Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 12, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 12, 2008

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

  • Gustav, Ike Ravage Cuba; Baptists Launch Relief
  • Iran Parliament Passes Death Penalty for Apostasy Bill
  • Meeting with Chinese Religious Leaders a 'Ploy'
  • Theologians Seek to 'Reframe' Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Gustav, Ike Ravage Cuba; Baptists Launch Relief

Baptist Press reports Hurricane Ike struck Cuba Sept. 8, pushing along the length of the island before briefly moving offshore and turning back onto land southwest of Havana. Ike also raked the Bahamas and brought new flooding to Haiti, which was inundated by Hurricane Hanna the previous week. Hurricane Ike followed on the heels of another storm, Gustav, which roared over western Cuba Aug. 31 with winds gusting up to 200 miles an hour, according to news reports. An estimated 130,000 homes were damaged and crops were wiped out by Gustav. A Southern Baptist disaster assessment team will enter Cuba the week of Sept. 15 to consult with local Baptist partners about relief efforts needed in the wake of two hurricanes striking the island nation. In Haiti, Florida Baptists have distributed rice for the past two weeks to the hardest hit areas of Haiti, where widespread hunger exists after four hurricanes hit in four weeks.

Iran Parliament Passes Death Penalty for Apostasy Bill

The Christian Post reports that the Iranian Parliament has approved a bill that would punish apostasy with the death penalty. If passed, the bill would add several crimes to the list of those meriting execution, including “establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution, and apostasy.” The bill passed with 196 in favor and only seven against, according to U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide. CSW advocacy director Alexa Papadouris commented, “It is deeply worrying to hear that just days after Matin-Azad and Basirat have been charged with apostasy at a court in Shiraz, the Iranian Parliament is debating a bill that could codify the death penalty for someone choosing their own religion.” At least five Iranian Christians were arrested in August, according to Compass Direct News.

Meeting with Chinese Religious Leaders a 'Ploy'

OneNewsNow reports that a recent delegation of Chinese religious leaders who met with former President Jimmy Carter may have been a "propaganda ploy," a Voice of the Martyrs spokesman said. The group, which met in Atlanta this week to discuss opportunities for dialogue on religious freedom and tolerance, was handpicked by the communist regime of China, according to Todd Nettleton of VoM. Nettleton pointed out that the Chinese government only recognizes officially sanctioned churches. "That's really the challenge for the average American Christian who sees this story in their newspaper and maybe doesn't know about the persecution of Christians," he points out. "They don't know about the Christians who are currently in jail in China. They see this story in their local paper and think, oh, that's great, China's free -- so that's really our concern ...that people know the whole story."

Theologians Seek to 'Reframe' Israel-Palestinian Conflict

While the White House facilitates negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials on the creation of a Palestinian state, 65 theologians and church leaders are convening to “re-frame the religious dimensions” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Christian Post reports that the international conference that began yesterday in Bern, Switzerland, will focus on what position Christians should take in the bitter land dispute. Those caught in the conflict see their positions as having “a divine mandate and polarized as wholly good versus wholly evil,” pointed out the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, during the opening ceremony. However, Christians “must challenge and dismantle ideological attempts to attribute specific political projects and systems to God’s will,” he said. This may challenge the traditional support that Christians have given Israel.