Religion News Blog, June 26, 2003
- ReligionNewsBlog.com, June 26, 2003
[Underground Church] China Denies Mistreating Christian Leader
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.
[Polygamy] Plural wife in court for her kids
Carolyn Jessop was granted full custody of the children -- ages 1 through 15 --
and Merril Jessop was granted standard visitation rights. Child support issues
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.
[Polygamy] Man wins visitation rights to children from estranged plural wife
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
[Panawave] Prosecutors get papers on three Pana Wave members
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.
[Hate Crime] Three men arrested for alleged beating of Hindu pizza deliveryman
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.
[Islam] Virginia Grand Jury Probes Group of Muslim Men
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.
[Franklin Graham] Graham's works defy anti-Muslim image
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.
[Witchcraft] Witchcraft Part And Parcel of Ugandan Football
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
[Aum Shinrikyo] Cult wins residency battle
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.
[Leroy Jenkins] State Orders Evangelist To Stop Selling Miracle Water
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
[Hate Groups] Israel checks out website run by Russian racists
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.
[Islam] Saudi Arabia sends 1,000 preachers back to school
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
[Hate Groups] Apartheid Cults On The Rise In South Africa
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.
[Brainwashing] Lawyers claim Malvo brainwashed
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.
[Nokulunga Fiphaza] Cult graves to reveal clues
A post mortem will be held on Thursday on the bodies of eight members of the Arc
sect exhumed on Monday.
[Nokulunga Fiphaza] Residents warn cult members
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.
[Islam] Cham Muslims latest target in war on terror
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.
[Nokulunga Fiphaza] Horror of the doomsday cult graves
"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.
[Gospel of Thomas] Book Review: Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
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.
[Islam] Analysis: Christians duped by Muslims?
"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
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.
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