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Highlights from the World of Religioncomment (0)

January 5, 2012

By Sondra Washington

Alabama’s April 27 tornadoes left behind what has been called an “unprecedented path of destruction,” killing nearly 250 people and leaving thousands more homeless. Yet recovery efforts — many led by Alabama Baptists and other Christians across the state and country — brought a bit of welcomed relief to countless suffering families.

Southern Baptists had responded en masse one month earlier after Japan experienced a much more deadly natural disaster when a magnitude-9.0 earthquake caused a tsunami, which killed almost 20,000 people and caused $218 billion in damages to the country. The tsunami destroyed a portion of one of Japan’s nuclear plants, leading to a radiation spill that displaced about 100,000 living nearby.

And Southern Baptist disaster relief workers didn’t catch a break all year. Moving from one disaster to another, they even ended the year working to help the Philippines after it was hit by a deadly typhoon Dec. 17.

While other top religious news stories in 2011 may not be Baptist in nature, their effects resonated throughout the Baptist world.

The death of terrorist Osama bin Laden was ranked the No. 1 religion news story of 2011 by Religion Newswriters Association because it sparked so much discussion on “forgiveness, peace, justice and retribution” among people of faith. American soldiers tried for years to locate bin Laden hoping to bring him to justice for his leading role in the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings that killed nearly 3,000 people. In May, Navy SEALs found him in Pakistan where he was killed and buried at sea hours later.

Televangelist Harold Camping was wrong again when he predicted the return of Christ twice in 2011, first on May 21 and again on Oct. 21. These were his third and fourth attempts at forecasting the end of the world.

Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn and Father Shawn Ratigan in Kansas City joined the increasing number of priests involved in inappropriate behavior toward children after a computer repairman found pornographic pictures of girls as young as 6 years old on Ratigan’s computer. According to Time, Finn was told about the photos, but he did not report the incident to police. Ratigan has been indicted on child pornography charges while Finn was indicted for withholding information about potential child abuse.  

In March 2011, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader who has been living in exile since 1959, announced he would resign from his role as political leader of the country.

According to Reuters, this move would give the Tibetan prime minister more power in seeking independence from China.

Some American Muslims were challenged in a congressional hearing when some Republicans accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of supporting terrorism. Leaders of the group presented dozens of statements made by CAIR spokesmen condemning terrorist attacks around the world.

In May, the Presbyterian Church USA voted to allow gay and lesbian ministers and lay leaders to be ordained with the consent of regional church bodies. The vote makes the church the fourth Protestant body to allow this practice after Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches and the United Church of Christ.

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