Amer­i­can re­li­gious lead­ers urge U.S. in­volve­ment in Is­rael/Pales­tine cease-fire

Mus­lim, Chris­tian and Jewish groups unite on is­sue

The Covington News - - Religion -

WASH­ING­TON — Amer­i­can Mus­lim, Chris­tian and Jewish lead­ers say there is an ur­gent need for U.S. lead­er­ship to ne­go­ti­ate a last­ing cease-fire in Is­rael and the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries.

In a state­ment re­leased Mon­day, the Na­tional In­ter­re­li­gious Lead­er­ship Ini­tia­tive for Peace in the Mid­dle East ex­pressed sup­port for Pres­i­dent Bush’s lead­er­ship in the re­gion so far.

Now, the group says the U.S. and its part­ners should “press more ur­gently for mean­ing­ful, re­cip­ro­cal, si­mul­ta­ne­ous steps by Is­rael and the Pales­tinian Author­ity to im­prove con­di­tions on the ground and help re­store peo­ple’s hopes that a peace agree­ment is pos­si­ble.”

The steps that the group is ad­vo­cat­ing in­clude hav­ing the Pales­tinian Author­ity block il­le­gal arms ship­ments and dis­arm mili­tias; a freeze on any ex­pan­sion of Is­raeli set­tle­ments in the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries and re­duc­ing mil­i­tary check­points for Pales­tini­ans; and qui­etly urg­ing Arab lead­ers to help form a new, uni­fied Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment that can gov­ern both the West Bank and Gaza. Gaza is con­trolled by the Is­lamic mil­i­tant Ha­mas, while the Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas’ Fatah move­ment has a strong­hold in the West Bank.

Among the more than 30 sign­ers of the state­ment are Ro­man Catholic Car­di­nal Theodore McCar­rick, for­mer arch­bishop of Wash­ing­ton; Chicago Car­di­nal Francis Ge­orge, pres­i­dent of the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bishops; Rabbi David Saper­stein of the Re­li­gious Ac­tion Cen­ter of Re­form Ju­daism; Con­ser­va­tive Rabbi El­liot Dorff of Amer­i­can Jewish Univer­sity in Los An­ge­les; Sayyid Sy­eed, na­tional di­rec- tor of the Is­lamic So­ci­ety of North Amer­ica; and Imam Yahya Hendi, Ge­orge­town Univer­sity chap­lain.

Luther­ans to re­lease sex­u­al­ity state­ment

CHICAGO — The Evan­gel­i­cal Lutheran Church in Amer­ica will soon re­lease a draft of its so­cial state­ment on hu­man sex­u­al­ity, in­clud­ing pro­posed teach­ing on gay re­la­tion­ships.

The doc­u­ment “Free in Christ to Serve the Neigh­bor: Luther­ans Talk about Hu­man Sex­u­al­ity” is sched­uled to be made pub­lic on March 13 by the Task Force for ELCA Stud­ies on Sex­u­al­ity.

Like many other Protes­tant groups, the ELCA has been strug­gling for decades to rec­on­cile dif­fer­ent views of what the Bi­ble says about same-gen­der re­la­tion­ships.

Cur­rent church stan­dards re­quire clergy to “ab­stain from ho­mo­sex­ual sex­ual re­la­tion­ships.” But last year the Church­wide As­sem­bly adopted a res­o­lu­tion that “urges and en­cour­ages” bishops to re­frain from dis­ci­plin­ing clergy in “faith­ful, com­mit­ted” same-sex re­la­tion­ships.

The task force has been work­ing on the is­sue for years. The fi­nal ver­sion of the doc­u­ment is ex­pected to be on the agenda for the next Church­wide As­sem­bly, Aug. 7-13, 2009, in Min­neapo­lis.

With about 4.8 mil­lion mem­bers, the ELCA is the largest Lutheran group in the United States.

The 2.5 mil­lion-mem­ber Lutheran Church-Mis­souri Synod, based in St. Louis, be­lieves the Bi­ble is lit­er­ally true and does not or­dain gays.

Malaysian air­port con­fis­cates Bibles

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A church fed­er­a­tion slammed Malaysian cus­toms of­fi­cials for seiz­ing 32 Bibles, say­ing the in­ci­dent shows the Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try is be­com­ing less tol- er­ant of other reli­gions.

The Royal Malaysian Cus­toms de­part­ment said it was only try­ing to de­ter­mine if the Bibles were im­ported for com­mer­cial pur­poses.

“It’s the nor­mal pro­ce­dure,” said Iskan­dar Jaa­far, a Cus­toms de­part­ment spokesman.

Cus­tom of­fi­cials at an air­port in Kuala Lumpur took the Bibles from a Malaysian wo­man Jan. 28 on her re­turn from the Philip­pines, said the Rev. Her­men Shas­tri, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Coun­cil of Churches of Malaysia.

The wo­man was told that all re­li­gious ma­te­ri­als have to be sent to the In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Min­istry’s publi­ca­tions con­trol unit for clear­ance, Shas­tri said.

Shas­tri said he had never be­fore heard of any­one be­ing told to do this when bring­ing English-lan­guage Bibles into the coun­try.

“It’s get­ting from bad to worse,” Shas­tri told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “This ei­ther points to a con­certed ef­fort to un­der­mine the cur­rent prac­tice of re­li­gious tol­er­ance, or the re­li­gious en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties have been given a free hand and they are hav­ing a field day.”

The coun­cil called on Prime Min­is­ter Ab­dul­lah Ah­mad Badawi to pub­licly re­as­sure Chris­tians of their rights. Malaysian law for­bids pros­e­ly­tiz­ing by non-Mus­lims, al­though Mus­lims are al­lowed to en­cour­age peo­ple to ac­cept Is­lam.

Re­li­gion is an ex­tremely sen­si­tive topic in Malaysia, where eth­nic Malay Mus­lims make up about 60 per­cent of the 27 mil­lion peo­ple. But the Con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees free­dom of wor­ship for mi­nori­ties, who in­clude Chris­tians, Bud­dhists and Hin­dus.

Span­ish con­demn bishops’ com­ments

MADRID, Spain — The Span­ish gov­ern­ment is protest­ing a veiled state­ment from Ro­man Catholic bishops that vot­ers should shun the rul­ing So­cial­ists in elec­tions next month, the Span­ish for­eign min­is­ter says.

The Span­ish am­bas­sador to the Holy See, Fran­cisco Vazquez, met Feb. 2 with a Vat­i­can of­fi­cial to ex­press “per­plex­ity and sur­prise” over the bishops’ com­ments, For­eign Min­is­ter Miguel An­gel Mo­rati­nos said.

The Span­ish Bishops Con­fer­ence had re­leased a state­ment in­di­cat­ing that vot­ers should not back par­ties that sup­port gay mar­riage or other poli­cies con­trary to church teach­ing, nor should they sup­port talks with armed Basque mil­i­tants — clearly ref­er­ences to the gov­ern­ing So­cial­ists.

Prime Min­is­ter Jose Luis Ro­driguez Za­p­a­tero le­gal­ized same-sex mar­riage, stream­lined di­vorce, and tried in vain to ne­go­ti­ate a peace ac­cord in 2006 with the armed Basque group ETA.

Mo­rati­nos, speak­ing in the south­ern city of Cor­doba, crit­i­cized Spain’s church hi­er­ar­chy as “fun­da­men­tal­ist and neo-con­ser­va­tive.” He said the church does not rep­re­sent a ma­jor­ity of Span­ish Catholics and is “us­ing ter­ror­ism po­lit­i­cally to di­vide all Spa­niards.”

“We want to main­tain a bet­ter level of re­la­tions with the Holy See, but we do not un­der­stand this pos­ture,” Mo­rati­nos said.

In Spain, lead­ers of the Catholic Church have long sided with the right. They sup­ported the fas­cist forces of late Gen. Fran­cisco Franco in the 1936-39 Span­ish Civil War and his near four-decade dic­ta­tor­ship. Un­der democ­racy, church lead­ers, with­out nam­ing a po­lit­i­cal party, have con­sis­tently in­di­cated sup­port for con­ser­va­tives in elec­tions.

Guru who taught Bea­tles med­i­ta­tion dies

THE HAGUE, Nether­lands — Ma­har­ishi Ma­hesh Yogi, a guru to the Bea­tles who in­tro­duced the West to tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion, died Tues­day at his home in the Dutch town of Vlo­drop, a spokesman said. He was thought to be 91 years old.

“He died peace­fully at about 7 p.m.,” said Bob Roth, a spokesman for the Tran­scen­den­tal Med­i­ta­tion move­ment that Ma­har­ishi founded. He said his death ap­peared to be due to “nat­u­ral causes, his age.”

Once dis­missed as hip­pie mys­ti­cism, the Hindu prac­tice of mind con­trol known as tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion grad­u­ally gained med­i­cal re­spectabil­ity.

He be­gan teach­ing TM in 1955 and brought the tech­nique to the United States in 1959. But the move­ment re­ally took off af­ter the Bea­tles at­tended one of his lec­tures in 1967.

Ma­har­ishi re­treated last month into si­lence at his home on the grounds of a for­mer Fran­cis­can monastery, say­ing he wanted to ded­i­cate his re­main­ing days to study­ing the an­cient In­dian texts that un­der­pin his move­ment.

“He had been say­ing he had done what he set out to do,” Roth said late Tues­day.

With the help of celebrity en­dorse­ments, Ma­har­ishi — a Hindi-lan­guage ti­tle for Great Seer — par­layed his in­ter­pre­ta­tions of an­cient scrip­ture into a multi-mil­lion-dol­lar global em­pire. His ros­ter of fa­mous med­i­ta­tors ran from Mike Love of the Beach Boys to Clint East­wood and Deepak Cho­pra, a new age preacher.

Af­ter 50 years of teach­ing, Ma­har­ishi turned to larger themes, with grand de­signs to har­ness the power of group med­i­ta­tion to cre­ate world peace and to mo­bi­lize his devo­tees to ban­ish poverty from the earth.

His rise to fame came with his as­so­ci­a­tion with the Bea­tles, who first at­tended one of his lec­tures in Au­gust 1967 in Wales as they looked for a way of at­tain­ing higher con­scious­ness in the af­ter­math of that year’s Sum­mer of Love.

The Bea­tles were so charmed by the self-ef­fac­ing guru that they agreed to stay with at his In­dia com­pound, start­ing in Fe­bru­ary 1968, an as­ton­ish­ing choice for what was then the world’s most cel­e­brated mu­sic group.

But once there, Ma­har­ishi had a fall­ing out with the rock stars af­ter ru­mors emerged that he was mak­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate ad­vances on at­tendee Mia Far­row. John Len­non was so an­gry he wrote a bit­ter satire, “Sexy Sadie,” in which he vowed that Ma­har­ishi would “get yours yet.”

Ma­har­ishi in­sisted he had done noth­ing wrong and years later McCart­ney agreed with him. Deepak Cho­pra, a dis­ci­ple of Ma­har­ishi’s and a friend of Ge­orge Har­ri­son’s, has dis­puted the Far­row story, say­ing in­stead that Ma­har­ishi had be­come un­happy with the Bea­tles be­cause they were us­ing drugs.

Faith can fac­tor into col­lege de­ci­sions

CLEM­SON, S.C. — On one of the first vis­its to Clem­son coach Tommy Bow­den’s of­fice, prized re­cruit Dal­ton Free­man no­ticed the Bi­ble on the desk.

Free­man, an ac­tive church­goer, learned that study­ing the Bi­ble was as es­sen­tial to Bow­den’s rou­tine as break­ing down an op­po­nent’s game plan.

“’It’s part of my daily life,’” Bow­den told Free­man.

“Kids have a lot of re­spect for coaches when they hear that,” said Ben Free­man, Dal­ton’s fa­ther as well as his high school coach at Pe­lion High.

When Ken­neth Page, an of­fen­sive line­man from A.C. Flora High, out­lined his col­lege choices last month, he noted Bow­den was a “good Chris­tian man.”

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