A prayer meeting brought more than 5,000 people to Canada's Parliament in Ottawa (in Central Canada, between the provinces of Ontario & Quebec) sponsored by "The CRY 2" (the second prayer gathering by Canada's Revived Youth). According to Faytene Kryskow (31), a Vancouver-based pastor & one of the organizers, the goal was for the youth from all across Canada to "spend a full day in prassionate prayer, and then act on what we believe needs to happen to restore Canada to its morally conservative roots."
Issues at the forefront of the prayer events were abortion, same sex marriages, & religious liberty for all people of religious faiths, Christian or otherwise.
The first prayer gathering drew a similar number in 2002. Prayer meeting organizers were set to meet with government officials, both appointed & elected, to voice their concerns about the legislative future of Canada's moral compass.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Canada (CAIR-CAN) has petitioned the Canadian government to bar evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, from a scheduled evangelistic trip to Winnipeg in October, claiming that Graham's statements calling Islam "a very evil & a very wicked religion," violate Canada's so-called "hate propaganda laws." Those laws were used by the Canadian government in June to bar British Muslim Riyad ul-Haq from the country because of accusations that he was inciting hatred toward Jewis, Christians, & other non-Muslims.
According to CAIR-CAN, if Canada fails to bar Graham, it will be guilty of a "double standard" in the application of the law. Leslie Harmer, spokesperson for Canada's Immigration Minister Monte Solberg, said, "We do not welcome hate-mongers," in reference to Solberg's order blocking ul-Haq from visiting Canada.
Rev. Franklin Graham, president of his father's Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization (BGEA), previously & repeatedly has explained that his comments were taken out of context & always & only referred to the religious teachings themselves that were hate & violence promoting, never toward the Muslim people or individual Muslims. In an opinion-editorial piece published in the Wall Street Journal in December of 2001, Graham explained that he does not believe Muslims are evil people because of their faith, citing his many Muslim friends, & adding, "While as Christians we disagree with Islamic teachings, if we obey the teachings of Jesus, we will love all Muslims." He continued, "But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith -- including Christianity." He concluded, "I believe it is my responsibility to speak out against the terrible deeds that are committed as a result of Islamic teaching."
Canadian officials have not yet responded to CAIR-CAN's request.
A Pima, Arizona couple, founders of a neo-Zoroastrian religious group, has been charged for possession of 172 pounds of marijuana found by law enforcement officers in a state-federal drug abuse task force sweep in February 2006.
Dan & Mary Quaintance, founders of the Church of Cognizance, claim that marijuana, which they call haoma, is a necessary ingredient of their religious practices & is used to improve their spiritual, mental, & physical acuity. Haoma is mentioned in the sacred scriptures of Zoroastrianism as a ritual herb but is almost certainly notcannabis, the botanical name for marijuana.
The church was formally founded in 1994 & is organized around family groups called monasteries. There are 72 registered monasteries in 42 states & several other countries. The average age of the members is 35.
The Quaintances believe their attorney will be able to get the charges dismissed & that the courts will affirm their right to use haoma in their religious practice.
In some conservative Islamic cultures such as found in rural areas of Turkey, which is officially a secular government, any "shame" brought on a family by its female members has traditionally been overturned by the family's murder of the woman in question. With new Turkish laws against such "honor" crimes, many women find themselves pushed beyond resistance to commit suicide to restore their family's good reputation. The shame to the family can come from such relatively inoccuous "crimes" as a girl wearing blue jeans, or looking inappropriately at a boy, to other relationship-connected activities such as promiscuity, adultery, or romantic linkings not approved by the family.
Turkey's bid to join the European Union (EU) has necessitated some legal changes to make its culture more compatible with European ideals, such as sexual equality & individual freedom. One of the changes has been the tightening & stiffening of laws against so-called "honor killings." While a local community may have a centuries-old tradition of affirming a family's murder of an offending female member, the practice has been outlawed in Turkey for many years. Nevertheless, the enforcement & the level of penalty has increased dramatically since Turkey began application to the EU. Until just recently, families that wanted to conduct an honor killing would use an underage male relative, who could expect a short trial & relatively light prison sentence because of his young age. New Turkish legislation within the last 2 years madates a life sentence for anyone convicted of an honor murder, no matter how young, so families are now turning to compelled suicide or murder disguised as suicide or an accident.
"Families of disgraced girls are choosing between sacrificing a son to a life in prison by designating him to kill his sister or forcing their daughters to kill themselves," noted Yilmaz Akinci, a development group worker. "Rather than losing two children, most opt for the latter option."
In one Turkish town alone, Batman, a United Nations (UN) official finding reported that this year alone, 36 women have killed themselves. The UN estimates that 5,000 women a year around the world lose their lives because of "honor" issues, the majority in the Middle East & nearly all in Muslim cultures.
The leader of the Anglican Communion (AC), Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, has suggested a compromise to keep the worldwide union of Anglican churches from a full split between the conservative majority (most of the world's Anglicans) & the liberal minority (mostly in North America). Under Dr. Williams' plan, individual communions would either pledge fidelity to the conservative will of the majority, or would hold a second-level membership in the world wide body that would preclude their participation in most international decision-making.
Dr. Williams' plan follows last week's American conference of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA), at which the ECUSA leadership rejected a 2004 international directive, the Windsor Report, that ECUSA apologize for consecrating as bishop a homosexual priest in an active long-term partnership & refrain from any further such ordinations and/or consecrations. The Report also directed ECUSA to refrain from any official same-sex union rites. Instead, the ECUSA convention voted to apologize, not for ECUSA actions, but for unintended hurt; & to use "restraint" in moving forward with actions such as ordination/consecration & rites that would be rejected by the wider Anglican community. The ECUSA also elected as its presiding bishop a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports the ordination & consecration of homosexuals in active same-sex relationships. She succeeds Bishop Frank T. Griswold III, who consecrated Gene Robinson as bishop of ECUSA in New Hampshire in 2003. Bishop Robinson has been in a same-sex relationship for many years & his consecration provoked the AC's Lambeth Commission to produce the Windsor Report.
The Williams plan was contained in a letter that he called a "reflection" on the deep divisions between the conservatives & liberals. Dr. Williams suggested that under this model, full-member churches would limit their actions in deference to the international majority while "churches in association" would have no such limits, but would also "have no direct path in the decision-making" of the international communion. The letter also suggested that a similar system be used to maintain the unity of ECUSA, so that both the liberal & the conservative dioceses could continue to function in association. At this time, some 10 conservative dioceses representing 900 parishes have formed the Anglican Communion Network as a prelude to abandoning ECUSA altogether & affiliating with some other international Anglican bodies, as a number of ECUSA parishes have done already.
Anglican Bishop of Durham Dr. N. T. Wright's insightful analysis of the controversy is available here: The Choice Before ECUSA.
A television show with a cross-dressing reincarnation of a Christian revolutionary & a host who puts guests in touch with their past lives is drawing mass audiences in a country where spiritualism has a long tradition. Hiroyuki Ehara's books have sold more than 7 milllion copies on Japan, & the bearded self-anointed "spiritual counselor" is making a fortune in television, publishing, public appearances, & high priced private "counseling" sessions.
Observers of Japanese culture say long-standing fascination with life after death,exemplified in traditional Shinto, & current anxieity about work, famly, & economics are the sources of the current surge in interest in spiritual contacts.
"Spiritualism has always been an undercurrent in Japanese society," observed Toji Kamata, professor of religion at Kyoto University of Art & Design. He noted that after 9/11, "People came to the realization that religion is something that can't be ignored," adding, "Japanese also suffered a loss of identity as they began to doubt Western values."
Friday, March 24 2006 @ 03:25 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
Today Pope Benedict XVI (78), head of the 1.1 billion member Roman Catholic Church, led a ceremony in St. Peter's Square to announce the appointment of 15 new cardinals, leaders who advise the pope, vote on church issues, & choose a new pope.
The new "princes of the church" were the first chosen by Benedict since his ascension to the seat of Peter in April 2005. All wore their red identifying cardinal cossacks, but remained bare-headed until the end of the ceremony, when they received their red skull caps, or zuccetto.
The new cardinals included 7 from outside Europe, 3 over 80 years of age (therefore ineligible to vote for pope), 3 Italians, 2 Americans, & others from China, Ghana, Slovenia, Venezuela, & the Philippines.
Thursday, March 23 2006 @ 05:49 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
An English government agency has backed a school that had sent home a Muslim student whose full jibab, or covering dress, did not conform to the school's dress code. The girl, now 17, had successfully sued the school's headmaster & governors (principal & Board) last March, saying they had failed to give her "the right to education & to manifest her religious beliefs" under the Human Rights Act & the European Convention on Human Rights.
The school appealed the ruling last month to a panel of judges at the House of Lords, which Wednesday backed the school & reversed the initial ruling.
Speaking for the House of Lords, Lord Bingham said, "It would, in my opinion, be irresponsible for any court, lacking the experience, background & detailed knowledge of the headteacher, staff and governors, to overrule their judgment on a matter as sensitive as this. The power of decision has been given to them for the compelling reason that they are best placed to exercise it, & I see no reason to disturb their decision."
The Bedfordshire school is 70% Muslim & an alternative female Muslim covering, the shalwar kameez, is approved for use at the school & had been worn by the student until September 2002, when she & her brother said that henceforth she must wear the more voluminous, head-to-toe jibab. She later enrolled in another school that permitted it when she was sent home from the school that sued.
She & her family may still take up the case to the European Court of Human Rights, according to their attorney. The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said the ruling by the House of Lords was "indicative of the level of Islamaphobia in British society."
Wednesday, March 22 2006 @ 08:02 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
The Rev. Jane Adams Spahr (63), a lesbian activist minister in the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), the largest Presbyterian association in the United States, may face a denominational retrail after her acquittal earlier this month on charges of violating church law by marrying same-sex couples. A lawyer for the denomination's Presbytery of the Redwoods (northern California district), Stephen Taber, said the church will appeal the ruling made March 3 by the investigating committee (which had brought the original charges). Taber argues that the decision was technically flawed & represented an incorrect interpretation of the church's constitution.
Thursday, November 17 2005 @ 04:11 PM EST Contributed by: AIA
Excavators at an archaeological site in southern Israel that has been dated to within a century or so of the time of King David (1000 BC) have found a shard of pottery with a Philistine name engraved that could be the equivalent of the Hebrew name "Goliath," said to be the name of the "giant" Philistine the young David vanquished with a stone from a slingshot. This would be the first artifact find nearly contemporaneous to the biblical story that lends credence to the historical details contained in scripture.
Tel es-Shafi, said to be at the location of the ancient city of Gath, which the Bible credits as Goliath's hometown, has been worked for the last decade. Aren Maeir, director of the excavation & head of the archaeology department at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said, "This is a groundbreaking find. Here we have very nice evidence the name Goliath appearing in the Bible in the context of the story of David & Goliath. . . is not some later literary creation." Maeir explained that the inscription would not be referring to the biblical Goliath of a century earlier, but "it's the first archaeological evidence from a Philistine site which lends strong credibility" to the biblical story.
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