From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: News Briefs

Date Thu, 13 Feb 2003 13:30:31 -0500

February 13, 2003


Episcopalians: News Briefs

Muslim group launches national ad campaign

(CAIR) A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy 
group has announced it will launch a year-long "Islam in 
America" ad campaign designed to foster greater understanding 
and to counter what the group says is a rising tide of 
anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will kick off 
the campaign with an ad headlined, "We're All Americans," in the 
New York Times February 16. The ad features images of an 
African-American girl, an Asian man, and a man of European 
heritage, asking the question, "Which one of us is a Muslim?" 
The response is, "We all are...we're American Muslims."

The weekly ads, each explaining an aspect of Islam, will be 
distributed by CAIR to Muslim communities around America for 
placement in local newspapers. As each ad is published in New 
York, it will be available on a web site,, specifically designed to promote the 

"Without accurate and balanced information about mainstream 
Islam and Muslims, ordinary Americans are vulnerable to the 
purveyors of hate, in this country and around the world, who 
seek a perpetual religious and civilizational conflict," said 
CAIR board chairman, Omar Ahmad.

"American Muslims must take on the task of defining their 
faith," said CAIR executive director Nihad Awad. "Otherwise, 
that definition will be left to those whose agenda serves 
religious and political goals that are in conflict with our 
nation's long-term interests." He cited the anti-Islamic 
rhetoric of evangelical Christian and right-wing commentators, 
and the extremist views of some Muslims claiming to act in the 
name of Islam.

(For more information visit the CAIR web site at or call Ibrahim Hooper at 202-488-8787.)

South African explores limits of remorse--and forgiveness

(ETSS) "Once perpetrators begin to examine their evil, go beyond 
just feeling guilty about it, and allow themselves to feel true 
remorse, they're human again--not monsters," an Anglican South 
African educator who was a member of the Truth and 
Reconciliation Commission told an audience at a seminar on the 
campus of the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest recently.

"What does it mean when we discover that the incarnation of evil 
is as frighteningly human as we are?" asked Dr. Pumla 
Gobodo-Madikizela, describing the testimony of Eugene de Kock 
about the "gruesome and unspeakable" atrocities he had committed 
while leading a notorious government death squad during the last 
years of the apartheid regime in South Africa. "I felt pity when 
I looked at him. There was utter despair in his face," she said 
in her talk, "Are Some Things Unforgivable--Exploring the Limits 
of Remorse and Forgiveness." She has described her experiences 
in a recently published book, "A Human Being Died that Night: A 
South African Story of Forgiveness," and in appearances on 
several nationally broadcast talk shows.

The book describes her interviews with de Kock in the late 
1990s, in a prison where he was serving two life sentences and 
an additional 212 years for crimes committed as commander of a 
brutal prison farm where anti-apartheid activists were taken to 
be tortured and killed. 

The goal of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, she said, 
was to break the cycle of violence and build a cohesive society 
while restoring dignity and respect to both victims and 
perpetrators. Victims who appeared before the commission relived 
their trauma so vividly that it seemed to happen only days 
before, not years.

De Kock asked to meet privately with the widows of those he had 
killed. The widows forgave him and "could begin a journey of 
mourning where they could retrace the steps and be with their 
husbands as they died," Gobod-Madikizela said. She said that the 
model of the TRC could be used to help settle the horrors of the 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the massacres in Sierra Leone, 
but leaders of those countries must be as solidly committed to 
the process as Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, former 
president of South Africa's Afrikaner government. She even said 
that it might be used to thwart the revolving door of the 
American prison system. "Placing prisoners back into society 
would be a lot easier because the method transcends hatred. 
Prisoners feel cleansed after asking for forgiveness," she said.

Gobodo-Madikizela was on the seminary campus to participate in a 
program to help train missionaries for the Episcopal Church. 
More information on her and her book, as well as the struggle 
for independence in South Africa, can be found on the web at

Orthodox church leaders condemn UN peace proposals for 

(ENI) Orthodox church leaders in Greece and in Cyprus have 
condemned a new peace plan sponsored by the United Nations that 
would end the island's 30-year division in time for planned 
entry to the European Union in 2004.

The plan would reunify Cyprus under a common government, while 
also giving almost complete autonomy to the Greek and Turkish 
Cypriot communities that make up 82 percent and 18 percent of 
the population, respectively. Cyprus was partitioned in 1974 
following a Turkish invasion in the northern third of the 

The synod of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus has rejected 
the proposal, describing it as "dishonest and unworthy of the UN 
principles," and arguing that it would "give legal character" to 
the Turkish occupation of the northern section of the island. 
The UN plan would legalize the settlement of Greek-owned land 
and homes by "Turkish assailants," the synod said in a 
statement. It would also give "disproportionate representation" 
to the minority Turkish Cypriot community in the island's 
executive, legislative and judicial bodies. The plan calls for a 
rotating presidency of the united island.

Turkey, which is also hoping to join the European Union, has 
urged Turkish Cypriot leaders to end their opposition to the 
plan. Tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots demonstrated in the 
divided capital of Nicosia on January 14 in favor of the plan, 
which is also backed by many Greek Cypriot leaders. The plan 
allows for the return home of more than half of the 162,000 
Greek Cypriot refugees displaced by the 1974 Turkish invasion.

Second team of ecumenical accompaniers going to Middle East

(WCC) The national coordinating committees for the Ecumenical 
Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) are 
finalizing their recruiting and selection of participants for a 
second group that will begin work in March. The program is 
coordinated by the World Council of Churches.

The first group of 17 volunteers--from Denmark, Sweden, Germany, 
Norway and the United States--began work last August. They have 
been working in Jerusalem, the West Bank cities of Ramallah, 
Bethlehem and Nablus, and in the Gaza Strip. The names have not 
been disclosed for security reasons.

"The accompaniment program so far has done some excellent work 
on documenting, reporting and raising awareness, particularly on 
the devastating aspects of the wall being built on the Green 
Line around greater Jerusalem," said Rebecca Johnson, a Canadian 
who has been appointed program coordinator in Jerusalem. "But 
some of its most important work is simply to be present as a 
symbol of international solidarity and hope that a just peace 
can be found."

The first phase of EAPPI is now being assessed. "Our local 
partners, the churches, keep saying, 'Stay with us. Don't leave 
like other delegations,'" said Salpy Eskidjian, WCC program 
executive for International Affairs. "The accompaniment program 
has produced many expectations internationally and locally. We 
have raised a lot of hope, and that gives the international 
ecumenical family a lot of responsibility."

Eskidjian has no illusions about the difficulties that lie 
ahead. "I think we're going to have a lot of bloodshed for a 
long time to come. There is rigidity and fear on both sides. 
Each side dehumanizes the other. This makes efforts like 
ours--to continue to build bridges and highlight non-violent 
actions that address the occupation as the root cause of the 
violence--so vital."

(Photos and reports can be found on the WCC web site at

Trustees at General Seminary endorse strategies for the 

(GTS) Trustees of the General Theological Seminary in New York 
approved in principle new strategic initiatives--including a 
plan to raise $21 million in capital, endowment and operating 
funds; exploring long-term financing for construction of a new 
education center; and appropriating $1.7 million for urgent 
repairs to Hoffman Hall, which houses the seminary's historic 

While most of their deliberations centered on new initiatives, 
trustees also expressed deep disappointment with collapse of 
plans to relocate the national offices of the Episcopal Church 
to the seminary's campus in Chelsea on Manhattan's West Side. A 
few days before the February 6-7 trustees meeting, the Episcopal 
Church's Executive Council officially decided to "discontinue" 
exploration of the project. The board decided to send a 
three-member delegation to meet with Presiding Bishop Frank T. 
Griswold and House of Deputies President George Werner to 
express regret over the lost opportunity for the church and the 

Using the themes of people, programs and property, Dean Ward 
Ewing spoke of the seminary faculty, students and staff as the 
institution's greatest assets. He pointed to examples of 
innovative programs for Hispanic/Latino students and a new MA 
program designed to attract and serve lay leaders in the church, 
as well as programs for continuing education for clergy. Current 
and future property enhancements, the dean argued, must always 
be evaluated in terms of how they serve the seminary's mission 
to provide leaders for the church.

Ewing also cited the seminary's first high-tech classroom, in 
its first year of operation, as a real success in terms of 
mission, and he offered reasons why the cornerstone of the 
capital campaign--a new conference/education center--was central 
to the seminary's efforts to meet the demand for short-term, 
summer, and continuing education programs.

"I believe our meeting marks a new beginning for General 
Seminary," Ewing said at the conclusion. "We centered directly 
on our mission to educate and form leaders for the church in a 
changing world and addressed how we will pursue this mission 
with renewed commitment in the 21st century."


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