Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Syrian Christians Fear for Their Future if Extremists Take Control
- Olympic Village Supplies 150,000 Condoms to Athletes
- Court Upholds Georgia Ban on Guns in Church
- Olympics Ceremony Won't Include Moment for Murdered Israelis
Syrian Christians Fear for Their Future if Extremists Take Control
With Syrian president Bashar al-Assad possibly losing his grip on power and rebels making major inroads, a possible end to the bloody civil war may be in sight. But Syria's sizeable Christian community of more than 1.5 million is fearful for its future should Assad be defeated, according to Open Doors USA. Under Assad, Christians enjoyed a measure of freedom to worship in Syria, which is 90 percent Muslim. In fact, Christians were granted a degree of religious freedom not seen in most other Middle Eastern countries, before and after the Arab Spring. According to Reuters News, the rebels include the Free Syrian Army, al-Qaeda-style jihadists, the Muslim Brotherhood and local Sunni liberals. "If Assad falls, Christians in Syria are fearful of what will happen when a new government -- probably a radical Islamic one -- will come into power," said Dr. Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. "Will their freedom to worship end? Will persecution increase? Will they have to flee Syria with their families as have thousands of believers in Iraq? Already thousands have been targeted and have fled Syria. Some have been forced to flee from cities like Homs and seek shelter and help from Christian churches in the area. Christians who supported Assad could face reprisal from the rebels. There is just a tremendous fear for their future."
Olympic Village Supplies 150,000 Condoms to Athletes
In a controversial move, Olympic officials will reportedly provide more than 150,000 condoms to athletes at no cost during the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Christian Post reports. The record number of condoms will be provided to thousands of athletes from around the world in a bid to promote safe sex -- but while some have supported the cause, others believe the effort instead serves to promote immoral behavior. "There's a lot of sex going on," women's soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo told ESPN. "On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty." Solo added that the Olympics created a comfortable environment for athletes, leading to an increase in sexual behavior. "Unlike at a bar, it's not awkward to strike up a conversation because you have something in common," she said. "It starts with, 'What sport do you play?' All of a sudden, you're fist-bumping." Professional swimmer Ryan Lochte said he believes the vast majority of athletes engage in some form of sexual activity during the Olympics. "I'd say it's 70 percent to 75 percent of Olympians," he said, adding, "Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do." Professional British beach volleyball player Shauna Mullin said, "The Olympics is the height of your career, so you might do some things you don't usually do."
Court Upholds Georgia Ban on Guns in Church
A federal appeals court has upheld Georgia's ban on bringing guns into places of worship, the Religion News Service reports. The Rev. Jonathan Wilkins, a Baptist pastor, and the gun-rights group GeorgiaCarry.org had argued that church members should have the right to carry guns into worship services to protect the congregation, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled July 20 that a Georgia law adopted in 2010 does not violate the Thomaston congregation's First and Second Amendment rights. "A place of worship's right, rooted in the common law, to forbid possession of firearms on its property is entirely consistent with the Second Amendment," the court ruled, adding that wanting a weapon for self-defense is a "personal preference, motivated by a secular purpose." Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.org, said his organization and Rev. Wilkins were considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "We think they've got it wrong again," he said. "The church's First Amendment right prevails over the state right to tell them what they can and cannot do."
Olympics Ceremony Won't Include Moment for Murdered Israelis
Despite international pressure -- including support from President Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- the International Olympic Committee has refused to include a moment of silence at Friday's opening ceremony for Israeli athletes killed by terrorists at the games 40 years ago, the Religion News Service reports. IOC president Jacques Rogge said a smaller, more somber ceremony would better memorialize the tragedy, and Olympic officials made a brief statement and held a moment of silence Monday during a pre-Olympics event in London, where the 2012 games begin July 27. Families of the Israeli victims, however, dismissed Monday's ceremony, insisting that the opening ceremony, which is watched by millions around the world, is the only fitting place to memorialize the 11 Israeli Olympians attacked in the Munich Olympic Village by Palestinian terrorists. But Rogge has said that holding a moment of silence would constitute a "political" act and that the Olympics must be apolitical. "We feel that we are able to give a very strong homage and remembrance within the sphere of the national Olympic committee," he said. "We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident."
Publication date: July 26, 2012