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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  WHUT  April 11, 2010 8:30am-9:00am EDT

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>> abernethy: coming up: darfur endures one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. what one united methodist church in ohio is trying to do about that. and, stephen ministers-- people trained to care for their fellow congregants by listening, and empathizing. plus, the mezuzah. holding the sacred text that god commanded jews to put on their doorposts. captioning sponsored by the lilly endowment
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>> abernethy: welcome. i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. top vatican officials strongly defended pope benedict the sixteenth and the roman catholic church this week amid growing controversy over allegations of priestly sex abuse in europe and of inadequate oversight by some church leaders. two senior cardinals claimed that many of the accusations have been motivated by what they called an "anti-catholic hate" campaign. the crisis has also created new tensions between two religious communities. archbishop of canterbury rowan williams issued an apology after he claimed in a radio interview that, because of the scandal the
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that, because of the scandal, the catholic church in ireland was "losing all credibility." many irish and british catholics were deeply angered by the remarks. williams' office said, "the archbishop had no intention of criticizing or offending the roman catholic church as a whole." meanwhile, the vatican named archbishop jose gomez to head the los angeles archdiocese when cardinal roger mahony retires next february. archbishop gomez currently leads the san antonio archdiocese. he is a member of the conservative catholic organization opus dei. the move to los angeles puts the mexican-born archbishop in line to become the first hispanic cardinal in the u.s. hispanics make up about a third of american catholics and about 70% of the los angeles archdiocese. religious groups were among those praising new milestones in the effort to control nuclear
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weapons. in prague, president barack obama and russian president dmitry medvedev signed the first major nuclear arms reduction treaty in two decades. the signing came just days before obama hosts a major nuclear non-proliferation conference in washington, and just days after announcement of a new policy that says the u.s. will not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear state. before he left for europe, president obama held a post- easter prayer breakfast at the white house. the president invited about 90 christian leaders, noting that he had also recently hosted muslims during ramadan and jews during passover. at this week's event, obama spoke about his christian faith in unusually personal and explicit terms. >> as christians, we believe that redemption can be delivered
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by faith in jesus christ. and the possibility of redemption can make straight the crookedness of a character, make whole the incompleteness of a soul. >> abernethy: in other news, an important week ahead in sudan. the government has scheduled that nation's first multi-party elections in almost 25 years. but several parties are threatening a boycott because they believe the elections will be unfair. and because of a deteriorating security situation, outside monitors say they will not be able to observe the voting in sudan's troubled darfur region. for years now, many in the religious community have called attention to the desperate humanitarian situation in darfur. kim lawton has a special report about the impressive efforts of one congregation, ginghamsburg church in ohio. >> reporter: sudan's western darfur province is considered
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one of the bleakest places on the planet. a state of humanitarian emergency has been in effect for more than seven years, since conflict broke out between the sudanese military, government- backed militias, and various rebel groups. hundreds of thousands of darfuri civilians have been attacked, raped and killed in what many in the world consider a campaign of genocide. millions have been displaced. the sudanese government has expelled most international relief groups. but dotted along southern darfur's dusty terrain, there are signs of ongoing aid. surprisingly, from a united methodist church half a world away called ginghamsburg. >> we see the purpose of the local church of going out into the world, being the hands and feet of jesus to the hurting, the oppressed, the poor, and being the empowering center in that local community. >> reporter: ginghamsburg chur is located in tipp city, ohio, a predominantly blue-collar suburb of dayton. the church has partnered with
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the united methodist committee on relief, or umcor, for its humanitarian work in darfur. has committed $4.4 million to those projects. ginghamsburg lead pastor, mike slaughter, says his congregation members felt morally compelled to get involved. >> often, the church remains silent in the face of injustice, whether it's slavery, segregation, genocide. i don't have time as a pastor to just do religious services where people come and feel better about themselves."u i want to lead a movement of people who want to make a difference, a god-difference, in the world. >> reporter: about 4,500 people come to the ginghamsburg church every week. their donations have built 173 schools in darfur. those schools serve about 22,000 students. they've also sponsored a sustainable agricultural project, which has now helped to feed an estimated 80,000
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darfuris. they've built water systems to provide clean water and sanitation to more than 60,000 people. and they've begun micro- enterprises, such as a brick- making factory, to help fund the projects. the programs are run by local staff on the ground. most darfuris are muslim, but slaughter says his church is not there to convert them to christianity. >> compassion doesn't have any strings attached. you serve people because they're human beings, created in the image of god, loved by god. >> reporter: still, he admits, his church members don't hide what motivates their work. >> people ask us why, sometimes, and, at that point, i share because i do this out of my faith. that i believe this is what it means to follow jesus. >> reporter: because of the security situation, it's difficult for outsiders to get in. but ginghamsburg tries to send groups as often as possible to see the work firsthand. slaughter led a delegation there late last year. >> i share with my own family
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that i need to do this kind of experience. i need to get into where these people are, you know, in dangerous places about once a year for my own soul health. and i really come back and realize what's important. >> reporter: slaughter believes the sudan work has had a profound impact on the ginghamsburg congregation. when he proposed the first darfur project at christmastime in 2004, some people were apprehensive. >> i said, "hey, christmas is not your birthday. it's jesus' birthday." because christians have made christmas one of the biggest hedonistic kind of self-focused, materialistic feast. what would jesus really desire? so i said, "whatever you spend on yourself, bring an equal amount for this agricultural project we're going to do in darfur." >> reporter: they raised $318,000, and in the following year, it yielded 18 bags of food for every seed planted. slaughter says his people learned what a difference they can make. it's a lesson they begin
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learning here at an early age. the children's programs hold special projects, not just to raise money, but to teach about life for kids in darfur. >> it's rough. there's a war going on, and some of their parents are dead and they have to live by themselves and take care of their younger siblings. >> they walk many miles to get their water, but it still might not be very clean. >> it's nice to help them, because they don't have all that stuff that we have. >> reporter: this past december, the church's "christmas is not your birthday" campaign raised almost $700,000 for darfur. slaughter was especially impressed, because the community, which was heavily dependent on the automotive industry, has been hard hit by the recession. >> these people are serious in their commitment to follow jesus in sacrificing for the needs of others. >> reporter: the work in darfur
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is not done at the expense of helping people locally. unemployment in the dayton area is about 15%. ginghamsburg runs two community food pantries, and slaughter says, while they were serving about 300 people a week last year, now the number has jumped to about 1,500 people a week. the church also has a nonprofit arm called new path that includes a car ministry, in which donated vehicles are fixed up and given to the needy. there's anna's closet, which provides used clothing and shoes, and actually makes money to support the work by selling items to those who can afford them. and there's j.j.'s furniture, which provides household goods especially to women coming out of domestic violence situations. in all of it, the operating philosophy is that everyone has something to give. >> so we'll have folks who come to us for needs, but then they see what this does and how it has impacted their lives and they come back to us and volunteer. so it's a really neat cycle to see people who are the receivers become the givers. >> reporter: slaughter believes it's a holistic view of helping your neighbor, wherever that neighbor may be.
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>> so you need to look at the at the needs in your local community, your city, your county, your country, and then out in to the world as events continue to unfold in places like darfur. >> reporter: for slaughter, helping people in darfur is more than just hands-on humanitarian work. he also supports an interfaith coalition that advocates for darfur at the national and international levels. christians, jews and muslims are all part of the effort, which has been pushing the u.s. congress and the obama administration to do more to intervene in the situation. >> so it's very important that the faith community keep reminding our governments, our economies, that there is a moral mandate that we have as human beings toward the treatment of other human beings. >> reporter: many in the coalition worry that sudan's upcoming elections will not be fair. they fear it could result in even more violence and instability. slaughter has another worry as well: that in the face of so
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many seemingly intractable problems, people will grow weary. >> but it's for churches, synagogues, mosques, people from clubs or organizations to really focus on a place of great need and become involved with that place and stay in that place until we begin to solve some of the world's problems. >> reporter: from the devastating earthquake in haiti to the ongoing problems after hurricane katrina, there are many places of need competing for the world's attention. but slaughter says darfur must not be pushed to the backburner. >> there's much still to be done in the gulf, but the work's not done. yet, money is running out. haiti? there's going to be a need in haiti for years. so you know, again, compassion fatigue is what we have to fight in our own life. faith is not easy. it is hard work. >> reporter: hard work, he says, that cannot be abandoned i'm kim lawton in tipp city,
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ohio. >> abernethy: in thousands of christian congregations, where more people need more spiritual comforting than any one pastor can provide, there are trained lay caregivers called stephen ministers. st. stephen was an early church deacon and the first christian martyr. as deborah potter reports, stephen ministers do not counsel. but they do offer prayer and listening, and that seems to help. >> i just don't know what to do. >> reporter: sometimes, you just need someone to listen. >> i just don't know how to resolve this in my head. i'm just really upset. i can't forgive myself. >> reporter: sometimes you need something more-- a hand to hold, and maybe a prayer. >> dear lord, thank you for watching over all of us today. in your name, we pray. >> amen.
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thank you. i feel so much better. >> reporter: at good shepherd lutheran church in raleigh, north carolina, parishioners are training to become caregivers. >> the key thing that i saw is you leaned into her. you engaged her and told her, "i'm listening to you." >> reporter: they're learning to be stephen ministers, named for st. stephen, the first christian martyr, who cared for the poor. parishioners are recruited and interviewed by the pastor, then trained to offer one-to-one care to people in and around their congregation. they commit to be available as needed for two years, but many serve longer. pam montgomery has been involved for two decades, balancing stephen ministry with responsibilities at home. but sometimes, the caregiver is the one who needs care. >> this is my dad and my mom. >> reporter: seven years ago, pam's father died of cancer. just two weeks later, she lost
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her grandmother. as she grappled with her grief, a friend surprised her with a suggestion-- what if pam herself asked for a stephen minister? >> when you're so close to it, i didn't even think about me having one, and yet i needed one. and that stephen minister was the best gift i could have given myself. she came week after week after week when other people-- even my wonderful neighbors, even my wonderful friends-- stopped asking, "you doing okay?" she came and she prayed for me, just for me, and that's really powerful. >> when a person allows you into their life and shares their feelings and their hurts with you, they are giving you a fantastic gift. and i think when you listen to them and when you accept their feelings and when you share
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christ's love to them, you are giving them a similarly powerful gift. >> reporter: kenneth haugk started stephen ministries in 1975 when, as pastor of a church in st. louis, he found he just couldn't do it all. so drawing on his background as a clinical psychologist, he enlisted and trained a handful of lay people to offer confidential care to their fellow parishioners. and then it spread, becoming a nonprofit juggernaut. good shepherd is one of 10,000 congregations around the world where parishioners serve as stephen ministers. more than 150 christian denominations have adopted the program. >> christianity is not a spectator sport. it was never intended to be a spectator sport. god gave to the church apostles, evangelists, and pastors and teachers whose job is to equip the saints for ministry. >> how did it feel to have your
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confession treated in that way? >> reporter: stephen ministers go through 50 hours of instruction and practice, learning to help care receivers express their feelings, to listen without judging, and how to bring faith and the bible into the conversation. >> can we pray? dear god, please give rene the absolute confidence of his forgiveness. >> reporter: they also study specific situations, like dealing with grief and divorce. but stephen ministers are not counselors, so they also learn when to call in professional help from a pastor or therapist. their work is supervised at the parish level, and if a care- giving relationship doesn't work out, which does happen sometimes, either party can be reassigned. good shepherd's senior pastor, david sloop, introduced the program here in 1987. >> it took a while for people to say, instead of "i need to speak to the pastor," to also say, "or can i have a stephen minister?" and that's a cultural shift, but
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it did occur, and we're grateful it did. that old lutheran concept of the priesthood of all believers, stephen ministry helps you live that out. >> consider your stewardship of a very precious resource-- god's gifted people. >> reporter: to enroll in the program, parishes pay a one-time fee of about $1,700, giving them access to materials and leadership sessions like this one in orlando, florida, where experienced stephen ministers and pastors learn how to train more caregivers back home. >> i was a care receiver, and i tell everybody, even before i became a stephen minister, about my experience. >> reporter: jaclyn hicks and her husband were struggling with infertility when her pastor at church of the savior united methodist in cincinnati suggested a stephen minister. >> it changed my life. it changed my life just having somebody be there for you, supporting you. >> reporter: after becoming pregnant and having a daughter, hicks became a stephen minister herself. >> it's huge to be on the flip
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side, to be able to just care for someone during their time of need. it's been a tremendous blessing, and i get, as a stephen minister, just as much out of it as i feel my care receivers do. >> reporter: care-giving relationships are always same- gender, and the program tends to attract more women than men. rene anctil of good shepherd wasn't sure at first that he was cut out to be a stephen minister. >> i tended to rely on myself a lot, and throughout this process, i've kind of learned that i'm truly the caregiver. i'm not the cure giver, and that's god's part. >> reporter: while stephen ministry relationships are strictly confidential, anctil's care receiver, ed, said we could sit in on one of their weekly sessions. they started meeting more than a year ago, after ed's wife died. >> you mentioned that your daughter mentioned to you that she thought you were depressed. >> yeah, oh, yeah. >> how did that make you feel?
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>> i don't think i'm depressed, but you get moody once in a while. your body wears out when you get old. ( laughs ) you always want to do something that you can't do. that's the hardest part. >> i think i recognize god in my life a lot more than i had in the past, and a lot of it is because of stephen ministry. i see god working, not only with my care receiver but with me, which i never saw before. >> reporter: in the 35 years since the program started, half a million people have been trained as stephen ministers, each one touching at least one other person and being touched in return. >> i'm not going to go away. i'm going to be there as long as he needs me. i don't know where the end's going to be, but we're going to do it together. >> reporter: for "religion & ethics newsweekly," i'm deborah potter in raleigh, north carolina. >> abernethy: in our "belief and practice" segment today, we look
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at the mezuzah, the case many jews affix to their doorposts. inside eaç4mezuzah are the essential words of jewish belief that god commanded jews to remember, even to put on their door frames. our guide was rabbi tamara miller of the organization rabbis without borders, as she officiated at the dedication of a new home for the kogan family of takoma park, maryland. >> the word "mezuzah" means "doorpost". so, in the book of deuteronomy, in the sixth chapter, it does say that we should put on our doorposts, on our gates of our homes, this mezuzah. most often, the mezuzah will have the letter shin. it stands for one of god's names, which is shaddai, which has been translated as "almighty."
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inside is the holy text that comes from the book of deuteronomy. we call it the shema, which means "hear, o israel, the lord is one." and then it continues to say what we should do, which is to love your lord, your god, with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your spirit. the text is always the same. it has to be on parchment. in order for it to be authentic, it has to be written by a holy person for whom this is their holy work. and so that mezuzah, what's written on that parchment, is a way of saying god, the universe, the holy is protecting us as we go in and outside of our homes. ( singing ) "chanukat ha'bayit" means dedication.
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"chanukat" means "a dedication," of the "bayit," "of the home." it's important that people do witness your new home and be part of the ceremony. the mezuzah is placed on the right-hand side of the doorpost, about a third of the way down. and in the homes of ashkenazic jews-- jews from eastern europe- - they would have it slanting inside, towards the open of the door, towards the home. the sephardic jews that come from north africa, they put it straight up and down. if you only have one mezuzah, it should be placed outside. then, you can put a mezuzah on every door in your house, outside every room. the only place you're not
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supposed to put it on is the bathroom. an object suchs the mezuzah is so accessible to people. you don't have to go into the synagogue; you just have to go into your house, which is something that you do on a daily basis. i love the fact that it's affixed and it's not movable, because that's like god is our rock. always there, always affixed to our hearts. >> abernethy: finally, on our calendar, this sunday is yom hashoah, holocaust remembrance day. and on wednesday, sikhs celebrate one of their most important holidays, vaisakhi. often observed as a harvest festival, the day also marks the time when sikhs first identified themselves as a defined group in the 17th century. many hindus also observe vaisakhi as a time of renewal
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and rebirth. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. we'd like to hear from you. you can follow us on our facebook page. we also have much more on our web site, including an exclusive essay about religious groups and nuclear disarmament. you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. join us at pbs.org. as we leave you, music from ginghamsburg church in ohio. ♪ ♪
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♪ captioning sponsored by the lilly endowment captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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