Religion Today Summaries - February 16, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 16, 2006

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.


In today's edition:

Leader of Christian Umbrella Group Calls for Muslims, Christians to 'Work Together'


Freedom of expression is a "fundamental human right," the head of the world's largest Christian umbrella group said Tuesday, according to an ABC News story. But Muslim rage over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad shows that the world must still tread with caution when dealing with religious views. The comments by the Rev. Samuel Kobia at the beginning of a 10-day global assembly by the World Council of Churches illustrated how dialogue with Islam and worries over mounting religious-inspired violence have become priorities for the group's more than 350 member churches. "Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right," said Kobia, the WCC's general secretary, "but that is not the right to say anything for any reason. Used to devalue human dignity, it devalues the very freedoms on which it is based." Kobia, a Methodist pastor from Kenya, said both Muslims and Christians have responsibilities to "work together" to end the unrest over the cartoons, The WCC gathering is expected to include further discussion of the role of Christian churches and democratic traditions in an age of rising terrorism and deepening rifts between the West and Muslim world.


Aussie Awakening Goes Global


The first Awakening Expo event for 2006 in Australia was held on Saturday, February 11, 2006, in the Fusion home base of Poatina, Tasmania. The participants heard reports and testimonies from those involved in training courses and preparing for Open Crowd Festivals during special occasions such as Easter, Advent, the World Cup in Germany, the Beijing Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Noticeable was the number of overseas students who will be conducting similar Awakening events in 400 cities across Australia, in Africa, Europe, Central America, Canada, Greece, the United Kingdom and China. The National Director and Founder of Fusion, Mal Garvin, explained that the Easter Awakening of 1990 carried on the sense of camaraderie established during the National Gathering in Canberra in 1988, when 50,000 Christians came together to pray for the new Parliament House, as it had been reported that there would be no prayers during the official program. Christians worked with Christians as never before. Open Crowd Festivals then came into being and were a huge success during the Sydney Olympics 2000 opening ceremonies. The emphasis on the Christian community reaching out to the local community was evident throughout the Awakening Expo Day held in the Poatina Village Centre. Not once was anyone asked what denomination they were involved with and yet their love for the Lord and for each other was obvious. The program commenced in worship led by a musical group from Nigeria.


Australia 'Will Be Muslim in 50 Years'


Australia is at risk of aborting itself out of existence and could become a Muslim country "within 50 years" if the abortion-inducing pill RU486 is made available, an Australian MP claimed yesterday. The London Telegraph reports that Danna Vale, a former minister and an MP with the governing Liberal Party, said RU486 could drastically reduce the country's native-born population. "I have read comments by a certain imam from the Lakemba mosque [in Sydney] who actually said that Australia is going to be a Muslim nation in 50 years' time," she said. "I didn't believe him at the time, but when you actually look at the birth rate… we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence by 100,000 abortions a year. You multiply that by 50 years and that's five million potential Australians we won't have here." The Australian parliament in Canberra is debating whether to allow the introduction of RU486, a move that is opposed by Church groups and the staunchly Catholic health minister, Tony Abbott. The inflammatory remarks upset Australia's Muslim community. Keysar Trad, head of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said Mrs. Vale was trying to exploit people's ignorance of Islam. Mrs. Vale's comments were also condemned by her own party, which is already divided over the abortion question. The immigration minister, Amanda Vanstone, said the suggestion that people from Muslim countries might eventually outnumber native-born Australians was "completely ill-founded.”


Christian Medical Association Promotes Program Encouraging Doctors to Minister to the Poor


The Christian Medical & Dental Associations, America’s largest faith-based organization of Christian doctors, announced a new initiative to encourage doctors to give of their time and resources to help the poor. “We are pleased to be introducing the Four-Percent Solution program to doctors around the country,” said Dr. Al Weir. “The Four-Percent Solution offers very practical, tangible ways for doctors to put their faith and compassion into action. What we're asking doctors to do is to consider and commit to specific strategies to use God’s blessings to them in a way that blesses someone far less fortunate. For example, a doctor may choose to spend two weeks a year - about four percent of the year - in overseas mission work that directly impacts the healthcare, housing, job skills or nutrition of the poor.” In a news release, the organization said that Doctors can accomplish their goal through the CMDA's Global Health Outreach or Medical Education International, or through other mission organizations. Global Health Outreach offers over 40 trips a year to minister directly to poor patients, and Medical Education International sends doctors to teach doctors in other countries about the latest patient care techniques. Both outreach programs emphasize not only physical care and training but also spiritual ministry. Dr. Weir explained, “Other options that doctors may consider for service and giving include accepting one uninsured patient out of every 25 patients - four percent of all the patients they see in their practices. Some doctors may choose to volunteer about eight hours a month in a healthcare clinic for the poor. Others may want to supplement their local church giving by contributing an additional four percent of their net profits to the poor--through the church or another Christian ministry serving the poor.”