379 News

 

Seventh-day Adventist Church Mourns and Prepares to Rebuild After Hurricane Tragedy

 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Haiti is mourning the loss of six members who died during the onslaught of hurricane Jeanne.  The Adventist News Network reports that flood waters from Jeanne’s heavy rainfall destroyed vast sections of land and left an estimated 2,400 people dead.  Adventist church officials are still concerned for a handful of church buildings and schools that are inaccessible due to current conditions.  A church regional office also suffered severe damage after water flooded the entire first floor, drenching electronics, furniture and other items.  

 

 

U.S. Releases 2004 International Religious Freedom Report

 

The U.S. Department of State recently released it sixth Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.  The report, required under a 1998 U.S. law, looks into the current “status of religious freedom around the world,” and compiles lists both of countries showing improvement in religious freedom, and countries with serious infringements.  Nations named as improving religious freedom include Afghanistan, Georgia, Turkey, India and Turkmenistan.  Nations reported as severely violating religious freedom were Eritrea, Vietnam, China, Burma, Iran, North Korea and Sudan.  The biggest surprise, however, was the inclusion of Saudi Arabia as a violator of religious freedom.  James Standish is Director of Legislative Affairs at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church:

 

Saudi Arabia’s absence from the list in years past has been a point of contention.  This is because everybody knows that Saudi Arabia has a very poor record on religious freedom, in fact in the entire nation there isn’t a single church or anything other than Islamic worship.  And the U.S. State Department had frankly stated in previous years that there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.  So, if there is no religious freedom, why weren’t they added to the list?  The answer given has been that through diplomacy they’ve been hoping to move Saudi Arabia towards to a more open approach to religious diversity.  That has not worked, and indeed it’s still illegal to engage in basic religious activities outside of those that are approved by the government.  And so this year, for the first time, the State Department added Saudi Arabia to the list.”

 

Standish also explained why religious rights groups welcomed the decision.

 

“If this list is going to have any meaning at all, it can’t be a document that represents gross hypocrisy.  And we all knew that leaving Saudi Arabia off the list affected the credibility of the list to begin with.  It’s a difficult step because the United States does have close relationships with Saudi Arabia, but if you’re not going to name the worst violators of religious freedom on your list, then why make a list at all?”

 

Standish also said that many nations work hard to not be on the list of religious freedom violators, as being on the list may bring about economic sanctions.

 

 

 

Presbyterians and Jews to Meet on Mideast

 

In the United States, representatives from Presbyterian Church of the US and nation’s major Jewish organizations met recently in New York for dialogue regarding a rift that has formed between the two groups.  The rift has grown due to several resolutions adopted by the US Presbyterian Church concerning their dissatisfaction with the continuing Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  One such resolution proposed Presbyterian divestment in certain companies doing business in Israel.  Jewish leaders are hoping to mend the rift before other churches fed up with turmoil in the Holy Land adopt similar resolutions.

 

Negotiator Tells of Day’s of Hope.

 

With the release this week of the two Italian Aid workers, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, along with six other hostages in Iraq, there is more hope that other hostages may be released.  Canon Andrew White of the Coventry International Centre for Reconciliation has been working behind the scenes to free Iraq’s foreign hostages.  Despite the immense difficulties, he states that he will always hold on to hope:

 

Our hope is more often than not theological rather than political, and obviously we are faced with danger continually. But we try very hard to keep hold of our faith – and faith is death and resurrection, and particularly in Iraq we, I, read the book of Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was basically an exile in Iraq.  And his time in Iraq was actually a time of experiencing the glory of God.”

 

Yet with this picture of hope in the midst of danger, Canon White is also very aware of the risks.  Why does he do it?

 

We’re told to pray for peace.  We’re told to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  We’re told to pray for the peace of the world.  And if we’re instructed by God to pray for peace surely that also means that we have to work for peace as well.  And working for peace always involves risks.”

 

Canon Andrew White of the Coventry International Centre for Reconciliation, who is currently working on more than 30 cases of kidnap negotiation in Iraq.

 

ADRA Angola Improves Food Security

In Angola, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, ADRA, has launched an innovative new program to ensure food security in the country’s Huambo Province.  Because cattle are relied heavily upon for food production, ADRA initiated the Healthy Livestock for Enduring Food Security project, which provides free veterinary care for cattle and other livestock.  The veterinarians travel in a mobile clinic to 16 different townships in the Huambo Province, where farmers can bring their animals for diagnosis and treatment.  A large permanent clinic is also being constructed in the city of Bongo, which will continue to provide veterinary care for the region when the ADRA project is completed in three years.  The project is funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation.

 

And finally…

 

A Sweet Temptation Back to Church

 

In the United Kingdom, the Church of England is trying out a new way to bring people back to the church: chocolate.  As part of its “Back to Church Sunday” project, the Anglican diocese of Manchester is offering small bags of chocolate to former members who return to church.  The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, said recently that the project is an effort by the Church of England to promote “justice and fair trade across the world.”  The project in Manchester is merely a pilot but it’s successfulness is being studied.