Newsletter : 4fax1129.txt
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>PD Nov. 29, 1994, V2, #213
Pro/Anti-Arafat Palestinians Stand-off in Lebanon
By Laurie Kassman (Cairo)
In Lebanon, another clash between rival forces in a Palestinian
refugee camp appears to have been averted. Palestinian dissidents
let a deadline pass Monday without enforcing their threat to oust
forces loyal to PLO leader Yasir Arafat from Ein el-Hilweh, the
largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Shops and schools in
the camp remain closed.
The deadline passed without any action. The dissident leader,
Colonel Munir Makdah, told reporters there he still wants Arafat
loyalists to surrender the five positions they are guarding in the
camp. But it no longer appears he will try to evict them by
Makdah broke ranks with Arafat last year over the PLO peace deal
with Israel, which he opposes. Last Friday, guerrillas loyal to
Arafat tried to grab control of Ein el Hilweh and push out the
dissidents. The day-long fighting left at least eight dead. The
camp is home to more than 60,000 Palestinian refugees. On
Saturday, Lebanon's president warned the rival factions he would
send in the army if clashes erupted again.
Palestinians in the camp told reporters that Makdah met with
resistance within his own forces about the ultimatum, which would
spark a new round of violence.
The Mormons: A Global Tribe
By Greg Flakus (Salt Lake City, Utah)
In many parts of the world, young people from the United States can
be seen almost everyday seeking converts for The Church of Jesus
Christ of the Latter Day Saints. They are known as Mormons and
their's is a religion born amid strife in the United States over a
century ago. Today, nearly half of the church's followers are
outside the US because of missionary efforts and the number of
converts worldwide is growing.
As part of the exercise of their faith, young Mormons volunteer to
serve 18 months to two years as missionaries in various parts of
the world. They prepare themselves through intensive language
training, if necessary, and take pains to avoid conduct that might
be considered offensive in the nations they visit. Still, Mormon
missionaries have been denied entry into many Middle Eastern
nations and they have been viewed with suspicion in some parts of
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, as it is
formally called, has had great success in Latin America, where
there are now more than 2-million Mormons, but it has also been the
target of violence and intimidation there. In Bolivia, two Mormons
were killed in 1989 and, in Chile, there have been more than 300
fires and explosions at Mormon centers of worship in recent years.
Still, Mormon leaders see these problems as of minor consequence
when compared to the numbers of converts the church is attracting.
Church Elder Dallin Oaks says that violent opposition to Mormon
missionary work is often simply the result of misunderstanding.
The most difficult problem for international Mormon missionary
efforts has been the denial of access in nations where there is a
state religion, such as is the case in many Muslim countries, and
in the few remaining hardline communist nations where no religious
proselytizing is allowed. Even in countries where there is freedom
of religion, people associated with the prevailing religion often
resent what they see as intrusion by an outside religion.
If Mormons tend to take their occasional setbacks in stride, it is
probably because their church was born amid controversy and violent
opposition. The church's origins go back to 1820 and a 14-year-old
boy named Joseph Smith, who claimed that God had called on him to
restore the Christian faith that had strayed from its origins. The
young Smith said he translated some inscribed plates provided to
him by angels. This became known as the Book of Mormon, which is
an essential part of the religion to this day and the origin of the
informal name applied to followers of the faith.
Smith and his fellow Mormons attempted to establish communities
based on this new faith but they were persecuted almost everywhere
they went. An Illinois mob killed Joseph Smith in 1844. His
successor, Brigham Young, then led the Mormons across the still
unsettled, open prairie to what is now the state of Utah. Through
hard work and determination, the Mormons settled the area and made
it prosper. Still, their clashes with non-Mormons were not over.
In those early days, Brigham Young and other Mormon priesthood men
practiced polygamy, citing biblical precedents of patriarchs taking
more than one wife. This held up efforts to have Utah admitted to
the United States and polygamy was officially discontinued by the
church in 1890.
As an example of the harmonious relations, the Mormon church has
developed with other churches, The Church of Jesus Christ of the
Latter Day Saints recently provided a large donation to the effort
to renovate the Catholic cathedral in Salt Lake City. While
Mormons are still in the overwhelming majority in Utah, nearly half
of the people living in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area
now are non-Mormons.
Mormons are viewed with admiration even by many people who are not
Mormons because of their emphasis on clean, healthy living and
family values and because of their industriousness. In Utah, you
often hear mention of the "Mormon work ethic." This, combined
with the sharing and support offered within the Mormon community,
has helped many church members prosper in business, both in Utah
and around the world.
In his book "Tribes," author Joel Kotkin compares the Mormons to
the British of the old empire, the Jews, the Chinese and other
groups that have extended their influence around the world by
building on a strong system of mutual support.
As a Jew, Kotkin says he sees many familiar features in Mormon
community life that have also helped Jews succeed as a people
spread across the world. The big difference, he notes, is that
Mormons are constantly expanding their 'tribe' through missionary
work. "The Mormons are very interesting because their theology
basically makes one a member of the tribe by becoming a Mormon.
What they do is combine the idea of being in a tribe or in a group
with a system which allows people from quite diverse backgrounds
to have entry into that group."
Non-Mormons have sometimes criticized what they regard as Mormon
domination of society in Utah. As has been the case with Jews,
Mormons have also been criticized for being too clannish and too
protective of their own people's interests. But Kotkin says that
there is a benefit to overall society when such groups help their
"If the United Jewish Appeal takes care of the interests of poor
Jews and I do not have to go, as a Jew, and ask the overall
community for help, I think that is a positive. If the Catholic
church provides a service, maybe even a better service, than the
public schools in education that is something that makes it easier
for the public education system to better use resources not on
that child but on another child. So, I think the stronger these
ethnic institutions are, I think that will help the overall
society. Particularly at a time when many of our public
institutions are crumbling from within, we may become more
dependent on these, if you will, 'tribal institutions.'
Kotkin notes that the Mormon church is much more universal today as
the result of a change in church doctrine 15 years ago that opened
the way for blacks to become full-fledged members. Mormon
missionaries are now active in African nations, where they now have
close to 80,000 converts.
But even as the church continues to send more than 40,000
missionaries a year out into the world, welcoming people from every
racial and ethnic group into the fold, internal conflict is
stirring back home in Salt Lake City. Feminists, gays and
intellectuals have been especially critical of some aspects of
Mormonism and, in response, several dissenters have been
disciplined by the church, either with reprimands or
The church has an exclusively male hierarchical structure that some
members see as too rigid and authoritarian. The church is headed by
86-year-old President Howard Hunter, who is viewed as one in a
line of prophets extending back to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.
Although the president can proclaim new doctrines based on
revelations, major decisions are generally made by the Council of
12 Apostles, the members of which are also known as elders. Elder
Dallin Oaks notes that, out of 9-million Mormons worldwide, only a
handful of people have been disciplined for their dissent.
Many Mormons view the current divisions within the church from a
philosophical point of view, noting that their's is a relatively
young religion and that these problems may be part of its growing
pains. They also note that even much older religions, such as the
Roman Catholic church, have similar internal debates. As Mormonism
spreads further across the world, it is likely to face new
challenges and, perhaps, undergo more changes.
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