Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Tornadoes, Storms Strike Central U.S.; 13 Dead
- U.S. Church Blesses Dogs in Annual Services
- Afghan Christian Refugees under Threat
- Vatican to Weigh Condoms in Fighting AIDS
Tornadoes, Storms Strike Central U.S.; 13 Dead
The Christian Post reports that deadly storm systems also hit Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, leaving at least 13 dead. The system also hit Joplin, Mo., just days after the eighth deadliest tornado in U.S. history left the city in rubble and killed 122 people. The latest storm didn't cause any serious problems. "It's been quite a day," Pastor Gary Rogers of the Grand Assembly of God church in Chickasha, Okla., told the cable news network. "We've lost about half of our roof." There were at least four major tornadoes that swept through Oklahoma, with much of the destruction occurring during rush hour. Over the past few days, the community has been seeing more help arrive from neighboring states and national relief organizations like Samaritan's Purse.
U.S. Church Blesses Dogs in Annual Services
About two dozen dogs showed up at the National City Christian Church on Sunday for the fifth annual blessing of the dogs, bringing their owners with them. According to Canada.com, this particular blessing ceremony began as an unabashed way to introduce more people to the National City Christian church in Washington, which is considered the cathedral of the Disciples of Christ denomination, a U.S. branch of Christianity that was founded more than 200 years ago. "A few years ago, we used to stand outside on a Sunday morning, greeting passersby and inviting them in to the church, and it seemed to us that just about everyone had a dog," senior pastor Stephen Gentle told AFP. After putting out biscuits and water for the dogs, they decided to hold a short service as well. On Sunday, Gentle read a prayer by Robert Runcie, the 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury, thanking God for creating animals "who can show affection which sometimes puts us to shame."
Afghan Christian Refugees under Threat
In May 2010, an Afghan television network broadcast footage of baptisms involving Afghan Muslim converts to Christianity. Afterwards, President Hamid Karzai called for an investigation into how aid organizations were promoting Christianity in the region. Afghan Christian Said Musa was arrested in the ensuing investigation, charged with apostasy, and sentenced to death. He was finally released after nine months of effort by the international community. He left the country. ASSIST News Service reports that many other Afghan Christians also fled after their conversions were exposed, but they are in danger of being repatriated. The United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) denied refugee status to several Afghan Christians in India, saying they do not meet the requirement of having a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their home country.
Vatican to Weigh Condoms in Fighting AIDS
The morality and effectiveness of using condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS will be on the agenda at a Vatican conference this weekend. Religion News Service reports that the conference comes six months after comments by Pope Benedict XVI again touched off worldwide controversy. The conference, which will focus on "the centrality of care" in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS, is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. About two dozen speakers from across the globe are scheduled to speak. While noting that condoms are not a "real or moral solution" to the AIDS epidemic, the pope said that their use by someone intending to prevent infection could "be a first step in the direction of a moralization" of sexuality. The Vatican's doctrinal office later insisted that the pope's words did not mark a change in Catholic moral teaching or "pastoral practice" against the use of condoms for AIDS prevention or contraception.