Sunday, March 16, 2003

Around the world...

In Saudi Arabia..

No churches may be built

Saudi Arabia, as the birthplace of Islam, will not allow churches to be built on its land, according to Defense Minister Prince Sultan. Islam is the only accepted religion in Saudi Arabia, home to the faith's holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. "This country was the launch pad for the prophecy and the message, and nothing can contradict this, even if we lose our necks," Sultan told reporters Saturday. His comments were published by Saudi newspapers and confirmed by several journalists who attended the press conference. Sultan said that foreigners have been allowed to worship freely in their homes since they began arriving in Saudi Arabia in 1951 but permitting a church in the country "would affect Islam and all Muslims." On Thursday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency, complained that a new State Department list of countries that severely limit religious freedom omits several that deserve censure, including U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. The commission's annual reports say that religious freedom "does not exist" in the Gulf Kingdom.

On one Indonesian island..

Tolerance is a priority:

Some of my relatives are Muslims," said the Rev. Philipus Tule, the director of the St. Paul Major Seminary, who grew up in Flores and recently completed a doctorate in the anthropology of religion at the Australian National University in Canberra. "We inherited the same land and we still celebrate local customs.""We even pray for our Muslim relatives," he continued. "It is a very advanced theology. I started to do that when I studied Islamic theology and when I understood other believers had the same aim: searching for God."Catholicism arrived in 1914, when fathers from the German-based Society of the Divine Word landed on the coast of Flores and pushed into the malaria-filled mountainous hinterland. They succeeded — where their Jesuit colleagues had failed in the previous century — in converting almost everyone, leaving only scattered Muslim villages and some followers of local pagan beliefs.

From Cuba...

A reminder that at that Castro-attended convent dedication last week, there were no representatives from the actual Cuban Church:

The Mass at the cathedral was presided over by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and was attended by Cardinal Juan Sandoval, archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico. John Paul II's message of greetings to Cardinal Ortega and the Cuban people for the occasion was read during the Mass.

The bishops' statement explained that the Catholic Church in Cuba had no part in the renovation of the building for the Bridgettine sisters, nor in its inauguration or blessing. The order's arrival in the Island is due to an initiative of President Castro, who sent a letter to John Paul II, following arrangements made by Mexican ecclesiastical, business and political personalities, the statement explained. Cardinal Ortega said he offered "canonical approval" for the order's establishment in the Island. But he reminded his audience that the Cuban government continues to refuse the permits the Church has requested for the entry of 15 religious congregations that wish to come to the island, as well as for "several priests" and "numerous women religious." The statement also criticized the excessive kindness with which Castro was treated in the public gatherings linked to this event.

In Guatemala...

it's lawless chaos..

"We are living through anarchy," said Bishop Álvaro Ramazzini, who leads the diocese in San Marcos, a state on the Mexican frontier that is plagued by lynchings. "People do not believe in the legal system. Instead, it is the law of the strongest, that violence can solve any problem. They can tell anyone `burn them,' and it will be done."...

Several human rights advocates also said that fast-growing Evangelical churches, whose preachers work independently in small congregations, had frightened villagers about the dangers of satanic cults and encouraged retribution with strict interpretations of Scriptures. Such teachings by locally trained Guatemalan preachers, they said, played a role in whipping up hysteria among the villagers of Todos Santos, a western mountain village famous for its colorful textiles, where a lynching in 2001 claimed the life of a Japanese tourist who tried to photograph a child. Days before he arrived in the town, a religious radio station had warned listeners about rumors of a satanic cult that was snatching babies for grisly rituals, said Guillermo Padilla, who has studied lynchings and is an advocate for indigenous rights in Guatemala.

"The evangelicals like to fish in turbulent waters," Mr. Padilla said."All week the evangelicals warned, `Take care of your children because there will be satanic rituals and children will be carved up and their organs removed,' " he said. "There was so much panic that the school was closed that Friday so the children could stay home. By the time the Japanese tourist arrived, there was a state of paranoia."

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