An Australian senior citizen has sued his local television station. Andre van der Linden has lodged a complaint with the Australian government media watchdog organization, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), alleging Channel Seven had breached new racial and religious vilification laws. He was complaining about the British series Prime Suspect for using Jesus Christ as a curse. He says such usage discriminates against Christians and similar usage of Muslim or Australian Aboriginal holy names would never be tolerated. Van der Linden explained, "We don't like to see people vilified in this country. Aboriginal people have taken a lot of time to be regarded on a basis where vilification is a no-no. Muslim people are never vilified in terms of media."
Van der Linden said Channel Seven was not the only guilty station, nor even the worst, but that it was a place to start. He hoped that the station would make an accommodation that could be copied by all other broadcast companies in Australia.
When General Motors encouraged its employees to form "affinity groups," they said the voluntary, off-time gatherings would foster good employee relations and give employees the opportunity to share common ideas, hobbies, and relationships. Affinity groups were encouraged based on race, gender, disabilities, and sexual orientation. A weekly gathering of disabled employees, for example, would give them the opportunity of sharing their frustrations and triumphs with other disabled persons. But GM explicitly forbid affinity groups based on religion. When GM employee John Moranski filed to start the GM Christian Employee Network, he was turned down. The company explained that they were afraid the group would pressure non-Christian employees to become Christians or that one particular church or denomination would dominate and exclude others -- Even though Moranski's application specifically said the group would be non-denominational and would be to encourage communication and friendship only among interested Christians. -- And even though the application specifically promised not to prosyletize or otherwise interact with any other employees.
Moranski and GM have been talking about the issue for more than a year, but GM refused the mediation Moranski suggested as an alternative to a lawsuit. In the lawsuit Moranski is seeking an unspecified amount of punitive and general damages and for the right for GM employees to establish religious Affinity groups within the same guidelines as any other Affinity groups.
Gretchen Passantino, Director of Answers In Action, and the editor of this news section, has admitted that her concentration on the news has been interrupted repeatedly in the last two days because she has been kissing and hugging her granddaughter, Grace (19 months old) and her grandson, Nicholas (3 months old). Gretchen estimates that the distractions should continue for the duration of her visit to daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Bill, in Eugune, Oregon. Passantino promises, however, to keep one eye on the news feeds and one hand on the keyboard until the distractions end April 30.
The Catholic Church has urged terrorists to release the Catholic priest they kidnapped March 15. Father César Darío Peña García, 42, is a pastor in the village of Raudal, in the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Osos, in the northwest. He was kidnapped by members of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).
the dioceses of the Antioquia Choco region called for the priest's release. "With much hope and animated by faith, we are eager for the prompt return of Father César Darío Peña and of all the persons who are kidnapped today in our country," the statement said in part.
During Holy Week, the Church called for the finalizing of a humanitarian agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, which would lead to the release of hundreds of captives held by guerrillas. In recent weeks, several priests have reported death threats by FARC guerrillas.
Hope Church in Glasgow, Scotland, is encouraging people to investigate the Christian faith by sponsoring free three course Indian dinners including the ever-popular curry, a short introductory presentation on the Christian faith, and an invitation to sign up for further instruction. The further instruction is the popular Alpha course, which has been used by thousands of churches world wide to bring people to Christi and then integrate them into a local congregation for growth and discipleship.
Church leader Andrew Merrick said the evening, held at a local popular curry eatery, was fully booked in 48 hours and the church may plan future repeat events.
Speaking at an anti-war rally a week ago (April 10), a lecturer at UC Berkeley called for a violent uprising in the United States comparable to the Palestinian "intifada" that resulted in wanton death and destruction in a failed attempt to overturn the Israeli government. Hatem Bazian, a native Palestinian with a Ph.D. in Islamic studies spoke before 2-3,000 people at an "emergency" action organized by International A.N.S.W.E.R., an umbrella group tied to a Marxist organization, World Workers Party, that supports communist dictatorships and violent revolution in non-communist countries. Bazian's web site says he teaches on Islam, Islamic Law, Sufism, Arabic, and politics of the Middle East at UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University, Berkeley Graduate Theological Union, and Diablo Valley College.
Bazian declared, "Well, we've been watching intifada in Palestine, we've been watching an uprising in Iraq, and the question, 'Is that what we're doing? How come we don't have an intifada in this country?' . . . Every one of those lying, cheating, stealing, deceiving individuals are in our country and we're sitting here and watching the world pass by, people being bombed, and it's about time that we have an intifada in this country that changes fundamentally the political dynamics here. And we know every -- They're gonna say some Palestinian being too raical -- well, you haven't seen radicalism yet!" Bazian continued his remarks at the UC Berkeley rally, warning, "what took place in Vietnam will be child's play to what will take place in Iraq." Responding to a dissenting student at the rally, Bazian said, "Seeing the people of Iraq fight back [against the Americans], that's what we need."
According to a Knight Ridder Newspapers article, evangelicals and Muslims who met in Washington last year to foster greater understanding and friendship have planned the first outreach events to demonstrate their mutual respect. The events will take place in Muslim Morocco and include a Christian music festival, some humanitarian projects, and a theological conference.
One of the evangelical organizers, Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), explained the purpose of the planned events: "We have stereotypes of Muslims, and they certainly do of conservative Christians. They're both caricatures we need to dispense with." Rev. Harry Thomas, co-founder and producer of the Christian music "Creation Festivals" added, "We don't want the whole Islamic world to think that a couple of spokesmen, though well-intentioned perhaps, speak for everyone. We're taught to love people. I don't know anyone who has been won over by hate talk. We prefer to reach out and bulid some bridges."
Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, said that Operation Serve International will dispatch medical and dental teams to staff free clinics in Morocco. Schenck added that he will be instrumental in bringing Muslim philosophers and evangelical thinkers together, first in Morocco and then in the US, for conversations that are "not just academic but spiritual." Creation Festival producer Thomas said his first concert will be one day in Marrakech, Morocco, and that the artists will agree to forgo payment for their performances to enable Moroccans to attend for free.
NAE vice president Cizik made it very clear that there would be no overt witnessing or gospel preaching at any of the events. "Any Christian witness in the Muslim world must be a passive type of witness -- by our lives, our actions, our disposition. We did say to the Moroccans that it's very important that Christians feel free to explain who we are and what we believe, and they assured us that would be no problem. But active proselytizing is a different question."
According to a story from Catholic Exchange, according to a study reported at a meeting of the Roman Catholic Pontifical Coucnil for Culture (PCC), those who say they have no belief in God are not only a small minority (estimates range from 3-10%), but their numbers are declining and are very specifically concentrated.
Cardian Paul Poupard, president of the PCC, reported that "From the militant and organized atheism of other times, we now have a situation of practical indifference, of a loss of the relevance of the question of God, of abandonment of religious practice, above all, in the western world. But not an abandonment of belief in God."
The study found that (1) Unbelief is not increasing in the world. It is primarily limited to the Western World; (2) Militant atheism is decreasing and is only operative in a few countries that are maintained by atheistic totalitarian regimes and as outspoken minorities in some parts of Europe; (3) Religious indifference or neglect of religion is increasing; (4) Atheism appears to be primarily among urban males of medium to high cultural levels and women who work outside the home; (5) While the number of people regularly attending church is declining, those who no longer go to church generally consider themselves still spiritual and still believing in God, but separate their belief from belonging to a worshiping religious group; and (6) "A new search, more spiritual rather than religious, is growing, one that does not always coincide with a return to traditional religous practices."
Dr. Jeffrey John, the Anglican cleric who resigned from his nominated position as bishop last year amid controversy in the Anglican Church in England over active homosexual clergy in leadership, has now been appointed dean of St. Albans, a prestigious leadership position only a short step away from bishop. The appointment will almost certainly be accepted by the British government and has already caused deep discord in the Church of England.
St. Albans Cathedral and Abbey Church is the headquarters of the Bishop of St. Albans and serves as the diocese of St. Albans, covering the English counties of Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, the Borough of Luton and the London Borough of Barnet. The head of the cathedral establishment is the dean. As dean, Dr. John will also be the Rector (pastor) of the Parish of St. Albans Abbey.
The appointment, which will be announced by Downing Street this week, provoked a storm of protest from within and outside the Church of England, and from clergy and lay members alike. Some observers are surprised at the appointment since all areas of the Anglican Communion world wide have been asked by Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, to refrain from controversial actions until studies on the issue are completed and reported to the Archbishop at the end of this year.
Some observers are speculating that Dr. John's appointment is payment for his willingness to step aside last year when the Church decided that the storm of controversy over his being chosen to become a bishop made it difficult to follow through and he willingly withdrew from consideration.
The Rev. David Holloway, a leader of Reform, an evangelical group within the Church of England, warned, "This is a very serious issue for the Church of England. It is not a secondary point that Christians can decide for themselves; it is primary. This appointment and support for homosexuality generally from the leaders of the Church is basically institutional heresy and institutional decadence." Dr. Holloway futher explained, "The issue of homosexuality is a problem for the whole Church. What the Church is teaching on the issue is a key question at a time when the breakdown of marriage and the social nexus that holds us together is leading to the disintegration of society."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Williams, has declined to speak to the issue but his office said the appointment is really between St. Albans and Downing Street.
African and Asian Anglicans, who together constitute by far the majority of Anglicans worldwide, were already up in arms over the consecration of Gene Robinson, an active homosexual as a bishop in the New Hampshire diocese last fall. Most have said they will have no ecclesiastical relationship with the American Anglicans (the Episcopal Church USA -- ECUSA), including rejecting millions of dollars a year in relief and support funds. It is anticipated that this appointment will cause a similar rejection by them of interaction with the Church of England.
Dr. John, 53, is currently canon of Southwark Cathedral.
Tong Tu Vang, 32, a Hmong Christian from the Samneua district in the northern Laotian province of Houaphan says he was required to renounce his faith in Christ and promise to revert to the dominant animistic religion of his area before he could be released from government incarceration after 3 months of imprisonment. His wife, Mee Geu, also had to pay $1,000 to officials. Shortly after his release in February, Tong Tu Vang and his wife fled Laos and now live in an undisclosed country.
Mee Geu read from the agreement in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA). She said that in addition to his vital statistics the document required him to divulge how long he had been a Christian, where he practiced his Christianity, who introduced him to Christianity, who accepted him into the religion, and who his church leader was. The document also required him to agree to renounce his faith and comply with district and provincial authorities in reverting to the animistic religion practiced by the majority who live in Samneua district. The document forbids him to proselytize for Christianity subject to federal, provincial, and local laws.
The US State Department ranks Laos's record on religious freedom as "poor." Its 2003 report said, "The Government [of Laos] continued to restrict freedom of religion, and police and provincial authorities arrested and detained approximately 30 members of Christian churches. At year's end, 13 members of religious communities were in custory or under arrest for their religious beliefs. . . . On several occasions, Christians were threatened with expulsion from their villages for refusing to renounce their religion."
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26