October 29, 2008

1530 RNS News 2

The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors

Dalai Lama has `Given up' on
Tibet talks With China
BY DANIEL BURKE                                                                       ©2008 Religion News Service
capThe Dalai Lama will abandon efforts to persuade China to allow autonomy in Tibet, the exiled Tibetan leader said Saturday (Oct. 25).
"As far as I'm concerned I have given up," the Dalai Lama said from Dharamsala, India, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile, according to The Associated Press.
It's now up to the 6 million Tibetans to determine a new plan, the 73-year-old Buddhist leader said. Around 300 Tibetan delegates will hold a special meeting next month in India, according to Reuters.
For decades, the Dalai Lama has advocated a "middle way" diplomatic approach, under which Tibet is ruled by China but has space to continue its ancient Buddhist culture.
"There hasn't been any positive response from the Chinese side," the Dalai Lama said, according to the AP. An eighth round of Tibetan-Chinese talks is planned for later this month.
Younger Tibetans are pressing for a more combative approach in pursuit of total freedom for Tibet.
It was the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's first public statement since he was released from an Indian hospital earlier this month after being treated for gallstones.
Since 1950, when Communist Chinese forces invaded Tibet, religious freedom there has been radically curtailed, according to the U.S. State Department.
Religious Hate Crimes Dropped in 2007, FBI Says
BY ASHLEY GIPSON                                                        ©2008 Religion News Service
Hate crimes directed against a person's religion decreased in 2007, but hate crimes against gays and lesbians increased slightly, according to the FBI's 2007 Hate Crimes Statistics.
In 2006, the FBI reported 1,597 hate crimes motivated by a religious bias. That figure dropped to 1,477 in 2007, according to the report.
Of the religiously based hate crimes, attacks against Jews rose from 64 percent in 2006 to 68 percent in 2007. Anti-Muslim hate crimes, meanwhile, decreased from 12 percent in 2006 to 9 percent in 2007.
Hate crimes against Catholics accounted for 4 percent of the reported hate crimes motivated by religious biases -- down from 5 percent in 2006. Four percent of the hate crimes were motivated by anti-Protestant biases, and 9 percent were against other religions.
Of the reported hate crimes motivated by religious bias, 18 percent occurred in churches, synagogues or temples; 26 percent occurred in or near residences or homes; and 12 percent occurred in schools or colleges. 
The FBI reported 1,415 hate crimes based on a person's sexual orientation in 2006 and 1,460 hate crimes in 2007. Of those offenses, 59 percent targeted gay men, 13 percent targeted lesbians, and 25 percent were more generally anti-homosexual.
Southern Baptists Urge Background Checks for Short-term Missions
BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                    ©2008 Religion News Service
The Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board (IMB) has requested that participants in its short-term mission trips pass background checks before leaving for the field.
The new child protection policy, which is not mandatory and would not apply to mission trips taken independently of the IMB, was approved at a September meeting of trustees. It becomes effective Jan. 1, 2009, the board announced.
"Children are a precious resource entrusted to us and their care and protection is a top priority," reads an executive summary of the policy. "Because almost everyone serving on the mission field interacts with children, we are asking that all short-term mission trip participants ages 18 and older have child protection training and go through a background screening process."
The process will include references, a criminal background check and an interview by local churches.
"Though it is regrettable that we should even need to consider such a policy for mission team members, we are acutely aware of incidents within our own local churches -- even among staff members," said Ken Winter, IMB vice president of church and partner services, in announcing the new policy Tuesday (Oct. 21).
"We know that many Southern Baptist churches are already providing background checks and training for members who are serving in local church ministry, but it may now extend to those headed overseas as a part of a mission team."
In a "Frequently Asked Questions" portion of the policy posted online, the board says individuals who refuse to submit to a background check will not be permitted to participate in a mission team working with the IMB. The board also will not permit anyone with a history of sexual abuse to serve on a board-related mission trip.
The Southern Baptist Convention has come under scrutiny by abuse victims' advocates who have said their efforts to prevent sexual abuse have been insufficient. Last year, the Baptists passed a resolution expressing their "moral outrage" about child sexual abuse.
Earlier this year, the SBC Executive Committee chose not to pursue a proposed database that would track clergy who have been convicted or accused of sexual abuse. The decision was based in part on the autonomy of local churches.
Poll: U.S. is Blessed, but Troublesome in the World
BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                         ©2008 Religion News Service
Six in 10 Americans think the U.S. is "uniquely blessed" by God, but a higher percentage -- almost eight in 10 -- think the country sometimes does more harm than good when it relates to the rest of the world, according to a new study on religion and America's role in the world.
Overall, the study commissioned by the PBS program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly and the United Nations Foundation found that Americans, including majorities of religiously involved citizens, think the country should be involved on the world scene.
But researchers found that 79 percent of Americans feel that U.S. involvement abroad sometimes does more harm than good, and 44 percent feel that view strongly.
"I think it's a fascinating look at our combination of idealism and realism," said Bob Abernethy, host of the weekly television show. "We think our blessings from God require us to be active around the world but we also acknowledge that we sometimes do more harm than good."
Almost seven in 10 (68 percent) of people who attend services at least weekly said the country has a moral obligation to take part in world affairs, compared with 54 percent of less frequent attenders.
Researchers found that people who strongly believe that America is blessed by God and should set an example as a "Christian nation" are also more likely to see the country's worldwide involvement as a moral obligation.
Just more than two-thirds (67 percent) of those with strong beliefs about God's unique blessing on America said the U.S. has a moral obligation to be a leader in world affairs, as did 72 percent of those who thought the U.S. should set a Christian example. In comparison, a smaller percentage -- 60 percent -- of Americans overall thought the country had such a moral obligation.
Sixty-one percent of respondents said they believed God has uniquely blessed America.
Michael Cromartie, vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said Americans' simultaneous belief in God's blessing on the U.S. and criticism of its global engagement reflect the challenges of addressing world problems, such as genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.
"The world is complicated," he said. "Foreign policy is deeply complex. Foreign countries are deeply complex. Foreign cultures are deeply complex. .... These things are not fixed quickly."