Religion Today Summaries - February 28, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 28, 2006

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


In today's edition:

Christian Group Thinks Smaller


According to an AP story, the World Council of Churches has seen each of its meetings grow bigger and more ambitious over the past six decades. But now even some of the most ardent backers of the council's mission are wondering if smaller may be better. During the council's latest global assembly -- bringing together 4,000 envoys from more than 350 churches -- delegates challenged the group to look hard at whether such parliament-style megameetings are relevant at a time when Christianity is being rapidly reordered around the world. In the West, mainline Protestant churches face graying congregations and declining influence. Some denominations, most notably Anglicans, also are in danger in splintering over disputes on gay clergy and same-sex blessings. Pentecostal and evangelical movements, meanwhile, keep steamrolling through Africa, Latin America and elsewhere -- but accounted for less than 2 percent of participants at the council gathering, which ended Thursday. The keynote address of the conference repeatedly raised the idea that Christian churches need to find clearer ways to connect and cooperate beyond simply sharing the stage at meetings and issuing joint communiqués.


Indians Persecuted for their Faith


In spite of the persecution the Church in India is flourishing, says a Family News in Focus report. Christians are being persecuted in growing numbers in India as they try to evangelize the lowest class of people in the Hindu culture. Prison, beatings, even death are faced by both Western and Indian Christians. The persecutors are part of a radical sect of the Hindu faith that some have compared to Afghanistan’s Taliban. This pastor, who asked to remain anonymous, has been a victim: “In 1999 I was speaking in a certain city and about 200 of them barged inside with stones and swords and spears and said we will kill you right here.” His life was spared but he was beaten and imprisoned. Even in the midst of the persecution Christ is giving the poorest of the poor a new voice. “Once men know who they are, once men have their dignity back, they don’t want to do what they have been doing for centuries and so they revolt, in a sense.” As a result, Dr. K P Yohannan of Gospel of Asia says the persecuted church in India is flourishing. “In the last ten years or so we have seen incredible number of people all turning their hearts to the Lord especially those people who have been living in slavery of the Hindu caste system for three thousand years.” Yohannan estimates that six to seven percent of India is Christian.


God's Word is Penetrating the Middle East


As the world wonders what will happen with Middle East peace, Christians aren't waiting. Believers are playing an active part in telling the Arab world about the peace that can only can from Jesus Christ. Peace that is eternal. Book of Hope International is a major part of that effort. A Book of Hope worker says the church is using the Book of Hope, a harmony of the Gospels, to preach this message. "We are a Christian ministry in the Middle East working with the churches and with the schools. And, we have integrated the Book of Hope in our children clubs and training for children’s workers." While the Book of Hope has only been in distribution for a year, they've seen success. "We were able to distribute 39,000 books in about six countries. All the books that have been sent to these Arab countries have been cleared by the customs… It's not easy to stay there, but we have a ministry, we have a mission, we have a calling from the Lord to do our job there." While distribution is important, that's only a part of the work. "They present a 45 minute program to the children with a Christian message. It's attractive. It has drama, music, puppets, clowning, story telling and at the end of each program, each child receives copies of the Book of Hope." One dollar provides a Book of Hope to three children, making it a great project for a Sunday School class, small group or Bible study group.


British Religious Leaders Agree to Teach Many Faiths in Schools


In an attempt to spread tolerance among people of different religions, English and Welsh bishops have publicly committed themselves to ensuring that children in Catholic schools are taught about non-Christian faiths, the Catholic News Service reports. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, England, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, signed an agreement with other faith leaders as part of an initiative by the British government's Department for Education and Skills to address the failure of some faith schools to teach about religions other than their own. In a Feb. 22 statement, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Evangelical, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist schools committed to supporting the National Framework for Religious Education, introduced in 2004 but not legally binding. In the statement, the leaders said that teaching about a range of faiths enabled children to "develop respect for and sensitivity to others, in particular those whose faith and beliefs are different from their own." The faith leaders said: "We believe that schools with a religious designation should teach not only their own faith but also an awareness of the tenets of other faiths. We are fully committed to using the framework in developing the religious education curriculum for our schools and colleges."