COMMENTARY: Afghanistan’s Taliban _ not a valid `interpretation’ of Islam

c. 1998 Religion News Service (Dr. Laila Al-Marayati is a Los Angeles physician and past president of the Muslim Women’s League. She is a regular contributor to the RNS series, Voices of Women in Religion.) UNDATED _ Just a few weeks ago, Jay Leno and his wife Mavis donated $100,000 to the Feminist Majority Foundation to expand its campaign to end”gender apartheid”in Afghanistan. That is where, after years of civil war, the Taliban emerged as the ruling faction and has imposed harsh measures on all of Afghani society, and particularly against women, in the name of Islam. There is no question the efforts of the Lenos, the Feminist Majority and others like them are laudable.

NEWS FEATURE: Bishop Pilla ending term as head of nation’s prelates hailed for leadership

c. 1998 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ He is respected as a homilist who can shake his peers with his reflections on mortality, a friend who will share a colleague’s favorite meal of meatloaf in the middle of a life-threatening heart illness, a leader who listens and respects other’s opinions. As Cleveland Bishop Anthony M. Pilla prepares for the close next week of his three-year term as president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, it is his personal qualities _ a view of leadership as service, of seeking to transcend church politics by building consensus _ that spiritual leaders of the nation’s 60 million Roman Catholics remember most fondly.”I know of no one who has been more effective in his service to the conference and at the same time has been an extraordinary and beloved brother to us all,”said Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of New Jersey.”I’m a real fan, absolutely.” Pilla presided over the bishops’ conference at a time when America’s emergence as the world’s sole superpower brought increasing attention from Rome and a new generation of bishops appointed by Pope John Paul II sought to deflect U.S.-Vatican tensions. Gone were the days in the mid-1980s, when leading U.S. bishops would publicly challenge the Vatican and John Paul _ both in Rome and during the 1987 papal tour of the United States _ to be more sensitive to an American culture that favored more open discussion of church issues.

COMMENTARY: The high cost of being a Christian celebrity

c. 1998 Religion News Service (Dale Hanson Bourke is publisher of Religion News Service) UNDATED _ It’s lonely at the top, or so they say. It’s also lonely at the front. Just ask any member of the clergy who has stood before a congregation to encourage their spiritual development. And for that group of people known as”inspirational speakers”the podium syndrome can also be destructively lonely.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1998 Religion News Service Israel court rules in favor of Reform, Conservative Jews (RNS) Israel’s High Court of Justice, further opening the door to non-Orthodox Judaism in the Jewish state, has ordered the appointment of Reform and Conservative representatives to local religious councils in three cities. The decision was hailed by Rabbi Uri Regev, head of Israel’s Movement for Progressive Judaism, who called it an important step forward for religious pluralism in Israel. Currently, Orthodox Judaism maintains tight control over Jewish religious expression in Israel and has fought in the courts and in the political arena not to cede any ground to non-Orthodox movements. The court ruling applied directly to Tel Aviv, Haifa and Arad.