Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- New Congress to Welcome First Buddhist Senator, Hindu Representative
- Egypt Protesters Demand Sharia Law
- Pakistani Preacher Jailed for Sermon at Funeral
- Oregon May Be Next State for Gay Marriage Battle
New Congress to Welcome First Buddhist Senator, Hindu Representative
When the new members of Congress are sworn in on Jan. 3, the new Senate will seat a Buddhist member for the first time and the House of Representatives will have its first Hindu member, the Christian Post reports. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who currently serves in the House, won her Senate race last week and will be sworn in as the Senate's first Buddhist. Hirono's House seat will be filled by Tulsi Gabbard, who will become the first Hindu in Congress. Hirono will also be the first Asian-American female and the first person born in Japan to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Two other Buddhists, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.,) and Rep Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) were re-elected to the House. In addition, two Muslims, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), were re-elected, and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) will become Congress' only atheist after winning her first House race. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), the only atheist in the current Congress, lost his bid for re-election. Sinema will also become Congress' first openly bisexual member.
Egypt Protesters Demand Sharia Law
Thousands of Egyptian protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, demanding that sharia (Islamic law) be implemented under the country's new constitution, CBN News reports. As the Muslim Brotherhood-majority government continues to debate the role of religion in its constitution, ultra-conservative Muslims are pressuring leaders to make sure sharia is followed. According to Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA, "It is hardly a surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood is now pushing sharia as the law of the land in Egypt. Strict Islamic law has always been its main agenda for Egypt. President Morsi attempted to disguise this before the election, saying his government would be moderate. Now the true face of extreme Islam is being unveiled to the world. The high hopes of the revolution and overthrow of Mubarak have now been replaced by the reality of another form of extremist government -- an Islamist one." Under sharia, non-Muslims and Muslim women face discrimination, and those who dishonor Islam can face "honor killings" by family members. Sharia also allows for women to be stoned to death for adultery, even if the woman is the victim of rape.
Pakistani Preacher Jailed for Sermon at Funeral
An evangelist accused of defaming Islam was telling mourners at a funeral about the sacrifice of Christ when Muslims present took offense, ASSIST News Service reports. Karma Patras, 55, has been in jail since Oct. 13 for allegedly "outraging the religious feelings" of Muslims at the funeral of a Christian where most of those present were church members, and he faces a sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine under Section 295-A of Pakistan's widely condemned blasphemy law. Patras' son, Robin Masih, said: "My father addressed the gathering at the bereaved family's house by sharing Jesus Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection. He did not know that there were some Muslims sitting among the mourners. ... They fiercely objected to his sermon and even tried to attack him. He escaped a beating due to timely intervention by the other Christians." Masih said after his father's arrest, area Muslims told him and his four brothers to leave the village or else they would set them on fire. Masih's family and those of his brothers sought refuge with relatives elsewhere; meanwhile, Patras awaits a second hearing on his bail application after the first was denied. Though the blasphemy law requires evidence of intent for conviction, many Pakistani courts tend to decide blasphemy cases based on fear of violence by Islamist groups rather than on merit.
Oregon May Be Next State for Gay Marriage Battle
Oregon -- a state once known as a trailblazer for progressive causes -- wasn't among the four states that voted against traditional marriage on Nov. 6, but that could change in 2014, the Religion News Service reports. Local gay rights activists stand by a decision they made a year ago to not pursue a marriage ballot measure this year because "the timing wasn't right," but say the votes in other states this year help set the stage for 2014. "I am more confident than ever that we will be the first state to overturn a constitutional ban on [same-sex marriage]," said Jeana Frazzini, executive director of the LGBT-rights organization Basic Rights Oregon, adding that it is "likely" her organization would spearhead a gay marriage ballot campaign in two years. Teresa Harke, spokeswoman of the Oregon Family Council, said: "It's no secret that Basic Rights Oregon has been looking at this. We've been preparing for it." Harke called Tuesday's results "disappointing," but said they don't necessarily mean Oregonians would follow suit. "We don't do things just because Washington does," she said. While Washington and other states were dealing with statute change, Oregon would have to amend its constitution -- and 2014 could be a more difficult year to pass a same-sex marriage measure because there is no presidential race to draw voters, Harke said.
Publication date: November 14, 2012