The charges against the mayor include "torture, cruelty, arbitrary detention, crimes against humanity, inhuman or degrading treatment, and interference with freedom of religion and belief." The Center for Justice and Accountability, an organization that represents victims of grave human rights abuse, filed the civil complaint with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
"When a regime does not respect its own constitution and violates the declaration of human rights, sooner or later justice will be served and leaders will be made to answer to violations of international laws," commented Erping Zhang, spokesperson for the Falun Gong International Committee for Human Rights. Zhang added that "past statistics from various human rights organizations reveal that over 1,600 citizens have been killed while under police custody, 100,000 detained, 25,000 sent to labor camps under inhumane conditions, and about 1,000 sent to mental hospitals."
Falun Gong uses "traditional Chinese meditative techniques to channel energy for physical improvement and spiritual salvation," according to its leaders. Founded in 1992 by Li Hong Zhi, Falun Gong practitioners say they advocate three principles: truth, compassion and forbearance.
"China's attitude and hostility toward members of the Falun Gong does not speak well of a commitment to human rights," said John Graz, secretary-general for the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) and director of the Genreral Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department. "It's important that organizations like IRLA raise such matters of reported abuse and violations of the recognized international norms that relate to freedom of conscience and the free expression of belief."
On February 13, IRLA officers attended a hearing on Capitol Hill regarding China and Vietnam, organized by the U.S.Commission on International Religious Freedom. "According to testimonies presented and a report given by the U.S. Commission, the situation in China has declined in the past two years," noted Graz.
Non-registered religions, congregations, and religious groups are seen as a threat to the Chinese government. "This recent development is sad now that China has joined the World Trade Organization and has won the right to hold the Olympic Games, at a time when Chinese government officials have clearly violated human rights and religious freedom," Graz concluded.
Founded by the Adventist Church in 1983, the IRLA is a non-sectarian organization that promotes religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all people. For more information on IRA, visit www.irla.org.
Adventist News Network Launches
French and Portuguese Bulletins
Adventist News Network (ANN) has added two new languages to its weekly e-mail news bulletin service. Beginning in mid-February, subscribers may select the free bulletins in French and Portuguese, as well as the current English and Spanish editions.
"This is an important step for Adventist News Network," says Bettina Krause, ANN's news director. "We serve an active, growing, and diverse 12-million member church family around the world. Our goal is to make Adventist news and information as accessible as possible, both to church members and to the general public."
Established in 1994, Adventist News Network, located at the world church headquarters, is the international news agency of the Adventist Church. It draws on an international network of correspondents to bring together its weekly news bulletins. Each bulletin reports current news and events in the church's 12 world divisions, as well as the decisions and activities of the Church's General Conference leadership. There are currently more than 20,000 Adventist News Network subscribers in more than 140 countries.
To read ANN online or subscribe to the ANN News Bulletin, go to www.adventist.org. --Adventist News Network
ADRA Tunisia Supports Musical Therapy Program
Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is best known for its relief efforts following a natural disaster. This is certainly a vital part of ADRA=s work, but the organization also makes essential contributions in other areas.
In January 2002, ADRA began supporting a musical therapy program at a psychiatric hospital in Tunisia. With funding supplied by the Embassy of Japan, ADRA is building an activities room and providing instruments and a keyboard for a new form of therapy at the hospital. Other equipment for the activities room will include table football and an indoor basketball game.
Active in Tunisia since 1993, ADRA offers programs for those wishing to kick the tobacco habit and supports the Ministry of Health=s efforts to educate people about nicotine addiction. It has also distributed more than 10 ocean freight containers of medical supplies, clothing, and shoes. A variety of projects benefit those who are sight-impaired or have physical challenges.
Other programs included providing food for students needing better nutrition, social and support services for the elderly, and two beekeeping projects that generate income for participants. During 2001, ADRA projects benefitted 1,700 Tunisians. Slightly smaller than Cambodia, Tunisia is located in northern Africa. It is bordered by Algeria, Libya, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Romania Holds Symposium
on Family Violence Prevention
On January 24, the Ministerial Association of the Muntenia Conference in Bucharest organized a symposium on "The Role of Churches in Preventing and Fighting Family Abuse." Church leaders from seven other religious denominations participated, including: a council member of the Orthodox church, a Roman Catholic bishop, a priest of the Armenian Orthodox Church, pastors from the Baptist, Pentecostal, and Nazarene faiths, and an advisor to the Muslim mufti.
Several newspapers and television stations covered the event."For one week the interest was so large that mass-media covered the seminar through interviews, features, and commentaries," said Roland Paraschiv, Voice of Hope Director and co-sponsor of the event.
Each denomination presented its official position on family abuse, with Adrian Bocaneanu, president of the Romanian Union, serving as the main speaker.
Bocaneanu drew on materials developed during a Family Ministries training session conducted last November by the General Conference Family Ministries department. Highlights of his presentation included the nature and dynamics of abuse, why religious persons are not immune from the role of abuser, and how churches can establish programs to effectively prevent family abuse and violence.
The county chief of police also attended. "The presence and contribution of the police department was appreciated," Bocaneanu said. "Most church leaders were barely aware that the Romanian parliament has improved the laws that protect victims and penalize abusers. Police can be a trusted ally in limiting this problem." A common declaration, drafted by Seventh-day Adventists and incorporating the Adventist perspective, was signed by all eight denominations at the conclusion of the conference.
Three major newspapers carried significant articles reporting the work of the symposium, emphasizing the spirit of harmony and unity among the different denominations and the key role played by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Dr. Richard C. Osborn was inaugurated as the 20th president of Pacific Union College on February 7, 2002. The ceremony took place in the Pacific Union College Church sanctuary and made official the presidential role that Osborn assumed in July 2001.
Madeleine Francineau (94 1/2) and François Fernandez (96), members of the Euro-Africa Division, were married on February 1, 2002 at the Old People's Home ("Le Foyer du Romarin") in Clapiers, South France, where they have been residents for the past five years. Together their "marriage age" total of 190 years and 4 months sets a world record, and a request has been sent to the Guiness Book of Records to have it recorded.
"We wish to give a testimony of hope and show that to be old is not a synonym of senility. Aging does not exclude tenderness, affection and love, and we hope to live many more happy years," says the couple.
The South American Division, which includes the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, baptized 196,667 in 2001, bringing the total division membership to 2 million. Peru has already surpassed 500,000 members, and Brazil has more than one million.
Walla Walla College (WWC) placed in the top 25 percent of its category in U.S. News and World Report's 2002 Ranking of Best Colleges. This year WWC appeared in Tier 1, representing the top 25 percent of all universities in the western half of the United States.
Colleges are separated into categories based on course offerings and geographic regions for comparison. WWC placed alongside 127 other universities who were judged in seven broad areas: academic reputation; retention and graduation of students; faculty resources; student selectivity; financial resources; alumni giving; and the difference between the number of expected graduates and the actual results. Complete college rankings are available at www.usnews.com.
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