|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
'Son of Hamas' Was key Israeli Informer
BY MARK KELLY ©2010 Baptist Press
he son of a prominent leader in the Hamas terrorist organization -- who in 2008 publicly declared his faith in Jesus Christ -- says in a new book that he provided top-secret intelligence to Israel for more than a decade, preventing dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks against Israelis.
Masab Yousef, who now prefers to be known as "Joseph," is the oldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a political leader of the Hamas organization in the West Bank and one of the movement's most popular public figures. In his new book, "Son of Hamas," Masab Yousef asserts his conviction that the only hope for lasting peace in the Middle East is Christ's command to love one's enemies.
Yousef gave his life to Christ in 2004, four years after a friend invited him to a Bible study and he began to read the Christian Scriptures for himself.
In an interview with Israel's Haaretz newspaper, Yousef said he worked for Israeli intelligence only because he wanted to save lives.
"I saw torture, killing, a war over land. For me, human life and saving human lives is the most important thing, more important than any piece of land or real estate," Yousef told the newspaper. "I did not do it because the Shin Bet (Israeli intelligence) pressured me, or for money. I did it because I understood what Hamas really is and I had to make a change -- for my sake and for the sake of others."
Knowing that he saved hundreds of lives -- Israelis, Palestinians and Americans -- is what gives him the strength to go on, knowing he is hated because he informed for the Israelis, Yousef said.
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Louisiana Bill Would Allow Guns in Churches
A state lawmaker is proposing to allow people who are legally qualified to carry concealed weapons to bring them to houses of worship as long as the pastor or church board approves.
The proposal, filed ahead of the legislative session that opens March 29, is one of 74 House bills that have been filed so far.
State Rep. Henry Burns filed a bill to let a church, temple, mosque or other religious institution authorize "any person issued a valid concealed handgun permit" to carry it into a place of worship.
State law now prohibits concealed weapons in prisons, courthouses, government buildings, the State Capitol, airports and houses of worship. Burns, who has opposed legislative proposals to allow legally carried concealed weapons on college campuses, said 20 other states have laws that authorize trained and qualified gun owners to bring their guns to religious services.
The bill also gives congregations the authority to hire armed security guards or off-duty police officers. He said that whatever plan is devised, it must have the approval of the officials in charge of the religious facility.
"A church should have the opportunity to devise a security plan allowing guns,” he said. "I believe in the right to protect yourself."
He said the bill would not let everyone with a permit to bring concealed weapons to services; it would allow church leaders to designate certain people to do so. "With domestic terrorism increasing, I wanted to make this an option," Burns said. "We should not be sheep for the slaughter. I want a controlled security system, not an armed camp."
White House Council Adopts Faith-based Recommendations
After a year's work, a White House advisory council on faith-based programs adopted dozens of recommendations on February 26 on everything from church-state separation to fighting poverty and promoting fatherhood.
The 25-member advisory council also called for reforms to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to help protect "religious liberty rights."
"The recommendations call ... for greater clarity in the church-state guidance given to social service providers so that tax
funds are used appropriately and providers are not confused or sued," the panel's report said.
"The recommendations also insist that beneficiaries must be notified of their religious liberty rights, including their rights to alternative providers."
The advisory panel, which will submit its final report on March 9, also urged the Obama administration to ensure that "decisions about government grants are made on the merits of proposals, not on political or religious considerations."
Among the panel's 64 recommendations, advisers voiced support for:
-- developing interfaith service projects on 500 U.S. college campuses and in 40 U.S. cities
-- working to correct the "deeply flawed" ways the federal government measures poverty to better respond to the needy who aren't currently eligible for social services
-- increased federal funding for programs to promote fatherhood, including among fathers in the military and in prison
-- limiting the Pentagon's role in development work
-- providing guidance to state and local governments to help nonprofit groups "retrofit and green" their buildings.
The advisers reached consensus on most recommendations, but were divided over two contentious issues: whether houses of worship that receive direct federal funding for social service programs should form separate nonprofit corporations; and whether federally-funded religious charities should remove religious art, symbols or messages in facilities used to provide social services.
Abuse Allegations Shame German Catholic Bishops
German Catholic bishops expressed shame and shock February 25 over a sexual abuse scandal that has grown to as many as 150 separate allegations of abuse across several decades at multiple Catholic institutions. The bishops' statement was released as prosecutors in Munich and Bonn launched their own investigations into alleged abuse at parochial schools.
"We are ashamed and shocked and we plead everyone for forgiveness and exculpation," the German bishops conference said in a statement at the end of its annual meeting. "We are not at the start of our dealings with these failures, even if we have, until now, underestimated their extent."
Among the new policies the bishops announced Thursday are a new office tasked solely with responding to abuse charges, a telephone hotline for reports of abuse and a review of existing policy within the country's Catholic church.
The scandal, which was revealed when a former Jesuit priest now living in Chile wrote a letter of apology to former students, has shaken the German church over recent weeks; civil officials and the media have criticized the church for not cooperating with legal investigations.
Church representatives say their guidelines called for alerting authorities "as soon as possible." The Thursday statement also called for a review of those guidelines.
Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann will be the new appointee in charge of dealing with charges of abuse.
The organization We Are Church, a group of reform-minded lay Catholics, said the bishops have shown that they have finally "recognized the gravity of the situation."
However, the group also said that the church has not addressed the policies that created an environment conducive to the abuse.