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Religion News Report

Religion News Report - May 9, 2000 (Vol. 4, Issue 200)

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Rainbow

=== Ho-no-ha-na Sanpogyo
1. Fukunaga, cultists arrested
2. Japanese Police Nab Foot Cult Guru
3. Japan 'Foot Cult' Leaders Held for Suspected Fraud
4. Cops to stamp on cult heads
5. Foot cultists heard a committee's voice
6. Cult may have paid to get religious status
7. Arrest warrant issued for Ho-no-Hana leader

=== Japan - Cults, General
8. Supreme and ugly truths

=== Waco / Branch Davidians
9. Jury finds Koresh followers, ex-Davidian leader's wife not
legitimate church trustees

=== Falun Gong
10. Sect members meditate to raise awareness
11. World Falun Dafa Day Celebration

=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God

12. Government Denies Cult Links
13. Museveni lays wreath on Kanungu mass grave
14. Grave Said To Be In Ndejje
15. Commission To Probe Cult Murders

=== Scientology
16. The Scientology show goes on
17. Battlefield Earth: A true cult classic
18. Battlefield Earth Will Tank

=== Germany - Cults, General
19. Local German Sect Info Report

=== International Church of Christ
20. International Church of Christ celebrates despite criticism

=== Mormonism
21. Methodists Back Proposal to Have LDS Converts Rebaptized

=== Jehovah's Witnesses
22. Jehovah's Witness Hall Fire

=== Witchcraft / Paganism
23. Truth Commission Hears Witchcraft Amnesty Applications

=== Other News
24. Register Mungiki, lawyer demands
25. Guatemalan cops arrest nine over 'baby stealing' riot
26. Grave Robberies Baffle Madagascar
27. Four Die Waiting for 'Miracle' Cures
28. Woman Falls Dead At Evil Spirit Chasing Ritual
29. TBN regains Miami license
30. Promise Keepers seeks to expand ministry
31. Court rules on Medicare law
32. Mossad snatches sacred Jewish texts from Saddam
33. Church threat on McDonald's ad
34. Gilbert marks day for Buddha
35. 'Miracle' As Saint's Blood Liquefies Again

=== Noted
36. Psychology, religion share similar goals

=== Books
37. Heaven, Hell and in Between
38. Pagans are deemed Christian partners

=== Ho-no-ha-na Sanpogyo

1. Fukunaga, cultists arrested
Asahi News (Japan), May 9, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/english/asahi/0509/asahi050902.htmlOff-site Link
Police this morning arrested Hogen Fukunaga, the 55-year-old founder and former
head of the Ho no Hana Sanpogyo foot cult, and 10 of his lieutenants for
scamming millions of yen from new recruits.

Fukunaga denied the allegations, police officials said.

Police say they have evidence that Fukunaga and the others swindled 25 million
yen from five people and that the actual total is probably far higher. Police
said they would arrest another cultist later.
(...)

Police this morning also searched 18 cult-related locations for evidence.

The arrests follow police searches of cult facilities in December.

Police aim to prove eventually that 12 senior members, including Fukunaga,
bilked at least 20 people out of more than 100 million yen.

The money was paid as fees for seminars that the cult asserted would cure
illnesses of those attending, based on examinations of the soles of their feet.

The cult leaders have denied all the allegations
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Japanese Police Nab Foot Cult Guru
AOL/AP, May 9, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0005080946147611
(...) Tuesday's arrest comes 11 days after a Japanese court ruled for the first
time that Ho-no-Hana had defrauded some of its members, who were warned that
they would die or get cancer unless they had the soles of their feet inspected
by Fukunaga.

The cult was ordered to pay 27 ex-followers $2.12 million in damages.

Complaints against Ho-no-Hana surfaced about four years ago, and more than a
thousand former cult members have filed lawsuits seeking a total of $50 million
in damages.

Guru Fukunaga claimed that the shape of people's feet revealed their
personality, with short toes signifying short tempers and fat toes foretelling
good fortune.

The cult's name roughly translates as ``teaching of the flower-three
teachings.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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3. Japan 'Foot Cult' Leaders Held for Suspected Fraud
AOL/Reuters, May 9, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=0106&id=0005090110151985
TOKYO (Reuters) - In a fresh move to crack down on fringe religious groups
suspected of illegal activities, Japanese police on Tuesday arrested leaders of
a ''foot cult'' that diagnosed followers' ills by examining the soles of their
feet.
(...)

Police said Fukunaga and his top followers, whose headquarters are at the foot
of Mount Fuji, have no licence to practice medicine but said they could diagnose
the health condition and predict the future of individuals by examining their
feet.
(...)

Fukunaga, 55, has said he is the world's last savior and that he hears the voice
of heaven. He has also predicted human beings will disappear from the earth on
January 6, 2001.

Followers were told to buy religious goods and enter expensive training programs
to ensure they were cured.

Media reports said the cult was believed to have defrauded some 30,000 followers
of 81 billion yen since 1987, when it was officially recognized as a religious
group.

Last month, a Japanese court ordered the cult and Fukunaga to pay 227.2 million
yen to 27 former followers.

Separately, more than 1,000 other former followers have sued the cult, demanding
it pay some five billion yen in damages.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. Cops to stamp on cult heads
Mainichi Daily News (Japan), May 9, 2000
http://www.mainichi.co.jp/english/news/news06.htmlOff-site Link
(...) Investigators believe they have enough evidence to make the cult foot the
bill for its allegedly illegal moneymaking operations.

On April 28, the Fukuoka District Court condemned the cult for engaging in
''illegal moneymaking activity,'' and ordered it to pay over 220 million yen in
damages to 12 former followers.

But two days later, Fukunaga told a gathering of some 600 cult members in Tokyo
that the decision is '' no concern of heaven. Courts cannot overrule heaven.''

The housewives, who had various domestic and health problems when they contacted
the cult, sued Fukunaga and others for fraud. They argued that the cult members
used the foot reading and ''heavenly voice'' oracle to convince them to fork
over millions of yen to escape their misfortunes or avoid serious illnesses.

Out of anxiety, the three women bought expensive lucky charms such as scrolls,
and attended training sessions held in the cult's headquarters and other
facilities, as instructed by members.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. Foot cultists heard a committee's voice
Asahi News (Japan), May 8, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/english/asahi/0508/asahi050803.htmlOff-site Link
The ''voice of heaven'' that drove followers to part with huge donations to Ho
no Hana Sanpogyo
was apparently a committee effort, according to sources
familiar with the investigation of the cult's activities.

Cult leaders had denied they made fraudulent claims to get money from donors,
the sources said Sunday. The basic line was that they could receive hanging
scrolls and other religious bric-a-brac imbued with a ''voice of heaven'' heard
only by Hogen Fukunaga, founder of the cult.

Investigators have determined since, however, that the messages were drawn up by
high-ranking cultists at occasional cult policy meetings.
(...)

Separately, investigators have obtained cult documents warning followers to
watch their language when recruiting. The documents were apparently prepared
around April 1996 when the huge sums the cult was collecting began to emerge as
a public concern.

The document warned that such pitch phrases as ''your cancer will be cured'' or
''your illness will definitely be cured'' could lead the cult to be held
accountable in court and should be avoided.

The statement warned against absolute phrases as ''humanity will definitely be
destroyed.'' Instead, members were advised to be vague, as in, ''if the
conditions are right, it could lead to destruction.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Cult may have paid to get religious status
Japan Times (Japan), May 8, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/nn05-2000/nn20000508a6.htmOff-site Link
The Honohana Sampogyo religious group paid several million yen to a then member
of the Fuji city assembly in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1986, one year before the
prefectural government certified it as an authorized religious corporation, cult
sources said.

The assembly member, Matsuo Oishi, 63, who later became chairman of the
assembly, was asked by the Fuji-based cult to help with procedural matters in
registering as an authorized religious body and consulted prefectural government
officials on the matter in advance, the sources said.

Oishi admitted to having received cash in December 1986 and April 1987 but told
Kyodo News the money was offered as political campaign funds for the 1987
nationwide local elections. He declined to clarify how much he received.

Police suspect the cash was given to Oishi as payment for helping the cult
obtain religious corporation status in March 1987. Police are questioning him
about the money.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Arrest warrant issued for Ho-no-Hana leader
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), May 9, 2000
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/0509cr03.htmOff-site Link
(...) Of the more than 80 billion yen collected from followers, the group drew
about 70 billion yen from ''training fees,'' and sales of various items, the MPD
learned Monday.

The remaining sum of more than 10-billion yen came from other sources, such as
book publishing and restaurants linked to the cult, police said Monday.
(...)

In the course of questioning about 300 people, including followers, police
investigators have learned that the group canvassed would-be followers without
telling them that it was a religious organization, and that Fukunaga had
instructed his subordinates to lure potential followers into the group, even by
lying. The group has given its dubious training to 30,000 people so far.

A large number of the group's officials were allegedly involved in canvassing
followers to edit books written by ghostwriters for Fukunaga, to encourage
followers to take sole examinations, to take care of followers during their
training and to manage followers and group funds.

The ''Vox Dei,'' or ''voice of God,'' which it was said only Fukunaga could hear
and interpret, was sometimes interpreted by senior members for approval by
Fukunaga, police learned. Fukunaga then allegedly cleared the inetrpretations,
sources said.

Police consider this a crucial point in establishing that the cult operated
fraudulently, the sources said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Japan - Cults, General

8. Supreme and ugly truths
Asahi News (Japan), May 7, 2000
http://www.asahi.com/english/asahi/0507/asahi050707.htmlOff-site Link
Recent arrests of religious cult leaders, prompted by the deaths of several
devotees who were refused medical treatment, have underscored the continuing
appeal gurus have for many Japanese.
(...)

The book ''Kyoso Taiho'' (Gurus under arrest) by Kazuhiro Yonemoto, published by
Takarajima-sha (1,500 yen), reveals how these self-styled gurus persuade people
that they are the saviors of Japan, or the Earth, and entrap them into donating
millions of yen to their various cults.
(...)

Detailed investigation by Yonemoto-a free-lance journalist well known for his
extensive reports on such cults as Kofuku-no-kagaku and
Yamagishikai-demonstrates that financial needs inspired these leaders to act as
gurus, and that they regarded their followers as significant sources of income.

For instance, Hogen Fukunaga established his religious group (Ho-no-hana
Sampogyo
) back in 1980, running it from his four-and-a-half-tatami-room
apartment.

He was then 34 and saddled with 500 million yen of debt. Soon he became a
household name through the publication of texts (nearly 70 at latest count)
penned by ghostwriters.

In 1987 the sect gained official recognition as a religious corporation. The
sect submits new members to a harsh training regimen, part of which requires
them to go without sleep for days on end as they roam the streets crying out
such messages as: ''Kenko afureta tanoshii mainichi-desu'' (I am living a happy
and healthy life) and ''Saiko-desu!'' (Fantastic!).

After the training, they would be taken separately into rooms where Fukunaga's
henchmen would coerce them into paying large sums of money. The intimidation was
often accompanied by a specific threat, according to the author.
(...)

Life Space, another cult probed by Yonemoto, started out in 1983 as a body
offering ''self-enlightenment seminars.''
(...)

The author concludes that Takahashi had no intention of becoming ''a guru'' at
the outset; then, he was just a rather competent businessman.

Life Space was one of many concerns that entered the seminar business in the
1980s, and Takahashi lured clients from his competitors by charging less, until
seminars were hard hit by Japan's economic stagnation in the early 1990s.
(...)

Yonemoto writes: ''Takahashi often told his staff members: 'I have no hankering
to be called a guru.' I would not say that was a lie. ... But, as the
participants in his self-enlightenment seminars became dependent on him,
Takahashi responded by running their lives for them. And when they grew more
serious about seeking a source of perfection in their lives, Takahashi responded
by behaving more like a guru.''

The author warns that other dangerous groups are still out there-and that, in
many cases, their actions are directed at the young. The Kenshokai Buddhist
sect, for instance, encourages young people to bring along their friends. Mamoru
Taguchi, a senior high school student, told the author he had persuaded more
than 100 high school students to join the sect by saying to them: ''If you obey
the sect's teachings you will gain unforeseen advantages, like getting yourself
a girlfriend and extra money.'' The sect is also known for using violent tactics
to bring in recruits.
(...)

These religious corporations also set their traps at universities, operating
under the guise of clubs with such names as Ningen Kagaku Aikokai (Human science
lovers' club), Go West and Koten-ni Manabukai (Classical learning club).
(...)

The author maintains that people join cults for various motives but he warns
that current social systems, including established religions, have become unable
to respond to people's search for meaning in their lives and a common bond with
their fellow humans. And this, he writes, partly explains why more cults and
cultlike groups continue to be born.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Waco / Branch Davidians

9. Jury finds Koresh followers, ex-Davidian leader's wife not legitimate
church trustees
Dallas Morning News, May 8, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/texas_southwest/75925_WACO08.htmlOff-site Link
WACO - A McLennan County jury has decided that neither the surviving followers
of David Koresh nor the widow of another former Branch Davidian leader are
legitimate trustees of the Branch Davidian church.

Jurors returned the verdict after about 2 1/2 hours of deliberations regarding
the dispute over who should control the 77 acres east of Waco known as Mount
Carmel.

The plaintiffs, including Clive Doyle, who survived the Branch Davidians'
standoff with the federal government, brought the lawsuit in hopes of winning
control of the land on which Mr. Koresh and about 80 of his followers died in
1993. Amo Bishop Roden, the widow of former Branch Davidian leader George Roden,
also sought to manage the property.

During the trial, Thomas Drake, George Roden's former bodyguard, was dropped
from the suit. Another party to the suit, Douglas Mitchell, who lived on the
land in the early 1980s before Mr. Koresh became head of the church, was not
considered by jurors because he didn't file a claim that he was a legal trustee
of the church.
(...)

After the verdict was announced late last week, the parties vowed to press on.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

10. Sect members meditate to raise awareness
South China Morning Post, May 8, 2000
http://www.scmp.com/News/HongKong/Article/Off-site Link
FullText_asp_ArticleID-20000508020806470.asp
About 30 members from a Falun Gong splinter group meditated at the Po Lin
Monastery on Lantau yesterday in a show of defiance ahead of the movement's
eighth anniversary. The group, which has separated from the mainstream Hong Kong
Association of Falun Dafa, held a demonstration session from 10am to 5pm outside
the temple near the Big Buddha.

Spokeswoman and leader Belinda Pang said local members would continue to
accompany overseas followers to locations in Hong Kong to exercise before
Thursday's anniversary.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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11. World Falun Dafa Day Celebration
U.S. Newswire, May 6, 2000 (*** Press Release)
http://www.usnewswire.com/topnews/Current_Releases/0506-115.htmlOff-site Link
WASHINGTON, May 6 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following was released
today by Falun Dafa:
(...)

To mark the virtue of the practice and to share the blessings of this precious
gift with others, Falun Dafa practitioners around the world will celebrate May
13 every year as the World Falun Dafa Day, beginning in the year 2000.

The celebration and voluntary teachings in Los Angeles will happen
ay Caltech, Pasadena. Practitioners from the Great Los Angeles area
will come together to offer a serene practice demonstration and free
movement teaching to interested participants. Participants will also
have the opportunity to hear practitioners' cultivation experience
and learn about a variety of perspectives on Falun Dafa. The event is
co-sponsored by Falun Clubs at Caltech, UCLA and USC.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God

12. Government Denies Cult Links
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), May 5, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/east/uganda/stories/20000505/20000505_feat1.htmlOff-site Link
Kampala - The Kanungu cult death chambers were not Government ''safe houses'',
internal affairs minister Edward Rugumayo said yesterday.

Rugumayo told journalists in his office that Uganda no longer has safe houses.
''All Governments all over the world operate safe houses. But even when we had
safe houses, nobody was tortured there and nobody died there,'' he said. He
criticised the media for ''distortion.''
(...)

Reacting to remarks by a local Muslim group leader, Rugumayo said, ''The
Government has noted with concern a statement attributed to the acting chairman
of the Uganda Muslim Youth Assembly, Imam Kasozi, that the Government should
declare all areas originally used as safe houses because they could contain mass
graves.''
(...)

Rugumayo said, ''Although it is disgraceful for anyone claiming to be a leader,
whether of a religious sect or political grouping, to try and politicise a
clearly criminal tragedy, it is important to respond to this unfortunate
outburst made by a person whose brand of religious extremism perhaps differs
only slightly from that of persons responsible for the deaths in Kanungu,
Rugazi, Rushojwa and Buziga.''

''We condemn irresponsible religious extremism for the tragedy now associated
with the so-called Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.
(...)

He said Kasozi should prove his claims and take responsibility for legal
consequences if he is found to have been irresponsible.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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13. Museveni lays wreath on Kanungu mass grave
The Monitor/Africa News Online (Uganda), May 8, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/east/uganda/stories/20000508/20000508_feat2.htmlOff-site Link
Kampala - President Yoweri Museveni has disassociated the NRM from The Movement
for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God
doomsday cult responsible for
the deaths of over 1,000 followers.
(...)

He said the NRM government believes in continuity, development and uplifting of
standards, and not the message the cult leaders were using to mislead their
congregation.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* NRM = National Resistance Movement


14. Grave Said To Be In Ndejje
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), May 5, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/east/uganda/stories/20000505/20000505_feat2.htmlOff-site Link
Kampala - The police say there may be a mass grave in a house in Ndejje near
Kampala, which the Kanungu doomsday cult once rented for seven months.
(...)

''We're to resume search for bodies at the homes of cult leaders,'' he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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15. Commission To Probe Cult Murders
New Vision/Africa News Online (Uganda), May 8, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/east/uganda/stories/20000508/20000508_feat18.htmlOff-site Link
Kampala - The Council for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) has instituted a five- man
committee to probe the Kanungu cult murders.

CMD General Assembly chairman Haji Jjingo Kaaya said at a press conference on
Thursday, ''We shall inform the nation of the committee's findings since we are
a government in waiting.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

16. The Scientology show goes on
Tagesanzeiger (Switzerland), May 5, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000505a.htmOff-site Link
The controversial Scientology Organization will be carrying out a recruitment
drive from May 12 to 17 in a room at the Carlton Restaurant at Bahnhof Street
with upright display screens, short lectures, film presentations and a Sunday
service.
(...)

Business manager Markus Segmueller confirmed the exhibition date. At the same
time he admitted to making a mistake. He had thought that it was a
representative from a company. Not only until after the contract negotiations
had begun did he realized that Scientologists were involved. ''At that point I
sent them a letter in which I made it clear that, under those circumstances,
they would not receive the room,'' said the business manager.

However, the Scientologists did not give up. A delegation sought him out and
talked to him for two hours. At the end of it he had unfortunately let himself
be talked into making the exhibition room available to them, said Segmueller.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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17. Battlefield Earth: A true cult classic
National Post (Canada), May 9, 2000
http://www.nationalpost.com/artslife.asp?f=000509/283753Off-site Link
There's something vaguely comic in the fact that the man who founded the Church
of Scientology
spent much of his life writing science fiction pulp. That's
fortunate, because Scientology needs all the laughs it can get. It's a grim
business, as anyone knows who has encountered one of its deadlier-than-thou
spokespersons. They believe passionately that, unlike all other institutions in
the world, Scientology should never be criticized.

It's therefore a peculiar sort of critic who sets out to discuss, two decades
after its first appearance, Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, by L.
Ron Hubbard (1911-86). A cult classic in the most literal sense of the term,
this is the basis of the film that's been made by an eminent Scientologist, John
Travolta, for release this week. But it's not the book you might expect from
someone like Hubbard, who was quoted to the effect that he had often been
reincarnated and was really 74 trillion years old.
(...)

He wrote the novel's introduction in October, 1980, at a time when he was
keeping his whereabouts secret, for reasons that were also secret. Discussing
his career, he recalled earlier and more tranquil times, when he was "a
high-production writer" for Astounding Science Fiction magazine. He noted that
Battlefield Earth (1,050 pages in the paperback edition) "may be the biggest SF
novel ever in terms of length." Ungrateful readers may wish he had not gone to
so much trouble, and it's unlikely (as Samuel Johnson said of Paradise Lost)
that anyone would wish it to be longer.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* The article is accompanied by the infamous picture of L. Ron Hubbard
auditing a tomato. Yes, a tomato. On this, see:


Screaming Tomatoes and Blasphemous RitualsOff-site Link



18. Battlefield Earth Will Tank
GoodAuthority.org, Apr. 24, 2000
http://www.goodauthority.org/buzz/0004/db00424/db00424.htmOff-site Link
(...) The Scientologists behind Battlefield Earth (L. Ron Hubbard is the father
of the Scientology religion) did a fair job of getting the movie trailer out on
the Web for fans to analyze and obsess over. And this probably wasn't a good
thing.
(...)

A writer calling himself Dr. Benjamin Wog allegedly got his hands on the movie
script and promptly diced it to pieces on xenutv.comOff-site Link, an anti-Scientology site.
His words were picked up by other movie preview sites. He called the script
"stupider than anything Ed Wood could ever imagine."

"Well, here's my detailed look at the script for John Travolta's swan song,
Battlefield Earth. The Church of Scientology calls this movie 'The Film to Beat
in the Year 2000.' I say we beat it with a stick.

"I'm not panning this film because Hubbard created a fraudulent religion to bilk
people out of their money, or because Hubbard's wife went to prison for ordering
the break in of the FBI and IRS, or even because Scientologists have picketed my
home... this script just stinks.
(...)

Think it's just Scientology critics who are forecasting the doom of Battlefield
Earth? Consider what Amy Wallace, staff writer at The Los Angeles Times,
predicted about the film.

"Aside from the fact that several of Hollywood's top stars are Scientologists,
can anyone really think that L. Ron Hubbard's novel Battlefield Earth: A Saga of
the Year 3000 (which Warner Bros. is releasing) has the makings of a
blockbuster? (Although, if reports are true that John Travolta and his wife,
Kelly Preston, play 9-foot-tall aliensónamed Psychlosówith glowing amber eyes
and grotesquely elongated heads, this could be the comedy of the year.)"
(...)

Okay, so the movie will probably suck. That doesn't mean it couldn't have become
a hit. One would think that a movie with a potentially huge cult audience,
backed by an organization that thrills in the notion of guerrilla marketing and
persuasion, if not low-key proselytizing, would have seized this opportunity and
launched a Web campaign for this film... the likes of which cyberspace had never
seen.

Didn't happen. And therefore, the tea leaves of the Web predict yawningly empty
theaters for Battlefield Earth.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Germany - Cults, General

19. Local German Sect Info Report
Neue Ruhr Zeitung (Germany), May 5, 2000
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/000505b.htmOff-site Link
A mother, her daughter and son-in-law want to follow their guru to Croatia; a
husband whose wife is influenced by the study groups in Scientology; a man who
wants to know what will happen to him if he studies the Bible with the Jehovah's
Witnesses - these are three of many calls which the staff of Sect Info get
daily. Altogether a total of 2,910 people seeking assistance turned to them last
year, twelve percent less than 1998.

What decreased, however, was just the number of inquiries (down from 3,000 to a
little over 2,500). Long-term consultations with therapeutic assistance rose
almost by half from 285 to 422.

Especially striking: inquiries about Scientology ''are constantly decreasing,''
according to Sabine Riede, staff member of the counselling center for People
Affected by Destructive Cults. One reason for that could be that it is less in
the media than it used to be. ''But possibly observation of the psycho-group by
Constitutional Security has had a calming effect upon people, too.''

The situation has also ''calmed down'' with questions about Christian
fundamentalist groups, which includes the University Bible Friendship (UBF)
movement. Many of these groups which focused on thoughts of doomsday were under
discussion before the turn of the millennium

There has been a significant increase in questions about occult teachings and
practices. Many young people are attracted to the mysterious and unexplained. In
her preventive work at schools, Sabine Riede has learned that ''students are
very impressed by certain films, such as the X Files and PSI-Factor. ''It gets
difficult for them to differentiate between fiction and reality.''
(...)

Sects, saviors and movements discovered the internet a long time ago. At the
same time, much more critical material about the groups has spontaneously
appeared per mouseclick, according to Sect Info chief Heide-Marie Cammans.

The association staff has not only performed more public information work in
1999 in schools, companies and in psychiatry - they have also continued to
educate themselves in legal issues. Among other things, to be capable in matters
of the personality rights. That is because, they say, more and more sect members
sit in on their seminars. Heide-Marie Cammans said, ''They intend to silence
us.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== International Church of Christ

20. International Church of Christ celebrates despite criticism
Dallas Morning News, May 8, 2000
http://dallasnews.com/metro/75942_CHURCHCHRIST.htmlOff-site Link
IRVING - The roar of applause at Texas Stadium had nothing to do with the Dallas
Cowboys on Sunday morning. Instead, the cheers came from a crowd of 10,000
celebrating the 10th anniversary of a local congregation of the International
Church of Christ
- a church that also has its critics.
(...)

But while church members rejoiced, three ex-members protested outside Sunday's
service with signs warning about what they call a religious cult.

Critics liken the church to a cult for its strong recruiting efforts and the
belief that only the church's members will achieve salvation.

Detractors also say a one-on-one mentoring program goes too far and interferes
with people's personal lives. They also take issue with members being required
to give part of their salaries and being set up with dating and marriage
partners within the church.
(...)

At the University of Texas at Arlington, about a dozen students are involved
with the International Church of Christ, said Jeff Sorensen, director of student
governance. And each year, about a handful of students have expressed concerns
about the church, Mr. Sorensen said.

''We have worked with a number of students to help them be able to disassociate
with the organization,'' Mr. Sorensen said.

Students involved in the church have found themselves dropping down to only one
or two classes a semester to meet the demands the church places on their time
for recruiting and Bible study and other activities, he said.

The university has a program to teach new students things to consider before
joining any organization, including religious groups that recruit on campuses,
he said.
(...)

Some experts cautioned against using the word cult. Instead, University of North
Texas religion professor Dr. Joe Barnhart prefers the term ''new religious
movement.''


''Otherwise, a cult is someone's religion you don't like,'' Dr. Barnhart said.
Many religious groups recruit new members and require members to contribute
money, he said. And there's no clear line to define when a church goes too far,
he said.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

* Mr. Barnhart may have been inspired by Leo Pfeffer's ludicrous statement

If you believe in it, it is a religion or perhaps the religion;
and if you do not care one way or another about it, it is a sect;
but if you fear and hate it, it is a cult.

More educated definitions of a cults can be found
here.
* The International Churches of Christ is a cult, but sociologically and
theologically.


=== Mormonism

21. Methodists Back Proposal to Have LDS Converts Rebaptized
Salt Lake Tribune, May 6, 2000
http://www.sltrib.com/2000/may/05062000/
saturday/46811.htm
Off-site Link
At their national convention this week, United Methodists will consider a
resolution requiring Mormons who convert to Methodism to be rebaptized.

''United Methodism should declare that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints does not fit within the bounds of the historic, apostolic tradition of
Christian faith,'' said a report of the General Board of Discipleship of the
9.6-million member denomination.

That conclusion is based on ''the fact that the LDS Church itself, while calling
itself Christian, explicitly professes a distinction and separateness from the
ecumenical community,'' the report said.
(...)

The LDS Church has no problem with the Methodists' position on baptism.
''As a fundamental tenet of our faith, we believe that all people have a
God-given right to worship how, where or what they may,'' said LDS spokesman
Dale Bills, noting that converts to Mormonism likewise are required to be
baptized into the LDS Church.

But Mormons take umbrage at the suggestion that the church's unique beliefs
about Jesus Christ nullify their claim to be called ''Christian.'' ''Latter-day
Saints embrace both ancient and modern revelations that proclaim Jesus Christ as
the living, divine Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world,'' Bills
said. ''Any assertion otherwise demonstrates a lack of knowledge of Latter-day
Saint doctrine and teachings.''
(...)

This recommendation closely parallels a similar stand taken by the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.) in July 1995, which said, ''Persons of Mormon background wishing
to profess faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and become active members of
a congregation in the Presbytery of Utah shall receive Christian baptism. The
blessing of infants in the Mormon Church is not to be confused with or seen to
be comparable to the practice of infant baptism.''

The Southern Baptist Convention also has taken the official position that LDS
theology does not fall within traditional Christianity, even producing a video
called ''The Mormon Puzzle,'' which labeled Mormonism ''counterfeit
Christianity.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

* Mormonism is a cult of Christianity:

A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be
Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual
leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either
explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the
Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.

- Alan Gomes, Cult - A Theological Definition

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) fits this
description, making it a pseudo-Christian religion. That is, the history,
theology and practices of Mormonism show the religious movement to be outside
of orthodox Christianity.


=== Jehovah's Witnesses

22. Jehovah's Witness Hall Fire
Yahoo/Ireland Today, May 6, 2000
http://uk.news.yahoo.com/000506/15/a5zvz.htmlOff-site Link
A fire at a Jehovah's Witness hall in Belfast is being treated as malicious by
the RUC. The hall which is located on Upper Dunmurray Lane was completely
gutted. The RUC said the metal railing which surrounded the building had been
cut and the fire was then started at a rear door of the building. Police are
appealing for information.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Witchcraft / Paganism

23. Truth Commission Hears Witchcraft Amnesty Applications
PANA/Africa News Online, May 8, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/PANA/news/20000508/feat7.htmlOff-site Link
South Africa's Amnesty Committee of Truth and Reconciliation Commission Monday
began hearing amnesty applications from 34 people, including those who murdered
people suspected to be practising witchcraft.

The applicants, seeking for pardons for the murder of 26 people from Venda in
the Northern Province are serving long term sentences for the attacks, which
were committed in 1990.

The applicants, all of whom claim to have been members or supporters of the ANC
at the time, are seeking amnesty in respect of a number of offences ranging from
assaults, arson, attempted murder and murder.

The applicants claimed that they perceived the victims as persons who were
practising witchcraft in their area and in doing so, working hand in hand with
politicians of the Venda government to strengthen and keep them in power.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

=== Other News

24. Register Mungiki, lawyer demands
The Daily Nation (Kenya), May 9, 2000
http://www.nationaudio.com/News/DailyNation/Today/News/News43.htmlOff-site Link
A human rights lawyer yesterday defended the Mungiki sect and called on the
registrar of societies to register it immediately.
(...)

Addressing a press conference in Nakuru town, the lawyer said Kenya is a secular
society and Mungiki's fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution must
be respected.

''Mungiki's rights, including freedom of worship, expression and association,
must be respected however outrageous and foolish some people might perceive it
to be,'' said Mr Kariuki.

At the same time, the lawyer said it was wrong to criminalise the sect, saying
''it does not matter whom you worship because the god of one religious group
might turn out to be the devil of another''.
(...)

Mr Mirugi said that the sect group should not be harassed and if they break the
law they should be charged in a court.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


25. Guatemalan cops arrest nine over 'baby stealing' riot
Japan Times (Japan), May 5, 2000
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/nn05-2000/nn20000505a9.htmOff-site Link
RIO DE JANEIRO (Kyodo) Guatemalan police said Wednesday that they have arrested
nine people over Saturday's attack on a group of Japanese tourists by a mob of
500 Mayan villagers that left a Japanese man and a local tour bus driver dead.
Those arrested include Juan Bautista, 49, allegedly the principal offender, and
a 22-year-old woman who is believed to have instigated the attack by shouting
that her 9-month-old son was being abducted and shouting to other villagers for
help.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


26. Grave Robberies Baffle Madagascar
AOL/AP, May 6, 2000
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?
table=n&cat=01&id=0005060345866801
Off-site Link
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) - A spate of grave robberies in eastern Madagascar
has baffled officials and sparked an uproar over the theft of bones in a culture
where people worship their ancestors and revere tombs.

Police have arrested about 50 people in recent weeks for breaking into tombs and
stealing and selling bones.

Local media have speculated the robberies are linked to international
trafficking in human bones for unknown medical applications, while others wonder
if unknown cults or tribal rivalries are involved.
(...)

In Madagascar, the dead are traditionally buried in communal family tombs that
are often far more elaborate structures than the homes of the living. Families
spend years of savings on the stone or cement tombs the size of small houses.

Every few years, families exhume the bodies in elaborate ceremonies, rewrap the
bones and dance with the shrouded remains lifted shoulder-high before replacing
them on shelves in the tombs. Malagasy people believe their dead relatives have
a godlike status and have the power to bring fortune or tragedy to the living.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


27. Four Die Waiting for 'Miracle' Cures
Yahoo/Reuters, May 4, 2000
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/htx/nm/20000504/od/miracle_1.htmlOff-site Link
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Four Kenyans, including two young children, died at a
religious meeting while they waited for miracle cures from a visiting American
evangelist, a local paper said Wednesday.

Police told the Kenya Times the four had been released from a hospital to be
cured at Benny Hinn's ''Miracle Crusade'' in the Kenyan capital Sunday, but they
died before Hinn could pray for them.

Ten other people suffered serious injuries including broken jaws after falling
from trees they had climbed to get a view of the American preacher, who was
reported to have attracted up to a million people to his two-day weekend
meeting.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


28. Woman Falls Dead At Evil Spirit Chasing Ritual
PANA/Africa News Online, May 8, 2000
http://www.africanews.org/PANA/news/20000508/feat12.htmlOff-site Link
KHARTOUM, Sudan (PANA) - Police in Omdurman, Khartoum's neighbouring city, are
investigating the sudden death of a Sudanese woman dancer over the weekend
during a ''Zar'' ritual dance and song party.

The women's traditional dance, to invoke good spirits and drive away those that
cause disease, is found in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt as well as in several
other neighbouring countries.
(...)

The sick woman and her guests, disguised in strange attire (army officers
uniforms or short trousers), then engage in strange dance only known at Zar
parties.

After a while the so-called good spirits, called ''asiad'' (literally masters),
purportedly descend on the sick woman and ask her to give her requests.

The woman would usually demand for new clothes, gold jewellery or good treatment
from her husband or kin. If the husband is a believer in the Zar, then he
complies with the demands.
(...)

Some reports claimed the woman could have died of concussion due to her heavy
fall on the ground. But, according to psychologists contacted by PANA, the
death could have resulted from ''some sort of hysteria'' which usually grips
''Zar'' music dancers.
(...)

''We have known of cases when completely illiterate women, who had never spoken
a single English word, had uttered English sentences to spell out their
demands,'' he added. ''This is a proof that strange spirits were doing the job
on behalf of the sick woman.
(...)

Zar is already outlawed in Sudan, where it is considered as witchcraft. Lately,
the police have cracked down on Zar conductors around Khartoum City.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


29. TBN regains Miami license
Orange County Register, May 6,2000
http://www.ocregister.com/community/religion/tbn006cci3.shtmlOff-site Link
The Orange County-based Trinity Broadcast Network won a key federal court ruling
Friday that restores its license to operate a Miami television station through a
board of minority members.

Federal Communications Commission officials refused to renew the license for TBN
in 1995 on the grounds that the minority-controlled board of National Minority
TV was a ''sham.''

The dispute centered on whether Phil Aguilar, then pastor of Set Free Christian
Fellowship in Anaheim was a mere figurehead serving TBN on the NMTV board.

''Although we defer to the Commission's interpretation of its regulation as
requiring actual minority control, we find that neither the regulation nor the
Commission's related statements gave fair notice of that requirement. We
therefore vacate the Commission's denial of appellants' license renewal
application,'' said the three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
for District of Colombia Circuit.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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30. Promise Keepers seeks to expand ministry
Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Scripps Howard News Service, May 6, 2000
http://www.accessatlanta.com/partners/ajc/epaper/
editions/saturday/faith_values_93312b4ff35481f600f4.html
Off-site Link
The Promise Keepers organization is trying to expand its conservative Christian
ministry to America's men beyond stadium rallies and into more permanent
partnerships with mainstream churches and other religious organizations.

''It's all about fulfilling the Great Commission,'' said the Rev. Michael
Spottsville, a vice president of the Denver-based ministry. ''Finally and
thankfully, we are seeking Christ-centered churches and ministries to network
their efforts to reach and equip men who will, in turn, be able to win their
cities for Jesus Christ.''

Spottsville directs the group's new ''Strategic Alliance'' program, which asks
churches to form new partnerships with the group.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


31. Court rules on Medicare law
Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2000
http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/
2000/05/03/fp24s4-csm.shtml
Off-site Link
A federal appeals court has ruled that Medicare and Medicaid may reimburse
religiously motivated nursing facilities.

The US Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis affirmed Monday a federal
district court decision upholding the constitutionality of a law allowing
reimbursement of nursing facilities that, for religious reasons, administer only
nonmedical services.

The appeals court said patients in what the law calls religious, nonmedical
health- care institutions ''are not reimbursed for any services for which they
would not be similarly reimbursed if they had sought care at a medical
institution. Thus [the law] confers no special benefit upon persons who hold
religious objections to medical care; it merely accommodates them.''

The case was brought by Children's Health Care Is a Legal Duty (CHILD Inc.)
against the Department of Health and Human Services and the federal agency that
administers Medicare and Medicaid benefits. The First Church of Christ,
Scientist
, which publishes this newspaper, intervened as an additional
defendant.
(...)

Christian Scientists rely on prayer for healing, rather than drugs and medical
technology. When Congress passed the original Medicare and Medicaid bills in
1965, it allowed Christian Scientists to receive reimbursement for room, board,
supplies, and nonmedical nursing care at Christian Science nursing facilities.
The work of Christian Science practitioners is not paid for under these
programs.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


32. Mossad snatches sacred Jewish texts from Saddam
Sunday Times (England), May 7, 2000
http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/
Sunday-Times/stifgnmid02004.html
Off-site Link
Dozens of sacred Jewish scrolls that Saddam Hussein ordered destroyed have been
smuggled out of Iraq in an operation masterminded by Mossad, the Israeli secret
service.

At least 50 manuscripts containing the Torah, the first five books of the Bible,
had lain for decades in a warehouse in Baghdad after being hidden by Iraqi Jews
who left for Israel in 1950-51.

Mossad has retrieved 30 of the scrolls after bribing members of the Iraqi army.
One of them, thought to have been handwritten 70 years ago, was put on display
last week in a synagogue in Afula, northern Israel. Another, 200 years old, has
been exhibited in New York.

Many more scrolls, some far older and more valuable, are still in Iraq. ''There
is a fair chance that we will recover and return them to Jewish hands so that
they can be presented in synagogues in Israel and across the world,'' said one
source.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


33. Church threat on McDonald's ad
The Age (Australia), May 6, 2000
http://www.theage.com.au/cgi-bin/printversion.pl?
story=20000506/A44363-2000May5
Off-site Link
Churchgoers would be urged to boycott McDonald's restaurants if a controversial
television advertisement is not withdrawn, the New South Wales Council of
Churches said yesterday.

The council said it had been swamped with complaints about the advertisement, in
which a group of young people hold a seance in a dark room.

The advertisement promotes the Big Mac hamburger in a message from the dead.
(...)

NSW Council of Churches president Ray Hoekzema called for the immediate removal
of the advertisement.

''New-age practitioners, health professionals and the Christian church will
readily confirm the presence of a strong, oppressive power that people invoke in
the practice of conducting a seance,'' Mr Hoekzema said.

''Many individuals are extremely vulnerable in such a situation and subsequently
suffer from periods of extreme fear, depression and suicidal thoughts. Some are
even drawn to other areas of occult practices.''

Mr Hoekzema said he was confident McDonald's would withdraw the advertisement.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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34. Gilbert marks day for Buddha
The Arizona Republic, May 6, 2000
http://www.azcentral.com/news/0506buddha.shtmlOff-site Link
When Gilbert Mayor Cynthia Dunham tried to proclaim ''Bible Week,'' all hell
broke loose. Now, she plans to set aside May 17 as ''Buddha's Birthday.''

Dunham appears to be the only mayor in Arizona commemorating either.

''Bible Week isn't about religion, it's about diversity,'' the mayor said
Friday.

''I put out the offer that if there are other cultural or historical items that
are significant to Gilbert residents, I certainly would entertain a
proclamation.''

Buddhist Rev. Terry Kennard-Dhamapala made his plea for a special day in several
municipalities across the state. Gilbert was the only one to respond.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


35. 'Miracle' As Saint's Blood Liquefies Again
AOL/Reuters, May 8, 2000
http://news.excite.com/news/r/
000508/08/odd-blood
Off-site Link
The substance some Neapolitans believe is the dried blood of their patron, St
Gennaro, liquefied on cue for a twice-yearly event the faithful believe is a
miracle.

The powdery substance, stored in a glass vial in Naples cathedral, liquefied
Saturday afternoon and was carried through the streets of the southern city's
old quarter in a traditional procession.

The powder mysteriously turns to liquid twice a year -- on the saint's feast day
on September 19 and on the first Saturday in May.

The event has been recorded on the two days almost without fail for the past 600
years.
(...)

Italian scientists have confirmed that the substance inside the closed vial is
blood but cannot explain why it liquefies regularly.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top


=== Noted

36. Psychology, religion share similar goals
StarTribune, May 6, 2000
http://www.startribune.com/stOnLine/cgi-bin/article?
thisSlug=PSYC06&date=06-May-2000&word=religion&word=religions
Off-site Link
Humans are creatures of despair.
(...)

But where do we turn? Are these religious or psychological crises?

Increasingly, professionals are wondering themselves, integrating concepts from
both disciplines into their quest to help individuals struggling with
hopelessness. After all, psychotherapy and religion both attend to the soul and
the sense of purpose in life.

''In many ways, psychotherapists have become a new priesthood,'' said Walter
Bera, a licensed psychologist who works in the Twin Cities. ''The old priesthood
based its authority on the Bible, and the new priesthood on the diagnostic
manual. In the old priesthood, you would do a confession, and in the new
priesthood you do an assessment. In the old, the focus would be on your sins; in
the new, it would be on your symptoms. The old would prescribe penance and the
new would prescribe therapy.''

Bera's analog points out what this discussion is often really about -- simply a
matter of language.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

=== Books

37. Heaven, Hell and in Between
Washington Post, May 6, 2000
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A16894-2000May6.htmlOff-site Link
One of the most intriguing religion books released this spring is a report on
Hell. Lest you think the topic passe, consider the book's focus on a lively
debate among many of today's evangelical Christians: Once a soul is damned, does
it suffer throughout eternity? Or is the soul at some point annihilated?

Why, you ask, should anybody care? Well, if God extinguishes unredeemed souls
after a period of physical and/or psychological punishment, He demonstrates both
the compassion and sternness of a loving parent. That argument undercuts the old
fire-and-brimstone of preachers who bludgeon their congregants into guilty
submission.

It also gives a measure of comfort to believers who reject the notion of a
vindictive Divinity--without relinquishing the belief that only those who accept
Jesus as their savior will make it to Heaven. And it provides a viable
alternative to ''universalism,'' the doctrine that all souls, good and bad,
eventually will achieve salvation.

Some contemporary theologians have further argued for ''pluralistic
universalism,'' the belief that God deliberately created all religious faiths to
provide different paths to salvation.

The 148-page report, ''The Nature of Hell,'' examines those and other afterlife
issues in a readable format that rarely drifts into esoteric language. The
British authors defend Christianity as the only means of salvation.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
Back To Top

38. Pagans are deemed Christian partners
Manila Bulletin (Philippines), May 7, 2000
http://www.mb.com.ph/OPED/FC/2000/fc000507.aspOff-site Link
The word ''pagan'' has long been derisively interpreted as godless or
irreligious. A pagan then has been counted among the doomed and the damned. A
book will soon come out radically changing the connotation of the word and
proving that the people we have been calling pagans are actually indigenous
persons who believe in and practice traditional religion.

The book is thus fittingly titled ''From Pagans to Partners,'' authored by Fr.
Leonardo N. Mercado, SVD, who has written several books on philosophy, folk
Christianity and missiology. His thesis is that pagans are not downright
unbelievers but co-religionists of Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims. They
are partners in mankind's quest for world peace and harmony.
(...)

The conciliar document ''Ecumenism'' has laid down guidelines on how to promote
Christian unity. One provides that Christians ''shall make every effort to
eliminate words, judgments, and actions which do not respond to the actual
conditions of our separated brethren.'' The pejorative meanings then attached to
the words ''heretic'' and ''apostate'' (non-Catholic Christians) have to be
eliminated. No less than Vatican II has referred to them as ''separated
brethren,'' not wayward, much less damned believers.

It is in that light that ''From Pagans to Partners'' takes on great
missiological and historical significance. Since the people we call pagans are
religionists, it would be disparaging if not unchristian to retain the
contemptuous meaning of ''pagan'' or ''infidel.''

Indigenous people have not heard of Christian doctrine, but they may be
practicing their traditional religion in its full integrity, much unlike the
nominal Christians.
[...more...]