New Sudan Constitution Less Anti-Christian

Sudan's National Assembly passed a new constitution on July 6 that steps away from complete Islamic rule and paved the way for a former Christian rebel leader to be inaugurated as first vice president. Amid shouts of "Allahu akbar!" (God is great) and "Hallelujah, hallelujah!" the 286 lawmakers who attended the session stood with their hands in the air to unanimously pass the constitution. The document states that Islamic law will not be applied in the mainly Christian and animist south, and removes a requirement that the president be Muslim. It follows a January peace accord between the government and southern rebels who had fought a two-decade war for more autonomy. The rebel leader, John Garang, was sworn in as the country's top vice president July 9. It is the first time a Christian has been appointed as first vice president, a position second only to the president.

WorldWide Religious News/AP
via MissionNet

Muslims Want to Replace Bible With Koran in NC Courtrooms

North Carolina judges have refused a request by several Muslim organizations that want changes in the courtroom process. The Muslims want to replace the Bible with the Koran when a member of the Islamic faith is sworn in to give testimony. Judges in the Tar Heel State have refused—and North Carolina Republican Representative Walter Jones likes that response. "I think this [request] is absolutely unacceptable," Jones says, "and I will encourage my friends who are judges in North Carolina—and I'm sure they'll do this without my encouragement—to resist any effort to allow the Koran to replace the Bible. It is absolutely unacceptable." The Muslim groups are expected to persist in their effort to replace the Bible.

Agape Press
via Religion Today Summaries

Pediatrics Group Now Downplays Abstinence

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released in July an updated teen pregnancy policy, which recommends teaching less about abstinence and more about birth control and emergency contraception. AAP now urges doctors to help ensure that all teenagers—not just those who are sexually active—have access to birth control, including emergency contraception like the morning-after pill, the Associated Press reported.

"Even though there is great enthusiasm in some circles for abstinence-only interventions, the evidence does not support abstinence-only interventions as the best way to keep young people from unintended pregnancy," said Jonathan Klein, chairman of the pediatricians' committee that wrote the policy, according to an Associated Press report.

Gene Rudd, an obstetrician/gynecologist and associate director of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, said the AAP relied on a "large amount of biased ideology in reaching their conclusion on abstinence education, altering the science beyond recognition. They ignored a substantial body of data that supports the opposite view."

Baptist Press

Divided Rulings Send Ominous Message

The U.S. Supreme Court continued its divisive, oft perplexing decision-making on the relationship between church and state June 27, invalidating Ten Commandments displays in Kentucky courthouses while upholding a monument of the Decalogue on the Texas capitol grounds. The rulings again found the high court seeking to discern if an action sponsored by or permitted by the government violates the First Amendment's ban on establishment of religion.

 "The most alarming thing about this pair of rulings is that the decision to accommodate a Ten Commandments display donated by a non-governmental source only won 5-4, which shows the degree to which this court has embraced secular fundamentalism as its religion," said Southern Baptist church-state specialist Richard Land. "The Kentucky courthouse decision shows that, as Justice [Antonin] Scalia said in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas opinion [striking down state anti-sodomy laws], the majority of this court has taken sides in the culture war,' and it's the side of secular fundamentalists."

Land said of the Kentucky courthouse decision, "If we allow the continuation of the brazen power grab of this judicial oligarchy masquerading as a Supreme Court, it will fundamentally alter our freedom and liberties. It is time for the American people to rise up and demand that we want government of the people, by the people and for the people back. We have not ceded our freedom and liberty to the imperial Supreme Court."

Baptist Press

Evangelical Church Growing in Ireland

According to a recent survey by the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland, the number of Evangelicals is growing. The survey estimates that there are an estimated 13,000 people worshiping in evangelical congregations every week in the Dublin area, many of whom are coming from the Catholic Church. Greater Europe Mission's Phil Kingsley has worked in Ireland for 23 years. "There's just a radical explosion in the number of new churches and the number of new church groups." Twenty-five years ago there were only 40 evangelical churches in the region, with an average of 20 to 30 members. Now 130 churches have been identified with an average membership of 100. While evangelicals still number less than 1% of the population of Ireland, Kingsley is excited about the quality of its make up. "One of the exciting things, from our standpoint, is to see local Irish Christians are stepping up and saying, God is calling us to be in the forefront of spreading the message of Jesus, the message of hope and life across this nation,'"

Mission Network News

"Seizure Ruling Won't Cripple Churches"

The U.S. Supreme Court's opinion permitting local governments to seize private property for economic development will complicate matters for churches but not crush their rights, a religious liberty lawyer predicted. In a 5-4 decision June 23, the justices ruled a city's use of eminent domain to transfer property from one private party to another may qualify as a "public use" protected by the Constitution. More conservative members of the high court criticized the ruling as an abandonment of a "long-held, basic limitation on government power."

The court's decision in Kelo v. New London raised a question for churches and other religious institutions: Will they be in danger of having their property, which is typically tax-exempt, seized for development that will produce revenue for municipalities?

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is based in Washington, warned the justices in a friend-of-the-court brief of the potential burdens on religious groups. A Becket spokesman told Baptist Press June 24, however, the high court's decision should not result in the seizure of church property despite the problems it will cause. "The decision did not have a damaging impact on religious institutions," said Jared Leland, the Becket Fund's media and legal counsel. "It did remove, however, an extra layer of protection that religious institutions would have had."

Baptist Press

Muslim Mobs Burn 200+ Pakistani Christian Homes

Sources in Pakistan report that radical Muslim mobs attacked Christian homes in three areas near Peshawar, Pakistan on June 28. The attacks came after a Christian man was accused earlier that day of burning pages from the Koran. The man was Yousaf Masih who had worked for almost 20 years as a sweeper for the Pakistani military. On Tuesday he was asked to clean the office of a major's home. During the cleaning, he came across a bag of papers which the major told him to take outside and burn. Masih is illiterate and would not have known what was written on the papers. But other workers saw the papers and said Masih was burning pages from the Koran. After hearing the workers' accusations, Masih rushed back to his home east of Peshawar. On Wednesday afternoon police arrested Yousaf, accusing him of insulting Islam, the prophet Mohammed, and the Koran—a crime punishable with death under Pakistan's harsh anti-blasphemy laws. Following the arrest, a group of angry Muslims came to Yousaf's home and began to beat his three sons and his brother Yaqoob. Radical Muslims returned to the area late that night, looting and burning an estimated 200 Christian homes in the region.

Voice of the Martyrs

Hindu Fundamentalists Will Train Thousands To Fight Missionaries

The Hindu fundamentalist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), announced that it has launched an initiative to train Hindu militants to fight Christians. A training camp has even been set up in Jeypore, a city in eastern India's Orissa state. In the past there was more focus on the destruction of property and the oppression of local believers. Now the emphasis has been shifted to Christian leaders and pastors, accusing them of "buying" conversions from Hinduism to Christianity. The militants are planning to train thousands of young people within the next two years to fight Christian missionaries, according to a report from Grace Ministries International

Mission Network News

Tsunami Orphans Finding New Hope

As the Sri Lankan government begins allowing approved organizations to adopt tsunami orphans, one indigenous ministry supported by Christian Aid has been able to take in seven boys and girls. Immediately following the tsunami, the government of Sri Lanka did not allow children to be taken in by anyone other than a relative. The action was made after reports surfaced of children being abducted into forced labor or child prostitution by people posing as aid workers. Now, after thoroughly evaluating organizations wanting to adopt children, the government is gradually letting them go into the hands of caretakers other than family members. Many boys and girls have been living with relatives who lost everything in the tsunami and are scarcely able to provide for themselves, much less additional children. Leaders of the home hope to eventually take in 100 tsunami orphans, once they are able to expand their already crowded facility. Pray with them that this need would be met so that more children would be able to experience the healing of Christ's love.

Christian Aid Mission
via Religion Today Summaries

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