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c. 1997 Religion News Service

Archbishop calls for cease-fire, democracy in Zaire

(RNS) Roman Catholic Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, N.J., has called on the warring parties in Zaire to establish a cease-fire and take steps toward democracy.

McCarrick, chair of the International Policy Committee of the U.S. Catholic Conference, issued a statement Tuesday (April 8) calling on both the regional and international communities to”employ all diplomatic means”to bring about a cease-fire and enable suspended relief efforts to resume.”The international community should not remain indifferent to the thousands of suffering individuals, many of whom are malnourished, traumatized and stricken with diseases,”McCarrick said in his statement.

McCarrick joins a growing chorus of churches and advocacy groups who have urged the Clinton administration to assist in ending Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko’s 32-year dictatorship.

On April 4, four major international humanitarian agencies, including UNICEF and the World Food Program, issued an appeal for aid for the thousands of refugees who remain trapped in Zaire.

On Wednesday (April 9), after Mobutu fired the prime minister and replaced him with the army chief of staff, the White House urged Mobutu to resign and go into exile. “The support for President Mobutu is not sufficient to lead Zaire,”said White House press secretary Mike McCurry at a news conference. McCurry expressed hope for a smooth transition to a freely elected government.

Rioting continued Wednesday in the Zairean capital of Kinshasa when 10,000 supporters of ousted prime minister Etienne Tshisekedi were driven back from a demonstration by hundreds of government soldiers brandishing tear gas.

On the refugee situation, McCarrick said he was”relieved”the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had received approval from the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire (ADFL) to airlift some 100,000 Rwandan refugees back to Rwanda.”To ensure that the refugees return to their homes in safety and dignity, we ask that all able members of the international community provide logistical assistance, most particularly large cargo planes, for this mission,”he said.”That many thousands of deaths have resulted from the current refugee crisis underscores the need to provide regional international relief and peace-keeping institutions with adequate resources to address such emergencies in the future,”he said.

Judge: Military violated chaplains’ religious liberty

(RNS) A federal judge has ruled the U.S. military violated the free speech and religious rights of chaplains when it barred them from preaching in favor of a ban on a controversial late-term abortion procedure.”The chaplains in this case seek to preach only what they would tell their non-military congregants,”wrote U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin in a 36-page opinion filed late Monday (April 7).”There is no need for heavy-handed censorship, and any attempt to impinge on the plaintiffs’ constitutional and legal rights is not acceptable.” His ruling is a victory for two military chaplains _ a Catholic priest and a rabbi _ who were joined in their lawsuit by a Catholic naval officer and his wife and the Muslim American Military Association, the Washington Post reported.

Sporkin, whose court is in Washington, D.C., also issued a preliminary injunction preventing the military from barring chaplains from urging congregants to contact members of Congress, who are again discussing a ban on what opponents call”partial-birth”abortions.

The House passed a bill March 20 banning the procedure and the matter is pending in the Senate.

Kevin J. Hasson, the chaplains’ attorney and the president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, praised the judge’s decision.”This was the first time in U.S. history that the government dared to try to censor chaplains’ preaching,”said Hasson, whose Washington-based organization is a public interest law firm specializing in protecting free expression rights of religious groups.”The court has made sure it will be the last.” Justice Department spokesman Joe Krovisky declined comment when asked if the department would appeal the decision.

The military had said in court papers that chaplains could preach about the abortion issue in general, but that more specific discussions would allow politics to jeopardize order and discipline. The military also argued that recommendations by the chaplains might be considered an order by congregants of lower rank.

The judge rejected those arguments.

Religious organizations ask FCC to reject new TV-rating system

(RNS) Several churches and religious organizations have asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to find the TV industry’s rating system unacceptable because it is too vague.

The groups say the new system, which rates programs by age categories rather than giving content-based descriptions, is not helpful for parents who want to monitor the viewing habits of their children.

Comments the groups submitted to the FCC emphasize that in order to be acceptable, the rating system must”serve the goals intended by Congress”when it passed legislation requiring the development of”V-chip”technology. V-chip technology allows specific programs to be blocked.

The groups told the FCC the new rating system is not adequate for use with a V-chip because it is too vague to be useful.”In the television age content-based program ratings that fully inform parents about a given program are an indispensable tool,”said Nathan Diament, director of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, one of the groups submitting the comments to the FCC.

Other groups joining the Orthodox body in asking the FCC to look for a better rating system include the Center for Jewish and Christian Values, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The initiative was coordinated by the Center for Media Education.

Indonesian Chinese man jailed for riot

(RNS) An ethnic Chinese Indonesian was jailed Monday (April 7) for provoking a riot in West Java in January that led to the destruction of Christian churches and Chinese temples by a Muslim mob.

A court found Tjio Kim Tjoan, 55, guilty of inciting the riots in Rengasdengklok, 30 miles east of Jakarta, Indonesia, and sentenced him to three and a half years in jail, Reuters reported.

According to Kompas, an Indonesian newspaper, the judges said the man had sparked the riot by publicly castigating young Muslims for practicing their faith.

Later, a group made up mostly of Muslims looted homes and shops, attacked churches and Chinese temples and burned 16 cars. At least 20 people were arrested in connection with the violence.

The incident was part of a series of ethnic and religious riots that have plagued Indonesia since late last year. A Central Java riot last month resulted in 30 arrests for burning and looting shops and cars in violence that targeted ethnic Chinese.

That riot was apparently a response to claims that a popular singer, who formerly supported the Muslim-based United Development Party, had switched allegiance to the ruling Golkar party.

Assemblies of God reaches record numbers in 1996

(RNS) The Assemblies of God’s 1996 statistics show a record number of ministers and churches in the United States.

According to Sherri L. Doty, the denomination’s statistician, there are 32,314 Assemblies of God clergy, a net gain of 562 over 1995. That increase is the largest annual net gain since 1984.

There were a total of 11,884 U.S. churches affiliated with the denomination in 1996, a net increase of 61 churches over 1995. The increase in churches is the highest net gain since 1993. During 1996, the denomination opened 244 churches and closed 183.

Hispanic churches in the western, southern and eastern portions of the United States had the highest number of new congregations.

Doty said the number of church closings was lower than in recent years, when more than 200 churches closed each year.

Human rights commission dismisses Scientology discrimination case

(RNS) The European Commission of Human Rights has dismissed a discrimination case brought against Germany by the Church of Scientology, Reuters reported Wednesday (April 9).

The commission said the controversial religious group had not yet sufficiently pursued domestic legal channels in its grievance against the German government.

The ruling means the commission will not pass the case on to the European Court of Human Rights, which is only able to rule after all means within the German legal system have been exhausted.

An estimated 30,000 Germans are affiliated with Scientology. The movement has complained that the German government discriminates against it by recognizing it only as a commercial enterprise and banning members from some jobs.

Quote of the Day: Newspaper columnist Jim Pinkerton

(RNS) Jim Pinkerton, a columnist for the New York Daily News and a member of USA Today’s board of contributors, wrote in an April 9 column in USA Today about connections between belief and business:”Here in the USA, the go-go growth ethic specific to Protestantism has been subsumed in a melting pot of religions and creeds; yet a fundamental Protestant impulse _ hard-working, soul-searching, oftentimes self-negating, constantly questing for the true path for the soul as well as the firm _ keeps popping up everywhere. Call it `small p’ protestantism.”

MJP END RNS

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