NEWS STORY: American Muslims urge Disney boycott over Jerusalem exhibit

c. 1999 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ The Walt Disney Co. is getting a firsthand lesson in just how small the world has become, thanks to a controversial Jerusalem exhibit at Disney World’s Epcot park that has brought the bitterness of Middle East politics to Orlando, Fla. American-Muslim groups have called for a boycott of all Disney theme parks and products because, they say, the Israeli-financed exhibit flouts international law by depicting Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”We want to reiterate that the central issue in this whole controversy is Israel’s illegal occupation and annexation of Jerusalem,”Khalid Turaani, executive director of American Muslims for Jerusalem, told a news conference here Tuesday (Sept. 21).”Since Disney has elected to venture from entertainment into politics, the corporation must see that our community will not accept its endorsement of Israel’s acquisition of territory by force.”

NEWS STORY: Greek Orthodox church installs new archbishop

c. 1999 Religion News Service NEW YORK _ Demetrios of Vresthena formally assumed the position of archbishop of the nation’s largest Orthodox Christian denomination Saturday (Sept. 18), calling for a new era of unity in a church recovering from years of controversy and bitter infighting. Demetrios became”evangelical shepherd”and”spiritual father”of the 1.5-million Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in a nearly two-hour service at the church’s Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, a red-brick structure on an otherwise residential street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was among the many ecumenical, diplomatic and New York political figures who, along with those faithful able to secure tickets, jammed the 500-seat cathedral way beyond its official capacity.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1999 Religion News Service Chinese paper calls for eradication of Falun Gong movement (RNS) An official Chinese newspaper Friday (Sept. 10) said the banned Falun Gong religious meditation group should be eliminated entirely before it creates an underground structure. A commentary in the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s main newspaper, called for the government to maintain”a high level of vigilance”in regard to Falun Gong and to arrest those leaders of the group who have not already been taken into custody.”We cannot expect one storm to sweep away all the garbage,”the People’s Daily said in calling for continued action against the group, which combines elements of Buddhism and Taoism with exercises and meditation. The People’s Daily commentary came one day after a U.S. State Department report on religious freedom abroad harshly criticized China for”government intolerance”of free religious expression _ a charge Beijing immediately rejected as false.

NEWS STORY: U.S. criticism of China on religious freedom could impact Clinton-Jiang meet

c. 1999 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ A State Department report Thursday (Sept. 9) criticized China for its”government intolerance”of free religious expression, just days before President Clinton is expected to meet with China’s president at an Asia-Pacific summit in New Zealand. The criticism came in the department’s first annual international religious freedom report, a 1,100-page document covering 194 nations and territories that said”much of the world’s population lives in countries in which the right to religious freedom is restricted or prohibited.” The report noted religious persecution, discrimination or stigmatization in such often cited countries as Afghanistan, Iran and Sudan _ nations that regularly turn up on U.S. lists highlighting the denial of religious and other human rights.

NEWS FEATURE: New Orleans priestess bringing voodoo to Russia

c. 1999 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ At the close of 1998, a mermaid appeared in a dream of Miriam Chamani, the priestess of the Voodoo Spiritual Temple here. The mermaid told the priestess to be prepared for a long journey.”She said she would return,”Chamani said.”And she did, in early 1999.” In the next dream, the mermaid told the 56-year-old priestess to put a book in her pants”and hold on tight.””We swished under the sea,”Chamani recalled. In the dream, the two surfaced later on a foreign shore.

NEWS FEATURE: The Crimean Karaites: Portrait of a sect on edge of extinction

c. 1999 Religion News Service YEVPATORIA, Ukraine _ Galina Sultan Pendill, an interpreter from Washington D.C., is going to extraordinary lengths to get in touch with her roots. She purchased a $6,500 apartment in this dusty Crimean resort, her father’s hometown, and plans to spend a part of each summer here. But then, Pendill has extraordinary roots to explore. She is one of the world’s estimated 2,000 Crimean Karaites, a people with their own language, customs and faith, and, who are seemingly bound for extinction.”I don’t think the Karaims will survive more than 100 years, maximum.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1999 Religion News Service Church groups express concern over East Timor violence (RNS) As violence increased in East Timor, Christian groups expressed their concern Friday (Sept. 3) and urged the international community to take steps to end the bloodshed. The violence _ blamed largely on anti-independence militias said to be supported by elements of the Indonesian military _ came in the wake of a vote in East Timor to determine whether the predominantly Roman Catholic enclave will break free from or remain a part of largely Muslim Indonesia. The outcome of the vote was expected to be announced Saturday morning East Timor time.

NEWS STORY: Los Angeles clergy rally in `David vs. Goliath’ labor fight

c. 1999 Religion News Service LOS ANGELES _ Borrowing the underdog image of the biblical David, Los Angeles clergy have thrown in with union leaders and workers against the University of Southern California _ the”Goliath”clerics accuse of”a raw exercise of power”against university food and housing workers. On Tuesday (Aug. 31) more than 120 Los Angeles and national clergy issued a”David and Goliath Statement”in support of the 360 workers of Local 11 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees (H.E.R.E.) union who have been without a contract for more than four years. Topping the list of signers were the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the National Rainbow Coalition and the Rev. James Lawson, co-worker of Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s.