Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 31, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 31, 2008

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

  • Pakistan: Death Toll Keeps Rising
  • Methodist Church: Zimbabwe Crisis Headed for 'Catastrophe'
  • Lawyers, Churches Debate Tax-Exempt Status Minus Prop 8
  • India: State Gov Considers Violence 'Normal'

Pakistan: Death Toll Keeps Rising

CNN reports that at least 215 are confirmed dead after a 6.4 magnitude quake hit southwestern regions of Pakistan pre-dawn Wednesday. Hundred of mud houses are still buried under landslides, hiding unknown casualties. Between 10,000 and 15,000 lost their homes in the quake, and others fear to return home lest their houses collapse. The quake's destruction was limited by its epicenture, located in a remote area of Balochistan province. Mission News Network reports that a partner with Christian Reformed World Relief has begun its assessment, and hopes to send preliminary relief today. The region is subject to regular attacks by Al Qaeda and Taliban, however, forcing agencies to operate through groups already in the area instead of donating their own manpower. "There are some villages completely destroyed. There is a lot of destruction," said the province's Deputy Director of Public Safety Mohammad Ali.

Methodist Church: Zimbabwe Crisis Headed for 'Catastrophe'

According to Britain's Methodist Church, a series of harvest failures combined with economic and political instability may worsen Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis, the Christian Post reports. The power-sharing agreement between political rivals Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai froze in September, further weakening the country. Meanwhile, the country is undergoing the worst drough in a decade. “This is a time when people should be planting for the following year, but the economy is devastated and seeds and fertilizer are in short supply,” said Roy Crowder, a Methodist partnership coordinator with special responsibility for Africa. “The Zimbabwe Council of Churches has done nothing,” Methodist Bishop Levee Kadenge of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance was quoted as saying by Ecumenical News International. “The churches should have been speaking without fear of favor, just speaking on behalf of suffering masses of Zimbabwe. Their absenteeism is so pronounced."

Lawyers, Churches Debate Tax-Exempt Status Minus Prop 8

San Diego Union Tribute reports that although some California churches worry that they may lose their tax-exempt status if Proposition 8 fails, 59 California law professors Wednesday said that fear is insubstantial. The ballot measure would ban same-sex marriage in California, and churches fear they may be forced to officiate gay weddings or lose their tax-exempt status if it fails. The law professors emphasized that the state constiution protects churches from such a fate. Supporters of Proposition 8, however, say the threat is not just to their right to refuse, but in how they may use their property as well. Churches point to New Jersey, where a church lost part of its tax-exempt status for refusing to rent a publicly used pavilion for a same-sex commitment ceremony.

India: State Gov Considers Violence 'Normal'

ASSIST News reports that according to a member of a fact-finding team visiting Orissa state, anti-Christian violence is considered normal by the state government there. "Anti-Christian violence is informed by Orissa Government as normal on pretext that there is no Christian, Christian home and church left in Christian villages of Kandhamal district of Orissa that Hindu militants could killed or burned or vandalized," Dr. Ms. Shiamala Baby, gender activist and Director of Forward, based in Tamil Nadu, and one of fact-finding team members, told the All India Christian Council (AICC). "We found the refugees in relief camps refusing to return back to their villages for the fear of any possible attack or forced to convert to Hindu," says Ms. Shiamala. Meanwhile, at least 64 were killed in a series of bombings in the state of Assam, as violence continues to spill into neighboring states.