Religion Today Summaries - May 26, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 26, 2009

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

  • Conservative Lutherans Make Open Plea on Homosexuality
  • Pakistan: Christian Refugees Need Outside Assistance
  • Abuse of Child 'Witches' on Rise, Aid Group Says
  • Buddhist Cremation Rite Forced on Christians in Bangladesh


Conservative Lutherans Make Open Plea on Homosexuality

The Christian Post reports that conservative Lutheran scholars and pastors are pleading for their denomination to reject various measures that would support civil unions and gay ordination. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will vote on the measures at the Churchwide Assembly in August. "The proposals to be considered by the Churchwide Assembly this summer from the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality are perceived by some as compromises that will permit the ELCA to live faithfully with internal diversity on controversial ethical questions. The proposals are in fact no compromise," the letter states. "They clearly imply that same-sex blessings and the ordination and rostering of homosexual persons in committed relationships are acceptable within the ELCA." Currently, the ELCA allows the ordination of gays and lesbians if they remain celibate.

Pakistan: Christian Refugees Need Outside Assistance

Mission News Network reports that Christians fleeing from Pakistan's conflict with the Taliban may face steeper challenges than other groups. "The challenge for Christians is somewhat multiplied because they are already sort of disenfranchised: they're already pushed to the side, and so they become sort of lost in the shuffle," said Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs. "We have even heard reports that while the government is helping to relocate Muslim citizens out of these areas where the Taliban is taking over, they're not giving that same assistance to Christians." Pakistan's Christians rank low in society and are often forced to work the most menial jobs because of discrimination and lack of education. Under the Taliban, Christians could face poll taxes and even harsher discrimination.

Abuse of Child 'Witches' on Rise, Aid Group Says

CNN reports that superstition and suspicion have led to increasing abuse among Nigeria's children. Children who are unruly, stubborn or have learning disabilities and physical ailments are most likely to be singled out. "Children accused of witchcraft are often incarcerated in churches for weeks on end and beaten, starved and tortured in order to extract a confession," said Gary Foxcroft, program director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, a nonprofit that helps alleged witch children in the region. About 15,000 children in the Akwa Ibon and Cross River states have been branded as witches, he said, and most of them are forced out on the street and abused. Sometimes even Nigeria's pastors are responsible for the abuse, identifying children who they say are possessed. The problem is growing worldwide, even in places like Nepal.

Buddhist Cremation Rite Forced on Christians in Bangladesh

Compass Direct News reports that Buddhist villagers in southeastern Bangladesh forced Christians to participate in a Buddhist cremation rite for a deceased family member last weekend and demanded money for a post-funeral ceremony. Uttam Lal Chakma, 55, died last Friday (May 15) after a long illness in Dighinala sub-district of Khagrachari hill district, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Dhaka. He had converted from Buddhism to Christianity two years ago. Pastor Vubon Chakma and Christian villagers sought to give him a Christian burial the next day, but a hostile group of local Buddhists forcibly stopped them from doing so, according to a local Christian source. The source told Compass that a member of the Buddhist group told family members, “He was born as a Buddhist, and he will be buried as a Buddhist.”