Religion Today Summaries - April 1, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 1, 2009

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Fargo, Moorhead Fare Better Than Expected -- So Far
  • U.S. Finally Names Religious Freedom Violators
  • Churches Adjust to Challenging Times; Do More Good
  • Rights Group Urges India to Rework Response to Violence

Fargo, Moorhead Fare Better Than Expected -- So Far

Baptist Press reports that city officials and residents of the twin cities of Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., were relieved that the Red River crested at just below 41 feet March 28. But they're still holding their breath, and watching for the effects of a snowstorm that lasted through Tuesday morning. "The authorities predicted levels that were higher than they turned out to be, so that was very good news. The levels did not stay at their extreme height as long as people thought they might," said Durward Garrett, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Fargo. To help those forced from their homes, the disaster relief arm of the Southern Baptist Convention is preparing about several thousand hot meals a day. Convoy of Hope planned to arrive Tuesday with a total of 40,000 pounds in disaster supplies - including water, food and cleaning supplies - to be dispersed as soon as weather allows.

U.S. Finally Names Religious Freedom Violators

Associated Press reports that the Bush administration's final list of severe violators of religious freedom has finally been made public, but makes virtually no changes recommended by an independent panel. The list, signed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the Bush administration's last working day, re-designated Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea and Sudan as "countries of particular concern." The document, however, waived potential sanctions for Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) received the list last week, but found that their recommended additions of Iraq, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam were ignored. The document also waived sanctions on Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. The list had not been updated in 26 month until Rice signed it in January.

Churches Adjust to Challenging Times; Do More Good

The Christian Post reports that more people are looking to churches for physical help in the economic crisis. According to a new survey by LifeWay Research, 62 percent of churches have received more requests from people outside their congregations for financial assistance in the last year than in previous years. More than one third of those churches are increasing their spending to help people cope with financial difficulties, and 31 percent are developing new ministries to reach those people. "When times are tough, the church can be at its best – being, doing and telling the good news of the Gospel," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, in the report. But pastors must still rework how their churches operate; more than half of pastors surveyed said the economy has had some negative impact on their churches.

Rights Group Urges India to Rework Response to Violence

ASSIST News Service reports that after a year of the most severe anti-Christian violence seen in post-independence India, a Christian human rights group has published a briefing on the situation. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) especially urged he government of India to implement the 2008 recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to India. CSW also highlights the need to tackle impunity in religiously-motivated violence and to investigate extremist groups involved in the propagation of violence. There is also a need to allow Dalit Christians and Muslims to list as "scheduled castes," which would ensure that violence against them may be litigated more effectively. Finally, CSW encouraged repealing state anti-conversion laws. "We strongly encourage the Indian government to tackle these concerns with a firm resolve," the group said in a statement.