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Religion Today Summaries, March 3, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, March 3, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • With Potential War Looming, Religious Leaders Call for Prayer
  • Religious Freedom Panel Issues Warning on Afghanistan
  • Evangelical, Jewish Leaders Urge Greater Christian-Jewish Cooperation
  • Campus Crusade Founder's Condition Worsening

With Potential War Looming, Religious Leaders Call for Prayer
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) As a potential war with Iraq looms, religious leaders are calling for prayer in early March.  The World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., has asked Christians worldwide to participate in a day "Worldwide Day of Prayer" on March 3, 2003.  Other leaders have urged that Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Christian reflective period of Lent be a special time for prayer.  That day will be observed Wednesday (March 5) by many Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions and March 10 by many Orthodox traditions.  The center, an evangelical ministry, asks for specific prayers concerning the ongoing tensions between the United States and Iraq.  "Pray that Saddam Hussein will leave the country before war is required to remove him from power," the center suggests.  "Pray that a spiritual shield will contain hostilities within the Iraqi borders (if war cannot be avoided), such that it doesn't spill over to the entire Islamic world.  Pray that weapons of mass destruction, if they are deployed on any side of the battle, will be powerless."

Religious Freedom Panel Issues Warning on Afghanistan
Chris Herlinger

(RNS) The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency, said it was "seriously concerned" about reports of continued human rights abuses in Afghanistan.  Among numerous concerns, the commission said it was worried about reported efforts to deny equal rights to women and religious minorities in Afghanistan's new constitution, and continued abuse of women and children, sometimes with support from local authorities.  It also cited coercive measures by official agencies, including the so-called "religious police," that require Afghans to follow specific religious practices.  The commission has recommended Bush appoint a high-level human rights monitor based at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Afghanistan "to promote, coordinate, monitor and report on the implementation of international standards of human rights, including religious freedom."  "A renewed and enhanced commitment by the U.S. government to promoting respect for human rights and religious tolerance in the process of Afghanistan's reconstruction would strengthen the moderate, reformist elements of which President Karzai is a leading member," the commission said in a letter to Bush.  Since the late 2001 downfall of the Taliban and the subsequent emergence of the U.S.-backed Karzai as president, both international human rights groups and human rights activists within Afghanistan have said Karzai's government does not have sufficient political or military strength to match the power of warlords or religious conservatives.

Evangelical, Jewish Leaders Urge Greater Christian-Jewish Cooperation
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) Evangelical Christian leader Ralph Reed and Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin are spearheading a new effort to encourage Jews and Christians to collaborate on moral and political issues.  The two men will unveil their ideas about the partnership at a March 11 gathering in Atlanta called "Christian and Jewish Dialogue: Towards a New Common Ground."  It is sponsored by Toward Tradition, a national interfaith coalition founded by Lapin.  "The survival of both of our communities depends on Jews and Christians joining in a united defense of American culture and traditions," said Lapin in a statement.  "The old paradigm of conflict and distrust between us is anachronistic today.  Our common foundations of faith should unite us in strengthening our society against the threat that Iraq, al-Qaida and worldwide terrorists groups pose to all of us."  In the last year, some American Jews and Christian conservatives have worked together in pro-Israel activities but Lapin and Reed would like to build on that cooperation to address issues that will benefit Americans.

Campus Crusade Founder's Condition Worsening
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright's health condition is worsening, his wife has reported to staff members.  Bright, 81, is suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, a life-threatening lung condition.  "It appears that what God has prepared for Bill in heaven is about ready," Vonette Bright wrote in a letter to staff, board members and others that was posted on the ministry's Web site Feb. 20.  She said a doctor has told them that her husband "might have six months or less to live."  Vonette Bright, who co-founded the evangelical Christian organization, marveled at her husband's accomplishments in the time since his diagnosis in the fall of 2000.  "Bill has surprised us all with two years of great productivity including 16 new books and the launch of the Global Pastors Network, and the Discover God movement, which is unfolding," she wrote.  Steve Douglass succeeded Bright as president of the Orlando, Fla.-based organization in 2001.  It includes dozens of ministries with outreaches to students, athletes, diplomats, families and military personnel.