Christian Missionary Killed in Lebanon
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Nov. 25—An American Protestant evangelist was murdered in Lebanon, according to the New York Times, which pointed to the killing—blamed on Islamic extremists—as evidence of renewed tension between the two faiths in that war-ravaged country.
Lebanon was once the sanctuary for Arab Christians in a Middle East dominated by Islamic or pro-Islamic governments. Once a majority Maronite Catholic country, Lebanon is now home to a shrinking Christian minority devastated by civil war, a falling birthrate and emigration to the West. But missionary work is still legal in Lebanon, so Protestant evangelists have taken the opportunity to preach there and set up medical missions.
Bonnie Penner Witherall, 31, worked in a prenatal care clinic in Sidon, Lebanon, run by the Christian and Missionary Alliance. She was killed by one or more gunmen who walked into the clinic.
“I think she was killed because she was preaching Christianity to Muslims,” said Bishop George Kwaiter of the Roman Catholic diocese.
Miss World Violence Enflamed by Media
FIDES, Nov. 23—The Miss World Pageant, which had been scheduled for Kaduna, Nigeria, has been moved to London after a wave of violence between Muslims and local Christians, which wrecked churches and mosques alike, has claimed more than 200 lives so far and almost saw the destruction of the hotel that held the beauty pageant finalists.
According to Fides, the Vatican missionary news agency, one spark that kindled the violence was a local newspaper that made a flip reference to the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
Fides contacted representatives of the local Church for comment. Father Andre Sampaio de Oliveira at the Nunciature in Kaduna said the trouble really started when the Miss World contest participants, young women from all over the world and interviewed by the local Nigerian media, voiced support for women condemned to stoning by strict Islamic laws.
Nobel Laureate Bishop Steps Down in East Timor
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, Nov. 26—The Nobel Peace Prize-winning bishop of Dili, East Timor, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, has resigned from his post after 19 years because of health reasons, the French news agency said.
Pope John Paul II has accepted the resignation, a Vatican spokesman said. The Timor Post quoted Bishop Belo as saying he needed rest and medical treatment for one or two years. He also said at a recent Sunday Mass that the long years of conflict have left him with high blood pressure and vulnerable to a stroke.
The bishop received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 together with Jose Ramos-Horta, now East Timor's foreign minister, for their struggle for independence from Indonesian rule. Bishop Belo was one of the very few people in the island territory who risked speaking out against human rights abuses during Indonesia's occupation.