Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Attacks Hit Near Baghdad Religion Centers
Car bombs exploded in quick succession yesterday near four Christian churches and the office of the Vatican envoy in Baghdad, Iraq, killing three people and raising new concerns about sectarian tensions. At least 17 other people were killed in other violence around the country. Also, the co-anchor of ABC News, Bob Woodruff, and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, were seriously injured yesterday when the Iraqi army vehicle in which they were traveling was hit by a roadside bomb and small-arms fire near Taji, about 12 miles north of Baghdad. Both suffered serious head injuries and underwent surgery at a U.S. military hospital in Balad. Also Sunday, the governor of Baghdad said in an interview that investigators had collected names and addresses of suspects in the abduction of American reporter Jill Carroll and the killing of her translator more than three weeks ago. Gov. Hussein Taha said that the suspects have ties to the Amariya neighborhood of Baghdad and that an undisclosed number of arrests had been made. The attacks on the Christian sites came at a time of rising sectarian tensions, including reprisal killings and raids that threaten to complicate efforts to form a broad-based government after the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections. No group claimed responsibility for the bombings.
Promoting Antagonism against Christianity Creates More Interest in It
Throughout the Middle East, Christians are quietly and faithfully living for Christ despite opposition and persecution. In countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, there is a growing phenomenon of interest in the Gospel of Jesus, and Lee DeYoung with Words of Hope says the interest is in response to efforts to promote hostility toward Christians. "Efforts to suppress and to vilify Christians, for some people, actually produce a reaction that increases their curiosity and their interest. And thankfully, we've heard accounts of people who quietly share, Christians sharing with Muslim neighbors who ask them about their faith and why they believe what they believe." Many Muslims really are seeking after God. They have a hunger to know Him…, and many are finding Jesus. Words of Hope broadcasts Christian radio in Arabic and Farsi throughout the Middle East, and DeYoung is encouraged. "So we think that the interest in radio programs and other forms of outreach, although these are times of great pressure, there is great risk, but also there is a growing hunger. And we praise God for that, and pray that we and those in those countries will be faithful in pursuing that."
India's Outcasts Doubly Alienated if Christian
The untouchables of India are doubly discriminated against if they convert to Christianity, says the bishop of Punalur. Bishop Joseph Kariyil commented to Aid to the Church in Need that even though the cast system has been officially abolished, "dalits are still being discriminated against in many aspects." "For those who convert to Christ," he continued, "the situation is even worse: They lose many of the social advantages granted to them by the authorities." In the bishop's diocese of Punalur, in the southern state of Kerala, 90% of Catholics are "dalits," or untouchables. The prelate pointed out that only 35,000 of the diocese's 2.5 million inhabitants are Catholics. "We are the tiniest minority," he added. "Only education will save us," said Bishop Kariyil, underlining the key role of schooling for social progress. According to the bishop, the priorities for his dioceses include promoting vocations to the religious life, forming lay leaders and supporting religious sisters. He added: "Our faithful are full of hope for the future."
Salvation Army Elects New World Leader
The Salvation Army has elected a new world leader. Commissioner Shaw Clifton, currently Territorial Commander in the United Kingdom and Ireland, will be the next general from April 1. When he takes over from General John Larsson on Larsson’s 68th birthday, Clifton will be in charge of three million “Soldiers of Christ” in 111 countries. The Salvation Army’s High Council – an assembly of national leaders and commissioners - elected Clifton January 28 after nine days of deliberations at Sunbury Court, a conference center outside London. There were four other candidates: Israel L. Gaither (Chief of Staff), Hasse Kjellgren (Sweden), Carl Lydholm (Norway), and M. Christine MacMillan (Canada). Clifton will serve as the 18th general of the Salvation Army, which was founded by the English Methodist minister William Booth (1829-1912) in 1865. Two generals were women: William Booth’s daughter Evangeline (1934-1939), and Eva Burrows of Australia (1986-1993). Clifton is aged 60. He has served in his home territory, the UK, as well as at International Headquarters in London, in Zimbabwe, the USA, Pakistan, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. He has been married to his wife Helen since 1967.