Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Ike Strikes Texas, Relief Units Already Positioned
The Christian Post reports that many relief groups prepared for Hurricane Ike in advance, and have already begun relief efforts. The giant storm, almost as the size of Texas, was the first storm to hit a major city since Katrina. Salvation Army, World Vision, and Operation Blessing International are just three of the many organizations already at work. “The early indications are that this storm is the worst of the five we have already responded to in the 2008 hurricane season,” said Major Marshall Gesner, Greater Houston Area Commander for The Salvation Army. “With more than 4 million people without power, wide-spread flooding and high temperatures forecast for the area, our response will be about twice the size of our effort for Hurricane Gustav.” Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said 40,000 Texans are in 250 shelters, according to CNN.
Britain Allows Sharia Courts Power in Civil Cases
Fox News reports that the British government has quietly given authority to Shari'a courts to rule in Muslim civil cases, marking the official adoption of Islamic law in Britain. A network of five shari'a courts already ruled on cases ranging from divorce to financial disputes to domestic violence, but previously relied on voluntary compliance among Muslims. Dominic, Grieve, the shadow home secretary, responded to criticisms that this authority would lead to a parallel legal system, saying, “If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so.”
Iran: Christians Charged with 'Apostasy'
Compass Direct News reports that two Iranian Christians have officially been charged with “apostasy,” or leaving Islam, as a draft law making the death penalty mandatory for those convicted of the charge is set to be debated in Iran’s Parliament. Mahmood Matin Azad, 52, and Arash Basirat (previously reported Bandari), 44, have been in prison since May 15, when they were arrested in Shiraz. Sources who spoke to the two Christians’ defense lawyer explained that a written order of the formal charge of apostasy was unusual and an indication of the severity and complexity of the case. With the apostasy bill debated in Parliament, some Iranian Christians fear that authorities are seeking to make an example of the two prisoners or give the prospective law a “test run.”
CCM Star Ray Boltz Announces Homosexuality
Once famous for Christian hits such as "Thank You," singer Ray Boltz slowed his career in the Christian music industry in 2004. Now, he's back in the spotlight after acknowledging his homosexuality in the Washington Blade, saying that he is now living a gay lifestyle after coming out to his family in late 2004 and divorcing his wife in 2005. "If this is the way God made me, then this is the way I’m going to live...I really feel closer to God because I no longer hate myself," he said in the Blade interview. When asked about Boltz's homosexuality, The Gospel Music Association -- the group which gives out the Dove Awards -- told the Blade, "We do not comment on the lifestyle choices of people in our community."