Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 18, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 18, 2009

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

  • India: 20,000 Christians Face Christmas as Refugees
  • Majority of Americans Celebrate Christmas as Religious Holiday
  • Candlelight Services Prove Costly for Some Ala. Churches
  • Wycliffe Pushes to Establish Facilities in Southern Sudan

India: 20,000 Christians Face Christmas as Refugees

Christian Today reports that as many as 20,000 Christians in India will spend another year as refugees. About 50,000 people were displaced by militant Hindus in Orissa state two years ago, and many still fear to return to their villages. The state's courts have moved slowly, while witnesses to the violence have been threatened and intimidated outside the courtrooms. Groups such as Release International have lobbied the Indian government to speed up the justice process. Andy Dipper, CEO of Release International, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, said: "Please pray for Christians in India this Christmas, especially those in Orissa who still face the high risk of attack and marginalization from the Hindu fundamentalists."

Majority of Americans Celebrate Christmas as Religious Holiday

The Westside Story reports that two-thirds of Americans still celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, but that doesn't mean they believe the traditional Christmas story. A new Rasmussen Reports survey found that 66 percent of Americans consider Christmas to be religious, but 28 percent don't think he was born of a virgin. Another 19 percent say they did not agree that Jesus is the Son of God. Most Americans still accept the historical nature of Jesus as well - 82 percent said the historical Jesus really did walk the earth 2,000 years ago. Overall, about 85 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, even though 20 percent of the population puts up the tree without any religious overtones. Most Americans say they still prefer signs wishing them a "merry Christmas" instead of "happy holidays."

Candlelight Services Prove Costly for Some Ala. Churches

Religion News Service reports that an Alabama fire chief says churches that want to hold Christmas Eve candlelight services will have to pay four off-duty firefighters $100 each to monitor safety. Pastors of several churches in Homewood, Ala., which is just south of Birmingham, said they did not know the city requires a permit for candlelight or firefighters for candlelight services. Homewood Fire Chief John Bresnan said the law has been on the books for more than 10 years. Edgewood Presbyterian Church, a small church that expects about 200 at its Christmas Eve candlelight service, was recently notified of the permit requirement and told to hire four firefighters, said Pastor Sid Burgess. "People sit in their pews and sing 'Silent Night' while those candles are being lit," Burgess said. "We have fire extinguishers at the front and rear." The requirement to hire firefighters "does seem like overkill," Burgess said.

Wycliffe Pushes to Establish Facilities in Southern Sudan

Wycliffe Associates, an international Bible translator, is pushing to establish a permanent Bible translation center in Southern Sudan before the current peace agreement with the North ends in 2011. Bible translation efforts in Southern Sudan had been stalled for nearly 18 years as translators were forced to leave the country due to hostilities. Upon their return in 2005, translation teams lived in mud huts until housing and office space could be repaired. Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, says the completion of a new translation facility within the next two years is critical to the future of Bible translation in the region. "Though much has been accomplished, there is so much work left to be done to provide these committed Bible translators," says Smith.

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