For many African churches, the all-night vigil is a centerpiece of devotion and is not limited to any particular season. The event commonly begins at 9 or 10 p.m., usually on a Friday, and runs until four or five the following morning. Particularly among the independent or African-instituted churches, prayer is accompanied by acts of healing and exorcism. These services commonly draw thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of people. Night vigils also flourish among the booming evangelical and Pentecostal churches of South Korea, where hundreds of thousands pass their Friday nights in prayer and praise. In terms of timing, endurance and mass appeal, the closest Western parallels to these Christian celebrations would be found in dance clubs and rave parties in major cities.
Shortly before Christmas, while defending his plan to give federal aid to the collapsing U.S. automakers, President Bush remarked, “I have abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”
Christians persecuted in Iraq . . . Christian clergy murdered in Indonesia . . . churches destroyed in the Sudan. Around the world, stories of anti-Christian abuse and violence mount up, and are usually presented as irrefutable evidence of the violence of Islam.
Countless times over the past two decades, when this magazine had an especially important theological book to review or topic to explore, we contacted William C. Placher, one of our editors at large. And since he could not write all the articles we suggested, we would often have to move to the next thought: Who can write almost as well as Bill?
In early December the security situation had improved enough in Bethlehem for busloads of tourists to come back to visit the birthplace of Jesus and other holy sights in Israel and the West Bank. That was about the only the good news from the Middle East. In the Gaza Strip, the standoff continued between the Israeli government and the Palestinians.
European countries are asking how to deal with hundreds of young Muslims who went to Syria to fight and then returned home. Denmark is experimenting with rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Returning fighters are treated not as criminals but as troubled youth who lost their way and need a second chance. The program, first used with neo-Nazi youth, is voluntary and includes counseling, mentoring, opportunities for more schooling, and meetings with parents. So far the program seems to be working. Denmark has the second highest number of foreign fighters per capita. They “only become ticking bombs if we don’t integrate them” back into society, said a Danish psychologist (New York Times, December 13).