Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 22, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 22, 2009

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

  • Sri Lanka Seeks to Strangle Non-Buddhist Religions
  • Israeli Forces Pull Out of Gaza; Aid Moves In
  • Pro-Lifers "March for Life" in D.C.
  • Poll: Religion Overtakes Race as Britain's Most Divisive Issue

Sri Lanka Seeks to Strangle Non-Buddhist Religions

International Christian Concern (ICC), a Washington-D.C. based human rights group, reports that Buddhist monks have once again introduced an anti-conversion bill in Sri Lanka. The Jathika Hela Urumaya (National Heritage Party), which is led by Buddhist monks, introduced the bill under the title "Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Bill" on January 6. The bill was first introduced in the Sri Lankan parliament in 2004, and was subsequently challenged in the Sri Lankan Supreme Court. The bill had remained in committee after being revised in accord with the Court's ruling, but should be debated in parliament next month. Though proponents claim the bill would only restrict "fundamentalist" groups from using monetary rewards or coercive methods to convert people, the language is so broad that it would criminalize any form of humanitarian assistance from religious groups.

Israeli Forces Pull Out of Gaza; Aid Moves In

Associated Press reports that the tenuous cease-fire between Israel and Hamas seems to be holding, as the last of Israel's troops left the Gaza strip early Wednesday. Israeli officials said that they have achieved their objective, and that Hamas was severely crippled in its ability to harm Israeli citizens. The attacks in the Gaza Strip killed some 1,300 Palestinians, with health officials claiming that at least half are civilians, victims of Hamas' use of human shields. Meanwhile, as the troops pulled out, aid workers rolled in, according to the Christian Post. "Most of the Gaza strip is like a large refugee camp. It was like that months ago, but it's gotten worse,” said an unnamed worker with the ministry Partners International, to Mission Network News. “To try to keep missiles and arms out of Gaza, Israel has secured the borders in a much harsher way. They've also eliminated smuggling to keep weapons out, but that also keeps out basic food stuffs."

Pro-Lifers "March for Life" in D.C.

Now that the inauguration is over, pro-lifers are starting their uphill legal battle with strength of numbers, the Christian Post reports. January 22 marks the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the court decision that effectively legalized abortion, and pro-lifers are remembering the day with the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. Last year's event drew tens of thousands of people to D.C. for the march down Constitution Avenue. "While millions are celebrating the Inauguration of President Obama, it is critical to be a voice and witness for those who have no voice," said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. "That is the 53,000,000 innocent children that have been lost through abortion." According to March for Life organizers, President Obama has been invited to speak at the rally on the National Mall, but has not acknowledged the invitation. His predecessor, George W. Bush, participated in the rally by phone.

Poll: Religion Overtakes Race as Britain's Most Divisive Issue

Religion News Service reports that a government-sponsored opinion poll in Britain has found that religion has displaced race as the most divisive issue facing the nation. The survey, conducted by the respected Ipsos MORI research organization for the government's Equalities and Human Rights Commission, says 60 percent of respondents believe religious intolerance has become a bigger headache than racial tensions among Britons. That figure climbs to 66 percent among Muslims who took part in the poll. Ten years ago, government policymakers had ticketed improving race relations as the No. 1 demand on their social agenda. But then came the war in Iraq and the July 2005 suicide bombings by Islamic radicals that killed 52 commuters on London's rail and bus network. Those events served to shift priorities in the eyes of the public.