Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Tsunami Anniversary Marked With Sadness and Thanks
- Christmas Parties in Asia Point Seekers to Faith in Jesus
- Catholic Philippines Mulling Limits on Family Size
- NBC to Air Series About Dysfunctional Christian Family
Tsunami Anniversary Marked With Sadness and Thanks
Millions of people across Asia marked the one-year anniversary of the tsunami disaster on Monday, remembering the lives lost; acknowledging achievements in rebuilding and the challenges still ahead; and voicing appreciation for the extraordinary support from the outside world. An underwater earthquake off the coast of Indonesian Sumatra on Dec. 26 set off massive waves across the Indian Ocean that crashed into coastlines from Asia to East Africa. More than 220,000 people were killed and 2.1 million others left homeless in 12 countries. Almost 40,000 people are still unaccounted for."Nature is an awesome force and it can inflict great tragedy, yet throughout history, humanity has come back from fire and flood to build anew," President Bush said in a videotaped message, broadcast during an emotion-laden service in the Indonesian province of Aceh. The ceremony was held on the still-ravaged outskirts of the capital, Banda Aceh, where a minute's silence was observed at 8.16 AM, exactly one year on from the time the first waves hit. Aceh was the area worst affected by the disaster, with almost 160,000 people dead or missing. Bush praised Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono -- who faced the crisis just two months after taking office -- for providing "steady leadership" and the Indonesian people for their resilience. He also thanked American military personnel, government agencies, volunteers and private citizens for their response to the tragedy. "It made a huge difference that the world came to our aid," Yudhoyono said in an address to the nation, delivered at the same ceremony. He cited "the largest military operation for humanitarian relief since World War II" as well as record financial contributions from non-governmental agencies and private donors. As citizens from countries across the globe contributed, he said, "their compassion cut across religious, racial, and cultural lines, uniting them in global solidarity."
Christmas Parties in Asia Point Seekers to Faith in Jesus
Throughout southern Asia, Southern Baptist workers are hosting Christmas parties to introduce Jesus to Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist friends who do not yet know the true meaning of Christmas. Last Christmas, one large party led to the start of three house churches and other fellowships in one city in India. “God allowed all the [International Mission Board] workers in this city the opportunity of hosting more than 500 people” who passed through his home for a Christmas celebration, one worker reported. “We proclaimed the Word, shared testimonies, sang praises and distributed New Testaments to more than 200 families.” The Christmas season, which follows a series of Hindu and Muslim holidays, offers IMB workers throughout southern Asia opportunities to share the Gospel with friends and neighbors. The region is home to 1.4 billion people in the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. Southern Baptist representatives are hoping this year’s Christmas parties again will lead to friends and neighbors finding new life in Jesus. The parties will range in size from large gatherings like the one Ballew had last year to quiet dinners at home with a few neighbors. “Christmas Day will be exciting for us. We have invited five nationals to brunch to hear the Christmas story and to learn why Christians celebrate this holy day,” one IMB worker said. “Each man has received a Bible in advance, so they can read the story prior to Christmas. Pray for these men who seek information about our beliefs and who long to know more about Jesus Christ.”
Catholic Philippines Mulling Limits on Family Size
Lawmakers in the predominantly Catholic Philippines will soon consider legislation promoting artificial contraception and promoting the idea of a two-child limit for families. The House of Representatives has agreed to hold a plenary debate, starting around mid-January, on the "Responsible Parenthood and Population Management Act," known locally as House Bill (HB) 3773. Proponents say the bill is urgently needed to curb population growth and fight poverty in the Southeast Asian nation -- a country of 84 million people, an estimated 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line. But the move has drawn strong opposition domestically from the Catholic Church and prolife groups, as well as from campaigners based in the U.S. "Too many people don't cause poverty," said one opposing lawmaker, Rene Velarde. "Bad governance and policies do." The bill's main author, Excel Legman, said the measure would provide "free and full access to adequate and relevant information on reproductive health and a full range of family methods and devices," excluding abortion. He said it was not an abortion bill "by any stretch of the imagination," but rather sought to prevent abortion by reducing the incidence of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
NBC to Air Series About Dysfunctional Christian Family
A conservative advocacy group is urging its supporters to protest an upcoming NBC television series that portrays a "completely dysfunctional family" as models of the Christian faith. NBC's "The Book of Daniel" is scheduled to premiere on Jan. 6, and even before the public sees it, the American Family Association is complaining about the series. The main character, Daniel Webster, "is a drug-addicted Episcopal priest whose wife depends heavily on her mid-day martinis," the AFA said in a message to its supporters. "Webster regularly sees and talks with a very unconventional white-robed, bearded Jesus," AFA said, adding that the Webster family also includes "a 23-year-old homosexual Republican son, a 16-year-old daughter who is a drug dealer, and a 16-year-old adopted son who is having sex with the bishop's daughter. At the office, his (Webster's) lesbian secretary is sleeping with his sister-in-law." AFA noted that the series is written by Jack Kenny, a practicing homosexual who describes himself as being "in Catholic recovery," and who is quoted as saying that he doesn't know if "all the myth surrounding him (Jesus) is true." Various media reports have noted the adult nature of the program, which is expected to air in the 10 p.m. time slot. According to the American Family Association, NBC considers "The Book of Daniel" a positive portrayal of Christ and Christians.