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Religion Today Summaries - May 28, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 28, 2007

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

  • Report Reveals Widespread Injustice Against Catholic Women
  • Attacks in India's Rajasthan State Show Disturbing Trend
  • India's Bishops Welcome Resolution on Untouchability
  • Egypt Releases Jailed Christian Convert

Report Reveals Widespread Injustice Against Catholic Women

A coalition of Catholic justice organizations has issued a national report card on the status of women in the U.S. Catholic Church. Religion News Service reports that it shows wide disparities between women’s and men’s roles. For a snapshot of conditions affecting women, 23 of the nation’s 146 Roman Catholic dioceses and archdioceses were surveyed by volunteers. They found women participate in about equal numbers with men in public roles as readers and communion ministers, but behind closed doors, women face major barriers. “Pope Benedict XVI says it is ‘theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity,’ but our study shows women are relegated to the margins when it comes to positions of influence within the Catholic Church,” says Prof. Susan Farrell, a lead analyst of the report.  “We’ve issued an ‘F’ to the dioceses for poor performance in religious education and a ‘D’ in representation of women in top jobs.” Although women’s public visibility in Catholicism has risen, for example, with men and women serving equally as lectors at cathedral liturgies, bishops rated only a “C” when it comes to including girls as altar servers when the bishops preside at masses.

Attacks in India’s Rajasthan State Show Disturbing Trend

On May 12, a Catholic priest moved out of his village in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district after a mob entered his house, ransacked his room and demanded that he leave the area. In a memorandum submitted to police, Father Paul Ninama and other priests said village leader Gyaneshwar Chaubisa had threatened to burn him alive if he did not leave Parsad village. The attack on Fr. Ninama was just one of several threats made or carried out on Christians in recent months, Compass Direct News reports. Similarities in recent attacks – threats and demands to leave the area, followed by violence – is “worrying human rights activists and the police alike,” according to The Hindu newspaper.

India’s Bishops Welcome Resolution on Untouchability

ASSIST News Service reports that the Catholic Bishops of India have welcomed a resolution in U.S. Congress asking for an end to Untouchability, according to a report by AsiaNews. Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona introduced the resolution on May 2 following a briefing on the plight of Dalit women before the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus. In his speech he asked "the Indian government and the world community to look with compassion upon India's untouchables and reach out to one of the most oppressed peoples on earth.'' AsiaNews reported that the Catholic bishops' conference of India expressed its thankfulness that the issue is being brought to light.

Egypt Releases Jailed Christian Convert

In a surprise gesture, Egyptian authorities have released a Christian convert from Islam who had been jailed without charges under Egypt’s controversial emergency laws for the past two years. Officials at the Wadi el-Natroun Prison released Bahaa el-Akkad on April 28, and he was reunited with his wife and three children by nightfall. No official reason was given for his release. Hours before he was freed, officers from the State Security Investigation had reportedly told El-Akkad that he would remain in prison for another 10 years if he did not return to Islam, Compass Direct News reports. The convert had responded calmly, saying, “God has brought me to this place, and He alone will let me go to my home. You cannot do anything against God.” A Christian source in Cairo said El-Akkad is still “closely monitored and under threat all the time.”