RNS Daily Digest

c. 1996 Religion News Service Lost Luther manuscript returns to Germany (RNS)-A rare manuscript by Protestant reformer Martin Luther, thought to have been lost at the end of World War II, has been discovered at the Concordia Historical Institute in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Mo., and will be turned over to German government […]

c. 1996 Religion News Service

Lost Luther manuscript returns to Germany

(RNS)-A rare manuscript by Protestant reformer Martin Luther, thought to have been lost at the end of World War II, has been discovered at the Concordia Historical Institute in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Mo., and will be turned over to German government officials on Tuesday (Feb. 20).”The German government is very excited to be getting it back,”said the Rev. Daniel Preus, director of the Institute, the archives and history department of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.”They thought it had been lost.” The manuscript, titled”Against Hanswurst,”was written in 1541. It is a defense of Luther’s protector, Elector John Frederick of Saxony, against attacks hurled at him by Duke Henry of Braunschweig/Wolfenbuettel.

Hanswurst, which can be translated into English as”Jack Sausage,”was a buffoonish character popular in 16th-century comedies, similar to Shakespeare’s Falstaff. Luther used the name to describe Henry.

Preus said the document had been discovered on the floor of a factory in Magdeburg, Germany, at the end of World War II by a Baptist chaplain who, in turn, gave it to the Rev. Theodore Bornhoeft, a Lutheran pastor and army chaplain. Bornhoeft brought it back to the United States for safekeeping in 1946 and in 1950 sent it to the Institute.

Preus said Bornhoeft wanted the Institute to keep the document”until such time as Magdeburg, which was in East Germany, would no longer be Soviet dominated and under Communist rule.” Representatives of the German government, the museum in Magdeburg, the U.S. State Department and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are scheduled to take part in the ceremony returning the document.

(Editors: The ceremony is scheduled for 2 P.M. CST, Feb. 20, at Concordia Seminary, Clayton, Mo.)

End of Muslim holy month in sight

(RNS)-Muslims mark the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan Tuesday (Feb. 20) and the start of the three-day Eid al-Fitr, known as the”festival of fast-breaking.” The month officially ends with the sighting of the new crescent moon.

Ramadan is a time for abstinence and purification for observant Muslims, who refrain during the month from eating or drinking during daylight hours. In contrast, the Eid al-Fitr is highlighted by festive meals and, in some Muslim nations, by gift-giving.

Group says rating system unlikely to stop sex, violence on TV

(RNS)-Morality in Media, a New York-based watchdog group that monitors the entertainment industry, says a plan by the television networks to devise a rating system for their programming is unlikely to end sex and violence on the tube.”We are concerned that the rating system and V-Chip (a device that can block programming) will be seen as a substitute for real solutions to the offensive, injurious sex, vulgarity and violence that characterize much of today’s television programming,”said Robert Peters, the group’s president.”That would be a mistake.” Peters spoke in response to reports last week that the four major television networks were considering developing a ratings system in an effort to pre-empt a government ratings system.

He warned that the industry system, if developed, could be used as an excuse to shift responsibility from broadcasters to parents.

He said that no parent can monitor their children’s TV watching all of the time and that no V-chip screening device, required to be a part of all new televisions, will be tamper-proof.

Chinese tell Lutherans to `defer’ 1997 world assembly in Hong Kong

(RNS)-Chinese government officials have told the Lutheran World Federation its 1997 assembly scheduled for Hong Kong”should be deferred to a later date.” The LWF, with 122 member churches around the world, is scheduled to hold its next assembly-the group’s highest decision-making body-in Hong Kong from July 8-16, 1997, one week after the territory comes under Chinese control.

Ecumenical News International, the multi-church-sponsored news agency based in Geneva, Switzerland, reported Monday (Feb. 19) that the LWF’s four member churches in Hong Kong were told by officials from Xinhua, the Chinese government’s official news agency, that the assembly should be put off.

Xinhua serves as the de-facto representative in Hong Kong of the People’s Republic of China.

Leaders of the four churches in Hong Kong”understand that this advice has come from the authorities concerned,”ENI reported.

The LWF said that the Rev. Ishmael Noko will travel to Hong Kong and Beijing to seek clarification from the Chinese government before making a decision on whether to cancel the assembly.

Farrakhan says Turks must decide on Islamic rule

(RNS)-Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said Sunday (Feb. 18) that Turkey, a secular republic since 1923, is at a crossroads between continuing secularism and a nation governed by Sharia, or Islamic law.”When the people voted for (the) Refah (Welfare) Party they voted with their conscience,”Farrakhan told a news conference, the Associated Press reported.

The Muslim-based Welfare Party won the Dec. 24 general elections in Turkey but hasn’t been able to form a coalition government. Turkey’s secularist forces fear it intends to establish Islamic rule in the nation.

Farrakhan is on a controversial tour of 18 Muslim nations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. He has drawn fire for meeting with leaders of Libya, Sudan, Iran and Iraq-nations on a list the United States believes sponsor international terrorism.

Pope urges talks between Indonesia, East Timor rebels

(RNS)-Pope John Paul II said Monday (Feb. 19) that East Timor, annexed by Indonesia in 1976, is still waiting for proposals addressing its”legitimate aspirations,”Reuters reported.

Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese territory, in 1975 and made it an Indonesian province the next year. Rebels in East Timor have been fighting for independence since then and the United Nations does not recognize Indonesian rule over the territory.

In remarks made while receiving Ambassador Antonio D’Oliveria Pinto da Franca, Portugal’s new envoy to the Vatican, John Paul said that the people of East Timor continue”to wait for serious proposals which would permit realization of their legitimate aspirations and to see their specific culture and religion recognized.”

Pew Trusts Joel Carpenter to become Calvin College provost

(RNS)-Joel Carpenter, director of the grantmaking program in religion at The Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia, has been appointed provost of Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Carpenter will succeed Gordon Van Harn, who is retiring at the end of the current school year.

At Pew, Carpenter oversaw an $11.5 million program supporting 120 projects in North America, Europe, and Africa.

Today’s newsmaker: The Rev. Lucius Walker, director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Development-Pastors for Peace. “Even in the worst days of apartheid, food and medicines were never stopped from going to South Africa. Even when tens of thousands of people were disappeared in Guatemala, trade in food and medicine was never restricted. The severity of the U.S. government’s economic war on our Cuban neighbors is unprecedented, it is unnecessary, and it is immoral. As people of faith, we are calling the churches and all people of conscience to say `no’ to this brutal policy,”Walker said Saturday in San Diego, as he announced a new effort to challenge the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

Pastors for Peace clashed with police near Tijuana Jan. 31, as they tried to cross the Mexican border with 325 computers bound for Cuban hospitals.


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