Vol V. No. 29
Edited by Wayne A. Holst
In this issue:
Book Notice -
Islam, Christianity and Religious Pluralism"
by Paul L. Heck, Georgetown U. Press (2009)
Beginning With the Word
Persecution of Christians in Iraq
World Vision Workers Killed in Pakistan
100 US Anglican Parishes to Join Catholics
Disgrace Charge Brought Against Aussie Bishop
Nigerian Muslims Blamed for Christian Slaughter
Lutherans in Canada & US Join in Global Service
Ulster Devolution Approved for Police and Justice
Asian Catholics Bring Vitality to Canadian Church
Campaign to Restore Kairos Funding Gains Momentum
Global Faith Potpourri:
Fifteen Articles from Ecumenical News International
Quotes of the Week:
Dorothy L. Sayers
Hans van Dillen
On This Day:
March 8, 1917 - Russian Revolution begins in St. Petersburg
March 10, 1985 - Chernenko, dies; Gorbachev chosen successor
Closing Meditation - On our immigrant population
We at St. David's have enjoyed a recent presentation
by Ola Mohajer, a bioscience and religious studies
major at the University of Calgary. She is a Shiite
Muslim, but like many young people her age, she is
not that so committed to the religious community of
her parents! She does relate to progressive young
Muslims at the university and is a re-elected science
commissioner on the new Student Council for 2010-11.
Ola is very aware of her faith in a Canadian context
and dresses accordingly. She was born in Lebanon, but
moved with her family to Calgary when a year old.
Ola is coming to St. David's for a Monday night
Q&A to complete our winter series on a high note.
Our people met her when she gave a presentation
on Islam at a Sunday morning service in January.
She is warm, intelligent and very Canadian. She
hopes to invite the people of our congregation to
one of the mosques in the city as a kind of return
invitation. We look forward to this exchange.
I give this introduction because I believe that we
at St. David's are forging a healthy start to a
relationship with the Muslim community in our city.
We are doing this as part of our larger ministry focus
on "Adventuresome Spirituality."
During the past year we have invited a Jewish guest who
introduced us to Passover rites; a Coptic Christian who
explained the history of his faith to Western Christians
who had little awareness of his tradition; the Tibetan
Buddhist community who shared an evening with us prior
the Dalai Lama's visit to Calgary. Soon we will welcome
Ola back with us.
We are doing these things because we want to grow in our
awareness of the people who are our neighbours.
This week I am introducing a book entitled -
"Common Ground: Islam, Christianity and Religious
Pluralism" by Paul L. Heck, Georgetown U. Press, (2009)
This could be a helpful guide for you as you also seek to
enhance your understanding of religion, spirituality and
Larry O'Connor (London, ON) - offers us an interesting
article by Joan Chittister on how she reads developments
in Ireland in the wake of the tragic abuse scandal there
(National Catholic Reporter)
Ken Kuhl (London, ON) - provides a 'starter' article,
followed by others, on a growing church crisis in Germany.
The pope's own brother Georg confessed to physical, not
sexual, abuse. The German church launched investigations
(Cathnews USA and Asia, The Times Online)
Jim Taylor (Okanagan, BC) - developes a theory on how
patriarchal hierarachies seem to develop. Human institutions
have a way of working against the good formative values they
were originally created to support (Jim Taylor's Weblog)
Lorna Dueck (Burlington, ON) - connects two current topics -
the Paralympics and the Haitian earthquake, through her own
special way of column-writing (Globe and Mail)
"Beginning With the Word" - Stephen Miller writes of how
the the King James Bible had a strong influence on the
prose style of American writers. He adds insights from
Robert Alter - a famous Jewish specialist in liturgical
language (Wall Street Journal)
"Persecution of Christians in Iraq" - read a study,
from a Canadian evangelical perspective, on persecution
of the Christians in Iraq. It is part of a series on
persecuted Christians currently being experienced around
the world (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada)
"World Vision Workers Killed in Pakistan" - nationals
working for WV were the victims. It is the worst case
of violence suffered by the agency in its history and
WV has suspended its operations in Pakistan
"100 US Anglican Parishes to Join Catholics" - in
response to the pope's invitation, 100 traditionalist
Anglican parishes plan to enter the Catholic church
as a group (Catholic News Service)
"Disgrace Charge Brought Against Aussie Bishop" -
meanwhile, in Australia, fellow Anglican bishops
have brought formal charges of "disgraceful and
scandalous behaviour" against a colleague.
(The Age, Sydney AU)
"Nigerian Muslims Blamed for Christian Slaughter" -
on the fault line of Muslim and Christian tensions
in Nigeria comes this story which developed through
the week. I provide a number of current reports
(Cathnews Asia, Assist News, Guardian UK, and
the Wall Street Journal)
"Lutherans in Canada & US Join in Global Service" -
twenty-five and more years after Canadian and American
Lutherans separated along national lines and merged
with other Lutherans in their respective countries,
new mutal ventures in mission are being planned
(ELCA News, Chicago)
"Ulster Devolution Approved for Police and Justice" -
The parliament at Westminster, London is in the process
of granting new powers of home rule to Northern Ireland
(The Telegraph, UK)
"Asian Catholics Bring Vitality to Canadian Church" -
one sign of encouragement in Canadian church life today
is the growth and influence of Christian immigrants
from China, Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere.
(Western Catholic Reporter)
"Campaign to Restore Kairos Funding Gains Momentum" -
late last year, many Canadians were upset when the
government pulled its funding from Kairos - a major
CIDA-funded global justice organization. There are
signs that funding may eventually be restored.
Global Faith Potpourri - enjoy fifteen articles
from ENI reporting on events from around the world.
Quotes of the Week:
Dorothy L. Sayers, Hans van Dillen, David Cole,
Parker Palmer & Maya Angelou offer their insights.
On This Day (March 8th - March 10th):
The first shots of the Russian Revolution were fired
in St. Petersburg (1917) and almost 70 years later,
the first steps in the dismantling of the USSR occured
when Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power (1985)
Our closing thoughts this week - a prayer on behalf
of our immigrant populations - has been provided by
Blessings on your continuing Lenten journey.
SPECIAL ST. DAVID'S LINKS
Contact us at: email@example.com (or) firstname.lastname@example.org
St. David's Web Address - http://sduc.ca/
Listen to audio recordings of Sunday services -
ST DAVID'S ACTS WEB PAGE
Created and maintained by Colleague Jock McTavish
THE FUTURE OF FAITH by Harvey Cox
Monday Night Study, January 18th - March 29th, 2010
An insightful description of where Christian faith
is moving in the twenty-first century.
Follow our class videos, power point presentations,
other notes and study resources. Bookmark this link:
A collection of twenty-five+ studies conducted since 2000 can
quickly be found at: http://bookstudies.stdavidscalgary.net/
This collection of study resources represents a decade of
Monday Night Studies at St. David's, plus extra courses too!
You are welcome to use our course outlines, class notes and
resource pages in your personal and group reflections.
Islam, Christianity and Religious Pluralism
by Paul L. Heck, Georgetown U. Press (2009)
$24.95 US. Paper.240 pp. ISBN #978-1-58901-507-4
This book defends the thesis that if Christianity
and Islam cannot be easily reconciled, it may be
possible to view them through a single, albeit
Paul Heck undertakes a study of religious pluralism
as a given theological and social reality. He seeks
to approach both religions in tandem as part of a
broader discussion on the nature of the good society.
Rather than compare Christianity and Islam as two
species of faith, religious pluralism offers a prism
through which a society as a whole - secular and
religious alike - can consider together its core
beliefs and values. Seen as distinct, yet together,
both faiths offer reference points that all can
comprehend and discuss knowledgeably.
This book analyses how the two faiths understand
theology, ethics, and politics - specifically
democracy and human rights - and offers a way for
the religious discussion to move forward.
Insight into the common ground between Christianity
and Islam will offer direction for wider discussion.
I attempt to approach the two faiths through the
prism of religious pluralism, co-existing within
society. This study of religious pluralism does not
aim to cram different religions into a single box but
seeks to reach a deeper understanding of religion.
My goal is to seek insight into Christian-Muslim
thinking. Where are the two faiths alike and where
are they different? How does that tell us something
Does the study of religious pluralism within a
single society have a common purpose? Do the truths
they hold in common cross a broad range of issues -
spiritual, ethical and political?
There is plenty of uncommon ground, but the evidence,
I argue, tilts in the direction of commonality amidst
I am not arguing for the creation of a common ground
but suggesting its long-standing existence. (It is
something we can discover and claim from an honest
recovery of our respective traditions.)
I create six chapters that explore topics of central
importancce to Islam with reference to commonality
in Christianity. The first two deal with theology
and revelation. The second two deal with ethics -
the face of God and the existence of evil. The final
two deal with politics - democarcy and human rights.
My conclusions support the idea of a common ground
but also recognize its current fragility.
Both religions hold to a common ground in that each
calls people to live with a God who, given common
biblical origins, is the one God.
Both struggle for a godly society based on moral
teachings. Secular democracies are not a threat to
religious authority, but religion's friend.
This book offers a way of looking at religion through
the refraction offered by society. I see the "religious
pluralism" idea as a great challenge to the prevailing
notion of religion as identity marker. It can be
explored and discussed in light of the wider human
Thirty years ago - I was making door-to-door contacts
with people in my North West Calgary community as a new
congregational developer - I became aware of the growing
number of Muslims living in my suburban neighbourhood.
They came from many parts of Asia and Africa, and were
drawn to the educational and occupational opportunities
they found here in Calgary.
Over time, I became aware of similar changes in the
population configuration of many Canadian cities. Town
and country/rural parts of the country have not been
I invited the imam of the local Sunni mosque to speak
to my congregation because I wanted to "humanize" the
development I saw taking place. Interestingly, the
inter-national magazine of my denomination picked up
the story. Apparently, a new trend was detected.
Three decades later the trends have only continued to
demonstrate that my country and city is going through
a major transformation of its citizenry. The majority
of students at the university where I teach are no
longer of white racial background (this includes Asians
and Latinos.) What we once called "visible minority"
folk are truly becoming "the visible majority."
I find the book "Common Ground: Islam, Christianity
and Religious Pluralism" by Paul Heck most helpful to
me because it acknowledges the cultural pluralism I
have been describing - not just in other parts of the
world, but right here at home.
Heck approaches the challenge as an evolution in human
relations. He assumes, for example, that Muslims are
growingly comfortable living in Western nations and
are open to the secular, democratic institutions that
have emerged in our socities. Christians would do well
to see these Muslims among us as allies, and not
adversaries, in terms of religious committments.
The author of this book wants his readers to view
the two faith traditions are standing on a certain
"common ground" regarding theology, ethics and
politics. We need to work together, recognizing our
differences, but determined to build societies
together that reflect the values we share.
This is a perspective that applies globally as well
as locally. We can demonstrate - generally and
specifically - that religious committment can be a
unifying, peaceable phenomenon and not a divisive,
We can recognize there will always be religious
differences, but our commonalities can prove to be
Together, we can build new societies - globally and
close to home - as we grow more aware and respectful
of the various faith traditions which which we share
If you are interested in building bridges with people
of other faith traditions - as I have for thirty
years here in Calgary - this book could provide some
excitingly new perspectives.
Buy the book: http://tinyurl.com/ylop4dr
I thought you might be interested in this...
National Catholic Reporter
February 19th, 2010
by Joan Chittister
Being in Ireland as the country and the church continue
the torturous process of resolving -- if that's possible
-- the standoff between victims of sexual abuse and the
local episcopacy, I find myself returning again and again
to a strange but impelling image from a filmic past.
It is the closing scene of Frederico Fellini's 1960 Italian
film masterpiece, "La Dolce Vita," the scene on the beach
in which you expect to see the man's search for love finally
resolved. He is a professional figure, a sophisticated man
who specializes in beguiling women and then abandoning them.
This last encounter with a simple young woman on the beach
seems idyllic. Now, you're certain, love will soften the
differences fate has created between them. But the movement
of each character toward the other stops. Between them on
the shore is an inlet too wide to negotiate in suit and shoes.
As the tide comes in and the inlet widens they attempt a
conversation, calling to one another across the gulf, but,
you come to realize, they are not capable of either hearing
or understanding what the other one is saying. And therein
lies the tale. There are encounters in which, without great
effort on both sides, communication, however desirable,
is not possible.
I've been watching the Irish sex abuse situation here for
years. And learning about communication from every minute
of it. This is not the United States of America. This is
Catholic Ireland. Nothing could be more different than these
two cultures in their approach to a church problem. In the
United States when the sexual abuse crisis erupted and the
church retreated behind a plexiglass of legal responses,
people picketed churches, signed petitions, demonstrated
outside chanceries, and formed protest groups.
In Ireland, the response had another kind of chill about it,
however. In Ireland the gulf got wider and deeper by the day.
It felt like the massive turning of a silent back against the
bell towers and statues and holy water fonts behind it. No
major public protests occurred. "Not at all," as they are
fond of saying. But the situation moved at the upper echelon
of the country relatively quietly but like a glacier. Slowly
A country which, until recently, checked its constitution
against "the teachings of the church" and had, therefore,
allowed no contraceptives to be sold within its boundaries,
unleashed its entire legal and political system against the
They broke a hundred years of silence about the abuse of
unwed mothers in the so-called "Magdalene Launderies." They
investigated the treatment of orphaned or homeless children
in the "industrial schools" of the country where physical
abuse had long been common. The government itself took
public responsibility for having failed to monitor these state-
owned but church-run programs. And they assessed
compensatory damages, the results of which are still under
review in the national parliament.
Meanwhile, the average Irish person in the pews digested
the information and, at the same time, calmly but clearly
to declare a separation between "the faith and the church,"
between the sacramental system and the individual conscience.
The sacraments they continued to respect, but church attendance
has tumbled in the cities. Their individual consciences, on the
other hand, they reclaimed. "They won't be telling us what to do
anymore," an old man on the street said in one of the earliest
public interviews on the problem. "We'll be deciding that for
ourselves." And, to judge by local conversations and polling
data years later, nothing much has changed in that regard.
The fact is that there is still an undigested part of the
problem that may well determine the responses of the next
generation toward both faith and church more than it affects
this one. For them, the issue is not the nature of fallen
humanity. Mortal frailty the Irish have learned well over
the centuries. The issue is responsibility. On two levels.
The survivor's response to the meeting of Pope Benedict XVI
with the Irish Episcopacy had the ring of repugnance about
it. "Pope Benedict," Andrew Madden, a spokesperson for the
survivors said, "has not articulated full acceptance of the
findings of the Murphy Report, as we asked him to do," (RTE1
News, February 16.) That is needed, he went on, "to quell the
rise in revisionism and the surge in denial from some quarters
within the Catholic church in relation to its findings."
The message is clear:
First, until the church, in an official way, admits that the
findings of the Murphy Report on the overwhelming amount of
child abuse that went on in Dublin are true and accepts
responsibility for the climate that made cover up an episcopal
practice, the case, at least in the victims' minds, is not
closed. Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel lamented that the
Murphy investigation might well be extended to all the dioceses
in Ireland. If that happens, he said, "the past won't be past
for a long time."
Second, until the bishops who were part of the cover up all
resign, the victims argue, the church will not have proven
either their rejection of the practice, their determination
to change or their ownership of the problem.
Point: Four bishops criticized in the report have offered their
resignations, but so far the pope has officially accepted onl
one of them. All were auxiliary bishops at the time of the first
reports of abuse. They did nothing to bring the situation to
But none of them, no one in the Irish episcopacy, has yet to
admit to their own role in a cover-up. No bishop, in a land
where the burden of guilt fell heavily on the backs of Irish
people, has admitted his own guilt, his own defense of the
institution rather than the care of the children. No one has
said, "The church -- I -- was wrong in the handling of this
scandal. Therefore, I,too, am responsible for this abuse."
So how are the Irish people reacting to the impasse? Well, as
they opened Catholic Schools Week in Ireland this month, the
Market Research Bureau of Ireland was reporting that 74
percent of the population think that "the church did not react
properly to the Murphy Report" and that 61 percent of the
population"want no Catholic control of elementary schools."
Little more than half of the respondents think the church will
really change to prevent abuse in the future, and 47 percent
feel more negative than before toward the church.
Most telling of all, perhaps, is the fact that the support of
the older generation which, at its best, was once only marginally
higher than the support of 18-24 year olds, may be shifting even
lower. "The fallout from the Murphy report was a shock to the
bishops," Archbishop Clifford said, and "had a far greater
negative effect on older people than the previous two
investigations had been."
"While they were preaching at us they were damaging our
children," an old woman said. "What more can you say?"
From where I stand, it seems that the long-awaited meeting
between the pope and the bishops of Ireland is over now, more
with a yawn than a standing ovation. In true Irish fashion,
everybody's talking about it, but if the data is saying
anything, it may be that the love affair between the people
and the church is on very rocky ground; one side is not hearing
the other and the gulf is growing wider every day.
Ecumenical News International
8 March 2010
Pope's brother says willing to testify
about scandal-hit choir he led
Trier/Rome (ENI). The Pope and his brother have
been drawn into a controversy surrounding the sexual
abuse of members of a boy's choir in Germany. The
Vatican says that the brother of Pope Benedict XVI
was not involved with the choir at the time the
sexual abuse allegedly took place, but a German
Catholic lay group has demanded that the pontiff
explain what he knew about the situation when he
was a bishop in Bavaria. Germany's Stern magazine
in its 8 March edition quoted the Roman Catholic
lay reform Group We Are Church as saying, "Pope
Benedict should explain himself".
March 9th, 2010
Pope's brother apologizes over school punishment
Pope Benedict's elder brother Monsignor Georg Ratzinger
has asked forgiveness for slapping pupils at the German
boarding school where he was choirmaster and also
apologized for failing to act over more violent
punishment at the school.
The Times of London:
March 10, 2010
Pope's brother: I hit children while working
at boarding school, by Richard Owen, Rome
The Pope's brother gave a rare insight yesterday
into a pervasive culture of violence at Roman Catholic
institutions, admitting that he hit children while he
was choirmaster at a German boarding school.
Georg Ratzinger led Germany's leading Catholic boys'
choir, the Regensburger Domspatzen, for 30 years until
1994. The school and its choir are at the centre of
allegations of sexual abuse over several decades.
In an interview with the Catholic newspaper Passauer
Neue Presse, Monsignor Ratzinger, 86, said that he had
no knowledge of sexual abuse but admitted that boys were
often punished harshly, sometimes in an arbitrary manner.
"I myself handed out slaps repeatedly, although I always
had a bad conscience about it," he said...
Read the rest of the article:
March 10th, 2010
German Church launches new abuse investigations
Germany's Catholic Church has ordered two separate
investigations yesterday into allegations of widespread
sexual abuse in its institutions, and into whether Pope
Benedict knew about them while he was a diocesan bishop.
Among the bigger B.C. lakes, Okanagan Lake is unique. It has
no major river feeding it.
Perhaps for the same reason, it has no deep bays. When sudden
storms lash the lake, boaters have few natural places to seek
So regional authorities built a “safe harbour” in Okanagan
Centre, just south of my home.
When I first saw it, it had a breakwater, and not much else.
Boaters launched fishing skiffs and light runabouts by backing
their trailers down the gravel slope into the water.
As time passed, the regional government rebuilt the breakwater
with bigger pilings. They installed a concrete launching ramp.
They paved the roadway. Regimented parking spaces replaced
And last summer, a commissionaire began locking the harbour’s
gates at 11:00 each night, and re-opening them at 5:00 a.m.
Overnight parkers got tickets, or had their vehicles towed.
I’m not objecting to that change. Local residents had long
lobbied for a means of controlling late-night parties and abuse
of a free facility.
But I also see a kind of inevitable progression taking place...
Read of how institutions and patriarchies tend to evolve,
Globe and Mail
March 12th, 2010
Lorna combines two current themes - the Paralympics
and Haitian relief - in a special story of hope.
Owning Haiti's Podium
BEGINNING WITH THE WORD
Wall Street Journal
March 8th, 2010
The King James Bible has influenced the prose style and
literary voice of many American writers. Robert Alter
traces its effect in "Pen of Iron."
Read the review: http://tinyurl.com/yh4me36
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ
Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Report
March 9th, 2010
SIX WORLD VISION WORKERS KILLED IN PAKISTAN
March 11th, 2010
Six Pakistani workers from the US-based Christian charity
World Vision were shot dead and seven others wounded in an
attack on their office in Mansehra, a popular tourist
destination in northern Pakistan.
Read more... http://tinyurl.com/yg4cden
100 US ANGLICAN PARISHES TO JOIN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Catholic News Service
March 9th, 2010
ORLANDO, Fla. -- About 100 traditionalist Anglican
parishes in the United States have decided to join
the Catholic Church as a group.
DISGRACE CHARGE BROUGHT AGAINST BISHOP
The Age (Australia)
Written by Barney Zwartz
March 9, 2010
Two South Australian Anglican bishops have brought
formal charges of disgraceful and scandalous behaviour
against a third, claiming that he tried to stack his
diocesan council to get a $1 million payout and that he
protected and promoted a senior priest accused of sexual
Read the article: http://tinyurl.com/yaaafrq
NIGERIAN MUSLIMS BLAMED FOR SLAUGHTER OF 500 CHRISTIANS
March 8th, 2010
Nigerian government sources are blaming Muslim clans for
the slaughter of up to 550 Christians in a weekend attack
on a Christian village.
Read the article: http://tinyurl.com/yf4qtl3
March 10th, 2010
Nigerian Police Reduce the Number of Christian Deaths
March 11th, 2010
Nigerian Sectarian Massacre Murder Charges
Wall Street Journal
March 11th, 2010
Massacres Shake Uneasy Nigeria
LUTHERANS IN CANADA, UNITED STATES
TO ENGAGE IN GLOBAL SERVICE TOGETHER
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
March 5, 2010
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
Canada (ELCIC) will engage in mission and ministry
overseas together as part of a new agreement between
ULSTER DEVOLUTION APPROVED RE POLICE AND JUSTICE
The Telegraph (UK)
March 10th, 2010
Powers are to be handed over to the Northern Ireland
Assembly finally paving the way for devolution to be
Read the article: http://tinyurl.com/ye8ht7n
ASIAN CATHOLICS BRING VITALITY TO CHURCH IN CANADA
Western Catholic Reporter
March 8th, 2010
by Chris Miller
Despite language barriers, the disruptive experience
of immigration and other obstacles, Asian Catholics are
integrating into Canadian life and keeping their faith
alive in Edmonton.
Read the article: http://tinyurl.com/yj2349d
CAMPAIGN TO RESTORE KAIROS FUNDING GAINS MOMENTUM
Anglican News Service
March 8th, 2010
With letters, fundraising concerts, and MP meetings,
Canadians are ramping up support for KAIROS: Canadian
Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, which was denied its
traditional funding from the Canadian International
Development Agency (CIDA) on Nov. 30.
Mary Corkery, KAIROS's executive director, said she is
seeing "greater momentum" from the supportive NGO and
church community since the fall decision. "People
do understand that social justice is a fundamental
expression of who we are as Christians," she said.
Read the article and locate related links:
GLOBAL FAITH POTPOURRI
Ecumenical News International
8 March 2010
Russian and Polish churches break ice with talks
Warsaw (ENI). Poland's Roman Catholic Church has launched
its first dialogue with Russian Orthodox leaders, in a bid
to rebuild relations between the two countries. "Although
these were introductory talks, key problems of mutual
interest were discussed, and it was agreed to start work
on a joint document about our churches' contribution to
the labour of reconciliation," church representatives
said in a joint statement. "Both sides stressed the
historic significance of this initiative and the
conversations now begun, which are an important first
step towards bringing our local churches closer and
reconciling our nations."
Questions arise as 'most godless place' gets first saint
Melbourne, Australia (ENI). Australia - described in the
19th century by a Scottish church minister as "the most
Godless place under heaven" - will get its first saint
when Sister Mary McKillop is canonised by Pope Benedict
XVI later in the year. Some Protestant church leaders
have, however, raised questions about the need to find
"proof of a miracle" in order for her sainthood to be
confirmed. Mary McKillop, the daughter of a Roman
Catholic, Scottish immigrant, at just 24, established
the Order of the Sisters of St. Joseph in South East
Australia in the late 1800s.
9 March 2010
Sri Lanka's religious leaders call
for fair polls in April
Bangalore, India (ENI). Sri Lankan religious leaders have
called for free and fair polls scheduled for April in an
election campaign that has already been marred by violence.
"If you cannot uphold law and reject violence during the
elections, how can we trust that you will do this after
the elections?" leaders of Sri Lanka's Congress of Religions
challenged about 7000 candidates set to contest 225 seats
for the national parliament in the 8 April elections.
This is the clear message our forum has sent out for the
elections," the Rev. Jayasiri Peiris, former general
secretary of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka,
told Ecumenical News International on 8 March. He was
explaining a statement the religious leaders released on
2 March in the majority Sinhala language.
Muslim woman in Canada expelled over
face veil files complaint
Toronto (ENI). A Muslim woman has filed a human rights
complaint after she was expelled from a Canadian college
for refusing to remove her face veil. The Egyptian-born
woman, who is a permanent resident of Canada, was enrolled
in a government-sponsored French language class for new
immigrants in Montreal, Quebec. The school, CÉGEP St.
Laurent, expelled her in November 2009 after she refused
to remove her niqab, a veil that covers the face with only
a slit for the eyes. The school argued that the niqab
interfered with the language teaching, since part of
the class involves proper elocution and seeing how a
person pronounces words in French.
Theologian hailed as pioneer
in church activism in South Africa
Johannesburg (ENI). South African theologian Steve de Gruchy,
who died in a river accident near the Drakensberg mountains,
has been hailed as a pioneer in church activism, economic
and ecological justice. The 48-year-old University of KwaZulu-
Natal professor drowned after he fell off a river tube on the
Mooi River. De Gruchy waved to his 15-year-old son David that
he was alright, but did not reappear. His body was recovered
700 metres downstream on 24 February some days after the
accident. The general secretary of the World Alliance of
Reformed Churches, the Rev. Setri Nyomi, said, "We have lost
a great theologian and one who understands our Christian
calling and mission to be intricately linked with being
God's agents of transformation and justice in the world."
The Rev. Prince Dibeela of the United Congregational Church
of Southern Africa called De Gruchy a "God-loving son of
Christians, Muslims issue
religious freedom plan after US summit
Washington, DC (ENI/RNS). Christian and Muslim leaders from
the United States, the Vatican and the Middle East have issued
a "plan of action" to address religious freedom and peace
building after a three-day summit at Washington National
Cathedral. The group's two-page statement committed to
working with government and community officials to address
the global economic downturn, natural disasters and the
conflict in the Middle East, Religion News Service reports.
"The worship of God who demands serious moral purpose is at
the very core of Christianity and Islam," the statement reads.
"Therefore, religious leaders must cooperatively work with
each other and the political leaders in their respective
countries in response to these crises."
10 March 2010
Group seeks to restore Hinduism as secular
Nepal's State religion
Kathmandu (ENI). The marquees near Nepal's Pashupatinath
temple in the Himalayan country's capital resembled a
carnival with people trooping in from morning to night.
But for some members of minority religions, including
people among about 700 000 Christians who were given
the privilege of religious freedom in 2006, the Hindu
gathering has been a cause for concern. The group
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has warned that Nepal's
new constitution, which will go into effect in May, may
not allow people to convert from one religion to another.
Kalidas Dahal, a Hindu who claims to have supernatural
powers, on 1 March began a nine-day prayer meeting aiming
to show the coalition government the public support
Hinduism still enjoys in Nepal.
World Council of Churches,
World Evangelical Alliance heads meet
Geneva (ENI). Leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance
and the World Council of Churches and have met in Geneva
to discuss common concerns around Christian unity such as
evangelism and religious liberty. The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit,
general secretary of the WCC, and WEA's international
director, the Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe, met for the first
time in 2007 at the Global Christian Forum in Limuru, Kenya.
Their meeting in Geneva was their first encounter since
Tveit began his tenure as WCC general secretary in January.
"This important meeting was helpful in building bridges of
understanding in regards to evangelism, religious liberty
and caring for the vulnerable. We look forward to ongoing
conversations with the WCC," Tunnicliffe was quoted as
saying in a WCC statement on 10 March.
Korean church leaders liken death penalty ruling
to 'State violence'
Tokyo (ENI). Korean church leaders have criticised a
ruling that the death penalty is constitutional, calling
it "an expression of violence committed by State power".
"We believe that the judgment is against the right to life
as a basic right of the Constitution," said the Rev. Oh-Sung
Kwon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches
in Korea, in a statement. It was co-signed by the Rev.
Sang-Bok Jung, who chairs the council's justice and peace
committee. On 25 February, South Korea's Constitutional
Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, in favour of the death
penalty that was imposed on a 72-year-old fisherman, who
had been tried for murder for a second time and had his
conviction from 14 years earlier, was upheld.
11 March 2010
Pakistan churches condemn lethal attack
on World Vision centre
Bangalore, India (ENI). Churches in Pakistan have
deplored the killing of six World Vision staff members
as the international Christian humanitarian organization
announced it has suspended its operations in the country.
Dean Owen of World Vision said after the attack, "All of
World Vision’s operations in the country have been
suspended for the time being." He said World Vision had
received "no threatening letters" before the killing.
News agency reports said unidentified gunmen lined up
the staff at a field hospital in the small town of Ogi
in the Mansehra district on 10 March and shot them
indiscriminately before detonating bombs that damaged
the building housing the healthcare facilities for those
affected by the earthquake that ravaged the area in 2005.
In addition to the deaths, eight staff members were
Some faith leaders see religion
behind violence in Nigeria
Lagos, Nigeria (ENI). Some religious leaders in Nigeria
are viewing the latest outbreak of lethal violence in the
country's central region - a part of the country once seen
as a haven of tolerance - as religiously motivated. This
Day newspaper in Nigeria on 10 March quoted the general
secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Engineer
Samuel Salifu as saying in Abuja that the crisis in Plateau
State is religious. "It is clear that the crisis in Jos is
purely religious, though it may have the undertone of culture,
it may also have the undertone of politics. But it's becoming
clear every day that it is religious and our understanding of
it is that it is premeditated cold blooded murder of innocent
Christians in those affected villages," Salifu said in the
Restoring work-free Sundays is goal of European lawmaker
Warsaw (ENI). A German politician has launched the European
Union's first international citizens' referendum, demanding
the restoration of Sunday as a day for rest and family life.
"This is the right time to show that, as European citizens,
we want to involve ourselves, not only through elections, but
also in other ways," Martin Kastler, a European Parliament
member for Germany's co-governing Christian Social Union,
explained on the petition Web site, www.freesunday.eu.
"The work-free Sunday is part of our European culture.
We need time for our families and relationships, for civil
society and religion," said Kastler.
12 March 2010
Polish church challenged to speak up
for poor and marginalised - Feature
Warsaw (ENI). A Polish sociologist has urged the Catholic
Church to speak out in defence of the poor, after figures
showed the former communist country that now plays a strong
economic role in the region has the highest child poverty
rate in the European Union. "While some problems were
inherited from the previous system, the more serious ones
have arisen since communism," said Professor Ewa Les, a
specialist at Warsaw University's Social Policy Institute,
who noted that the country is devoting the fewest resources
to family welfare and support in the EU. "Although the
church's historic record has been a good one, and it does
at lot to help at local level, it isn't using its
possibilities to highlight current social hardships.
This passivity is a great loss," said Les in an interview
with Ecumenical News International.
Unity is crucial, says Rwanda religious leader
after grenade blasts
Kigali (ENI). Rwanda's Muslim leader, who works with
Christians on peace issues, has urged citizens in his
country to remain united following grenade blasts in
the country's capital, Kigali. "For us in Rwanda, unity
and reconciliation are a must," Sheikh Saleh Habimana,
the Mufti of Rwanda, told Ecumenical News International
on 11 March in Kigali. "For the last 16 years Rwandans
have managed to live side by side, on a foundation of
zero tolerance of revenge." On 4 March two synchronised
grenade blasts injured 16 people in Kigali and a third
unrelated explosion killed one person in Gisenyi, a small
town in the west of the country. Two weeks earlier, a
similar blast killed two people.
Muslim cleric who walked path of
inter-faith dialogue is mourned
Trier, Germany (ENI). Sunni Muslim cleric Sheikh Mohammed
Sayyid Tantawi, whom religious leaders have hailed for his
involvement in inter-faith dialogue, as well as for attacking
those who kill innocent people in the name or religion, has
died. Arabnews.com reported that he was boarding an early
morning flight when he suffered severe pain and fell on the
stairs. He was 81 when he died on 10 March. Tantawi, grand
imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt, and the spiritual
leader of around one billion Sunni Muslims, died of a heart
attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 10 March. World religious
and political leaders, including the office of the U.S.
president, have paid tribute to Tantawi.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
March 8th, 2010
Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first
at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never
known a man like this Man ... A prophet and teacher
who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed
or patronised ... who rebuked without querulousness
and praised without condescension; who took their
questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped
out their sphere for them, never urged them to be
feminine or jeered at them for being female ...
Nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds
of Jesus that there was anything [inferior] about
- Dorothy L. Sayers, from book, "Are Women Human?"
Los Angeles Times
March 8th, 2010
"At the moment, Haiti is flooded with help -- the whole
humanitarian circus is here. Most came with no planning
horizon and will soon leave. And then what? We'll try,
but it won't be enough. In that respect, we'll be back
to square one."
- Hans van Dillen, head of mission of the Dutch chapter
of Doctors Without Borders, which has provided medical
services in Haiti for much of the last 15 years, on the
impending departure of medical personnel who came in the
aftermath of the earthquake.
March 9th, 2010
"This is like putting on every student's desk,
when you walk into class, five different magazines,
several television shows, some shopping opportunities
and a phone, and saying, 'Look, if your mind wanders,
feel free to pick any of these up and go with it.'"
- David Cole, Georgetown Law professor, on why he
has banned laptops from his classes.
March 10th, 2010
True self, when violated, will always resist us,
sometimes at great cost, holding our lives in check
until we honor its truth.
- Parker Palmer, from book "Let Your Life Speak"
March 11th, 2010
The fact that people become heroes and sheroes can
be credited to their ability to identify and empathize
with "the other." These men and women could continue
to live quite comfortably ... but they chose not to.
They make the decision to be conscious of the other
-- the homeless and the hopeless, the downtrodden and
oppressed. Heroism has nothing to do with skin color
or social status. It is a state of mind and a willingness to
act for what is right and just.
- Maya Angelou, excerpted from "An American Odyssey:
From Martin Luther King to Rodney King"
ON THIS DAY
On March 8, 1917, Russia's February Revolution (so called
because of the Old Style calendar used by Russians at the
time) began with rioting and strikes in St. Petersburg.
March 10, 1985, Konstantin U. Chernenko, Soviet leader for just
13 months, died at age 73. His death was announced on March 11th.
Politburo member Mikhail S. Gorbachev was chosen to succeed him.
A Prayer for Our Immigrant Population
Break our hearts over what breaks yours, Lord. For our
immigrant brothers and sisters, who endure hostility and
marginalization simply on the basis of their ethnicity or
immigration status, we ask your strength. And for those
of us who call ourselves followers of the welcoming Christ,
grant us the strength to stand with and for those who live
as equals before you, even if they are not equals before
the law or equals in the eyes of some. Amen. (Sojourners)