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c. 2006 Religion News Service

Miami Archdiocese Urges Foley to Name Alleged Abuser

(RNS) Former Florida congressman Mark Foley should name the Roman Catholic cleric who allegedly abused him as soon as possible to spare others from potential harm, the archdiocese of Miami said Wednesday (Oct. 18).

“We don’t care how he reports the name, just report it,” said archdiocesan spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta. Church officials will immediately relay the name to local law enforcement, Agosta added.

Foley, 52, resigned from Congress last month after it was revealed that he had sexually explicit online conversations with teenage congressional pages.

Foley’s attorneys have since alleged that he was sexually abused by a clergyman in Florida “36 to 38 years ago” but have not named the cleric.

“To keep bouncing back and forth about coming forward is really unfair to a lot of parties,” Agosta said.

Foley’s reluctance to name the cleric not only “casts a shadow over every priest that has ever served in South Florida” but also could put children in harm’s way, Agosta said. “We could be talking about a priest in active ministry,” she said.

The former congressman remains secluded at an alcohol rehabilitation facility and has not publicly spoken about the alleged abuse. As a youth, Foley was an altar boy at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lake Worth, Fla.

By coming forward, Foley could be a positive example to everyone who has been sexually abused, Agosta said. Moreover, he would be eligible for the psychological counseling the archdiocese provides to sexual abuse victims, according to the spokeswoman.

Since 1958, 44 priests in the archdiocese of Miami have been accused of sexual misconduct involving minors, according to church officials.

David Clohessy, director the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said “Foley is setting a terrible example” for other abuse victims. “Sex crimes should be reported to police officials, not church officials” Clohessy said.

_ Daniel Burke

Captors Vow to Release Photographer in Exchange for Afghan Convert

(RNS) An Italian photojournalist taken hostage last week will be set free if Italy hands over Abdul Rahman, an Afghan Christian convert who was granted political asylum there earlier this year, the photographer’s captors said.

The Web site PeaceReporter.org, affiliated with the Italian aid agency Emergency, said kidnappers of photographer Gabriele Torsello made their demands Tuesday (Oct. 17) to a hospital run by Emergency in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand.

They said they wanted Rahman back, presumably so he could be prosecuted and punished.

Last March, Rahman was granted refuge in Italy after being quietly freed by the Afghan Supreme Court. He faced possible execution under Islamic law in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity, but the court doubted his mental capacity to stand trial. Westerners applauded the release, but some people in Afghanistan protested.

The kidnappers want Rahman to be handed over by the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends on Oct. 24. The Italian foreign ministry gave a brief statement confirming the contact with Torsello’s kidnappers, and said they are doing what they can to secure Torsello’s release.

Torsello, 36, and his Afghan translator were abducted by five gunmen from a public bus as they drove from Lashkar Gah toward Kandahar.

The Associated Press reported that the kidnappers, who spoke to the hospital’s security chief, did not say what they would do if their demand was refused.

“Obviously, it is utterly impossible to satisfy these demands,” said Maso Notarianni, director of PeaceReporters, according to the Agence France Presse news agency.

_ Chansin Bird

Blair, Prodi Join Debate Over Veiled Muslim Women

LONDON (RNS) Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, have joined the growing furor over the wearing of full-face veils by Muslim women, suggesting the veils are used to hide and set the wearer apart from the rest of society.

Blair told a news conference Tuesday (Oct. 17) that the veil is “a mark of separation” that “makes other people from outside the community feel uncomfortable.”

At the same time, Prodi said in an interview with the Reuters news agency that “you can’t cover your face _ you must be seen. This is common sense, I think. If you have a veil, fine, but you must be seen.”

The object of their objection is the “niqab,” a veil that covers practically the entire face, leaving only the eyes visible. It is used in some Muslim societies to shield women from the view of men outside their immediate families.

The issue was triggered as a matter of hot debate earlier this month when Jack Straw, one of Blair’s former Cabinet ministers and now leader of the House of Commons, said Muslim women visiting his office should remove their veils.

The furor was immediately compounded when a Muslim teaching assistant, Aishah Azmi, was suspended from her job at a Church of England school in north England after she refused to take off her black veil during a class where male teachers were present.

“No one wants to say that people don’t have the right” to wear veils, Blair said. “That is to take it too far. But I think we need to confront this issue about how we integrate people properly into our society.”

Britain’s population of 60 million includes an estimated 1.8 million Muslims, but relations between Muslim communities and the nation’s non-Islamic society have been strained by the events of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the July 2005 bombings on London’s bus and subway systems that killed 52 people.

Wearing veils is not restricted in either Britain or Italy, but Italy has in the past invoked laws against covering the face as an anti-terrorism measure. Some Italian politicians have suggested they be used again against Muslim women.

Some British Muslims have complained about what they describe as increasing “Islamophobia” across the land.

“What is happening, especially in the last few months,” said Muhammad Abdul Bari, a leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, “has been a barrage of demonization of the Muslim community to the extent that the community is now scared and the whole community feels vulnerable.”

_ Al Webb

Evangelicals Urge More Aggressive Action on Darfur

WASHINGTON (RNS) President Bush should adopt an aggressive policy _ guided by faith, not politics _ to end the violence in Sudan’s western Darfur region, prominent evangelical leaders said Wednesday (Oct. 17).

International and domestic politics have deterred Bush and other world leaders from ending the killings in Darfur, said the Rev. Jim Wallis, head of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a Washington-based progressive Christian network.

When government fails to stop slaughter, “people need to step in and say we must be dictated by our conscience,” Wallis said.

The group asked that Bush push for a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur, even if Sudan’s government continues to object to an international peacekeeping force.

Wallis was joined by four other prominent evangelicals, including Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and the Rev. Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance.

An estimated 200,000 people have been killed, and 2.5 million displaced, in the Sudanese government’s bloody campaign against civilians suspected of affiliation with Darfur rebels. Fighting has recently spread to nearby Chad, where 100 people were killed and 300,000 people displaced.

In August, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir rejected the U.S. and British-backed plan to bring a U.N. force of about 20,000 armed personnel into Darfur. Al-Bashir said earlier this month that he would consider any country’s move to supply troops for such a U.N. mission a “hostile act.”

But Wallis said the situation in Darfur has reached the point where Bush and other Americans must be willing to override Sudanese authority for the sake of ending the killings. Allowing the violence to continue would serve to give the green light for dictators in other countries to engage in genocide, he said.

Land said the lack of support in Congress and Bush’s concern that America cannot follow through with a commitment in Darfur may be adding to Bush’s hesitation to form a more aggressive policy.

He said the president and the Congress need to see a demand for action in Darfur coming from the American people. “In my experience, when Washington feels the heat, it sees the light,” Land said.

_ Rebecca U. Cho

Quote of the Day: Filmmaker Matthew Crouch

(RNS) “God’s promise to us was that we would have entrance into the hearts of the ungodly without them knowing it.”

_ Filmmaker Matthew Crouch, producer of the new film “One Night With the King” based on the biblical story of Esther, telling Texas pastors about his efforts to use the film to influence culture. He was quoted by the Dallas Morning News.

KRE/JL END RNS

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