This Week

"This Week" Continued...

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 1998," Dec. 5, 1998

Bonfire of vanity

Sabbath observances on Nov. 22 did not put a rest to violence in Indonesia. Mobs of Muslim youths attacked and burned 11 churches. Thirteen people were killed and dozens injured in fighting between the rioting. Witnesses said other Christian places of worship were attacked, as well as a gambling hall and a Catholic girls' school near Jakarta's main cathedral. This latest attack on Christians followed a familiar pattern: Muslim youths took to the streets in anger after unsubstantiated rumors spread that Christians had attacked a mosque. The violence broke up worship services and at least one wedding. An angry mob barged through the front doors of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Jakarta's Chinatown, where groom Chandra Gunarto and his bride, Threewaty, were about to be wed. The Muslim youths broke stained glass windows, smashed pews, and threw Bibles on a bonfire. The couple, the priest, and about 60 guests ran to a community hall at the rear of the church and barricaded themselves in. Outside, anti-riot police broke up the melee. "After that, the priest asked us if we still wanted to get married. So we had the ceremony in a small prayer room at the back of the church," the 27-year-old groom said. Violence in Indonesia comes as the country grapples with its worst economic crisis in 30 years. With inflation and unemployment rates soaring, millions of people are finding themselves in poverty. While Muslim and Christian clashes took place in the capital, looting and arson spread in several areas to the north and west. Five armored personnel carriers were deployed to protect a shopping mall. Squads of soldiers were dispatched to protect churches as night fell.

Nein, danke

More than one-third of cabinet ministers under newly elected German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder say they have no religious affiliation. Polled by a German evangelical news agency, four out of 16 ministers said they had no church affiliation. Two declined to answer. Foreign minister Joschka Fischer and interior minister Otto Schily refused to respond to the survey. Six ministers, including Mr. Schroeder, call themselves Protestant. Four say they are Catholic. The cabinet of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl included nine Catholics and seven Protestants. Mr. Schroeder, elected in September to lead a coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens, took the oath of office without using the pledge, "So help me God."

World in brief

Fleeing death
The widow of celebrated African novelist Alan Paton says she is fleeing South Africa because of rampant crime. Anne Paton, 71, whose husband wrote Cry, The Beloved Country half a century ago, said she will return to England, her birthplace. "Crime is rampaging through the land," she wrote in the London Sunday Times. Mrs. Paton has been attacked at knifepoint in her home and gunmen have hijacked her car. She said nine acquaintances had been murdered since the black majority led by Nelson Mandela came to power three years ago. Mr. Paton was a founder and leader of South Africa's Liberal Party, which lobbied against apartheid beginning more than 30 years ago. Mrs. Paton said her husband "worked all his life for black majority rule. I am glad he is not alive now," she said. "He would have been so distressed to see what has happened to his beloved country." She said growing violence also affects blacks, who do not have the option of emigrating as many whites do. Bring back the beef
The European Union voted to end a ban on British beef that has slaughtered the UK's cattle industry. The ban was enacted in March 1996 after mad cow disease found in British cattle was linked to dozens of deaths in humans. Thirty-two months and multi-billions in losses later, the EU will certify that British beef is okay for export again. Improved animal hygiene and a new tracking system, an animal passport of sorts, led to lifting restrictions, with one final pruning: the upcoming slaughter of 4,000 offspring born after Aug. 1, 1996, to cows infected with the virulent disease.

Sodom and Georgia

Georgia's 165-year-old sodomy law survived a U.S. Supreme Court ruling 12 years ago, but didn't make it past the state's highest court. It voted 6-1 to overturn the conviction of Anthony Powell, found guilty of sodomizing his 17-year-old niece in 1996, saying his privacy was violated. Naturally, homosexual-rights groups, which are still fighting anti-sodomy laws in 18 other states, were overjoyed. David Smith of the Human Rights Alliance says he hopes this will "be a precursor to the U.S. Supreme Court invalidating all the nation's sodomy laws." Three other states-Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania-recently overturned their own versions of the law.

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