Religion Today Summaries - September 9, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - September 9, 2004

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

  • Pastors' Children Confirmed Dead in Russian Hostage Drama

  • Florida's High Court Affirms Religious Freedom Entitled to Expanded Protection

  • Christians Urged to Take Part in 'Creation Care' of The Earth

  • Ministry Fosters Partnerships to Help West African Children

Pastors' Children Confirmed Dead in Russian Hostage Drama
Assist News Service

After days of searching for them, two pastors in the Russian southern town of Beslan have now discovered that six of their eight young children died in the local school hostage drama that shocked the nation, their Christian mission organization confirmed Wednesday, September 8. An official of the U.S. backed Russian Ministries said that brothers and pastors Taymuraz and Sergey Totiev from the Evangelical Baptist Church in Beslan were till the last moment "still hoping" to find their children alive.  "Tragically, out of the eight Totiev children who were in the school, only two have survived," said Russian Ministries Vice President Sergey N. Rakhuba. They are believed to have died Friday, September 3, during a gun battle between Russian forces storming the school complex and militants demanding independence for neighboring Chechnya. News about the deaths came after two days of National Mourning in Russia. Russian Ministries said it has established a Terror Relief Fund "to help provide spiritual and physical help for the people of Beslan," and stressed that "all donations made will go directly to the Beslan community." He said donations can be made online via the Internet at website: http://www.russian-ministries.org,  mailed directly to Russian Ministries at: P.O. Box 496, Wheaton, IL 60189.

Florida's High Court Affirms Religious Freedom Entitled to Expanded Protection
Allie Martin and Jody Brown, AgapePress

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act expands protection for religious freedom.  The court said religious freedom in the Sunshine State is entitled to greater protection than that guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Warner v. City of Boca Raton stating that the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act (FRFRA) "expands the scope of religious protection beyond the conduct considered protected" by cases from the U.S. Supreme Court.  "We also hold that under the Act, any law, even a neutral law of general applicability, is subject to the strict scrutiny standard where the law substantially burdens the free exercise of religion," the court stated. The court explained that a religious belief is substantially burdened if the government either "compels the religious adherent to engage in conduct that his religion forbids, or forbids him to engage in conduct that his religion requires."  In addition, the court stated that "a person must only establish that the government has placed a substantial burden on a practice motivated by a sincere religious belief." Mat Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, drafted and lobbied for the FRFRA in 1998, and had also filed an amicus brief with the state's high court explaining the legislative intent of the Act.

Christians Urged to Take Part in 'Creation Care' of The Earth
Charisma News Service

A small but growing number of believers are beginning to view "environmental stewardship" as part of their Christian responsibility, even though issues concerning the Earth haven't been high on the list of social concerns for many evangelicals in the past. In June, about 30 ministry leaders - including representatives from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), World Vision, Southern Baptist Convention, Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and "Charisma" magazine - convened at the Sandy Cove Christian Retreat Center outside Baltimore for a "creation care" conference aimed at raising awareness about pressing environmental issues such as global warming, air and water pollution and species extinction. Several participants were hopeful that Christians would one day reclaim biblical environmental stewardship from radical extremists who have been accused of valuing trees and birds over humans. It is widely believed that fuel emissions from cars are raising the level of carbon in the atmosphere, which some, such as Houghton, say is causing the earth to grow dangerously warmer. Other scientists say the warming trend is part of a natural weather cycle. The three-day conference ended with participants agreeing to give further study to environmental issues, to educate their constituents about them and to develop a formal position on global warming within a year. (http://www.charismanow.com)

Ministry Fosters Partnerships to Help West African Children
Allie Martin, AgapePress

A Christian ministry that matches children and sponsors in the United States is expanding its services into one of the poorest countries in the world -- the West African nation of Burkina Faso. Ranked last in school enrollment, literacy, and gross national product, Burkina Faso is a country where many children are born into families facing overwhelming poverty. Nearly 60 percent of the population are living on less than a dollar a day. The U.S.-based ministry, Compassion International, seeks to ease the effects of poverty on Burkinabe children by providing basic necessities, including health care, supplemental nutrition, educational opportunities and spiritual training. Through Compassion International projects, sponsored children receive regular medical checkups, hygiene training, dental care, and educational opportunities. The CEO of Compassion International says the ministry is working in Burkina Faso as it does elsewhere, by equipping local church partners and supporting them in a cooperative effort to improve the lives of poor children. Today, with the addition of the Burkina Faso projects, Compassion International currently serves more than 168,000 poor children in five African countries, as well as in other parts of the world. Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the ministry pairs children in developing and Third World nations with sponsors in the U.S. and other countries.

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