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Religion News Blog, June 26, 2003

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  • Anton Hein
    ReligionNewsBlog.com, June 26, 2003 Excerpts: [Underground Church] China Denies Mistreating Christian Leader
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 26, 2003
      ReligionNewsBlog.com, June 26, 2003


      [Underground Church] China Denies Mistreating Christian Leader
      :===Begin Quote===
      China said Thursday the imprisoned founder of an unofficial Christian church was
      in good health, dismissing reports that he was near death due to beatings.

      The Ministry of Justice said Gong Shengliang, who was convicted last October of
      rape and assault and is serving a life sentence, had not been tortured.

      ``Reports that Gong is near death as a result of abusive treatment have no basis
      in reality,'' the ministry said in a statement issued in response to accusations
      made in an open letter by Gong's friends and relatives in early June.
      :===End Quote===

      [Polygamy] Plural wife in court for her kids
      :===Begin Quote===
      Carolyn Jessop was granted full custody of the children -- ages 1 through 15 --
      and Merril Jessop was granted standard visitation rights. Child support issues
      remain unresolved.

      Attorney Douglas White, who works for anti-polygamy group Tapestry of Polygamy,
      said the woman was 18 when she became the fourth of Merril Jessop's seven wives.

      White said Merril Jessop is the father of 54 children and grandfather to 160,
      and has close ties to the leadership of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
      Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is based in the border towns of Colorado City
      and Hildale, Utah.

      Carolyn Jessop became disillusioned with polygamy because of changes implemented
      by FLDS President Warren Jeffs, including restrictions on travel and using
      teenage boys to assess the worthiness of families, White told The Tribune.
      :===End Quote===

      [Polygamy] Man wins visitation rights to children from estranged plural wife
      :===Begin Quote===
      A polygamist father was granted visitation rights to eight of his children

      Merril Jessop, of Colorado City, Ariz., will be permitted to see his eight
      children by estranged plural wife Carolyn Jessop. The couple separated when
      Carolyn Jessop, 35, left home in April with her children, ages 2 to 15.

      A 3rd District Court domestic relations commissioner mediated the agreement,
      which still must be finalized with a judge's signature, said Rod Parker, Merril
      Jessop's attorney.
      :===End Quote===

      [Panawave] Prosecutors get papers on three Pana Wave members
      :===Begin Quote===
      The Metropolitan Police Department turned over to prosecutors Wednesday their
      case against three men linked to the Pana Wave Laboratory group who are
      suspected of falsifying information on vehicle registration papers.

      The cultlike Pana Wave made headlines during the Golden Week holidays spanning
      late April to early May when its members, dressed all in white, drove around in
      several central prefectures in a convoy of white vehicles.
      :===End Quote===

      [Hate Crime] Three men arrested for alleged beating of Hindu pizza deliveryman
      :===Begin Quote===
      Police arrested three men accused of hogtying, beating and stabbing a pizza
      delivery man because they mistakenly believed he was Muslim.

      The suspects originally intended to rob Bhalerao, but escalated the assault
      mistakenly believing he was Muslim, said Fairhaven police Chief Gary F. Souza.
      The attacks continued as Bhalerao, a graduate student at the University of
      Massachusetts-Dartmouth, explained that he was Hindu.
      :===End Quote===

      [Islam] Virginia Grand Jury Probes Group of Muslim Men
      :===Begin Quote===
      The FBI and a federal grand jury in Alexandria are investigating whether a group
      of area Muslim men has been preparing in Virginia for jihadist combat abroad,
      sources and court papers say.

      At least two of the men -- one is the son of a former Yemeni diplomat -- are in
      federal custody. Federal agents with search warrants have raided the homes of
      about a dozen others in the D.C. suburbs and have seized rifles, other weapons,
      scopes, ammunition, terrorist literature and other documents, court papers show.

      One facet of the probe involves questions of whether the men were aiding the
      Lashkar-i-Taiba, a group involved in the fighting in Kashmir that has been
      designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
      :===End Quote===

      [Franklin Graham] Graham's works defy anti-Muslim image
      :===Begin Quote===
      Muslims, media pundits and even other evangelicals have taken evangelist
      Franklin Graham to task for saying he thinks Islam is a "wicked and evil
      religion." Some have called on him to keep his relief organization, Samaritan's
      Purse, out of Iraq, claiming its presence would be inflammatory.

      Many will brand Graham as intolerant and divisive for his words, but they should
      also consider his work before trying to banish him from the Muslim world. It is
      work that has not only alleviated human suffering but also has given Christians
      and Muslims the chance to rub elbows rather than cross swords.

      Franklin Graham may never deliver a sermon peppered with fashionable language
      about interfaith tolerance, but in his work you'll find a parable or two about
      interfaith understanding. Platitudes are easy; delivering humanitarian aid in
      difficult circumstances is hard and sacrificial work that can build bridges
      across seemingly irreconcilable differences.

      Graham's words may be abrasive, but his record defies the stereotype of a
      Muslim-baiting crusader, and it reinforces the truth that oftentimes the things
      we do are more significant than the things we say.
      :===End Quote===

      [Witchcraft] Witchcraft Part And Parcel of Ugandan Football
      :===Begin Quote===
      That a national team would hinge it chances of qualifications for the Nations
      Cup to black magic, is a classic example of how witchcraft is embedded in the
      minds of locals that anything beyond normal understanding is attributed to

      Most Ugandan players believe football is played with the help of juju. They
      don't lend their playing kits to teammates for fear of being bewitched. Fans,
      desperate for victory, are the biggest culprits for stoking witchcraft fires.

      Leading Ugandan clubs like Express Villa and KCC have a Jajja (witchdoctor)
      committee whose duty is to ensure that their team wins with the help of
      supernatural powers.
      :===End Quote===

      [Aum Shinrikyo] Cult wins residency battle
      :===Begin Quote===
      Japan's top court on Thursday disqualified local governments from refusing AUM
      Shinrikyo members' residency in their areas in a landmark ruling on the issue.

      The Supreme Court's decision will force many local governments across Japan to
      review their stance in dealing with the controversial cult since they can no
      longer reject residency applications from AUM members.
      :===End Quote===

      [Leroy Jenkins] State Orders Evangelist To Stop Selling “Miracle Water”
      :===Begin Quote===
      The state is again going after television evangelist Leroy Jenkins over his
      selling of so-called "miracle water" which he claims has healing powers.

      A judge in Columbus last week ordered Jenkins to stop selling the water and
      scheduled a court hearing for July second on the state's request for a
      preliminary injunction.
      :===End Quote===

      [Hate Groups] Israel checks out website run by Russian racists
      :===Begin Quote===
      The Israeli attorney general has launched a criminal investigation into a local
      neo-Nazi website that jokes about gas chambers, advocates shooting Palestinians
      and denies that the Holocaust happened.

      The website, published in Russian by a group calling itself the White Israeli
      Union is believed to be the work of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who
      claimed to be Jews when they entered Israel but who are blamed for the sharp
      rise in anti-semitism and advocacy of white supremacy.
      :===End Quote===

      [Islam] Saudi Arabia sends 1,000 preachers back to school
      :===Begin Quote===
      Saudi Arabia has suspended more than 1,000 Muslim preachers until they are
      retrained to promote religious moderation and reject the “extremism” of Al Qaeda
      militants, a government official said on Tuesday. Abdul Rahman Al Matroudi,
      deputy minister at Saudi Arabia's religious affairs ministry, said clerics would
      be instructed to tell worshippers the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — which was
      believed to be carried out mainly by Saudi hijackers — violated Islamic

      The suspensions were part of a regular review of Saudi preachers, not a reaction
      to last month's suicide bombings in Riyadh or pressure to rein in a religious
      establishment blamed in the West for helping foster Muslim extremism, he said.

      “They have been told what happened on Sept. 11 and (attacks) in other places are
      against Islam and they have to tell the people that this is the stand which
      Muslims should take,” Matroudi told Reuters.

      Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has more than 50,000 mosques, each with a
      prayer leader or preacher.

      “If someone is found not fit to be in that job he will be asked to resign, or be
      :===End Quote===

      [Hate Groups] Apartheid Cults On The Rise In South Africa
      :===Begin Quote===
      In the sleepy towns and remote rural communities of the vast South African
      highveld, a new version of a discredited creed advocating divinely ordained
      white superiority is spreading like a bush fire.

      Scores of right-wing religious groups, more reminiscent of US-style cults than
      conventional churches, have sprung up preaching a gospel of white supremacy to a
      growing army of believers, 10 years after the collapse of white minority rule.
      :===End Quote===

      [Brainwashing] Lawyers claim Malvo brainwashed
      :===Begin Quote===
      Marking a switch in strategy, attorneys for the teenage suspect in last
      October's sniper shootings now blame the older suspect for brainwashing their
      client, according to court papers released Wednesday.

      Attorneys for Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 at the time of a string of sniper
      shootings in the Washington area, suggest in pretrial motions their client had
      been programmed or brainwashed by then 41-year-old John Allen Muhammad.
      :===End Quote===

      [Nokulunga Fiphaza] Cult graves to reveal clues
      :===Begin Quote===
      A post mortem will be held on Thursday on the bodies of eight members of the Arc
      sect exhumed on Monday.
      :===End Quote===

      [Nokulunga Fiphaza] Residents warn cult members
      :===Begin Quote===
      Eight bodies found in the garden of a doomsday cult compound in Mandela Park
      settlement in Umtata were exhumed on Tuesday -- and residents are threatening to
      "burn" members of the cult if it ever returns.

      Fifteen members of the Awaiting Christ group have been arrested in connection
      with charges of defeating the ends of justice and burying people illegally, and
      are expected to appear in court tomorrow.
      :===End Quote===

      [Islam] Cham Muslims latest target in war on terror
      :===Begin Quote===
      Descendants of the ancient kingdom of Champa in what is now central Vietnam, the
      Cham migrated to Cambodia in the early 1800s to escape religious and cultural

      On the shores of the great Tonle Sap lake and the banks of the Mekong, they
      continued their idiosyncratic form of Islam, still heavily influenced by ancient
      beliefs including Buddhism and tribal magic.

      It is these beliefs, which deviate from the strict Islamic canon, that make
      Cambodia's Muslims a likely target for Islamic puritans from overseas, scholars

      "In Cambodia...religious activists from the Arab world are arriving with a new
      view on religion and they preach an austere Wahhabiyya version of Islam," said
      Bjorn Blengsli, a Norwegian anthropologist who recently spent 10 months with the

      "These organisations want to purify Cham Islamic practice by getting rid of the
      many influences from Buddhism," he said.
      :===End Quote===

      [Nokulunga Fiphaza] Horror of the doomsday cult graves
      :===Begin Quote===
      "A woman who claimed that she was a prophet convinced my mother, two of my
      brothers and my two sisters to give up everything and join her church. She told
      them that Jesus Christ was coming in December and that they would only be saved
      if they joined them," Dukuza said.

      When December came and went, Dukuza tried to convince his family members to
      leave the cult. "I was accused of being the devil, and my family were warned to
      keep away from the 'worldly people' - that's what they called people who were
      not part of their cult."

      Mandela Park residents, who were told that the compound's garden would be dug up
      and the house bulldozed, gathered at the compound and speculated where more
      bodies might be buried.

      Since the Awaiting Christ group arrived in Mandela Park six years ago, the
      residents tolerated - but remained suspicious of - its members.

      Now they are outraged, and want to know how the present state of affairs was
      allowed to develop. They also want to know what has happened to Nokulunga
      Fipaza, the cult's leader, who was confined to a wheelchair following a car
      accident three years ago.

      Reports that Fipaza had been arrested after evading the police for a week could
      not be confirmed last night.
      :===End Quote===

      [Gospel of Thomas] Book Review: Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
      :===Begin Quote===
      Some scholars continue to think Thomas of secondary importance. Pagels, of
      course, does not. She had long given up the Christianity of John, and as her
      knowledge of these dissident ancient communities grew she developed a desire for
      diversity of practice and doctrine and for the undogmatic benefits of religious
      community. She seems to rejoice that in the earliest years of Christianity there
      existed these strange, dissident doctrines of illumination.

      Pagels looks about the Christian world today and rejoices at the proliferation
      of the "new forms" Christianity is taking in Africa, North and South America,
      Korea and China. She cannot be reconciled to churches that claim sole access to
      the truth of doctrine and discipline. Nag Hammadi seemed to show her that one
      must shed all such prejudices. The reward, she believes, may be a truer
      knowledge not only of Christianity, in whatever institutional form, but also of
      the other great religions.
      :===End Quote===

      [Islam] Analysis: Christians duped by Muslims?
      :===Begin Quote===
      "Blessed be those who are being lied to", read the headline of an alarming
      article by reformist Muslim scholar Bassam Tibi in the German weekly, Die Zeit.
      Syrian-born Tibi, who teaches political science at Goettingen University,
      labeled well-meaning Christians "inexcusably naïve" in their dealings with their
      Islamic interlocutors.

      He also accused fellow Muslims as being "dishonest to the highest degree" in
      claiming that Sept. 11 had nothing to do with Islam. According to Tibi, the
      current Christian-Islamic dialogue is based on deception, merely producing
      wishful thinking in the West.

      Not surprisingly, other Islamic scholars in the West are vigorously challenging
      Tibi. They particularly dislike his claim that in the eyes of most Muslims the
      "Islamization of the world" is still their religion's goal. Muslims strive for
      the expansion of the "Dhar al-Islam" (the House of Islam) to the entire world,
      he says, and in this "house" Christians and Jews will live as "dhimmi" --
      tolerated "people of the Book," but also discriminated against.
      :===End Quote===

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