Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 8, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 8, 2009

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

In today's edition:

  • Strong Aftershock Felt in Rome and L'Aquila, Hampers Rescue
  • North Korea's Missile Launch Reveals Inside Oppression
  • Vermont Legislature Override Legalizes Gay Marriage
  • Obama Names Final Members of Faith-Based Council

Strong Aftershock Felt in Rome and L'Aquila, Hampers Rescue

Associated Press reports that the death toll rose to 207 Tuesday evening as rescue workers continued the scramble to free people still trapped in the rubble. Rescue efforts were complicated by a powerful 5.6 magnitude aftershock, forcing rescuers and residents to evacuate temporarily and further damaging historic buildings in L'Aquila. Fifteen are still missing, while 100 of the 1,000 injured are reportedly in serious condition. Four students have been located in a collapsed dormitory, but "I've been told (by rescuers) that they probably are dead," L'Aquila University rector Ferdinando Di Orio said. Officials will continue to search for survivors today and tomorrow.

North Korea's Missile Launch Reveals Inside Oppression

Open Doors and Mission News Network report that North Korea's missile launch is only the public face of oppression. "What is forgotten in all of the controversy surrounding the rocket launch is the treatment of the suffering people inside North Korea and the horrendous human rights record of Kim Jong-Il," says Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. "The litany of abuses is well-documented: forced labor, political prisoners tortured in prison camps, sex trafficking. And the abuses are increasing while the government sets its sights on developing a nuclear program." Open Doors' Jerry Dykstra says the group's field reports show a "war-like buildup by the government,” which aims to show impoverished North Koreans that leader Kim Jong-Il remains fully in charge.

Vermont Legislature Override Legalizes Gay Marriage

New York Times reports that on Tuesday Vermont joined Iowa as the latest states to approve same-sex marriage. Vermont's legislators managed to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of the legislation, allowing the bill to proceed toward its Sept. 1 effective date. Steve Cable of traditional marriage groups Vermont Renewal and Vermont Marriage Advisory Council said the measure was rushed through the legislature, preventing effective debate. "The whole process has been shameful from the very beginning," Cable said. "If the process had been fair in allowing both sides to have reasonable debate on this and allowing all of Vermont to engage, then fine... But that’s not the way this came down," he continued. Vermont became the first state to offer same-sex civil unions in 2000.

Obama Names Final Members of Faith-Based Council

Religion News Service reports that President Obama named nine advisers to the White House office for religious and community groups on Monday (April 6), adding a gay rights leader, an Orthodox Jew, a black bishop, member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and others to an eclectic 25-person council. The bulk of the council, which will advise Obama on certain domestic and foreign policy issues, was appointed last month when the president unveiled his revamped White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Council members will advise Obama on coordinating government programs with local community groups, according to the White House. Obama has named abortion and poverty reduction; responsible fatherhood and promotion of interfaith dialogue abroad as priorities for the council.