Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 5, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 5, 2009

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

  • ICC Indicts Sudan's Leader for War Crimes
  • Youth Pastors Encouraged to Learn Self-Defense
  • Supreme Court Declines Case of Praying Football Coach
  • British Christians Hit 'Cyber Road' for 'Virtual Pilgrimage'

ICC Indicts Sudan's Leader for War Crimes

BBC News reports that the International Criminal Court officially indicted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir Tuesday for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. Bashir has repeatedly denied government responsibility for the conflict that the UN estimates killed 300,000 people and displaced millions, and has downplayed the estimates. Bashir responded to the warrant with contempt, telling the ICC to "eat" their words. He found some unlikely support from American evangelist Franklin Graham, who heads a relief organization that operates in southern Sudan. The group's hospital was bombed multiple times in 2003, but the attacks ended once Graham confronted Bashir about them. “Mr. Bashir is rightly accused of great cruelty and destruction,” Graham acknowledged in a New York Times op-ed. Yet Graham argues Bashir's cooperation was critical in ending Sudan's civil war, and his arrest "will likely only threaten further chaos."

Youth Pastors Encouraged to Learn Self-Defense

The Christian Post reports that a Dallas church's decision to host a self-defense workshop for youth pastors is drawing mixed reviews. “It should be evident to all that we do not live in a perfect world. There will always be violence. That is just reality,” said Jeff McKissack, the Keysi Fighting Method (KFM) instructor who led the workshop. McKissack advocates the "defense-only" method so pastors can protect themselves and youth in their programs in a world where "people do crazy things." Emergent church leader Tony Jones criticized that attitude in his blog, citing Jesus' command to "turn the other cheek.” McKissack disagrees. "Over the years I have encountered truly sincere people who believe we should always ‘turn the other cheek’ ... at all costs. The problem with that ideology lies in the fact that it does not only foster martyrs, but victims as well."

Supreme Court Declines Case of Praying Football Coach

Religion News Service reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has turned down an appeal from a high school football coach who was banned from bowing his head during student-led team prayers. Without comment Monday (March 2), the nation's highest court ended Coach Marcus Borden's efforts to overturn a township decision. The high court's decision leaves intact a federal appeals court's April decision that Borden's desire to bow his head and take a knee during team prayer is an endorsement of religious activity at a public school. Borden has been fighting for the right to bow and kneel in prayer with his team since November 2005. He won a U.S. District Court ruling in July 2006 in which a judge decided those rules were unconstitutional, but that decision was reversed at the appellate level. Todd Simmens, president of the East Brunswick Board of Education, said "public school officials simply may not engage with students in religious activity."

British Christians Hit 'Cyber Road' for 'Virtual Pilgrimage'

ASSIST News Service reports that many Christians in the U.K. are making a pilgrimage through Israel and Palestine for Lent - and never leaving their homes. A new virtual tour, organized by international development agency Christian Aid, transports travelers from their e-mail inbox to the lands made familiar through both the Bible and contemporary news headlines. The initiative is being backed by church leaders from across the denominations, according to the Christian think-tank Ekklesia. The Rt. Rev Peter Price, Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells, said, "If you can’t go to the Holy Land in reality then the next best thing is this virtual journey. It’s important for us to have a picture of the Holy Land today to understand better what Jesus was saying to us in the Gospel. His challenge to create a world of compassion, justice and truth remains a responsibility of all Christian people and all people of good will."