Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 25, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 25, 2006

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

  • New Orleans Archbishop Issues Pastoral Letter on Racial Harmony

  • Hindu Extremists in India Beat Christian Couple, Pastor

  • An Outreach to Outcasts

  • Mixed State Response To Catholic and Protestant Protests in Belarus

New Orleans Archbishop Issues Pastoral Letter on Racial Harmony

Catholic News Service reports that in a pastoral letter, Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans said the Gospel impels Christ's followers to end racial, ethnic and cultural prejudice. "Working for racial and cultural harmony is imperative, if we are to live the Gospel message of Jesus Christ," Hughes wrote. The letter was released Dec. 15 and published in the Dec. 16 issue of the archdiocesan newspaper, the Clarion Herald. The article, titled "Made in the Image and Likeness of God," was originally slated to appear in September 2005, but was delayed because of the devastation caused just weeks earlier by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans. It was rewritten to reflect experiences since the hurricane that demonstrated the long-lasting effects of racism and racial discrimination in the archdiocese. The archbishop issued "an explicit apology" for church action -- or inaction -- that has harmed black Catholics and other minorities.

Hindu Extremists in India Beat Christian Couple, Pastor

Hindu extremists launched two known attacks against Christians last week, beating a couple in the northern state of Haryana yesterday and assaulting a pastor in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Sunday (December 17), Compass Direct News reports. About 50 Bajrang Dal extremists attacked the Christian couple, Rakesh Sen and Suman Sen, at about 8 a.m. yesterday at their home in Lakarpur, Faridabad district. The attackers were upset at the couple for regularly allowing their New Life Fellowship church to meet in their home and warned them against doing so in the future. In Raipur, a group of about 50 extremists from the Dharam Raksha Sena beat an independent pastor on Sunday (December 17) and accused him of forced conversions. They attacked Philip Jagdalla as he returned to his home after teaching Sunday school at his church.

An Outreach to Outcasts

As described by one Syrian ministry supported by Christian Aid, Gypsies are considered a poverty-stricken group of people who do not hold jobs, have no marketable skills and are typically illiterate. Business owners usually refuse to hire Gypsies, who are widely considered untrustworthy. What little money they have comes from selling bottles and other items found in the garbage. Because the government does not recognize them as citizens, they are excluded from receiving medical care, attending school or having electricity and running water. Unable to own land, Gypsies prefer to live in tents on private or government-owned property until they are ordered to leave. This Christmas, native Syrian missionaries will share Christ’s love with these societal outcasts through an outreach program for 10 Gypsy camps. Each family will receive a bundle of groceries and toys, and learn about the true reason for the holiday. A literacy program, was started by the ministry among two of the 10 camps. As a result, 60 Gypsies have accepted Christ as Savior and have begun to lead new lives. Gospel workers hope to strengthen these new believers’ faith in the Lord through this Christmas outreach, as well as demonstrate the love of God to those who do not yet believe.

Mixed State Response To Catholic and Protestant Protests in Belarus

Catholics in Belarus have halted a hunger strike, after receiving endorsement for church construction from the Grodno city administration, ASSIST News Service reports. According to Forum 18 News Service, Parish priest Fr Aleksandr Shemet stressed the Church has not received permission to build, but permission to "gather documents" and "ask for final permission from the President." Parishioners are praying for all Belarusian churches without a building and for the 12 Polish Catholic priests and nuns refused permission to work in Belarus after December 31, 2006. "We want not only the Catholic Church, but all Christians to be able to practice their religion freely," Fr Shemet remarked. "So we will pray that believers are not afraid to demand their rights." The 12 priests and nuns have been denied permission to continue working in Belarus, despite appeals from 12,000 people including Catholic bishops.