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Religion News Report

December 26, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 301) - 1/3

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Rainbow


=== Aum Shinrikyo
1. AUM becoming 'cyber cult' with Joyu at center: security agency
2. Report: AUM still dangerous
3. Sarin survivors-and Aum members-have their say

=== Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo
4. Foot-reading cult ordered to pay 150 mil. yen in damages
5. Foot cultists ordered to pay 150 million yen
6. Japan Foot-Cult To Pay for Fraud
7. Foot-reader fined for fraud

=== Falun Gong
8. Macao to Investigate Police after Brutality Claim by Falun Gong Practitioners
9. Falun Gong followers rally in Taiwan to condemn Chinese crackdown
10. Taiwan Urged to Invite Sect Leader to Visit
11. Annette Lu addresses sect summit


=== Unification Church
12. Inter-Religious and Int'l Federation Convenes Meeting in Taipei

=== Buddhism
13. Vietnam: Foreign ministry rejects ''misrepresentation'' claims by buddhist sect

=== Islam
14. Interfaith marriage captivates viewers

» Part 2

=== Mormonism
15. Mormons Ready to Maximize Attention 2002 Winter Games Bring

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
16. Abduction case teen may visit dad soon

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
17. Brutal attack on 'witch'
18. Groups Seek to Aid Women Sent to Ghana's 'Witch' Camps

=== Hate Groups / Militia Movements
19. Yahoo! Asks Court To Block Ruling
20. The militia lurking in your backyard
21. McVeigh's Death Request Criticized
22. Belgian king warns against racism

» Part 3

=== Other News
23. The man believers think is God (Sai Baba)
24. China Sets up Anti-Sect Association, Steps up Propaganda
25. China: Anti-Cult Association meets to discuss cults and human rights
26. All confessions have equal rights in Russia

=== Death Penalty
27. Innocence Project credited with expanding awareness of DNA testing in law enforcement

=== Noted
28. Memory not always solid proof
29. False memory easy to create
30. Godfather makes Jesus big in Japan

=== Books
31. Templar Treasures Hidden on Baltic Sea Island?

=== The Monks Around The Corner
32. Greek Religious Order Belts out 'Monk Rock'


=== Aum Shinrikyo

1. AUM becoming 'cyber cult' with Joyu at center: security agency
Kyodo (Japan), Dec. 23, 2000
http://home.kyodo.co.jp/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TOKYO Dec. 23 Kyodo - The AUM Shinrikyo religious sect has been trying to transform itself into a ''cyber cult'' with senior member Fumihiro Joyu at its center, the Public Security Investigation Agency said in a report released Saturday.

According to the report, AUM is still under the strong influence of 45-year-old founder Shoko Asahara, who has been detained since May 1995 and tried on various charges, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that left 12 people dead and thousands injured.

The agency said it has found photos and doctrinal documents by Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, in searches of numerous AUM facilities.

AUM has updated its Web site to emphasize the spread of its teachings, according to the report, which also examined other domestic and foreign security threats over the past year.

The sect has started to notify mail-list subscribers daily of meetings and other events via mobile-phone Internet services, and has launched online sales of personal computers.

The agency said AUM, which now calls itself Aleph, remains dangerous and it will continue monitoring the group next year under a new law authorizing inspections.
(...)

The agency report said the cult is now run by Joyu and six executives, including nominal leader Tatsuko Muraoka, 50.
(...)

AUM has told the agency it had 1,151 followers as of Nov. 15, with 554 living in AUM facilities and 597 residing elsewhere.

The agency, however, believe there are about 1,670 members -- about 650 in AUM facilities and 1,020 outside.

The group said it has 10 facilities, but the agency says that figure is really 27.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Report: AUM still dangerous
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), Dec. 24, 2000
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
The nation's law enforcers are on the alert as the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult is tenaciously trying to ''build up its power by conducting operations over the Internet,'' the Public Security Investigation Agency said in a report.

The agency claimed that the new law enacted late last year allowing constant observation of the death cult has paid off as now more is known about the cult's activities than ever before.
(...)

However, the agency cautioned that, by using the Internet and other information technology, the cult ''is aiming at increasing the efficiency of its operations'' to revitalize its power and structure.

The Justice Ministry's Public Security Examination Commission, which approved putting the cult under strict supervision, plans to keep the measure in place although one year has already passed since the law came into effect.
(...)

Agency officials, who are in charge of supervising the cult under the law, said they have inspected AUM facilities dozens of times.

''The inspections have deterred AUM members from engaging in (illegal) activities, and, thereby, easing tension with residents (living near AUM facilities),'' one official said.

Because of the constant inspections, AUM members were not able to make a living by cult activities alone, and ended up looking for employment.

''But they are finding jobs only because it's needed,'' a senior official of the agency cautioned. ''They are not trying to fit into society.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Sarin survivors-and Aum members-have their say
Asahi News (Japan), Dec. 24, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
UNDERGROUND: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese PsycheOff-site Link. By Haruki Murakami. Translated by Alfred Birnbaum and Philip Gabriel. ISBN 86046757. U.K.: Harvill. 309pp.

The beginning of 1995 will never be forgotten in Japan. The country was already in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis; on Jan. 17, the city of Kobe was devastated by the Great Hanshin Earthquake; and on March 20, members of a doomsday cult called Aum Shinrikyo released deadly nerve gas on Tokyo subways, during the morning rush hour. Twelve people were killed and tens of thousands injured.

According to Haruki Murakami, probably Japan's best-known contemporary novelist, ``(These disasters) ushered in a period of critical inquiry into the very roots of the Japanese state. It was as if these events had been lying in wait to ambush us.''

Murakami's first nonfiction work, ``Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche,'' is his contribution to the inquiry, an attempt to find out what exactly took place on March 20, 1995, and to understand what it is about Japanese society that allowed this tragedy to happen.

The author was determined to represent the event as it appeared to those involved, so rather than writing an extended think-piece, he tracked down and interviewed surviving victims of the attack and members of Aum Shinrikyo.

The transcripts of those interviews form the bulk of this book.
(...)

The resulting text has a kind of dizzy realism about it-looking at the same events from countless different angles. At its best, this method builds up a portrait of the situation as it was experienced, something far more affecting than a definitive list of names and events. According to Murakami, this is no different from his fictional method. His aim, he explains, was to collect ``flesh-and-blood material from which to construct multiple viewpoints; which is the same goal I have in mind when I write novels.''

We learn about the early symptoms of sarin poisoning: the runny nose, the foggy head and the darkening of the field of vision (just like wearing sunglasses, according to many interviewees). We find out what sarin smells like: ``a little sweet, like something rotten''; another passenger thought it was the smell of untreated leather, coming from the coat of the man next to him.

And there are the curious recurring dreams and hallucinations that many passengers reported suffering after being poisoned.
(...)

The most intriguing part of this book is the portrait of Japanese behavior beyond the confines of this crisis. One witness testifies: ``Everyone was so silent. No one uttered a word.'' It's a chilling image-a commuter train full of people being poisoned to death, all too embarrassed to say anything. For many victims of the attack, this traditional Japanese reserve means that it has been difficult to talk about their experiences.

The majority of people the author contacted refused to be interviewed. But in some cases, Murakami's book provided an opportunity to finally speak out.
(...)

But in the passages of commentary included in the book, Murakami does not obey his own creed as a novelist, so that while the raw interviews create a multidimensional impression of these events and what they represent for the people involved, he cannot resist the temptation to generalize from these instances and try to run a logical strand through the material.

This is the unfortunate weakness with the book-Murakami's conclusions fail to live up to the vitality of the living testimonies they are based on.

This failing is particularly apparent in the second part of the book, ``The Place That Was Promised,'' which includes interviews with Aum members past and present and Murakami's attempt to understand their actions. He presents a loose (only partly comprehensible) theory about ``them and us''-the way in which Japanese people think of Aum members as something separate from themselves-and he suggests that their actions would be better understood if we saw them as a symptom of something amiss in mainstream Japanese culture.

Murakami's theory is that, seeing as the senior Aum renouncers were mostly talented, well-educated young people, Japanese society must have failed them, rather than the reverse: ``As long as they stayed in the Japanese state with its coercive structure, they believed it was impossible to find an effective outlet for all their energy.'' This is a weak manner in which to account for senseless death.

Perhaps Murakami is not properly equipped as a writer to deal with this kind of intensity of experience. At a couple of points he almost admits as much.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo

4. Foot-reading cult ordered to pay 150 mil. yen in damages
Kyodo (Japan), Dec. 25, 2000
http://home.kyodo.co.jp/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TOKYO Dec. 25 Kyodo - The Tokyo District Court on Monday ordered the Ho-no-Hana Sampogyo foot-reading cult and its founder Hogen Fukunaga to pay a total of 150 million yen in damages to 31 people who it swindled out of money by charging fees for ascetic training.

Presiding Judge Koichi Tsukuda said the cult ''concealed its religious nature and lured people into severe training sessions fraudulently and with the use of threats.''

He also pointed out that Fukunaga, 55, whose real first name is Teruyoshi, and Ho-no-Hana members personally used a large amount of money the cult forced the people to pay.

''The religious group's activities exceed conventional wisdom as it requested trainees to pay a huge amount of money and thus it is clear that those activities were illegal,'' Tsukuda said.
(...)

According to the ruling, the 31 plaintiffs took part in the cult's events between 1992 and 1996. The religious group inspected the soles of their feet and intimidated them by predicting the illnesses based on the inspections. The cult claimed that payments of millions of yen would cure the illnesses.
(...)

The plaintiffs' lawyers said the ruling was a ''complete victory'' because the court acknowledged the cult's system of swindling people of money.

Altogether, more than 1,200 people across Japan have filed suits against Ho-no-Hana, seeking a total of 6.5 billion yen in damages. Three courts in Fukuoka, Osaka and Akita prefectures have already ordered the cult to pay compensation to the victims.
(...)

Fukunaga started preaching in 1980, claiming to be the world's final savior following Jesus Christ and the Buddha.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Foot cultists ordered to pay 150 million yen
The Japan Times (Japan), Dec. 26, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) In handing down his decision, presiding Judge Koichi Tsukuda upheld the plaintiffs' claim that the cult members, including founder Hogen Fukunaga, 55, coerced the victims into giving the money to the cult between 1992 and 1996 by fueling anxieties about their health.

''In a fraudulent and coercive way, (the cultists) solicited the victims for the money, which was later spent by Fukunaga and other defendants on personal goods,'' the judge said.

He added that the cult's activities ''deviated from social norms'' and are illegal.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Japan Foot-Cult To Pay for Fraud
Associated Press, Dec. 25, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TOKYO (AP) -- A court ruled Monday that a cult led by a guru who claimed to see people's future by examining their feet had swindled followers and ordered it to pay more than $1 million in damages.
(...)

It was the fourth time a Japanese court has found the neo-Buddhist sect and its charismatic founder, 55-year-old Hogen Fukunaga, liable for defrauding followers. Ho-no-Hana allegedly told people they would get cancer and other fatal diseases unless they took part in high-priced ``training sessions.''
(...)

Ho-no-Hana, which means ``teaching of the flower,'' was founded by Fukunaga in 1987. He claimed to have healing powers and to be able to see people's past and future by examining the soles of their feet. He once boasted 30,000 followers around Japan.

Known for his expensive suits and silver pompadour, Fukunaga resigned as the leader of Ho-no-Hana in January following a series of raids on cult facilities and media revelations about his opulent lifestyle.

He is now on trial facing charges of criminal fraud.
(...)

The damages awarded Monday were the second largest to date, following $2.01 million that a court in southwestern Japan ordered the group to pay 27 ex-followers in April, Kamai said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Foot-reader fined for fraud
BBC, Dec. 25, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
(...) Sect leader Hogen Fukunaga claimed to be able to diagnose diseases by reading the soles of his followers' feet - which he would do for a fee of about $900.

Adherents who wished to avoid an unpleasant fate could do so, the Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo cult taught, by attending ''cure'' sessions that cost about $18,000.

A Tokyo District Court ruled on Monday that the sect's practices ''went well beyond what can be socially justified by demanding that its followers part with large sums of money''.
(...)

The cult is believed to have netted around $750m over the years.

Correspondents say one reason that such schemes succeed is that the Japanese police have traditionally been reluctant to move against religious groups.

But police have been more willing to take on religious sects since the end of 1999, when a senior member of Aum Shinrikyo - the group responsible for the nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway - was released from prison.

Mr Fukunaga, a former electrician who claims to be the reincarnation of both Jesus Christ and Buddha, founded the cult in 1987.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

8. Macao to Investigate Police after Brutality Claim by Falun Gong Practitioners
Inside China Today (Czech Republic)/BBC Monitoring, Dec. 22, 2000
http://www.insidechina.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Dec 22, 2000 -- (BBC Monitoring) Text of report by Harald Bruning by Hong Kong newspaper South China Post (Business Post supplement) on 22 December.

Macao Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah yesterday [21 December] promised to investigate claims by Falun Gong practitioners that they were beaten by police when they tried to enter the territory.

Speaking at the end of the handover anniversary celebrations yesterday, Mr. Ho said if the allegations proved true, the officers involved would be punished.
(...)

But Mr. Ho insisted: ''We don't allow the police to apply excessive force.'' He said that ''by and large'' the police did their job ''within the law''.

His government would ''not allow any activities that disturb social stability and public security''. The approach towards handling matters of public security was in accordance with the Macao Basic Law.

On Wednesday, Mr. Jiang urged Macao to take concrete measures to crack down on anti-Beijing activities.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Falun Gong followers rally in Taiwan to condemn Chinese crackdown
Associated Press, Dec. 23, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- About 3,000 followers of the Falun Gong spiritual group, including several who had previously been detained in China, rallied Saturday to condemn Beijing's crackdown of the meditation sect.
(...)

Organizers had hoped that sect founder Li Hongzhi could visit the island from the United States to preside over a two-day conference. But they later withdrew an invitation because Taiwanese authorities were lukewarm to the plan.

``Mr. Li was very concerned and had hoped to come,'' said Chang Ching-hsi, an economist and chairman of the Taiwan Falun Gong Research Organization.

In recent months, Taiwan has made considerable efforts to improve relations with China through closer trade and investment. But officials apparently fear Li's visit could worsen still frosty ties with Beijing.

Participants at the conference included more than 600 followers from the Chinese territories of Macau and Hong Kong and 16 other countries.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Taiwan Urged to Invite Sect Leader to Visit
Inside China Today/Reuters, Dec. 24, 2000
http://www.insidechina.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
TAIPEI, Dec 24, 2000 -- (Reuters) About 2,000 followers of the Falun Gong spiritual sect banned in China marched through Taipei on Sunday, mourning their Chinese brethren and urging Taiwan to invite the group's leader to visit.
(...)

Chang Ching-hsi, an economics professor and president of Falun Gong's Taiwan branch, asked government human rights groups to invite the sect's reclusive leader Li Hongzhi to visit.
(...)

Political analysts said a visit to Taiwan by Li, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, was certain to infuriate China and plunge relations with Taiwan into crisis.
(...)

Li preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science, technology and decadence, and says he outranks Jesus and Buddha. He says Falun Gong is apolitical and poses no threat to Beijing.
(...)

Taiwan Vice President Annette Lu, reviled by Beijing for her pro-independence stand, attended a rally on Saturday by more than 1,000 Falun Gong members in central Taipei.

Her action is almost certain to further anger Beijing, which has threatened to attack Taiwan if it declares independence.

In Macao last week, Chinese President Jiang Zemin issued a steely warning against dissent as police dragged off more than a dozen protesting Falun Gong followers.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. Annette Lu addresses sect summit
South China Morning Post, Dec. 24, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Taiwan Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien, denounced by Beijing for her pro-independence stance, addressed thousands of Falun Gong followers last night.

Appearing at a Falun Gong conference where followers held a memorial for fellow believers jailed on the mainland, Ms Lu read a brief statement and quickly departed. ''To all of the venerated students of Falun Gong, I wish you all success in your studies and training,'' she said.

Ms Lu's expression of support is expected to further anger Beijing, which has branded Falun Gong an ''evil cult''.

Her brief appearance at the Taipei conference came after followers vowed to organise a series of large-scale street demonstrations to protest against China's clampdown on the movement.

More than 1,500 Falun Gong followers opened their two-day conference in the sports stadium of National Taiwan Normal University.
(...)

The conference was ostensibly organised to let Falun Gong followers exchange experiences in methods of meditation. But sect leaders said they would go ahead with plans to stage two separate marches, including one planned for today and another for Boxing Day.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Unification Church

12. Inter-Religious and Int'l Federation Convenes Meeting in Taipei
China Times (Taiwan), Dec. 24, 2000
http://www.chinatimes.com.tw/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Taipei, Dec. 23 (CNA) The Inter-Religious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) and other world organizations convened a meeting in Taipei Saturday for leaders of the new age aimed at promoting world peace and prosperity.

Some 200 Republic of China leaders in various sectors of society participated in the meeting jointly organized by the U.S.-based IIFWP, the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, and several local organizations.

Participants in the meeting discussed issues related to the world's religions, the reconstruction of the United Nations, world peace, culture, environmental protection, family ethics, character education, and measures taken by Taiwan to resolve problems in these fields.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The IIFWP is a Moonie front group.


=== Buddhism

13. Vietnam: Foreign ministry rejects ''misrepresentation'' claims by buddhist sect
BBC Monitoring, Dec. 22, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
Text of report by Vietnamese radio web site on 21 December
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Phan Thuy Thanh on 21 December flatly rejected misrepresentations relating to the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect in southern An Giang Province. Thanh was answering questions from foreign correspondents' who suggested that the general secretary of the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect, Ha Hai, was in serious ill health after 32 days of a hunger strike, that the Vietnam government had prohibited celebration of Huynh Phu So's birthday on 20 December, and that the police had used force to dissolve a demonstration during the celebrations, causing one death.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Islam

14. Interfaith marriage captivates viewers
AP, Dec. 25, 2000
http://www.boston.com/Off-site Link
[Story no longer online? Read this]
CAIRO - A soap opera featuring a Coptic Christian woman married to a Muslim man kept Egyptians riveted night after night, although its frank talk of sex and religious differences has outraged conservatives.

The three-week-long ''Awan al-Ward,'' or ''Time of Roses,'' was one of the most-watched television shows this Ramadan season, when Egyptians tune in for special sunset-to-sunrise holiday programming.

''It is the best serial this Ramadan. It is a new topic, something we face in our daily life,'' said Nadine Hosseini, a 17-year-old Muslim.

Egypt is predominantly Muslim, with Christians making up 10 percent of the population, but marriages like the one in ''Awan al-Ward'' are not uncommon.

However, the Coptic Christian church does not condone interfaith marriages, and some groups accused the makers of the show of promoting the unions.

''It ignores the teachings of the Bible, which stipulate that a Christian should not marry a non-Christian, and it also violates the laws of the church, that a Christian should not marry a Muslim,'' said Father Markos Khalil of Cairo's Hanging Church, so named because it appears to be suspended from ancient walls.
(...)

According to Islam, if a Muslim man marries a Christian woman, she can keep her faith but their children must follow the religion of the father. A Christian man would have to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim woman.

Scriptwriter Wahid Hamid, a Muslim, said the minister of information had asked him to write a TV show about national unity. He chose interfaith marriage.
(...)

The issue of Muslim-Christian relations has been a touchy one in Egypt for years.

Early this year, 21 people, most of them Christians, were killed in southern Egypt in Muslim-Christian clashes considered the worst the country has seen in decades.

Coinciding with the broadcast of ''Awan al-Ward,'' 96 defendants from the clashes were released this month.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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» Continued in Part 2