Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- North Carolina Hurricane Recovery Sites Identified, Volunteers Ready
- Irene Crosses into Canada; Cleanup to Take Weeks
- Malaysia Church Raid Stokes Religious Tensions
- Joel Osteen, Church Sued by Band for $3M
North Carolina Hurricane Recovery Sites Identified, Volunteers Ready
Less than 24 hours after Irene crashed ashore on North Carolina's coast, North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) staff and volunteers were already mapping out a plan of action, Baptist Press reports. Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director, said the hardest-hit areas in the state appear to be near Pamlico Sound, Carteret County and the Outer Banks. Trained NCBM assessors have been on the ground since Saturday night and early Sunday morning surveying the damage and helping identify the greatest needs. NCBM will set up feeding/recovery units at several local churches, and set up its state recovery unit at The Memorial Baptist Church in Greenville. Those units were slated to be ready for feeding by Monday. Brunson expects to feed about 5,000 meals per day at each of the sites. "It is too early at this point to know how long the feeding units will be needed," Brunson said. "We expect at least a week. How soon people are able to get power back to their homes will play a large part in determining that. However, we expect the recovery process to be much longer."
Irene Crosses into Canada; Cleanup to Take Weeks
Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone as it was heading toward Canada on Sunday night, but it had already killed more than two dozen people across the United States, The Christian Post reports. Preliminary estimates have the storm costing insurers $1.5 billion to $3 billion, with total damages, including uninsured losses, around $5 billion to $7 billion. Philip Bedient, a professor of civil engineering at Rice University in Houston, said that the recovery effort would take days, and in some cases weeks, as flooding from Irene’s torrential rains was still a threat to electrical infrastructure. “It could have been a lot worse in terms of storm surge, could have been worse in terms of the actual wind speeds,” he said. “It did not strengthen like they originally thought.”
Malaysia Church Raid Stokes Religious Tensions
A raid by state Islamic enforcers on a church function in predominantly Muslim Malaysia has stirred religious tensions and revived fears of growing Islamisation. During a dinner at a Methodist church hall outside the Kuala Lumpur on August 3, officers arrived saying they had information that a group of Muslims were being converted, which is prohibited. The incident, though described as tame, has nevertheless unnerved some. The Damansara Utama Methodist Church denied the event was held to convert Muslims, but Islamic officials and pro-government media pounced on the case to allege a widespread Christian proselytising campaign. Malaysia likes to portray itself as a modern, ethnically harmonious Muslim state. "I am very unhappy with the way Christians are being portrayed and why authorities are treating the community so suspiciously," Maria Varghese, 37, a Kuala Lumpur schoolteacher and ethnic Indian Christian, told AFP. "We are not trying to convert anyone. We have friends of all races and religions and have lived happily for centuries. I don't understand why they are attacking us."
Joel Osteen, Church Sued by Band for $3M
According to The Christian Post, Joel and Victoria Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston have been sued for copyright infringement by New York band The American Dollar. Bandmates Richard Cupolo and John Emanuele - and their label Yesh Music - allege the Osteens used the song, “Signaling Through the Flames,” in commercials for their DVD Supernatural without permission. The duo did sign an agreement that allowed use of their song by Lakewood but say the agreement was only for one year and expired back in February. "They don't want to be tied to a global televangelist for the rest of their careers, and a controversial one at that," lawyer Jarrett Ellzey explained. The songwriters say they are asking for $3 million in damages because the 58-second clip of their instrumental “contributed to the success of the Defendant’s DVD and their marketing campaigns for other products, and substantially increased revenues and profits” for the Osteens and Lakewood. Lakewood's stance is that Cupolo and Emanuele are “apparently confused about the scope of the license,” spokesman Don Ilof said.