Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Repeal DOMA
- U.S. Commission: Pakistani Schools Teaching Religious Intolerance
- Police Detain, Beat Converts from Islam in India
- Call for Action After Deadly Attacks on Nigerian Christians
Senate Judiciary Committee Votes to Repeal DOMA
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 10-8 along party lines for a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the Christian Post reports. Under DOMA, same-sex marriages or civil unions recognized by states are not recognized under federal law, and states that don't recognize same-sex marriage are not required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. "I believe that DOMA is discriminatory and should be stripped, in its entirety, from federal law," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the author of the Respect for Marriage Act of 2011. Proponents of Feinstein's bill argued it was necessary to advance equality for gays, but opponents argued that favoring the traditional definition of marriage was preferable for raising children and supporting family stability. DOMA was passed in 1996 with strong bipartisan support and signed by President Bill Clinton. Current President Barack Obama supported DOMA as a candidate in 2008, but has ruled this year that the Justice Department will no longer defend it in court cases because he believes it to be unconstitutional. Seven states now allow same-sex marriages or civil unions.
U.S. Commission: Pakistani Schools Teaching Religious Intolerance
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a study showing that textbooks in Pakistani schools foster prejudice and intolerance of religious minorities and that most teachers view non-Muslims as "enemies of Islam," the Washington Post reports. The study reviewed more than 100 textbooks from grades 1-10 in Pakistan's four provinces, and researchers visited more than 50 schools and interviewed nearly 500 students. Researchers found systematic negative portrayals of religious minorities, specifically Hindus and Christians (which make up 1 and 2 percent, respectively, of the population), as "inferior or second-class citizens," as well as instances of historic revisionism designed to denigrate non-Muslims and foster the sense that Pakistan's Islamic identity was under threat. Leonard Leo, chairman of USCIRF, said: "Teaching discrimination increases the likelihood that violent religious extremism in Pakistan will continue to grow, weakening religious freedom, national and regional stability and global security."
Police Detain, Beat Converts from Islam in India
Police in India's Kashmir Valley detained and beat seven converts from Islam and were expected to arrest Christian workers after Muslim leaders alleged that Muslim youth were being "lured" to Christianity, Compass Direct News reports. Police got the names of the converts, as well as the names of their pastors, from a video recording of their baptisms that was posted on YouTube, and, in addition to beating them, asked them if Christians had given them money for their conversion. One of the pastors, Chander Mani Khanna, has been summoned by the mufti, the head of the sharia (Islamic law) court, to appear in court next week, and the converts have all agreed to sign affidavits saying there was no duress or allurement to convert. Khanna said the Muslims had been coming to the church on their own initiative: "I can't convert anyone; it's the work of the Holy Spirit," he said. India's constitution provides for religious freedom, including the right to propagate and the right to change one's religion. Christians have generally had good relations with the Muslims in the region, but recent tensions have been brewing as a result of thousands of young Muslims converting to Christianity.
Call for Action After Deadly Attacks on Nigerian Christians
Authorities in Nigeria have been accused of failing to protect the people following deadly violence last weekend in which at least 100 were killed in attacks by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, according to Christian Today. At least nine churches were attacked in Damaturu, and more were burned in Maiduguri and Patiskum, all in northern Nigeria. Bishop Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri said the government had "let the people down" by failing to prevent the attacks and protect people, and appealed for local officials to step up security. According to Human Rights Watch, last weekend's attacks saw the highest number of deaths in a single day since Boko Haram began its campaign of violence in Nigeria in July 2009. Andy Dipper of Release International said he fears Christians will continue to be "prime targets" of Boko Haram as it seems to impose strict Islamic sharia law in the country. "Islamists have once again wreaked havoc in Nigeria, leaving a trail of devastation and destroyed lives," said Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo of Barnabus Fund. "We must pray earnestly for peace in that troubled land and be ready to help meet the practical needs of Christians who have been affected by the violence."
Publication date: November 11, 2011