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United Nations Asked to Help Protect Religious Sites

Friday, December 29, 2000

    Religious leaders are concerned about safeguarding endangered religious sites. Six clerics from the United States asked the United Nations General Assembly last week to declare its support for protection of the sites around the world in an age when some combatants might intentionally harm them, according to The New York Times.
    "It's something within the nature of the human beast that if you really want to hurt a faith community, that seems to be the most sensitive, most vulnerable focus," said Rabbi Arthur Schneier of New York's Park East synagogue, who was born in Vienna and saw his synagogue destroyed. "This cuts across whether you are a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, [or] Jew."
    The appeal asked that people in areas where there is conflict pay special attention to safeguarding religious sites. It was signed by Schneier; Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Richard F. Grein, the Episcopal bishop of New York; Theodore E. McCarrick, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Newark; Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, primate of the Armenian Church of America; and Imam Mohammad Mostafa Ibrahim Jumeiah, director of religious and cultural affairs at the Islamic Center of New York.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


U.S. Government Does Little About Relgious Persecution

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

    The Clinton Administration has not dealt seriously with religious freedom violators abroad, a government commission charges. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which documents abuses and advises the State Department of possible sanctions, said the government is not taking meaningful action against offending countries, according to the Los Angeles Times.
    The administration ignored recommended sanctions against nations guilty of religious persecution, commission members said. China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam are among the worst violators of religious freedom, it said, but only China was the object of government sanctions. That action, a ban on an export of law enforcement equipment, is practically meaningless, commission Chairman Elliot Abrams said, according to the Times.
    The commission praised Susan Rice, assistant secretary of State for African affairs, for her recent trip to Sudan, where she met with leaders of forces resisting the Islamic Khartoum government, which is conducting a genocidal campaign against Christians and animists in the south. Rice also met with southern Sudanese women and children who said they were sold as slaves after being taken captive by Islamic soldiers. "This is the kind of thing we are calling for," Abrams said. "It is a tremendous signal to the government of Sudan that senior officials are taking this seriously."

--Used by permission of Religion Today


Religious Liberties Restricted for Most of World

Wednesday, November 1, 2000

    Most of the world lives in countries where religious liberties are restricted. A study by The Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House reveals that 36 percent of people have their religious rights "fundamentally violated" by their governments and 39 percent worship under some form of constraint.     Burma, Turkmenistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, North Korea, and Tibet are the worst offenders, according to the report. The two most populous countries, India and China, are worsening, it said. China has cracked down on Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and followers of Falun Gong in the past year, and in India the government routinely ignores attacks against Christians by Hindus, according to the report.     Twenty-five percent of the world's population enjoys broad religious freedoms, according to the report. The United States, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands are among the best, it said.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


New Wave of Anti-Semetic Attacks

Tuesday, October 17, 2000

    Halt the new wave of anti-Semitic attacks abroad, Israel's Foreign Ministry pleaded with governments around the world. Outbreaks of violence against Jews have escalated since deadly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces broke out in the Holy Land, Reuters reported.
    At least two Paris synagogues have been arsonized within the last month, as have Jewish places of worship in the United States and other European countries, according to the news service. A Jewish school in the French capital was the target of several petrol bombs and other parts of the country report an increase in anti-Semitic graffiti, Reuters reported. In addition, several Jewish cemeteries around the world have been desecrated and a rabbi in Chicago was shot to death by unknown assailants.
    Anti-Semitic incidents "should cause shock and disgust among all civilized people," the Israeli Foreign Ministry statement said. It called other countries to take "immediate action" to stop the racist incidents and bring the criminals to justice.

--Used by permission of Religion Today


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