Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Triad of Disasters Hit Pacific Islands
The extent of damage inflicted by a typhoon, earthquake, and tsunami has relief groups scrambling to react. Up to half a million people remain displaced after a tropical storm hit the capital city of Manila in the Philippines on Sept. 26. Officials reported that 80 percent of the city was underwater on Saturday afternoon. American Samoa was then struck by an earthquake-induced tsunami on Tuesday, leaving hundreds of people missing and several villages obliterated. Relief group World Vision, already active in the Philippines, had not yet sent a response team by Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, on Wednesday another major earthquake with a 7.6 magnitude rocked Indonesia, completing the string of disasters. "The situation is quite devastating," Amelia Merrick, the operations director for World Vision Indonesia, told CNN. "Bridges have gone down, phone lines are in total disrepair; it's difficult for us to assess the situation," she said. At least 75 people have been confirmed dead.
Supreme Court to Consider Fate of Mojave Cross
Religion News Service reports that the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the fate of a cross-shaped World War I memorial that sits in California's Mojave National Preserve when it hears arguments on the matter next Wednesday (Oct. 7). The case has landed in the high court's hands eight years after Frank Buono, a former assistant superintendent of the preserve, first filed suit, saying he was offended that other religions beyond his own Christian faith were not represented near the memorial site. As Buono's case wound its way through the courts, Congress passed laws preventing the cross' removal, naming it a national memorial and, lastly, calling for a transfer of the surrounding property to the private ownership of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who first erected it in 1934. An appeals court ruled that that transfer did not solve the church-state problems at the heart of the case.
Sudanese Bishop Offers Desperate Prayers
World Magazine reports that increased attacks on civilians in South Sudan have residents pleading for international help. Sudanese Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala says his congregations have faced more frequent attacks by the vicious Lord's Resistance Army, whose rampages across the border of Uganda have killed women and children. "People kept coming to me with such suffering in their eyes, begging me to do something about the situation—to get back their children and grandchildren who have disappeared," Hiiboro told the Catholic aid agency Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). In August, a band of LRA soldiers assaulted a congregation, kidnapping 17 people. Three of them returned safely, but one body was found mutilated and tied to a tree. Thirteen remain missing. "What happened in August was a huge shock to us. It was hard to take in the fact that we were exposed to such a risk," Hiiboro said.
Report: Over 350 Public Schools Teaching the Bible
The Christian Post reports that Bible has returned to more than 350 schools in 43 states this school year, at least as an academic study. According to the Bible Literacy Project, which publishes "The Bible and Its Influence" textbook, more than 50 of those schools are in Texas. The state mandated Bible literacy in 2007, but the vague requirement just took effect for the 2009-2010 school year. Georgia, California and Indiana also include courses on the Bible using the textbook. Outside of Texas, however, less than 10 percent of these states' schools offer an elective course, though their popularity is rising. "Increasing knowledge about the Bible is part of a good education; but teaching what to believe belongs in the home," the Bible Literacy Project states. "We advocate providing a well-rounded, thorough education that includes the basic information students need to fully understand literature, as well as art, music, history and culture."