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Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 21, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 21, 2008

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

  • 'Mohammed Cartoons Worse Than Killing of Women and Children'
  • Evangelicals Differ on Climate Dispute
  • Baptist Pastor Freed in Azerbaijan
  • Top Roman Catholic in Holy Land Steps Down

'Mohammed Cartoons Worse Than Killing of Women and Children'

CNSNews.com reports that the publication of cartoons satirizing Mohammed was a "greater and more serious tragedy" than the killing of Arab women and children by Western military forces, and the "reckoning for it will be more severe," according to a message released Wednesday, purportedly featuring the voice of Osama bin Laden. Released on an extremist Web site, the message also accused the pope of playing a key role in "a new crusade" against Muslims; described President Bush as "oppressive," and referred derisively to Saudi King Abdullah as "the crownless king in Riyadh." The message evidently was recorded within the past five weeks, since it refers to the reappearance of one of the dozen newspaper cartoon interpretations of the Muslim prophet that first roiled the Islamic world in early 2006.

Evangelicals Differ on Climate Dispute

Disagreements among evangelical Christians about global warming are rooted in a fundamental question: Is human-induced climate change a real problem? And, if interviews with two evangelical advocates are any indicator, proposed responses to the issue differ dramatically, depending on how a person answers that question. Baptist Press reports that E. Calvin Beisner, national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation believes people are genuine in their convictions. "I hope the primary reason is that different people understand the scientific and economic evidence differently," Beisner said. "Some are genuinely convinced that the scientific evidence supports belief in catastrophic manmade global warming. Others genuinely think it supports belief that human influence on climate change is minuscule. I'm in the latter category, but what all of us should be committed to is trying to follow the evidence, to the best of our ability, wherever it leads." Rusty Pritchard, national outreach director for the Evangelical Environmental Network (www.creationcare.org), believes the evidence supporting human-induced climate change is persuasive, so he sees the issue more in terms of education.

Baptist Pastor Freed in Azerbaijan

ASSIST News Service reports that one of Azerbaijan's two religious prisoners of conscience was freed March 19 in the wake of President Ilham Aliev's amnesty to mark the spring festival of Novruz. Forum 18 News Service reported that Baptist pastor Zaur Balaev was released from Baku's 10th prison colony. “We won – it's a great joy to be free,” Balaev said after his release. “We're all waiting for him,” one of his church members told Forum 18. Ilya Zenchenko, head of the Baptist Union, welcomed the release. “We thank God and those who prayed and supported Zaur,” he told Forum 18. “But there is a lot more work still to be done to defend religious freedom in Azerbaijan.”

Top Roman Catholic in Holy Land Steps Down

According to the Jerusalem Post, the top Roman Catholic Church official in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan and Cyprus, Latin Patriarch and Archbishop of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, tendered his resignation to Rome on Wednesday - his 75th birthday - in accordance with Church tradition. Sabbah is known for his outspoken criticism of Israel and his opposition to the West Bank security barrier. He is expected to stay in his post for the coming weeks, after which he will be replaced by Archbishop Fouad Twal, a Jordanian, who was chosen as coadjutor, a grooming position for the patriarchate, in September 2005.