Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Robertson Apologizes for Saying Stroke Was a Divine Punishment
Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson has sent a letter of apology for suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment, the AP reports. Robertson's comments that God had smitten Sharon for pulling Israel out of the Gaza Strip (the pullout was seen by many evangelical groups as a retreat from a biblical prophecy of Jewish sovereignty over the area) drew condemnation from other Christian leaders, President Bush, and Israeli officials. In a letter dated Wednesday and marked for hand delivery to Sharon's son Omri, Robertson called the prime minister a ''kind, gracious, and gentle man" who was ''carrying an almost insurmountable burden of making decisions for his nation. My concern for the future safety of your nation led me to make remarks which I can now view in retrospect as inappropriate and insensitive in light of a national grief. I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people of Israel," Robertson wrote. Despite the apology, it was doubtful that Robertson would be brought back into the fold of the proposed Christian Heritage Center in the northern Galilee region.
Judas Merely Part of God’s Plan for the World, Vatican Scholars Claim
According to a story in the Irish Examiner, the name and reputation of Judas Iscariot will never be quite the same again. For 2,000 years, the disciple’s name has been hurled at traitors and turncoats, but now, a group of Catholic scholars is trying to portray a more sympathetic image of Judas, who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. The scholars believe that Judas was not deliberately evil but was just fulfilling his part in God’s plan for the world. The campaign to reassess Judas is being led by Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science. Writer Vittorio Messori said the rehabilitation of Judas would “resolve the problem of an apparent lack of mercy by Jesus towards one of his closest collaborators.” The possible revision comes after the discovery of ancient texts written by early Christians, which reflect the belief in the early church that Judas was fulfilling a divine mission which resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus and the salvation of man. The drive to re-establish Judas’s reputation has not won everyone’s support, however. Theologian Monsignor Giovanni D’Ercole has said that such a move would create confusion among believers.
Million Voices for Darfur Campaign Launched
The Save Darfur Coalition, in cooperation with more than 150 faith-based, advocacy, and humanitarian aid organizations, launched the "Million Voices for Darfur" campaign Thursday, the Christian Post reports. "The goal of the Million Voices for Darfur campaign is to deliver one million hand-written and electronic postcards from Americans to President Bush and Congress demanding that they undertake a stronger and more effective U.S. response to the violence and atrocities plaguing the region," says the Rev. Richard Cizik, VP of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. He says it is a "moral imperative" for the U.S. government to take stronger action. "During your first year in the White House, you wrote in the margins of a report on the Rwandan genocide, 'Not on my watch,'" states a letter that one million Americans are expected to send to President Bush in accordance with the newly launched campaign. According to U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, the situation in Darfur is deteriorating, and the world must step up efforts to help end the conflict and bring peace. The one million postcards, which are being collected at community events, student rallies, houses of worship and the Internet, will be delivered to the White House and Capitol Hill to promote the necessary actions to end the crisis.
AmericanChurchLeaders, Youth Ministers Address Christian Youth Fallout
A story in the Christian Post details how leaders of church denominations, youth pastors and parachurch organizational leaders gathered to brainstorm ways to keep college students from falling away from the Christian faith and how to correct the dysfunctions in youth ministry. Mission America and the National Network of Youth Ministries convened the January 11-12 meeting in Orlando. "A significant majority of our church's youth are leaving the foundations of their faith when they transition from High school," said Paul Fleischmann, president of the National Network of Youth Ministries. Research has shown that 69-94 percent of Christian youths forsake their faith after high school, while one study by the Southern Baptist Convention found that 88 percent of youth are leaving the Church. A pilot study of 69 college students conducted by Fuller Theological Seminary was presented during the meeting. Results found that 100 percent of the youth group graduates had since used alcohol, 69 percent had a sexual encounter, and 20 percent had 20 or more sexual encounters in the last 12 months. The study also found, however, that the greater their faith maturity, the less likely the students were to engage in risk behaviors. Fleischmann cited youth culture, a lack of parental involvement, and biblical illiteracy as major contributors to the issues at hand.