Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 18, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 18, 2010

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

  • Chile's President Praises Faith of Rescued Miners
  • Iraqi Refugees Turning to Prostitution to Survive
  • European Bishops Establish Christian Rights Watchdog
  • Floods Displace Thousands in Bangladesh

Chile's President Praises Faith of Rescued Miners

Following the dramatic rescue of all 33 miners in Chile, the country's president praised the faith of the men who remarkably surfaced in good spirits after being trapped underground for 69 days. Speaking at the San Jose mine's entrance, President Sebastian Pinera said, "The miners are not the same people who got trapped on the 5th August ... What ended up as a real blessing from God started as a possible tragedy. But the unity, the faith, the compromise, the honesty, the solidarity of the Chileans in those 69 days makes us very proud." Some of the miners suffered minor health problems due to their internment, but nothing life-threatening. "All 33 of them are saying that they found God in the mine," said the President's chaplain, the Rev. Alfredo Cooper, according to ASSIST News Service. "Five or six were already Christians and held services down in the mine. Many went down with no faith at all but they all say this: 'We were not 33 we were 34 because Jesus Christ was with us down there.'"

Iraqi Refugees Turning to Prostitution to Survive

AsiaNews reports that some Christian refugees from Iraq face such dire circumstances in Syria that they have resorted to prostitution. "We have about 4,000 Chaldean families from Iraq, some fled with just the clothes on their back with a death threat hanging over them," said Fr. Farid Botros, head of the Chaldean community in Damascus. "Under Syrian law, they cannot work. Many do something underground; others, more and more, turn to prostitution," he said. Botros estimates that 20,000 Iraqi Christians rely almost solely on the church for medical care, housing, material and spiritual support. Programs and infrastructure are still catching up to the need. "This is a big problem, and we don't know how to deal with it," Botros said. "The reason is poverty, and in Syria, there are no regulations and no laws to defend them [prostitutes]."

European Bishops Establish Christian Rights Watchdog

Roman Catholic bishops from across Europe have set up an organization to defend the rights of Christians and monitor prejudice across the continent. "Our first task will be to provide people around Europe with objective and reliable data about the anti-Christian discrimination which is taking place," Thierry Bonaventura, media officer of the Council of Catholic Episcopates of Europe, told ENInews. He encouraged local churches to get involved in such efforts. Bonaventura was speaking after the formation of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination, headed in Vienna by Bishop Andras Veres of Hungary, and Austrian lay director, Gudrun Kugler.  The decision to set up the body had been made in 2009 by the CCEE, which is based in Switzerland and includes bishops' conferences from 33 countries and Monaco and Cyprus.

Floods Displace Thousands in Bangladesh

Heavy rains dealt poverty-stricken people in Bangladesh another blow this week, killing at least 17 people and leaving thousands homeless. Flooding has also inundated the neighboring state of Manipur, India. In some areas, rains creating tidal surges with waves as tall as five feet. "This is another heartbreaking crisis for one of the most poor, downtrodden countries in the world," said Gospel for Asia President K.P. Yohannan. "It is another opportunity for us to show Christ's love by responding to the suffering as He would have us do." Fifty-five percent of Bangladesh's 156 million residents live below the poverty line. "As this has happened in the past, we have our people on the ground who are able to respond to these who are in desperate need," Yohannan said. "They are already responding to this, we just need to get them more help."