Looking back, the year 2010 was a year of pain, surprises, and your fair share of debates. The Christian Post draws your attention back to some of the top issues and events that marked the year:
1. Debate over the approval of a massive Islamic cultural center near New York City's ground zero
The decision in May by a New York community board to give the green light to the construction of Park51, an Islamic cultural center that includes a mosque, near the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, left many Americans hurt and angered.
It sparked national debate over religious freedom and simply sensitivity to the families of the 2,976 victims who fell with the Twin Towers. Christian leaders and those from other faith traditions have also been divided on the project, spearheaded by Imam Feisal Rauf. Some have called it a political statement and others are concerned it is being backed by Sharia supporters from overseas. Overall, polls have shown that most Americans want the Islamic center moved.
2. Persecution against Christians intensifies
While persecution is an ongoing reality for many Christians around the world, violence against the Christian community in Muslim-majority nations intensified in 2010.
In Iraq, the Christian minority experienced its deadliest attack in recent years when militants stormed a Catholic church in Baghdad during mass. At least 58 people, mostly worshippers, were killed in October that tragic day. And since then, attacks have continued, forcing the already shrinking Christian population in Iraq to decrease even more with thousands fleeing in recent months.
A Pakistani Christian mother's case also drew the attention of the international community in 2010. Asia Bibi received a death sentence for alleged blasphemy. She is the first woman to receive the death sentence under the country's controversial blasphemy law. Human rights groups and Christians around the world are pressuring the Pakistani government to free the Christian woman and amend its blasphemy laws.
While persecution in Iraq and Pakistan has been ongoing, the crackdown on Christians in Morocco – which is considered one of the most liberal Islamic countries and has generally been commended for its religious freedom – came as a big surprise.
In March, Christian aid workers, who were serving as foster parents for 33 abandoned children for around a decade, were expelled from the North African country. Since then, they have been unable to see their foster children though they have appealed to the king of Morocco.
3. Famed pastors step back and reevaluate their lives
Perhaps one of the most surprising and intriguing news of 2010 was the decisions of two influential pastors, Francis Chan from Southern California and John Piper from Minneapolis, to either step down or temporarily step back from their ministry works.
John Piper took his first-ever leave from ministry in May. For eight months, he stopped preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church and stepped back from virtually all public commitments to deal with his "character flaws," including "several species of pride," and focus on his marriage. In his words, he needed a reality check from the Holy Spirit.
Francis Chan left his megachurch in Simi Valley, Calif., – Cornerstone Church, which he founded 16 years ago – in May. He expressed a sense of restlessness with getting too comfortable at his church and with the popularity he was gaining in the Christian circle. With a desire to surrender himself fully to God, Chan took his family to Asia for a couple of months, visiting underground churches, impoverished communities and former victims of the sex slave industry.
He has yet to announce his next move in ministry.
4. Haiti earthquake
It was a tragic start to a new year when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti in January, killing more than 222,000 people and leaving more than a million homeless. The Caribbean country was already suffering with water, sanitation, health and income issues and the earthquake only exacerbated problems.
Though the country is still far from recovery even a year later, many aid groups and Christian non-profits have been on the scene since the beginning and continue to provide millions of dollars in assistance and extend God's love to the needy.
5. Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization
Over 4,000 Christian leaders from over 190 countries convened in Cape Town, South Africa, in October for a historic global missions conference. It was the first time in over 20 years that the Lausanne Movement, a global network of evangelical leaders who work together for world evangelization, held a gathering.
The first Lausanne was held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974 and led by American evangelist Billy Graham. Participants discussed mission strategies, worldviews and other issues and reported on the growth of the church in respective countries.
6. Don't ask, don't tell repeal
After years of debate, the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans open homosexuality in the military was repealed and signed by President Barack Obama in December.
Christian groups and chaplains continue to express concerns that the repeal could negatively affect unit cohesion and morale. Chaplains are especially concerned about their religious liberty and that they may be forced to compromise their beliefs.
Bullying, particularly against homosexual students, was spotlighted in 2010 as a real and serious issue, especially with the suicides of several teenagers. Christians have stood up and affirmed their opposition to bullying but expressed concerns that some were blaming the religious community for instigating "anti-gay" attitudes.
While condemning bullying, Christian groups have maintained the biblical stance that homosexual behavior is a sin and at the same time have encouraged fellow believers to reflect Christ's image of love and compassion.
Cancer affected a couple of well-known ministry leaders in 2010. Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, has been undergoing chemotherapy for brain cancer. The young Southern Baptist pastor, however, has refused the let the disease slow him down and has preached the Gospel with even more passion and urgency over the last year.
Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer. Despite her disability and now the disease, she has continued to express nothing but optimism, trust in God and joy while still assisting the disabled through her Joni and Friends ministry.
9. Glenn Beck rally
The popular FOX News commentator drew reportedly hundreds of thousands of people to a rally in August, including a whole host of Christians. It was called the "Restoring Honor" rally and ended up being filled with a lot of God talk by the Mormon broadcaster.
Though Christians agree on the need to turn America back to God, some say the rally revealed a disturbing picture – Christians being used by politicians and others, and Christians not knowing how to distinguish between uniting with others on common concerns and standing together in the faith.
10. Christian campus groups and leadership
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that a public school has the right to deny a Christian campus group recognition and funding if it bars gays from becoming voting members and taking on leadership positions.
Though the case was limited to the Christian Legal Society at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, some are worried about the threat the decision poses to groups at other campuses.
The ruling essentially requires Bible groups to allow atheists or homosexuals to lead or requires Democratic clubs to accept the election of Republican officers in order to be recognized on campus.
A ruling like the one in June could make Christian student groups "second-class citizens," in the words of InterVarsity president Alec Hill, if not recognized on campus.