Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
No Let-Up in Pakistan Cartoon Violence
The raging violence over publication of irreverent sketches of the Prophet Muhammad in European countries claimed three more lives in Pakistan. Two people died in Peshawar and one person was killed in Lahore as police clashed with students. In Peshawar, the mob targeted foreign firms but its furious reaction also took a heavy toll of local businesses. Responding to the call of Tahufaz-e-Namoos-e-Rasalat (protection of reverence of the Prophet Muhammad) thousands of people ransacked shops and businesses. Police had to resort to tear gas after the demonstrators set ablaze a KFC food outlet. Some reports also suggested incidents of firing by protesters in the city. A person died when a power transmission line fell on protesting crowds whereas a stray bullet claimed the life of a young boy. The provincial chief minister urged people to remain calm. “We will not ban rallies against sacrilegious cartoons but protesters must remain peaceful,” Chief Minister Akram Durrani is quoted as saying. The controversial cartoons first appeared in Danish Newspaper in September last year and were later carried by many European newspapers in January this year.
Archbishop Niederauer Installed in San Francisco
At his installation Mass as head of the San Francisco Archdiocese, Archbishop George H. Niederauer urged more than 2,500 people to reflect God's love, serve others and not be afraid to defend church teaching. He praised the work of his two predecessors, and also thanked San Francisco's two auxiliaries "for their welcome, their support and their assistance to me in this time of transition." San Francisco's former archbishops attended the installation Mass along with Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali and nearly 50 bishops, hundreds of priests and deacons, women and men religious, dozens of interfaith, civic, and community leaders, and representatives from parishes and organizations. Archbishop Niederauer, a 69-year-old Los Angeles native who had led the Salt Lake City Diocese since 1995, is the eighth archbishop of San Francisco. He said one of his first priorities will be to get to know the people of the archdiocese, especially in parish settings "where Catholics most vitally live and celebrate their faith." The main focus of the archbishop's homily was the first encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI, "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love") and its applications for the archdiocese. The Archbishop’s new archdiocese is made up of just three counties and only covers 1,012 square miles, but it has a Catholic population of 420,000 in 94 parishes and 10 missions.
Protest Planned at Christian Conference on Homosexuality
A conference aimed at helping Christians address homosexuality or change their sexual orientation will be met with protests from the gay rights community when it meets Feb. 25 in St. Louis. Billboards along St. Louis highways have advertised the "Love Won Out" conference sponsored by Focus on the Family and Exodus International, two Christian organizations. The signs show a man saying: "I Questioned Homosexuality. Change is Possible. Discover How." People from the gay rights community met this week to plan a response to the conference, according to Julie Brueggemann, executive director of PROMO, a Missouri lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender political action group. Brueggemann said a peaceful protest at the First Evangelical Free Church in Manchester, the conference site, is being organized to educate those attending about their position. "We are opposed to the idea that homosexuality can be cured like a disease," she said. Officials with Focus on the Family, an evangelical group based in Colorado Springs, Colo., said the conference has visited about 40 cities in North America since its creation in 1998, and most conferences are met with protest. Mike Haley, the co-founder of the conference with Focus on the Family, said more than 1,000 people are expected to attend. He said changing someone's unwanted same-sex attractions is only a small part of the daylong meeting.
Persecution Doesn't Stop the Gospel
The team of Gospel for Asia Bible college students and staff was on evangelistic outreach when the trouble came. People opposed to the Gospel approached them, grabbed one of the GFA staff members and locked him in a room for three hours. There, they forced him to pronounce names of their gods. After torturing him, they released him. On another occasion, anti-Christian elements disrupted a prayer meeting, beating pastors and believers very severely. And in another recent incident, stones were pelted at a GFA Believers Church leader and others. Also recently, a local government official contacted area Christian leaders for information about the work of missionaries under them. And, as a GFA leader reports, anti-Christian groups are paying some of their people to report back to them with such information as well. Their intent is to create problems for the work of the Gospel. Such opposition in this area is part of a rising tide of persecution in India's central region. A GFA leader there writes that "our people [in this area] are facing considerable pressure and difficulties in the ministry." "Our prayer is that the Lord may give grace and power to them to stand firm in the faith," he adds. "For as Paul said in Romans 8:35, 37, 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.'”