Religion Today Summaries, June 18, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 18, 2004

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

  • Southern Baptists Wrap It Up in Indy
  • CRS Continues to Assist Families Displaced by Hispaniola Floods
  • New Park Policy Ends Discrimination
  • Baghdad Blast Kills 41 as Christians Face New Wave of Attacks

Southern Baptists Wrap It Up in Indy
Allie Martin & Fred Jackson, Agape Press

The Southern Baptist Convention has concluded its annual conference, voting on measures dealing with same-sex unions, public education, and even a change in the name of the denomination. Southern Baptists at the gathering in the Indiana capital passed a motion supporting efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.  The "messengers" -- representatives from Southern Baptist congregations nationwide -- had heard President Bush and their own denominational leaders earlier in the week urge for passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In addition, the SBC rejected a plan to ask parents to pull their children out of public schools in favor of Christian or home schooling.  One of the country's best-known evangelists praised that decision.  "Let's don't surrender public schools.  Let's take them back," Franklin Graham said. Graham said to help make that happen, his ministry is launching a website aimed at training children to share the gospel with their classmates. And finally, the messengers rejected a motion to undertake a study looking at the possibility of changing the denomination's name. 

CRS Continues to Assist Families Displaced by Hispaniola Floods
ASSIST News Service

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) delivered 50 metric tons of food, potable water and emergency items in the Pichon area west of Mapou this weekend as part of the agency's ongoing relief efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Mudslides and flooding, the result of torrential rains near the end of May, took thousands of lives and left more than 50,000 people in need of assistance. Missing persons still number in the hundreds. The destruction of roads and other infrastructure has further complicated relief efforts, but CRS staff are mobilizing by any means accessible. "We are getting to people however and wherever we can," said Sheyla Biamby, Program Manager for Social Assistance for CRS/Haiti. In addition to emergency food rations, families will receive assistance through food-for-work programs aimed at rehabilitating infrastructure and reestablishing livelihoods. CRS has allocated an initial $222,000 in private funds for relief and rehabilitation efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The funds are being used to purchase relief items. The agency has also received a $140,000 grant from USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance for emergency non-food relief items like cooking utensils, clothing, bedding, mosquito netting and personal hygiene items in the southeastern and western parts of Haiti. Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community. The agency provides assistance to people in 94 countries and territories on the basis of need, not race, creed or nationality.

New Park Policy Ends Discrimination
Agape Press

Park officials who interrupted outdoor baptisms in Virginia's Rappahannock River last month hope their new policy puts the issue to rest. In May, when Rev. Todd Pyle chose to hold a baptism of a dozen new church members at Falmouth Waterfront Park near Fredericksburg, park authorities objected and attempted to break up the religious ceremony. They claimed the ceremony might offend nearby swimmers and other park guests. After Pyle finished baptizing, he was asked to leave, which incident later prompted lawsuits from religious freedom and free speech advocates. But now, Associated Press reports that the park board has held a vote and decided unanimously that groups using the park will not be discriminated against based on the nature of their activities, religious or otherwise. However, park officials may still restrict the access of groups whose activities interfere with others' enjoyment of the park and may require large groups to get a permit.

Baghdad Blast Kills 41 as Christians Face New Wave of Attacks
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service

As Iraq's Christian minority already struggled to overcome an unprecedented wave of attacks and kidnappings, a sport utility vehicle packed with artillery shells slammed into a crowd waiting to volunteer for the American backed Iraqi military Thursday June 17, killing at least 35 people and wounding 138. Another car bomb north of the capital killed six members of the Iraqi security forces as part of efforts by foreign militants "to turn Iraq into a graveyard," Iraqi officials said. There were no reports of American casualties. The explosion, the deadliest attack since a bombing outside another recruiting center in February, came shortly after church leaders expressed concern about growing Islamic extremism ahead of the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30. "We are suffering from two and three kidnappings a week," Father Bashar Warda, who teaches at the Chaldean Christians' Babel College for Philosophy and Theology in Baghdad, said. The Chaldeans, he said, form about 3% of the population but a much larger proportion of those with higher education, including hundreds of engineers and doctors, who have been especially targeted for kidnappings as well as their families. Adding to the difficulties are reports that many Christians are working for coalition forces and often singled out for deadly attacks. "The occupation forces employ 100 Christians and 30 have been killed," said Father Bashar Warda.