Every year, about 100 religion specialists in the media vote what they think is the top religion story. Their choice this year - and one I disagreed with - was how the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s controversial sermons bogged down Barack Obama’s candidacy to the point where the Democratic front runner had to eventually disassociate himself from the minister. The total list is here.
Granted, the Wright/Obama contretemps was interesting but hardly the year’s top religion story. Ditto with Sarah Palin and Proposition 8. I would have chosen Pope Benedict XVI’s April trip to the United States and his five mentions of priestly sex abuse in various speeches plus his highly unusual secret meeting with sex abuse victims.
My other main choice - which ended up as No. 7 on the RNA list was worldwide religious repression, mostly in India where radical Hindus burned down scores of Christian villages in the eastern state of Orissa and killed dozens of Christians. Many of the latter are still hiding out in forests in this hard-to-reach region. The terrorist assault - this time by Muslims - on Mumbai later in the year highlighted the powderkeg India has become and how often in this Hindu-majority country, the oppressed don’t get a lot of justice. The perpetrators in Orissa have gone unpunished. Even the Indian media criticize their own country for appeasing, instead of punishing, the radical Hindu groups.
The other chamber of horrors is China, which increased religious repression upon Buddhists, Falun Gong and Christians alike in the shadow of the Olympics. Suffering for one’s faith is really *the* worldwide religion story of the year - and increasingly - every year, unfortunately.
Julia Duin, religion editor