Religion Today Summaries - April 18, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 18, 2006

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Muslims Outraged by New Cartoon of Mohammed in Hell
  • Pope Calls for Nuclear Diplomacy, Archbishop Says Conspiracy Theories Do not Weaken Gospel
  • Algerian Law Criminalizes Evangelism by Faiths Other Than Islam
  • University's Homosexuality Stance Puts Pharmacy School at Risk

Muslims Outraged by New Cartoon of Mohammed in Hell

An Italian magazine has published a cartoon showing the Prophet Mohammed cut in half and burning in Hell, the London Telegraph reports. The drawing appears in Studi Cattolici, a monthly magazine. It shows the poets Virgil and Dante on the edge of a circle of flame looking down on Mohammed. "Isn't that man there, split in two from head to navel, Mohammed?" Dante asks Virgil. "Yes and he is cut in two because he has divided society," Virgil replies. Editor Cesare Cavalleri said he had not meant to cause offense. "If, contrary to my intentions and those of the author, anyone felt offended in his religious feelings, I freely ask him in a Christian manner for forgiveness." In an earlier statement, however, Cavalleri said: ''If the cartoon provoked an attack, it would only confirm 'the idiotic positions' of Muslim extremists. This is not a cartoon against Mohammed. It is a cartoon which addresses the loss of the West's identity.'' The cartoon is a representation of that which had already been written centuries ago, when Dante placed Mohammed in Hell in Canto 28 of <i>The Divine Comedy</i>, a scene which inspired a painting by William Blake, depicting Mohammed with his entrails hanging out. A spokesman for the Union of Italian Muslim Communities called the cartoon "odious and racist... The rage was just calmed and here; with an absurd and criminal logic, they go and stir things up."

Pope Calls for Nuclear Diplomacy, Archbishop Says Conspiracy Theories Do not Weaken Gospel

In separate Easter messages Pope Benedict XVI, called on Sunday for an "honorable solution" to the nuclear standoff with Iran, a truly independent Palestinian state, and global cooperation to combat terrorism, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that conspiracy theories will not weaken the Gospel message. ASSIST News reports that in part of his speech, the Pope defended Israel's right to exist, in what appeared to be an indirect criticism of statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Jewish state should be eliminated. The Pope also called firmly for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, in the U.K., the Archbishop of Canterbury described the Gospel as human words backed by divine energy. Many Christians are putting their lives at risk for their faith, he added. "The Bible is not the authorized code of a society managed by priests and preachers for their private purposes," he said, "but the set of human words through which the call of God is still uniquely immediate to human beings today."

Algerian Law Criminalizes Evangelism by Faiths Other Than Islam

A story in The Christian Post states that Algeria, where the official religion is Islam, is criminalizing attempts to convert Muslims to other faiths. A law adopted March 20 would punish anyone who ''incites, forces or uses seductive means to convert a Muslim to another religion'' with a prison term of two to five years or fines of up to $12,100. The law is a response to growing efforts by evangelical Christians to bring their faith to this North African nation. An official of the Ministry of Religious Affairs alleged that evangelists have enticed Muslims with offers of visas or financial help. There are some 5,000 declared Christians in Algeria, a French colony until 1962.

University's Homosexuality Stance Puts Pharmacy School at Risk

The University of the Cumberlands expelled a homosexual student April 6, sparking reactions on and off campus, including some state legislators who called for the Baptist-affiliated university to forfeit public funds for a pharmacy school, according to a story in The Baptist Press. Jason Johnson, a sophomore from Lexington, Ky., said officials asked him to leave the university because of his homosexuality. Cumberlands President Jim Taylor issued a statement April 7 that the university's students are held to a higher standard. However, a slightly differently worded statement released to WLEX-TV added: "There are places students with predispositions can go such as San Francisco and the left coast or to many of the state schools." Cumberlands' student handbook states, "Any student who engages in or promotes sexual behavior not consistent with Christian principles (including sex outside marriage and homosexuality) may be suspended or asked to withdraw." Even so, some state legislators suggested the university should not receive state funds for a planned pharmacy school because of Johnson's expulsion. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the state budget includes $10 million for helping with construction of the building and another $1 million for student scholarships at the yet-to-be created pharmacy program.