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Religion Today Summaries - June 16, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 16, 2008

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

  • Teens Flocking to Summer Missions
  • India: Christians Homeless Since Christmas
  • Calif. Bishop Pushes Gay 'Marriage' to Church
  • Indonesia Less Tolerant of Minorities

Teens Flocking to Summer Missions

The Modesto Bee reports that thousands of teens will participate in short-term mission trips in the next weeks, and religion scholars estimate that about three million 13- to 17-year-old young Christians nationwide will serve on mission team this year. Youth mission trips have only become common in the last 10-20 years. While some are encouraged by this new phenomenon, however, others question the true impact of these trips. Lakewood Church youth pastor Tom Elmore, who will lead a group of about 50 to Honduras, says, "That's where they get their first taste" of evangelism and being the hands and feet of Jesus. In contrast, David Livermore, author of "Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence," say these trips have  become a rite of passage, benefiting team members more than the community they're supposed to be serving.

India: Christians Homeless Since Christmas

In December, Hindu nationalists burned 730 Christian homes and 95 churches in India's Orissa state, killing four Christians. Now, six months later, Mission News Network reports that many of those whose homes burned are still homeless. "This is just a real hot-bed of persecution against Christians by the Hindu nationalists," said Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors. Dykstra said the number of attacks on Christians in India numbered more than 1,000 for the first time in 2007 since the country became independent in 1947. Government money to rebuild has been slow in coming, partially because of societal prejudice. Meanwhile, Christians are "being ostracized, so then they cannot earn a living in that community. Because of threats against them and their families, some of the children cannot go to school," said Dykstra. Currently, many wait in malaria-ravaged camps until they can rebuild.

Calif. Bishop Pushes Gay 'Marriage'

According to the Christian Post, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California now directly encourages same-sex couples to seek a church union. The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus released a letter on Monday urging clergy to encourage all couples - including same-sex couples - to seek the blessing of the Episcopal Church as the California diocese works for the "full inclusion" of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people. Last September the Episcopal Church decided not to authorize public rites of the blessing of same-sex unions, at least not until a broader consensus emerges in the global Anglican Communion or the Episcopal General Convention takes a definitive stance. "Although The Episcopal Church does not have canonical rites for same-sex marriage, it is our goal that all couples be treated equally by the Church, as they are equally loved by God," Andrus said in his letter.

Indonesia Less Tolerant of Minorities

Minority Christians and Muslims alike face increasing intolerance as religious minorities, the Christian Post reports. "This (religious tolerance) is a situation you don't have in many other countries with Muslim majorities, but tolerance is now under attack," said Catholic priest Franz Magnis, a German-born Jesuit priest and long-term resident, according to Reuters. In general, Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim country - is considered as tolerant of Christians and other religious minorities. Reports, however, show that more than 100 churches have been closed in Indonesia by attacks from radical Muslim groups or by local governments, according to Compass Direct News. The Muslim sec Ahmadiyya, which many Muslims deem heretical, has also faced increased attacks on mosques in recent months.