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Religion Today Daily Headlines - February 8, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - February 8, 2013

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

In today's edition:

  • Lawyers: U.S. Pastor Being Tortured in Iranian Prison
  • Gunmen Kill, Shoot Two Pastors in Kenya as Violence Increases
  • England Endorses Marriage 'Equality'
  • Lutheran Pastor Apologizes for Praying at Interfaith Newtown Vigil


Lawyers: U.S. Pastor Being Tortured in Iranian Prison

Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini is being tortured in an Iranian prison, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, which has filed an appeal on his behalf, CBN News reports. Abedini is serving eight years in Iran's notorious Evin Prison because of his Christian faith, and the Iranian regime has cut him off from his wife and children who live in the United States. The ACLJ reported that Iranian officials refuse to let Abedini communicate with his family via phone and have been trying to convince him that efforts to secure his freedom have ceased. "When I heard this from my husband, I cried," his wife, Naghmeh, said. "It broke my heart. Behind those walls he feels helpless and relies on us to be his voice. It is so easy to feel forgotten in the walls of the prison. Please help me make sure he is never forgotten." The ACLJ is working with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to urge the Obama administration to intervene on Abedini's behalf.

Gunmen Kill, Shoot Two Pastors in Kenya as Violence Increases

Two church leaders in Kenya were attacked Thursday morning by unknown gunmen in the city of Garissa, Open Doors USA reports. Pastor Abdi Welli was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital and Pastor Ibrahim Makunyi of the East Africa Pentecostal Church was immediately rushed to a hospital, where his condition was described as stable and out of danger. Pastor Welli, who was evangelized, discipled and mentored by Pastor Makunyi, is survived by his wife and three young sons. Garissa is a violence-stricken city in Kenya's northeast, and the Islamic terrorist group al Shabaab has been targeting Christians and churches in the area. "The attack today is the latest in increasing violence, especially in the Garissa area," said Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra. "It was reported by Open Doors that 22 Christians were killed in incidents last year and over 100 seriously injured or maimed."

England Endorses Marriage 'Equality'

British lawmakers on Tuesday voted in favor of a bill to legalize same-sex "marriage," WORLD Magazine reports. Supporters celebrate the bill as a step toward "equality," but church leaders and conservatives warn that if implemented, the measure will bring serious social and cultural ramifications. Spearheaded by Prime Minister David Cameron, the bill still has to endure parliamentary debates and earn approval of the House of Lords before becoming law, but if approved, would allow same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies -- provided the religious institution consents -- starting in 2015. In December, British lawyer Aidan O'Neil warned of a variety of situations in which supporters of traditional marriage could be forced to recognize gay unions as marriage. For example, primary school teachers who refuse to teach LGBT-friendly curricula could be fired, Christian parents who want to adopt could be forbidden, and marriage registrars who refuse to fill out marriage licenses could be sued. The law's religious provision specifically exempts the Church of England from performing same-sex ceremonies, since they are banned by church law. Though the provision is supposed to protect the Church of England from legal trouble, officials have expressed concern it might not be enough. "It is impossible to predict whether those provisions will prove robust enough to resist challenge in the courts," officials wrote.

Lutheran Pastor Apologizes for Praying at Interfaith Newtown Vigil

A Lutheran pastor in Newtown, Conn., has apologized after being reprimanded for participating in an interfaith vigil following the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Religion News Service reports. The Rev. Rob Morris, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, prayed at the Dec. 16 vigil -- which was hosted by the Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association and attended by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and President Obama -- alongside other Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Baha'i clergy. Morris' church is a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod denomination, whose constitution prohibits ministers from participating in services with members of different faiths. LCMS president Matthew Harrison wrote in a letter to the Synod that "the presence of prayers and religious readings" made the Newtown vigil joint worship, and therefore off-limits to Missouri Synod ministers. Harrison said Morris' participation also offended members of the denomination. "After consultation with my supervisors and others, I made my own decision," Morris wrote in his apology letter. "I believed my participation to be, not an act of joint worship, but an act of community chaplaincy." Harrison wrote in his letter that despite his reprimand of Morris, the Missouri Synod does not unanimously agree on what joint worship is. The denomination is still attempting to define it.

Publication date: February 8, 2013