From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopal News Service Briefs
Thu, 6 Dec 2001 14:47:25 -0500 (EST)
Churches should shun 'mea-culpa business' and join public debate, says European
(ENI) Secular media are sometimes more courageous in debating religious
issues than churches, according to Pieter van der Ven, a Dutch journalist who has
just been presented with the 2000 John Templeton European Religion Writer of the
Speaking at an award ceremony in Geneva on November 30, van der Ven, desk
chief for religion and philosophy at the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw, pointed to
the response of churches after the events of 11 September.
Many church people, said van der Ven, were ready "to admit that Christianity
and Western arrogance and wealth are much to blame for the wrongs in the world,"
and, as a result, were reluctant to sound critical and afraid of appearing
Feeling "more comfortable in the mea-culpa business," they tended to "shun"
the debate about Muslim-Western relations, which, as a result, was left to
journalists, philosophers and professors, said van der Ven, whose background is
But churches could do more, he suggested. "To begin with they can do more in
explaining both the necessity and the danger of the Enlightenment that the
churches in the West had to go through and that Islam still has to face."
He said that his own newspaper was trying to deepen the analysis and the
debate about Muslim-Western relations. He hoped the result was neither "self-
righteous" nor "soft and indulgent" but instead "a serious and firm approach to
Islam and the Muslim world."
The John Templeton European Religion Writer of the Year award, inaugurated
in 1994, is given for excellence, enterprise and versatility in reporting
religion in the secular press, and includes a citation and a cash prize of 3500
Swiss francs (US$2,130).
National Council of Churches issues statement on Israeli-Palestinian conflict
(NCCCUSA) Calling on President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin
Powell to insist that both Israel and the Palestinians exercise military
restraint and pursue resumption of negotiations, General Secretary Robert W.
Edgar of the National Council of Churches has issued an urgent appeal for the
vigorous pursuit of peace in the Middle East.
"On Saturday evening and Sunday, as bombs exploded in Jerusalem and Haifa,
Advent began. Christians here in the U.S., with a new awareness that their Muslim
neighbors were engaged in fasting and spiritual discipline to mark the holy month
of Ramadan, prepared to receive the Prince of Peace into our hearts. But in
Palestine and Israel there is no peace.
"We condemn the suicide bombings and express our horror and rage at such
senseless and inexcusable acts of violence. We mourn with the Israeli families
and individuals who have lost loved ones, and pray for the healing of all who
were injured. And we mourn as well for the Palestinians killed, and pray for the
injured ones today in Gaza.
"The circle of violence must end. We repeat the call made last May by the
Council of United Methodist Bishops to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to bring
end to all hostilities. Amidst our own revulsion at terrorist acts of this kind,
and against the urge to respond in violence, we lift our voices in a call for
restraint by both sides, and for an even more vigorous pursuit of peace.
"We call on Prime Minister Sharon and President Arafat, and on other Israeli
and Palestinian leaders and people, to turn away from acts of retaliation and
further bloodshed. Neither terrorism nor military force can bring lasting peace
or security for Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region.
"To counter further violence, we ask the United States government to join
with other nations to send an international monitoring force to the region. We
urge President Bush and Secretary of State Powell to insist that both sides
exercise restraint, and to encourage and support an immediate resumption of
negotiations to resolve the causes of the conflict, and to construct a just and
enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace."
Pakistani Christians demand more action to bring church killers to justice
(ENI) More than a month after an attack on a Christian church left 16
people dead, Pakistan's government still hasn't solved the killings, according to
"Government officials just keep saying they are working on it, yet no one
has been arrested as far as we know. We think they know who did it, and
announcing an arrest would be a big step forward," Victor Azariah, the general
secretary of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan, told Ecumenical News
Unidentified gunmen attacked a church in Bahawalpur on October 28. Azariah
said he had information that the assassins were members of Sipah-e-Sahaba, the
"Soldiers of Islam," one of several Islamic extremist groups that have been
irritated by Pakistan's support for the US military intervention in neighboring
Pakistan's Christian community, accounting for less than 2 per cent of the
population, is often associated with the West. "They say America is Christian,
and so we are identified with the United States whether we want to be or not,"
said Cecil Williams, bishop of the Peshawar diocese of the Church of Pakistan, a
denomination that in 1970 united Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, and the Church
The massacre in Bahawalpur took place in a Roman Catholic church, but Roman
Catholics shared the building with a congregation of the Church of Pakistan. On
the Sunday of the attack, the Catholic and Protestant congregations had switched
their times of worship. The Protestants were the ones attacked. Many suspect that
the intended target was the local Roman Catholic priest, a US citizen, but they
weren't aware of the switch in services.
Azariah said the government has so far only carried out a police
investigation of the case. However, church leaders are not aware that this
investigation has produced any results and are demanding a more thorough judicial
inquiry led by a judge.
He said the Christian community here "has not publicly protested the
killing, as we want to give the government a free hand to investigate." Most
church buildings in Pakistan have police guards since the massacre.
In the wake of the massacre, Williams said Pakistani church leaders had
received letters of condolence and solidarity from Christians around the world.
"Yet all the messages aren't going to help the survivors," Williams complained.
He noted that church organizations were spending money to help Afghan refugees in
Pakistan. "If we're taking care of the refugees we should also take care of our
own brethren, the Christians."
According to Sarophina Parvez, a lay activist in the Church of Pakistan in
Peshawar who is related to 13 of the people killed at Bahawalpur, local congregations
here received written threats following the killings. She said they took the notes to the
police, who spoke to the local Muslim cleric they believed responsible. The threats
stopped, she said, but fear lingered. "Some of the congregations wanted us to get
Kalashnikovs (assault rifles), but what are we going to do with Kalashnikovs? And,
besides, it is written in the Gospels that we will suffer," Parvez told ENI.
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