Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Catholics, Protestants Urged to Meditate During Christmas Season
The Christian Post
Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday urged Catholics to avoid the commercialization of Christmas and suggested that assembling the Nativity scene at home is an effective way of presenting the faith to children. "In today's consumer society, this time [of the year] is unfortunately subjected to a sort of commercial 'pollution' that is in danger of altering its true spirit, which is characterized by meditation, sobriety and by a joy that is not exterior but intimate," the pope said. The commercialization of the holiday season has been a concern for Catholics and Protestants alike, with many denominations urging members to reflect on the suffering of Christ throughout Advent. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and the United Methodist Church have made available day-by-day advent resources for online for ministers to use at church and parents to use at home. PCUSA’s advent calendar even includes special suggestions on how to share the Christmas story with children. Meanwhile, Pope Benedict had a different suggestion: "Assembling the Nativity scene… helps us contemplate the mystery of the love of God, which is revealed to us in the poverty and simplicity of the grotto in Bethlehem."
Navy Chaplain May Lose Job for Praying In Name of Jesus
Family News in Focus
Religious intimidation in the Armed Services has caught the attention of both houses of Congress. Due to a 1998 regulation, chaplains are not allowed to pray in the name of Jesus. “You know our soldiers and sailors, they go overseas to promote religious freedom for other people, but here in America, they can’t even hear the diversity of religions from their own chaplains,” said Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, who is facing termination of a stellar 14-year career after his commanding officer “told a Navy board that Klingenschmitt overemphasizes his own faith system, and he was talking about my sermons and prayers, and he specifically cited the Chaplain school director who told him that I was an immature Chaplain because I pray in Jesus’ name.” Jim Backlin of the Christian Coalition believes the situation presents a chance for President Bush to get involved, and so far seventy-four congressmen have signed a letter asking the President to take action. Backlin says that the President can change the situation with the stroke of a pen. “We do need an executive order protecting the First Amendment rights of military chaplains and other members of the military to pray according to their faith.”
Pakistani Militants Call for Elimination of Christians
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Militant Islamists in Pakistan have called for the elimination of Christians and the public hanging of a Christian accused of blasphemy. Some 3,000 Muslims gathered for Friday prayers at the Jamia Mosque in Sangla Hill on December 2, where three weeks earlier three churches, a school, a convent and Christian homes were attacked in Pakistan's worst outbreak of anti-Christian violence since 2002. Islamic leaders using loudspeakers urged Muslims to rise up and eliminate Christians. They also passed a resolution demanding that Yousaf Masih, a Christian accused of desecrating the Koran, be publicly hanged. The speakers also demanded the unconditional release of the 88 Muslims who have been detained by the Pakistani authorities and accused of perpetrating the November 12 attack on Sangla Hill. Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW, said: "The situation in Pakistan is becoming increasingly tense. We urge the Pakistani Government to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice, and to be bold and repeal the notorious Blasphemy Laws which are the cause of so much inter-religious strife."
"My House Shall Be a House of Prayer for All People"
Religion News Service
Jews and Christians are overcoming centuries-old traditions of separation and attempted conversion by sharing worship space and, in some cases, even constructing buildings together. Pastors and rabbis from New York to California say the unusual partnerships have strengthened faith in their own religion while inspiring greater mutual respect for those of other beliefs. "In a world that had experienced the Holocaust, it was necessary to show that Jews and Christians could trust each other in this profound way," says Jewish congregational member Marilyn Scott, former president of Michigan’s Temple Beth Emeth, which has shared space with St. Clare of Assisi, an Episcopal church, since 1969. While some congregations that share space rarely mingle, others have created traditions together: the Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew and Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan run a homeless shelter and offer joint classes. “We actually have some couples where one is Christian and one is Jewish,” says Rabbi Felicia Sol, “and they jointly belong to both congregations.” As in any relationship, struggles inevitably develop but disagreements rarely involve religious differences. "Our rubbing shoulders with them made us more Jewish and made them more Christian," says Rabbi Bruce Warshal, who led Beth Emeth when it entered into its partnership with St. Clare.