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

Report: Nearly 70 percent of
Nations Face Religious Restrictions

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                               ©2009 Religion News Service

bout one-third of the countries in the world have high restrictions on religion, exposing almost 70 percent of the globe's population to limitations on their faith, new research shows.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life based its analysis, released December 16, on 16 sources of information, including reports from the U.S. State Department and human rights groups, as well as national constitutions.

Overall, one-third of the countries were found to have high or very high restrictions on religion as a result of government rules or hostile acts by individuals and groups. Religious minorities often feel the brunt of hostilities because they are perceived as a threat to the culture, politics or economy of a country's majority population, the 72-page report said.

"The highest overall levels of restrictions are found in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, where both the government and society at large impose numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices," the Pew Forum concluded.

In some countries, such as China and Vietnam, government restrictions on religion were high, compared to moderate or low social hostilities. In contrast, nations such as Bangladesh and Nigeria had moderate level of government restrictions, but ranked high in social hostilities.

Three-quarters of the countries affirm religious freedom in their laws or constitutions, and an additional 20 percent protect some religious practices. But researchers found that about a quarter of the governments "fully respected" the religious rights included in their laws.

The findings were based on an investigation of 198 countries and territories, which represent 99.5 percent of the world's population, from 2006 to 2008.

DisciplesWorld Magazine to Cease Publication

BY CHRIS HERLINGER                                                                                       ©2009 Religion News Service
DisciplesWorld, an award-winning magazine that covered the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as an independent journal, is shutting its doors after eight years of publication.

"We made a valiant effort," publisher and editor Verity A. Jones said in a December 16 statement announcing the closure, citing declining subscription and advertising revenue and a decrease in charitable gifts.

DisciplesWorld had come close to ceasing publication several times in recent years, though it had been able to continue after receiving a major grant earlier this year "to formulate new strategies to adapt to the changing publishing landscape," the magazine said. It had also switched to bi-monthly publication after originally being published 10 times annually.

The journal had planned to re-launch its Web site next month with more space for features and an expanded ability for readers to share content. But that was not enough to stave off the problems of a declining revenue and subscription base, and an increasingly difficult environment for all types of print-based journalism.

"We chose to move forward rather than just hold the course through the recession," Jones said. "I am saddened that this publication is coming to an end, but I am proud of the magazine, its staff, readers, writers and supporters."

Church Shuns Decorations to Help the Poor and Needy

BY NARDY BAEZA                                                                                              ©2009 Religion News Service
Passers-by have called Redeemer Covenant Church in Gaines Township, Michigan, the "church of lights" for its magnificent outdoor and indoor displays during the holidays.

But this year's decorations are all on the inside: canned goods, lining the steps leading to the altar, along with large piles of hats, gloves and scarves.

The Rev. Jack Brown said as he and some congregation members planned this year's celebration at the church, spending between $200 and $300 on poinsettias alone just didn't seem right. "The more we talked about it, the more we realized it wasn't responsible -- given the way the people in the church are hurting and how people in the community are hurting," he said.

One person suggested using gifts to others as the Christmas decorations. The congregation loved the idea, Brown said.

"It's really what the whole church has been doing: focusing on what happens in the community and trying to be helpful," he said.

The donations will be distributed through a community food pantry, which is supported by local churches and housed at Redeemer. Some of the food items will become part of Christmas baskets, and others will be distributed the first week of January.

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