Religion Today Summaries - September 28, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - September 28, 2004

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

  • House Approves Pledge Protection Act

  • Sri Lanka: Indigenous Ministries Fight Child Prostitution

  • Arizona Diocese Facing Financial Crisis

  • Benin: Native Missionaries Reach Remote Tribes

House Approves Pledge Protection Act
Mary Rettig and Jenni Parker, AgapePress

The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly last Thursday to pass a bill that would strip the federal courts -- even up to the highest court in the land -- of the authority to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge Protection Act, which passed the House on a 247-to-173 vote, was designed to prevent any federal court, including the Supreme Court, from ruling on whether the words "under God" should be stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance. This measure enacts what is sometimes called "jurisdiction stripping or curbing jurisdiction." Specifically, the act states that, "No court established by Act of Congress shall have jurisdiction to hear or determine any claim that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, as set forth in section 4 of title 4, violates the first article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States." According to an Associated Press report, House Democrats objected to being forced to go on record with a vote that could hurt them in the upcoming election. But House Republican leaders say the Constitution gives Congress the authority to limit federal courts' jurisdiction, and that doing so in this case would protect an affirmation of God that is part of the national heritage. That claim has not been resolved in court.

Sri Lanka: Indigenous Ministries Fight Child Prostitution
Christian Aid

The country of Sri Lanka is known at times by the disturbing epithet "a pedophile's pleasure center." With approximately 40,000 child prostitutes, more than half of them boys, this description is shockingly realized. Extreme poverty and years of civil war have left many children homeless and, consequently, easy prey for sexual predators and traffickers. Sometimes boys and girls as young as three are captured. Others are willingly sold to pimps for a few dollars each by desperately poor guardians or family members. Several factors, including the legality of prostitution and the strong presence of organized crime rings, have contributed to making Sri Lanka a cesspool of sexual exploitation. Research in 1997 pointed to this country as the principle source of child pornography for the United States and Europe. Indigenous ministries have long carried a burden to rescue these tortured children. Several now operate homes where boys and girls formerly trapped in sexual slavery can receive food, clothing, education and medicine. In addition to badly-needed physical care (children are especially susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases), their emotional wounds are tended by the love of Christ. All receive tutoring or special classes so they may enter state schools and obtain an education, a key to finding legitimate jobs and not falling back into prostitution.

Arizona Diocese Facing Financial Crisis

The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson reports that the Arizona diocese is facing a financial crisis. Earlier this week it filed for bankruptcy after numerous clergy abuse claims. In an interview with Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Bishop Gerald Kicanas said the diocese is unable to pay all these plaintiffs. The bishop says every effort should be made to try to compensate victims and seek their forgiveness, but "sometimes the expectations of those who have been hurt are far beyond the assets or ability of the church to respond to what they feel is needed." Kicanas claims applying for court relief from its financial burdens is the best way for the diocese to help the victims heal and continue the work of the church. But attorney Lynne Cardigan, who is representing the abuse victims, says filing bankruptcy only "re-victimizes the victims and makes them look like the predators." Meanwhile, she adds, "It delays their lawsuit and it further prolongs their agony." The bankruptcy lawyer for the Diocese of Tucson says the plaintiffs will be paid through a special financial pool that will include $3.2 million from the diocese itself; but Cardigan says the victims may never see that money, and the diocese was wrong to file for bankruptcy protection.

Benin: Native Missionaries Reach Remote Tribes
Christian Aid

Indigenous ministries in Benin are working to reach tribal groups with the gospel. Despite hindrances of Islam and demonic worship, their efforts have produced fruit. One tribe being reached is the Tchito, located in southern Benin. Since January, missionaries have worked to establish a presence among this people. At first, they faced obstacles of animistic superstitions and the ever-growing competition of Islam. Though evangelical churches had a small presence among the Tchito, they were constantly struggling against enemies of the gospel. Yet the light of Christ is breaking through this darkness. Native missionaries mobilized the few Tchito believers they found to pray regularly for their fellow tribal people. Churches have begun to grow; a training and discipleship program has been started to provide spiritual support for struggling Christians and to raise up new gospel workers. Unbelievers have begun taking notice of the effects on their communities, sensing that many "troubles and bewitchments" caused by animistic worship have stopped. Some say of the missionaries, "The arrival of these people has brought peace for us." Through crusade meetings, discipleship programs and other evangelistic tools, native missionaries in Benin are reaching thousands of tribal people. Yet many face constant opposition by Islamic neighbors or fearful followers of animist religions.