Israel Freezes New Recognition of Jerusalem Patriarch

The latest development in the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem saga, from the Jerusalem Post:

In a new legal twist, the High Court of Justice on Wednesday froze Israeli recognition of Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, reopening a bitter international dispute that has roiled the church.

The Israeli government chose to recognise Theophilos patriarch a couple of days ago, two years after the ousting of his predecessor, the decidedly inaptly-named Irineos. Despite losing the confidence of both his flock and his fellow Orthodox Church leaders, Irineos believes that with Israel’s backing he can reclaim his position, and he has now launched a new legal challenge.

Irineos’s troubles, as I have blogged at length, stem from the sale of church-owned land in east Jerusalem to a front-group for Israeli settlers. Naturally this rather annoyed and embarrassed Palestinian Orthodox Christians, who are generally fed up with Greek leadership anyway. Irineos claimed that the deal had been made without his knowledge by his treasurer, Nicholas Papadimas, who is now reportedly in hiding in South America. Theophilos agreed to cancel the sale (although prevarication led to temporary de-recognition by Jordan in May), which is one reason Israel prefers Irineos – there is also concern over future leaseholds on church-owned land in west Jerusalem, including on the site of the Knesset. However, Theophilos’s position was strengthened in October when Condoleezza Rice chose to meet him in Bethlehem.

One person particularly opposed to Theophilos is – as ever – Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily’s Jerusalem correspondent. Klein invariably describes Theophilos as the “‘no-land-to-Jews’ cleric”, and he claims that Theophilos is motivated by prejudice against Jews, rather than fear of creeping Israeli hegemony over east Jerusalem (it should be noted that Klein’s righteous anger over “no-land-to-Jews” does not prevent him complaining about “Arabs…illegally occupy[ing] strategic land purchased for Jews” in locations controlled by the Jewish National Fund). The temporary recognition given to Theophilos by Israel a couple of days ago was grist for his campaign against the Olmert government, which he regularly trashes on behalf of the extremely right-wing Israeli fringe groups he continually puffs. However, he does give us one interesting quote, from Bishop Atallah Hanna:

“The deal must be canceled and Theofilos knows this. We as a church will fight any smuggling of real estate to Jewish organizations,” Atallah Hanna, the church’s archbishop of Sebastia, told WND.

Hanna is a particularly slippery figure: he insists that reports in sympathetic Arab newspapers quoting him as supporting suicide bombers were fabricated, and he is opposed to Irineos for reasons of his own. In May 2005 he claimed not to be against a land-deal per se:

“The Israelis may not have understood us. The problem is not the sale of lands to Jews, but rather the lack of proper management and transparency, and fraud.”

Another group backing Theophilos over Irineos is the Roman Catholic Church. Asia News reminds us bitterly that Irineos

…is infamous for having urged his followers to engage in open combat against the friars of the Holy Sepulchre and for having continually sought to create difficulties regarding the upkeep of sacred sights jointly owned with Catholics.

Irineos doesn’t care much for Jews, either, and he is on record as feeling “disgust and disrespect…for the descendants of the crucifiers”. For some reason, such a view didn’t prevent him enjoying Israel’s backing until earlier this week, nor does it inhibit him from asking for Israel’s help now.

Name variations: Theofilos, Ireneos

US News Anchor Has “Never Met Poor Jewish Person”

Attempt to expound Prosperity Gospel causes controversy

The Sacramento State Hornet carries a story under the headline “Anchor talks religion, baffles group, students”:

Adrienne Bankert, television anchor for KCRA 3, visited Sacramento State today to speak about her religious views at a discussion hosted by members of the International Students Christian Fellowship…

As part of her presentation, Bankert asked: “Have you ever met a poor Jewish person?”

“I have never met a poor Jewish person ever in my life! Every Jewish person I went to school with had money, and if they didn’t have money literally…they knew how to get some. The Jewish people founded Hollywood, Jewish people were in banking, lawyers.”

Bankert said she, herself, is a Jew in Jesus’ name.

“I’m a Jewish person, because I’m saved by the blood of Jesus. He is Jewish, and I want what he’s got for me.”

The comment about the supposed scarcity of poor Jewish people has got Bankert into some predicable trouble:

Michal Kohane…executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, says her organization considered issuing a press release denouncing Bankert and asking for sanctions.

“But the feeling was, it was a little disproportionate to what happened,” Kohane says. “What we’re going to try to do is have a personal meeting.”

…However, at least one Sacramento-area rabbi, David Wechsler-Azen at Beth Shalom, says he was personally offended.

“As somebody who has been a poor Jew, as someone regularly approached by poor Jews for help, it’s just so factually inaccurate,” Wechsler says. “It’s just really offensive for someone to portray Jews that way.

The rest of the Hornet article puts Bankert’s comments in a bit more context:

“I know God wants us to be rich and successful and prosperous, and to know our call and our purpose,” Bankert said. “He doesn’t want it to be a strain. He doesn’t want you to have to fight for it.”

This Prosperity Gospel theology sees God as offering material blessings to believers; mix that in with the philo-semitism of much modern conservative evangelicalism and you can see how the idea could form that Jews are naturally prosperous, not because of any negative personality traits, but because they enjoy the blessings of God. Of course, it’s still a lazy stereotype and fails to grasp that ascribing “essential” characteristics to any group of people is a bad idea.

But what of Bankert’s “I’m a Jewish person” claim? The intention is again doubtless laudable: here’s a Christian rejecting past Christian anti-semitism and acknowledging the Jewish origins of Christianity. However, there is also a wider context here of cultural appropriation. A few months ago I blogged on the trend by American conservative evangelicals to purchase prayer shawls, mezuzahs, and other Jewish artefacts from specialist evangelical companies. It seems to me that this is could be problematic; as I wrote then, it wasn’t just Christianity that split from Judaism – Judaism also decided that Christianity was not Jewish.

For Christians of non-Jewish heritage to declare themselves to be Jewish is surely akin to New Agers taking the bits of Native American religion that they like, such as Dream Catchers, for their own purposes; this has caused some annoyance among Native Americans.

Apprentice Boys March Comes to English Village

The UK village of Stotfold, near Luton and Bedford, has become an unlikely setting for controversy over a Northen-Ireland style march to commemorate the siege of Londonderry. The Comet reports:

A CONTROVERSIAL march will go ahead despite fears of a public backlash and vigorous objections from a town council.

Luton and Bedford Browning Club and Apprentice Boys of Derry will march through the streets of Stotfold on Saturday, December 15, for the second year running.

The march marks the 319th anniversary of the shutting of the gates of Londonderry in 1688 which ignited the greatest siege in British history, the siege of Derry.

Last year marchers burned an effigy of Colonel Robert Lundy, governor of the city who attempted to persuade Londonderry’s residents to surrender to the surrounding forces of King James II and was considered a traitor by the Protestants defending the city…

In Northern Ireland marches such as this have long been associated with the assertion of Protestant supremacy over the Province’s Catholic residents, and according to some reports, the previous year’s march through Stotfold had allegedly included the playing of “anti-Catholic tunes”. This CNN report has some useful general background to the negative connotations of such parades:

The parades have caused conflict throughout their history, but the key political flashpoints in recent years have been Drumcree in Portadown, Ormeau Road in Belfast, and the Bogside in Derry.

It was an Apprentice Boys parade in Derry in 1969 that led to the mobilisation of British troops in Northern Ireland, after what became known as “The Battle of the Bogside”.

…In 1995, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), Northern Ireland’s police force, prevented the Portadown District Orange Lodge from marching along the Garvaghy Road on its return journey from a service in Drumcree Parish Church.

…Orangemen refused to be dispersed or re-routed, and a two-day standoff began before police finally conceded and allowed marchers, led by the Rev. Ian Paisley and David Trimble, to walk through, but without any bands.

Nationalist protestors stood aside but were infuriated when Paisley and Trimble, at the end of the march, held their arms in the air in what appeared to be a gesture of triumph.

…The disturbances were repeated in the following year, when a four-day standoff occurred, with a crowd of up to 10,000 gathered outside police barricades.

These days things have quietened down to a great extent, and Ian Paisley is more likely to be seen arm-in-arm with his new “Chuckle brother” Martin McGuinness than with Trimble. Orange and Apprentice Boys enthusiasts present their parades as a harmless bit of cultural heritage and historical commemoration, and claim to avoid provocations against Catholics. Yearly marches in London pass without incident, but a large parade in Glasgow in July 2006 ended with 60 arrests, and a spokesperson admitted there was a problem with “hangers on” out to cause trouble. A parade in Dublin also ended badly, although there the trouble came from protestors while the mayor of the city had no problem with the parade itself.

Back in Stotfold, the local MP and Anglican Bishop released a joint statement:

…This year’s march has been strongly opposed by the Town Council and representatives of the local community, and requests not to hold the march have been refused.

Our belief is that a significant number of the people of Stotfold are profoundly concerned at this march, similar to ones which have been so associated with religious division in Northern Ireland over recent years. Stotfold people have no connection with the events in Londonderry, and have never felt the need to commemorate them.

…There is no significant history of religious intolerance in our community, and the idea of introducing this fills us with alarm. A march which at its centre celebrates events which have contributed to historic divisions between Catholic and Protestant in Ireland seems sadly out of place here, and we fail to see what positives are being achieved.

Of course, one wonders how there can be “no connection with the events in Londonderry” given the siege’s historical significance, but the rise of Orangeism in Bedfordshire is a rather unexpected development. The march itself passed peacefully, and a short video is available here. A small (and unimaginative) counter-demonstration of one, though, was not allowed:

One young man wearing a hooded top and with the bottom half of his face covered with a scarf was spoken to by police after revealing he was wearing a Sinn Fein T-shirt.

“We told him not to show his shirt again and we made sure he left the area where the march was taking place,” said Pc Ian Wilson, one of the officers covering the event.

A spokesperson explained why Stotfold was chosen:

…John McAdam, provincial grand secretary of the Loyal Orange Institution of England Midlands Lodge, who also attended the meeting, said: “We hold the march in Stotfold because our president John Roberts lives in the town.”

“Master of the Black Arts” to Speak at Springbok Club

From the website of the London-based Springbok Club:

2008 AGM  –  to be followed by a special tribute to long-standing Springbok Club/ELC ExCo member Bill Binding, who sadly died in November, by his nephew Dr. John Pope-de Locksley.

The Springbok Club, which I have blogged on a couple of times in the past, agitates for the return of white rule over Africa. Its leader is Alan Harvey, a former National Front organizer who for a time edited SA Patriot, a far-right newsletter which was recently the subject of spirited discussion on Wikipedia, where Harvey explains that it only included articles with titles such as “Know Your Kikes” because he was young and he didn’t know what the word meant (the Springbok Club is pro-Israel).

The Club came under journalistic scrutiny a few months ago, when Johann Hari noted in the New Republic that right-wing historian Andrew Roberts had spoken to the group (Roberts, inevitably, made noises about “libel”), and despite Harvey’s background the Club appears to enjoy some support from the respectable end of the radical right. A few of the Club’s speakers are billed without their names being given (e.g. an unidentified “prominent Ulster-born friend of Israel”), which suggests that at least some of those involved wish to keep their association discreet. Harvey also has links with WorldNetDaily’s South African correspondent, Anthony LoBaido.

The late Bill Binding, meanwhile, was in the news in 2001, when he attempted to join the Conservative Party:

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith says he will be looking at whether action is needed over reports that a former deputy leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Britain has joined the Tory party.

Bill Binding, 76, from Clapton, east London, who stood for the far-right British National Party (BNP) in the 1997 election, told the Guardian he had left the klan four years ago after deciding different races were genetically alike…

His nephew Pope-de Locksley runs Jack the Ripper tours of east London, and on his website he is described  as “a master of the black arts, a third degree witch and Odinist…a natural shaman and master of Yoga and other preternatural mysteries and systems”. He also claims to be a descendant of Robin Hood, as well as being of “blood line to Jack the Ripper and Dracula”. For several decades he and his occultist associate David Farrant have been in a feud with Sean Manchester, a bishop of the Old Catholic Church who pops up on TV from time to time with tales of battling vampires and other paranormal manifestations. Bishop Manchester has a website entitled Aftermath of the Highgate Vampire, which contains a number of purported photos of Pope-de Locksley and contains a number of allegations about his past occultic activities. Pope-de Locksley also styles himself as ” King of Ibogonia, Ofrika & Ife in Nigeria”, which perhaps would particularly impress the Springbok Club, and has been dubbed “The Scariest Man in London”.

Moving on into 2008, the Springbok Club will again be addressed by Prof David Marsland, whom I blogged on previously here and here. Back in 2004 Marland gave a speech to the Club on winning the “War on Terror”, which included the prescription:

…Halt or segregate air flights into or out of Britain by Arabs.

…Strengthen anti-terrorist legislation to allow on suspicion indefinite secret imprisonment (without appeal, without visits and without any privileges), tough interrogation, and where necessary summary execution by authorised agents.

…Reduce the need for prisons in Iraq by authorising summary execution of known enemy. Throw journalists, servicemen or anyone else who seek to file lying and negative reports about conditions in terrorist prisons in Iraq or elsewhere into these same prisons for an indefinite term.

Censor prejudiced and negative reporting of the war against terrorism by British media. Neutralise by military means any Arab media providing a propaganda outlet for terrorists.

Apparently such views (which he also expressed in the magazine Right Now!) are not incompatible with being a well-known “libertarian”, at least on the libertarian-right.

Avataq Cultural Institute Reports Ancient Engravings not Damaged

Refutes 2006 story of destruction by conservative Christians

The website of the Avataq Cultural Institute in Canada has a short article by archaeologist Daniel Gendron on the Qajartalik Petroglyphs, ancient engravings which were last year erroneously reported to have been vandalised by local Christians offended by their pagan origins:

Louis Gagnon, curator at Avataq, and I were finally able to visit to the Qajartalik petroglyph site near Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik at the end of September 2007 to verify its condition. This is in response to the publication of an article by the CANWEST newspaper network over a year ago concerning the possible destruction of the Dorset petroglyphs. The news item itself was announced with an outrageous headline blaming Christians in the local Inuit community for this presumed destruction. The article should never have been published in the first place, since it was based entirely on rumour, as I mentioned in my response to CANWEST journalist Randy Boswell, published in Nunatsiaq News on September 29, 2006. Boswell was clearly informed of this fact, and despite being unable to substantiate the rumour beyond a reasonable doubt in August 2006, he nevertheless proceeded to publish the story. The news item was quickly picked up without further verification by several other papers (in print and electronic formats), including Nunatsiaq News in Iqaluit.

We are pleased to report that the site has neither been destroyed nor damaged beyond some deterioration and a small amount of graffiti that had already been noted in 2001…

This follows a letter Gendron had published in the Nunatsiaq News in September of last year (scroll down):

…It is unfortunate that Mr. Boswell has taken upon himself to make the news instead of reporting it. The emphasis on the “religious” aspect of our conversation was but one single element of it, and it was mentioned only to put the site and its turbulent history into perspective. I would have much preferred that he emphasized the role of the federal government (or lack of it) in this case…I do find regrettable that this has come out in this way. My intent has never been to blame innocent people, and I do apologize to the entire Nunavik population for this, and especially to the Kangirsujuammiut…

Boswell’s story – under the headline “Christian Zealots Destroy Ancient Artic Petroglyphs” – spread widely across the internet, including on this blog, where I looked (here and here) at the wider context of the spread of neo-Pentecostalism among the local Nunavut and Nunavik peoples. The religious revival has brought some very conservative politics to the region, as well as social changes including a dramatic decrease in alcoholism. However, while the story of the alleged damage to the engravings received wide dissemination, Gendron’s subsequent rejection of the report which used him as its source inevitably failed to get anywhere near as much publicity.

(Hat tip: Pastor Roger Armbruster of Canada Awakening Ministries, who brought Gendron’s reactions to the story to my attention)

Policy Exchange vs Free Speech

Think-tank threatens to sue BBC Newsnight over faked evidence claim

There is not much argument over the fact that extremist Islamist literature from Saudi Arabia has made its way into some British mosques, and that this has not been conducive to the public good. A few months ago a centre-right think-tank called the Policy Exchange published a report on the subject which was temperate in tone and made the uncontroversial point that

…it is clear that the influence of Saudi Arabia is both powerful and malign. Much of the material featured here is connected in some way with the Saudi Kingdom – whether by virtue of being written by members of the Wahhabite religious establishment; being published and distributed by official, or semi-official Saudi institutions; or being found in Saudi-funded, or linked, mosques and schools in this country. For this reason, the report argues, there needs now to be a proper audit of the costs and benefits of the Saudi-UK relationship.

The report relied on researchers who went around various mosques buying books and collecting the receipts – most mosques came up clean, but a number were “named and shamed”. However, in an unexpected twist the BBC’s Newsnight has discovered that at least some of the receipts were apparently forged: in a few cases they don’t match official receipts, and forensic analysis shows beyond reasonable doubt that at least one receipt was written on top of the other, despite being supposedly from shops many miles apart. Some receipts were produced on bubble jet printers, which is rather uneconomical, and some appear to have been written by the same hand. The researchers involved with gathering the information are currently in Mauritania, and cannot be contacted.

Newsnight put these claims to the Policy Exchange, which responded in the time-honoured fashion of conservatives of a certain kind by threatening to sue for libel if the public was allowed to see the evidence. The think-tank added that it would pursue the matter “relentlessly, to trial or capitulation”. This kind of threatening sometimes works with the BBC – not long ago the corporation bizarrely shelled out £75,000 to Harold Wilson’s former secretary after a receiving a legal threat over a dramatisation by Francis Wheen of an ancient story that has appeared unchallenged elsewhere. Also, back in August Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman used a speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival to warn of the dangers to journalism from libel threats in an age of budget cuts:

…It is unsustainable, and I cannot see how the programme can survive in anything like its current form if the cuts are implemented. To get a single – important – film transmitted last week involved surviving a sustained barrage of astonishingly threatening lawyers’ letters from Carter Ruck and ear-bending from one of the country’s most expensive PR firms. You can’t do that if you’re replacing grizzled output editors with people on work experience, no matter how enthusiastic they may be.

(The latest Private Eye magazine (1199 p. 13) notes that Carter-Ruck alluded to this speech in its promotional materials, while leaving out the context)

The charge against the BBC is being led by Dean Godson, a former Daily Telegraph writer and now Policy Exchange’s “terrorism and security” Research Director. Godson appeared on the programme to defend the report against Paxman’s questioning – he remarkably refused to concede that any mistakes had been made and reiterated that he was 100% confident in all of the evidence.

Newsnight has run a couple of other reports on radical Islam in recent months. In October the programme scrutinised the evidence that was used in the Channel 4 documentary Undercover Mosque, and concluded that claims that the programme had distorted the facts were untrue – a judgement that was echoed by Ofcom soon after, and which will head off complaints that the programme’s exposé of the Policy Exchange’s dodgy receipts was based on an unwillingness to confront Islamism. Less happily, a year ago Newsnight ran an exposé of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir which relied on a very strange and questionable organisation known as the “VIGIL Network”, as I blogged here and here. Perhaps it was that experience which has led Newsnight to being rather more cautious and critical about where it gets information from.

Russian Religious Leaders Hail Putin and Medvedev

Following on from this blog entry, Interfax has a number of statements from Russian religious leaders on Vladimir Putin and his successor-in-waiting Dmitry Medvedev. There are a few caveats about not actually endorsing particular political parties, but the religious groups and leaders who have done well out of the Putin years make it clear where their loyalties lie. First up, Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, who enjoyed Putin’s support when the position of Chief Rabbi was in dispute:

Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar thinks that it will be ‘a great present’ if Vladimir Putin accepts to head the government after presidential elections 2008.

‘When president, Vladimir Putin has showed that he is equal to any task. If Putin considers the scenario offered by Dmitry Medvedev realistic, it will surely be a great present, if the government is headed by the most efficient statesmen in Russia’. Lazar told Interfax-Religion Tuesday.

However, Lazar’s toadying is rivalled by that of Damir Gizatullin:

…”During his years of being President, Vladimir Putin has raised social issues to the new principal level, and Dmitry Medvedev assists him to do it. It was an excellent union of the two outstanding politicians,” stated First Deputy of Muslim Religious Administration of Russian European Region, Damir Gizatullin to Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

A few weeks ago, the Council of the Muftis announced its plan to join a “National Movement in Support of President Putin”. Also predictably lavish in its praise is the Russian Orthodox Church, which is now resurgent and riding a crest of nationalism:

…’It is evident that both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are efficient statesmen, people trust them. The Church knows them as good partners in dialogue and cooperation’, the deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

Also:

…”Dmitry Medvedev has proved himself as a good first deputy prime minister, so if Putin proposes him, this is a weighed decision, which we hail,” [Patriarch] Alexy II told journalists at a conference in Moscow on Tuesday.

And:

…Members of the Union of Orthodox Citizens pin their hopes on nomination of First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for Russia’s president.

‘Professional ‘fighters with clericalism’ should be disappointed with Dmitry Medvedev as he is not only sympathetic with Orthodoxy, but he is a practicing Orthodox Christian’, the Union’s statement conveyed to Interfax-Religion on Tuesday reads.

Further:

…Medvedev “understands the need to preserve Russia’s moral and cultural traditions and the positive role of traditional religions in the public life of this country,” [the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations] said.

However, none of these characters go as far as a group profiled in Novosti:

The Bolshaya Elnya village in the Nizhny Novgorod Region is home to the “Rus’ Resurrecting” sect, a group of local residents who believe that President Putin was both the Apostle Paul and King Solomon in previous lives…The sect possesses a President Putin icon that [group leader Mother] Fontinya claims miraculously appeared one day.

Orthodox Ukrainians Protest Damien Hirst Exhibition

The Orthodox Church in the Ukraine is unhappy, according to a report in Interfax:

Ukraine’s Orthodox believers held a prayer manifestation in protest against an exhibition of the local businessmen Viktor Pinchuk in a Kiev art-center, which they considered blasphemous.

‘Orthodox demanded that the organizers should remove a blasphemous exposition named ‘Jesus and twelve apostles’. It is a horrific exposition, where ‘the holy apostles’ are presented as 12 cows and bulls heads placed in 12 aquariums with formalin’, the statement of the action organizers’ reads. It has been conveyed to Interfax on Friday.

..’Orthodox believers consider mocking at our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy apostles inacceptable [sic]. It insults the feelings of all Orthodox believers and all Christians’, the statement says.

The name of the artist is not given, but this is obviously Damien Hirst’s Romance in the Age of Uncertainty, which was exhibited in London in 2003. According to ArtFacts, the exhibition featured a number of cabinets:

…Each cabinet is dedicated to a single disciple, an abstract portrait of his own particular martyrdom. Since the bodies are missing, we as viewers must work backwards from the point of violent death to reconstruct a life and identity of the victim through the various traumas inflicted and through examination of the objects within the cabinets. At the base of each cabinet stands the corresponding Disciple represented by a sacrificial cow’s head that has been variously skinned, divided or inverted and preserved in formaldehyde in a glass tank. It is the inescapable factual reality of the cow’s heads; their incontestable presence, that seems to refuse imaginative entry, to arrest thought, and throw you back on yourself. Relief comes with the tank dedicated to the ascension of Jesus, where the cow’s head appears to have disappeared, leaving only a clear tank of formaldehyde.

The Daily Telegraph’s art critic gave a bit more context:

…What Hirst is doing, I think, is not in any conventional sense religious. Rather, he is giving concrete form to the stories he heard as a child. In doing this, he is telling us about the origins of his dark imagination…

The animal carcasses are used to show that the apostles were real people whose bodies were subject to corruption…For me, the works…have the immediacy of high baroque art and the vividness of religious writings from the Counter Reformation.

Victor Pinchuk, meanwhile, is a Ukrainian billionaire oligarch whose business success may owe much to the fact that his wife is the daughter of former President Leonid Kuchma. He is also an MP, so perhaps there is a political motive for the protests.

The Pinchuk Art Centre’s website is here.

Luther King III Joins Son of Rev Moon in Philippines Festival

Rally to call for “One Family Under God”

From the Philippines Inquirer:

Martin Luther King III and Hyun Jin Moon are scheduled to address participants of the Philippine leg of the Global Peace Festival 2007 slated for December 12, at the Quirino Grandstand of Rizal Park in Manila. Organizers said 250,000 will attend the festival.

Luther King, of course, is the son of Martin Luther King Jr and current head of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, while Moon is the son of Rev Sun Myung Moon, the leader of the Unification Church. Moon Jr is the co-chair of the Universal Peace Federation and heads  various organisations controlled by his father, including the Washington Times Foundation. The “Global Peace Festival” is just one of numerous international rallies and events by which Rev Moon and the Unification Church now seek extra credibility through “peace” rhetoric.

A promo for the festival can be seen below. Apparently the event is being endorsed by House Speaker Jose de Venecia (who recently fended off allegations concerning old business dealings), and by Leonida “Baby” Bayani Ortiz, the glamorous former governor of the Philippine National Red Cross and now national secretary of the National Council of Women of the Philippines.

Rev Moon has put considerable effort into forging links with black Christian leaders in recent years. Zambian former Roman Catholic cardinal Emmanuel Milingo now calls Moon “his Messiah”, while in the USA at least one African-American church leader was inspired to throw his church’s cross into a dumpster after hearing Moon’s teaching against the Christian symbol. Milingo and Independent Old Catholic Archbishop Augustus Stallings also work together in a Unificationist-backed lobby group called “Married Priests Now”. There are also links between Moon and Louis Farrakhan, which were examined by Frederick Clarkson back in 2000. An endorsement from somebody who embodies the legacy of Martin Luther King would doubtless be especially useful for the church’s wider strategy.

UPDATE: When I wrote the above I was unaware that Luther King has been associated with the UPF for several months. This press release is from September:

Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., today appealed to more 400 leaders of the Universal Peace Federation gathered in New York City to make a new commitment to fulfilling the humanitarian promises of the United Nations, especially the Millennium Development Goals. The UPF, founded by Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon in 2005, is an international network of individuals and organizations dedicated to peace…

Samoa Head of State Asks for Divine Forgiveness

Catholic event to “dedicate Samoa” in wake of Scientology visit

News from Samoa, via Radio New Zealand International:

On Friday, Samoa’s head of state is due to ask for divine forgiveness of his country’s sins for the first time, in a ceremony organised by the Catholic church.

The ceremony – based on a traditional ifoga formal apology – will take place outside the Parliament Building.

The aptly-named Father Penitito Mauga explains the context:

We have a lot of ups and downs, and also the influx of the new fashions and the new philosophies that are coming into Samoa. Also we have Scientology here, but who knows, other groups like that who don’t even believe in God will come also. So it’s about time for us to dedicate Samoa and also the archdiocese.

Scientologists arrived on the island several months ago to organise “disaster training” and to undertake a “goodwill tour“; this led to “hundreds” of Samoan Pentecostals marching in protest:

The protesters have called on the government to reconsider its stance to allow the Scientology members into the country as they would try to persuade many Christian believers to join the scientologists.

The Church had managed to gain some government approval and an endorsement from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Maliegaoi, which caused particular upset. The Catholic ceremony is perhaps his way of back-tracking.

Leading the ceremony will be Catholic Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga, who has been particularly keen on public events since he was appointed in 2002; in 2004 it was reported that his “inspiration has led to the creation of a 120 member cultural Christian musical show drawn from all denominations”. Rather unexpectly, this was organized through Initiatives of Change, which was formerly known as the controversial Moral Re-Armament.

In 2003 the Archbishop was among marchers protesting against the invasion of Iraq. Blogger American Idle added the interesting detail that

…the Samoan police swarmed through the throngs of students who were preparing to march and ripped up any sign that contained the word “war”. It was hardly a glowing example of freedom of speech in a country that apparently thinks it can’t afford to offend the USA.

However, Mataeliga is not himself completely on-board with the idea of freedom of speech, and last year he led efforts which saw the banning of The Da Vinci Code. He

…said the film would affect the belief of young people whose faith was not strong.

More predictably, last September saw him speaking out against condoms.

(Hat tip: Cult News Network)

Name variation: Archbishop Alapati Mataeliga