The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Obama Awards Medal of Freedom
to Religious Leaders
etired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a longtime U.S. civil rights activist, have been named recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"Each has been an agent of change," President Obama said of the 16 people who will receive the nation's highest civilian honor. "Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way."
Tutu was a leading opponent of apartheid in South Africa, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Lowery, a United Methodist minister who gave the benediction at Obama's inauguration, co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Tutu and Lowery will be honored August 12 along with 14 others, including Senator Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., the late gay activist Harvey Milk, and actor Sidney Poitier.
"Coming from the first African-American president and to be included in his first class, with these outstanding personalities and leaders is very special," Lowery told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Christians Protest Mob Attacks on Fellow Christians in Pakistan
Church schools and other Christian institutions in Karachi, Pakistan, have closed to protest the killing of Christians in the country's central Punjab region on Saturday (August 1).
Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Pakistan, said in a statement Monday that all Christian institutions in Punjab should "close down and observe mourning for three days to condemn the burning of seven Christians alive."
The Christians killed on Saturday reportedly included four women and two children. In addition, 50 people were injured and scores of Christian homes torched.
The violence followed rumors that Christians in the region had desecrated a copy of the Quran. The attack in Gojra took place as a Muslim march passed through a predominantly Christian area in the town.
"The leaders of the march were inciting violence against Christians and there was even firing from the mob on Christians," Peter Jacob, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Pakistan, told Ecumenical News International.
After one Christian returned fire, Jacob said, the Muslim crowd, said to number hundreds, attacked the Christians and set their houses on fire.
"Many of the dead were shot and set on fire. The post-mortem showed bullet injuries besides the burning," said Jacob. He questioned why authorities allowed, "such a provocative procession to enter a Christian neighborhood at all."
The Geneva-based World Council of Churches on Monday appealed to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to ensure the security of Christians in the Punjab province, noting three attacks against Christian communities by militant Islamic groups in the previous two months.
"The Gojra carnage ... the latest in a series of organized attacks against Christians reconfirms the fear that the government is constantly failing to protect its citizens who frequently face attack by militant Islamic groups," said the Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the WCC.
In Lahore, the National Council of Churches of Pakistan, which includes four Protestant denominations, deplored the attack on the Christians as "shocking."
More than 40 Christian homes were reported to have been torched after clerics used the public address system of the local mosque to call for such attacks. A crowd prevented firefighters from reaching the burning houses with Muslim women lying down on the roads to block access for the firefighting trucks.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's minister for minorities, who is a Christian, denied that the Quran had been defaced by Christians and accused police of ignoring his appeal to provide protection to Christians.
Faith Groups More Likely to Attract Volunteers, Report Says
Faith-based organizations attract more volunteers than any other type of organization, according to a recent survey by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
More than one-third of the country's almost 62 million volunteers served through religious organizations last year.
"Religious organizations are a key source of potential volunteers for nonprofit organizations," said Nicola Goren, the corporation's chief executive officer.
"Nonprofits looking to expand their reach and impact may find it beneficial to work more closely with religious organizations in their communities, especially in these tough economic times."
The "Volunteering in America 2009" report released last Tuesday (July 28) showed that adults over the age of 65 and youth who regularly attend religious services are more likely than general volunteers to serve in faith-based organizations.
Also, youth from disadvantaged circumstances, who are least likely to volunteer, are most likely, when they do volunteer, to do so through their religious congregation. They are also much more likely to report that they are motivated to serve by their religious or spiritual beliefs.
The report also cited that half of African-American volunteers serve primarily through faith-based organizations.
These findings confirm previous research from the corporation that found volunteers who serve with faith-based organizations are the most likely to continue serving. In fact, 70 percent of these volunteers continue serving from year to year, higher than any other type of volunteer.
Despite the promising results for religious community service, only about 15 percent of nonprofit charities report partnerships with faith-based organizations. At the same time, congregations report a need of "a great extent" for volunteer managers.
The "Volunteering in America 2009" report is based on data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics and provides the most comprehensive data assembled on volunteer trends and demographics. Volunteers are defined as persons who did unpaid work through or for an organization.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that promotes community service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs.
Clinton Asked to Raise Religious Freedom Issues in Africa
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is asking Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to raise issues of religious tolerance in Nigeria and Somalia while on her trip to Africa this week.
In an open letter dated July 30, USCIRF discusses long-term and ongoing sectarian violence in Nigeria as well as Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed's proposal to install Islamic law as the basis for Somalia's new judicial structure.
About 700 people have died in a recent wave of religious violence in Nigeria, according to media reports.
Clinton's goal for her 10-day African tour is to discuss ways to foster good governance by "partnering with regional leaders to ... prevent conflict and violence, including gender-based violence, democratic erosions, and transnational threats that challenge Africa," said assistant secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.
The USCIRF's letter requests that Clinton also put heavy emphasis on the sectarian violence that rages through both Nigeria and Somalia. USCIRF, which monitors religious freedom worldwide, has named Nigeria as a "country of particular concern" and has put Somalia on its "watch list."
"USCIRF believes that improving freedom of religion and related human rights and governance will help to address many of the problems in Somalia," the commission said.
USCIRF's 2009 annual report says the monitoring of religious persecution in Nigeria has been "inadequate and ineffectual" and stresses that serious threats to religious freedom have arisen in Somalia. Thursday's letter reiterates these concerns and requests that Clinton push the issue of religious freedom when she speaks with Nigerian and Somali leaders.
"The severe violations of religious freedom and sectarian violence in Nigeria must be addressed for that country to realize lasting progress, security, and prosperity as a democracy," says USCIRF.