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Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 22, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 22, 2007

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

  • AIDS in Africa a Desperate Situation
  • Rowling Reveals: ‘Christianity Inspired Harry Potter’
  • Mainline Presbyterian Church Faces Widening Rift
  • Christian Author Says Religious Freedom in India is “Shrinking”

AIDS in South Africa a Desperate Situation

Baptist Press reports that South Africa's Cape Town stands as a microcosm of the wealth and poverty of South Africa. It is the wealthiest country in Africa, but that wealth is disproportionately held at the top end of the financial spectrum. The richest 6 percent of South Africans earn 40 percent of all income received, while the poorest 40 percent earn a mere 4 percent, and the average white household earns six times the income of the average black household. HIV/AIDS infects more than 28 percent of the country's people; nine of 10 cases afflict people living in townships around the cities. Shacks small enough to fit comfortably inside the average American kitchen offer little to no protection from the elements in townships and squatter camps surrounding Cape Town. Most men roam the streets looking for work or raiding trash cans for anything usable. These conditions spawn substance abuse, prostitution, sexual abuse and teenage pregnancies, all of which proliferate the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In the white communities, only about 7 percent of the residents are unemployed and fewer than 10 percent are infected by HIV/AIDS.

Rowling Reveals: ‘Christianity Inspired Harry Potter’

The Pope may have condemned the Harry Potter books, but J.K. Rowling has now revealed that Christianity has been one of her major inspirations, ASSIST News Service reports. This news was revealed in a story that has appeared on the www.telegraph.co.uk website. “Breaking her silence on the much-debated question as to whether religious themes permeate her books, Rowling confirmed that they echoed her personal struggle with faith,” said the story. “Speaking in America this week, she was open about the Christian allegories in her latest book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” The author said that she had always deflected questions on the issue in the past to avoid disclosing the direction in which the books were heading. “To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious,” Rowling said. “But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.” The Telegraph story said that at the end of her latest and final installment in the series, there are specific references to Christianity and themes of life after death and resurrection. At one point Harry visits his parents' graves and finds two biblical passages inscribed on their tombstones. “They are very British books, so on a very practical note, Harry was going to find biblical quotations on tombstones,” she said. “But I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones... they sum up, they almost epitomize, the whole series.”

Mainline Presbyterian Church Faces Widening Rift

OneNewsNow.com reports that "the Episcopal Church isn't the only mainline Protestant group shaken by open conflict between theological liberals and conservatives. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is facing similar trials, with traditionalist congregations planning to leave and the conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church offering to take them in. Tensions erupted last year when the PCUSA granted new leeway for congregations and presbyteries to sidestep a church requirement that clergy and lay officers limit sex to man-woman marriage. Delegates at the national assembly also voted to let church officials propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the divine Trinity -- 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit.' Among the possibilities: 'Mother, Child and Womb' or 'Rock, Redeemer, Friend.'"

Christian Author Says Religious Freedom in India is “Shrinking”

Despite India remaining healthily democratic, freedom of religion is steadily on the decline, ASSIST News Service reports. That’s according to John Dayal, a journalist-turned- Christian activist, who is now national president of the All India Catholic Union and secretary general of the All India Christian Council. “Many of the rights have been systematically diluted over the years by governments, courts and fundamentalist forces,” Dayal told Ecumenical News International (ENI) in a recent interview about his soon-to-be- released book on religious freedom in India. “A Matter of Equity: Freedom of Faith in Secular India” is a critique of religious freedom in the country. Deayal told ENI that this freedom, or lack of it, ranges from the steady dilution of constitutional guarantees to harsh treatment meted out to Christians and minorities in every corner of the country.