Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 9, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 9, 2009

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

  • Indian Supreme Court Orders Protection of Christians
  • Gaza Pastor Updates from War Zone
  • Egypt: Citizen Wins Rare Legal Victory with ID Card
  • Religious Schools Fail to Prepare Clergy for Sexuality Issues

Indian Supreme Court Orders Protection of Christians

Religion News Service reports that India's Supreme Court has told the state government of Orissa that it will not "tolerate persecution of religious minorities" and if the state government cannot protect Christians, "then quit office." A three-judge panel of the Supreme Court issued the warning Monday (Jan. 5) following a petition filed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, who requested protection for his flock in Orissa and compensation for church properties that have been damaged in the ongoing violence. Such rulings by judges of Indian courts may not always have the force of law, but they carry considerable weight and often influence the future actions of lawmakers and government officials. Approximately 500 people, largely Christians, have been killed in the violence since August, with tens of thousands more displaced.

Gaza Pastor Updates from War Zone

Baptist Press reports that no Christians in Gaza have been injured despite living in hard-hit areas, a Baptist pastor there reported late in the afternoon Jan. 6. Christianity Today, meanwhile, has reported three Christians have died since the hostilities began in Gaza Dec. 27 but Baptist Press has not yet independently confirmed the circumstances of those deaths. Lack of food, water and electricity is a major concern for the population, the Baptist pastor said. Israel tentatively welcomed a proposal Jan. 7 from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling for a Gaza cease-fire to allow aid to reach Palestinian civilians, the Associated Press reported, and Israel will continue its discussions with Egypt and France about how to achieve an extended cease-fire.

Egypt: Citizen Wins Rare Legal Victory with ID Card

Compass Direct News reports that an Egyptian convert to Christianity who spent 31 years officially identified as a Muslim has won a rare legal victory to be officially registered in his “new” faith. An Alexandrian administrative court awarded Fathi Labib Yousef the right to register as a Christian at a Dec. 20 hearing in the Mediterranean coastal city. Yousef, in his early 60s, was raised Coptic but converted to Islam in 1974 in order to divorce his Christian wife. He reverted to Christianity in 2005. The victory, however, may only be temporary. His attorney, Joseph Malak, said other Egyptian Christians have won the right to return to Christianity only to see government officials stop its implementation. “The stumbling block is the police or civil registry office could refuse to carry it out on paper,” he said.

Religious Schools Fail to Prepare Clergy for Sexuality Issues

A new study of 36 prominent seminaries and rabbinical schools shows that future pastors are largely left to decide sexuality issues on their own, as most degree requirements do not include any sexuality-based course. The Christian Post reports that the study was conducted by Union Theological Seminary in New York and the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing. The study measured content in curriculum, institutional commitment to sexuality and gender equity, and advocacy and support for sexuality-related issues. "With so many congregations embroiled in controversy over sexual orientation issues, or struggling to address teenage sexuality, or concerned about sexual abuse, there is an urgent need for ordained clergy who understand the connections between religion and sexuality," said the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, director of the multi-faith Religious Institute.