Religious Diversity News

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Zhelev: “Non-Traditional” Religions Not a Threat Unless Threat to Public Order or Security

Source: The Sofia Echo

On March 12, 2004 The Sofia Echo published an interview with Ivan Zhelev, the Cabinet’s director of religious affairs, “about the split in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and religious tolerance in Bulgaria.” When asked, “Do you think that the sects and their followers have decreased recently? To what extent does this phenomenon represent a threat to Orthodox religion in Bulgaria, and the people and statehood?” Zhelev replied, “The term ‘sect’ offends the ear of many people in Bulgaria due to its negative connotations. Therefore, I prefer to talk about non-traditional religions or religious doctrines, for example. It is a fact that some of them were discouraged by the indifference of Bulgarians towards their doctrine. These religions or doctrines are not dangerous if they do not teach ideas that could threaten public order and security, the health or lives of people. Such a threat has been tracked by competent authorities in the activities of some Islamic groups that are not traditional for our country, and measures were taken to neutralise them. But one way or another the state of religion in Bulgaria is comparatively stable.”

Zimbabwe: ‘Jews to Be Airlifted Out’

Author: Ralph Mutema

Source: The Zimbabwe Guardian

A MISSION to airlift some members of the Zimbabwean Jewish community to Israel is alleged to have been launched by the Jewish Agency, according to a report published in the Jewish Chronicle.

“Staff have spoken individually to every member of the 350-strong community and are believed to be making arrangements for their removal at short notice,” reports the paper.

The details of the airlift are said to be a closely guarded secret. Zimbabwe and Israel have close diplomatic ties although there is no Jewish embassy in the country.

Zimbabwe: Zim Traditional Healers Take Their Trade to UK

Author: Staff Writer


A number of Zimbabwean traditional healers have set up base in the United Kingdom and have reported brisk business.

In Bexleyheath, South East London, Sekuru Mutero (49), has set up his office and confirms that more and more Zimbabweans living in London are turning to him in search of good fortune. I visited him at his two-bedroom rented house last week to ask how it all started.

Clad in an expensive grey tracksuit and Adidas sports shoes, I asked him why he was not wearing the traditional black robes associated with traditional healers back home.

“The opportunity to help my compatriots was too attractive to ignore,” he said. “Getting into traditional healing was a calling. It all started one Saturday night when I received healing powers in my dreams.”

His most intriguing experiences include helping couples trying to conceive and those trying to win back their loved ones.

Zimbabwe’s Rulers Unleash Police on Anglicans


Source: The New York Times

The parishioners were lined up for Holy Communion on Sunday when the riot police stormed the stately St. Francis Anglican Church in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Helmeted, black-booted officers banged on the pews with their batons as terrified members of the congregation stampeded for the doors, witnesses said.

A policeman swung his stick in vicious arcs, striking matrons, a girl and a grandmother who had bent over to pick up a Bible dropped in the melee. A lone housewife began singing from a hymn in Shona, “We will keep worshiping no matter the trials!” Hundreds of women, many dressed in the Anglican Mothers’ Union uniform of black skirt, white shirt and blue headdress, lifted their voices to join hers.

Beneath their defiance, though, lay raw fear as the country’s ruling party stepped up its campaign of intimidation ahead of a presidential runoff. In a conflict that has penetrated ever deeper into Zimbabwe’s social fabric, the party has focused on a growing roster of groups that elude its direct control — a list that includes the Anglican diocese of Harare, as well as charitable and civic organizations, trade unions, teachers, independent election monitors and the political opposition.

Anglican leaders and parishioners said in interviews that the church was not concerned with politics and that it counted people from both the ruling party and the opposition in its congregations. Yet the ruling party appears to have decided that only Anglicans who follow Nolbert Kunonga — a renegade bishop in Harare who is a staunch ally of President Robert Mugabe — are allowed to hold services.

Over the past three Sundays, the police have interrogated Anglican priests and lay leaders, arrested and beaten parishioners and locked thousands of worshipers out of dozens of churches.

Zionist Organization of America Wants Investigation of LA Human Relations Committee Regarding Award for Muslim Leader

Source: Los Angeles Times,1,4470623.story

On September 13, 2006 the Los Angeles Times reported, “The Zionist Organization of America asked for an investigation Tuesday into allegations that the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission violated state open meeting laws when it selected a local Muslim leader for its annual humanitarian award.

Stephen Saltzman, executive director of the Zionist organization’s Southern California office, said the commission failed to post in advance proper details of two July meetings at which the issue was discussed, as required by the state open meeting law known as the Brown Act. As a result, he argued, the decision to grant the award to Maher Hathout, chairman of the Islamic Center of Southern California, was ‘null and void.’

The organization asked for the investigation in a letter Tuesday to Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Antonovich.

‘The Brown Act gave the public the right to know and to participate in the decision-making process,’ Saltzman said. ‘We intend to pursue this until we’re satisfied.’

Similar complaints were made by StandWithUs, a pro-Israel organization, and others to the supervisors at their meeting Tuesday.

County Counsel Ray Fortner’s office is reviewing the allegations, according to a board source.

Commission President Adrian Dove said there was ‘no substance’ to the allegations. He and another commissioner, the Rev. Zedar E. Broadous, said proper notifications had been issued before both meetings.

The selection of Hathout as the first Muslim to win the award has sparked intense controversy over whether his criticism of Israel, statements supportive of Hezbollah, and other political views should disqualify him for the award. The commission is set to vote Monday on whether to reaffirm or rescind the award.

But Saltzman and others said the commission’s July 10 meeting notice failed to include any agenda item notifying the public that nominations for the award would be taken, discussed and voted on.”

Zogby Poll: Muslims and Jews in Israel Share Values

Source: Zogby International

On April 7, 2004 Zogby International reported, “A new global religion study by the University of Rochester and Zogby International of 11 different religious groups shows that people around the world hold many similar values, and are very similar in steps they would take to achieve their personal goals. In Israel, Jews and Muslims consider being well educated (91%) of highest importance, followed by achieving economic security (89%), and spending time with family (87%).  The least important personal goal of both religious groups was being active in politics, and they are divided overall on whether being actively religious is important or not. University of Rochester’s Dean William Scott Green noted: ‘This study revealed a large number of interesting facts and trends, and we are still sorting them all out. Among Jews and Muslims in Israel, there are few differences in their values, and certainly nothing to suggest any basic incompatibility between the religious groups.’ When separated by religious belief, Israeli Muslims and Jews share their belief in the importance of most personal goals, yet differ on a few.  Being well educated is the primary goal of Muslims, and the second most important of Jews, who rank the achievement of economic security as most important.  Economic security ranks a close 4th among Muslims.”

Zoning Battle Erupts Over Hindu Temple in New Jersey

Source: Home News Tribune,21282,923625,00.html?sec=main?=centraljersey

On March 12, 2004 Home News Tribune reported, “More than 30 Edison residents and the township’s engineer crowded into Borough Hall last night to oppose construction of a Hindu temple they say will disrupt their peaceful neighborhood.

The International Swaminarayan Satsang Organization wants to erect a one-story, 14,000-square-foot temple on a 6.7-acre plot in South Plainfield, near the Edison border. Fleet Avenue, the lone roadway to the site, cuts across six dead-end streets in a quiet Edison neighborhood.”

Zoning Battle for a Chapel in Hawaii

Source: First Amendment Center

Wire Service: AP

On November 30, 2004 the Associated Press reported, “after 10 years, two denials, a federal lawsuit and a contested case hearing, a small rural congregation has won a permit to build a chapel on its property. The Maui County planning commission first denied Hale O Kaula a special-use permit to build on its property, which is zoned for agricultural use, in 1995. Earlier this month the commission unanimously approved the permit, following a nine-hour meeting. Conditions for the permit include limiting both service hours and attendance at weekly meetings and four special annual events. In turn, the church dropped a federal lawsuit against the county and was to receive an undisclosed payment from the county, covered by insurance.”