Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 23, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 23, 2008

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

  • Buddhist Clerics in Bangladesh Take Christians Captive
  • Virginia Judge Hands Conservatives Big Legal Victory
  • Survey: Most Britons Do Not Believe in the Nativity
  • Christmas Bleak for Zimbabweans Fleeing Collapse

Buddhist Clerics in Bangladesh Take Christians Captive

Compass Direct News reports that Buddhist clerics are holding 13 newly converted Christians captive in a pagoda in a southeastern mountainous district of Bangladesh in an attempt to forcibly return them to Buddhism. A spokesman for the Parbatta Adivasi (Hill Tract) Christian Church told Compass that local council officials in Jorachuri sub-district in Rangamati district are helping the Buddhist monks to hold the Christians against their will. “They will be kept in a pagoda for 10 days to perform the rituals to be Buddhists – their heads were shaved, and they were given yellow saffron robes to dress in.” The spokesman said that some area Christians have gone into hiding, fearing for their lives. Mogdhan Union Council Chairman Arun Kanti Chakma, he said, warned that Christian converts would be ostracized, beaten, or killed.

Virginia Judge Hands Conservatives Big Legal Victory

Religion News Service reports that Judge Randy Bellows of Fairfax Circuit Court ruled on Friday (Dec. 19) that three parcels of land belong to parishes that have broken away from the Episcopal Church, handing conservatives an important, if tentative, legal win. An 1867 state law, passed as Virginia congregations separated over slavery, allows a parish to disaffiliate from a denomination where a division has occurred while maintaining legal control over parish property. Bellows ruled that these land parcels are covered by the "division statute." Friday's ruling ends the first chapter of an expensive legal battle. The Diocese of Virginia has spent $2 million on legal fees thus far, and has pledged to appeal Bellows' decision to the Supreme Court of Virginia. 

Survey: Most Britons Do Not Believe in the Nativity

ASSIST News Service reports that a new survey in the United Kingdom suggests the majority of Britons do not believe in the Biblical story of Jesus' birth. Of 1,000 people questioned, 70 percent doubted the account, according to the British Market Research Bureau, cited by a BBC report. Even among those who described themselves as Christians, almost a quarter said they had doubts, and one fifth said they did not believe Jesus was both God and man. BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggott said the findings suggested a fading influence for the Church's teaching in a secular age. "They also reinforce evidence that believers are increasingly willing to pick and choose which elements of the Bible's story they accept," he added.

Christmas Bleak for Zimbabweans Fleeing Collapse

Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa have somber shopping lists for family back home. According to the Associated Press, most the 3 million refugees in South Africa identify with Takelah Chakamza, whose list includes only necessities such as cooking oil and corn meal. Her 11 family members in Zimbabwe all rely on her meager salary of $80 a month as a Johannesburg cook. In Zimbabwe, David Tafa, a farmer in the Bindura region, said: "There's no Christmas to talk about. There's no water, no food." William Kandowe, a schoolteacher-now-refugee who spent last Christmas at a Methodist Church in South Africa, says the number of those seeking shelter has increased from about 1,500 to about 3,8000.