Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Pakistani Christians Bring Help, Healing, Hope to Kashmiri Quake Victims
- British Methodists Reject Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships
- Russia: Religious Leaders Focus on Violence
- Pakistan Minister Inflexible On Repeal Of Blasphemy Laws
Pakistani Christians Bring Help, Healing, Hope to Kashmiri Quake Victims
An international Christian organization that supports persecuted believers around the world is now involved in long-term efforts to assist recovery in an area of South Asia that was rocked by a major earthquake on October 8, 2005. AgapePress reports that Open Doors USA is working with Christian non-governmental organizations to open a hospital and schools in Azad Kashmir, a northwestern, Pakistani-controlled portion of the region which marked the epicenter of the 7.6-magnitude quake. The area is operated by Muslim extremists and has traditionally been closed to Christians; however, Open Doors president Carl Moeller says last year's earthquake gave Pakistani Christians a chance to enter the region and offer help to quake victims. Last year's earthquake left 88,000 people dead and more than 100,000 injured. While the situation has created an opportunity for Christians to offer compassionate aid to those affected, Dr. Moeller notes that the disaster is also allowing them to make a big impact on the predominantly Islamic populace of Azad Kashmir.
British Methodists Reject Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships
The British Methodist Church will not bless same-sex relationships, according to a report by United Methodist News Service. The decision followed a lengthy debate on the floor of the denomination's annual conference June 23-29 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The ruling disappoints those who hoped for recognition of same-sex civil partnerships, legal in Britain since December 1994. The ruling also puts British Methodist pastors in a similar position to Methodist clergy in places such as Massachusetts, California, Vermont, New Jersey and Hawaii where the state officially recognizes same-sex relationships but the church does not. Many representatives who voted against the prohibition had hoped the decision would be left up to local congregations and pastors. "I'm really gutted. This feels like a slap in the face," commented one anonymous gay pastor after the vote.
Russia: Religious Leaders Focus on Violence
Religious leaders gathered in Moscow have condemned the use of religion to justify terrorism and violence and urged political leaders to be more environmentally responsible, Spero News reports. The declaration comes at the end of a World Religious Summit organized by the Russian Orthodox Church, and will delivered to leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) most industrialized nations when they meet in Saint Petersburg in mid-July. The religious figures said their intention was not to influence the G8's political agenda, however. Their goal, as Metropolitan Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church put it, is to make the "voice of religion" heard.
Pakistan Minister Inflexible On Repeal Of Blasphemy Laws
In what appears to be an utter disregard of Pakistani religious minorities’ oft-repeated demand for repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, Pakistan minister for religious affairs Ijaz-ul-Haq has insisted that the country’s blasphemy laws would not be repealed even if 100,000 Christians lost their lives, the London Telegraph has reported. Ijaz is son of the late General Ziaul Haq, who in his bid to Islamize the country introduced a number of controversial laws.“Pakistan is becoming a fundamentalist state”, the Telegraph quoted the London director for the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Nasir Saeed as saying. Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, a Roman Catholic human rights body, has criticized the authorities for failing to prosecute Muslim militias, whom it claims have murdered at least 23 alleged blasphemers.