At year-end, many news organizations compile their top 10 stories of the year. After a full year of the Daily Digest, here are my choices.
1. Faith & Politics. In a significant indication of how the conversation on faith and politics has changed in the U.S., expressions of religious faith played a central part in a year of presidential campaigning by candidates from both parties.
2. Region in crisis. The U.S. troop surge in Iraq reduced violence but has not led to political stability; tensions and military attacks grew between Turkey and the Kurds; the nuclear cat and mouse game continued with Iran; the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan; and instability grew in Pakistan-culminating this week with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
3. Israel-Palestine. As the internal Palestinian struggle between Hamas and Fatah continued and the violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza intensified, the Bush administration convened an international peace conference. The president plans his first trip to the region in January.
4. Democratic Congress. Democrats assumed control of Congress in January with the first woman speaker of the House in U.S. history, but presidential vetoes and Republican opposition prevented the passage of most major legislation, including troop withdrawals from Iraq and children's health insurance. Congress did pass legislation increasing the minimum wage, expanding college aid, and reforming lobby and ethics rules.
5. Global warming. Awareness of the threat of global warming continued to grow in response to news coverage of the largest melting of the polar ice cap in history and Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change winning the Nobel Peace Prize. At a climate change treaty meeting in Bali, the U.S. refused to join other nations in pledging cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. On the religious front, the National Association of Evangelicals rebuffed James Dobson's attempt to silence their concern for global warming.
6. Darfur. Another year has gone by, the violence and death continue, and the United Nations still cannot secure an adequate peacekeeping force on the ground.
7. Death penalty. The Supreme Court's decision to hear a case involving the constitutionality of lethal injections led to a de facto nationwide moratorium on executions, while New Jersey became the first state to abolish capital punishment.
8. Immigration. Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. This resulted in more raids, with state and local governments passing and enforcing repressive legislation and the growth of a church-based new sanctuary movement.
9. Guns. The U.S.'s love affair with guns continued despite mass shootings at Virginia Tech University (32 dead), an Omaha, Nebraska shopping mall (eight dead), the New Life Church in Colorado Springs and Youth With a Mission in Arvada, Colorado (four dead). All three gunmen also died. If recent trends continue, approximately 10,000 others were also murdered with firearms this year.
10. Muslim-Christian dialogue. One-hundred-thirty-eight Muslim clerics and scholars sent an open letter to the leaders of Christian churches, "A Common Word Between Us and You," proposing common ground on the shared values of loving God and loving neighbor. Hundreds of Christian leaders and scholars responded by welcoming the initiative.
Other stories of note included an uprising in Burma/Myanmar led by Buddhist monks; a growing mortgage crisis in the U.S.; the passing of Jerry Falwell; a growing split in the Anglican communion; new prime ministers in the U.K. (Gordon Brown) and Australia (Kevin Rudd). The Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial ban abortions; the "Jena 6" case highlighted continued racial injustice; "Scooter" Libby was convicted of lying to a grand jury; Karl Rove and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned; the steroid scandal in Major League Baseball went public, the collapse of a bridge in the Twin Cities highlighted growing problems with America's infrastructure; controversy over torture and wiretapping continued; and North Korea closed and began disabling its only nuclear reactor producing weapons-grade plutonium.
As we enter the New Year, continue to pray for our world as you read the news, remembering theologian Karl Barth's advice "to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible."
Duane Shank is the senior policy advisor for Sojourners - in addition to being our resident news digester.