• Church leaders in sub-Saharan Africa say some congregations preach that AIDS doesn't exist and others say those diagnosed with HIV can be healed with prayer. Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10 percent of the world's population, but two-thirds of all HIV-infections, according to U.N. estimates. Mvume Dandala, general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, told church leaders gathered in January in Nairobi: "Such people are disempowering our people, who should know AIDS is real, is hurting us and has therefore to be fought and defeated."
• LWR's "Wave of Giving" program hopes to raise $5 million to $10 million for tsunami relief and rebuilding. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans gave $1 million plus a $2 million matching grant, available to all Thrivent members to LWR's effort. For information on Wave of Giving, visit www.lwr.org/waveofgiving or call (800) 597-5972. "The ELCA is committed to providing up to 50 percent of its International Disaster Response income designated for tsunami disaster relief to LWR," said Belletech Deressa, ELCA Division for Global Mission. The other 50 percent of the church's income designated for tsunami relief will be sent to "our Lutheran companion churches in south and southeast Asia, and other ecumenical organizations, to support their relief efforts," Deressa said. To give to the ELCA International Disaster Response, visit www.elca.org/disaster, or call (800) 638-3522.
• After a fact-finding trip to Somalia to assess damage from the Dec. 26 tsunami, South African church leaders are seeking ways to help the survivors. The tsunami reportedly killed 300 Somalis and displaced 50,000 others. "About 2,000 houses have been destroyed, families displaced and hundreds of fishing boats as well as fishing equipment lost," said Njongonkulu Ndungane, Angli — can archbishop of Cape Town. "Fishing is [residents'] sole
• In a Jan. 17 letter to President Bush, evangelical leaders asked him to redouble efforts to overcome hunger and poverty. Authors said reducing international and domestic poverty "would honor our Lord" and "be a wonderful legacy for you to leave.... Such an outcome is clearly within the reach of the richest nation in history. The moral values you share with us demand no less." The letter said more action was needed related to AIDS, human trafficking and "unacceptably high" levels of poverty. "Poverty in our own nation has increased in the last several years and millions more working poor lack health insurance," wrote signatories that included national commander of the Salvation Army Todd Bassett, Evangelicals for Social Action president Ron Sider, and Assemblies of God General Superintendent Thomas Trask. Sider said later: "The community that voted most heavily for President Bush's re-election is demanding a greater emphasis on overcoming poverty."
• Archbishop John Marona of the Episcopal Church of Sudan said many in southern Sudan were "joyful" about a Jan. 9 peace agreement between their government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. Since 1983, 2 million people have been killed in two long-running conflicts: a civil war between Sudan's government in the north and Christian and animist rebels in the south, and fighting in the west between Muslim ethnic African tribes and nomadic Muslim Arab tribes. Reconciliation will be difficult, Marona, said, adding, "People have killed their relatives.... We have to teach [people] not to pay wrong for wrong. They also have to forgive themselves." At presstime, the accord had not yet been implemented.
• Due to high premiums, the 400,000-member Presbyterian Church in America discontinued its health insurance plan, affecting 858 employees. At the end of 2004, employees were given two months to find other insurance. "This is symptomatic of the crisis of health insurance costs in the entire country," said Dominic Aquila, the church's news officer. Those most affected are people with pre-existing conditions and immediate health concerns such as heart problems or cancer.
• Fifty-five percent of U.S. doctors say they've seen miracles in cases, according to a HCD Research survey of 1,100 Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist physicians. Of those surveyed, 72 percent said religion provides a necessary, reliable guide to life, 59 percent said they prayed for individual patients, 58 percent said they attended worship at least once a month and 46 percent said they prayed in their own lives.
• A poll found that the top concerns of low-income people in the United States are unemployment, health care, education, discrimination and poverty. In contrast, the top five concerns of the general public are the economy, war, government, immorality and terrorism. Among the general public, fewer people than in the previous year correctly thought U.S. poverty had grown. Also, the general public said the top three causes of poverty are lack of jobs, lack of education and laziness, while the poor respondents cited lack of education, low minimum wages and "unjust laws or social policies." More than 80 percent of the general public said they gave to help the poor in 2004. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development's "Poverty Pulse" poll drew poverty lines at a family of four earning $30,000 or less.
• After Maoist rebels called Naxalites burned a Roman Catholic church in Chattisgarh, India, in December, Jagalpur Diocese Bishop Simon Stock Palathara said Christians are worried. "Even the police are afraid of acting on our complaints," he said. The rebels also damaged Hindu temples and assaulted Hindu monks. Naxalites reportedly warned religious leaders not to convert "animist tribal people" to any religion. About 35 percent of Chattisgarh's 20 million people are tribal, among them about 500,000 Christians.
• Leaders of four African-American Baptist denominations met Jan. 24-26 in Nashville, Tenn., to find ways to address some of the most serious problems facing African Americans. The National Baptist Convention USA, Progressive National Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention of America and National Missionary Baptist Convention of America long ago cut ties over leadership disputes, civil rights struggles and other issues. William J. Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, said, "There has to be more focused effort to include minorities in the mainstream of this nation's life, in terms of economic resources, inclusion in the political structure, educational commitment and changing the practices that make for the incarceration of so many people of color."
• Binge drinking is an epidemic among young people in Ireland, warned a Jan. 25 report, "Alcohol in the Life of Young People," from the [Anglican] Church of Ireland. Archbishop Robin Eames cited a 370 percent rise in intoxicated underage drinking in public places since 1996.
• A Silver Spring, Md.,-based church relief agency is pleading for the release of three aid workers kidnapped at gunpoint last December in Darfur, western Sudan. Fighting in the region has displaced about 1.5 million people from their homes. "We are alarmed and deeply concerned," said Byron Scheuneman of Adventist Development and Relief Agency International. "We don't know exactly who abducted them and we've received no information on their whereabouts or condition." The workers, Sudanese nationals, were traveling through Labado on their way to rebuild old wells and construct new ones when they were abducted.
• After an international Anglican commission asked them to apologize, U.S. Episcopal bishops expressed regret for the controversy around the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. But they refused to revoke the decision. Robinson is a gay man in a committed same-sex relationship.
• According to an annual report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture organization, unless the international community changes its priorities, the world won't meet the 1996 World Food Summit's target of halving the number of hungry people by 2015. The report contends that investing in ending hunger makes economic sense since dealing with its damage costs roughly $30 billion annually. In related news, World Council of Churches General Secretary Samuel Kobia said: "Africa does not need any more poverty analyses, but rather justice and the honoring of [governmental] commitments." He added: "Destruction of life [is] the yardstick [that] challenges the powerful and rich nations to take poverty with even more seriousness than they take the weapons of mass destruction."
• A new church-based campaign to end global poverty, the "Micah Challenge," said it wants to mobilize Christians worldwide to support the goal of halving world hunger by 2015. "How can we claim to follow Jesus if we are not prepared to work to achieve his gospel of good news for the poor?" asked Njongonkulu Ndungane, Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, one of the effort's leaders.
• A U.S. District court judge said Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots, US, can't use trademarks belonging to Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots, Canada. The judge said the trademarks LAMP, LAMPlighter, and the airplane logo belong to the Canadian group. The U.S. organization's use of the marks was "unauthorized." The Canadian group, started in 1970, worked in partnership with the U.S. organization, which dates from 1985, until May 2000 when the latter declared itself separate."
• David Rwhynica Daniels, a graduate of the ELCA's Lutheran Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C., was elected one of 14 bishops in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a traditionally African American denomination. Daniels, a native Liberian, will oversee the church's 14 districts, which includes Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
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