Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Libya Post-Gaddafi: Prayers Voiced for Access to Jesus
- Tajikistan: Law to Ban Children from Religious Activities
- Conservative Presbyterians Mulling Split Over Gay Ordination?
- UK: Equality Body's U-turn on Religious Liberty Disappoints Christians
Libya Post-Gaddafi: Prayers Voiced for Access to Jesus
When Tripoli, Libya, woke up Aug. 22, it was to the imminent end of 42 years of rule by Muammar Gaddafi -– the longest-running Arab leader ever. In Syria, meanwhile, violent clashes continue in the streets between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and his opponents, Baptist Press reports. NATO-backed rebel forces in Libya seized control of much of Tripoli on Aug. 21 after months of brutal war tactics by Gaddafi. In one part of Tripoli, a local imam sang not the call to prayer but the national anthem of the pre-Gaddafi monarchy. While President Obama and other world leaders were calling for Gaddafi to end his claim to power, Christian leaders like Nik Ripken*, meanwhile, are praying for stability of a different kind: "Often we ask people to pray that governments provide the safety and security necessary for the Gospel to spread, such as the early church had under the Roman Empire," said Ripken, who has served 25 years with the International Mission Board and is an expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts. Ripken said Christians in the West can help not only by praying for the spread of the Gospel in war-torn nations but also by learning not to be persecutors themselves. "Pray today that we will not join the persecutors by denying our family, neighbors and friends access to Jesus," Ripken said.
Tajikistan: Law to Ban Children from Religious Activities
According to Mission Network News, a controversial law which bans most children under 18 from participating in religious activities is set to go into effect in Tajikistan once Ramadan ends on August 31. The Law on Parental Responsibility for Education and Upbringing of Children was passed by parliament on July 21. "It looks like indeed this controversial Law of Parental Responsibility has actually entered the force," confirms Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association. "The president did sign it. It does appear also that this particular law was the personal initiative of the president." The report says that "religious communities of all faiths are struggling to find out how the law's almost complete ban on children's participation in religious activity will be enforced." Apparently, no one is prepared to explain what religious activity by children is now permitted. The new law would seem to prohibit children under 18 from participating in religious activities, and exists as a help to parents who might otherwise lose control of their children to extremist religious groups. Christians are bracing themselves for the September enactment of the law, but reportedly will not cease teaching their children about Christ.
Conservative Presbyterians Mulling Split Over Gay Ordination?
The Christian Post reports that a mere three months after the 2-million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) became the fourth Protestant denomination in the U.S. to give ordination rights to openly gay and lesbian clergy, the denomination seems headed for a split. Nearly 2,000 conservative Presbyterians are gathering in Minneapolis this week with an agenda to create a “new Reformed body.” The Rev. Paul Detterman, executive director of Presbyterians for Renewal, wrote to conference participants: “The idea is to recapture our core identity, believing that Reformed theology has much to say to our contemporary culture, and that Calvin’s original vision for the nature and role of presbyteries offers a better way of relating to one another than most of us are experiencing now.” Detterman added that he was urging the group to consider alternatives short of splitting, and that there would be no formal voting. However, a split is being anticipated.
UK: Equality Body's U-turn on Religious Liberty Disappoints Christians
According to the website Christian Today, Christians have reacted with disappointment and alarm after the equality quango appeared to backtrack this week from a previous pledge to support Christians in matters of religious freedom. In July, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) stated that “reasonable accommodation” of religious beliefs was “needed.” The EHRC had applied to intervene in four cases involving workplace discrimination before the European Court of Human Rights:
- a British Airways check-in worker who was denied the right to wear her cross necklace;
- a nurse who was removed from ward duties for refusing to remove her cross necklace;
- a relationships counselor who was fired for saying he would not provide sex therapy to same-sex couples;
- a registrar who was disciplined after requesting not to conduct civil partnership registrations.
The EHRC has been given leave to intervene in the cases but announced this week that it will no longer be arguing for "reasonable accommodation." It also said it will not assist in cases involving employees who ask to have their views on same-sex relations accommodated."