Monday, January 4, 1999 Published at 00:41 GMT
World: Middle East
Millennialists prepare for Armageddon
Fundamentalist Christians are already flocking to the Mount of Olives to witness the Second Coming
The coming of the new millennium is having a deep effect on some religious groups, with many of them preparing for Christ's Second Coming, Armageddon, and the end of the world.
In Jerusalem, a city holy to Christians as well as Jews and Muslims, the millennium has special significance.
Many of the millennialists have settled in Palestinian towns near the Mount of Olives to witness the event.
One policeman in Jerusalem was quoted as saying: "If the Messiah doesn't show up as expected, we fear some of the disappointed believers may take matters into their own hands to hasten along the end of time. Given all the problems we have here already, Israel can ill afford a Waco."
One thousand years ago, simiilar disappointment at the failure of the Second Coming to materialise is thought to have been one of the triggers for the Holy Crusades, when thousands left Europe to reclaim Jerusalem from Muslim rule.
Modern day believers say the medieval knights got it wrong because they misinterpreted the scriptures - this time it is for real.
Another 74 disciples of the Solar Temple group killed themselves in Canada and Switzerland.
Members of the obscure religious cult, Concerned Christians, have already been arrested after threatening to commit suicide in what they see as the fulfilment of the ancient prophecy.
Police said that the group planned to provoke a bloody shoot-out by opening fire on Israeli police and members of the group believed that this catastrophic act would hasten the prophesy.
The approach of the new millennium is also having an effect on non-religious groups.
One US-based group, the UNAIRIUS Academy of Science in Southern California, believes that a giant spaceship will land somewhere in the Caribbean.