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c. 2007 Religion News Service

Ruth Graham, Wife of Evangelist Billy Graham, Buried at Graham Library

(RNS) As his wife Ruth was buried Sunday (June 17) at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., her evangelist husband said he looked forward to joining her in heaven.

“The Bible says the Lord has prepared a place for us and I know he has prepared a home for her _ I hope she saves a room for me,” Billy Graham said at a private interment ceremony at the new library.

“I believe the Lord has brought us to this point. I am looking forward to the day when we’ll have the next service here.”

Ruth Graham, 87, died Thursday (June 14) after suffering from ill health in recent years. On the day before her death, she and her husband announced that they had decided to be buried at the foot of a cross-shaped walkway in the prayer garden of the library. The library, which is adjacent to the headquarters of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was dedicated on May 31.

Billy Graham also spoke briefly at his wife’s public memorial service on Saturday at the Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, N.C.

“Ruth was an incredible woman,” he said of his wife of more than 63 years. “I wish you could look in her casket because she is so beautiful. I sat there a long time last night looking at her, and I prayed, because I knew she had a great reception in heaven.”

Billy Graham, 88, has Parkinson’s disease and other ailments and said his strength is “limited.”

During her mother’s funeral, Virginia “Gigi” Graham read one of the family’s favorite selections from Ruth Graham’s poetry, which begins: “And when I die, I hope my soul ascends slowly, so that I may watch the earth receding out of sight, its vastness growing smaller as I rise, savoring its recession with delight.”

Ruth Graham was buried in a simple plywood coffin, made by prisoners from Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La.

_ Adelle M. Banks

Interfaith Group Pushes for Reforms at Peru Plant

NEW YORK (RNS) An interfaith coalition from Peru, with the support of some U.S. religious groups, is pressuring a U.S. corporation to control pollution at a Peruvian smelter plant that they say is endangering public health.

The delegation of Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish representatives say they do not want the plant in La Oroya, Peru, to close but want U.S.-standard equivalent pollution controls to be installed at the Peruvian smelter operations.

The campaign turned its attention to the United States because the plant’s holding group, the Renco Group, is based in New York and an affiliated plant, run by a Renco subsidiary, Doe Run, is based in Missouri.

However, when the interfaith group visited St. Louis last week, they learned there are now unanswered questions about who now owns the Peruvian plant.

The religious representatives say their efforts are rooted in the Judeo-Christian prophetic tradition. “It’s a defense of life,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Huancayo, Peru, during an interview Thursday (June 14) at the Church Center for the United Nations.

So far, the coalition members have not succeeded in meeting with Ira Rennert, a New York businessmen who heads Renco. The delegation said it wanted to appeal to Rennert on ethical and moral grounds, noting that Rennert is the chairman of the prominent Fifth Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan.

“Money and ethics need to go together,” said Elias Szczytnicki, a member of the Israeli Union of Peru and the secretary of Peru’s national interfaith commission.

“We don’t want an argument with him, and we don’t want the plant to close or for investment to go away,” said Dominican Sister Mila Diaz Solano, noting that the plant is the only industry in La Oroya. “We want to work with him.”

The coalition said that La Oroya has been named one of the 10 most polluted cities in the world by the Blacksmith Institute, an international environmental watchdog group, while Doe Run publicly declared profits of between $125-150 million in 2006.

“With these profits Mr. Rennert has the opportunity to significantly reduce contamination in La Oroya and improve the health of thousands of children and families,” the group said.

Chris Deri, a spokesman for a public relations firm that represents Renco, said the company “would not be issuing any immediate statement.”

A statement on Renco’s web site does not mention the Peruvian operations or the interfaith campaign but says Renco’s “affiliated companies are committed to being responsible corporate citizens. They have a deep interest in stewarding the environment and protecting their employees and communities.”

_ Chris Herlinger

Violence Flares Around Secretive Kenyan Sect

NAIROBI (RNS) The murders, beheadings and minibus burnings that have become almost routine in Nairobi’s slums flared in recent days as a semi-religious sect renewed its efforts to create anarchy and overthrow the government.

The Mungiki sect, which has long wished to purge Kenya of Christianity and other forms of Western influence, has been linked to the deaths of at least 18 people in Nairobi and the surrounding provinces in the last three months.

Many of those killed were believed to be government collaborators or people who refused to pay taxes imposed by the sect for protection and basic utilities. The latest victims were dismembered, their heads often skinned and hoisted atop poles as a grim warning to the rest of the community.

Meanwhile, President Mwai Kibaki and Internal Security Minister John Michuki have vowed to stamp out the radical element.

When Mungiki members shot two policemen on patrol in Nairobi’s Mathare slum in early June, their fellow officers responded with a massive raid on several Mungiki strongholds. Police killed at least 33 alleged sect members, arrested more than 300, and razed countless shacks and the group’s spiritual hub.

Amnesty International and other worldwide human rights groups have condemned the bloody counter-attack for what they called a lack of discrimination used by police during the shootings.

Mungiki is the Kikuyu word for “multitude” or “a united people.” The highly secretive religious sect is believed to have originated in the late 1980s, claiming ties to the warriors of the bloody Mau Mau rebellion that fought the British before independence in 1963. The group is composed almost entirely of young, unemployed men from the Kikuyu tribe who became known for wearing dreadlocks and taking snuff during mysterious worship services.

When the group was outlawed in 2002, its religious rites were forced underground. During the recent police raid, a human heart cut in two _ in addition to other pieces of human flesh wrapped in the Mungiki flag _ were discovered and linked to the group’s mysterious rituals.

Today Mungiki has blossomed into an organization claiming thousands of members throughout Nairobi and central Kenya; many compare its presence here to the Italian Mafia. Its leaders advocate African traditional customs that have long-since been abandoned in most countries, including female genital mutilation. At the same time, they violently reject Western culture, calling Christianity a facet of neo-colonialism that must be eradicated.

Analysts blame the latest rash of violence on sect members and national politicians who want to disrupt presidential elections slated for December.

_ Jason Kane

Hare Krishnas Decry Home Destructions in Kazakhstan

(RNS) The government of Kazakhstan bulldozed a dozen homes belonging to the country’s Hindu minority, Hare Krishna leaders said, an act that has been condemned by international human rights groups.

Officials from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Hare Krishna umbrella group, said police officers and government officials looked on as two busloads of hired laborers used crowbars and sledgehammers to dismantle the houses just outside of the country’s largest city, Almaty.

Kazakhstan _ in which more than 90 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim or Russian Orthodox _ has a history of targeting Indian immigrants. In November 2006, fourteen homes belonging to Hindus were demolished.

“The authorities are showing that they will do what they want, despite the international outrage at the earlier demolitions,” human rights activist Yevgeny Zhovtis told Forum 18, an organization promoting religious freedoms.

A spokesman for the Kazakh Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the demolitions.

Zhovtis said the Hindus’ property ownership documents contained some minor inaccuracies, but maintained that Hindus were singled out in the demolition. He noted that other villagers with the same legal status as the Hindus did not have their homes destroyed.

“Clearly they are attacking only the Hare Krishnas,” he said.

The Kazakh government’s actions last year drew criticism from the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan, the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The persecution was one reason the country was denied its bid to chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2009.

_ Michelle C. Rindels

Quote of the Day: The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding of Seattle

(RNS) “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both.”

_ The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, an Episcopal priest in Seattle, explaining to the Seattle Times that she is also a practicing Muslim.

KRE/CM END RNSA photo of Ruth Graham’s funeral to accompany the first item is available via https://religionnews.com

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