Islamic Hajj Has Been Marred by Tragedy

c. 2006 Religion News Service DECEMBER 1975: A fire sparked by an exploding gas cylinder sweeps through a tent city at Mina, a desert location east of Mecca where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims camp on their way to perform rites at Mount Arafat and Jamarat. Some 200 pilgrims die. NOVEMBER 1979: Saudi militants opposed to the country’s ruling family seize control of Mecca’s gigantic Grand Mosque, which houses the Kabba, taking hundreds of pilgrims hostage. French troops, allowed by special permission into Mecca, a “Muslim-only” city, help Saudi troops retake the mosque two weeks later, but not before some 250 troops, militants and pilgrims are killed.

Saudis Build in Flexibility to Keep Hajj Safe

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) If God cuts you some slack, Saudi Arabians officials are telling Hajj pilgrims, you’d better take it. That’s the message for the estimated 2.2 million Muslims arriving for Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that begins Friday (Dec. 29), as part of a safety campaign intended to prevent stampedes and other tragedies that have plagued the sacred journey in recent years. “We can make use of the religious permissions as the Prophet told us to do when he said, `Allah likes to see the permissions he gives being used by the believers,” said Dr. Fouad Al-Farsy, Saudi Arabia’s minister of Hajj, in a 14-minute Hajj safety film on his ministry’s Web site.

For Muslims, Hajj is an Immensely Spiritual Journey

c. 2006 Religion News Service PORTLAND, Ore. _ Before local Muslims begin their pilgrimage to Mecca, Amr Khalifa works to prepare them in two ways: for an intimate encounter with Allah, or God, and a very public one with millions of their fellow believers. “Every action has an intention behind it,” Khalifa tells a group of adults from several Portland mosques who have gathered to get ready for the pilgrimage, or Hajj. Some people will travel to Mecca with shopping on their minds, he says, or because they have made a personal vow to visit the holy sites.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Discord in the Heartland

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) You don’t generally think of Nebraska as a hotbed of controversy, Catholic or otherwise. Lately, however, what began as a relatively minor imbroglio has boiled over into wider Catholic circles. Ten years ago, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., said Catholics who belonged to any of 12 organizations, including the lay reform group Call to Action, were automatically excommunicated. Bruskewitz’ forbidden list included five Masonic organizations, two that promote abortion, two connected with the late breakaway Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and the Hemlock Society, which supports assisted suicide.

10 Minutes With … Archbishop George Carey

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) He may have retired as Archbishop of Canterbury four years ago, but Lord George L. Carey has hardly stepped off the global stage. During a recent visit to the United States, Carey sat down to discuss the state of the Anglican Communion and his take on Pope Benedict XVI’s recent tangle with Islam. In a speech, the pope had cited a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who described the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings as “evil and inhuman.” Here are excerpts from that conversation, edited for space and clarity. Q: I can’t help but ask your thoughts about Pope Benedict and his comments last fall about Islam.

RNS Weekly Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Carter, in Letter to U.S. Jews, Defends Use of `Apartheid’ in Book (RNS) Former President Jimmy Carter, under fire from Jewish leaders for describing Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands as “apartheid” in a new book, has written an open letter to U.S. Jews to defend and clarify his use of the term. In the letter, dated Dec. 15, Carter describes a meeting with the Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix while on a tour to promote his book, titled “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” “I emphasized, as I had throughout the tour, that the book was about conditions and events in the Palestinian territories and not in Israel, where a democracy exists with all the freedoms we enjoy in our country and Israeli Jews and Arabs are legally guaranteed the same rights as citizens,” Carter said. Carter said he and the six Phoenix rabbis also “discussed the word `apartheid,’ which I defined as the forced separation of two peoples living in the same land, with one of them dominating and persecuting the other.” His use of the word “apartheid” has landed the former president, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts to broker peaceful solutions to international conflicts, in a great deal of controversy.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Jury Gives $115,000 to Woman Who Declined to Discuss Her Faith HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (RNS) A federal jury has awarded a Huntsville woman $115,000 in damages after finding she was fired as a medical clinic office manager when she chose not to discuss her relationship with God with a doctor. The jury returned the verdict Dec. 20 in favor of Carolyn Hall, who sued her former employee, Alabama Pain Center, in February 2005.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Jury Gives $115,000 to Woman Who Declined to Discuss Her Faith HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (RNS) A federal jury has awarded a Huntsville woman $115,000 in damages after finding she was fired as a medical clinic office manager when she chose not to discuss her relationship with God with a doctor. The jury returned the verdict Dec. 20 in favor of Carolyn Hall, who sued her former employee, Alabama Pain Center, in February 2005.

Publishers Try to Make the Good Book an Easier Read

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A few years ago, on the theory that many readers of the Bible don’t have any idea what a manger is, the American Bible Society replaced the word in a new edition with the phrase “feed box.” The change never caught on. All you have to do is sing a few bars of “Away in a Feed Box” to understand why the Virgin Mary still places baby Jesus in a manger in most versions of the Bible sold in the U.S. today. But the broader effort by the American Bible Society to find language meaningful to 21st-century readers certainly has caught on. It is part of a trend in Bible publishing to make the book accessible to people intimidated by the “thees” and “thous” and other antiquated language of the 17th-century King James Version.

Publishers Try to Make the Good Book an Easier Read

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) A few years ago, on the theory that many readers of the Bible don’t have any idea what a manger is, the American Bible Society replaced the word in a new edition with the phrase “feed box.” The change never caught on. All you have to do is sing a few bars of “Away in a Feed Box” to understand why the Virgin Mary still places baby Jesus in a manger in most versions of the Bible sold in the U.S. today. But the broader effort by the American Bible Society to find language meaningful to 21st-century readers certainly has caught on. It is part of a trend in Bible publishing to make the book accessible to people intimidated by the “thees” and “thous” and other antiquated language of the 17th-century King James Version.

Bakker Son Finds Peace With Family as Cameras Keep Watch

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) After a year of being closely shadowed by a camera crew, this month Jay Bakker, the tatooed and pierced son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, finally is getting his private life back. The rest of us, however, have a chance to watch his year in review on the Sundance Channel in “One Punk Under God,” a six-part documentary that began airing in December and ends on Jan. 17. “One Punk Under God” takes a close look at Bakker’s life and his ministry, Revolution Church, almost 20 years after the implosion of his parents’ Praise The Lord (PTL) ministry and television network.

Bakker Son Finds Peace With Family as Cameras Keep Watch

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) After a year of being closely shadowed by a camera crew, this month Jay Bakker, the tatooed and pierced son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, finally is getting his private life back. The rest of us, however, have a chance to watch his year in review on the Sundance Channel in “One Punk Under God,” a six-part documentary that began airing in December and ends on Jan. 17. “One Punk Under God” takes a close look at Bakker’s life and his ministry, Revolution Church, almost 20 years after the implosion of his parents’ Praise The Lord (PTL) ministry and television network.

COMMENTARY: We’ve Been Here Before

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Picture a congregation gathered to decide its future. Feelings were strong. Disharmony was rife. Carefully coordinated plans were being executed, an information war was ratcheting to a new level designed to convey unstoppable momentum.

COMMENTARY: We’ve Been Here Before

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Picture a congregation gathered to decide its future. Feelings were strong. Disharmony was rife. Carefully coordinated plans were being executed, an information war was ratcheting to a new level designed to convey unstoppable momentum.