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Religion Today Summaries, July 28, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 28, 2003

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

  • Archbishop of Canterbury Appeals for Unity
  • Christian Church Ransacked in Buddhist Cambodia
  • UCLA to Study College Students' Religious Practices
  • Blasphemy Law Charges Against Pakistani Christian Dropped

Archbishop of Canterbury Appeals for Unity
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

The archbishop of Canterbury, faced with a deepening split between conservative Third World churches and liberal Western churches in the Anglican Communion, appealed to his archbishops to maintain unity. Archbishop Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the world's 70 million Anglican Christians, said in a letter sent Wednesday to the primates of each church, that the churches in the Anglican Communion "need more than ever to pay attention to one another." The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.   Williams was responding indirectly to a statement issued in Fairfax, Va., by primates and bishops from the United States on the eve of the Episcopalians' General Convention.  The conservatives' statement promised a "dramatic realignment" of the global church if the Episcopalians allow an openly gay priest to serve as bishop of New Hampshire, or allow same-sex unions.  Third World leaders oppose the Western church's liberal policies on homosexuality. They cut ties with a Canadian diocese after it allowed the blessing of gay unions, and forced the withdrawal of an openly gay bishop-elect in the Church of England.  Williams, who personally holds a more liberal attitude toward homosexuality but has vowed to uphold church teaching against homosexual acts, told the primates that if they value the Communion, "we are bound by our duties and responsibilities as bishops to care for its survival and coherence."

Christian Church Ransacked in Buddhist Cambodia
Charisma News Service

A mob of some 100 Buddhists recently ransacked a church in Kok Pring during a Sunday mass, destroying the cross at the altar, breaking windows and throwing Bibles into puddles of water. According to the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEARLC), several believers were injured during the July 13 incident. The vandals accused the church -- located near the border of Vietnam -- of having contempt for the Buddhist community. Police said the mob believed the church's presence was the cause of a three-year drought. Some 86 percent of Cambodians are Buddhist and just 1 percent are Christian. The Evangelical Fellowship of Cambodia estimates that there are around 130,000 Christians, meeting in approximately 2,000 small churches scattered throughout the country. WEARLC noted that Buddhist nationalism has been on the rise in recent years. In November, a teacher's association recommended that all references to "God" be removed from school textbooks, maintaining that Cambodia's constitution states that Buddhism is the state religion. In February, the nation's ministry of cults and religious affairs issued a directive to ban all Christian proselytizing. Cambodia's various political rivals have been competing for the backing of the influential Buddhist clergy for the country's elections, slated for this Sunday.

UCLA to Study College Students' Religious Practices
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

Researchers at UCLA will spend $1.9 million to survey the religious habits and attitudes of college students, an area they say has been largely ignored by campus leaders.  The school's Higher Education Research Institute plans to survey 90,000 students on 150 public, private and religious campuses in the fall of 2004. "Higher education today has increasingly neglected students' `inner' development -- the sphere of values and beliefs, emotional maturity, spirituality and self-awareness that are fundamental to their capacity to understand others," said the institute's director, Alexander Astin, who will lead the study. Researchers plan to ask how many students are "actively searching and curious about spiritual issues," how often they attend religious services and which rituals or religious behaviors are most attractive to students. Researchers also want to know what role doubt plays in students' spiritual journeys, and whether school or peer pressure "get in the way" of spiritual development.  "The spiritual growth of students, in the broadest sense, receives virtually no attention in discussions about educational reform," Astin said.

Blasphemy Law Charges Against Pakistani Christian Dropped
Barnabas Fund News

A five-year long case against Aslam Masih, a poor Christian shepherd from Faisalabad district, has finally been dropped. The news comes via his defense lawyers from the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS). Masih was originally charged with 'defaming the name of the Prophet Muhammad' which carries a mandatory death sentence under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The accusation was that the illiterate Aslam Masih had written the defamatory words on an amulet, which was then put round the neck of a dog, supposedly to determine the outcome of a dogfight. Villagers reacted to this story by gathering in the local mosque and persuading Mullah Qari Habibullah, a member of an Islamic militant group, to press charges. The mob then sought out Aslam Masih, stabbed him in the back, beat him severely and dragged him to the local police station. The police registered the charges on 29 November 1998 without any investigation. In two previous court appearances he was given life sentences and he has also incurred a fine of 100,000 rupees. However, the Lahore High Court Judge, Justice Najam uz-Zaman decided to throw the case out of court because of lack of evidence.