Religious and World News

A summary of various newswire sources
by Angel R. Oyola

Religious Front

"Pray for and share Christ with every person in America by 2000" is the goal of Mission America, headed by 150 parachurch groups representing over 40 million people via its Celebrate Jesus 2000 initiative. Endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention and Assemblies of God, the main prerogatives are door-to-door evangelism, the distribution of resource packets to churches that include guidelines on how to present the gospel by direct mail and phone, and follow-up and "discipleship" of new believers.

On April 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Crystal Evangelical Free Church in New Hope, Minnesota, may keep the $13,450 donated by bankrupt Bruce and Nancy Young. The church had first pegged of retaining the tithes basing themselves on 1993’s federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), but the Supreme Court ruled RFRA unconstitutional last year. However, in April, the appeals court decided that religiously emitted donations to churches and charities before a donor files for bankruptcy are protected.

After being the home of five of Jesus’ disciples and the third most frequently mentioned city in the New Testament, Bethsaida has marveled both secular and religious scholars alike. Choosing some likely ruins along the Jordan River, about a mile north of the Galilee shore, Israeli archaeologist Rami Arav began a joint excavation in 1987 with professor Richard Freund and the University of Nebraska. Besides unearthing a first century city, without the later levels of occupation found at Capernaum and Chorazin, they believe that an Iron Age City, capital of the kingdom of Geshur and home of the father-in-law of King David, has been located. Among the findings are fishing hooks, a wine cellar, an oven, and, for grinding grain, two basalt slabs. The excavations were financed by the Israeli Tourism Ministry.

Basing their beliefs on supernatural visitations in the 1820’s to Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, adherents believe he "was called to restore the true church that had been lost 16 centuries earlier." According to Mormons, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, God told Smith that all churches, with specific reference to Baptists, Presbyterians and Methodists, were wrong and to join none. Believing God the Father and God the Son have fleshly bodies and that the Holy Ghost is a Spirit Man, Mormons, now numbering 10 million, are one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Persecuted and maligned in nineteenth-century America, Latter Day Saints boast 56,530 missionaries, three-fourths of them young males, knocking on doors in 162 countries. Also being the most generous donors of all American church members, giving 7.5 percent of their income, last year, they had 318,000 neophytes. Besides revering their president as God’s mouthpiece on earth, they belief in new revelations which can reverse earlier LDS doctrine, the most known example being the 1890 discontinuance of polygamy, which, 47 years earlier, Joseph Smith declared had been commanded by the Lord. Stephen E. Robinson, professor at the LDS theology school, Brigham Young University, said in How Wide the Divide, "What God has said to apostles and prophets in the past is always secondary to what God is saying directly to his apostles and prophets now."

World News

Multi-millionaire Saudi dissident living in Afghanistan declared holy war against U.S. forces in his homeland and said results would be known in the near future. Osama bin Laden was stripped of his Saudi citizenship for activities against the royal family and has been named by the United States as a prime suspect in two bombings in Saudi Arabia wounding 400 people and killing 24 U.S. servicemen in 1995 and 1996. "It is incumbent upon all Muslims to wage a jihad [holy war] against them [U.S. forces] and evict them from the holy lands," he said at his base in Khost, eastern Afghanistan. "This is the order of the holy Prophet [Mohammed] that Muslims fully activate themselves to evict these forces of nonbelievers," he said of the U.S. troops who have been in Saudi Arabia as a regional security force since the 1991 Persian Gulf War which reversed an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Wearing white clothes, a turban and a Russian-made rifle, Osama proclaimed, "Today we are confronted with a big problem, a very big, a tragic problem... The Arab land has been occupied or a conspiracy has been planned to occupy [it]. For the first time after the death of the Holy Prophet, Mecca, Medina and Masjid-i-Aqsa have been occupied by nonbelievers. This is the most important issue of the present time. The land where the holy Koran was revealed is now being occupied by the Jewish and Christian forces." Asked if he felt a threat of capture by Western authorities, Osama said, "The Americans can block all roads but they cannot stop the ways of Allah. We are in the ninth year of our struggle and I am still alive."

Israeli based Haaretz newspaper has reported Palestinian security forces have stepped up training for wide scale military battles with Israel if the peace process collapses. The preparations for armed conflict "are becoming increasingly professional" and include civil defense and weapons training of the civilian population. The training involved exercises in fighting in formation and launching assaults on an army position and a Jewish settlement. Haaretz also declared that intelligence reports about the training were of a concern by Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai during a cabinet meeting last week that the ongoing deadlock in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was leading to violence.

The head of the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service, Col. Jibril Rajoub, recently said, "We view Hamas as part of the national and Islamic liberation movement.. Outside of the [autonomous areas] they can do as they wish... At the top of my list of priorities is the [Israeli] occupation [of Arab land] and not Hamas..." A Government Press Office memorandum recently emitted claims that statements are in violation of the Oslo agreement obligating the PA to fight terror.

The Council of Jewish Communities, located in Judea and Samaria, has begun an information campaign, attempting to educate the public of the dangers of further Israeli withdrawals. One million pamphlets containing maps of the various withdrawal proposals will be mailed to homes throughout the country. The 8-page pamphlet explains the crucial importance of each of the three areas of the disputed territories: the Jordan Valley and Judean Desert (which afford protection and a buffer against an attack from the east); the mountain ridge (where are found many of the Yesha communities and the early warning stations, and is that which connects the Jordan Valley to the densely-populated Coastal Plain); and the area adjoining the Coastal Plain (3-5 kilometers of buffer west of the Arab villages of Samaria). The pamphlet also discusses the water sources originating in Yesha (30% of Israel’s water), Jerusalem, the holy sites, and other issues.

According to a highly read newspaper in Japan, the Japanese government issued the warning that "there is a possibility North Korea possesses at least one nuclear bomb." Nuclear tests by India and Pakistan have created an environment which made it easier for North Korea to develop its nuclear technology. Reports said there appeared to be increasing risks of a nuclear war breaking out on the Korean peninsula, in the Middle East or between China and India. A spokesman said that past events suggested North Korea could have been developing nuclear weapons and that even without nuclear tests by Pakistan and India there was an undeniable possibility the communist dictators might resume such development. "In the end, it is the North Korean government’s decision [whether to develop nuclear weapons]..." After Pakistan said it conducted several nuclear tests, Japan voiced concern North Korea could get assistance from Pakistan that would help them to develop nuclear weapons. Even though North Korea has denied developing nuclear weapons, while at the same time insisting it has the right to do so, Japanese officials say that apart from China, Pakistan has the closest ties out of all the nations on that continent.

The AIDS virus has the potential to outsmart virtually all the drug treatments now approved in the U.S., according to a recently released study. "There is a problem with drug resistance, and we can’t fool ourselves," said Stanford University’s Dr. Robert Shafer, lead author of the new research published in the June 1 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. His team of researchers found patients previously treated with multiple drugs tackling the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, can develop the idiosyncrasy of full resistance to all available medications, a finding which could indicate a developing split in the AIDS epidemic.

Mexico City authorities have extended a pollution emergency warning amid criticisms reporting it reacted too slowly in the face of the worst environmental crisis in decades. The order restrains industrial activity and traffic some 40 percent under a plan launched by federal district Governor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. "These are cosmetic measures," writer Homero Aridjis, head of an environmental group, told a news agency, adding "Mexico City’s inhabitants are turning into mutants. For the first time I’m afraid of dying due to lack of air." The capital district of 30 million, one of the world’s most polluted metropolitan areas, has over the past few weeks been covered in a dark haze that cuts visibility when it sets in early in the morning. The government has warned of more trouble amid the country’s worst environmental crisis in 70 years, partly due to forest fires that have spread in Mexico and Central America since the beginning of the year. Besides killing 50 people, over 11,000 blazes have devoured nearly 815,100 acres in Mexico. Recent anti-pollution measures went into effect after ozone levels rose past 220 on an air-quality scale, more than twice the US trigger level of 108. Mexican officials said the measures would remain in place until ozone levels fell below 179. Some 29 percent of Mexico City residents suffer from dry coughs, 19 percent have migraine headaches, 30 percent have throat pains and at least 50 percent have irritated eyes, according to the Health Ministry. &

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