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Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 23, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 23, 2009

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

  • Donations Pour in to Australian Wildfire Survivors
  • Bangladeshi Pastor Threatened for Rape Accusations
  • Pro-Life Pastor Sentenced to Jail for Violating Buffer Zone Law
  • Tutu: Obama Should Apologize for Iraq

Donations Pour in to Australian Wildfire Survivors

The Associated Press reports that as many as 7,500 people are homeless in Australia, where the culprit wildfires are still smoldering. Relief workers are trying to house people until the scorched area is safe for people to return, and working to help people provide for themselves. "My biggest point now is getting fathers back to work," Marisa Pegoraro said Thursday from her chair inside a relief center she has frequented since she and her family narrowly escaped being burned alive in the inferno. "They have to feel like they're looking after their families." Australians have already sent more than 100 million Australian dollars ($64 million US) to the Red Cross. The Salvation Army says it has already received more than enough material donations, though many are still sending help. The fires killed 208 people.

Bangladeshi Pastor Threatened for Rape Accusations

Compass Direct News reports that Christian and human rights advocates said doctors likely fabricated a medical report that falsely concluded there were no signs of rape in the wife of a Bangladeshi pastor. The Rev. Shankar Hazra of Chaksing Baptist church in Gopalganj district, 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Dhaka, said influential area Muslims have used threats to try to force him and his wife to withdraw charges of robbery and rape; he declined to name them out of fear of reprisals. “If I do not withdraw the case, they said they will make a ‘Ganges [river] of blood’ here,” Rev. Hazra said. Resident medical officer Dr. Ali Akbar of Sadar Hospital in Gopalganj told Compass that a report given to police on Thursday (Feb. 12) stated that a medical examination indicated the wife of Rev. Hazra was not raped. Villagers told Hazra that the examining doctor was paid to twist the report.

Pro-Life Pastor Sentenced to Jail for Violating Buffer Zone Law

One News Now reports that a pro-life counselor and pastor will spend 30 days in prison for peacefully approaching women outside a California abortion clinic to share abortion alternatives. A judge sentenced Walter Hoye, a pastor in Berkeley, for violating a local ordinance that bans protestors from coming within eight feet of anyone entering the clinic. According to Dana Cody of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, Hoye was also fined $1,130 and placed on probation for three years. "That meant Walter had to accept the terms of the probation, which was stay away from the clinic -- and Walter refused to accept that term because he doesn't think his free-speech rights should be impinged for three years," Cody said. Hoye's supporters argue that the ordinance is an unconstitutional violation of free speech.

Tutu: Obama Should Apologize for Iraq

Agence-France Presse reports that Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu is encouraging President Barack Obama to apologize for the "unmitigated disaster" of the U.S.-led Iraq war. The archbishop emeritus Thursday said that Obama "could easily squander the goodwill that his election generated [around the world] if he disappoints." Tutu also urged Obama to support the International Criminal Court (ICC), which the Bush administration opposed. "For many of us, an upright US was a great inspiration in our fight against the iniquity of apartheid," he wrote." I pray that President Obama will come down hard on African dictators, especially because they cannot credibly charge him with being neo-colonialist." Tutu's work to end apartheid in South Africa earned him the Nobel in 1984.