Religion Today Summaries - May 21, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 21, 2008

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

  • Mourning Period Declared for Cyclone Victims; Hopes Rise for Open Door
  • 'Disaster Fatigue' Leads to Drop in Giving
  • Assault on Religious Freedom Seen in Michigan Contraception Mandate
  • Rescue of Girls in Nigeria Ignites Islamic Rampage

Mourning Period Declared for Cyclone Victims; Hopes Rise for Open Door

Mission Network News reports that Myanmar has declared a three-day mourning period starting Monday for its cyclone victims. Fearing starvation and disease, the government has now tentatively agreed to accept aid from other Southeast Asian nations. Some reports indicate Myanmar is even seeking medics. Global Aid Network (GAiN-USA)'s Charles Debter says, "We are working with Burmese locals who are medical professionals, who are able to go in. And yet we are working with officials in the country with the Ministry of Health to gain permission--and that's a prayer request, that that might come about." To meet the immediate physical emergency, Debter says GAiN-USA sent six truckloads of food and water filters into the country for distribution. "By training the local believers to reach out with care, we are able to demonstrate the love of God through providing tangible help and spiritual hope among those that survived."

'Disaster Fatigue' Leads to Drop in Giving

The Christian Post reports that a condition charities know as "donor fatigue" - but which might be more accurately described as disaster fatigue — is one reason Americans have contributed relatively little so far to victims of the Myanmar cyclone and China's earthquake. Even sympathetic souls often turn away as death tolls continue to rise and situations grow dire. When tragedy seems never-ending, givers may become overwhelmed. "Hearing about too many disasters makes some people not give at all, when they would have if it had been just one disaster," says Michal Ann Strahilevitz, who teaches marketing at Golden Gate University. Compared with the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, China and Myanmar have generated just a trickle of aid. However, other factors, including a lack of sympathy for the repressive governments involved, doubts about whether aid will get through, and an inclination to save money because of shaky economic times, may also drive down American contributions.

Assault on Religious Freedom Seen in Michigan Contraception Mandate

Proposed legislation in Michigan that would require employers who provide prescription drug coverage to pay for contraception is "a direct assault upon the religious freedom rights" of Catholic and other religious employers, said Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy of the Michigan Catholic Conference, Catholic News Service reports. Long testified May 14 before the state Senate Health Policy Committee about Senate Bills 41 and 42. "This legislation would impose a mandate upon Catholic religious institutions to provide contraceptive insurance coverage, coercing essential ministries of the Catholic Church under the color of law to act contrary to one of the church's most profound religious teachings on matters of morality and social justice," Long said. "If this legislation were to pass, it is difficult to imagine any limit upon the state's ability to require religious institutions to violate the principal tenets of their religious beliefs," he added.

Rescue of Girls in Nigeria Ignites Islamic Rampage

Compass Direct News reports that Islamists under the auspices of a paramilitary force last week destroyed six churches to protest a police rescue of two teenage Christian girls kidnapped by Muslims in Bauchi state. Police recovered the two Christian girls, Mary Chikwodi Okoye, 15, and Uche Edward, 14, on May 12 after Muslims in Ningi kidnapped them three weeks ago in an attempt to expand Islam by marrying them to Muslim men. Police took the two girls, who had been under foster care, to safety in southeastern Nigeria where their biological parents live. Following the rescue of the girls, Muslims under the Hisbah Command, a paramilitary arm of Kano state’s Sharia Commission, went on a rampage on Tuesday, May 13, attacking Christians and setting fire to the churches. Joseph Abdu, pastor of the Deeper Life church, told Compass that damages to his church property amounted to about 13 million naira (US$112,857) – and that his congregation had shrunk to 40 people from the 130 who attended before the attack.