Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Supreme Court Upholds Oregon's Suicide Law
Christianity Today reports that the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision Tuesday that the United States attorney general overstepped his bounds when he tried to stop the state of Oregon from implementing its 1997 physician-assisted suicide bill. In 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a directive "that assisting suicide is not a 'legitimate medical purpose,' and that prescribing, dispensing, or administering federally controlled substances to assist suicide violates the [Controlled Substances Act] (CSA)." Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said the CSA did not give Ashcroft "such broad and unusual authority… The statute manifests no intent to regulate the practice of medicine generally." Justice Antonin Scalia argued the dissent that the CSA's "legitimate medical purpose" clause is not limited to the regulation of illicit drugs. Scalia was joined in dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts. "If the term 'legitimate medical purpose' has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death," Scalia wrote. Thomas wrote an additional dissent, noting that the federal government has precedence over states in regulating controlled substances. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states may ban physician-assisted suicide. In that decision, then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote, "The American Medical Association… has concluded that 'physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer.'" Tuesday’s majority did not cite the 1997 case, but did observe that: "Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician-assisted suicide."
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Begins Jan. 18
The worldwide Church on Wednesday began a weeklong celebration calling for prayer and increased awareness of the need for Christian unity around the world, the Catholic News Agency reports. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be celebrated in many countries, including the U.S. and Europe, until Jan. 25. This year's theme, inspired by the Gospel of Matthew, is: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." An ecumenical group from Dublin has been chosen to prepare the texts which will be used for prayer and reflection. According to the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Irish group was chosen in part because of the ongoing struggle between Catholics and Protestants which has wracked that country with violence. Only now is the process of peace and shared identity in Christ slowly starting to take root, the WCC pointed out. The Vatican also announced the themes which will be explored on particular days throughout the week including: "United through the Presence of Christ, 'One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism;'" "Building Christian Unity with Jesus in our Midst - Daily Ecumenism;” “'You Also Ought to Wash One Another's Feet;'" and "Praying Together in Jesus' Name: 'The Lord Waits to be Gracious to You.'" The Week of Prayer was organized jointly by the WCC’s Commission on Faith & Order, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Church in Iran Continues to Grow Despite (because of?) Persecution
An American evangelist is reported in the Agape Press as saying that Iran's hard-line government is cracking down on Christian activity in the country. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made headlines for saying the nation of Israel "must be wiped off the map." And of the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad said Jews have "created a myth." Evangelist Sammy Tippit claims Ahmadinejad isn’t only going after Jews/Israel, reporting that some Christians have been arrested in Iran as well. "Fortunately there's been no one put in prison at this point," Tippit says, "but there have been people arrested from just having been meeting together with other Christians in their homes." Tippit, whose Christian television program is aired in Iran via satellite, says the Church in Iran is growing as persecution increases. "One of the things that has happened is that when threats [start] to come against Christians, those who are in leadership are pressed into a corner where they have to raise up other leaders because they know that they could be taken away at any moment. God just has a way of turning those type things into something good for His glory."
The Untold Plight of Teenage Girls in Some Arab Countries
In some Middle East countries, says a Missions Insider release, sons provide future economic value to families but daughters do not. As a result, daughters have little value. Often such families are large and poor. A young teenage girl is often considered an unwanted “added expense,” and consequently she is provided little education, may be abused, and is married off as soon as possible. These young women are valuable to Jesus Christ and need to know about His love for them in order to make wise decisions and have hope. To that end, the Lord has raised up ministries in the Middle East to reach these teenage girls. In one major city, about 1,500 come to weekly meetings to hear about God’s love and cleansing. Another ministry helped by Christian Aid reaches out to teen girls in 104 rural villages. Over 1,000 girls attend ten different meetings held before and after school. After sharing the gospel, these ministries teach them Biblical principles to help them deal with the emotional and spiritual scars, and provide literacy and employment training, while also trying to help them to understand that it is not wrong to be 18 years old and unmarried.