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Religion Today Summaries - May 22, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 22, 2009

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

  • India: Elected Party Takes Office; Christians Breathe Easier
  • Study: Mainline Clergy Cautious on Gay Marriage
  • Iranian Authorities Pressure Father of Convert
  • Philippines: Body of Kidnapped Christian Farmer Found

India: Elected Party Takes Office; Christians Breathe Easier

Compass Direct News reports that Christians in India are heaving a sigh of relief after the rout of a Hindu nationalist party in national and state assembly elections in Orissa state. The embarrassing defeat for the Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came as a surprise. Hoping to gain from its hardcore Hindu nationalist image, the BJP made Narendra Modi, accused of organizing an anti-Muslim pogrom in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, its star campaigner. The ruling centrist party, Biju Janata Dal, won a second term, but concerns over persecution of minorities remain. A local centrist party, the Biju Janata Dal, took charge of the government of the eastern state of Orissa yesterday. Today (May 22) the new federal government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be sworn in, representing a second term for an alliance led by the Congress Party.

Study: Mainline Clergy Cautious on Gay Marriage

Religion News Service reports that mainline Protestant clergy are generally more likely than most Americans to endorse gay rights. Still, only one in three supports same-sex marriage, according to a new study. About one-third of mainline clergy support civil unions and one-third oppose any legal recognition for gay couples, found Public Religion Research, a Washington-based consulting firm. According to a Washington Post/ABC poll released in April, 49 percent of Americans say they support gay marriage, and 47 percent are opposed. Assurances that churches and congregations will not be required to perform gay marriages make mainline Protestant clergy much more willing to accept them, according to the report. Support for gay marriage jumped from 32 to 46 percent with the "religious liberty" assurance as New Hampshire plans to offer.

Iranian Authorities Pressure Father of Convert

Compass Direct News reports that in an attempt to silence a Christian human rights activist living in England, Iranian authorities went after his father. Abdul Zahra Vashahi, a retired 62-year-old suffering a heart condition, was arrested on Thursday (May 14) in Iran’s southwestern city of Bandar Mahshahr and interrogated about the human rights activities of his son, a Christian convert who has been living in England since 2003. His son, John (Reza) Vashahi, converted to Christianity while in England and in 2008 founded the Iranian Minorities Human Rights Organization (IMHRO). He has not seen his family in six years. “It is a good example of harassment even outside the country,” Vashahi told Compass by telephone. “It is just showing how far the government will go if we let them.”

Philippines: Body of Kidnapped Christian Farmer Found

ASSIST News Service reports that villagers discovered the severed head of an elderly Christian farmer who had been abducted by Muslim militants in the southern Philippines nearly a month ago. The son of 61-year-old Doroteo Gonzales identified his father's face on Monday after police took on the case. The family failed to pay the 25 million pesos ($525,000) Gonzales's captors demanded. Police believe these militants had transferred the victim to the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group that is currently holding at least five other hostages. International Christian Concerns said three teachers, a lending-firm collector, and a peace activist are known hostages on Basilan Island. In Jolo, the extremist group is still holding Italian Red Cross Worker Eugenio Vagni, who was captured along with his two colleagues in January.