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Christian Minister Suspended for Worshipping With Hindu "Pagans" at 9/11 Memorial

Posted on 2002/7/7 9:48:02 ( 1024 reads )


NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, JULY 5, 2002: Lutheran pastor, Rev. David Benke, has been suspended from his duties and ordered to apologize to all Christians for participating with New York's Cardinal Edward M. Egan, other Christian ministers, Sikh and Hindu holy men, imams, rabbis and civic leaders in an interfaith prayer service hosted by Oprah Winfrey in New York's Yankee Stadium after September 11. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which has 2.6 million members and is the 10th-largest church in the United States, has ordered Rev. Benke to apologize or appeal by July 10 or he will automatically be removed from the Missouri Synod's clergy. The ruling against Benke illustrates the growing tension between two major trends in American religion: ecumenical or interfaith efforts, which have been bolstered by President Bush's calls for tolerance since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and back-to-tradition or "renewal" movements, which have taken hold among Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Methodists as well as Lutherans. While the interfaith efforts emphasize common values, the renewal movements emphasize theological differences. The two trends can coexist, but sometimes they conflict, particularly over claims that only adherents of a particular creed will gain salvation and all others face eternal damnation. "By President Benke's joining with other pagan clerics in an interfaith service [no matter what the intent might have been], a crystal clear signal was given...while there may be differences as to how people worship or pray, in the end, all religions pray to the same God," the Rev. Wallace Schulz, the Missouri Synod's national second vice president, wrote in the suspension letter. "To participate with pagans in an interfaith service and, additionally, to give the impression that there might be more than one God, is an extremely serious offense against the God of the Bible," Schulz added. "The principle is, you don't want to do anything that would compromise the gospel of Jesus Christ," said the Rev. David H. Mahsman, editor of the Missouri Synod's newspaper, the Lutheran Witness. "The question is, does participating in an interfaith service after September 11 do that? Benke would say no. In fact, it honors Christ and shows that Lutherans are concerned about the well-being of the entire community. Others would say it placed Christ on an equal footing with Allah and Vishnu and whatever Gods are involved. Supporters of the Rev. David Benke say he will appeal his suspension as a district president -- the equivalent of a bishop.

Bihar and Jharkhand Temples Ban Animal Sacrifice

Posted on 2002/7/7 9:47:02 ( 1119 reads )


BIHAR, INDIA, JULY 4, 2002: Last month a group of Hindu activists from Bihar launched a campaign against animal sacrifice at the famous Lord Baidyanath temple at Deogarh in Jharkhand. It is estimated that about 100 animals are slaughtered at the Deogarh temple each month and the temple management spends about US$2,000 procuring goats for the sacrifices. Following a note sent Monday to the governor from Vice-Chancellor of Kameshwar Singh Darbhanga Sanskrit University, Acharya Kishore Kunal, Mithilesh Kumar, Principal Secretary to Pande, sent a letter to the chief secretaries of the two states, saying sacrifice of animals was punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Raj Bhavan. Kumar, on behalf the governor, has urged the chief secretaries to find out if animal sacrifice is still going on in some temples and if so, steps be taken to stop it. Nothing is said in this report as to why the ban applies only to animals killed in temples and not to all killing.

Britain Tries to Set Right a "Historical Wrong" for Uganda Indians

Posted on 2002/7/7 9:46:02 ( 956 reads )


LONDON, ENGLAND, JULY 5, 2002: Thousands of officially British, ethnically Indian and technically stateless people are finally to achieve closure on a painful part of their past as the British government announces it will set right a "historical wrong" from 30 years ago. In the 1960s and 70s, thousands of Indians fleeing persecution in East Africa were prevented from seeking refuge in the UK, while white East Africans were allowed into Britain to live. Some Indians managed somehow to gain entry into the UK and others managed to go to India. All those Indians were "treated unfairly" by Britain, a Home Office ministerial statement admitted late on Thursday. As reparation, these Indians will now be granted normal British citizenship rights. So far, they were officially classed as British Overseas Citizens but had no automatic right to live and work in Britain. The British government's admission of guilt for a skewed and racially-discriminatory immigration policy biased towards white people, comes as Britain this month marks the 30th anniversary of the arrival of 28,000 Indians turned out of Uganda by Idi Amin. Many of the Ugandan Indians now rank among the top 500 wealthiest people of the country.

Frightful AIDS Warning for India and China

Posted on 2002/7/7 9:45:02 ( 1016 reads )


SPAIN, BARCELONA, July 5, 2002: The United Nations warned that at least 68 million people will die by 2020 unless there are "drastically expanded" efforts to prevent and treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Their portrait of human misery on a gigantic scale was released in anticipation of the 14th International AIDS Conference, set to open Sunday in Barcelona, Spain. "It is clear to me that we are only at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in historic terms," said Dr. Peter Piot, director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, which produced the study. Scientists fear that AIDS is expanding beyond Africa and is poised to explode in Asia, particularly in the most populous nations on Earth, India and China. In India, 3.9 million are already believed to be HIV positive. The UNAIDS report released Tuesday appeals for more action by governments and the private sector to provide easier access to drugs to fight climbing infection rates of HIV.

Puri Priests to Get Etiquette Lessons

Posted on 2002/7/6 9:49:02 ( 1006 reads )


PURI, ORISSA, INDIA, July 6, 2002: Priests of the Jagannath temple in Puri will be taught lessons in etiquette, so that they learn how to deal with visitors to the temple. A Puri-based cultural outfit, Yuva Chetana Sangathana, has decided to launch the orientation program to put an end to the complaints against the priests, known as "pandas." The priests have consistently been accused of ill treating tourists and pilgrims: They try to extort money and humiliate the tourists when their demands are not met. Often, the pandas demand exorbitant sums as donation and when the visitors do not pay up, they are harassed and abused. At a meeting of the Yuva Chetana Sangathana, Gopiunath Mohanty, the Director of Culture of Orissa government, asserted that the government viewed such lapses on the part of the pandas seriously. He said the culture department would be glad to grant funds to any organization coming forward to teach the pandas the benefits of good behavior towards tourists. Incidentally, over the years the inflow of tourists to Puri and pilgrims to Puri temple has dwindled. The misbehavior of the Puri priests is cited as a major reason for the visitors' disgust, though pilgrims still number in the tens of thousands. Similar projects have worked with such unlikely candidates as New York City cab drivers.

Food Worth US$50,000 Destroyed in Puri temple

Posted on 2002/7/6 9:48:02 ( 962 reads )


PURI, ORISSA, INDIA, July 7, 2002: The biggest temple kitchen in the world has suffered a huge loss because one cook didn't observe the proper rituals. Authorities of the Jagannath temple of Puri in Orissa destroyed US$50,000 worth of cooked offerings for the presiding Deity, stating it had not been prepared according to prescribed rituals. The offering, or mahaprasada, consisting of 56 vegetarian dishes, is prepared daily at the Jagannath temple. Every day, nearly 25,000 devotees eat the food after it is offered to the deity. The food was destroyed after some priests complained to chief temple servitor Bhitarchhi Mohapatra that the temple cook, or supakar, had not observed some post-cooking rituals. This was an unprecedented event in the past thirty years! Since the preparation process did not follow the correct procedure, Mohapatra suggested that the entire food be destroyed (probably fed to the animals). This resulted in the suspension of all the rituals at the famous temple on Saturday. But the rituals started as usual on Sunday. During festivals, the temple kitchen, considered to be the biggest of its kind, prepares food for nearly 100,000 people.

Nepal King, Queen Move into Palace

Posted on 2002/7/6 9:47:02 ( 901 reads )


KATMANDU, NEPAL, July 5, 2002: After a year of mourning, Nepal's King Gyanendra has moved into the palace where his elder brother was assassinated in a royal family massacre in June, 2001. Gyanendra assumed the throne after his brother and eight members of the royal family were killed by Crown Prince Dipendra, who also shot himself and later died in the hospital. On Wednesday, the king, Queen Komal and their daughter, Princess Prerana, moved into the Narayanhiti Palace, the traditional home of the Shah dynasty rulers. Their home is guarded by more than 3,000 soldiers of the Royal Nepalese Army. Previously, Gyanendra and his family lived in their mansion in the capital, Katmandu, where Crown Prince Paras will continue to reside.

A Career in Theft -- Temple Gods Included!

Posted on 2002/7/6 9:46:02 ( 1126 reads )


BHUBANESWAR, INDIA, July 7, 2002: As a boy, he helped his father loot goods trains. When he grew up, he started looting gods! Prakash Patnaik, 24, who hit headlines as the brain behind the thefts in Lingaraj and Puri Jagannath temples of Orissa, has had police groping in the dark for years. Hailing from Kantapara village of Odgaon block in Nayagarh district, with his early childhood in Bhilai, Prakash reportedly joined his father, an electrician who, after losing his job, took to crime. The first temple theft Prakash committed was stealing of 57 kg of silver ornaments from the Mahamayya Temple in Bilaspur on January 6, 1998. The state police have claimed that they were able to unveil the mystery behind the theft cases in four temples in the state including Jagannath Temple at Puri and Lingaraj temple which occurred recently. Prakash has since been arrested, and reportedly confessed his guilt before the police.

Devadasis -- Servants of God

Posted on 2002/7/6 9:45:02 ( 1052 reads )


INDIA, June 29,2002: This report on the life of India's devadasis, which may not be a subject everyone wants to read about, begins: "Lakshmi must have been stunning once -- her high, prominent cheek bones and hazel eyes hint at beauty. But that was before she was ravaged by AIDS. Now her body is emaciated -- her skin shrivelled. Two hours after her death she looks nothing like the bright vivacious 20-year-old her mother remembers." Lakshmi was a victim of a once commonplace system, now outlawed, but still thriving in isolated parts of southern India. As a devadasis, or servants of God, she was dedicated at puberty to the Goddess Yellamma. Her mother, struggling with poverty, accepted the advice of the local priest. At the age of 12, Lakshmi became a concubine for a 60-year-old man. Like all devadasis, Lakshmi was in effect married to the deity, Yellamma. She was expected to carry out rituals at the village temple, and to sing and dance at festivals. She was invited to all the village's social functions, considered incomplete without a devadasi. Evil spirits are said to cling to them, sparing the guests. But a devadasi's principle occupation -- in the eyes of many -- is the flesh trade, though strictly speaking, there is a difference between a concubine and a prostitute. Many from poverty stricken families end up as prostitutes in Bombay after being lured by tales of easy money. Once in Bombay's infamous Kamatipura area the women live and work in rat-infested brothels. Here, drug addiction and AIDS are commonplace. Devadasis have a peculiar position among Kamatipura's underclass. They have a divine mandate for what they do, but they also have little choice. After independence the Indian government banned the practice, but there are still tens of thousands of devadasis.

Krishnas' Honesty In Scandal Could Prove Costly

Posted on 2002/7/6 9:44:02 ( 946 reads )


DALLAS, TEXAS, June 15, 2002: Windle Turley, a Dallas attorney, is known for two of the nation's most notorious lawsuits over priestly molestation. In 1997, Turley won what is still the largest jury verdict ever levied in the Catholic Church's 20-year-old sex abuse scandal, US$119,603.500. Three years later, he followed up with a $400 million lawsuit against the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, popularly known as the Hare Krishnas. It was dismissed in federal court, but Turley has refiled in state courts. According to Hare Krishna spokesman Anantanda Dasa, the organization did exactly what many have said the Catholic bishops should have done 15 years ago. But whereas the Catholics' secrecy may have helped them, the Hare Krishnas' honesty may have cost them, states this report. Long before Turley's lawsuit was filed, the Krishnas admitted they had a history of molestation and other physical abuse in their religious boarding schools. They set up an office of child protection and hired an outside investigator, scholar E. Burke Rochford, to study the treatment of children. That report was devastating, but the Hare Krishnas published it anyway. And it was like handing Turley a lawsuit on a silver platter, states this article. The report provided lots of material for Turley's suit. Turley says it's not his fault the Hare Krishnas hanged themselves with Rochford's report. The Krishna case alleges that dozens of children of Hare Krishna members were abused in the 1970s at church boarding schools in Texas, West Virginia and New York.

No Extension for Amarnath Pilgrimage

Posted on 2002/7/4 9:49:02 ( 991 reads )


JAMMU, INDIA, July 4, 2002: Requests for extending the duration of the annual Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) had been received from many quarters, however Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Girish Chandra Saxena, announced Tuesday the yatra cannot be extended, citing security considerations. "We too would like to extend the yatra by a few days, but the present security environment does not permit us to do so. Maybe once the situation improves we would be able to take a decision in this regard," Saxena said. To minimize problems, yatra permits would be issued from all branches of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank and tourism offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Kokata and Chennai. Saxena, who chairs the yatra board, said the state government has taken steps to ensure tight security during the month-long yatra that begins on July 20 for the expected 150,000 pilgrims. "We have already launched combing operations. We are sanitizing the route and also watching the heights. We would make if difficult for someone who is out to create mischief to sneak in," he said. Pilgrims have been killed in past years by Muslim militants.

Bhagavat Katha for Benefit of Crematorium Project

Posted on 2002/7/4 9:48:02 ( 1493 reads )


LEICESTER, ENGLAND, July 3, 2002: Bhaarat Welfare Trust announces that "Atma Shanti Katha," a special recitation of the Shrimad Bhagavat Purana by the renowned Pujya Sant Shri Rameshbhai Oza (Pujya Bhaishri) will be held from 12 till 21 July, 2002, at Rushey Mead Secondary School, Leicester. The Atma Shanti Katha aims to educate the Hindu public and the wider community of the various important samskaras (rites of passage) of the Hindu faith, especially the final funeral rite -- the Anteem Samskar and to raise awareness of the Shanti Dham project. Shanti Dham proposes to built a crematorium that will cater for ceremonies according to the Hindu, Sikh and Jain faiths. "It will be the first of its kind in Europe," says Mr. Kantibhai Unnadkat, Trustee of Bhaarat Welfare Trust, "The entire project will run on a non-profit making basis." With an estimated cost of US$4.5 million, the project is due for completion by summer of 2004. Many other saints will be present at the Katha. For further information, please e-mail: "source" above or call Bhavit Mehta in UK at 07944 371610.

Cotton Production - Organic or Genetically Engineered?

Posted on 2002/7/4 9:47:02 ( 1169 reads )

Source: Hindustan Times

INDIA, June 24, 2002: Controversy continues as Indian environmentalists warn that the risks associated with Bt cotton, a genetically engineered version, outweigh the benefits. A study done at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences in China, has suggested that the use of Bt cotton could cause environmental damage, that Bt cotton fields have more pests, and that natural enemies of the bollworm are fewer in Bt cotton fields. Over a time period of 8 to 10 years, bollworm can also develop a resistance to Bt cotton. Farmers in India have proven that organic cotton cultivation is a viable alternative. Agriculture specialists have approached the ministers of environment, agriculture, science, and technology, asking that more studies be done promoting organic cotton growth and that illegal Bt cotton production in India be halted.

Nepal King Worships at Kali Temple in Kolkata

Posted on 2002/7/1 9:49:02 ( 1032 reads )


KOLKATA, INDIA, June 28, 2002: Unmoved by strong protests from animal rights activists, Nepal's King Gyanendra offered animal sacrifice for the second consecutive day Friday when a goat was slaughtered after his prayers at the historic Kalighat temple here. The slaughter took place after the dignitaries had left the temple premises apparently in a move not to ruffle the feathers of animal activists. The royal couple, who arrived at Kalighat sharp at 9.15 am without their daughter, Princess Prerana Rajya Lakshmi, stayed inside the temple complex for about 15 minutes propitiating Goddess Kali. "The king and the queen, accompanied by Nepalese priest arrived at the temple and offered the puja in the traditional Hindu way. They also touched the diety's feet and prayed for peace in Nepal and India," Mukherjee said. As part of the puja, the royal couple offered the deity a red handloom sari, a matching chunri, glass bangles, flower garlands, joss-sticks and 12 varieties of fruits, Ajoy Banerjee executive member of the temple's Council of Sevaits (priests), said.

Study Shows that Spanking Has Long-Term Harmful Effects

Posted on 2002/7/1 9:48:02 ( 971 reads )


NEW YORK, U.S.A., June 25, 2002: Elizabeth Gershoff, a researcher at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, suggests to parents that if their children are acting poorly and they are going to spank them, consider an alternative. She says, " Think of something else to do -- leave the room, count to 10 and come back again." After five years studying 88 studies of corporal punishment since 1938, Gershoff has tracked short and long term effects of spanking on children. Trained as a psychologist, Gershoff concluded from her project that spanking could be correlated with negative behaviors such as aggression, anti-social behavior and mental health problems. In a society where it is illegal to hit an adult, a prisoner or animals, Gershoff finds it ironic that many Americans still feel it is okay to hit young vulnerable children. Even though spanking brings quick response and compliance by children, the long-term effects are detrimental. Children who are spanked still often do not understand right from wrong and many misbehave in the same manner when parents are not around. While the American Academy of Pediatrics has officially taken a stand against corporal punishment, the American Psychological Association still has members that feel that spanking that is not too severe or too frequent can be effective with defiant 2 to 6 year olds. Gershoff says, " Until researchers, clinicians, and parents can definitively demonstrate the presence of positive effects of corporal punishment, including effectiveness in halting future misbehavior, not just the absence of negative effects, we as psychologists can not responsibly recommend its use."

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