Religion Today Summaries, December 17, 2003

Compiled and Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, December 17, 2003

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

  • Habitat for Humanity Founder Calls 150,000 Homes 'A Significant Beginning'
  • Church 'Blessed' Because of Fund-Raiser Theft
  • Hindu Extremists Burn Effigy of Christ
  • Ministry Supports Growth of Christianity in Iraq

Habitat for Humanity Founder Calls 150,000 Homes 'A Significant Beginning'
Jenni Parker, Agape Press

The founder of a worldwide Christian housing ministry has been named Executive of the Year by the Nonprofit Times. Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity International, recently received the award from the business publication for his innovation and success with the housing ministry. His Americus, Georgia-based ministry has helped provide homes for more than 150,000 families in nearly 3,000 communities worldwide, but the servant-leader says he was surprised by the honor. In 1976, he found Habitat, a nonprofit organization that constructs affordable, interest-free housing for low-income families. According to Fuller, the reason Habitat has been so successful in fulfilling its mission is because the organization is based on the scriptural mandate to care for our neighbors. "It's God's idea," he says. "The Bible tells us plainly that we should love one another," Fuller explains, "and we should express love in tangible ways. I think it's working because we are doing business with some fundamental biblical ideas." Still, Habitat's founder says there is much more to be done. "More than a hundred million people in the world are absolutely homeless," he says, "So our work is really just beginning." Habitat is dedicated to the goal of eliminating poverty housing. While some would call it a charitable organization, it is important to know that the ministry does not give houses away. Instead, it provides poor people with no-profit, no-interest mortgages, and requires the recipients to invest hundreds of hours helping with the construction of their own homes.

Church 'Blessed' Because of Fund-Raiser Theft
Charisma News Service

A theft that occurred during a Florida church's recent fund-raiser has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the nondenominational congregation. After accepting a free meal a week before Thanksgiving at Community Deliverance Church in Palm Beach, two unidentified teenagers snatched a cash box containing $200. However, thanks to publicity from local media, Community Deliverance has received more than $2,500 in donations, with many of the gifts coming from anonymous donors who wanted to replace the stolen money collected at the church's weekly benefit cookout. "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can," wrote a couple from West Palm Beach, who attached a short poem to a check for $300. Pastor William Bouie noted that the 130-member congregation has been "blessed ... because of the incident." Bouie added that he and the congregation used some of the donated money to deliver Thanksgiving dinner baskets to about a dozen families in the community. The church's community dinner is set for tomorrow and some of the money stolen during a chicken and rib cookout would have paid for that. The congregation raises about $300 to $400 weekly selling meals. "I'm not really upset about the money," Bouie said. "What really pains me is that they took it the way they did. If they needed help, I would have given it to them."

Hindu Extremists Burn Effigy of Christ
Compass Direct

Tension has gripped the Christian community in the Indian state of Orissa after Hindu militants unleashed a fresh wave of violence in the last week of November. A dozen members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bajrang Dal broke into a local church in Deogarh, ransacked bookshelves and burned hundreds of religious books. Charges have been filed against 12 suspects in connection with the incident. Hindu militants in the area resent the recent conversion of four tribal families in Ambulpani village. In a handwritten statement to the press, a local Bajrang Dal leader said that if police fail to take action against those who are converting impoverished tribal peoples to Christianity, "people may take the law into their own hands." The Global Council of Indian Christians protested the attack and called for police to protect minorities from Hindu fundamentalists. Orissa is one of five states with laws obliging those who want to change their religion to obtain written permission from government officials.

Ministry Supports Growth of Christianity in Iraq
Allie Martin, Agape Press

A California-based ministry that reaches out to the persecuted Church worldwide is helping believing residents of war-torn Iraq as they prepare to celebrate the first Christmas since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Open Doors International is distributing 50,000 Christian-themed coloring books to Iraqi children, and early next year children's Bible storybooks will be printed for distribution in Iraq. Devotional materials for adults are being selected as well and are scheduled to be distributed next year. The ministry is also supporting the training of Iraqi Sunday School teachers. Now that the tyrannical rule of Hussein is definitively over, Open Doors is making efforts to take advantage of the current climate of openness and relative religious freedom in Iraq. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors, says the mood in Iraq is more positive than it was immediately after the war.  The Iraqis are sensing that God is doing something significant," he says.  According to the ministry president, Open Doors is planning activities to support believers in Iraq all through the coming year. Open Doors is also supporting Christian bookstores in Iraq with thousands of books, cassettes, and videos, and a Christian resource center in Baghdad, scheduled to open early next year.