News Update


Malaysia: Subtle Attempts to Convert Christian Preschoolers?
Parents in Sarawak, Malaysia, are concerned about subtle attempts to impart Islamic teachings and practices to children in preschools in the rural, predominantly Christian area, Free Malaysia Today reports.

Sarawak legislative assemblyman Baru Bian said there was a "very real problem" because parents had complained of their children coming home from school reciting Islamic prayers.

Hundreds of new preschools and kindergartens have been opened in the state in recent years to increase the accessibility to early education, but Bian said the people were concerned that the schools were staffed by teachers from outside the local community, many from the Muslim-majority Malaysian peninsula, and that the curriculum included lessons about Islam.

Bian proposed to the legislature that as part of the 2012 budget, teachers from local communities be recruited and funded instead to ensure "fair teachings."

Religion Today Summaries

Study: Only 46 Percent of Children Grow Up in Intact Homes
A new study shows that only 46 percent of children in the United States will reach age 17 having grown up in a home with biological parents who are married, a figure that has a significant impact on the nation's graduation, poverty and teenage birth rates, Baptist Press reports.

The data shows the intact family rate is highest in the Northeast (49.6 percent) and lowest in the South (41.8 percent), highest in the state of Minnesota (57 percent) and lowest in Mississippi (34 percent), and highest among Asians (65.8 percent) and lowest among blacks (16.7 percent). The study also shows that high poverty rates, low graduation rates and high teenage pregnancy rates are closely linked to the breakup of the family.

"The foundational relationship of marriage has quite an impact on the well-being of children and on the welfare of both the states and the nation," said Pat Fagan of the Family Research Council, one of the study's co-authors. "We have never faced anything like this in human history."

Religion Today Summaries

"Arab Spring" Means "Christian Winter" For Millions of Persecuted Christians
Millions of Christians in the Middle East and Africa are enduring what some are calling a "Christian Winter" in the midst of the "Arab Spring," a movement of political unrest that has given way to Muslim domination and rising hostility against Christians, according to Christian Freedom International (CFI).

Secular regimes are being replaced with Islamic states that have instituted sharia (Islamic) law, which is enforced on citizens of all religions. For the small Christian minorities, it has resulted in increased persecution, discrimination, violence and even death.

"The Arab Spring is truly a Christian winter for these persecuted people," said Robert Sweet of CFI, adding that there was a concerning lack of action on the part of Western Christians to assist and speak out for their Middle Eastern counterparts.

Religion Today Summaries

U.S. Birth Rates Hit New Low
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a drop in national birth rates for the third straight year, reports. The declines were seen in most age groups and for all races, and rates for teens and women in their early 20s were the lowest since record-keeping began in the 1940s.

The report stated that experts believe the downward trend is tied to the economy-women with financial worries might feel they can't afford to start a family or add to it. There were 4 million births last year; rates have been dropping since an all-time high in 2007.

Religion Today Summaries

From Pakistani Slum, 5,000-Seat Church Rises
A newly built church in a Karachi slum that can seat as many as 5,000 worshipers is a testament to the resilience and hope of Pakistani Christians amid persecution in the violent, Muslim-majority country, the Washington Post reports.

The three-story St. Peter's of Karachi is the largest yet in Pakistan, and was built on the site of a smaller church in an area that is home to around 15,000 Christians. "There were so many people here it was not possible for us to accommodate them on Sundays," said Father Saleh Diego. "Now we can pray together, all 5,000 people, worship the Lord and really share and strengthen our faith."

As in the case of St. Peter's, new churches built in Pakistan are typically in poor Christian neighborhoods-ghettos of extreme poverty often separated from their Muslim neighbors by high walls-so there is usually no direct opposition to their construction. Father Diego said his church was concerned about rising radicalism and persecution in Pakistan, but that his building had received no threats.

Religion Today Summaries

Refugees at Risk in South Sudan
Amid reports of Sudan bombing the new nation of South Sudan and of rising tensions between the two countries-apparently over how they will share crude oil reserves-thousands of Christian refugees are caught in the crossfire, Mission Network News reports.

Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, said the situation in South Sudan was quickly deteriorating and questioned why international officials hadn't addressed it: "We have seen and documented bombs falling on refugee camps in critical areas. We have 300,000 displaced in that area. We've got people being killed on a regular basis and literally bombs being dropped, and it's as if nothing is taking place. If there's a full-scale war going on, eventually it'll come to the world's attention. But unfortunately at that point it may be too late to do anything about it."

Moeller called on international organizations and U.N. officials to condemn the violence, and asked Christians around the world to pray for the plight of the Sudanese church.

Religion Today Summaries

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