Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 16, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 16, 2006

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Priest Beheaded In Mosul, Iraq
  • Hearing on Dalit Christian Rights in India Again Deferred
  • In Pakistan, Fear of the Holy
  • Pope Reportedly Planning to Loosen Restrictions on Celebrating Old Latin Mass

Priest Beheaded In Mosul, Iraq

The beheaded and dismembered body of Father Boulos Iskander, 59, a Syrian Orthodox priest, was found in a suburb of Mosul on Wednesday night (Oct. 11), says an ASSIST News Service report. Father Iskander was abducted from Mosul on Monday afternoon, according to reports from Compass Direct and Middle East Concern. His family was later contacted by the kidnappers, demanding a $350,000 ransom. They subsequently agreed to reduce the sum to $40,000 if the priest’s church was willing to publicly reject remarks made about Islam by Pope Benedict XVI last month. A news releases from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said, “The St. Ephram parish church posted 30 large signs around Mosul separating itself from the Pope’s comments and the family managed to raise the ransom money. However, Father Iskander was discovered the next day and his remains were brought to a local hospital.” CSW’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, says: “We are appalled to hear of such an atrocity and our thoughts and prayers are with Father Iskander’s family, church and friends. We call upon the Iraqi authorities to do their best to protect Christians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and urge all religious communities in Iraq to exercise tolerance and restraint towards one another”. Every single school is covered in prayer," he adds. "And we need to be sure that every single child is prayed over."

Hearing on Dalit Christian Rights in India Again Deferred

Compass Direct News reports that India’s Supreme Court deferred a hearing on a case related to the rights of India’s 16 million Dalit Christians for the sixth time yesterday after a federal advisory panel sought more time to submit findings on the issue. The hearing was to decide whether Dalit Christians (formerly known as “untouchables”) can be denied job and education rights extended to Dalits of other faiths. Dalits from Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh backgrounds qualify for a government plan that reserves 26 percent of jobs and educational institution placements for them. But Dalits who convert to Christianity or Islam lose their reservation privileges. Already the government has deferred five hearings of the case – on July 12 and February 18 of this year, and on November 28, August 23 and October 18 of last year.

In Pakistan, Fear of the Holy

Many in Pakistan live in fear of offending God, but are the country’s notorious blasphemy laws a source of that fear or a symptom of it? This week one Pakistani bishop found himself fighting a pitched battle to keep blasphemy rumors from igniting riots against his Christian community, Compass Direct News reports. “What usually happens is that word [that someone has committed blasphemy] spreads like wildfire and emotions take over,” Catholic Bishop Joseph Coutts told Compass from the Punjabi city of Faisalabad. “All it takes are one or two hotheads to take the lead. Once someone starts attacking houses, it’s so easy for the mob attitude to take over.” Fresh allegations of blasphemy seem to be nearly a weekly occurrence in Pakistan (107 people were accused in 2005). Bishop Coutts has spent the last four days doing damage control to save the lives of two of the most recent suspects.

Pope Reportedly Planning to Loosen Restrictions on Celebrating Old Latin Mass

AgapePress reports a Vatican official says Pope Benedict has decided to loosen restrictions on use of the old Latin Mass. That is considered a major concession to ultraconservatives who split with the Vatican to protest reforms. The decision is part of Benedict's efforts to woo back Catholics who joined a rebel archbishop in protest over the changes. It is not clear when the pope will make his decision public, but the official says it is expected soon. The Times of London has reported that the pope has signed the order and it could be published in the next few weeks. Dating back to the 16th century, the name of the old Latin Mass was swept away by the so-called New Mass that followed the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council.