News Briefs

Episcopal News Service. September 27, 2001 [2001-275]

Church leaders warn against relaxing human rights standards

(ENS) The Episcopal Church is joining other religious and human rights advocates in a letter to members of Congress encouraging them to "maintain reasonable human rights guidelines in intelligence operations." While expressing an "understandable rush to address potential security threats" in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the letter said that the nation "must not rush to take steps that we will later come to regret. It is in times of crisis that our commitment to democracy, civil liberties and human rights is tested."

The letter pointed to the Leahy Law that governs training and assistance to foreign military forces. It prohibits assistance to foreign security forces known to engage in serious human rights violations. "The United States should continue to rely upon the Leahy Law as a valuable tool to influence governments to respect human rights and bring to justice military personnel who violate the rule of law." Abandoning the law "would send precisely the wrong message--that human rights is not a priority for the United States," the letter concluded.

"While intelligence collection and analysis must obviously be improved, human rights considerations regarding intelligence relationships and covert action continue to be crucial," the letter added. "As lawmakers, like all of us you are struggling to make sense of the terrible events of September 11 and to adapt to a new and harsher reality. We urge you in this difficult moment to continue to exercise your responsibilities to oversee executive action, and not to lose sight of the nation's ideals of democracy, liberty and respect for human rights in your search for a strong response."

Anglican Indigenous Network supports Alaska's Gwich'in on drilling controversy

(ENS) At its meeting in Australia, the Anglican Indigenous Network passed a resolution supporting the Gwich'in people of Alaska in "their opposition to the exploration and drilling for natural resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge of Northeastern Alaska. The threat and potential destruction of their lifelines-the Porcupine Caribou-means the destruction of the life of Gwich'in traditions and their fundamental human rights. It is inexcusable to extinguish the livelihood of a people," the resolution said.

The network also "reaffirms its commitment to the mutual concerns of the indigenous peoples within the Anglican Communion for self-determination." It also called for "establishment of national indigenous bishops for indigenous ministry," pledging its support through advocacy, education, development of strategies and other means of support.

Canadian church leaders angry at release of government poll results

(ENI) Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United Church officials are angry with the release of the results of a controversial poll commissioned by the federal government, arguing that it threatens talks underway to resolve charges of abuse at residential schools for indigenous youth. The churches are facing about 7,000 lawsuits brought by those who allege that they were abused sexually, physically or culturally at the residential schools operated by the churches on behalf of the government from 1820 to 1969.

The poll was released by Shawn Tupper, who heads the government's Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution of Canada. He said that the poll indicated that most Canadians believe churches and the government should split or share the cost of compensation. The poll also indicated that most of those who responded consider it "perfectly acceptable" that churches sell their assets to settle the lawsuits. Nearly 40 percent of those polled said that they did not believe the Anglican Church of Canada's claim that it risked financial ruin in its effort to pay for costs of litigation.

"The release of a seven-month-old poll of dubious quality is a serious bad-faith maneuver by government officials that threatens to reverse the progress that has been made in dialogue and negotiation over the past 12 months," said Sister Marie Zarowny, who chairs the Roman Catholic task group dealing with the issue.

This poll strikes me as a nasty bit of bureaucratic mischief, based on cooked questions designed to take advantage of the public's lack of understanding of the complexities of this issue."

Church leaders had a "furious reaction" after release of the poll, according to Tony Whittingham, communications officer of the Anglican Church of Canada. The Rev. Jim Boyles, general secretary of the General Synod Council, said that releasing the poll results on the eve of a scheduled meeting between representatives of the church and government "represent a reprehensible breach" of an understanding that negotiations wouldn't be conducted in the press.

Archbishop of Canterbury expresses deep respect for Islam

(ACNS) Archbishop of Canterbury George L. Carey has called for "the building of bridges not walls" with Britain's Muslim communities and expressed his deep respect for Islam.

"At a time when many Muslims in this country are living in fear, I want to say loud and clear that as a Christian leader I deeply respect your faith and believe that our common duty is to extend the hand of friendship and to build bridges not walls."

In remarks prepared for a dinner at Lambeth Palace in honor of the Lord Mayor of London, Carey added, "Very few people here regard the events of last week as having anything to do with the true values of Islam. Such actions negate the tenets of Islam as they do of Christianity." He also pointed to the loss of British men and women in the terrorist attacks.

At an earlier service of remembrance at St. Paul's Cathedral, Carey said, "For the flower of democracy to flourish it must grow in the soil of justice. Those responsible for such barbaric acts must be held to account. But we must be guided by higher goals than mere revenge. As we battle with evil, our goal must be a world where such violence is a thing of the past."

Episcopal Church Women will offer resources on Islam

(ENS) The national board of the Episcopal Church Women has announced the extension of its Call to Action to include a network of information and education resources on Islam.

Pointing to its "long-standing and effective network of communication" throughout the church, board member Susan Russell said that "we have a unique opportunity in these challenging times to offer resources for dialogue, education and outreach to the church at large." Already available on the ECW website at is a concise background on Islam, links to Islamic web resources, and suggestions for dialogues at the local level and expect soon to be able to provide age-appropriate curriculum for youth. "Our purpose is two-fold," said Russell, who chairs the Call to Action Task Force. "First, we believe we must better educate ourselves about Islam in order to challenge the misinformation and dangerous stereotyping which has so tragically emerged from the events of September 11. Secondly, as we network with members of the Islamic community, through prayer, dialogue and mutual community outreach, we have the opportunity to model Christian community in action."

Media Center has resources for churches in aftermath of terrorist attacks

The Episcopal Media Center (EMC) has several resources available to assist parishes in the aftermath of the events of September 11.

Two are videos for adult Christian education: "Towards Understanding Islam: A Perspective for Christians" and "Christianity and Terrorism." Both sell for $19.95 plus shipping.

"Towards Understanding Islam" is an hour-long program in three parts. Produced in 1991 following the Persian Gulf War, it features the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Cragg, former bishop of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and expert on Islam, and the Rev. Benjamin Weir, a Presbyterian missionary to Lebanon and a former hostage held 16 months by Shiite Muslim extremists.

"Christianity and Terrorism," a program in six 10-15 minute parts with built-in study questions, was produced 15 years ago but can be helpful in understanding these times. The program features Moorhead Kennedy, who was in the U.S. Foreign Service when the American embassy in Tehran was seized in 1979. He was held captive for 444 days. An Episcopalian, he has published and lectured on Islamic law, the significance of the modern-day Islamic resurgence and terrorism.

During the week following the terrorist attacks, the Atlanta-based Episcopal Media Center, in association with "The Protestant Hour" radio program, released an unprecedented special recording, "Out of the Ashes…Hope." Featuring a sermon preached September 16 by the Very Rev. Samuel G. Candler of the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, the program was distributed on compact disc to nearly 1,200 radio stations nationwide as a public service.

Television and radio spots produced by the Media Center are airing for six weeks in the Washington, DC area. Their messages-"In God's love all things can bloom again" and "With God's fire in your heart, your light can shine through the darkness"-are "particularly timely during this period of sadness, grief and uncertainty," said the Rev. Louis C. Schueddig, president and executive director of the Episcopal Media Center.

For more information, contact the Episcopal Media Center, 1-800-229-3788 or