Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 3, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 3, 2009

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

  • Russian Orthodox Church Enthrones New Leader
  • Report: African-Americans Surpass Others in Religiosity
  • Pastor in Saudi Arabia Flees Death Threats
  • SIM Sends 3,000 Orphans Back to School in Zimbabwe


Russian Orthodox Church Enthrones New Leader

The Christian Post reports that Patriarch Kirill, 62, officially took his seat as the permanent leader of the Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday. Kirill inherits leadership of the second largest church in the world from the late Patriarch Alexy II, who closely aligned himself with the Russian state and spurned the Vatican's attempts at warmer ties between the two churches. Kirill "has been a cautious advocate of change," the Christian Post said, and seems to favor better relations with the Vatican, but holds fast to the traditional Russian integration of church and state. His ceremony was broadcast on national television and attended by President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and scores of other officials from Russia and ex-Soviet states.

Report: African-Americans Surpass Others in Religiosity

Religion News Service reports that African-Americans surpass others in the U.S. in a range of expressions of faith, from praying more to attending religious services more frequently, a new report shows. "Compared with other racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are among the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, with fully 87 percent of African-Americans describing themselves as belonging to one religious group or another," states "A Religious Portrait of African-Americans," released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life on Friday (Jan. 30.) The analysis finds that 79 percent of blacks say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56 percent of all U.S. adults, and 76 percent say they pray on at least daily, compared to 58 percent of the total U.S. population.

Pastor in Saudi Arabia Flees Death Threats

Compass Direct News reports that a prominent foreign pastor in Saudi Arabia has fled Riyadh after a member of the mutawwa’in, or religious police, and others threatened him three times in one week. Two of the incidents included threats to kill house church pastor Yemane Gebriel of Eritrea. On Wednesday (Jan. 28), Gebriel escaped to an undisclosed city in Saudi Arabia. A father of eight who has lived and worked as a private driver in Saudi Arabia for 25 years, Gebriel told Compass that on Jan. 10 he found an unsigned note on his vehicle threatening to kill him if he did not leave the country. On Jan. 13, he said, mutawwa’in member Abdul Aziz and others forced him from his van and told him to leave the country. Two days later, Gebriel told Compass, four masked men – apparently Saudis – in a small car cut off the van he was driving, and threatened to kill him if he didn't leave the country.

SIM Sends 3,000 Orphans Back to School in Zimbabwe

ASSIST News Service reports that Serving in Mission (SIM) plans to help over 3,000 orphans and other vulnerable children in Zimbabwe go back to school by paying their school fees, purchasing school uniforms for 150 of them and providing writing materials to 2,000 of them within the year. SIM is running this project in partnership with a local church - the United Baptist Church (UBC) of Zimbabwe - with the aim of maximizing the potentials of the children in becoming fully contributing citizens in the society. Because of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, many children in Zimbabwe drop out of school to care for their families. The country's unstable government, led by Robert Mugabe, is largely blamed for deteriorating infrastructure, health care and famine in the country, further compounding the problems these children face.