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God or mammon in Iran: Get Religion, April 8, 2013 April 9, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Iran, Islam.
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The New York Times article “Power Struggle Is Gripping Iran Ahead of June Election” offers a detailed examination of the Iranian political scene as the country prepares to elect a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Well written and intelligently crafted, the article, as the lede notes, discusses the:

power struggle ahead of the June election between Mr. Ahmadinejad’s faction and a coalition of traditionalists, including many Revolutionary Guards commanders and hard-line clerics.

However a religion ghost lurks beneath the surface of this front page story. A knowledgeable reader will be able to discern what lies behind the political dispute from the text of the New York Times story — but though the information is there the article will likely not inform the typical reader as to what is really happening.  The article does aptly summarize the recent moves by Pres. Ahmadinejad to undercut the power of his opponents. The Times notes:

At the funeral of Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan leader, he was photographed embracing the former president’s mother, a display that was denounced by the clerics, who forbid physical contact between unmarried men and women who are not closely related. But urban Iranians, many of whom have moved far beyond the social restrictions set by the Islamic republic, viewed his action as a simple gesture of friendship.

Despite his early advocacy of Islam’s role in daily affairs, the president is now positioning himself as a champion of citizens’ rights. “He more and more resembles a normal person,” said Hamed, a 28-year-old driver in Tehran who did not want his last name used. “He doesn’t allow them to tell him what to do.”

In speeches, he favors the “nation” and the “people” over the “ummah,” or community of believers, a term preferred by Iran’s clerics, who constantly guard against any revival of pre-Islamic nationalism. He has also said he is ready for talks with the United States, something other Iranian leaders strongly oppose under current circumstances.

Writing at Commentary magazine’s blog Jonathan Tobin argues the article’s liberal/conservative, left/right worldview masks the issues.

The differences between Ahmadinejad and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are, no doubt, quite real. But they ought not to be interpreted as a sign that the regime is in danger of falling or there is any significant divergence between them and their followers about keeping an Islamist government or maintaining the country’s dangerous nuclear ambitions.

But unfortunately that is probably the conclusion that many of the Times’s liberal readers will jump to after reading the piece since it brands Ahmadinejad and his faction as the “opposition” to the supreme leader. That may be true in the literal sense but, as even the article points out, that is the result of the fact that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei worked together to wipe out any real opposition to Islamist hegemony in 2009 as the United States stood silent.

The religion ghost materialize towards the end of the Times article when it touches upon Pres. Ahmadinejad’s support for Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as the next president of Iran.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s support of Mr. Mashaei, his spiritual mentor and the father-in-law of his son, is a particular stick in the eye for the conservatives, as well as a subtle appeal to more progressive Iranians. In messages filled with poetic language, Mr. Mashaei repeatedly propagates the importance of the nation of Iran over that of Islam.

Leading ayatollahs and commanders say that Mr. Ahmadinejad has been “bewitched” by the tall, beardless 52-year old, whom they have called a “Freemason,” a “foreign spy” and a “heretic.” They accuse Mr. Mashaei of plotting to oust the generation of clerics who have ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and of promoting direct relations with God, instead of through clerical intermediaries. He and his allies, they say, are part of a “deviant” current.

Buried in the paragraph above is the theological or ideological grounds the dispute between the two factions. In 2011 the New York Review of Books reported that Pres. Ahmadinejad’s clerical opponents “hate” Mr. Mashaei.

The mullahs who make up the country’s conservative establishment hate Mashaei because he is reputed to be in contact with the Twelfth Imam—a messianic figure who, according to the dominant branch of Shiism, has been in a state of “occultation” (in effect, hiding or concealment) since the tenth century.The ramifications of Mashaei’s alleged “gift” of having relations with the Twelfth Imam are enormous. Most Shia Muslims endorse a dynastic line of claimants to the leadership of Islam that began with Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, who was elected caliph in 656 and murdered five years later. There were eleven more of these hereditary imams, or guides, and all but one of them met a violent death at the hands of their enemies—the forebears of today’s Sunni community, who had rejected the dynastic principle and established their own caliphate. According to the Shia tradition, in 941 the Twelfth Imam was occulted, promising to reveal himself at an unspecified moment in the future to end vice and confusion.

The prospect of an infallible imam who might return at any moment (having miraculously retained his youth) holds obvious attractions for an embattled minority religious community, and the history of Shiism is full of controversial figures who have alleged—or let it be alleged on their behalf—that they have met the Twelfth Imam. But these claims are a challenge to Shia clerics, who regard themselves as the rightful intermediaries between God and the community. What if someone from the community claims to be in direct contact with the imam, and can transmit his wishes to society? In that case, the clergy becomes superfluous.

What are the motivations at work among the various actors? The prospect of financial gain or the accumulation political power are certainly present. But it is also important to stress the place of ideology or religion in the affairs of men. While the outward workings of the dispute between Pres. Ahmadinejad’s faction and the clergy are taking place on the material or carnal plain — I would argue the real battle is over revelation. How does God communicate to his creation?

Which leads to the journalistic question. How much context is too much? It is easy to report on power struggles — but hard to report on ideology, on motivation. I would argue that when reporting on a theocracy such as Iran the theological divisions are more important to understanding the story than any other factor. Can a reader understand story unfolding in Iran without an appreciation of the Twelfth Imam? No.

Yousef Nadarkhani re-arrested: Anglican Ink, December 27, 2012 December 27, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Iran, Persecution.
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Yousef Nadarkhani, the Iranian pastor jailed sentenced to death for apostasy from Islam but released after an international protest campaign was re-arrested at his home on Christmas Day, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports.

In a 26 December 2012 statement, CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We are disappointed to hear Pastor Nadarkhani has been returned to prison in such an irregular manner. The timing is insensitive and especially sad for his wife and sons, who must have been looking forward to celebrating Christmas with him for the first time in three years.”

Born in a non-practicing Muslim family, Mr. Nadarkhani (35) converted to Christianity as a young man and for ten years led of a network of house churches in Rasht in Iran’s Gilan province on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea.  On 12 Oct 2009 he was brought before a political tribunal after he complained about new government regulations requiring that his two sons be instructed in Islam.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Freed Iranian pastor travels to London to thank CSW for its support: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2012 p 6. December 7, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Persecution.
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The Iranian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy from Islam but released after three years imprisonment following an international protest campaign, was granted a special visa last month to travel to London to address Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s National Conference.

On 10 Nov 2012 Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani spoke to the For Such a Time as This conference through an interpreter thanking Christians in the West for their prayers and petitions on his behalf.

“It is the opportunity for me to share about what the Lord did for me and to thank you because you supported me by your prayers, you supported my family in a very difficult time,” he said.

“My prayer is I ask the Lord to bless you for what you did for me as a small member of the body of Christ. Today my presence here is the will of God and the result of what your prayers did for me.”

Last month’s trip, which included a visit to Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London, was the first for the Iranian Christian leader since his release from prison.  “It was a pleasure to welcome Pastor Nadarkhani to our conference and to hear his testimony of faith and perseverance, and of his love for God, for his family and for his nation. His quiet courage, integrity and lack of recrimination cannot fail to have inspired anyone who heard him to deepen their own commitment to their faith,” CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said.

First published in The  Church of England Newspaper.

Yousef Nadarkhani thanks Christians for their prayers: Anglican Ink, November 26, 2012 November 26, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Iran, Persecution.
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Yousef Nadarkhani, the Iranian pastor jailed sentenced to death for apostasy from Islam but released after an international protest campaign was in London this month to thank Christian Solidarity Worldwide for its advocacy on his behalf.

On 10 Nov 2012 Pastor Nadarkhani spoke to the For Such a Time as This conference through an interpreter thanking Christians in the West for their prayers and petitions on his behalf.  The following Sunday he preached at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, speaking to the plight of Christians in Iran.

He told the CSW conference his visit was an “opportunity for me to share about what the Lord did for me and to thank you because you supported me by your prayers, you supported my family in a very difficult time,” he said.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Iranian truths, Iranian lies: Get Religion April 19, 2012 April 19, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Bahá’í, Get Religion, Iran, Islam, Press criticism.
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called upon Iran last week not to proceed with its nuclear weapons program, warning that deployment of atomic weapons by Teheran would destabilize the Middle East, a story prepared by AFP reported.

Speaking at a dinner in Norfolk, Virginia Mrs. Clinton was quoted as saying:

There is no clear path. We know that a nuclear-armed Iran would be incredibly destabilizing to the region and beyond. A conflict arising out of their program would also be very destabilizing

The story continues in this vein: further warnings from the West, denials from Iran and so forth. It is rather a snooze in that this story has been written several dozen times before. I wrote a few of these for the Jerusalem Post at one time — but the Secretary of State was Condoleezaa Rice. Times, words and speakers change, but the same messages have been offered up by Obama and Bush Administration speakers.

What has this to do with GetReligion’s mandate? Where’s the hook, you ask? It comes towards the close of the story which the Telegraph entitled “Hillary Clinton warns nuclear-armed Iran would be ‘destabilising’.”

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in February that possession of a nuclear bomb “constitutes a major sin” for Iran, reiterating a fatwa – or religious edict – that he made in 2005.

Clinton revealed that she has been studying Khamenei’s fatwa, saying that she has discussed it with religious scholars, other experts and with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“If it is indeed a statement of principle, of values, then it is a starting point for being operationalised,” Clinton said in Norfolk.

As this was a wire service story that reported a speech given by the Secretary of State, the opportunities for AFP to develop the leads offered by Mrs. Clinton’s words are slight. However, I would have expected the Telegraph to have investigated this fatwa, which Commentary magazine called a “ruse” that had bought the Iranians five more weeks to develop the bomb.

Neither was the editor-in-chief of the London-based Arab newspaper, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat,  impressed by the U.S. government’s study of the fatwa. In an editorial entitled “The Security Council for Fatwas,” Tariq Alhomayed hammered Iran and stated Mrs. Clinton was naive and out of her depth —- not knowing that in Islam a believer may follow the principle of taqiyya to lie when facing danger.

it is absurd to talk about an Iranian fatwa when negotiating with Tehran, for countries – like individuals – have reputations and histories that cannot be ignored, therefore the reputation of a bad country, like the reputation of a bad individual, is not based on statements or fatwas, but rather past deeds! Therefore, when US Secretary of State Clinton talks about the Iranian fatwa, we can be certain that she has not heard about Iranian taqiyya [the practice of precautionary dissimulation emphasized in Shiite Islam whereby adherents may conceal their religion when under threat]!

… the claim that we can rely on a fatwa that prohibits the possession of nuclear weapons, reminds us of the famous Arab proverb: “the thief was asked to swear [his innocence], and he swore [falsely] and said “yes, this is the way out [of the predicament]!” If this fatwa is one of the merits of dialogue with Iran, then by God we are truly facing a disaster in the region!

I’ve written about the practice of taqiyya in GetReligion before, and have noted the Western press’s seeming inability to comprehend this practice. It may not matter in the great scheme of things if the Telegraph or the New York Times is unaware, or loathe to report on taqiyya. But when governments are clueless — that spells trouble.

As an aside, I had been thinking about the general question of fatwas before I read this article — and perhaps I chose it for that reason. A contact in Pakistan sent me a copy of a fatwa released by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that called upon Muslims to combat the Baha’i faith. My friend (an Anglican bishop in Pakistan) translated the letter, written on stationary from Khamenei’s office, as saying:

In the name of God All members of the Baha’i cult are guilty as being infidels and are regarded as “Najes” (an Islamic term for being inherently unclean/dirty), thus people are advised to avoid proximity in food and other things because of their contagious nature and it is paramount that the believers combat the schemes and devious nature of this misled cult.

I mention this in that the author of this Baha’i fatwa is the author of the no-nukes fatwa.

A wire service story is almost always limited by space and written for a general audience. I cannot fault AFP for not developing Mrs. Clinton’s remarks. But it would have improved the story tremendously, changing it from just another in a list of worthy diplomatic stories (a polite phrase for tedious) if the press had asked some questions. Mrs. Clinton consulted religious scholars: which ones? She spoke with the prime minister of Turkey: what did he, an Islamist, tell her? What is the weight of a fatwa from Khamenei? Is he credible? Is it comparable to a papal encyclical that must be followed, or is it an earnest wish? What is the implication of a London-based Saudi-backed newspaper saying taqiyya is something “those Shi’ites” do?

It is a shame that these angles were not addressed in the news sections, but only picked up in opinion pieces.

This a classical example of a religion ghost. The outward subject is nuclear proliferation. But the DNA of this story is one of religious restraint over the production and use of nuclear weapons.

Perhaps the author was a aware of the concept of taqiyya, but chose not to address the subject? In Western eyes taqiyya is inherently dishonorable. Yet how does one report upon this subject through Western eyes in a Western newspaper without loosing sight of the cultural and religious environment that produced a moral teaching that holds that the ends justify the means and that lying can be a moral good? Is this even a fair question?

What say you GetReligion readers?

Addendum: MEMRI reports that the no-nukes fatwa never existed — it was a propaganda ruse by the Iranian government. Curiouser and curiouser.

First printed in GetReligion.

Washington bishops in plea for prisoners’ release from Iran: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 23, 2011 September 28, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Washington.
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Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, © freethehikers.org

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Episcopal and Roman Catholic Bishops of Washington have travelled to Iran along with two American Muslim leaders to plead for the release of two American hikers imprisoned on espionage charges.

Bishop John Chane and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, along with the executive director,  Nihad Awad, and chairman, Larry Shaw, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) had been invited to Tehran to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian media reported.

The four were quoted by the Iranian press as having “voiced hope that their request for the release of the two Americans materializes, so that they could effectively work for the release of Iranians imprisoned there upon their return to America.”

Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were arrested on July 31, 2009 after they strayed into Iran while hiking along the Iraq-Iran border in Kurdistan.  Shourd was released last year “on humanitarian and medical grounds” and President Ahmadinejad on Sept 13 said the two other hikers would be released upon posting bail of $500,000.

On August 21, Bauer and Fattal were each sentenced to eight years in prison by a revolutionary court in Tehran on charges of espionage and illegal entry.  Shourd was also convicted in absentia.

A report in the state-run FARS news agency indicated the hikers release may be conditional upon the release of Iranians jailed in the US.  FARS stated “more than 60 Iranian nationals are being held in US prisons, 11 of them on political grounds and without any proof or evidence.”

The Iranian news agency said that during their meeting with President Ahmadinejad “the four American religious leaders expressed the hope that the trend of developments would move in a way that they can push for the freedom of the Iranian inmates in the US.”

Iran’s judiciary has not given any timetable for the release of Fattal and Bauer, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week said Washington had received word through a number of sources that their release was imminent.

It was reported this morning that the two would be released on bail later today.

Arrests mark new wave of persecution for Christians in Iran: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 14, 2011 p 7. January 16, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran, Persecution.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

In a series of pre-dawn raids on Christmas morning, the Iranian security services have arrested leaders of the Evangelical Christian movement in Tehran.  Twenty-five were detained, Elam Ministries said on Jan 5, with reports that another 50 had been arrested over the past two weeks.

The Governor of Tehran, Morteza Tamaddon, on Jan 4 told the state IRNA news agency “the leaders of this movement have been arrested in Tehran province and more will be arrested in the near future.”

Evangelical Christians were a danger to the state and a “corrupt” foreign influence, the governor said.  “Just like the Taliban, who have inserted themselves into Islam like a parasite, they have crafted a movement with Britain’s backing in the name of Christianity,” Governor Tamaddon said.

Approximately 200,000 or one percent of Iran’s population, belong to officially sanctioned groups that have historic ties to the region such as the Armenian, Assyrian and Catholic Churches.   The number of Protestant Christians is not clear.  In 1979, there were less than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran.  “Today the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 100,000 believers in the nation,” reports Elam Ministry—a British based Christian ministry to Persians.

On its website, Elam Ministries reported that on Christmas morning in Tehran the security services “forcefully entered the homes of Christians while they were asleep, and verbally and physically abused them. They were handcuffed and taken for interrogation. Among those arrested were five married couples. One couple was separated from their two-year old baby. Another couple was also forced to leave their baby that the mother was breast feeding. A number of single young women were also among those taken.”

“After many hours of interrogation, eleven of the detained were released. The other fourteen are still in prison. There has been no contact from eight of the arrested. Six have been able to make a very short call to their families. In one of the brief calls, one of the arrested complained that they are being subjected to sleep deprivation,” Elam Ministries reported.

Iran expert Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute has reported that his sources claim 601 Christian converts have been arrested in over the past four months.  “It’s a very big campaign,” he added.

Andrew Johnston, Advocacy Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW0, condemned the “brutal attack on evangelical Christians in Iran. The arrest of 70 members of one group reveals the clear targeting of individuals along religious lines. Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is therefore legally obligated to uphold international standards of religious freedom for all its citizens.”

“What’s most troubling about this wave of detentions is the fact that Iran is continuing its recent trend of targeting Evangelical Christians, which they’ve been doing for years, and also leaders from the recognized and protected Armenian Christian community,” said Leonard Leo of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The US government commission called on the “Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release those Christians who have been detained and urge[d] the U.S. government and international community to condemn these detentions and demand the detainees release.”

No charges have been filed against those still in custody, nor have they been afforded legal representation, Elam Ministries said, while the names of all those detained have not been made public by the Iranian government.

On Jan 5 Elam Ministries released the names and photographs of some of those arrested and urged “Christians all over the world to intercede for our brothers and sisters in prison in Iran.”

“Let us pray that they will experience the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, even in their prison cells,” it said, asking also that those in prison for their faith “will have supernatural endurance and courage through this trial, and be shining witnesses to the guards and other inmates. Pray for peace and wisdom when they are being interrogated. Pray for their health. Pray for comfort and confidence for their families. Pray they will soon be released.”

British Muslims told not to fight in Iraq: CEN 11.27.09 p 6. December 7, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Iraq.
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The Director of the Islamic Centre of England has called for British Muslims serving in the armed forces to quit the services, as it is ‘haram’, forbidden for them to fight fellow Muslims.

In an interview with the Times, Abdolhossein Moezi , who serves as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s Special Envoy to Britain said Muslims could not serve in Western armies when those armies were engaged in fighting Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Not only do I not accept it for Muslims to go there, I don’t accept non-Muslims to go there as well. We say that Muslims are not allowed to go and kill Muslims. Do you think Christians are allowed to go and kill Muslims?” Moezi told the Times last week.

Moezi explained that his role as leader of the Islamic Centre was to provide spiritual guidance to all British Muslims, encouraging them to become good British citizens. “My personal belief is that if Muslim migrants are better Muslims in this society, they can shape their individual lives in a better way and could be better members to this society,” Moezi said.

The Iranian cleric’s call is not likely to carry great weight in the British Muslim community, as the vast majority of British Muslims are Sunni and do not recognize the spiritual authority of Shia leaders such as Moezi.

Bishop in appeal for Iranian convert: CEN 11.27.09 p 6. December 1, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Iran.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali has called upon the Home Office not to deport an Iranian Christian living in exile in England, saying the man would be in danger if sent back to Iran.

Dr Nazir-Ali’s plea comes the day after two Iranian Christian women were released from Tehran’s Evin prison, Release International reports. Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, converts to Christianity from Islam, were jailed for 259 days for apostasy and Christian proselytising..

Bishop opposes Iranian deportation

The two were released from prison but still face trial. On Nov 19 Dr Nazir-Ali said he was “thankful” the two had been freed “without conditions of bail and pray that justice will be done for them and for others who are being held in Iran in due course.”

“At the same time it seems ironic that while Maryam and Marzieh have been released by the Iranian authorities, the Home Office in this country is proposing to deport an Iranian Christian,” he said. “Amir – not his real name – attends an Orthodox church in the north of England and is on the church committee. It seems clear that if he is deported he will face interrogation, arrest and possible imprisonment in Iran simply because he is a Christian.

“I appeal to the Home Office to allow Amir to remain free and to continue living in safety in this country,” Bishop Nazir-Ali said.

In June 2009, a legislative committee of the Iranian parliament, the Majlis, rejected a bill brought by the government of President Mahmoud Amadinejad mandating the death penalty for male apostates from Islam, and life imprisonment for female apostates. The country’s ruling Guardian Council, however, can overrule the legal and judicial commission of the Majlis and restore the penalty. Islam’s five major schools of jurisprudence, the Madh’hab, call for the death penalty for those who leave Islam for another faith.

Iran rejects death penalty for Muslims who convert: CEN 7.03.09 p 6. July 6, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Persecution.
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CEN Logo

A legislative committee of the Iranian parliament, the Majlis, has rejected a bill brought by the government of President Mahmoud Amadinejad mandating the death penalty for apostates from Islam.

Citing a statement released by the Iranian Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported by the BBC’s Persian language service on June 23, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) stated that Ali Shahrokhi of the Majlis’ Legal and Judicial Committee had toned down the bill.

Stoning apostates was not in the interests of the regime, Mr. Shahroki said. He told IRNA that “Islam has set a strict set of conditions for the implementation of punishments such as stoning, that they can rarely be proven. Hence the legal and judicial commission members concluded that some of these laws are unnecessary to mention.”

Islam’s five major schools of jurisprudence, the Madh’hab, call for the death penalty for those who leave Islam for another faith. However Islamic law distinguishes between apostasy of an adult and a child. The ‘Umdat as-Salik wa ‘Uddat an-Nasik (Reliance of the Traveler and Tools of the Worshipper), of the Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence as practiced by the Al-Azhar in Cairo rejects the death penalty for child apostates, as does the Hidayah, the Hanafi code that guides Muslim jurisprudence in India and Pakistan.

The proposed “Bill for Islamic Penal Law” would have been the first imposition of Shariah law on apostates codified in modern civil law. It would have divided apostates into two categories: parental and innate. Innate apostates were those whose parents were Muslim, made a profession of Islam—the Shahada-as an adult and then left the faith, while parental apostates were those born in non-Muslim families and converted to Islam as an adult, and then left the faith.

Article 225-7 stated the “Punishment for an innate apostate is death,” while Article 225-8 allowed a parental apostate three days to recant their apostasy. If they continued in their unbelief, “the death penalty would be carried out.” Women apostates were spared the death penalty, but would have been jailed until they recanted.

The revised Islamic Penal Law will now be returned to the Majlis for a second reading, and if passed sent to the country’s Council of Guardians for final review.

CSW’s Alexa Papadouris said they welcomed “this positive development in the progression of the Islamic Penal Code Bill. However, until the Islamic Penal Code Bill is finalized by the Iranian Parliament and Guardian Council, there is still a danger that the judicial committee’s revisions may not be taken into account.”

She urged the world community to continue pressing the Iranian government “to ensure that the final text of the bill does not include any punishment for apostasy.”

In December 2004, the Prince of Wales convened a meeting of Muslim and Christian leaders at Clarence House to address the death penalty for converts. The Bishops of London and Rochester, the Archbishop of Kaduna, an Orthodox bishop and the director of the Barnabas Fund met with representatives of the London-based Al-Khoei Foundation, the Islamic Society of Britain, and Dr. Zaki Badawi of the Muslim College in London.

Prince Charles’ efforts proved unsuccessful however as the Muslim delegation said non-Muslims should not speak publicly about Islam’s apostasy laws.

Melbourne Archbishop’s Khatami invite enrages Jews: CEN 3.27.09 March 27, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Islam, Judaism.
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A reception for the former president of Iran Mohammad Khatami hosted by the Archbishop of Melbourne has sparked protests from Jewish leaders. 

In a March 13 letter declining an invitation to tea at the home of Archbishop Philip Freier to meet President Khatami, the leader of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, John Searle urged the archbishop to cancel the reception, saying it was “inconceivable that the Anglican diocese would choose to host such a man or even to meet with him.”

However, Dr. Freier urged Jewish leaders to attend the reception, saying it would be an opportunity for dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Melbourne Archbishop’s Khatami invite enrages Jews

Archbishop denounces Iranian president as threat to peace: CEN 9.26.08 p 6. September 25, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran, Judaism.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has joined the Chief Rabbis of Israel in denouncing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel rhetoric, saying the Iranian leader’s calls for the destruction of the Jewish state were serious threat to world peace.

On Sept 10, Dr. Williams released a joint statement with Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger of Israel following a meeting at Lambeth Palace saying they were “distressed to note that the President of Iran continues to use threatening and derogatory language towards Israel.”

The Anglican and Jewish leaders called upon political, social and religious leaders to combat “religious or racial hatred.” Religious leaders had a “particular burden” to teach the “faithful to show respect and understanding towards other Faiths and their holy sites.”

The joint statement came at the close of the third meeting of the Anglican-Jewish Commission, an inter-faith dialogue organized by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Joining Dr. Williams were the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani and the Bishop of Clogher, the Rt. Rev. Michael Jackson—the Anglican co-chairman of the commission.

“Holy sites” must be “universally recognised as places that are free from violence, whether this is from external threats to security and access or from the use within them of language which incites violence,” Dr. Williams and the rabbis said.

President Ahmadinejad’s calls to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth” and for the destruction of the Jewish state, were an unbecoming example of sectarian hatred, they said.

Last week, the Iranian leader added to his repertoire of anti-Semitic comments, accusing Jews of secretly controlling international finance. Some 2000 Zionist atheists dominated the world’s financial centres and sought to suck dry the wealth of the world for their own nefarious purposes.

The Anglican-Jewish statement arose from the commission’s talks on “holy places”, and it was
“in this context” the critique of the Iranian leader was levelled.

Following the meetings at Lambeth Palace, the Bishop in Jerusalem met with representatives from the Board of Deputies of British Jews on Sept 11. Bisihop Dawani spoke to the good relations the Anglican Church in Jerusalem has with the other churches and faiths in Israel, noting that this interfaith work “creates special foundations for the peace process”.

Bishop Suheil stated he was optimistic about the prospects for peace in the Middle East, and endorsed British Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks’ idea of a “new covenant of trust and friendship” that could bring a society together.

Jon Benjamin, the Board of Deputies chief executive, said that “it is important that these peace initiatives should be better publicised as they are so valuable and worthwhile. They provide hope and are a practical means of fostering reconciliation which all of those who genuinely want peace should want to support.”

Iran makes it a capital offence to change faith:CEN 9.19.08 p 8 September 20, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran, Persecution.
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The Iranian parliament has passed the first reading of a bill that imposes the death penalty on Muslims who convert to another faith. By a vote of 196 to seven, with two abstentions, the Majlis passed the “Islamic Penal Law” bill on Sept 9.

The law, which will now be referred to committee for final drafting and possible amendment, mandates the death penalty for male adult Muslims who convert to another faith. Women converts are to be jailed for life. Those who practice witchcraft will also be condemned to death.

The law’s reach extends beyond the borders of Iran, and gives the government the authority to enforce the death penalty on any Muslim anywhere in the world who leaves the faith. While Iranian Islamic law, or Sharia law, provides for the execution of converts, the “Islamic Penal Law” would see these sanctions added to the country’s civil laws.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Iran makes it a capital offence to change faith

Bishop of Washington wants US and Iran to embrace tolerance: CEN 5.30.08 p 6. May 31, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Islam, Washington.
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Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Washington has urged the US government and Iran to set aside its inflammatory rhetoric and “embrace tolerance and sincere dialogue.”

Writing for the Common Ground News Service on May 13, Bishop John Chane, who has traveled twice to Iran to meet with Shia leaders, argued that the time had come for “for religious leaders in both countries to take the initiative to find ways to seek peaceful solutions to the complex problems that have plagued US-Iranian relations for years.”

The Washington Bishop’s call for dialogue comes amidst heightened tensions between the US and Iran. On May 8, Iranian President Mahoud Ahmadinejad likened Israel to a “stinking corpse.” In speech to Majlis members in Teheran, Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying Israel was little better than “dead rats,” adding that that those who “assist the Zionist regime, they will burn in fire.”

Speculation that the US might strike Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases near the border with Iraq has been rife in the wake of accusations that Iran and Hisbullah have been training Iraqi insurgents. On April 25 the chairman of the joint chiefs-of-staff Admiral Michael Mullen confirmed the US was capable of taking military action against the Revolutionary Guard to curb Teheran’s “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq.

While war with Iran would be “disastrous,” US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on April 21, however “the military option must be kept on the table, given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat.”

Bishop Chane said such “demonizing” rhetoric will not “ease the increasing tensions between our countries.” His experience with Shia leaders had produced “commonalities centred on issues of peace as well as the moral prohibition of developing and using weapons of mass destruction.”

“In addition to agreeing that politicians have been behaving childishly, my Iranian colleagues and I also think that the level of ignorance by Christians and Muslims about each other’s religions has been extremely unhelpful in extending positive dialogue between these two great monotheistic religions and our two nations,” the bishop said.

Religious dialogue, not power politics was the way forward, Bishop Chane argued.

“Members of the diplomatic corps on both sides need to acknowledge that they have been unable to broker a peaceful solution to the current crisis between our two countries and that it is time for some more creative solutions. A new 21st century understanding of Track II diplomacy, initiated through theological diplomacy, must go hand-in-hand with the formal diplomatic search for the peace that has always been at the centre of the Holy Books of both Christianity and Islam,” he said.

Baha’is are ‘spies’, says Iran: CEN 5.22.08 May 22, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Bahá’í, Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Persecution.
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The leaders of Bahá’í community pose a threat to state security, an Iranian government spokesman said on May 20, denying charges the government the mass arrest of the faith’s leadership was an act of religious persecution.

Government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham told the official IRNA news agency the “Friends”, the six unofficial leaders of the 300,000 member Bahá’í in Iran were working “against the national interest.”

The Bahá’í leadership team was “an organized establishment linked to foreigners, the Zionists in particular,” he said, denying their arrests were motivated by religious considerations.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Baha’is are ‘spies’, says Iran

Baha’i leaders arrested in Iran: CEN 5.16.08 May 16, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Iran.
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In a series of pre-dawn raids, the leaders of the Bahá’í community in Iran have been arrested by the security services.

In the early hours of May 14, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Tehran arrested five men and one woman, known as “The Friends,” who are responsible for coordinating the Bahá’í faith in Iran. The six were taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison, where they joined the seventh member of the leadership committee, who has been in police custody since March 5.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Baha’i leaders arrested in Iran

Iran introduces law that imposes death penalty on converts: CEN 2.08.08 February 8, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Islam, Politics.
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LEGISLATION has been brought by the government of President Mahmoud Amadinejad before the Iranian Majlis that would mandate the death penalty for apostates from Islam. The law’s reach would be worldwide, the legislation says.

The Washington think tank, the Institute on Religion and Public Policy reported on Feb 5 the proposed “Bill for Islamic Penal” law will be the first time that Iran has by statute mandated the death penalty for conversion from Islam.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Iran introduces law that imposes death penalty on converts

Rushdie row reaches Romania: CEN 1.11.08 p 6. January 10, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Free Speech, Iran, Islam.
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salman-rushdie.jpgPatriarch Daniel of the Romanian Orthodox Church has denounced the publication of a Romanian translation of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, saying the novel attacks the spiritual values and symbols of all religions.

On Dec 20 the Romanian publishing firm Editura Polirm Publications released 5000 copies of the novel, selling out the first print run by the end of the day. Patriarch Daniel released a statement on behalf of the Romanian Orthodox Synod that day saying the 1988 novel offended “spiritual values’ and “religious symbols” and called for it to be taken of the shelves of the country’s book stores.

The novel could be banned in Romania free speech activists fear as last year the government adopted a religious hate speech law. Article 13 of the speech code criminalizes “all forms, all means, all acts of animosity toward religion,” as well as “the public defamation of religious symbols.”

Iran’s Ambassador to Romania has also demanded the government ban the novel, saying it is a grave insult to Romania’s 100,000 Muslim citizens.

The FARS news agency of Tehran said Ambassador Hamid Reza Arshadi had demanded the government ban the book for disparaging Islam. The Iranian government also called on Romania’s Muslim minority to take “immediate and coordinated action” to “prevent distribution of the book.”

In 1989 the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling on all good Muslims to kill Rushdie and his publishers, or to assist in their murder. In 2006 the Iranian state news agency reported the fatwa remained in force.

Publication of the has proven a risky business for some overseas publishers. In 1991 the Japanese translator of the book stabbed to death, while the Italian language translator was seriously injured in a stabbing the same month. In 1993 an Islamist extremist almost succeeded in killing Rushdie’s Norwegian publisher.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Inter-faith response to Muslims: CEN 11.09.07 p 5. November 9, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Islam, Israel, Judaism.
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The Anglican Communion’s response to last month’s overtures from world Muslim leaders will be made in consultation with the leaders of Orthodox Judaism, a joint statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbis of Israel said last week.

The announcement came at the close of Dr. Williams’ Oct 31 flying visit to Israel and marks a significant opening toward cooperation and collaboration between the two faiths.

Joined by the Church of Ireland’s Bishop of Clogher, Dr. Williams met with Israel’s Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger and the Chief Rabbi of Haifa Shear Yashuv Cohen in the second of a series of inter faith dialogues initiated last year.

“These conversations are an invaluable opportunity to cement the relationship between our communities,” Dr. Williams said, and “build on the opportunities that inter religious cooperation provides. Our shared scriptural understanding led us to reaffirm our understanding of the Sanctity of Life. Dialogue and mutual respect are the seed beds within which understanding and common cause can flourish, sometimes, by the grace of God, in the most unpromising of circumstances.”

In a joint statement, Dr. Williams and the Jewish leaders expressed concern over the plight of Iraq’s Christian community and the “wellbeing of the ever increasing numbers of refugees from Iraq.”

They issued a call to Islamist terrorists to release kidnapped Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev, and Gilad Shalit, and denounced the “continuing use of aggressive language by President Ahmedinajad of Iran towards Israel” saying his rhetoric was “wholly unacceptable.”

The two sides noted that although the “recent letter from Muslim scholars and religious leaders”, a “Common Word” had been addressed to the churches, it “also makes clear its respect for Hebrew scripture in citing directly from the Book of Deuteronomy and in acknowledging the inspiration that this provided for their understanding of the Quranic teachings on the unity and love of God and of neighbour.”

“In promoting these values we commit ourselves and encourage all religious leaders to ensure that no materials are disseminated by our communities that work against this vision,” the Anglican and Jewish leaders said.

“We have agreed that in responding to the Common Word, it will be important to consider carefully together how the perspectives of Christians and Jews are properly held together,” the communiqué said.

Members of both Dr. Williams and the Chief Rabbis’ teams told The Church of England Newspaper they were pleased with the tone and content of the talks.

Chief Rabbi David Rosen, chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, told CEN, “the purpose of the “reciprocal visit between the principals is above all simply deepening the relationship and trust between them. Symbolically it is an important demonstration of the Archbishop’s dedication to dialogue and deepening the relationship with the Jewish People and his commitment to Israel’s wellbeing and desire to live in peace and security.”

Mixed Reaction to Iran Meeting: CEN 10.26.07 p 5. October 27, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran, Washington.
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The Bishop of Washington and the former secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council traveled to Iran earlier this month in a bid to support interfaith dialogue between Islam and the West.

The trip has sparked harsh comments in the US, with one right-wing news service calling the freelance diplomacy “ill-advised” and harmful to the Anglican Church in Iran.

A spokesman for Bishop John Chane and Canon John L. Peterson told The Church of England Newspaper that no statement would be issued from Washington about the trip and it remains unclear whether Bishop Azad Marshall of Iran was briefed on their excursion.

However, Iranian news agencies have hailed the meetings as a sign of solidarity against Zionism.  Following a meeting in Qom with Canon Peterson and Bishop Chane,  Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi told the Islamic Students News Agency (ISNA) on Oct 10, that the “Zionist media are waging a negative propaganda campaign” against his country.

“The Zionists spread a negative picture of Islam among the Christians, and a negative picture of Christians among Muslims,” he added saying the visit by US Episcopalians helped counter this view.  “We should have more meetings to neutralize this negative campaign by the Zionists.”

Ayatollah Shirazi told the Mehrs News Agency that “clerics of divine religions should interact and meet with each other and push the world toward peace and security through joint thinking,” and pointed to the visit by the Bishop of Washington as a sign that religious leaders can help foster global peace.

Bishop Riah and Ahmadinejad at the UN October 16, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Album (Photos), Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran.
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bishop-riah-and-ahmadinejad.JPG

The former Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu al-Assal greeting the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an Iftar dinner in New York on Sep 25.

Middle East Bishop makes appeal for reconcilliation to Iran President: CEN 10.19.07 p 9 October 16, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran.
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The former Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu al-Assal has urged the president of Iran to work toward reconciliation between the Muslim world and the West.

Bishop Riah told The Church of England Newspaper he challenged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a dinner honoring the Iranian president in New York last month “to open wide the doors of dialogue and to welcome a delegation of religious leaders” to Iran to pursue peace.

“The breaking of bread, especially during the month of Ramadan, must remind us not only of those without bread, but also the urgent need to break down barriers, pull down separation walls; and replace these with bridges of understanding on the way to healing, peace and reconciliation,” Bishop Riah told the Iranian president.

President Ahmadinejad told Bishop Riah he welcomed the overture from the Anglican Communion for dialogue between the West and Islam.

The Iranian president was in New York from Sept 24-26 to address the United Nations and to give a lecture at Columbia University. Plans for the Iranian president to visit the sight of the former World Trade Center towers and the 9/11 memorial were vetoed by the New York police commissioner and caused a brief flurry of outrage from politicians angered by the proposal.

During the “iftar” dinner at the Hilton Hotel in mid-town Manhattan, given by New York’s Iranian community for the president, Ahmadinejad spoke on a variety of topics.

He lambasted as historically inaccurate the movie the “300″, which recounted the Greek victory at Thermopylae over the Persians and then moved on to a discussion of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions saying, “Iranians have never tried to oppress anyone.”

In a television interview recorded upon his return to Tehran, President Ahmadinejad said Iran wanted to form “cordial relations” with the US, but that it first must get over 9/11.

The 9/11 attack on New York was a result ofthe inhuman management of the world” he said, according to a translation provided by the MEMRI. He did not want America to “turn this incident, in 20 years’ time, into another false idol like the Holocaust, which they would use as a pretext to kill people, and to prevent anybody from opening this [Pandora's] box and examining what really happened in this incident.”

Archbishop: “Don’t bomb Iran”: CEN 10.12.07 p 8. October 10, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran.
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ahmadinejad-un.jpgThe Archbishop of Canterbury has denounced suggestions of a preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, saying it would upset the region’s security balance and bring misery to its peoples.

Speaking to the BBC after his return from Damascus, Dr. Williams said that “When people talk about further destabilisation of the region – and you read some American political advisers speaking of action against Syria and Iran – I can only say that I regard that as criminal, ignorant and potentially murderous folly.”

“We do hear talk from some quarters of action against Syria and Iran. I can’t understand what planet such persons are living on, when you see the conditions that are already there,” he said.

In a statement released upon his return from Syria, Dr. Williams described as ‘heartbreaking and harrowing’ a meeting he held in Syria with 200 Christian Iraqi refugees. He told the refugees he would share their plight with the West, and upon return to Britain said their situation required urgent attention.

“Security that will enable these people to return to Iraq depends on a settlement for the whole of that country guaranteeing the liberty and dignity of every minority.”

Lambeth Palace has also denied the veracity of accounts printed by the official Syrian news agency, SANA, of Dr. Williams’ trip to Damascus. SANA reported that in talks with the Archbishop, the Grand Mufti of Syria “pointed out the Israeli suppressive practices in the occupied Palestinian territories which violated all religious laws and international norms, reviewing what Iraq is witnessing of ordeals and catastrophes under the occupation.”

Dr. Williams’ office denied this took place, saying his talks with the Grand Mufti “concerned issues internal to Syria and focussed on the secular character of the Syrian constitution.”

NZ Churches in Plea for Iranian Convert: CEN 8.24.07 p 9. August 24, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Church of England Newspaper, Immigration, Iran.
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NEW ZEALAND’S Anglican Archbishops have issued an appeal for clemency for a failed asylum seeker who risks deportation to Iran.

On Aug 17 Archbishops David Moxon and Brown Turei called upon the government to grant Ali Panah refugee status. A convert to Christianity from Islam, Panah faces grave risks if returned to Tehran, the Archbishops said.

Panah has been held by the New Zealand government in administrative detention for 18 months, and began a hunger strike over 40 days ago to protest about his pending deportation.

“As things stand, we fear Mr. Panah will, in the near future, either die at home in Iran – or die here in New Zealand,” the Archbishops wrote. “We ask the Minister for Immigration to give him life.”

The Anglican Church leaders affirmed the government’s duty to regulate immigration but said its first priority should be to do “justice. And to deliver justice also requires the exercise of mercy.”

“There is a need for the Government and its officials to take more seriously the concerns about the ongoing persecution of Christians in Iran,” and to grant clemency to Ali Panah.

Immigration Minister David Cunliffe last Monday said the hunger strike had had the benefit of the ‘full rights of the law in respect of his refugee claim and appeal,’ but declined to state whether he was considering granting him a temporary visa.

The populist New Zealand First party’s immigration spokesperson Peter Brown on Aug 17 urged the government not to grant Panah asylum.

Some asylum seekers were trying to “rort the system” by converting to Christianity, he said. “While some may have genuinely found Christianity, it appears somewhat convenient that others have converted to Christianity during the refugee claims and appeal process.

“If this is the case then such stunts are not acceptable and demean genuine refugees,” said

Mr Brown. However, Panah’s vicar, the Rev Clive Sperring, said he had “no doubt whatsoever that his faith is genuine.”

Bishop Pope: Catholic Movement at an end. TLC 8.10.07 August 10, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Fort Worth, Iran, Living Church, Roman Catholic Church.
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The Catholic movement in The Episcopal Church has degenerated from a theological imperative into haberdashery, the retired Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Clarence C. Pope, Jr., told a reporter for The Living Church, explaining his departure to the Roman Catholic Church.

On Aug. 6, Bishop Pope wrote to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, resigning from the House of Bishops, and telephoned his successor, the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, to announce his decision.

Bishop Pope said the Catholic movement, which has been part of “Anglicanism from the time of the Elizabethan Settlement, has gradually dissipated until we are left with lots of ‘catholic’ vestments worn in areas of The Episcopal Church where ‘low church’ used to be the order of the day.”

The movement has reached its end within the current institutional structures of The Episcopal Church, Bishop Pope asserted, and as a matter of conscience, it was time for him to go.

“Without the stable center provided by the Holy See of Peter,” he said, the Catholic movement within the church will “ultimately die away.”

The culprit in what he believes to be the death of Anglo-Catholicism is the usurpation of powers and prerogatives by General Convention. Bishop Pope argued that over the past generation, the “vote” in General Convention had led to the triumph of “political correctness” over sound doctrine. The vision of corporate reunion “put forth by Pope Paul VI and Archbishop [of Canterbury Michael] Ramsey can now never be realized.

“General Conventions are not General Councils but they have come to behave as such,” he said. “Doctrinal changes concerning holy matrimony, holy orders, and matters of sexual morality have put The Episcopal Church outside the limits of the Vincentian Canon, and marginalize everyone within it from the Catholic world.”

Bishop Pope said he regretted his return to The Episcopal Church in 1995, after having spent a year as a Roman Catholic. He explained that shortly after he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, “I was discovered to have advanced prostate cancer and that because it had spread so aggressively, I probably would not survive.”

The series of chemotherapy treatments and radiation he underwent left him “very impaired in my thinking,” he explained. The toll of his treatment and his tepid reception from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, which had refused him ordination as a priest, provoked depression.

“In the midst of all this sense of losing any awareness of belonging, Presiding Bishop Ed Browning called to see how I was,” Bishop Pope said. His classmate from the 1954 seminary class at Sewanee encouraged him to return to The Episcopal Church.

“Needing some ground of belonging, I gave in to his nudging and, as he claimed never to have received my letter of resignation, I drifted back to The Episcopal Church,” Bishop Pope said. He asserts now that “being of sounder emotional stability and out from under a fog bank of severe depression, I would never have made such a return.”

He characterizes his move to Rome not a rejection of Anglicanism but as a culmination of a spiritual journey.

“My love of Anglicanism is very deep,” he said, and it had “shaped and brought me to my present understanding” of the faith. Joining the Roman Catholic Church is “the final step for which this preparation was, I think, intended,” and was “by a desire for wholeness and settlement in the home I believe God has erected.”

Published in The Living Church.

Tensions Between Church and Government in Iran Easing: CEN 6.01.07 p 7. May 31, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Interfaith, Iran.
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Bishop Riah and Bishop Azad Marshall in Teheran

The Bishop in Jerusalem Riah Abu al-Assal and the vicar-general of Iran, Bishop Azad Marshall in Teheran meeting with Ministry of Religion and Culture officials

The Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu al-Assal reports tensions between the Anglican Church in Iran and the government appear to be easing.

Writing to supporters following a May 2-8 visit to Teheran, Bishop Riah stated, “I left Iran with a more joyful and hopeful Anglican Christian community. The door that was closed for almost 30 years has been opened.”

Welcomed to Teheran by the Church’s Episcopal vicar, Pakistani Bishop Azad Marshall, Bishop Riah met with representatives of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ministry for Culture and Religion, holding talks over a rapprochement between the Church and the Iranian government.

Following the 1979 revolution, 30 of the Diocese’s schools, churches and hospitals were seized by the government and the Church was actively persecuted by the regime. With the retirement of the Bishop of Iran Iraj Mottahedeh in November 2004, the country was left without any active clergy.

In 2005 the Church of Pakistan’s suffragan bishop for the Arabian Gulf was appointed Episcopal Vicar for the diocese by Archbishop Clive Handford, Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Bishop Azad Marshall, who will be consecrated Bishop of Iran on Aug 5, reports the churches in Teheran, Isfahan and Jolfa now have resident clergy, while the parish in Shiraz is served by a lay reader.

Writing in the Provincial newsletter, Bishop Marshall stated the Iranian “authorities see me as someone from a neighbouring Islamic country, who understands Islamic values,” and does not view the Anglican Church as “a foreign body serving foreign purposes and interests.”

During the Danish cartoon controversy Bishop Marshall stated he had an opportunity to speak with former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who subsequently visited Lambeth Palace in 2006, “and during this visit he assured me of his support for the Church,” he noted.

While none of the properties seized by the government has yet been returned to the Church, negotiations are underway, Bishop Marshall reported. “The constitution and list of all the properties have been submitted to the government. Government officials inform me that they are interested in registering the Anglican Church in Iran as well as considering releasing our confiscated properties.”

Bishop Riah noted that he had “truly left Iran with a different impression” than that proffered in the Western media and encouraged continued dialogue between the West and Iran. “The drums of war must be hushed. The voice of peace must ring aloud. Co-Existence is the map; and Peace is the road. It is time for a historical march,” he said.

UK experts wary of preemptive Iran hit: JP 5.25.07 May 25, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Jerusalem Post.
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A preemptive military strike would accelerate and not stop the production of a nuclear weapon by Teheran, Iran experts have told the British government.

Teheran is “between five and 10 years” away from producing a nuclear weapon, Dr. Frank Barnaby of the Oxford Research Group told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee during hearings Wednesday on the foreign policy implications of Iran’s nuclear program.

Read the rest of the article in the Jerusalem Post

Europe—Majority Supports Strike on Iran: JP 4.08.07 April 8, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Iran, Jerusalem Post.
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Over half of Europeans would support a preemptive military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a poll released last week by a London think-tank reports.

A survey commissioned by the pro-business think tank, Open Europe, found that a majority of those surveyed in 18 EU member states including France and Britain, backed military action as an option in dealing with the threat of Iranian nuclear proliferation, while majorities in 9 nations including Germany and Spain were opposed.

Read it all in the Jerusalem Post.

Israel urged to end nuclear ambiguity: JP 3.12.07 March 12, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Jerusalem Post.
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Israel should pursue a strategy of “open nuclear deterrence” towards Iran if international attempts to curtail Teheran’s nuclear ambitions fail, a London think tank argues in a report to be released Monday.

Openly declaring its nuclear weapons stockpile and laying out the conditions of their use in the event of an Iranian attack is an option worth considering, a report published by the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House) stated, “if it is conceded that diplomatic efforts are doomed to fail, yet the price of war is too high.”

Read it all in the Jerusalem Post.

UK Conservative Leader talks tough on Iran: JP 2.01.07 February 2, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Iran, Jerusalem Post.
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The West should not rule out the use of military force against Iran, William Hague, the British Conservative party’s shadow foreign secretary, said this week.

In an address to the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House) outlining the foreign policy the Conservatives would follow if they oust Labor, he called for “peaceful pressure” and tough financial sanctions against the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to help end Teheran’s nuclear ambitions.

Read it all in the Jerusalem Post.

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