Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 30, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 30, 2009

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

  • Snow Hampering Dakota Flooding Relief
  • Christians in Turkey May Appeal Fine for ‘Illegal’ Funds
  • Somali Refugees Continues Spilling into Kenya
  • Vatican Expresses 'Profound Concern' for Gaza Christians

Snow Hampering Dakota Flooding Relief

Baptist Press reports that weather hampered volunteer efforts to fill and place millions of sandbags meant to stop the Red River from flooding residential North Dakota. "A big problem is the weather in the Midwest," Karl Ragan, manager of the North American Mission Board's disaster operations center. Response teams have faced massive snowstorms en route, and cold temperatures may disable kitchen and shower units. As of Friday, the river was expected to crest at 42 feet, exceeding earlier predictions and breaching the sandbag dike in some areas. Disaster relief specialists from Operation Blessing International and the Salvation Army are already on hand, and plan to bring in heavy equipment to clear debris once the waters retreat. The operation has drawn more than 110,000 volunteers to help residents of Fargo and neighboring areas sandbag their towns and homes.

Christians in Turkey May Appeal Fine for ‘Illegal’ Funds

Fearing that the sentencing of two Turkish Christians for “illegal collection of funds” would set a crippling precedent, their lawyer plans to take the case to a European court. Compass Direct News reports that Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal each paid the fine of 600 Turkish lira (US$360) to a civil court in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul yesterday. The verdict cannot be appealed within the Turkish legal system, but their lawyer said he is considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. The ruling refers to the men receiving church offerings without official permission from local civil authorities. Nearly all Protestant fellowships in Turkey are registered as associations, with very few having status as a recognized religious body. Thus, strict application of the law would limit the scope of churches collecting funds, providing an excuse for authorities to harass them.

Somali Refugees Continues Spilling into Kenya

Reuters reports that more than 250,000 Somali refugees live in three giant camps in Kenya, and 100,000 more are expected to arrive before the year's end. Relief group Oxfam warned the camps in Dadaab, Kenya, constitute "a serious public health crisis caused by a lack of basic services, severe overcrowding and a chronic lack of funding". The group has already confirmed 20 recent cases of cholera, and says the disease will spread unless drastic measures are taken. "Conditions in Dadaab are dire and need immediate attention. People are not getting the aid they are entitled to," said Philippa Crosland-Taylor, head of Oxfam GB in Kenya. Many of the refugees have fled Somalia as al Shabaab, a pro-al Qaeda Islamist insurgent group, increases its efforts against the country's fledgling government.

Vatican Expresses 'Profound Concern' for Gaza Christians

Christian Today reports that the Vatican fears "the cradle of Christianity risks ending up without Christians," as Christians in the Gaza Strip are not well-loved by either side in the conflict. In a letter Wednesday, the Vatican wrote, "The wounds opened by violence make the problem of emigration more acute, inexorably depriving the Christian minority of its best resources for the future." The area also faces a humanitarian emergency. The most recent fighting left thousands without shelter, food or water, according to aid agencies and the United Nations. During the conflict in Gaza, which broke out last December and spilled into January, over 1,330 Palestinians were killed and 5,400 were injured, according to Israel’s reports.