Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 17, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 17, 2010

Daily briefs of the top Christian news and persecution stories impacting believers around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Atheists Campaign for 'Right' to Blaspheme Religion
  • Heavy Rains, Flash Floods Hamper Relief Efforts in Pakistan
  • Missionaries Follow Migration to City Centers
  • Tanzanian Court Acquits Two Evangelists of ‘Illegal Preaching'

Atheists Campaign for 'Right' to Blaspheme Religion

International Blasphemy Day has been renamed the International Blasphemy Rights Day in what organizers say is a bid to show they are not interested in "mocking religion" for its own sake. "There was a lot of controversy last year that we were doing what we were doing simply in the interest of mocking religion," said Nathan Bupp, a spokesman for Center for Inquiry, the group sponsoring the day. "That, indeed, is not the case." Bupp told Religion News Service this name change better describes the purpose of the event amidst criticism received after last year's inaugural events. "Religious beliefs should be on the same level of political beliefs," said Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI. "Blasphemy is often, unfortunately, associated with crude criticism of believers. But our focus is on looking at the beliefs," he said. This year's events are scheduled for Sept. 30.

Heavy Rains, Flash Floods Hamper Relief Efforts in Pakistan

Aid group now estimate that 20 million people have been affected by widespread flooding in Pakistan, where continuing rains have forced teams to cancel aid distribution even as the need rises. "Until the water recedes or we have access to boats or helicopters, it will be nearly impossible for our teams to access some of the worst-affected areas for assessments and delivery of relief supplies," said Shaharyar Bangash, World Vision's Program Manager in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Province. The organization has already distributed food and water to more than 21,000 people affected by the flooding. Many crops have been wiped out and food prices are rising, putting even those who weren't affected directly by the floods at risk. "The scale of the response needed by all humanitarian actors is almost incomprehensible," said Anita Cole, programme development and quality director for World Vision Pakistan.

Missionaries Follow Migration to City Centers

By 2050, almost 70 percent of the world's estimated 10 billion people will live in cities as the world's population continues flocking to urban centers. That percentage has more than doubled since 1950, according to the United Nations, when fewer than 30 percent of the world population lived in cities. Churches and mission organizations are increasingly following that trend, Christianity Today reports. "As the escalation of global urbanization has taken place, so has the urbanization of mission work," said Doug McConnell, dean of the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Groups such as the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention is also concentrating more on cities, engaging 30 new urban centers in 2008 (up from 7 in 2007), including 27 cities with populations over 1 million. "We've had an international global research team working to see where people are, so the fact that this has happened has not caught us by surprise," said IMB spokesperson Wendy Norvelle.

Tanzanian Court Acquits Two Evangelists of ‘Illegal Preaching'

A Tanzanian court yesterday acquitted two evangelists of "illegal preaching" after Muslims allegedly invited them to a religious debate and called authorities instead. Compass Direct News reports that Eleutery Kobelo and Cecil Simbaulanga maintain no Muslims showed up to the neutral site of the supposed inter-faith debate until Islamists arrived with government security agents who charged them with "using religious sermons to incite Muslims and Christians into viewing each other with suspicion." The accusers had claimed that the Christians' message that Jesus is God had annoyed Muslims and therefore disrupted a peaceful coexistence between those of the two faiths. Kobelo told Compass by telephone that the Muslims failed to show up in court to support their allegation of illegal preaching. After the verdict, Christians shouting for joy greeted the evangelists as they left the courtroom, he said.