Religion Today Summaries - February 16, 2012

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 16, 2012

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

In today's edition:

  • Middle East Expert Blames 'Islamic Thugs' for Syria Violence
  • Public Schools: The Latest Mission Field for Christian Students
  • U.K. Innkeepers Fined for Turning Away Gay Couple
  • Many Flee Nigeria to Evade Islamist Attacks


Middle East Expert Blames 'Islamic Thugs' for Syria Violence

As fighting escalates in the Syrian city of Homs as citizens protest the regime of president Bashar al-Assad, area pastors are also reporting a significant increase in the number of Christian deaths, targeted killings and kidnappings, reports. Sources say Islamic militants have killed more than 200 Christians in Homs in recent days, including entire families and young children. "What we are hearing firsthand is the exact opposite of what's being reported in Western media," said Victor Atallah, director of Middle East Reformed Fellowship of Cyprus. "Most Syrians are most frightened of an Islamic takeover in Syria and are fleeing not from the government, but from Islamic thugs from all over." Atallah said there were Islamic militants in the Homs area from Lebanon, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia -- many backed by al Qaeda -- and added that those fighters were largely helping to sustain the conflict and uprisings that first began in the country 11 months ago.

Public Schools: The Latest Mission Field for Christian Students

With religion absent from schools for nearly five decades and only a minority of teenagers claiming to believe the Bible, one Christian organization is looking to target Bible-illiterate high school students in public schools, the Christian Post reports. The Life Book Movement is working with local church youth leaders and their students to help "saturate" the schools with The Life Book, a brief, interactive overview of the Old Testament and the Gospel of John. "The Life Book Movement addresses the core issue of Christianity -- sin and salvation," said Carl Blunt, president and CEO of the organization. "With a shift toward a more socially-driven Gospel, the biblical message of sinners in need of a Savior seems to be diminished." The organization provides youth leaders with The Life Books for their students to hand out to their classmates at school -- then the leaders provide follow-up and discipleship if desired. "We believe Christian teenagers represent a missionary force waiting to be used on their home turf," Blunt said. "Public schools represent the most strategic mission field in the United States." More than 2 million students in 47 states have been given The Life Book during school since Jan. 2010, with the involvement of more than 75,000 Christian students, and more than 3 million copies are being printed for distribution in the 2012-2013 school year.

U.K. Innkeepers Fined for Turning Away Gay Couple

Britain's Court of Appeal has ordered a pair of Christian innkeepers to pay 3,600 pounds ($5,800) in damages to a gay couple that was told they could not share a room in the couple's guesthouse, the Religion News Service reports. The three-judge panel rejected an appeal by the innkeepers, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, in their conviction of telling Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy they could not share a double room, and told them to pay the penalty. The Bulls had argued that permitting Hall and Preddy to share a bedroom went against their Christian belief that sex outside marriage was a sin, and that they had not discriminated against the couple because of their homosexuality. The Bulls' lawyer insisted their policy was directed toward a sexual practice, not sexual orientation, and argued that the innkeepers were entitled to hold their beliefs.

Many Flee Nigeria to Evade Islamist Attacks

Many Nigerians have fled to neighboring Cameroon to escape violence by the Islamist Boko Haram group and revenge attacks by Christians, International Christian Concern reportsBoko Haram has claimed to be fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria's north, but many southern Nigerians have also left the country. "Everybody is insecure in Nigeria," said a priest from southern Nigeria who is taking refuge in a Cameroonian border town. "The fear is all-pervading. ... We feel secure in Cameroon." Boko Haram has taken credit for the recent rash of bombings and shootings, including the Jan. 20 attack in Nigeria's second-largest city of Kano that left 185 dead -- the group's deadliest attack yet.

Publication date: February 16, 2012