Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Churches Vandalized in Santa Cruz, CA; Graffiti Equates Christianity to Nazism
Hateful symbols greeted some Christian worshippers as they came to mass Sunday morning in Santa Cruz, where at least five churches and two other Christian places were marred with graffiti, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. In each instance, the vandals painted crosses followed by equal signs and swastikas. Most of the churches were able to wash off the symbols and other profanities before parishioners arrived. But at the First Congregational Church, office worker Deborah Hoit said people were saddened by the crafted image and profanity defacing their church. "To some people, it's a little scary," she said. "You wish (the vandals) would sit down and talk to someone instead.'' Police had few leads but continue to look for what at least one investigator believes is one perpetrator guilty of the vandalisms Saturday night. The churches targeted include Holy Cross, Messiah Lutheran, High Street Community and Calvary Episcopalian in addition to First Congregational. A Christian bookshop, Agnus Dei Christian, and the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park were also vandalized.
Progress, New Challenges for Black Catholic Community
African-American Catholics have made strides in developing leadership over the past two decades, but they face new challenges, said black Catholic leaders contacted at the start of Black History Month, which is observed each February. "There's still so much work that needs to be done," said Beverly Carroll, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for African-American Catholics in Washington. "We remain a marginalized group," Dominican Sister Jamie T. Phelps, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service. A lack of black priests and seminarians is a concern. Most of the country's African-American priests were ordained in the 1970s and 1980s, before vocations declined across the board. Only 1 percent of U.S. priests are African-American although 3 percent of the U.S. Catholic population is African-American. In 1988, the sixth National Black Catholic Congress -- the first such congress in nearly a century -- had convened and drawn up a National Black Catholic Pastoral Plan focusing on evangelization. At the time there were about 1.3 million African-American Catholics. Now there are more than 2 million. "The mission (today) is still the same -- evangelization," Carroll said. "The focus of our work is still what are the best ways to spread the good news in the black communities… What has changed is how we go about responding to that mission."
Anglican Church Offers Apology for its Role in Slavery
Two hundred years after Anglican reformers helped to abolish the slave trade, the Church of England has apologized for profiting from it, the London Telegraph reports. Last night the General Synod acknowledged complicity in the trade after hearing that the Church had run a slave plantation in the West Indies and that individual bishops had owned hundreds of slaves. It voted unanimously to apologize to the descendents of slaves after an emotional debate in which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, urged the Church to share the "shame and sinfulness of our predecessors." The Rev Simon Bessant, of Blackburn, told the Synod: "We were at the heart of it; we were directly responsible for what happened." He said that, despite the efforts of Anglican reformers such as William Wilberforce, the Church was "part of the problem as well as part of the solution". Bishop Butler said that a Synod apology could result in the Church becoming the "national scapegoat" for slavery when the whole country should share the guilt. Dr. Williams said the apology was not political correctness but "necessary".
India's Christians Reaching Out in Love as Muslim Violence Continues
President George W. Bush says governments in Islamic nations should put an end to violence over cartoons mocking Muhammad, saying the lives of innocent diplomats are at risk. Despite those comments the violence continues around the world, but Christians are reaching out. In India, which has the second largest Muslim population in the world, police fired tear gas in the Kashmir region to break up protests. Hopegivers International's Bill Bray says Christians need to take action, but not the way you think. "As Christians globally, if we would take a step back from this, this culture war between Islam and the rest of the world and use every opportunity we can personally with Muslims, to love them, and as we do that we will have opportunities to witness." Bray says Hopegivers is adding even more workers to share this love. "We're just about to have the largest graduation in our history from our Bible seminary program (we'll have) 10,400 missionary graduates in one day." The ministry many of them will begin is very effective, says Bray. "Everywhere the Hopegivers start a Hope Home, or a clinic, I would say within two, three or five years there's usually a witnessing community established and these missionaries do bring the light of the Gospel into these villages."