RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AROUND THE WORLD
by Rupert F. Pollard
India to Try 31 for Church Attacks
Police have accused a Pakistan-based Islamic sect leader and his followers of masterminding attacks on Christian churches in southern India earlier this year. Police said by bombing churches, Hindu temples and mosques the suspects intended to create unrest and panic among India’s religious minorities.
German Information Offensive Against Scientology Continues
The German Interior Ministry’s Work Group on Scientology in conjunction with the State Center for Political Education has published a booklet "Brainwashing in Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force." In the 72-page booklet, Canadian Professor of Sociology Stephen A. Kent describes alleged forced labor and imprisonment programs and camps which serve to rehabilitate deviant elite members of the Scientology organization. Prof. Kent is a known supporter of the anti-cult movement. His findings are disputed by other scholars, but the government Work Group did not include any opposing views in its publication. Scientology claims the program is voluntary and therapeutic.
German Court Rules that Unification Church Can Sue
The Unification Church in Germany considers the latest verdict by a German Higher Administrative Court an important step towards lifting the entry ban against Reverend and Mrs. Moon. In 1995, the Interior Ministry issued an order prohibiting Rev. and Mrs. Moon entry to Germany, at the same time putting them on the Schengen listing, thus in effect barring the couple from entering all of the European member States of the Schengen Treaty. The church filed suit to overturn the listing, but a lower court held its suit invalid on grounds that only the Moons themselves could be parties in suing the government in this case. The September 19th verdict reaffirms the fundamental right of the German Unification Church to be recognized as a religious community with rights specified in the German Constitution.
Protestants Face Challenges In Eastern Russia
The recent success of Protestant missionaries has put the Russian Orthodox Church and nativist minority groups on the offensive to curtail the growth of Protestant evangelism in the region. The percentage of Protestants in the Russian Far East is quite high compared to Russia as a whole. The weakness of local Orthodox structures and presence there makes it easier for foreign missionaries to pursue their aims.
China Invites New Visit by Three US Religious Leaders
China has invited three prominent US religious leaders for a visit in a move Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said was a "welcome step in the direction of openness." Don Argue, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Catholic Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and Rabbi Arthur Schneier will travel to China to "discuss the climate of religious freedom." (Dr. Argue’s report on a similar trip in 1998 can be found at the ICRF web site.
Religious Restrictions in Vietnam
Although restrictions on religious worship in communist Vietnam have eased since the late 1980’s and six religions are now officially recognized, the police are still cracking down on any movements that question the authority of the state and the ruling Communist party. In September five Buddhists were sentenced to between one and five years in prison. They were accused of slandering the government and "abusing democratic rights." Catholics, Hoa Hao reformed Buddhists, and the syncretistic Cao Dai religion, each of which more has than a million adherents in Vietnam, also complain of systematic repression. President Clinton visited Vietnam in November and was expected to raise the issue of religious freedom.