Religion Today Summaries - December 12, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 12, 2005

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

 

In today's edition: 

Christians Scramble to Aid Earthquake Victims before Worst of Winter Hits

Christianity Today

                          

Evangelical ministries are hurriedly responding to Operation Winter Race, a U.N. effort to gather and distribute aid to Kashmir and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province before snow and ice cut off devastated mountain villages from transport trucks and helicopters. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake devastated these regions on October 8. By mid-November, the U.N. reported more than 87,000 dead and 100,000 injured in about 11,500 square miles of some of the world's most rugged terrain. Len Stitt, director of Shelter Now Pakistan, said at least as many people as died in the earthquake may now perish from illness and exposure to harsh winter weather. Children are most vulnerable. In the Himalayan foothills. One evangelical physician working in the region said that by early November, about 80 of these communities had not yet seen a single aid worker. Landslides destroyed roads and entire villages. Relief-bearing helicopters that could ferry victims to hospitals had no place to land. Some 3 million people are homeless, the U.N. reports. The evangelical doctor described rampant misery in makeshift communities. The doctor said surgeons have amputated numerous limbs because many victims could not access healthcare until 10 or more days after the earthquake. Hundreds of children have been orphaned.

                                    

Religious Groups, Retired General Back Anti-Torture Amendment

Catholic News Service

 

Policies that are unclear about the torture of prisoners damage U.S. international interests and credibility and are an offense against human rights, said panelists who included a retired Army general, a former adviser to the departments of State and Defense and representatives of Jewish and Catholic organizations. As the House prepared to take up an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill banning "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of prisoners and spelling out what that means, supporters of the McCain amendment on torture and abuse rallied backers from diverse backgrounds. Steve Colecchi, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops support the amendment because the church teaches respect for fundamental human rights and dignity. "The many reports of prisoner abuse by members of the U.S. armed forces tarnish the reputation of our country," Colecchi said at a Dec. 7 media briefing sponsored by Human Rights First. But, he said, they also "make it less likely that other countries and people will collaborate with us in the struggle against terrorism, and they compromise the moral standing of our nation as we seek to win the hearts and minds of others." He said respect for the dignity of every individual, whether ally or enemy, must be the foundation of the pursuit of security, justice and peace. "Any exception says people are expendable, that some people's human rights don't count," Colecchi said. "There is no exception to a fundamental moral principle."

 

Pastor Acquitted of Hate Speech by Sweden's Highest Court

ASSIST News Service

 

A precedent-setting verdict, upholding freedom of speech and religion, was issued on November 29 by the Swedish Supreme Court (SSC). According to the Laywers Christian Fellowship in London, Sweden's highest court, in a unanimous decision, acquitted Pastor Ake Green of charges of "hate speech" arising from a sermon he preached in July, 2003 denouncing homosexual behaviors. Lawyers Christian Fellowship says Green was initially convicted under Sweden's new hate crimes law, enacted in 2003, which makes illegal any expressions of "disrespect" or "incitement" "towards a group of people," including groups with "sexual inclinations." The group says that up to two years in prison is the normal penalty under the law, but if a statement against any particular group is "especially threatening or disrespectful" or "disseminated to a large number of persons," the crime is considered "major" and the perpetrator can be subject to up to four years in prison. Green had been convicted and sentenced by a lower court in 2004. The group says: "It was claimed by some that that he had referred to homosexuals in a disrespectful way, but Green explained to the courts that he was referring to homosexual acts, not persons. Green commented: "I don't take back what I said. I still think we should be able to voice our convictions without ending up in jail and if that happens I will be showing how ridiculous things have got."

 

Methodists Warn Against Narnia Commercialization

The Christian Post

 

United Methodists have brought up an entirely new concern outside the debate on the content of C.S. Lewis' novel and the movie of the same name: commercialization. Julie Taylor, executive for children, youth and family advocacy of the United Methodist Women's Division, pointed to the commercialization of the Narnia film as an issue of greater concern for the younger audience of children. "We need to help people understand that by commercializing the message, the marketers are destroying the example of sacrifice," she said. The "sacrifice" she speaks of is one of the values portrayed in the film, which she refers to as a "beautiful allegory of the Gospel story." "We want our members to see the movie," said Taylor, whose division consists of one million members. "Talk about it with your kids. Talk about the message of the resurrection and the lessons it shares from our faith." While the faith message may be shared with the children, commercialization of the film, such as the production of toys and video games, could undermine what values were taught. "That a film being promoted in churches is also being used to lure children to shopping malls commercializes the spiritual life of children and sets a disturbing precedent." As licenses have been sold to use Narnia characters for marketing and to be made into action figures, board games and more in time for holiday shopping, Taylor poses the question to the faith community saying, "We need to determine for ourselves, what should we be doing - as people of faith - about this?"

 

Christians Scramble to Aid Earthquake Victims before Worst of Winter Hits

Christianity Today

                          

Evangelical ministries are hurriedly responding to Operation Winter Race, a U.N. effort to gather and distribute aid to Kashmir and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province before snow and ice cut off devastated mountain villages from transport trucks and helicopters. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake devastated these regions on October 8. By mid-November, the U.N. reported more than 87,000 dead and 100,000 injured in about 11,500 square miles of some of the world's most rugged terrain. Len Stitt, director of Shelter Now Pakistan, said at least as many people as died in the earthquake may now perish from illness and exposure to harsh winter weather. Children are most vulnerable. In the Himalayan foothills. One evangelical physician working in the region said that by early November, about 80 of these communities had not yet seen a single aid worker. Landslides destroyed roads and entire villages. Relief-bearing helicopters that could ferry victims to hospitals had no place to land. Some 3 million people are homeless, the U.N. reports. The evangelical doctor described rampant misery in makeshift communities. The doctor said surgeons have amputated numerous limbs because many victims could not access healthcare until 10 or more days after the earthquake. Hundreds of children have been orphaned.

                                    

Religious Groups, Retired General Back Anti-Torture Amendment

Catholic News Service

 

Policies that are unclear about the torture of prisoners damage U.S. international interests and credibility and are an offense against human rights, said panelists who included a retired Army general, a former adviser to the departments of State and Defense and representatives of Jewish and Catholic organizations. As the House prepared to take up an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill banning "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of prisoners and spelling out what that means, supporters of the McCain amendment on torture and abuse rallied backers from diverse backgrounds. Steve Colecchi, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops support the amendment because the church teaches respect for fundamental human rights and dignity. "The many reports of prisoner abuse by members of the U.S. armed forces tarnish the reputation of our country," Colecchi said at a Dec. 7 media briefing sponsored by Human Rights First. But, he said, they also "make it less likely that other countries and people will collaborate with us in the struggle against terrorism, and they compromise the moral standing of our nation as we seek to win the hearts and minds of others." He said respect for the dignity of every individual, whether ally or enemy, must be the foundation of the pursuit of security, justice and peace. "Any exception says people are expendable, that some people's human rights don't count," Colecchi said. "There is no exception to a fundamental moral principle."

 

Pastor Acquitted of Hate Speech by Sweden's Highest Court

ASSIST News Service

 

A precedent-setting verdict, upholding freedom of speech and religion, was issued on November 29 by the Swedish Supreme Court (SSC). According to the Laywers Christian Fellowship in London, Sweden's highest court, in a unanimous decision, acquitted Pastor Ake Green of charges of "hate speech" arising from a sermon he preached in July, 2003 denouncing homosexual behaviors. Lawyers Christian Fellowship says Green was initially convicted under Sweden's new hate crimes law, enacted in 2003, which makes illegal any expressions of "disrespect" or "incitement" "towards a group of people," including groups with "sexual inclinations." The group says that up to two years in prison is the normal penalty under the law, but if a statement against any particular group is "especially threatening or disrespectful" or "disseminated to a large number of persons," the crime is considered "major" and the perpetrator can be subject to up to four years in prison. Green had been convicted and sentenced by a lower court in 2004. The group says: "It was claimed by some that that he had referred to homosexuals in a disrespectful way, but Green explained to the courts that he was referring to homosexual acts, not persons. Green commented: "I don't take back what I said. I still think we should be able to voice our convictions without ending up in jail and if that happens I will be showing how ridiculous things have got."

 

Methodists Warn Against Narnia Commercialization

The Christian Post

 

United Methodists have brought up an entirely new concern outside the debate on the content of C.S. Lewis' novel and the movie of the same name: commercialization. Julie Taylor, executive for children, youth and family advocacy of the United Methodist Women's Division, pointed to the commercialization of the Narnia film as an issue of greater concern for the younger audience of children. "We need to help people understand that by commercializing the message, the marketers are destroying the example of sacrifice," she said. The "sacrifice" she speaks of is one of the values portrayed in the film, which she refers to as a "beautiful allegory of the Gospel story." "We want our members to see the movie," said Taylor, whose division consists of one million members. "Talk about it with your kids. Talk about the message of the resurrection and the lessons it shares from our faith." While the faith message may be shared with the children, commercialization of the film, such as the production of toys and video games, could undermine what values were taught. "That a film being promoted in churches is also being used to lure children to shopping malls commercializes the spiritual life of children and sets a disturbing precedent." As licenses have been sold to use Narnia characters for marketing and to be made into action figures, board games and more in time for holiday shopping, Taylor poses the question to the faith community saying, "We need to determine for ourselves, what should we be doing - as people of faith - about this?"

 

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