Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 18, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 18, 2011

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

  • Christian Worker Murdered in Afghanistan Awarded Medal of Freedom
  • U.K. Drops Ban on Gay Civil Ceremonies in Churches
  • Egypt's Christians Keep Wary Eye on Muslim Brotherhood
  • Cuban Church Leader Denounces Persecution in Letter


Christian Worker Murdered in Afghanistan Awarded Medal of Freedom

Dr. Tom Little was murdered in Afghanistan last August while on a medical mission effort. Christianity Today reports that on Tuesday, President Barack Obama recognized Little's sacrifice by awarding him the United States' highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His widow, Libby Little, accepted the honor on his behalf. "Tom Little could have pursued a lucrative career," President Obama said during the ceremony for Little and 14 other recipients. "Instead, he was guided by his faith, and he set out to heal the poorest of the poor in Afghanistan. For 30 years, amid invasion and civil war, the terror of the Taliban, the spread of insurgency, he and his wife Libby helped bring Afghans—literally—the miracle of sight." Little, an optometrist, was leading an eye care team in the remote northeastern region of Badakhshan when he and nine others were found dead last summer.

U.K. Drops Ban on Gay Civil Ceremonies in Churches

Britain's government announced yesterday that gay couples in the United Kingdom may now hold their civil partnership ceremonies inside the nation's churches. The Associated Press reports the move erases some of the last remaining distinctions between gay partnerships and traditional marriages. British equality laws forced government to back down from restraints on partnerships that previously did not allow ceremonies to have religious references, take place in churches, or take place anywhere except in a public building overseen by a government registrar. "No religious group will be forced to host a civil partnership registration, but for those who wish to do so this is an important step forward," said Home Secretary Theresa May.

Egypt's Christians Keep Wary Eye on Muslim Brotherhood

Religion News Service reports that Christians and Muslims in Egypt are both happy Hosni Mubarak is gone. But when the subject of who will take over next arises, their solidarity wavers. "If the Brotherhood take control, I will be the first to leave the country," said Baha al-Rashid, 40. The Brotherhood, a strictly Islamic political party, is the country's most organized opposition group. Some Christians fear that if it gains more influence, it would impose Shariah, or Islamic law, and forbid them from practicing their faith. "I read a lot about the history of the [Brotherhood]," said David Samuels, 31, a master's student and a Christian. "They know there are a lot of bad vibes against them, so they will first try to get to the top of all the syndicates and then come to power, which would be the worst for Christians... Christians have been raised on fear, and they are always afraid," he said.

Cuban Church Leader Denounces Persecution in Letter

A respected Baptist pastor in Cuba has published an open letter denouncing government persecution targeting him and his church. Pastor Homero Carbonell, long-time leader of La Trinidad First Baptist Church in Santa Clara and a high-level denominational leader, says he has been forced to retire due to prolonged government pressure and threats made against his church. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that the twelve page letter gives details of the Religious Affairs Office’s treatment of Pastor Carbonell and his church over the past three years. Spurious accusations against Pastor Carbonell, including allegations that he is associated with the counterrevolution and is tied to unspecified “illegalities” culminated in a serious of penalties being applied to his church. While Pastor Carbonell finally stepped down from his role as leader of the church in October 2010, the sanctions have not been lifted.