Religion News, February 1, 2011

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  • Nepali Christians lose right to ancient burial ground: Christians are a minority in predominately Hindu Nepal. Eighty-six per cent of its 30 million people are Hindus. According to 2007 statistics, there are 500,000 Christians in Nepal, but Operation Mobilization, a Christian organization, puts the number at 1,200,000. Some churches own property, but for those who do not, the Sleshmantak forest had been serving as a cemetery.
  • Imam Stirs Confusion Regarding Islam Center: Two weeks after the developer of a controversial Islamic center and mosque planned near ground zero distanced himself from the imam who co-founded the project, imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has raised confusion over who is in charge by suggesting that he would move the center to a less contentious space if an opportunity arose.
  • Gay activist conference in Minn. has faith focus: On Wednesday, several hundred other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists who work within multiple faith communities will gather in Minneapolis as part of the much larger National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual conference. Garcia will lead a Latino working group, one of several such groups aimed at a greater diversity in gay religious activism – an arena that convention co-organizer the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel said “has been largely defined by white folks.”
  • Churches reach out to Hungary’s struggling Roma: The Hungarian government is due to sign a deal with the main churches to allow them to apply for state funding for educational, social and labour programmes. So for the first time, the churches can get involved in job creation. Hungary’s 800,000 Roma – many of them destitute – are a priority. The government wants to get a million Hungarians back to work in the next 10 years – 200,000 to 300,000 of them Roma.
    Egypt

  • Muslim Brotherhood supports protests: Among opposition groups calling for a new Egyptian government is the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political movement that wants a government run strictly as an Islamic state.
  • Netanyahu Concerned Islamists May Exploit Egyptian ‘Chaos: Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, has been cooperating with Israel to restrict arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Hamas Islamic militant group. Egypt and Israel share a 130-mile border and they also share a concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
  • U.S. open to a role for Islamists in new Egypt government: But the Muslim Brotherhood must renounce violence and support democracy, the White House says.
  • 2011 revolt in Egypt is not about Islam: The 2011 revolution in Egypt is not about Islam, nor is it against Israel. It is not led by the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak’s vilified opposition. It is simply about social justice. This uprising is a cry for a decent life, jobs, food security, freedom and dignity for all.
  • Muslim Brotherhood Plays Key Role In Egypt Unrest: Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, speaks to NPR host Robert Siegel about the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups in Egypt.
  • Unrest in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood: The Brotherhood knows that the world (especially the United States and Europe) are watching events in Egypt closely. If the protests appear to be Brotherhood-led, the government will feel free to use much more brutal methods to disperse protesters. For the moment it suits the Brotherhood’s interests to give the impression that there is a broad coalition united against Hosni Mubarak, including liberals and leftists. This explains why Brotherhood members who have taken part in the protests have refrained from chanting slogans with religious connotations. The impression of a broad coalition also helps domestically — if the Brotherhood take the lead, it would frighten off some of the other groups.
  • In Egypt, ‘Islamist’ fears overblown: The United States has played a role of wait-and-see as protests have raged across Tunisia and Egypt. There is concern that a party inhospitable to American interests — namely the Muslim Brotherhood — could fill a power vacuum were President Hosni Mubarak to be tossed from office like Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. As a result, some foreign policy observers are urging caution in calling for regime change or immediate elections. These fears are overblown. The threat posed by Islamists seizing power is more often than not a crutch used by autocrats to safeguard their positions, secure foreign aid and snap up White House invitations.
  • Christians divided over Mubarak’s future: Hisham Kassem, a publisher and analyst, says the protests have “zero religious nuance”, pointing out that the Muslim activists who are pious enough to stop for prayers are but a small part of the protest. He says: “I don’t see any worries from the Christians. We all attend as individuals.” Other commentators suggest there are latent tensions – exploited, say some, by the president – because of the vulnerability felt at times by a Christian minority estimated at 10 per cent of the population. The killing of 23 Christians in a January 1 bombing at an Alexandria church is still fresh in people’s minds.
  • For Egypt’s Christians, conditions could worsen — or even improve : The turmoil in Egypt threatens to unleash chaos in a country long ruled by a dictator where militant Islam has been growing for years — and the outcome is difficult to predict, two Southern Baptist observers say. The history of Christianity in Egypt has been one of both tribulation and blessing. Since its beginning, Christianity in Egypt has been influential in shaping doctrine and the way believers follow Christ.
  • Google, Twitter Offer Egyptians Option to Get Around Government Web Block: Egyptians, blocked from the Internet, are being offered a way by Google Inc. and Twitter to “tweet” by using a voice connection. Google says: We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.
    Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

  • Are American Evangelicals Stingy?: The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that donations dropped 11 percent at the nation’s 400 biggest charities, yet donations to ECFA member charities stayed strong. An empty tomb, inc. report found that evangelicals give churches about 4 percent of their income (and all Christians only 2.43 percent), far less than the biblical 10 percent tithe.
  • Billy Graham Regrets Political Involvement, Again: The 91-year-old evangelist thinks he may have “crossed the line.”

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This post was last updated: Aug. 27, 2013