Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Heavy Rains, Flooding Leave 226 Dead in Pakistan
- Obama Warns of Growing Religious Intolerance in Post-Revolt Mideast
- More Americans Tailoring Religion to Fit Their Needs
- Muslim Groups File Petition against Islamic Law
Heavy Rains, Flooding Leave 226 Dead in Pakistan
According to CNN, heavy rains and flooding in Pakistan's southeastern Sindh province have killed 226 people over the past month, including 34 children and 59 women. In all, 5.3 million people have been affected, and 1.19 million homes have been damaged. The flooding has inundated more than 4.5 million acres and damaged an estimated 80% of crops. And the heavy rains are not over; a weather advisory indicated meteorological conditions that could cause widespread heavy rain in the region this week. The United Nations is making arrangements to provide food supplies to half a million people for the next month in Sindh, and is set to supply 20,000 tents this week. Aid is also flowing in from other countries, including China and Iran, and Pakistan's Finance Division has established a relief fund to accept money from domestic and international donors.
Obama Warns of Growing Religious Intolerance in Post-Revolt Mideast
The Obama administration warned Tuesday of growing religious intolerance and violence in Arab nations undergoing popular revolts that could undermine fragile democratic transitions, the Associated Press reports. While the overthrow of longtime authoritarian rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya has given millions hope for freedom, and additional rebellions are underway in Syria and Yemen, they have also opened up religious and ethnic minorities to new threats. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged countries not to "trade one form of repression for another" and to embrace the freedom to worship for all faiths as they embrace political pluralism for the first time in generations. The U.S. has publicly expressed concern about post-revolt sectarian violence and the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Egypt and Libya. It has also condemned attacks on religious minorities in Syria as the government continues a months-long brutal crackdown on opponents, and has taken aim at abuses of religious freedom in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
More Americans Tailoring Religion to Fit Their Needs
Newly released research reveals America's drift from clearly defined religious denominations to faiths cut to fit personal preferences, according to a report by USA Today. Religion statistics expert George Barna's new book on U.S. Christians, Futurecast, tracks changes from 1991 to 2011 in annual national surveys and shows that all the major trend lines of religious belief and behavior ran downward except two: More people claim they have accepted Jesus as their savior and expect to go to heaven, and more say they haven't been to church in the past six months except for special occasions. In 1991, 24% were "unchurched." Today, it's 37%. Barna blames pastors for those oddly contradictory findings: "Everyone hears, 'Jesus is the answer. Embrace him. Say this little Sinner's Prayer and keep coming back.' It doesn't work. People end up bored, burned out and empty. They look at church and wonder, 'Jesus died for this?'" The consequence, Barna says, is that for every subgroup of religion, race, gender, age and region of the country, the important markers of religious connection are fracturing. When he measures people by their belief in seven essential doctrines, defined by the National Association of Evangelicals' Statement of Faith, only 7% of those surveyed qualified. Barna lamented: "People say: 'I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.'"
Muslim Groups File Petition against Islamic Law
As a federal appeals court in Denver considers whether Oklahoma voters had the right to ban Islamic law in state courts, a coalition of Muslim groups say they don't want to live under Shariah law in Michigan or anywhere else, according to a report by Religion News Service. The American Islamic Leadership Conference recently announced its support for a proposed Michigan law that would forbid state judges from enforcing foreign laws, including Shariah, when they violate the U.S. Constitution. The group recognized that people of faith had the right to religious arbiters as long as their decisions didn't conflict with American law, but said the Michigan bill would protect "Muslims and non-Muslims alike from extremist attempts" to use Shariah to institute a "highly politicized and dangerous understanding of Islam" in the West. Manda Ervin, head of the Alliance of Iranian Women, said: "Many of us fled the Muslim world to escape Shariah law. ... We do not wish these laws to follow us here." However, many mainstream Muslim leaders and Shariah scholars warn that such bills dangerously create the impression that Muslim Americans are demanding judges to give Shariah precedence over the Constitution when they are not. Michigan and Oklahoma are among more than 20 states that are considering laws to ban Shariah in courtrooms.