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c. 1996 Religion News Service

Report: Another exodus of Rwandan refugees from Zaire may be underway

(RNS) The United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP) said Wednesday (Nov. 20) it has”strong indications”that tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees are heading through chaotic eastern Zaire to Rwanda. It would be the second mass exodus in a week of Rwandan refugees fleeing camps in Zaire.

Humanitarian agencies have said there are as many as 700,000″missing”refugees from the Zairean camps. Aid groups are scambling to prepare for the refugees’ needs and contend that the Rwandan government is thwarting efforts to feed the returning refugees.”There are strong indications that a large movement of people from the Bukavu area are heading north toward Goma,”WFP spokesman Michele Quintaglie told Reuters in Nairobi.”We believe there could be more than 100,000.” Last weekend, some 500,000 Rwandan refugees fled eastern Zaire and flooded back into Rwanda in the wake of fighting between the Zairean army and Rwandan Hutu militants, who had controlled the camps, on the one hand, and Zairean Tutsi rebels and the Tutsi-controlled army of Rwanda on the other.

The fighting and the break-up of the refugee camps, which have harbored from 1.2 million to 2 million mostly Hutu refugees from Rwanda, led to efforts to create an international force. Among the missions of the international force are to protect the civilian refugees and provide security for the dozens of international relief agencies.

The first exodus back to Rwanda, however, has caused Western nations to drastically scale back their plans for intervention. The United States said Tuesday (Nov. 19) it was canceling plans to send combat troops to Zaire and was preparing instead for a military air relief operation.

But aid groups said military intervention is still needed.”There are hundreds of thousands still out there,”said Peter Kessler, spokesman for the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees.”We are doing our best to locate them, but several fled fighting into the hills. These people have a basic human right to food but no one is getting into that area.” The Washington Office on Africa, a church-sponsored advocacy group in Washington, D.C., said there is a risk that the dramatic first exodus”will distract attention from the plight of refugees and displaced Zaireans still not reachable and from the massive needs to provide adequate support for resettlement of the refugees.”Plans or intervention must be adapted to changes on the ground, but there is still a pressing need for speedy and large-scale action by the international community,”it said.

Aid agencies, meanwhile, complained that the Rwandan government was thwarting efforts to care for the refugees. The government argues it wants the refugees to return to their villages rather than establishing new refugee camps inside Rwanda.”The delay in distributing food will definitely have an effect on the returnees,”said Brenda Barton, a WFP official.

At least one aid group, however, appeared to agree with the Rwandan government.”I think the best way of assisting returning refugees is not to feed them in the camps, but rather to equip them with the appropriate basic materials which enable them to struggle for their own lives or survival within their own lands,”said Claver Buzizi of the Baptist Union of Rwanda. The union is working with Baptist World Aid in the effort to resettle refugees.

Lisa Daggs named Christian country music’s Entertainer of the Year

(RNS) Vocalist Lisa Daggs has won the 1996 Entertainer of the Year award from the Christian Country Music Association (CCMA).

Daggs, who was voted CCMA’s New Artist of the Year in 1995, was honored during the CCMA Awards Show on Nov. 14 in Nashville, Tenn.

According to CCM Update, a publication that covers contemporary Christian music, other winners included Ken Holloway, who was named Male Vocalist of the Year, and Paula McCulla, who was named Female Vocalist of the Year. The Fox Brothers were named Vocal Group of the Year and Seneca was named Vocal Duo of the Year. New Artist of the Year was awarded to Wilcox & Pardoe.

Country music star Loretta Lynn was honored with CCMA’s Living Legend Award for her contributions to the industry.

The winners of the fourth annual awards were selected by the organization’s 1,200 members.

Anglican Church court OKs gargoyles of the living

(RNS) An ecclesiastical court of the Church of England has ruled that it is permissible for a parish to install gargoyles of living persons in its 13th-century church.

The proposed gargoyles are meant to be light-hearted tributes to two recently retired clerics _ Bishop of Peterborough Bill Westwood and Vicar Lloyd Caddick.

The two six-inch-high limestone carvings, costing about $500 each, will be placed on columns in the nave of the St. Peter’s Church in Oundle, England.

Some parishioners objected to the gargoyles _ carved stone heads _ on the grounds that such tributes should be reserved for the dead. The dispute wound up in a church court after a third of the congregation objected to the plan.

But Chancellor Thomas Coningsby, in his ruling, said there are no legal or aesthetic reasons to ban the project.

Westwood, in an interview with the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, said it was”very nice”the parishioners thought about honoring him.”I have tried to keep out of the dispute, and whatever the decision, the parishioners will have to live with it.”

Iraqi refugee charged with child abuse, forcing teen daughters to marry

(RNS) An Iraqi refugee has been jailed in Lincoln, Neb., on child abuse charges after police accused him of forcing his teen-age daughters to marry men twice their age in an Islamic ceremony.

The alleged husbands were charged with rape in cases involving the refugee’s 13- and 14-year-old daughters, the Associated Press reported.

The father, a school janitor on disability who was identified only by the first name Salaam, faces up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. He was jailed on $10,000 bail.

Terry Cannon, a lawyer for the would-be husbands, said the three men did not intend to violate state law when they followed Islamic tradition.”It is a clash between cultural mores and U.S. law,”said Cannon, who represents Latif Al-Hussani, 34, and Majed Al-Tamimy, 28.

The two recent immigrants, jailed on $50,000 bail each, face up to 50 years in prison.

Police said Hussani and the 13-year-old were married against the girl’s wishes in a Nov. 9 ceremony at her father’s house. The 14-year-old claimed she was forced to marry Tamimy at the same event, but the father allegedly told police Tamimy and the girl merely became engaged.

According to court papers, the two men took the girls to their homes and had sex with them to consummate the marriages. The 14-year-old ran away and her father reported her to police as a runaway.

When police found the girl and heard her story, they arrested the men and placed the girls in protective custody.

Nebraska law requires that people must be at least 17 to marry. Most major Muslim schools of thought agree that a father can force his virgin daughter to marry a man of his choice, regardless of her age, according to The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World.

Metropolitan Antonije Abramovic of Montenegro dies

(RNS) Metropolitan Antonije Abramovic, the leader of the rebel Montenegrin Orthodox Church, died Tuesday (Nov. 19) at a hospital in Podgorica, Montenegro,a Yugoslavian republic. He was 77.

In 1993, Abramovic broke with the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Associated Press reported. He was named head of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which clergy in neighboring Serbia have not recognized. The Serbian Orthodox Church has denied its sister Montenegrin church the right to govern itself.

Abramovic was the abbot of monasteries in Montenegro and Kosovo, in southwest Serbia, and served as a priest at a Greek Orthodox Church in Athens.

Pope John Paul II writes book marking 50th anniversary of his priesthood

(RNS) A new book by Pope John Paul II marking his five decades as a priest will be released next month by Doubleday.”Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination”will be sold beginning Dec. 11.

The book tells the pope’s story of his ministry, tracing the route he took to the priesthood.”What I relate here, above and beyond the external events, belongs to my deepest being, to my innermost experience,”the pope writes in the introduction.”I recall these things above all in order to thank the Lord. … I offer this to priests and to the people of God as a testimony of love.” The book has a suggested retail price in the United States of $19.95.

The pope’s”Crossing the Threshold of Hope”(Alfred A. Knopf), published in 1994, was a best seller in North America and abroad.

Quote of the day: Henri Nouwen, Roman Catholic writer on spirituality

(RNS) Henri Nouwen, who died earlier this year, was a Roman Catholic priest, best-selling author and considered one of this century’s great teachers on spirituality. In one of his last books,”Living as the Beloved,”Nouwen reflected on death:”Am I afraid to die? I am, every time I let myself be seduced by the noisy voices of my world telling me that my `little life’ is all I have and advising me to cling to it with all my might. But when I let these voices move to the background of my life and listen to that small, soft voice calling me the Beloved, I know that there is nothing to fear and that dying is the greatest act of love, the act that leads me into the eternal embrace of my God whose love is everlasting.”

MJP END RNS

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