12 Days of Giveaways - Spin & Win! Sign up before Dec. 25th to win daily prizes and a $250 Amazon.com Gift Card. Find out details.

Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 21, 2012

Religion Today Daily Headlines - May 21, 2012

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

In today's edition:

  • Most Popular Baby Names Have Biblical Origins
  • Unborn Heartbeat Bill Advances in Louisiana
  • Despite Ceasefire, Syrian Violence Rages On
  • Life Sentences for 'Blasphemy' in Pakistan Overturned


Most Popular Baby Names Have Biblical Origins

The list of America's most popular baby names for 2011, released last week by the Social Security Administration, reveals that biblical names are in, the Washington Post reports. Among the top 10 names for baby boys, four are from the Bible: Jacob, Noah, Michael and Daniel. Matthew and Elijah came in at numbers 12 and 13, respectively. For girls, variations on biblical names are also popular, with Isabella (the Spanish version of Elizabeth), Ava (a variation of Eve) and Abigail (an Old Testament character from 1 Samuel 25) making the top 10. According to Laura Wattenberg of BabyNameWizard.com, popular biblical names have shifted from the New Testament to the Old Testament. "The traditional biblical names were New Testament names -- John, James and Mary and Elizabeth," she said. "Today, the hot names are all names from the Old Testament precisely because they were neglected for so many generations."

Unborn Heartbeat Bill Advances in Louisiana

A bill to allow a woman to hear the heartbeat of an unborn fetus before having an abortion is working its way through Louisiana's legislature, CBN News reports. A state committee has overwhelmingly approved the measure, authored by Democratic State Sen. Sharon Weston Broome. Broome said her proposal mirrored a Texas law that requires doctors to conduct a sonogram, describe the fetus and play a fetal heartbeat for women seeking abortions -- a law which was also upheld by the Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals. Although Broome's bill does not require a woman to see the ultrasound or hear the heartbeat, opponents still say it goes too far. "[It] is bordering on emotional abuse and physical battery of the mother," said state legislator Jackie Hawkins. Supporters of the bill, however, say it is crucial to provide women with such information. "An abortion has serious consequences for both child and his or her mother," W. "Al" Krotoski testified to the committee. "There can be no legal or meaningful legal right for an abortion without appropriate knowledge or consideration being given to what is being done." Another bill currently being heard in the Louisiana legislature would ban abortion 20 weeks after conception.

Despite Ceasefire, Syrian Violence Rages On

Despite a UN-brokered ceasefire, violence continues to rock Syria, with deadly bombings reaching Damascus, the capital, and other cities, WORLD News Service reports. Two suicide bombs on April 30 in Idlib targeted security personnel and killed at least eight -- with some estimates that explosions killed more than 20. By May 1, the head of the UN observer mission, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, arrived in Syria along with about 15 observers. Under the peace plan brokered by UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, 300 observers are approved and 30 scheduled to arrive this month. But activists report as many as 500 killed since the ceasefire was agreed to April 12. The Christian community is suffering "enormous distress" as the conflict rages on between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad, church leaders told the Barnabas Fund. According to a church leader, churches throughout the country remain open, except for the Homs area, where the focus of the fight has left many places of worship destroyed or unable to operate. Elsewhere, according to the leader, churches are "more packed with worshipers and getting closer to [the] church and Bible, which is a good sign."

Life Sentences for 'Blasphemy' in Pakistan Overturned

A court acquitted a Christian couple of "blasphemy" charges May 17, overturning their life sentences, Compass Direct News reports. The couple's lawyer, Chaudhry Naeem Shakir, said Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi of the Lahore High Court accepted their appeal because prosecutors failed to prove allegations that 32-year-old Munir Masih and his wife, Ruqayya, defiled the Quran or insulted Muhammad on Dec. 8, 2008. The allegations by Muhammad Nawaz in Mustafabad, Kasur district, came under sections 295-B and 295-C respectively of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which are routinely employed to exact revenge on Christians over personal disputes; in this case, the Christian couple's children had fought with the family of Muhammad Yousaf, who directed his driver, Nawaz, to file the blasphemy charges. A trial court had exonerated them from charges of blasphemy against Muhammad in 2010 but sentenced them to life imprisonment (25 years in Pakistan) for allegedly defiling the Quran. The couple then filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court, pleading not guilty. "During the trial, not a single witness spoke against the couple regarding the allegations of blasphemy," Shakir said. "Therefore, [Kasur Additional Session] Judge Muhammad Ajmal Hussain on March 2, 2010, acquitted the couple in 295-C but awarded them life imprisonment under Section 295-B."

Publication date: May 21, 2012