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Religion Today Daily Headlines - December 13, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - December 13, 2012

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

In today's edition:

  • Obama Administration Recognizes Syrian Opposition Forces
  • U.S. Navy Cancels Nativity on Bahrain Military Base After Atheist Complaint
  • Coptic Christians Ask Free World to Cut Ties With Egypt Under Morsi
  • U.S.: North Korea Missile Test 'Highly Provocative Act'


Obama Administration Recognizes Syrian Opposition Forces

The U.S. is now officially standing with the coalition of fighters opposing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime, President Barack Obama declared in an exclusive interview with Barbara Walters scheduled to air on ABC's "20/20" Friday. "We've made a decision that the Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," Obama said. "Not everybody who's participating on the ground in fighting Assad are people who we are comfortable with. There are some who, I think, have adopted an extremist agenda, an anti-U.S. agenda, and we are going to make clear to distinguish between those elements." ReligionToday.com previously reported that in February, al Qaeda's leader called for the ouster of the Assad regime, urging Muslims in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to support Syrian rebels. Syrian Christians, who fear for their future should Assad be defeated, say the growing presence of foreign Islamic fighters in the country and many Islamist brigades within the opposition Free Syrian Army are of particular concern. Innocent Christians and communities that have not joined the uprising against Assad continue to become victims at the hand of radicals as the total death toll now tops 42,000.

U.S. Navy Cancels Nativity on Bahrain Military Base After Atheist Complaint

The U.S. Navy directed service members serving in Bahrain to cancel and dismantle a live nativity after receiving a complaint from a military atheist group who said the manger scene endangered Americans serving in a Muslim country and violated the U.S. Constitution, Fox News reports. The live nativity was a long-standing tradition at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain that featured the children of military personnel dressed as shepherds and wise men along with Mary and Joseph. It was part of a larger celebration that included a tree lighting, Christmas music and photographs with Santa Claus and a camel. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers filed a complaint with the Navy's Inspector General, arguing that it promoted Christianity as the "official religion of the base" and also put service members in danger because the local Muslim population could "see the U.S. military as a Christian force rather than a secular military." A statement the Navy sent the MAAF reportedly read: "Upon further review, the CRP [Command Religious Program] will be removing the Living Nativity Program from the general base secular holiday festivities and co-locating it more appropriately with some of our other private religious and faith-based observances at the chapel at a separate time." Some service members in Bahrain called the cancellation "heartbreaking," and children who were supposed to act in the nativity were devastated. "Here we are serving in the Middle East, defending our country and other people's religions, and we couldn't understand why we can't enjoy our own religious freedoms," said one officer who asked not to be identified.

Coptic Christians Ask Free World to Cut Ties With Egypt Under Morsi

The founder of an international group of advocates for the equality and rights of Coptic Christians is appealing to the leaders of democratic nations to cut any ties with Egypt, the Christian Post reports. "We demand that world leaders withdraw their recognition of Egypt's phony 'pro-democracy' leader, Mr. Morsi, who is backed by the illegal Muslim Brotherhood party," said Dr. Ashraf Ramelah, president of Voice of the Copts, which is attempting to thwart president Mohammed Morsi's regime from implementing a primarily Islamic-based constitution. Coptic organizations around the world, including the U.S.-based Egyptian Front for National Salvation and Coptic Solidarity have been making similar appeals since Morsi issued a new constitutional declaration in which he granted himself sweeping powers and placed himself above judicial review. Thousands of Egyptians within the country continue to protest against Morsi's regime, and the government is bracing for likely mass demonstrations of both opponents and supporters of Morsi ahead of the Dec. 15 constitutional referendum.

U.S.: North Korea Missile Test 'Highly Provocative Act'

The White House called a long-range missile test by North Korea a "highly provocative act" that threatens regional security, CBN News reports. On Tuesday, North Korea announced the successful test of the Eunha-3 long-range rocket, which traveled directly over Okinawa before falling 180 miles north of the Philippines. The regime said it fired the missile to test technology to put a satellite in orbit, but the U.S. believes it's a cover to test missile technology. With further development, such a weapon could one day carry a nuclear warhead and potentially reach as far as California. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CNN he was "very confident" that if North Korea were to launch a missile at the United States, the U.S. military could guard against it. However, Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said North Korea "could sell this technology to others, including Iran and Pakistan, who have been regular customers of North Korea's other missiles. They still have other technological thresholds to cross, but this was undeniably a major one." Iran on Wednesday praised North Korea's move.

Publication date: December 13, 2012