Apologetics Index
News about religious cults, sects, and alternative religions
An Apologetics Index research resource

 

Religion News Report

January 3, 2001 (Vol. 5, Issue 304) - 1/3

See Religion News Blog for the Latest news about cults,
religious sects, world religions, and related issues
Rainbow


=== Falun Gong
1. Four more falungong followers die in police detention: rights group
2. Rights Group Blames China for Falun Gong Deaths
3. Hong Kong OKs Falun Gong Conference
4. Singapore Falun Gong Members On Bail
5. China's Xinhua stresses ''sinister ambitions'' of Falun Gong leader

=== Buddhism
6. A landmark event in Buddhist studies

=== Islam
7. Shariah law brings melting pot to a boil
8. London economist secretly wed to Syria's President

=== Catholicism
9. Irish saint 'predicts new pope and end of world'

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
10. Church-state issue to be invoked in rape trial

=== Witchcraft
11 Witch Hunts in Java Called a Cover for Murders
12. Outsider religion gains in Las Vegas

» Part 2

=== Hate Groups
13. Yahoo! To Ban Nazi Artifacts
14. Revival of Anti-Semitism Feared in Europe

=== Other News
15. Archbishop eludes handcuffs during St. Patrick's Mass
16. Archbishop Attacked
17. Dad tells of 'poor soul' who needs some help
18. Psychologist Faces Hearing On Charges Of Misconduct
19. Charity's recycling claims mislead public (Tvind)
20. Rev. Moon, the Bushes & Donald Rumsfeld
21. Government snatched my brilliant daughter (Sufiah Yusof)
22. Omens bad for fortune-hunter
23. Obituary of Randolph Hearst : Media magnate whose daughter was kidnapped

» Part 3

=== Death Penalty & Other Human Rights Violations
24. Should killers have spiritual advisers up to execution time?

=== Noted
25. Prophet Motive (Sylvia Browne)
26. Exorcism and suggestibility study: False memories of possession can
be created

=== Books
27. Guidance Counseling
28. JK Rowling is far ahead of the Spice Girls in personal wealth

=== The Butt Of Jokes Around The Corner
29. 'A bottom is a lot like a crystal ball'
30. Bigfoot's Buttocks


=== Falun Gong

1. Four more falungong followers die in police detention: rights group
AFP, Jan. 2, 2001
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/Off-site Link

Four more members of the banned falungong spiritual group have died in police custody in recent days, bringing the known number of such fatalities to almost 100, a rights group said Tuesday.

Two jailed followers of the group died in the Kuiwen detention center in Weifang city, eastern Shandong province just before Christmas, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Police from the detention center told families that Xu Bingyuan, 33, a former worker with the Weifang city police and Lou Aiqing, 34, employed by a local commercial department, had died of heart attacks on December 24, the center said.

Families of the two women said both had been beaten as their bodies were covered with scars, the center said. However after the families took pictures of the corpses police confiscated the film.

The center has recorded 92 falungong deaths in Chinese prisons or in police custody since the group was banned in July 1999, with 14 deaths alone in Weifang city, a hotbed of falungong activity.
[...more...]


2. Rights Group Blames China for Falun Gong Deaths
Reuters, Jan. 3, 2000
http://www.insidechina.com/Off-site Link

HONG KONG, Jan 3, 2001 -- (Reuters) Torture and persecution by Chinese authorities have caused the deaths of four more followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a Hong Kong human rights group said on Tuesday.

The incidents brought to at least 92 the number of Falun Gong adherents who have died of ill treatment by Chinese authorities while in custody or during arrest since July 1999, the Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy said.

Last December, the movement's Hong Kong practitioners said China had tortured to death 95 mainland followers since Beijing began cracking down on Falun Gong in July 1999.
[...more...]


3. Hong Kong OKs Falun Gong Conference
The Associated Press, Jan. 3, 2001
http://www.washingtonpost.com/Off-site Link

HONG KONG -- In a move that could anger Beijing, officials in Hong Kong have granted permission to the Falun Gong spiritual group to hold an international conference inside its City Hall.

The Jan. 14 meeting by the sect - which has faced a fierce crackdown in China but is legal in Hong Kong - is expected to attract up to 1,000 participants from Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States, said a local Falun Gong spokesman, Kan Hung-cheung.

Hong Kong's Leisure and Cultural Services Department confirmed that it had allowed the sect to rent a public concert venue in City Hall.

''Our venues are open to any associations, communities and societies registered under the laws of the Hong Kong government,'' said department spokeswoman June Tong.

''You are eligible to hold any activities as long as it is lawful and related to the purpose of our venues,'' Tong said.
[...more...]


4. Singapore Falun Gong Members On Bail
The Associated Press, Jan. 2, 2001
http://www.washingtonpost.com/Off-site Link

SINGAPORE -- Thirteen of the 15 Falun Gong spiritual movement followers arrested in Singapore after staging an unauthorized vigil were released on bail Tuesday, police said.

The other two, both citizens of China, were still in prison because they did not surrender their passports to authorities, a Singapore police statement said.

The 15 were charged in court Tuesday in connection with a New Year's Eve vigil involving about 80 Falun Gong members who gathered in a Singapore park to honor fellow believers they say died in police custody in China.

Each of the 15 were charged with obstructing a police officer and illegal assembly.
(...)

Though China has outlawed Falun Gong as a dangerous cult, the movement is legal in Singapore where it has approximately 1,000 followers. Singapore forbids public assembly without a police permit, and demonstrations are extremely rare in the tightly controlled city-state.
[...more...]


5. China's Xinhua stresses ''sinister ambitions'' of Falun Gong leader
BBC Monitoring, Jan. 2, 2001
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

[Note: Xinhua is China's official news agency]
Li Hongzhi, leader of the spiritual movement Falun Gong, has ''sinister ambitions'' to endanger Chinese society, Xinhua news agency has reported. The article attacked Li for inciting Falun Gong followers to cause trouble and commit collective suicide. Li's accusations against the government for suppressing the movement were giving weight to accusations made by anti-China forces in the west, the article said. The agency praised the government's policy to resolve the Falun Gong problem and called for followers of the movement to stop acting as ''sacrificial victims for opposing society''. The following is the text of report by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)
[...more...]


=== Buddhism

6. A landmark event in Buddhist studies
Japan Times (Japan), Jan. 3, 2001
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/Off-site Link

CHIANG MAI, Thailand -- The 72nd birthday anniversary of the king of Thailand continues to inspire a rich variety of spiritual, artistic and cultural contributions to Thai society.

One such project is the plan to publish a romanized Pali Tipitaka, which reflects the essence of the Buddhist Holy Scriptures and is considered one of the oldest sacred texts in the world. The force behind this initiative, under the auspices of the supreme patriarch of Thailand, was a devout and learned Thai lady, the late Thanpuying Maniratana Bunnag, who was for many decades an assistant to the queen of Thailand. The torch has now been passed to her son Suradhaj Bunnag and to a society created in 1997 for this purpose, the Dhamma Society Fund.

When completed, the project will constitute the world's first publication of the complete Buddhist Pali Tipitaka in the Roman alphabet. There will be 1,000 45-volume sets, (representing the 45 years of Lord Buddha's teachings), to be presented as gifts to leading international institutions throughout the world.
(...)

The project organizers believe that their effort will further promote the proper reading and recitation of the scriptures, thereby increasing international awareness of and interest in Buddhist studies. At the same time, they are confident that they have made an appropriate decision in basing the transliteration on the well known Chattasangiti text of the Sixth Great Buddhist Council convened in Rangoon, Burma, in 1954-56.
[...more...]


=== Islam

7. Shariah law brings melting pot to a boil
National Post (Canada)/The Daily Telegraph, Dec. 28, 2000
http://www.nationalpost.com/Off-site Link

The market trader unfurls a colour poster; it shows a Muslim thief sitting in a chair beside a picture of the cow he stole. The severed hand dangling in front of his face makes his punishment clear.

This is not Kabul, Afghanistan, but Kano, northern Nigeria, where Islamic law was reinstated this month after a century of British colonial rule and, since 1960, almost uninterrupted indigenous military dictatorship.

The re-emergence of shariah across large parts of northern Nigeria comes fewer than two years after the oil-rich West African state began its fourth attempt at civilian rule. The election of President Olusegun Obasanjo may have curtailed the human rights abuses perpetrated by military rulers, but it has also re-opened the ethnic and religious fault line that divides North from South.

For the past 40 years, it was the predominantly Muslim north that provided Nigeria's rulers -- military men such as Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha -- all from the Hausa-Fulani tribe. The new President is a Christian and a member of the rival Yoruba tribe, which predominates in the south, the traditional base of Nigeria's economic power.
(...)

Kano's large Christian population is waiting nervously to see what changes shariah will bring.
(...)

After the service, Father Tom Treacy, a missionary from Galway, assessed the impact of shariah on his congregation.

''At the moment, we are just waiting to see what happens. We know the governor and the emir did not want it, but some powerful local people wanted to make trouble for Obasanjo.

''We have had Muslim rulers in Nigeria for 30 years and we never heard a whisper about bringing back shariah. Now we have a Christian in power and they want it back. This is politics, not religion.

''Our real fear is that the rascals, the thugs, will use the declaration of shariah as an excuse to take the law into their own hands and attack the Christians.''

The governor has given assurances he will not allow this to happen, even placing ads in local papers to warn Muslims not to take the law into their own hands.
[...more...]
* Amnesty International's web site includes dozens of examplesOff-site Link of human rights abuses committed under the guise of islamic ''justice.''


8. London economist secretly wed to Syria's President
The Times (England), Jan. 3, 2001
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/Off-site Link

A young London woman has joined one of the Arab world's powerful political dynasties after a secret wedding in Damascus to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
(...)

Although the bride has had the upbringing of a middle-class London girl, she comes from a prominent Sunni Muslim family from the Syrian city of Homs. Her husband, 35, is a member of the minority Alawite sect and their union is being interpreted as a possible reconciliation between the rival communities.

''It will cement ties between the Sunnis and the Alawites, so it's a good political marriage,'' a diplomat in Damascus said. ''It's a striking gesture of healing the wounds. The fact that he wasn't married was also a weakness in such a society.''
[...more...]


=== Catholicism

9. Irish saint 'predicts new pope and end of world'
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Jan. 3, 2001
http://www.smh.com.au/Off-site Link

The 900-year-old prophecies of an Irish saint have suddenly become new year's reading among Roman Catholics wondering who might be the next Pope - and worried about Armageddon.

Bishop Malachy O'Morgair had a vision on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1139 which prophesied that the successor to the current pontiff, John Paul II, would be the second last to reign before the world ends.

Although not as widely known as Nostradamus, credited with foreseeing major events including the rise of the Beatles and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Bishop O'Morgair has developed a huge following, including several Web sites.

The current Pope is the 110th nominated in the Malachy Prophesy, in which Bishop O'Morgair named 112 popes, the last of whom would reign as the world came to an end.
(...)

Each pope identified in the prophecy had a mystical title, with the 110th described as De Labore Solis - ''from the Labour of the Sun'' - and is taken by many to allude to the fact that John Paul II is the son of a labourer, or a reference to his globe-circling missions, or even that he was born on a total eclipse.

John Paul II's successor was described by Malachy as Gloria Olivae, The Glory of the Olive. Wags link this with one of the front-runners for the next election, the 73-year-old Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (Martini and Olive on the Rock - of Peter, that is).

But some who believe in the prophecy relate it to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and hence point to the Jew who is Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean Lustiger, 74.

Others claim it indicates an olive sprig bearer, a peacemaker, such as John Paul's global troubleshooter, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, another Frenchman, who is 78.

Still others see it as a reference to the Olivetan branch of the Benedictine religious order.
[...more...]


=== Jehovah's Witnesses

10. Church-state issue to be invoked in rape trial
Tulsa World, Dec. 30, 2000
http://beta.yellowbrix.com/Off-site Link

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) -- A man charged with molesting three girls argues that meetings where he discussed the accusations with his Jehovah's Witness elders were confidential and can't be used as evidence.

Gregory Blackstock, 45, faces eight counts of rape.

Before then, however, Judge Bernard Hampsey must determine whether church elders who met with Blackstock to discuss the accusations involving the sisters can be made to testify about their conversations.

By court rules and state law, church ministers can't be made to disclose confessions.

Hillsborough County Attorney Roger Chadwick argues that Blackstock's discussions with the elders does not qualify under the confessional privilege, because the elders also discussed Blackstock's statements with the girls' mother.
[...more...]


=== Witchcraft

11. Witch Hunts in Java Called a Cover for Murders
New York Times, Jan. 2, 2001
http://www.nytimes.com/Off-site Link

CIANJUR, Indonesia - In this verdant farm belt of West Java, where sorcery and superstition have deep roots, few were surprised last September when an angry mob decapitated a 70-year-old woman accused of casting spells that made people ill. Before lopping off her head, witnesses said, the crowd gouged out her eyes and severed some of her limbs, which they tossed into the street.

Beheadings of suspected witches are not uncommon in rural towns and villages of Java, Indonesia's most populous and perhaps most mystical island. The local police estimate that there were at least 100 witch killings in Java last year. Still, few people seemed upset by the killings, which typically occur in Indonesia's backwaters and are committed under the guise of wiping out evil.

But indifference to the killings may now be changing after 21 people accused of practicing black magic were beheaded or chopped to death between July and October in one district alone - Cianjur, about 60 miles south of Jakarta, Indonesia's capital. Because of the high concentration of witch murders in one area, the police suspected that there was more to the killings than just fear of sorcery.

This month, the police announced the arrest of 28 suspects linked to the killings, which they said were driven less by fear of evil forces than by personal gain. In most cases, the police said, the suspects had falsely accused the victims of practicing witchcraft and then either killed them or incited or paid others to do so. Their motives were mainly revenge, rivalry and extortion, although some of the suspects may have indeed been driven by genuine terror, the police said.

So far, there is no direct evidence linking the victims - who were mainly farmers, Muslim teachers and elderly women - to the practice of witchcraft, which is not illegal in Indonesia.

While some of those arrested were bit players caught in the hysteria of a bloodthirsty crowd, the police said that many suspects were connected to a well-organized syndicate that for a fee cleverly engineered murders to look like witch hunts.
(...)

Typically, the witch-hunting syndicate found clients in local businessmen seeking to get rid of competitors and candidates for village offices who sought to eliminate political opponents, the police said.

People with grudges or seeking an early inheritance also contracted with the syndicate.
[...more...]


12. Outsider religion gains in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Sun, Dec. 30, 2000
http://www.lasvegassun.com/Off-site Link

(...) Although some religious scholars have dubbed paganism ''the fastest growing religion in the nation,'' reliable numbers of pagans in the United States -- or in Las Vegas -- are difficult to assess as pagans are a loosely knit group. Some estimates put the U.S. pagan population at 500,000; local pagans estimate that there are about 3,000 in the Las Vegas area.

What makes the task of characterizing paganism's place in today's culture that much harder is that few agree on exactly what paganism, or neo-paganism, or ''the Craft,'' actually encompasses.

Apparently it's many things: It's different things to different people, and appealing specifically because it is different from mainstream Judeo-Christian religions, from churchy traditions and from the status quo.

Generally ''paganism'' is accepted as an umbrella term for Wiccans, Shamans, Druids and an assortment of others whose spiritual beliefs are polytheistic and nature-oriented, or in some way focus on ''magick'' (spelled with a ''k'' to distinguish the belief in using the ''universe's energy'' for spiritual purposes from the magical illusions performed by entertainers.)

Like the paganism dating from ancient times, it incorporates a mix of gods, goddesses and superstition. But today's paganism draws from a larger selection of spiritual traditions from various continents and eras, combined with the modern-day politics of gender equity and environmentalism.

The Sekhmet Temple in Cactus Springs -- where the yule ceremony was performed -- houses dozens of icons, from a sculpture of Greek goddess Athena to Egyptian goddess Isis to an American Indian mother to the ''Venus of Willendorf.''
(...)

Best known among the pagan population today are Wiccans, who get their name from a 1952 book ''Witchcraft Today'' written by Freemason Gerald Gardner. Wicce is an Anglo-Saxon word for witch, and a witch is defined as someone who ''seeks to control the forces within him- or herself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with nature,'' according to the Wiccan Religious Cooperative of Florida, a nonprofit organization founded in 1992.

Gardner set up eight holy days for Wiccans -- roughly based on old pagan solstices. He also incorporated some Freemason traditions and personal spiritual preferences.

Contrary to popular belief, Wiccans say they do not cast ''evil'' spells -- in fact, the main tenets of Wicca are ''do what ye will and harm none,'' and the belief that one's actions -- good or bad -- will come back three-fold.

Since the publication of ''Witchcraft Today,'' subsets of Wiccans have emerged -- gay and feminist and a host of other disenfranchised groups whose social position has ebbed and flowed on the outside of mainstream culture since the 1950s.

Sitting in a comfortable chair in the corner of her Cactus Springs trailer, Patricia Pearlman lights a cigar and explains that she has always known she was a witch.
(...)

She moved to Cactus Springs to take care of the Sekhmet temple, which was built in 1993 by a group of activist women called CHAOS -- Cooking Housing and Other Stuff -- and named after the creator goddess Sekhmet. The temple was built on 22 acres purchased by anti-nuclear activist Genevieve Vaughan, who had been protesting at the Nevada Test Site. When it became apparent that the temple would only require 2 acres, she gave the other 20 to the local Shoshone tribe.

Pearlman and her boyfriend live on the land and care for the temple, one of few open temples in the secluded pagan community.

''We welcome everybody to the temple. Some groups are very theatrical, they have robes and accoutrements, and some are more practical. It's just like Christianity's denominations. The Catholics have their robes and the holy water, other churches don't.

''But we all believe in the 'power within,' rather than the patriarchal religions' belief in the 'power over.' And we believe in going with nature, not against it.
(...)

Paganism has suffered some bad press, according to those gathered around the yule bonfire.

''The main misconception about it is that people think we worship Satan and sacrifice animals, which we do not,'' said Jacobson, who is a former Pentecostal Christian and has been a practicing pagan for six years. ''My mother is convinced I'm going to hell. But it's a harmless religion.''

In fact, most pagans see themselves as members of a class of historically persecuted spiritualists. They readily offer up stories of pagans being not only eschewed by Christians but executed in centuries past, driving followers underground to worship in secret groups called covens.

Las Vegas pagan Kalynda Tilges' 8-year-old son wears a pentagram pendant to school, but has learned to hide it under his shirt because other kids called him a ''devil worshipper,'' she said.
(...)

Today's pagans believe that Christianity is largely responsible for slandering pagan beliefs and co-opting some of the ancient pagan rituals to eliminate pagan proliferation.

''Christians said that paganism is about Satanism to scare people away from pagan beliefs,'' Jacobson said. Paganism and Christianity have common elements from the use of chalices, candles and poetry, to similar iconography. For example, images of Catholicism's Virgin Mary and baby Jesus are remarkably similar to earlier Egyptian iconography of the goddess Isis nursing her offspring. ''I know some very dedicated Christians whom I have a lot of respect for,'' Jacobson said. ''But the thing that turned me off the church was the pure bigotry -- the idea that there is one idea that is right and everybody else is wrong.
(...)

For all the misconceptions and ostracism, pieces of paganism seem rather ubiquitous in 21st-century popular culture. From ''Harry Potter,'' the juvenile witch in a series of British children's books, to TV's ''Sabrina, the Teen-age Witch''; from evergreen fantasy games such as ''Dungeons and Dragons'' to movies such as ''The Craft,'' pagan rituals have found a market as an entertainment commodity if not a respected religion.
(...)

But many practicing pagans would like to see their beliefs respected by someone other than marketers. In the 1990s some pagan groups began trying to organize more formally, take censuses and participate in multifaith events.
[...more...]


» Part 2