Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Critics, Christians Condemn Robertson's Haiti Remark
- Churches Not Yet Enjoying Economic Rebound
- Over 100 Christian Teenagers Arrested in Egypt
- Downed Communications Still Hamper Relief in Haiti
Critics, Christians Condemn Robertson's Haiti Remark
Christian leader Pat Robertson continued his tradition of incendiary remarks on Wednesday, saying that Haiti's deadly earthquake happened because the country's people once "swore a pact to the devil." Referencing colonial times, Robertson said, "Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another." His comments sparked widespread outrage from critics and Christians alike. "It is absolute arrogance to try to interpret any of God's actions as a judgment against this person or that person," Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told ABC's "Good Morning America." "Our duty as Christians is to try to help these people pray for these people and to help them." At least 46 Christian relief organizations are working to get aid into Haiti, according to Christian News Headlines. If you'd like to support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, consider joining some of Crosswalk.com's partners in their work: Global Aid Network (GAiN) USA, Food for the Hungry, Samaritan's Purse, and World Vision.
Churches Not Yet Enjoying Economic Rebound
The Christian Post reports that almost two-thirds of Protestant churches experienced flat or declined giving before the holidays this year. "It's not surprising that churches - and their giving - are more impacted by unemployment than, for example, the stock market or GDP [gross domestic product]," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "As unemployment goes up, giving tends to suffer since many churchgoers give proportionally." The figures from November 2009 compare to the same period in 2008. At the same time, more than 70 percent of pastors said that more people outside their congregations have asked for financial assistance, and 42 percent of churches have increased their budgeted amount to help needy families. LifeWay Research interviewed 1,0002 Protestant pastors for the survey.
Over 100 Christian Teenagers Arrested in Egypt
ASSIST News Service reports that Egyptian State Security has intensified its intimidation of Christians in Nag Hammadi and neighboring Bahgoura by carrying out random arrests of Christian youth. Numerous members of families have been arrested, mostly at dawn, without warrants sinc Jan. 7. More than 100 Christian youth have been arrested without charge. The arrests of rests of Copts after every crime is the usual scenario as a pressure card in the hands of Egyptian State Security to force the church and Copts to accept "reconciliation," in which Coptic victims give up all criminal and civil charges against the perpetrators. Bishop Kyrollos was reportedly asked to issue statements downplaying the negligence of State Security in the Jan. 5 drive-by shootings that killed six Christians and a security guard.
Downed Communications Still Hamper Relief in Haiti
Religion News Service reports that U.S. religious groups are quickly getting relief efforts off the ground, even as they assess the damage to their local partners and congregations in Haiti. With many power and phone lines destroyed, U.S.-based aid workers said it is difficult to determine the scope of destruction left by the earthquake that struck near the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday. "The communications are still very difficult, very spotty," said Donna Derr, emergency response director for Church World Service, in a statement. Haitian President Rene Preval told the Miami Herald that the death toll is "unimaginable." Millions more need emergency aid, Preval said. "Many of us already have a local presence in Haiti," said Maurice Bloem, deputy director for Church World Service, "The challenge here is that everybody is still trying to assess its own immediate damage." The Red Cross estimated Thursday that 50,000 people were killed by the quake.