Religion Today Daily Headlines - August 7, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - August 7, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Oxford University Amends Dress Code for Transgender Students
  • Syrian Prime Minister Reportedly Defects
  • Survey: Most Americans Keep Faith Private Online
  • Boko Haram Calls on Nigeria's President to Convert to Islam


Oxford University Amends Dress Code for Transgender Students

England's Oxford University has decided to change its strict academic dress code to accommodate transgender students -- meaning that males will be allowed to attend classes wearing skirts and women can wear a suit and tie, the Christian Post reports. "The regulations have been amended to remove any reference to gender, in response to concerns raised by Oxford University Student Union that the existing regulations did not serve the interests of transgender students," the university said. Jess Pumphrey, executive officer of Oxford's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Society (LGBTQ Soc), added, "In [the] future, there will be no need for transgender students to cross-dress to avoid being confronted by invigilators or disciplined during their exam." Oxford's old dress code required male students to wear a dark suit and socks, black shoes, white bow tie and a plain white shirt and collar under black gowns, while women were restricted to a dark skirt or trousers, a white blouse, black stockings and shoes, and a black ribbon tied in a bow at the neck. The new rule goes into effect as early as this week.

Syrian Prime Minister Reportedly Defects

Syrian prime minister Riyad Farid Hijab reportedly defected Monday, delivering a new blow to the embattled government of president Bashar Assad, the Los Angeles Times reports. Hijab would be the highest-profile defector to date from the government, which is struggling to maintain control of the northern city of Aleppo in the 17th month of the rebellion. According to the Arabic news network Al Jazeera, Hijab fled to Jordan overnight with his family, announcing he had joined the opposition. The Syrian government, meanwhile, announced in a report that Hijab had been "dismissed" and that another had been named in his place.

Survey: Most Americans Keep Faith Private Online

A new survey finds that Americans, while mostly religious, generally do not use social media to supplement worship and mostly keep their faith private online, the Religion News Service reports. The Public Religion Research Institute found about one in 20 Americans followed a religious leader on Twitter or Facebook, while a similar number belonged to a religious or spiritual Facebook group. The survey also found that half of Facebook users didn't list their religious affiliation on their profile. "We were suprirsed when this turned up really low levels of people engaging religion and faith online," said PRRI research director Daniel Cox. White evangelicals were the most likely of any group to use social media for religious purposes, though only a minority did so. One in four white evangelicals said they had listened to a sermon online or downloaded a podcast, compared to 6 percent each for Catholics and other Protestants.

Boko Haram Calls on Nigeria's President to Convert to Islam

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday dismissed as "blackmail" a call by the suspected leader of the Islamist group Boko Haram for him to resign and convert to Islam, AFP reports. "When Nigerians voted overwhelmingly for President Jonathan in the 2011 general election, they knew they were voting for a Christian," Jonathan's spokesman, Reuben Abati, said. "As president, Jonathan is the leader of both Muslims and Christians. It amounts to sheer blackmail for any individual or group to ask the president ... to convert to Islam." In a video released on Saturday, Boko Haram's Abubakar Shekau told the president, "You should abandon this ungodly power, you should repent and forsake Christianity." Shekau also criticized U.S. president Barack Obama over Washington's decision to label him a "global terrorist." Some U.S. lawmakers have been pushing the Obama administration to label Boko Haram as a whole a terrorist organization, but American diplomats insist the group remains domestically focused. Boko Haram -- which has declared a "war" on Nigerian Christians -- has carried out increasingly frequent and deadly attacks in the country's north that have left hundreds dead. Members of the group are believed to have received training from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in northern Mali.

Publication date: August 7, 2012