INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Argentina OKs 'gay marriage'; Dagestan pastor murdered ...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize "gay marriage" in a mid-July vote that faced stiff opposition from evangelical Christian and Roman Catholic churches and divided both ruling party and opposition lawmakers.
The 33-27 vote in the country's Senate came just before dawn July 15 after a marathon debate, the Associated Press reported. Because Argentina's lower house already had approved the measure, it took effect within days.
An estimated 60,000 people participated in a march on Congress to oppose the proposal, and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio led the campaign, saying "children need to have the right to be raised and educated by a father and a mother," according to the AP. A civil union law was stymied by parliamentary maneuvers because the ruling party favored the "gay marriage" proposal.
The vote divided President Cristina Fernandez' governing coalition, with Juan Perez Alsina, a Fernandez supporter, calling marriage between a man and a woman "essential for the preservation of the species," the AP reported. Three lawmakers abstained from the vote.
"Gay marriage" also is legal in Mexico City, and same-sex civil unions are legal in Uruguay and some states in Mexico and Brazil, the AP reported. Colombia's supreme court has granted inheritance rights and health insurance benefits to homosexual couples. "Gay marriage" legislative proposals reportedly are planned in Paraguay and Uruguay.
DAGESTAN PASTOR MURDERED -- The founding pastor of Dagestan's largest Protestant church was murdered by unidentified gunmen July 15 while leaving his church building.
The murder of Artur Suleimanov, 49, pastor of 1,000-member Hosanna Christian Church in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian republic, came after local media broadcast calls for people to take measures against Suleimanov because he was too "active" and led ethnic Muslims to Christ, the Compass Direct news service reported.
Suleimanov is survived by his wife, Zina, and five children.
More than 90 percent of Dagestan's 2.6 million people are Muslim and most of the remainder are Russian Orthodox. The republic is situated in the Caucus Mountains on Russia's border with Chechnya.
The Slavic Centre for Law and Justice and the Institute of Law and Religion issued a statement calling Suleimanov a "true missionary with fervent heart and sincere faith," Compass Direct reported.
"He was a man of faith who fearlessly preached the gospel, sharing the faith in Christ with people even in difficult circumstances," the statement read. "Since the beginning of his mission, Pastor Artur Suleimanov prayed for the salvation of Dagestan nations, despite all the difficulties and threatening that the community and preachers faced."
JERUSALEM RALLY TO PROTEST 'GAY PRIDE' MARCH -- Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem are planning a pro-family rally to counteract a "gay pride" march Israeli authorities have agreed to allow through Orthodox neighborhoods in the city.
Rabbis in the Orthodox neighborhoods objected to the proposed march and submitted a petition to police and courts to cancel the parade, according to a July 29 statement published by Christian Newswire. It was signed by residents of the neighborhoods.
"The petitioners urge the authorities not to expose their pure children, who were raised with age-old family values in a sheltered, religious environment, to the immorality which the Bible cites as the cause of the great flood in the days of Noah," said the statement. "After the police and courts ignored the pleas of the religious Jews, it was decided by leading family values organizations, who feel that the sanctity of Jerusalem must not be destroyed, to do everything possible to stop this march. The blatant disregard for the sensitivities of the religious has been described as religious discrimination."
FRANCE, SYRIA MOVE TO BAN MUSLIM VEILS -- Governments in both Europe and the Middle East in July moved to ban facial veils commonly worn by women in conservative Muslim societies. France's lower house of Parliament voted July 13 to ban veils in public places, while Syria July 19 banned students and teachers from wearing the "niqab" -- a full veil that reveals only a woman's eyes.
French lawmakers passed their bill by a 335-1 vote in the National Assembly, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill in September, The New York Times reported. A $190 fine will be imposed on violators, and anyone who forces a woman to wear such a veil could be punished with a $38,000 fine and a year in jail -- doubled if the victim is a minor.
The order in Syria, which affects both public and private universities, is intended to protect Syria's secular identity, an unnamed government official told the Associated Press. The ban does not affect the "hijab," a headscarf also commonly worn by Muslim women.
Syria joins Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon in trying to discourage wearing veils, and Turkey has banned Muslim headscarves in universities, the AP reported. In Europe, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands are considering bans on the niqab.
The veil is linked to Salafism, an extremely conservative sect of Islam, a Syrian women's rights activist told the AP. The niqab is not an expression of personal freedom, but "a declaration of extremism," Bassam Qadhi said.
Compiled by Mark Kelly, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.