- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 27, 2003

Hallmark offersMuslim greeting card

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hallmark has created its first greeting cards for the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the monthlong fast of Ramadan.

Fasting on Ramadan is one of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam and is one of the most important times of the year for Muslims.

One of the cards includes the traditional Arabic salutation “Eid Mubarak,” which means “Happy Holiday,” and also contains the message, “May Allah bless the world with His peace and love.”

Another card reads, “Eid brings us all closer together … brothers and sisters, friends and family, united in faith, joy and thanks on this happy and blessed day. Eid Mubarak to you and yours.”

The date for Ramadan is determined by a lunar calendar and is expected to begin this year sometime between Oct. 25 and Oct. 27. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, then break the fast with special meals with family and friends. On Eid-al-Fitr, Muslims also exchange gifts.

The American Muslim population has grown significantly since the federal government loosened immigration restrictions in the 1960s, and more U.S. companies are creating specialized products for them.

Georgian presidentpromises freedoms

TBILISI, Georgia — President Eduard Shevardnadze announced that Georgia planned to enact a wide-ranging law extending religious freedoms, a week after scrapping an accord sought by the Vatican to protect Roman Catholics.

The Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, had traveled to the capital, Tbilisi, on Sept. 18 to sign the agreement, which would have obliged the former Soviet republic to guarantee that Catholics could perform rites, open schools and study church history.

But Archbishop Tauran went away empty-handed after thousands of Orthodox Christians, including at least one high-ranking Orthodox leader, protested in the streets, prompting the government to cancel the signing.

Orthodox Christians and some of their leaders said the agreement would have allowed the Catholic Church, which has about 50,000 followers in this country of 4.4 million, to increase its influence.

Similar complaints have been voiced by the Russian Orthodox Church, which accuses the Vatican of stealing members of its flock and has blocked the pope from visiting the country.

Georgia’s constitution already guarantees freedom of religion. But in 2001, the government signed an agreement with the Georgian Orthodox Church recognizing its special role.

The new religious law, which Mr. Shevardnadze said Monday is “almost ready,” would take a broader approach, ensuring that Georgia’s protection of religious freedom is in line with international laws and norms.

Milwaukee priestsform alliance

MILWAUKEE — About 80 priests of the Milwaukee Roman Catholic Archdiocese have voted to form an alliance meant to serve as a support network and independent voice in the church.

“There was an overwhelming ‘yes’ and show of hands to the idea of some kind of alliance, some kind of structure, some kind of organization,” said the Rev. Kenneth Mich, one of 14 organizers of the Sept. 18 session at which the alliance was formed.

Among their concerns are advocacy for priests, the priest shortage, promoting discussion on making celibacy optional and ensuring that ministries to minorities and religious instruction for parishioners are maintained.

About 160 Milwaukee priests last month circulated a petition seeking to lift the celibacy requirement.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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