Welcome to the Wednesday Roundup. We begin today with a hopeful sign from that simmering cauldron of instability known as the Middle East.

In Gaza, about 1,000 Palestinians found shelter in a building these mostly Muslim Gazans would otherwise rarely, if ever, enter — the city’s 12th-century Greek Orthodox Church, St. Porphyrius.

“We have opened the church in order to help people,” Archbishop Alexios told Reuters. “This is the duty of the church and we are doing all we can to help them.”

Jews and Muslims around the world are feeling the brunt of anger in response to the Gaza incursion. While European world leaders condemned anti-Jewish violence in France and Germany, Brooklyn police were looking for suspects who flung eggs and epithets at Muslims gathering for evening iftar meals.

Photo of a man wearing a T-shirt with the Arabic letter "N" in red.

The Arabic letter “N” on a T-shirt, courtesy of the uCatholicstore. The T-shirt sells for $20 and proceeds support persecuted Christians in the Middle East. courtesy uCatholicstore

In solidarity

Meanwhile in Iraq, Christians face expulsion, as the Islamic State and its band of Sunni militants took over Mosul last month.

This has led to messages of solidarity using the hashtag #WeAreN. The hashtag campaign refers to the Arabic letter ن, or “n”, which Islamic State militants have left on some doorways to indicate that the inhabitants are “Nazarene” or Christian.

Turkey’s top cleric says the declaration of a “caliphate” by Islamist militants in Iraq lacks legitimacy and their death threats to Christians are a danger to civilization.

Immigrant woes

In England, the former head of Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism command, says in a new report that there was “coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham.”

Across the pond, Human Rights Watch, working with Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, says in a new report that the FBI and the Justice Department have created a climate of fear in some Muslim communities through the use of surveillance and informants.

Inclusion cries

Back in the U.S., the American Humanist Association hosted a congressional briefing to educate U.S. House members on the growing number of nontheistic soldiers in the military and the crucial need for a humanist chaplain to be included in the armed services.

Bad apples

The Good News Club wants to convert children as young as 5 at Portland, Ore., pools, public parks and dozens of other gathering spots this summer. Their campaign has some residents upset.

And an Oklahoma teen is accused of raping several children while on a missions trip to a Kenyan children’s home.

Influence peddling

The Walton Family Foundation, run by the descendants of Sam Walton, Wal-Mart’s founder, is the largest donor to the ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization Agudath Israel of America, the Forward reports. Most of that money goes to support public money for private schools. The foundation is pushing for charter schools and vouchers.

Imagine this

A study published in the July issue of Cognitive Science determined that kids raised in religious homes cannot tell the difference between real and fictional characters, whereas their secular counterparts can.

Interesting reads:

  • CNN’s Belief Blog looks at the morality of Auschwitz selfies.
  • Crunchy con Rod Dreher says the attitudes of contemporary Wahhabis toward images of religious devotion, aka, iconography, is really not that different from those of the Protestant Reformers.
  • RNS alum Corrie Mitchell looks at the founding churches in the 13 colonies that still function as churches. (One 241-year-old church was just ravaged by fire.)
  • The Tablet publishes a long  and revealing profile of celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

On the morals beat:

The Forward asks whether a New York City developer’s plans to create a so-called “poor door” entrance for affordable housing residents in a luxury condo is at odds with Jewish ethics. (Orthodox Jewish real estate mogul Gary Barnett owns the development company.)

Thieves have been stealing central air conditioning units from rural Tennessee churches leading some church officials to speculate they may find relief from the heat temporarily but face hell fire for eternity.

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7 Comments

  1. Eric Kuykendall

    I’m not sure the tragic story of the Oklahoma teen needs to be classified as “religion news”. The organization Upendo does not have a religious affiliation and speaks nothing of religion in their “about us” description. I would suggest that KTLA misrepresented the story by calling it a “mission trip”.

  2. While their approach and content may be questionable – and even fundamentalist as described in the article – it hardly seems fair to place Good News Club in the same “bad apples” category as an accused child rapist. Or has RNS determined that fundamentalist Christianity is an equally heinous crime?

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