FORMER SOVIET UNION
‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Warning Sounded
Western Christians are failing to respond to genocide of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, says Baroness Caroline Cox, who recently led a relief delegation sponsored by the Washington-based Christian Solidarity International (CSI).
Cox, deputy speaker of the British House of Lords, urged American intervention in the “ethnic cleansing” of Christian Armenians in the Azerbaijan enclave. Cox says the more powerful Muslim Azeris have killed 3,200 Armenian civilians in the past two years in Nagorno-Karabakh pogroms.
“The Christians of Karabakh feel fairly betrayed by international Christendom,” Cox says. “They are being slaughtered, subjected to ethnic cleansing.” In addition, Cox says Azeris have bombed centuries-old monasteries and defaced Christian cemeteries.
Azerbaijan has blockaded humanitarian aid efforts by international relief organizations. CSI delivered food and medicine by using a helicopter, despite Azeri gunfire risks.
First Religious Art Museum Opens
The world’s first museum devoted exclusively to religious art opened in April in Glasgow. The £4.5 million (U.S. $7.4 million) Saint Mungo Museum features works from the world’s “six major religions”: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam. Nearly all the financing came from government tourism and development dollars.
Although Christianity has dominated Scotland for the past millennium, senior curator Mark O’Neill says the museum attempted “an even-handed treatment of equal importance” in choosing displays. The collection includes both modern art and some pieces up to 3,000 years old, separated according to faiths.
O’Neill says a “strong Christian presence” may be apparent because 23 of the museum’s exterior windows are stained-glass biblical depictions. The most famous Christian painting is Salvador Dali’s 1951 Christ of Saint John of the Cross.
According to O’Neill, the museum is designed “to reflect the central importance of religion in human life and especially its role as perhaps the single greatest inspiration to artists and craftsmen throughout history.”
PEOPLE AND EVENTS
The Uniting Church of Australia has commissioned four Australian artists to submit design drawings of the Last Supper that will show women at the meal. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, painted five centuries ago, depicts Jesus and his 12 male disciples at the event.
• Over objections from Catholic and Jewish groups, as well as other European Community governments, Greek lawmakers voted on April 6 to uphold a religious identity law backed by the Greek Orthodox Church. The law requires citizens to state their religious preference on all personal identification documents.
• China released Roman Catholic priest Placidus Pei Ronggui, 60, from a Hebei province labor camp on March 31. The priest was imprisoned in 1989 for leading an underground Catholic service. He was charged with “disturbing the social order.”
• Samaritan’s Purse president Franklin Graham has become the first American evangelist allowed to preach at Tipitapa prison in Nicaragua.
Egypt Deports Jailed Americans
Under orders from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, three Americans and a New Zealander suspected of “exploiting religion to debase Islam and to foment sectarian violence” were released May 10 following ten weeks in a Cairo prison.
Robert M. Cunningham, 36, has returned to South Weymouth, Massachusetts. Brian Eckheart, 35, of Buffalo Center, Iowa, and Richard P. Dugan, 27, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, are in Cyprus. New Zealander Thomas A. Martin is back in Christchurch.
The Americans were missionaries with Frontiers, Inc., as well as employees of Industrial Systems and Components. Upon release from prison, they were escorted to an airplane in handcuffs and deported.
Mubarak had been pressured by the U.S. State Department. Abdul-Hamid Adil-Masah, an Egyptian who had converted to Christianity from Islam and was arrested with the other four, remains in a Cairo psychiatric hospital.
Counting China’s Christians
How many Christians are in China? Too large a number might embarrass Communist leadership. China’s government says there are only 10–12 million. But according to its own State Statistical Bureau, and the soon-to-be-released fifth edition of the mission reference book Operation World, that figure is much higher.
SOURCES: David Barrett, Chinese Church Research Center (Jonathan Chao, Dir.), Patrick Johnstone
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