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Crystal Cathedral not for Sale; Gov. Perry-Day of Prayer isn't Political; U.S. Pastor's Remains in Cuba; Church Hostages in El Salvador; Pope Prays for Somalian Famine Victims

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CRYSTAL CATHEDRAL

Officials say Crystal Cathedral not for sale

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) - Leaders of the financially

struggling Crystal Cathedral say the Southern California

mega-church is not for sale.

The board of directors announced in a press release Sunday that

Crystal Cathedral Ministries will raise the money to help pay the

church's $36 million mortgage and nearly $10 million in unsecured

debt.

Among those that had offered to buy the church are the Roman

Catholic Diocese, another local church, Chapman University and a

real estate investment firm.

A hearing to discuss the status of the offers is scheduled

Monday in bankruptcy court. The board said it will ask the court

for permission to collect donations to get out of bankruptcy.

PRAYER DAY-PERRY

Texas governor says prayer rally won't be political

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry says this coming

Saturday's prayer rally in Houston is "about lifting up the name

of Jesus" and asking God to give America hope and direction.

Perry told FRC Radio's Washington Watch Weekly that he and a

group of friends were talking about how to solve America's problems

and said, "Let's be biblical. Let's follow the instructions."

The event at Reliant Stadium, called "The Response," is billed

as a day of prayer and fasting.

Perry, who is considering a presidential bid, says "The

Response" won't be a political event.

Last week, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit challenging its

constitutionality.

In an Associated Press interview, Perry said he supports

amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the union of a

man and a woman, and said he believes God created life and the

universe. But he added that he expects the presidential race to

focus on jobs -- not evolution or gay marriage.

 

CUBA-US PASTOR

NY pastor's ashes displayed in Havana mausoleum

HAVANA (AP) - The ashes of a New York pastor who defied a U.S.

embargo by leading yearly relief pilgrimages to Cuba have gone on

display in Havana.

An urn containing the remains of the Rev. Lucius Walker is on

view in the Jose Marti mausoleum. Flowers and a photo showing him

with Martin Luther King sit next to it on an altar.

Walker led 21 aid caravans to Cuba before dying of a heart

attack in New York last year. He was 80.

His ashes have been touring the island in recent weeks and are

to be laid to rest in a Havana park in accordance with his wishes.

Cuban officials have not said when.

Walker's daughter Gail and members of his Pastors for Peace

group joined Cuban officials at Saturday's ceremony.

SALVADOR-CHURCH HOSTAGES

Salvador: Farmer and son hold 30 hostage at church

GUAZAPA, El Salvador (AP) - Police in El Salvador say a farmer

and his son held 30 people hostage for several hours at an

evangelical church north of the Central American country's capital.

National Civil Police Director Carlos Ascencio says 50-year-old

Jose Miranda and his 17-year-old son stormed into the Temple of God

church early Sunday with M16 rifles. The parishioners in Guzapa

were holding a traditional vigil at the church.

Agents persuaded Miranda to free the last hostages around dawn.

His motives remain unclear. But as he was being led away from the

church to police vehicles, Miranda told reporters he had been

motivated by injustices and that one of his daughters had recently

been jailed.

VATICAN-EAST AFRICA-FAMINE

Pope prays for Somalia famine victims

CASTELGANDOLFO, Italy (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI is urging the

world not to forget the victims of famine in the Horn of Africa.

During his weekly blessing to pilgrims on Sunday, Benedict said,

"It is forbidden to be indifferent in the face of the tragedy of

the starving."

It was his second mention in recent weeks of the drought in

Somalia and neighboring countries.

Two weeks ago, he urged the international community to move

quickly to aid hundreds of thousands of people fleeing drought and

famine in Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa.

RAMADAN-MUSLIMS

Muslims begin holy month of fasting

UNDATED (AP) - The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims

fast from sunrise to sunset, starts today and will continue through

the long hot days of August.

During Ramadan, Muslims typically eat a meal before dawn and

break their fast at sunset.

In August, the daylight hours can last up to 16 hours, so it

will be a long wait between meals.

The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle, so Ramadan creeps

up 11 days every year.

The fast-breaking meal is seen by many Muslims as an opportunity

to gather with family and friends.

Sayyid Sayeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North

America, says the Ramadan fast is "one of the pillars of Islam,"

and makes Muslims more sensitive to the sufferings of the poor and

needy.

 

MIDEAST-RAMADAN

Arab unrest, high food prices cast pall on Ramadan

CAIRO (AP) - The uprisings and unrest gripping the Arab world

have cast a pall on the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month

which starts today and continues until almost the end of August.

With momentum strong to drive out authoritarian regimes, there

is no sign that opposition forces will ease up on protests, even

with the difficulties of dawn-to-dusk fasting.

Ramadan falls this year during the scorching summer, when

tempers already running hot could easily boil over. Food prices

typically spike during Ramadan, and the extravagant dinners many

put on to break the daily fast drive a deep hole in household

budgets.

In much of the Arab world, protesters hope the pressure Ramadan

places on food prices will inspire more people to challenge their

leaders.

INDONESIA-RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

Indonesian Muslims demand Ahmahdiyah be outlawed

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Hundreds of conservative Muslims have

held a rally in Indonesia's capital to demand the government outlaw

an Islamic sect they consider heretical.

The Ahmadiyah sect, which has followers around the world, is

banned in many Islamic countries because of its belief that

Muhammad was not the final prophet.

Nearly 1,500 white-robed protesters marched through the streets

of Jakarta Saturday. Some held placards that said "Disband

Ahmadiyah or Revolution" and "War against Ahmadiyah."

In recent years, Islamic hard-liners in Indonesia have attacked

Ahmadiyah mosques and intimidated some of its 200,000 followers.

Perpetrators are rarely punished or even questioned by police.

GAY MORMONS

Study looks at experiences of gay Mormons

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah State University psychology

professor is conducting an online survey of nearly 1,000 lesbian,

gay, bisexual and transgender Mormons.

Among the questions: Have respondents experienced negative

teasing or violence within the Latter-day Saint community? And how

do they view God's response to their sexual orientation?

The survey also asks respondents to describe their commitment to

Mormon teachings before and after accepting their sexual

orientation and to describe their current relationship to the

church.

Like many faiths, Mormonism teaches that any sexual relationship

outside traditional marriage is a sin, and a church leader last

year suggested gays could change their sexual orientation through

prayer.

Professor Renee Galliher says she hopes the survey data will

dispel myths and promote better understanding about the lives of

Mormon gays.

 

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

 

AP-NY-08-01-11 0319EDT

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