NEWS SIDEBAR: Jordanian prince carves out role in world of interfaith dialogue

c. 1999 Religion News Service AMMAN, Jordan _ When the dying King Hussein abruptly dismissed his brother, Crown Prince Hassan, as heir to the Jordanian throne last year, Middle East analysts wondered how the Oxford-educated prince would carve out a new niche for himself in the small, family-controlled kingdom. In the wake of Hassan’s role as host of an international interreligious conference here last week, it now appears the prince, whose royal Hashemite family is descended from the 7th century prophet Mohammed, has decided to devote a considerable portion of his talents to religious peacemaking among contemporary adherents of Islam, Christianity and Judaism _ in the Middle East and elsewhere. “When we first began to engage in interfaith dialogue two or three decades ago, many tended to regard the exercise as a luxury,” the 52-year-old prince told the conference, which ended on Monday (Nov. 29).

COMMENTARY: Fascism, American-style

c. 1999 Religion News Service (Andrew M. Greeley is a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and sociologist at the University of Chicago National Research Center. Check out his home page at http://www.agreeley.com or contact him via e-mail at agreel(at)aol.com.) UNDATED _ There is a whiff of fascism in the air, fascism American-style, fascism that appeals to the dark strains in American culture and the dark subbasements of the American character. American fascists do not wear fancy shirts or march in goose steps or give stiff-arm salutes. Rather they continue the traditions of far-right populism that appeal to the American capacity for and need to hate.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 1999 Religion News Service Coalition sending booklet promoting gay tolerance to superintendents (RNS) A coalition of medical, educational, mental health and religious organizations plans to send a booklet urging gay tolerance to American public school superintendents. The Just the Facts Coalition announced it would mail the 12-page booklet Tuesday (Nov. 23) to the heads of all 14,700 public school districts in the country. The booklet states that there is”no support among health and mental health professional organizations”for the idea that homosexuality is mentally unhealthy or abnormal.

NEWS STORY: Nazareth Muslims dedicate cornerstone for controversial mosque

c. 1999 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ Thousands of Muslims Tuesday (Nov. 23) attended a dedication ceremony for the construction of a controversial new mosque adjacent to Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation, while Christian sites in the Holy Land remained closed for a second day in protest. Top Israeli and Palestinian representatives both stayed away from the ceremony unveiling a cornerstone for the new mosque _ whose construction was approved by Israel against opposition from the Vatican and local Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian church leaders. The dispute has prompted Vatican warnings that Pope John Paul II might skip Nazareth during his expected visit to the Holy Land in late March.

NEWS STORY: Muslim demonstrators urge end to Russian offensive in Chechnya

c. 1999 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ As Russian jets and artillery pieces continued their relentless pounding of his homeland Thursday (Nov. 18), Lyoma Usmanov waged his own rhetorical war in support of Chechnya on a downtown Washington sidewalk, handing out flyers and explaining to passersby his analysis of the latest chapter in his nation’s blood-stained history. Moscow says it launched its current military offensive in August to root out Chechen”bandits”and Islamic extremists it says have twice invaded Dagestan, Chechnya’s neighboring republic. Moscow also blames Chechen radicals for a string of terrorist apartment house bombings that preceded the Russian offensive and killed about 300 people.

COMMENTARY: Being there

c. 1999 Religion News Service (Samuel K. Atchison is an ordained minister and has worked as a policy analyst and social worker to the homeless. He currently is a prison chaplain in Trenton, N.J.) UNDATED _ The Rev. Eugene Rivers, who runs Boston’s acclaimed Ella J. Baker House for troubled youth, tells the now famous story of an inner-city drug dealer’s approach to influencing young children. The drug dealer, Selvin Brown, contrasted his success in reaching kids with the corresponding failure of the local church.”I’m there,”he said,”when Johnny goes out for a loaf of bread for Mama. I’m there, you’re not.

NEWS ANALYSIS: An uncertain church council faces an uncertain future

c. 1999 Religion News Service CLEVELAND _ As the festive installation service of the Rev. Andrew Young as the 20th president of the National Council of Churches began Thursday evening (Nov. 11), a small but symbolic hitch developed. Several leaders of the 35 member communions on hand at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist had trouble lighting candles meant to burn as a sign of unity.

NEWS FEATURE: `Celestine Prophecy’ author writes new book on Tibet

c. 1999 Religion News Service BIRMINGHAM, Ala. _With 10 million copies of”The Celestine Prophecy”in print and 6 million of its sequel,”The Tenth Insight,”spiritual novelist James Redfield has become a publishing phenomenon. The soft-spoken Birmingham native, who maintains an Alabama home on a lake surrounded by pine trees, sees himself as an interpreter of universal religious trends.”What I see myself doing is trying to chronicle and illustrate what I believe is a budding spiritual renaissance emerging all over the world and crossing all religions,”Redfield said.”I’m trying to look at human culture and what people are moving to next.” His third novel,”The Secret of Shambhala,”continues the Celestine series with an adventure into the mythological utopian community of Shambhala, part of Tibetan Buddhist lore.”Shambhala is where people know how to pray to uplift the world,”Redfield said.

Fiona Apple’s Songwriting Shines Through on `Conflicts’

c. 1999 Newhouse News Service (UNDATED) Fiona Apple, “When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts” (Clean Slate/Epic) THREE STARS Amid the clang and clatter of modern rock, hip-hop, metal and their various combinations, some young writers still find strength in the power of the song. Fiona Apple is one of them. She was only 19 when her debut disc, “Tidal,” turned her into a star in 1996, and this follow-up builds upon the momentum of that set. What’s gotten most of the initial attention is the album’s title, which is abbreviated big time here.

NEWS STORY: Pope faces Hindu hostility on Asian trip

c. 1999 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ An aging Pope John Paul II, embarking on what almost certainly will be his last foreign trip of the millennium, faces strong hostility from Hindu extremists in India and militant Orthodox clergy in the Republic of Georgia. The Roman Catholic pontiff, 79 and ailing, will leave Friday (Nov. 5) for New Delhi on his 89th trip outside Italy in the 21 years of his papacy. It could well prove to be the most difficult he has undertaken.

NEWS FEATURE: Jesus Seminar faces an uncertain future

c. 1999 Religion News Service SANTA ROSA, Calif. _ In 1985, an iconoclastic group of Bible scholars with a flair for controversy formed the Jesus Seminar to recover the historical Jesus of Nazareth they said was hidden beneath the layers of mythology attached to him in the 2,000 years since his crucifixion. Breaking the academic mold, the scholars began holding twice-annual meetings in the presence of spectators and the media to pursue their consensus-oriented scholarship. Decisions were made using a gimmicky voting system featuring colored beads, including red to denote the biblical sayings and deeds of Jesus considered most historically accurate and black for those deemed historically improbable.