Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Pastor, 20 Worshippers Killed in Nigeria Church Attacks
- Egypt: Christian Given Six-Year Prison Sentence for 'Blasphemy'
- Opposition to Gay Marriage Lower in 2012 Campaign
- Secularists Counter National Day of Prayer with National Day of Reason
Pastor, 20 Worshippers Killed in Nigeria Church Attacks
At least 21 people are dead after gunmen suspected to be members of the Islamist group Boko Haram opened fire in two separate incidents targeting church services in northern Nigeria on Sunday, the Christian Post reports. In the first attack, gunmen rode on motorcycles onto a university campus in Kano, throwing grenades in an area where local churches hold services and shooting worshippers as they ran out to escape. Later that day, gunmen in Maiduguri -- where Boko Haram once had its main mosque -- shot at worshippers inside a chapel of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, killing a pastor and four others. The attacks came just one day after Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan vowed to stop Boko Haram by the end of June; Boko Haram, however, has said the deadly attacks against Christians won't stop until sharia law rules the country. The group has killed an estimated 450 people so far this year, and is said to have gained technical sophistication and weaponry from Islamic groups like al Qaeda and Somalia's al Shabaab.
Egypt: Christian Given Six-Year Prison Sentence for 'Blasphemy'
A judge in Upper Egypt has upheld a six-year prison sentence for a Coptic Christian wrongly convicted of "blasphemy" against Islam and inciting sectarian strife, Compass Direct News reports. The judge in Assuit on April 5 refused to strike down the sentence delivered to Makarem Diab, 49, for charges stemming from an argument that Diab had in February with Abd Al Hameed, a fellow employee at Deer Al Gabrawy Prep School. According to Diab's lawyer, Ahmed Sayed Gebaly, the charges were inflated. "To be honest, [Diab] didn't do anything wrong," said Gebaly, a Muslim. On Feb. 29, in a 10-minute court hearing with no defense attorney present, a judge sentenced Diab to six years in prison for "insulting the prophet" and "provoking students." Diab received an appeal hearing on March 16, but Al Hameed instigated a massive riot by a large throng of Muslim attorneys outside the courthouse, who became so enraged they burst into the courtroom during the hearing and assaulted Diab's attorneys. The judge upheld the six-year sentence -- out of fear, Gebaly said -- but scheduled an appeal hearing. Diab remains in prison awaiting appeal.
Opposition to Gay Marriage Lower in 2012 Campaign
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, opposition to gay marriage is significantly lower in 2012 compared to the previous two presidential campaigns, the Religion News Service reports. For the first time, the level of strong support for gay marriage is equal to the level of strong opposition; 22 percent of Americans say they strongly favor gay marriage and 22 percent strongly oppose it. In 2008, strong opposition was twice as high as support -- 30 percent to 14 percent. In 2004, a year when several ballot measures to define traditional marriage helped propel social conservatives to the polls, opposition was more than three times higher -- 36 percent to 11 percent. This election cycle, as in other recent ones, voters say social issues like gay marriage and abortion are not as important as the economy and jobs. While more than 80 percent of Americans cite the economy and jobs as top voting issues, far fewer rated abortion (39 percent) and gay marriage (28 percent) as very important.
Secularists Counter National Day of Prayer with National Day of Reason
As millions of Americans will commemorate the National Day of Prayer this Thursday (May 3), atheists will mark a day of their own -- the National Day of Reason, the Religion News Service reports. The "NDR," as it is known in the secular community, will also be held May 3, as part protest and part celebration of being "godless." Paul Fidalgo of the Center for Inquiry said: "In times of great conflict and worry, people want to look to a higher power, and I am sympathetic to that. But our day puts the focus back on people and what we can do for ourselves." Local groups plan to hold voter registration drives, lobbying training, marches and rallies. One group in Putnam, Conn., is holding a "science for reason" book exchange -- turn in a Bible and receive a free copy of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, among other titles. While the numbers participating in NDR have never equaled those of the National Day of Prayer, NDR supporters scored a victory in 2010 when a federal judge ruled the 1988 law designating the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional. The victory was short-lived, however, as a higher court ruled in 2011 that government participation did not equal compulsory participation.
Publication date: May 1, 2012