Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Prayers for Peace ahead of Sudan Referendum
- 70 Christians Arrested and Detained over Christmas in Iran
- Assassination Complicates Controversial Blasphemy Law
- Lesbian Episcopal Clergy Married by Massachusetts Bishop
Prayers for Peace ahead of Sudan Referendum
Christian Today reports that in two days, Southern Sudanese will vote on whether or not to split from the northern half of the country and become an independent state. Although most observers expect the South to overwhelmingly vote for secession, no one is sure if the tenuous peace agreement between the two sides will hold. The referendum marks the final stage of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 to end decades of civil war. "From my involvement with the Sierra Leone Peace Process I know how important it is for all parties to a conflict (from bottom to the top) to be reconciled with each other for the good of all and the creation of a ‘beloved community', and for the regional and international organs to support and be guarantors to a peaceful resolution of a conflict," said Millius Palawiya, director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation England.
70 Christians Arrested and Detained over Christmas in Iran
In the early hours of Christmas Day, the Iranian government arrested 25 Christians and sought to detain 16 others, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). Fifty other Christians were also been detained but it is unclear as yet what the full details are surrounding their cases. This is the second year in a row security services in Iran targeted Christians over the Christmas holidays. Of the 25 detained, 11 have been released. CSW has serious concerns for the remaining 14 individuals still in prison. The individuals are all evangelical believers, and include pastors and leaders from within the house church networks of Iran. Andrew Johnston, Advocacy Director of CSW, said: "We condemn this brutal attack on evangelical Christians in Iran. The arrest of 70 members of one group reveals the clear targeting of individuals along religious lines."
Assassination Complicates Controversial Blasphemy Law
Church officials in Pakistan say the assassination of Salman Taseer, an outspoken critic of Pakistan's blasphemy law, is a "setback" for the campaign to overturn the law that makes illegal to speak against Islam. "This assassination has made it now extremely difficult for us to campaign against the blasphemy law," Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan (NCCP), told Religion News Service from his office at Lahore. "Everyone here is scared." Taseer, 64, was governor of Punjab province before he was shot dead on Tuesday by one of his security guards in the provincial capital of Lahore. The alleged assailant, Malik Mumtaz Husain Qadri, immediately surrendered and told the police he carried out the murder to avenge the "insult" to the blasphemy law by Taseer, who had called it a "black law."
Lesbian Episcopal Clergy Married by Massachusetts Bishop
The marriage of two lesbians, both high-profile Episcopal priests in Massachusetts, has again spotlighted the long-running controversy over same-sex unions within the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Rev. Mally Lloyd, a ranking official of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, married the Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, dean and president of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, on New Year's Day in Boston. Ragsdale has been a controversial figure in the 2.1 million-member denomination for both her outspoken affirmation of same-sex marriage and homosexual clergy, as well as her unqualified defense of abortion as a "blessing." Jeff Walton, spokesman for Institute on Religion & Democracy's Anglican Action Program, said, "Much like the consecration of openly partnered homosexual Bishops Gene Robinson and Mary Glasspool, the Episcopal Church's embrace of same-sex unions continues to drive a wedge between liberal Anglicans in the U.S. and traditionalists in the Global South.