year-old
twin boys named Luther and Johnny Htoo. Their followers believe the boys have
mystical powers that make them invulnerable during battles.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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20. Indian guru follower Anand Sheela arrested after German TV show
The Oregonian, Jan. 22, 2000
German police picked up Anand Sheela in a town near Frankfort, Germany, last
week after she appeared on a television show to mark the 10th anniversary of
the death of her former mentor, Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

Sheela was quickly released, however, because the Interpol warrant for her
arrest had been canceled.

Sheela, who was the Indian guru's outspoken and flamboyant spokeswoman during
the bhagwan's tumultuous years in Oregon, is no longer wanted by the United
States for plotting to kill a federal prosecutor, because the case was turned
over to Swiss justice last year.

A Swiss court convicted her of the conspiracy charge in February 1999 and
sentenced her to time already served, which means that Sheela no longer has
to fear arrest on outstanding U.S. warrants when she leaves her adopted

Sheela served three years in prison for assault, attempted murder, arson,
wiretapping and causing a food poisoning epidemic in The Dalles that made 750
people sick. She was released from prison in 1988 and deported.

Sheela's conviction leaves unresolved the charges against only two of the
seven co-conspirators named in the 1990 conspiracy-to-kill indictment.
According to the Swiss judgment, extradition is pending for South African Ann
Phyllis McCarthy, also known as Yoga Vidya. In 1991, a German court refused
to extradite Catherine Jane Stubbs Storck, also known as Shanti Bhadra, an
Australian married to a German and living in Germany.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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21. Wife of Late Bahai Leader Dies
Excite/AP, Jan. 19, 2000
Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, wife of a late Bahai leader and a senior figure in
the faith, died Wednesday in the Israeli city of Haifa after a long illness.
She was 90. Originally from Montreal, where she was called Mary Sutherland
Maxwell, Mrs. Rabbani married then-world head of the Bahai faith, Shoghi
Effendi Rabbani, in 1937.

Mrs. Rabbani held several senior positions and played a major role in
increasing the Bahai faith to 5 million followers worldwide, said a release
from the faith's headquarters in Haifa. Following her husband's death in
1957, she helped establish the nine-member Universal House of Justice that
Rabbani had said should replace him.

The faith is based on the belief that the will of one God is progressively
revealed through the prophets of the great religions. The founder,
Baha'u'llah, established the religion in 19th-century Persia, now Iran, which
consequently expelled him.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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22. Greening of Faiths Has Many Shades of Meaning
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 22, 2000
Across the country, congregations of many faiths are awakening to a kind of
earth spirituality rooted in their sacred writings and traditions. Mainline
Protestants and Roman Catholics have been among the leaders in the charge,
incorporating themes of caring for creation into their prayers, sermons and
liturgies. But there is a growing, though still nascent, awareness among
evangelicals and Pentecostal Christians, who also see the world's
environmental problems essentially as a crisis of the spirit.

Perhaps more surprising has been the heightened awareness of evangelical and
Pentecostal Christians, many of whom in past years have either been
suspicious of environmentalism as a liberal political concern, or wary that
to speak of it in religious terms risked a slippery slope toward paganism,
idolatry or polytheism.

Now, however, the Evangelical Environmental Network is encouraging
congregations to consider observing April 2 as "Creation Sunday." A model
worship service and sermon outlines are being provided to pastors who wish to
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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23. Environmental evangelism
Deseret News/AP, Jan. 22, 2000
Church leaders in Washington and 15 other states are bringing
environmentalism to the pulpit this year with a campaign to educate their
congregations about global warming.

In a teleconference recently, several of the state's religious leaders
announced their commitment to the "Washington Interfaith Global Climate
Change Campaign." Oregon religious leaders have started a similar effort.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

24. The new believers
The Guardian, Jan. 22, 2000
Russia's war on God is over. But an alliance between the orthodox
church and the state has led to a disturbing campaign of religious

The most sinister consequence has been a controversial new law, pushed
through the Russian parliament in 1997, mostly as a result of orthodox
support, which human rights groups claim has triggered a "secret offensive"
by the state services against "non-traditional" religions in Russia, with
tactics from bureaucratic obstruction to alleged beatings.

The church was most alarmed by the groups flooding into the country after the
collapse of the Soviet Union, many (including Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses,
Seventh Day Adventists and Scientology) with assertive missionary policies.

The perceived threat of these religious groups was compounded by the
simultaneous influx of sects such as the Unification church of Reverend Moon
and the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, which, at the time of the Tokyo subway
attack in 1995 was estimated to have around 50,000 Russian followers, more
than in Japan.

(...) Other articles are so vague that they can be used on any grounds
against any religious group: "From a purely legal point of view," says
Vladimir Riakhovsky, director of the Christian legal centre, which guides
churches through the registration process, "This is an extremely badly-made
law, riddled with contradictions and imprecision. That's why the bureaucrats
can read it in exactly the way they want.

As the deadline for registration passed with the old millennium, the
denomination with the largest number of unregistered churches and parishes
was not the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons, but orthodoxy, which had been
hampered by sluggishness of its bureaucracy, its size in comparison to the
other faiths and by an air of complacency. The failure of an attempt last
December to have the deadline extended means that many orthodox organisations
are now theoretically vulnerable to dissolution.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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