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c. 1998 Religion News Service

U.S. unveils new suicide prevention strategy

(RNS) Surgeon General David Satcher has unveiled a new national suicide prevention strategy calling on Americans to be more aware of mental illness and urging more help for those most at risk of taking their own lives.”Many suicides are already preventable,”Satcher said.”Even more suicides could be prevented if the country better focused its resources and its attention on this problem.” Satcher, calling suicide the nation’s eighth-leading cause of death, said a purely medical approach to the problem”will not do the job.” The new proposal included 81 recommendations including increasing research, reducing barriers to treatment, expanding insurance coverage of mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, and improving depression screening.

According to federal statistics, nearly 31,000 people take their lives each year and another 775,000 attempt suicide. In 1995, the number of suicides _ 31,234 _ exceeded the number of homocides, 22,552.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control, the Atlanta-based federal agency, announced a $1.5 million grant to establish the Suicide Prevention Research Center at the University of Nevada School of Medicine to investigate why nine of the top 10 suicide states in the country are in the West, the Associated Press reported.

Satcher said that preparing health care providers to diagnose potential victims is one of the keys to combatting the problem.”Too many physicians and other health providers are coming into contact with people who are at risk for suicide and yet not asking about it, not asking the right questions,”he said.

Australian churches plan pilgrimage to Aboriginal spirituality site

(RNS) Australia’s churches are planning an ecumenical millennium pilgrimage by religious leaders to Uluru _ a gigantic rock in the center of the continent that is a focus of Aboriginal spirituality.

Heads of between 12 and 17 Australian churches are expected to make the pilgrimage to Uluru, each accompanied by a young person, in June 2000 during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, according to Ecumenical News International, the Geneva-based religious news agency.

The pilgrimage is being sponsored by the National Council of Churches of Australia.

It will end at Uluru with an ecumenical celebration of Pentecost _ the traditional Christian festival that marks the coming of the Holy Spirit to the early apostles _ and will initiate a national process of reconciliation expected to last a year.

A special focus of the reconciliation effort will be the Aboriginal population of Australia which has often suffered at the hands of European settlers who first arrived in the country 210 years ago, ENI said.

In 1985, Uluru, once known as Ayers Rock, was returned to the Anangu people, the local indigenous community, who then signed a 99-year lease with the Australian government for jointly managing the national park which surrounds the rock.

As church leaders move physically to the center of the nation, pray with rural people and observe the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the people of Australia can make the same journey spirituality, said Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Putney, chair of the bishops’ committee on the year 2000.

Voucher support seen declining among black Americans

(RNS) Support by black Americans for the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers to help parents send their children to private, parochial or public schools has fallen since last year, a new poll said Tuesday (Oct. 20).

But the poll, by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said black supporters of vouchers still outnumber black opponents.

According to the poll, 48.1 percent of blacks support the use of vouchers, down from 57.3 percent last year. Forty percent are opposed and 12 percent said they didn’t know.

At the same time, the poll also found that white opposition to vouchers has become even stronger, dimming the chances that national voucher legislation can become law, the Associated Press reported.

Opposition by the Clinton administration, teacher unions, school boards and parent-teacher associations has stalled national voucher legislation. State-sponsored experiments are underway in both Cleveland and Milwaukee, Wis., but are under attack in the courts.

Last year’s poll by the Joint Center, a Washington-based think tank that focuses on issues of special concern to blacks, was widely cited by voucher supporters as showing that the idea was not limited to conservatives opponents of the public schools seeking to turn education and other government services over to the private sector.

African-American men from four Methodist denominations meet

(RNS) More than 1,000 African-American men from four Methodist denominations gathered in Atlanta recently to focus on the need for reconciliation among their traditions.

The meeting, held Oct. 15-18, was unusual because Methodists have been divided since 1787, when Richard Allen led a group of African-American church members out of St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, charging it with racism, and formed the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

The meeting was a gathering of black men from the AME, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal and United Methodist churches, although a few women and whites were in attendance, the United Methodist News Service reported.”We’ve got to straighten out what we messed up,”said the Rev. William B. McClain, a theology professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, referring to the 1787 incident.”They left because people did not practice what they preached.” The reconciliation theme was emphasized when black church members were joined by white laymen from Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church in nearby Alpharetta in a ceremony where they anointed each other with oil and embraced.

The meeting also included workshops addressing black male mentoring, family and relationship issues, lay leadership and health concerns.

The Rev. Joseph Harris, top staff executive of the Commission on Methodist Men _ a sponsor of the conference _ said plans are being studied that could result in the creation of satellite groups of men from the four Methodist denominations in about 12 major cities.

Nickelodeon apologizes for using Jewish caricature in comic strip

(RNS) The Nickelodeon network has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for using a Jewish caricature in its”Rugrats”comic strip.

The ADL said the”Grandpa Boris”character, which was drawn with heavy-lidded eyes and a large hook nose, resembled Nazi-era depictions of Jews, the Associated Press reported.

Some Jews were especially offended because the syndicated strip that included the character was published during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, said Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director. The character was depicted reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish, the prayer for the dead.

Nickelodeon President Herb Scannel pledged that the company would not use the”Grandpa Boris”character again in the strip.

In a statement released Tuesday (Oct. 20), Scannel said:”To your point that the television character of `Grandpa Boris’ may not translate well into a comic strip, we agree. In order to prevent any potential misinterpretation, the `Grandpa Boris’ illustration will no longer be used in the comic strip series.”

The Rev. Edward Flannery, pioneer in Catholic-Jewish relations, dies

(RNS) The Rev. Edward Flannery, a pioneer in relations between Roman Catholics and Jews, died Monday (Oct. 19). He was 88 and died from pancreatic cancer in Providence, R.I., his hometown. .

Flannery, the author of”The Anguish of the Jews,”published in 1966, was the first director of Catholic-Jewish relations for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. He held the post from 1967 to 1976.”In any telling of the story of American Catholicism, the ground breaking- work of Edward Flannery shall have to be a part,”said the Rev. John F. Hotchkin, director of the bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.”He spanned the wide gulf of incomprehension which lay between American Catholics and American Jews, two immigrant communities with much in common but with very different memories of the past.” The American Jewish Committee said in a statement that Flannery had”shattered negative caricatures and stereotypes that have existed for centuries. Father Flannery was an unrelenting foe of all forms of anti-Semitism and was a strong supporter of the State of Israel.” Flannery became a priest in 1937. During his career, he also served as a consultant to the Vatican on Catholic-Jewish relations and directed the Institute for Judeo-Christian studies at New Jersey’s Seton Hall University.

Quote of the day: Chicago Cubs hitter Sammy Sosa

(RNS)”I’m crying for happiness. I’m a person touched by God.” Chicago Cubs baseball player Sammy Sosa, weeping at a welcome by tens of thousands in his native Dominican Republic as he returned home Tuesday (Oct. 20) after hitting 66 home runs this season, quoted in the Wednesday edition of USA Today.


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