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Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 20, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 20, 2010

Daily briefs of the top Christian news and persecution stories impacting believers around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Report Finds Spike in U.S. Poverty Levels
  • Moroccan Convert Serving 15 Years for His Faith
  • Definition of Family Shifting, Scholar Says
  • Buddhist Extremists Capture, Then Release 8 Christians

Report Finds Spike in U.S. Poverty Levels

The number of people in poverty in America increased to its highest recorded point last year, and the poverty rate rose to its highest level since 1994, according to Religion News Service. The Census Bureau released data Sept. 16 that showed the rate of poverty increasing 1.1 percentage points to 14.3 percent in 2009. A total of 43.6 million live in poverty -- the highest since recording began in 1959 -- and up from 39.8 million in 2008. Social service programs such as Catholic Charities USA are faced with the challenge of increased needs from individuals and working families, budget cuts and a decrease in individual donations. The Rev. Larry Snyder, president and CEO of Catholics Charities, said that while the statistics were staggering, they did not come as a surprise to those who work with people in poverty on a daily basis, especially after two years of recession.

Moroccan Convert Serving 15 Years for His Faith

Nearly five years into the prison sentence of a Christian in Morocco serving time for his faith, Moroccan Christians and advocates still question the harsh measures of the Muslim state toward a man who dared speak openly about Jesus. By the end of December Jamaa Ait Bakrim, the only Moroccan Christian imprisoned for his faith, will have been in prison for five years at Morocco's largest prison, according to Compass Direct News. An outspoken Christian convert, Bakrim was sentenced to 15 years prison for "proselytizing" and destroying "the goods of others" in 2005 after burning two defunct utility poles located in front of his private business in a small town in south Morocco. Advocates and Moroccan Christians said, however, that the severity of his sentence in relation to his misdemeanor shows that authorities were determined to put him behind bars because he persistently spoke about his faith.

Definition of Family Shifting, Scholar Says

The definition of who makes a family is shifting in the minds of Americans to include more same-sex couples, new research shows. Religion News Service reports that Brian Powell, a sociologist at Indiana University, surveyed more than 1,500 people on the definition of family in 2003 and 2006 for his new book, "Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans' Definition of Family." He separated people into three groups according to how they defined family: "inclusionists," who counted same-sex couples with or without children; "moderates," who counted same-sex couples with children but not those without; and "exclusionists," who did not count any same-sex couples. He found that those who considered same-sex couples with or without children as a "family" rose most dramatically from 5 percent in 2003 to 33 percent in 2010. Those who viewed the Bible as the actual word of God were more likely to not consider same-sex couples as a family, with 65 percent falling into the "exclusionist" category.

Buddhist Extremists Capture, Then Release 8 Christians

Buddhist extremists detained eight Chakma Christians, members of a Baptist church in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, for four days in August. According to Baptist Press, the extremists held the men -- a pastor, church secretary, village leader and five church members -- captive in a Buddhist temple to attempt to force them to return to Buddhism. During their captivity, the Buddhist extremists forced the men to adopt a Buddhist lifestyle and worship. The extremists threatened the believers with severe beatings and even death if they tried to escape. The Christians, detained Aug. 23, originally were told they would be confined to the temple for seven to 15 days, but after four days in captivity the men were released under orders that they remain Buddhist. "They are not allowed to pray to Jesus nor read Bibles, but they say they are still Christian in their hearts," international Christian Josette Lindem said.