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c. 2000 Religion News Service

Farrakhan Admits Words May Have Led to Malcolm X’s Murder

(RNS) Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan admits that his words may have contributed to the 1965 murder of Malcolm X in a “60 Minutes” report scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday (May 14).

Farrakhan met with Attallah Shabazz, eldest daughter of Malcolm X in April in his home outside Phoenix as the CBS television show’s cameras rolled. The report will air from 7 to 8 p.m. EDT and PDT on CBS.

Shabazz and other members of Malcolm X’s family long have believed that Farrakhan held some responsibility for the murder on Feb. 21, 1965, in Harlem.

“I may have been complicit in words that I spoke leading up to Feb. 21,” Farrakhan tells Shabazz and “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace. “I acknowledge that and regret that any word that I have said caused the loss of life of a human being.”’

Farrakhan sharply criticized Malcolm X for breaking away from the Nation of Islam and wrote that Malcolm X “was worthy of death.”

Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted of the murder.

“(Farrakhan) has never admitted this publicly,” Shabazz said in a statement given to Wallace that reflects on her meeting with Farrakhan. Her statement wishes him peace and expresses appreciation for his candor, CBS News said.

Plans for the meeting between Farrakhan and Shabazz took shape last year around the time that Farrakhan was diagnosed with prostate cancer, from which he now is recuperating.

“I genuinely hope that perhaps a healing can come to Miss Shabazz and her family,” says Farrakhan.

Roman Catholic Bishop on Trial For Genocide in Rwanda

(RNS) Prosecutors in Rwanda are seeking the death penalty for a Roman Catholic bishop accused of helping the country’s Hutu government slaughter at least 500,000 people in 1994.

In closing arguments Tuesday (May 9), chief prosecutor Edward Kayihura accused Augustin Misago, 56, of complicity in the deaths of three priests and more than 10 schoolchildren in 1994 by refusing to shelter them in his parish in southern Rwanda, where thousands were victims of genocide, the Associated Press reported.

The first high-ranking church representative to face charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, Misago insists he is innocent of the eight charges of genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity with which he is charged.

More than 20 nuns and priests have been accused of participating in the genocide of moderate Hutus and ethnic Tutsis in southwestern Rwanda in 1994, a majority of whom died inside the Roman Catholic churches in which they sought safety.

Rwanda’s government maintains the Catholic church enabled the genocide by remaining silent about the murders, and courts have already sentenced two priests to death.

But the Vatican insists that only individual Roman Catholics can be held responsible for the genocide, and has never issued an apology _ the only major religious institution in Rwanda not to do so.

Pope John Paul II sent a letter of support to Misago, the Vatican reported Wednesday (May 10).

“In the face of the painful news that reaches me about your jail detention that has gone on for 13 months already and even more in the fact of the request for capital punishment for you, I feel the duty to renew yet again toward you, beloved pastor of the dear diocese of Gikongoro, all my nearness, as well as that of all the church,” the pope’s message read.

A ruling in Misago’s case is expected next week.

Methodists Reject Proposed Global Restructuring

(RNS) The United Methodist Church on Wednesday (May 10) overwhelming rejected a proposed restructuring plan that would have radically altered the way the U.S. church relates to its counterparts around the world.

The 8.4 million-member church is meeting in Cleveland this week for its quadrennial General Conference to set policy and doctrine. The proposal would have grouped the entire U.S. church into a single “central conference” similar to how the church is organized outside of the United States.

The proposal sought to give a larger voice to the global church, even though the church is overwhelmingly centered in the United States and financially supported by U.S. congregations. The proposal has been in the works for four years, and cost the church $660,000.

A legislative committee essentially gutted the proposal last weekend, and Wednesday’s vote affirmed that decision. Critics said it would create needless bureaucracy and limit the influence of U.S. Methodists. While ditching the plan, the church called for ongoing discussions in how to give foreign Methodist churches a greater role within the church.

In other business, the church rejected a proposed resolution _ which would not have carried the weight of church law _ that would carry a “message of love and hope to those persons who seek to leave or not start the practice of homosexuality.”

The resolution, offered by three members of a Johnstown, Pa., church, went into lengthy detail about how homosexual acts are unhealthy and how homosexuality is not a genetic condition. Delegates rejected the proposal by a vote of 741-200.

Update: Former Seminary President Drops Plans to Resign Pastorate

(RNS) A former president of a European seminary has changed his mind about resigning his Florida pulpit, claiming he has a “mental disability.”

Altus Newell, pastor of Deermeadows Baptist Church in Jacksonville, had offered to resign amid allegations that he misappropriated about $184,000 in church donations to the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, the Czech Republic.

But a statement read at the end of the church’s May 7 worship service said Newell has told church officials that he “has a mental disability” and is withdrawing his resignation offer.

“The resignation was withdrawn, and the action that was set to occur is no longer valid,” the statement said, reported Associated Baptist Press, an independent news service.

Newell served as president of the school in the mid-1980s when it was located in Ruschlikon, Switzerland.

He has said the false documentation of contributions was necessary to protect missionaries who received the money from persecution.

New President of National Federation of Priests’ Councils Named

(RNS) The Rev. Robert Silva, a priest of the Stockton, Calif., Roman Catholic diocese, is the new president of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils.

Installed May 4, Silva will serve in the post from July 1 through June 2003.

“As the NFPC begins its ministry in the 21st century, it is my hope that the guiding principle for all that we do will be … proclaiming that ours is a good God whose gift is a future filled with promise; … witnessing to a broken world that love is stronger than hate; and … serving our brothers and sisters with the humility of the Lord Jesus Christ who has washed our feet,” Silva said.

The federation is a membership organization representing 118 councils of diocesan and religious clergy, whose membership totals about 25,000 Roman Catholic priests.

Falun Gong Followers Arrested While Celebrating Founder’s Birthday

(RNS) Chinese police detained dozens of followers of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement in Tiananmen Square on Thursday (May 11) as practitioners gathered to mark the birthday of their movement’s founder.

At least 50 followers were arrested, according to the Associated Press, as they attempted to meditate and unfurl banners in honor of Li Hongzhi, who is believed to share the same date of birth as the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Siddharta.

Gail Rachlink, a Falun Gong spokeswoman in New York, said she expected more protests Saturday (May 13) _ which is the anniversary of Falun Gong’s founding in 1992 and the date of Li’s birthday on the Western calendar.

But Chinese authorities _ citing records which they say pinpoint June 7, 1952, as the real date of Li’s birth _ claim he has changed his day of birth in order to create mystery.

Chinese authorities began targeting followers of Falun Gong _ a blend of traditional slow-motion exercises known as Qi Gong _ last July when it banned the group as a menace to the public. Falun Gong’s founder, a former government clerk, left China in 1998 and now lives in New York.

During the protests Thursday (May 11) at least two Western tourists were detained apparently for taking photographs of Falun Gong demonstrators, and authorities confiscated film from at least three foreign journalists.

In an editorial published Thursday (May 11) in China’s official news agency, the government claimed its efforts to crack down on the group had met with success, and claimed that some 98 percent of Falun gong followers had left the group.

“The victory has greatly raised the political vigilance of the nation, saved and protected a large number of the cheated, punished the evil and maintained the social stability of the country,” read the editorial.

Church of Scotland Report: Raise Minimum Wage

(RNS) A report by the Church of Scotland’s Church and Nation committee calls on the church to back a significant increase in Britain’s minimum wage.

The report will be presented at the denomination’s General Assembly, which begins meeting May 20. The Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian body, is Scotland’s officially established church, much as the Anglican Church is in England.

The report cited experts who said that for a family of two adults and two children with one adult in full-time paid work, gross earnings of $410 a week, or $10.65 an hour for a 38-hour work week, would be needed to provide the minimum standard of living “below which good health, social integration and child development are at risk.”

The current minimum wage for adults is $5.50 an hour and will rise to $5.65 on Oct. 1.

Arguing that the cost of dealing with such consequences of poverty as debt crime, domestic violence, and educational achievement might cost the government more than increasing benefits, the report said no British government, when setting the level of benefits, had ever had available research into the minimum income necessary to maintain good health and cover essential needs.

“This kind of information is available to governments in Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the USA,” it added.

Yemen’s Mufti Declares Normalization with Israel Unlawful

(RNS) Twenty leading Yemenite religious leaders, including the Muslim country’s chief Mufti Ahmed bin Ahmed Zabara, have issued a religious ruling, or fatwa, condemning normalization between Yemen and Israel.

The declaration that normalization is “haram,” or unlawful, follows the recent increase in officially sanctioned visits by Israeli Jews of Yemenite origin to their birthplace.

The religious ruling, cited Tuesday in the international Arab daily “Al-Sharq Al-Awsat” Tuesday called on all Muslim governments and peoples to abstain from any regularization of contacts with the Jewish state.

Quote of the Day: Actor Sidney Poitier

(RNS) “God is the ultimate mystery, and fear of his wrath the ultimate driving force that governs how we behave.”

Actor Sidney Poitier, in his new spiritual autobiography, “The Measure of a Man” (HarperSanFrancisco).


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