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Saturday, April 15, 2006

De-Crucify Me

Presenter backs out of crucifixion

San Fernando crucifixionA British journalist and presenter broke down in tears after backing out of being crucified as part of a journey to rediscover his faith.

Dominik Diamond had travelled to the Philippines to join a ritual where committed Christians mark Easter by re-enacting the Passion of Christ by crucifying themselves. As many as ten men each year volunteer to be Jesus and are nailed to the cross with slender silvery spikes, acting out the events of the three days that led up to Christ's crucifixion that shaped the structure of the whole Christian faith.

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The Scot was among a number of pilgrims who carried crosses in the ceremony at San Fernando city, about 45 miles north of the capital Manila.

But Diamond, 36, backed out when the time came for the nails to pierce his flesh, weeping as he pressed his head to the cross and prayed.

Hundreds of people watched as Filipino devotees were nailed to crosses at the ritual in San Pedro Cutud village.

The Catholic Church actually forbids such forms of extreme piety, but it can't stop those who want to show thanks to their God for a healed relative, or for a life saving cure for their child.

Daily Star columnist Diamond had been due to undergo the ordeal as part of a struggle to find his spiritual identity. His personal journey is being filmed by Ginger TV for a documentary, titled Crucify Me, that will air on the UK's fifth terrestrial channel Five later this year.

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Moussaoui could die for 9/11 attacks

Moussaoui accused his lawyers of failing to act in his interestsAl-Qaeda plotter Zacarias Moussaoui says he has "no regret, no remorse" for the attacks on 11 September 2001 in the US that killed nearly 3,000 people.

When asked by a lawyer whether he would be prepared to kill Americans, he said: "Anytime, anywhere."

He was testifying before jurors who are deciding whether he should be executed for his role in the 9/11 attacks, where lies told by Moussaoui to federal agents kept them from identifying and stopping some of the hijackers.

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Defence lawyers say Moussaoui's life should be spared because of his limited role in the attacks, evidence of mental illness, and because his execution would only fulfil his dream of martyrdom.

He complained they had failed to obtain a trial venue further away from the Pentagon, one of the areas affected by the attacks, or give him a Muslim lawyer. His defence lawyer is Jewish.

"I wanted to have somebody in court who I trust," he said, speaking calmly and politely.

Moussaoui criticised the relatives of the victims that had died in the attacks too, as "using their grief to gain the death of another".

Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, is the only person convicted in the US in connection with the 11 September attacks.

The US jury had previously been shown graphic images of people who burned to death in the 11 September 2001 attack on the Pentagon. Some pictures showed body parts; one a burned corpse on a plastic sheet; another a torso coated in white ash.

Defence lawyers objected to the evidence as Moussaoui had no direct involvement with the attacks, but were overruled.

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Can Christians kill?
By Andrew Walker, BBC News

Bonhoeffer's statue on the West Front of Westminster AbbeyDietrich Bonhoeffer, born 100 years ago, wrote his 1940s book Ethics, in which he wrestles with the essential problem: how can a Christian, essentially a pacifist like Muslims, justify murder?

His argument can be summarised thus:

Responsible action is how Christians act in accordance with the will of God.

The demand for responsible action - that is, acting in accordance with God's will - is one that no Christian can ignore.

Christians are, therefore, faced with a dilemma: when assaulted by evil, they must oppose it through direct action. They have no other option. Any failure to act is simply to condone evil.

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In a note in 1943 about martyrdom, Bonhoeffer wrote: "The ultimate question for a responsible person to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live."

Though rejected by moderate Christians, Bonhoeffer's ideas have since been cited by activists of all shades of opinion.

In the 1990s, some American anti-abortion protesters cited his willingness to kil to justify violence as a means to abolish abortion.

And others, including Nelson Mandela, have cited Bonhoeffer as an inspiration.

The question then remains, how does Bonhoeffer's intention to kill differ from that of militants who kill in the name of their faith? Is the only difference between suicide bombers and martyrdom US Western press coverage?

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Academy opposes creationism teaching
By Paul Majendie

The United Kingdom's leading academy of scientists said last week that the teaching of evolution in schools should not be distorted by creationists out to promote their own religious beliefs.

The growing battle over God's place in the classroom has spread from the United States to Europe with the Royal Society the latest prestigious body to pitch into the bitter debate.

"The theory of evolution is supported by the weight of scientific evidence, the theory of intelligent design is not," it said in a carefully worded statement on the dispute between religion and science.

Christian conservative supporters of creationism, the Bible-based account of the world's origins, try to deny or downgrade the importance of evolution.

Intelligent design proponents, of which US President George W. Bush is an advocate, say nature is so complex that it must have been the work of a creator rather than random natural selection as outlined in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

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In its defence of evolution, the Royal Society said it is "rightly taught as an essential part of biology and science courses in schools, colleges and universities across the world.

It said it was all in favour of stimulating academic debate but stressed: "Young people are poorly served by deliberate attempts to withhold, distort or misrepresent scientific knowledge and understanding in order to promote particular religious beliefs.

It also criticised attempts to present intelligent design as being based on scientific evidence.

"Its supporters make only selective reference to the overwhelming scientific evidence that supports evolution," the Royal Society added.

Last month Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans, said he did not believe that creationism should be taught in schools.

His stance echoed the position of the Roman Catholic Church, the world's largest single Christian denomination, which has weighed into the debate by praising a U.S. court decision that rejected the intelligent design theory as non-scientific.

Catholicism, which has never rejected evolution, teaches that God created the world and the natural laws by which life developed.

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South Park duo criticise network

South Park recently won a prestigious US awardThe duo behind South Park have used the cartoon's latest episode to attack their network for banning them from using an image of the Prophet Muhammad.

Comedy Central prevented Matt Stone and Trey Parker from using the image after the furore caused by a Danish newspaper publishing caricatures of Muhammad.

Instead, Wednesday's episode showed an image of Jesus Christ defecating on President George Bush and the US flag.

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Comedy Central said in a statement that it stood by its decision.

"In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision," it said.

Last week, South Park won US broadcasting's prestigious Peabody prize.

Awards director Horace Newcomb said that by setting out to be offensive, the show "reminds us of the need for being tolerant".

San Fernando crucifixion photo from PilotGuides.com archives. All other pictures courtesy of BBC News online

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