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Religion Today Summaries - March 20, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 20, 2006

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

  • Pope Says Christians, Jews, Muslims Must Work Together
  • Intruder Threatens Catholic Priests and Youths in Turkey
  • Kidnapped Christian Leader Still Missing in India
  • More People Attend Seminary, but Most Do not See a Career in the Pulpit

Pope Says Christians, Jews, Muslims Must Work Together

A Reuters news story reports Pope Benedict said on Thursday that Christians, Jews and Muslims must work together to promote peace and teach respect for religions and their symbols. In reference to a wave of violence over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, but also to attacks in recent months on churches, mosques and synagogues in several countries, the Pope said religious leaders had a responsibility to "work for reconciliation through genuine dialogue. Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in the one God... It follows, therefore, that all three monotheistic religions are called to cooperate with one another for the common good of humanity, serving the case of justice and peace in the world." The Pope has condemned the infamous cartoons, but he also said violent protests against the perceived offence were wrong. In the wake of the unrest, Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders agreed earlier this month to widen their two-way dialogue to involve Muslims.

Intruder Threatens Catholic Priests and Youths in Turkey

A Turkish Muslim shouting insults against Christianity pulled a long butcher knife on two priests and a group of teenagers Saturday evening March 11 at a Latin Catholic church in Mersin, threatening them and their families. According to Compass Direct, Erdal Gurel entered St. Antoine’s Catholic Church while 25 of the church’s young people were rehearsing for an Easter passion play. Father Handi Leylek said he offered to help the stranger. But the man insisted with strong language, “I want to see the fat bearded priest.” Then he started to swear loudly and “talk nonsense,” Fr. Leylek said. Leylek tried to talk with Gurel and asked him to go outside. When he began to shout insults and refused to leave, the priest went to a hallway telephone to call the police. Before the priest finished dialing, Gurel brandished a 30-inch knife that had been hidden behind his back. “He started to threaten me with the knife and curse against Christianity and the church,” Fr. Leylek said. Just then priest Roberto Ferrari entered. Gurel dashed toward him, waving the knife and declaring in vulgar terms, “You are not a human being! I will violate your mother, your sisters, your children.” With Gurel distracted, Fr. Leylek escaped out the door and ran a few blocks to the closest police station. The attacker, meanwhile, chased the teenagers, who fled into the bathrooms, to the second floor, and even the roof. Gurel returned down the stairs and started to rummage through the teenagers’ belongings. He had just grabbed someone’s mobile phone when Fr. Leylek returned with several policemen five minutes later. Although Gurel argued and resisted police orders for the next 15 minutes, he finally calmed down and surrendered.

Kidnapped Christian Leader Still Missing in India

The Rev. Tongkhojang Lunkim is still missing two months after a rebel army in Northeast India kidnapped the administrative secretary of the Kuki Christian Church on January 17, and relatives fear for his safety, Compass Direct reports. Rev. Lunkim’s kidnappers, the Kuki Liberation Army, have reportedly demanded a ransom of 10 million rupees (US$224,796). The Rev. Stephen Bryant, senior international editor and publisher of the Upper Room devotional, said Rev. Lunkim’s kidnapping was clearly linked to his Christian work. “Lunkim has lived with threats and danger ever since Christ called him,” Bryant told the United Methodist News service.

More People Attend Seminary, but Most Do not See a Career in the Pulpit

Across the country, enrollment is up at Protestant seminaries, but a shrinking portion of the graduates will ascend the pulpit. ASSIST News, citing a New York Times story, indicates that these seminarians are less interested in making a career of religion than in taking their religion into other careers. Those from mainline denominations are being drawn to a wide range of fields from academia to social service to hospital chaplaincy, said the Rev. Daniel O. Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Students who are evangelical Protestants, meanwhile, often end up at advocacy groups, sometimes called parachurches. Only about half of those graduating with a Master in Divinity now enter parish ministry, Mr. Aleshire said. The portion has fallen sharply in a generation, and declined 10 to 15 percentage points in the last five years alone. The idea of using seminary as the jumping off point for other, seemingly unrelated pursuits, is not new; just the number of people doing it is.