Beit Jala Christians protest occupation
"There is a tank on church property," says Bishop Munib A. Younan, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala. "You shouldn't put tanks at a church. It is a place for peace." Israeli forces entered the West Bank town yesterday after repeated firing from the town on Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb. During the first-ever reoccupation of Palestinian-governed territory, about 45 boys between the ages of 10 and 16 were reportedly trapped in an orphanage run by the church and placed in the line of fire. Though soldiers took positions in and above the orphanage building, Israeli military officials told reporters that Israeli forces did not enter the church. Nevertheless, Reuters reports, sandbags, army netting, and blankets were placed inside the church and the town's Christian community center became an Israeli army operation center. The U.S. State Department, Lutheran World Federation, and others condemned the occupation. See Yahoo's full coverage for regular updates on Beit Jala and the escalating violence in the Holy Land.

As Taliban prepares trial against aid workers, it gets sympathy from a U.S. columnist
Just when things were starting to look brighter for the eight foreign aid workers arrested for preaching Christianity in Afghanistan, there was more bad news. The radical Islamic Taliban rulers of the country said that its investigation into the aid workers' activities is far from over, and there will be a trial under Shari'ah (Islamic) law. The parents of the two young American women among the aid workers were allowed to visit their daughters, as were diplomats and the International Red Cross. Ironically, if the foreigners are found guilty, they are only subject to a punishment of three to ten days in jail and expulsion—but they've already been detained for more than three weeks.

It serves them right, says Bill Maxwell, a columnist for the St. Petersburg Times. "Sheer arrogance and Christian zealotry drove Shelter Now's foreign aid workers to flout the law," he writes in Sunday's edition. "If these groups are kicked out, many hungry Afghans, including tens of thousands of children and mothers, may starve because a handful of zealots tried to cultivate a handful of apostates." Maxwell says the Shelter Now workers should follow his example: "As an American journalist who travels to Islamic states, I am careful to follow the laws of my host nations, and I go out of my way to respect their customs." Telling the story of how he once "crossed the line" and mistakenly took a photo of a Palestinian Authority building under construction, he suggests that officials were right to arrest him. Media ethicists around the world would find Maxwell's argument utter nonsense. In case you're wondering, this is a columnist for the newspaper in St. Petersburg, Florida, not the city in increasingly repressive Russia. And, in case you're wondering, here's how to contact the St. Petersburg Times.

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Send money, not the shirt off your back
InterAction, an international disaster assistance coalition, has released new guidelines telling Americans to stop sending food, clothing, and medicine to disaster relief efforts. "Appropriate giving is a minefield if it's not done right," Neil Frame of Operation USA tells the Associated Press. "You don't want your disaster response to be part of the disaster." Instead of material possessions—worst offenses include cocktail dresses and expired antibiotics—just send money, the organization says. A publicity campaign will target church bulletins. Well, at least the used teabag epidemic seems to be over.

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Missions and ministry:

Church life:

  • A line in the sand | 2,000-year-old Egyptian church trying to establish monastery is fought by ranchers, development foes (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Read poetry not Bible, says bishop | Richard Holloway, retired head of the Church of Scotland, says Christianity gives too many answers (The Scotsman, Edinburgh)
  • Praying for 'deadbeat' churches | Block Club Union of Chicago says congregations aren't doing enough community organizing (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Blockheads casting stones at churchmen | It is bizarre that senior leaders of the official churches are held in such opprobrium by the progressive elites, who seem to feel that the only good churchman is either an atheist or a practicing homosexual. (Padraic P. McGuinness, The Sydney Morning Herald)
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Denominational disputes:


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