Moon is Milingo’s Messiah

Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, 2002:

Milingo says some disciples of Sun Myung Moon sought him out with invitations to speak at their conferences. The time he was allotted gradually grew, as did his audiences; soon he was leading mass healings in the packed theatres he had so missed.

…Later he would realise he had “fallen into a trap, and the shock was greater than I had imagined”.

…In order to be appointed an official preacher to the Catholics in the organisation, he was told, he would have to be married in the Moonie rite to a wife selected by Moon himself. “I agreed because, in my stupidity, I thought that this way I could do good.” He was not drugged or hypnotised, he says.

…Meanwhile, the Moonies had plans: to found a well-financed parallel Catholic Church in Africa, autonomous from Rome, with its own hierarchy headed by Milingo. “I would not have gone along with the plan,” says Milingo, who was becoming more and more depressed. “One day, one of the last I spent with Maria Sung, the situation I found myself in seemed so absurd that I raised to God a desperate prayer, whose last words were something like, ‘Let me die, Lord, let me die.'”

Former Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, 2007:

On March 14, at the Wednesday Service, Archbishop Milingo gave a special lecture at Cheongshim Graduate School of Theology.

…At this service, Archbishop Milingo emphasized, “I received many teachings from True Parents [=Rev Moon and Mrs Moon] but the core is from the family”. He also pointed out the problems of theology churches by Terallianus and St. Augustine that they were established mainly centering on men, saying “A family is a gift from God, and the woman is the center of that.”

…At the end there was a time for the students to ask questions. One student asked, “Tell us your motive to accept True Parents as the Messiah.” He answered, “Looking at True Parents’ life and his current achievements I realized that this person is the messiah sent by God.”

I wrote about Milingo’s part in Rev Moon’s African ambitions recently here.

Back in 1991 journalist John Cornwall published an interview with Milingo in his book Powers of Darkness, Powers of Light (1991, Viking Penguin, pp. 330-334). Here’s a taster:

…The archbishop’s eyes stretched wide. ‘We are now in the last days of Satan’s reign, and he is working overtime through his agents to complete the takeover of the world. His agents are nothing less than the Freemasons who have penetrated to the very heart of Christ’s Church. It is the task of the Free­masons to lull Christians, especially priests, into believing that the Devil and his demons don’t exist. Satan plays with priests like toys when they don’t believe in him.

…’Now Satanism is at its strongest throughout the world. These are the years of the Devil. Black Masses, and blasphem­ing God, and Judas priests. Before he died Pope Paul VI knew what he had done [post-Vatican II]. He knew it! He had let Satan free within the Church. He said he could smell the stench of smoke around the sanctuary. He said the truth!

…’I was in Holland two weeks ago!’ The archbishop was now shouting and spitting again. ‘I was praying in Amsterdam from seven-in the morning to half-past two, and the priests were falling like corpses before me. The Devil congratulated me for calling him a liar. A witch came to me and said, “How dare you!” I received a letter from the Devil telling me that I should never dare to speak to the demons like that. It said the devils are more powerful than me and they’ll be watching for their chance. But this isn’t true, you see.’…

Make of that what you will.

(Hat tip to a reader)

EU Parliament Opposes RC Abstinence Programme for Croatia

Curriculum linked to Natural Family Planning Center of Washington D.C.

News from Croatia:

The European Parliament on Tuesday slammed a proposed conservative, Church-backed sex education program in Croatia, saying it encouraged discrimination.

In a letter sent to top Croatian officials, the EU parliament deputies voiced “concern regarding the potential implementation … of a reproductive health and sexual curriculum put forward by the GROZD Association” of parents.

The program “supplies medically inaccurate and incomplete information about sexual and reproductive health and family planning as well as about available and legal contraceptive methods,” read the letter seen by AFP…

The curriculum has been approved for Croatian schools by the education ministry, and agreement from the health ministry is pending. Javno has further details:

The letter says that the programme is discriminating and stigmatising towards certain groups such as same gander communities. The module on human sexuality of the GROZD association not only provides medically incorrect information, but also contains sexual/gender prejudices and negative stands towards homosexuality and is inconsistent with the Croatian Constitution and legislature that bans such forms of discrimination.

…The programme of the GROZD association, according to them, is founded on a negative attitude towards sexuality and distorted information on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, and promotes prejudices about genders, sexual orientation, marriage, family and pregnancy…The opinion is based on an analysis of the GROZD association’s programme by the Reproductive Rights Centre from New York.

The controversy has actually been brewing for a while; ILGA Europe reported last year:

On 19th December 2005, the Ministry of Science, Education and Sport elected the Committee for the Health Education, with tasks of preparing a public invitation for the creation of programmes of health education for primary and secondary schools, giving opinions on the programmes and giving its recommendations to the minister. The final deadline for the completion of these tasks was 15th May 2006.

…After headlines in the media that the Ministry had already adopted experimental programmes, on 24th May 2006 minister Dragan Primorac publicly stated that the Ministry at that point had not considered health education programme proposals. However, the Team for Legal Changes and the Women’s Network expressed concern because it was stated in the media that the relevant Ministry would adopt the programme of the GROZD association.

…The author of the GROZD programmes is Mr Ladislav Ilèiæ, also vice-president of the Teen STAR association and the author of the Teen STAR sexual education program, which the Ombudswoman for Children declared unconstitutional and contrary to national legislation and the Convention on the Rights of a Child.

However, some opponents of the programme seem to have responded rather excessively, if this detail is correct:

…Ms Kristina Pavloviæ, president of the Teen STAR association and Mr Ladislav Ilèiæ, vice-president of the association are under criminal proceedings under suspicion of committing the criminal offence of Racial or other discrimination by violating the right of a child.

Further complaints were made in January:

The CESI Association called met on January 11, 2007, to present its concern over the decision of the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports to approve the use of the experimental curriculum in health education prepared by the GROZD Association, in ten schools in Croatia. The GROZD programme awaits the approval by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

…GROZD’s programme, in the sections covering human sexuality, promotes extremely conservative, faith based morality. Thus, it presents masturbation as “turning inwards to one’s self”, while contraception is judged as preventing a complete intercourse and that none of the recognized means of prophylactics is safe enough. The sexual intercourse is defined exclusively as a relationship between members of the two opposed sexes, treating homosexuality as unnatural abomination. Finally, the programme states that divorces result from inability to experience true love.

The participants in the meeting founded the Stop to Risky Sexual Education Civic coalition.

GROZD (Civic Organising for Democracy) appears to be a civic organization that operates in Croatia and Bosnia-Hertzogovena; Teen Star (“Sexuality Teaching in the context of Adult Responsibility”), meanwhile, is run by Dr. Hanna Klaus under the auspices of the Natural Family Planning Center of Washington D.C. It operates in several European countries, as well as South Korea. A report here describes Dr Klaus’s approach:

A soft-spoken gynaecologist and member of the Medical Missionary Sisters, Dr Hanna Klaus has chosen to adopt a different approach to the problem, addressing the issue of unplanned pregnancies at its very heart.

Dr Klaus designed the program to help empower young people by giving them a personal understanding and experience of fertility through familiarity with fertile symptoms as well as “concrete ways of responding to the corresponding emotional changes and pressures” they face.

Dr Klaus says that teenagers deserve more than a fire and brimstone message of premarital sex leading to unplanned pregnancies and STIs. If they don’t understand their sexuality, neither will telling them to “save themselves for marriage” be successful in many if not the majority of cases. “Neither the provision of contraception nor the exhortation to preserve chastity serves adolescents’ need to integrate their now-present biological capacity to procreate into their operational self-concepts,” she believes.

She insists that the Teen STAR program is not merely a way to teach teenagers how to avoid pregnancy. The statistics for the program corroborate this claim with over 90 percent of female and male virgins remaining abstinent while 30-65 percent of sexually active students stopped engaging in premarital sex during the year-long Teen STAR program.

This indicates that teenagers are ready to respond maturely when presented with appropriate content. They do not need sexually explicit information forced down their throats to realise that their sexual activity has not only physical, but emotional and psychological impacts on themselves and those with whom they associate.

A sociology MA thesis by Kimberley Ann Wood has further discussion here.

(Hat tip: Christianity Today Weblog)

Hindu Fundamentalists Target Christian Orphanage in Nepal

Asia News reports:

A Hindu fundamentalist group in Nepal bombed a Christian orphanage accusing its administrators of converting its non Christian children and receiving funds from pro-Maoist organisations. The explosion occurred in Birganj, Nepal’s industrial capital, at the “Grace Children Home” and wounded one child who is now in hospital.

…The attack was claimed by the Nepal Defence Army (NDA), a recently-created group that wants to restore the Hindu theocracy that once ruled the country.

One boy was injured in the attack; the Himalayan Times has further details:

Fifteen-year-old Mukesh Karki was injured when a bomb went off inside Grace Children’s Home situated at Radhemai Tole in Birgunj-16 today, the inspector at District Police Office (DPO) in Parsa Gautam Mishra said. Karki, who has sustained leg injuries, is undergoing treatment at Narayani Sub Regional Hospital.

Asia News quotes the justification for the attack by a certain “Praban”:

“Firstly, the Christian owners of the home are obviously converting the Hindu and Buddhist children from the hills and mountains to Christianity. [. . .] The bomb was a warning against their nefarious project. Secondly, [. . .] we have evidence that they are actually children of Maoist guerrillas who were killed in army operations during the insurgency. The Maoists don’t mind if their children become Christians.”

This is just the latest action by the NDA, which emerged in February when it bombed the offices of the CPN-UML (“Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)”), again in Birgunj. Other attacks followed in March, as the Nepal News reported:

A day after it owned up responsibility for having hurled bomb at Kantipur’s regional office in Biratnagar, a whisky factory in Tankisinwari and UML office in Parsa, the NDA has exploded a bomb at the residence of Nepali Congress MP Ashok Koirala in Morang district…At the site of explosion, pamphlets were found in which the NDA has put forth 24-point demands including restoration of Hindu state.

A publishing company was also attacked around the same time. The News adds:

Kantipur daily has reported that NDA is operated by Indian elements supporting Hindu state in Nepal. The daily has reported that main organiser of NDA is Baba Sanjaya Nath – a priest at Kali Temple in the border town of Raxaul. The NDA workers are found to actively take part in rallies organised to protest secularism in Nepal, it said. The daily has reported that Birgunj-based people who had association with Panchayat politics in the past are close with the Baba.

Another individual associated with the group is someone who goes under the name “Parshu Ram”, who writes their pamphlets.

Birgunj saw a Hindu show of strength last May:

Venting anger at Nepal’s transformation into a secular state from the world’s only Hindu kingdom, protesters Wednesday shut down Birgunj city, the country’s southern industrial hub, and announced a closure Thursday as well…

Though the measures were hailed by ethnic indigenous communities, which follow their own religion, as well as Christian and Muslim organisations, Hindu groups, especially those with political connections, condemned the action.

The World Hindu Federation (WHF), a controversial organisation headed by a former aide of the king, and Shiv Sena Nepal were among the bodies protesting against the conversion.

This was followed by a call for “holy war” in September:

Arun Subedi, chairman of the Hindu nationalist group Shiv Sena Nepal – with the same name as a hardline Mumbai (Bombay)-based organisation but unconnected to it – says secularism may worsen Hindus’ relations with minority religions.

“Nepal is a Hindu country,” he says. “It is the playground of God and a very holy country.

“If Nepal is not a Hindu kingdom then there is no Nepal. We are entering into a holy war,” he says, describing a Hindu scripture as his arms and ammunition.

This Hindu militancy is doubtless in part fuelled by the continuing activities of the country’s Maoists. Journalist Kamala Sarup noted just yesterday that

Even though the Maoists’ Communist Party of Nepal has declared peace, the violent killings, kidnappings and extortion continue. The victims of earlier violence want peace, democracy and development. But the various political entities have all resorted to violence to further their own causes.

Name variation: Nepal Defense Army

AIDS Cure Claims Under Fire Across Africa

News from South Africa:

An advertisement for a religious campaign has been ruled out of order for lack of evidence that Jesus can heal Aids.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) made the ruling after receiving a complaint about a newspaper advertisement in March for a “Miracle Crusade with Reverend Angley”.

…The ASA said advertisers had to have documentary evidence to support all claims capable of “objective substantiation”. It noted that an element of faith could be involved when viewing advertisements such as this.

…”However, caution should be taken when referring to HIV and Aids, as an incorrect assumption based on religious faith could result in further infections,” it said.

The Reverend, of course, is the Ohio-based Ernest Angley, and his posters promising healing received international attention last year, when blogger IDLand‘s photo and commentary were picked up by BoingBoing. The same blog revisited the Rev just last month:

I was disappointed to see that miracle workers too are affected by age (wikipedia puts him at 86) – they become slow and rambling, old men remembering another time, slightly embarrassing and uncomfortable to be around.

…He talked for a good ten minutes about yodelling, and how he didn’t care for the sound. I’m not making this up.

…”There are people here who can give 100 rand, who wants to be blessed with a miracle tonight?” No hands. “There are a lot of people who can give 10 rand. Who’s going to give ten rand tonight? Who wants to be blessed tonight? Who’s going to give ten rand.” One or two hands. He went down to five rand. He went down to two rand (about 25 US cents).

…”I’m not going to point out anyone with AIDS, because I don’t want to embarrass them. But you know who you are. You are a man, you are 42 years old, you have had AIDS for 3 years. Your middle name is Andrew. When you last went to your doctor, you had lost 59 pounds. You are now healed of AIDS.”

The applause was polite but unconvincing.

Exorcisms follow, along with some irresponsible misinformation about how AIDS can be passed on:

It was painful to watch. I came expecting to feel anger at this charlatan spreading mistruths about AIDS, but the display was too pathetic for me to feel anything but sadness.

Meanwhile, similar claims about AIDS are coming under fire in Uganda, as the Kampala Monitor reports:

A WOMAN who offered her car to a local church as a sacrifice for “good health” has threatened to take her pastors to court for alleged extortion.

Ms Frances Adroa, a self-confessed Aids patient, says senior pastors at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a Kampala church which she joined in June 2005, obtained possession of her car by pretending that they would reverse her health status if she invested in sacrifice.

The paper includes quotes from her affidavit:

“I Frances Adroa …do solemnly declare that with the full knowledge of my distress and broken heartedness, the pastors launched the campaign of Mount Sinai to which all members were required to give sacrifices and write prayer requests to God, which they claimed would be taken to Mount Sinai,” the April 10 affidavit says.

“That to further coerce me to give, they showed us a documentary of their worldwide leadership on Mount Sinai…performing rituals similar to what they had promised us.”

(Mount Sinai keeps popping up in reports about African Christianity I’ve blogged on recently; see here and here) The church agreed to return the car to her when the cure did not materialize, but she allegedly received it in a damaged state and with a bill for “reconditioning”. The UCKG is a controversial Brazilian Pentecostal grouping which has been making inroads into Africa for some time; just a few days ago it opened its largest African branch, in Soweto.

And across the continent, the news from Gambia is not encouraging:

Since January, President Yahya Jammeh has been treating people with HIV in the compound of the presidential palace with his herbal rubs and drinks, which he claims are a cure. To the alarm of the International Aids Society, which represents doctors and others fighting HIV/Aids around the world, his patients have stopped taking antiretroviral drugs.

However, Souleymane Mboup, from the University of Dakar, believes that government claims about the supposed cure are misleading:

“The interpretation by the Gambian authorities of the results of HIV antibody and viral-load testing on blood samples sent to my laboratory is incorrect…Of those samples that were HIV-positive (66.66%), none could be described as cured.”

A report in the Banjul Daily Observer gives further details of the treatment:

Addressing the patients shortly before the start of his herbal treatment, the Gambian leader told the patients that there is no discrimination as far as his treatment is concerned. He said during the course of his treatment, patients must not smoke, steal or have sex, saying even the couples in the treatment are not exempted from these conditions.

He informed them that they will not take any food from outside, other than what will be given to them by him. He also told them that they will not take any Western medicine, except for what will be administered to them by himself. He also urged the patients to refrain from eating coffee, attaya, as well as chewing kola-nut and chewing gum.

…The President informed the patients that some of the patients in previous batch were cleared of HIV/Aids within the first-10 days, saying “there are different metabolic reactions to the treatment. It does not mean that those who did not recover quickly from the illness violated the rules. The longer the medicine stays in your body, the more effective it will become”.

Puppet Patriarch for Eritrean Orthodox Church

A bland announcement from state media in Eritrea:

His Holiness Abune Dioskoros has been elected 4th Patriarch of Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church that was unanimously approved by the Holy Synod.

The EOC happily announces to the people that the appointment of His Holiness Abune Dioskoros took place on 19 April, during a meeting of Eritreans monasteries, representatives of religious administrations and the like.

Eritrean dissident website Asmarino has a rather more emotive description of what happened:

Yesterday, April 19, 2007, in a convocation attended by government authorities, Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros, the lay political appointee who serves as the highest administrator of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, and his handler, Security Chief Semere Beyen, rounded up the reluctant bishops that make up the rump synod and made the much anticipated announcement.

The announcement that was presented to the assemblage as an accomplished fact simply stated, “Abba Dioscoros, the former bishop of the Mendefera region, has been chosen to serve as Eritrea’s next patriarch.[“] When the bishops in attendance expressed a desire to bring the matter to a deliberation, they were told that the announcement was not open for further discussion.

…Mr. Dimetros and Co. took this shameful step, as always, on the behest of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), the ruling party, to implement its designs of destroying the Eritrean Orthodox Church…It should be known to everyone that Abba Dioscoros has long sold his soul to Mr. Yoftahe, the devil incarnate. In the last two years, he has been at Mr. Yoftahe, the patriarch-maker’s feet in the foolish hope of being the next patriarch.

Dimetros, who was previously a diplomat when Eritrea was part of Ethiopia, has been in charge since 2005, when the 3rd Patriarch, Abune Antonios, was “frozen” and later placed under arrest. The World Evangelical Alliance reported on this at the time:

Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros has been appointed by the government to administer the EOC. On August 7, Dimetros and several military officials met with the EOC Synod and deposed EOC Patriarch Abune Antonios. Patriarch Antonios had defended the rights of the Medhane Alem renewal movement of the EOC, viewing them as a blessing and refusing to persecute them. He has also pleaded before the government on behalf of the Rev. Dr. Futsum Kuluberhan, the Rev. Dr. Tekleab Mengisteab, and the Rev. Gebremedhin Georgis. These three Medhane Alem pastors were arrested in March and remain jailed incommunicado as “traitors” in Asmara’s notorious Wongel Mermera investigation center. Dimetros leveled numerous complaints against Patriarch Antonios whom he accused of being “an obstacle in the work of the Holy Christian Church.”

In direct violation of the constitution of the EOC, the government will now appoint a compliant replacement Patriarch.

Dimetros acquired the necessary items for Dioskoros’s consecration back in January:

On Saturday morning, January 20, 2007, Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros sent two priests accompanied by three security agents of the government to the residence of H.H. Antonios, Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.  Once there, they confiscated the following list of material from him:

1. All his Patriarchal vestments
2. The chain of the Apostle St. Mark
3. The Patriarchal holy scepter of Moses and of the shepherd
4. The Holy Myron that was handed down to the Eritrean Church from St. Mark.
5. Another patriarchal chain of St. Mark
6. Many other holy personal effects

The two priests that were sent by Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros to undertake such shameless act were Keshi Fitsum Tesfai[Priest at St George, Alfaramio, Asmara] and Keshi Gebretatyos Kidane [Priest at St Atnatios, Godaif Asmara].

Trawling around the internet, it appears that Dimetros is the son of Keshi Dimetros, a fanatical pro-Ethiopian politician from the 1960s, and some discussions suggest he may also be descended from Dimetros Gebremariam, an Eritrean churchman who was also a pro-Ethiopia “Unionist”. Both of these men used religion for political ends, but I can’t see any ideological connection between their activities and Yoftahe Dimetros’s scheming on behalf of the current Eritrean government.

Madonna Seeks Kabbalah Converts in Malawian Orphanages

Several months ago, Time reported on Madonna’s plans to proselytise Kabbalah among the children of Malawi, through a “Raising Malawi” project:

Her co-founder in the Raising Malawi project is Michael Berg, founder of the Kabbalah center in Los Angeles and one of the driving forces behind its growing popularity. And although it has no religious affiliation, the orphan-care center—which will be like a day camp for orphans, who often have relatives who will give them a place to sleep but cannot feed them—will offer programs based on Spirituality for Kids, Kabbalah’s children’s program.

Now the UK Daily Mail adds some further details:

…last November, a team of Malawians were flown out to the States for an intensive three-month course in Kabbalah, so that they could teach it to orphans back in Malawi.

Many children in the orphanages she is supporting are already being tutored in Kabbalah and in the coming months, 7,000 orphans across the country – which has a population of only 12million – are set to receive instruction.

Perhaps to disguise its Kaballah origins, the course is entitled Spirituality For Kids (SFK).

…a shipment of blue Kabbalah ‘bibles’ to Malawi remain undistributed, for fear of a backlash.

The Mail’s journalist, Natalie Clarke, visits an orphanage where children are being taught that bad things happening to them is merely payback for having done bad things:

Jacinta Chapomba, project officer for orphans and vulnerable children, talks me through it. Each of the students has been given a paper ‘tree of life’ planted in a small pot.

On Mrs Chapomba’s desk is one belonging to one of the orphans. On one of the leaves, the child has written: “I had a bicycle accident because I did bad things”; on another: “When travelling I hit my foot on a stone because of the bad things I did.”

Clarke suggests that the singer wishes to spread the religion in order to make the country “Mother Madonna’s very own state”. But if so, the singer is going to have to face some serious competition; Clarke mentions the Presbyterian heritage of the country, and it should be noted that Pentecostalism is huge: scholar Rijk A. van Dijk, for example, sees it as “the single most important religious factor” in the country for a number of socio-cultural and political reasons. Traditional religion also remains significant.

Kabbalah is not the only outside religion vying for the orphans; last September, the government acted against a Taiwanese Buddhist orphanage:

Malawi’s Human Rights Commission has ordered a Taiwanese-funded orphanage to remove statues of Buddha from all dormitories, saying their presence amounts to brainwashing children into joining Buddhism against their will.

The Amitofo Care Centre near Blantyre opened three years ago and was touted as the biggest orphanage in southern Africa operated by followers of Buddhism. The centre has statues of Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, in all the dormitories and an elaborate temple situated within the orphanage.

…This contravenes Section 23 of the Malawi Constitution, which stipulates on how best children and orphans ought to be treated,” said [Commissioner John] Kapito during the orphanage’s open day. “This exposure to statues can easily influence them into joining the religion unwillingly since they cannot decide their future on their own.”

One wonders how Madonna will be judged in relation to the same “Section 23”.

Rev Moon Collects former Heads of State

James Mancham, former President of the Seychelles

George Sokomanu, former President of Vanuatu

Rexhep Mejdani, former President of Albania

Kenneth Kaunda, former President of Zambia

H.E. Abdurrahman Wahid, former President of Indonesia

George H.W. Bush, former President of the USA

Just a few of the global political figures who promote and assist the work of Rev Sun Myung Moon. More details in my latest post at Talk to Action.

Anglican Church Province of Central Africa Backs Mugabe

From the Harare Herald:

THE Anglican Church Province of Central Africa has added its voice to the growing condemnation of the illegal Western sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and called for their scrapping, urging Britain to honour its obligations to fund land reforms in the country.

In their Pastoral letter issued at the end of their Episcopal Synod in Harare last week, the 14 bishops and one canon, among them the head of the Province of Central Africa, the Most Rev Bernard Amos Malango, acknowledged that the economic situation in Zimbabwe stemmed from illegal sanctions.

The article’s author, a hack named Caesar Zvayi, adds some toadying commentary:

…The Anglican Bishop’s pastoral letter exposes the patently political nature of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference that released its own letter ahead of the Easter holidays, accusing President Mugabe and the Government of corrupt governance and human rights abuses.

…Last month, MDC factions embarked on orgies of violence disguised as a “defiance campaign,” through which they sought to depose the Government in the streets. When their attempts were thwarted, they launched terrorist activities that saw them assault police officers, burn private and public property and carry out 11 reported petrol bombings on police stations and private property.

…The Anglican Bishop’s pastoral letter left egg on the face of the head of the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Willams who, last month, tried to pressure his bishops, among them Dr [Nolbert] Kunonga, to join the bandwagon of condemning the Government for alleged human rights excesses.

I blogged on religious support for Mugabe just a few weeks ago. Kunonga, as I noted then, is known throughout Zimbabwe as “His Disgrace”, and his lavish praise for the depressingly long-lived tyrant has won him numerous worldly rewards. Kunonga has also long enjoyed the protection of Archbishop Malango, although I also noted that there were signs of a split. It looks as though they’ve patched things up, then.

Here are the rest of Mugabe’s Anglican allies:

Christopher J. Boyle (Northern Malawi), Albert Chama (Northern Zambia), Elson Jakazi (Manicaland), Derek Kamukwamba (Central Zambia), Nolbert Kunonga (Harare), William Muchombo (Eastern Zambia), Ishmael Mukuwanda (Central Zimbabwe), Robert Mumbi (Luapula) Trevor Mwamba (Botswana), David Njovu (Lusaka), Wilson Sitshebo (Matabeleland), Godfrey Tawonezvi (Masvingo), James Tengatenga (Southern Malawi), and Rev. Canon Michael Mkoko, Vicar General of the Diocese of Lake Malawi.

Row Over Claim of Nigerian Pilgrims Raped in Sinai

Curious news from Nigeria (link added):

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Directorate of Christian Pilgrims Affairs Wednesday denied claims that some female pilgrims were raped by Egyptians as they attempted to climb Mount Sinai in St Catherina City, Egypt in April.

“We wish to dismiss this report as a deliberate falsehood,” the statement signed by director, FCT Christian Pilgrims Board, Mr. Laz Gaza. “No such incident occurred or was brought to the notice of the FCT head, Directorate of Christian Pilgrims Affairs…We also want to dismiss the claims that both Nigerian and Israeli authorities have protested on the allegation to Egyptian authority as falsehood as nothing of such magnitude took place. We view this as a deliberate effort by the reporter to sour the long cordial working relationship that has existed between Egypt and Nigeria.

Pilgrimages are organised at the state level in Nigeria; the FCT is the area around the capital, Abuja. The original report had been published in the Daily Champion on 2 April, and was by a journalist named Daniel Idonor. That report claimed that “many” women had been raped by local camel-riders, who lured women pilgrims into isolated places:

…Already, both the Nigerian and Israeli authorities have formally protested to the Egyptian authorities through the country’s police over the incident. The leader of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Pilgrims (Batch one), Mrs Helen Oloja, who is also the Director of Legal Services in the FCT Administration, launched Nigeria’s protest before the Israeli officials moment after she arrived Israel border from the Mt Sinai.

One Ms Jone, an Israeli official, and a senior employee of the Immanuel Tours Agency,…could not hold her emotion, but wept profusely.

…Also commenting on the incident, the FCT director of the Christians’ Pilgrim Welfare Board, Mr Laz Gaza, who spoke to Daily Champion at the Hilton Hotel in Taba, Egypt, expressed deep shock over the incident; and promised to make official complaints to the Nigeria government through the FCT Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, and the National Technical Committee on Pilgrimage, headed by Archbishop Ola Makinde, for necessary action.

So what’s going on? Did Idonor make up the original quotes from the aptly-named Laz Gaza and the others? Or is Gaza now back-tracking for political reasons of his own? And if the “incident” occurred, to what extent does it suggest a serious endemic problem?

Meanwhile, an account of pilgrims heading to Sinai from another state in Nigeria was published a couple of weeks ago here:

…they set out for the famous Mount Sinai, which is said to be where Moses received the Ten Commandments…In spite of several warnings about the dangers of making the climb, hundreds of pilgrims headed for the hills at the appointed time in the bitter cold, with temperatures reading twelve degree centigrade. The Nigerian pilgrims were accompanied by large groups of pilgrims from far off places like the UK, Australia, China, Japan among many others. The going was tough but the pilgrims, including old men and women over 60 years old, bravely kept on going. It was amazing to see them encourage and help one another along the punishing trail. The Nigerians particularly rejected offers by the Bedouin locals to convey them up the trail on camel back, which elicited hostility from the locals. By sunset, most of the pilgrims had made it to the summit of the mountain and were already downward bound.

Most of the pilgrims agreed that the climb marked the climax of the pilgrimage for them. Matoh Dogara, a commissioner in Kaduna State, told Newswatch that his ability to make it to the top of Mount Sinai marked a milestone in his life. Dogara said he believes that the experience would make him a better Christian. Victor Yakubu, chairman of the state’s Christian pilgrims welfare board, expressed satisfaction at the successful completion of the climb up the Sinai. Rev. Yakubu was particularly thankful that his aged mother was able to make it to the summit of the mountain. “It has been something of an obsession to her,” Yakubu told New Nigerian on Sunday shortly after the climb. “It was a really hard decision for me to allow her attempt such a risky thing, but thank God she has fulfilled her heart’s desire.”

As an aside, Gaza’s statement of denial includes the following incidental detail:

“The FCT Directorate of Christian Pilgrims Affairs expresses shock that the reporter failed to report…the miracles of healing that took place at the Wailing Wall of Old Jerusalem City…”

Of course, many Christians respect the Jewish holy place (even many of those who don’t feel the need to fantasize about destroying the nearby mosques), but for the Western Wall (preferable usage to “Wailing Wall”) to become regarded as a place of miraculous healing in a Christian context is an interesting development. This Christian website offers a virtual Western Wall where prayers can be lodged.

US Commentator Persecutes Indonesian Woman

Some time ago, I decided to stop writing blog entries that simply mocked the ramblings of wingnuts; it’s a crowded field, and others have greater gifts for satirical putdowns than I. Also, I try to keep editorialising to a minimum – readers don’t need to be spoonfed, and if they can’t figure out for themselves why certain things are undesirable or deplorable, I doubt that a comment from me will change their views. There’s also an element of “bear craps in wood” to reporting a lot of this kind of thing.

However, sometimes I come across something so beyond decency that it cannot be passed over, which brings me, like thousands of others, to the subject of Debbie Schlussel. Yesterday Schlussel decided to harass a young Indonesian woman who goes online by the name of “Eldarossell”. The reason was that Eldarossell had put on Flickr a number of innocuous photographs of family and friends, including a South Korean who had taken the name of “Ismail” in order to make it easier for Indonesians to address him. Schlussel suggested that this friend was in all likelihood the V-Tech mass murderer, and she strongly inferred that Eldarossell had removed the picture for some suspicious reason. As further evidence of the supposedly sinister connection, Schlussel decided to repost another picture from Eldarossell’s collection, showing a cousin – a smiling young woman who happens to wear Islamic dress.

Of course, Schlussel’s tedious and distasteful “look at me” antics are well-known and unremarkable, but I don’t think I have seen such an egregious example of unwarranted bullying and irresponsible incitement on the internet from someone who apparently enjoys some sort of serious standing. However, it seems that Eldarossell can stand up for herself, and she left a comment which shows much more class and intelligence than anything produced by the professional commentator who decided to persecute her:

This morning after finished read the VT Tech incident in the local newspaper, I checked my email. And it was full of messages regarding the speculation whether I knew the VT Shooter or not. That was because a picture that I put on Flickr had the similarity to the murderer.

When I read those messages, I was shocked and until I write this I’m still shocked. Especially, after I heard that an Indonesian student was one of the victims.

I write this to clarify that my friend is not the VT Shooter.

Yes, the murderer name (Cho Seung Hui) had a very similar name to his name, Cho Seung Hoo. Please note to the HOO and the HUI in their names.

I already saw the murderer picture in NY Times and other news websites. He’s definitely not my friend Cho Seung Hoo. They are completely different person.

First of all, they don’t have the exact similar face. Their similarity was just their homeland and name (even that not exactly the same). There are a lot of people have the same characteristic, short hair and wearing glasses.

My friend is 25 years old not 23. When he came to Indonesia, he just finished his study in college majoring computer. He doesn’t speak English very fluently.

My co-workers are very fond of him because he is very friendly and always make time to talk to them while he was staying at our hostel. He is a very funny and talkative person, definitely not a loner.

Currently, he still teaching computer in Indonesia until next year and then he will go back to his homeland.

He is not a Moslem. He is a Christian. Ismail was ONLY his nick name while he studied Bahasa Indonesia. He maybe didn’t use that name again.

HE IS INNOCENT.

I’m feeling guilty right now. Just because I put his picture in my blog and Flickr, he has to face that false accusation.

I already delete the picture and the blog post about him, so that everybody will stop being curious and accuse him. And also because nobody can link to that anymore and made unnecessary comments that only lead to other accusation. I already had enough with comments in my Flickr in regard to that. I quote:

“If this is him there is an Indonesian Muslim connection.. Look at the rest of the Photostream, This guy may have studied in Indonesia and became a Muslim.. Anyhow, I can’t even tell if its him. But he did have the word Ismail written in red on his arm. I just don’t know”

I’m crying when I read this comment … what do you mean by that?? That’s my friend, family and country you just insult!!

What if one of your friends or family or EVEN YOU receives that insult and accusation?

I’m being paranoid now. I’m afraid because I put all my pictures in the internet. What if something likes this happen again?? Maybe one day, someone will say “Hey, that dog pic on your Flickr, I think it was the one who bite me yesterday. I’m going to sue you”.

Schlussel responded:

Eldarossell posted a note that this is not the guy, so I’m removing it.

I suppose that’s an apology for dragging three innocent people (Eldarossell, her cousin, and her South Korean friend) into a wingnut sewer of hate.