What a day … what encouraging news the papers contain (like progress toward financial reform) seems overwhelmed by stories that are plainly bad or troublesome news. The stock market sank as news of economic troubles in Europe sank in. The gusher in the Gulf continues to spew and oil is washing into Louisiana marshlands as it becomes evident that BP has been lying about the extent of the spill. Tea party hero Rand Paul, an eye-surgeon turned politician who recently won the primary for a Republican senate seat in Kentucky, is trying to talk his way out of his earlier claim that businesses should be free to discriminate against blacks. Anti-government protesters in Bangkok torched giant shopping malls and caused more than $30 million in damages, wrecking the appeal of Thailand’s once-charming capital city. 

On the religious freedom (or lack of it) front, The Baptist World Alliance reports that pastor Zaur Balaev has been threatened with a second imprisonment, charged with the crime of leading an unregistered church — which the government refuses to register. The congregation, affiliated with the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Azerbaijan, has sought registration since the 1990s. Balaev was arrested in 2007 and served time on trumped up charges that he beat up five police officers. Azerbaijani officials are equal-opportunity persecutors: according to the Forum 18 news service they also recently took into custody several Muslims found reading the works of Turkish Islamist theologian Said Nursi. Meanwhile 92 followers of the banned Jamaat Tabligh movement (which practices a different form of Islam that that preferred by the government) have been hit with huge fines and lengthy prison terms. In Uzbekistan, the government’s secret police have been raiding even registered churches (and another link) in hopes of discouraging persons from following the Christian faith. 
Troublesome news is, well, troublesome. It’s a reminder that selfishness, shallowness, intolerance, and a hunger for power are all-too-prevalent in our world. But, that’s really nothing new. Take any day in history and you could find multiple examples of greed, bigotry, and the abuse of power. That makes the importance of Christ’s call for his followers to be the light of the world ever more obvious. 
Go out and make some good news today.

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