Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Washington National Cathedral to Wed Same-Sex Couples
- Africa Rises, China Falls on Christian Persecution List
- Haiti Orphanage Opens Three Years After Quake
Washington National Cathedral to Wed Same-Sex Couples
When laws went into effect in three states for same-sex couples to marry, many lined up at their city halls to exchange vows. Now they may do so in one of the nation's most prominent churches: the Washington National Cathedral, CNN reports. The cathedral, site of presidential funerals and inaugural prayer services, is also an active place of worship for the Episcopal Church. The denomination has developed a blessing rite that mirrors current wedding ceremonies for heterosexual couples and allows each bishop to decide whether to allow same-sex marriages in their church or not, and since gay marriage is legal in the District of Columbia and now in neighboring Maryland as well, Bishop Mariann Budde decided to allow the rite. The cathedral's dean, Gary Hall, sees it as "another historic step toward greater equality." He added that embracing gay marriage is "being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be."
Africa Rises, China Falls on Christian Persecution List
The persecution of Christians "vastly rose" in 2012 as radical Islamists consolidated power in Africa, according to Open Doors, a Christian missionary organization that publishes an annual list of offending nations, the Religion News Service reports. Increasing threats to African Christians can be seen in focused attacks, such as the killings of Christians in Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram, and also in the greater prevalence of radical Muslims in government. In Mali, for example, which made the biggest leap on the "World Watch List," from unranked in 2011 to No. 7 in 2012, a coup in the north brought fundamentalist Muslims to power. For the 11th year in a row, North Korea topped the list, followed by Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Syria became a country of particular concern, which Open Doors pegged at No. 11 in 2012 and No. 36 the previous year, the report's second-biggest jump. Under President Bashar al-Assad, "Christians were allowed the freedom to worship but not evangelize," according to Open Doors, but they have been hit with a "double whammy," in that they are under pressure from rebels fighting against the regime and from radical jihadists who have entered Syria with an anti-Christian agenda. In China, meanwhile, the picture for Christians continues to improve, as that country slid from No. 21 in 2011 to No. 37 in 2012 -- a stark difference from its Top 10 ranking five years ago.
Haiti Orphanage Opens Three Years After Quake
An orphanage shaped like the letter "B" opened in Grand Goave, Haiti, last Saturday, built with $1.8 million in donated funds and dedicated to the memory of 19-year-old Britney Gengel, who died in the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that Haiti officials estimate killed more than 300,000 people, WORLD Magazine reports. Gengel had traveled to Haiti early in 2010 to help a charitable organization distribute meals. "I want to move here and start an orphanage myself," she wrote to her family in a text message soon after arriving. Just hours later, the 7.0-magnitude quake hit, collapsing Gengel's hotel and killing her along with three students and two professors from her school, Lynn University. Gengel's parents, who resolved to carry on her last wish, founded a nonprofit organization, raised money and spent three years building the orphanage in her name. It will house 33 boys and 33 girls, and also has a dedicated water purification system that will distribute clean drinking water to the surrounding community.
Publication date: January 10, 2013