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Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 11, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 11, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • Christians Offer Prayers As Sudan Heads to Polls
  • Aviation Ministry Finds Open Hearts in Haiti
  • Some Copts and Muslims Come Together during Orthodox Christmas
  • Court Rules against Diocese in Historic District Dispute

Christians Offer Prayers As Sudan Heads to Polls

Southern Sudan is almost halfway through a seven-day referendum that will determine whether the area remains part of a united Sudan or breaks away from the North. Christian Today reports that Christians around the world continue to pray for the outcome of the referendum, which is the final step in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended decades of civil war. In a statement on Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams called on international observers "to ensure that the referendum takes place peacefully and that the process and the results are fully respected." The World Evangelical Alliance has issued a call to its members worldwide to pray for a "free, fair and safe" referendum. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said he will abide by the results, but many fear a return to violence is possible.

Aviation Ministry Finds Open Hearts in Haiti

As the effort to rebuild Haiti continues after a disaster-filled 2010, spokesmen for Mission Aviation Fellowship say the country remains open to the Gospel. David Carwell, MAF's program manager for Haiti, says people are still searching for answers. "The widespread openness to the Gospel really peaked about a month after the earthquake," Carwell said. "People were turning to the Lord everywhere. Even Mardi Gras parties were curtailed in 2010. But after that initial surge of relief aid tapered off, things slowly went back to the way they were. I believe we're going to see another surge of people turning to the Lord again this January." The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association recently hosted a religious festival in Haiti's national soccer stadium, and several prayer services are planned for tomorrow, the one-year anniversary of the quake.

Some Copts and Muslims Come Together during Orthodox Christmas

Following a deadly church bombing that left 25 dead, Egypt's Coptic and Muslim communities joined forces to ensure a peaceful Orthodox Christmas. The Los Angeles Times reports that in a sign of goodwill, thousands of Muslims attended Christmas masses on Jan. 6 and 7 alongside Christians. "I'm here to tell all my Coptic brothers that Muslims and Christians are an inseparable pillar of Egypt's texture," Mohab Zayed, a Muslim attendee at a Mass in a church in the Heliopolis district of Cairo, told The Times. "Copts have to know that we will share any pains or threats they go through." Many prominent Muslim intellectuals, actors and clergymen -- including Amr Khaled, a popular islamic preacher -- also joined Coptic churches temporarily, or stood outside to discourage violence. Christians voiced concern that the show of solidarity will be short-lived, but remained thankful for the reprieve. 

Court Rules against Diocese in Historic District Dispute

Religion News Service reports that a federal judge ruled that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield must bow to the altar of historic preservation. The diocese sued the city in federal court after the city council voted to designate the shuttered Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church a historic district, presumably to stymie demolition and maintain a certain amount of control over future plans. Diocesan officials accused the city of "religious gerrymandering," and said the vote interfered with their constitutional rights by standing in the way of preservation of sacred symbols in and around the building. In a 56-page ruling issued Tuesday (Jan. 4), U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor ruled in the city's favor while noting the dispute placed at odds religious rights and secular interests.